The Social Neuroscience of Power and Its Links with Empathy, Cooperation and Cognition

  • Marco Vega
  • Jamie Ward


The concept of power is of interest to researchers in a number of different fields. Historians, philosophers, political scientists, sociologists and now psychologists and neuroscientists have each conceptualised and studied power in their own way. Sociologists such as Max Webber conceived of power as ‘the probability that one actor within a social relationship will be in a position to carry out his own will despite resistance, regardless of the basis on which this probability rests’ (Weber et al., 1978: 53). Political philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes understood power as the ‘present means to obtain some future apparent good’ (2010: 40). And political scientists such as Robert Dhal made attempts to formally express power thus: ‘A has power over B to the extent that he can get B to do something that B would not otherwise do’ (1957: 202). Though there is a noticeable overlap between the different definitions, it would be impossible to find a definition of power that satisfies the research interests of all disciplines.


Testosterone Level Ventral Striatum Mirror Neuron Cognitive Empathy Mutual Cooperation 
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© Marco Vega and Jamie Ward 2016

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  • Marco Vega
  • Jamie Ward

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