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Virtual IACM 2021

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Emotions and Control: The Importance of Valence

Existing research defines power as the extent to which an individual exerts control over a resource. This work asserts that individuals are motivated to attain power because low control over a resource is aversive. In our theory and empirical investigation, we challenge prior work in three ways. First, we identify two orthogonal dimensions of power: control and valence. Specifically, we identify valence, the attractiveness of the resource, as a critical dimension of power and theoretically distinguish positive power, the ability to help others (high control, positive valence), from negative power, the ability to harm others (high control, negative valence). Second, we show that valence, not control, predicts when individuals are motivated to seek power; individuals predictably prefer low positive power to high negative power. Third, our investigation addresses an open debate in the literature regarding the relationship between power and emotion. We find that guilt-prone individuals view positions of high negative power as particularly aversive, and we link power with both state and anticipated emotion.

Brad Bitterly
HKUST Business School
Hong Kong

Polly Kang
United States

Maurice Schweitzer
United States


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