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The Sweet Comfort of Validation


May 8, 2012 by Steve Winkler

By Steve Winkler

We used to be suspicious of online articles. Who knows where they’ve been? Print media was the bulwark of journalistic legitimacy, we opined. Then we suspended our print edition and became a digital only publication. Now, we’re suggesting that online articles really aren’t as suspect as we thought. Funny how that works.
While wandering around the clouds of cyberspace last week we chanced upon an article on the Forbes Magazine website that piqued our interest. That just means it looked like something that might validate one of our already preconceived notions about the way the world works.

The article by Frederick E. Allen, titled “Study Finds That Having Power Makes You Stupid” reviewed a study being prepared for publication in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.
Intuition and a lot of life experience had prepared us to believe this article before ever reading a word. If you have ever worked in any sort of organization you’ve probably watched this phenomena unfold on a daily basis.
The study suggests that power breeds overconfidence, and overconfidence leads to bad decisions.
They found that the people who had been primed to think of themselves as more powerful had more confidence in their answers than the rest-and yet their answers were actually less accurate. Yes, “confidence in one’s answers was inversely correlated with accuracy.”

It’s all about helping others, right? So, if we can help those powerful people escape the draw backs of being powerful we would be doing the world a favor not to mention getting some these chowder heads off our backs.
What can you do to help? The article has a suggestion, ” humiliate the powerful.” The final experiment done by the researchers found that the link between power and overconfidence “was eliminated when the powerful were made to feel incompetent.”

There it is – right there on the internet website of a respected publication.

The boss is an idiot.


Steve Winkler

Steve Winkler is the publisher and editor of the Observer. Email him at

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