SCIENCE
11/05/2014 01:09 pm ET Updated Nov 05, 2014

Powerful People Think They Have More Control Over Time (And They Might Be Right)

Ralf Hiemisch via Getty Images

We live in a culture of constant busyness. But despite jam-packed schedules, some of the most in-demand people -- high-powered CEOs, celebrities and leaders -- may be immune to the debilitating feeling of time famine that the rest of us struggle with, according to a new study.

That's because, according to the University of California at Berkeley study, people who feel powerful also feel a greater level of control over their time.

The researchers conducted five studies with 557 participants total to examine how power increases perception of available time. In one study, researchers asked 102 students to imagine themselves in a job interview, with one group being told that they were the interviewer (i.e. the boss), and one group being told they were the interviewee (i.e. the prospective lower-level employee). Both groups then answered a survey that asked them to rate their level of agreement with statements such as, I feel like there is plenty of time in my life to make new plans and Time is slipping away. The group that imagined themselves as the boss were more likely to imagine themselves having more time available to them than the job-seeker was.

The study offers further proof of the highly subjective experience of time. Because people who feel powerful may also have a stronger sense of illusory control, the researchers theorize that powerful people feel they have more available to them because of their greater perceived control over time.

And, to be sure, most powerful people do have more control over their schedules: The higher up on the corporate food chain you are, the easier it is to move and cancel meetings, take vacation or days off as needed and even arrive late to various functions and events. And those with higher salaries can afford the assistants, housekeepers and support staff that can help remove necessary to-dos from their lists.

Previous research has found that power can cause individuals to think they have more control over outcomes than they actually do -- a false perception that also leads to "unrealistic optimism and inflated self-esteem."

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