Does Power Corrupt? The Evidence from Event-Related Potentials


The approach/inhibition theory of power suggested that power conduced to more reward-related behavior, while powerless individual had more inhibited behavior. In this study, participants were told to take part in the dictator game and the ultimatum game, which respectively made them feel powerful or powerless. In the meanwhile, ERPs (Event-Related Potentials) was also adopted in the experiment. After comparing the behavioral and potential differences between those two power conditions, the study found that people felt more powerful and allocated less interests to the counterparts when they played the dictator game than that in the ultimatum game. Four types of ERP component were found in this study: P2, N2, P3 and LNC. In the power condition, participants probed larger N2 than in the powerlessness condition. Particularly, the P2 of left cerebral hemisphere was larger than that on the right. However, N2, P3 and LNC probed in powerlessness condition were larger. The results implied that powerful individual put more cognitive resource at the early stage of decision-making while powerless individual allocated more cognitive recourse in the later stage. Besides, more conflict processing might be performed when people had less power. The study found a new neural evident to support the approach/inhibition theory of power.

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Liu, Y. and Huang, J. (2015) Does Power Corrupt? The Evidence from Event-Related Potentials. Open Journal of Social Sciences, 3, 109-116. doi: 10.4236/jss.2015.31013.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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