6
THE DEVELOPMENT OF PERCEPTIONS AND BEHAVIOR IN NEWLY FORMED SOCIAL POWER RELATIONSHIPS 1

GEORGE LEVINGER

Empirical investigations of social power have been concerned for the most part with the description of power structures and with the sociological or psychological correlates of social power at some given point in time (6, 9, 10, Chapter 2). Attention has been directed more toward persisting characteristics than toward changes. While this work has provided considerable understanding of the distribution of power and its consequences within different kinds of groups, relatively little is known about the ways in which power relations build up and maintain themselves or suffer modifications.

The present research deals with two questions concerning the development of power relations among members of informal groups: To what extent do different kinds of interpersonal information affect a group member's power perceptions? What is the relation between his perception of other members and his behavior toward them? Before phrasing these questions as specific hypotheses relevant to a particular behavioral setting, let us consider the concepts to be used.


THEORY AND HYPOTHESES

By social power we shall mean an individual's potentiality for influencing one or more other persons toward acting or changing in a given direction. According to this definition, social power is the ability to exert interpersonal influence. What, then, is the basis of interpersonal influence? Such influence is established by inducing other persons to perceive that acceptance or rejection of a given influence attempt will lead either to satisfying or depriving experiences for them. In other words, interpersonal influence implies the manipulation of valences in another person's psychological environment.

____________________
1
This report is based on a doctor's dissertation submitted to the Doctoral Program in Social Psychology at the University of Michigan. I am grateful to Dr. Ronald Lippitt for his valuable help as chairman of the doctoral committee. I am also indebted to Drs. Dorwin Cartwright and Sidney Rosen for their constructive suggestions.

The research was supported in part under grant-in-aid (M-450 (C-2) ) from the National Institute of Mental Health of the Public Health Service.

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