power will lead you to eat more cookies and chew with your mouth open

This is pretty fascinating:

“A particularly amusing study — undertaken by Keltner, Gruenfeld, and another colleague — shows that giving people just a little more power than their colleagues causes them to eat more cookies, chew with their mouths open, and leave more crumbs.” — Bob Sutton, writing for Business Week

More info from the study:

The experimenters “examined whether power would produce socially inappropriate styles of eating. In same-sex groups of 3 individuals, 1 randomly chosen individual (the high-power person) was given the role of assigning experimental points to the other 2 on the basis of their contributions to written policy recommendations concerning contentious social issues. After group members discussed a long and rather tedious list of social issues for 30 minutes, the experimenter arrived with a plate of five cookies. This procedure allowed each participant to take one cookie and provided an opportunity for at least 1 participant to comfortably take a second cookie, thus leaving one cookie on the plate. Consistent with the prediction, high-power individuals were more likely to take a second cookie. Coding of the videotaped interactions also revealed that high-power individuals were more likely to chew with their mouths open and to get crumbs on their faces and on the table.”

I have crumbs all over myself right now, and I have no power over anyone anymore. So make of that what you will.

{ 11 comments… read them below }

  1. ImpassionedPlatypi*

    "I have crumbs all over myself right now, and I have no power over anyone anymore."


  2. Anthony*

    You know with all the problems in the world today, is this really the thing that we need to focus our research efforts on?

  3. Anonymous*

    I find things like this fascinating.

    You can take this and expand it to show how giving individuals power leads them to have a sense of entitlement, thus the many problems we find ourselves in today.

  4. Anonymous*

    I do agree with Anthony because some of the research made public is rather odd and useless.

    But at the same time, I wouldn't mind seeing if this was true.

    Don't want to hear your boss complain? Make him a plate of cookies.

  5. Sergey Gorbatov*

    fascinating! there is more research on the issue.

    other studies will tell you about starting to abbreviate words in e-mails and SMSs, come to meetings later and allowing themselves offhand remarks to colleagues. interestingly enough, removing the source of power does not cause the opposite effect…

  6. Rebecca*

    Anon@8:57 — But then, wouldn't your boss just complain while eating all the cookies and spraying crumbs everywhere?

  7. Karen F.*

    Someone really should start a similar study on why more powerful people have rude cell phone habits (as you mentioned the other day)…perhaps that DOES relate to whether or not they leave the toilet seat up or if they drink milk/juice straight out of the carton/bottle? lol

    Thanks for adding a touch of humor to my week. :)

    Karen F., The Resume Chick (on Google or Twitter if you need me)

  8. smith17*

    We have a very young, very junior temp clerk who sits opposite me at work. He slurps his tea (does that count?).

    And it's driving me mad

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