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Moving closer to reach the top: approach behavior increases one's sense of power

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Associated organisational unit

Journal publication date2013
JournalSocial Cognition
Number of pages12
Original languageEnglish


Power holders exhibit more approach behavior than those without power and are even expected by others to do so. We proposed that this strong association between power and approach should make approach behavior a useful cue for perceiving one’s level of power: If I am approaching things, I must be powerful. Across three experiments, engaging in approach behavior led individuals to feel explicitly (Exp. 1) and implicitly (Exp. 2) more powerful and to feel better suited for high-power jobs (Exp. 3), without affecting conscious affective experiences. Furthermore, the effect was not dependent on specific physical movements; the same movement was psychologically framed as either approach or avoidance and affected participants’ sense of power accordingly (Exp. 1 & 3). Since power itself leads to approach behavior, these results suggest a way power hierarchies may be unintentionally perpetuated or strengthened.