Scientists Study Psychopathology Through Social Dominance Lens

June 17, 2021 13:50:43

A report published recently in PLOS One revealed that the symptoms of mental health conditions affected how individuals responded to being placed in subordinate and dominant positions. The research stated that depressive and manic symptoms especially were linked to physiological and psychological responses to social dominance.

CALM Program director Sheri Johnson, who is also a University of California psychology professor and the author of the study, stated that she had collaborated with her associates to review the literature on psychopathology and social dominance. Johnson explained that there were various studies suggesting how important social dominance was to various forms of psychopathology, including psychopathy, mania, depression and anxiety, among others.

However, she noted that the literature had some gaps as investigators weren’t utilizing similar measures to study different psychopathologies. This is what prompted the researchers to conduct the study, in order to fill those gaps using different methods from social psychology.

For their research, the scientists carried out a lab experiment with more than 50 undergraduate students who had completed psychological evaluation for psychopathic traits, manic tendencies, social anxiety and depression, prior to the study. The study participants were required to fill out a mood questionnaire before they concluded another test, which the researchers said would evaluate their ability in making personality judgements, based on images of individuals’ eyes.

Participants were then hooked up to an electrocardiogram, which is used to measure a physiological indicator of distress: respiratory sinus arrhythmia. The participants’ responses to both the recordings of the electrocardiogram and the mood questionnaire offered evidence that social dominance mattered in helping understand psychopathology.

The researchers explained that individuals who had depressive symptoms weren’t comfortable when they were assigned leadership roles while those who experienced mild manic symptoms demonstrated physiological and psychological discomfort when they were assigned subordinate roles. The researchers also noted that high levels of psychopathic traits and social anxiety weren’t related to how individuals responded to subordinate and dominant roles. Additionally, participants who were socially anxious reported greater discomfort, regardless of the position to which they were assigned.

Johnson added that clinical psychologists would find this research useful, noting that they should consider how these issues shaped the social world of patients and how they felt about being in therapy. In addition to Johnson, study authors included Jamie Zeitzer, Jennifer Tackett, Serena Chen, Jordan A. Tharp and Benjamin Swerdlow.

These research findings shed light on how mental health treatment can be tweaked, and companies such as Cybin Inc. (NEO: CYBN) (OTCQB: CLXPF), which is working on novel therapeutic psychedelic products, could improve treatment outcomes for patients even more with these insights.

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