The influence of power on people's preferences and attention.

Date of Award


Document Type



College of Liberal Arts

Degree Name

Bachelor in Arts


Studies have shown that people in positions of power are more likely to make riskier decisions (Anderson & Galinsky, 2006 & Carney et al. 2010). Participants primed with high power tend to pick the riskier choice compared to participants primed with low or no power. Also, people tend to choose the riskier choice when the decision is framed negatively rather than positively (Kou, Hsu & Day, 2009). This phenomenon is known as the framing effect. The approach/inhibition theory suggests that people with power make riskier decisions because they only attend to the positive stimuli and ignore the negative stimuli. This study uses an eye-tracker to monitor participants attention while they are making decisions. We hypothesize that power will influence participants preferences for risk as well as, the amount of attention they pay to different information. Participants were assigned to a high, low or neutral power conditions. Scrambled sentences were embedded with critical words (i.e. authority, servant) and were used to prime power. Participants were presented with a series of decision making problems half framed positively and half framed negatively. They selected between a safe or risky choice. Results showed a robust framing effect but, the power condition did not show any significant influence. The eye-tracker showed no influence of power or frame on attention. The General Sense of Power Scales did not match power conditions but the difference was not significant. This study provides a stepping stone for the incorporation of technology in providing a deeper understanding of how different factors influence our decisions.