Understanding Hierarchies in Nature and Society | Connecticut Public Radio
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Understanding Hierarchies in Nature and Society

Dec 13, 2018

Social structures, in almost all cases, are defined by some form of hierarchy. Whether in academics, sports, religion, business, or politics, there's usually someone at the top and others whose goal it is to get there. But while it's easy to think that we've designed our world to be this way, the truth may be that we had no choice.

Among our primate ancestors and other social animals  we can see similar hierarchies in place: Alpha males dominating the troop while subordinates fall in line, pecking orders among various birds and dominance hierarchies among wolf packs. Even insects such as bees and termites form their own systems of social ranking. 

Are hierarchies mandated by evolution? Is there something in nature -- in our genes, even -- which gives rise to the stratified society we live in? Though it sounds like a notion proposed by those with power in defense of their rank, the reality is that it may be a hard truth of human nature.

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Colin McEnroe and Chion Wolf contributed to this show, which originally aired on May 20, 2015.