The proof that power corrupts (and no, it's not MPs' expenses)

Daily Mail | December 30, 2009

After a year of outrage at MPs' dodgy expenses and extortionate bank bonuses, it is a maxim few of us will need convincing about.

But psychologists have proven the obvious - that nothing corrupts quite like power.

Researchers found that those in authority are more likely to cheat, lie and feather their own nests than ordinary citizens at the bottom of the pile.

At the same time, the powerful are more likely to pass moral judgment on the behaviour of others.

The psychologists behind the study said they were astonished at the scale of 'moral hypocrisy' they found and how easily ordinary-people become corrupted when given the trappings of power.

A team from the Kellogg School of Management in Illinois carried out a series of experiments on volunteers through role playing games.

In one test, subjects who were told to assume the part of someone in power were found more likely to cheat at a dice game.

In another, the powerful were quickest to condemn those who speed but also most likely to drive too quickly themselves.

Researcher Adam Galinsky said: 'This research is especially relevant to the biggest scandals of 2009 and we look back on how private behaviour often contradicted the public stance of particular individuals in power.'