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Power and the Pursuit of Connection: The Effects of Social Power on Social-Connection Seeking after Rejection

  • Author(s): Kuehn, Maya Madelyn
  • Advisor(s): Chen, Serena
  • et al.

People have a fundamental need to feel socially connected to others -- in other words, a need to belong (Baumeister & Leary, 1995). This need is thought to operate according to a drive model, such that a threat to this need – in the form of social rejection or disconnection – motivates one to seek out means to restore the need, in the form of social acceptance or connection (Baumeister & Leary, 1995). The present dissertation examines social power as a factor that may enhance social-connection seeking in the wake of rejection. Social power – defined as the ability to control the resources and outcomes of others (Keltner, Gruenfeld, & Anderson, 2003) – has several consequences that may foster social-connection seeking, including greater resilience to rejection (Kuehn, Chen, & Gordon, in press), and greater goal pursuit (Guinote, 2007). The present work tested two specific mechanisms by which higher power may drive connection-seeking after rejection: greater expectations for acceptance and lesser concern with rejection.

In the present work, Studies 1 and 2 examined whether power would enhance social-connection seeking after rejection. Study 1 manipulated power in a visualization paradigm and measured participants’ tendency to seek connection after a hypothetical rejection. Study 2 measured trait power in romantic partners and observed behavioral engagement with a partner after perceiving low responsiveness from that partner. Studies 3a and 3b examined whether power predicted our hypothesized mediators. Study 3a examined relationships between trait power, trait acceptance expectations, and trait rejection concerns. Study 3b manipulated power in a visualization paradigm and measured acceptance expectations and rejection concerns from a hypothetical partner. Study 4 tested the full mediation model, assigning participants to a role of high-power or low-power for a partner task, manipulating rejection by delivering accepting or rejecting feedback from the partner, and measuring acceptance expectations, rejection concerns, and behavioral and motivational social-connection seeking tendencies with a new social target.

Studies 1 and 2 demonstrated that greater power predicted greater social-connection seeking uniquely following rejection (and not following acceptance). Studies 3a and 3b demonstrated that power was associated with greater acceptance expectations and lesser rejection concern. Study 4, however, failed to replicate these effects, and failed to provide evidence for mediation. Potential explanations, limitations, and suggestions for future directions are discussed.

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