Dominant men are faster in decision-making situations and exhibit a distinct neural signal for promptness

Cereb Cortex. 2018 Oct 1;28(10):3740-3751. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhy195.


Social dominance, the main organizing principle of social hierarchies, facilitates priority access to resources by dominant individuals. Throughout taxa, individuals are more likely to become dominant if they act first in social situations and acting fast may provide evolutionary advantage; yet whether fast decision-making is a behavioral predisposition of dominant persons outside of social contexts is not known. Following characterization of participants for social dominance motivation, we found that, indeed, men high in social dominance respond faster-without loss of accuracy-than those low in dominance across a variety of decision-making tasks. Both groups did not differ in a simple reaction task. Then, we selected a decision-making task and applied high-density electroencephalography (EEG) to assess temporal dynamics of brain activation through event related potentials. We found that promptness to respond in the choice task in dominant individuals is related to a strikingly amplified brain signal at approximately 240 ms post-stimulus presentation. Source imaging analyses identified higher activity in the left insula and in the cingulate, right inferior temporal and right angular gyri in high than in low dominance participants. Our findings suggest that promptness to respond in choice situations, regardless of social context, is a biomarker for social disposition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Choice Behavior
  • Decision Making*
  • Discrimination, Psychological
  • Electroencephalography
  • Facial Expression
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology
  • Motivation
  • Nervous System Physiological Phenomena*
  • Personality Tests
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Reaction Time
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology
  • Social Dominance*


  • Hydrocortisone