Select Publications

In Press:

The Language of Power: Interpersonal Perceptions of Sense of Power, Dominance, and Prestige Based on Word Usage.

Körner, R., Overbeck, J. R., Schütz, A., & Körner, E. (2023). The Language of Power: Interpersonal Perceptions of Sense of Power, Dominance, and Prestige Based on Word Usage. European Journal of Personality.

We examined whether people can accurately judge the experienced power, dominance, and prestige of others based on short texts, and what linguistic cues are related to these hierarchy-related variables. Past research suggests that personality is reflected in language, but hierarchy —another important feature in human relationships—has not been fully considered. In two studies with a zero-acquaintance setting, judges (N1/2 = 105/202) read self-descriptions of speakers (N1/2 = 200/200) and completed peer ratings of speakers’ power, dominance, and prestige. Speakers completed the same scales as self-ratings. We found substantial associations between the hierarchy concepts and several word categories (e.g., sense of power was negatively related to tentative words in self- and peer reports). For power and prestige, judges and speakers used the same linguistic cues for their assessments. Further, judges converged strongly in their assessments and showed high self-other agreement for all variables. We conclude that social hierarchy concepts are enacted in language and can be perceived from minimal verbal information. The findings show the importance of distinguishing between various hierarchy concepts when analyzing language correlates and have implications for testing power theories with linguistic material and the understanding of perceptions regarding hierarchy differences and following downstream consequences.

In Print:

The social alignment theory of power.

Fast, N. J., & Overbeck, J. R. (2022). The social alignment theory of power: Predicting associative and dissociative behavior in hierarchies. Research in Organizational Behavior,

This theory paper encapsulates our decades of thinking about the different ways that power is enacted. We propose that the ability to elicit desired responses from others (i.e., to influence) rests on two capacities: the degree of resource control that allows one to compel compliance even when the target is unwilling; and the capacity for volitional influence (CVI) that enables one to persuade others to willingly follow. We outline how having both resource control and CVI results in aligned power that appears as constructive, persuasive approaches to influencing, but having resource control without CVI results in misaligned power used in coercive, dominating ways. (We also note that lacking resource control results in aligned or misaligned dependence.) The paper offers 6 foundational resources that can constitute power and outlines sources of CVI.

How the linguistic styles of Joe Biden and Donald Trump reflect different forms of power.

Körner, R., Overbeck, J. R., Schutz, A., & Körner, E. (2022). How the linguistic styles of Joe Biden and Donald Trump reflect different forms of power. Journal of Language and Social Psychology.

Can theories of power be used to explain differences in the linguistic styles of Donald Trump and Joe Biden? We argue that the two candidates possess and use different forms of power—and that this is associated with typical language patterns. Based on their personal history, news reports, and empirical studies, we expect that Trump’s approach to power is characterized by coercive power forms and Biden’s by collaborative power forms. Using several LIWC categories and the moral foundations dictionary, we analyzed over 500 speeches and 15,000 tweets made during the 2020 election battle. Biden’s speeches can be described as analytical and frequently relating to moral values, whereas Trump’s speeches were characterized by a positive emotional tone. In tweets, Biden used more social words and words related to virtue, honesty, and achievement than Trump did. Trump’s coercive power and Biden’s collaborative power were more observable in tweets than speeches, which may reflect the fact that tweets are more spontaneous than speeches.

The P-Word: Power aversion and responsibility aversion as explanations for the avoidance of power

Hull, K. E., Overbeck, J. R., Smillie, L. D., Howe, P. D. L. (2022). The P-Word: Power aversion and responsibility aversion as explanations for the avoidance of power. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 52, 184-196.

Though we typically think that power is desirable, individuals will sometimes avoid power. One explanation for this behavior is some individuals are averse to the re-sponsibility associated with power and will therefore avoid positions of power. However, people may also avoid power because they perceive it as being inherently negative. This is supported by research on lay theories of power, which suggests that those who endorse the coercive lay theory perceive powerful people as manipulative and deceitful. In this paper, we propose a new theory of power aversion that expands upon the coercive lay theory to more thoroughly explain how negative perceptions of power cause some individuals to avoid it. We draw from previous research to identify specific negative traits associated with power. Based on this, we propose that some power-averse individuals believe that possessing power will turn them into immoral, cold, selfish, and unjust people. For this reason, they avoid power. We also consider the relationship between power aversion and responsibility aversion and suggest a convergence between research on responsibility aversion and lay theories of power.

Silence is golden: Extended silence, deliberative mindset, and value creation in negotiation

Curhan, J. R., Overbeck, J. R., Cho, Y., Zhang, T., Yang, Y. (2022). Silence is golden: Extended silence, deliberative mindset, and value creation in negotiation. Journal of Applied Psychology, 107, 78-94.

We examine the previously unstudied effects of silent pauses in bilateral negotiations. Two theoretical perspectives are tested—(1) an internal reflection perspective, whereby silence leads to a deliberative mindset, which in turn prompts value creation, and (2) a social perception perspective, whereby silence leads to intimidation and value claiming. Study 1 reveals a direct correlation between naturally-occurring silent pauses lasting at least 3 seconds (extended silence) and value creation behaviors and outcomes. Study 2 shows that instructing one or both parties to use extended silence leads to value creation. Additional studies establish a mechanism for this effect, whereby negotiators who use extended silence show evidence of greater deliberative mindset (Study 3) and a reduction in fixed-pie perceptions (Study 4), both of which are associated with value creation. Taken together, our findings are consistent with the internal reflection perspective, whereby extended silence increases value creation by interrupting default, fixed-pie thinking and fostering a more deliberative mindset. Findings of Study 3 also suggest a boundary condition whereby when status differences are salient, the use of silence by higher-status parties leads to value creation, whereas the use of silence by lower-status parties does not. Finally, Study 4 shows that instructing negotiators to use silence is more effective for value creation than instructing them to problem-solve. Challenging the social perception perspective that silence is a form of intimidation, we find no evidence for any associations between extended silence and the proportion of value claimed or subjective value of the counterpart.

The effects of experience, expertise, reward power, and decision power in groups

Bonner, B. L., Soderberg, A. T., Meikle, N., & Overbeck, J. R. (2021). The effects of experience, expertise, reward power, and decision power in groups. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice.

Introduction: Group members influence one another’s thinking in virtually every context, yet little research addresses how different combinations of experience, expertise, and power affect group dynamics and outcomes. Combining theory on social hierarchy and group decision-making, we offer a more comprehensive perspective. Method: Participants (N = 360) completed estimation tasks individually and then again in a face-to-face group using a multiphase design. Intragroup influence and task performance were measured. Results: When a group member was perceived to have relevant experience, group decisions were weighted toward her preferences. When someone in the group held decision or reward power, group decisions were instead weighted toward the preferences of the member with the most expertise. Reward power led to superior group performance. Discussion: This research highlights the importance of understanding how group members respond to different forms of influence within groups.

Interpersonal dynamics of nonverbal behavior in mixed-gender negotiations

Wareham, J., & Overbeck, J. R. (2020). The unspoken language of power: Interpersonal dynamics of nonverbal behavior in mixed-gender negotiations. In J. Kennedy & M. Olekalns (Eds.), Handbook on Gender and Negotiation. Edward Elgar Publishing.

Nonverbal communication is an integral component of how individuals search for information to understand others’ interests, goals and intentions. Recent research on the intersection between gender and nonverbal behavior has investigated gender differences in both the display (e.g., expressiveness, valence and intensity) and decoding (e.g., sensitivity and accuracy) of nonverbal cues. A more deliberate focus on the nonverbal dynamics related to power, particularly those in mixed-gender dyadic negotiations, has the potential to inform multiple theoretical perspectives on gender differences in negotiation processes, performance, and outcomes. To this end, we offer a fresh perspective on the nonverbal dynamics pertinent to mixed-gender negotiations. In our chapter, we examine convergence among theories in social relations and negotiations research, review empirical literature on key interpersonal factors influencing dyadic social interactions (i.e., power, trust and gender), and document how many of the observed patterns of gender differences in nonverbal behavior map directly onto and correspond with power differences in nonverbal cues. Furthermore, we develop theoretical propositions expanding on what we view as three fundamental interpersonal properties of nonverbal cues, including mode (e.g., implicit vs explicit), intent (e.g., spontaneous vs strategic), and consequence (e.g., competitive vs cooperative). Our goal is to advance research, theory and conceptual integration at the nexus of gender and negotiation to provide a foundation and agenda for future research.

Power and Influence I and II

Overbeck, J. R., & Page, K. (2017). Power and Influence I and II. In D. Smith (Ed.), West Point Leadership (ch. 14 and 15). New York: Rowan.

You don’t have to be the boss to change how your company works

Overbeck, J. R. (2015, February 26). You don’t have to be the boss to change how your company works. Harvard Business Review (online).

The leaders' rosy halo: Why do we give powerholders the benefit of the doubt?

Smith, P. K., & Overbeck, J. R. (2014). The leaders’ rosy halo: Why do we give powerholders the benefit of the doubt. Power, politics, and paranoia: Why people are suspicious of their leaders. In Van Prooijen, J. W., & Van Lange, P. A. (Eds), Power, politics, and paranoia: Why people are suspicious of their leaders. Cambridge University Press.

In the present chapter, we begin by examining powerholders themselves, detailing the multiple possible origins of the idea that power corrupts and discussing research that suggests a more nuanced view. Then we shift focus to perceivers, first acknowledging ways in which perceptual patterns may foster associations between power and corruption and then presenting data showing that people might instead have a positive view of those in power as a default.We review several reasons why such a positive view is likely to be far more prevalent than is generally recognized. Finally, we discuss implications of this “leaders’ rosy halo” for both theorizing about power and real-life hierarchies.

One for all: Social power increases self-anchoring of traits, attitudes, and emotions

Overbeck, J. R., & Droutman, V. (2013). One for all: Social power increases self-anchoring of traits, attitudes, and emotions. Psychological Science, 24(8), 1466-1476.

We argue that powerful people tend to engage in social projection. Specifically, they self-anchor: They use the self as a reference point when judging others’ internal states. In Study 1, which used a reaction-time paradigm, powerful people used their own traits as a reference when assessing the traits of group members, classifying group descriptors more quickly if they had previously reported that those terms described themselves. Study 2, which used a classic false-consensus paradigm, showed that powerful people believed that their group-related attitudes were shared by group members. Study 3 showed that more-powerful people relied more on their own state affect when judging other people’s ambiguous emotional expressions. These results support our argument that power fosters self-anchoring, because powerful individuals are often called on to act as the representative face of their groups, and the association between power and representation prompts the heuristic use of the self to infer group properties.

Power, status, and influence in negotiation

Overbeck, J. R., & Kim, Y. K. (2013). Power, status, and influence in negotiation. In M. Olekalns & W. L. Adair (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Negotiation. Edward Elgar Publishing.

Negotiation is a process in which two or more people must reach agreement on how to divide some resource, when they have different preferences for how to do so. Given this, it is no surprise that influence is a fundamental element of negotiation, nor that both parties tend to want and seek influence over the counterpart in negotiation. This chapter will focus on two primary sources of influence: power and status. Power is a source of influence from objective, structural sources such as possession of resources or position in networks of relationships; status is a source of influence stemming from others’ consensual judgments (Fiske and Berdahl, 2007; Fragale et al., 2011). Though power has (and will be) the focus of work on influence in negotiation, both are important and both are considered here.


Melwani, S., Mueller, J. S., & Overbeck, J. R. (2012). Looking down: The effect of contempt and compassion on emergent leadership categorizations. Journal of Applied Psychology.

Ivanic, A., Overbeck, J. R., & Nunes, J. (2011). Status, race, and money. Psychological Science, 22, 1557-66.

Fragale, A., Overbeck, J. R., & Neale, M. A. (2011). Resources versus respect: Social judgments based on targets’ power and status positions. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

Fast, N. J., & Overbeck, J. R. (2011). The curse of power: Elevated resource control hinders self determination. Academy of Management Best Papers Proceedings.

Overbeck, J. R. (Volume Ed.); Mannix, E.A., & Neale, M. A. (Series Eds.; 2011). Research on managing groups and teams, Vol. 14: Negotiation and Groups. Bingley, UK: Emerald Group.

Cho, Y., Overbeck, J. R., & Carnevale, P. J. (2011). Status conflicts in negotiation. Research on Managing Groups & Teams, Vol. 14.

Overbeck, J. R., Neale, M. A., & Govan, C. (2010). I feel, therefore you act: Intrapersonal and interpersonal effects of emotion on negotiation as a function of social power. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

Overbeck, J. R. (2010). Concepts, domains, and historical perspectives on power. In A. Guinote & T. K. Vescio (Eds.), The Social Psychology of Power. New York: Guilford Press.

Porath, C., Overbeck, J. R., & Pearson, C. (2008). Picking up the gauntlet: How individuals respond to status challenges. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 38, 1945-1980.

Curhan, J., & Overbeck, J. R. (2008). Making a “positive impression” in a negotiation: Gender differences in response to the manipulation of impression motivation. Negotiation & Conflict Management Research, 1, 179-193.

Overbeck, J. R., & Park, B. (2006). Powerful perceivers, powerless objects: Flexibility of powerholders’ social attention. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 99,227-243.

Overbeck, J. R., Tiedens, L. Z., & Brion, S. (2006). The powerful want to, the powerless have to: Perceived constraint moderates causal attributions. European Journal of Social Psychology (Special Issue: Social Power and Group Processes) 36, 479-496.

Overbeck, J. R., Correll, J. C., & Park, B. (2005). The internal sorting process of group status: The problem of too many stars. In M. Hunt-Thomas, E. Mannix, & M. A. Neale (Eds.), Research on Managing Groups & Teams, Vol. 7 (pp. 169-199). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Press.

Overbeck, J. R., Jost, J. T., Mosso, C., & Flizik, A. (2004). Resistant vs. acquiescent responses to ingroup inferiority as a function of Social Dominance Orientation in the U.S. and Italy. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 7, 35-54.

Overbeck, J. R., & Park, B. (2001). When power does not corrupt: Superior individuation processes among powerful perceivers. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80, 549-565.

Selected works in progress

Overbeck, J. R., Narh, D. D., Fast, N. J., & Mead, N. L. Power motivation theory: Hedonic and eudaimonic motives predict how power is experienced over time.

Hodge, J., Overbeck, J. R., & Jehn, K. A. Trouble with “shoulds”: Development and validation of the Interpersonal Meaning Violation Scale.

Hodge, J., Overbeck, J. R., Jehn, K. A., & de Wit, F. R. C. Now it’s getting personal: Comparing effects of meaning violation and conflict type on workplace wellbeing.

Overbeck, J. R., Howe, D., Meikle, N., & Akinola, M. The latent lieutenant as kingmaker: One person’s subtle deference can make another person a leader.