Feel Powerful, Think Better: Studies Referenced In The Brilliant Report

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In issue 22 of the Brilliant Report, I write about how a feeling of power makes us think and act more intelligently. Here are abstracts and links to the studies I reference:

“Powerful Postures Versus Powerful Roles: Which Is the Proximate Correlate of Thought and Behavior?”
Li Huang, Adam D. Galinsky, Deborah H. Gruenfeld and Lucia E. Guillory
Psychological Science, 2011
Three experiments explored whether hierarchical role and body posture have independent or interactive effects on the main outcomes associated with power: action in behavior and abstraction in thought. Although past research has found that being in a powerful role and adopting an expansive body posture can each enhance a sense of power, two experiments showed that when individuals were placed in high- or low-power roles while adopting an expansive or constricted posture, only posture affected the implicit activation of power, the taking of action, and abstraction. However, even though role had a smaller effect on the downstream consequences of power, it had a stronger effect than posture on self-reported sense of power. A final experiment found that posture also had a larger effect on action than recalling an experience of high or low power. We discuss body postures as one of the most proximate correlates of the manifestations of power.

“Lacking Power Impairs Executive Functions”
Pamela K. Smith, Nils B. Jostmann, Adam D. Galinsky, and Wilco W. van Dijk
Psychological Science, 2008
Four experiments explored whether lacking power impairs executive functioning, testing the hypothesis that the cognitive presses of powerlessness increase vulnerability to performance decrements during complex executive tasks. In the first three experiments, low power impaired performance on executive-function tasks: The powerless were less effective than the powerful at updating (Experiment 1), inhibiting (Experiment 2), and planning (Experiment 3). Existing research suggests that the powerless have difficulty distinguishing between what is goal relevant and what is goal irrelevant in the environment. A fourth experiment established that the executive-function impairment associated with low power is driven by goal neglect. The current research implies that the cognitive alterations arising from powerlessness may help foster stable social hierarchies and that empowering employees may reduce costly organizational errors.

“Power Gets the Job: Priming Power Improves Interview Outcomes”
Joris Lammers, David Dubois, Derek D. Rucker, and Adam D. Galinsky
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 2013
The current research explores whether momentary changes in power can shift professional interview outcomes. Two experiments manipulated power by asking applicants to recall a time they had or lacked power prior to writing a job application letter (Experiment 1) or being interviewed for admission to business schools (Experiment 2). Independent judges, who were unaware of the applicants’ experimental condition or even the existence of the power manipulation, significantly preferred the written and face-to-face interview performance of powerful applicants to that of powerless (Experiments 1 and 2) or power-neutral applicants (Experiment 2). In addition, the judges’ preference for power-primed applicants was mediated by perceptions of the applicant’s persuasiveness. Overall, merely asking participants to remember a personal experience with power dramatically affected the impressions that interviewers had of them. Our findings illustrate power’s far-reaching effects and have potentially important implications for understanding the psychology of job interviews.

“Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect Neuroendocrine Levels and Risk Tolerance”
Dana R. Carney, Amy J.C. Cuddy, and Andy J. Yap
Psychological Science, 2010
Humans and other animals express power through open, expansive postures, and they express powerlessness through closed, contractive postures. But can these postures actually cause power? The results of this study confirmed our prediction that posing in high-power nonverbal displays (as opposed to low-power nonverbal displays) would cause 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 displays of power caused advantaged and adaptive psychological, physiological, and behavioral changes, and these findings suggest that embodiment extends beyond mere thinking and feeling, to physiology and subsequent behavioral choices. That a person can, by assuming two simple 1-min poses, embody power and instantly become more powerful has real-world, actionable implications.

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2 Responses to “Feel Powerful, Think Better: Studies Referenced In The Brilliant Report”

  1. In the same vein, I long ago heard master negotiator Herb Cohen say, “If you think you have power, you’ve got it. I you don’t think you have power, you don’t.” And a possible corollary to that might be the marketing slogan, “Perception is the only reality that matters.”

  2. Great references, thanks. One of my favorite videos to use when working with people on body language has been Amy Cuddy’s presentation @poptech (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4386jSnFEU).

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