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      When Inequality Fails: Power, Group Dominance, and Societal Change


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          Social dominance theory was developed to account for why societies producing surplus take and maintain the form of group-based dominance hierarchies, in which at least one socially-constructed group has more power than another, and in which men are more powerful than women and adults more powerful than children. Although the theory has always allowed for societies to differ in their severity of group-based dominance and how it is implemented, it has predicted that alternative forms of societal organization will occur rarely and not last. This paper revisits aspects of the theory that allow for the possibility of societal alternatives and change. We also consider boundary conditions for the theory, and whether its current theoretical apparatus can account for societal change. By expanding the typical three-level dynamic system to describe societies (micro-meso-macro) into four levels (including meta) to consider how societies relate to one another, we identify political tensions that are unstable power structures rather than stable hierarchies. In research on institutions, we identify smaller-scale alternative forms of social organization. We identify logical, empirical, and theoretical shortcomings in social dominance theory’s account of stability and change, consider alternative forms of social organization, and suggest fruitful avenues for theoretical extension.

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          Most cited references74

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          The weirdest people in the world?

          Behavioral scientists routinely publish broad claims about human psychology and behavior in the world's top journals based on samples drawn entirely from Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic (WEIRD) societies. Researchers - often implicitly - assume that either there is little variation across human populations, or that these "standard subjects" are as representative of the species as any other population. Are these assumptions justified? Here, our review of the comparative database from across the behavioral sciences suggests both that there is substantial variability in experimental results across populations and that WEIRD subjects are particularly unusual compared with the rest of the species - frequent outliers. The domains reviewed include visual perception, fairness, cooperation, spatial reasoning, categorization and inferential induction, moral reasoning, reasoning styles, self-concepts and related motivations, and the heritability of IQ. The findings suggest that members of WEIRD societies, including young children, are among the least representative populations one could find for generalizing about humans. Many of these findings involve domains that are associated with fundamental aspects of psychology, motivation, and behavior - hence, there are no obvious a priori grounds for claiming that a particular behavioral phenomenon is universal based on sampling from a single subpopulation. Overall, these empirical patterns suggests that we need to be less cavalier in addressing questions of human nature on the basis of data drawn from this particularly thin, and rather unusual, slice of humanity. We close by proposing ways to structurally re-organize the behavioral sciences to best tackle these challenges.
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            Emerging adulthood. A theory of development from the late teens through the twenties.

            J Arnett (2000)
            Emerging adulthood is proposed as a new conception of development for the period from the late teens through the twenties, with a focus on ages 18-25. A theoretical background is presented. Then evidence is provided to support the idea that emerging adulthood is a distinct period demographically, subjectively, and in terms of identity explorations. How emerging adulthood differs from adolescence and young adulthood is explained. Finally, a cultural context for the idea of emerging adulthood is outlined, and it is specified that emerging adulthood exists only in cultures that allow young people a prolonged period of independent role exploration during the late teens and twenties.
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              Emerging adulthood: A theory of development from the late teens through the twenties.


                Author and article information

                J Soc Polit Psych
                Journal of Social and Political Psychology
                J. Soc. Polit. Psych.
                16 December 2013
                : 1
                : 1
                : 132-160
                [a ]Department of Psychology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, USA
                [2]University of Exeter, Exeter, United Kingdom
                Author notes
                [* ]Department of Psychology, 406 Babbidge Road, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 06269-1020, USA. felicia.pratto@ 123456uconn.edu

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                : 29 May 2013
                : 27 August 2013
                Self URI (journal-page): https://journals.psychopen.eu/
                Special Thematic Section on "Societal Change"

                societal change,group dominance,inequality,power
                societal change, group dominance, inequality, power


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