Wall Street Journal says hierarchies make people stupid (??)

This is a rather bizarre item which comes to us from Kevin Carson. Apparently the Wall Street Journal has published a study which proves that holding a position of power disables one’s capacity to take different perspectives.

One part, in particular, was interesting: after being assigned to superior and subordinate positions in a role-playing game, participants were exposed to fake cell phone ads. Some of the ads emphasized product quality and price, while others “featured weak or nonsensical arguments.” Interestingly, subjects who’d been role-modeling positions of authority “were far less sensitive to the quality of the argument.” Lehrer writes:

“This suggests that even fleeting feelings of power can dramatically change the way people respond to information. Instead of analyzing the strength of the argument, those with authority focus on whether or not the argument confirms what they already believe. If it doesn’t, then the facts are conveniently ignored.”

So if you wonder why the MBAs at corporate seem to be literally unaware of any alternative to the Nardelli/Fiorina/”Chainsaw Al” model of downsizing everybody and giving themselves a bonus, the answer is: they probably are. Their own power has made them stupid.

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