Katrina Waldhauser’s MA Thesis Proposal

Title: “Genetic essentialism, cognitive functioning, and leadership behaviour”

Supervisor: Dr. Mark Beauchamp (Kinesiology)
Committee Members: Dr. Steven Heine (Psychology), Dr. Bruno Zumbo (Education)

Abstract: The narrative in popular culture often relays the idea that genes are deterministic, meaning they lead to pre-determined outcomes such as obesity or mental illness (Dar-Nimrod & Heine, 2011). Personalized genetic reports, such as 23andMe and Ancestry, provide an opportunity for miscomprehension concerning the nature and role played by genetics in predicting/influencing salient behavioral outcomes. It has been suggested that these misunderstandings, when paired with human biases, subsequently influence maladaptive cognitive functioning and behaviour (Dar-Nimrod & Heine, 2011). Genetic essentialist biases have been shown to influence a number of outcomes including women’s mathematics ability (Dar-Nimrod & Heine, 2006), food consumption (Dar-Nimrod, Cheung, Ruby, & Heine, 2014), and prejudice toward sexual orientation (Haslam & Levy, 2006), mental illness (Haslam & Ernst, 2002; Lee et al., 2014), and race (Williams & Eberhardt, 2008). Although it is often questioned whether leaders are born or made (Avolio, 2005), research has yet to examine the implications of believing leadership ability to be genetically based. The overall purpose of my Master’s thesis is to examine the effects of genetic essentialism associated with genetics and leadership in relation to cognitive functioning and leadership behaviour.