Posts Tagged ‘private’

The peril of power

January 4, 2010

2009 continued the trend of unhealthy obssession with celebrities and their personal lives, and ended with a public relations nightmare for perhaps the decade’s best athlete: Tiger Woods.  One night while sitting at the dinner table, my mom professed that she couldn’t understand why people with power and money have a hard time sticking to one person.

My opinion was the exact opposite.  I think it is completely clear why humans have a hard time being monoamorous (having only one lover).  We have a biological impulse to pass on our genes which becomes a huge drive once we’re physically capable of doing so.  I don’t think it’s something restricted to the rich and powerful, either; it’s just that the rich and powerful are usually in a unique position to attract others to them, and thus fulfill their desires for polyamory.

From the perspective of evolutionary psychology, it is very obvious why those who are the most well off might be the most polyamorous.  When we are picking out partners, we are subtley looking for a good genetic match.  We are biologically coded to look for certain factors that indicate a partner capable of: a) Producing good offspring, b) Providing and taking care of that offspring.  The affluent are in a unique position to handle these tasks, and are thus very appealing to us.

Now the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern  University has published some interesting research confirming that the most powerful have a certain inability to practice what they preach.

In all cases, those assigned to high-power roles showed significant moral hypocrisy by more strictly judging others for speeding, dodging taxes and keeping a stolen bike, while finding it more acceptable to engage in these behaviors themselves.Galinsky noted that moral hypocrisy has its greatest impact among people who are legitimately powerful. In contrast, a fifth experiment demonstrated that people who don’t feel personally entitled to their power are actually harder on themselves than they are on others, which is a phenomenon the researchers dubbed “hypercrisy.” The tendency to be harder on the self than on others also characterized the powerless in multiple studies.

This study confirms what seems to be patently clear in the public sphere, and we can be reasonably certain that this will continue to be an ongoing battle as social networking and the media continue to bring everyone’s private life into the public purview.