Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Complementarity in Dominant and Submissive Nonverbal Behavior

In Tiedens and Fragale's research, it is understood that social interactions involve complementarity vs. mimicry. Their study on dominant and submissive nonverbal behaviors lead them to conclude that there is a hierarchy between the two.


  1. I find it very interesting that Tiedens and Fragale's research found that "dominance met with dominance or submissiveness with submissiveness" led to "less liking between the interaction partners" (564). From the readings, it seems as if Kassin et al would suggest otherwise. For instance, they argue that humans often seek out like-minded people, and use ourselves as a base point of understanding others: "it seems that we overestimate the extent to which others think, feel, and behave as we do, in part to reassure ourselves that our ways are correct, normal, and socially acceptable" (113). Perhaps the next edition should include how seeking out like-minded people doesn't always lead to mutually beneficial relationships.

  2. Tiedens and Fragale completed two experiments to study the effects of posture in social situations, specifically whether dominance and submissiveness would be mirrored (called mimicry) or complemented with the opposite action. It was interesting that they compared these studies with those done on animals, especially our closer relatives, like chimps. The animal studies were found to closely resemble the behavior recorded in the human studies done by Tiedens and Fragale.
    The study involves a confederate, told to sit in an expanded (dominant) position, a contracted (submissive) position, and a neutral (control) position. The participants they were paired with were observed to see if they mimicked the position of the confederate, or complemented it with the opposite action. It was found that, just as with chimps, usually dominance is met with submissiveness, and vice versa.
    The outcome of the study surprised me, since I would assume that most people would have mirrored the confederate, thus making themselves more like that individual and fostering a feeling of camaraderie. However, the article explains that participants felt more comfortable with the confederates they complemented. The authors also go on to say that many times people are not aware of their mimicry or complimentary, suggesting that it is an automatic reaction to social situations that takes place in the subconscious of our minds.

  3. I’ve definitely thought about this issue before on long and cramped bus rides. I can remember two very different rides that are closely related to this article. During the first ride a college student probably slightly older than I was sat in the seat next to me. We both took what the article called submissive postures, knees together arms not extending into the other’s seat. It was a comfortable ride and I could barely tell anyone was even sitting there. On the way home from that trip I sat next to a very angry businessman. He made a series of serious phone calls and held his knees far apart, extending well into my leg area. I couldn’t block the aisle, so my only option was an uncomfortable, and by this article’s definition, very submissive position. My guess is that he assumed a dominant position because he considered himself a higher status than me. The article says, “Complementary behavior may also be more likely in some kinds of situations than in others. For example, if people are more focused on creating an affiliative and friendly relationship, they may be less likely to engage in hierarchically differentiated behavior than when they are in a task setting” (9). If the businessman were still trying to make some deal or transaction during those phone calls, he would be more likely to take the dominant posture because he was in a task setting, while the student and I on the first trip were not.

  4. The experiments of Tiedens and Fragale questioned the differences and benefit within human's postural relationships. Observing the body language and attitudes of opposites and mimickers Tiedens and Fragale developed a way to structure the hierarchy. I believe that in my life I see more complementary postural relationships rather than people mimicking the person or persons they are with. In general when confronted with a dominant person in a situation that I must interact within I become more submissive. And in the instance that I need something from a submissive person I feel I become more dominant. I do not feel however that when interacting with some one who is overly brash and dominant and someone who is completely submissive that I adapt to act like them. So the outcome of the studies that were done with both chimps and humans (that submission is met with dominance and vice versa) did not surprise me. I found it interesting to see these actions played out with this experiment.