As leaders ascend to more powerful positions in their groups, they face ever-increasing demands. As a result, there is a common perception that leaders have higher stress levels than nonleaders. However, if leaders also experience a heightened sense of control—a psychological factor known to have powerful stress-buffering effects—leadership should be associated with reduced stress levels. Using unique samples of real leaders, including military officers and government officials, we found that, compared with nonleaders, leaders had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and lower reports of anxiety (study 1). In study 2, leaders holding more powerful positions exhibited lower cortisol levels and less anxiety than leaders holding less powerful positions, a relationship explained significantly by their greater sense of control. Altogether, these findings reveal a clear relationship between leadership and stress, with leadership level being inversely related to stress.
Justifications for war often invoke reputational or social aspirations: the need to protect national honor, status, reputation for resolve, credibility, and respect. Studies of these motives struggle with a variety of challenges: their primary empirical manifestation consists of beliefs, agents have incentives to misrepresent these beliefs, their logic is context specific, and they meld intrinsic and instrumental motives. To help overcome these challenges, this review offers a general conceptual framework that integrates their strategic, cultural, and psychological logics. We summarize important findings and open questions, including (a) whether leaders care about their reputations and status, (b) how to address the tension between instrumental and intrinsic motives, (c) how observers draw inferences, (d ) to whom and across what contextual breadth these inferences apply, and (e) how these relate to domestic audience costs. Many important, tractable questions remain for future studies to answer.
Are hormone levels associated with the attainment of social status? Although endogenous testosterone predicts status-seeking social behaviors, research suggests that the stress hormone cortisol may inhibit testosterone’s effects. Thus, individuals with both high testosterone and low cortisol may be especially likely to occupy high-status positions in social hierarchies while individuals with high testosterone and high cortisol may not. We tested this hypothesis by recruiting a sample of real executives and examining testosterone, cortisol, and a concrete indicator of attained status: the number of subordinates over which the executive has authority. Despite the myriad nonhormonal factors that determine organizational promotion, the executives’ endogenous testosterone and cortisol interacted to significantly predict hierarchical position: Testosterone positively predicted executives’ number of subordinates, but only among low-cortisol executives. The results imply that reducing cortisol levels via stress reduction may be a critical goal not only because doing so will improve health but also because doing so may enhance leadership potential.
Despite widespread agreement that status matters, there is relatively little in the way of focused research onhowandwhenit matters. Relying on the assumption that it “matters” has provided few extant theories of variation in states’ concern for status and little understanding of its specific implications for international conflict. I introduce a theory of status dissatisfaction (SD) that clarifies who forms the basis for status comparisons in world politics, when status concerns should be paramount, and how they are linked to international conflict. I demonstrate the viability of conflict as a strategy for status enhancement: both initiation and victory bring substantial status benefits over both five- and ten-year periods. Using a new, network-based measure of international status, I demonstrate that status deficits are significantly associated with an increased probability of war and militarized interstate dispute (MID) initiation. Even internationally, status is local: I use “community detection” algorithms to recover status communities and show that deficits within those communities are particularly salient for states and leaders.
Status has long been implicated as a critical value of states and leaders in international politics. However, decades of research on the link between status and conflict have yielded divergent findings, and little evidence of a causal relationship. I attempt to resolve this impasse by shifting the focus from status to relative status concerns in building a theory of status from the ground up, beginning with its behavioral microfoundations. I build on and extend previous work through an experimental study of status threats and the escalation of commitment, operationalized here as a new behavioral escalation task using real financial incentives and framed around a narrative of war and peace. I utilize a unique sample of high-profile political and military leaders from the Senior Executive Fellow (SEF) program at the Harvard Kennedy School, as well as a group of demographically matched control subjects, allowing me to evaluate the moderating effect of power on status concerns while also addressing typical concerns about external validity in IR experiments. I find strong evidence that the fear of losing status impedes decision making and increases the tendency to "throw good money after bad," but that power aids decision making by buffering high-power subjects against the worst effects of status loss.A large body of research in international relations (IR) has suggested the importance of status concerns for international conflict. Status-standing in a hierarchy-has been a critical component of both realist and evolutionary theories, as well as empirical work on status inconsistency, power transition theory, and social identity and dominance theory. 1 It has also featured in international political economy (IPE), often as one of the "less tangible payoffs" sought by states. 2 I am especially grateful for the thoughtful comments and suggestions from
Do costly signals work? Despite their widespread popularity, both hands-tying and sunk-cost signaling have come under criticism, and there's little direct evidence that leaders understand costly signals the way our models tell us they should. We present evidence from a survey experiment fielded on a unique sample of elite decision makers from the Israeli Knesset. We find that both types of costly signaling are effective in shaping assessments of resolve for both leaders and the public. However, although theories of signaling tend to assume homogenous audiences, we show that leaders vary significantly in how credible they perceive signals to be, depending on their foreign policy dispositions, rather than their levels of military or political experience. Our results thus encourage international relations scholars to more fully bring heterogeneous recipients into our theories of signaling and point to the important role of dispositional orientations for the study of leaders.
It is by now well known that political attitudes can be affected by emotions. Most earlier studies have focused on emotions generated by some political event (e.g., terrorism or increased immigration). However, the methods used in previous efforts have made it difficult to untangle the various causal pathways that might link emotions to political beliefs. In contrast, we focus on emotions incidental (i.e., irrelevant) to the decision process, allowing us to cleanly trace and estimate the effect of experimentally induced anxiety on political beliefs. Further, we build upon innovative new work that links physiological reactivity (Hatemi, McDermott, Eaves, Kendler, & Neale, 2013;Oxley et al., 2008a) to attitudes by using skin conductance reactivity as a measure of emotional arousal. We found that anxiety-generated by a video stimulus-significantly affected physiological arousal as measured by tonic skin-conductance levels, and that higher physiological reactivity predicted more anti-immigration attitudes. We show that physiological reactivity mediated the relationship between anxiety and political attitudes.
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