Studies in Social Power

Studies in Social Power

Studies in Social Power

Studies in Social Power

Excerpt

The chapters of this book have been written by eleven people and report work done over a period of seven or eight years. All are concerned with some aspect of social power. The various contributions represent a common point of view, or identifiable approach, but they do not report the product of an integrated program of research. Instead, they reflect the convergence of interest among a number of people working on various research problems, to whom it became evident that social power had to be better understood if these other problems were to be solved.

As a result of the different directions from which the problem of power was approached, rather diverse aspects have been studied. No single theoretical formulation has served to guide the research. Indeed, no two investigations have used precisely the same definition of power. For this reason the findings of the several studies do not produce a tightly knit theoretical fabric. Nevertheless, the different investigations all do point to roughly the same range of phenomena. One study deals with the ability of one person to influence the attitudes and behavior of another; a second focuses on the ability of individuals to influence the decisions of a group; a third is concerned with the ability of a person to make decisions for others; and a fourth examines the ability of one person to determine whether or not another reaches his goal. Throughout, power is viewed as the ability of one person (or group) to influence or control some aspect of another person (or group).

It is possible to view any social variable both as independent and dependent, as cause and effect. Power is no exception. Some of the studies reported here are directed toward answering such questions as: How does power influence communication? What does the possession of power do to one's personal relations with others? Is power always threatening to those over whom it might be exercised? Other studies focus on the determinants of power: What are the sources of power? What characteristics of personality affect the devel opment of a group's power structure? Under what conditions is the possession of power converted into the exercise of power? None of the studies attempts to view power simultaneously as both an independent and dependent variable.

Empirical research on power has been hampered by the fact that the usual tools of research and the populations customarily studied by social psychologists do not lend themselves readily to investigation of the "harder" aspects of power. In the research reported in this book several different techniques . . .

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