Leaders Show Distinct Body Language Depending On Whether They Gain Authority Through Prestige Or Dominance

All kinds of animals use their bodies to signal a high social rank — humans included. But a growing body of research suggests that, for us at least, there are two distinct routes to becoming a leader. One entails earning respect and followers by demonstrating your knowledge and expertise, which confers prestige. An alternative strategy is to use aggression and intimidation to scare people into deference — that is, to use dominance instead.

These two ways to the top are very different. And, to get on with their leader, an inferior-status individual would have to respond to these two types of leadership differently, too. Now a new paper suggests that instead of a single human high rank, “power” display, there are two distinct patterns of non-verbal behaviour that communicate to other individuals exactly what kind of leader someone is. This is important for understanding how we display rank, and perceive and respond to it. It could also explain why studies into “power posing” have produced conflicting results. Continue reading →

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