Power and the pursuit of a partner's goals

Kristin Laurin*, Gráinne M. Fitzsimons, Eli J Finkel, Kathleen L. Carswell, Michelle R. vanDellen, Wilhelm Hofmann, Nathaniel M. Lambert, Paul W. Eastwick, Frank D. Fincham, Preston C. Brown

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We investigated how power dynamics in close relationships influence the tendency to devote resources to the pursuit of goals valued by relationship partners, hypothesizing that low (vs. high) power in relationships would lead individuals to center their individual goal pursuit around the goals of their partners. We study 2 related phenomena: partner goal prioritization, whereby individuals pursue goals on behalf of their partners, and partner goal contagion, whereby individuals identify and adopt as their own the goals that their partner pursues. We tested our ideas in 5 studies that employed diverse research methods, including lab experiments and dyadic studies of romantic partners, and multiple types of dependent measures, including experience sampling reports, self-reported goal commitment, and behavioral goal pursuit in a variety of goal domains. Despite this methodological diversity, the studies provided clear and consistent evidence that individuals with low power in their relationships are especially likely to engage in both partner goal prioritization and partner goal contagion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)840-868
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016


  • Close relationships
  • Goal contagion
  • Power
  • Self-regulation
  • Social support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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