Researchers of a new study found that attaining power for the first time can alter the way the brain functions and makes a person think more with this head than heart.
You've probably noticed that when people suddenly obtain power, even in small doses, they automatically change, in terms of personality and attitude. Have you ever wondered why?
Researchers of a new study have found the mechanism behind this sudden change. Sukhvinder Obhi, a neuroscientist at Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo, Canada, and colleagues Jeremy Hogeveen and Michael Inzlicht conducted a study on a group of participants. Some were randomly chosen and made to feel powerful while the others were left feeling powerless. The powerless group was then asked to fill in a diary entry about an instance when they depended on others for help. The powerful group was asked to write instances when they were in charge. Researchers then introduced a controlled group of people who neither felt powerful or powerless. They were asked to write about anything they wished to.
All participants were then asked to watch a video of a random pair of hands squeezing a rubber ball a couple of times. While participants watched the video, researchers tracked the participants' brains, looking at a region called the mirror system to know if giving a person power or making them feel powerless would change how the mirror system responded to a stranger performing a simple action. The mirror system accounts for a person's ability to connect with other humans though the feeling of empathy.
They found that the human mirror system was turned down by the feeling of having power, leaving a person less empathetic toward other people.
"When I watch somebody picking up a cup of coffee, the mirror system activates the representations in my brain that would be active if I was picking up a cup of coffee," NPR quoted Obhi as saying. "And because those representations are connected in my brain to the intentions that would normally activate them, you can get activation of the intention. So you can figure out, 'Hey, this person wants to drink coffee.' "
According to Dacher Keltner, a social psychologist at UC Berkeley not involved in the new study, the findings of this study are very important.
"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," he said according to an Opb report.