dominance hierarchy

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A more or less stable rank order of animals competing for resources such as food, territory, or mates, in which each individual is more likely than not to lose a fight or competition against any individual above it in the rank order and to win against any individual below it. Such hierarchies, usually established and maintained by aggressive displays (1) or conventional fighting rather than escalated fighting, have been found in both captive and wild populations of many species, though they are not always perfectly linear (they tend to include non-linearities in which A dominates B, B dominates C, C dominates A), and the middle position of a hierarchy tends to be less stable and less linear than the top and bottom. See also hook order, pecking order.

Subjects: Psychology.

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