This is Your Brain on Power – August 2017 Essay – Create The Good Life

This is Your Brain on Power

Brain science is now confirming what people have known throughout history: power changes us in profound ways. Studies show that when we feel powerful our neural processing is altered such that our ability to “mirror” others is impaired. Mirroring is what our brain does as we subconsciously take in the gestures, speech patterns, attitudes, etc. of others, and by so doing share their experiences. This is how we are able to relate to people different from ourselves and build rapport with them. Without this mirroring, we lose one of our most critical capabilities—empathy.

Psychologist Dacher Keltner has reached similar conclusions during his twenty year study of power and its impact on human behavior. He describes its affects as similar to those of a traumatic brain injury. People experiencing power tend to be more impulsive, more tolerant of risk, and—surprise, surprise—less able to see things from another’s perspective. Keltner has also noted what he calls the “power paradox.” The abilities people rely on to become powerful—thinking strategically, being conscientious and acting cooperatively—often recede once they have gained that power. You may have experienced this as a colleague, friend, or even a spouse moves up the ladder only to begin acting like a jerk (to use the polite technical term). …

[ Keep reading about how to develop a healthy sense of power, balancing benefits like confidence with the ability to empathize.. … ]

This is the August 2017 monthly essay from Beth Meredith and Eric Storm of Create The Good Life.