Effect of power and accountability on cognitive performance

Abigail J. FitzSimons, The College of Wooster


The Tower of Hanoi (TOH) is a cognitive task used to examine problem solving ability. Previous research has illustrated that participants low in power perform worse on the TOH than participants high in power. Additional research has shown that, depending on whether it is procedural or outcome, accountability can increase or decrease cognitive performance. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the effect of accountability and power on TOH performance and positive and negative affect. College-aged participants were primed to be high or low in power and were randomly assigned to an outcome or procedural accountability condition. They completed the TOH and a measure of positive and negative affect. The results showed that power and accountability did not have a significant effect on performance but that participants high in power reported higher positive affect than participants low in power.