Individuals’ power and their social network accuracy: A situated cognition perspective

Joshua E. Marineau, Giuseppe (Joe) Labianca, Daniel J. Brass, Stephen P. Borgatti, Patrizia Vecchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (SciVal)


Individuals differ in how accurately they perceive their social environment, but research and theory provide conflicting predictions on whether powerful people are more or less accurate than others. Drawing on social network theory and the situated cognition theory of power, we examine the relationship between individuals’ formal and informal power and their perceptual accuracy of social network relationships. We propose that individuals’ perceptual accuracy is related to: 1) their formal and informal power in the organization; 2) the type of relationship being perceived (positive/negative valence) and its relevance to task and goal completion; and 3) the dependence relationship with the target of perception (i.e., whether the perceiver is dependent on the perceived to get their work done). Predictions were tested using cognitive social structure data collected from a technical call center. Results showed that power was generally linked to increased perceptual accuracy, particularly for the types of relationships most relevant for task and goal completion. We further demonstrated that social network accuracy was related to employees’ outcomes, including subsequent transfer, promotion, and exit from the organization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-161
Number of pages17
JournalSocial Networks
StatePublished - Jul 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Author Note: Partial funding for this study was provided by the LINKS Center for Social Network Analysis, University of Kentucky . We would like to acknowledge all the students and faculty at the LINKS Center at the University of Kentucky, Gatton College of Business and the participants in the Intra-Organizational Networks (ION) Conference for their helpful comments and suggestions. Appendix A This is an example of the matrix used to collect cognitive social structure data for this study. Each individual was asked to write a “1” for friendship or a “2” for dislike for each of the cells where they believed to be either friendship or dislike between two individuals, beginning with their own row and column. Appendix B

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier B.V.


  • Employee outcomes
  • Formal and informal power
  • Network perception and accuracy
  • Positive and negative ties
  • Situated cognition
  • Social network analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (all)
  • Psychology (all)


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