NCBI ROFL: Powerful people are bigger hypocrites.

By ncbi rofl | April 18, 2013 10:00 am

You love to hate them: people in power who talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. I’m sure most of us have suffered a boss who tells you to do things that he or she doesn’t. But do these people become hypocrites because they are in positions of power, or were they just born a**holes? These scientists decided to find out! Turns out that power doesn’t just corrupt, it makes you a bigger hypocrite. Good thing I didn’t get that promotion after all.

Power increases hypocrisy: moralizing in reasoning, immorality in behavior.

“In five studies, we explored whether power increases moral hypocrisy (i.e., imposing strict moral standards on other people but practicing less strict moral behavior oneself). In Experiment 1, compared with the powerless, the powerful condemned other people’s cheating more, but also cheated more themselves. In Experiments 2 through 4, the powerful were more strict in judging other people’s moral transgressions than in judging their own transgressions. A final study found that the effect of power on moral hypocrisy depends on the legitimacy of the power: When power was illegitimate, the moral-hypocrisy effect was reversed, with the illegitimately powerful becoming stricter in judging their own behavior than in judging other people’s behavior. This pattern, which might be dubbed hypercrisy, was also found among low-power participants in Experiments 3 and 4. We discuss how patterns of hypocrisy and hypercrisy among the powerful and powerless can help perpetuate social inequality.”

Photo:Know Your Meme

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  • disqus_8TGF0gGIsi

    Who is the woman pictured? How do we know she believes in freedom of speech unless it offends her? Cite specifics, please.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1442325345 Gabrielle Wolf-Stahl

      I do believe it’s just a stock photo as a representative example…

  • stargene

    Can’t get hold of the paper. So, it occurs to me to ask
    what constitutes ‘illegitimate’ power in these studies?
    Does it mean power conferred by knowingly cheating,
    or conferred on someone who knows he/she did
    nothing to earn it? Evidence indicates that most
    people, mainly older white men, of great power
    (and usually wealth) actually believe they’ve earned
    and deserve both. A ‘touching’ and self-serving
    fantasy proliferating over the millenia and causing
    untold harm.

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NCBI ROFL is the brainchild of two Molecular and Cell Biology graduate students at UC Berkeley and features real research articles from the PubMed database (which is housed by the National Center for Biotechnology information, aka NCBI) that they find amusing (ROFL is a commonly-used internet acronym for "rolling on the floor, laughing"). Follow us on twitter: @ncbirofl

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