Powerful or powerless when change is needed: Effects of power on escalation of commitment

Hongchang Li1, Zhongming Wang2
1Department of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences, Zhejiang University, People’s Republic of China
2School of Management, Zhejiang University, People’s Republic of China
Cite this article:  Li, H., & Wang, Z. (2015). Powerful or powerless when change is needed: Effects of power on escalation of commitment. Social Behavior and Personality: An international journal, 43(1), 123-136.

Volume 43 Issue 1 | e4233 | Published: February 2015 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2224/sbp.2015.43.1.123

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We investigated how either lack or possession of power affects the individual’s escalation of commitment (EOC), that is, the decision to continue the original course of action when confronted with negative feedback. We differentiated the motivational and cognitive approaches to EOC, and argued that both lacking power (being powerless) and possessing power (being powerful) would intensify the effects of these two approaches so that high-power individuals and low-power individuals would be more prone to EOC than were those with a moderate degree of power. We conducted two studies with university students as participants. We used different measures of EOC; in the first study we measured general sense of power and in the second we primed power. In both studies results showed that there was a quadratic relationship between power and EOC. The implications for the research on EOC, de-escalation, and power are discussed.

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