Journal article

Warriors and peacekeepers: Testing a biosocial implicit leadership hypothesis of intergroup relations using masculine and feminine faces

Spisak B, Dekker P, Krüger M, van Vugt M ...see all

PLoS ONE, vol. 7, issue 1 (2012)

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Abstract

This paper examines the impact of facial cues on leadership emergence. Using evolutionary social psychology, we expand upon implicit and contingent theories of leadership and propose that different types of intergroup relations elicit different implicit cognitive leadership prototypes. It is argued that a biologically based hormonal connection between behavior and corresponding facial characteristics interacts with evolutionarily consistent social dynamics to influence leadership emergence. We predict that masculine-looking leaders are selected during intergroup conflict (war) and feminine-looking leaders during intergroup cooperation (peace). Across two experiments we show that a general categorization of leader versus nonleader is an initial implicit requirement for emergence, and at a context-specific level facial cues of masculinity and femininity contingently affect war versus peace leadership emergence in the predicted direction. In addition, we replicate our findings in Experiment 1 across culture using Western and East Asian samples. In Experiment 2, we also show that masculine-feminine facial cues are better predictors of leadership than male-female cues. Collectively, our results indicate a multi-level classification of context-specific leadership based on visual cues imbedded in the human face and challenge traditional distinctions of male and female leadership.

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Authors

  • Brian R. Spisak

  • Peter H. Dekker

  • Max Krüger

  • Mark van Vugt

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