Saturday, January 13, 2007

Power corrupts

This story might shed some light on the old adage that "power corrupts."

...researchers assessed the effect of power on perspective taking, adjusting to another's perspective, and interpreting the emotions of others.

To study the link between power and perspective taking, Galinsky and colleagues used a unique method in which the participants were told to draw the letter E on their forehead. If the subject wrote the E in a self-oriented direction, backwards to others, this indicated a lack of perspective taking. On the other hand, when the E was written legible to others, this indicated that the person had thought about how others might perceive the letter.

The results showed that those who had previously been randomly assigned to a high power group were almost three times more likely to draw a self-oriented E than those who were assigned to the low power condition. Galinsky and colleagues also found that power leads individuals to anchor too heavily on their own vantage point, thus leaving them unable to adjust to another person's perspective and decreases one's ability to correctly interpret emotion.

This is an interesting study -- I'm not sure about the methodology(I might have drawn the E self-oriented out of carelessness or defiance, but I'm fine at taking other's perspective at the moment), but certainly I'm willing to agree that power tends to make one more secure in one's beliefs. The strange thing is that while I believe this, I also feel that I'm much more immune to its effects. But I'm not. I constantly have to resist getting sucked into an ideology and defending something that I know is not necessarily correct.

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