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Power becomes you: The effects of implicit and explicit power on the self


  • Caza, Brianna Barker
  • Tiedens, Larissa
  • Lee, Fiona


Some power cues are explicit, obvious and salient, while others are implicit, subtle and harder to detect. Drawing from research demonstrating that people assimilate to implicit cues and contrast from explicit ones, we suggest that implicit and explicit power cues have different effects on people. Two laboratory experiments found that when power cues were implicit, people in high power conditions assimilated to stereotypes of power; they had relatively higher independent self construals, and they were more likely to see themselves as autonomous from, rather than connected to, others. The opposite effect emerged when power cues were explicit. These effects were replicated in a third study, where working adults rated their own power at work and the explicitness of power cues in their workplaces. We also found that power and cue explicitness predicted co-worker support, and that this effect was mediated by self construals. These results suggest that the way power is conveyed and expressed can influence important outcomes in organizations.

Suggested Citation

  • Caza, Brianna Barker & Tiedens, Larissa & Lee, Fiona, 2011. "Power becomes you: The effects of implicit and explicit power on the self," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 114(1), pages 15-24, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jobhdp:v:114:y:2011:i:1:p:15-24

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Brockner, Joel & De Cremer, David & van den Bos, Kees & Chen, Ya-Ru, 2005. "The influence of interdependent self-construal on procedural fairness effects," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 96(2), pages 155-167, March.
    2. Fragale, Alison R. & Rosen, Benson & Xu, Carol & Merideth, Iryna, 2009. "The higher they are, the harder they fall: The effects of wrongdoer status on observer punishment recommendations and intentionality attributions," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 108(1), pages 53-65, January.
    3. Lee, Fiona, 1997. "When the Going Gets Tough, Do the Tough Ask for Help? Help Seeking and Power Motivation in Organizations," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 72(3), pages 336-363, December.
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