Voting for a Male Warrior or Female Peacekeeper? Testing the Evolutionary Contingency Hypothesis in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Elections

Allen Grabo*, Mark van Vugt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticle


The present research replicates and extends previous literature on the evolutionary contingency hypothesis of leadership emergence. Using artificially masculinized versus feminized versions of the faces of the candidates for the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, we demonstrated that different contextual cues produced systematic variation in both preferences for and personality impressions of leadership. We describe results of an online study (N = 298), demonstrating that followers who perceived a match between the contextual prime (intergroup conflict or cooperation) and a leader candidate’s relevant physical cues (masculinized or feminized versions of their faces) both (a) preferred them as leaders and (b) rated them more positively on personality attributes commonly associated with effective leadership such as trustworthiness, warmth, competence, and charisma.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalEvolutionary Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018


Bibliographical note

First published online: June 18, 2018


  • evolutionary contingency hypothesis
  • evolutionary psychology
  • facial appearance
  • leadership preferences
  • personality attribution

Cite this