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Document Type


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M.A. (Master of Arts)


Department of Psychology


Leadership--Psychological aspects


This experiment tested a central assumption underlying Lord, Foti, and DeVader’s leader categorization theory: that the labeling of an individual as a leader is a spontaneous process resulting from the observation of prototypic leader behavior. Utilizing a 2 (prime, no prime) x 2 (prototypic, non-prototypic stimulus) x 2 (think-aloud /no think-aloud) x 2 (prototypic, non-prototypic Word) mixed design, this study overcame the methodological flaws that have prevented prior research from testing whether leader categorization takes place spontaneously. Participants in the prime condition were instructed beforehand to think of an ideal leader as vividly as possible; participants in the no prime condition received no such instructions. Half of the participants then performed a think-aloud procedure while viewing a videotape of an individual displaying either prototypic or nonprototypic leader behaviors. Participants then performed an ostensibly unrelated word completion task, consisting of items that were highly prototypic of leadership and items that were neutral in regard to leadership. A computer was used to administer words and record participants' word completion accuracy. The differences in verbal reports and word completion rates found between participants in the prototypic and non-prototypic stimulus conditions provide evidence of spontaneity in leadership perceptions. Specifically, when compared to participants viewing non-prototypic leader behavior, those viewing prototypic leader behavior verbally produced more leader-related statements, and completed a greater proportion of word completion tasks based on inferences to prototypic leader behaviors. Furthermore, the lack of difference in word completion rates between the prime and no prime conditions for participants who viewed prototypic leader behaviors indicates that leader perceptions are spontaneous. Implications of these results for theory and practice are discussed.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [62]-67)


vi, 85 pages




Northern Illinois University

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