Cue masking and cultural signals: Testing context-specific preferences for bald(ing) leaders

Nancy M. Blaker, Brian R. Spisak, Joshua M. Tybur, Michal Kandrik, Richard D. Arvey

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Androgenic Alopecia affects the majority of aging men and consequently a substantial number of leaders. Yet, there is little research on how male pattern baldness (MPB) influences leader perceptions, and no research on context-specific leader preferences for bald men. Across three studies, we add to this sparse literature by investigating a) how baldness as a biological cue for age (i.e. MPB) affects various trait perceptions, as opposed to baldness as a cultural signal for dominance (i.e. a shaved head), and b) how this information influences contingent leader preferences across coordination problems. We hypothesized a preference for a dominant leader appearance (shaved head) during war vs. peace, and a preference for an older leader appearance (MPB) during exploitation vs. exploration. In Study 1, we find that men with MPB are indeed perceived as older and that head shaving attenuates this age cue while increasing perceived dominance. Studies 2 and 3 do not show increased leader preferences for men with MPB or men with shaved heads, in any context. Instead, both studies show a particular dislike for men with a shaved head when the coordination problem requires intergroup peacekeeping.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103936
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Volume88
Early online date6 Jan 2020
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Jan 2020

Fingerprint

Alopecia
Cues
leader
Head
peacekeeping
exploitation
Research
peace

Keywords

  • Baldness
  • Cue versus signal
  • Leader preference
  • Person perception

Cite this

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title = "Cue masking and cultural signals: Testing context-specific preferences for bald(ing) leaders",
abstract = "Androgenic Alopecia affects the majority of aging men and consequently a substantial number of leaders. Yet, there is little research on how male pattern baldness (MPB) influences leader perceptions, and no research on context-specific leader preferences for bald men. Across three studies, we add to this sparse literature by investigating a) how baldness as a biological cue for age (i.e. MPB) affects various trait perceptions, as opposed to baldness as a cultural signal for dominance (i.e. a shaved head), and b) how this information influences contingent leader preferences across coordination problems. We hypothesized a preference for a dominant leader appearance (shaved head) during war vs. peace, and a preference for an older leader appearance (MPB) during exploitation vs. exploration. In Study 1, we find that men with MPB are indeed perceived as older and that head shaving attenuates this age cue while increasing perceived dominance. Studies 2 and 3 do not show increased leader preferences for men with MPB or men with shaved heads, in any context. Instead, both studies show a particular dislike for men with a shaved head when the coordination problem requires intergroup peacekeeping.",
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Cue masking and cultural signals : Testing context-specific preferences for bald(ing) leaders. / Blaker, Nancy M.; Spisak, Brian R.; Tybur, Joshua M.; Kandrik, Michal; Arvey, Richard D.

In: Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Vol. 88, 103936, 01.05.2020, p. 1-11.

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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