Charisma in Entrepreneurial Pitching: Investigating with Virtual Humans (Anely Bekbergenova, Marianne Schmid Mast, and John Antonakis)
We investigate whether charisma is perceived similarly and has the same effect when delivered by real and virtual humans (Study 1) and whether charismatic entrepreneurial pitches result in a higher perceived market potential for firms (Study 2). Further, in Study 2 we investigate whether verbal or nonverbal charisma results in a higher perceived market potential of ventures and whether this effect is similar for women and men entrepreneurs.
In Study 1, 275 online participants were randomly assigned to watch a three-minute video of a male speaker who was either charismatic or not and who was either a real or a virtual human, persuading participants to allocate funds to a common goal in the context of a public goods game. In Study 2, 558 online participants were randomly assigned to watch a three-minute video of either a woman or man entrepreneur, enacted by a virtual human, pitching a company called “Foodfix”.
In Study 1, there was a main effect of charisma of the speaker on the perceived charisma, but not on the persuasion of the speaker. In Study 2, there was no effect of charisma (combined, verbal, or nonverbal) or gender on the perceived market potential.
The findings of Study 1 suggest charisma is perceived similarly and has similar effects for virtual humans compared to real humans. The findings of Study 2 suggest that the charisma (verbal and nonverbal) and the gender of the entrepreneur do not affect the perceived market potential of the venture, which contradicts existing research, raising the question of whether it is possible to use virtual humans as stimulus material when studying real human phenomena.