Writing Power Primer Increases Efficacy in High-Stakes Performance

Adam Galinsky

Adam Galinsky

Power is the central regulator of human interactionbecause it creates patterns of deference, reduces conflict, creates division of labor — all things that make our species successful,” opined Columbia’s Adam Galinsky.

Francesca Gino

Francesca Gino

He evaluated a power-enhancing technique used by Harvard Business School’s Francesca Gino when she applied for academic positions at top-tier universities after an initial unsuccessful round of interviews.

Gino wrote a “power prime” by recalling and summarizing a time she felt powerful.
She reviewed this prime before she presented a talk and interviewed for academic roles.
Using this approach, Gino received job offers from four top universities, in contrast to her previously unsuccessful interview attempts.

David Dubois

David Dubois

Based on this anecdotal evidence, Galinsky investigated whether changes in feelings of power are associated with different outcomes in professional interviews, with collaborators David Dubois of INSEAD, Tilburg University’s Joris Lammers, and Derek Rucker of Northwestern University.

Joris Lammers

Joris Lammers

They asked job applicants and business school admission candidates to recall and write about a time they felt powerful or powerless.
Independent judges, who were unaware of the power manipulation, rated the written and face-to-face interview performance of applicants.
They assigned highest ratings to those who recalled power experiences.

Derek Rucker

Derek Rucker

Judges power-primed applicants were preferred because they seemed more persuasive and confident than other applicants.
These candidates were offered job roles and business school admission more frequently than those who wrote about powerless experiences or those who considered neither powerful nor powerless situations.

The undermining impact of recalled powerlessness was also significant:  Only 26 percent of those who wrote about a time in which they lacked power were selected for roles and admission, considerably less than the expected average of 47 percent.

Sian Beilock

Sian Beilock

An earlier post highlighted Sian Beilock’s investigation of writing as a coping tool in stressful academic situations.
Her collaborators at University of Chicago, Vanderbilt, and Pace Universities showed that students could manage test anxiety by writing about their concerns to contain them and to maintain a calm mindset.

These findings suggest that merely recalling an experience of personal power can favorably influence impressions of persuasiveness and perhaps competence and likeability in professional interviews.
This effect can be enhanced by writing about power experiences to increase confidence and positive outlook when working toward desired goals.

-*How do you prepare for challenging professional interviews?
-*How effective have your found “power primes” in high-stakes performance situations?

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4 thoughts on “Writing Power Primer Increases Efficacy in High-Stakes Performance

  1. Megan Murphy

    Interesting, and true! how quickly we can change our mindset from ‘I hope they like me’ to ‘Let’s see if I like them’– I like the idea of recalling when you felt powerful. Good one!

    Reply
    1. kathrynwelds Post author

      Thanks for point to the power of changing perspectives and “reframing” a situation, Megan.
      In your example, the emotion associated with the alternate statements can differ: the first can provoke anxiety whereas the second can lead to curiosity and engagement.
      And beyond simply thinking about these alternate perspectives, actually writing about previously successful mastery of challenging situations can increase confidence to perform effectively in current “stretch” situations.

      Reply
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