When we dogs meet each other for the first time, with a sniff in the air (or if daring, up the bum) a wave of the tail a look in the eye we quickly decide: is the newcomer above, below or equal to me?
We signal by the tail. If they are lower in status the tail tucks in between the legs and they physically cower.
People often, psychologically and socially do the same.
After an initial look, a few questions, key words they evaluate the other.
Are they on the same level? If so, they’ll behave adult to adult,
Or are they so different in terms of age, caste, colour, race or religion? If they perceive one above the other they’ll behave like parent and child. If they’re uncertain there maybe a tussle to work out their relative positions.
People do this, often and everywhere.
It may help them feel superior or inferior uncomfortable or comfortable, accepted, rejected. It helps define who we think we are and how we relate to others. It’s common and often involves games to clarify, communicate and impose. I’ve adapted this from transactional analysis as featured in the book: “Games People Play’.
Yes, some dogs can read, but don’t tell anyone.
All societies do it, to varying degrees but ultimately in my view can often reinforce status, encourage elitism and highlight difference. It leads to unacceptable behaviours, social distance and it’s not very nice.