Book Chapter

The leaders’ rosy halo: Why do we give power holders the benefit of the doubt?

PK Smith, JR Overbeck

Cambridge University Press | Published : 2013


Political and military leaders cheating on their spouses. Heads of banks committing widespread fraud. Religious leaders hiding abuse in their ranks rather than reporting it to the police. From the famous statement by Lord Acton to modern examples of power holders lying, cheating, and stealing, it has become a truism that power corrupts those who possess it. Given this apparently repeated association of power and corruption, it should naturally follow for people to expect the worst from power holders. Indeed, laypeople seem to regard power itself as a topic inappropriate for polite conversation, and power-seeking behaviors as distasteful, potentially harmful, and presumably self-centered (e.g..

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University of Melbourne Researchers

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