Sunday, March 29, 2009

Number 10 ~ TREADING (Conduct)

Treading upon the tail of the tiger.

It does not bite the man. Success.

The situation is really difficult. That which is strongest and that which is weakest are close together. The weak follows behind the strong and worries it. The strong, however, acquiesces and does not hurt the weak, because the contact is in good humor and harmless. In terms of a human situation, one is handling wild, intractable people. In such a case, one's purpose will be achieved if one behaves with decorum. Pleasant manners succeed even with irritable people.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Consciousness is More Than Our Brains

As anyone who’s a steady reader of this blog knows, there are a lot of current scientific studies trying to explain how we think and how we view the world. The most recent one below is a good example ~ do religious people have a less active anterior cingulated cortex, and if so, what does that mean?

I’m becoming increasingly uncomfortable with many of these neuroscientific studies. Either the researchers themselves are becoming more extreme in what they believe the evidence shows, or the news articles are sensationalizing the findings.

Likely some of both.

That’s why I’m interested in a new book by Alva Noë, a philosopher at the University of California. In Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain and Other Lessons From the Biology of Consciousness, he clearly disputes that our brains can be understood in their entirety by a bunch of laboratory tests.

Here are some quotes from Noë that I lifted from a recent interview in They give you a good idea of where he’s coming from:
I don't reject the idea that the brain is necessary for consciousness; but I do reject the argument that it is sufficient. That's just a fancy, contemporary version of the old philosophical idea that our true selves are interior, cut off from the outside world, only accidentally situated in the world. The view I'm attacking claims that neural activity is enough to explain consciousness, that you could have consciousness in a petri dish. It supposes that consciousness happens inside the brain the way digestion occurs inside the GI tract. But consciousness is not like digestion; it doesn't happen inside of us. It is something we do, something we achieve. It's more like dance than it is like digestion.
* * * * *
I think of religions as communal and as literary traditions, both things existing outside the brain. I don't think of religious belief as something we can understand individualistically. When someone says they believe in God, you've got to understand the practices, customs, backgrounds and social realities that are part of that. None of it is going to reduce to anything individual inside of that person's brain. People like Sam Harris, who worry about the irrationality of religious customs and practices, are right to be concerned. I agree that religion can be dangerous. But I don't think neuroscience is the way to understand it at all.

* * * * *
Instead of asking how the brain makes us conscious, we should ask, How does the brain support the kind of involvement with the world in which our consciousness consists? This is what the best neuroscientists do. The brain is not the author of our experience. If we want to understand the role of the brain, we should ask, How does the brain enable us to interact with and keep track of the world as we do? What makes a certain pattern of brain activity a conscious perceptual experience has nothing to do with the cells themselves, or with the way they are firing, but rather with the way the cells' activity is responsive to and helps us regulate our engagement with the world around us.

Click here for the entire interview.
Photo at left is Alva Noë

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Does Religion Reduce Perception of Error?

(The more I think about this article, the more I feel it's open for wide interpretation. If the subject interests you, I recommend you follow the link to the complete article for more details.)

A team of researchers recently took a close look at a small area of the brain called the anterior cingulated cortex, or ACC. According to research leader Michael Inzlicht, the ACC tells us when something is wrong, as when we've made a mistake.

"When it's fired, the response engendered is 'uh-oh, pay attention, something is amiss here'," says Inzlicht, a neuroscientist at the University of Toronto.
  • Among his findings are that people of a religious persuasion have less of an ACC ‘uh-oh’ response than non-religious types when they make an error on a simple test.
  • On the other hand, people with known anxiety disorders tend to show high activity in the ACC when they make a mistake.
One explanation is that people with a genetic predisposition to reduced ACC activity gravitate toward religion. "It's possible that if you're born with a certain kind of brain, you're predisposed to religion," Inzlicht says. A recent article in New Scientist adds:
However, Inzlicht suspects that religious belief is driving the association. In unpublished experiments, Inzlicht's team asked religious volunteers to describe in writing either their faith or their favourite season. Those who wrote about their connection to God exhibited reduced ACC activation, compared with people who described the weather.

Inzlicht says it would be interesting to test people as their religious devotion strengthens or weakens over time to see if ACC activation changes accordingly. This could help confirm the correct explanation for the lower ACC activity.

"It's a very provocative finding and it is consistent with a lot of other things we know about religion" says Ara Norenzayan, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. This might explain why religious belief seems to blunt feelings of anxiety.

Inzlicht's team tested 50 university students from diverse religious and cultural backgrounds. Christians made up most participants, but his team also tested Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and atheists.

Click here for the complete New Scientist article.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Some 'Possession' Cases Still Baffle Exorcists

St. Francis Borgia Exorcising, by Francisco Goya, 1788.

Does Evil exist? Does Satan? How about Demonic Possession?

Such questions are nearly as old as Western Civilization and even if such notions are discarded by the scientific and medical communities, they’re still excellent fodder for scary books and movies.

That’s why I was interested to read of a new book entitled The Rite by journalist Matt Baglio, who follows an American priest named Father Gary, who is sent to Rome to learn to become an exorcist.

TIME magazine this week printed an interview with Baglio. Here are a few of the more interesting questions and answers taken directly from the TIME interview:

When you started the book, did you lean one way or another in terms of whether or not you believed in the possibility of exorcism?

I came at this topic very journalistically, not having an opinion for or against it. I wanted to really understand what it is and why the church still believes in it. But even exorcists themselves admit that 90% of the people that come to see them don't need an exorcism. There still remains a small percentage of cases, however, involving levitation, mind-reading and other paranormal phenomena that can't be explained through science. Maybe one day.

So how is a priest supposed to figure out that an exorcism is warranted? How do they judge who is and who isn't a worthy candidate?

The ritual stipulates that there are three signs that the priest has to look for: abnormal strength, the ability to understand unknown languages and the knowledge of hidden things. But they're very arbitrary, even those things. So they have to be in concert with something else. And typically what priests look for is what they call the aversion to the sacred, which is a person's inability to pray, to say the name of Jesus or Mary, to even look at the priest. Typically, when the person comes to see them, it's the last thing they want to do. They tend to have gone to see many doctors in search of a medical cure for whatever is afflicting them. They don't believe that the problem is demonic. They don't come in and say, "Father, I'm being attacked by demons. You need to pray over me." When someone says that to them, the priests immediately discounts that the problem is demonic.

So what happens during the exorcism rite?
The ritual, as its written, has several different stages to it. You say the litany of saints, you read the Gospel, you say a homily. The priest is allowed to bring in other elements if he wants to — the renewal of the baptismal vows, for example. But at the core of it are the exorcism prayers themselves, which are composed of the imperative and the depreciatory. The depreciatory involves the exorcist entreating God — "God, come down and bless this person." The imperative is the command, "I command you to leave this person." If you were to do the whole thing from start to finish, it would take out about an hour. But none of the priests that I followed in Rome do it like that. Almost all of them get rid of everything except the exorcism prayers. And the reason they do that is because they don't have time. They have a waiting room of 20 people. That's one day. The next day they have another 20 people.
Click here for the complete TIME interview.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Gratitude Seen as Essential to Happiness

Gratitude ~ the emotion of thankfulness and joy in response to receiving a perceived gift ~ is an essential ingredient for living a good life. And when it comes to achieving this well-being, gender plays a role. It seems men are much less likely to feel and express gratitude than women.

So says Todd Kashdan, an associate professor of psychology at George Mason University, whose most recent paper was published online this week at the Journal of Personality. Kashdan says that if he had to name three elements essential for creating happiness and meaning in life they would be:
  • Gratitude
  • Meaningful relationships
  • Living in the present moment with an attitude of openness and curiosity.
"Previous studies on gratitude have suggested that there might be a difference in gender, and so we wanted to explore this further, and find out why. Even if it is a small effect, it could make a huge difference in the long run," says Kashdan.

In one study, Kashdan interviewed college-aged students and older adults, asking them to describe and evaluate a recent episode in which they received a gift. He found that:
  • Women compared with men reported feeling less burden and obligation and greater levels of gratitude when presented with gifts.
  • Older men reported greater negative emotions when the gift giver was another man.
"The way that we get socialized as children affects what we do with our emotions as adults," says Kashdan. "Because men are generally taught to control and conceal their softer emotions, this may be limiting their well-being."

Click here for the complete Medical News Today article.

Debate Erupts About Dead Sea Scrolls

If you're at all interested in Biblical or Jesus history, you might want to visit my Ancient Tides blog for a couple of posts regarding new scholarship that's rocking beliefs about the Dead Sea Scrolls.

A professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem says the sect that supposedly authored the scrolls ~ the Essenes ~ likely never existed, and that the scrolls are the work instead of Jewish priests writing about Sadducees in Jerusalem. This calls into question considerable speculation that Jesus may have been associated with the Essenes.

If right, this new scholarship throws into doubt some long-standing contentions regarding early Christianity and paves the way for fascinating revisions.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Higher IQ Can Mean a Longer Life

(Here's another take on the impact of human intelligence, coming on the heels of last week's post regarding IQ and personal wealth.)

A massive Swedish study shows a distinct correlation between intelligence and lowered risk of death. As for the inverse, researchers also found that a lower IQ was strongly associated with a higher risk of death from causes such as accidents, coronary heart disease and suicide.

The researchers studied data from one million Swedish men conscripted to the army at the age of 18. After they had taken into account whether a person had grown up in a safer, more affluent environment, they found that only education had an influence on the relationship between IQ and death. 

The link between IQ and mortality could be partially attributed to the healthier behaviors displayed by those who score higher on IQ tests.
"People with higher IQ test scores tend to be less likely to smoke or drink alcohol heavily, they eat better diets, and they are more physically active. So they have a range of better behaviors that may partly explain their lower mortality risk," says researcher Dr. David Batty of the MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit in Glasgow.

A second study also co-authored by Batty used data from more than 4,000 US soldiers and followed them for 15 years. The study found the same relationship between IQ scores and mortality, as well as a significant association between higher neuroticism and increased mortality risk.

Click here for the complete Science Daily article.

Human Smell of Fear is Contagious

New research proves humans, when frightened, emit a particular odor that turns fear contagious. In fact, just a whiff of the odor of fear can turn an ambiguous situation into a frightening one.

"Our findings provide direct behavioral evidence that human sweat contains emotional meanings," says Denise Chen, a psychologist at Rice University in Houston.

In a recent study, male participants watched neutral clips, slapstick comedies and horror flicks, while a gauze pad in their armpits collected sweat. Later, female participants smelled the gauze pads as they watched images of faces that changed from somewhat happy to neutral to somewhat fearful.

  • Researchers chose males as sweat donors because of their larger apocrine sweat glands. The men used only scent-free shampoo, conditioner and soap provided by the lab several days beforehand, and kept a diet journal to avoid odorous foods such as garlic, onion and asparagus.
  • The study also used female respondents because of their better sense of smell and higher sensitivity to emotional cues.

The women were more likely to interpret ambiguous faces as fearful when they were smelling the "fear sweat," but only in the case of ambiguous faces. They still interpreted somewhat happy or somewhat scared faces according to what they saw.

Click here to read the complete LiveScience article.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Number 29 ~ THE ABYSMAL (Water)

The Abysmal repeated.
If you are sincere, you have success in your heart,
And whatever you do succeeds.

Through repetition of danger we grow accustomed to it. Water sets the example for the right conduct under such circumstances. It flows on and on, and merely fills up all the places through which it flows; it does not shrink from any dangerous spot nor from any plunge, and nothing can make it lose its own essential nature. It remains true to itself under all conditions. Thus likewise, if one is sincere when confronted with difficulties, the heart can penetrate the meaning of the situation. And once we have gained inner mastery of a problem, it will come about naturally that the action we take will succeed. In danger, all that counts is really carrying out all that has to be done ~ thoroughness ~ and going forward, in order not to perish through tarrying in the danger.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Is There Something Behind These Current Events?

Some conspiracy theories intrigue me and others I reject outright as just silly. However, the "world dominion" and "new world order" theories I put in the first category ~ intriguing ~ because so much has occurred during my lifetime to reinforce the concept. Some level of substantiation surfaces whenever I spend much time watching cable news.

The current economic and monetary crisis carries overtones of new-world-order thinking. The prominence of the Federal Reserve in developing our much-needed "solutions." The whispers already being heard of the need for a worldwide currency to "stabilize" international monetary problems. The presumed "socialist" governmental support of failing industries, when actually the Federal Reserve, through its unprecedented control over fiscal policy, actually is the body pulling the strings.

With all of that in mind, I offer this 10-minute video. Perhaps it's exaggerated or just silly, but you can't deny the ongoing references to "new world order" we've heard for decades, the paternalistic approach government and world leaders have exhibited toward their mass populations, and ~ worst of all, in my estimation ~ the numbing and dumbing of the populace who listens passively as they absorb world-domination messages from the inanity of the mass media.

So here it is. I hope you can spare at least a minute or two to get the idea.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

IQ Not a Factor in Personal Wealth

A national survey has shown that people with below-average intelligence can be just as wealthy as geniuses. In fact, people with high IQs may make higher salaries but often are disasters when it comes to managing their money.

"What the results really say is it doesn't matter whether you are born smart or you are not born smart, you can do financially okay," said the study's author Jay Zagorsky, an economist at Ohio State University.

The study also showed that highly intelligent people have financial difficulties, maxing out credit cards and missing bill payments. Zagorsky suggests that the financial troubles could be linked with an inability to save money.

Higher IQ, Higher Income

Participants with higher IQ scores tended to earn higher incomes, with each additional IQ point associated with an income boost of $202 to $616 each year. For example, a person with an IQ that's in the top 2 percent of society (130 points) would earn between $6,000 and $18,500 per year more than an individual with an average IQ of about 100 points.

The results showed a financial sweet spot of sorts that hovered around the average IQ score, for which people had the lowest financial distress.

Ultimately, a person's IQ had no impact on his or her wealth. So even though the "rocket scientists" earned on average higher incomes, they didn't have the savings to show it. And in fact, some higher-IQ people had more problems with maxing out credit cards and missing bill payments.

Click here for the complete LiveScience article.

Peking Man's Age Now at 750,000 Years

Homo erectus skull from the Zhoukoudian caves.

A new and more accurate dating method shows Peking Man may be 200,000 years older than previously thought. Bones of Sinanthropus pekinensis ~ a Homo erectus commonly known as Peking Man ~ were discovered in the 1920s during cave excavations near Beijing and now believed to be 750,000 years old.

Scientists have used various techniques to try and date the fossils, but a lack of suitable methods for cave deposits has limited their accuracy. Shen and his colleagues used a relatively new method that examines the radioactive decay of aluminum and beryllium in quartz grains, which enabled them to get a more precise age for the fossils.

"The analysis dated the finds to around 750,000 years old, some 200,000 years older than previous estimates and indicates a hominin presence in the area through glacial and interglacial cycles. The results should help to build a more reliable chronology of human evolution in East Asia," the researchers wrote.

Click here for the Reuters article.
Click here for a more extensive LiveScience article.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Is 'Full-Moon Madness' a Myth?

The familiar concept of “full-moon madness” is being examined in the harsh light of day by a number of scientists who now are concluding it’s mostly … well, lunacy.

Essentially, the scientists say the condition is a psychological urban legend, according to an article in the new issue of Scientific American. But if it’s just a legend, why is it so widespread?

  • Media coverage almost surely plays a role. Scores of Hollywood horror flicks portray full-moon nights as peak times of spooky occurrences such as stabbings, shootings and psychotic behaviors.
  • Perhaps more important, research demonstrates that many people fall prey to “illusory correlation” ~ the perception of an association that does not in fact exist. For example, many people who have joint pain insist that their pain increases during rainy weather, although research disconfirms this assertion. Much like the watery mirages we observe on freeways during hot summer days, illusory correlations can fool us into perceiving phenomena in their absence.

As for how the full-moon notion got started, the article quotes psychiatrist Charles Raison of Emory University:

According to Raison, the lunar lunacy effect may possess a small kernel of truth in that it may once have been genuine. Raison conjectures that before the advent of outdoor lighting in modern times, the bright light of the full moon deprived people who were living outside ~ including many who had severe mental disorders ~ of sleep. Because sleep deprivation often triggers erratic behavior in people with certain psychological conditions, such as bipolar disorder (formerly called manic depression), the full moon may have been linked to a heightened rate of bizarre behaviors in long-bygone eras. So the lunar lunacy effect is, in Raison and his colleagues’ terms, a “cultural fossil.”

Click here to read the complete Scientific American article.

Number 24 ~ THE RETURN (The Turning Point)

Return. Success.
Going out and coming in without error.
Friends come without blame.
To and fro goes the way.
On the seventh day comes return.
It furthers one to have somewhere to go.

After a time of decay comes the turning point. The powerful light that has been banished returns. There is movement, but it is not brought about by force. The upper trigram is characterized by devotion; thus the movement is natural, arising spontaneously. For this reason the transformation of the old becomes easy. The old is discarded and the new is introduced. Both measures accord with the time; therefore no harm results. Societies of people sharing the same views are formed. But since these groups come together in full public knowledge and are in harmony with the time, all selfish separatist tendencies are excluded and no mistake is made.

The idea of Return is based on the course of nature. The movement is cyclic, and the course completes itself. Therefore it is not necessary to hasten anything artificially. Everything comes of itself at the appointed time. This is the meaning of heaven and earth.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

DNA Shows Mysterious Telephathic Qualities

Scientists are reporting that intact double-stranded DNA has an “amazing” ability to recognize similarities in other DNA strands at a distance ~ somehow identifying one another ~ and that the tiny bits of genetic material tend to congregate with similar DNA.

There is no known reason why the DNA is able to combine in the way it does, and from a current theoretical standpoint this feat should be chemically impossible, scientists say.

Communication But No Physical Contact

Research published in ACS’ Journal of Physical Chemistry shows clearly that homology recognition between sequences of several hundred nucleotides occurs without physical contact or presence of proteins. Double helixes of DNA can recognize matching molecules from a distance and then gather together, all seemingly without help from any other molecules or chemical signals.

In the study, scientists observed the behavior of fluorescently tagged DNA strands placed in water that contained no proteins or other material that could interfere with the experiment. Strands with identical nucleotide sequences were about twice as likely to gather together as DNA strands with different sequences.

May Foster DNA Repair

No one knows how individual DNA strands could be communicating in this way.

“Amazingly, the forces responsible for the sequence recognition can reach across more than one nanometer of water separating the surfaces of the nearest neighbor DNA,” said study authors Geoff S. Baldwin, Sergey Leikin, John M. Seddon, and Alexei A. Kornyshev and colleagues.

This recognition effect may help increase the accuracy and efficiency of the homologous recombination of genes, which is a process responsible for DNA repair, evolution, and genetic diversity. The new findings may also shed light on ways to avoid recombination errors, which are factors in cancer, aging, and other health issues.

Click here for the Daily Galaxy article.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Suit Goes After Yale's Secret Society

A reputed photo of Geronimo's remains used in Skull and Bones secret rituals. Photo below shows Geronimo in 1887.

Descendants of the Apache warrior Geronimo are suing the Skull and Bones secret society at Yale University to retrieve the warrior’s skull, which they claim was robbed from his grave in 1918 by Prescott Bush, scion of the Bush family.

The claim is part of a lawsuit filed in late February in federal court in Washington. Geronimo’s heirs are seeking to have all his remains transferred to a new grave at the headwaters of the Gila River in New Mexico, where Geronimo wished to be interred. “I believe strongly from my heart that his spirit was never released,” Geronimo’s great-grandson Harlyn Geronimo, 61, recently told reporters at the National Press Club.

Prescott Bush the Alleged Thief

Geronimo died a prisoner of war at Fort Sill, Okla., in 1909. A longstanding tradition among members of Skull and Bones holds that Prescott S. Bush ~ father of President George Bush and grandfather of President George W. Bush ~ broke into the grave with some classmates in 1918 and made off with the skull, two bones, a bridle and some stirrups, all of which were put on display at the group’s clubhouse in New Haven, known as the Tomb.

“Of all the items rumored to be in the Skull and Bones’s possession, Geronimo’s skull is one of the more plausible ones,” Alexandra Robbins, the author of “Secrets of the Tomb” (Little Brown 2002), a book about the society, told the New York Times. “There is a skull encased in a glass display when you walk in the door of the Tomb, and they call it Geronimo.”

The Skull and Bones is one of America's most famous secret societies, noted for its bizarre rituals and a prestigious list of members, including U.S. presidents and Supreme Court justices. It is a popular topic among some conspiracy theorists.

Though the society is not officially affiliated with the university, many of Yale’s most powerful alumni are members, among them both Bush presidents and Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts.

Click here for the complete New York Times article.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Meditation Can Alter Neural Perception

Researchers have found evidence that skills developed by Tibetan Buddhist monks in their practice of a certain type of meditation strongly influences their experience of "perceptual rivalry," dealing with attention and consciousness.

Perceptual rivalry arises when two different images are presented to each eye, and it is manifested as a fluctuation ~ typically over the course of seconds ~ in the "dominant" image that is consciously perceived. The neural events underlying perceptual rivalry are not well understood but are thought to involve brain mechanisms that regulate attention and conscious awareness.

Some previous work had suggested that skilled meditators can alter certain aspects of their brain's neural activity. To gain insight into how visual perception is regulated within the brain, researchers in the new study chose to investigate the extent to which certain types of trained meditative practice can influence the conscious experience of visual perceptual rivalry.

With the support of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, 76 Tibetan Buddhist monks participated in the study, which was carried out at or near their mountain retreats in the Himalaya, Zanskar, and Ladakhi Ranges of India. The monks possessed meditative training ranging from 5 to 54 years.

Two Types of Meditation

The researchers tested the experience of visual rivalry by monks during the practice of two types of meditation:
  • “Compassion"-oriented meditation, described as a contemplation of suffering within the world combined with an emanation of loving kindness.
  • “One-point" meditation, described as the maintained focus of attention on a single object or thought, a focus that leads to a stability and clarity of mind.
Whereas no observable change in the rate of "visual switching" during rivalry was seen in monks practicing compassion meditation, major increases in the durations of perceptual dominance were experienced by monks practicing one-point meditation.

Within this group, three monks reported complete visual stability during the entire five-minute meditation period. Increases in duration of perceptual dominance were also seen in other monks after a period of one-point meditation.

Click here for the complete Medical News Today article.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Doodling Shown to Enhance Recall Abilities

According to a new study published in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology, subjects given a doodling task while listening to a dull phone message had a 29% improved recall compared to their non-doodling counterparts.
Forty members of a research panel were asked to listen to a 2.5-minute tape giving several names of people and places and were told to write down only the names of people going to a party. Half of the participants were asked to shade in shapes on a piece of paper at the same time, but paying no attention to neatness. Participants were not asked to doodle naturally so that they would not become self-conscious. None of the participants were told it was a memory test.

After the tape had finished, all participants in the study were asked to recall the eight names of the party-goers they were asked to write down, as well as eight additional place names which were included as incidental information.

The doodlers recalled on average 7.5 names of people and places compared to only 5.8 by the non-doodlers.
"If someone is doing a boring task, like listening to a dull telephone conversation, they may start to daydream," said study researcher Professor Jackie Andrade of the University of Plymouth in England. "Daydreaming distracts them from the task, resulting in poorer performance. A simple task ~ like doodling ~ may be sufficient to stop daydreaming without affecting performance on the main task."

"This study suggests that in everyday life doodling may be something we do because it helps to keep us on track with a boring task, rather than being an unnecessary distraction that we should try to resist doing," Andrade added.

Click here for the complete Medical News Today article.

Perception of Power Often Misguided

None of us needs to look very far to spot someone whose sense of personal power has gone to his or her head. If you don’t happen to have a power-monger friend or relative, simply turn on cable news and you’ll be overdosing in a matter of minutes.

It comes as no surprise to even the casual observer that people who hold power ~ real or only self-perceived ~ are often misguided in their actions.

In a new study reported today in ScienceDaily, Nathanael Fast and Deborah Gruenfeld at Stanford Graduate School of Business, Niro Sivanathan at the London Business School and Adam Galinsky at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, show that power can literally "go to one's head," causing individuals to think they have more personal control over outcomes than they really do.
  • Leaders and commanders of warring nations regularly underestimate the costs in time, money, and human lives required for bringing home a victory.
  • CEOs of Fortune 500 companies routinely overestimate their capacity to turn mergers and acquisitions into huge profits, leading to financial losses for themselves, their companies, and their stockholders. 
  • Even ordinary people seem to take on an air of invincibility after being promoted to a more powerful position. 
The consequences of these tendencies, especially when present in the world's most powerful leaders, can be devastating.

"We conducted four experiments exploring the relationship between power and illusory control ~ the belief that one has the ability to influence outcomes that are largely determined by chance," said Galinksy. 

"In each experiment ~ whether the participant recalled power by an experience of holding power or it was manipulated by randomly assigning participants to manager-subordinate roles ~ it led to perceived control over outcomes that were beyond the reach of the individual.  Furthermore, the notion of being able to control a 'chance' result led to unrealistic optimism and inflated self-esteem," he said.

Click here to read the complete ScienceDaily article.