The effects of power on human behavior: The perspective of regulatory focus
YANG Wenqi1; LI Qiang1; GUO Mingyang2; FAN Qian2; HE Yili3
(1 Zhou Enlai School of Government, Nankai University, Tianjin 300350, China) (2 School of Psychology, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China) (3 Department of Finance and Economics, City College of Dongguan University of Technology, Dongguan 523419, China)
Research on power has been going on for decades and it has been found to have considerable effects on cognitive, emotional and behavior aspects. This article presents an integrative theory accounting of the effects of power on humans. In particular, high power means the ability to control others and to get rid of the control of others, powerful individuals have the ability to fill with one's will, as a consequence, triggers promotion-related goal and strategy. In contrast, low power is associated with no ability to control others and get rid of the control of others and thereby activates prevention-related goal and strategy. This framework allows us to integrate disparate literatures and to generate a significant number of novel hypotheses about the consequences of power. In order to empirically verify the hypotheses mentioned, 4 studies are presented to explore the influence of power (high or low) on regulatory focus (promotion or prevention). Study 1 investigated the relationship between trait power and chronic regulatory focus. Results showed that the powerful, compared to the powerless participants, were more likely to promotion focus. Study 2-4 investigated the effects of priming power on situated regulatory focus. In Study 2, after role playing of manipulating power, the accessibility to ideals and duties to goal were measured. Results showed that powerful participants showed greater accessibility to their ideals while powerless participants showed greater accessibility to their duties. In Study 3, after recalling manipulating sense of personal power, the accessibility to eager and vigilant of strategy were measured. Results showed that powerful participants showed greater eager strategy while powerless participants showed greater vigilant strategy. In Study 4, we priming power with gesture implicitly, then measured participants' strategy in the same way with Study 3. Results showed that powerful participants showed greater eager strategy while powerless participants showed greater vigilant strategy. We also showed that this effect occurred as a consequence of the level of power rather than as an incidental result of a change in mood. In short, the results indicated that individuals with high power are more likely to promotion focus and individuals with low power tend to prevention focus. The results of these four studies provided supports for our theorizing: (1) individuals with high power are more likely to promotion focus, whereas those in low power tend more to prevention focus. (2) The regulatory focus effect of power occurred as a consequence of the level of power rather than as an incidental result of a change in mood. The importance of these results is discussed in line with recent theorizing within social psychology of power. We propose a new means to broaden the understanding of effect of power, which enriches the relevant research on power. In addition, the result is a beneficial supplement to Approach-Inhibition Theory of power.