Act with authority: Romantic desire at the nexus of power possessed and power perceived

Paul W. Eastwick*, Brian M. Wilkey, Eli J. Finkel, Nathaniel M. Lambert, Gráinne M. Fitzsimons, Preston C. Brown, Frank D. Fincham

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The social psychological literature and the evolutionary literature on power suggest different routes by which power might inspire romantic desire: the former highlights the appealing actions of the powerful, whereas the latter demonstrates that people desire powerful individuals upon learning of those individuals' powerful status. We predicted that, in an initial face-to-face interaction, both elements must align for the powerful to inspire romantic desire. In a live mixed-sex interaction, participants experienced the most romantic desire for an opposite-sex target who (a) actually possessed power and (b) was perceived by the participant to possess power. This interaction was mediated by observable behavior-the extent to which the target controlled the conversation and was given legitimacy by the group-indicating that the powerful do not behave powerfully around unaccommodating subordinates. Power manipulations implemented in only one person's mind may not approximate how power functions in real social interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)267-271
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2013


  • Attraction
  • Evolutionary psychology
  • Group interaction
  • Power
  • Role congruity theory
  • Status

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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