Deborah H. Gruenfeld

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Deborah H. Gruenfeld is an American social psychologist whose work examines the way people are transformed by the organizations and social structures in which they work. She is the author of numerous papers on the psychology of power and group behavior. She is the Moghadam Family Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and a Codirector of the Executive Program for Women Leaders at the same institution.[1][2]


Gruenfeld was a graduate student of Robert S. Wyer and the late Joseph E. McGrath at the University of Illinois. Her doctoral research on status and integrative complexity in decision-making groups, in part examining U.S. Supreme Court decisions, were awarded prizes by the American Psychological Association and the Society of Experimental Social Psychology.[3][4][5] Her analysis of U.S. Supreme Court decisions took into consideration both the justices' status in their group as well as their ideological preferences, demonstrating that as justices gained power on the court or entered into majority coalitions their written opinions tended to become less complex and nuanced.[1][6][7][8]

Theory of Power[edit]

Together with Dacher Keltner of the University of California, Berkeley, and Cameron Anderson also at Berkeley, Gruenfeld has developed a theory of power that aims to present an integrative account of the effects of power on human behaviour, suggesting that the acquisition of power has a disinhibiting effect regarding the social consequences of exercising it.[6][9][10]


In 2015, Poets & Quants, a blog that covers MBA programs around the world, made public a wrongful termination suit filed by Gruenfeld's estranged husband, James A. Phills, who had been another professor at the business school. Phills alleged his firing was driven by the affair that Gruenfeld was having with the dean of the business school, Garth Saloner, apparently with the knowledge of the Stanford's Provost, John Etchemendy.[11] According to Vanity Fair's David Margolick, the litigation was "mutually assured destruction" for everyone involved, and with respect to Gruenfeld, he wrote: "How does it look for someone who built her career analyzing the abusiveness (she dubbed it “disinhibition”) of the powerful, and who, until a month before she became romantically entangled with the dean, was the G.S.B.’s sexual-harassment adviser, and who, as co-director of Stanford’s Executive Program for Women Leaders, counsels high-powered women on how to overcome gender stereotypes, to wind up secretly sleeping with her boss?"[12] The matter led to resignation of Saloner in 2015[13] and was covered by The New York Times,[14] The Wall Street Journal,[15] and Bloomberg.[16]


  1. ^ a b "Deborah H. Gruenfeld". Stanford Graduate School of Business.
  2. ^ "Executive Program for Women Leaders". Stanford Graduate School of Business.
  3. ^ Gruenfeld, Deborah H. Status and integrative complexity in decision-making groups : evidence from the U.S. Supreme Court and a laboratory experiment. Unpublished. OCLC 30607645.
  4. ^ "Richard Moreland Dissertation of the Year Award". American Psychological Association.
  5. ^ "Dissertation Award Recipients". Society of Experimental Social Psychology.
  6. ^ a b Lehrer, Jonah (14 August 2010). "The Power Trip". The Wall Street Journal. Contrary to the Machiavellian cliché, nice people are more likely to rise to power. Then something strange happens: Authority atrophies the very talents that got them there.
  7. ^ Gruenfeld, Deborah H (1995). "Decision Making Status, Ideology, and Integrative Complexity on the U.S. Supreme Court: Rethinking the Politics of Political Decision Making". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 68 (1): 5–20. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.68.1.5.
  8. ^ Gruenfeld, Deborah H; Preston, Jared (2000). "Upending the Status Quo: Cognitive Complexity in Supreme Court Justices Who Overturn Legal Precedent". Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 26 (8): 1013–1022. doi:10.1177/01461672002610010.
  9. ^ Robertson, Ian H. (March 2013). "How power affects the brain". British Psychological Society.
  10. ^ Keltner, Dacher; Gruenfeld, Deborah H; Anderson, Cameron (2003). "Power, Approach and Inhibition" (PDF). Psychological Review. 110 (2): 265–284. CiteSeerX doi:10.1037/0033-295X.110.2.265.
  11. ^ BaronPoets, Ethan; 14, QuantsAuthor on September. "Stanford Confidential: Sex, Lies And Loathing At The World's No. 1 B-School". Poets and Quants. Retrieved 2015-10-31.
  12. ^ "Inside Stanford Business School's Spiraling Sex Scandal". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 2015-10-31.
  13. ^ "Garth Saloner to step down as dean of the Stanford Graduate School of Business". Stanford University. Retrieved 2015-10-31.
  14. ^ David Streitfeld for the New York Times. Oct 20, 2015 At Stanford, Relationship Reveals Accusations of Discrimination
  15. ^ Lindsay Gellman for the Wall Street Journal. October 1, 2015 At Silicon Valley’s Favorite Business School, Allegations of a Tough Workplace
  16. ^ Peter Waldman for Bloomberg Businessweek October 7, 2015 A Sex Scandal Rocks Stanford’s Business School: Management problems at a shrine to management