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Power and Reduced Temporal Discounting

Psychology, biases, power

Abstract

Decision makers generally feel disconnected from their future selves, an experience that leads them to prefer smaller immediate gains to larger future gains. This pervasive tendency is known as temporal discounting, and researchers across disciplines are interested in understanding how to overcome it. Following recent advances in the power literature, we suggest that the experience of power enhances one’s connection with the future self, which in turn results in reduced temporal discounting. In Study 1, we found that participants assigned to high-power roles were less likely than participants assigned to low-power roles to display temporal discounting. In Studies 2 and 3, priming power reduced temporal discounting in monetary and nonmonetary tasks, and, further, connection with the future self mediated the relation between power and reduced discounting. In Study 4, experiencing a general sense of power in the workplace predicted actual lifetime savings. These results have important implications for future research.

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