The Power Paradox with Dacher Keltner

October 3, 2017

“Power is given, not grabbed.” — Dacher Keltner

Today I’m really excited to have Dr. Dacher Keltner join me for his second appearance on The Psychology Podcast!

Dacher Keltner is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and the faculty director of the UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center. A renowned expert in the biological and evolutionary origins of human emotion, Dr. Keltner studies the science of compassion, awe, love, and beauty, and how emotions shape our moral intuition. His research interests also span issues of power, status, inequality, and social class. He is the author of the best-selling book Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life and of The Compassionate Instinct.

His latest book is The Power Paradox: How We Gain and Lose Influence.

In our conversation we discuss several of Dacher’s ideas surrounding power including:

  • The unique definition of power he presents in the book
  • The recent development in power research of the 2 paths to power:
    • Domination, Manipulation, Coercion
    • Status, Respect, Strong Ties
  • The myth of power stereotypes
  • The problems of power
    • The challenges of getting it
    • The difficulties of maintaining it
    • The dangers of becoming addicted to it
  • The Humility pathway of enduring power



The Power Paradox is available on Amazon

Follow Dacher’s Greater Good Lab on Twitter

[Book] Good to Great – Jim Collins (mentioned-“The final stage of leadership is service”)

[Book] On Tyranny -Timothy Snyder (mentioned-“People give power to tyrants”)

[Book] Soft Power – Joseph Nye (mentioned)

3 Responses to “The Power Paradox with Dacher Keltner”

  1. Alexandra Borden says:

    I’m completely aware of two sets of morality and two sets of definitions of power as Dacher Keltner describes.. They might be described as conservative vs. liberal, or George Lakoff’s characterization of Strong Father vs. Nurturant ideas of power. My question is: how does one as someone who embraces the idea of soft power (that its given better than grabbed) etc. when you encounter the strong father, Machievellian way of working. I see how that Machievellian thinking uses humor and costumes successfully. Klan Grand Wizzards, And Frog-god Memelords, plus the bully’s taunts of you being a sucker. This strategy has won the WhiteHouse, so lets not think this Machievellian / Authoritarian approach that sees domination as the route to progress, is simply dead. Is there a counter humor that’s missing? Who is writing the book about successful strategies that exist at the confrontation of these two mindsets? How does one react in the face of Machievellian success?, is I suppose, my question. Big one, I know…

  2. Dr. Keltner’s discussion of power left out French and Raven’s theory of social power. I was introduced to this theory as part of my training in school-based consultation in graduate school. Understanding this framework and how to use the various types of power (e.g. legitimate, referent, expert) has been invaluable in my practice as a school psychologist and school leader.

    I’m curious to hear if this was integrated into Dr. Keltner’s work.

  3. Gina says:

    I found the book by accident and have been fascinated with the idea of Power as described in your interview. You shared your experience with bullying and I wanted to say I think it is profound because I was the girl that brought “cookies” to the teacher and was made fun of. I buried those days long ago, yet when I hear you speak of it, it makes it feel less painful. There must be millions of kids experiencing it now and social media only adds to the destruction. I encourage anyone that is picked on to listen and be encouraged that when they grow up, it will change. Great podcast, I have subscribed.

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