John R. P. French

American social psychologist

John R. P. French Jr. (7 August 1913 – 14 October 1995) was an American psychologist, and Professor Emeritus in psychology from the University of Michigan. He may be best known for his collaboration with Bertram Raven on French & Raven's Five bases of Power in 1959.



"Overcoming resistance to change." 1948


Lester Coch and John R.P. French Jr. "Overcoming resistance to change." Human relations (1948).

  • This is a report of an actual industrial experiment designed to determine why workers resisted job changes and what could be done about the problem. The research arose out of the need to change industrial operations to meet competitive conditions and was instituted after earlier incentives and propaganda procedures had proved ineffectual.
    • Abstract, lead sentences
  • It has always been characteristic of American Industry to change products and methods of doing jobs as often as competitive conditions or engineering progress dictates. This makes frequent changes in an individual's work necessary. In addition, the markedly greater turnover and absenteeism of recent years result in unbalanced production lines which again makes for frequent shifting of individuals from one job to another. One of the most serious production problems faced at the Harwood Manufacturing Corporation has been the resistance of production workers to the necessary changes in methods and jobs. This resistance expressed itself in several ways, such as grievances about the piece rates that went with the new methods, high turnover, very low efficiency, restriction of output, and marked aggression against management. Despite these undesirable effects, it was necessary that changes in methods and jobs continue.
    • p. 512; Lead paragraph
  • From the point of view of factory management, there were two purposes to the research: (1) Why do people resist change so strongly? and (2) What can be done to overcome this resistance?
    • p. 512
  • On the basis of the preliminary theory that resistance to change is a combination of an individual reaction to frustration with strong group-induced forces it seemed that the most appropríate methods for overcoming the resistance to change would be group methods
    • p. 520
  • A majority of all grievances presented at Harwood have always stemmed from a change situation.
    • p. 531

"The bases of social power." 1959


John R.P. French, and Bertram Raven. "The bases of social power." in: Dorwin Cartwright (Ed). (1959). Studies in social power, Oxford, England: Univer. Michigan. pp. 150-167

  • The processes of power are pervasive, complex, and often disguised in our society.
    • p. 150
  • Accordingly one finds in political science, in sociology, and in social psychology a variety of distinctions among different types of social power or among qualitatively different processes of social influence... Our main purpose is to identify the major types of power and to define them systematically so that we may compare them according to the changes which they produce and the other effects which accompany the use of power.
    • p. 150
  • The phenomena of power and influence involve a dyadic relation between two agents which may be viewed from two points of view: (o) What determines the behavior of the agent who exerts power? (h) What determines the reactions of the recipient of this behavior? We take this second point of view and formulate our theory in terms of the life space of P, the person upon whom the power is exerted. In this way we hope to define basic concepts of power which will be adequate to explain many of the phenomena of social influence, including some which have been described in other less genotypic terms.
    • p. 150
  • By the basis of power we mean the relationship between O and P which is the source of that power. It is rare that we can say with certainty that a given empirical case of power is limited to one source. Normally, the relation between O and P will be characterized by several qualitatively different variables which are bases of power (30). Although there are undoubtedly many possible bases of power which may be distinguished, we shall here define five which seem especially common and important. These five bases of O's power are:
(a) reward power, based on P's perception that O has the ability to mediate rewards for him;
(b) coercive power, based on P's perception that O has the ability to mediate punishments for him;
(c) legitimate power, based on the perception by P that O has a legitimate right to prescribe behavior for him;
(d) referent power, based on P's identification with O;
(e) expert power, based on the perception that O has some special knowledge or expertness.
  • p. 155-6

Quotes about John R. P. French

  • John R. P. French, Jr., was perhaps the most Lewinian of all of Lewin's students, as reflected in his career of basic and action research, institutional innovation and development, and stimulation and support of the work of colleagues and students. Like Lewin, he delighted in theoretical development, but also in its application to social problems; he was a psychologist and experimentalist, but also catholic in the substance and methods of his research; and he was both a forceful advocate and a supportive partner in collaborations with colleagues and students. These Lewinian qualities are evident in his analysis of the bases of social power and his development of theory, research, and a research program on the Social Environment and Health.
    • James S. House, "John RP French, Jr.: A Lewinian's Lewinian." Journal of social issues 49.4 (1993): 221-226.
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