Pril, Dirkje Maria Aleida (2017). Toward a better understanding of the interpersonal effects of power. Power decreases interpersonal sensitivity, but not toward people within the power relationship. PhD thesis, Universität zu Köln.


Download (947kB)


Power and interpersonal sensitivity are two essential elements of human social behavior. Earlier findings suggest that positions of power decreases interpersonal sensitivity. However, until now, evidence on this relation rests exclusively on subjective and indirect measures as no research has objectively measured how power affects basic attention to others. Research within the first empirical chapter of this dissertation does so using reaction time paradigm that measures the extent to which people code their actions in reference to co-actors. Within this paradigm, power was manipulated by spatial elevation of the seating position of participants. Re-analyses of two existing datasets (Experiments 1a/1b), and a statistically well-powered confirmatory study (Experiment 2) provided robust converging evidence that a feeling of power generally decreases interpersonal sensitivity. Furthermore, based on the Situated Focus Theory of Power, I propose that although power may decrease interpersonal sensitivity toward people who are not directly relevant to their goals, the powerful should demonstrate increased interpersonal sensitivity toward targets within the power relationship, compared to the powerless. After all, the powerful can enjoy great advantages by displaying interpersonal sensitivity toward their subordinates. Research within the second empirical chapter of this dissertation firstly demonstrated that the powerful experience less social distance than the powerless toward the partner in a power relationship (Experiments 3a/3b). Next, three confirmatory studies orthogonally manipulated power and the relationship to the target and replicated the effect for social distance (Experiment 4), empathy (Experiment 5), and perspective taking (Experiment 6). These results qualify the notion that power necessarily reduces interpersonal sensitivity, and therefore lead to a better understanding of interpersonal effects of power.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD thesis)
Pril, Dirkje Maria Aleidadirkje.pril@uni-koeln.deUNSPECIFIED
URN: urn:nbn:de:hbz:38-80829
Subjects: Psychology
Uncontrolled Keywords:
Social PowerEnglish
Faculty: Faculty of Human Sciences
Divisions: Faculty of Human Sciences > Department Psychologie
Language: English
Date: 2017
Date of oral exam: 15 December 2018
NameAcademic Title
Lammers, JorisDr.
Refereed: Yes


Downloads per month over past year


Actions (login required)

View Item View Item