3.99 Berkeley


Sheri L Johnson is a doctor of psychology at the University of Berkeley. In spite of a very busy schedule, she accepted the principle of a short presentation and has only validated electronic publishing of the material that you are going to read in this article, material that should be understood as an exchange of view in the sense that Sheri is the experienced professional in the field. She does not legitimize, validate or approve the entire content of the blog which is not meant to be a reflection of what she thinks of the disease as well as other subjects as a professional researcher. The blog is solely intended to reflect my thoughts.

Do not draw any conclusion from this material as regard to your treatment. Sheri and I think that the best way to prevail over mental illness is to establish a trust based relationship with your pdoc, to follow thoroughly the prescribed medication and to know about yourself and the disease. In general, do not rely on any internet material that could interfere with your treatment, rather, use it as an input in the open discussion you must have with your pdoc. Remember he is the only relevant professional capable of translating the most current scientific findings into the best treatment and counselling that will fit your needs, alleviate your pain and, last but not least, keep you away from troubles.

Funny, I have had always this history of submissive, respectful relationship with French teachers, French professors and authority in general. I was always the one bringing an apple in the classroom, more precisely, a bucket full of them, just in case I would miss the desk.

Even more funny, having had meeting with managers and directors of big companies, I felt extremely confident that I could hold a discussion with PhDs without being ridiculous.

On the eve of the meeting, I had this restful, quiet and relaxing night.

And so it began, approximatively English, at 11:00 pm my time on the 6th of April, 2015…

Louis: have you the presentation open?

Sheri: Yes I do, thank you for being so prepared.

Louis: it is unusual for me to speak to a PhD, so I needed to be prepared! So we’ll get started with the introduction, it will last two minutes. We will discuss your article and then I will speak about my framework and then we will have an open discussion until you join this faculty meeting of yours

Louis: In one sentence, what is my blog? The basic idea is to convince an imaginary reader that bipolar disorder is in fact dominance disorder. It is a vast program!

Louis: Until now I had two perspectives on dominance. It was psychiatry and ethology. I got interested in ethology because of psychiatry. I’m bipolar type I. So you bring up some good news because I have a third perspective now which is psychology. This is brand new framework and brand new terminology to me.

Louis: The next slide shows how I’ve understood your 2012 article. What I’ve understood is that you have an HPS, which is a scale, which detects hypomanic behavior or tendency. This scale is correlated to risk for mania. You have demonstrated that this scale is linked to what you call the social dominance. It is a cloud of words which are really interesting for me because I’ve got new words and new way of seeing the disease now because psychology is into it. In France, psychology is helping bipolars in terms of education of the patient, and also in terms of resilience. How do I not fall into depression and avoid up episode. So what I would like from you first is a confirmation that what you call love, close connection with the others and affiliation is outside your social dominance model

Sheri: Yes, Yes.

Louis: It is definitely. So for you, maybe social dominance is achieved at the expense of love, close connection with the others and affiliation?

Sheri: Not necessarily, they are not necessarily in conflict. I think of them as two different dimensions and that’s important because you could have a person who really wants social dominance but also wants love and that might be a better spot than a person who only wants social dominance and has given up on love.

Louis: Ok, interesting. I will briefly present you my framework which is on the next slide. It is dominance as it is perceived by ethologists. Here, dominance is not what you call you call a construct. I think that, in the limitations of your article you have been very tough on yourself by stating that you are using dominance construct. In my framework, dominance is a not a construct. It is ethologic definitions derived from observations. The idea is how to compare animal to man. There is no scientific documentation that says humans are not animals. I think we are animals. We are definitely! Let me summarize briefly the wording.

Dominance is closely related to reproduction. It is always very funny to hear the psychologist restraint about the subject. They often talk about romantic desirability. From ethologist perspective, this is plainly access to reproduction. So don’t be shocked! Dominance is also related to the social attributes that makes you a winner in the game. It is a game that can be achieved without aggressiveness. Lorentz (Nobel prize of biology in 1972) stated that fight can be ritualized so that the winner can achieve dominance without risking any nasty wounds. In the blog, my interest is to demonstrate that what is called social interaction is in fact an evolution of the dominance hierarchy that we see in the animal world. Last salient point, dominance is also a preferred access to resource.

Price did these assumptions in 1967 that link psychiatry and ethology, mood and dominance hierarchy. This is the first scientific article I came across that substantiated my observations. Then we have Malatynska & Knapp. This is really good material. They only suggest the link between mania and dominance. They say that it is only a model which enables them to test new medication.

Sheri: Malatynska study is amazing. Have you seen other people replicate what they did? Because I looked at that and I found it beautiful, beautiful.

Louis: Yes, it is extremely clever indeed. I haven’t understood everything. I was desperate to have some other material like this one. My internet library has its limitation; you got published in 2012 and your article appeared 2 months in google. I was really surprised that nobody tried to replicate the Malatynska and Knapp experiment and rush into that direction. You’re the only one that utilized their article and check the validity of their model for human. Let’s check on the next slide how the link between psychiatry and ethology can be applied to bipolar disorder.

Louis: In psychiatry you don’t have behaviors, you have symptoms. I did a little tab where I’ve crossed symptoms with 4 dimensions like reproduction, resource, fitness and dominance features.

Sheri: This is great. I really like this.

Louis: Yes? So the first symptom is « I’m god, I the messiah or I’m Napoleon.. ». In my blog I got interested in religion as an expression of a suble dominance feature. I don’t know what it is but the it seems that the name of the game is : « I want to submit you ». Why on earth god want to have a dominance relationship ? Religion is a question that could be formulated within an ethologic perspective. I’ve read nothing on this particular subject for the moment.

Sheri: I haven’t either. I have never really kind of mapped up the symptoms like this. I like it very much. The only thing I have question about is: are those 4 columns separable? For example, if you’re very fit, it’s an advantage for reproduction.

Louis: Exactly! If you’d follow the fitness definition you’d merge the 4 columns in one. All the checks would be in one fitness column. I fully agree. However, for the sake of clarity, let’s keep the four columns as some symptoms are directly mapped up to one dimension of the fitness. For instance, Hypersexuality is reproduction and reproduction is fitness. The game here is to say: instead of saying there is a dominance hierarchy and then I can observe the sexuality of an ape, let’s consider hypersexuality first and then wonder what kind of dominance hierarchy is there here? There is a dominance hierarchy with no fight and no collection of new resources. What is really interesting in hypersexuality is that the focus is always on the maniac. But sorry, when you have sex, you have sex with another person. Why on earth this person gets attracted by maniacs. And we are talking about more than one person here. That is the interesting question. Lots of psychiatry material I read just brings no answer to that. For me it is fundamental. Why someone gets attracted by a maniac. This maniac can be poor, he can be ugly etc… he does not normally rape anyone. If I was a potential rapist, my pdoc would have told me!

Sheri: That’s fascinating. You’re more like Kay Jamison says, the phrase, you’re more sexually alluring. And then the psychiatrist treats it like it is within a person. But you’re right. If you’re going to code that someone is going to have a lot of sex that means they’re having a lot of sex with somebody else. You push it a little bit further than the way psychiatry defines the symptom in a way that’s intriguing.

Louis: It’s pushing it from psychiatry where one patient is considered to ethology where it takes two to access reproduction. Hypersexuality is the main focus for me. When manic, I didn’t go into hypersexuality but I can understand the easy path that leads to it.

Louis: The third symptom is spending spree. It is clearly related to resources. It is as if your brain would like to turn, in the best case scenario money that you have, into resources that you like. Money is not interesting in itself but resources are and you try to get hold of them, sometimes whatever the costs.

Louis: Hypersexuality and spending spree are the two flags that are raised when bipolar disorders are discussed, particularly in the French media. It is interesting from an ethologic point of view because both behaviors are clearly related to fitness definition and dominance hierarchy.

Louis: Let’s talk now about inflated self-esteem. I think this it is my worst enemy.

Sheri: This is interesting, we put a lot of money on that…. It is the thing that put people in trouble.

Louis: Yes, you know Nietzsche, the philosopher?

Sheri: Not well, but I know who he is.

Louis: Nietzsche said that it is not doubt that drives you crazy, it is certitude. If you have high level of self-esteem, you have no doubt. I’ll tell you a story from my manic experience. I had racing thoughts and inflated self-esteem at the same time. I don’t recollect what my thoughts were, but I recall the feeling, it was absolute truth. My definition of self-esteem is a little bit different from the one of the psychologist. Psychologists (the one I’ve read) tend to consider self-esteem as one’s evaluation of itself against his/her set of values. To me, self-esteem is a low level functionality of the brain, of dominance so to speak. If your self-esteem is high, then you run into a big problem because it cut you off from reality and it is the root cause of craziness from my perspective. If you are sure of everything you are crazy. It has nothing to do with ethology. It has to do with personal experience.

Louis: The next symptom is the well-known almightiness feeling. I think it as a mix of elevated mood and inflated self-esteem. This is not a pure concept so let’s don’t spend too much time on it and go the next symptom.

Louis: French psychiatry calls it hypersyntonia. I don’t know if you have the same word in English?

Sheri: I don’t know what the word actually means, could you describe it?

Louis: People connect to my blog and want to know the meaning of this word. Psychiatry has difficulties to satisfactorily explain it. What I read is basically affective symbiosis with the other, a complete merge with the other and a sensation of attunement with the atmosphere.

Sheri: Here, people talk less about a merger with the other and more about being exquisitely attuned to sensations, sensitive to color, sensitive to experience, but they also then talk about the sensation of being one with the universe. I don’t know if either of those quite captures it.

Louis: Maybe it is a matter of intensity. Being one with the universe might be the same symptom at a different intensity. Maybe, at a lower intensity, the emotional system is acutely and locally congruent with the atmosphere and you merge with the other. This symptom is interesting in the sense that it is very complex and very complicated to describe. However, as far as I’m concerned, I know what it is. And if someone asks me a definition, I’d tell him or her: « go and have a beer with a friend, and you’ll know » because alcohol provides this syntonia feeling. And there is an article in my blog where I say that alcohol is a substitute for dominance. This explains why people drink too much, unfortunately.

Louis: And there is a lot of other small stuff but they are pointing in the same direction. Racing thoughts, you can think them as symptoms or you can think them as enhancement. When you are hypomanic, your ideas and your associations of ideas are creative according to society standard. When you are manic, they are still creative but not according to society standard, they are somewhere else. The consciousness or, as the neurologist like to call it, the attention system is lost. It is not used to process this speed of thought. I had experience of racing thoughts, they are scary. However, you could describe them as enhancement, from a purely functionality perspective. But the brain cannot cope with them at the moment.

Louis: You’ve got also strength. When it comes to manic people, you cannot argue against their strength. I was 62 kg went I was admitted at the hospital and it took four people to get hold of me. And it was male nurse! Quite strong people. I’ve got scant material that says that manic people are extremely strong.

Louis: There are eventually two symptoms I have added them although they are not that present in the literature. Resistance against fatigue, thirst and hunger gives additional hint that mania, from a purely conceptual perspective, could result in elevation of the fitness. Also surge in « energy » could be interpreted within the same thread of thought.

Louis: All in all, if you take all these symptoms separately, you look like someone very important, but you’re not. You’re crazy as nuts. So why is that? I think you have to have an evolutionary perspective on bipolar disorder. Why don’t/do we have bipolar disorder? I think evolutionary concepts need to be applied here. It could be derived from them that between this low level (greater than depression) of mood and high level of mood (less than mania), you are adapted to reality. So there is a range of dominance within which it is possible to live. The range locks can be broken, and if they are broken you may have problem. You may end up being in a situation where the evolution tools are not present to balance new functionality and excitation. Racing thoughts are very nice but if you don’t have the attention system to cope with them, then it is scary and it won’t bring any evolutionary added value. Another example is the excitation, it is nice in essence but it will make you insomniac.

Sheri: So I think maybe it was Price maybe it was somebody who had published following on him who said that what happened was a sort of hypersensitivity to the normal evolutionary triggers of a shift in perceived dominance. So we win an award and we should have an improvement in our perception of our dominance but maybe that response system is too drastic. Is that what you think of the breakdown? Or do you think it is something different? Where’s the dysregulation? Do you think this system is free flooding or do you think it is hypersensitive…?

Louis: I hope the next slide, which presents the dominance system as I see it, will provide a hint of an answer to your question.

Louis: What is important is that dominance is a state and that domination is a process. Dominance brings you dominance features: we have talked about them: self-esteem, syntonia, « energy » which is in fact added excitation. All these dominance features are present in normal people. In manic people they are amplified, and you can feel them as you could feel acceleration whereas in normal people they are behind the scene, almost unnoticeable because they are more stable. Dominance is a mood and some features. These features will be considered as input in the domination. Whatever you do or think: it is domination. You go and fish: it is domination. I talk to you: it is domination. I look at a butterfly: it is domination. So what’s the purpose of domination? It is basically reward. You would generally do nothing if there was no reward. The dominance related reward is extremely important. You call it the reward system, in my blog I call it the defeat and victory counter because it can punishes you if you don’t perform well vis-à-vis Mother Nature.

Louis: From an evolutionary perspective this dominance related reward system comes from somewhere. Do you know the peck order?

Sheri: Yes I do.

Louis: The peck order establishes the dominance hierarchy in chicken (Thorleif Schjelderup-Ebben 1921). You have to have a neural network that manages the strikes dealt and received. To me, this neural network is the foundation which has evolved and is now present in apes and humans. It calculates the level of dominance. It is also capable of rewarding new domination. This is a learning system based on recognition. Art, for example, is a new domination. What is interesting in Art, is that the reward system is extremely and purely sensitive to recognition. As far as I’m concerned, the recognition of the others creates a mess in my system.

Louis: You could consider thoughts as a chain. First you have thoughts. Dawkins think them as a simulation tool provided by evolution. Then you have decision. Decision is the major part of the thought process. Damasio demonstrated that it is a specific functionality of the brain by investigating the behavior of a patient that could not make decision. The patient had brain damage and he could not make any decision as to which date he would choose for a meeting. He was always discussing the pros and cons whilst unable to make any decision. Mother Nature wants to evaluate your decision. For a long time period in evolution, there was no conscious brain that could say this is right or wrong, or this is good or not. During this period, it might be the case that recognition of the other could have played a major role. If everybody’s happy, then I’m happy and more dominant. Art is a good example on how new domination can be learned through the recognition dependent reward system So recognition of the others is really interesting in terms of dominance related reward. Of course there are other rewards. I think it worth to mention the habituation. If the reward becomes repetitive, it could lose its impact on dominance.

Sheri: Is it recognition from new people?

Louis: I think it is recognition from a certain type of people, maybe the dominant people. So In the end, you have a system and this system brings you to a balance. The cycle will stop when reward disappears or when the punishment or associated cost like stress is too hard to take … The dominance then stand still. You were in the pursuit mode, and now you are in the maturity system where relative weigh of dominance is bigger than domination.

Louis: You, as a PhD principal investigator you don’t need to demonstrate anything to anybody. People trust you. Your point of view is valued. And you don’t need to demonstrate all the things from the start. So there is less domination and more dominance. And self-esteem seems to subside in favor of syntonia. You advise people, you guide them. You want them to succeed. In the business world, at some point, managers think they are more in the dominance than in the domination. They are more in the guidance. They say the principles, where we go etc… They don’t need to prove all the way from the start what they know. It is interesting to note. All in all, again, dominance is an equilibrium, a balance between you and the world which comprises the social dynamics and the idea that your dominance depends on the dominance of the others.

Louis: So in the end, we go back to your article.

Louis: To me, your social dominance system contains a lot of ethologic concept and is related to what we’ve discussed. Motivation to achieve social power lay the emphasis on the spark that leads to domination. Motivation is driven by self-esteem because self-esteem minus your perceived rank in society is a good definition of will. I want to act to correct this rank which is too low from my self-esteem. So self-esteem is very important. I consider it as an engine for domination, for activities and for action. And you’ve got the energy too that will supports this process.

Louis: Self-perceptions of (having Attained) power. What do you call power?

Sheri: Think of power as resources.

Louis: I thought power was the ability to exert control over somebody?

Sheri: Think of it as interpersonally based resources. So have you seen the D Keltner review article on what power means?

Louis: No, I’m just a man on an island. I only see what is on the internet J

Sheri: You’re going to love this article. Read that D Keltner article in psychological review. It’s not about bipolar disorder. It’s about power.

Louis: Dominance motivation is still the same spark. Spark into domination. Engagement in socially dominant behavior: to me, it is domination. Pursuit of fame: it’s pursuit of recognition of the other, of reward. Admiration of the others, to me, It is recognition. Pursuit of wealth is resource related. Hubristic pride, this word hubristic is fantastic, it is arrogance, right?

Sheri: Sort of, yes.

Louis: This word will surely makes me look good in the consulting world J. I’ll make a good impression with it. It is interesting in the sense that you can distinguish between hubristic and non-hubristic pride, which is based on fact. It means that people with hypomanic tendency has this little thing which is not normal. People with hubristic pride will tend to adjust their behaviors so that the social rank matches the pride. Pride, from my perspective is not the result; it is the spark as it is closely related to self-esteem.

Sheri: Interesting. I’m not sure what to make of the pride piece. I’m struggling with it a little bit. But I like that model that because it is important to feel that sensation, it keeps you driving for other’s recognition. That’s interesting. I like it. I don’t know the answer yet.

Louis: Social rank is about recognition too and wealth (resources). Political ambition is domination for recognition. Extrinsic recognition is the recognition definition I’ve made. Again we have pride defined as the emotion when having attained power. We have a small disagreement in the sense that to me it is the beginning of the process as engine of the domination, and to you, it is the end of the process. This is interesting.

Sheri: Although I think your cycle is really good, I would put pride up at the top of your graph as part of the reflection of where you think you are in that dominance mood state. But of course this all thing, I think feeds upward like that’s the beauty of the cycle you’re showing, there’s a way in which each step then drives the next step a little bit higher unless something brings it back down. So being in a heightened mood state drives more dominance features drives more domination drives more focus on evaluation and recognition which then when you get those cues, if you get them, is going to drive the mood state up higher. I guess the real critical thing is how much people continue the process and if the evaluation/recognition cues are accurate.

Louis: That’s why I call the second slide maturity. When you attain maturity then you have children to take care of…. You decrease the domination process and you take care of the others. That’s why I wanted to challenge you about the love and close connection with the others. It think at some point syntonia prevails over self-esteem. And you have love.

Sheri: That’s the better outcome right? Do you know Paul Gilbert? Paul Gilbert is a British guy who’s been very influenced by Price and you’d love his work. He’s a therapist. He works on this idea that one of the thing you have to do is to provide some balance between the pursuit of dominance and the pursuit of love and closeness. And so then you maybe not trying to just rob people of the sense that they want to matter to others and be recognized but you’re helping them re focus on these other more affiliative loving close connection goals. And that in another itself will help reshape some of the dominance pieces. So you are very similar in your thinking to somebody who is really admired. And that’s Paul Gilbert. And Paul often challenges me to think more carefully about those two systems. Paul says I’ve gone off track by just focusing on one system at a time. You’ll love him. He’s very wise.

Louis: I’ll read about him!

Sheri: This is fascinating. You’ve thought so hard about this. So, one model says hey look, you picked this up as somebody gets manic, you’ll see it as they get depressed. When they’re in a middle mood state without being high or low, you’re not going to see anything really different about the dominance system and process with them. Another says no maybe at baseline there are some pieces that’s there that you could measure that makes this whole system more vulnerable to fluctuations. Do you think there’s anything that’s there at baseline when people are neither high nor low?

Louis: (lost), for bipolar?

Sheri: yes.

Louis: (completely lost) could you repeat the question?

Sheri: If I were to test 100s of people with bipolar disorder on every facet of the dominance system when they were incredibly well, no high, no low. Do you think I would see anything that’d look different about them compare to other people, would there be any dimension of dominance that would look different?

Louis: You might spot problems in the reward system and the way the reward is processed. For example, in my case, the recognition of the other triggers a lot of emotions. Heart is beating, it is completely abnormal. The central thing for me is this reward system, the defeat and victory system. If your system is not used to process a reward, you will have problems and you will experience chaotic emotional response. I’ve read about research the aim of which was to determine which events trigger ups and downs. To my knowledge, nothing conclusive has been attained in this area because this reward system depends on you. It is complex, it can learn and it has evolved for a very long period of time. We might never be in a position to understand it. Anyway, to me, if there is a fault, it is in this area. How do react when people say you’re good or not good? Are you aggressive? I’m a loner. I’m socially normal at work. I work in consulting. I’m a nice guy but, at weekends, I like to be alone. In a sense I flee from these interactions that will provide reward or punishment.

Sheri: Because it is overwhelming?

Louis: because it’s annoying. I like to be alone. That’s part of my history. Self-esteem is also interesting in the vulnerability picture. How do you perceive the world? It can be also a good sign if you are going to be manic or not because if your self-esteem is not adjusted to reality, it means that you’re are going to enter a domination process in which the representation of the situation that lead to reward will be perverted by elevated self-esteem. Everything I do is superb in all cases, and then the cycle becomes crazy. The cycle here is very basic but all the weaknesses can be detected. Again I’m a loner who flees from reward and recognition because of hypersensitivity. I flee from people because I am hypersensitive. Alone, I feel better. So all in all, both the reward system and the dominance features are area worth investigating and you’ve started to do so.

Louis: My problem is I only go manic. My last manic episode was 15 years ago. It was long ago!

Sheri: very good, you’ve figured something out there. That’s pretty awesome.

Louis: The problem is that I continue to fluctuate. I always fluctuate toward highs. I will tell you something, when you’re up and perfectly calm, what is very stunning is to see the change of behavior of the others. I can tell you it’s supernatural.

Sheri: Got you, got you.

Louis: Good vibrations, I don’t know what it is. It’s incredible.

Sheri: When I would send an interviewer into the field to try and find out if somebody was bipolar and should sign up with their studies, I always say that I could tell from the minute they walk into my office if they had been interviewing somebody who is manic because there’s a contingent: they’d come in looking happier and funnier and taller.

Sheri: All in all, very very interesting. I find it very compelling the things that are thought, going in so many parallel directions. You’ve given me a lot to think about. I can tell you we are continuing work on this line. I did an article; I can send you a couple of articles…

Louis: Yes! I’m really interested in your work. You’ve written a lot of articles. And my niche of study is this area. If you could send me a list of book, articles, which I need to read and would be interesting for me, please do so. You’ll give me work for at least 4 years!

Sheri: Yes, be careful, it is a rabbit hole. There’s a lot out there. We did a giant review of dominance across psychologists and the intro of that has some of the different models that we thought were interesting for how to think about what dominance influences and relates to. So I’ll send you that. There’s not much in there about bipolar disorder because really it was my work at that point. But the intro I think will be interesting about how do I think about this [dominance] system. We spent about a year just reading and pulling on our hair and saying what is the cool tradition out there. And then I’ve got another article that just came out with a woman named Morgan Bartholomew where we looked at: would people adjust to interpersonal cues if they had a risk for mania. And what was happening with their sensitivity to cues of other people’s power, non-verbal cues. When they were put in a situation where it would have been more appropriate for them to be a little bit more subordinate in their posture, they didn’t do it. They stayed very broad shouldered throughout interactions. It would be interesting to get your take on it. I have recently tried to test if this was related to aggression. And it wasn’t. So in some ways that’s good news. It suggests the need to take new one’s perspective on that.

Sheri: The other thing I just wanted to mention to you is two pieces that will help as you’re looking at what we’ve written. I used to think of reward as very very general. So we did work on life events involving rewards. We’ve looked at reward sensitivity. We’ve probably published dozens of articles on reward and bipolar disorder. That’s the field I was coming from. And I got very frustrated because I don’t think people with bipolar disorder are so genuinely hypersensitive to every facet of reward. I was struggling with what are the pieces of reward that they are most sensitive to. And my secret theory was that maybe it was cues that were relevant to the dominance system. So that’s a little bit of my background and how I got into this. The other thing I’m going to flag for you is we’ve never applied this to understanding dominance. Generally and looking at reward, 20 years of work basically saying people with bipolar disorder at some level says that they’re overly responsive, overly reactive to rewards. And then a couple of years ago we published a piece I was just going to flag for you because of what you were saying about your personal process. We just asked people with bipolar disorder how they cope with that and we were shocked to hear that 2/3 of people said that they were trying to avoid some of the most rewarding facets of life because it is dysregulating for them. And there are a lot of them trying to damp and down emotions more generally. So we have this piece we’ve been doing about people avoiding reward and I had never thought to apply that to the dominance world. It is very very interesting because I think that’s something people do to try and cope much more than the clinical psychologists recognize. We don’t know enough about what is good or what is bad about it or the pieces of that to learn from. We just don’t know much about it. is intriguing that people do that. So, I’ll send you a couple of things and what I would really recommend is just stay in touch.

Louis: (We’re not done yet! Lol!) Ok, also for me, in the dominance features, I assume that there is more than self-esteem; I assume that there is what ethologist call honest signaling of dominance. I don’t know what it is. It might be non-verbal communication. The change of behaviors of the others is spectacular. I would like to know how this is triggered because I want to understand what’s going on.

Sheri: There’s a guy here at Berkeley in the business school named Cameron Anderson, and so when you talk about self-esteem, we’ve been focusing on a narrow piece of self-esteem which is confidence. We see confidence as one of the earliest fluctuating sign that somebody is beginning to shift in their mood state. It is a thing we can move around more easily in the lab with small pieces of feedback. So we’ve been really really interested in confidence in bipolar disorder. So Cameron’s interest in confidence is not in bipolar disorder but in life. He’s interested in social dominance in the way that people who are socially dominant tend to be overly confident. He does this really interesting work then on what does it means if somebody has too much confidence like if they believe in themselves more than the data says they should, like you’ll test them and then ask how do you do on that test and see people rating themselves too high. He looked at this in the business world and he has all these data about what happens initially like they’re given more power, they’re given more respect. They’re given room to be that confident. So he studies what goes well with that. But he has a couple of studies where he looks at what happens with it over time. So for example in business school study groups where people have to meet for 15 weeks, maybe not as positive at the end of 15 weeks, if you start to realize that somebody was overrating their knowledge compare to what they really know. So Cameron Anderson does all this clever interpersonal paradigms around confidence, social dominance and how other people respond to it. I think you will really enjoy his work.

Louis: Ok, nice. One last question, have you ever tried to do a longitudinal study on the hubristic pride and its « realization » in the future. You have a cohort of members valuated with the HPS at a certain point of time and you analyze 20 years later the achievement of each member according to a scale of success of life (parenthood, wealth, social rank…)). I would be interested to see if there’s a correlation between hubristic pride and rank level in society.

Sheri: That’s interesting. So I’m not the person who originated that idea. Jessica Tracy is the original scale author and she may now have longitudinal data on it. It’s a really interesting question. I know that there’s people who so to say when you put too much focus on pursuit of admiration or dominance then what happens is that several years later people tend to be more unhappy than the people with the focus on love, close connection with the other and self-intricacy and things like that . But the hubris in particular I don’t know. Jessica Tracy is probably the one who’d be most likely to look at that. I would not be surprised if she did. She’s a ball of fire. She’s done 20 studies on hubristic pride. She has a website which is very good. It shows all of their publications up there. You can get them easily.

Louis: So I need to follow my circadian rhythm now. Thank you Sheri, and let’s keep in touch to discuss further on this.

Sheri: Bye, thank you and take care.

Sheri of Aquitaine: Thou shalt dedicate your life to study the dominance behavioral system
Louis Lions Heart: I shall. But do you know it takes only a knife to peel an apple?

Right said Fred / I’m too sexy
I’m too sexy for my cat
Too sexy for my cat
Poor pussy
Poor pussy cat
I’m too sexy for my love
Too sexy for my love
Love’s going to leave me
And I’m too sexy for this song

Irene Cara / Fame
Baby hold me tight, ’cause you can make it right
You can shoot me straight to the top
Give me love and take all I got to give
Baby I’ll be tough, too much is not enough, no
I can ride your heart ’til it breaks
Ooh, I got what it takes
Remember my name,
(Fame) I’m gonna live forever
I’m gonna learn how to fly (High)
I feel it coming together
People will see me and cry
(Fame) I’m gonna make it to heaven
Light up the sky like a flame
(Fame) I’m gonna live forever
Baby, remember my name…

Toto / America
I hear the drums echoing tonight
But she hears only whispers of some quiet conversation
She’s coming in twelve-thirty flight
Her moonlit wings reflect the stars that guide me towards salvation
I stopped an old man along the way
Hoping to find some old forgotten words or ancient melodies
He turned to me as if to say: « Hurry boy, it’s waiting there for you »
It’s gonna take a lot to drag me away from you
There’s nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do
I bless the rains down in America
Gonna take some time to do the things we never had
The wild dogs cry out in the night
As they grow restless longing for some solitary company
I know that I must do what’s right
Sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti
I seek to cure what’s deep inside, frightened of this thing that I’ve become

Credit : Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson.