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Feeling Powerless Makes Objects Seem Heavier

Update Date: Feb 04, 2014 06:11 PM EST

Feeling powerless may make tasks harder to complete, according to a new study.

New research reveals that people who feel powerless actually see the world differently, and find a task to be more physically challenging than those with a greater sense of personal and social influence.

The latest study involved 145 participants who were asked to rank how strongly they felt a series of statements applied to them. Afterwards, they were asked to lift and guess the weight of a number of boxes before taking a final test to gauge their mood.

The findings revealed that the lower a person's feelings of social power, the more they thought the boxes weight.

In another experiment with 41 participants to sit in either an expansive or constricting position. They found that participants who sat in the more powerful pose gave more accurate estimates about weight compared to those who sat in more submissive positions. People who sat in submissive positions continued to imagine things to be heavier.

There were 68 participants in the third experiment who were asked to recall an experience in which they had felt either powerful or powerless, and then repeatedly estimate the weights of various boxes. The findings revealed that those who focused on the powerful incident became more accurate at guessing the weight, while those focusing on a powerless situation continually overestimated the heaviness of the boxes.

"Although many psychological studies have been conducted on power not much was known about how power influences actual perceptual experiences in everyday life," lead researcher Eun Hee Lee said in a news release.

"Power plays a role when it is present in a given moment, but also when it comes to people's personality. We find that personality, which determines how people interact with the social world, also shapes how people interact with the physical world," Lee added.

The findings are published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology.

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