CURRENT RESEARCH AND SELECTED PUBLICATIONS
When Power and Powerlessness Corrupt: The Integrative Effects of Power and Regulatory Focus
Power corrupts, but does powerlessness also corrupt? This research tested a new theoretical model that comprehensively integrates theories on power and regulatory focus. And in doing so, this model articulates how both powerfulness and powerlessness can each lead to corrupt behavior, but through different routes. Three experiments found that prevention-powerlessness and promotion-powerfulness produce more behavior than promotion-powerlessness and prevention-powerfulness, as evident in individuals’ tendency to exploit others (Study 1), aggression (Study 2) and dishonest behavior (Study 3). Indeed, powerlessness combined with a prevention focus was as corrupt as powerfulness coupled with a promotion focus. These findings have important theoretical and practical implications for power, regulatory focus and unethical behavior. They explicate how and when powerfulness corrupts, and importantly, how and when powerlessness can also lead to corruption. These findings also provide some insights on how we can mitigate corruption among the powerful and the powerless.
Power Buffers Stress
With Dana Carney, Brian Lucas, Pranjal Mehta, James McGee & Caroline Wilmuth
In 3 experiments, we offer evidence for the theoretical position that having power leads to a reduction in the stress response—which can have both positive and negative consequences. Experiment 1 tested the power-buffers-stress hypothesis in the context of a high-pressure mock job interview. Experiment 2 extended further the power-buffers-stress hypothesis by testing the effect on a physical stressor—an ice water submersion task. Experiment 3 tested the hypothesis in the context of an interrogation about theft in a high-stakes mock crime. Across three experiments, high-power individuals (vs. low-power) exhibited less of a stress response across measures of emotion, cognition, physiology, and nonverbal behavior. We suggest some specific biological trajectories through which power may buffer individuals from the stress response.
The Impact of Professional and Organizational Status on Subjective Well-being
With Adam Galinsky & Cameron Anderson
Research has shown that having high social status can increase subjective well-being. The current research examines how different sources of social status affect SWB and how people make career decisions based on these effects. In six studies, we predicted and found that individuals prefer having high professional status (i.e., a high-status profession within an organization) to high organizational status (i.e., working in a high-status organization). Further, the status of one’s profession in the organization was generally more predictive of SWB than the status of the organization, with one’s sense of power mediating the link between professional status and SWB. However, the importance of organizational status for preferences and SWB was amplified under four conditions: (1) when the employee’s job-role was externally focused, (2) when individuals stay in contact with peers outside the organization (i.e. high-school friends), (3) when one’s culture places a high value on status, and (4) when individuals seek hubristic pride. Taken together, our model presents a comprehensive understanding on how social status impacts preferences and SWB through aspects of individuals’ organizational life.
The Ergonomics of Dishonesty: The effect of incidental expansive posture on stealing, cheating and traffic violations. Psychological Science.
With Abbie Wazlawek, Brian Lucas, Amy Cuddy, & Dana Carney
Research in environmental sciences has found that the ergonomic design of human-made environments influences thought, feeling and action. Here, we examine the impact of physical environments on dishonest behavior. Four studies tested whether certain bodily configurations—or postures—incidentally imposed by our environment lead to increases in dishonest behavior. The first three experiments found that individuals who engaged in expansive postures (either explicitly or inadvertently) were more likely to steal money, cheat on a test, and commit traffic violations in a driving simulation. Results suggested that participants’ self-reported sense of power mediated the link between postural expansiveness and dishonesty. Study 4 revealed that automobiles with more expansive drivers' seats were more likely to be illegally parked on New York City streets. Taken together, results suggest that: (1) environments that expand the body can inadvertently lead us to feel more powerful, and (2) these feelings of power can cause dishonest behavior.
The powerful size others down: The link between power and estimates of others’ size. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 49, 591-594.
With Malia Mason & Daniel Ames
The current research examines the extent to which visual perception is distorted by one’s experience of power. Specifically, does power distort impressions of another person’s physical size? Two experiments found that participants induced to feel powerful through episodic primes (Study 1) and legitimate leadership role manipulations (Study 2) systematically underestimated the size of a target, and participants induced to feel powerless systematically overestimated the size of the target. These results emerged whether the target person was in a photograph or face-to-face. These findings suggest that the experience of powerfulness and powerlessness leads people to misperceive complementary power cues in others, and in doing so, distorts what they actually see. We discuss how these findings elucidate the interplay between how psychological states influence perception, and through this, facilitate social coordination.
Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect Neuroendocrine Levels and Risk Tolerance.
Psychological Science, 21, 1363-1368.
With Dana Carney & Amy Cuddy
Humans and other animals express power through open, expansive postures, and powerlessness through closed, constrictive postures. But can these postures actually cause power? As predicted, results revealed that posing in high-power (vs. low-power) nonverbal displays caused neuroendocrine and behavioral changes for both male and female participants: High-power posers experienced elevations in testosterone, decreases in cortisol, and increased feelings of power and tolerance for risk; low-power posers exhibited the opposite pattern. In short, posing in powerful displays caused advantaged and adaptive psychological, physiological, and behavioral changes -- findings that suggest that embodiment extends beyond mere thinking and feeling, to physiology and subsequent behavioral choices. That a person can, via a simple two-minute pose, embody power and instantly become more powerful has real-world, actionable implications.