AbstractFacial expressions appear to have a powerful influence on the perception of leadership. The aim of the five studies presented here was to add to our knowledge about the contribution of facial expression to the perception of leadership. In particular, these five studies were used to explore which facial expressions influence perceptions of leadership and how these facial expressions influence leadership perceptions. Participants’ prototypes of leadership were examined by assessing implicit leadership theories. Furthermore, facial expression stimuli (videos and pictures) were used in two research phases.
Phase 1 (studies 1 and 2) used different research designs applied to different populations, to pilot the design and also to examine how leadership perceptions are formed from facial expression. Participants’ prototypes of leadership were assessed. Additionally, the participants were asked to evaluate pictures of different facial expressions. In Study 1, leadership perceptions were investigated based on basic facial actions. Study 2, extended this approach by using context activation in a facial expression scenario. Perceived leadership from the facial expressions was compared to the participants’ prototypes. The results indicated that the participants used all available information, including facial appearance, expression, context of communication, appropriateness, and authenticity of expression to form complex prototypes. When the facial expressions in the studies matched the participants’ prototypes, perception of leadership tended to be higher.
In phase 2 (studies 3, 4, and 5), the feedback from phase 1 was used to refine the instruments, and applied to different research designs on a large, culturally and organisationally homogenous sample. The aim of the three studies of the second phase was to further add to our knowledge about the contribution of facial expression to the perception of leadership. Similarly to phase 1, participants’ prototypes of leadership were assessed. In addition, participants were shown photo sequences or videos of different facial expressions. Study 3 used manipulations of static facial expression sequences, transferring some well known impression formation tests (see Asch, 1946) to the research of leadership perception from facial expression. Study 4 used videos of a leader’s/actor’s facial expressions in an organisational context. Finally, study 5 used photos extracted from the videos of study 4 with some additional manipulations. Perceived leadership from the facial expressions was compared to the participants’ prototypes. The results revealed that when the facial expressions in the studies matched the participants’ prototypes, perception of leadership was higher for the majority of the cases examined. Furthermore, the facial expression manipulations appeared to cause significant changes in perceptions of leadership. Particularly, participants considered those facial expressions that transmitted negativity as less leader-like than the ones transmitting positive emotions. Moreover, static facial expressions were perceived differently from dynamic facial expressions in terms of leadership perceptions. Changing the order of the sequence of specific facial expressions did not yield significant differences for the photo-sequences investigated. Finally, although gender differences were found in almost all participants ILTs dimensions, when they had to evaluate the facial expressions, men and women showed much more agreement.
In conclusion, the evidence from the current research suggests that facial expressions significantly influence the perception of leadership. However, making sense of that influence was a matter of understanding what is inside the perceiver’s mind. On the basis of the studies included in this thesis, it is recommented for leaders and organisations to shift attention from developing certain leadership skills to increasing perceptual awareness.
|Date of Award||Feb 2011|
|Supervisor||Birgit Schyns (Supervisor)|