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Alpha males

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Catherine8
532209.  Sun Apr 05, 2009 3:55 pm Reply with quote

Hello QI-ers. I don't post very often, but it is nice to know there is somewhere I can go to ask intelligent questions.

Is the theory of Alpha males true? Does it apply more to adolescents than adult males?

I am asking this because I work as a support assistant in the construction deparment of an FE college. As you can imagine, 90% of the students are male. One of my groups, previously well behaved, started acting up and I asked their lecturers why. They said it was because the alpha male student had left the course and the others were all in fighting to decide who was the next alpha male and what their places in the hierarchy were.

I think this is really interesting. The previous Alpha male of the group was really bossy, intimidating and threatening, and although the other boys took the mickey out of him, they were very aware of him all the time, especially as he was nearly 19 and they were 16/ 17.

I thought there was no obvious Alpha male candidate to take over from him, but I think there is one emerging. He is a very different character- much more intelligent and manipulative than the previous one and less obvious. I only realised this because I noticed that if you keep him happy, the rest of the group is happy, but if he doesn't get respect and attention, he screws up the whole lesson. And he's 18, so yet again, a bit older than the 16/ 17 year olds.

Anyway, sorry for the long winded post from the wannabe sociologist/ psychologist. Any comments/ observations? :)

 
Sadurian Mike
532229.  Sun Apr 05, 2009 4:46 pm Reply with quote

However you choose to label it, there are certainly men (and women) who are the centre of any group. There are also those who want to be the centre of attention, and usually end up just being annoying pr*cks.

I guess that the attention-seekers only raise their ugly heads when the group "leader" is not present or is keeping a low profile.

 
Davini994
532230.  Sun Apr 05, 2009 4:48 pm Reply with quote

There are heirarchys and cultural understandings in almost every situation. Changing a group dynamic changes the behaviour of a group.

I heard about a group of students in an FE college that a friend of mine has that is quite lively. Taking one girl out resulted in a much more productive session, with her friends contributing a lot and being a lot calmer. When she returned it was straight back to how it was.

She isn't interested in the work and is very loud and direct; she gets bored frustrated, and drags her friend group off into other activities, and makes fun of those working. Attention is easy to lose and once it's gone it's gone.

People in a group take cues from others; I wouldn't limit it to only being about alpha characters - mob mentality and all that. I certainly wouldn't limit it to males only either!

 
Catherine8
532496.  Mon Apr 06, 2009 1:18 pm Reply with quote

Thanks for your replies.

I saw a thread on another forum asking 'how do I know which is the alpha male' or something like that. That was interesting because half the replies were from people wanting to discuss the question and half were from people saying 'how dare you be so sexist and limit it only to men!!' I thought that was quite funny really as some people seemed to take the question so personally.

It is all very interesting anyway, I am really getting into studying the behaviour of these 16-19 year olds. It provides a distraction from the routine of the job :) Now, all I need is to start a Sociology qualification...!

 
Theblazeuk
532530.  Mon Apr 06, 2009 3:30 pm Reply with quote

I think there are actual 'alpha' type personalities. Some people naturally are listened to, respected and taken seriously.

However in-a-not-very-thought-out-way, I propose that those people tend to be the ones who *naturally* inspire leadership - not those who demand it. Basically, an Alpha type will be able to lead anyone - a beta will effectively only lead gammas or epsilons at best!

(Getting a bit Brave New World here)

 
Posital
532563.  Mon Apr 06, 2009 4:45 pm Reply with quote

Yes - it all sounds like normal chimp behaviour.

Some people buy into this needy kind of profile and find it hard to resist the alpha/beta dichotomy. Insecure teenagers more than most - trying to become adults.

I just love watching this kind of group make sub-prime decisions. The irony simply kills me every time.

Some governments do this literally...

 
Davini994
532594.  Mon Apr 06, 2009 5:53 pm Reply with quote

Posital wrote:
sub-prime decisions

Sub-prime decisions?

 
Sadurian Mike
532702.  Tue Apr 07, 2009 2:19 am Reply with quote

Posital wrote:
Yes - it all sounds like normal chimp behaviour.

Are you suggesting that chimps and teenagers have the same social behaviour?

Apart from being loud, smelly, aggressive and flinging poo I don't think that there are too many similarities.

 
Janet H
533469.  Wed Apr 08, 2009 4:09 pm Reply with quote

And big on social grooming?

 
Posital
533472.  Wed Apr 08, 2009 4:18 pm Reply with quote

Davini994 wrote:
Posital wrote:
sub-prime decisions

Sub-prime decisions?

Yeah - they're kinda like mortgages... only different.

 
bobwilson
533607.  Wed Apr 08, 2009 9:16 pm Reply with quote

Just to make sure the position is clear - I am the Alpha Male around here ;)

 
Droid
533624.  Thu Apr 09, 2009 3:22 am Reply with quote

I wonder how many people around here are cultural anthropologists making a study then? ;-)

 
Neotenic
533630.  Thu Apr 09, 2009 3:34 am Reply with quote

<hides clipboard>

I don't know what you mean.

 
Catherine8
534187.  Fri Apr 10, 2009 8:09 am Reply with quote

Sadurian Mike wrote:
Posital wrote:
Yes - it all sounds like normal chimp behaviour.

Are you suggesting that chimps and teenagers have the same social behaviour?

Apart from being loud, smelly, aggressive and flinging poo I don't think that there are too many similarities.


Don't forget the communicating mostly in grunts and continual adjusting of their man bits [if they are male, obviously].

 
thegrandwazoo
534221.  Fri Apr 10, 2009 10:07 am Reply with quote

I think comparing chimps to teenagers is jolly unfair.....on the chimps.

 

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