Van Vugt, M., & Ronay, R. D. (2013).The Evolutionary Psychology of Leadership: Theory, Review, and Roadmap. Organizational Psychology Review, 1-22.

DOI: 10.1177/2041386613493635


Price, M., & Van Vugt, M. (2014). The evolution of leader-follower reciprocity: The theory of service-for-prestige. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

pdf button




We describe the service-for-prestige theory of leadership, which proposes that voluntaryleader–follower relations evolved in humans via a process of reciprocal exchange that generated adaptive  benefits for both leaders and followers. We propose that although leader–follower relations first emerged in the human lineage to solve problems related to information  sharing and social coordination, they  ultimately  evolved into exchange relationships whereby  followers  could compensate leaders for  services  which  would otherwise have been prohibitively costly for leaders to provide. In this exchange, leaders incur costs to provide followers with public goods, and in return, followers incur costs to provide leaders with prestige (and associated fitness benefits). Because whole groups of followers tend to gain from leader-provided public goods, and because prestige is costly for followers to produce, the provisioning of prestige to leaders requires solutions to the "free  rider" problem of disrespectful followers (who benefit from leader services without sharing the costs of producing prestige). Thus service-for-prestige makes the unique prediction that disrespectful followers of beneficial leaders will be targeted by other followers for punitive sentiment and/or  social exclusion. Leader–follower relations should be more reciprocal and mutually beneficial when leaders  and followers have more equal social bargaining power.  However,  as leaders gain more relative power,  and  their high status becomes less dependent on their willingness to pay the costs of benefitting followers, service-for- prestige predicts that leader–follower relations will become based more on leaders’ ability to dominate and exploit rather than benefit followers. We review evidential support for a set of predictions made by service-for-prestige, and discuss how service-for-prestige relates to social neuroscience research on leadership.

Ohlsen, G., Van Zoest, W., & Van Vugt, M.  (2013). Gender and facial dominance in gaze cuing: When emotional context matters in the eyes that we follow. PLOS-One.


Vugt, M. (2013). On faces, gazes, votes, and followers: Evolutionary and social neuroscience approaches to leadership.

In J. Decety & Y. Christen (ed.), New Frontiers in Social Neuroscience (pp. 93-110). Heidelberg: Springer


Cartwright, E., Gillet, J., & Van Vugt, M. (2013). Leadership by example in the weak-link game. Economic Inquiry.


Go To Top