Power psychs people up about... themselves

February 03, 2015

February 3, 2015 - We all know the type - people who can talk on and on about their latest adventures, seemingly unaware that those around them may not be interested. They also get really psyched up about their own experiences. A new paper suggests that what separates such people from the rest of us is their perceived sense of power: Powerful people, researchers found, draw inspiration from themselves rather than others.

"It struck me, as it has no doubt many others, that powerful people are often bad listeners," says Gerben van Kleef of the University of Amsterdam. As he thought about how such people interact with others, van Kleef began to wonder whether powerful people become inspired by entertaining their own experiences.

So van Kleef and colleagues set out to test this social phenomenon in a series of studies, published today in Social Psychological and Personality Science. In one of the studies, the researchers asked participants to discuss inspiring events in face-to-face conversations. They then assessed how inspired the participants felt after talking about their own experiences compared to listening to their partners' experiences.

"We found that more powerful participants were more inspired by their own stories than by those of their conversation partner, whereas less powerful people were equally inspired by themselves as by their partner," van Kleef says. To measure power - which they define as a capacity to influence others while being relatively immune to the influence of others - they used a standard questionnaire developed at the University of California-Berkeley.

In follow-up study, the researchers primed participants with high or low power, by asking participants to recall a situation in which they had control over someone else (high power) or someone else had control over them (low power). "Recalling such a situation temporarily brings back the experience of power," van Kleef says.

After this priming, the participants wrote about an inspiring event that either they had experienced or one that they had heard about from someone else. Those participants primed with high power felt more inspired after writing about their own experience than after writing about another person's experience.

The findings were intriguing "because they paint such a vainglorious picture or the powerful," van Kleef says. "I am sure that almost everyone can easily come up with an example of a person they know who fits the pattern that we demonstrated here. It was nice to see that we could capture this interesting social phenomenon in our studies."

This work is the first to show that people derive inspiration from themselves and others to varying degrees based on their level of power. As to why the powerful get inspired by themselves, van Kleef's team has a few ideas. One is that their inspiration is simply an extension of how powerful individuals tend to prioritize themselves over others in social interactions.

Another possibility, van Kleef says, is that being inspired by another person requires perceiving some quality of that person as being superior to ourselves. "We reasoned that powerful people would have a harder time appreciating the greatness of another person, which would make it more difficult for them to be inspired by others."

A final potential explanation is that social pressures tend to inhibit people's natural general tendency to to talk about themselves. "Because powerful people are less susceptible to social pressures, we expected that they might be less reluctant to publicly indulge in the greatness of their own experiences," he says.

Regardless of the reason for this link, van Kleef says that awareness of such behavioral patterns may help people to find inspiration when they seek it. "Our results suggest that powerful people can easily inspire themselves by reliving an inspirational event they have experienced," he says. "Less powerful people may be somewhat less inspired by their own experiences, but they are better able to draw inspiration from others' experiences."

The next step, van Kleef says, is to test whether the feelings of inspiration that powerful people draw from themselves can actually help them to become more creative or productive.
-end-
The paper, "Power Gets You High: The Powerful Are More Inspired by Themselves Than by Others," by Gerben A. Van Kleef, Christopher Oveis, Astrid C. Homan, Ilmo van der Löwe, and Dacher Keltner, was published in Social Psychological and Personality Science online on February 3, 2015.

The journal Social Psychological and Personality Science is a collaboration from the Association for Research in Personality, the European Association of Social Psychology, the Society of Experimental Social Psychology, and the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, and is co-sponsored by the Asian Association of Social Psychology and Society of Australasian Social Psychologists.

SAGE

Related Power Articles from Brightsurf:

Understanding the power of our Sun
For the first time, the international team was able to directly observe neutrinos from this cycle (CNO neutrinos) with the Borexino detector in the Laboratori Nazionali in the Gran Sasso Massif (Italy).

Bespoke catalysts for power-to-X
Suitable catalysts are of great importance for efficient power-to-X applications -- but the molecular processes occurring during their use have not yet been fully understood.

The power of light
As COVID-19 continues to ravage global populations, the world is singularly focused on finding ways to battle the novel coronavirus.

Power dressing
Sensors that are worn on the skin could soon be powered by our own body heat.

Decarbonizing the power sector
Electricity supply is one of the biggest CO2 emitters globally.

No evidence that power posing works
Striking a power pose before an important meeting or interview is not going to boost your confidence or make you feel more powerful, says an Iowa State University researcher.

Energy-efficient power electronics -- Gallium oxide power transistors with record values
The Ferdinand-Braun-Institut (FBH) has now achieved a breakthrough with transistors based on gallium oxide (beta-Ga2O3).

Underwater power generation
Underwater vehicles, diving robots, and detectors require their own energy supply to operate for long periods independent of ships.

The global impact of coal power
With data and modelling from almost 8,000 coal power plants, researchers from ETH Zurich present the most comprehensive global picture to date of climate and human health impacts from coal power generation.

A new way to provide cooling without power
A system developed at MIT can provide passive cooling without the need for power, and could be used to preserve food or vaccines in hot, off-grid locations.

Read More: Power News and Power Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.