News / Health

Study: Feeling Powerless Makes Physical Tasks Harder

Jessica Berman
People who feel that they lack social power find physical tasks more difficult to perform. That is according to a new study, which researchers say is the first to demonstrate that people who believe they are socially powerless feel the weight of the world.

The people in the study were not clinically depressed, according to lead researcher Eun Hee Lee, in the psychology department at Britain's University of Cambridge. Depressed individuals lack motivation and may feel physically weak.

Lee said the study she led was based on the participants’ self-assessments of power -- in other words, where they felt they ranked in the social order compared to people they perceived as being powerful and in control.

“We defined being powerful as the one who has control over their own and others’ resources; whereas being powerless as being the ones who [don’t] have their control over theirs and others' resources, and also have to [be] dependent to gain the resources that they need.”

Powerless individuals, according to Lee, live in a constant state of uncertainty.

In the study, researchers asked participants a series of questions to determine their assessment of their social status, such as “I can get people to listen to what I say.” Then, they were asked to lift a number of boxes and guess their weight. The more powerless a person felt, the more they overestimated how much the boxes weighed.

In a second test, researchers manipulated the sense of power by having participants sit in poses that were either domineering -- with one elbow on the arm of chair, or restrictive -- putting their hands under their thighs. Those in the submissive positions thought the boxes weighed more than they did. Those who sat in the more powerful pose more accurately estimated the weight.

Finally, a number of participants were asked to recall an experience in which they felt either powerful or powerless. Those who focused on a powerful vision most accurately guessed the weight of several boxes. Those who remembered negative experiences repeatedly overestimated how heavy the boxes were.

Lee believes feelings of powerlessness in humans might have evolved from prehistoric times as an adaptive mechanism to keep early man from exhausting limited resources. Today, however, she said these feelings might be a hindrance on the job.

“It might mean we are kind of preventing ourselves automatically putting 100 percent effort into the work without us realizing [it], which could be damaging.”

An article on the effects of self-perceptions of powerlessness is published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

You May Like

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls For Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid