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University of Connecticut Social Psychology Intergroup Relations

Ways of Measuring or Experimentally Creating Power

PowerBases

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

For naturalistic studies, we measure how much power people have in their countries objectively. For example, regarding knowledge, we might use indices about education level or the free flow of information. Regarding well-being, we rely on different health indices like life expectancy.

To measure perceptions of power in other people and groups, we have done surveys. Sometimes we ask how much power a person or group has. Sometimes we ask about particular kinds of power, such as forcefulness, indebtedness to others,  attractiveness, wealth, reputation. These specific kinds of measures help explain why differences between groups who are perceived to be both powerful and not trustworthy (for example, CEOs and terrorists) -- different people and groups can have different kinds of power. 

To study power as enacted (in behavior), in potential power, and in perceived power, we invented a game to be used in experimental research called the In Game.

The In Game is flexible enough to let researchers set up different kinds of power in it. For example, we can make some of the players more "attractive" by telling the other players that they need to affiliate with certain players. We can make some players dependent on others for staying in the game by changing the rules. We can provide more of the resources people need to some players than to others. The In Game allows us to measure the use of power and its consequences and even how much potential power each player has at a given time. Best of all, using the In Game, we can study violence, coercion, helping, protecting as behaviors without life-changing consequences like physical injury or starvation.