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J Exp Psychol Gen. 2014 Apr;143(2):755-62. doi: 10.1037/a0033477. Epub 2013 Jul 1.

Power changes how the brain responds to others.

Author information

Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience, Wilfrid Laurier University.
Department of Psychology, University of Toronto Scarborough.


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.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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