Sexual Overperception: Power, Mating Motives, and Biases in Social Judgment

Jonathan W. Kunstman, Jon K. Maner*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations

Abstract

Results from 4 experiments suggest that power motivates heightened perceptions and expectations of sexual interest from subordinates. Having power over a member of the opposite sex activated sexual concepts that persisted across a temporal delay, indicating the activation of a mating goal (Study 1). Having power increased participants' expectations of sexual interest from a subordinate (Study 2) but only when a mating goal was attainable (i.e., when the subordinate was romantically available; Study 3). In a face-to-face interaction between 2 participants, power heightened perceptions of sexual interest and sexualized behavior among participants with chronically active mating goals (i.e., sexually unrestricted individuals; Study 4). Tests of mediation demonstrated that sexual overperception mediated power's effect on sexually tinged behavior. Through its capacity to induce goal pursuit, power can activate mating goals that sexualize interactions between men and women. This research demonstrates one route through which power might lead to sexual harassment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)282-294
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Volume100
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2011

Keywords

  • Motivation
  • Power
  • Romantic attraction
  • Social cognition
  • Social judgment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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