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The University of Southampton

That Power Becomes You: When Subordinate Actions Trigger Self-Objectification among the Powerful

Ena Inesi
London Business School, UK

The powerful can be victims of self-objectification. Because power implies control over resources that are valued by others, power-holders come to believe that acts of kindness they receive are motivated by others' selfish desires to gain access to those resources. Self-objectification occurs when power-holders' belief that they are valued for their power becomes internalized. High-power participants were more likely than others to define themselves and base their self-esteem on power-relevant traits, but only after a favour exchange (Studies 1-2). This was mediated by attributions for the favour. Also, power-relevant traits were a stronger predictor of self-esteem for high-power compared to equal-power participants (Study 3). After receiving a favour from a confederate, high-power participants were willing to pay more than other participants for goods that display status, but not for goods that do not display status (Study 4).

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