Power and vertical locations: A socioecological perspective

Anna Dorfman, Danny Ben-Shahar, Daniel Heller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


High-rise construction increasingly dominates the contemporary urban landscape. We show that the physical built environment is linked to lay theories about social power. In five experiments (N = 1091), we comprehensively test the bi-directional causal link between floor location in high-rises and perceived social power. First, using immersive virtual reality (VR) experience of floor location within a physical urban environment (Experiment 1) and traditional experimental designs (Experiments 2–3), we demonstrate that information about a person's floor location affects perceptions regarding that individual's social power. Second, we find that information about a person's social power influences inferences about that individual's location on higher floors (Experiment 4) and encourages greater monetary outlays for the higher locations of powerful employees (Experiment 5). These findings carry important implications for social hierarchies and inequality, individual choices and policy implications in the urban environment, and the use of VR in environmental perception and cognition research.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102286
JournalJournal of Environmental Psychology
StatePublished - May 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 Elsevier Ltd


  • Physical environment
  • Power
  • Socioecological psychology
  • Vertical locations
  • Virtual reality


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