Bridging Time and Power: Social power change and its impact on perceptions, emotions and behaviors
Social power is dynamic in nature as individuals experience changes in power throughout their careers. This dynamic process can have important psychological implications and consequences for individuals’ behaviors at work. Recent research has significantly advanced our understanding of social power, yet devoted little attention to the dynamic nature of power. By integrating time into the study of social power, we can now examine how current, retrospected, and anticipated perceptions of social power impact behavior. This work examines how power changes generate affective and cognitive responses which in turn impact individuals’ prosocial behavior. We argue that these perceived changes in social power can lead to two competing mechanisms: (1) assimilation effects; and (2) contrast effects. The assimilation effect of power suggests that, individuals will focus on the similarities between their current and previous power roles. Under assimilation effect, individuals will thus be more affected by their past perceptions and behaviors, even after experiencing change in social power. Conversely, the contrast effect of power suggests that individuals will focus on the differences between their current and previous roles. Under contrast effect, individuals will thus be more likely to adjust their current perceptions and behaviors. During the seminar I will discuss how these cognitive processes alter individuals’ perceptions and emotional responses to changes in social power. Across two studies, we provide evidence that individuals’ power does not affect behavior only through contemporaneous manners. Specifically, through dynamic manipulation of power, we find that power changes directly affect both perception of individuals’ current power and prosocial behaviors at work. Our work supports an important role for the dynamic nature of social power, and its consequences to workplace behavior.