Measuring dominance certainty and assessing its impact on individual and societal health in a nonhuman primate model: a network approach

Brenda McCowan, Jessica Vandeleest, Krishna Balasubramaniam, Fushing Hsieh, Amy Nathman, Brianne Beisner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The notion of dominance is ubiquitous across the animal kingdom, wherein some species/groups such relationships are strictly hierarchical and others are not. Modern approaches for measuring dominance have emerged in recent years taking advantage of increased computational power. One such technique, named Percolation and Conductance (Perc), uses both direct and indirect information about the flow of dominance relationships to generate hierarchical rank order that makes no assumptions about the linearity of these relationships. It also provides a new metric, known as 'dominance certainty', which is a complimentary measure to dominance rank that assesses the degree of ambiguity of rank relationships at the individual, dyadic and group levels. In this focused review, we will (i) describe how Perc measures dominance rank while accounting for both nonlinear hierarchical structure as well as sparsity in data-here we also provide a metric of dominance certainty estimated by Perc, which can be used to compliment the information dominance rank supplies; (ii) summarize a series of studies by our research team reflecting the importance of 'dominance certainty' on individual and societal health in large captive rhesus macaque breeding groups; and (iii) provide some concluding remarks and suggestions for future directions for dominance hierarchy research. This article is part of the theme issue 'The centennial of the pecking order: current state and future prospects for the study of dominance hierarchies'.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20200438
Number of pages1
JournalPhilosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences
Issue number1845
StatePublished - Feb 28 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • dominance certainty
  • dominance rank
  • hierarchy
  • individual health
  • network analysis
  • societal health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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