A MULTIPLE-PROCESS MODEL FOR STUDYING POWER AND RISK TAKING CONNECTION
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The current study was designed with three aims: 1) to test a proposed causal relationship between power and risk taking; 2) to investigate the mechanisms by fitting a Multiple-Process Model which included both motivation-focused and cognition-focused explanations of the effect, and by respectively manipulating two potential mediators - regulatory focus and construal level; 3) to explore whether individual differences on chronic regulatory focus, power motivation, and risk taking propensity had any impact on the processes. A series of five experiments were conducted with 690 undergraduate students at Washington State University. Results showed that high-power priming did not increase risk taking, nor did low-power priming decrease risk taking. Risk taking propensity predicted risk taking in most cases. Path modeling based on the Multiple-Process Model showed that risk taking propensity led to a higher likelihood of adopting promotion-focused strategies and boosted confidence which in turn increased risk taking. Experiment 3 suggested an interaction between power priming and the regulatory focus cues embedded in the risk taking task. Low power-primed people took more risks with a prevention cue in particular. However, when regulatory focus was separately primed in Experiment 4, the interaction changed. Low power-primed people took the least amount of risks with a prevention focus in loss-framed situations. Construal level failed to show any sign of mediating the power - risk taking connection throughout the study, but it interacted with chronic regulatory focus like a moderator: thinking concretely made promotion-focused people take more risks. Risk perceptions were found susceptible to individual differences and temporary cues, but they were neither accurate nor predictive of risk taking behaviors. Having a high risk taking propensity and/or a high power motivation were found to associate with better emotional states, higher sense of control, more confidence, and a larger likelihood of adopting promotion-oriented strategies. Power motivation was also found to interact with power priming to influence risk taking: when the primed power status matched participants' needs for power, they took more risks. Implications for improving the theoretical model of power and risk taking and applying the results to social dilemma and medical decision studies were discussed.