Leadership and hierarchy are effective ways of coordinating human activity, but they also tempt us into making chronic mistakes. Students of history have long been concerned by the psychological effects of gaining power over others and can point to numerous examples where seemingly reasonable individuals have become pathologically destructive and cruel upon the assumption of social roles of high status. Similarly, myth and fable caution against the pathologies of power, while standard accounts of notorious emperors (Nero, Caligula), infamous warlords (Genghis Khan, Coriolanus) and psychotic dictators (Hitler, Stalin) have long served to highlight the dangers of tyrannical, hubristic or corrupted thinking. Well-worn popular quotes inform us that power ‘goes to the head’ and ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely.’2 More recently, researchers in organisational and management studies, psychoanalysis,3 social psychology,4 linguistic5 and neural science6 have sought to provide additional tools by means of which to identify, explain and manage this troubling tendency. Of particular interest are current attempts to determine clinical indicators for hubris as a psychopathology.7 Given our apparent inability to adequately manage power in our society, a better account of the scope of these pathologies and the mechanisms by which they occur would be of considerable value.
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- Pathologies of Power and Cognition
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