A new cultural study finds that among North Americans, a feeling of power leads to thinking in a focused and analytical way.
Experts say the ability to think logically may benefit individuals in their pursuit of personal goals.
Researchers say power is defined as the ability to influence others. Moreover, the “possession” of power makes people think differently.
“What’s most interesting about this study is the idea that thinking is flexible, not rigid or innately pre-programmed. We are able to attune our style of thinking to the needs of the situation,” said Dr. Li-Jun Ji, the study’s co-author and a social psychologist who studies the relationships between culture and thinking.
“However, the specific ways we might attune our thinking seems to depend on our cultural background.”
For many, being in power is associated with the ability to influence others and achieve your own goals. In North America, these goals tend to be self-defined and independent from the wider social context, said Ji.
As a result, thinking analytically — focusing on one’s own goal and how to achieve it without being distracted by the surrounding context — can be advantageous.
Ji discovered that North American individuals with high socioeconomic status (SES) displayed more analytical thinking than low SES individuals. She believes that this may be because higher SES increases people’s feelings of agency, a precursor to power.
In the study, researchers induced feelings of power by asking study participants to recollect occasions in their lives when they had influenced others. The kind of memories the participants recalled included making a shy roommate more outgoing, influencing people to buy products as part of a fundraiser, and leading a struggling soccer team to victory.
Study participants were then asked to complete a number of different tasks designed to assess whether they were thinking more analytically or more holistically.
Analytical thinking is described as viewing an item independent from its surrounding context (for example, using adjectives to describe a ball as “red” or “round”).
On the other hand, holistic thinking involves context and the relationships between objects (for example, using verbs like “kick” or “play” to highlight the connection between the ball and its environment).
Findings from this research study are published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
Source: Queen’s University