Political Science, Department of


Date of this Version

October 2006


Survey research from political science indicates that people are quite suspicious of ambitious decision makers; that people who desire power are self-serving and not to be trusted. In this paper, we use an original laboratory experiment to test not only whether people prefer nonambitious decision makers, but also whether people will seek to balance ambitious decision makers with non-ambitious decision makers, allowing for interactions with gender. In the experiment, participants are told two decision makers will be dividing some valuable resource on their behalf. One decision maker (either high or low in ambition) is “appointed.” Participants vote from a slate of candidates, about whom they have information on gender and ambition, for the second decision maker. We find that people tend to associate high ambition with male and self-interested behavior, and that the selection of the second decision maker, regardless of ambition, falls along gender lines, suggesting important implications for research on vote choice and representation.