Body posture and gender impact neural processing of power-related words

J Soc Psychol. 2017;157(4):474-484. doi: 10.1080/00224545.2016.1242469. Epub 2016 Sep 29.


Judging others' power facilitates successful social interaction. Both gender and body posture have been shown to influence judgments of another's power. However, little is known about how these two cues interact when they conflict or how they influence early processing. The present study investigated this question during very early processing of power-related words using event-related potentials (ERPs). Participants viewed images of women and men in dominant and submissive postures that were quickly followed by dominant or submissive words. Gender and posture both modulated neural responses in the N2 latency range to dominant words, but for submissive words they had little impact. Thus, in the context of dual-processing theories of person perception, information extracted from both behavior (i.e., posture) and from category membership (i.e., gender) are recruited side-by-side to impact word processing.

Keywords: ERP; N2; gender; language; power; social perception.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Male
  • Posture*
  • Power, Psychological*
  • Social Dominance*
  • Social Perception*
  • Young Adult