Researching and Writing

RESEARCH REPORT 3

What Research Tells Us About the Power of Attraction

Introduction

Influence effectiveness depends partly on the strength of your power sources.  The more powerful you are, the more effective you are likely to be when you attempt to influence others. 

Research shows that there are eleven sources of power, divided into two categories and one special source:

Personal Power

Knowledge                Your knowledge and skills

Expressiveness         Your communication skills; how articulate and expressive you are

Attraction                   Your attractiveness or charisma; the extent to which you can cause others to like you

History                       The nature and extent of your relationship with the people you wish to influence

Character                   People’s perception of your honesty, integrity, and courage

Organizational Power

Role                            Your position, title, and responsibilities in your organization

Resources                  Your control of valuable resources others need or want

Information                 Your access to information, especially private or privileged information

Network                      The breadth and power of your network inside and outside your organization

Reputation                  How you are thought of inside and outside your organization

Will Power                   The desire to be more powerful coupled with your willingness to act.

For a fuller explanation of these power sources, see Understanding Power.

The Elements of Attraction Power

Attraction power is based on the psychological laws of similarity and liking.  We are more influenced by people we feel similar to in some ways and by people we like for whatever constellation of reasons.  So attraction power is defined as your ability to attract others by causing them to like you or be drawn to you.  In researching this source of power, I asked one thousand people what they found attractive in other people.  This was a two-part study. 

In the initial study of about two hundred people, I ask them to write down words indicating what they found most attractive in other people.  I used their responses to formulate a list of forty descriptors.  Some descriptors were similar in meaning and were grouped in clusters.  “Personality,” for instance, was essentially equivalent to “charming.”  One cluster of four descriptors was “kindness, helpfulness, caring, and having a good heart.”  Although the definitions of these words suggest some differences in meaning, respondents used them more-or-less interchangeably.  Another similar cluster was “passion, affection, love, being a romantic, sensuality, and warmth.”

In the second part of the study, I asked 800 respondents to rank the top five descriptors that best indicated what they found attractive in others.  The top ten descriptors are as follows (shown as the percentage of respondents who listed them in their top five):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next five descriptors, in order, were confidence, authenticity/sincerity, compassion, loyalty, and sweetness.

These findings suggest that the people with the greatest attraction power are humorous, intelligent, charming, kind and caring, and physically attractive.  All of these traits, however, in some combination, form the basis of attraction. 

Research Findings on Attraction

Here are the principal findings of research on thousands of people globally.

  • People with high attraction power are substantially more influential than those with low attraction power.  Average overall influence effectiveness rating for people with high attraction power = 4.20 on a 5-point Likert scale.  People rated low on attraction power had an average overall influence effectiveness rating of 2.16. 

  • People rated lowest on attraction power lead through command and control methods—stating what they want, directing others, relying on authority, etc.  Those rated highest on attraction power lead by engaging others, asking questions, using logical persuasion, acting as role models, teaching, mentoring, inspiring others, and building commonalities with others by socializing with them.

  • Compared to people rated highest on attraction power, those rated lowest on this power source are seen as significantly more threatening, manipulative, intimidating, and passive-aggressive.

  • The people who are considered most attractive, who excel at causing others to like them, are also perceived to have significantly higher character, to be more honest, etc.  This is consistent with other research findings.  Moreover, the people who are typically rated highest on attraction power are the people we know best, the people with whom we have the longest and strongest relationships.

  • People who are rated lowest on attraction power typically derive their leadership and influencing power from their position in the organization and their control of resources.  In short, they have to rely on formal authority to get their way.

  • As we would expect, the people who are rated highest on attraction power excel at interpersonal skills.  They are significantly higher rated at speaking conversationally, building rapport and trust, supporting and encouraging others, showing genuine interest in others, being friendly and sociable with strangers, building close relationships, listening, being sensitive to others’ feelings and needs, and having insight into what others value.

  • The strong correlation between attraction and listening is especially noteworthy.  Part of what makes someone attractive to another is that he or she is an effective listener.  People who are rated low on listening are significantly less influential; are perceived to be more passive-aggressive, intimidating, and manipulative; are more likely to be perceived as having low character; have lower reputations; are more likely to be considered insensitive to others; and are considered to be significantly less effective at building consensus.  You pay a steep penalty when you don’t listen well.

Power Correlations for People
with High Attraction Power

Power Correlations for People with Low Attraction Power

Skill Correlations for Attraction Power

Strongest Correlations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*significant gap between those rated highest and lowest on attraction power

Moderate Correlations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*significant gap between those rated highest and lowest on attraction power

Weakest Correlations