Feeling Power Over Others Impairs the Neural Processes Needed to Experience Empathy


This article in The Atlantic examines how becoming powerful (or, perhaps, just feeling power over others) can actually cause leaders and individuals to lose their mental capacities—most notably those needed for "reading" other people and feeling empathy—qualities which were, ironically, essential to their rise and success.

When the heads of the powerful vs. the not-so-powerful were put under a transcranial-magnetic-stimulation machine, researchers found that power appears to impair a specific neural process called “mirroring,” which scientists believe to be a cornerstone of empathy.

Other experiments have reportedly shown that powerful people do worse at identifying what someone in a picture is feeling, or guessing how a colleague might interpret a remark..

It’s difficult to stop power’s tendency to affect your brain, the article concludes. What can be easier—from time to time—is to stop feeling powerful.

Whether we are currently in positions of power or not, this should be a lesson to us all, as who among us does not feel superior (or power) over others? Let him cast the first proverbial stone.

#Cognitiveneuroscience #Empathy

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