Being Powerful in Society Comes With One Major Downside, Study Finds

It wouldn’t be surprising to hear that most people wouldn’t place their trust in the more powerful individuals in our society, but is that really true?

A new study, conducted by researchers from the University of Arizona, Tucson and Stanford University, reveals how perceptions of trust change between those who lack power and those who possess power.

In a series of experiments, researchers manipulated the levels of power between participants so that the weaker of the party would have to depend on the more powerful individual and then studied their behavior and perceptions of trust.

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The researchers hypothesized beforehand that low-power individuals would be able to recognize that their partner has more power, assume they will place little value in their relationship, and therefore take an opportunistic stance, the result being an exchange devoid of trust.

The results proved otherwise — researchers found that “more powerful actors place less trust in others than less powerful actors do” and that low-power individuals actually hope their exchange partners will be trustworthy and then act on that belief.

According to the study, “having low power increases individuals’ hope and, in turn, their perceptions of their exchange partners’ benevolence, which ultimately leads them to trust.”

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