Pecking Order Simulation Game

Dominance structure is an important feature of how Whooping Cranes relate to members of their species. Have you noticed that Pecking order, or the urge to fit into social hierarchies, is also powerful in humans? For example, the armed forces depend upon a hierarchical structure for efficiency and discipline. We see hierarchical stuctures in corporations and other organizations as well as in peer groups and on playgrounds. Sometimes a person so badly wants a higher place in that hierarchy that they turn into a bully. Most of us can give examples of how bullying behavior affects our lives, or lives of people we know. Luckily, we humans have the ability to reason through this and find much more peaceful ways of settling our disputes. Such discussions are a valuable part of the preparation and follow-up for this simulation game about pecking order.

Main Idea
In this game, each person will find their place in a "pecking order" based on the value of a playing card, which they will chose at random. The highest ranking card is a king, followed by queen, jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, and Ace.

One deck of playing cards


  1. Each player choses a playing card. WITHOUT looking at it, each places the card above their forehead so that others can see it.
  2. The players interact with one another for 5 minutes. The goal is to interact with people who are at the top of the pecking order. However, players do not know the hierarchical value of their own card. They can only guess this by the way others react to them.
  3. At the end of the 5 minutes, and still without having seen their own card, each player lines up according to the place they perceive they fall in the pecking order.
  4. Finally, all players look at their cards and check to see how closely the line formed based on everyone's perceptions.

Discussion and Journal Questions
1. How accurate was the pecking order? Did most of the players know where they should stand?

2. Reflect on this experience and write in your journal. Did you correctly perceive where you stood in the pecking order? What did it feel like when people reacted to you the way they did? How does it feel to be in a position of higher or lower status?

3. What examples can you find of how humans are similar and different from animals with regard to social dominance? Define the word "humane" and use it in your journal writing.