Competence or Dominance?: A Quasi-Experimental Test of Sense of Control, Status and Power

Image credit: Yujia Lyu


Sense of control has been conceived as an individual-level mechanism shaping the unequal distribution of life outcomes. Yet recent studies imply its potential to form interpersonal hierarchies through two distinct dimen-sions – status and power. As extant theorizing favors status processes over power dynamics, we investigated it as a status element using status char-acteristic theory and a modified standardized experimental situation. We successfully detected sense of control’s limited capacity to form status hierarchies. However, further analyses suggest that aspects of interactional power, instead of competence-based status generalization, explain more variance in the observed influence patterns. We conclude that the detected hierarchies may be power based, but another research design should test this possibility. We then discuss the implications of these thought-provoking outcomes.

Sociological Focus (Vol 56, issue 3)
Yujia Lyu
Yujia Lyu
PhD candidate in Sociology

My research interests include status and power processes in small groups, stereotypes and bias, social hierarchies, workplace and labor, social class and race stratification.