Expert on social power to speak at Bates

Pamela K. Smith, an expert on ways that social power affects cognitive abilities, gives a lecture titled The Social Cognition of Power: From Abstract Thinking to Executive Functions at 4:15 p.m. Monday, Oct. 19, in the Keck Classroom (Room G52) of Pettengill Hall, 4 Andrews Road (Alumni Walk).

The lecture is open to the public at no cost. It is sponsored by the Bates College psychology department.

Smith is an assistant professor of management and strategy at the Rady School of Management at the University of California, San Diego. Her talk will reflect her research into ways that having or lacking social power affects low-level mental processes, particularly power’s nonconscious effects on basic cognition, motivation and interpersonal behavior. She also studies how particular cognitive styles are perceived as signs of power.

Smith believes that individuals with greater social power are obliged to view the world in a higher-level, abstract fashion than individuals with less power. Having power requires one to plan ahead and think about the world in “big picture” terms. Similarly, greater power increases the psychological distance one feels from others, and this distance should lead to more abstract information processing.

Smith received her Ph.D. in social psychology from New York University in 2004. From 2006-09 she was a postdoctoral researcher, then an assistant professor at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands. During her graduate work she was awarded the Society of Experimental Social Psychology Dissertation Award and the New York University Stuart Cook Award in Social Psychology. Previously she was an assistant professor at Leiden University and a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Amsterdam.

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