Power Corrupts

Social psychologists and others are finding that the powerful ignore the less-powerful, confirming the notion that we focus on those who we know the best.  ”

Bringing the micropolitics of interpersonal attention to the understanding of social power, researchers are suggesting, has implications for public policy.”

via Rich People Just Care Less


What are the policy implications?


4 thoughts on “Power Corrupts”

  1. The attached article discusses ideas with profound implications for government policy.

    “Tuning in to the needs and feelings of another person is a prerequisite to empathy, which in turn can lead to understanding, concern and, if the circumstances are right, compassionate action. In politics, readily dismissing inconvenient people can easily extend to dismissing inconvenient truths about them. The insistence by some House Republicans in Congress on cutting financing for food stamps and impeding the implementation of Obamacare, which would allow patients, including those with pre-existing health conditions, to obtain and pay for insurance coverage, may stem in part from the empathy gap.”

    I believe our perspective on social issues changes the more we interact with those who are on the opposite end of the social spectrum. For example, I used to think that for the most part, welfare programs were part of a system that could be taken advantage of by people who were lazy and unwilling to work. It was easy to have that mindset as a republican who grew up in relatively comfortable circumstances. However, when my older brother last year told me that he was using food stamps to help feed his family, my whole perspective on the issue changed. I realized for the first time in a way I never had before that there were plenty of hard working people who benefited from such programs. Of course, I always knew that. I never was so close-minded as to assume that all who took advantage of welfare programs were lazy and unwilling to work. However, that was my general attitude towards the subject. Experience with someone I love and care about changed that attitude.

    That is the key to wise policy making: experience. Leaders who have experienced both sides to issues that are affected by policy making provide powerful insight to the whole process. Senator McCain’s comments about war as a veteran mean more to me than some random politician who has never experienced the horror war. We need leaders who are willing to tune into the needs of people who come from all sorts of backgrounds. We need leaders who are honestly willing to take the time to really get to know their constituents. Only then can effective policy making really take place.

  2. This article brought up a very interesting point about how we treat those we perceive to be inferior to us. “the more powerful person shows fewer signals of paying attention, like nodding or laughing. Higher-status people are also more likely to express disregard, through facial expressions, and are more likely to take over the conversation and interrupt or look past the other speaker”. It is so important to be mindful of not only what we say, but how we say and the non-verbal communication that follows. In politics and international diplomacy it is so important to listen to the opposition and to try to understand where they are coming from. You cannot create effective solutions without knowing what the real problems are. Actively and emphatically listening to others is a vital skill in pretty much every profession, but especially politics. And sadly, most politicians need a refresher course in it.

  3. This is interesting. I did research this summer that compared business owning families and their outlooks on money and I definitely saw the same kind of thing going on, a lot of people who perceived a lack of empathy from even their older siblings who have more money and power in the family.

    I feel those that work with helping develop countries need to be aware of some social implications of helping people in a village. Whole social dynamics can change by who has access and who does not to aide.

  4. I think it’s a very fascinating observation that those with more money are a lot less empathetic and sociable when dealing with those of a lower station. The idea of the out-of-touch, condescending rich family is something of a running social gag in the United States, but it can also be explained very logically in the context of the society we’ve made for ourselves.

    In the United States (and in capitalism itself), the end goal is always self-propulsion. We want to become better. We want to become happier. We want to become stronger. In a world where such things exist as the ultimate goals for the population, virtually all choices can be explained in the context of means to ends. When someone has money, they can use their money as the means to achieve the desired capitalist ends. When someone doesn’t have money, they need to find other means, and those means most often exist within the realm of interpersonal communication and relationships.

    Really, there is very little difference between the natural dispositions of the rich and the poor. Both are arguably after the end goal of self-propulsion. The only thing that sets one caste apart from the other is the means by which either group might possibly reach that goal.

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