Life History-related Traits Predict Preferences for Dominant or Prestigious Leaders

Nan Zhu, Binbin Chen, Hui Jing Lu, Lei Chang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Dominance and prestige, as two distinct status-attaining qualities, are present in modern-day leaders at various levels of social hierarchies to various degrees. From an evolutionary perspective, we speculate that individuals’ preference for dominant (prestigious) leaders can be partly predicted by “fast” (“slow”) life history–related traits. Moreover, we predict that the link between fast traits and the preference for dominance would be stronger when individuals face uncontrollable dangers resembling the evolutionary challenges faced by our ancestors in a less structured and predictable world. Two experiments tested these speculations. Experiment 1 (N = 67) used the Implicit Association Test (IAT) technique and showed that people implicitly associate dominance (prestige) with negative (positive) evaluations, and such association was stronger for individuals exhibited slow life history–related psychosocial traits. Experiment 2 (N = 95) replicated this finding using explicit leader choices in response to hypothetical scenarios. Moreover, Experiment 2 demonstrated that individuals with faster psychosocial traits showed a stronger preference for dominant leaders in the face of experimentally primed danger than in a control condition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)284-297
Number of pages14
JournalEvolutionary Psychological Science
Issue number3
Early online date14 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021


  • Dominance
  • Leadership
  • Life history strategy
  • Prestige
  • Social status

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology

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