Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology

, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 21–41 | Cite as

Inhibited Power Motivation is Associated with the Facial Width-to-Height Ratio in Females

  • Kevin T. Janson
  • Kira Bleck
  • Julia Fenkl
  • Lea T. Riegl
  • Franziska Jägel
  • Martin G. Köllner


The inhibited power motive is a disposition for obtaining a functional influence on others (Schultheiss 2008) and characterized by a high implicit need for Power (n Power) and high activity inhibition (AI; McClelland Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 88(2), 182–190, 1979). Organizational effects of gonadal steroid hormones on the brain during prenatal development affect the emerging n Power (Schultheiss and Zimni Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology, 1(4), 387–407, 2015) but it is unknown whether there are similar associations during puberty, a second phase of endocrine organization (Schulz et al. Hormones and Behavior, 55(5), 597–604, 2009). In two studies (combined for analyses; total N = 213, after exclusions), we investigated this relationship using the facial width-to-height ratio (fWHR; Weston et al. PloS One, 2(8), e710, 2007), assessed via anthropometry, as a marker of organizational hormone effects during puberty in a cross-sectional, correlational design. N Power and AI were measured via Picture Story Exercise (PSE; McClelland et al. Psychological Review, 96, 690–702, 1989). Controlling for BMI and age in a multiple regression analysis predicting fWHR, we found a significant n Power x AI-effect, B = 0.15, SE = 0.07, t(207) = 2.03, p = .04, ∆R 2 = .02. N Power and fWHR approached a marginally significant positive association, when AI was high (+1SD; B = 0.16, SE = 0.10, t(207) = 1.64, p = .10) and showed a negative but insignificant association, when AI was low (−1SD; B = −0.14, SE = 0.10, t(207) = −1.40, p = .16). After adding gender to the model on an exploratory basis, we found a significant n Power x AI x Gender-effect (B = 0.34, SE = 0.17, t(203) = 2.00, p = .05, ∆R 2 = .02), predominantly driven by a positive effect of the inhibited power motive in females, B = 0.28, SE = 0.13, t(55) = 2.24, p = .03, ∆R 2 = .08. Compared with past research, this finding was unexpected since fWHR is commonly linked to various criteria in males. Implications for the understanding of the development of n Power are discussed, respecting the limitations of our design.


Implicit motives Power motivation Facial width-to-height ratio Puberty Organizational hormone effects Picture story exercise 


Author Contributions

Author KTJ wrote the manuscript, MGK designed Study 1 and 2 and refined the manuscript. Measurement protocols for fWHR were designed by KB, KTJ, and MGK for Study 1, and by KB, JF, FJ, and MGK for Study 2. KTJ and LTR recruited participants and conducted the experiment in Study 1 with assistance of KB. KB, JF, and FJ recruited participants and conducted the experiment in Study 2. PSEs were coded by KTJ and LTR in Study 1, and by KB and JF in Study 2. KTJ undertook the statistical analysis, assisted by MGK. All authors contributed to and have approved the final manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

All conducted experiments comply with the current laws of Germany. All participants gave their informed consent prior to their inclusion in the studies. The manuscript does not contain clinical studies or patient data.

Conflict of Interest

The authors had no financial relationship with the organization that sponsored the research and no conflict of interest.

Open Science

Reproducible analysis scripts for all reported results, the data files, as well as the output files are available at the Open Science Framework (


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kevin T. Janson
    • 1
  • Kira Bleck
    • 1
  • Julia Fenkl
    • 1
  • Lea T. Riegl
    • 2
  • Franziska Jägel
    • 3
  • Martin G. Köllner
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyFriedrich-Alexander UniversityErlangenGermany
  2. 2.University of FreiburgFreiburgGermany
  3. 3.University of MannheimMannheimGermany

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