Seeing Power in Action: The Roles of Deliberation, Implementation, and Action in Inferences of Power

Magee, J.C.
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45, 1-14.

Six experiments investigate the hypothesis that social targets who display a greater action orientation are perceived as having more power (i.e., more control, less dependence, and more influence) than less action-oriented targets. I find evidence that this inference pattern is based on the pervasive belief that individuals with more power experience less constraint and have a greater capacity to act according to their own volition. Observers infer that targets have more power and influence when they exhibit more implementation than deliberation in the process of making decisions in their personal lives (Study 1a), in a public policy context (Study 1b), and in small groups (Study 2). In an organizational context, observers infer that a target who votes for a policy to change from the status quo has more power than a target who votes not to change from the status quo (Study 3). People also infer greater intra-organizational power and higher hierarchical rank in targets who take physical action toward a personal goal than in those who do not (Studies 4–5).

Wagner Faculty