Power is as addictive as cocaine, says expert

Syndicated from IANS | Published on Sun, Apr 29 2012 9:57 IST | 4 Views | Add comment
London, April 29

More than a hundred years after noted British historian Baron John Acton coined the phrase "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely", a scientist has said power really does corrupt as it is as addictive as cocaine.

According to the Daily Mail, the feeling of power has been found to have a similar effect on the brain like cocaine as it increases the levels of testosterone and its by-product 3-androstanediol in both men and women.

This in turn leads to raised levels of dopamine in the brain's nucleus accumbens, which can be very addictive.

A report by Ian Robertson -- professor of psychology at Trinity College, Dublin -- said cocaine works in a similar way, which can have varied effects from increasing alertness, confidence, energy, feelings of well-being and euphoria, but also anxiety, paranoia and restlessness.

He has also written a book, "The Winner Effect: How Power Affects Your Brain".

Power has almost identical effects to cocaine and too much of it can produce too much dopamine, leading to more negative effects such as arrogance and impatience.

"Baboons low down in the dominance hierarchy have lower levels of dopamine in key brain areas, but if they get 'promoted' to a higher position, then dopamine rises accordingly. This makes them more aggressive and sexually active, and in humans similar changes happen when people are given power," Robertson wrote in the Telegraph.

"Conversely, demotion in a hierarchy decreases dopamine levels, increases stress and reduces cognitive function," he said.

He said power has also been found to make people smarter because dopamine improves the functioning of the brain's frontal lobes.

Submissiveness and dominance also give similar effects through the same reward circuits of the brain as power and cocaine.

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