Power has been empirically demonstrated to influence infidelity. This study investigated the influence of power on online sexual activity (OSA), as a form of online infidelity, among Chinese men and women in committed relationships. We also explored the potential mediating effect of attitude toward infidelity on the relationship between power and OSA. We hypothesized that powerful individuals would engage in OSA more frequently than would less powerful individuals. Participants (N = 425) completed questionnaires assessing their OSA experience within the past 12 months, as well as their own sense of power and their attitude toward infidelity. The OSAs were categorized as viewing sexually explicit material, sexual partner seeking, cybersex, and flirting. Three aspects of power were measured: position, perceived power, and sense of power. The results showed that individuals with higher positions engaged in all types of OSA more frequently than did individuals with lower positions. Power, a latent variable comprising perceived power and sense of power, also significantly predicted OSA, while attitude toward infidelity played a mediating role in this relationship. The findings demonstrate a common mechanism underlying the effect of power on both offline and online infidelity.
Power, which has numerous definitions, has been a longstanding and important research topic in the fields of sociology and politics. Psychologists typically define power as exerting control over valued resources, such as money, information, or decision-making (Keltner, Gruenfeld, & Anderson, 2003). Numerous researchers have explored the relationship between power and sexuality. For example, feminist theorists have examined the associations between power or social hierarchy and sexual arousal, violence, and desire (Brezsnyak & Whisman, 2004; Gage & Hutchinson, 2006). More recently, studies have investigated how power influences infidelity (Lammers & Maner, 2016; Lammers, Stoker, Jordan, Pollmann, & Stapel, 2011), and sexual aggression (Zurbriggen, 2000; Zurbriggen & Yost, 2004). So far, however, no study has examined the potential influence of power on online infidelity. Therefore, this study investigated the impact of power on online sexual activities (OSA) among Chinese men and women in committed relationships. We also examined the potential mediating effect of attitude toward infidelity on the aforementioned relationship. Researchers focused on the effects of power on different levels. Some researchers used power priming in the laboratory (e.g., Galinsky, Gruenfeld, & Magee, 2003), while some researchers used questionnaires to measure individuals’ sense of power (Anderson & Galinsky, 2006). In addition, actual positions in work units or organizations were also used as a power index (Lammers & Maner, 2016). Sometimes, participants’ perceived power was also used to establish the power index (Lammers et al., 2011; Lammers, Stapel, & Galinsky, 2010).