Linguistic biomarkers of Hubris syndrome

Co-authored paper with David Owen published by Elsevier 2013

The phenomenon of exuberant overconfidence (hubris), and subsequent humiliation or destruction (nemesis) of powerful leaders is a familiar one: it is a recurring theme in Ancient Greek tragedy, runs through the Western dramatic canon in depictions of doomed tyrants, and has been played out in the rise and fall of dictators throughout history, right up to the present century. The English language itself reflects the cul- tural impact of the phenomenon in cliche ́ (“power has gone to his head”), proverbs (“pride goes before a fall”), and dicta [“power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts abso- lutely” (Acton, 1887)]. Recent events in Western democratic politics, business and finance have brought wider issues of leadership, and what Bertrand Russell (1961) referred to as ‘the intoxication of power’, under renewed scrutiny…

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