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Snakes in Suits

The psychopath in the C-Suite

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© INSEAD
Corporate genius or psychopath? It's a thin line that divides them. Most people who work in companies run afoul of such a person at least once during their career. Some rise to astonishing heights, and they can cause enormous damage. Dealing with them can be tricky, but here are some tips.

In Costa-Gavras's film Le Capital, an unscrupulous banker sends his bank's shares crashing in an insider-trading scam. Does he get fired? Not a bit of it! An adulating board re-confirms him as chairman, applauding him as he pledges to go on stealing from the poor to enrich the wealthy.

Sounds preposterous? Well, the movie is indeed a bit over the top. But real life often comes close to imitating fiction. From Enron to the LIBOR interest-rate fixing scandal that saw the demise last July of Barclays CEO Bob Diamond, corporate annals are packed with individuals whose sense of what's right and what's wrong differs starkly from that of most ordinary people.

Some walk off with hefty bonuses. A few end up in jail. Others poison the workplace long-term, putting the health of both companies and their staff at risk.

Magnet

The one (really easy) persuasion technique everyone should know

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© Lori Greig
It's supported by 42 studies on 22,000 people and it's the easiest, most practical persuasion technique available.
I'll admit it. A few of the techniques for persuasion I've covered here on PsyBlog have been a little outlandish and impractical.

Things like swearing, talking in the right ear and pouring coffee down someone's throat. The studies are interesting and fun but not widely useful.

The question is: which persuasion technique, based on psychological research, is most practical, can easily be used by anyone in almost any circumstances and has been consistently shown to work?

The answer is: the 'But You Are Free' technique. This simple approach is all about reaffirming people's freedom to choose. When you ask someone to do something, you add on the sentiment that they are free to choose.

Crusader

Busting the myth that Christians are more generous than non-believers

Many religious people believe giving to the church is the be-all and end all of generosity.

The story has gone viral: A group got together at Applebees. When the tab came the minister wrote on the ticket, "I give God 10 percent, why should I give you 18?" She scratched through the automatic large-group tip and substituted a fat zero and signed it with the word "Pastor" in front of her name. The waitress posted an image on Reddit. The pastor called to complain. The waitress got fired. The internet went wild. Last I saw, one story had 80,000 comments and counting.

In reality, the pastor simply exposed something that is all too common to Christian thinking: the sense that giving to the church and to religious charities is the be-all and end all of generosity. As indignant reactions to the Applebee's incident show, service workers sometimes pay the price:
"I worked at the Outback Steakhouse for 3 years and we ALL dreaded Sundays."

"The Sunday after church crowd were allways the worst tippers. I found another line of work."

"As a former waitress who frequently served large parties of CHURCH members and pastors, I can attest to the fact that the majority of them were very demanding, condescending, dismissive and cheap. When 1 or 2 from the party of 12 -15 did tip they would leave pennies and loose change."

"I have waited tables in the past and I am sorry to say this behavior is not unusual. Often Ministers come into restaurants with their parishioners and treat the staff their to wait on them beyond poorly. They usually come in rather large parties and often leave very little tip for the poor server, who goes out of their way to care for the group."

"I also provide a service to the public. It is ALWAYS the churches that want something for free or don't tip."

"I waited tables for over 30 years and I have been stiffed many times by people like her."

Bell

Limbic Warfare and Martha Stout's "Paranoia Switch"

© AP/Reuters
The events of 9/11 traumatized the American public. The Bush administration exploited that fear and today the Obama administration continues to do so.
Martha Stout's newest book, The Paranoia Switch, is a welcome addition to the new and growing science of ponerology: the study of the root causes and genesis of evil, on both the social and interpersonal levels. Stout uses her years of experience as a trauma therapist to clinically diagnose the sickness of our 'terror culture,' and those who would manipulate this trauma for their own self-interest.

The paranoia switch

Traumatic events overload our limbic system. The heightened response of our amygdala, which registers the emotional significance of the event, leads to a decreased response in the hippocampus, which usually prioritizes information and allows the higher brain centers to create coherent memories, based on their emotional importance. So, traumatic events do not get integrated by the higher brain centers as true memories, but instead leave us with non-integrated fragments of memory: isolated images and sensations. These memories can then be "triggered" by similar images. In this way, a backfiring car can trigger a war vet into a state of paranoia. His "paranoia switch" has been flicked.
"Most overwhelming of all are traumatic experiences caused not by accident (unintended explosions or car crashes), or by "acts of God" (earthquakes, volcanoes, etc.), but rather by the deliberate acts of other people, acts such as assault, violent abduction, rape - or terrorism. It would seem that, for whatever reason, we are hardwired to be most fearful of harm when it threatens to occur maliciously, at the hands of our fellow human beings, and this special variety of fear is the most contagious of all." (62)
As Stout explains later in her book, fear brokers maintain their power through the exploitation of human weaknesses. Ironically, it is often the very people we are genetically "programmed" to fear (i.e. psychopathic individuals), that exploit this fear by focusing it on an arbitrary and convenient group. Hitler used anarchists, communists, and Jews. Our leaders are using "terrorists", Muslims, and critics of their policies.

Butterfly

Giving the slip to persistent negative thoughts

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© Wasfi Akab
New evidence supports a hundred-year-old technique for tackling unwanted thoughts.

Have you ever said a word over and over again until it lost its meaning? It's a trick many discover in childhood which can provide the first inkling that words aren't the solid, dependable, unchanging labels they seem.

Instead words start to feel slippery, open to interpretation and (whisper it) interchangeable.

Anyway, it's a fun game: if you like, try it again now: say your own name over and over again out loud until it loses all meaning.

This is an effect that psychologists have been studying, on and off, for at least a hundred years. The hope is that if words can come to have no meaning through repetition then perhaps negative ideas and thoughts can be tackled in the same way.

Nowadays repeating words over and over again is part of a therapeutic technique called cognitive defusion. The theory goes that if you have negative habitual thoughts going around in your head all the time, then perhaps their power can be defused through repetition.

Comment: Eiriu Eolas is another proven technique that can assist you with reducing your stress, calming and focusing your mind, increasing your sense of connection with others and helping you to heal emotional wounds. Visit the Éiriú Eolas site or participate on the forum to learn more about the scientific background of this program and then try it out for yourselves, free of charge.


Info

Why we're all above average

© Tom Wang | Shutterstock
You may not think of yourself as a superhero, but most of us think we're above average.
On a scale of one to 10, you probably think you're a seven. And you wouldn't be alone.

While it's impossible for most people to be above average for a specific quality, people think they are better than most people in many arenas, from charitable behavior to work performance.

The phenomenon, known as illusory superiority, is so stubbornly persistent that psychologists would be surprised if it didn't show up in their studies, said David Dunning, a psychologist at Cornell who has studied the effect for decades.

It happens for many reasons: Others are too polite to say what they really think, incompetent people lack the skills to assess their abilities accurately, and such self-delusions can actually protect people's mental health, Dunning told LiveScience.

People

Targets of bully bosses aren't the only victims

First-ever study shows impact of abusive supervisor extends to victim's co-workers.

Abusive bosses who target employees with ridicule, public criticism, and the silent treatment not only have a detrimental effect on the employees they bully, but they negatively impact the work environment for the co-workers of those employees who suffer from "second-hand" or vicarious abusive supervision, according to new research from the University of New Hampshire.

In the first ever study to investigate vicarious supervisory abuse, Paul Harvey, associate professor of organizational behavior at UNH, and his research colleagues Kenneth Harris and Raina Harris from Indiana University Southeast and Melissa Cast from New Mexico State University find that vicarious supervisory abuse is associated with job frustration, abuse of other coworkers, and a lack of perceived organizational support beyond the effects of the abusive supervisor.

The research is presented in the Journal of Social Psychology in the article "An Investigation of Abusive Supervision, Vicarious Abuse Supervision, and Their Joint Impacts."

Abusive supervision is considered a dysfunctional type of leadership and includes a sustained display of hostile verbal and nonverbal behaviors toward subordinates.

"Although the effects of abusive supervision may not be as physically harmful as other types of dysfunctional behavior, such as workplace violence or aggression, the actions are likely to leave longer-lasting wounds, in part, because abusive supervision can continue for a long time," Harvey said.

People

Study finds it actually is better (and healthier) to give than to receive

Those who help others derive significant health benefits not available to recipients.

A five-year study by researchers at three universities has established that providing tangible assistance to others protects our health and lengthens our lives.

This, after more than two decades of research failed to establish that the same benefits accrue to the recipients of such help.

Principal investigator Michael J. Poulin, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at the University at Buffalo, says, "This study offers a significant contribution to the research literature on the relationship between social environment and health, and specifically to our understanding of how giving assistance to others may offer health benefits to the giver by buffering the negative effects of stress."

Poulin, along with colleagues at Stony Brook University and Grand Valley State University, produced the study, "Giving to Others and the Association Between Stress and Mortality," which was posted online Jan. 17 by the American Journal of Public Health, which will publish the study in an upcoming print issue.

The authors point out that although it is established that social isolation and stress are significant predictors of mortality and morbidity, 20 years of studies and meta-analytical review have failed to establish that receiving social support from others buffers recipients against mortality after exposure to psychosocial stress.

Eye 1

SOTT Talk Radio: Are Psychopaths Cool? Uncovering the predators among us

In this third SOTT Talk Radio show broadcast live on Sunday February 3rd, 2013, SOTT.net editors Joe and Niall were again joined by Jason Martin, along with special guests Laura Knight-Jadczyk and Harrison Koehli, editor of Red Pill Press, publisher of the underground classic, Political Ponerology: A Science on the Nature of Evil, Adjusted for Political Purposes. Together they discussed arguably the most important topic of our time: psychopaths and their influence in our world.

The 'virtues' of CEOs, political leaders, heart surgeons, soldiers and others possessing 'psychopathic qualities' is being heavily promoted through the mainstream media, academia and popular culture. References to psychopaths in TV shows like Dexter and movies like Seven Psychopaths would seem to suggest that psychopaths are not only generally known about and understood, but are also appealing to ordinary people.

But are psychopaths really cool? And what is a psychopath anyway? How many of them are out there and how long have they been around us? Everyone has an opinion about psychopaths, but are we all talking about the same thing? Bestselling books like Kevin Dutton's Wisdom of Psychopaths encourage people to 'unlock their inner psychopath'; does that mean we are all potentially psychopaths?


Sherlock

Where evil lurks: Neurologist discovers 'dark patch' inside the brains of killers and rapists

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Dr Gerhard Roth demonstrates where the 'evil patch' can be identified in the brains of those inclined to violence
A German neurologist claims to have found the area of the brain where evil lurks in killers, rapists and robbers.

Bremen scientist Dr Gerhard Roth says the 'evil patch' lies in the brain's central lobe and shows up as a dark mass on X-rays.

He discovered it when investigating violent convicted offenders over the years for German government studies.

We showed these people short films and measured their brain waves,' he said.

'Whenever there were brutal and squalid scenes the subjects showed no emotions. In the areas of the brain where we create compassion and sorrow, nothing happened.'

The dark mass at the front of the brain, he says, appears in all scans of people with records for criminal violence.