Ubiquitous Feature of Human Social Life
Order ID 53003233773 Type Essay Writer Level Masters Style APA Sources/References 4 Perfect Number of Pages to Order 5-10 Pages
Ubiquitous Feature of Human Social Life
Power Changes How the Brain Responds to Others
Michael Inzlicht University of Toronto Scarborough
Sukhvinder S. Obhi Wilfrid Laurier University
Power dynamics are a ubiquitous feature of human social life, yet little is known about how power is implemented in the brain. Motor resonance is the activation of similar brain networks when acting and when watching someone else act, and is thought to be implemented, in part, by the human mirror system. We investigated the effects of power on motor resonance during an action observation task. Separate groups of participants underwent a high-, neutral, or low-power induction priming procedure, prior to observing the actions of another person. During observation, motor resonance was determined with transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) via measures of motor cortical output. High-power participants demonstrated lower levels of resonance than low-power participants, suggesting reduced mirroring of other people in those with power. These differences suggest that decreased motor resonance to others’ actions might be one of the neural mechanisms underlying power-induced asymmetries in processing our social interaction partners.
Keywords: power, motor resonance, human mirror system, TMS, social cognitive neuroscience
The profound evolution of primate neocortex was influenced by the computational demands of living in a complex social environ- ment (Dunbar & Shultz, 2007). For primates, a key factor creating structure within the social environment is power. In nonhuman primates, an animal’s power is partly determined by the degree to which they dominate conspecifics. Those that are able to exert dominance over others gain greater access to valuable resources like food and potential mates (Dunbar, 1980; Lewis, 2002; Watts, 2010). In human societies, power similarly creates “dependence asymmetries,” wherein the powerless depend heavily on the pow- erful for resources, whereas the powerful enjoy relatively unabated access to resources (Russell & Fiske, 2010). This asymmetry results in differences in how the powerful and the powerless
process other individuals. Despite what we know about the effects of power on social information processing, the majority of the evidence is indirect, and the mechanisms underlying power’s in- fluence remain a mystery. To begin to address this issue, we used transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to provide a direct and online measure of power’s impact on how the brain responds to observed action.
The Psychological Impact of Power
The psychological literature on power indicates a reliable rela- tionship between power and information processing style (Ames, Rose, & Anderson, 2006; Fiske, 1993; Fiske & Dépret, 1996; Guinote, 2007a, 2007b; Obhi, Swiderski, & Brubacher, 2012; Smith & Trope, 2006; van Kleef et al., 2008). High-power indi- viduals are able to ignore peripheral information and focus on task relevant details, thereby improving goal pursuit (Guinote, 2007a, 2007b), cognitive flexibility (Smith & Trope, 2006), and executive functioning (Smith, Jostmann, Galinsky, & van Dijk, 2008). Therefore, when powerful individuals ignore peripheral informa- tion during a nonsocial task, it may improve their performance. Conversely, when the powerful ignore “peripheral” information in social settings, the outcome can be quite negative from the per- spective of the powerless.
The powerful, because they already control resources, tend not to process individuating information about the less powerful. In contrast, the powerless, because they do not control resources, are motivated to process individuating information about the powerful (Fiske & Dépret, 1996; Goodwin, Gubin, Fiske, & Yzerbyt, 2000). Power-driven differences in the processing of others are also evident in the inability of high-power-primed participants to take the visual, cognitive, and emotional perspectives of others, relative to participants who feel relatively powerless (Anderson, Keltner,
Editor’s Note. Mauricio Delgado served as the action editor for this article.—IG
This article was published Online First July 1, 2013. Jeremy Hogeveen, Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience and Department
of Psychology, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada; Michael Inzlicht, Department of Psychology, University of Toronto Scar- borough, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Sukhvinder S. Obhi, Centre for Cog- nitive Neuroscience and Department of Psychology, Wilfrid Laurier Uni- versity.
This research was made possible by research grants from the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council and the Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), held by Sukhvinder S. Obhi, and an SSHRC Canada Graduate Scholarship awarded to Jeremy Hogeveen.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Sukhvin- der S. Obhi, Department of Psychology, Wilfrid Laurier University, 75 University Avenue West, Waterloo, Ontario, N2L 3C5, Canada. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General © 2013 American Psychological Association 2014, Vol. 143, No. 2, 755–762 0096-3445/14/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/a0033477
& John, 2003; Galinsky, Magee, Inesi, & Gruenfeld, 2006). Sim- ilarly, socioeconomic status (SES) has been linked to empathic accuracy, with high-SES individuals making less accurate judg- ments about others’ affective states than low-SES individuals (Kraus, Côté, & Keltner, 2010). As a result, the powerful often form a relatively shallow understanding of others, compared to the less powerless.
Despite the strong evidence that high power leads to reduced processing of others’ actions and emotions, there are conflicting findings in the literature. For example, Schmid Mast, Jonas, and Hall (2009) found that high power actually improves empathic accuracy, and Côté et al. (2011) have also shown that high power, combined with a prosocial orientation, leads to improved empathic ability. Therefore, the relationship between power and the degree to which people process their social interaction partners is not straightforward. In the present investigation, we begin to address this ambiguity using a direct index of the degree to which people process others’ actions.
The Neural Representation of Observed Actions
In recent years, researchers have shown that the human brain is exquisitely tuned to the perceptual and cognitive demands of processing others (Hari & Kujala, 2009). One reliable finding from this work that appears to be important for human social perception is resonant or vicarious activity, whereby perceiving an interaction partner automatically activates neural circuits that would underlie their experience (Keysers & Gazzola, 2009). For example, with respect to action observation, neural circuits that are related to action execution become active when the person observes some- one else making the same action; in other words, the observer’s brain resonates with the model’s motor behavior (Hogeveen & Obhi, 2011; Iacoboni, 2009; Oberman & Ramachandran, 2007; Obhi & Hogeveen, 2010; Rizzolatti & Sinigaglia, 2010). We refer to the network of brain regions involved in this process as the motor resonance system (cf. Hogeveen & Obhi, 2012). Motor resonance includes the human parietofrontal mirror system, and many believe that resonance reflects mirror system activity (Fa- diga, Craighero, & Olivier, 2005; Fadiga, Fogassi, Pavesi, & Rizzolatti, 1995).
A reliable index of resonance is the amplitude of motor-evoked potentials (MEPs) recorded from a specific muscle via electro- myography (EMG), while a person observes another person acting.
An MEP is elicited by applying a single, fixed intensity TMS pulse over an area of the motor cortex that corresponds to a muscle underlying the observed action. For a given intensity of stimula- tion, changes in MEP amplitude reflect changes in the excitability of motor cortical representations (see Figure 1; for a review, see Fadiga et al., 2005).
Power and Motor Resonance: The Present Study
Researchers suggest that motor resonance provides a scaffold for understanding the actions of our interaction partners (cf. Brass, Ruby, & Spengler, 2009; Decety & Sommerville, 2009; Grafton, 2009; Spunt & Lieberman, 2012), and those actions are frequently less important to those with high-power status (Fiske, 1993; Fiske & Dépret, 1996; Goodwin et al., 2000; Russell & Fiske, 2010). Yet, previous investigations of power and the processing of others’ actions and emotions have yielded conflicting results, sometimes suggesting an increase (e.g., Côté et al., 2011), and elsewhere a decrease (e.g., Galinsky et al., 2006), in interpersonal sensitivity. In the present study, we examine whether power can increase or decrease interpersonal sensitivity by examining the effects of power priming on motor resonance.
The present study had participants write an essay documenting a high-, neutral, or low-power experience, and then used a direct and online technique to index motor resonance during a passive observation task. The power priming procedure—recalling a mem- ory with or without power—is a well-established technique that has demonstrated a wide range of downstream effects, with the high-power condition often found to decrease interpersonal sensi- tivity relative to low-power priming (Galinsky, Magee, Gruenfeld, Whitson, & Liljenquist, 2008; Galinsky et al., 2006). To the extent that resonance is an automatic response when observing the ac- tions of others, any changes in resonance as a function of power can be construed as a “default” effect of power on the brain. Again, as previous researchers have suggested, it is reasonable to expect that such differences in resonance may contribute to the differ- ences in how high- and low-power individuals process other peo- ple. Specifically, given the balance of the literature suggests that people in positions of power tend to act in a self-interested manner and display reduced interpersonal sensitivity to their powerless counterparts (Fiske, 1993; Galinsky, Gruenfeld, & Magee, 2003; Galinsky et al., 2008, 2006; Keltner, Gruenfeld, & Anderson, 2003; Russell & Fiske, 2010), we hypothesized that high-power
Ubiquitous Feature of Human Social Life
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