Social Dominance Theory

Social dominance theory (SDT; Sidanius & Pratto, 1999) is a multi-level, integrative theory of intergroup relations. Its central aim has been to understand the ubiquity and stubborn stability of group-based inequalities, though our research program has begun to explore how to introduce instability in group-based social hierarchies. In particular, recent research in our lab has explored the psychology of people who are low on social dominance orientation (e.g., socially inclusive).

The Socially Inclusive Psychology of People Low on Social Dominance Orientation

inclusion hands togetherBecause of the traditional focus on dominance and oppression, very little research has explored the psychology of people who do not exhibit prejudice or who desire group-based equality. In a series of studies, we argue that social inclusion is a defining feature of people low on social dominance orientation. To test this prediction, we developed a short social dominance orientation scale that includes a socially inclusive item and have found extensive support for its construct and criterion-related validity. Multiple indicators of social inclusion (e.g., empathy, hierarchy-attenuating policy support, inclusive meanings ascribed to religious practices, and pictorial diagrams of socially inclusive group structure) are endemic to people low on social dominance orientation.

Pratto, F., Stewart, A. L., Foels, R., Henkel-Cistulli, K. E., Bou Zeineddine, F., Laham, S., & Morselli, D. (2012). Beyond me and mine: The socially-inclusive psychology of low social dominance orientation. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Bahrain protests

What’s New in Social Dominance Theory

What’s wrong with the “Clash of Civilizations” Thesis

Bernard Lewis’s thesis, promoted especially by Samuel Huntington, argues that the conflict between Arabs and the West is based on a “clash of civilizations.” Our data show instead that both social identity and Arabs from Lebanon and Syria hold negative attitudes towards the west because they oppose Western hegemony.


Sidanius, J., Kteily, N., Levin, S., Pratto, F., & Obaidi, M. (2015). Support for asymmetric violence among Arab populations: The clash of cultures, social identity, or counterdominance? Group Processes & Intergroup Relations. DOI: 1368430215577224.

International Support for the Arab Uprisings

We present data from several nations about people’s willingness (or not) to engage in sympathetic collective action on behalf of Arabs, employing both social dominance theory and social identity theory.


Stewart. A. L., Pratto, F., Bou Zeineddine, F., Sweetman, J., Eicher, V., Licata, L., Morselle, D., Saab, R., Aiello, A., Chryssochoou, X., Cichocka, A., Cidam, A., Foels, R., Giguère, B., Li, L., Prati, F., & van Stekelenburg, J. (2015). International Support for the Arab Uprisings: Understanding Sympathetic Collective Action Using Theories of Social Dominance and Social Identity. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations. Published online before print January 19, 2015, doi: 10.1177/1368430214558310.

International Limits & Expansion of Social Dominance Theory

We offer a critique of Social Dominance Theory and it’s limits, as well as providing suggestions for developing the theory and needed research.


Pratto, F., Stewart, A. L., & Bou Zeineddine, F. (2013). When Inequality Fails: Power, Group Dominance, and Societal Change. Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 1, 132-160. doi:10.5964/jspp.v1i1.97

Revised Long Social Dominance Orientation Scale

We also revised the long version of the Social Dominance Scale, predicting and finding that the Dominance component corresponds to harsher prejudice measures and policy attitudes, and the Anti-Egalitarian component corresponds to subtler prejudice measures and policy attitudes.


Ho, A. K., Sidanius, J., Pratto, F., Levin, S., Thomsen, L., Kteily N. & Sheehy-Skeffington, J. (2012). Social Dominance Orientation: Revisiting the structure and function of a variable predicting social and political attitudes. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38, 583-606.

Ho, A. K., Sidanius, J. Kteily, N., Sheehy-Skeffington, J. Pratto, F. Henkel, K. E., Foels, R., Stewart, A. L. (2015). The Nature of Social Dominance Orientation: Theorizing and Measuring Preferences for Intergroup Inequality Using the New SDO7 Scale. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 109, 1003-1038.

The Salience of Group Distinctions Moderates the Relationship between People’s Social Dominance Orientation and Their Political Attitudes

Social Dominance Theory predicts that people who oppose group-based dominance in general will support social and political policies and practices that promote low-power groups. In addition, SDT predicts that this relationship will be stronger for group distinctions that are especially salient in people’s society. We tested both predictions in a cross-national study, using a new Short SDO scale, and attitudes about women, the poor, and ethnic or religious minorities. Using national indicators pertaining to salience of these groups, we found that the expected negative relationship between SDO and each attitude was stronger in countries where that group distinction was stronger. The salience of each of the target groups was not related.

Pratto, F., Çidam, A., Stewart, A.L., Bou Zeineddine, F., Aranda, M., Aiello, A., Chryssochoou, X., Cichocka, A., Cohrs, C., Durrheim, K., Eicher, V., Foels, R., Górska, P., Lee, I., Licata, L., Li, L., Liu, J., Morselli, D., Meyer, I., Muldoon, O., Muluk, H., Petrovic, N., Prati, F., Papastamou, S., Petrovic, I., Prodromitis, G., Rubini, M., Saab, R., van Stekelenburg, J., Sweetman, J., Zheng, W., Henkel, K.E. (2013). Social Dominance in Context and in Individuals: Contextual Moderation of Robust Effects of Social Dominance Orientation in 15 languages and 20 countries. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 4, 587-599. DOI: 10.1177/1948550612473663

For the paper,
Note: The Simplified Chinese version in the on-line article is not correct. For the SSDO scale in 16 languages, click here SSDO

U.S. Hegemony and Regional Politics in the Levant

How do people in nations subordinated by other nations think about hegemonic nations? What is the relationship between their support or opposition to hegemonic nations and to political factions in their country or region? This paper examined Syrian and Lebanese citizens’ attitudes towards their own governments and toward Hezbollah in 2010, considering what kind of relationship those factions had toward their own government. We found that people who are generally opposed to group-based dominance (Social Dominance Orientation) disliked American influence over Arabs, and this predicted whether they liked factions that oppose the U.S. (Syrian government, Hezbollah) or that were friendly towards the U.S. (Lebanese government at the time of the study).


Pratto, F., Sidanius, J., Bou Zeineddine, F., Kteily, N., & Levin, S. (2013). When domestic politics and international relations intermesh: Subordinated publics’ factional support within layered power structures Foreign Policy Analysis, 1-22. doi: 10.1111/fpa.12023 . Also (2014), 10, 127-148.

You can download the pre-publication draft of the paper here: Domestic & International relations

Interpersonal Influence Tactics and Social Dominance Orientation in the Workplace

One of the domains of behavior in which Social Dominance Theory is important is the workplace. Integrating French & Raven’s forms of interpersonal power and social dominance orientation, we find that supervisors and their employees prefer complementary hard or soft power tactics, depending on their social dominance orientation.


Aiello, A., Pierro, A., & Pratto, F. (2013). Framing Social Dominance Orientation and Power in organizational context. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 5, 487-495.

In a related paper, we expand this research by comparing influence tactics, supervisory position, and social dominance orientation in both hierarchy-enhancing and hierarchy-attenuating organizations.


Race and Sexual Dominance

We asked men who have sex with men and who identified as Asian or Asian-American about their feelings about themselves and conditions under which they would risk unsafe sex. We found that sexual positions, race of partners, and social dominance orientation together imply recapitulation of intersectional hierarchies in an important domain.

Tan, J. Y., Pratto, F., Operario, D. & Dworkin, S. (April 2, 2013). Sexual Positioning And Race-Based Attraction By Preferences For Social Dominance Among Gay Asian/Pacific Islander Men in the United States. Archives of Sexual Behavior. DOI 10.1007/s10508-013-0088-y