The Rich Who Have the Humility of the Poor: Effects of Culture and Power on Altruism

Abstract

In this paper we investigate the effect of power on prosocial decision-making. While previous research has thoroughly investigated this relation in Western cultures, we focus our research on the role of power in an understudied Middle-Eastern culture. Existing literature suggest an inverse relationship between feeling of power and prosocial behavior, where generally people in high levels of power tend to act less sympathetically in their decisions and demonstrate declined levels of perspective taking towards others. Our findings demonstrate that, unlike their Western counterparts, Iranian participants show significantly higher levels of altruism when in a high-power situation perceived as legitimate. On the other hand, under illegitimate power conditions, participants primed with high-power act significantly less compassionately in comparison to their low-power counterparts. We believe these findings have great impact in studying social hierarchies and behavior in cross-cultural settings.


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