Social power is one of the most pervasive social concepts in human societies because of its function as a social heuristic for decision-making. It combines diverse and complex decision-influencing social factors, such as formal/informal norms, resource/action dependencies and social status. The impact of social power may be observed in a multitude of social processes, such as coordination, delegation, cooperation, hierarchy and alliance formation, resource allocation and negotiation. Reinforcing this idea, it has been argued that power is a cognitive mediator for behavior that is fundamental for emulating many social phenomena that depend on the human social mind. Given the ample impact of power in people’s decisions, which may be observed in scenarios ranging from simple social interactions to social dilemma situations, the ability to understand power-based social dynamics and emulate them in cognitive agents is of fundamental importance for improving such agents’ interactive capabilities.
Several areas of application can benefit from agents endowed with social power. One is education, in which agents are often used to assist people in learning new skills by presenting area-specific challenges and adapting to the learner’s characteristics. An example is a leadership training application in which a person training to become a leader would learn to efficiently exercise his/her social power over his/her employees. Another application area is social support, in which agents have been used to support people in coping with difficult situations.