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Types of Power

15 February, 2016 - 10:55

One of the most influential theories of power was developed by Bertram Raven and John French (French & Raven, 1959; Raven, 1992). Raven identified five different types of power—reward power, coercive power, legitimate power, referent power, and expert power (shown in Table 6.2), arguing that each type of power involves a different type of social influence and that the different types vary in terms of whether their use will create public compliance or private acceptance. Understanding the types of power is important because it allows us to see more clearly the many ways that people can influence others. Let’s consider these five types of power, beginning with those that are most likely to produce public compliance only and moving on to those that are more likely to produce private acceptance.

Table 6.2 Types of Power

Reward power

The ability to distribute positive or negative rewards

Coercive power

The ability to dispense punishments

Legitimate power

Authority that comes from a belief on the part of those being influenced that the person has a legitimate right to demand obedience

Referent power

Influence based on identification with, attraction to, or respect for the power-holder

Expert power

Power that comes from others’ beliefs that the power-holder possesses superior skills and abilities

Note: French and Raven proposed five types of power, which differ in their likelihood of producing public compliance or private acceptance.