Monday, February 21, 2011

Charisma & the Scientific Method

Periodically, there are studies that emerge that attempt to quantify aspects of charisma. The typical study entails a focus group where individuals are asked to rate certain traits to determine a subject’s level of charisma. Visuals often entail analyzing the actions of the purported charismatic person. By using a rating or Likert Scale, the traits that define charisma are provided a ratio or final number. By creating a mechanism by which charismatic traits can be measured, a random sampling of participants derives the notion that charisma is quantifiable. As such, if an independent researcher was to follow the same format, he should receive similar results. Over a period of time and experimentation, the intangibility of charisma cannot only be measured, but evolve from a mere hypothesis to a theory to ultimately a law.

Fundamentally, using aspects of the scientific method to legitimize or delegitimize the validity of charisma is not necessarily an ineffective idea on face value. There are physical manifestations that may be common among individuals possessing charisma. The challenge in quantifying charisma is when “X” factors or unknown variables come into play. For example, if research suggests that narcissism, visions of grandeur and insecurity play significant roles on the psyche of charismatic personalities; would the initial results of a charismatic study be valid? Would these additional factors skew our overall impression of a charismatic personality? If we discovered that a charismatic leader manipulated the emotions of a populace for his own gain, would we think he was less charismatic once his true intentions were revealed? Or is charisma pristine when it is safely ensconced in the deep recesses of our untainted imaginations?

These inquiries speak to the intangibility of charisma that has escaped measurement. Social scientists often measure the physical manifestations of charisma, but not the three-fourths of charisma that lie beneath the persona. This is essentially the reason charisma in its motivation and application is difficult to measure. A charismatic act does not determine a charismatic personality. If researchers assert that there is a distinct divide between measuring the traits of charisma versus the psychodynamics of charismatic personalities, they would be correct. However, all too often, leading university researchers attempt to take shortcuts in academic studies by not delving deeper into the motivations and psyche of charismatic personalities. By taking the route of merely measuring outward manifestations, it leads to greater misconceptions of the comprehensiveness of charismatic personalities. Left to its own devices, imitation of charismatic mannerisms would falsely lead to the notion that there is an uptick in the number of charismatic personalities. When in fact, there has been an increase of acting to induce a charismatic response. To thwart such results, researchers must and should go deeper than surface appearances. By fundamentally dissecting known charismatic personalities in history and creating case studies that outline the critical factors that shaped their personalities, charismatic traits would take backseat to the genesis and motivations of charismatic personalities. Moreover, common psychological traits would emerge that are quantifiable in conjunction with a qualitative analyses providing context to the charismatic trait itself. To leave out these important pieces in understanding the totality of charismatic personalities is a sure sign of inept scholarship.

For more information, visit:

No comments: