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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2011 Aug;101(2):217-32. doi: 10.1037/a0023171.

Social power facilitates the effect of prosocial orientation on empathic accuracy.

Author information

1
Joseph L. Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. scote@rotman.utoronto.ca

Abstract

Power increases the tendency to behave in a goal-congruent fashion. Guided by this theoretical notion, we hypothesized that elevated power would strengthen the positive association between prosocial orientation and empathic accuracy. In 3 studies with university and adult samples, prosocial orientation was more strongly associated with empathic accuracy when distinct forms of power were high than when power was low. In Study 1, a physiological indicator of prosocial orientation, respiratory sinus arrhythmia, exhibited a stronger positive association with empathic accuracy in a face-to-face interaction among dispositionally high-power individuals. In Study 2, experimentally induced prosocial orientation increased the ability to accurately judge the emotions of a stranger but only for individuals induced to feel powerful. In Study 3, a trait measure of prosocial orientation was more strongly related to scores on a standard test of empathic accuracy among employees who occupied high-power positions within an organization. Study 3 further showed a mediated relationship between prosocial orientation and career satisfaction through empathic accuracy among employees in high-power positions but not among employees in lower power positions. Discussion concentrates upon the implications of these findings for studies of prosociality, power, and social behavior.

PMID:
21463075
DOI:
10.1037/a0023171
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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