“Like other animals, humans are particularly good at determining where a new group member fits on the social ladder,” Dr McIntyre said.
“Self-control, or lack thereof, can be one cue that we use to gauge someone’s status.
“Ironically, the tendency for politicians and other leaders to behave impulsively may signal to party members and the public that they possess power.”
However, low self-control also advertises power to new acquaintances.
“Because politicians, sports stars and others in powerful positions feel licensed to act impulsively and inappropriately as they’re unlikely to suffer the consequences of this behaviour, we have learned to infer social status based on these cues,” Dr McIntyre said.
“The behaviour of people with impaired self-control and people in high positions of power are often indistinguishable.
“For example, narcissism is a quality displayed by people who possess and seek power, and it is particularly exaggerated among people with low self-control.”
The research is published in the journal Social and Personality Psychology Compass.