In recent decades, the study of leadership has focused on the qualities of leaders rather than on those of followers. However, it has been argued that there can be no meaningful construct of leadership without a coherent understanding of followership and group behavior. While the body of literature is replete with information on the study of groupthink and conformity as it relates to followership, the neurobiological drivers of such behavior remain under-investigated. The purpose of this work was to investigate the neurobiological basis of groupthink (conformity of thought) as a component of followership. Specifically, this work seeks to investigate six research questions: How does cognitive rigidity and ideological commitment interact to influence groupthink, does the presence or absence of decision-making protocol affect groupthink outcomes, to what extent does the presence or absence of a leader, as well as leader bias drive groupthink, and how does the brain respond in each of these conditions with regard to groupthink and conformity. Two separate experiments were used. The first experiment served as a pilot condition to test the efficacy of a hypothetical vignette. However, an opportunity was seen to test an interactional matrix of cognitive rigidity and ideological commitment (the first research question). In the second experiment, the research questions were tested in a similar mock decision-making group using the same vignette. However, quantitative electroencephalography (qEEG) baseline pretest data and posttest data were taken and compared to assess for changes in the brain related to groupthink. Both studies utilized confederates to form the groups to which the researcher measured conformity. While no statistically significant relationships were found directly for any of the research questions, the research did show some interesting patterns. The use of decision-making protocol did seem to slow down conformity when taken into account with other variables, such as leader style. Additionally, consistent with the pre-existing literature, patterns were seen in study two with regard to changes in the frontal cortex, including the medial frontal gyrus, and anterior cingulate. Implications for organizations and churches as well as suggestions for future studies are presented in the final chapter.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Organizational leadership; Followership -- Psychological aspects; Conformity -- Psychological aspects; Electroencephalography -- Case studies

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Rhodes, Kent;