The effects of characteristic prototypicality and level of previous experience on the perceptions of political leaders
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Studies of leadership have examined the independent effects of characteristic prototypicality and level of previous experience on the perceptions of a person's leadership ability. The present study examines the joint influence of characteristic prototypicality and previous experience on the perceptions of leadership ability. Subjects received vignettes describing Presidential "candidates" and rated the candidates' leadership abilities. There was a significant gender by experience by civics knowledge interaction for the subjects' overall impression of the candidate (favorability) and the candidate's likelihood of success as president, and for rating 1 (a composite rating of six specific abilities). In the low experience condition, high knowledge females rated more leniently than did high knowledge males, while low knowledge females rated more severely than did low knowledge males. There was a significant prototypicality by civics knowledge interaction for favorability and rating 1 and rating 2 (a composite rating of three specific abilities). For favorability, high knowledge subjects rated prototypic and antiprototypic candidates more severely and candidates in the neutral and no prototypicality information more leniently than did low knowledge subjects. Ratings 1 and 2 demonstrated an effect only in the no prototypicality information condition, where high knowledge subjects rated more leniently than did low knowledge subjects. Finally, there was a significant experience by civics knowledge interaction for favorability and likelihood of success. High knowledge subjects rated more leniently in the high experience and more severely in the low experience condition than did low knowledge subjects. Implications of the findings and future research are discussed.
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