Rooting for the top dog: How social dominance motives shape group preference in intergroup competition

Serena Does, Avital Mentovich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Moving beyond prior research establishing people's preference for underdogs, we examined the role of social dominance orientation (SDO) in shaping individuals' preference for underdogs versus top dogs in intergroup competitions. Because a victorious underdog can be seen as a threat to hierarchy, we predicted that SDO would be negatively associated with underdog support. In the context of two real-world group competitions-i.e., the FIFA World Cup and the Olympic Games-we found that SDO was positively associated with a greater preference for top dogs rather than underdogs (Studies 1-3). This SDO effect on group preference was mediated by beliefs about international sports competitions as opportunities for hierarchy maintenance versus equality promotion (Study 2). Furthermore, SDO and top dog preference were positively associated regardless of the hierarchy domain-i.e., countries' economic power versus athletic achievement (Study 3). We discuss the theoretical implications of these findings for intergroup research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-29
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier Inc.


  • Equality
  • Hierarchy
  • Intergroup competition
  • Underdogs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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