Selective attention to signs of success: Social dominance and early stage interpersonal perception

Jon K. Maner*, C. Nathan Dewall, Matthew T. Gailliot

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

106 Scopus citations


Results from two experiments suggest that observers selectively attend to male, but not female, targets displaying signs of social dominance. Participants overestimated the frequency of dominant men in rapidly presented stimulus arrays (Study 1) and visually fixated on dominant men in an eyetracking experiment (Study 2). When viewing female targets, participants attended to signs of physical attractiveness rather than social dominance. Findings fit with evolutionary models of mating, which imply that dominance and physical attractiveness sometimes tend to be prioritized preferentially in judgments of men versus women, respectively. Findings suggest that sex differences in human mating are observed not only at the level of overt mating preferences and choices but also at early stages of interpersonal perception. This research demonstrates the utility of examining early-in-the-stream social cognition through the functionalist lens of adaptationist thinking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)488-501
Number of pages14
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2008


  • Evolutionary psychology
  • Motivation
  • Person perception
  • Romantic attraction
  • Social status

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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