We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.From The Power Trip published August 14, 2010 in The Wall Street Journal from by Jonah Lehrer. Mr. Lehrer is the author of "How We Decide" and "Proust Was a Neuroscientist." Following is a collection of quotes from the article.
"It's an incredibly consistent effect," Mr. Keltner says. "When you give people power, they basically start acting like fools. They flirt inappropriately, tease in a hostile fashion, and become totally impulsive." Mr. Keltner compares the feeling of power to brain damage, noting that people with lots of authority tend to behave like neurological patients with a damaged orbito-frontal lobe, a brain area that's crucial for empathy and decision-making. Even the most virtuous people can be undone by the corner office.
At its worst, power can turn us into hypocrites.
Although people almost always know the right thing to do—cheating is wrong—their sense of power makes it easier to rationalize away the ethical lapse.
The same flawed thought processes triggered by authority also distort our ability to evaluate information and make complex decisions.
This suggests that even fleeting feelings of power can dramatically change the way people respond to information. Instead of analyzing the strength of the argument, those with authority focus on whether or not the argument confirms what they already believe. If it doesn't, then the facts are conveniently ignored.I'll simply close with the famous quote from Lord Acton that generally gets quoted incorrectly:
Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Those who have not yet read my series on Church Leadership Corruption are invited to do so. The links are below:
Discussion 8: Conclusions and Solutions -- Saturday, July 31