Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Powerful people are less empathetic: study

A new study finds that people who feel powerful are less empathetic -- that feeling powerful reduces activity in the regions of the brain that respond to others' activity (the mirror) system.

NPR reports, in "When Power Goes to Your Head It May Shut Out Your Heart,"
"What we're finding is power diminishes all varieties of empathy," says Dacher Keltner, a social psychologist at University of California, Berkeley, not involved in the new study. He says these results fit a trend within psychological research.
"Whether you're with a team at work [or] your family dinner, all of that hinges on how we adapt our behaviors to the behaviors of other people," he says. "And power takes a bite out of that ability, which is too bad."
The good news, Keltner says, is an emerging field of research that suggests powerful people who begin to forget their subordinates can be coached back to their compassionate selves.
The Buddha listed the Four Immeasurable Qualities (aka the Brahma Viharas, or Divine Abodes) of metta (lovingkindness); compassion, empathetic joy, and equanimity. There are meditations designed to develop each one.

Perhaps, in addition to corporate mindfulness meditation, some corporate compassion training is in order.

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