Illusory Control: A Generative Force Behind Power's Far-Reaching Effects

24 Pages Posted: 12 Dec 2008

See all articles by Nathanael J. Fast

Nathanael J. Fast

University of Southern California

Deborah H. Gruenfeld

Stanford Graduate School of Business

Niro Sivanathan

London Business School

Adam D. Galinsky

Columbia Business School - Management

Date Written: December 1, 2008

Abstract

Three experiments demonstrated that the experience of power leads to an illusion of personal control. Regardless of whether power was experientially primed (Experiments 1 and 3) or manipulated through manager-subordinate roles (Experiment 2), it led to perceived control over outcomes that were beyond the reach of the powerholder. Furthermore, this illusory control mediated the influence of power on several self-enhancement and approach-related effects found in the power literature, including optimism (Experiment 2), self-esteem (Experiment 3), and action-orientation (Experiment 3), demonstrating its theoretical importance as a generative cause and driving force behind many of power's far-reaching effects. A fourth experiment ruled out an alternative explanation: that positive mood, rather than illusory control, is at the root of power's effects. The discussion considers implications for existing and future research on the psychology of power, perceived control, and positive illusions.

Keywords: power, illusory control, action-orientation, self-esteem, optimism, leadership, power and influence

JEL Classification: D23

Suggested Citation

Fast, Nathanael J. and Gruenfeld, Deborah H. and Sivanathan, Niro and Galinsky, Adam D., Illusory Control: A Generative Force Behind Power's Far-Reaching Effects (December 1, 2008). Stanford University Graduate School of Business Research Paper No. 2009, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1314952 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1314952

Nathanael J. Fast (Contact Author)

University of Southern California ( email )

2250 Alcazar Street
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www-bcf.usc.edu/~nathanaf/

Deborah H. Gruenfeld

Stanford Graduate School of Business ( email )

655 Knight Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5015
United States
650-725-6917 (Phone)
650-725-9932 (Fax)

Niro Sivanathan

London Business School ( email )

Sussex Place
Regent's Park
London, London NW1 4SA
United Kingdom

Adam D. Galinsky

Columbia Business School - Management ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
207
Abstract Views
2,126
rank
183,032
PlumX Metrics