Power is something we all want to acquire….something we all wish for if we can’t generate it….
Power has some fascinating characteristics, problems and benefits.
In this article you’ll see the relationship between sex and power, you’ll find out about power and it’s connection with empathy, injustice and find out whether powerful people can be persuaded… and how….
Humans, Monkeys, and Machiavelli
From the Univ. of Chicago…
When it comes to their social behavior, people sometimes act like monkeys, or more specifically, like rhesus macaques, a type of monkey that shares with humans strong tendencies for nepotism and political maneuvering, according to research by Dario Maestripieri, an expert on primate behavior and an Associate Professor in Comparative Human Development and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Chicago.
“After humans, rhesus macaques are one of the most successful primate species on our planet; our Machiavellian intelligence may be one of the reasons for our success,” wrote Maestripieri in his new book Macachiavellian Intelligence: How Rhesus Macaques and Humans Have Conquered the World.
Maestripieri has been studying monkeys for more than 20 years and has written extensively on their behavior. He has studied them in Europe, at a research center in Atlanta, and on an island in Puerto Rico, where researchers established a rhesus macaque colony for scientific and breeding purposes.
Rhesus macaques live in complex societies with strong dominance hierarchies and long-lasting social bonds between female relatives. Individuals constantly compete for high social status and the power that comes with it using ruthless aggression, nepotism, and complex political alliances.
Sex, too, can be used for political purposes. The tactics used by monkeys to increase or maintain their power are not much different from those Machiavelli suggested political leaders use during the Renaissance.
Alpha males, who rule the 50 or so macaques in the troop, use threats and violence to hold on to the safest sleeping places, the best food, and access to the females in the group with whom they want to have sex.
Like human dictators intent on holding power, dominant monkeys use frequent and unpredictable aggression as an effective form of intimidation. Less powerful members of the rhesus macaque group are marginalized and forced to live on the edges of the group’s area, where they are vulnerable to predator attacks. They must wait for the others to eat first and then have the leftovers; they have sex only when the dominant monkeys are not looking.
“In rhesus society, dominants always travel in business class and subordinates in economy, and if the flight is overbooked, it’s the subordinates who get bumped off the plane,” Maestripieri said.
“Social status can make the difference between life and death in human societies, too,” he pointed out. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, for instance, the poorer members of the community accounted for most of the hurricane’s death toll.
Male macaques form alliances with more powerful individuals, and take part in scapegoating on the lower end of the hierarchy, a Machiavellian strategy that a mid-ranking monkey can use when under attack from a higher-ranking one.
Altruism is rare and, in most cases, only a form of nepotistic behavior. Mothers help their daughters achieve a status similar to their own and to maintain it throughout their lives.
Females act in Machiavellian ways also when it comes to reproduction. They make sure they have lots of sex with the alpha male to increase the chances he will protect their newborn infant from other monkeys 6 months later. “But while they have lots of sex with the alpha male and make him think he’s going to be the father of their baby, the females also have sex with all the other males in the group behind the alpha male’s back,” Maestripieri said. They do so just in case the alpha male is sterile or he dies or loses his power before the baby is born.
Struggles for power within a group sometimes culminate in a revolution, in which all members of the most dominant family are suddenly attacked by entire families of subordinates. These revolutions result in drastic changes in the structure of power within rhesus societies, not unlike those occurring following human revolutions.
There is one situation, however, in which all of the well-established social structure evaporates: when a group of rhesus macaques confronts another one and monkey warfare begins. Rhesus macaques dislike strangers and will viciously attack their own image in a mirror, thinking it’s a stranger threatening them. When warfare begins, “Even a low- ranking rhesus loner becomes an instant patriot. Every drop of xenophobia in rhesus blood is transformed into fuel for battle,” Maestripieri wrote.
“What rhesus macaques and humans may have in common is that many of their psychological and behavioral dispositions have been shaped by intense competition between individuals and groups during the evolutionary history of these species” Maestripieri said. Rhesus groups can function like armies, and this may explain why these monkeys have been so successful in the competition with other primates.
Pressure to find Machiavellian solutions to social problems may also have led to the evolution of larger human brains.
“Our Machiavellian intelligence is not something we can be proud of, but it may be the secret of our success. If it contributed to the evolution of our large brains and complex cognitive skills, it also contributed to the evolution of our ability to engage in noble spiritual and intellectual activities, including our love and compassion for other people”, Maestripieri said.
Adapted from materials provided by University of Chicago, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS. University of Chicago (2007, 10/25). Humans And MonkeysShare Machiavellian Intelligence.
Powerful People Ignore Other People’s Opinions…. but there is a solution….
Don’t bother trying to persuade your boss of a new idea while he’s feeling the power of his position – new research suggests he’s not listening to you.
“Powerful people have confidence in what they are thinking. Whether their thoughts are positive or negative toward an idea, that position is going to be hard to change,” said Richard Petty, co-author of a new study* and professor of psychology at Ohio State University.
The best way to get leaders to consider new ideas is to put them in a situation where they don’t feel as powerful, the research suggests.
“If you temporarily make a powerful person feel less powerful, you have a better chance of getting them to pay attention,” said Pablo Briñol, lead author of the study and a social psychologist at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid in Spain. Briñol is a former postdoctoral fellow at Ohio State.
This research looks at an issue that has been largely ignored by social scientists, Petty said. Many studies have looked at how the power of a person delivering a message impacts those who receive it. But this appears to be the first study that looks at how the power of the message recipient affects persuasion.
In several related studies, the researchers told college students they would be participating in two supposedly separate experiments. In one experiment, the students role-played in a situation in which one was a boss – in other words, had a position of power – and the other was an employee who simply took orders.
In the second experiment, the participants viewed a fake advertisement for a mobile phone. The ad was designed to see if participants were paying attention to the message, so half the participants received ads with particularly weak arguments for buying the phone (for example, touting that it had a broad currency converter), while the others received strong arguments (the phone could be recharged in just 5 minutes). Participants were then asked to rate how favorably they viewed the phone.
When the role-playing exercise was conducted before viewing the phone ad, those who played boss were more likely than those playing employees to rate the phone similarly — whether they received the strong or the weak arguments.
“The strength of the argument made no difference to those who played the boss – they obviously weren’t paying attention when they felt powerful,” Petty said. “Those who played the employee, who were made to feel powerless, paid a lot more attention to the arguments. They weren’t as confident in their own initial beliefs and weighed the arguments more carefully.”
In a related study, the order of the experiments was essentially reversed. Participants first read the mobile phone ads, and were presented with either the strong or the weak arguments, and wrote down their thoughts while reading it. However, before they actually rated the phones, the same participants took part in the role-playing exercise in which some were the boss and some the employee. Later, they went back and rated the phones.
The results showed that the bosses in the role-playing exercise were now more influenced by the quality of the arguments in the ads. Those who were low-power employees were not as influenced by the ad quality.
“When power was experienced after the ads had been processed, it gave people confidence in their most recent thoughts, so if they read strong arguments, they rated the phones more favorably. If they read weak arguments, they were much more negative toward the phone,” Petty said.
“Those who were feeling less power weren’t as confident about the validity of their thoughts to the ads, so the strength of the arguments didn’t matter as much.”
What this all means is that it matters when people are feeling powerful – before or after they receive a persuasive message. If the message comes right after their power is made relevant to them, then powerful people will be difficult to persuade because they are confident in their existing opinions.
However, if people can be made to feel powerful right after a strong persuasive message, attitude change is more likely because powerful individuals will feel confident in the positive thoughts they generate to the message, Petty said.
For example, if you have strong arguments to get a raise, try not to ask the boss in her office, where she is surrounded by the trappings of power. Bring up the topic in a lunch room or somewhere where there aren’t reminders of who is in charge.
But if you do have to talk in the boss’s office, try to say something that shakes his or her confidence.
“Our research shows that power makes people more confident in their beliefs, but power is only one thing that affects confidence,” Petty said. “Try to bring up something that the boss doesn’t know, something that makes him less certain and that tempers his confidence.”
But once you do make your argument, assuming it is cogent, it is good to remind the boss that he is in charge.
“You want to sow all your arguments when the boss is not thinking of his power, and after you make a good case, then remind your boss of his power. Then he will be more confident in his own evaluation of what you say. As long as you make good arguments, he will be more likely to be persuaded,” Petty said.
Petty said the research casts doubt on the classic assertion that power corrupts people and leads them to negative actions. Instead, what power does is make people more likely to unquestionably believe their own thoughts and act on them, he said.
Both low- and high-power people may have negative thoughts at times, and think about doing something bad. But because high- power people are more confident in their thoughts – and less susceptible to countering views – they are more likely to follow through into action.
“A lot of people may have a momentary thought about doing something bad, but they don’t do it because they can inhibit themselves. A powerful person is more likely to follow through on the negative thoughts,” Petty said.
By the same token, if a powerful person has a positive, pro- social thought, she may be more likely to follow through on that thought and turn it into reality.
“Powerful people are more likely to act on what they are thinking – good or bad – without second guessing themselves,” Petty said.
*The study was published in a recent issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Other co-authors of the study included Derek Rucker of Northwestern University, Carmen Valle of Universidad San Pablo CEU de Madrid and Alberto Becerra of Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. Ohio State University (2008, February 15). When People Feel Powerful, They Ignore New Opinions
New research appearing in the May issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, suggests that being put in a low-power role may impair a person’s basic cognitive functioning and thus, their ability to get ahead.
In their article, Pamela Smith of Radboud University Nijmegen, and colleagues Nils B. Jostmann of VU University Amsterdam, Adam Galinsky of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, and Wilco W. van Dijk of VU University Amsterdam, focus on a set of cognitive processes called executive functions.
Executive functions help people maintain and pursue their goals in difficult, distracting situations. The researchers found that lacking power impaired people’s ability to keep track of ever-changing information, to parse out irrelevant information, and to successfully plan ahead to achieve their goals.
In one experiment, the participants completed a Stroop task, a common psychological test designed to exercise executive functions. Participants who had earlier been randomly assigned to a low-power group made more errors in the Stroop task than those who had been assigned to a high-power group. Smith and colleagues also found that these results were not due to low- power people being less motivated or putting in less effort. Instead, those lacking in power had difficulty maintaining a focus on their current goal.
In another experiment, participants were asked to move an arrangement of disks from a start position to a final position in as few moves as possible, known to researchers as the Tower- of-Hanoi task. This task tests the more complex ability of planning. In some trials there was a catch: participants had to move the first disk in a direction that was opposite to its final position. Low power participants made more errors and required more moves on these trials, demonstrating poor planning.
Smith and colleagues believe their results have “direct implications for management and organizations.” In high-risk industries such as health care, a single employee error can have fatal consequences. Empowering these employees could reduce the likelihood of such errors. Additionally, their work illustrates how hierarchies perpetuate themselves. By randomly assigning individuals to high and low-power conditions, they demonstrate that simply lacking power can automatically lead to performance that reinforces one’s low standing, sending the powerless towards a destiny of dispossession.
Adapted from materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Association for Psychological Science (2008, May 16). Having Less Power Impairs The Mind And Ability To Get Ahead, Study Shows.
Power and Empathy
Walking a mile in another person’s shoes may be the best way to understand the emotions, perceptions, and motivations of an individual; however, in a recent study appearing in the December 2006 issue of Psychological Science, it is reported that those in power are often unable to take such a journey.
In the article, Power and Perspectives Not Taken, Adam Galinsky of Northwestern University, Joe Magee of the Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at NYU, and colleagues at Stanford University found that possessing power itself serves as an impediment to understanding the perspectives of others. Through several studies, the researchers assessed the effect of power on perspective taking, adjusting to another’s perspective, and interpreting the emotions of others.
To study the link between power and perspective taking, Galinsky and colleagues used a unique method in which the participants were told to draw the letter E on their forehead. If the subject wrote the E in a self-oriented direction, backwards to others, this indicated a lack of perspective taking. On the other hand, when the E was written legible to others, this indicated that the person had thought about how others might perceive the letter.
The results showed that those who had previously been randomly assigned to a high power group were almost three times more likely to draw a self-oriented E than those who were assigned to the low power condition. Galinsky and colleagues also found that power leads individuals to anchor too heavily on their own vantage point, thus leaving them unable to adjust to another person’s perspective and decreases one’s ability to correctly interpret emotion.
Galinsky says that this research has “wide-ranging implications, from business to politics.” For example, “Presidents who preside over a divided government (and thus have reduced power) might be psychologically predisposed to consider alternative viewpoints more readily than those that preside over unified governments.” Galinsky also adds that a key is to somehow make perspective-taking part and parcel of power, “The springboard of power combined with perspective-taking may be a particularly constructive force.”
A New Perspective On The Powerful. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 16, 2008, from sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/01/070110124121.htm
Sense Of Injustice Reverses Effects Of Power
Power is intoxicating, but feelings of injustice soon sober up the one with the power. PhD student Joris Lammers investigated the role that the meaning of a power situation has on the automatic effects of power. In his thesis he concludes that feelings of injustice reverse the automatic effects of power on behavior and cognition. The one with the power becomes more careful and the subordinate displays more uncontrolled behaviour.
According to the standard opinion in social psychology, power has a liberating effect and makes the one with the power impulsive whereas lack of power has a numbing effect and makes people passive. Lammers wanted to know whether the meaning of the power situation also played a role.
He investigated power effects by having students describe a situation in which they felt powerful or powerless, and then getting them to perform assignments. The power situations described could be experienced as just (someone elected president of the student’s union) or as unjust (a ragging situation). The assignments involved playing betting games or solving invented problems.
In situations perceived as just, the test subjects with a powerful ‘state of mind’ turned out to bet significantly more and powerless subjects more often chose the safe option. However, if the power was perceived as unjust, these effects reversed and it was the ones with the power who played safe while the powerless subjects made more risky choices.
Zacht’ or ‘zucht’
An earlier experiment had revealed that people in lower power positions were more occupied with the question of what the person in power thought about them and were more inclined to attribute stereotypical thoughts they had about themselves to the one in power.
Women who in a role play with a man played the subordinate role, subsequently more often chose in tests to complete the letter combination Z*CHT with ‘zacht’ (soft, with feminine associations) than with ‘zucht’, ‘zicht’ or ‘zocht’ (sigh, sight or searched, respectively; neutral).
Women in positions of power turned out not to be concerned with what the subordinate man thought about them. They randomly filled in ‘zucht’, ‘zicht’, ‘zacht’ or ‘zocht’.
Lammers: ‘These results are logical. If you are in a subordinate position, it’s important to know what your boss thinks of you.’
Lammers also investigated cooperation. According to the standard view, powerful people are less inclined towards cooperation, whereas powerless people eagerly seek cooperation. Via experiments, Lammers concludes that this effect reverses completely if the power is viewed as unjust. In a position of power unjustly acquired, the people with the power were eager to cooperate whereas the subordinate people were not.
Feelings of injustice in a power situation, according to Lammers, could lead to the ‘manager becoming paralysed and the cook spitting into the soup’.
An employee further down the ladder cooperates best if he or she views his own position as justified.
An employee higher up the ladder is more inclined to cooperate if he or she views his power position as unjust or not evident.
Therefore, if the cook receives sufficient valuation for his work, he will find the power of the restaurant owner just. In that situation he will choose security and cooperation instead of reckless opposition.
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