When controversial leaders with charisma are effective: the influence of terror on the need for vision and impact of mixed attitudinal messages
Article first published online: 22 NOV 2006
Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
European Journal of Social Psychology
Volume 38, Issue 3, pages 389–411, April/May 2008
How to Cite
Gordijn, E. H. and Stapel, D. A. (2008), When controversial leaders with charisma are effective: the influence of terror on the need for vision and impact of mixed attitudinal messages. Eur. J. Soc. Psychol., 38: 389–411. doi: 10.1002/ejsp.411
- Issue published online: 20 MAR 2008
- Article first published online: 22 NOV 2006
- Manuscript Accepted: 4 SEP 2006
- Manuscript Received: 14 FEB 2006
We investigated the idea that a charismatic leader with a controversial message is most likely to persuade people in times of terror, because in those times people have a high need for vision, and vision is what a charismatic leader provides. In addition, we argued that the leader's message should contain a pro-attitudinal position as well, as this makes the counter-attitudinal message more palatable. In line with our hypotheses, we found in Experiment 1 that thinking about terrorism increases people's need for vision. Experiment 2 revealed that only when people have a high need for vision they will be influenced by a controversial charismatic leader. Experiment 3 showed that existential threats also directly increase the influence of a controversial charismatic leader. Further, this was especially so when the charismatic leader was both attractive and communicated his message in a charismatic way. Finally, Experiment 4 revealed that after thinking about their own death or about terrorist attacks, people were most likely to be persuaded by a controversial charismatic leader whose counter-attitudinal message also contained pro-attitudinal statements. Together, this research suggests that in times of terror people's need for vision increases, which opens them up to a counter-attitudinal message of a charismatic leader as long as this message also includes some pro-attitudinal statements. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.