Entries in power (12)


The Downside of Having a Dominant Relationship Partner

The issue: People have a need to feel autonomous (i.e., they need to feel like they are doing something because they want to and not because someone forced them to).1 When people are dominant, they try to take control of the situation, which may make others feel less autonomous.2 Feeling controlled can be disheartening and is linked to poor well-being.3 And people who have dominant partners tend to be unhappy in the relationship (i.e., have lower relationship satisfaction).4 In an article published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, researchers wanted to understand why having a dominant partner is linked to lower relationship satisfaction.2 (Click here for the full article)

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Why Having a Dominant Partner is Linked to Being Unhappy in a Relationship

The issue: People have a need to feel autonomous (i.e., they need to feel like they are doing something because they want to and not because someone forced them to).1 When people are dominant, they try to take control of the situation, which may make others feel less autonomous.2 Feeling controlled can be disheartening and is linked to poor well-being.3 And people who have dominant partners tend to be unhappy in the relationship (i.e., have lower relationship satisfaction).4 Researchers wanted to understand why having a dominant partner is linked to lower relationship satisfaction.2 

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Shopping for Shorts: High-Waisted or Daisy Dukes?

With summer upon us, many women will go to the mall to revamp their closet with this year’s latest trends. After all, how are you going to get the attention of your cute neighbor if you’re wearing the same boring clothes you wore last year? Let’s be honest: you’re not. But with a less-than-stellar economy, more women are cutting back on their wardrobe allowance and are instead opting to purchase only a few ‘I can’t live without you’ pieces. So ladies, how do you decide whether to replace your old shorts with the forever-sexy daisy dukes or the back in style, more modest high-waisted shorts?

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To Have and To Hold, To Share and Be Equitable

Meet Nate and Angelica. Nate and Angelica are getting married. They’ve planned every detail of the ceremony, and checked all their reservations twice. The vows are written; the honeymoon getaway is booked. Maybe Nate daydreams about surprising Angelica on special occasions; maybe Angelica has her eye on a good preschool for their future children. Their future is set — or is it? What about the more mundane details of married life that are often overlooked?

Will Angelica be the one on kitchen duty, cleaning up after dinner? Will Nate be the one who picks up the kids when Angelica is working late? Will the person who earns less income contribute to the household in other ways, even if they both work 40 hours a week? Often, couples decide these matters based on convenience or preference, not according to a marital master-plan of equal give-and-take. But precisely because the average couple doesn’t analyze the costs and benefits of every chore undertaken, an unfair division of labor may create resentment over time. For example, Angelica may realize Nate only takes their cats for shots once a year, whereas she has to change their kitty litter every day.

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Hand Signals

Take note the next time you are holding hands with someone: Is your hand on top or in front with your palm facing back? In a recent study researchers observed heterosexual couples, adult/child pairs, and older/younger child pairs holding hands in public. Replicating and extending previous research on hand-holding, men in the couple pairs, adults in the adult/child pairs, and older children in the child pairs were more likely to have their hand in front with their palm facing back indicating social dominance, or alternatively, protection. This study shows that something as simple as hand position can signal one’s social role. What role are you signaling?

Pettijohn, T. F., Ahmed, S. F., Dunlap, A. V., & Dickey, L. N. (2013). Who’s got the upper hand? Hand holding behaviors among romantic couples and families. Current Psychology: A Journal for Diverse Perspectives on Diverse Psychological Issues, doi:10.1007/s12144-013-9175-4


Who's on Top? Power and Control In and Out of the Bedroom

Is control in the bedroom related to power in the relationship?

Power dynamics are a relatively common element of sexual fantasy.1 Some individuals enjoy being sexually dominant – they derive satisfaction from exerting power or control over their sexual partners. Others enjoy being sexually submissive – they are satisfied when their sexual partners exert power over them. But the reader poses an intriguing question: do a couple’s power dynamics within the bedroom mirror their power dynamics outside the bedroom?

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How Do I Equalize Power in My Relationship?

A reader recently posted a question asking how they can better equalize the power in their relationship.

To paraphrase Bertrand Russell, power is fundamental in the social sciences, much like energy is for physics. Despite its importance, psychologists still grapple with what power really is and how exactly it functions in intimate relationships. Perceptions of power inequality in relationships have been linked to a number of negative emotions, including depression.1 

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Power in Relationships: Predictors and Outcomes

Having "hand" (a.k.a., power) and being the person with least interest in a relationship was recently discussed in one of our recent posts ("Who has the upper hand? Power, Sex, and Seinfeld"). Why is it that some people have power? Does it mean that the fate of the relationship is dictated by the person who has the power? 

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Motivational Poster - Infidelity: Too Much Power Can Make You a Real Weiner

Thanks for making Weiner Wednesday a smashing success! We've had record breaking traffic to the site thanks to the great articles from Drs. Charlotte and Patrick Markey and Dr. Justin Lehmiller. We'll end the day with one more bit of research on infidelity that is directly applicable to the Weiner affair:

According to a recent study, power, not gender, predicts infidelity. The sex difference we see in cheating (e.g., the abundance of Arnolds, Tigers, and Weiners) is a function of power differentials; that men tend to have higher status in many facets of our society. Furthermore, the association between power and infidelity is not due to the personalities of successful people, like risk-taking, nor caused by their increased separation from their partners (like business travel).

Update-- 6/13/11: Here's a link to an NPR story about this article, including an interview with Dr. Joris Lammers (one of the authors of this study) and Dr. Jon Maner.

Update-- 11/13/11: Due to the investigation regarding the veracity of some of Deiderik Stapel's research, please be cautious in your interpretation of these findings.

Lammers, J., Stoker, J. I., Jordan, J., Pollmann, M. M. H., & Stapel, D. A. (2011). Power increases infidelity among men and women. Psychological Science, 22, 1191-1197.


He May Wear The Crown, But Who Wears The Pants?

The Mouse That Roared (October, 1985)
Diana Brought to Heel? (September, 1988)
Di’s Palace Coup (February, 1993)

These are the titles accompanying three Vanity Fair cover stories featuring Princess Diana. Taking a look, it would appear that power was a major theme of Diana’s marriage to Charles. Their power struggle may have been due to differences in title, age, or life experience, and these differences may have contributed to their eventual divorce, but a question many people seem to be wondering is: how will the marriage of their son, William, to Kate be different?

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What Payback Comes from Revenge?

Relationships are full of slings and arrows that can sometimes spark a deep desire to “pay back” perceived offenses. Whether someone has been betrayed by a friend or romantic partner, been offended by a boss or coworker, or been a victim of a crime, the desire for revenge can be very strong. Until recently, however, researchers have known very little about this powerful, volatile experience.

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Who Has the Upper Hand? Power, Sex, and Seinfeld

A recent article on Slate.com, by sociologist Mark Regnerus at The University of Texas at Austin, discusses how males are becoming underrepresented on many college campuses and in the workplace, and are thus likely to call the shots in their (heterosexual) relationships when it comes to sex. The author’s basic argument, which draws from his book entitled Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate, and Think about Marrying, is that good men are becoming hard to find. High-quality men are are in short supply, and, as a result, in high demand. Therefore, they are able to exert more power over women in their relationships. Female partners need to go along with guys' wishes because there are plenty of female fish in the sea for the guys, whereas the women have relatively fewer good alternatives. Although the main area of conflict described in the article is sex, it stands to reason that the logic could be applied to other decisions in relationships, such as what movie to see, which friends to hangout with, or how much Xbox should be played.

This idea is known to close relationships researchers as the “principle of least interest”1—that when there is an inequality in the desire to maintain the relationship between the partners, the person least into the relationship has the power to call the shots. For the Seinfeld fans out there, you might remember the episode The Pez Dispenser (1992) when George laments about his relationships by stating “I have no power. Do you understand? I need hand. I have no hand.” Kramer and Jerry advise George to threaten to break up with his girlfriend, which effectively turns the table in the relationship and subsequently gives George the "hand” he so desperately wanted.

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