BACKGROUND: Theory and research suggest that social dominance is important for multiple forms of psychopathology, and yet few studies have considered multiple dimensions of psychopathology simultaneously, and relatively few have used well-validated behavioral indices. METHOD: Among 81 undergraduates, we used a well-validated experimental approach of assigning participants to a leadership or subordinate position, and we examined how self-rated severity of depression, social anxiety, manic tendencies, and psychopathy relate to psychophysiological and affective reactivity to this role. RESULTS: Consistent with hypotheses, manic symptoms related to more discomfort in the subordinate role compared to the leadership role, as evidenced by more decline in positive affect, more discomfort, and a larger RSA decline, while depression symptoms related to a more positive response to the subordinate role than the leadership role, including more positive affect and more comfort in the assigned role. Social anxiety was related to discomfort regardless of the assigned role, and those with higher psychopathy symptoms did not show differential response to assigned roles. LIMITATIONS: Findings are limited by the mild symptom levels and absence of hormonal data. CONCLUSIONS: Findings provide novel transdiagnostic evidence for the importance of social dominance to differentiate diverse forms of psychopathology.
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