Human Motivation & Affective Neuroscience Lab
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Latest News: 4 Dezember 2014
Why the power-motivated are better at parking their cars

In a new study accepted for publication in the journal Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology, Dr. Oliver Schultheiss and Melanie Zimni report that higher levels of the implicit power motive are associated with better spatial cognition (see Figure 1). They found this association in a sample of 81 research participants who first completed a picture-story measure of power motivation and then worked on a task that required them to mentally rotate and compare three-dimensional objects (see Figure 2). As Schultheiss, director of the Human Motivation and Affective Neuroscience Lab, explains, “The reason why we looked for and actually found this relationship is that both spatial abilities and power motivation are affected by testosterone levels: Higher testosterone is associated with more power motivation and also with better mental rotation performance – up to a tipping point when even more testosterone would harm spatial ability. That’s why we think it’s intriguing that the need for power also shows evidence of such a curvilinear relationship with spatial ability.”

In their study, Schultheiss and Zimni also found evidence that a variant of the power motive, the inhibited power motive, is associated with the ratio of the second to fourth digit (called 2D:4D ratio). The 2D:4D ratio is considered to be a marker of testosterone exposure in utero and may therefore index to what extent the developing brain was influenced by this hormone, too. The authors observed that inhibited power motivation was associated with a more male-type 2D:4D pattern. “We were very excited to see this association and have been able to replicate it in others data sets,“ explains Schultheiss. “The finding suggests that power motivation has a deep developmental root extending all the way to prenatal times.”

Power Motive and Spatial Cognition

Figure 1. Higher levels of implicit power motivation are associated with better performance on the mental rotation task, both in a linear and a curvilinear manner.


Figure 2. Illustration of the mental rotation task: Is the object on the left the same as the one on the right?


Previous releases:

New meta-analysis: Low to no correlation between implicit and explicit motive measures

Content-coding motive measures can be approcimated with automated word counts

Exploiting the full potential of thematic apperception through profile analysis

High progesterone is associated with less coherent brains (August 2012)

What color naming speed reveals about the wisdom of one's goal choices (December 2010)

Are you high on testosterone and is that a good thing? Listen to Podcast of interview with Dr. Oliver Schultheiss on UM NewsService

New edited book on implicit motives available (October 2009)

What the word "not" may reveal about your ability to handle stress (October 2008)

Estrogen fuels female power (February 2008)

High-testosterone people reinforced by others’ anger, new study finds (February 2007)

Study finds US students more motivated to achieve, less power-hungry than German students (August 2006)

Are all people stressed out by a defeat or does it hurt some more than others? (April 2006)

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