The Look of Power: Gender Differences and Similarities in Visual Dominance Behavior

  • Steve L. Ellyson
  • John F. Dovidio
  • Clifford E. Brown


The concept of social power has, at its core, the ability of one person to influence one or more others or to control the outcomes of others (Ellyson & Dovidio, 1985). Social power may stem from the information a person possesses (informational power), the position that a person occupies (legitimate power), the ability to administer favorable outcomes (reward power) or unfavorable outcomes (coercive power), or from the perception of being knowledgeable in the topic at hand (expert power) (French & Raven, 1959; Raven, 1974). These sources of social power may also be referred to as structural power (see Molm & Hedley, Chapter 1 in this volume). Sex is a characteristic that has traditionally been related to actual and perceived social power. In the United States, men disproportionately occupy positions of social, political, and economic power relative to women (Basow, 1986). In addition, gender stereotypes, in the United States and cross-culturally, characterize men as having greater potency, competence, and strength and associate men with higher status and more instrumental roles (Deaux, 1984; Williams & Best, 1986). This chapter examines the relationships among social power, gender, and human nonverbal power displays, particularly involving visual behavior.


Gender Stereotype Structural Power Nonverbal Behavior Social Power Visual Behavior 
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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steve L. Ellyson
  • John F. Dovidio
  • Clifford E. Brown

There are no affiliations available

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