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Description: I am teaching a course this term on I/O or Industrial Organizational Psychology and I was struck by a quote in one of the sources I was reading in preparation for class that suggested that I/O psychology is a “brainless” science. What might it mean for someone to say that? Well, they were pointing out that while there has been an explosion of research and interest on the brain functioning foundations of many areas and phenomenon in psychology (driven by the cheaper availability of brain scanning etc.), to date there has been little neuroscience informed work in I/O psychology. That is changing. Here is a Neuro-I/O question: How does power change the brains of CEO’s? How does having power change the way you think and behave? Think about what this might involve and then read the article linked below to see where research in this area is going.

Source: How Power Changes the CEO Brain, Jeanne Sahadi, @CNN Money, CNN.

Date: September 4, 2018

Photo Credit: chombosan/Getty Images

Article Links:

So, what does power do to your brain? Well, it may change your perspective making you more self-focused and less empathic. It may cause your perceptions of social constraints to fade and your recall of obstacles to your goals to fade along with them and your behaviours and decisions may become riskier. These and other factors could contribute to incidents of corporate greed and sexual harassment among CEO’s. It DOES seem that what people were like before becoming CEO’s can have a mitigating effect of the potentials for power abuses when at the top. We can and need to look forward to more research into the effects of power on the brains of those who take it up.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Are the behavioural patterns and power related tendencies of New CEO’s inborn or a result of the new power they have?
  2. What would a neuroscience of I/O psychology potentially provide us with that we do not already have?
  3. What new areas of research looking at CEO brains should we be undertaking?

References (Read Further):

Galinsky, A. D., Magee, J. C., Inesi, M. E., & Gruenfeld, D. H. (2006). Power and perspectives not taken. Psychological science, 17(12), 1068-1074.

Gruenfeld, D. H., Inesi, M. E., Magee, J. C., & Galinsky, A. D. (2008). Power and the objectification of social targets. Journal of personality and social psychology, 95(1), 111.

Bentley, F. S., Fulmer, I. S., & Kehoe, R. R. Payoffs for layoffs? An examination of CEO relative pay and firm performance surrounding layoff announcements. Personnel Psychology.

One Response to “I/O Psychology No Longer a Mindless Science”

  1. Erika Gomez

    This is also relevant for understanding world leaders and the changes they sometimes seem to undergo after taking power….

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