Power is an important concept in social life, and the decisions made by those with power are likely to influence others and the society significantly. Sense of power, defined as psychological experience of the ability to control resources and modify others’ states, has been proved to have positive influence on risky decision-making. Yet few researches have explained whether such influence is caused by a higher approach on the reward or a greater negligence on the risk. Using the approach theory of power as theoretical framework, the current study investigated individual's attention on both reward and risk, as well as their influences on the relation between sense of power and risky decision-making respectively by paradigms of decision-making and social psychology in two studies.
Through online experiment, Study One provided a preliminary investigation on the influence of sense of power on risky decision-making in economic area, as well as the role of reward-approaching and risk-avoiding motivations played. The study manipulated individual's sense of power by role-play game task, followed by a simulated money gambling task, which was to examine the influence on risky decision-making by different levels of sense of power. At the same time, participant's motivations of rewarding-approaching and risk-avoiding in the risky decision-making process were measured in subjective reports. Results showed that the sense of power indirectly affected risky decision-making through reward-approaching motivation.
Power increased individual's motivation for reward, and leaded to preference for high-risk-high-reward options in the gambling. Study One showed the mediation role of reward-approaching motivation.
Study Two extended the influence of sense of power on risky decision-making to social area. Through two pilot studies, experimental paradigms which could be used in Study Two were identified. In Study Two, participants' sense of power was manipulated, followed by a questionnaire on scenarios of social risks, and then the money gambling game, which used as indexes of risky decision-making in social and economic areas respectively. At the same time, in terms of individual's concern on the reward, their perception on potential reward/risk was also measured besides motivations. Results indicated that sense of power increased individual's approach on reward, then leaded to the preference for high-risk-high-reward options. In particular, both the reward-approaching motivation and the perception on reward mediated the relation between the sense of power and risky decision-making in economic area. In social area, the perception on reward mediated the relation between sense of power and social risk preference, and the reward-approaching motivation mediated the relation between sense of power and risk preference involving others' interests. Nevertheless, negligence on risk is not a mediator in the relation between sense of power and the risky decision-making.
In conclusion, by examining individual's risky decision-making in different areas, this study shows that the psychological mechanism behind the influence of sense of power on risky decision-making is approach on reward, instead of negligence of risk. This finding enriches existing theological framework and empirical literatures on understanding the cognition and behavior of those with power.