Magnitude Estimation Is Influenced by Social Power


  • Stefan Huber Orcid
  • Johannes Bloechle
  • Tanja Dackermann
  • Annika Scholl
  • Kai Sassenberg
  • Korbinian Moeller


The action-specific perception account suggests that how people perceive the environment depends on their ability to act on it, assuming that estimation is influenced by inter-individual traits, but also by situated states. Moreover, several studies revealed that social power affects basic cognitive processes and even influences the way we perceive the physical environment. In the present study, we examined whether social power also influences estimation performance of spatial magnitudes (i.e., line estimation). Participants estimated the line length of a given number in an increase and a decrease condition, after (low versus high) social power had been manipulated between participants via role assignment. In the increase condition, low-power participants overestimated line lengths, whereas such a bias was not observed for high-power participants. In contrast, the power manipulation did not affect performance in the decrease condition, suggesting that proportion-judgement strategies might have been applied here, thereby reducing the overall bias in line estimations. Our findings support the notion that social power has an impact on the perception of the physical environment and that perception can depend on personal as well as situational factors. Moreover, the present research suggests that high (compared to low) social power may help people to overcome biases in overestimating magnitudes.