The current research offers a new theoretical perspective on the relationship between power and persuasion. An agentic-communal model of power is presented that proposes power affects both the type of messages generated by communicators and the types of messages that persuade audiences. Compared to low-power and neutral states, high-power states produce a greater emphasis on information that conveys competence. As a consequence, high-power communicators generate messages with greater competence information and high-power audiences are persuaded more by competence information. In contrast to high-power states, low-power states produce a greater emphasis on information that conveys warmth. As a result, low-power communicators generate messages with greater warmth information, and low-power audiences are persuaded more by warmth information. As a result of these two outcomes, a power matching-effect occurs between communicator and audience power: high-power communicators are more effective in persuading high-power audience members, whereas low-power communicators are more effective in persuading low-power audience members. Four experiments find support for these effects in oral and written contexts with three distinct manipulations of power. Overall, these experiments demonstrate that the success of a persuasive communication can be affected by the alignment between the psychological sense of power of the communicator and the audience.
Dubois, David, Derek D. Rucker, and Adam Galinsky. "Dynamics of communicator and audience power: The persuasiveness of competence versus warmth." Journal of Consumer Research (forthcoming).
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