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Power moves beyond complementarity : a staring look elicits avoidance in low power perceivers and approach in high power perceivers.

Weick., M. and McCall, C. and Blascovich, J. (2017) 'Power moves beyond complementarity : a staring look elicits avoidance in low power perceivers and approach in high power perceivers.', Personality and social psychology bulletin., 43 (8). pp. 1188-1201.


Sustained, direct eye-gaze — staring — is a powerful cue that elicits strong responses in many primate and non-primate species. The present research examined whether fleeting experiences of high and low power alter individuals’ spontaneous responses to the staring gaze of an onlooker. We report two experimental studies showing that sustained, direct gaze elicits spontaneous avoidance tendencies in low power perceivers, and spontaneous approach tendencies in high power perceivers. These effects emerged during interactions with different targets and when power was manipulated between-individuals (Study 1) and within-individuals (Study 2), thus attesting to a high degree of flexibility in perceivers’ reactions to gaze cues. Together, the present findings indicate that power can break the cycle of complementarity in individuals’ spontaneous responding: low power perceivers complement and move away from, and high power perceivers reciprocate and move towards, staring onlookers.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:Power, Eye gaze, Dominance, Complementarity, Approach and avoidance
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Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.
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Publisher statement:This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License ( which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (
Date accepted:23 March 2017
Date deposited:18 September 2018
Date of first online publication:21 June 2017
Date first made open access:18 September 2018

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