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The strength of weak leaders : an experiment on social influence and social learning in teams

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  • Experimental economics. - 2019, p. 1-35
English We investigate how the selection process of a leader affects team performance with respect to social learning. We use a laboratory experiment in which an incentivized guessing task is repeated in a star network with the leader at the center. Leader selection is either based on competence, on self-confidence, or made at random. In our setting, teams with random leaders do not underperform. They even outperform teams with leaders selected on self-confidence. Hence, self-confidence can be a dangerous proxy for competence of a leader. We show that it is the declaration of the selection procedure which makes non-random leaders overly influential. To investigate the opinion dynamics, we set up a horse race between several rational and naïve models of social learning. The prevalent conservatism in updating, together with the strong influence of the team leader, imply an information loss since the other team members’ knowledge is not sufficiently integrated.
Faculté des sciences économiques et sociales et du management
Département d'économie politique
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