Power changes how the brain responds to others. (2013)
“By tracking participants’ brains, the authors found that empathy for a colleague performing an action was high amongst ‘powerless’ people, but much lower amongst people who were ‘powerful’.
Jeremy Hogeveen and Sukhvinder S. Obhi, Wilfrid Laurier University, Ontario: Michael Inzlicht, University of Toronto,
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Jul 1 , 2013,
Reviewed by Chris Benderev, NPR, 10 August 2013
“Power does a number on your brain,” is how reviewer Chris Benderev sums up the results of this research by Hogevenn, Inzlicht and Obhi.
“Even the smallest dose of power can change a person. Someone gets a promotion or a bit of fame and then, suddenly, they’re a little less friendly to the people beneath them.”
Some may argue that powerful people are simply too busy and don’t have time to attend to their less powerful colleagues. These researchers found however that power fundamentally changes how the brain operates.
By tracking participants’ brains, specifically looking at a special region called the mirror system, they found that empathy for a colleague performing an action was high amongst ‘powerless’ people, but much lower amongst people who were ‘powerful’.
In other words, when people felt power, their brains made it much more difficult for them to ‘get inside’ another person’s head.
This research confirms trends in psychological research which are finding that power diminishes all kinds of empathy.
Read Benderev’s review here: When power goes to your head, it may shut out your heart
Access the researchers’ paper here: Power changes how the brain responds to others.