This experimental study investigated the effect of a leader's expression of happy versus nervous emotions on subsequent perceptions of leadership and ratings of traits associated with implicit leadership theories (ILTs). Being fast and universally understood, emotions are ideal stimuli for investigating the dynamic effects of ILTs, which were understood in this study in terms of the constraints that expressed emotions impose on the connectionist networks that activate ILTs. The experimental design contrasted videotaped and still frame presentations of a leadership event; however, this methodological factor had no significant effects and analyses were thus collapsed across this factor. Key findings were that the expression of a happy versus nervous emotion at the end of a problem-solving sequence had multiple effects: happy emotions resulted in higher leadership ratings, higher trait ratings, greater correlations among trait ratings, and greater dependence of trait ratings on leadership perceptions. An exploratory model suggested that leadership impressions mediated the effects of facial emotions on trait ratings. The discussion further links the study findings with interpretations in terms of ILTs and many types of constraints on these cognitive structures. It also suggests ways to integrate these ideas with advances in neuroscience research.
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