Are people in a position of authority lacking in empathy?

by Bruce (5379 views)
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Estimated reading time: 3 minute

The following is a summary written based on the article: Power causes brain damage by The Atlantic.


People in a power of position are most likely to have brain damage in the metaphorical and literal sense, as this prevents them from practicing empathy, from being contemptuous of other ideas, and from thinking from another's perspective. In the literal sense, it impairs a specific neural process known as “mirroring” which plays a role in empathy.



As time passes, people in authority feel more powerful if nobody questions the basis for their decisions or conclusions. This lack of poking holes in their critical thinking skills might have empowered them to believe that they are infallible. It is likely that their ladder of inference was flawed when coming to their conclusion based on where they got the data and how credible it was.

As time passes, they might see questions from others, as a form of challenge to their authority, even when these questions could be meaningful for learning. This is the same as a fixed mindset in which one only views the world from their perspective.


So, what are some ways to prevent and overcome this?


  1. Thinking Fast and Slow

It takes deliberate practice to slow down our thinking, as taught by Daniel Kahnemen, which could help us to be better at evaluating how we form conclusions. We should try to use our System 2 of thinking to stop and ponder before jumping into conclusions.



  1. Friends and colleagues

Surround ourselves with reliable friends and colleagues who genuinely wish each other to succeed. We need sincere friends and colleagues who wants to help and ask questions that may test the credibility of our opinions and how we arrive at them. One effective way is to ask your trusted colleague to give constructive feedback that will help you improve.


  1. Practice empathy

Put yourself in someone’s else shoes and try to see where they are coming from, how would they have perceived your conclusion and why. Our experiences are unique to us and so are others, understanding this will help us connect with other parties.




By having a rigorous standard of how we think, we can prevent ourselves from falling into the beliefs of a fixed mindset. A growth mindset will help one see the bigger picture and it can help prevent one from the lack of empathy when in a position of authority.