When individuals take an aptitude test, they may analyze their likability to determine whether they are suitable to be strong leaders. While this has long been considered a characteristic of a leader, a new study by the University of British Columbia shows that when choosing leaders, people tend to prefer individuals who emanate dominance and prestige rather than likability.
For the sake of the study, researchers defined prestige as "the appearance of skill and competency" and dominance as "the ability to impose ideas on others through bullying and intimidation."
During the study, 200 participants were asked to complete problem-solving activities in small groups while being videotaped. Then, they were asked to rate everyone's dominance, prestige and influence, including their own. In the second part of the study, 60 additional participants watched 120-second clips of the initial groups interacting while wearing eye-tracking devices. The research showed that the additional 60 participants paid greater attention to the people in the videos who seemed more dominant or prestigious.
"Our findings suggest there are really two ways to top the social ladder and gain leadership – impressing people with your skills or powering your way through old-fashioned dominance," said the study's lead author Joey Cheng. "By measuring levels of influence and visual attention, we find that people defer to and readily spot the prestigious and dominant leaders."
While both prestige and dominance were both viewed as signs of leadership, the study showed that people tended to prefer dominant leaders to those with prestige. Researchers believe this could help explain why many successful business and political leaders are so aggressive.