War and peace require different leaders

February 17, 2012

"I'm a war president." George W. Bush said it more than once. But is there an actual distinction between war and peace leaders?

Scientists from VU University Amsterdam found out that there is. Times of war seem to require a different type of leader than times of . In the latest issue of , a team of researchers led by Brian R. Spisak and Mark Van Vugt argue that there is a biologically based hormonal connection between leadership behavior and corresponding . Surprisingly, not the actual biological sex, but masculine or feminine traits matter for leaders to be chosen as good warriors or peacekeepers.

Limited stereotyping

Brian R. Spisak: “We showed our 118 participants four kinds of faces: masculine-male, feminine-male, masculine-female and feminine-female. Subsequently, we asked people who they would vote for as their leader during presidential elections in times of war or peace. We found that women and men were picked equally during war and peace, but people significantly prefer leaders with masculine faces in times of war and more feminine looking leaders in times of peace regardless of the biological sex. This requires us to think more deeply about how we classify gender. Simply classifying people as man or woman is very limiting and leads to unnecessary stereotypes and expectations. Also, we showed that this sort of masculine-feminine classification works in Asia (with Asian faces) suggesting this is a more natural and accurate way of prototyping – rather than stereotyping – individuals across culture.”

Hormones

Hormones such as testosterone and estrogen are associated with facial traits as well as behavior. A higher level of testosterone makes the face look more masculine (thicker brow, thinner lips, broader jaw) and also stimulates typical behavior related to warfare, to establish dominance. In contrast, estrogen is connected with more feminine features such as full lips, wide eyes and a thinner, more curved brow and to behavior that is associated with peacekeeping.

A child can make predictions

Spisak: “Our research shows that and peace elicit different leadership prototypes and that subtle facial cues of aspiring help determine their perceived suitability for the job. This can help explain how previous research has shown that a child as young as five years old can predict the outcomes of actual political elections just by looking at the faces of the candidates.”

More information: The publication Warriors and Peacekeepers: Testing a Biosocial Implicit Leadership Hypothesis of Intergroup Relations Using Masculine and Feminine Faces can be downloaded on the website of PLoS ONE.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Visual clues we use during walking and when we use them

July 25, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A trio of researchers with the University of Texas and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has discovered which phase of visual information processing during human walking is used most to guide the feet accurately. ...

Toddlers begin learning rules of reading, writing at very early age, study finds

July 25, 2017
Even the proudest of parents may struggle to find some semblance of meaning behind the seemingly random mish-mash of letters that often emerge from a toddler's first scribbled and scrawled attempts at putting words on paper.

Psychopaths are better at learning to lie, say researchers

July 25, 2017
Individuals with high levels of psychopathic traits are better at learning to lie than individuals who show few psychopathic traits, according to a study published in the open access journal Translational Psychiatry. The ...

Higher cognitive abilities linked to greater risk of stereotyping

July 24, 2017
People with higher cognitive abilities are more likely to learn and apply social stereotypes, finds a new study. The results, stemming from a series of experiments, show that those with higher cognitive abilities also more ...

Using money to buy time linked to increased happiness

July 24, 2017
New research is challenging the age-old adage that money can't buy happiness.

Exposure to violence hinders short-term memory, cognitive control

July 24, 2017
Being exposed to and actively remembering violent episodes—even those that happened up to a decade before—hinders short-term memory and cognitive control, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

RobertKarlStonjek
not rated yet Feb 18, 2012
It looks like a males and three females to me ~ I can't see the feminine male as a male at all...

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.