The present research explores how people's place in a power hierarchy alters their representations of valued objects. The authors hypothesized that powerlessness produces an accentuation bias by altering the physical representation of monetary objects in a manner consistent with the size-to-value relationship. In the first three experiments, powerless participants, induced through episodic priming or role manipulations, systematically overestimated the size of objects associated with monetary value (i.e., quarters, poker chips) compared to powerful and baseline participants. However, when value was inversely associated with size (i.e., smaller objects were more valuable), the powerless drew these valued objects smaller, not larger. In addition, the accentuation bias by the powerless was more pronounced when the monetary value associated with the object was greater, increased when the object was physically present, and was mediated by differences in subjective value. These findings suggest that powerlessness fosters compensatory processes that guide representations of valued objects.

David Dubois, Derek D. Rucker, and Adam Galinsky
Journal Article
Publication Date
Social Psychological and Personality Science

Full Citation

Dubois, David, Derek D. Rucker, and Adam Galinsky
. “The accentuation bias: Money literally looms larger (and sometimes smaller) to the powerless.”
Social Psychological and Personality Science
, (January 01, 2010):