There are constant references to alpha males in literature. These references range from pickup artists to cognitive scientists like Steven Pinker. Regardless of who is talking about alpha males, it is agreed that women are attracted to alpha males. This then creates a debate over what are alpha male versus beta characteristics. To make matters more confusing, feminist groups and the politically correct will argue that an alpha male does not exist, they will then cite what appears to be scientific evidence. This post will resolve all of these contradictions and then provide a practical definition for what is an alpha male.

What is an alpha male?

alpha male

  • the dominant male animal in a particular group.
  • a man tending to assume a dominant or domineering role in social or professional situations.

It is helpful to look at the definition of dominant.


  • ruling, governing, or controlling; having or exerting authority or influence:
  • occupying or being in a commanding or elevated position.

From the two definitions, an alpha male is someone who is in control, they exert authority or influence in a group. How can you tell who the alpha male in a group? As the title of this post states, Alpha males act and beta males react. The terms alpha and beta refer to the hierarchical position of males in a group. How do you tell if a male is an alpha or beta? Simple, an alpha male acts and a beta male reacts. A simple example will demonstrate this.

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of facebook, is driving down in Palo Alto, California. A police patrol car pulls out behind him, the patrol car flashes its lights to signal Mr. Zuckerberg to pull over. Mr. Zuckerberg pulls over to the side of the road, the patrol car pulls in behind him, the policeman gets out of the car and proceeds to Mr. Zuckerberg’s car. The policeman then asks Mr. Zuckerberg to show him his driver’s license, ask him how fast he was driving, is he aware that one of his taillights was broken etc. To each of these requests Mr. Zuckerberg complies. The policeman acts and Mr. Zuckerberg reacts, we can clearly see in this situation the policeman is the alpha male and Mr. Zuckerberg is the beta male.

After Mr. Zuckerberg rectifies his problem with the police officer, he then proceeds to the headquarters of Facebook. The moment he enters the office, everyone starts deferring to Mr. Zuckerberg. In this situation, he is the alpha.

Who is the alpha male depends on the situation

The argument used by the politically correct is that alpha males do not exist in the human since it depends on the situation. These are the arguments used by Stanford Professor Robert Sapolsky and anthropologist Tim White.

In Faye Flam’s book The Score: The Science of the Male Sex Drive, Stanford Professor Robert Sapolsky shares his misgivings, stating that alpha males in other species operate differently than what is observed among humans. He notes that in dogs and wolves, for example, every member has a place in the hierarchy. And among baboons, he notes, the alpha male dominates over a group of subordinates who are equal in power to each other—until he is challenged and overthrown. In these species, the alphas exert more power. Humans are more complex, Sapolsky says. We belong to more than one social circle—a man who may be a custodian by day may be a superstar DJ by night. Flam also interviewed anthropologist Tim White, who said that alpha males likely ruled the common ape ancestor humans shared with chimps roughly 7 million years ago, but that they no longer exist among humans. Are Alpha Males a Myth or a Reality? - Psychology Today

The argument used is that human beings are broken down into groups which can cooperate with each other. Who is alpha depends on their status in that particular group and it is dependent on the situation. Using the previous example of the policeman and Mr. Zuckerberg, in that scenario, the policeman is the alpha. What happens if Mr. Zuckerberg doesn’t comply with the policeman’s request to keep both of his hands on the steering wheel? The policeman might decide to draw his gun or drag Mr. Zuckerberg out of his car and throw him on the ground or just shoot Mr. Zuckerberg, the policeman has the authority to do this. The difference between higher and lower social classes in human societies is that in lower classes, the threat of violence isn’t obscured.

Present this hypothetical situation to a person, there are two people, A and B. A has 1 million dollars, B has a gun, then ask the person, who has more money, The benefit or B? Usually, if the person is a former convict, gang member, member of a primitive culture, former military etc. They will answer B. By contrast, people who are isolated from harsh realities will answer A. You will point out, person B pulls his gun, he tells person A to give him the 1 million dollars. People who are isolated from reality will say, B can’t do that. You point out, B has a gun, if A refuses, B shoots A and takes the one million dollars. The naive person will say B can’t do that. You then might as our naive person, why they pay taxes? They might say something like it is the law etc. The real reason is if you don’t pay taxes, the government hires men like the police to collect these taxes. If you refuse to pay these taxes, the policeman might shoot you, if he doesn’t, you will end up being locked inside a steel box for many years. The government is able to collect taxes because they dominate you with the threat of violence.

Members of lower classes of society due to personal experience are able to grasp these realities easier. In primitive societies, criminal gangs, prison gangs etc the alpha male uses violence or the direct threat of violence to maintain authority. These direct threats of violence threaten the person’s life or ability to support themselves. A gang leader threatens to do bodily harm to a gang member who steps out of line. The gang member who is harmed will be unable to earn an income to support himself. By contrast, the intellectual Liberal will claim to abhor violence, yet if they disagree with your opinion they will make indirect threats of violence. Threatening to contact your employer to tell him about your views, ostracization, harassment, lawsuits etc are all forms of indirect violence.

Using deductive reasoning, we can determine the alpha male is always situational and relational. You have 5 dog packs and 5 criminal gangs. From each of the 5 groups, you remove the alpha male and put them into a newly created group. Whether it is dogs or criminals, a new alpha male will emerge in this newly created group. Within the old groups, where the alpha male was removed, a new alpha male will emerge. The methods used to determine how the new alpha male emerges will differ between humans and dogs but the principle remains the same.

Characteristics of alpha males

It is easy to discover what the majority of men find attractive in women. Analyze 70 years worth of beauty contest winners for measurements like hip to waist ratio, facial characteristics etc will yield specific numbers with little variance. There is some cultural bias but for the most part what is considered female beauty is universal. By contrast, if one attempts to use the same methods to identify alpha males, there are some generalities but the correlation is weak. The article Are Alpha Males a Myth or a Reality? - Psychology Today it identifies 3 traits, height, voice and face. But for example, with male facial features, there are studies which contradict each other. This indicates that what women find attractive in men is nonphysical.

The best example of this is the study which indicated women are attracted to bad boys, assholes, and jerks. How did the study define and asshole or a jerk?

In the terms of Psychology, the “asshole” consists of the following traits: High Extraversion, Low Neuroticism (perhaps), Low Conscientiousness, Low Agreeableness, High Openness to Experience, and a bit of a dip into the dark triad traits (those with an extreme dark triad profile aren’t considered sexually attractive). Do Assholes Really Finish First? - Scott Barry Kaufman Ph.D.

Each of the asshole traits describes how the person interacts with other members of a group. This means that being an asshole is dependent on the group itself. High extraversion means the person is able to interact with other people. Paradoxically he has low neuroticism, low agreeableness, and low conscientiousness. These last three traits are ones which are told make people like us. So how would an asshole fit into my definition of Alpha males act - Beta males react?

Since the asshole has high extraversion, he is able to voice his opinion and have people listen to him. Since he has low neuroticism and conscientiousness, he doesn’t care what other people think of his opinion. Usually, his opinion differs from the status quo which causes other members of the group to react. The asshole requires the ability to think quickly to counter the arguments being placed by his opponents. This means through his actions he is causing the rest of the group to react, this gives him power. When his opponents can not break his frame or arguments they refer to him as an asshole.

In a politically correct group, an asshole will say, this election I am voting Republican because I don’t want Negroes wasting my taxpayer dollars. Here the asshole has thrown out an opinion that will get a reaction from the rest of the group. Someone will call the asshole ignorant, one should not refer to black Americans as Negroes. The asshole counters with, forty years ago they liked to be called Negroes, maybe they are confused? This causes another reaction within the group. This means the asshole regardless of his status in the group has temporarily become alpha. He then can keep on doing this to maintain control. Whether or not the asshole is a republican supporter or his personal opinions on black americans is irrelevant, most of the time he just wants a reaction.

The physical traits which an alpha male might have like greater height, deeper voice and a square jaw increase his ability to dominate other males. With the square jaw, it could be a case of correlation as opposed to causation. Square jaws indicate a man with extra testosterone, this would make him more aggressive. In more primitive societies the asshole would need to be able to back up his views with violence. Even the American Author Mark Twain, who was a pacifist, almost got into a duel because of his inflammatory newspaper articles. Until recently, the threat of violence was socially acceptable in most societies, in some societies it still is. An asshole who is physically domineering has a greater chance of warding off threats of violence, this is most likely wired into us at a subconscious level.

Alpha males act - beta males react

power - the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events.

There is a debate what is alpha versus beta behavior. Alpha behavior is when your actions cause someone else to react. Beta behavior is when you are reacting to someone else’s actions. In the case of humans, who has power is decided by law and social conventions. In the case of a police officer versus a civilian, the police officer is inherently in an alpha position. With male and female relations when it comes to sex, the female inherently is in an alpha position since she is the gatekeeper of sex. From a social evolutionary perspective, the male should have sex with as many females as possible. The female, on the other hand, should only have sex with males who can pass on good genes.

When in an inherently beta position, one has two options to get into an alpha position. Either by breaking the law or breaking social convention. If you choose to break the law, probably you will end up dead or locked within a small steel box with bars. The second method is by breaking social convention or the other person’s frame. Both social convention and the other person’s frame is designed to channel you into a certain path of action. If you follow their frame, you inherently are beta since you are reacting in the manner which they want you to.

In the case of being stopped by the police, the only frame you can maintain is a time frame and silence frame. Depending on your jurisdiction, the police are allowed to arrest and detain you for 24 to 72 hours without charges being laid. You do not have to answer any questions without a lawyer present, a police officer can not detain you unless you been arrested. Even if you are unjustly being arrested, you should cooperate with the police, otherwise, you will be charged with resisting arrest. The point I am making is for the period you are dealing with the police, you are in a beta position unless the case goes to court. In that case, possibly your lawyer can turn it into an alpha position.

Further directions

The only way to tell if your action is alpha or beta is by the results it achieves. It isn’t what you do as much as how you do it. In the example given with the police officer, it is almost impossible to turn an inherently beta position into an alpha one. A benefit versus cost analysis shows this. The benefit is you go free versus for failure, you will end up being charged with a crime. In this case, the best option is to maintain the status quo which is a silence frame and a time frame.

Whether or not alpha and beta males actually exist in humans is irrelevant, it is a useful model regardless. My next post will be on how to break frames to temporarily get yourself into an alpha position.

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