Interdependent Self-Construals Increase the Benevolent Use of Power in a Dispute Resolution
24 Pages Posted: 6 Aug 2002
The idea that power often leads to exploitation is pervasive in both psychological theory and business teachings. The current paper argues that the impact of power upon motivation and behavior is moderated by the extent to which an individual's self-construal is relatively independent (individually focused) or interdependent (relationally focused) in nature. After reviewing the literature concerning power, exploitation, and interdependence, an empirical exploration of the relationship among power, exploitive motives and behavior is presented. The experiment focused on a one-on-one dispute situation in which management students either had high or low power, and were either primed with "interdependence" or "independence," which were predicted to activate either "relational concerns" or "selfish concerns." Results revealed that (1) the high powered negotiator gave more generous settlements after interdependence priming; (2) the low-powered negotiator attributed greater generosity, more benevolent intentions, and less selfishness on the part of their high-powered opponent when the high-powered individual was primed with interdependence; and (3) the correlation between feelings of power and relational motivation was moderated by interdependence. Whereas 20% of the negotiations in which the high-powered individual was primed with independence resulted in an impasse, none of the negotiations in which high-powered individuals were primed with interdependence resulted in impasse. Interdependence priming thus appeared to alter both the motives and behavior of the high-powered negotiator, resulting in more generous distribution of resources and higher satisfaction with dispute outcomes.
Keywords: Interdependence, power, dispute resolution
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