In times of danger people follow the dominant leader: Gaze following provides insight into the evolution of leadership

April 4, 2013
In times of danger people follow the dominant leader: Gaze following provides insight into the evolution of leadership
In times of danger, people only follow the eye movements of a masculine face (left) and not the eye movements of a feminine face (right).

In the background of evolution, gaze following is one of the oldest manifestations of leadership. Three-month-old babies, for example, already follow the eye movements of their parents. Psychologists at VU University Amsterdam have discovered that in times of danger people follow the eye movements of individuals with a masculine and dominant appearance. When people feel safe, however, they follow the eye movements of both men and women. The results were published yesterday in the scientific journal PLoS One.

VU University psychologists Garian Ohlsen, Wieske van Zoest and Mark van Vugt first showed pictures of dangerous and non-. Then the researchers investigated whether the subjects followed the of men or women. The subjects followed the eye movements of both men and women after seeing non-dangerous situations whereas after seeing dangerous situations they followed only the eye movements of men.

"Whether people follow the eye movements of men or women depends on the context in which people perceive those eye movements," says VU University Professor Mark van Vugt. "Apparently in times of danger people are inclined to follow the eye movements of people with a masculine and dominant appearance. People choose to follow dominant leaders in a threatening environment probably because those leaders give them the feeling that their safety is warranted."

Explore further: Clear vision despite a heavy head: Model explains the choice of simple movements

More information: The article "Gender and facial dominance in gaze cuing: Emotional context matters in the eyes that we follow" was published yesterday in PLoS One. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0059471

Related Stories

Writing in cursive with your eyes only

July 26, 2012

A new technology described in the paper published online on July 26 in Current Biology might allow people who have almost completely lost the ability to move their arms or legs to communicate freely, by using their eyes to ...

Men and women explore the visual world differently

November 30, 2012

Everyone knows that men and women tend to hold different views on certain things. However, new research by scientists from the University of Bristol and published in PLoS ONE indicates that this may literally be the case.

Recommended for you

Is neuroticism fueled by overthinking?

August 27, 2015

Isaac Newton was a classic neurotic. He was a brooder and a worrier, prone to dwelling on the scientific problems before him as well as his childhood sins. But Newton also had creative breakthroughs—thoughts on physics ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.