- Are the powerful really blind to the feelings of others?
- How hierarchical concerns shape attention to emotions
- Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
- Volume | Issue number
- 42 | 6
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Psychology Research Institute (PsyRes)
Paying attention to others’ emotions is essential to successful social interactions. Integrating social-functional approaches to emotion with theorizing on the reciprocal nature of power, we propose that attention to others’ emotions depends on concerns over one’s power position and the social signal conveyed by the emotion. Others’ anger signals attack— information relevant to high-power individuals who are concerned about the legitimacy or suitability of their position. On the contrary, others’ fear signals vulnerability—information relevant to low-power individuals who are concerned about their unfair treatment within an illegitimate hierarchy. Accordingly, when power roles were illegitimately assigned or mismatched with one’s trait power, leaders were faster at detecting the appearance of anger (Studies 1 and 2), slower at judging the
disappearance of anger (Study 2), and more accurate in recognizing subordinates’ anger, whereas subordinates were more accurate in recognizing leaders’ fear (Study 3). Implications for theorizing about emotion and social hierarchy are discussed.
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