Powerful people may be less fazed by rejection: Study

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(ChrisMilesPhoto/Shutterstock.com)

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, Last Updated: 10:28 AM ET

People who have power -- whether as the head of the household or the boss -- have been found to have thicker skins and be more willing to bond with others than those with less power, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, found that people in authority positions are quicker to recover from mild rejection and will seek out social bonding opportunities even if they've been rebuffed.

"Powerful people appear to be better at dealing with the slings and arrows of social life," says Maya Kuehn, a doctoral student in psychology at UC Berkeley and lead author of the study. "They're more buffered from the negative feelings that rejection typically elicits."

She presented her findings on Friday, January 18, at the annual conference of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology in New Orleans.

Kuehn and her team recruited 445 adult men and women in a series of five experiments on power dynamics both in the workplace and in romantic relationships.

In one experiment, subjects were assigned either high- or low-level positions in a workplace scenario, then told they hadn't been invited to an office happy hour gathering. While low-level employees reported feeling snubbed, the high-power subjects were relatively unfazed and more likely to seek out other social bonding activities to improve relations with their coworkers.

"When rejected instead of accepted, subordinates reported lower self-esteem and greater negative emotion, but supervisors did not show an adverse reaction to rejection," Kuehn says.

In another experiment, couples were brought into a lab setting and videotaped discussing problem-solving tasks. Before these discussions, couples had rated each other in terms of who held the most power in their real-life relationships, and how responsive their partners had been to their needs that day.

The study found that the partners who perceived themselves as less powerful were less positive during the videotaped discussion when working on a solution with their mate. By comparison, the more dominant partners were more upbeat and worked harder to persuade their partner to agree to their ideas.

In separate research, powerful people have been found to smile less, interrupt others, and speak in a louder voice, according to findings published in 2011 in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.


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