Social Power Facilitates the Effect of Prosocial Orientation on Empathic Accuracy

Stéphane Côté, Michael W. Kraus, Bonnie Hayden Cheng, Christopher Oveis, Ilmo van der Löwe, Hua Lian, Dacher Keltner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Power increases the tendency to behave in a goal-congruent fashion. Guided by this theoretical notion, we hypothesized that elevated power would strengthen the positive association between prosocial orientation and empathic accuracy. In 3 studies with university and adult samples, prosocial orientation was more strongly associated with empathic accuracy when distinct forms of power were high than when power was low. In Study 1, a physiological indicator of prosocial orientation, respiratory sinus arrhythmia, exhibited a stronger positive association with empathic accuracy in a face-to-face interaction among dispositionally high-power individuals. In Study 2, experimentally induced prosocial orientation increased the ability to accurately judge the emotions of a stranger but only for individuals induced to feel powerful. In Study 3, a trait measure of prosocial orientation was more strongly related to scores on a standard test of empathic accuracy among employees who occupied high-power positions within an organization. Study 3 further showed a mediated relationship between prosocial orientation and career satisfaction through empathic accuracy among employees in high-power positions but not among employees in lower power positions. Discussion concentrates upon the implications of these findings for studies of prosociality, power, and social behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)217-232
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Volume101
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2011

Keywords

  • Emotions
  • Empathic accuracy
  • Power
  • Prosocial orientation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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    Côté, S., Kraus, M. W., Cheng, B. H., Oveis, C., van der Löwe, I., Lian, H., & Keltner, D. (2011). Social Power Facilitates the Effect of Prosocial Orientation on Empathic Accuracy. Journal of personality and social psychology, 101(2), 217-232. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0023171