Five experiments investigated the effect of power on social distance. Although increased social distance has been suggested to be an underlying mechanism for a number of the effects of power, there is little empirical evidence directly supporting this claim. Our first three experiments found that power increases social distance toward others. In addition, these studies demonstrated that this effect is (a) mediated by self-sufficiency and (b) moderated by the perceived legitimacy of power — only when power is seen as legitimate, does it increase social distance. The final two studies build off research showing that social distance is linked to decreased altruism and find an interaction between power and legitimacy on willingness to help others. The authors propose that the concept of social distance offers a synthesizing lens that integrates seemingly disparate findings in the power literature and explains how power can both corrupt and elevate.
Lammers, Joris, Adam Galinsky, E. Gordijn, and S. Otten. "Power increases social distance." Social Psychological and Personality Science 3, no. 3 (2012): 282-290.
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