Membership Briefing: Uncovering (and Managing) the Hidden Effects of Power

Being in a position of relative power (or simply feeling powerful) has reliable effects on our cognition and behavior.

The cognitive effects come with a distinct set of advantages and challenges. Research has shown that experiencing power increases activity in the brain’s Behavioral Approach System, which is engaged when we pursue goals related to rewards. This often results in an increased sensitivity to goals, increased optimism, and big-picture thinking.

Although there are clear benefits to experiencing power, it can come at a cost: the neglect of people, lowered sensitivity toward risk, and the neglect of concrete, detail-level thinking. In this briefing, we describe the cognitive effects of power, its advantages and drawbacks, and suggest strategies to help the powerful achieve more balance in their interactions and decision-making.

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