Monday, July 13, 2015

How the Powerful Perceive & React to Fair/Unfair Situations

The Boston Globe reported yesterday on a new study by Stanford researchers Takuya Sawaoka, Brent L. Hughes, and Nalini Ambady.  They examined how powerful people perceived unfair treatment.  The scholars conducted a series of experiments.  In those studies, they primed some people so that they recalled a situation in which they had significant power over others.  They discovered that people primed in the "high-power" state were much more likely to expect fair treatment, and they  are more likely to perceive treatment as unfair relative to those in the "low-power" state.   However, they also found that participants in the "high-power" condition were significantly less likely to perceive situations as unfair or unjust when they benefit or when others are harmed. 

In this article in Science Daily, Sawaoka commented on the findings: "Powerful people are only faster to notice unfair situations when they're the victims.   Our findings also suggest that powerful people are slower to notice unfair situations that victimize other people, and this converges with other research demonstrating that the powerful are less empathetic to the plight of others."

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