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University of Connecticut Social Psychology Intergroup Relations

Challenges to Studying Power


Power Basis Theory :: Description :: Researching Power :: Findings :: Teaching Resources :: Collaborators :: Bibliography

There are many meanings of "power"-- influence, control, persuasion, efficacy, agency, ability ...      both in everyday language and in theories about power.

Many people confuse power with status.

Power can be attractive -- like when we admire the exercise of power and powerful others.

Power can also seem "bad" -- scary, destructive, overwhelming-- especially when used against those we care about.

Power can seem to be something people "have" -- like authorities or people with status.

But power might not be what someone has but what someone could do in a particular situation.  For example, if people refuse to respect or obey an authority, does that authority really have power?

Power sometimes works because people imagine what others might or could do -- such as imagining threats or imagining flattery. How do we measure something that has not happened yet?

Potential power and the exercise of power might create injustice or inequality -- how do we tell the difference between the exercise of power and its consequences?

Imagining what others could or might do is important for power, so subjective views are important.

Power can sometimes be measured objectively as well. When should we use subjective and when should we use objective measures?

Ways our lab has studied power empirically