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Power, Dominance, and Social Interaction

Charles R. Berger

Subject Sociology
Communication Studies » Interpersonal Communication

Key-Topics power

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


When individuals engage in social interaction, regardless of the relationship they have with each other and the context within which it occurs (→  Classroom Power ; Power in Intergroup Settings ), power and dominance are fundamental dimensions that both shape and are shaped by communication (→  Power and Discourse ). Studies of how people think about and judge their social relationships have consistently demonstrated the importance of a dominance dimension. People use this dimension to judge and experience their social relationships and the communication that occurs within them ( Berger 1994 ; Ng & Bradac 1993 ). Judgments concerning who is dominant or submissive or who is “in control” easily come to mind, whether the judgments are made during or after a specific interaction episode or in an ongoing relationship consisting of multiple episodes. These judgments may have substantial consequences. For example, people who consistently display dominant or submissive actions in their social commerce with others over time may be judged to have dominant or submissive personalities by those who interact with them. Not only are power and dominance fundamental features of social interaction among humans, dominance hierarchies are legion in the social behavior of many animal species. Even when group members consciously strive to have “equal” amounts of power and “equal” status, dominance ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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