The Wall Street Journal examines how positive psychological attributes are associated with people gaining power and why these exact same attributes might be eroded once people have achieved a certain level of influence.
The piece looks at studies that show, contrary to popular belief, that sly and social devious people are less likely to be put in positions of influence by their peers but that when the psychological effect of power takes hold, these same people start to become less honest.
A few years ago, Dacher Keltner, a psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, began interviewing freshmen at a large dorm on the Berkeley campus. He gave them free pizza and a survey, which asked them to provide their first impressions of every other student in the dorm. Mr. Keltner returned at the end of the school year with the same survey and more free pizza. According to the survey, the students at the top of the social hierarchy—they were the most “powerful” and respected—were also the most considerate and outgoing, and scored highest on measures of agreeableness and extroversion. In other words, the nice guys finished first….
Why does power lead people to flirt with interns and solicit bribes and fudge financial documents? According to psychologists, one of the main problems with authority is that it makes us less sy...