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Gaining influence over others does not increase autonomy

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Moving up the greasy pole in the office does not make people feel more personally free, new research has shown.

The research, from the University of Kent, looked at whether exercising influence over others in social situations, such as at work, leads to a greater sense of personal freedom or 'autonomy'.

The study found that there was no correlation between elevated social influence, or 'power' and elevated personal freedom, suggesting that the relationship between influence and autonomy diminishes with increasing levels of power.

However, the research, by Dr Mario Weick and Stefan Leach of the University's School of Psychology and Dr Joris Lammers from the University of Cologne, Germany, did find that a lack of personal power correlates with a lack of social power.

In one study 800 people from the US, UK, Germany and India were asked to recall events they thought of as either high or low in influence and high or low in autonomy. The researchers then asked participants how influential and autonomous they felt in these situations.

A second study, asking 200 people to report how much influence and autonomy they experience in their everyday lives, confirmed that the relationship between influence and autonomy grows weaker with increasing levels of power.

The research suggests that gaining influence over people does not lead to increased personal autonomy. Among the reasons for this, the researchers suggest, is that with every gain in discretionary abilities and control, for instance at work, individuals also gain additional responsibilities and often face an increase in scrutiny.

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The research, entitled Does influence beget autonomy? Clarifying the relationship between social and personal power (Stefan Leach, Mario Weick and Joris Lammers) is published in the inaugural issue of Journal of Theoretical Social Psychology. See: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jts5.5/full

For a copy of this paper and interview requests, contact Martin Herrema at the University of Kent Press Office.

Tel: 01227 823581/01634 888879

Email: [email protected]

News releases can also be found at http://www.kent.ac.uk/news

University of Kent on Twitter: http://twitter.com/UniKent

Notes to editor

Established in 1965, the University of Kent – the UK's European university – now has almost 20,000 students across campuses or study centres at Canterbury, Medway, Tonbridge, Brussels, Paris, Athens and Rome.

It has been ranked: 23rd in the Guardian University Guide 2016; 23rd in the Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2016; and 22nd in the Complete University Guide 2015.

In the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2015-16, Kent is in the top 10% of the world's leading universities for international outlook and 66th in its table of the most international universities in the world. The THE also ranked the University as 20th in its 'Table of Tables' 2016.

Kent is ranked 17th in the UK for research intensity (REF 2014). It has world-leading research in all subjects and 97% of its research is deemed by the REF to be of international quality.

In the National Student Survey 2016, Kent achieved the fourth highest score for overall student satisfaction, out of all publicly funded, multi-faculty universities.

Along with the universities of East Anglia and Essex, Kent is a member of the Eastern Arc Research Consortium (http://www.kent.ac.uk/about/partnerships/eastern-arc.html).

The University is worth £0.7 billion to the economy of the south east and supports more than 7,800 jobs in the region. Student off-campus spend contributes £293.3m and 2,532 full-time-equivalent jobs to those totals.

In 2014, Kent received its second Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education.

Media Contact

Martin Herrema
[email protected]
@UniKent

http://www.kent.ac.uk

http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jts5.5

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