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Power and Perceived Influence: I Caused Your Behavior, But I'm Not Responsible For It

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Abstract

There are numerous examples of powerful people denying responsibility for others' (mis)conduct in which they played—and acknowledge playing—a causal role. The current article seeks to explain this conundrum by examining the difference between, and powerful people's beliefs about, causality and responsibility. Research has shown power to have numerous psychological consequences. Some of these consequences, such as overconfidence, are likely to increase an individual's belief that he or she caused another person's behavior. However, others, such as decreased perspective-taking, are likely to decrease an individual's belief that he or she was responsible for another person's behavior. In combination, these psychological consequences of power may lead powerful people to believe that they instigated another's behavior while simultaneously believing that the other person could have chosen to do otherwise. The dissociation between these two attributions may help to explain why people in positions of power often deny responsibility for others' behavior—unethical or otherwise—that they undeniably caused.

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2019-01

Publisher

Wiley & Sons

Keywords

misconduct; causality and responsibility; consequences

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Previously Published As

Bohns, V. K., & Newark, D. A. (2019). Power and perceived influence: I caused your behavior, but I'm not responsible for it. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 31(1).

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

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article

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alternative text; high contract display; reading order; structural navigation; tagged PDF

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none

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Accessible pdf

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