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Power Moves Beyond Complementarity: A Staring Look Elicits Avoidance in Low Power Perceivers and Approach in High Power Perceivers

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Publication details

JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
DateAccepted/In press - 23 Mar 2017
DateE-pub ahead of print - 21 Jun 2017
DatePublished (current) - 1 Aug 2017
Issue number8
Number of pages14
Pages (from-to)1188-1201
Early online date21/06/17
Original languageEnglish


Sustained, direct eye-gaze—staring—is a powerful cue that elicits strong responses in many primate and non-primate species. The present research examined whether fleeting experiences of high and low power alter individuals’ spontaneous responses to the staring gaze of an onlooker. We report two experimental studies showing that sustained, direct gaze elicits spontaneous avoidance tendencies in low power perceivers, and spontaneous approach tendencies in high power perceivers. These effects emerged during interactions with different targets and when power was manipulated between-individuals (Study 1) and within individuals (Study 2), thus attesting to a high degree of flexibility in perceivers’ reactions to gaze cues. Together, the present findings indicate that power can break the cycle of complementarity in individuals’ spontaneous responding: low power perceivers complement and move away from, and high power perceivers reciprocate and move towards, staring onlookers.

    Research areas

  • approach and avoidance, complementarity, dominance, eye-gaze, power, Cues, Avoidance Learning, Choice Behavior, Humans, Male, Fixation, Ocular, Power (Psychology), Young Adult, Social Behavior, Social Perception, Nonverbal Communication, Adult, Female

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