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Power gained, power lost


  • Sivanathan, Niro
  • Pillutla, Madan M.
  • Keith Murnighan, J.


Changes in power almost invariably lead to changes in behavior. This research investigates the effects of power increases and power decreases for individuals who are in strong or weak positions. We hypothesized that individuals will have strong reactions to gains in power (their demands will increase markedly) but they will act almost as though they do not recognize losses in power (their demands will not drop much) when they lose power. Four experiments track individuals' actions when they move from ultimatum to dictatorship games, from dictatorship to ultimatum games, or when they have the same power position repeatedly. The data consistently show that people over-react to an increase in power, but that they react appropriately to a loss in power. The discussion explores the behavioral disconnect between increases and decreases in power.

Suggested Citation

  • Sivanathan, Niro & Pillutla, Madan M. & Keith Murnighan, J., 2008. "Power gained, power lost," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 105(2), pages 135-146, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jobhdp:v:105:y:2008:i:2:p:135-146

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Erev, Ido & Roth, Alvin E, 1998. "Predicting How People Play Games: Reinforcement Learning in Experimental Games with Unique, Mixed Strategy Equilibria," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(4), pages 848-881, September.
    2. Larrick, Richard P. & Boles, Terry L., 1995. "Avoiding Regret in Decisions with Feedback: A Negotiation Example," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 63(1), pages 87-97, July.
    3. Forsythe Robert & Horowitz Joel L. & Savin N. E. & Sefton Martin, 1994. "Fairness in Simple Bargaining Experiments," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 6(3), pages 347-369, May.
    4. repec:cup:apsrev:v:90:y:1996:i:04:p:749-764_20 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Brion, Sebastien & Anderson, Cameron, 2013. "The loss of power: How illusions of alliance contribute to powerholders’ downfall," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 121(1), pages 129-139.
    2. Murnighan, J. Keith & Wang, Long, 2016. "The social world as an experimental game," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 136(C), pages 80-94.
    3. Pettit, Nathan C. & Doyle, Sarah P. & Lount, Robert B. & To, Christopher, 2016. "Cheating to get ahead or to avoid falling behind? The effect of potential negative versus positive status change on unethical behavior," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 137(C), pages 172-183.

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