Facial appearance and leader choice in different contexts: Evidence for task contingent selection based on implicit and learned face-behaviour/face-ability associationsby Anthony C. Little

The Leadership Quarterly


opula guish ety of judgments and or review, see Little & viour/physical ability iations (Study 2) by

The Leadership Quarterly xxx (2014) xxx–xxx

LEAQUA-00975; No of Pages 10

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

The Leadership Quarterly2012). Visual characteristics, including facial appearance, are thought to play an important role in a vari decisions that have real occupational outcomes in many settings, including choice of our elected leaders (f

Roberts, 2012). In the current paper, I test the notion that associations between face appearance and beha underpin leadership perception using natural associations (Study 1) and experimentally created assoc examining variation across different voting contexts.and 2. dominance, by which status is acquired forcefully (Henrich & Gil-White, 2001). In examining leadership selection behaviour and voting, the focus is explicitly on ideas of freely conferred status. One interesting facet of leadership choice that has emerged in recent years is the role that a prospective leader's visual appearance has on our choice of leaders. For example, physical appearance, as seen in video-taped mock election speeches, has been found to influence ratings of leadership ability (Cherulnik, 1995) and in US presidential elections post-1900 the taller candidate has won 81% of the time (e.g., Little & Roberts,Leaders are ubiquitous in human p

Previous research on status has distinFocusing on faces and leadership choic decisions. It has been demonstrated that ra the outcome of actual US congressional elec based on only minimal exposure to faces ( ⁎ Tel.: +44 1786 467651; fax: +44 1786 467641.

E-mail address: anthony.little@stir.ac.uk. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2014.04.002 1048-9843/© 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Please cite this article as: Little, A.C., Faci selection based on implicit and ..., The Leadtions, enjoy high status within a group, and are generally chosen or elected as leaders. ed between two forms of status: 1. prestige, which results in freely conferred statusFacultative


Introductiondata suggest that leaders may be chosen based on their visual characteristics because certain characteristics suggest that they possess abilities that make them well suited to lead in


War/peacegeneral, war-time, and peace-time scenarios. Masculinity was found to be favoured in war-time over peace-time, however, this association was diminished when controlling for dominance. In Study 2, cues to physical ability or cooperative personality were associated with different face traits. When subsequently asked to select the best leader for a physically competitive task, participants chose faces with the trait associated with physical ability. For a cooperative task, participants chose faces with the trait associated with cooperation. These particular situations. © 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.Accepted 8 April 2014

Available online xxxx

Editor: Panu Poutvaara


FacesFacial appearance and leader choice in different contexts:

Evidence for task contingent selection based on implicit and learned face-behaviour/face-ability associations

Anthony C. Little⁎

School of Natural Sciences, University of Stirling, Stirling, FK9 4LA, UK a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history:

Received 4 April 2013

Received in revised form 31 March 2014

Facial appearance plays a role in leader selection and some facial traits are more valued in certain contexts. Here, I examined associations between facial appearance and perceptions of leadership. In Study 1, male faces were rated for several traits and leadership ability under j ourna l homepage: www.e lsev ie r .com/ locate / leaquae, several recent studies have revealed the power that faces hold over our voting tings of competence in a large sample of head shot images of politicians are related to tions (Todorov, Mandisodza, Goren, & Hall, 2005) and that such correlations are found

Ballew & Todorov, 2007). A similar finding based on 11 pairs of photographs from al appearance and leader choice in different contexts: Evidence for task contingent ership Quarterly (2014), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2014.04.002 2 A.C. Little / The Leadership Quarterly xxx (2014) xxx–xxxnewspapers in Australia has also been reported (Martin, 1978). A further study has presented evidence that elections can be predicted by individuals voting based on facial shape alone using presidential and primeministerial elections from several nations (Little, Burriss, Jones, & Roberts, 2007). Recent work has also shown that judgments from both American and Japanese raters predict real votes for American politicians, suggesting cross-cultural agreement on the power of faces in election (Rule et al., 2011). Further, it also appears that cues to election success based on facial appearance apply at a young age, even children prefer election winners over losers to be “captain of their boat” (Antonakis & Dalgas, 2009).

Taken together, there is increasing evidence that facial appearance is related to a candidate's success in real election to leadership roles. These findings then raise the question of why appearance might affect selection as a leader. People generally believe that facial appearance provides important guides to character (Hassin & Trope, 2000) and several researchers have highlighted expected behavioural and personality traits based on facial appearance as likely to underpin the link between facial appearance and leader choice (Little et al., 2007; Todorov et al., 2005). For example, perceived “competence” from facial photographs was found to be most closely associated with winning election in the study of US senators (Todorov et al., 2005). In terms of desiring particular traits in our leaders, competence is likely high on the list of essential characteristics as incompetent leaders will have detrimental effects on the group they lead. It can be expected that competence will be a trait valued in all leaders. In this way, possessing facial cues associated with perceived competence can lead individuals to be selected as leaders because observers infer competence based on those facial cues. A more recent study has suggested that other traits, specifically beauty, can have a greater impact on electoral outcomes than perceived competence (Berggren, Jordahl, & Poutvaara, 2010) and it is this trait I examine next.