- The researchers primed subjects on "power" by having the subject write an essay about a high, neutral, or low power situation. It's not clear that the intervention maps to what the article calls power.
- The researchers did not find statistically significant differences between the low power group and the neutral group. They also did not find significant differences between the neutral group and the high power group. If the neutral group varied this much, are we tracking meaningful differences?
- Is reduced mirroring "damage"? Is reduced mirroring necessarily undesirable? We have no idea.
It's still legitimate to critique the approach but I don't think you can simply pick apart a single paper to do that.
Reflexive lack of empathy for people in proportion to the degree you have power over them may be a logical product of the evolution of the human organism. But it might not be something a democratic society benefits from in its leaders, to bring thing back to the topic.
Unless I've missed something it seems much more reasonable to assume that the changes they measure were good for the leader's reproductive success, historically. That's a very different thing though...
Nope. It just claims power lessens people's capacity for empathy.
Why is that "most likely"?
Ummmmm, this has not been my experience at all. Women seem as perplexed by men as the other way around. Believing you understand how someone works and thinks is not the same thing as actually understanding how someone works and thinks.
Besides being wrong (just do a google search for "how can I understand men") I find this part of feminist theory to be incredibly sexist.
EDIT: Also, if women did understand men perfectly you would think they would have absolutely no problem getting exactly what they want from men. If I understood someone perfectly, I would absolutely know the best ways to manipulate them. If your statement is true, the fact that women are still unequal in some respects (seats in the boardroom/more opportunity to improve career/etc) would probably mean that women don't want the opportunities they claim they do. After all, if they understood men as well as you claim they would have no problem extracting those opportunities.
If you can't get someone to do what you want, you definitely do not understand them perfectly by any stretch of the terms.
If women understood men perfectly, there wouldn't be so many examples of classic male-female miscommunication. AskReddit threads are a testament to this. Take person A who only speaks Chinese and person B who speaks English as a first language as well as perfect Chinese. For some reason they often have misunderstandings, why would this be? Probably because person B doesn't speak Chinese as well as they think.
Then combine this with the time, place and mood the misunderstanding occurred in. Then you will realise that it's too fuzzy to just put it down to a factor such as gender differences ... so what to do? Simples: try not to judge, because at best it is inaccurate and at worse it feeds into the prejudice. It would be far more helpful to take the benefit of doubt while being honest and empathic, because that's the only way the two parties can meet at the centre. If one party refuses to budge, then perhaps just give in! Victories are ultimately a bit petty.
By the way, please don't take this as a holier-than-thou speech, and I'm not condemning you for being so 'simple'. The reality is that all of us are like this, because it's so deeply ingrained and easy, a shortcut in our search for explanation. But for the sake of peace, we can definitely try to rise above it. Honesty and empathy - without the tree-hugging tone.
While I agree with the gist of your comment, this is not true. I perfectly understand how roulette works - yet it doesn't help me win. (Unless you're using a very literal meaning of the word "perfectly", like in some laplacian determinism sense.) In fact, we can get all sorts of interesting (probabilistic) understanding about the world, which doesn't provide any information to help us decide.
As an example: it's been frequently claimed that feminists hate men, but not because a lot of feminists say that they hate men.
While this sounds "obvious", I don't think that someone in financial or personal trouble is spending a lot of time philosophising about what rich people are thinking. They're more likely focused on their problems at hand. But even if I grant you that ...
> so they tend to have a good understanding of what powerful people think
... How does that logically follow from the first statement? Just because someone spends a lot of time thinking about something doesn't mean that they're correct in their conclusions. Conspiracy theorists spend an insane amount of time thinking about what "the powers that be" are thinking about. Does that mean they're correct in their conclusions? No, their conclusions are tainted by their own biases.
> And that's where you get the trope of women being mysterious creatures, whereas women seem to understand men perfectly.
Assuming the trope was actually accurate, how do you explain that powerful women also have the same trait? Why don't very poor men understand women perfectly? It's almost as though evolutionary psychology plays a role, rather than this less-power-makes-you-more-empathetic model.
Also, I don't understand how this isn't a sexist view, saying that "women understand men incredibly well because they spend a lot of time thinking about men, while men don't spend nearly as much time thinking about women."
> The same logic applies to bosses and workers.
Do you honestly think that workers understand bosses better than bosses understand workers? I find that generally both groups misunderstand each other in equal quantities. Also arguably bosses might understand workers better because most bosses have been workers but most workers haven't been bosses.
Unlimited power may cause some lack of capacity but it's worth keeping in mind that extreme powerlessness may also create actual neurological problems also - see the learned helplessness hypothesis . Of course this doesn't take away from the point that equal relations are probably the most healthy - even on a neurological level. But it makes who really understands who a bit more complicated a question.
Can you provide any sources for this in feminist theory? Because I've never previously encountered it, and I'd genuinely like to know more about how it fits with other bits of feminist theory if it really is a standard (or even common) element.
No, that trope predates feminist theory by many millenia, it is not a product of it.
“Oppression grants women deep insight” seems closer to a gender-based version of the “noble savage” concept than anything feminist I've seen.
Still waiting for actual feminist theory sources for the “theory” in question.
I personally believe that the "mysterious creature" concept stems from women being more emotional and thus more difficult to analyse - we seem to have more scientific grounds for logic, whereas we still hadn't even agreed what an emotion is.
Two stereotypical emotional memes for men:
- men think with their libido, and will throw away their life for a shag
- men have fragile egos, and will pick up a fight over a perceived injury to their honor
The sexist stereotype "women are emotional" just doesn't work.
Everyone worth discussing with knows it is an simplification.
Same as "women and feelings".
I'd guess however that pretending there is absolutely no truth to it whatsoever might leave one with a disadvantage when trying to understand what goes on.
Why do you think women (as a gender) are more emotional?
I dislike feminism per se as I see it to be just another sexism and not a step towards gender equality, as it tends to cause sexual etichette becoming more visual and everything having gender associations, and comes with detrimental practices like positive discrimination and extension of gender equality into non gender-related parts of life. And in tech these are so much amplified.
If anything, I would say women tend to be more inclined to sharing and talking about their emotions. Men tend to try to hide them, or fight them. Which often pushes us down a progression of more extreme emotions, rather than gently easing ourselves back to center.
Fighting/denying our emotions also causes us to try to rationalize perceptions driven by our emotions, by ascribing them to the world around us. Because that's a false attribution, it makes it harder for our teams to get an accurate picture of the world outside our emotions.
It's generally true.
(So tempted to get all sarky with "wide-eyed" and "fragile" but onwards.)
Now what's wrong with being emotional? Even in environments such as tech, this is a necessity. Ultimately people use tech, so damn right we need to be emotional about it.
'Emotional fits' though uncomfortable to watch don't actually occur often, but when it does, it is usually grounded in a very good reason, which may not be made clear yet.
So either way, actually, it's still way better for us to embrace differences and listen to each other for a richer working environment and output. Diversity is only a barrier when you choose to look at it that way.
You just cited the same argument to justify why the argument isn't true.
Since there's no mention whatsoever I'm betting there was no meaningful difference or the test group wasn't big enough to investigate the possibility of said difference.
They don't talk about it in any sentences, but they found that female CEOs correlate with having slightly higher stock volatility (1.612). Not sure if this is a valid interpretation, as I'm reading from a table.
N = 8533 CEOs, btw.
It makes sense that people in authoritative positions would not do this as often.
It's a natural guess, but no. Check out:
It's referencing the section of the brain that is used for social mirroring, I believe.
> Sukhvinder Obhi, a neuroscientist at McMaster University, in Ontario, [...] found that power, in fact, impairs a specific neural process, “mirroring,” that may be a cornerstone of empathy.
This paper this refers to is https://www.oveo.org/fichiers/power-changes-how-the-brain-re... , which states
> with respect to action observation, neural circuits that are related to action execution become active when the person observes someone else making the same action; in other words, the observer’s brain resonates with the model’s motor behavior. We refer to the network of brain regions involved in this process as the motor resonance system. Motor resonance includes the human parietofrontal mirror system, and many believe that resonance reflects mirror system activity. [...] Researchers suggest that motor resonance provides a scaffold for understanding the actions of our interaction partners, and those actions are frequently less important to those with high-power status. [...] In the present study, we examine whether power can increase or decrease interpersonal sensitivity by examining the effects of power priming on motor resonance.
The parietofrontal mirror system is the classic set of mirror neurons which were first identified in monkeys.
As others have pointed out, the article may be flawed. But I think the job of leader calls for reduced empathy or some way to control it and the second guessing yourself that comes with it - and that is probably what the author observed.
I am reminded of a quote by Buffett or someone similar about more money turning assholes into even bigger assholes meaning there is nothing wrong in staying humble even after you become rich and powerful.
edit: further reading https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/scicurious-brain/ignobe...
From the article you linked:
"Some people like to use the salmon study as proof that fMRI is woo, but this isn't the case, it's actually a study to show the importance of correcting your stats."
> A reliable index of resonance is the amplitude of motor-evoked potentials (MEPs) recorded from a specific muscle via electromyography (EMG), while a person observes another person acting. An MEP is elicited by applying a single, fixed intensity TMS pulse over an area of the motor cortex that corresponds to a muscle underlying the observed action. For a given intensity of stimulation, changes in MEP amplitude reflect changes in the excitability of motor cortical representations (see Figure 1; for a review, see Fadiga et al., 2005).
I wonder how easily it can be passed to offspring (via nature or nurture).
I know this because I think I am an overly empathetic person, and I know I make a terrible leader. Even watching shows like the West Wing stresses me out a bit and I don't envy people who have to make hard decisions.
They are caused by not having developed skills in setting boundaries.
Being worried about upsetting people isn't a feature of empathy. It's a feature of a lack of perspective.
For example, the difficult decision of firing a problem employee is made more difficult by empathy for that employee, but made easier by empathy for affected coworkers and customers.
In China, ethnic Chinese probably feel the same way compared to immigrants or people of other heritage. Or ethnically Japanese people in Japan. Or Saudis in Saudi Arabia compared to minorities there.
In other words, there is a certain power inherent to being part of the dominant ethnic or cultural group in every human society.
(Although, still need to see research demonstrating membership in these dominant groups leads to same degree of empathy atrophy as the research in the article demonstrates for high status individuals like CEOs.)
I would put this differently: I would say that "white" is a refusal to identify yourself with a group based on ethnicity. Which for many people who are labeled "white" by others makes sense, since they do not have a single "ethnicity" anyway. I am an example: my genetic ancestry includes Anglo-Saxon, Hispanic, Mediterranean, and Native American, and I am adopted, so my cultural ancestry includes a few more things thrown into the mix. No ethnicity comes anywhere close to describing me, so I have no interest in or reason to identify with one.
As far as "fictitious power dynamics", if my choice to not identify with a group based on ethnicity gives me any power, it's a power that anyone can have by making the same choice. So I don't see how it gives me any advantage over anyone else. After all, what I said about not having a single "ethnicity" anyway probably applies to a majority of humans on this planet at this time, and even if it doesn't apply to you in a strict genetic sense, that doesn't mean you can't make the choice to not identify with a group based on ethnicity.
Edit: to those downvoting me, could you please explain why?
The commenter quite explicitly said that they're not referring to all white men. Nor even that being white or a man are among the qualifying conditions.
They are referring to the degree to which people buy in, consciously or subconsciouly, to the notion that their whiteness or masculinity are inherently or naturally good/powerful/dominant.
Since HN is a well-educated community, on the whole, it's not unreasonable to expect a little more work on the part of potential readers than for the same comment posted on a broader platform like Facebook. Unless I know from prior experience where a particular poster stands, when I read a comment I find attitudinally startling on HN I try out a few different interpretations before making assumptions about what was meant.
And in this case, I would agree that there are better ways to express the idea.
I used a stronger tone than necessary about your original reading, I didn't mean to be hostile. But I did think it was clear that the poster was not generalizing as broadly as you took it.
What is more, your line of thinking is a good one.
Edward Said constructed basically this same argument -
persuasively, I think - in Orientalism, his book on the history of western writing about the east (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orientalism_(book)). If you can get a copy, I recommend it strongly: as you can no doubt see, the consequences of this idea are extraordinarily complex. For instance: what exactly determines Whiteness, if it's a concept that is defined only as "not-ethnic"?
Along those lines, Noel Ignatiev's (note: a controversial figure) book How the Irish Became White details how Celtic immigrants were NOT considered white in the antebellum South. Anyone in America, I think, with Irish or Scots ancestry knows the long history of American racism against the Celts. Ignatiev argues that the Celts 'gained' White status by setting themselves up as anti-Black by becoming strong proponents of slavery and speaking racist ideologies. I found this interesting and persuasive. The historical evidence of horrible and inhuman Irish anti-Black sentiment is obvious, but where other scholars have proposed things like "oh, the Irish came over and were racist just like everyone else" Ignatiev proposes a more universal truth about the way constructions of race interact.
You presume then that attempting to be a white masculine man leads to brain damage, but what about black masculine man? Do they somehow not suffer the brain damage? Why is it considered damage in the first place? They did get in power, maybe what you see as damage is instead optimization.
I think black men suffer some of the same brain damage as white men.
Women with masculine personality traits probably suffer it in some conditions too. If it's real, it's a fuzzy cluster around men, not a strict aspect of manhood only.
Black people do indeed identify themselves as "black", and not "Igbo" or "Yoruba" or "Zulu". But there's a reason for that: "black", in the sense of "African American", is an ethnicity we created, by kidnapping millions of people and stripping them of their original culture. Most "black" people in the US share a common culture and linguistic tradition, one that happens to have been created here.
So it makes sense that there is "black pride" and "Irish pride" but not "white pride". Of those three groups, "white" is not really an ethnicity.
1 - https://youtu.be/98fBiOVEcyI?t=250
There is no such thing as "America" - this is a social construct which only persists because, every day, people get out of bed and say "well, there is America, and it is 'that thing over there'" and, well, if enough people get together and say something is, the way it is, then thats the way it is.
All culture is a lie. It doesn't hold up on its own, under its own characteristics, like .. say .. Plutonium the Element does. In order to persist, the lie must continually be told.
So really, your invention is as much a lie as anything else. What you really want is to alter culture - and really, who doesn't want that, these days?
You clearly haven't met people from cultures other than yours, have you?
I hope you don't take this the wrong way, but it doesn't seem like your comment is responding to the article - it's responding to the headline, and you're projecting some things onto it and responding to them. Please don't do that - it's what we see on every other news forum/website, and it degrades the quality of the conversation.
"Masculinity" is an appropriate idea, and masculinity is not a bad thing.
There may be some cultural associations with masculinity which don't need to be there, but I maintain that there is a sense of "masculinity" which ought to be recognized as appropriate in some circumstances (primarily among people who are male)
If any of the above was done by race, it would be an outrage today and obvious racism. So, does that mean, in some aspects, you can just manipulate symbols from the article and claim women have similar forms of brain damage simply from their being a woman?
And I agree with you there are many negatives to manhood and masculinity, many positives to womanhood. I don't see that as contradicting my theory.
It's accepted/understood because it's an intentional outcome of an intentional policy.
There USED to be a white culture, white ethnicity, white everything. (One only needs to experience American history to understand the centuries long history of white identity in America).
But due to heritage of political white supremacy, we decided to destroy ALL white identity, ALL white culture, ALL white "ethnicity", as a "baby with the bath water" approach to ending white supremacy.
I think this is why people have this disconnect between "ethnicity" and "whiteness". In this thread.
OF COURSE there is a white ethnicity, but, we Americans destroyed white identity intentionally to destroy white supremacy.
My Cajun / German great grandparents had a lot more in common with local black families than white Germans from New York. Whiteness to them was just an artificial way to segregate people.
There have been a lot of very distinct cultures held by white people -- German, Irish, Finnish, etc -- but they were all quite different.
"Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth."
It seems that even a century earlier than your 1950's monoculture, the white people of America were not just calling themselves white, but in fact, were creating political philosophy centered around their white identity.
Not their polish, German, Irish, Finnish identity.
Their WHITE identity.
Is what it is, you clearly already have your conclusion.
P.S. northern chinese make fun of southern chinese (cantonese), does that preclude their ethnicity and culture? I fail to see how targeting Irish means anything. Chinese target their own sub-ethnicities all day long. As does every other ethnic group.
He's not saying that nobody called themselves "white" before 1950.
He's saying that the demographics of "whiteness" in the mid-1800s are different than the demographics of "whiteness" now, and so the term is arbitrary.
I'm not sure why you'd conflate the two, to be honest—understanding your race is fairly necessary to understand how you're viewed in the US, and how you might be expected to behave. Understanding your ethnicity is an entirely different thing—e.g. legally, nobody cared if a person was french, german, or english if the question was 'black or white'. But you might care.