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Social Justice Research

, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 358–376 | Cite as

Legitimacy Crisis? Behavioral Approach and Inhibition When Power Differences are Left Unexplained

  • Pamela K. SmithEmail author
  • John T. Jost
  • Ranjini Vijay
Article

Abstract

Possessing social power leads to approach-related affect and behavior, whereas lacking power leads to inhibition (Keltner, Gruenfeld, & Anderson, Psychol Rev 110:265–284, 2003). However, such effects should be moderated by whether an explanation is given for these power differences. Participants were assigned to a low-power or high-power role and then interacted with a confederate in the opposite role. Participants were told these role assignments were made for legitimate (expertise) or illegitimate (nepotism) reasons, or were given no explanation. High-power participants showed more approach-related affect and behavior and reported less dissonance than low-power participants, but many of these effects were moderated by the presence versus absence of an explanation. When no explanation for power differences was provided, high-power participants exhibited more approach-related behavior than low-power participants but also felt more guilt and unease. Implications for system justification theory and the literature on social power are discussed.

Keywords

Social power Approach Inhibition Legitimacy Explanations System justification 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This research was funded in part by New York University and Stanford University, for which we are grateful. In addition, we wish to thank Deborah Gruenfeld, Dacher Keltner, and Larissa Tiedens for helpful advice concerning the planning of this research as well as Jennifer Berdahl, Richard Bourhis, and two anonymous reviewers for useful comments on earlier versions of this article.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pamela K. Smith
    • 1
    Email author
  • John T. Jost
    • 2
  • Ranjini Vijay
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Social Psychology, Behavioural Science InstituteRadboud University NijmegenNijmegenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.New York UniversityNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Stanford UniversityPalo AltoUSA

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