What makes a great leader? Traits that we look for typically include a sense of power, great negotiating skills and lots of charisma. However, a recent study suggests that it is not just an outgoing personality and great communication skills that determine who is chosen as leader of a group. Previous research has implicated that there is a gender bias when selecting leaders; preference for a male versus female leader may depend on the specific situation that a group finds itself in. Psychologists Mark Van Vugt and Brian R. Spisak from the University of Kent wanted to explore this further and see if gender influences the selection of group leaders during various group competition situations.
The researchers studied this by having volunteers participate in an investment game. They were each given $6 and any of that amount could be invested into a group fund, with the volunteer keeping the rest for themselves. However, if the group fund exceeded a certain amount, the volunteer would receive a bonus, in addition to what was in their private fund. Volunteers were each told they would be part of a group during this computerized investment game, when in fact, they were solely making the decisions.
Before beginning the game, participants were assigned to a specific experimental condition: intragroup competition (volunteers were told that their performance in the game would be compared to others in their group), intergroup competition (volunteers were told that their group's performance would be compared to that of other groups), or a control condition. In the control condition, volunteers were not provided with any information about competition- it was treated as a regular investment game. Participants were presented with two candidates (one male and one female) and were told to vote for one of the candidates to serve as their [hypothetical] group's leader. Immediately prior to the start of the investment game, half of the volunteers were told that th
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Association for Psychological Science