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Power Facilitates Goal-Directed Action, But How? A Multi-Method Investigation of the Role of Motivation and Investment of Resources

English title Power Facilitates Goal-Directed Action, But How? A Multi-Method Investigation of the Role of Motivation and Investment of Resources
Applicant Schmid Petra
Number 173046
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Departement Management, Technologie und Ökonomie D-MTEC ETH Zürich
Institution of higher education ETH Zurich - ETHZ
Main discipline Psychology
Start/End 01.08.2017 - 31.07.2021
Approved amount 526'559.00
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Keywords (6)

Cardiac Activity; Goal Pursuit; Effort; Social Power; Motivation; Performance

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Wenn Menschen sich mächtig fühlen verhalten sie sich zielorientierter und mehr im Einklang mit ihren Zielen, als wenn sie sich machtlos fühlen. Dieses Projekt untersucht, warum dies der Fall ist, mit Fokus auf zugrundeliegende Motivationsprozesse.
Lay summary

Das Ziel dieses Projektes ist es, zu untersuchen, wie sich soziale Macht und Machtgefühle auf Motivationsprozesse während der Zielverfolgung auswirken.

Macht ist definiert als asymmetrische Kontrolle über begehrte Ressourcen wie Geld, Nahrung, Entscheidungsmöglichkeiten, Wissen oder Zuneigung. Manche Leute haben mehr Macht als andere aufgrund ihrer sozialen Stellung, aber Menschen unterscheiden sich auch darin, wie mächtig sie sich fühlen, unabhängig von ihrer tatsächlichen Machtposition.

Dieses Projekt wird untersuchen, ob Macht und Machtgefühle beeinflussen, wie motiviert Menschen ihre Ziele verfolgen und wie viel Einsatz sie darin zeigen. Wir erwarten, dass der Machteffekt auf solche Motivationsprozesse weitgehend von zwei Faktoren abhängt: Inwiefern Leute denken, dass sie schon nahe am Ziel sind, und inwiefern sie denken, dass ihre bisherige Leistung in Bezug auf die Zielverfolgung gut war.

Die Erkenntnisse darüber, wie Macht verschiedene Motivationsprozesse während der Zielverfolgung beeinflusst, kann zu konkreten Anwendungen führen, z. B. in Organisationen und im Gesundheitsbereich, wo Interventionsprogramme entwickelt werden können, die darauf abzielen, die Zielverfolgung von Leuten in hohen und tiefen Machtpositionen zu optimieren.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 06.04.2017

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
The effort investment theory of power
Schmid Petra C. (2021), The effort investment theory of power, in Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 1.
Power reduces the goal gradient effect
Schmid Petra C. (2020), Power reduces the goal gradient effect, in Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
From threats to defenses: Theoretical and statistical suggestions to investigate and explain the psychological phenomena of COVID-19
WillardtRobin, JutziChiara A., SchmidPetra C., JonasEva, From threats to defenses: Theoretical and statistical suggestions to investigate and explain the psychological phenomena of COVID-19, in Miller Monica K. (ed.), Oxford University Press, unknown, 1.

Abstract

Powerful people are known to be both more goal-focused and more effective at pursuing their goals than powerless people. This effect may at least in part explain why power hierarchies tend to reinforce themselves. But how exactly do the powerful manage to pursue their goals so well, and what are the obstacles for the powerless? To date, little is known about how power affects the process of pursuing a goal. The present project will focus on the role of motivation and effort mobilization in the context of goal pursuit. Specifically, it will investigate what factors determine how motivated high- and low-power people are and how many resources and effort they invest into pursuing a goal. By illuminating how power affects the process of pursuing a goal, this research will substantially advance our theoretical understanding of the power effect on goal pursuit. Such knowledge may lead to concrete applications for intervention programs (e.g., in organizational and health contexts) designed to improve goal pursuit in high- and low-power individuals.To set up the hypotheses for this research, I integrated theory and evidence from the fields of social, cognitive, and motivation psychology, organizational behavior, and psychophysiology into a new, cohesive model, the Goal Pursuit Model of Power. The central claim of my model is that the powerful, in contrast to the powerless, invest their resources more adaptively to the requirements of a task, which then allows them to pursue their goals with greater efficiency. Specifically, the powerless are expected to be especially motivated to invest into goal pursuit under circumstances that suggest that goal attainment is not very challenging (e.g., when they receive positive performance feedback and when they believe that they are close to goal completion). When goal attainment is challenging, the powerless are expected to be less motivated and to try less in order to pursue that goal. The powerful, instead, are expected to use information that suggests insufficient progress of their goal (e.g., negative performance feedback, or when goal attainment appears far away) to increase their effort and consequentially the probability of achieving the goal. At the same time, they are expected to reduce their investment of resources when they receive information that suggests that they can attain their goal easily, in order to preserve resources. The hypotheses of my model will be tested in multiple highly-powered empirical studies in both the lab and the field. To do so, a multi-method approach will be applied. Specifically, different manifestations of power will be examined including subjective feelings of power, based on between-subject differences (i.e., trait power) and within-subject differences (i.e., situation-specific power, manipulated experimentally), as well as positional power as observed in the field. Moreover, diverse motivation-related outcome measures will be assessed such as behavioral intentions, actual behavior, and physiological indices of effort mobilization. Using an interdisciplinary theoretical and multifaceted methodological approach will allow for a comprehensive picture of how power affects the process of pursuing a goal. As such, this project responds to current demands of the field for highly-powered studies, replicability, and robustness of effects.
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