Effects of high and low power on the visual encoding of faces

Petra C. Schmid, David M. Amodio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The experience of power is typically associated with social disengagement, yet power has also been shown to facilitate configural visual encoding–a process that supports the initial perception of a human face. To investigate this apparent contradiction, we directly tested whether power influences the visual encoding of faces. Two experiments, using neural and psychophysical assessments, revealed that low power impeded both first-order configural processing (the encoding of a stimulus as a face, assessed by the N170 event-related potential) and second-order configural processing (the encoding of feature distances within configuration, assessed using the face inversion paradigm), relative to high-power and control conditions. Power did not significantly affect facial feature encoding. Results reveal an early and automatic effect of low power on face perception, characterized primarily by diminished face processing. These findings suggest a novel interplay between visual and cognitive processes in power’s influence on social behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)293-306
Number of pages14
JournalSocial Neuroscience
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2021


  • N170
  • Power
  • face
  • perception
  • social

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Development
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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