Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Lack of power enhances visual perceptual discrimination

By Mario Weick, Ana Guinote and David T. Wilkinson


Powerless individuals face much challenge and uncertainty. As a consequence, they are highly vigilant and closely scrutinize their social environments. The aim of the present research was to determine whether these qualities enhance performance in more basic cognitive tasks involving simple visual feature discrimination. To test this hypothesis, participants performed a series of perceptual matching and search tasks involving color, texture and size discrimination. As predicted, those primed with powerlessness generated shorter reaction times and made fewer eye movements than either powerful or control participants. The results indicate that the heightened vigilance shown by powerless individuals is associated with an advantage in performing simple types of psychophysical discrimination. These findings highlight, for the first time, an underlying competency in perceptual cognition that sets powerless individuals above their powerful counterparts, an advantage that may reflect functional adaptation to the environmental challenge and uncertainty that they face

Topics: BF
Year: 2011
OAI identifier:

Suggested articles


  1. (2010). 4). How Leaders self-regulate their task performance: Evidence that power promotes diligence, depletion, and disdain. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Advance online publication. doi
  2. (2010). 9). Interpersonal sensitivity, status, and stereotype accuracy. Psychological Science. Advance online publication. doi
  3. (2007). Behaviour variability and the Situated Focus Theory of Power. doi
  4. (1993). Control motivation and social cognition. doi
  5. (1996). Control, interdependence and power: Understanding social cognition in its social context. doi
  6. (1993). Controlling other people: The impact of power on stereotyping. doi
  7. (1997). Defending the status quo: Power and bias in social conflict. doi
  8. (2010). Dominance and health: The role of social rank in physiology and illness.
  9. (2003). From power to action. doi
  10. (2001). Hierarchies, similarity, and interactivity in object recognition: category-specific neuropsychological deficits.
  11. (2010). Interpersonal stratification: Status, power, and subordination.
  12. (2008). Lacking power impairs executive functions. doi
  13. (1995). Memory representations in natural tasks. doi
  14. (1989). Motivation and cognition: Control deprivation and the nature of subsequent information processing. doi
  15. (2007). Power affects basic cognition: Increased attentional inhibition and flexibility. doi
  16. (2007). Power and goal pursuit. doi
  17. (2008). Power and the objectification of social targets. doi
  18. (2000). Power can bias impression processes: Stereotyping subordinates by default and by design. doi
  19. (2010). Power can increase stereotyping: Evidence from managers and subordinates in the hotel industry. doi
  20. (2010). Power posing: Brief nonverbal displays affect neuroendocrine levels and risk tolerance. doi
  21. (2003). Power, approach, and inhibition. doi
  22. (1998). Power, emotion, and judgmental accuracy in social conflict: Motivating the cognitive miser. doi
  23. (2006). Powerful perceivers, powerless objects: Flexibility of powerholders’ social attention. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, doi
  24. (1991). Selective and divided attention during visual discriminations of shape, color, and speed: functional anatomy by positron emission tomography. doi
  25. (2007). Social Power. In
  26. (2005). The functional and temporal characteristics of top-down modulation in visual selection.
  27. (1966). The influence of culture on visual perception. doi
  28. The research was financed by the ESRC grant RES-000-22-2716 to
  29. (1993). The shy–bold continuum in pumpkinseed sunfish (Lepomis gibbosus). doi
  30. (2010). The social psychology of visual perception. doi
  31. (1997). Top-down modulation of early sensory cortex. doi
  32. (2001). When power does not corrupt: Superior individuation processes among powerful perceivers. doi
  33. (2006). You focus on the forest when you are in charge of the trees: Power priming and abstract information processing. doi

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.