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Power in Intimate Relationships Is the principle of least interest true? How is power communicated? Why do we have a need for power?

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Presentation on theme: "Power in Intimate Relationships Is the principle of least interest true? How is power communicated? Why do we have a need for power?"— Presentation transcript:

1 Power in Intimate Relationships Is the principle of least interest true? How is power communicated? Why do we have a need for power?

2 Historically, men have been the dominant partners in heterosexual relationships 95% of women and 87% of men in one study said they believed that partners should have equal say in the relationship (Hill et al., 1979)

3 But how does this equality work? Do partners make all decisions together? Does each partner make half of the decisions? Does it matter which decisions are more important than others?

4 Power & Social Exchange Theory Based on control of valuable resources Thus, one person controls resources, or may merely control access to the resources The partner must be interested in obtaining these resources Or must he/she?

5 Law of personal exploitation – the person who cares less has the power to exploit the person who cares more (Ross, 1921) Principle of least interest – the person who cares less about continuing and maintaining the relationship has more power (Waller & Hill, 1951) Supported empirically – the person who was less emotionally involved had more power (Sprecher & Felmlee, 1997) Dependency as power currency

6 The availability of alternative sources of desired resources influences power Thus, partners may try to influence the alternatives that are available to their partner or themselves

7 1. Patriarchy - The husband is the authority regardless of his socioeconomic status 2. Modified Patriarchy - Upper classes have more egalitarian beliefs about power in the family (ex. Greece & Yugoslavia) 3. Transitional Egalitarianism - Culture does not clearly dictate who should have power, and therefore power is based on possession of resources (ex. U.S.) 4. Egalitarianism - Equal sharing of power, so that it is not affected by socioeconomic resources (ex. Denmark & Sweden) Theories of societal power

8 Types of power Thinking about power, what are some reasons why you might defer to someone else? That is, why might someone have power over you? Reward (rewards) – they can do something you like for you, or take away something you don’t like Coercive (punishments) – they can do something you don’t like to you, or take away something you like

9 Types of power, cont. Legitimate (authority) – you recognize their authority to tell you what to do Referent (respect/love) – you identify with them and want to remain close to them Expert (expertise) – they have the broad understanding you desire Informational (knowledge) – they possess some specific knowledge you desire

10 Power through speech In heterosexual interactions, men tend to interrupt women more than vice-versa (Zimmerman & West, 1975) Men are more likely to dominate conversations of neutral and masculine topics Women are more dominant only when feminine topics are discussed

11 Men and women who speak tentatively are seen as less confident and less powerful (Carli, 1990) But only women are perceived as less competent Tentative female speakers were more influential with male listeners and liked more by them Female listeners liked the assertive sounding women more

12 Nonverbal behavior “Task style” – a rapid rate of speech, upright posture, moderately high eye contact, few vocal stumbles, and calm hand gestures This style was very influential in an experiment in which students were persuaded to change their meal plan However, when women used it on a male audience, it was less influential, and liked less

13 “visual dominance” – looking directly at a person while you are talking to them and then looking away while you are listening Touch Men tend to touch women more than women touch men in public, non-intimate settings Display of higher status? Warmth and concern? Interest in sex?

14 Styles of power Women may be more likely to use personal power (appeals to affection and sexuality) and manipulative power (appeals based on helplessness) Men may be more likely to use direct forms of power (coercion, authority) as well as power based on competence (expertise, information) (Johnson, 1976, 1978)

15 One study showed that wives complied with their husbands because of his superior knowledge and the fact that members of the same family should see eye to eye (referent) Most husbands cited only referent power as the reason for complying with wives

16 Falbo & Peplau, 1980 Direct (telling) vs. indirect styles (hinting) Bilateral (persuasion) vs. unilateral (withdrawing) Heterosexual males used direct and bilateral styles Styles associated with greater satisfaction Heterosexual females used indirect and unilateral styles Styles associated with greater dissatisfaction Homosexuals did not differ in their styles of power from heterosexuals Homosexual males did not differ from homosexual females

17 Outcomes of power Research on power outcomes has typically focused on which person gets his or her way in decisions made by the family What are some problems with this? “implementation power” – delegated power that is simply carried out “orchestration power” – the who decides who decides Are the types and importance of the decisions important?

18 Unless these distinctions are made, studies may overestimate the amount of power wives have in their marriages Japanese-American wives in Hawaii (Johnson, 1975) Wives did not report husband dominance in a self- report questionnaire When interviewed, responses indicated a great deal of husband dominance – it appears they had only delegated power and power in minor situations

19 Measuring power Wives tend to report less power than they actually have in self-report measures It may be they are influence by social norms Potential “powerlessness” bias – each person tends to overestimate their partners power while underestimating their own Observed in a laboratory, wives tend to have a lot more power than they self-report This may be because social norms are less obvious Or, it may be that husbands don’t mind relegating power in “pretend” decisions

20 Female dominance – a taboo? Couples tend to be more comfortable when power is shifted in the male direction (Madden, 1987) People seem to prefer the roles of male initiator and female responder in heterosexual interactions (Poppen & Segal, 1988) Men typically date shorter, younger women

21 Martial satisfaction research has indicated that couples are less satisfied in female- dominated relationships Experiment observing verbal interactions of partners 80% of couples in which the female interrupted more were broken up 5 years later Of those couples still together, those with a female who had interrupted more were less satisfied with the relationship

22 Why does there seem to be a general aversion to women having more power in heterosexual relationships?

23 The need for power Veroff and Veroff, 1972 People who are weak and insecure desire power to gain strength and security Gender differences For men, increasing their amount of education leads to a decreasing need for power For women, it leads to an increasing need for power Single women have the greatest need Violate cultural norm of marriage May feel handicapped in a “man’s world” of higher education

24 Winter (1973) A high need for power for men was associated with low relationship satisfaction, low love for their partners, and a higher number of anticipated problems in the relationship Only associated with a higher number of anticipated problems, for women

25 Men with high needs for power as undergrads were significantly less likely to have wives with full-time careers – economic exercise of power Men with high needs for power may inflict more physical abuse on their female partners Also predicts a great likelihood of drinking, drug use, aggression, and gambling Winter argues that these differences may be because of different socializations, that girls are socialized to be more responsible – what do you think?

26 Legally Blonde The clip (hopefully) illustrated what might be considered “traditional” or “stereotypical” male power – a man breaks up with a woman, and she is compelled to do whatever it takes to get him back. Question: Do you think that a man would be just as likely to react in the same way to such power exercised by a woman? Or would a man react differently?


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