Perceiving the Powerful: Intriguing Individuals versus Threatening Groups

Eric Dépret, Susan T. Fiske

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


An experiment investigated the effect of short-term asymmetrical outcome dependency (one form of power) on person perception in interpersonal and intergroup situations. Power was manipulated as the amount of control targets had over perceivers' outcomes. In the interpersonal condition, targets were from various out-group categories, so they formed a loose aggregate. In the intergroup condition, targets all were from the same out-group category, forming a homogeneous out-group. The hypothesis, contrasting the impact of power in interpersonal and intergroup relations, was confirmed. Results show that, in the interpersonal condition only, targets' power (perceiver outcome dependency) led to individuating impression-formation processes (attention and dispositional inferences), consistent with the continuum model of impression formation. By contrast, in the intergroup condition, targets' power did not lead to individuating impression-formation processes, but generated in-group identification and favoritism, as well as negative affect, an apparent in-group cohesion effect under threat. Results are discussed with regard to the continuum model of impression formation, issues of control deprivation, and social identity theory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)461-480
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1999

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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