From Reason Magazine's Hit & Run blog:
A spate of recent articles corroborate what I already suspected, that holding elected office is the neurological equivalent of getting kicked in the head by a donkey.
"Subjects under the influence of power," Dacher Keltner, a professor at University of California, Berkeley found, "acted as if they had suffered a traumatic brain injury—becoming more impulsive, less risk-aware, and, crucially, less adept at seeing things from other people's point of view."
In other words, power turns people into sociopaths.
This isn't a huge surprise to the vast majority of us who rant about power on election day and every day afterward. Republicans and Democrats want power and scramble for it, like a football. Classical liberals see power more like Frodo's ring—a corrupting influence better chucked into a volcano. In light of recent studies we ought to consider it a bit more like a concussion.
Keltner, brought into the public spotlight through a recent piece in The Atlantic, likens the accruing of power to actual brain trauma: "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."
This makes some sense. People in command make quick decisions with limited data. Couple that with the lickspittles telling them their decisions are right all the time plus all that testosterone pumping from ordering folks around, and you become susceptible to being both impulsive and insentitive....MORE