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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.
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