“Power holders feel they need to be superior and competent. When they don’t feel they can show that legitimately, they’ll show it by taking people down a notch or two,” says Nathanael Fast, a social psychologist at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, who led a series of experiments to explore this effect.
In one, Fast and his colleague Serena Chen, who is at the University of California, Berkeley, asked 90 men and women who had jobs to complete online questionnaires about their aggressive tendencies and perceived competence. The most aggressive of the lot tended to have both high-power jobs and a chip on their shoulder, Fast and Chen found.
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