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“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely”
At least, this is the best known quotation of the 19th century British politician Lord Acton. But in 2017, we have an article courtesy of The Atlantic that tells us power does more than corrupt, it actually damages your brain’s abilities that helped you rise to power in the first place. It’s called the “power paradox”: once you have power, you lose some of the skills needed to gain it in the first place. They describe a loss of empathy (i.e., “the empathy deficit”) and a general decrease in the ability to “read” others. They wonder if the impact of gaining power should be called the “hubris syndrome” (which shows itself through “manifest contempt for others, loss of contact with reality, restless or reckless actions, and displays of incompetence”). Interestingly, some hubris can be corrected by recalling past experiences in which the powerful one was less powerful. You may want to read this one.
Power poses are continuing to get bad (very bad) press
In December 2016, we blogged about challenges to Amy Cuddy’s “power posing” research and her famous TED Talk. One of the most recent commenters on the controversy is a blogger over at Mind the Brain blog (one of the PLOS|BLOGS). According to the blogger, the narrative has become overly focused on the harassment of a junior scientist and the need for greater civility in academia (link to the blog post on that in this series of posts). The real narrative, and thus this attempt to restart the conversation, should be (again, according to blogger James Coyne), whether the paper itself had merit in the first place. Coyne thinks the original paper should never have been published and goes to some lengths to develop his argument. If you are interested in a look at why the power posing paper may be a great motivational talk idea, but not particularly good science—take a look at this Mind the Brain blog post.
Do smartphones make us stupid?
Yikes. We know our smartphones are apparently making efforts to control us, but they also apparently “significantly reduce our cognitive capacity” just by being within reach. As you can see in Science Daily:
Ward and his colleagues also found that it didn’t matter whether a person’s smartphone was turned on or off, or whether it was lying face up or face down on a desk. Having a smartphone within sight or within easy reach reduces a person’s ability to focus and perform tasks because part of their brain is actively working to not pick up or use the phone.
“It’s not that participants were distracted because they were getting notifications on their phones,” said Ward. “The mere presence of their smartphone was enough to reduce their cognitive capacity.”
The question that must now be answered is whether leaving our cell phone at home (or locked in our car) is less distracting than having it with us. You’ll want to see our blog post on nomophobia. And maybe our blog post on the FOMO Scale as well. This (being distracted by stuff) is obviously a complicated area and much more (tenure-granting) research is likely needed.
You’ve heard of the imposter syndrome—but what about the racial imposter syndrome?
The imposter syndrome has long been discussed as the secret fear (that is not really so secret) that we will be exposed as imposters pretending to know more than we actually know. The researchers who initially described it, thought it was an experience solely experienced by women. This belief was not accurate.
Now, in 2017, we have the racial imposter syndrome. This is an experience shared by biracial and multi-ethnic people who find they feel “fake” or inauthentic in at least part of their racial heritage. We first heard about this at the NPR podcast Code Switch and their summary of how this works is fascinating if you are interested in identity and how we fail to embrace our full selves through some sense of guilt or shame (or something else). Beyond this episode, Code Switch is a terrific podcast on bias and how to circumvent it.
S-Town: An object lesson in empathy
And speaking of podcasts, if you have not listened to the NSFW (“not suitable for work” listening due to profanity) podcast S-Town—it is amazing. It is like a real life mystery of identity, racism, bias, hidden gold bars, and the state of Alabama. If you are interested in listening to it, do not read the spoilers which are filled with questions of ethics and fair play. Just know there is a very good reason why this is now the most downloaded podcast of all time. If you like mysteries and thrillers or suspense novels, you will love S-Town. Here’s where you can find it–prepare to binge.