The innate code of charisma

Omri Castelnovo, Micha Popper, Danny Koren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We argue that the sources of charisma are innate and can be explained as part of unique human cultural transmission mechanisms. Recently, developmental models and experiments have been presented, for example, natural pedagogy theory (Csibra & Gergely, 2006, 2009, 2011) and over-imitation studies (Lyons, Young, & Keil, 2007; McGuigan, 2013). Inspired by these, we maintain that certain universal principles of conspicuous influence are embraced with very little critical thinking, on the basis of certain signals the charismatic leader radiates in a particular communicative manner (“evolutionary syntax”). We point out expressions of these principles in charismatic leadership and propose a conceptual framework that can advance the formulation of a general theory on charisma anchored in evolutionary processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)543-554
Number of pages12
JournalLeadership Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier Inc.


  • Charisma
  • Cultural transmission
  • Epistemic trust
  • Innate receptivity
  • Natural pedagogy
  • Over-imitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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