The good life of the powerful: The experience of power enhances subjective well-being by increasing authenticity

A common cliché and system-justifying stereotype is that power leads to misery and self-alienation. Drawing on the power and authenticity literatures, however, we predicted the opposite relationship. Because power increases the correspondence between internal states and behavior, we hypothesized that power enhances subjective well-being (SWB) by leading people to feel more authentic. Across four surveys representing markedly different primary social roles (general, work, romantic-relationship, and friendship surveys; Study 1), and in an experiment (Study 2a), we found consistent evidence that experiencing power leads to greater SWB. Moreover, authenticity mediated this effect. Further establishing the causal importance of authenticity, a final experiment (Study 2b), in which authenticity was manipulated, demonstrated that greater authenticity directly increased SWB. Although striving for power lowers well-being, these results demonstrate the pervasive positive psychological effects of having power, and indicate the importance of spreading power to enhance collective well-being.

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