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Power promotes a broad motivational orientation associated with approach and action. Power also insulates its holder from punishment and other costs of mistakes. I hypothesize that these factors encourage powerful individuals to use heuristic processing: a cognitive strategy that emphasizes speed and simplicity over accuracy. To assess the use of heuristic processing by powerful individuals, participants were primed with high power, low power, or control and then read persuasive arguments that independently varied by quality and quantity. High power participants were more persuaded than other participants by the number of arguments, even when the arguments were of low quality. In addition, the effect of power on heuristic processing interacted with the individual's desire for interpersonal dominance. For individuals high in dominance motivation, the high power prime caused especially strong reliance on the "quantity heuristic." In contrast, individuals low in dominance motivation were less persuaded by argument quantity. Findings are consistent with the hypothesis that power promotes reliance on heuristics, especially among individuals high in dominance motivation, for whom power is likely to be perceived as a positive rewarding state.
Social Power, Dominance, Persuasion, Attitude Change, Heuristic Processing
Date of Defense
June 24, 2010.
A Thesis Submitted to the Department of Psychology in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Science.
Includes bibliographical references.
Jon Maner, Professor Directing Thesis; Joyce Ehrlinger, Committee Member; Mike Kaschak, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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