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The Legitimacy of Power in Status-Differentiated Groups

aUniversity of Maryland, USA
bUniversity of Iowa, USA
cSt. Ambrose University, USA

Advances in Group Processes

ISBN: 978-1-80455-154-7, eISBN: 978-1-80455-153-0

Publication date: 27 October 2022



To use a behavioral measure of legitimacy to study how differences in negotiating style and status affect the legitimacy of persons in high-power network positions. Predictions include (1) that powerful network actors who negotiate using a pro-group style will maintain legitimacy better than will those who negotiate selfishly and (2) those higher in status will be granted more legitimacy both before and after exchange than powerful actors lower in status.


An experimental study in which participants were connected in networks to powerful partners who were portrayed as consistently high or low on several status characteristics. Both before and after exchange, participants evaluated partners on a number of dimensions and made decisions on whether to vote to join a coalition to take the partner's power away, a direct behavioral indicator of legitimacy.


High-power partners lost legitimacy over the course of exchange irrespective of whether they negotiated in pro-group or selfish ways, and irrespective of whether they were high or low in status. This effect was pronounced for partners who negotiated selfishly. Although partner status predicted legitimacy prior to exchange, legitimacy evaluations after exchange appeared entirely driven by the partner's negotiating style (how the power was used) and not by status.

Research Implications

The project introduces a new behavioral measure of legitimacy that correlated highly with self-report items and should be of value in future research. The study also indicates promising directions for future research that might disentangle effects of power and status on legitimacy, along with adjudicating among explanations for why this study did not find status effects on legitimacy.



Lucas, J.W., Kerns-D'Amore, K., Lovaglia, M.J., Soboroff, S.D. and Bailey, J. (2022), "The Legitimacy of Power in Status-Differentiated Groups", Kalkhoff, W., Thye, S.R. and Lawler, E.J. (Ed.) Advances in Group Processes (Advances in Group Processes, Vol. 39), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 75-96.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022 Jeffrey W. Lucas, Kristin Kerns-D’Amore, Michael J. Lovaglia, Shane D. Soboroff and Jasmón Bailey. Published under exclusive licence by Emerald Publishing Limited