Project Information

Kurt Lewin Instituut
Heidelberglaan 1
Room Number H1.42
The Netherlands
T: +31 (0)30 - 253 3027

Project Information

Project Title
"The Evolutionary Origins and Psychology of Charismatic Leadership"

VU University Amsterdam - Social and Organizational Psychology

PhD Student
Allen Grabo

Prof.dr. M. van Vugt (VU)

1 March 2012 - 1 March 2015

VU University Amsterdam


One of the most puzzling themes in human social affairs is the power of charismatic leadership. Despite the emphasis in modern society on formal rules and bureaucratic management there is a niche for individuals with outstanding personal qualtities to attract a group of dedicated followers in business, religion, politics and science (Riggio, 1987). Perhaps humans have an innate capacity to follow charismatic leaders (Van Vugt & Ahuja, 2010). Our project investigates the origins, functions, and social psychology of charismatic leadership by looking at what makes an individual an outstanding, charismatic leader.

Our research studies the conditions under which charismatic leadership emerges in groups to understand its functions, ecology and psychology. We plan to study the neurological, psychological, and behavioral underpinnings of charisma to find out what makes a charismatic leader. We also study the impact of charismatic leadership on the behavior and emotions of followers, looking in particular at the role of charismatic leadership in fostering group cohesion and prosociality. Finalyy, we study charismatic leadership in regligious and non-religious social networks. Our research employs a combination of archival data, social network surveys, behavioral and neuroscience experiments to unravel the mystery of charismatic leadership.

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