I’ve been studying how people get power.

How do you get power in the U.S. Senate or on the basketball court or in social groups?

At the same time my lab was looking at what happens if you randomly give people power or people feel like they’re at the highest station in society?

“We discovered this paradox in which: you get in power by stirring other people in advancing the interests of the social collective.”

Stirring means inspiring and pointing to a course of action that they believe will advance their interests.

This very deep principle in the acquisition of power goes back to hunter-gatherer societies.

It’s really the individuals who, in that context, know how to advance the interest of the group – who can get food or protection or relaxation or whatever it is – that group assumes power.

It is about focusing on others and advancing their interests.

Regrettably what happens once someone feels powerful is:

“Wow I just got the big promotion,” or “look at me, I got a lot of money.”

“Those who acquire power start to become less empathetic, become less considerate of other people, and become more selfish.”

There is a lot of data that speaks to this paradoxical quality of power.

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Social Psychologist, Co- Director at

Dacher Keltner is a social psychologist who focuses on the prosocial emotions, such as love, sympathy and gratitude, and processes such as teasing and flirtation that enhance bonds. He is Co-Director of The Greater Good Science Center and the author of Born to Be Good.