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Power in Intergroup Settings

Sik Hung Ng

Subject Sociology
Intercultural Communication » Intergroup Communication

People Russell, Bertrand

Key-Topics power

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


Exercising power over others is a common human experience. Children override the better judgment of their parents, displaying temper tantrums or simply nagging them to exhaustion. Parents in turn control their children using reason mixed with bribes and brute force, or the threat of it. In seemingly equal relationships such as that between spouses, people nonetheless influence or cajole their peers to have their own way. The exercise of power relies partly on strategic communication, and even seemingly powerless individuals may triumph over the more powerful. Just as individuals exercise power over others, they also have the experience of being overpowered by others. The examples cited above have one common theme – they all involve a person (the agent) exercising power over another person directly (the target) – with three contextual dimensions: interpersonal (in contrast to intergroup), direct (versus indirect), and power over (instead of power to , e.g., power to do good common to both the agent and the target). Ng in The social psychology of power (1980) has provided an overall analysis of the contextual dimensions. Presently, only the interpersonal–intergroup dimension will concern us, with the emphasis on power in intergroup settings seen from the perspectives of social psychological and cognate academic disciplines such as language and communication (→  Language and Social ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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