Is 'free will' really free?
The psychology of the powerful
When it comes to governments and prime ministers, this failure of intelligence creates the need for ways of stopping power getting out of hand like the House of Lords checking the power of the House of Commons.
When individuals are in positions of great power, there are other dangers, he says. "Politics can become dangerous. Leaders have the power to create wars." When the rest of the world makes it known that they do not like this type of leadership, they tend to resort to something which Prof Claxton calls 'messianic hubris'."They transpose their leadership into a sense of humility, as if they are listening to an inner god or higher power when making decisions."
This is when self-deception and an inflated sense of self-worth sets in.
Another danger for powerful people is a potential lack of empathy for others, a subject also discussed at the Royal Society of Medicine conference. Neuroscience studies have shown that the human brain responds to seeing someone in pain by activating pain in its own nerve endings, in order to mirror their pain. Further research in this area suggests that if one person does not like another, for whatever reason, then feelings of empathy are less likely.
Dr Jamie Ward, reader in psychology at the University of Sussex, says that power has the same effect. "You are less likely to imitate a low-status person if you are high status because you are unlikely to recognise or empathise with them. That could mean that the powerful are less empathetic."