CD Watkins (2011). Dominant themes. The Psychologist, 24(7): 550-551.

It is easy to imagine many scenarios from the past where it would have been important to be able to quickly and accurately assess the physical dominance of others, such as when deciding whether to confront a highwayman and defend yourself or whether to flee with your life. However, one could question the importance of this ability in modern life. The phrase ‘Generation Y’ refers to people who were born in the 1980s or later and who have grown up in a time when there is unprecedented access to social media and computer technology (Strauss & Howe, 1991). In this information age, social status is arguably linked to intelligence and technical expertise to a much greater extent than at any other point over the preceding few hundred years. Given the importance of these capabilities for social status in modern societies, one might expect people in this day and age to place little importance on characteristics that signal others’ physical dominance. Is this really the case, however? Or, are we still sensitive to information about physical dominance?

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