Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice

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Volume 88 Issue 4 (December 2015), Pages 351-480

The dominance behavioural system: A multidimensional transdiagnostic approach (pages 394-411)


The dominance behavioural system (DBS) is multi‐faceted, and various aspects of this system have links with a range of psychopathologies. Different scales have been used across psychopathologies though, and no single measure captures the core dimensions of the DBS. Our goal was to assess the importance of multiple DBS dimensions across psychopathologies.


Undergraduates (N = 612) completed a broad set of dominance items (many from pre‐existing measures) and measures of lifetime depression, anxiety, and manic symptoms.


Factor analysis suggested six distinct DBS factors: Authentic Pride, Hubristic Pride, Cooperation, Power/Influence, Discomfort with Leadership, and Ruthless Ambition. Depressive and anxious symptoms related to notably similar DBS profiles, characterized by lower authentic pride, lower perceived power, and greater willingness to endorse hubris. In contrast, hypomanic tendencies related to heightened pride, and an emphasis on the pursuit of power despite interpersonal costs.


With a multi‐faceted approach, the DBS appears to be relevant for understanding multiple forms of psychopathology. Although limited by the reliance on self‐report questionnaires, this is the first transdiagnostic study to consider these multiple facets of the DBS.

Practitioner points

  • The dominance system involves multiple separable dimensions.
  • Manic tendencies appear tied to experiencing a heightened sense of pride and being willing to use more aggressive behavioural strategies to pursue dominance.
  • Anxious and depressive tendencies appear particularly tied to low levels of subjective power, and more willingness to describe oneself as having hubris.
  • Pride, the subjective sense of achieving power, and behavioural approaches to achieving power appear to be important dimensions of the dominance system for understanding psychopathology.

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