Power and Overconfident Decision-Making

Fast, N.J., Sivanathan, N., Mayer, N.D., and Galinsky, A.D. (2012). Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 117, 249-260.

Five experiments demonstrate that experiencing power leads to overconfident decision-making. Using multiple instantiations of power, including an episodic recall task (Experiments 1–3), a measure of work-related power (Experiment 4), and assignment to high- and low-power roles (Experiment 5), power produced overconfident decisions that generated monetary losses for the powerful. The current findings, through both mediation and moderation, also highlight the central role that the sense of power plays in producing these decision-making tendencies. First, sense of power, but not mood, mediated the link between power and overconfidence (Experiment 3). Second, the link between power and overconfidence was severed when access to power was not salient to the powerful (Experiment 4) and when the powerful were made to feel personally incompetent in their domain of power (Experiment 5). These findings indicate that only when objective power leads people to feel subjectively powerful does it produce overconfident decision-making.

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The Destructive Nature of Power Without Status

Fast, N.J., Halevy, N., and Galinsky, A.D. (2012). Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48, 391-394.

The current research explores how roles that possess power but lack status influence behavior toward others. Past research has primarily examined the isolated effects of having either power or status, but we propose that power and status interact to affect interpersonal behavior. Based on the notions that a) low-status is threatening and aversive and b) power frees people to act on their internal states and feelings, we hypothesized that power without status fosters demeaning behaviors toward others. To test this idea, we orthogonally manipulated both power and status and gave participants the chance to select activities for their partners to perform. As predicted, individuals in high-power/low-status roles chose more demeaning activities for their partners (e.g., bark like a dog, say “I am filthy”) than did those in any other combination of power and status roles. We discuss how these results clarify, challenge, and advance the existing power and status literatures.

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Power, Defensive Denigration, and the Assuaging Effect of Gratitude Expression

Cho, Y. and Fast, N.J. (2012). Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48, 778-782.

This article examines the interactive effects of power, competency threats, and gratitude expression on the tendency to denigrate others. The results of two experiments indicate that (1) power holders whose competence has been threatened are more likely than others to denigrate interaction partners, and (2) receiving gratitude expression has self-affirming effects for insecure power holders. Experiment 1 demonstrated that high-power, but not low-power, individuals who received threatening feedback about their competence denigrated the competence of their partners. Importantly, this tendency was ameliorated when subordinates expressed gratitude for previous help provided from the power holder. Experiment 2 demonstrated that the ameliorating effect of gratitude expression on threatened power holders' tendency to denigrate subordinates is mediated by increased perceptions of social worth. Implications for research on power, gratitude expression, and the self are discussed.

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