Professor in Evolutionary Psychology, Work and Organizational Psychology


Leadership and status

On faces, gazes, votes and followers: Evolutionary psychological and social neuroscience approaches to leadership

Van Vugt, M. (2013). On gazes, faces, votes and followers: Evolutionary and neuroscience approaches to leadership. In: J. Decety and Y. Christen. New frontiers in Social Neuoscience (pp. 93-110). Heidelberg: Springer. (IPSEN foundation).



Leadership is arguably one of the most important themes in the social sciences, permeating all aspects of human social affairs, from the Euro zone crisis to the re-election of the first Black president in the US. Parallel findings across the biological and social sciences suggest that there are both commonalities and differences between humans and non-humans in leadership and followership. Here I propose a new theory of leadership inspired by an evolutionary perspective, and informed by recent findings in evolutionary biology, social, cognitive psychology, and social cognitive neuroscience. I will identify some of the evolved functions, developmental origins, and proximate mechanisms underlying leadership and followership in humans. In addition, I will suggest which aspects of leadership are unique and which are shared with other animals, and offer new ways of studying leadership and followership employing psychological and neuroscience methods.

Copyright © 2012– Mark van Vugt