University of California

What the 'Cookie Monster Study' tells us about power

What the 'Cookie Monster Study' tells us about power

There's an old quote,"power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." And while we've all seen obvious examples of this, is there really something to it? Psychologist Dacher Keltner of the University of California, Berkeley found that there is - and he did so by conducting what's since been called the 'Cookie Monster Study'. "We brought in three people to the lab. We pointed to one person and we said you're in charge and so that person kind of felt powerful. So, half an hour into this, we bring a plate of five chocolate chip cookies and we put it on the table. Everybody takes one cookie, right? All groups always leave one cookie on the plate because you don't want to be that last person that takes the last cookie. And lo and behold, we find high-powered people, they reach out and they take it", Keltner says. And not just take it - they even ate it differently. "Our high-powered person was more likely to eat with their mouth open, lips smacking, crumbs literally falling onto their sweaters. It's ridiculous!" Their findings? With increased power came less listening, more talking and weaker inhibitions.

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