Noted historian Baron John Acton coined the phrase ‘power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely’ more than a hundred years ago.
Now, scientists have claimed that the saying is biologically true.
The feeling of power has been found to have a similar effect on the brain to cocaine by increasing the levels of testosterone and its by-product 3-androstanediol in both men and women.
This in turn leads to raised levels of dopamine, the brain’s reward system called the nucleus accumbens, which can be very addictive, the Daily Mail reported.
Cocaine works in a similar way, which can have varied effects from increasing alertness, confidence, energy, feelings of well-being and euphoria, but also anxiety, paranoia and restlessness.
Power has almost identical effects to cocaine and too much of it can produce too much dopamine leading to more negative effects such as arrogance and impatience.
The claims made by Dr Ian Robertson may help explain the outlandish and impulsive behaviour of city fatcats, tycoons and celebrities.
“Baboons low down in the dominance hierarchy have lower levels of dopamine in key brain areas, but if they get ‘promoted’ to a higher position, then dopamine rises accordingly,” Dr Robertson wrote in the Daily Telegraph.
“This makes them more aggressive and sexually active, and in humans similar changes happen when people are given power.
“Conversely, demotion in a hierarchy decreases dopamine levels, increases stress and reduces cognitive function,” he added.
He added that power has also been found to make people smarter because dopamine improves the functioning of the brain’s frontal lobes.
Submissiveness and dominance also give similar effects through the same reward circuits of the brain as power and cocaine.