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Power, Stress and Game Theory

A recent study on stress by researchers from Stanford and Harvard University found that leadership could be associated with lower levels of stress.  In particular, leaders who were more powerful had lower levels of stress than non-leaders and also less powerful leaders.  Power was determined by interviewing participants to determine number of subordinates, leadership responsibilities, and expectations of authority. One researcher emphasized that the study measured a person’s perceived sense of power, not necessarily their position of power.

If we analyze the study using game theory, we find that this principle can be associated with experiments in network exchange.  A node that has less power should be more stressed because it is vying for the attention of its neighbors.  On the other hand, a node that has many neighbors should be less stressed because it has many options to choose from, and thus is more powerful.  For example, in a 3 node path A-B-C, B has the most power, thus we can also conclude that B is less stressed than A or C.  In a 5 node path, A-B-C-D-E, B and D have the most power and therefore would have the smallest level of stress.  A, C, and E would have approximately equal levels of stress. However, according to the study, C should have the least amount of stress, followed by B and D and then A and E.  It would be interesting to study the stress levels of a network of one particular company, rather than individual people, to see whether this game theory notion of power and stress holds.

– Big A


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