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The Illusion of Leadership

Weber, Roberto A. and Rottenstreich, Yuval and Camerer, Colin F. and Knez, Marc J. (1996) The Illusion of Leadership. Social Science Working Paper, 992. California Institute of Technology , Pasadena, CA. (Unpublished)

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This paper reports experiments which examine attributions of leadership quality due to differences in situations. Subjects played an abstract coordination game which is analogous to some organizational situations. Previous research showed that when large groups play the game, they rarely coordinate on the Pareto-optimal (efficient) outcome, but small groups almost always coordinate on a Pareto-optimal outcome. After two or three periods of playing the game, one subject who was randomly selected from among the participants to be the "leader" for the experiment was instructed to make a speech exhorting others to choose the efficient action. Based on previous studies with small and large groups, we predicted that small groups would succeed in achieving efficiency and large groups would fail. Based on research on the fundamental attribution error in social psychology, we predicted that the leaders would be credited for the success of the small groups, and blamed for the failure of the large groups. The effects of the leaders in improving coordination were, as predicted, overshadowed by the situational variable (group size). Nonetheless, there was an "illusion of leadership": subjects attributed differences in outcomes between conditions to differences in the effectiveness of leaders. In a second experiment, subjects in both large and small groups coordinated efficiently, but gave less credit to the second leader than the first.

Item Type:Report or Paper (Working Paper)
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Camerer, Colin F.0000-0003-4049-1871
Alternate Title:The Illusion of Leadership: Misattribution of Cause in Coordination Games
Additional Information:This preliminary version was prepared for circulation at the Judgment/Decision Making Society meetings, Chicago, November 1996. Please do not quote or circulate, but comments are welcome. This research was funded by NSF grant SBR-9511001 to Camerer. We thank participants at a University of Arizona Department of Management Seminar for helpful discussion. Published as Weber, R., Camerer, C., Rottenstreich, Y., & Knez, M. (2001). The illusion of leadership: Misattribution of cause in coordination games. Organization Science, 12(5), 582-598.
Group:Social Science Working Papers
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Subject Keywords:Fees, Game theory, Blame, Group size, Coordination games, Attribution theory, Social psychology, Questionnaires, Leadership qualities, Coordinate systems
Series Name:Social Science Working Paper
Issue or Number:992
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20170815-142759861
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:80427
Deposited By: Jacquelyn Bussone
Deposited On:15 Aug 2017 21:43
Last Modified:15 Nov 2021 19:34

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