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

Mario Weick, Cade Andrew McCall, Jim Blascovich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1188-1201
Number of pages14
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Issue number8
Early online date21 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017


  • 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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