The reason power seems to change so many people is because, according to new research, it does – on a biological level.
The reason power seems to change so many people is because, according to new research, it does.
In a recent study, scientists focused on examining how the brain’s mirror system, the empathy-producing mechanism that’s triggered when we observe others, worked in both the oppressed and the powerful.
To prime those representing the powerless, the researchers had the subjects write about times they were under the thumb of another.
Conversely, the powerful constituency was asked to chronicle their experiences of being in control.
Both groups were then hooked up to brain monitoring machines and and shown a simple video of a person’s hand squeezing a ball. The goal was to trigger each participant’s mirror system response to determine their empathy levels.
The powerless produced empathy in spades, while the powerful barely showed the presence of any.
The feelings of power had shut that part of their brains down.
Of the findings, an outside expert said, "Whether you're with a team at work or your family dinner, all of that hinges on how we adapt our behaviors to the behaviors of other people, and power takes a bite out of that ability, which is too bad."