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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Power Gets You High: The Powerful Are More Inspired by Themselves Than by Others

  • Author(s): Van Kleef, GA
  • Oveis, C
  • Homan, AC
  • van der Löwe, I
  • Keltner, D
  • et al.

© The Author(s) 2015 Inspiration is a source of admirable creation—but where do people get it from? We propose that power allows individuals to draw inspiration from the self. Four studies involving different social settings and operationalizations support this idea. Study 1 revealed that greater power is associated with more self-derived inspiration and less other-derived inspiration. In Study 2, participants with a higher sense of power were more inspired by their own than by their partners’ stories in face-to-face conversations, whereas lower power participants were not. In Study 3, higher power people spontaneously generated more inspiring stories involving themselves than did lower power people. Finally, participants in Study 4 felt more inspired after writing about their own experiences than after writing about someone else’s, especially after having been primed with high rather than low power. These findings suggest that powerful people prioritize themselves over others in social interaction because this is emotionally rewarding for them.

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