When Subjective Experiences Matter: Power Increases Reliance on the Ease of Retrieval

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Abstract

Past research on power focused exclusively on declarative knowledge and neglected the role of subjective experiences. Five studies tested the hypothesis that power increases reliance on the experienced ease or difficulty that accompanies thought generation. Across a variety of targets, such as attitudes, leisure-time satisfaction, and stereotyping, and with different operationalizations of power, including priming, trait dominance, and actual power in managerial contexts, power consistently increased reliance on the ease of retrieval. These effects remained 1 week later and were not mediated by mood, quality of the retrieved information, or number of counterarguments. These findings indicate that powerful individuals construe their judgments on the basis of momentary subjective experiences and do not necessarily rely on core attitudes or prior knowledge, such as stereotypes.

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