Attractiveness of the underling: an automatic power --> sex association and its consequences for sexual harassment and aggression

J Pers Soc Psychol. 1995 May;68(5):768-81. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.68.5.768.


One characteristic of men who sexually harass is that they are not aware that their actions are inappropriate or a misuse of their power (L. F. Fitzgerald, 1993a). We investigated the existence and automaticity of a mental association between the concepts of power and sex, and its consequences for sexual harassment tendencies. Using a subliminal priming paradigm, Experiment 1 demonstrated an automatic link between power and sex, and only for men high in the likelihood to sexually harass or aggress. In Experiment 2, male participants were unobtrusively primed with either power-related or neutral stimuli. For men likely to sexually aggress, but not other participants, attraction ratings of a female confederate were significantly higher in the power priming than the neutral priming condition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aggression*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Saccades
  • Sexual Behavior*
  • Sexual Harassment*
  • Vocabulary