Monday, December 20, 2010

Power and Negative-Bias Mood

Ran across this article from a few months back (h/t Seth Roberts) on studies showing that power makes the powerful more dismissive of evidence that does not agree with their established world view:

The Power Trip

by Jonah Lehrer, Wall Street Journal
Contrary to the Machiavellian cliché, nice people are more likely to rise to power. Then something strange happens: Authority atrophies the very talents that got them there...

...The very traits that helped leaders accumulate control in the first place all but disappear once they rise to power. Instead of being polite, honest and outgoing, they become impulsive, reckless and rude. In some cases, these new habits can help a leader be more decisive and single-minded, or more likely to make choices that will be profitable regardless of their popularity. One recent study found that overconfident CEOs were more likely to pursue innovation and take their companies in new technological directions. Unchecked, however, these instincts can lead to a big fall...

I bring this up in an attempt to shine a light on current events from a different direction. The decision-makers, who are feeling better than they were a year ago, are collecting more and more power into their hands in terms of Federal Reserve policies, letting the banks ignore bad loans, wide-ranging stimulus and tax-cut packages, clamping down on travelers via the TSA, etc. When the mood shifts under their feet and when public response to their authority and authoritarian responses kicks in, the powerful will be biased to retreat to well-established views of keeping hold of their power and they'll also be influenced by the anger, xenophobia and fear sweeping the general population - and be expected to do something about it. That their tools will fail them at this important time is pretty evident. What is more frightening is that these studies indicate that the decision-makers won't be able to adjust or think themselves out of this hole.


David said...

I thought this was patently obvious to anyone who has worked under the "management" of another, especially within the modern hierarchical public corporation.

Working for a division of J&J, I saw that 20-50" of the grunts "got it," a few district managers "got it" (but had to talk the company line) and zero Region managers (and above) were clued in at all. By the region level you already saw people who clearly acted as though reality was something they created each morning when they awoke.

Power corrupts not just morality. Power corrupts reason. Give someone the power of political office, a cop's badge, or a managerial position with 30+ subordinates and you ruin them.

And people wonder why I'm a political anarchist....

Flagg707 said...

"Power corrupts reason..."

Great insight, David.

The more I look over the big corporate structures, the more I wonder how the collapse is going to unfold. This thing is going to come apart in jerks and starts, with the "elites" desparately cobbling together increasingly authoritarian solutions at each leg down. The cluelessness that abounds in upper management is astounding.

David said...

A friend pointed out that an index of how fearful are the Powerful is found in the number of "sting" operations where some useful idiots are literally fished for by FBI-paid informants, supplied with dud bombs and arrested amidst much fanfare. The MSM lives for such crap.

He believes that sooner or later, like junkies becoming tolerant to opioids, they'll escalate to real bombs. He cited the British agents arrested in Basra some time ago with IED ingredients in their vehicle. It's hardly tinfoil-hat land to recognize that the current paradigm is profitable enough to "justify" false-flag operations to keep the public in a state of fear and compliant with demands for more police powers at home and more war everywhere else.

The people involved with such things are delusional by any standard measure, yet I suspect their actions are consistent with Authority and Power throughout the history of man.