Power Moves

Tiedens, Larissa Z. and Alison R. Fragale 2003. Power Moves: Complementarity in Dominant and Submissive Nonverbal Behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 84(3): 558-568.

Social interactions are filled with subtle behaviors that communicate much about the nature of the relationship (argyle, 1988; Giles & Powesland, 1975; Goffman, 1959; Mehrabian, 1972; Patterson, 1983). Research has shown that even slight movements of the arm or of a facial muscle affect people's views of their interaction partners (for reviews, see Argyle, 1988; DePaulo & Friedman, 1998). (Tiedens & Fragale 2003: 558)
From the Goffmanian triad (self, other, situation) this approach deals specifically with the "other" (or rather the relationship with the other).
One aspect of interpersonal impression that appears to be affected by subtle and nonintrusive nonverbal behavior is the dominant-submissive dimension of interpersonal perception. Simple changes in posture are accompanied by differences in perceived dominance. When people expand themselves and take up a lot of space, they are perceived as dominant, whereas when they constrict themselves and take up little space, they are perceived as submissive. Postural expansion can be achieved by moving one's limbs out from oneself (as in arms or legs akimbo), and constriction is achieved by drawing the limbs in or cross them over one's body and curving the torso inwards. At the very least, these "power moves" communicate the actor's likely status position to observers. (Tiedens & Fragale 2003: 558)
The dominant-submissive dimension seems specifically social-psychological notion. Also, my brother often performes such a power move in his car by resting his arm wide behind the passager seat's headrest. While sitting in the passager's seat it makes one feel dominated, when viewed from the backseat it gives the impression of being cut off.
There are at least two forms of systematic effects of these displays on the behavior of others. First, it is possible that observers respond to these behaviors with assimilative behaviors. People may respond to others who display dominance with dominant displays of their own and respond to submissive behaviors with mutual submission, a pattern we will refer to as postural mimicry. Second, it is possible that an observer could respond to dominant and submissive behaviors with contrasting behaviors. Dominant displays could invite submissive responde and submissive displays could invite dominant behavior, a pattern we will refer to as postural complementarity. (Tiedens & Fragale 2003: 558)
I have terminological quibble: contrasting means strikingly different; e.g. "exact opposite", while the pair assimilative/dissimilative works better for dissimilar means not alike or (mildly) different. That is, I prefer the pairs conformity/contrast and assimilative/dissimilative.
If, in a given relationship, people tend to complement, it suggest that they are prone to differentiate along the dominant-submissive dimension and that this relationship will likely become hierarchical. If instead they mimic, it suggests that they strive toward similarity on the hierarchical dimension and that the relationship can be defined as oriented toward either mutual submission or domination. (Tiedens & Fragale 2003: 558)
The underlying assumption is that there is a hierarchy and/or inevitably develops one.
Research in social psychology on the attractiveness of similarity, nonverbal mimicry, and automatic behavior suggests that postural mimicry is the most likely response and will result in the greatest comfort and liking in the relationship. However, research on nonhuman animal behavior suggests that postural complementarity is the norm in many other species, including some of our closest evolutionary relatives. In addition, interpersonal circumplex theories also have suggested that postural complementarity is more likely and creates more warmth in the relationship than mimicry of dominant and submissive behaviors. Each of these approaches is described below. (Tiedens & Fragale 2003: 559)
"The interpersonal circumplex is defined by two orthogonal axes: a vertical axis (of status, dominance, power, or control) and a horizontal axis (of solidarity, friendliness, warmth, or love)." (wiki) define:circumplex - "...models may resemble factorial or type models but further specify a relationship between the different types or factors."
One way in which people create similarity is to engage in motor mimicry. The production of a behavior in one person that has just been exhibited by an interaction partner has been demonstrated in a number of contexts and with a number of behaviors. Mimicry is heightened when people perceive themselves as similar, have aligned goals, share attitudes, like the target, want the actor to have positive perceptions and like them, or have the desire to empatize with the actor or with people in general, but these attributes are not necessary. In fact, people seem to mimic without intending to and without realizing that they have done so, a phenomenon that Chartrand and Bargh (1999) called "the chameleon effect." (Tiedens & Fragale 2003: 559)
The "homogeneity is the key to happyness" trope.
In addition, Giles and Powesland (1975) suggested that mimicry depends on the status of the actor and argued that people mimic high status people, a pattern they call "accommodation". Research on accommodation also suggests that mimicry might take a different form for dominance and submissive behaviors. Specifically, because dominance behaviors suggest high status (Ellyson & Dovidio, 1985), it might be that only those behaviors are mimicked, whereas submissive behaviors are not. (Tiedens & Fragale 2003: 559)
"You absorb most from those you admire." takes on a new meaning (presuming that people most admire those with high status).

Edinger, Joyce A. and Miles L. Patterson 1983. Nonverbal Involvement and Social Control. Psychological Bulletin 93(1): 30-56.

Systematic research on the role of nonverbal behavior in social interaction has been common only in the past 20 or 25 years. In spite of that relatively recent development, the quantity of research has been voluminous. A number of reviews have attempted to summarize parts of that research. Almost invariably those reviews take a "channel approach"; that is, they define their focus in terms of a single behavior or channel. [...] The channel approach can also be found in scholarly texts that devote separate chapters to each behavior, for example, one chapter on space, one on gaze, another for facial expression, and so on (see Harper, Wiens, & Matarazzo, 1978; Siegman & Feldstein, 1978). (Edinger and Patterson 1983: 30)
So voluminous that a comprehensive overview of the whole field of study seems like an impossibility. Also, I will do my best to avoid the channel approach; my seminar paper veered towards it, as I began with visual interaction, but didn't realize fully due to time constrictions.
Social control may be described as attempting to influence or change the behavior of another person. More specifically, it is assumed that effort is directed at producing reactions counter to those expected without such influence. (Edinger and Patterson 1983: 31)
A very general but nevertheless useful definition.
Intimacy may be described as the underlying affective reaction toward another person. On the positive end of the intimacy continuum would be liking, love, concern for, or interest in another person. Intense dislike or hate would be representative of the negative end of the continuum. In its purest form, positive intimacy would be characterized by openness, receptivity, harmony, concern for the other person, and a surrender of manipulative control over the other person (McAdams & Powers, 1981). Nonverbal behavior in the service of intimacy function would be the relatively spontaneous manifestation of an affective reaction toward the other person. For example, love would be expected to facilitate a closer approach to the loved one, more gazing at him or her, and an occasional touch, whereas the strong disliking of another person would be expected to produce avoidance. In contrast, social control would involve a more deliberate, purposeful response designed to promote a change in the other person's behavior. (Edinger and Patterson 1983: 31)
From this one can deduce that love implies allowing oneself to be manipulated by the loved one.
In general, the social control function has been ignored as a major determinant of nonverbal exchange. A notable exception has been Henley's (1973, 1977) work on nonverbal correlates of status or power. (Edinger and Patterson 1983: 31)
This is evident to anyone studying nonverbal communication and/of power: until Nancey Henley landed on the scene there was very little such theory to speak of, and it seems that when serious research began Henley's radical psychology was pushed aside in favor of other social-psychological theories.
The focus of the present review is the analysis of nonverbal behavior in the service of social control function. This approach will necessitate the examination of functional similarities across various nonverbal behaviors. The behaviors of special interest in this review belong to the set of nonverbal involvement behaviors (Patterson, 1982). These behaviors determine operationally, in some unknown weighted fashion, the degree of involvement between individuals in a social setting. A tentative listing of the nonverbal involvement behaviors would include the following: (a) interpersonal distance; (b) gaze; (c) touch; (b) body orientation; (eg) lean; (f) facial expressiveness; (g) talking duration; (h) interruptions; (i) postural openness; (j) gestures of a relational nature; (k) head nods; and (l) paralinguistic cues such as volume, speech rate, and intonation. (Edinger and Patterson 1983: 31)
In contrast to the approach in previous paper this one examines, or seems to examine, all three aspects: the self or it's involvement in others in a situation (social setting). This is more holistic or extensive.
Status, power, and dominance refer to the vertical hierarchy that exists in social relationships (Schlenker, 1980, p. 239). Although the terms status, power; and dominance constitute separate definitional entities, many investigators consider them >highly related. For instance, Keating, Mazur, and Segall (1977) use the terms social dominance and status interchangeably, and define them as "the relative amount of influence or power the individual wields in a limited context; that of a small, face-to-face group." Similarly, the measure of perceived dominance used by Summerhayes and Suchner (1978) consists of four scales: powerful/powerless, strong/weak, superior/inferior, and dominant/submissive. (Edinger and Patterson 1983: 32)
This I know and consider problematic. As for influence, the scene from Fahrenheit wherein Montag's plea to turn the tellie down gets ignored and the chief's command get's fulfilled right away.
On the basis of evidence that differing position of the eyebrows plays a role in nonhuman primate displays of status (dominance and submission), one study examined the effect of differing brow positions on perceived dominance in humans. Observers in that study judged posed photographs of models as dominant significantly more often when the models had lowered rather than raised eyebrows (Keating et al., 1977). In addition, poses that featured nonsmiling mouths were judged dominant significantly more often than were those with smiling mouths. (Edinger and Patterson 1983: 34-35)
Ah, so low-brow implies dominance. It makes sense, as surprised-looking people are less likely to be in-the-know and in control. I would qualify this hint with an intuitive suggestion that the most dominant expression in this respect would be open eyes and lowered brows (not forced down but "expressionless"). I base this on the same logic that appearing discontent is also less dominant, while observant and calm signify being in control.

Ridgeway, Cecilia L., Joseph Berger and LeRoy Smith 1985. Nonverbal Cues and Status: An Expectation States Approach. American Journal of Sociology 90(5): 955-978.

Nonverbal behavior is clearly implicated in the development and maintenance of face-to-face status. but what, precisely, is the role it plays? This question has not been adequately addressed. The results of studies in the area have not brought together and organized into abstract, empirical generalizations. (Ridgeway, Berger & Smith 1985: 956)
Even today this is a problem.
Most studies on nonverbal behavior and status are highly empirical and offer no explicit theoretical explanation for results. (Ridgeway, Berger & Smith 1985: 960)
And the Platonic pupil asserts: "It is indeed so."
Some researchers have simply applied the "dominance" label to a wide range of nonverbal behaviors without providing a definition of the term or an explicit account of the role it plays in status processes. Mazur et al. (1980), however, have attempted such an account. They argue that nonverbal cues such as staring cause a physiological stress reaction and that the winner of a nonverbal dominance contest succeeds by "outstressing" the other. Therefore, dominance is the ability to stress the other via nonverbal cues while resisting stress oneself. The dominance, or stress-inducing aspect, of a cue such as staring can be increased by additional cues such as lowered brows or an unsmiling mouth (Keating et al. 1977). Because the results of initial dominance contests go on to determine the status hierarchy, status is merely a reflection of an underlying dominance dynamic based on individual differences in outstressing ability. (Ridgeway, Berger & Smith 1985: 961)
Finally something useful! Outstressing can be tied with other features more akin to physiology, such as health, wellbeing, mood, etc. Source: Physiological Aspects of Communication Via Mutual Gaze.
The nonverbal expression of this confidence is what we have called a high level of task cues: a sustained eye gaze, a short response latency, a firm and loud voice, and so on. (Ridgeway, Berger & Smith 1985: 965)
I take this to be a general characterization of (nonverbal expression of) confidence.
When discussing an area of expertise, subjects showed equivalent rates of looking while speaking and looking while listening, which is the kind of gaze behavior also exhibited by subjects with an external status advantage. On unrelated topics, subjects showed the more usual pattern of greater looking while listening than while speaking. (Ridgeway, Berger & Smith 1985: 965-966)
Similar themes were discussed in previous articles. This seems like a good thing to keep in mind.

Schwartz, Barry, Abraham Tesser and Evan Powell 1982. Dominance Cues in Nonverbal Behavior. Social Psychology Quarterly 45(2): 114-120.

Through studies of demeanor, posture, spatial distancing, timing, touching, eye contact, and facial expression, students of nonverbal behavior have shown how the established power relations in society realize themselves in the ritualized gestures of everyday life (for a summary, see Henley, 1977). However, little is knonw about the way these signifiers operate as a system. In Messages of the Body (1974), John Spiegel and Pavel Machotka approach this problem through the concept of "areal radiation." Arranging under itself a large set of "somatactical" categories, this concept directs our attention to three polarities in the space that surround the human body: right-left, anterior-posterior, and superior-inferior. (Schwartz, Tesser & Powell 1982: 114)
Yay for new notions. Useless for now, definitely, but nevertheless interesting.
From this literature, an inventory of binary signifiers of social rank was assembled. We selected for systematic study four signifiers that encompass what is common to both Spiegel and Machotka's dimensions of areal radiation and Edmund Leach's (1972: 327, 335-337) "markers of interpersonal domination": lateral opposition, postural contrast, precedence, and elevation. These binary signifiers obviously do not exhaust the vast symbolism of social inequality; however, the enormous scope of their employment has been well documented by ethnographic research. This same research suggests that one of these contrasts is the most "authentic" signifier of social dominance. (Schwartz, Tesser & Powell 1982: 115)
This must be the first time I'm meeting binary oppositions in the study of nonverbal communication.
Central fo all discussions is the ritual use of the chair, which is expressed most conspicuously in the western world by the feudal throne, and in primitive society by the royal stool. Common figures of speech tap the same symbolic reservoir, e.g., the "chairman" of bureaucratic society," seats of power and government," the right to "be seated" through membership in legislative and other bodies. One principle that governs the use of these verbal and nonverbal metaphors is articulated by Raymond Firth. Since rest or physical inaction is a prerogative of power, displacement of the body mass is commonly used to exhibit deference. "In a very rough way, the amount of bodily displacement engaged in by each arty is in inverse proprtion to his status - the lower the status, the more the body movement" (Firth 1970: 2310-2311). This is why a seated subordinate must stand (expend ritual energy) when met by a superior, whereas a seated superior often maintains the seated position when approached by a subordinate. In a ritual context, then, the chair embodies the political privilege of energy conservation. (Schwartz, Tesser & Powell 1982: 115)
  • Firth, R. 1978 [1970]. "Postures and gestures of respect." Pp. 88-108 in T. Polhemus (ed.), The Body Reader: Social Aspects of the Human Body. New York: Pantheon.
  • Leach, E. 1972. "The influence of cultural context on nonverbal communication." Pp. 315-348 in R. A. hinde (ed.), Non-Verbal Communication. London: Cambridge University Press.
  • Melbin, M. 1974. "Some issues in nonverbal communication." Semiotica 10:293-304.
  • Miller, W. B. 1955. "Two concepts of authority." American Anthropologist 37:271-289.


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