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Powerful, Intoxicated, Anonymous
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These three states--powerful, intoxicated, or anonymous--can lead to acts of outstanding altruism or underhanded aberrant behavior.

It's a paradox. A powerful person (money, charisma, position) can be a charitable donor to a good cause, a spokesperson for the powerless, or a doer of individual good works (Jimmy Carter, Mother Theresa).

But as we've seen over and over, powerful people also are known to misuse their power, both individually and for the society and country at large. They are the ones making the headlines.

Don't need to say much about intoxicated people and their disinhibition. The accident statistics, the family abuse records speak volumes. What is not so well-known is that intoxicated people can also be great friends, convivial company, and generous in their promises. Often they are Jekyll/Hyde personalities, depending on the situational cues.

Anonymity is a powerful disinhibitor, from the unknown troll at the keyboard to the person hiding behind dark sunglasses. Anonymity releases the constraints of social expectations that regulate behavior. The result is flaming keyboards, the mugger in the dark alley, the Facebook attacks.

On the other hand, much good has been done by anonymous donors to needy institutions and through the institutions, to individuals. So many times, online, a cri de coeur will evoke generous loving responses from complete strangers.

Superficially these three states seem unrelated, but there is a confluence of effect. They all lead to disinhibited states and from there to great good or great harm. What is the psychological process behind it all?

My first thought is that disinhibition allows the person to act as they truly are at heart, without the social constraints of expectations and judgments. If a person is essentially generous and loving, he/she will act that way when constraints are removed; if a person is essentially aggressive and selfish, then the opposite.

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