The current research examined the roles of positional power induced by one’s hierarchical position in an organization and dispositional power (i.e., one’s general feeling of power) in the perception of sexual interest in a military context. In two vignette-based experiments with men who were military members, positional power induced by military rank led to heightened sexual perceptions. Men estimated higher sexual interest from their interaction partner when interacting with a hypothetical woman of a lower military rank, compared to a woman of equal (Experiment 1; N=144) or higher military rank (Experiment 2; N=232). Being in a relatively higher rank induces feelings of power over the interaction partner and thus results in a higher perception of sexual interest. Furthermore, Experiment 2 revealed that positional power better predicted heightened perceived sexual interest than dispositional power.
PS the first author, Pei Hwa Goh, worked with us for several years and did her PhD here!