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Title: The effect of interpersonal power on cognitive processing : a behavioural and neural perspective
Author: Kanso, Riam
ISNI:       0000 0004 2747 5516
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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Interpersonal power, defined as the asymmetrical control over valued outcomes, has important effects on the way cognitive processing unfolds. This work explores the effect of power on basic cognitive processes, in addition to broader processes that appear at the level of social behaviour. I begin this thesis with an introductory chapter, followed by a chapter describing the theory and practice behind electro-encephalogram recordings. In Chapter 3, I explore the effect of power on attention selection using a task that requires the ability to focus or divide attention in space, while varying the amount of distractors. The results suggest that low-power participants (subordinates) are more susceptible to the presence of distractors, regardless of whether the task necessitates focused or divided attention. In this context, inhibition accounts for the results to a greater extent than spatial orienting. In Chapter 4, I explore the effect of power on early inhibition processes in the context of executive control, in a task which allows participants to allegedly observe each others’ performance and receive feedback. The results show that high power is associated with reduced behavioural accuracy on trials that require executive control. Event-related potential analyses show that power-holders devote reduced motivational resources to their targets compared to subordinates, but do not differ at the level of early conflict detection. Their feedback potential results show a greater expectation of rewards, but reduced subjective magnitude attributed to losses. Subordinates, on the other hand, are asymmetrically sensitive to power-holders’ targets. They expect fewer rewards, but attribute greater significance to losses. In Chapter 5, I show that subordinates are asymmetrically competent at remembering diagnostic choices made by power-holders. In a final general discussion chapter, I integrate the findings of the experiments, which point to multi-layered effects of power, conferring those who possess it and those who lack it with distinct cognitive processing styles that suit their adaptive needs. The results are consistent with a hypothesized link between subordination and up-regulation of vigilance and environmental sensitivity. Limitations and future directions are discussed.
Supervisor: Nobre, Anna Christina; Hewstone, Miles Sponsor: Clarendon Fund
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Neuroscience ; Experimental psychology ; Interpersonal behaviour ; Memory ; power ; attention ; social neuroscience