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Social power and the pursuit of multiple goals: effects of power on multitasking tendency and ability

Cai, AR; (2015) Social power and the pursuit of multiple goals: effects of power on multitasking tendency and ability. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Social power, or the ability to control resources and influence others’ outcomes, has been found to facilitate successful attainment of single goals by increasing attentional focus and the ability to inhibit irrelevant information. However, the relationship between power and multiple-goal pursuit has not yet been investigated. The current thesis first examined whether power influences strategies during multiple-goal pursuit. It was hypothesized that powerful individuals are more inclined to single-task (attend to tasks in a sequential manner) and powerless individuals tend to multitask (attend to tasks simultaneously or switch rapidly between them) when faced with multiple demands. Six studies were conducted and showed (in general) a effect of power on multitasking and prioritization tendencies. Specifically, reported tendency for multitasking and number of switches planned between various tasks decreased as a function of power (Chapter 2). This negative relationship between power and multitasking tendency was replicated by measuring how many times participants actually switched between multiple goals during goal striving (Chapter 3). Moreover, power was also found to increase prioritization tendency. Second, the thesis investigated the relationship between power and multitasking ability (Chapter 4). It was predicted that powerless participants will show lower multitasking ability than control and powerful participants. Three experiments found that powerless (compared to control and powerful) participants displayed lower performance in dual-tasking and task-switching paradigms, and reported lower abilities in the management of multiple-goals. However, the effect of power on multitasking ability may depend on the multitasking context. These results were found using experimentally manipulated power, individual differences in power, and real-world power roles. Potential mediating factors of power such as mood, confidence, anxiety, rumination, and motivation were also measured. Overall, the thesis established an ironic effect of power as powerless individuals had a higher multitasking tendency but underperformed during demanding multitasking situations.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Social power and the pursuit of multiple goals: effects of power on multitasking tendency and ability
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences > Div of Medicine
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences > Div of Medicine > Inflammation
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1461724
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