Power motivation as an influence on reaction to an imagined feminist dating partner

Abstract

McClelland’s (1976) power-stress theory proposes that persons high in need for power experience severe stress in the face of actual or anticipated social events that thwart their need to exert control or influence over others, or to achieve recognition for power-oriented behaviors. Guided by McClelland’s theory, we conducted a simulated dating service experiment with college men who scored either high or low on the Picture Story Exercise (PSE) measure of power motivation and later observed a video displaying an interview with a hypothetical dating partner. From among the 203 men who completed the PSE, 96 took part in the experiment. The video presented an 8-min enactment by a young woman who came across either as an assertive feminist or as compliant and agreeable. Electromyographic responses from the corrugator supercilii (frown muscles) fit the premise of McClelland’s power-stress theory, as did scores on the Reysen Likability Scale and the Affective Attitudes Scale.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3

Notes

  1. 1.

    We did not take readings from the zygomatic major (smile muscle), thinking that adding another set of electrodes would further impair participants’ sense of experimental realism, i.e. a feeling that the experiment bore some semblance to reality (Aronson and Carlsmith 1968).

References

  1. Allen, N. B., de Horne, L., David, J., & Trinder, J. (1996). Sociotropy, autonomy, and dysphoric emotional responses to specific classes of stress: A psychophysiological evaluation. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 105, 25–33.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Aronson, E., & Carlsmith, J. M. (1968). Experimentation in social psychology. In G. Lindzey & E. Aronson (Eds.), Handbook of social psychology (2nd ed., Vol. 2, pp. 1–79). Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Bradley, M. M. (2000). Emotion and motivation. In J. T. Cacioppo, L. G. Tassinary, & G. G. Berntson (Eds.), Handbook of psychophysiology (2nd ed., pp. 602–642). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Cacioppo, J. T. (1982). Social psychophysiology: A classic perspective and contemporary approach. Psychophysiology, 19, 241–251.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Cacioppo, J. T., & Petty, R. E. (1981a). Electromyograms as measures of extent and affectivity of information processing. American Psychologist, 36, 441–456.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Cacioppo, J. T., & Petty, R. E. (1981b). Electromyographic specificity during covert information processing. Psychophysiology, 18, 518–523.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Cacioppo, J. T., Petty, R. E., Losch, M. E., & Kim, H. S. (1986). Electromyographic activity over facial muscle regions can differentiate the valence and intensity of affective reactions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50, 260–268.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Cann, D. R., & Dondri, D. C. (1986). Jungian personality typology and the recall of everyday and archetypal dreams. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50, 1021–1030.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Carver, C. S., & Scheier, M. F. (2008). Perspectives on personality. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Cox, D. R. (1957). A note on grouping. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 52, 543–547.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Crites, S. L., Jr., Fabrigar, L. R., & Petty, R. E. (1994). Measuring the affective and cognitive properties of attitudes: Conceptual and methodological issues. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 20, 619–634.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Cudd, A. E. (2002). Rational choice theory and the lessons of feminism. In L. M. Antony & C. E. Witt (Eds.), A mind of one’s own (2nd ed., pp. 398–417). Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Downey, G., & Feldman, S. J. (1996). Implications of rejection-sensitivity for intimate relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70, 1327–1343.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Fiorito, E. R., & Simons, R. F. (1994). Emotional imagery and physical anhedonia. Psychopysiology, 31, 513–521.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Fodor, E. M. (1984). The power motive and reactivity to power stresses. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 47, 853–859.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Fodor, E. M. (1985). The power motive, group conflict, and physiological arousal. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 49, 1408–1415.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Fodor, E. M. (2009). Power motivation. In M. R. Leary & R. H. Hoyle (Eds.), Handbook of individual differences (pp. 426–440). New York: Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Fodor, E. M. (2010). Power motivation. In O. C. Schultheiss & J. C. Brunstein (Eds.), Implicit motives (pp. 3–29). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Fodor, E. M., & Wick, D. P. (2009). Need for power and affective response to negative audience reaction to an extemporaneous speech. Journal of Research in Personality, 43, 721–726.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Fodor, E. M., Wick, D. P., & Hartsen, K. M. (2006). The power motive and affective response to assertiveness. Journal of Research in Personality, 40, 598–610.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Fodor, E. M., Wick, D. P., Hartsen, K. M., & Preve, R. M. (2008). Right-wing authoritarianism in relation to judicial action, electromyographic response, and affective attitudes toward a schizophrenic mother. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 38, 215–233.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Fridlund, A. J., & Cacioppo, J. T. (1986). Guidelines for human electromyographic research. Psychophysiology, 23, 567–589.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Goldberg, L. R. (1992). The development of markers for the Big-Five factor structure. Psychological Assessment, 4, 26–42.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Jacobson, E. (1938). Progressive relaxation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Jennings, J. R., & Stine, L. A. (2000). Salient method, design, and analysis concerns. In J. T. Cacioppo, L. G. Tassinary, & G. G. Berntson (Eds.), Handbook of psychophysiology (2nd ed., pp. 870–899). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Jung, C. G. (1961). Memories, dreams, reflections. New York: Vintage.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Larson, J. T., Norris, C. J., & Cacioppo, J. T. (2003). Effects of positive and negative affect on electromyographic activity over zygomaticus major and corrugator supercilii. Psychophysiology, 40, 776–785.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Luo, S., & Klohnen, E. C. (2005). Assortative mating and marital quality in newlyweds: A couple-centered approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88, 304–326.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  29. McAdams, D. P. (2009). The person: An introduction to the science of personality psychology. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  30. McClelland, D. C. (1958). Methods of measuring human motivation. In J. W. Atkinson (Ed.), Motives in fantasy, action, and society (pp. 7–42). Princeton, NJ: Van Nostrand.

    Google Scholar 

  31. McClelland, D. C. (1975). Power: The inner experience. New York: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  32. McClelland, D. C. (1976). Sources of stress in the drive for power. In G. Serban (Ed.), Psychopathology and human adaptation (pp. 247–270). New York: Plenum Press.

    Google Scholar 

  33. McClelland, D. C. (1979). Inhibited power motivation and high blood pressure in men. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 88, 182–190.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  34. McClelland, D. C. (1982). The need for power, sympathetic activation, and illness. Motivation and Emotion, 6, 31–41.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. McClelland, D. C. (1987). Human motivation. New York: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  36. McClelland, D. C. (1989). Motivational factors in health and disease. American Psychologist, 44, 675–683.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  37. McClelland, D. C., Davidson, R. J., Floor, E., & Saron, C. (1980). Stressed power motivation, sympathetic activation, immune function, and illness. Journal of Human Stress, 6, 11–19.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  38. McClelland, D. C., Davis, W. N., Kalin, R., & Wanner, E. (1972). The drinking man. New York: Free Press.

    Google Scholar 

  39. McClelland, D. C., Koestner, R., & Weinberger, J. (1989). How do self-attributed and implicit motives differ? Psychological Review, 96, 690–702.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. McHugo, G. J., Lanzetta, J. T., Sullivan, D. G., Masters, R. D., & Englis, B. G. (1985). Emotional reactions to a political leader’s expressive displays. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 49, 1513–1529.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Murray, H. A. (1938). Explorations in personality. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Reysen, S. (2005). Construction of a new scale: The Reysen Likability Scale. Social Behavior and Personality, 33, 201–208.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Smith, C. P. (Ed.). (1992). Motivation and personality: Handbook of thematic content analysis. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Stewart, A. J., & Rubin, Z. (1976). Power motivation in the dating couple. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 34, 305–309.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Superson, A. M., & Brennan, S. J. (2005). Feminist philosophy in the analytic tradition. Hypatica, 20, 109.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Tassinary, L. G., Cacioppo, J. T., & Geen, T. R. (1989). A psychometric study of surface electrode placements for facial electromyographic recording: I. The brow and cheek muscle regions. Psychophysiology, 26, 1–16.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Thayer, R. E. (1978). Factor analytic and reliability studies on the Activation-Deactivation Adjective Check List. Psychological Reports, 42, 747–756.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Veroff, J., & Feld, S. C. (1970). Marriage and work in America. New York: Van Nostand Reinhold.

    Google Scholar 

  49. Whitley, B. E., Jr. (1999). Right-wing authoritarianism, social dominance orientation, and prejudice. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77, 126–134.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Winter, D. G. (1973). The power motive. New York: Free Press.

    Google Scholar 

  51. Winter, D. G. (1992). A revised scoring system for the power motive. In C. P. Smith (Ed.), Motivation and personality: Handbook of thematic content analysis (pp. 311–324). New York: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  52. Winter, D. G. (1996). Personality: Analysis and interpretation of lives. New York: McGraw-Hill.

    Google Scholar 

  53. Winter, D. G. (1999). Linking personality and “scientific” psychology: The development of empirically derived Thematic Apperception Test measures. In L. Geiser & M. I. Stein (Eds.), Evocative images: The Thematic Apperception Test and the art of projection (pp. 107–124). Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

    Google Scholar 

  54. Winter, D. G. (2006). Taming power. In D. Rohde (Ed.), Moral leadership: The theory and practice of power, judgment, and policy (pp. 159–175). San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

    Google Scholar 

  55. Winter, D. G. (2009). How can power be tamed? In D. Tjosvold & B. Wisse (Eds.), Power and interdependence in organizations (pp. 33–51). New York: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  56. Wirth, M. M., Welsh, K. M., & Schultheiss, O. C. (2006). Salivary cortisol changes in humans after winning or losing a dominance contest depend on implicit power motivation. Hormones and Behavior, 49, 346–352.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Woike, B. A. (1994). Vivid recollection as a technique to arouse implicit motive-related affect. Motivation and Emotion, 18, 335–349.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. Woolfolk, R., & Richardson, F. (1978). Stress, sanity, and survival. New York: Monarch Books.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Eugene M. Fodor.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Fodor, E.M., Wick, D.P. & Conroy, N.E. Power motivation as an influence on reaction to an imagined feminist dating partner. Motiv Emot 36, 301–310 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-011-9254-5

Download citation

Keywords

  • Power motivation
  • Dating
  • Electromyography