- May 8, 2008
- Type me.
Fast and his colleague Serena Chen, who is at the University of California, Berkeley, asked 90 men and women who had jobs to complete online questionnaires about their aggressive tendencies and perceived competence. The most aggressive of the lot tended to have both high-power jobs and a chip on their shoulder, Fast and Chen found. To see if a bruised ego can actually cause aggression, the researchers manipulated people's sense of power and self-worth by asking them to write about occasions when they felt either empowered or impotent and then either competent or incompetent. Previous research has suggested that such essays cause a short-term bump or drop in feelings of power and capability, Fast says.
Next, Fast and Chen asked their volunteers to select a punishment to be given to university students for wrong answers in a hypothetical test of learning. Volunteers chose between horn sounds that ranged from 10 decibels to a deafening 130 decibels.
The volunteers who felt the most incompetent and empowered picked the loudest punishments