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This experiment was designed to explore whether brain norepinephrine (NE) serves as a specific reward system for the power drive. Previous research has indicated that 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenyl glycol (MHPG), a urinary metabolite reflecting central NE turnover, is positively correlated with features of assertiveness which one might expect of a person high in the need for power (n power) or in a state of aroused power motivation. Twenty-seven male undergraduates, 13 of whom were high and 14 of whom were low in n power as assessed by a TAT measure, were recruited as subjects. Before and after the laboratory session, subjects voided all urine and concentrations of epinephrine, norepinephrine and MHPG were obtained from samples. The laboratory task consisted of 20 picture-word pairs in which the subject had to learn to anticipate the word associated with each picture before the word was presented. Five pairs of stimuli in each of the following picture-word combinations were presented 12 times: neutral-neutral, neutral-power, power-neutral and power-power. The results revealed that, as predicted, subjects high in n power learn most power-related material faster than subjects low in n power. The need for achievement is unrelated to the learning of any picture-word pairs. The neurochemical data indicated that subjects maintaining a relatively high MHPG excretion rate during the experiment who were also high in n power showed the greatest mastery of power related compared with neutral picture-word pairs. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that brain NE turnover is specifically related to the learning of power-related responses in subjects high in n power.
Previous research has reported that individuals high in the need for Power, high in inhibition, and high in power stress (the HHH group) are more likely than other individuals to report more severe illnesses. The present study investigates the possibility that the mechanism underlying this relationship is greater sympathetic activation in the HHH group which has an immunosuppressive effect. College males with the HHH syndrome reported more frequent and more severe illnesses than other individuals, as in previous studies. More of the HHH than other subjects also showed above average epinephrine excretion rates in urine and below average concentrations of immunoglobulin A in saliva (S-IgA). Furthermore, higher rates of epinephrine excretion were significantly associated with lower S-IgA concentrations, and lower S-IgA concentrations were significantly associated with reports of more frequent illnesses. The findings are interpreted as consistent with the hypothesis that a strong need for Power, if it is inhibited and stressed, leads to chronic sympathetic overactivity which has an immunosuppressive effect making individuals characterized by this syndrome more susceptible to illness.