Being in Power Does Not Always Magnify Personality
In another experiment, participants wrote down charities they liked. A week later they chose which they’d donate to, either on a blank screen or from a list. On a blank screen, power increased the likelihood of picking favored charities. When given the list, though, the powerful chose other organizations; those lacking power weren’t swayed. The third experiment involved people with selfish or cooperative dispositions distributing valuable tokens to themselves and others. In the neutral condition, the selfish power-holders hoarded the tokens; the sociable ones shared. When primed to act differently, this was no longer the case.
Explains Guinote: “Power-holders have to make quick decisions and respond to opportunities, so they often deploy automatic cognitive processes.” Power-holders more strongly express their characters, but they are also susceptible to manipulations of environmental cues—much more than less-powerful people, who act deliberatively and have less extreme but more consistent preferences.
The implications? “Organizational culture and social norms have an incredible power to influence power-holders.” But no Orwellian manipulation is needed. “It’s enough to have a culture around them or tasks to do that call for desirable behaviors.” Culture can bring out collaboration or authoritarianism, sociability or greed in the people who wield influence and power.
For more information about this study, please contact: Ana Guinote at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The APS journal Psychological Science is the highest ranked empirical journal in psychology. For a copy of the article "Does Power Magnify the Expression of Dispositions?" and access to other Psychological Science research findings, please contact Lucy Hyde at 202-293-9300 or email@example.com.