Women in power-themed tasks: Need for power predicts task enjoyment and power stress

Abstract

The implicit power motive predicts individuals’ involvement in activities that allow them to have impact and influence on other people. Moreover, substantial evidence indicates that thwarting individuals’ implicit power motive relates to so-called power stress. The present series of studies addresses both topics among female participants. In study 1, findings indicate that the strength of the implicit power motive moderates the relationship between women’s self-reported dominance and their evaluations of a power-related task: A significant link between self-reported dominance and both motivation for task participation and task enjoyment could be verified only when the implicit power motive was well-pronounced. In the subsequent studies, actual and anticipated thwarting of the satisfaction of a strong implicit power motive was associated with different psychological and behavioral indicators of power stress. Participants with a high implicit power motive felt more negative affect (study 2), reported more negative explicit (study 3) and implicit (study 4) attitudes towards a dominant target person, and were coded more often for visible frown reactions (study 5) when the satisfaction of their implicit power motive was (potentially) thwarted compared to participants with a low implicit power motive and participants with a high implicit power motive that was, however, not at risk of being thwarted.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    When gender of confederates is dropped from the models significance of interaction effect does not change in analyses on task enjoyment but misses significance (p = .09) in analyses on task motivation. As task motivation assessed at the beginning of T2 significantly correlates with measures of task enjoyment and task satisfaction, analyses on the latter two were rerun with task motivation as additional covariate. Findings did not differ from the ones reported in text.

  2. 2.

    A rerun of analyses with effects of task identification on level of self-reported negative affect partialled out or without task identification as covariate, respectively, did not alter the significance of interaction effects. In additional analyses, potential effects of the confederates’ gender were examined. Considering gender of the confederate (female: n = 40) as additional covariate in analyses did not alter findings reported in text. Even if not part of the study hypotheses, participants’ explicit power motive was assessed by the dominance scale of the Personality Research Form (Stumpf et al. 1985) at T2 (before the conduction of the experimental task). Dominance (α = .78) was unrelated to (a) n Power (r = − .06; p = .59) and (b) negative mood in both conditions (non-compliant: r = − .05; p = .76; compliant: r = − .08; p = .62) but significantly associated with task motivation in both conditions (non-compliant: r = .46; p = .004; compliant: r = .53; p < .001). Including dominance as additional factor (dichotomized into low and high dominance) into analyses, did not point to any significant main or interaction effects, respectively, of the strength of the explicit power motive. That is, a congruence effect could not be verified here. This might, however, be due to the sample size.

  3. 3.

    In the study, a photo of two different target persons (i.e., student assistants who voluntarily agreed being photographed for the study) was included in the personal description. Thus, we tested in additional analyses whether the target photo affected the findings reported in text. The target did not show a significant effect on the level of affective attitude in any of the analyses, i.e., target photo was entered as additional factor and as additional covariate, respectively. As Cronbach’s alpha was somewhat low for the affective attitudes scale, items with low item-total correlations (< .3) were successively removed from analyses until a 4-item short scale (items 1, 6, 10, and 11; α = .84) was formed. Analyses with the reduced scale produced findings equal to the ones reported in text. Finally, results did not change when effects of relationship duration on affective attitudes (full and short scales, respectively) were partialled out.

  4. 4.

    As two female confederates acted as applicants, we examined in additional analyses whether findings were distorted by effects of confederates. Confederate was entered in analyses as covariate or as additional factor. In neither combination a significant effect of confederate was found. A close inspection of the findings on the manipulation check showed that five participants misclassified the confederates’ behavior (e.g., in two cases dominant behavior was categorized as rather submissive). A rerun of analyses without those five cases did not alter the findings reported in text. Again, a measure of the explicit power motive, i.e., the 6-item power scale (hope component; α = .89) of the Unified Motive Scales (Schönbrodt and Gerstenberg 2012) was assessed in the present study at the end of T2. In both conditions explicit power was neither significantly related to n Power (compliant: r = .28; p = .17; non-compliant: r = − .03; p = .87) nor to implicit affective attitudes (compliant: r = − .33; p = .10; non-compliant: r = .07; p = .74). Including the scale either as covariate or as factor (dichotomized into low and high dominance, respectively) into analyses, did not point to any significant main or interaction effects, respectively, of the strength of the explicit power motive. That is, as in study 2 (cf. footnote 2), a congruence effect was not found. Again, this might be due to the sample size. Moreover, a congruence effect on (implicit) person perception has not been tested in the research literature yet. Of foremost importance, however, findings reported in text were not altered when the explicit power motive was included in analyses.

  5. 5.

    Rerunning analyses without considering effects of recall problems on the frequency of frown reactions did not change findings reported in text. To further reduce the skewedness of the dependent variables, the frequencies of frown reactions and avoidance behavior were dichotomized (0 = no reaction; 1 = reaction) and analyses were rerun. Again, findings were fully in line with the results reported in text.

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Correspondence to Jan Hofer.

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Hofer, J., Busch, H. Women in power-themed tasks: Need for power predicts task enjoyment and power stress. Motiv Emot 43, 740–757 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-019-09782-w

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Keywords

  • Implicit need for power
  • Explicit power motive
  • Power stress
  • Gender