Study finds that having power can make you stupid

This is an article that appeared in Forbes 4 days ago: Study Finds That Having Power Can Make You Stupid.

Do you ever get the sense that the more powerful people get, the more foolish they become? …. Four university professors thought the same thing, and they devised a test to find out if it’s really true. It is, they concluded.

That is, they found that power dependably breeds overconfidence, and overconfidence dependably leads to bad decisions. Nathanael Fast, of the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California, Niro Sivanathan, of London Business School, Nicole Mayer, of the University of Illinois, and Adam Galinsky, of the Kellogg School at Northwestern University, noticed two well-known instances of calamitous overconfidence among the powerful: Steve Case’s blithe orchestration of the $350 billion merger of AOL and Time Warner in 2000, and BP’s massive obliviousness to risks, under Tony Hayward, that led to the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

The four wanted to know, are such overconfident people drawn to power, or does power itself create their overconfidence?

They had subjects write detailed accounts of times when they had had or had lacked power. They then had them answer a series of factual questions and rate how confident they were about their answers. They found that the people who had been primed to think of themselves as more powerful had more confidence in their answers than the rest—and yet their answers were actually less accurate. Yes, “confidence in one’s answers was inversely correlated with accuracy.”

Four follow-up experiments confirmed and expanded the results. The researchers came to a disturbing conclusion:

Not only do overconfident people tend to acquire roles that afford power . . . but the subjective sense of power brought on by these roles causes people to become further overconfident. . . . Finding practical ways to soften and/or hold in check the causal relationship between power and overconfidence represents an important endeavor for future research. Helping the powerful safely escape this perilous aspect of power is not only in the interest of power holders, but is also in the interest of all who are daily impacted by their decisions.

What can you do? One answer, apparently, is to humiliate the powerful. The fifth and final experiment the four conducted found that the tie between power and overconfidence “was eliminated when the powerful were made to feel incompetent.”

How did this article sneak into a blog about Haslemere parking?