Tag Archives: power prime

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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Power Increases Responsibility, Generosity toward Future Generations

Leigh Plunkett Tost

Leigh Plunkett Tost

Power can increase future perspective, feelings of social responsibility, and intergenerational generosity toward others, according to University of Michigan’s Leigh Plunkett Tost, Kimberly A. Wade-Benzoni of Duke University, and University of Idaho’s Hana Huang Johnson.

Priscilla Chan, Mark Zuckerberg

Priscilla Chan, Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg and Pricilla Chan’s sizeable gift of Facebook stock on the occasion of their daughter’s birth is a recent example.

Katherine DeCelles

Katherine DeCelles

This finding contrasts previous reports that power tends to cause people to act in more self-interested ways with peers, particularly “in the presence of a weak moral identity,” according to University of Toronto’s Katherine DeCelles, D. Scott DeRue of University of Michigan, Harvard’s Joshua Margolis, and Tara L. Ceranic of University of San Diego.

Kimberly Wade-Benzoni

Kimberly Wade-Benzoni

Focusing on previous power experiences also was linked with a longer-term time perspective among more than 110 participants who wrote about a time they experienced power over others.
Volunteers in studies by Tost’s group reported greater willingness to allocate charitable donations to a cause with long-term benefits than one addressing an immediate need, compared with a matched group that didn’t write about a previous power experience.

Hana Huang Johnson

Hana Huang Johnson

In another task, more than 230 volunteers also wrote a power prime, then chose between allocating a $1,000 bonus to themselves or another participant now or a larger amount in the future.
Participants who recalled a power experience were more likely to allocate a greater future bonus to themselves and someone else.

Scott DeRue

Scott DeRue

Tost’s team suggested that people with intergenerational power typically feel responsible for ensuring others’ long-term interests, manifested in generous behavior to younger generations.
DeCelles’ findings suggest that moral identity may interact with intergenerational relations to influence people to act with less self-interest and greater altruism.

Joshua Margolis

Joshua Margolis

In additional studies, more than 160 participants were randomly assigned to influence tasks that other group members performed.
The controlling participants reported greater willingness to allocate more future lottery winnings to another group member compare with volunteers who did not control others’ assignments.

Sonya Lyubomirsky

Sonya Lyubomirsky

Many of these paradoxes of generosity and altruism are investigated through University of Notre Dame’s Science of Generosity initiative.
One promising project is led by University of California, Riverside’s Sonya Lyubomirsky, who explored “the how” and “myths” of happiness.

She currently investigates “ripple” and contagion effects of generosity propagation in work settings, and argues that performing generous acts makes the giver, receiver, connector, and observer happier.
In addition, she posits that workplace generosity promotes a positive workplace climate.

Tara Ceranic

Tara Ceranic

Feelings of power seem to invoke a sense of responsibility to ensure and enable others’ interests.
This insight can benefit non-profit organizations seeking increased donations by highlighting that those with decision-making authority have the power to shape the performance and outcomes of the generations to come.

-*To what extent do those with organizational power demonstrate a longer time perspective and willingness to enable the next generation’s well-being?

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Previous blog posts have outlined the varied positive effects of focusing on previous power experiences, and on time perspective’s relationship with investment choices.

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Power, Confidence Enhance Performance Under Pressure    

Sonia K. Kang

Sonia K. Kang

Role-based power can affect performance in pressure-filled situations, but has less impact on lower pressure environments, according to University of Toronto’s Sonia K. Kang, Adam D. Galinsky of Columbia University, University of California, Berkeley’s Laura J. Kray and Aiwa Shirako of Google.

Kang’s team assigned more than 130 volunteers to same-gender pairs in three negotiations experiments.
Half the participants acted as a “recruiter” (high-power role) or as a “job candidate” (low-power role) in negotiating salary, vacation time, and related benefits.

Adam Galinsky

Adam Galinsky

Volunteers were told that performance either reflected negotiation ability or was unrelated to ability.
Participants in high power roles tended to perform better under pressure when they were told their negotiation performance was an accurate reflection of ability.
Kang attributed this result to participants’ higher expectations for success based on the higher power role.

Job candidates who thought their negotiation performance indicated their skill level performed significantly worse than those who thought that the exercise was a learning experience unrelated to their negotiating capabilities.

Claude Steele

Claude Steele

Results were similar to Claude Steele of Stanford’s findings for stereotype threat and stereotype uplift, in which individuals from marginalized groups perform less effectively than members of higher-power groups, linked to negative self-attributions and expectations.
Low-power negotiators counteracted underperformance when they self-affirmed their performance.

Laura Kray

Laura Kray

Kang and team concluded that “relative power can act as either a toxic brew (stereotype/low-power threat) or a beneficial elixir (stereotype/high-power lift) for performance… (because) performance in high pressure situations is closely related to expectations of behavior and outcome… Self-affirmation is a way to neutralize … threat.

Aiwa Shirako

Aiwa Shirako

In another experiment, 60 male MBA students were paired as the “buyer” or “seller” of a biotechnology plant.
The sellers held a more powerful role in this situation, and were more assertive, reflected by negotiating a higher selling price, when they thought performance reflected ability.
In contrast, buyers performed worse when they thought negotiating performance reflected ability.

Kang’s team extended this scenario with 88 MBA students (33 male pairs and 11 female pairs), who were told the exercise would gauge their negotiating skills.
Before the negotiation, half of the participants wrote for five minutes about their most important negotiating skill, while the remaining half wrote about their least important negotiating skill.

Francesca Gino

Francesca Gino

Buyers who completed the positive self-affirmation performed significantly better in negotiating a lower sale price for the biotechnology plant, effectively reducing the power differences between the buyer and seller.

Based on these findings, Kang, like Harvard’s Francesca Gino, advocates writing self-affirmations rather than simply reflecting on positive self-statements about job skills and positive traits to enhance confidence and performance.

-*How do you mitigate differences in role-based power and confidence when performing under pressure?

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Perceived Power Affects Vocal Characteristics, Life Outcomes

Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher participated in vocal training to project greater authority in her political role, with highly effective results.

Even without specific vocal training, research volunteers adopted powerful vocal elements when believed they had power and informational advantages in lab experiments by San Diego State University’s Sei Jin Ko and Melody S. Sadler with Adam D. Galinsky of Columbia.

Sei Jin Ko

Sei Jin Ko

Ko’s team asked more than 160 volunteers to read a text designed to evaluate speaking skills as a baseline for later comparison.
Then, they randomly assigned volunteers to a “high” ranking role with the prime “you have a strong alternative offer, valuable inside information, or high status in the workplace, or by asking participants to recall an experience in which they had power.

The remaining participants were told they had “a weak offer, no inside information, or low workplace status,” or were asked to recall an experience in which they lacked power.

Melody Sadler

Melody Sadler

To compare the impact of these power primes with the baseline reading performance, participants in both groups read a text about negotiating.
People in the high power group spoke in a higher pitch, with greater volume, and less tone variability than the low-power group.
In fact, team Ko found that people in the high power prime group had a similar vocal profile to Thatcher following her vocal training.

Mariëlle Stel

Mariëlle Stel

This contrasts previous research that demonstrated lower vocal pitch is associated with greater perceived power in work by Tilburg University’s Mariëlle Stel and Farah M. Djalal with Eric van Dijk and Wilco W. van Dijk of Leiden University, collaborating with University of California, San Diego’s Pamela K. Smith.

Eric van Dijk

Eric van Dijk

In additional investigations by Ko’s team, additional participants listened to recordings of people who read in the previous condition, and accurately determined which volunteers conveyed higher status and were more likely to engage in high-power behaviors, based only on vocal elements.

Joris Lammers

Joris Lammers

Power primes” or asking people to recall a time they had power and felt powerful, can significantly influence important life opportunities determined by hiring and university admission decisions, reported Tilburg University’s Joris Lammers with David Dubois of INSEAD and Northwestern’s Derek D. Rucker collaborating with Adam D. Galinsky of Columbia.

Thomas Mussweiler

Thomas Mussweiler

Self-generated primes are especially influential because they lead to “assimilation of the power suggestion, whereas primes provided by other people, as in Ko’s investigation, yield “contrast,” suggested Universität Würzburg’s Thomas Mussweiler and Roland Neumann.

Egon Brunswik

Egon Brunswik

The strong impact of beliefs about power has been explained by Egon Brunswik of Berkeley’s “lens model” of perception, self-fulfilling prophecy theory by University of California’s Robert Rosenthal, and self-efficacy theory described Stanford’s Albert Bandura.

Francesca Gino

Francesca Gino

To personalize these theories and demonstrate the impact of power beliefs on life outcomes, Francesca Gino discussed her use of power primes to increase her confidence during presentations, leading to her current role at Harvard, where she pursues research on the impact of power primes and beliefs on personal performance and outcomes.

These findings suggest that beliefs about personal power shape behaviors like vocal profile, which can lead to differing outcomes in occupational and life opportunities.

Egon Brunswik's Lens Model

Egon Brunswik’s Lens Model

  • How do you modify your voice to convey power and authority?
  • How do you develop confidence in your power?

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