Question 25 - Verbal Reasoning Practice Test for the GRE

Scientists are quoted in the attached article as “suggest[ing] a linear relationship between power and the motor resonance system, whereby increasing levels of power are associated with decreasing amounts of resonance.” If the amount of resonance is plotted vs the level of power, one might expect to see a graph with __ for resonance.

Study explores how power gets to the brain

Pow­er may or may not cor­rupt, but it does change a per­son—and a new study ex­plores just what hap­pens in the brain as those changes oc­cur.

In the stu­dy, neu­ro­sci­en­tists probed what mech­a­nisms un­der­lie pow­er­ful peo­ple’s re­duced in­clina­t­ion to take the per­spec­tives of oth­ers.

They found that gain­ing a feel­ing of pow­er over oth­er peo­ple tends to de­ac­tiv­ate the brain’s “mo­tor res­o­nance sys­tem”—a net­work of nerve cir­cuits through which we in­ter­nal­ize oth­ers’ ex­pe­ri­ences. The mo­tor res­o­nance sys­tem works such that, for ex­am­ple, if we see some­one throw a ball, parts of our brain nor­mally as­so­ci­at­ed with our own ac­tion of ball-throwing be­come more ac­tive.

The cog­ni­tive changes in pow­er­ful-feel­ing peo­ple rend­er them less able “to take the vis­u­al, cog­ni­tive, and emo­tion­al per­spec­tives of oth­ers,” wrote the au­thors of the stu­dy, pub­lished in the July 1 is­sue of the Jour­nal of Ex­pe­ri­men­tal Psy­chol­o­gy, Gen­er­al.

Wheth­er such changes lead pow­er­ful peo­ple to lose their em­pa­thy has been a sub­ject of con­flict­ing re­ports. But stud­ies sug­gest that peo­ple who feel pow­er­ful tend to lis­ten less, pun­ish more harsh­ly, act more hyp­o­critic­ally and ster­e­o­type oth­ers more.

The mo­tor res­o­nance sys­tem is so called be­cause it leads our brain ac­ti­vity to “res­onate,” in a sense, with that of oth­ers. A crit­i­cal ar­ea of the brain in­volved in the sys­tem is the fronto-parietal re­gion, around the top of the brain.

Neu­ro­sci­ent­ist Jer­e­my Hogeveen of Wil­frid Lau­ri­er Uni­vers­ity in Wa­ter­loo, Can­a­da and col­leagues re­cruited 45 par­ti­ci­pants for the stu­dy. The peo­ple were asked to write es­said about ei­ther a time when they ei­ther re­mem­bered hav­ing pow­er, a time when they re­mem­bered feel­ing pow­erless, or a top­ic of less rel­e­vance—what hap­pened yes­ter­day.

The ex­er­cise was de­signed to “prime” par­ti­ci­pants to feel pow­er­ful, help­less or neu­tral.

Next the par­ti­ci­pants watched videos of a right hand squeez­ing a ball, while they un­der­went a pro­ce­dure called tran­scra­nial mag­net­ic stimula­t­ion. This can be used to as­sess the ex­citabil­ity of brain re­gions linked to spe­cif­ic mus­cles, and there­by, the ac­ti­vity of the mo­tor res­o­nance sys­tem.

The re­sults, the sci­en­tists wrote, “sug­gest a lin­ear rela­t­ion­ship be­tween pow­er and the mo­tor res­o­nance sys­tem, where­by in­creas­ing lev­els of pow­er are as­so­ci­at­ed with de­creas­ing amounts of res­o­nance.”

Simply put, peo­ple feel­ing pow­er­ful seem to be less mo­ti­vat­ed to un­der­stand what oth­er peo­ple are go­ing through and to make in­di­vid­ual judg­ments about them, the re­search­ers added. “The pow­er­ful of­ten form a rel­a­tively shal­low un­der­standing of oth­ers,” they ex­plained. The new re­sults “sup­port the view that rath­er than seek in­di­vid­u­ating in­forma­t­ion about new interac­tion part­ners, those with pow­er tend to rely on ster­e­o­types.”

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