Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Evolutionary Past May Determine How We Choose Leaders

Date:
October 26, 2009
Source:
University of Oxford
Summary:
Why did Barack Obama win the US election and did the fact he is over six feet tall influence the voters? Researchers argue that due to 'a hangover from our evolutionary past' factors like age, sex, height and weight play a major part in the determining our choice of leaders.

Why did Barack Obama win the US election and did the fact he is over six feet tall influence the voters? In a synthesis of research, published in Current Biology this month, the authors of the paper 'The Origins and Evolution of Leadership' argue that due to 'a hangover from our evolutionary past' factors like age, sex, height and weight play a major part in the determining our choice of leaders.

Author Professor Mark van Vugt, an Associate Member of the Institute for Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology at the University of Oxford, said: 'Traits like height, age, gender, masculinity/femininity, and weight all appear to matter when we vote for our leaders. These are likely hangovers from our evolutionary past -- ancestral leadership prototypes that are context-dependent. When we face particular threats, like war, these elicit particular prototypes, such as the need for a masculine leader. Therefore, leaders who match these ancestral prototypes have a better chance of being elected.'

The article says that although human societies continue to rely heavily on political, economic, military, professional and religious leaders to function effectively, there is a consistently high rate of leadership failure. Nearly three quarters of business failures in corporate America are due to managerial incompetence, the study points out. It asks whether new approaches might be useful in understanding when and why human leadership succeeds and fails -- including Nature's own lessons on what works best in different contexts.

Author Dr Andrew King, from the Zoological Society of London, said: 'Evolution has fashioned principles governing leadership and followership over many millions of years. We need to ground the complex, even mystical, social phenomenon of leadership in science. Through empirical observation, theoretical models, neuroscience, experimental psychology, and genetics, we can explore the development and adaptive functions of leadership and followership. This analysis of data, combined with an evolutionary perspective on leadership, might highlight potential mismatches so we can see how evolved mechanisms of leadership are possibly out of kilter with our relatively novel social environment.'

Author Dr Dominic Johnson, from the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Edinburgh, said: ' The role of leadership has often been overlooked in the natural sciences -- especially its important but under-explored role in the evolution of cooperation, yet it is arguably one of the most important themes in the social sciences. There are converging ideas and developments in both the natural and social sciences that suggest that leadership and followership share common properties across humans and other animals, and these point to evolutionary origins. By identifying such origins and examining which aspects are shared with other animals offers us better ways of understanding, predicting and improving leadership today.'


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Oxford. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. King et al. The Origins and Evolution of Leadership. Current Biology, 2009; 19 (19): R911 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2009.07.027

Cite This Page:

University of Oxford. "Evolutionary Past May Determine How We Choose Leaders." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 October 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091025205016.htm>.
University of Oxford. (2009, October 26). Evolutionary Past May Determine How We Choose Leaders. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091025205016.htm
University of Oxford. "Evolutionary Past May Determine How We Choose Leaders." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091025205016.htm (accessed October 1, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Japan Celebrates 'bullet Train' Anniversary

Raw: Japan Celebrates 'bullet Train' Anniversary

AP (Oct. 1, 2014) A ceremony marking 50 years since Japan launched its Shinkansen bullet train was held on Wednesday in Tokyo. The latest model can travel from Tokyo to Osaka, a distance of 319 miles, in two hours and 25 minutes. (Oct. 1) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Battle of New Orleans Cannon Gets New Carriage

Battle of New Orleans Cannon Gets New Carriage

AP (Sep. 30, 2014) A Spanish cannon used in the Battle of New Orleans and weighing nearly 3 tons was lowered Tuesday by pulleys, chains and muscle onto a new gun carriage like one that might have held it once aboard a navy ship. (Sept. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
2,000 Year Old Pre-Inca Cloak on Display in Lima

2,000 Year Old Pre-Inca Cloak on Display in Lima

AFP (Sep. 27, 2014) A 2,000 year-old Pre-Inca cloak that is believed to represent an agricultural calendar of the Paracas culture is on display in Lima. Duration: 00:39 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Original Mozart Sonata Manuscript Found in Budapest

Original Mozart Sonata Manuscript Found in Budapest

AFP (Sep. 26, 2014) Considered lost for over two centuries, the original manuscript of one of the most famous works of Mozart's Sonata in A major has been uncovered in a library in Budapest. Duration: 01:04 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins