The Bases of Social Power
JOHN R. P. FRENCH, JR., AND BERTRAM RAVEN
The processes of power are pervasive, complex, and often disguised in our society.
Accordingly one finds in political science, in sociology, and in social psychology a
variety of distinctions among different types of social power or among qualitatively
different processes of social influence (1, 7, 14, 20, 23, 29, 30, 38, 40). Our main
purpose is to identify the major types of power and to define them systematically so that
we may compare them according to the changes which they produce and the other
effects which accompany the use of power. The phenomena of power and influence
involve a dyadic relation ...view middle of the document...
Power and Influence in Groups
POWER, I N F L U E N C E A N D
Since we shall define power in terms of influence, and influence in terms of psychological
change, we begin with a discussion of
change. We want to define change at a
level of generality which includes changes in
behavior, opinions, attitudes, goals, needs,
values, and all other aspects of the person's
psychological field. We shall use the word
"system" to refer to any such part of
the life space.' Following Lewin (26, 305) the
state of a system at tin>e 1 will be denoted
Psychological change is defined as any alteration of the state of some system a over
time. The amount of change is measured by
the size of the difference between the states of
the system a at time 1 and at time 2:
ch (a) = S2 (a) ~ si (a).
Change in any psychological system may be
conceptualized in terms of psychological
forces. But it is important to note that the
change must be coordinated to the resultant
force of all the forces operating at the moment.
Change in an opinion, for example, may be'
determined jointly by a driving force induced
by another person, a restraining force corresponding to anchorage in a group opinion,
and an own force stemming from the person's
Our theory of social influence and power is
limited to influence on the person, P, produced
by a social agent, O, where O can be either
another person, a role, a norm, a group, or a
part of a group. We do not consider social
influence exerted on a group.
The influence of O on system a in the life
space of P is defined as the resultant force on
system a which has its source in an act of O.
This resultant force induced by O consists of
two components: a force to change the system
in the direction induced by O and an opposing
resistance set up by the same act of O.
By this definition the influence of O does
1 The word "system" is here used to refer to a
whole or to a part of the whole.
not include P's own forces nor the forces induced by other social agents. Accordingly the
"influence" of O must be clearly distinguished
from O's "control" of P. O may be able to
induce strong forces on P to carry out an activity (i.e., O exerts strong influence on P); but if
the opposing forces induced by another person
or by P's own needs are stronger, then P will
locomote in an opposite direction (i.e., O does
not have control over P). Thus psychological
change in P can be taken as an operational
definition of the social influence of O on P only
when the effects of other forces have been
It is assumed that any system is interdependent with other parts of the life space so that a
change in one may produce changes in others.
However, this theory focuses on the primary
changes in a system which are produced directly by social influence; it is less concerned
with secondary changes which are indirectly
effected in the...