I Like it When You Act Like a Leader: A Role Congruity Account of Romantic Desire for Powerful Opposite-Sex Others



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Powerful people perform observable agentic behaviors (e.g., directing tasks), and people expect powerful people to act in these agentic ways. Furthermore, Role Congruity Theory predicts that people are disliked when their behavior contradicts such expectations. To this end, we examined perceivers? romantic liking for opposite-sex targets depending on whether or not the targets conformed to a powerful role. Participants interacted with two opposite-sex partners in brief, recorded sessions. We manipulated (a) which of the opposite-sex partners was actually given power and (b) participants? perceptions of which opposite-sex partners was given power. Participants reported the most romantic liking for partners who actually were given power, but only when this reality matched participants? perceptions of who had power. This interaction effect on liking was mediated by the time the opposite-sex partner directed the conversation; that is, when perceptions of power were shared, the powerful partner behaved more agentically and was better liked.