When Push Comes to Power: A Test of Power Restoration Theory’s Explanation for Aggressive Conflict Escalation

Ellen A. Fagenson, Joel Cooper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Scopus citations

Abstract

The present article discusses and tests power restoration theory’s explanation for instrumental aggressive conflict escalation: Aggression/derogation corresponds to a motivation to enhance power relative to the conflict instigator. In this study, individuals were either antagonized or not antagonized by a confederate who evaluated their performance on a memo-writing task. Prior to being given an opportunity to derogate this individual, subjects engaged in a problem-solving activity that (a) enhanced their power relative to the evaluator, (b) did not affect their power, or (c) enhanced their power relative to an individual who had not been involved in the evaluation task. It was predicted that if counterderogation in conflict situations corresponds to a need to enhance power relative to the adversary, then an individual’s desire to harm his or her adversary should be reduced to the extent that this goal has been attained. The results of the experiment provided support for the hypothesis derived from power restoration theory. Also, some support for the notion that power enhancement in general can deter conflict escalation was obtained.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)273-293
Number of pages21
JournalBasic and Applied Social Psychology
Volume8
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1987

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology

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