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

It’s Flashback Friday! Here’s an old post from June 2010 that we’re making new again, rather than leaving it to wilt in the archives.

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.

{ 154 comments… read them below }

  1. Rob Bird*

    I would have eaten 4 cookies and made the other two people fight over the remaining cookie, Gladiator style while Ben Hur played on the TV…..mwahahahahahahaha!!!!!!

  2. Chocolate Teapot*

    I can’t help thinking that this is a companion piece to the question below about pointing out food mishaps.

    1. Natalie*

      Indeed. I was sort of hoping this was a sponsored post about some sort of cookie delivery service.

      1. Jamie*

        We used to joke about Friday drink carts – I’d rather have a Friday cookie cart. With a latte. And a traveling massage therapist.

        And someone to just stick their head in my office and tell me I’m pretty.

        Sorry…hungry, achy, and needy is no way to spend a Friday.

        1. Chinook*

          *pokes her head in to Jamie’s office*

          Jamie, has anyone told you today that you are cuter than a Hello Kitty doll in a pink kimono? No? Well you are!

        2. Frances*

          I probably stayed a year longer than I should have at a job that otherwise made me miserable because we had an afternoon cookie break every day.

        3. Natalie*

          Consider this a virtual head-poking-in-the-office – sounds like it might be time to eat lunch!

      2. Ellie H.*

        My boyfriend’s roommate has a bike cookie delivery service business. We live in an area with a lot of universities so the clientele is basically college students and they only operate late at night. It seems like a pretty cool idea.

        1. P*

          We had cookie delivery in my college town. It was INCREDIBLE – fresh baked, every combo of toppings and dough you could think of. We all mourned when it went out of business.

        2. Natalie*

          “We live in an area with a lot of universities so the clientele is basically college students and they only operate late at night. ”

          So basically kids doing all-nighters or smoking pot. :)

        3. Jamie*

          Wasn’t this the business idea they came up with in one of the really old Real World seasons…Miami – the one with crazy Flora?

          That I know – but my my address I have to think about every time or I give one from 2 moves ago. Excellent use of gray cells.

          1. Chinook*

            Jamie – I feel for you. I remember what I did based on what city I was living in but heaven help me if I need to remember the actual year. And if I need to remember my own phone number, I have to start with the area code to make sure I giving the right one (because people will stop me if I give them one from out of province).

            And, every so often, I have to remind myself which city I am in so that I don’t accidentally try to go to a mall that doesn’t exist where I am.

            1. 22dncr*

              This is why I had to start a spreadsheet of all my jobs – I couldn’t keep them straight in my head! After 16 “real” jobs and 29 if you include Temp it is impossible. One thing I wish I’d tracked is my old email addresses & direct lines. I do have all my passwords that I constantly recycle (don’t judge! I hate making up new ones and when you have to every 90 days I take what shortcuts I can.)

  3. Steve*

    If they’re oatmeal raisin, I’m picking the raisins out and throwing them on the floor under the table.

      1. KarenT*

        Seconded. There is a special place in hell for people who make cookies that look like chocolate chip, but really contain raisins.

            1. Jamie*

              And for God’s sake don’t let him create any recipes for chocolate teapots until he drops his crazy notions of what one should and shouldn’t eat voluntarily.

          1. KarenT*

            I think we should all be thanking Thomas for his efforts. The more raisin cookies he eats, the safer the rest of are.

          2. KellyK*

            I like raisins when I know I’m getting an oatmeal raisin cookie. If I’m fooled into thinking they’re chocolate chips, then they make me sad.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          But…but…I like oatmeal raisin too. And chocolate chip, and snickerdoodle, and no-bakes (with nutella), and thin mints, and almost all cookies. Everything except those dry peanut butter cookies — sometimes I’ll avoid those even when they are the only option.

          1. Chinook*

            Mmmm….have you ever tried oatmeal chocoalate chip and raisin cookies (otherwise known as the “who the heck keep seating my baking supplies?” recipe?)

            As for peanut butter cookies, if you put in enough peanut butter so they don’t crumble, they also taste amazing with chocolate chips.

            1. Jamie*

              Do you guys remember these from a really old thread – the chocolate chip brownie Oreo bars? The bottom a layer of toll-house, then Oreo, then topped by a brownie.

              I never did get around to making them, but I think about them sometimes. The pantry in the happy place inside my head is fully stocked with them. And Cheetos (the puffy kind). And Good Humor Strawberry Shortcake bars and cherry pop tarts (daily allowance of fruit is important).

              And THIS is why I’m not allowed to grocery shop without being supervised by an adult.

              1. 22dncr*

                OMG – I made those and they were AWESOME! Was kinda hesitant because I’m a scratch baker so I subbed my scratch recipes instead of the box ones and it worked fantastic (except for the Oreos natch (; ). And to heck with your cherry pop tarts – it’s brown sugar pop tarts that are the staff of life (with peanut butter).

              1. ThursdaysGeek*

                Oh, no! I haven’t seen that. I just object to Skittles in general because they look like M&Ms — more so than raisins look like chocolate in a cookie.

                1. Natalie*

                  Ah, got it. I agree – Skittles are an utterly pointless candy and should not look like less-pointless candy.

                1. Min*

                  I was with you all the way on the raisins, but I do love me some skittles. Except here in England where the purple ones are black currant flavored, which is sick and wrong and must be stopped.

                  They don’t belong in cookies, though. That’s just plain weird.

          1. Bobby Digital*

            “Raisins that look like chocolate chips in cookie is why I have trust issues.”

            Ruffingit’s been having a communique with the Comment muse.

        2. Chinook*

          No, no, no. Raisins are atleast a little sweet and are no where near as bad as natto beans which, when found in a cookie, look very similair to chocolate chip cookies but definitely DO NOT taste like chocolate or anything sweet at all.

          On the plus side, this caused me to quickly learn how to spell chocolate in Japanese.

            1. Chinook*

              I have just decided that Japan is full of weird food: Natto disguised as chocolate chips and a bottled verage called “Pocari Sweat” (I have never discovered what a Pocari is or why its sweat tasted so good).

        1. Emma*

          Currants have their place! In scones, which are liberally covered in devon cream with some strawberry jam. And a pot of tea!

          1. CathVWXYNot?*

            A currant’s place is in your scone, not my scone :)

            On the other hand, the coffee shop next door to our office makes an absolutely divine chocolate cookie with dried cherries in it. If they didn’t take 20 minutes to sell me a cookie and a cup of tea to go, I’d be there all the time.

            1. Jamie*

              Choc chip cookies with dried cranberries. Yum.

              Because my family is fully of picky babies I do milk choc for husband and daughter, semi-sweet for eldest son and myself, and white choc for the youngest…this is our put up the tree cookies every December, served with cocoa. Nice and easy and always turn out right…unlike my horrible adventures in pfeffernuesse that never end well. I will win, though, someday I will defeat that cookie and it will come out edible.

              1. 22dncr*

                I love pfeffernuesse – the soft ones. Every holiday my Grandma would buy us some – German cookies made by an Italian company bought by an Irish woman. Ya gotta love San Francisco! I never even thought about it till I moved back to Texas and couldn’t find them.

                1. Jamie*

                  My dad was German born so that was the first sign of Christmas around our place. I love the Peperidge Farm version, tbh, they are soft and pillowy and delicious so I don’t know why I torture myself every year trying to make them.

                  This will be my 24th year trying and I’ve yet to make any that weren’t little sugar covered fuse-ball pucks.

        1. Chinook*

          Nope, raisins disguised as choclate chips are atleast edible. Beans disguised as chocolate chips are Satan’s children.

          1. KarenT*

            Let’s just all make a pact to only bake chocolate chip cookies. It makes the world a better place. People who need raisins and beans in their cookies are welcome to do so, but really should be doing it at home. Alone. So no one else has to suffer too.

            1. Jamie*

              I don’t know – I’m pretty sure my yearly offering of Kolachkis to my co-workers is the only reason no one has cut my brakes yet.

            2. ThursdaysGeek*

              And chocolate speck cookies too. Those are chocolate chip cookies where some of the chocolate chips are ground to assorted sized specks in the coffee grinder, which results in a chocolatey chocolate chip cookie with a gooey chocolate center.

      1. Chinook*

        Do the crumbs count if they end up in your bra instead of your chest (due to the large crumb catchers that appeared during adolescence)?

          1. Jamie*

            My sister used to joke that when I spill I need to change my shirt and when she spills she needs to change her shoes. :)

            But seriously, can bibs become a fashion thing? It would be so helpful.

            1. Chocolate Teapot*

              I am currently working on promoting the Pelican Bib as business attire. In the meantime, I have to resort to sticking one corner of my napkin down my top and arrange the remaining napkin over as wide a surface area as possible.

              1. Rana*

                ::busily taking notes::

                Pregnancy has brought me both the boob crumb catcher and the belly shelf. I’m trying to decide if the convenience of the latter makes up for the annoyance of the former.

                1. Rana*

                  The baby will have to settle for angel food cake with chocolate flecks (what my husband’s busy baking right now). But I bet we could make some cookies when the cake’s done. :)

  4. danr*

    I wonder… the summer that I started my last job, I was introduced to a wonderful Italian take out place across the street from our building. The highest ranking person in our group could eat a meatball sub, just dripping with good stuff, so neatly that she might have used a napkin three times. And her speed was right up there with the rest of us (slobs). (grin).

  5. Bryce*

    It sounds like a side effect of power is a decline in your ability to see yourself as others see you.

    1. Ruffingit*

      I’m inclined to believe that. Seen it way too many times in many ways. And most people don’t view themselves the way others do anyway, so add a little power to that and you can have some major problems.

    2. Natalie*

      There was a similar study that found people who drive luxury cars are worse drivers. Specifically, they are more selfish – less willing to yield the right of way and so forth.

      1. Jamie*

        My commute absolutely bears this out – every single day.

        Just because your car is nicer than mine doesn’t mean your time is more important, asshat. Is what I’d say if I yelled out the window at stranger drivers. Which I don’t.

        And yes, their time may actually be more valuable at work or in life – but we’re all equal on the Stevenson, buddy.

      2. Rana*

        I’ve long been equal parts amused and annoyed by that phenomenon. Annoyed for the obvious reasons, but amused because I like visualizing their fancy-schmancy car being scraped or dented by my “oh, who cares if there’s another mark” car.

        1. Limon*

          My car is now almost 17 years old and has 275,000 miles on it. It is a fantastic Swedish car and the engine will outlast the body for sure.

          So yes, when I am out driving around the battered old body of my beloved car gets some looks but I know that it’s true worth is inside. But where I live the Cadillac Escalades or or whatever the massive SUVs are – they sure do hog the road and try and push their way by. I say, go ahead! scratch up your $65,000 car. Mine is already broken in. : )

          1. Ruffingit*

            Not trying to be judgmental, honestly, but I’ve never understood people who spend $50,000+ on a car. I just can’t fathom spending that kind of money on a vehicle that will be dented, scratched, dinged, etc. It just makes no sense to me.

            1. Jamie*

              Right – you can get just as attached to and possessive of a car that costs much less.

              My husband drove mine the other day and some idiot sideswiped him on the expressway doing 55. Thank God no one was hurt, but once I knew that I felt very violated that someone hurt my car like that.

              And now she has to go into the shop, with strangers to get a new quarter panel…she did nothing to deserve this. She stayed in her lane. And I have to drive a loaner while we’re separated. I don’t like other cars. I don’t even like driving my husbands car and I own that one. I wasn’t even mad (okay, I’m mad) as much as I’m just offended and violated.

              What was my point? Oh, yes…some people are weird about their cars. I don’t get it either…it’s just transportation. (except when it’s mine – then she’s a friend.)

              1. Ruffingit*

                LOL, my car is my friend, she even has a name so I get that. But my friends are of a lower class apparently. I just won’t spend $50,000 on them. ;)

              2. Rana*

                All of my cars have names. And I have to admit one benefit (along with the drawbacks) of my husband not knowing how to drive stick is that my butt is the only one that ever sits in my car’s driver’s seat. (With the exception of a few hours my mother drove it, the eleven miles it came with, and however many feet various mechanics have driven it to move it, all of the miles on the odometer are mine – and I like it that way.)

      3. Not So NewReader*

        I almost think pick up drivers with a plow on the front take the cake.
        “Here, I will drive up this tree to get out of your way. NO. It’s not a problem. Honest.”

  6. Wubbie*

    I’m a fattie so whenever there are sweets in the office everyone tries to make me eat extra so there won’t be any left to tempt the people who are trying to avoid them. I can now conclude that the real reason they want me to eat more is because they view me as powerful :)

  7. Sascha*

    I can tell you 100% I would take a second cookie regardless of my position. I’m always the first one who gets food at work functions. Everyone else is trying to look modest and non-greedy, I just push them aside…I want my food!!!!

    1. KarenT*

      Ok, I like you. I always wait until someone takes seconds before I do (I blame it on my Waspy childhood) so thank you for paving the way for me!

    2. Rana*

      ::looks side to side, shiftily::

      I do that too.

      One thing years of grad school does teach you: how to mooch free food without shame.

    3. Ruffingit*

      Oh hey, it’s my people. Hello there! :) I will totally take two cookies regardless of my position in the company. Free food? YES PLEASE.

    4. Jean*

      Biologists and anthropologists could spend years investigating how employees consume free food in the workplace. I once totally grossed out a cousin by describing my then-colleagues as people “who would eat anything that’s not moving.” They ate like locusts.

  8. ThursdaysGeek*

    Cookie Monster for Supreme World Leader! (The old Cookie Monster, that is; not the new polite one.)

      1. Jamie*

        He also eats veggies now. Between me and you it’s not the real Cookie Monster – he’s clearly been replaced by a clone or droid programmed with a government agenda.

        I’m not usually one for conspiracy theories, but this one is real. I hope the real CM is still alive and will be freed from the underground bunker where they’ve been hiding him someday. I pray for his safety.

          1. Jamie*

            We could stage a hunger strike for him, but that would be an insult to all he stands for.

            Slightly on topic – does reading this kind of thing make you guys more aware of these kind of subtle things in real life. I just know the next time there is a plate of cookies somewhere (or muffins, if can work with muffins) I’ll be watching the dynamics play out. Like the world is one big sociological experiment.

            1. Ruffingit*

              I do this all the time in real life – watch how things play out. I have an undergrad degree in sociology and a master’s in psychology so I’m all about the observation of others. It’s very interesting to see how people do things and be able to pick out the patterns, etc.

              1. Chinook*

                Studying any psychology course will make you more observant, especially if you are bored. My former roomate and I would do developmental experiments on her baby to see what stage of awareness he was at and then try the same experiement with her dog to see which was more advanced.

                1. Ruffingit*

                  That is so awesome! If I loved closer to you, I would totally be friends with you. That is the kind of stuff I would do to the baby and dog also. LOL!

            2. Rana*

              Absolutely. One of my favorite observational experiments involves guessing who will yield the right of way when walking on a too-narrow sidewalk, and how to game that reaction, for example.

              1. The gold digger*

                I learned to stand my ground in South America, where walking three abreast on the sidewalk was common, damn anyone coming the other way. I got so ticked off that the three-abreasters were being so rude that I learned to just stop walking so they would be forced to walk around me.

                I still use that here in the US when I can tell someone is not going to move, even though he is on my side of the sidewalk. I’m not going to yield for you just because you’re a man, a swaggering adolescent, or a pretty young woman.

                I have figured out whom I can intimidate into yielding for me – I can almost always psych out young women. I’m not proud of it, but sometimes, when you are trying to move through a crowd, you have to use your superpower.

  9. Jessica*

    Maybe this explains the nose picking issue from yesterday, i.e. the boss’s boss was so powerful she felt she could do anything she wanted.

    1. Tina*

      I’ve heard that’s basically Donald Trump’s attitude when people comment on his awful toupee :)

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      No! Chocolate should be brown, and the darker the better. Ok, I admit it, I’m a chocolate racist, but “white chocolate” is just some sort of sweet fatty substance. It’s not chocolate, and it’s a waste of good cookie to replace parts of it with chunks of vague nothingness.

      1. 22dncr*

        WORD! Can’t stand that stuff – total waste of calories. Does anyone remember a cookie company called Blue Chip Cookies? They were to die for! You could taste all the real ingredients in them; they didn’t use any additives. They had a Cinnamon that was Fab!

        1. fposte*

          Ironically, that was one of the few places that made a white chocolate chip cookie that I actually loved. (I think I still have the tin in the basement, in fact.)

          1. 22dncr*

            Yes – now that you mention it I do recall they had a white chocolate macadamia nut that was good. For some reason you could really taste the nuts whereas the ones I just had from Pepperidge Farms not so much.

    2. jubileejones*

      This is a cookie that I do not understand…and I am a baking fiend. White chocolate is just blech. And am I the only one who thinks that macadamia nuts taste like wax?

    3. Elizabeth*

      White chocolate is the only way to go when using macadamia nuts. Dark chocolate is to strong a flavor & overwhelms the delicacy of the macadamias. But it must be high quality white chocolate, not the weird melting stuff that is sometimes called bark.

      On the other hand, dark chocolate chips require good, freshly toasted black or English walnuts to play off of. Nice strong, complimentary flavors, especially if you use real butter & raw sugar.

      (I used to win purple ribbons at the county fair with my chocolate chip cookies.)

      1. Chinook*

        Elizabeth, since you are a prize winning cook, is raw sugar the same thing you buy in 1lb bags for baking or is it a certain type of sugar only found in specialty stores. (I ask because I thought all sugar was uncooked in its crystallized form).

        1. jubileejones*

          Not an award winning baker, but a baker nonetheless. In this case raw refers to the level of processing, not heat applied. Raw sugar is the unrefined, unbleached version of white sugar. Since it still retains some the natural molasses, it’s usually tan or beige in colour. In stores, it sometimes goes under the name turbinado. I usually buy mine at the Bulk Barn.

          Since the crystals are larger, it’s usually used for decoration only. I wouldn’t substitute it in a recipe for white sugar since it doesn’t dissolve as well (unless you’re desperate for cookies at midnight…in this situation a whiz through the food processor will help and the delusion that the texture added by sugar crystals makes the cookies better). Oh and demerara and muscovado sugars are raw sugar with molasses added (the raw sugar version of brown sugar).

    4. Jean*

      Grumble…despite trying (not hard enough!) to lose a few pounds as per doctor’s orders I am gaining weight just from _reading_ this discussion!

  10. Wilmer*

    Hello Allison,

    I am not sure if you are the same person… But years ago I was living in Maryland, I was attending college, and I had applied for a position for a no non-profit organization in the capital of DC. May that have been you who I was corresponding with when I went through the interview Process? If it is, I am happy to see that you are doing well! you were a breath of fresh air during my job searching time in a city that I was not accustomed to yet. Thank you for all your help! =)

      1. Wilmer*

        Yes indeed you are correct! I had a feeling that it was you after I read your bio on here. Plus your name stuck around in my mind even after so long. I no longer live in MD, I did move back to Los Angeles, California after the recession his. I am currently the business manager for a small company and we are on our 3rd year running. I still can remember the cover letter that I sent you in which you gave me good feedback on. Thank you again and I am happy to see you are happy in your new found success! Still out in the East coast?

    1. Jamie*

      Absolutely. It’s fascinating actually…makes me wonder how much of anyone’s company manners and good behavior is really for the sake of polite society and how much is because the people judging you can impact your life for good or for ill?

      The more power you have the less power others have to squash your goals…so less ulterior motives.

      1. Ruffingit*

        It’s also interesting to note that some people really do think it’s OK to do certain things that are decidedly NOT OK in polite society. They seem to have missed certain unwritten rules and are sometimes shocked and argumentative when you explain them.

  11. Lucy*

    I had two plates of baked goods today. They were small plates. Two cupcakes, a piece of chocolate cake, a chocolate chip muffin and a cookie.


      1. Jamie*

        She made me eat a miniature Hershey’s Special Dark and a hard cinnamon candy.

        Lucy is a bad influence. Although those two candies together take away the taste of metal I live with now – so that was an awesome discovery.

        1. Lucy*

          See, only good can come from candy.

          One cupcake was lemon and the other was strawberry. I realized I wasn’t as specific as I should have been. We had a retirement party for one of our long time employees so we had baked goods for breakfast. :)

      2. Chinook*

        I can brag because I resisted the temptation. I didn’t even go into the Tim Horton’s I passed on my lunchtime walk. (Chinook pats herself on the back)

  12. Karen*

    My firm’s president always eats with his mouth open. I’ve seen him shovel a bag of pretzels into his mouth and never stop talking. He snacks on the tootsie rolls on his assistant’s desk all day, leaving wrappers and the smell of tootsie rolls in his wake.

  13. HR Competent*

    I wonder about the psychology around that eating with the mouth open thing.

    Is it claiming dominance aggressively baring teeth?


    Oh yeah, I traded my Saab for a Mercedes , does that make me an a$$hat?

      1. Chinook*

        That explains why a toldler and a cat in the same room = instant entertainment. They are actually waging a power battle!

  14. CathVWXYNot?*

    Has anyone studied the hierarchical implications of who opens the bag of chips someone left in the office snack zone?

    I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but put a bag of chips, nuts, or pretzels in front of me and I’m unstoppable. I bring in more than my fair share of salty treats, and also have no shame in opening up salty treats that someone else brought in – but I’ve been called “very brave” for doing that, especially when the treats were brought in by my supervisor, who shares my snacking preferences.

    1. The gold digger*

      I think this dynamic would be related to the First Eater at a party. Nobody ever wants to be the first to go to the buffet. I have taken it upon myself to be the First Eater. I also tell my friends I will be the First Arriver at a party – it seems nobody wants to be the first there, either.

  15. Andrea*

    The thing is, if you read the original Businessweek post, it seems to indicate that power leading to eating more cookies (and leaving crumbs) is a *bad* thing.

    Cannot. Follow.

    Hello, Point of Power = More Cookies!, or what else is power good for?

Comments are closed.