Throwing You Under the Bus: High Power People Knowingly Harm Others When Offered Small Incentives
Jessica Swanner & Denise Beike
Basic and Applied Social Psychology, September/October 2015, Pages 294-302
Abstract: The potentially exploitative effects of power and incentive were examined. In the study, 250 participants heard a confederate admit or deny a misdeed and were pressured by the experimenter to inform on the confederate, sometimes in exchange for a small reward. The majority of participants knowingly falsely informed on the confederate when put in a position of high power and offered an incentive. Participants truthfully informed on the confederate regardless of power or incentive. Results are interpreted in light of social psychological theories of social power, which suggest that harmful opportunism is a likely but not inevitable effect of empowerment.