Group Dynamics and the Public Sphere

Psychology in the Public Sphere

Why do so many politicians get trapped in scandals?

It seems almost every other week we hear of some new political scandal. Politicians get in trouble for financial shenanigans, abuse of power, and sexual indiscretions. Over and over again, we wonder how such politically astute people can act so recklessly. Don’t they realize they are bound to get caught? As discussed above, politicians may have a higher level of narcissistic traits than is found in the general population and these traits are only strengthened in the seductive spotlight of elected office. The perks of power can create a semidelusional sense of entitlement and invincibility. In addition, when it comes to sexual scandals in particular, the theory of evolution may have something to add.

According to the theory of sexual selection, men gain an evolutionary advantage from pursuing multiple mates. In many species, males pursue social dominance in order to gain access to a harem of females. In short, these alpha males maximize their evolutionary fitness by seeking out youth, variety, and quantity in their sexual encounters. While such behavior among humans is certainly not universal, neither is it unprecedented, or even that unusual. Thus, there may be inherent contradictions between the personality traits of people who succeed in the competitive and aggressive arena of electoral politics, and the public fagade of pious self-control that many politicians feel compelled to adopt.


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