When low power meets status: powerlessness triggers behavioral inhibition only under low status

Mianlin Deng, Ana Guinote, Lijuan Cui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

It has been argued that powerlessness activates the behavioral inhibition system (BIS; Keltner, Gruenfeld, & Anderson, 2003). Here we investigated the interactive effects of powerlessness and status - driven by actual or perceived competence - on the BIS. In Experiments 1 and 2 only powerless participants who were or feared being seen as incompetent self-reported behavioral avoidance toward power holders. Similarly, in Experiment 3 only those who were powerless and incompetent showed BIS-related emotion, action, and negotiation strategies. Moreover, in Experiment 4 the effects of incompetence on avoidant behavior among powerless individuals were mediated by BIS activation, seen in measures of frontal hemisphere asymmetry. These findings support the notion that having low status on dimensions relevant to powerless roles activates the BIS, whereas higher status levels are a buffer against lack of power.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)134-166
Number of pages33
JournalSocial Cognition
Volume36
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018

Keywords

  • Behavioral approach
  • Behavioral inhibition
  • Competence
  • Powerlessness
  • Status

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