1.6.4 Hierarchy ?

In the previous posts, I showed that happiness is the honest signal natural selection uses to rank us in the so called dominance structure. I mentioned two different types of structure. The dominance structure is based on happiness and its honest signal which is emitted and received almost unconsciously. On the contrary local, dominance hierarchies are based on tangible traits and conscious actions. They are indeed classical ethological dominance hierarchies in the sense that they use a social attribute that makes a dominant a winner beating the random odds in any combat (Jameson 1999). The social attribute is triggered consciously and can be seen by the group. It is explicit like a beak strike. It can be of any nature. I don’t even exclude artworks. Artists belong to multiple dominance hierarchies. As soon as you define the structure of dominance, then all activities that generate happiness are performed within local dominance hierarchies. It is not necessary that explicit competition occurs. It can be replaced by social approbation. The artist raison d’être is to be approved by his public. But in the same time, you can observe how these people like to be awarded in ceremony of all sorts. You have both competition and social approbation. That is, in the end, competition for social approbation.

Mind (Intelligence, expertise, strategic sense, capacity to anticipate or find shape in chaos,) and body (velocity, strength, grace, coordination,…) are the two main sources of social attributes which everybody use, or see others use, when they engage in interactions vis-à-vis the others or the environment. Local hierarchies establish themselves using set of consistent measure. Money can be a measure. But it is not the only one. It seems that it is very widespread nowadays though. All types of hierarchies emerge from this measurement: Despotic, linear or pyramidal. For example, the athletes compete against each other. A measure can be the performance achieved (time, won contests…) and you end up being classified in a linear type hierarchy.    

It is worth noting that no one is shocked that there are dominants or winners. Lack of fairness in the evolution games does not lie in inequalities. It is rather cheaters who are resented. As long as the dominant is felt to deserve his rank, he doesn’t get rejected and goes on collecting happiness which elevates him in the dominance structure. Dear reader, you’re part of the game too. Your adaptation capability and your successes are key factors to build your happiness capital. Success triggers happiness which triggers success in a virtuous circle. This is reinforced by the social respect and approbation that usually follow success. Community is also a key factor in the dominance hierarchy.

In normal conditions, it is impossible to get higher rank in the dominance structure without any activities in the local dominance hierarchy. In other words, it is impossible to decide consciously to be happy. Local dominance hierarchies are pre-requisite of the pursuit of happiness. Natural selection has a big stake in them in the sense that they are the places where it occurs. A specific local dominance hierarchy regroups a set of activities that bring value in terms of adaptation. The more it is going to produce happiness, the more it is going to be crowded as you may imagine. You could even say that competition occurs between local dominance hierarchies. This is based on the happiness they can generate.

One fact is extremely specific to humans. They have invented an incredible variety of local dominance hierarchy. Animals are boring: they fight themselves one way or the other. It is not that absurd in the sense that the fittest is also the one capable of grabbing more resources, so you need a little bit of cleverness here. But humans’ model of dominance is much more efficient as it is based on happiness. This complex indicator is the ultimate progress on ritualization as it collects all adaptation related data in order to confront it peacefully with the happiness of others. In some animal species, females do not select the dominant male. Scientists derive they take into account other parameters than strength. Indeed, they consider aptitudes like raising the offspring for example. Another explanation could be that there is another hierarchy, a hidden one, based on honest signal we don’t know about which would build a dominance structure. The signals (behaviors, honest signal, colors…) would provide additional information to the female in their mating partner selection process. After all, a combat ritual is a signal. It builds dominance hierarchy.

Wherever humans get measured, there is a local dominance hierarchy. Even more complex human structures compete against each other. Market is to be understood as a competition between various hierarchical structures such as profession, power. It is meant to provide a competition framework where product are sold and bought. All participants in this complex dominance hierarchy are measured against money. Money is interesting as it provides a sort of model of happiness allocation within the overall dominance structure. However this dominance indicator is degraded and dishonest from an ethologic perspective, not in moral terms. However, money distribution is certainly an acceptable model of happiness allocation however degraded it is. It is certainly not the ultimate panacea because human beings engage in other relationships in the dominance structure. They are not all based on money and they provide indeed happiness. That’s fortunate.

However, one way or the other, Money determines a rank a in the social organization, whether you like it or not, actually. Women pay attention to this indicator because they, more or less, unconsciously anticipate the resources that man will be able to provide in order to guarantee the education and the well-being of their offspring. I don’t think there is a reason to blame them for that. It is a child oriented, altruistic behavior. Money is the most fascinating criteria because, exactly like happiness, it is cross local dominance hierarchy. Ideally money based social organization should resemble the happiness based dominance structure. That’s not the case and we’ll discuss this in the next posts.

The old adage suggests that money can’t buy happiness. This is not entirely true because scientific study tends to prove that income increase for the poor improve their level of happiness. However, past a certain threshold, money will fail to provide an additional increase in happiness. There is a relationship between money and happiness however, at a certain level, it is broken and happiness declares its independence. Thus the higher the happiness is, the less money is reliable as a dominance indicator. I do not imply that there is no relationship. I only state that the indicator is not honest. You can win the lottery, you can inherit, you can be lucky. You can sit on top of dominance hierarchy but you cheated on yourself, you were not meant for it and become sad.

Source : J’aurais voulu être un artiste, always wanted to be an artist, Balavoine

Je suis pas heureux mais j’en ai l’air    
J’ai perdu le sens de l’humour
Et puis j’ai le sens des affaires
J’ai réussi et j’en suis fier    
Au fond je n’ai qu’un seul regret
J’fais pas ce que j’aurais voulu faire

I’m not happy but look like it
I’ve lost my sense of humor

Since I’ve got business sense
I succeeded and I’m proud of it
Deeply, I’ve got one regret
I don’t do what I wanted to do

We throw our own fear of deprivation on the poorest. Even if it is difficult for them, we should not deny them the capacity to be happy. It is maybe what is called respect and dignity of the human being. They even could be our rivals in the dominance structure. This is the sheer power of happiness and its honest signal in so far all components necessary for adaptation are included in one universal synthetic indicator that can be then compared irrespective of where you come from and what you do to survive. Some components are prescribed by the culture. It is likely that what makes the others happy will make you also happy. However, you need to be careful and decide what makes you really happy. This choice is not easy in a society that makes us believe that money is the only way to buy happiness. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to blame anybody because they like things. If it brings you happiness, so be it. I think though that there are thrifty ways to be happy, really happy and not dependent on money.

I’ve elaborated a lot on the dominance structure based on happiness as opposed to local dominance hierarchies based on all other criteria like body and mind, culture (social organization inherited from history) and tangible assets(money, expensive clothes and cars…). Dominance structure is… a structure and not a hierarchy with a fixed top and base. It was maybe so in Pleistocene where primitive tribes were made up of 150 members. Civilization has turned hierarchy into a structure. The dominance structure is difficult to see because it always changing exactly like our moods. However scientist did spot it involuntarily. Science apparently does not know yet that happiness needs to be construed in an evolutionary dominance model. Happiness can be compared to the subterranean river found under the Amazon. You can’t see it, but it moves slowly under the powerful Amazon River. Let’s have a look at the dominance structure of the Homo sapiens!

In 2008, a scientific study attracted a lot of media attention and spurred numerous comments. It demonstrated that happiness was contagious and depended on the others. Conclusion was drawn that joy was a collective phenomenon. I don’t really understand the collective conclusion very well. Happiness is not an emerging attributes of the community. Only individuals feel it. The fact that it propagates itself isn’t a proof that community creates it. An emerging attribute is a property created at a higher level of organization. Organization creates the attribute. For example, mind is considered as an emerging activity of the billions of neurons of the brain. That is, if you are a monist. So is happiness a collective or an individual phenomenon? In any case, and this is not innocent, it reminds me of the scientific debate over dominance that I presented in a previous post. The same questions were raised as regard to dominance. This is no coincidence because we’re talking about the same phenomenon.

Source : Henri Roussel, “La valeur biologique de l’organisation sociale en hiérarchie de dominance chez l’animal”. Les cahiers psychologie politique. Numéro 4, décembre 2003.
These conceptions consider that dominance is a kind of individual attribute. Others, still focusing on agonistic behaviors, maintain that dominance is a relative measure, an attribute of dyadic encounters rather than an individual attribute. Among these definitions, it is stated that dominance hierarchy is shaped on the basis of a social dynamic process. The “Winner/Loser conditional effect” is used to describe evolution of dyadic encounters as a function of the previous one.

So, is happiness collective or individual? To me, choosing one camp over the other is not mandatory. According to my theory, we selfishly accumulate happiness in the local dominance hierarchy and we propagate it in the community (dominance structure) through social interactions. Social interactions in humans and combat in animals share the same phylogeny. This means that they share the same behavioral ancestor. Social interactions are the combats that occur in the dominance structure. Dominance structure must exist in other species because it is the centrifugal glue that opposes the centripetal action of agonistic fights in the hierarchies. The animal must be pushed to agonistic behavior in some kind of way. It expects a reward.

I’m perfectly in line with the scientists in defining happiness the way I did. If an individual is dominant in the dominance structure, then he transfers happiness to the others who get dependent on him like a drug. I won’t deny that I read this study with the sunglasses of my theory.

Source: Dynamic spread of happiness in a large social network: longitudinal analysis over 20 years in the Framingham Heart Study (James H Fowler, associate professor, Nicholas A Christakis, professor – BMJ 2008;337:a2338 doi:10.1136/bmj.a2338.)

In the introduction, the authors present their objectives and make a mistake re the dominance theory. It is a slight one which will be corrected as soon as my simple theory spreads all over the world (one day). Their objectives are to “evaluate whether happiness can spread from person to person and whether niches of happiness form within social networks”. I don’t oppose the propagation but I slightly disagree with the form of the second proposal. Fowler and Christakis consider social network as a framework where happiness can blossom. They are not aware that in fact, happiness not only propagates itself across social network, it creates it. It is like looking at bacteria and the atmosphere. Bacteria seem to live their life in the atmosphere. At some point, in the evolution of earth, bacteria chemistry created the atmosphere. It is the same with happiness and social network. It does not form within social networks, it creates it. Social networks do not appear using the magic wand of a holy ghost. There need to be a structuring force that glues the individuals together into the dominance structure (social network).

Thus the introduction needs to be corrected. The objectives are to evaluate whether happiness can spread from person to person and whether happiness creates the social network”. It is a significant nuance. However, without this correction, the study is more of a description than an explanation. I think it its ambition. It significantly supports my theory which just adds a dominance rationale behind it. Of course, other factors should not be excluded. Social networks are also built on family ties (selfish genes) and are also dependent on social and geographical conditions. I just want to point out a process that exerts its significant power everything else being equal.

I’m not going to spend too much time analyzing details of this study because it raises theoretical questions I will address later. All I wanted to show in this post is that the dominance structure is not a concept; it is a tangible reality that can be observed. The study followed up people during 20 years. Their level of happiness was estimated. This led the scientists to establish correlations between level of happiness and the people proximity in the networks (Family, friends, neighbors, colleagues). Among the conclusions lies the fact that “people who are surrounded by many happy people and those who are central in the network are more likely to become happy in the future”. This could also show that choosing your friends could be a rational decision based on happiness. You never thought about it? Maybe this is because, some part of your brain does it for you and you don’t know anything about it.

Let’s imagine that 100 people are regrouped in a warehouse, everything being equal (social class, education…), some people will have a tendency to establish relationships with some others. Friend selection would be just chance? I don’t think so. The experiment would be amusing. A happiness questionnaire would establish the level of happiness and then we would see how the social network would construct itself. Normally, correlation between happiness and the established relationship would appear. It would like observing magnetic fields and iron fillings.

Who is dominance and who is submissive in the big happiness game? It is difficult to tell because happiness or dominance is difficult to evaluate in a normal interaction (filling up questionnaire is not a normal interaction). Only the limbic system can derive the values from the honest signal. No need to say that the limbic system is beyond conscious control. To detect a dominant, you need maybe to ask the women, they know. Also there is an asymmetrical relationship. The submissive is attracted by the dominant. The dominant must be central in the dominance hierarchy. He creates happiness from local dominance hierarchy and propagates it. He’s a source. We will disclose a massive dominant source in the next posts.

Let’s go back to the Framigham study. Happy or less happy egos (“individual”) distribute themselves across clusters. They pair themselves in a way that evokes an absence of coincidence. The dominance structure based on the happiness honest signal is displayed below, just for your eyes. Pyramidal hierarchies have given way to complex structure during the evolution process where relationships were more and more regulated through the level of happiness. I think it is a very intuitive concept. Did you really think that happiness was such an innocent feeling. It is not. Evolution is rarely innocent.

Why would you follow someone who’s sad? Why imitating him if he’s not fit ? A leader must have this special thing; this special thing is the happiness honest signaling. Evolution is not stupid. Violent confrontations do have a cost in terms of survival (wounds, time spent to fight is not spent to collect resources…). With happiness, dominance becomes flexible, portable and real time. Adaptation is cumulated in it and is displayed to the group through it. What a major breakthrough for evolution! The archaic form of dominance (violence and fear) is the exactly the opposite of the modern form (happiness). Wars, murders are not exactly good for happiness. We have both forms in us. Let’s hope we’ll get rid of our old penchant.


Each node represents an ego. Female ego are circle, Male ego are square. The lines in between the shapes are the type of relation (black for siblings, red for spouse and friends). The color represents the level of happiness. Blue and bluish are the less happy whereas green and greenish are the happiest (Yellow are somewhat intermediate)

Dead Kennedys / Saturday night holocaust
A Hitler youth in jogging suit
Smiling face banded ’round his arm
Says, ‘Line up, you’ve got work to do
we need dog food for the poor’

Dead Kennedys / California über alles
I am Governor Jerry Brown
My aura smiles
and never frowns
Soon I will be president…
Carter Power will soon go away
I will be Fuhrer one day
I will command all of you
your kids will meditate in school
your kids will meditate in school!

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