Perceptions of Leaders: The Role of Leader Prototypes and Intervention to Improve Judgments of Female Leaders

TR Number
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Virginia Tech

Leader prototypes are our expectations for attributes a leader should possess, and these prototypes guide our perceptions and judgments of others with regard to leadership. This dissertation uses a connectionist perspective of leadership to investigate differences in perceptions and judgments of male and female leaders, and provides the first empirical test of Hogue and Lord's (2007) model for gender bias in leadership. In Study 1, leader prototypes are investigated as the mediating process through which perceptions of male and female leaders differ. Furthermore, leader and perceiver gender as investigated as contextual and person factors which impact the accessibility of leader prototypes, thus consequently impacting perceptions and judgments of leaders. The use of leader prototypes in remembering a leader's past behaviors reflects the use of a semantic memory system, where the leader behaviors recalled are influenced by our expectations of the leader, rather than whether the leader actually demonstrated those behaviors. Thus, masculine leadership behaviors demonstrated by a female leader may be discounted, and the leader behaviors recalled may be influenced by gender roles. Study 2 investigates an episodic memory intervention to increase the memory accuracy of leader behaviors as a means to reduce biases in judgments of female leaders. Overall, Study 1 results suggest that activation of agentic attributes; specifically tyranny and masculinity are impacted by leader gender, such that the accessibility of those attributes was higher for male leaders. Contrary to predictions, female leaders did not result in greater accessibility of communal attributes in the leader prototype. No impact of perceiver gender was seen on this mediation process. Subsequently, accessibility of these attributes impacts participants' perceptions and judgments of leadership. Study 2 results indicate behavior recognition accuracy of communal behaviors drives participants' negative perceptions and judgments of the female leader. Limitations and directions for future research are discussed.

female leaders, leader prototypes, leadership perceptions, judgments, episodic memory