An interactionist perspective on dominance-submission: Interpersonal dominance as a dynamic, situationally contingent social skill

Judee K Burgoon, Norah E. Dunbar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

79 Scopus citations


Dominance-submission in interpersonal interaction typically has been conceptualized as largely a function of either highly stable characteristics of individual actors (e.g., basic termperament, genetic heritage, fixed social roles) or highly dynamic properties of situations (e.g., relational control sequences). Too, the dominance end of the continuum frequently has been infused with negative connotations. Here it is argued that a more balanced and comprehensive perspective is achieved by conceptualizing interpersonal dominance as influenced by a combination of person, situation, and relationship factors and as including positive qualities that also underwrite social competence. Experimental data relevant to this interactionist perspective were examined for the impacts of one traitlike actor variable (self-reported social skills), two situational factors (communication format and message goal), and one relationship factor (acquaintanceship) on dominance displays during dyadic interactions. Sender and receiver perceptions were also triangulated with observational data from trained coders. Results support an interactionist conceptualization of dominance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)96-121
Number of pages26
JournalCommunication Monographs
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2000
Externally publishedYes



  • Dominance
  • Family Studies
  • Interpersonal Interaction
  • Relational Conrol
  • Social Skill

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication

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