Does Power Corrupt? Absolutely Not

Today, while surfing the internet, I came upon this article written by KATE PICKERT for the Time Magazine. Indeed, contrary to the famous “Lucifer effect” and the popular saying that “absolute power corrupts absolutely”, here’s an article that shows the bright side of power. I submitted it in Digg and now am publishing it here in my blog:

Power breeds competence, not corruption, according to a new study in the May issue of Psychological Science. The study, a collaboration between U.S. and Dutch researchers, finds that if people feel powerful in their roles, they may be less likely to make on-the-job errors “” like administering the wrong medication to a patient. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the study suggests that people at the bottom of the workplace totem pole don’t end up there for lack of ability, but rather that being low and powerless in a hierarchy leads to more mistakes. It’s a finding that surprised even the study’s authors. “I’ll be totally honest. When we started this research,” says Adam Galinsky, a co-author and a social psychology professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, “we first had the hypothesis that maybe power might impair [cognitive] functioning.”

“This research has a lot of direct implications for such things as whether power corrupts,” says Galinsky, who collaborated with researchers from VU University Amsterdam and Radboud University Nijmegan.

(…)

To read the rest of the artcile go here.
To digg it, please go here.

Is it wise to be smart?

Today, while browsing the electronic pages of the New York Times, I found this interesting editorial

The Cost of Smarts
By Verlyn Klinkenborg

Research on animal intelligence always makes me wonder just how smart humans are. Consider the fruit-fly experiments described in Carl Zimmer’s piece in the Science Times on Tuesday. Fruit flies who were taught to be smarter than the average fruit fly tended to live shorter lives. This suggests that dimmer bulbs burn longer, that there is an advantage in not being too terrifically bright.

Intelligence, it turns out, is a high-priced option. It takes more upkeep, burns more fuel and is slow off the starting line because it depends on learning “” a gradual process “” instead of instinct. Plenty of other species are able to learn, and one of the things they’ve apparently learned is when to stop.

Is there an adaptive value to limited intelligence? That’s the question behind this new research. I like it. Instead of casting a wistful glance backward at all the species we’ve left in the dust I.Q.-wise, it implicitly asks what the real costs of our own intelligence might be. This is on the mind of every animal I’ve ever met.

Every chicken that looks at you sideways “” which is how they all look at you “” is really saying what Thoreau said less succinctly: you are endeavoring to solve the problem of a livelihood by a formula more complicated than the problem itself. Thoreau himself would not dispute that he was hoping to recover the chicken’s point of view. He went to Walden Pond “to remember well his ignorance.”

Research on animal intelligence also makes me wonder what experiments animals would perform on humans if they had the chance. Every cat with an owner, for instance, is running a small-scale study in operant conditioning. I believe that if animals ran the labs, they would test us to determine the limits of our patience, our faithfulness, our memory for terrain. They would try to decide what intelligence in humans is really for, not merely how much of it there is. Above all, they would hope to study a fundamental question: Are humans actually aware of the world they live in? So far the results are inconclusive.

This editorial refers to the following article : Lots of Animals Learn, but Smarter Isn’t Better

Irrational vs Rational

By Paulo Coelho

Recently I read in an article by David Mehegan in The Boston Globe about the release of the book “Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions.” by Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist at MIT.

This book seemed very appealing to me because the author proves, by a series of behavioural experiments, that humans tend to act much more irrationally than rationally.
Indeed, as the journalist puts it:

“Ariely’s book explores the varieties of nonsensical economic thinking, such as:

We value things more when we pay a higher price for them. The Bayer aspirin and the Rolex watch
seem valuable because of how much they cost, not because they’re better in practical terms than a generic aspirin or a Timex.

Relativity distorts reality. We might be earning 10 times more money than we earned for the same work a decade ago, but we’re convinced that we’re underpaid if the people around us are earning more.

Easy choices make decisions difficult. The more nearly equal two alternative products, jobs, or presidential candidates are, the more agonizing the choice between them.

We’re hopeless suckers for the word “free” on an item for sale, even if there’s a hidden cost and the product is something we don’t need or even like.”


Indeed, how many times the power of the word “free” plunges us into an unnecessary buying spree of things that as soon as we leave the store we already regret?

Why do we keep on postponing decisions and most importantly let ourselves be guided by this illusion of abundance?

If the reasons of this irrationality are impossible for us to see, at least, Ariely’s book seem to give some sort of comfort.

We can learn from our mistakes and refrain from making the same irrational gestures that we afterwards we feel bad about.

The solution then lies in our ability to bypass our “wired-in tendencies”.

Ariely’s book is interesting in the realm of economics. It not only reveals that much of our “rational” decisions are actually irrational, but also that our rationality can guide us to step away from a vicious circle.

I believe nevertheless that when one gets away from this economic perspective – this tendency is reversed.

Sometimes it is by letting our irrationality take over that we actually manage to see our true path.
What’s your take on that?

Love
Paulo

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