Power Effects on Cognitive Control: Turning Conflict into Action

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Power is known to promote effective goal pursuit, especially when it requires one to overcome distractions or bias. We proposed that this effect involves the ability to engage and implement cognitive control. In Study 1, we demonstrated that power enhances behavioral performance on a response conflict task and that it does so by enhancing controlled processing rather than by reducing automatic processing. In Study 2, we used an event-related potential index of anterior cingulate activity to test whether power effects on control were due to enhanced conflict sensitivity or action implementation. Power did not significantly affect neural sensitivity to conflict; rather, high power was associated with a stronger link between conflict processing and intended action, relative to low power. These findings suggest a new perspective on how social factors can affect controlled processing and offer new evidence regarding the transition between conflict detection and the implementation of action control.

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