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Power and motivated impression formation

Stephanie Ann Goodwin, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Four studies explore the relationship between power--control over others' outcomes--and impression formation. Participants in each study occupied different power roles: the powerful (managers) controlled others' outcomes, the powerless (employees) were contingent on the powerful for outcomes, and the power-irrelevant (alternate participants) neither controlled the powerless nor were contingent on the powerful. Dependent measures included attention to target trait information and impression ratings. Power-irrelevant targets served as the experimental control condition. Participants were predicted to ignore both stereotype-consistent and stereotype-inconsistent information about these targets, forming moderately stereotypic but relatively less confident impressions. Powerful participants were predicted to stereotype subordinates by default (ignoring stereotype-inconsistent information) and by design (effortfully attending to stereotype-consistent information). As a result, powerholders' impressions of subordinates were predicted to be most stereotypic and most confident. In contrast, the powerless were predicted to individuate the powerful, effortfully attending to stereotype-inconsistent information and forming less stereotypic impressions, relative to the other groups. The results of Study 1 support the hypotheses regarding attention to trait information; attention to trait information varied as a function of perceiver/target power roles. The impression rating data did not support the hypothesized relationship between power and stereotyping. Studies 2-4 failed to replicate the attention data of Study 1. Intergroup versus intragroup contexts are discussed as a possible explanation for the failure to replicate across studies.

Subject Area

Social psychology

Recommended Citation

Goodwin, Stephanie Ann, "Power and motivated impression formation" (1997). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9737530.