Not so lonely at the top: The relationship between power and loneliness

Adam Waytz*, Eileen Y. Chou, Joe C. Magee, Adam D. Galinsky

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Eight studies found a robust negative relationship between the experience of power and the experience of loneliness. Dispositional power and loneliness were negatively correlated (Study 1). Experimental inductions established causality: we manipulated high versus low power through autobiographical essays, assignment to positions, or control over resources, and found that each manipulation showed that high versus low power decreased loneliness (Studies 2a-2c). We also demonstrated both that low power can increase loneliness and that high power can decrease loneliness by comparing these conditions to a baseline condition (Studies 3-4, 6). Furthermore, we establish a key mechanism that explains this effect, demonstrating that the need to belong mediates the effect of power on loneliness (Studies 5-6). These findings help explain some effects of power on social cognition, offer insights into organizational well-being and motivation, and speak to the fundamental question of whether it is "lonely at the top" or lonelier at the bottom.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)69-78
Number of pages10
JournalOrganizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015


  • Leadership
  • Loneliness
  • Power
  • Social processes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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