Theses Doctoral

The Psychological Experience of Middle-Power in Social Hierarchies: A Theoretical and Empirical Investigation

Anicich, Eric

In this dissertation, I theoretically and empirically examine the psychological experience of middle-power, which occurs when someone frequently alternates between adopting behavioral strategies targeting higher-power and lower-power interaction partners. In Chapter 1, I update and extend the approach/inhibition theory of power (Keltner, Gruenfeld, & Anderson, 2003) by developing a novel theoretical framework related to the psychological experience of middle-power. This new theoretical perspective draws from and integrates insights from role-based identity (Ashforth & Johnson, 2001; Stryker, 1980) and role transition theories (Ashforth, Kreiner, & Fugate, 2000). In Chapter 2, I conduct a systematic review of the social hierarchy literature over the past 10 years and demonstrate that scholars have considered the middle of the distribution with respect to stratifying variables in only 5.4% of past empirical investigations. This conscious absence of the middle forces us to reconsider existing findings in the social hierarchy literature. In Chapters 3 and 4, I examine the relationship between power and unethical behavior and present evidence of a curvilinear relationship: middle-power individuals consistently behave more ethically than both their higher and lower-power counterparts. Taken together, these insights highlight the importance of considering the antecedents and consequences of middle-power states.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Galinsky, Adam D.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
June 20, 2016