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What makes powerful people tick? (2017)

“People in power are more engaged, optimistic and take more risks…. (But) having power clearly comes with a risk for corruption and self-serving behaviour.”

Ana Guinote, University College London; Nova School of Business and Economics, Lisbon
The Conversation, 3 April 2017

Based on Guinote’s paper ‘How power affects people: Activating, wanting, and goal seeking’
Annual Review of Psychology, Volume 68, 2017, pp 353-381

Professor Guinote’s research was supported by the Daedalus Trust

The author reviewed research papers on how having power affects the ways people feel, think and act. Her research offers a number of fascinating findings

“…having power typically activates thought, speech and action. Power holders speak more, often interrupt others and express their true sentiments and desires more than other people.

“…power holders are generally the first to take action in a variety of circumstances, ranging from emergencies to negotiations outside work.

“…People in power also identify strongly with their roles – and most of their goals are related to their power roles.

“People in power are often in an eager state known as “approach motivation”. This (intensifies) certain emotions and makes people more eager to fulfil their aims and desires, including rewarding experiences – such as eating delicious foods or having sex. As a result, both men and women in power are more prone to infidelity than the average person.

“People in power are more engaged, optimistic and take more risks.”

The research also identified a number of dark side effects of power.

“…power holders are motivated to maintain their position. ..In the face of threats to their ego …power holders often reassert their dominance using authoritarian means such as aggression.

“…people in power often have tunnel vision in line with their priorities, neglecting information that they consider to be irrelevant.

“…having power clearly comes with a risk for corruption and self-serving behaviour – fuelled by feelings of entitlement and confidence.

“…Power holders can focus their attention too narrowly on their goals and pay poor attention to social situations. They can therefore have difficulty in taking the perspective of other people – often relying on stereotypes and objectifying others.”

Access the full Conversation article here: What makes powerful people tick?

Visitors to this site (ie. friends of the Daedalus Trust) have special access to the base paper here: How power affects people



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  1. Sarah says:

    Interesting, on the other hand i think power makes one loose a sense of feeling, all they think about is retaining there power and basically increasing on it, as a disadvantage…