Title

Psychological science’s preoccupation with the powerful

Publication Type

Conference Proceeding Article

Publication Date

1-2016

Abstract

A pervasive assumption in the social power literature is that powerfulness is the driving causal force behind power’s far-reaching effects. This preoccupation with the powerful has led to the proliferation of experimental designs that contrast high power to either low power or a control condition. We review evidence suggesting that this convention poses both theoretical and methodological challenges. Across a content analysis, an experiment, and a large-scale meta- analysis, we find that (1) few studies allow for substantive inferences about powerlessness; (2) although control conditions are needed to interpret effect directionality, effects of studies comparing only high and low power tend to be attributed to powerfulness; and (3) comparing high power to a control condition in the absence of low power weakens construct validity and leads to an overestimation of the high-power effect. Our findings have profound implications for social power, experimental design, and other fields in psychology, management, and marketing.

Keywords

Experimental design, Meta-analysis, Power

Discipline

Cognition and Perception | Organizational Behavior and Theory

Research Areas

Organisational Behaviour and Human Resources

Publication

Academy of Management Proceedings: 2016, Anaheim, CA

Identifier

10.5465/AMBPP.2016.14097abstract

Publisher

Academy of Management

City or Country

San Diego

Additional URL

http://doi.org./10.5465/AMBPP.2016.14097abstract

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