Tag Archives: power

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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Perceived Personal Power Can Modify Time Perception, Perceived Stress

Alice Moon

Alice Moon

People’s subjective experience of time differ based on individual characteristics, which can influence feelings of control over time and coping with time demands.

Serena Chen

Serena Chen

University of California Berkeley’s Alice Moon and Serena Chen evaluated more than 550 volunteers’ ratings of their perceived personal power and their perspectives on available time to accomplish goals.

Moon and Chen asked more than 100 participants to assume the role of a “manager” while sitting in a “high-power chair,” or the role of an “employee” while both groups rated their perceived personal resources of time and power.
Participants who played the more powerful role of “manager” reported that they had more time than “employee.”

Moon and Chen also primed more than 100 American adults to think of themselves in high-power or low-power positions, and asked them to rate statements about availability of time to achieve goals.

Even when participants did not actually have more available time, those who felt most powerful perceived greater control over their time, and greater time availability.
This is another example of the power of expectation exceeding the importance of an actual resource, competency, or experience.

Mario Weick

Mario Weick

These findings support other reports that managers experience less stress than subordinates in organizations, attributable to their “position power.”

Ana Guinote

Ana Guinote

People who feel powerful tend to hold a significantly optimistic bias when predicting time required to complete task, reported University of Kent’s Mario Weick and Ana Guinote of University College London.

They attributed this unrealistic optimism to
confident belief in personal self-efficacy accompanying subjective feelings of power in their evaluation of:

  • Actual power and time perception,
  • Induced feelings of power through priming,
  • Pre-existing personal self-perceptions.
Priyanka D. Joshi

Priyanka D. Joshi

This “planning fallacy” of underestimating task completion time often results from a narrow focus on the goal, coupled with the optimism bias that obscures potential obstacles and risks.

Nathanael Fast

Nathanael Fast

Likewise, people who feel powerful also tend to feel more confident about the future, more aware of their “future self,” and more willing to wait for longer-term rewards, found University of Southern California ’s Priyanka D. Joshi and Nathanael J. Fast.

Specifically, participants assigned to high-power roles and to power priming instructions were less likely to display temporal discounting, or choosing smaller short-term rewards over larger goals that require a longer waiting period.

This suggests that people who feel powerful have a sense of abundance in other domains, including time and money.
As a result, feeling powerful enables people to forego current rewards, “delay gratification,” and make present investments to achieve potentially larger longer-term pay-offs.

-*How do you increase your personal experience of power and time perspective?

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Increase Feelings of Power by Listening to Music with Strong Bass Beat

Dennis Hsu

Dennis Hsu

Listening to music with specific emotional qualities has been associated with productivity, performance, creative problem solving, endurance, decreased pain sensitivity, and decision biases, outlined in previous blog posts.

Loran Nordgren

Loran Nordgren

Subjective power feelings are an additional outcome of listening to music with substantial bass beat, reported Northwestern University’s Dennis Y. Hsu, Loran F. Nordgren, Derek D. Rucker, Li Huang, and Columbia’s Adam D. Galinsky.

Derek D. Rucker

Derek D. Rucker

Hsu’s team found that power-inducing music produced enhanced:

  • Abstract thinking
  • Illusions of control
  • Willingness to volunteer first for a potentially stressful task.
Li Huang

Li Huang

Subjective feelings of power are important contributors to workplace performance because they associated with confidence and self-efficacy, which influence willingness to persist in accomplishing challenging tasks.

Adam Galinsky

Adam Galinsky

More than 75 volunteers listened to an original, two-minute instrumental composition with either a prominent bass line or a subdued bass element in Team Hsu’s investigation.
Participants rated their feelings of power, dominance and determination along with their sense of happiness, excitement, and enthusiasm.

Pamela K. Smith

Pamela K. Smith

People who listened to the heavy-bass music said they experienced greater feelings of power than those who listened to the more subdued variation, but the increased bass element did not affect feelings of happiness or excitement.
Those who heard the composition with prominent bass elements also produced more power-related terms in a word-completion test.

Daniël Wigboldus

Daniël Wigboldus

Likewise, those who heard familiar “high-power music” such as Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” volunteered to be the first participants in a debate competition and scored higher on a test measuring abstract thinking, compared with people who listened to widely-known “low-power music” like “Who Let the Dogs Out?”

Ap Dijksterhuis

Ap Dijksterhuis

Feeling powerful is more important than actually possessing power in achieving superior performance, confirmed by University of California San Diego’s Pamela K. Smith with Daniël H.J. Wigboldus of Radboud University Nijmegen, and University of Amsterdam’s Ap Dijksterhuisc.
They reported this well-validated finding and expanded Smith’s previous report, with NYU’s Yaacov Trope, that people’s subjective sense of power is partly determined by individual information processing style.

Yaacov Trope

Yaacov Trope

Smith’s team found that people who demonstrated abstract thought reported greater sense of power, greater preference for high-power roles, and more feelings of control over the environment, compared with people who were primed to use concrete thinking.

Subjective feelings of power can be enhanced by listening to music with a prominent bass element, in addition to writing “power primes” and assuming expansive body postures.

-*How do you increase your personal experience of power?

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Gender Differences in Emotional Expression: Smiling

Previous blog posts have outlined dilemmas women face in being seen as competent yet  “likeable” in negotiations.

Deborah Gruenfeld

Deborah Gruenfeld

Deborah Gruenfeld of Stanford and researcher Carol Kinsey Goman note that women can increase perceived authority. if they smile when situationally-appropriate instead of consistently.

Simine Vazire

Simine Vazire

They imply that observers assign different interpretations to women’s smiles than to men’s smiles.
Washington University in St. Louis’s
Simine Vazire teamed with Laura Naumann of University of California, Berkeley, University of Cambridge’s Peter Rentfrow, and Samuel Gosling of University of Texas to investigate gender differences in the meaning of smiling behavior.   

Jacob Miguel Vigil

Jacob Miguel Vigil

They drew on University of New Mexico professor Jacob Miguel Vigil‘s theory that emotional behaviors promote attraction and aversion, based on others’ perceived:

  • Power to provide resources or harm (dominant, masculine behaviors)
  • Trustworthiness to reciprocate altruism (submissive, feminine)
Laura Naumann

Laura Naumann

Vazire’s team reported that women’s smiles signal positive affect and warmth, which are seen as “trustworthiness cues” in Vigil’s model, and typically attract fewer, but closer relationships.
Gruenfeld and Goman argue that women’s smiling also signals low power in negotiation situations and interpersonal interactions.

Peter Rentfrow

Peter Rentfrow

In contrast, smiling among men indicates confidence and lack of self-doubt, seen as “capacity cues” to the ability to either help or hurt others.
These expressions usually attract numerous, but less-intimate relationships while
conveying a key element of power, self-assurance.

Samuel Gosling

Samuel Gosling

Team Vazire’s research validated Gruenfeld’s and Goman’s hypothesis that observers interpreted women’s smiles differently than men’s, even if the underlying, subjective emotional experience is similar.

Their work supports  Gruenfeld’s and Goman’s recommendation that women balance smiling, a signal of interpersonal warmth, with powerful non-verbal behaviors to achieve best outcomes in negotiations and workplace performance.

-*How has smiling helped establish your warmth?
-*When has smiling undermined your credibility and power?

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Power of “Powerless” Speech, but not Powerless Posture

Assertive speech is assumed to signal competence and power, pre-requisites to status, power, and leadership in the U.S. workplace.

Alison Fragale

Alison Fragale

However, University of North Carolina’s Alison Fragale demonstrated that warmth trumps competence in collaborative team work groups.

Fragale studied “powerless speech,” which has been believed to make a person seem tentative, uncertain, and less likely to be promoted to expanded workplace roles.
She defined “powerless speech” as including:

  • Hesitation: “Well” or “Um”, as known as “clutter words”
  • Tag questions: “Don’t you think?”
  • Hedges: “Sort of” or “Maybe”
  • Disclaimers: “This may be a bad idea, but … “
  • Formal addresses:“Yes, sir” or “Yes, ma’am”

In collaboration-based work teams, “powerless” speech characteristics are significantly associated with being promoted, gaining status and power.
Interpersonal warmth and effective team skills are valued more than dominance and ambition by team members and those selecting leaders for these teams.

Paul Hersey

Paul Hersey

In contrast, “powerful” speech does not feature these characteristics, is more effective when the task or group is independent and people are expected to work alone.

Ken Blanchard

Ken Blanchard

As in Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard’s Situational Leadership, Fragale concludes that communication style should be tailored to group characteristics.

Li Huang

Li Huang

Likewise, INSEAD’s Li Huang  and Columbia’s Adam Galinsky with Stanford’s Deborah Gruenfeld and Lucia Guillory of Northwestern University demonstrated the impact of “powerful” body language – also called “playing big” –  on perceived power.

Adam Galinsky

Adam Galinsky

Although assuming “larger” postures is associated with credibility and authority, some situations benefit from assuming “smaller”, less powerful postures to establish warmth or to acknowledge another’s higher status.

Lucia Guillory

Lucia Guillory

As noted in an earlier post, Women Get More Promotions With “Behavioral Flexibility”, careful self-observation and behavioral flexibility based on situational requirements are effective foundations to establish group leadership.

-*How do you monitor and adapt “powerless” speech to work situations?

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Mastering the Power Sandwich with Skillful Upward Influence

David Bradford

David Bradford

Employees’ advancement in organizations is based on preventing problems before they develop, and pre-emptively uncovering opportunities to add value, according to Stanford’s David Bradford and Allan R. Cohen of Babson College in Influencing Up.

Allan Cohen

Allan Cohen

Complementing their Influence without Authority, they distilled common-sense win-win approaches to influence those over whom one has no formal authority or control: one’s manager and others higher in the hierarchy.

Influencing UpOrganizational power discrepancies can be accentuated when the employee is female or a member of a minority group.
Cohen and Bradford’s suggest six elements to reduce power differences, and improve influence and negotiation outcomes:

  • Clarify needs and priorities
  • Consider others as potential partners rather than adversaries
  • Establish trustworthiness by sharing information and develop understanding of the other’s perspective, concerns, and “care-abouts” — empathy in a business setting
  • Determine reciprocal value exchange in “currencies” that matter to others: information, budget, removing obstacles, brokering agreements, support
  • Gain access to others by showcasing your potential value exchange
  • Negotiate a win-win outcome
Robert Cialdini

Robert Cialdini

Bradford and Cohen’s work complements influential research by Stanford colleagues Margaret Neale and Deborah Gruenberg, as well as Robert Cialdini’s classic investigation of influence.

Roger Fisher

Roger Fisher

William Ury

William Ury

Their emphasis on crafting a win-win negotiated outcome echoes earlier work by Roger Fisher and William Ury in Getting to Yes and Linda Babcock’s consideration of negotiation challenges faced by women and minority group members in the workplace.

-*How do you manage the Power Sandwich, requiring skillful 360 degree influence in your organization?

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Powerful Non-Verbal Behavior May Have More Impact Than a Good Argument

Deborah Gruenfeld

Deborah Gruenfeld

Deborah Gruenfeld is a social psychologist and professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business, who co-directs its Executive Program for Women Leaders.

Her research focuses on power and group behavior, and she notes that power can corrupt without conscious awareness.
She notes that power can disinhibit behavior by reducing concern for the social consequences of one’s actions, and by strengthening the link between personal wishes and acts that fulfill these desires.

Her recent work demonstrates that power leads to an action-orientation, limits the ability to take another’s perspective, and increases the tendency to view others as a “means to an end.”

This talk reviews her research and its practical implications, such as non-verbal behaviors that anyone can adopt to increase the impression of being a powerful individual.

-*How have you seen powerful non-verbal behavior trump the content of an argument?

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