You Focus on the Forest When You’re in Charge of the Trees: Power Priming and Abstract Information Processing

Elevated power increases the psychological distance one feels from others, and this distance, according to construal level theory (Y. Trope & N. Liberman, 2003), should lead to more abstract information processing. Thus, high power should be associated with more abstract thinking-focusing on primary aspects of stimuli and detecting patterns and structure to extract the gist, as well as categorizing stimuli at a higher level-relative to low power. In 6 experiments involving both conceptual and perceptual tasks, priming high power led to more abstract processing than did priming low power, even when this led to worse performance. Experiment 7 revealed that in line with past neuropsychological research on abstract thinking, priming high power also led to greater relative right-hemispheric activation.

Reference Information

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Method(s) Used in Paper

Behavior Identification Form

by Robin Vallacher and Daniel Wegner.
Published in "Journal of Personality and Social Psychology" in 1989.

APA-Format Citation

Smith, P. K., & Trope, Y. (2006). You focus on the forest when you’re in charge of the trees: power priming and abstract information processing. Journal of personality and social psychology, 90(4), 578.