Tuesday, June 27, 2017

I Feel Your Pain

Today I read an article that supposed the inability of those in power to feel empathy and lead to a type of brain damage.  Which still doesn't explain Donald Trump it does provide an elucidation to his bizarre inability to resonate with those he refers to as the "uneducated" and the "poor."
Powerful and Coldhearted

By MICHAEL INZLICHT and SUKHVINDER OBHI
THE NEW YORK TIMES JULY 25, 2014

I FEEL your pain.

These words are famously associated with Bill Clinton, who as a politician seemed to ooze empathy. A skeptic might wonder, though, whether he truly was personally distressed by the suffering of average Americans. Can people in high positions of power — presidents, bosses, celebrities, even dominant spouses — easily empathize with those beneath them?

Psychological research suggests the answer is no. Studies have repeatedly shown that participants who are in high positions of power (or who are temporarily induced to feel powerful) are less able to adopt the visual, cognitive or emotional perspective of other people, compared to participants who are powerless (or are made to feel so).

For example, Michael Kraus, a psychologist now at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and two colleagues found that among full-time employees of a public university, those who were higher in social class (as determined by level of education) were less able to accurately identify emotions in photographs of human faces than were co-workers who were lower in social class. (While social class and social power are admittedly not the same, they are strongly related.)

Why does power leave people seemingly coldhearted? Some, like the Princeton psychologist Susan Fiske, have suggested that powerful people don’t attend well to others around them because they don’t need them in order to access important resources; as powerful people, they already have plentiful access to those.

We suggest a different, albeit complementary, reason from cognitive neuroscience. On the basis of a study we recently published with the researcher Jeremy Hogeveen, in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, we contend that when people experience power, their brains fundamentally change how sensitive they are to the actions of others.

The human brain can be exquisitely attuned to other people, thanks in part to its so-called mirror system. The mirror system is composed of a network of brain regions that become active both when you perform an action (say, squeezing a rubber ball in your hand) and when you observe someone else who performs the same action (squeezing a rubber ball in his hand). Our brains appear to be able to intimately resonate with others’ actions, and this process may allow us not only to understand what.

In our study, we induced a set of participants to temporarily feel varying levels of power by asking them to write a brief essay about a moment in their lives. Some wrote about a time when they felt powerful and in charge, while others wrote about a time when they felt powerless and subordinate to others. The selection process was random, so that each participant had an equal chance of being powerful or powerless.

Next, the participants watched a video of a human hand repeatedly squeezing a rubber ball. While they watched, we assessed the degree of motor excitation occurring in the brain — a measure that is widely used to infer activation of the mirror system. This motor excitation was determined by the application of transcranial magnetic stimulation and the measurement of electrical muscle activation in the subject’s hand. We sought to determine the degree to which the participants’ brains became active during the observation of rubber ball squeezing, relative to a period in which they observed no action.

We found that for those participants who were induced to experience feelings of power, their brains showed virtually no resonance with the actions of others; conversely, for those participants who were induced to experience feelings of powerlessness, their brains resonated quite a bit. In short, the brains of powerful people did not mirror the actions of other people. And when we analyzed the text of the participants’ essays, using established techniques for coding and measuring themes, we found that the more power that people expressed, the less their brains resonated. Power, it appears, changes how the brain itself responds to others.

Does this mean that the powerful are heartless beings incapable of empathy? Hardly. Recall that we induced power in our participants randomly. This sort of manipulation cannot fundamentally change empathic capability. So the bad news is that the powerful are, by default and at a neurological level, simply not motivated to care. But the good news is that they are, in theory, redeemable.
Clinton, both Bill and Hillary, came from working class roots who ended up at the Ivy League.  And that path took them to the White House.    Right there I want to point out to the delusion that the meritocratic myth of "working hard" which seems validated by their enrollment and subsequent success thereafter.    What they neglect is that both of them rose up during a time when Government and their role in providing Education and the opportunities that result from said Education was at its peak.   The Clintons did nothing, however, to preserve this and instead seemingly went out of their way to decimate it.  That was a hell of a blow job as it cost millions of Americans millions.** I would have blown Bill for an invite to a State Dinner and nice piece of jewelry, go figure!**

This bullshit theme dominates most arguments regardless of who is there.   And it perhaps it explains the seemingly insincere manner that dominated Hillary Clinton during her Presidential Campaign and while Obama exuded it in his first but as time came along I felt he was much more diffident and closed off while Michelle became even more alive and in turn complimented Obama as many spouses do in a relationship that evolved in the White House.  Do I see this happening in the current one?  Hell to the NO!

The below articles discuss the mindset of the powerful.  It is akin to Traumatic Brain Injury which teaches the brain new skills and in turn accommodates the trauma.  And in turn dependent upon the trauma and the length of time sustained and in turn treated and how long that is sustained.  But what is fascinating is that this work was done in 2007,  nearly a decade ago and yet now due to Trump is getting the attention it deserves.

**For the record an organic one related to illness such as stroke is very different than one sustained via injury and in turn it is different than one attained Psychologically and yet all can have interconnected causes and in turn connections that all need treatment. Treatment which is unique to the individual and the injury sustained. Treating TBI is like any disease - there is no one size fits all.  And this is from one who sustained TBI four years ago and that expression "that what doesn't kill you make you stronger" is bullshit.  It makes you different. **

As in the case of Donald Trump, a boy of privilege and a man of one has never struggled or had to face a catastrophe.  He is also over 70 and I suspect in early stage dementia which will only embolden and deepen the qualities as he struggles with words, names and issues that will confuse and frighten him.  I expect larger anger rages and more muddled speak as he deteroriates. And because he has possessed these qualities and learned them over a lifetime they will in turn provide a blanket in which to hide behind. 

But you could look to the departed CEO of Uber, Travis Kalinick  or Martin "Pharma Bro" Shkreli  now on trial, who seem to personify if not characterize the new CEO. Gone is the Baronial type of yore and the new MEMEO in its place


When Power Goes To Your Head, It May Shut Out Your Heart

August 10, 20137:41 AM ET
Heard on Weekend Edition Saturday
Chris Benderev

Neuroscientists have found evidence to suggest feeling powerful dampens a part of our brain that helps with empathy.

Even the smallest dose of power can change a person. You've probably seen it. Someone gets a promotion or a bit of fame and then, suddenly, they're a little less friendly to the people beneath them.

So here's a question that may seem too simple: Why?

If you ask a psychologist, he or she may tell you that the powerful are simply too busy. They don't have the time to fully attend to their less powerful counterparts.

But if you ask Sukhvinder Obhi, a neuroscientist at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, Canada, he might give you another explanation: Power fundamentally changes how the brain operates.

Obhi and his colleagues, Jeremy Hogeveen and Michael Inzlicht, have a new study showing evidence to support that claim.

Obhi and his fellow researchers randomly put participants in the mindset of feeling either powerful or powerless. They asked the powerless group to write a diary entry about a time they depended on others for help. The powerful group wrote entries about times they were calling the shots.

Then, everybody watched a simple video. In it, an anonymous hand squeezes a rubber ball a handful of times — sort of monotonously. While the video ran, Obhi's team tracked the participants' brains, looking at a special region called the mirror system.

Where Empathy Begins

The mirror system is important because it contains neurons that become active both when you squeeze a rubber ball and when you watch someone else squeeze a rubber ball. It is the same thing with picking up a cup of coffee, hitting a baseball, or flying a kite. Whether you do it or someone else does, your mirror system activates. In this small way, the mirror system places you inside a stranger's head.

Furthermore, because our actions are linked to deeper thoughts — like beliefs and intentions — you may also begin to empathize with what motivates another person's actions.

"When I watch somebody picking up a cup of coffee, the mirror system activates the representations in my brain that would be active if I was picking up a cup of coffee," Obhi explains. "And because those representations are connected in my brain to the intentions that would normally activate them, you can get activation of the intention. So you can figure out, 'Hey, this person wants to drink coffee.' "

Obhi's team wanted to see if bestowing a person with a feeling of power or powerlessness would change how the mirror system responds to someone else performing a simple action.

Feeling Power Over Others

It turns out, feeling powerless boosted the mirror system — people empathized highly. But, Obhi says, "when people were feeling powerful, the signal wasn't very high at all."

So when people felt power, they really did have more trouble getting inside another person's head.

"What we're finding is power diminishes all varieties of empathy," says Dacher Keltner, a social psychologist at University of California, Berkeley, not involved in the new study. He says these results fit a trend within psychological research.

"Whether you're with a team at work [or] your family dinner, all of that hinges on how we adapt our behaviors to the behaviors of other people," he says. "And power takes a bite out of that ability, which is too bad."

The good news, Keltner says, is an emerging field of research that suggests powerful people who begin to forget their subordinates can be coached back to their compassionate selves.

And I want to point out this is not new as of all things ironic is discussed in this 2015 Harvard Business Review, article discusses.  Harvard, ground zero for this type of thinking as Duff McDonald's book, The Golden Passport proposes.  And nor has it been ignored as many CEO's have tried to repair the damage that they wrought.  I suggest try cutting their wages, examine how they pay their subordinates in relation to themselves and ask why they need a salary package 300% higher than the lowest individual on the tier. Try that.

But this all rings true and the truth hurts - everyone in its path as these individuals run like Hurricane leaving damage in its wake.


The Power Paradox

True power requires modesty and empathy, not force and coercion, argues Dacher Keltner. But what people want from leaders—social intelligence—is what is damaged by the experience of power.

By Dacher Keltner | December 1, 2007 | Greater Good Magazine


“It is much safer to be feared than loved,” writes Niccolò Machiavelli in The Prince, his classic 16th-century treatise advocating manipulation and occasional cruelty as the best means to power. Almost 500 years later, Robert Greene’s national bestseller, The 48 Laws of Power, would have made Machiavelli’s chest swell with pride. Greene’s book, bedside reading of foreign policy analysts and hip-hop stars alike, is pure Machiavelli. Here are a few of his 48 laws:

Law 3, Conceal Your Intentions.
Law 6, Court Attention at All Costs.
Law 12, Use Selective Honesty and Generosity to Disarm Your Victims.
Law 15, Crush Your Enemy Totally.
Law 18, Keep Others in Suspended Terror.

You get the picture.

Guided by centuries of advice like Machiavelli’s and Greene’s, we tend to believe that attaining power requires force, deception, manipulation, and coercion. Indeed, we might even assume that positions of power demand this kind of conduct—that to run smoothly, society needs leaders who are willing and able to use power this way.

As seductive as these notions are, they are dead wrong. Instead, a new science of power has revealed that power is wielded most effectively when it’s used responsibly by people who are attuned to, and engaged with the needs and interests of others. Years of research suggests that empathy and social intelligence are vastly more important to acquiring and exercising power than are force, deception, or terror.

This research debunks longstanding myths about what constitutes true power, how people obtain it, and how they should use it. But studies also show that once people assume positions of power, they’re likely to act more selfishly, impulsively, and aggressively, and they have a harder time seeing the world from other people’s points of view. This presents us with the paradox of power:
The skills most important to obtaining power and leading effectively are the very skills that deteriorate once we have power.

The power paradox requires that we be ever vigilant against the corruptive influences of power and its ability to distort the way we see ourselves and treat others. But this paradox also makes clear how important it is to challenge myths about power, which persuade us to choose the wrong kinds of leaders and to tolerate gross abuses of power. Instead of succumbing to the Machiavellian worldview—which unfortunately leads us to select Machiavellian leaders—we must promote a different model of power, one rooted in social intelligence, responsibility, and cooperation.

Myth number one: Power equals cash, votes, and muscle.



In The Power Paradox: How We Gain and Lose Influence, Dacher Keltner demonstrates how power dynamics affect every aspect of our lives—and how power can be a force for good in the world. Order your copy today!

The term “power” often evokes images of force and coercion. Many people assume that power is most evident on the floor of the United States Congress or in corporate boardrooms. Treatments of power in the social sciences have followed suit, zeroing in on clashes over cash (financial wealth), votes (participation in the political decision making process), and muscle (military might).

But there are innumerable exceptions to this definition of power: a penniless two year old pleading for (and getting) candy in the check-out line at the grocery store, one spouse manipulating another for sex, or the success of nonviolent political movements in places like India or South Africa. Viewing power as cash, votes, and muscle blinds us to the ways power pervades our daily lives.

New psychological research has redefined power, and this definition makes clear just how prevalent and integral power is in all of our lives. In psychological science, power is defined as one’s capacity to alter another person’s condition or state of mind by providing or withholding resources—such as food, money, knowledge, and affection—or administering punishments, such as physical harm, job termination, or social ostracism. This definition de-emphasizes how a person actually acts, and instead stresses the individual’s capacity to affect others. Perhaps most importantly, this definition applies across relationships, contexts, and cultures. It helps us understand how children can wield power over their parents from the time they’re born, or how someone—say, a religious leader—can be powerful in one context (on the pulpit during a Sunday sermon) but not another (on a mind numbingly slow line at the DMV come Monday morning). By this definition, one can be powerful without needing to try to control, coerce, or dominate. Indeed, when people resort to trying to control others, it’s often a sign that their power is slipping.

This definition complicates our understanding of power. Power is not something limited to power-hungry individuals or organizations; it is part of every social interaction where people have the capacity to influence one another’s states, which is really every moment of life. Claims that power is simply a product of male biology miss the degree to which women have obtained and wielded power in many social situations. In fact, studies I’ve conducted find that people grant power to women as readily as men, and in informal social hierarchies, women achieve similar levels of power as men.

So power is not something we should (or can) avoid, nor is it something that necessarily involves domination and submission. We are negotiating power every waking instant of our social lives (and in our dreams as well, Freud argued). When we seek equality, we are seeking an effective balance of power, not the absence of power. We use it to win consent and social cohesion, not just compliance. To be human is to be immersed in power dynamics.

Myth number two: Machiavellians win in the game of power.

One of the central questions concerning power is who gets it. Researchers have confronted this question for years, and their results offer a sharp rebuke to the Machiavellian view of power. It is not the manipulative, strategic Machiavellian who rises in power. Instead, social science reveals that one’s ability to get or maintain power, even in small group situations, depends on one’s ability to understand and advance the goals of other group members. When it comes to power, social intelligence—reconciling conflicts, negotiating, smoothing over group tensions—prevails over social Darwinism.

For instance, highly detailed studies of “chimpanzee politics” have found that social power among nonhuman primates is based less on sheer strength, coercion, and the unbridled assertion of self-interest, and more on the ability to negotiate conflicts, to enforce group norms, and to allocate resources fairly. More often than not, this research shows, primates who try to wield their power by dominating others and prioritizing their own interests will find themselves challenged and, in time, deposed by subordinates. (Christopher Boehm describes this research in greater length in his essay.)

In my own research on human social hierarchies, I have consistently found that it is the more dynamic, playful, engaging members of the group who quickly garner and maintain the respect of their peers. Such outgoing, energetic, socially engaged individuals quickly rise through the ranks of emerging hierarchies.

Why social intelligence? Because of our ultrasociability. We accomplish most tasks related to survival and reproduction socially, from caring for our children to producing food and shelter. We give power to those who can best serve the interests of the group.

Time and time again, empirical studies find that leaders who treat their subordinates with respect, share power, and generate a sense of camaraderie and trust are considered more just and fair.
Social intelligence is essential not only to rising to power, but to keeping it. My colleague Cameron Anderson and I have studied the structure of social hierarchies within college dormitories over the course of a year, examining who is at the top and remains there, who falls in status, and who is less well-respected by their peers. We’ve consistently found that it is the socially engaged individuals who keep their power over time. In more recent work, Cameron has made the remarkable discovery that modesty may be critical to maintaining power. Individuals who are modest about their own power actually rise in hierarchies and maintain the status and respect of their peers, while individuals with an inflated, grandiose sense of power quickly fall to the bottom rungs.

So what is the fate of Machiavellian group members, avid practitioners of Greene’s 48 laws, who are willing to deceive, backstab, intimidate, and undermine others in their pursuit of power? We’ve found that these individuals do not actually rise to positions of power. Instead, their peers quickly recognize that they will harm others in the pursuit of their own self-interest, and tag them with a reputation of being harmful to the group and not worthy of leadership.

Cooperation and modesty aren’t just ethical ways to use power, and they don’t only serve the interests of a group; they’re also valuable skills for people who seek positions of power and want to hold onto them.

Myth number three: Power is strategically acquired, not given.

A major reason why Machiavellians fail is that they fall victim to a third myth about power. They mistakenly believe that power is acquired strategically in deceptive gamesmanship and by pitting others against one another. Here Machiavelli failed to appreciate an important fact in the evolution of human hierarchies: that with increasing social intelligence, subordinates can form powerful alliances and constrain the actions of those in power. Power increasingly has come to rest on the actions and judgments of other group members. A person’s power is only as strong as the status given to that person by others.

The sociologist Erving Goffman wrote with brilliant insight about deference—the manner in which we afford power to others with honorifics, formal prose, indirectness, and modest nonverbal displays of embarrassment. We can give power to others simply by being respectfully polite.

My own research has found that people instinctively identify individuals who might undermine the interests of the group, and prevent those people from rising in power, through what we call “reputational discourse.” In our research on different groups, we have asked group members to talk openly about other members’ reputations and to engage in gossip. We’ve found that Machiavellians quickly acquire reputations as individuals who act in ways that are inimical to the interests of others, and these reputations act like a glass ceiling, preventing their rise in power. In fact, this aspect of their behavior affected their reputations even more than their sexual morality, recreational habits, or their willingness to abide by group social conventions.

In The Prince, Machiavelli observes,

“Any man who tries to be good all the time is bound to come to ruin among the great number who are not good. Hence a prince who wants to keep his authority must learn how not to be good, and use that knowledge, or refrain from using it, as necessity requires.”

He adds, “A prince ought, above all things, always to endeavor in every action to gain for himself the reputation of being a great and remarkable man.” By contrast, several Eastern traditions, such as Taoism and Confucianism, exalt the modest leader, one who engages with the followers and practices social intelligence. In the words of the Taoist philosopher Lao-tzu, “To lead the people, walk behind them.” Compare this advice to Machiavelli’s, and judge them both against years of scientific research. Science gives the nod to Lao-tzu.

The power paradox

“Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely,” said the British historian Lord Acton. Unfortunately, this is not entirely a myth, as the actions of Europe’s monarchs, Enron’s executives, and out-of- control pop stars reveal. A great deal of research—especially from social psychology—lends support to Acton’s claim, albeit with a twist: Power leads people to act in impulsive fashion, both good and bad, and to fail to understand other people’s feelings and desires.

For instance, studies have found that people given power in experiments are more likely to rely on stereotypes when judging others, and they pay less attention to the characteristics that define those other people as individuals. Predisposed to stereotype, they also judge others’ attitudes, interests, and needs less accurately. One survey found that high-power professors made less accurate judgments about the attitudes of low-power professors than those low-power professors made about the attitudes of their more powerful colleagues. Power imbalances may even help explain the finding that older siblings don’t perform as well as their younger siblings on theory-of-mind tasks, which assess one’s ability to construe the intentions and beliefs of others.

Power even prompts less complex legal reasoning in Supreme Court justices. A study led by Stanford psychologist Deborah Gruenfeld compared the decisions of U.S. Supreme Court justices when they wrote opinions endorsing either the position of a majority of justices on the bench—a position of power—or the position of the vanquished, less powerful minority. Sure enough, when Gruenfeld analyzed the complexity of justices’ opinions on a vast array of cases, she found that justices writing from a position of power crafted less complex arguments than those writing from a low-power position.

A great deal of research has also found that power encourages individuals to act on their own whims, desires, and impulses. When researchers give people power in scientific experiments, those people are more likely to physically touch others in potentially inappropriate ways, to flirt in more direct fashion, to make risky choices and gambles, to make first offers in negotiations, to speak their mind, and to eat cookies like the Cookie Monster, with crumbs all over their chins and chests.

Perhaps more unsettling is the wealth of evidence that having power makes people more likely to act like sociopaths. High-power individuals are more likely to interrupt others, to speak out of turn, and to fail to look at others who are speaking. They are also more likely to tease friends and colleagues in hostile, humiliating fashion. Surveys of organizations find that most rude behaviors—shouting, profanities, bald critiques—emanate from the offices and cubicles of individuals in positions of power.

My own research has found that people with power tend to behave like patients who have damaged their brain’s orbitofrontal lobes (the region of the frontal lobes right behind the eye sockets), a condition that seems to cause overly impulsive and insensitive behavior. Thus the experience of power might be thought of as having someone open up your skull and take out that part of your brain so critical to empathy and socially-appropriate behavior.

Power may induce more harmful forms of aggression as well. In the famed Stanford Prison Experiment, psychologist Philip Zimbardo randomly assigned Stanford undergraduates to act as prison guards or prisoners—an extreme kind of power relation. The prison guards quickly descended into the purest forms of power abuse, psychologically torturing their peers, the prisoners. Similarly, anthropologists have found that cultures where rape is prevalent and accepted tend to be cultures with deeply entrenched beliefs in the supremacy of men over women.

This leaves us with a power paradox. Power is given to those individuals, groups, or nations who advance the interests of the greater good in socially-intelligent fashion.

Yet unfortunately, having power renders many individuals as impulsive and poorly attuned to others as your garden-variety frontal lobe patient, making them prone to act abusively and lose the esteem of their peers. What people want from leaders—social intelligence—is what is damaged by the experience of power.

When we recognize this paradox and all the destructive behaviors that flow from it, we can appreciate the importance of promoting a more socially-intelligent model of power. Social behaviors are dictated by social expectations. As we debunk long-standing myths and misconceptions about power, we can better identify the qualities powerful people should have, and better understand how they should wield their power. As a result, we’ll have much less tolerance for people who lead by deception, coercion, or undue force. No longer will we expect these kinds of antisocial behaviors from our leaders and silently accept them when they come to pass.

We’ll also start to demand something more from our colleagues, our neighbors, and ourselves. When we appreciate the distinctions between responsible and irresponsible uses of power—and the importance of practicing the responsible, socially-intelligent form of it—we take a vital step toward promoting healthy marriages, peaceful playgrounds, and societies built on cooperation and trust.




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