Give a Person Power and He or She Will Show Interpersonal Sensitivity: The Phenomenon and Its Why and When

  • Mast M
  • Jonas K
  • Hall J
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The goal of the present research was to investigate whether high or low power leads to more interpersonal sensitivity and what potentially mediates and moderates this effect. In Study 1, 76 participants in either a high- or low-power position interacted; in Study 2, 134 participants were implicitly primed with either high- or low-power or neutral words; and in Study 3, 96 participants were asked to remember a situation in which they felt high or low power (plus a control condition). In Study 4, 157 participants were told to identify with either an egoistic, empathic, or neutral leadership style. In all studies, interpersonal sensitivity, defined as correctly assessing other people, was then measured using different instruments in each study. Consistently, high power resulted in more interpersonal sensitivity than low power. Feeling respected and proud was partially responsible for this effect. Empathic power as a personality trait was related to more interpersonal sensitivity, and high-power individuals who adopted an empathic instead of an egoistic leadership style were more interpersonally sensitive.

Author-supplied keywords

  • accuracy
  • hierarchy
  • interpersonal sensitivity
  • power
  • social perception

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  • Marianne Schmid Mast

  • Klaus Jonas

  • Judith A. Hall

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