Power Reduces the Press of the Situation: Implications for Creativity, Conformity, and Dissonance
Although power is often conceptualized as the capacity to influence others, the current research explores whether power psychologically protects people from influence. In contrast to classic social psychological research demonstrating the strength of the situation in directing attitudes, expressions, and intentions, five experiments (using experiential primes, semantic primes, and role manipulations of power) demonstrate that the powerful (a) generate creative ideas that are less influenced by salient examples, (b) express attitudes that conform less to the expressed opinions of others, (c) are more influenced by their own social value orientation relative to the reputation of a negotiating partner, and (d) perceive greater choice in making counterattitudinal statements. This last experiment illustrates that power is not always psychologically liberating; it can create internal conflict, arousing dissonance, and thereby lead to attitude change. Across the experiments, high-power participants were immune to the typical press of situations, with intrapsychic processes having greater sway than situational or interpersonal ones on their creative and attitudinal expressions.