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So there are regions of the frontal lobes that are now being called the empathy network,
and those regions of the brain do a lot of things, but what one of the things that they do is they kinda help us detect other people's pain.
When you damage the empathy networks of your brain, which some people do, they become really impulsive.
And you can have people who were really good citizens of the world, right?
And if they have this head trauma, and little chunks of the frontal lobes are gone, they'll start swearing suddenly, they'll start yelling at their kids, they feel disconnected.
In the neuroscience literature they call this "acquired sociopathy." Through brain trauma you become a sociopath.
And our lab studies find if you give people a little bit of power, they kind of look like those brain trauma patients, right?
So we find like, if I feel powerful, I flirt inappropriately. I am more likely at work to swear and act in a rude fashion. I'm more likely to gamble.
It makes you impulsive. When you feel powerful you kind of lose touch with other people. You stop attending carefully to what other people think.
In our lab, it's come to be known as the "Cookie Monster" study.
We brought three people to the lab. We pointed to one person and said, "you're in charge, right?" So that person kind of felt powerful.
And then they had to do this really boring task of, like, write policies for the university. They're getting kinda bored.
We bring a plate of chocolate chip cookies. Everybody takes one cookie.
All groups always leave one cookie on the plate because you don't want to be that person that takes the last cookie.
So there's that fourth cookie and we find high-powered people they reach out and take it.
And then my grad student, Dan Ward at the time, he came to me and he was like, "I think people are eating differently when they have power."
And, lo and behold, our high-powered person is more likely to eat with their mouth open, lips-smacking, crumbs literally like falling onto their sweaters, you know?
It's ridiculous!
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How Power Makes People Selfish

62934 Folder Collection
Ray Du published on July 20, 2015
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