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Social Cognition and Power: Some Cognitive Consequences of Social Structure as a Source of Control Deprivation

  • Eric Dépret
  • Susan T. Fiske

Abstract

Power is a dirty word in our culture’s lexicon. Like sex and death, it is not considered an appropriate topic for polite conversation. And yet, like the facts of life and death, it is ubiquitous in human social life. This paradox is partly explained by our unwillingness to acknowledge the full impact of power differentials on our daily interactions. Acknowledging the impact of power would be to confront our own lack of control as a result of unequal power. As with sex and death, many people in Western culture (or at least those of us who are New Englanders) consequently prefer not to think about it. On a broader scale, the democratic dream is that all of us are equals. Acknowledging the existing power inequities therefore jeopardizes our most cherished shared illusions about the mechanisms of our society. Social psychologists, however, should not be so constrained, and indeed, should be intrigued by such a central feature of society, which is also such a strong motivator of people’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior toward each other. This chapter develops a cognitive-motivational analysis of the impact of power, focusing on the powerless. As such, we will emphasize how power differentials constitute a social-structural form of control deprivation.

Keywords

Control Motivation Power Relation Social Cognition Social Influence Social Power 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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  • Eric Dépret
  • Susan T. Fiske

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