Writing Power Primer Increases Efficacy in High-Stakes Performance

Adam Galinsky

Adam Galinsky

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

Francesca Gino

Francesca Gino

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

Gino wrote a “power prime” to remind herself of 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 attempts.

David Dubois

David Dubois

Galinsky empirically investigated whether feelings of power are associated with different outcomes in professional interviews, as in Gino’s anecdotal case.

Collaborating with David Dubois of INSEAD, Tilburg University’s Joris Lammers, and Derek Rucker of Northwestern University, they asked job applicants and business school admission candidates to write about a time they felt powerful or powerless.

Joris Lammers

Joris Lammers

Independent judges, who were unaware of the different instructions, rated “applicant’s” written and face-to-face interview performance.
Evaluators assigned highest scores to those who recalled power experiences.

Derek Rucker

Derek Rucker

Judges preferred power-primed applicants, citing their greater persuasiveness and confidence.
These candidates received more offers of job roles and business school admission than those who wrote about powerless experiences or those who wrote about situations unrelated to feelings of power and powerlessness.

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 maintain a calm mindset.

Recalling an experience of personal power can influence impressions of persuasiveness, competence, and likeability in professional interviews.
This effect can be enhanced by writing about power experiences to increase confidence and optimism 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?


©Kathryn Welds


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!

    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.

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