Why rule-breakers appear powerful

People who break the basic rules of social behaviour appear to others to be more powerful than those who do not, a new study has shown. A research team headed by Gerben Van Kleef of the University of Amsterdam have found that the actions of such individuals lead other people to believe they are of a higher standing.

Published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, the report also revealed powerful adults smile less, speak in a louder voice and often interrupt others.

The team found that such people have a very different experience of the world than those without power, as they have fewer guidelines to follow and are freer to break these rules.

They wrote: "Norm violators are perceived as having the capacity to act as they please."

Dr Howard Kahn said: "It might apply to men, but it doesn't seem to be true of women - if a woman 'breaks the rules', she will be called all sorts of names, but not 'powerful'."

Research recently published in Perspectives on Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, found that the pursuit of happiness can serve to make people feel worse about themselves.