Powerful People Often Ignore New Opinions

In several related studies, the researchers told college students they would be participating in two supposedly separate experiments. In one experiment, the students role-played in a situation in which one was a boss and the other was an employee who simply took orders. In the second experiment, the participants viewed a fake advertisement for a mobile phone. The ad was designed to see if participants were paying attention to the message, so half the participants received ads with particularly weak arguments for buying the phone, while the others received strong arguments. Participants were then asked to rate how favorably they viewed the phone.

When the role-playing exercise was conducted before viewing the phone ad, those who played boss were more likely than those playing employees to rate the phone similarly -- whether they received the strong or the weak arguments. “Those who played the employee, who were made to feel powerless, paid a lot more attention to the arguments. They weren’t as confident in their own initial beliefs and weighed the arguments more carefully”, Petty said.

In a related study, the order of the experiments was essentially reversed. Participants first read the mobile phone ads, and were presented with either the strong or the weak arguments, and wrote down their thoughts while reading it. However, before they actually rated the phones, the same participants took part in the role-playing exercise in which some were the boss and some the employee. Later, they went back and rated the phones. The results showed that the bosses in the role-playing exercise were now more influenced by the quality of the arguments in the ads. Those who were low-power employees were not as influenced by the ad quality.

Petty said the research casts doubt on the classic assertion that power corrupts people and leads them to negative actions. Instead, what power does is make people more likely to unquestionably believe their own thoughts and act on them, he said.

MEDICA.de; Source: Ohio State University