Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Power, Powerlessness, and Your Brain

Anyone with a few spare minutes should read this interesting article from Not Exactly Rocket Science, which discusses some new research suggesting that feelings of powerlessness negatively impact an individual's mental performance:
In a series of experiments, Pamela Smith from Radboud University Nijmegen has shown that the powerless actually take a measurable hit to important mental abilities. Even if people are subconsciously primed with the concept of being powerless, they perform more poorly at tasks designed to assess their ability to plan, focus on goals and ignore distractions.
The NERS post describes Dr. Smith's methods, and its implications:
These results suggest that poor performance of those that lack power does not provide sufficient evidence that power has been allocated fairly. An alternative explanation is that assigning someone a certain position can alter their mental skills in a way that confirms their standing.
Considering that having power actually allows people to more easily realize their full potential and be more productive, it seems like any rational society (or classroom, or workplace) would strive to empower all of its members. So, what's the hold-up?

The original research can be found here.
(via Feminist Law Professors)

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