Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Low-status leaders are ignored, researchers find; How a leader is picked impacts whether others will follow

Date:
December 5, 2010
Source:
Rice University
Summary:
People who are deemed social misfits or "losers" aren't effective leaders, even if they are crusading for a cause that would benefit a larger group, according to new research.

People who are deemed social misfits or "losers" aren't effective leaders, even if they are crusading for a cause that would benefit a larger group, according to new research from Rice University, the University of Texas and Universitat de Valencia.

The study's authors observed the contributions of 80 participants in a repeated public-goods game and found that players were more likely to mimic the actions of a leader they perceived as a high-status individual; they ignored leaders perceived as low-status and, when they had a chance, punished them for trying to lead.

"In a team, naming someone a leader is not sufficient to create effective leadership," said Rick Wilson, co-author of the study and professor of political science and statistics and psychology at Rice. "The status of the leader -- the way in which the leader is chosen -- determines the extent to which the rest of the subjects will follow."

In each round of the research experiment, players were given 50 experimental currency units (ECUs) and had to decide what portion to keep for themselves and how much to contribute to a group account. Whatever was put into the group account was doubled and then split equally by the group of four. For any individual, this meant that it was better to retain everything for their private account, since each ECU put into the group account would yield only a .5 ECU return. However, if everyone in the group put in everything, they would each double their ECUs -- hence the public-goods problem.

Each group had a leader whose contributions everyone could see. The leader was determined by scores on an arbitrary trivia quiz. In half the experiments, the leader was the player who had the highest score (high status); in the other half, the player who had the lowest score (low status) was designated as the leader. The group members were told how their leader was chosen.

At the end of each of the 20 rounds, each follower observed his or her own earnings and the leader's contributions. The leader observed the contributions of each of the followers. On average, players allocated between 40 and 50 percent of their ECUs to the public pot, whether they had a high- or low-status leader. However, contributions from followers with low-status leaders dropped off in later rounds even though their leaders began giving more and more, crusading for followers to make greater contributions to the public pot that could benefit everyone in the group.

Groups with high-status leaders showed greater stability, and the followers were more likely to imitate their leaders -- even though those leaders maintained the amount of their initial contributions.

"In teams with high-status leaders, followers are more likely to go along with them, even though the leader does not necessarily set a good example," Wilson said. "A high-status leader should be willing to risk making unilaterally high contributions to the public good, because the followers will do the same."

Wilson and his co-authors, Catherine Eckel of the University of Texas and Enrique Fatas of the Universitat de Valencia, also studied the effect of punishment. In the 21st round of the game, followers were given the option to punish the leader by issuing points that decreased a player's profits in the experiment, and vice versa. Punishment was costly both for the person initiating the punishment and for the person punished.

Once punishment was introduced, contributions increased significantly for the groups with a low-status leader and only slightly for those with a high-status leader. However, low-status leaders punished others and, in turn, were punished more. They made significantly less money in the experiment than any other player.

"Punishment, while important to enforcing cooperative norms in many social dilemmas, does not boost contributions in all instances," Wilson said. "The bottom line is that high-status leaders don't need to punish because they are followed. Low-status leaders need to rely on punishment to motivate followers, but it is costly for everyone. It's like they are the Rodney Dangerfields of the world -- they get no respect. When they use punishment to boost contributions to the public good, their followers retaliate."


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Catherine C. Eckel, Enrique Fatas, Rick Wilson. Cooperation and Status in Organizations. Journal of Public Economic Theory, 2010; 12 (4): 737 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9779.2010.01472.x

Cite This Page:

Rice University. "Low-status leaders are ignored, researchers find; How a leader is picked impacts whether others will follow." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 December 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101202124207.htm>.
Rice University. (2010, December 5). Low-status leaders are ignored, researchers find; How a leader is picked impacts whether others will follow. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101202124207.htm
Rice University. "Low-status leaders are ignored, researchers find; How a leader is picked impacts whether others will follow." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101202124207.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Science & Society News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short

Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short

AP (July 29, 2014) The U.S. nuclear industry started building its first new plants using prefabricated Lego-like blocks meant to save time and prevent the cost overruns that crippled the sector decades ago. So far, it's not working. (July 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
$15B Deal on Vets' Health Care Reached

$15B Deal on Vets' Health Care Reached

AP (July 28, 2014) A bipartisan deal to improve veterans health care would authorize at least $15 billion in emergency spending to fix a veterans program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming

The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming

AP (July 28, 2014) AP Investigation: As the Obama administration weans the country off dirty fuels, energy companies are ramping-up overseas coal exports at a heavy price. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Newsy (July 27, 2014) The satellite is back under ground control after a tense few days, but with a gecko sex experiment on board, the media just couldn't help themselves. Video provided by Newsy
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:
from the past week

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