Saturday, November 16, 2013

Abiotic Evolution: Can It Explain An Origin For The Toxins of Power? - 2

What activates the Toxins of Power?
In this series regular readers will notice that Toxins of Power Blog has been intellectually honest.

Honest to point out that our ongoing search for a clear and present nexus between an individual experiencing power, and the subsequent advent of toxins of power in that individual, has not been adequately successful yet.

There have been abundant discoveries and discussions about where the toxins can come from, but that is only one side of the coin, so now we must focus on a nexus between those many potential toxin sources and the dynamics of the experience of power.

In other words the search is not over, it does continue.

What triggering mechanism takes place within the individual's subconscious and/or conscious mind when power is experienced by that individual?

In the previous post of this series I indicated:
"In other words, we can see that power corrupts those who are exposed to it for a sufficient amount of time, but we can't explain how power triggers those potential sources which are capable of producing toxins of power.

That linkage is the next series of possibilities we will begin to take a look at so we can try to develop that hypothesis."
(Abiotic Evolution: Can It Explain An Origin For The Toxins of Power?). Some research recently revealed a potential link between toxins and power:
Even the smallest dose of power can change a person. You've probably seen it. Someone gets a promotion or a bit of fame and then, suddenly, they're a little less friendly to the people beneath them.

So here's a question that may seem too simple: Why?

If you ask a psychologist, he or she may tell you that the powerful are simply too busy. They don't have the time to fully attend to their less powerful counterparts.

But if you ask Sukhvinder Obhi, a neuroscientist at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, Canada, he might give you another explanation: Power fundamentally changes how the brain operates.

Obhi and his colleagues, Jeremy Hogeveen and Michael Inzlicht, have a new study showing evidence to support that claim.

Obhi and his fellow researchers randomly put participants in the mindset of feeling either powerful or powerless. They asked the powerless group to write a diary entry about a time they depended on others for help. The powerful group wrote entries about times they were calling the shots.

Then, everybody watched a simple video. In it, an anonymous hand squeezes a rubber ball a handful of times — sort of monotonously. While the video ran, Obhi's team tracked the participants' brains, looking at a special region called the mirror system.
(When Power Goes To Your Head, emphasis added). In future posts we will build the nexus bridge structure available with that new study.

Another study may fit in with those details in the above study as well:
In 1776, Adam Smith famously wrote: "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we can expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest."

Economists have run with this insight for hundreds of years, and some experts think they've run a bit too far. Robert Frank, an economist at Cornell, believes that his profession is squashing cooperation and generosity. And he believes he has the evidence to prove it. Consider these data points:

Less charitable giving: in the U.S., economics professors gave less money to charity than professors in other fields -- including history, philosophy, education, psychology, sociology, anthropology, literature, physics, chemistry, and biology. More than twice as many economics professors gave zero dollars to charity than professors from the other fields.

More deception for personal gain: economics students in Germany were more likely than students from other majors to recommend an overpriced plumber when they were paid to do it.

Greater acceptance of greed: Economics majors and students who had taken at least three economics courses were more likely than their peers to rate greed as "generally good," "correct," and "moral."

Less concern for fairness: Students were given $10 and had to make a proposal about how to divide the money with a peer. If the peer accepted, they had a deal, but if the peer declined, both sides got nothing. On average, economics students proposed to keep 13 percent more money for themselves than students from other majors.

In another experiment, students received money, and could either keep it or donate it to the common pool, where it would be multiplied and divided equally between all participants. On average, students contributed 49 percent of their money, but economics students contributed only 20 percent. When asked what a "fair" contribution was, the non-economists were clear: 100 percent of them said "half or more" (a full 25 percent said "all"). The economists struggled with this question. Over a third of them refused to answer it or gave unintelligible responses. The researchers wrote that the "meaning of 'fairness'... was somewhat alien for this group."

Hearts of Darkness

But maybe studying economics doesn't change people. It could be self-selection: students who already believe in self-interest are drawn to economics.
(Does Studying Economics Breed Greed?). The basic direction we are taking is to gather studies showing the brain-circuit level changes that take place, metamorphosis if you will, when an individual experiences power.

We will then follow that information down into the microbial levels to see if relevant microbial communication disruption, toxin level activity, and other activity has been discovered and the results published.

The next post in this series is here, the previous post in this series is here.