You are here

Deborah H. Gruenfeld

Deborah H. Gruenfeld
Professor, Organizational Behavior
Contact Info
Joseph McDonald Professor and Professor of Organizational Behavior
Academic Area: 
Organizational Behavior

Research Statement

Deborah H Gruenfeld is a social psychologist whose research and teaching examine how people are transformed by the organizations and social structures in which they work. The author of numerous articles on the psychology of power, and on group behavior, Professor Gruenfeld has taught popular courses on these and related topics to MBA students and executives at Stanford and at Northwestern University’s J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management.


Professor Gruenfeld’s work on the psychology of power not only gives credence to the old adage that power corrupts, but it explains why this occurs. Whereas the classic Machiavellian perspective suggests that power’s effects are mostly premeditated and strategic, her research suggests that when power corrupts, it can be without conscious awareness. Her theory of power, published in Psychological Review with co-authors Dacher Keltner and Cameron Anderson, asserts that power is disinhibiting: by reducing concern for the social consequences of one’s actions, power strengthens the link between personal desires and the acts that satisfy them. Recent papers document also that power leads to an action-orientation (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,) limits the ability to take another’s perspective (Psychological Science), and that it increases the tendency to view others as means to an end (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.)

Professor Gruenfeld’s early work examined power dynamics in work groups, including the U.S. Supreme Court (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology; Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.) Her analyses of published opinions by U.S. Supreme Court justices suggested that when decisions are made by groups in a democracy, participants’ styles of reasoning depend more on group dynamics (that is, whether justices are in the majority or the minority) than on individual’s personalities, or their ideological preferences (liberal versus conservative.) This work received “outstanding dissertation” awards from the American Psychological Association and the Society for Experimental Social Psychology.

Professor Gruenfeld was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavior Sciences from 2002-2003, and she is a member of the Society of Experimental Social Psychology. She is also the recipient of research grants from the MacArthur Foundation though the Program in Arms Control, Disarmament, and International Security at the University of Illinois; and the Citicorp Behavioral Sciences Research Council.

A sought-after teacher in the field of organization behavior, Professor Gruenfeld teaches in many of Stanford’s Executive Education programs. She co-directs the Stanford Executive Program for Women, the Stanford Faculty Women’s Forum Workshop on Leadership, Management and Influence, and the Women Do Lead program for GSB alumni. In the MBA program, she teaches required courses on teams and organizational behavior, and offers the elective “Acting with Power.”

Professor Gruenfeld joined the Stanford Graduate School of Business in 2000. She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Cornell University in 1983, her master’s in journalism from New York University in 1985, and her PhD in psychology from the University of Illinois in 1993. Before starting her academic career, she worked as a journalist and public relations consultant.

Academic Degrees

  • PhD, University of Illinois, 1993
  • MS, New York University, 1985
  • BA, Cornell University, 1983

Academic Appointments

  • At Stanford University since 2000
  • Assisstant-Associate Professor, Kellog School of Management, Northwestern University, 1993-2000

Awards and Honors

  • Stanford GSB Trust Faculty Fellow, 2013-2014
  • Fellowship Recipient, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, 2002
  • Dissertation Research Award, American Psychological Association at Kellogg Graduate School of Management, Northwestern University, 1993, 2000
  • Outstanding Dissertation Award, Society of Experimental Social Psychology, 1994


Journal Articles

M. Ena Inesi, Deborah H. Gruenfeld, Adam D. Galinsky. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 2012, Vol. 48, Issue 4, Pages 795-803.
Li Huang, Adam D. Galinsky, Deborah H. Gruenfeld, Lucia E. Guillory. Psychological Science. January 2011, Vol. 22 , Issue 1, Pages 95-102 .
Adam D. Galinsky, Deborah H. Gruenfeld, Joe C. Magee. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2003, Vol. 85, Issue 3, Pages 453-466.
Dacher Keltner, Deborah H. Gruenfeld, Cameron Anderson. Psychological Review. 2003, Vol. 110, Issue 2, Pages 265-284.
Deborah H. Gruenfeld, Jared Preston. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 2000, Vol. 26, Issue 8, Pages 1013-1022.
Deborah H. Gruenfeld, Paul V. Martorana, Elliott T. Fan. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. 2000, Vol. 82, Issue 1, Pages 45–59.
Deborah H. Gruenfeld. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 1995, Vol. 68, Issue 1, Pages 5-20.

Working Papers

Illusory Control: A Generative Force Behind Power's Far-Reaching Effects | PDF
Deborah H. Gruenfeld, Nathanael Fast, Adam Galinsky, Niro Sivanathan2008
Power, Approach and Inhibition | PDF
Deborah H. Gruenfeld, Cameron Anderson, Dacher Keltner2000
When Social and Knowledge Ties Are Incongruent: Effects on Group Information Sharing | PDF
Deborah H. Gruenfeld, Margaret Ann Neale, Elizabeth Mannix, Katherine Williams1998

Courses Taught

Degree Courses


The ability to function effectively within a hierarchy is a crucial determinant of managerial success, yet many people struggle with "authority issues" that make certain hierarchical roles and positions difficult for them. This course draws on...


The ability to function effectively within a hierarchy is a crucial determinant of managerial success, yet many people struggle with "authority issues" that make certain hierarchical roles and positions difficult for them. This course draws on...

Stanford Case Studies

Leigh Rawdon | E389
Deborah Gruenfeld, Arar Han, Lisa Sweeney2010

Service to the Profession

  • Member, Society of Experimental Social Psychology, Academy of Management

In the Media

Silicon Valley Business Journal, September 16, 2004
Chicago Tribune, September 4, 1996

Insights by Stanford Business

March 20, 2012
Body language is critical to your effectiveness in working with other people, says social psychology researcher Deborah Gruenfeld.
December 1, 2008
Research explores the relationship between having power and taking action.
April 1, 2004
Research suggests that those with a team's minority viewpoint force the majority to think more and consider diverse evidence.

School News

June 1, 2011
Neale is the 13th recipient and first woman to receive the Davis Award for lifetime achievement by a faculty member.
April 15, 2008
Christina, BA ’78, and Hamid Moghadam, MBA ’80, established the Moghadam Family Professorship in Stanford GSB, adding their names to an honor roll of donors.
January 1, 2007
To attendees at the WIM banquet, 2007 from Prof. Joanne Martin