The Charisma Effect How to bend people to your will

Posted on August 26, 2016

According to an evolutionary theory proposed by a pair of psychologists, charisma is the ability to convince followers that you can get other members of a wider group to cooperate. These researchers found that exposure to charisma increased generosity: Subjects who saw a ted talk by a charismatic speaker later gave more money to a stranger than did those who saw an uncharismatic one. And thinking about a charismatic person (versus an acquaintance) made people more likely to cooperate with a stranger.

We’re most swayed by charisma when lacking data on a leader’s record. In one study, subjects had to decide whether to keep or boot a CEO after watching a fake newscast describing him as high or low in charisma and his company’s stock price as rising, sinking, or relatively flat. Charisma helped the CEO most when performance was ambiguous. The researchers also rated past presidential candidates’ charisma, by combing their speeches for charismatic tactics—storytelling, expressing moral conviction, setting high goals. Only when economic indicators were muddled was charisma strongly correlated with votes received.

A bit of mystery may boost charisma. When a CEO’s success was attributed to intangible factors (“keen insight and vision”) rather than effort (“loyalty and long hours”), he was rated more charismatic. People preferred a hug from a charismatic leader to a hug from a hardworking one; they also preferred his lucky charm, as if his magic might rub off.

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Source material from The Atlantic


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