In the eye of the beholder? An eye-tracking experiment on emergent
Integrating evolutionary signaling theory with a social attention approach, we argue that individuals possess a fast, automated mechanism for detecting leadership signals in fellow humans that is reﬂected in higher visual attention toward emergent leaders compared to non-leaders. To test this notion, we ﬁrst videotaped meetings of project teams and collected leadership ratings for the team members from three rating sources. Second, we provided 18 naïve observers with 42 brief, muted video clips of the team meetings and analyzed their eye gazing patterns. Observers gazed at emergent leaders more often, and for an average longer duration, than at non-leaders. Gender eﬀects occurred such that male emergent leaders received a higher number of ﬁxations than female emergent leaders. Non-verbal behavior analysis indicated that emergent leaders showed a higher amount of active gestures and less passive facial expressions than non-leaders. We discuss theoretical and methodological directions for emergent leadership research in teams.
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