Power, approach, and inhibition

Psychol Rev. 2003 Apr;110(2):265-84. doi: 10.1037/0033-295x.110.2.265.


This article examines how power influences behavior. Elevated power is associated with increased rewards and freedom and thereby activates approach-related tendencies. Reduced power is associated with increased threat, punishment, and social constraint and thereby activates inhibition-related tendencies. The authors derive predictions from recent theorizing about approach and inhibition and review relevant evidence. Specifically, power is associated with (a) positive affect, (b) attention to rewards, (c) automatic information processing, and (d) disinhibited behavior. In contrast, reduced power is associated with (a) negative affect; (b) attention to threat, punishment, others' interests, and those features of the self that are relevant to others' goals; (c) controlled information processing; and (d) inhibited social behavior. The potential moderators and consequences of these power-related behavioral patterns are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Cognition
  • Humans
  • Inhibition, Psychological*
  • Power, Psychological*
  • Social Behavior