The effects of gender and power on persuasion
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Penny S. Visser
University of Chicago
Home page: http://psychology.uchicago.edu/people/faculty/pvisser.shtml
Sample size: 610
Field period: 2007
Findings from the current line of research on the relationship between social power and persuasion show that there are clear descriptive and prescriptive norms for those in high-power social roles to be resistant to attitude change, and that activating the concept of social power in undergraduates causes them to be resistant to weak persuasive messages than control participants, but equally persuaded by strong arguments compared to controls (Eaton and Visser, under review 2007). Although this initial research with undergraduates failed to uncover any gender differences in expectations for or responses to power, there are well-documented differences in the access that men and women in the U.S. have to social power (e.g. Depret & Fiske, 1993; Johnson, 1976; Kanter, 1977; Lips, 1991; Lorber, 1998), and gender differences in implicit and explicit associations between the self and power (Haines & Kray, 2005). This raises the possibility that men and women in the general U.S. population may conceive of and enact powerful social roles in distinct ways.
Men and women may conceive of and enact powerful social roles in distinct ways.
In this 2 x 2 x 2 design, male and female participants were given either a power-priming or control vocabulary task and were then exposed to strong or weak counter-attitudinal persuasive messages.
Attitude change was the primary dependent variable. Attitude change was calculated by subtracting participants' post-message attitude towards the death penalty from their pre-message attitude towards the death penalty.Additional Information:
All participants were pre-selected for having positive attitudes towards the death penalty (all were above the neutral midpoint on a seven-point scale).
A 2 x 2 x 2 analysis of variance (ANOVA) uncovered a significant 3-way interaction between participant gender, the prime type, and argument quality on attitude change, F(7,545) = 4.14, p < .05. Planned contrasts revealed that males and females in the control conditions showed significant argument quality-differentiation, each being more persuaded by the strong than the weak arguments. Male participants primed with the concept of power failed to show argument quality differentiation, being no more persuaded by the weak than by the strong arguments. This finding is consistent with the prescriptive expectation for powerholders to be generally resistant to persuasion. In contrast, female participants primed with power continued to show the same level of argument quality differentiation as females in the control condition. Upon further examination, it was determined that the effect of the power prime on persuasion to strong and weak messages for women was moderated by women's household income. Specifically, women in the control condition showed less argument quality differentiation as their income increased, becoming increasingly resistant to the strong message.References:
Eaton, A.A., and P. S. Visser. 2008. "The effects of gender and power on persuasion." Presented at the conference of the Midwestern Psychological Association. Chicago, IL. May 1-3.
Eaton, Asia A., Penny S. Visser, Jon A. Krosnick and Sowmya Anand. 2009. Social Power and Attitude Strength Over the Life Course. Pers Soc Psychol Bull 35:1646. DOI: 10.1177/0146167209349114