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2019-06-03  |  Doctoral student Michael Wenzler defends dissertation on power and moral
20190603 Verteidigung Michael Wenzler
© IWM Tuebingen

“With great power comes great responsibility” – once in a position of power or leadership people can use their authority differently: for moral and responsible decisions, or to assert their own interests. PhD student Michael Wenzler has been researching the interplay between power, responsibility and moral action in the Social Processes Lab at the IWM since 2015. His long-term expertise is brought together in his dissertation which completed recently. Using experiments and online studies, he investigates how the experience of power changes moral judgements as well as action and the conditions under which people find it more or less acceptable to commit moral violations.


During the successful defense of his work on May 28, Michael Wenzler presented a surprising finding: “Power can function as stress buffer when we have to make challenging moral decisions and weigh contradictory values against each other. In such situations power can lead to the identification of resources and possibilities. This is turn might help people to reach judgements that are less driven by emotions and more influenced by other processes (e.g. rational considerations).  


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