The implicit power motive in intergroup dialogues about the history of slavery

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2017 Jan;112(1):116-135. doi: 10.1037/pspp0000118.


This research demonstrates that individual differences in the implicit power motive (i.e., the concern with impact, influence, and control) moderate how African Americans communicate with White Americans in challenging intergroup dialogues. In a study with African American participants we find that the higher their implicit power motive, the more they use an affiliation strategy to communicate with a White American partner in a conversation context that evokes the history of slavery (Study 1). In a study with White American participants we find that, in the same conversation context, they are more engaged (i.e., open, attentive, and motivated) if they receive an affiliation message rather than a no-affiliation message from an African American partner (Study 2). In interracial dyads we find that African American participants' implicit power motives moderate how much they intend to signal warmth to a White American discussion partner, how much they display immediacy behaviors and use affiliation imagery in the discussion, and with what level of engagement White American participants respond (Study 3). High but not low implicit power African Americans thus employ a communication strategy-expressing affiliation and warmth-that can be effective for engaging White Americans with uncomfortable, race-identity-relevant topics. (PsycINFO Database Record

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Americans / psychology*
  • Communication*
  • Enslavement / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Motivation*
  • Power, Psychological*
  • Race Relations / psychology*
  • Whites / psychology*
  • Young Adult