24th March, 2023
Hierarchies are everywhere. It is often argued that they are a social construct, invented to allow certain people to have power over others. But not everyone agrees.
While promoting his new book, ’12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos,’ psychology professor Jordan Peterson, of the Univ of Toronto, has sparked debate by arguing that hierarchies are in fact natural to some extent.
To prove his point, Peterson uses the example of lobsters, which humans share a common evolutionary ancestor with. Peterson argues that, like humans, lobsters exist in hierarchies and have a nervous system attuned to status which “runs on serotonin,” a brain chemical often associated with feelings of happiness.
The higher up a hierarchy a lobster climbs, this brain mechanism helps make more serotonin available. The more defeat it suffers, the more restricted the serotonin supply.
Lower serotonin is in turn associated with more negative emotions – perhaps making it harder to climb back up the ladder.
According to Peterson, hierarchies in humans work in a similar way – we are wired to live in them.
When lobsters win a fight (e.g. to compete for their territory), it changes their biology.
Winning lobsters experience a boost of serotonin, which makes them more “proud” and they stand taller.
By contrast, their weaker counterparts have less serotonin, remain timid and they curl up out of fear & are most likely to be defeated by the tall, confident lobsters in the next fight.
This reinforces the pecking order of lobsters.
Similarly, humans often mimic this behaviour too. Our hierarchies are determined by our behaviours.
People who frequently “win” at life become emboldened by their winning streak.
Their confidence allows them to face new challenges head on. And their previous wins fuel their cycle of success.
Whereas people who constantly feel like life is never in their favour, often hunch and slouch around life. They are more risk-averse. And they tend to approach each situation as if they know they’re going to fail. Over time, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, reinforcing their negative outlook on life.
So, if you are trying to get ahead in life, think like a winning lobster. Pay more attention to your posture and how you stand.
Even if you are not in a winning situation, having an upright posture exudes dominance and confidence. Always strike your winning pose.
Your posture matters more than you think — it’s not just about how the world sees you, but how you see yourself.
Encourage the serotonin to flow plentifully through the neural pathways desperate for its calming influence and stay blessed forever.