Saturday 16 December 2017

Psychologist to give politicians tips on how to cope with power

Prof Ian Robertson, author of 'The Winner Effect', at Trinity College, Dublin. He will give
talk on power to TDs and senators today
Prof Ian Robertson, author of 'The Winner Effect', at Trinity College, Dublin. He will give talk on power to TDs and senators today

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

A shrink has been called in to talk to ministers and TDs today about the benefits and dangers of holding power.

A renowned psychologist and expert in the effects of power on the brain will address a cross-party group of TDs and senators in Leinster House at lunchtime.

Prof Ian Robertson says Taoiseach Enda Kenny is performing better because he has power, whereas the previous government was hit by "power blindness".

"Power has both positive and negative effects on people's brains," he says.

"People who get power can sometimes be very significantly changed. If they get too much power, it can make them quite distorted personalities.''


Fine Gael parliamentary party chairman Charlie Flanagan has invited the Trinity College Dublin academic, a neuroscientist and trained clinical psychologist, to address TDs and senators.

"Power is an under-recognised psychological and neurological concept," Prof Robertson says. "I am not giving advice or recommendations. It is about something we should all be aware of.This is about explaining what effects power has -- good and bad."

Prof Robertson's latest book, published this month, is called 'The Winner Effect: How Power Affects Your Brain'.

In the book, which he says is a "science book -- not a self-help book", he explains how "if you win, you are more likely to win in future".

Prof Robertson explains that power operates in the same system of the brain as sex and cocaine, as success increases the production of the chemicals testosterone and dopamine.

"We need to have leaders who have an appreciation for power without being too stressed by it."

In his book, the Scottish-born professor of psychology investigates what makes a winner, why some succeed in life and business, whereas others fail, and why few individuals become supremely powerful, while many remain powerless.

Power also makes you more abstract and achieving in your thinking.

'The winner effect' is a scientific term used in biology to describe how an animal that has won a few fights against weak opponents is much more likely to win later bouts against stronger contenders.

But Prof Robertson contends it applies to humans too. He says achievement changes brain chemistry, making people more focused, smarter, more confident and more aggressive.

He says the effect is as strong as a drug, and the more an individual wins, the more they will go on to win, so winning can become physically addictive.

In Mr Kenny's case, the psychologist believes power has helped him in his role as leader of the country.

"I would think Enda Kenny improved his performance partly because of getting power, compared to his performance in opposition," he says.

Mr Flanagan said Prof Robertson, whom he has known for 20 years, will offer a scientific analysis of how people behave in particular circumstances.

"It will be a light-hearted view of what makes people tick."

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News