« O'Reilly Energy Innovation Conference | Main | State of the Union visualizer »

January 21, 2007

Simple test to see if your boss is a self-centered jerk

photo of the letter E. Photo available via Creative Commons at http://www.flickr.com/photos/tednmiki/4391902/

Are people in positions of power and authority more likely to be self-centered a-holes, or does it just seem that way? That's the question taken on by some psychological researchers in this clever and funny study. The researchers ranked a group of test subjects based on their perceived level of power/control/authority over others, and then had them perform a simple task...

... We used a procedure created by Hass (1984) in which participants are asked to draw an "E" on their foreheads. One way to complete the task is to draw an "E" as though the self is reading it, which leads to a backward and illegible "E" from the perspective of another person. The other way to approach the task is to draw the "E" as though another person is reading it, which leads to production of an "E" that is backward to the self (see Figure 1). We predicted that participants in the high power condition would be more likely to draw the "E" in the "self-oriented" direction, indicating a lesser tendency to spontaneously adopt another's perspective, than would participants in the low power condition.

...and that's exactly what happened. Those in the high power group were almost three times more likely to draw a self-oriented E than those who were in the low power group. The researchers say this is related to a lessened ability to emphasize, sympathize, and see other people's points of view.

There's a write-up on the study on EurekAlert, and here's the paper, in Microsoft doc format.

(Thanks Collision Detection) (Photo by tednmiki/flickr.com)

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at January 21, 2007 09:15 AM


Yeah, well, thank god I made the backwards E. You know, the E facing the peeps.

Posted by: Sue at January 24, 2007 03:38 PM