Posts tagged with "Dominance"

Why do cats slap each other?

May 3, 2022

While chickens work out a “pecking order,” many cats slap each other to establish a social rank. But that’s not the only reason. They may be playing, or fighting, or just communicating with each other. It’s hard to tell, because cats can be inscrutable, reports Animal Path.

To distinguish between the different reasons for slapping, you need to look at the context and your pets’ body language. 

Initiating playtime: Cats can initiate playtime by slapping each other. Think of slapping as an invitation to play. If you watch the body language of the cats involved, you will see that there are no signs of aggression. The claws are retracted and nobody is making hissing or screeching noises.

You might not notice it, but your cat also does the same thing when he wants to get your attention, whether to ask for something or to play.

In such a scenario, there is no pressing need to intervene. Allow your cats to slap each other, run around, and have a good time.

Reinforcing social rank: Many people think of cats as solitary creatures, much like some big cats. However, cats are social creatures that form bonds with their parents, siblings, or even non-relatives if they are introduced correctly.

If two cats have not yet bonded, they will not groom or play with one another.

In an ideal scenario, all of your cats share an equal rank within their group. But just like in a pack of dogs, some cats emerge as the dominant ones.

A cat can assert his dominance over another cat by slapping him. While this is nothing close to a real fight, it should be a cause for concern for you. Tolerating signs of dominance can lead to full-blown aggression which can be stressful to your cats and you.

Fighting: One time you see your cats getting along just fine and then you suddenly hear a commotion between the two—with both cats testing each other by attempting to slap the other one.

Real fighting is vastly different from play fighting. You will see that when two cats are locked in actual combat, the claws are unsheathed, ready and waiting for the opportunity to attack the other one. The ears are pulled flat to the back of the head while the two aggressively meow at one another.

Generally, cats try to avoid fights. But when backed into a corner, even a timid cat will not shy away from defending itself by getting into a fight with another feline.

 Illness: A cat may slap your other pet and show uncharacteristically aggressive behavior if he is suffering from an undiagnosed medical condition. When a feline is in pain, he may not be as receptive to invitations to play. He may also be irritable in the presence of other members of your household.

Slapping an object: Cats may play with objects by slapping them, especially toys. His action simply means that he is enjoying playing with you and his toys. However, take note that cats can get bored with their toys. This is why it is important to rotate your pet’s toys from time to time.

Should you worry if your cats slap each other? Should you be concerned if your two cats slap each other? There is no definitive answer to this question. You will need to consider how each cat behaves, watching for signs of aggression and ill intent. Allow your pets to play with each other but be ready to intervene if things begin to get out of hand

Research contact: @animalpathorg

Keep your head down: Tilting your chin toward your neck can make you seem more dominant

August 16, 2019

Does somebody you know make you feel as if he or she is “head and shoulders above you” in confidence and ability?  Findings of a study recently conducted at the University of British Columbia in Canada indicate that when a conversational partner arches his eyebrows and tilts his chin downward, the effect can be intimidating.

In fact, even “… a neutral face—a face with no muscle movement or facial expression—appears to be more dominant when the head is tilted down,” researchers Zachary Witkower and Jessica Tracy explained in an article published in the June edition of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

This effect is caused by the fact that tilting one’s head downward leads to the artificial appearance of lowered and V-shaped eyebrows—which in turn elicit perceptions of aggression, intimidation, and dominance.”

Although researchers have investigated how facial muscle movements, in the form of facial expressions, correlate with social impressions, few studies have specifically examined how head movements might play a role. Witkower and Tracy designed a series of studies to investigate whether the angle of head position might influence social perception, even when facial features remain neutral.

In one online study with 101 participants, the researchers generated variations of avatars with neutral facial expressions—using three head positions: tilted upward ten degrees, neutral (0 degrees), or tilted downward ten degrees.

The participants judged the dominance of each avatar image, rating their agreement with statements including “This person would enjoy having control over others” and “This person would be willing to use aggressive tactics to get their way.”

The results showed that participants rated the avatars with downward head tilt as more dominant than those with neutral or upward-titled heads.

A second online study, in which 570 participants rated images of actual people, showed the same pattern of results.

Additional findings revealed that the portion of the face around the eyes and eyebrows is both necessary and sufficient to produce the dominance effect. That is, participants rated downward-tilted heads as more dominant even when they could only see the eyes and eyebrows; this was not true when the rest of the face was visible, and the eyes and eyebrows were obscured.

Two more experiments indicated that the angle of the eyebrows drove this effect—downward-tilted heads had eyebrows that appeared to take more of a V shape, even though the eyebrows had not moved from a neutral position, and this was associated with perceptions of dominance.

“In other words, tilting the head downward can have the same effect on social perceptions as does lowering one’s eyebrows—a movement made by the corrugator muscle, known as Action Unit 4 in the Facial Action Coding System—but without any actual facial movement,” say Witkower and Tracy. “Head tilt is thus an ‘action unit imposter’ in that it creates the illusory appearance of a facial muscle movement where none in fact exists.”

Ultimately, Witkower and Tracy note, these findings could have practical implications for our everyday social interactions: “People often display certain movements or expressions during their everyday interactions, such as a friendly smile or wave, as a way to communicate information,” they said, adding, “Our research suggests that we may also want to consider how [they] hold their head during these interactions, as subtle head movements can dramatically change the meaning of otherwise innocuous facial expressions.”

Research contact: zak.witkower@psych.ubc.ca