A method for assigning cardinal dominance ranks

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135 Scopus citations


Dominance hierarchies are widely described in nature. Commonly, an individual's ordinal rank is used as a measure of its position in the hierarchy, and, therefore its priority of access to resources. This use of ordinal ranks has several related drawbacks: (1) it is difficult to assess the magnitude or the significance of the difference in degree of dominance between two individuals; (2) it is difficult to evaluate the significance of differences between dominance matrices based on different behaviours or on the same behaviour at different times, and (3) it is difficult to use parametric statistical techniques to relate dominance rank to other quantities of interest. In this paper we describe a method for assigning cardinal dominance indices that does not suffer from these drawbacks. This technique is based on the Bradley-Terry model from the method of paired comparisons. We show how this model can be reinterpreted in terms of dominance interactions. and we describe a simple iterative technique for computing cardinal ranks. We then describe how to evaluate (1) whether the rank differences between individuals are significant, and (2) whether differences in the cardinal hierarchies based on different behaviours or the same behaviour at different times are significant. We then show how to generalize the method to deal with behaviours that sometimes have ambiguous outcomes, or behaviours for which the rank difference between a pair of individuals affects the rate of interaction between them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)45-58
Number of pages14
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1983
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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