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How Power Affects Those Who Possess it: Activation, Wanting and Goal Seeking Approach Motivation

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It has been argued that power activates the behavioral approach system – a system associated with the processing of rewards (Keltner, Gruenfeld, & Anderson, 2003). According to this perspective power holders are oriented towards seeking pleasure and reward (hedonic tone), and disengage from effortful strategies in information processing and goal pursuit. I will present evidence for an alternative model according to which power energizes thought, speech and action, and orients individuals towards seeking salient goals linked to power roles, predispositions, tasks and opportunities. I will discuss research showing that power increases cardiovascular reactivity and the speed of motor execution. This activation serves the pursuit of active goals, enhancing goal striving in different phases of goal pursuit. Increased goal focus in turn has consequences for the expression of dispositions and the attainment of situationally relevant goals. Several inconsistencies in the literature can be explained by viewing the effects of power on the person in terms of enhanced willed and goal driven approach motivation.

Bio: Ana Guinote is an Associate Professor at University College London. She graduated from the University of Heidelberg, Germany. Her research focuses on how social relations, in particular asymmetries in power and status affect motivation, cognition, and self-regulation. She examined group variability, altruism, fluency, attention, and goal pursuit. Her research has been published in major journals, such as PNAS , JPSP, JEPG , and ARP . She is a member of the Steering Committee of the European Social Cognition Network.

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