Structural and nonstructural aspects of power distance reduction tendencies


  • This study is part of the author's Ph. D. research carried out under the supervision of Professor Henri Tajfel, whose encouragement is deeply appreciated. The author also wishes to thank Professor Dr. Mauk Mulder for discussing his ideas with and making available many of his papers to him.


Re-examines Mulder's Power Distance Reduction Theory (P.D.R.) and the related experiments using a model which distinguishes between structural and nonstructural parameters of a power system. The former defines the Vertical and Horizontal nature of the power relations between people in the system, while the latter specifies the power differential between two immediate ranks, and together they provide a more adequate and precise conception of the links between the power parameters and the tendencies of subordinate group members to seize super-ordinate power. Several theoretical statements were generated on the bases of the P.D.R. literature and theories of social comparison and bureaucracy to hypothesize the individual effects of the three parameters on power distance reduction (p.d.r.) tendencies. Two experiments using 48 and 40 male college students respectively were conducted to test the hypotheses by systematically varying one parameter and holding constant the other two. The results indicate an inverse relationship between the p.d.r. tendencies and the size of the parameters, as predicted. The strength of the relationship increases from the nonstructural to the Vertical to the Horizontal parameter. An argument was developed which combined the three power parameters to form two ideal power conditions for further research.