Psychological Science at Work

The indispensable research blog on the science of the modern workplace, covering everything from leadership and management to the behavioral, social, and cognitive dynamics behind performance and achievement.

Hidden Perk to Telework: Healthier Meals

PAFF_100815_FamilyDinnersTelecommuting_newsfeatureTelecommuting may be good for your diet.

In a new comprehensive review on the science of telecommuting, psychological scientists Tammy Allen, Timothy Golden, and Kristen Shockley describe both the benefits and drawbacks of working from home. Their in-depth look at current research on telecommuting revealed an unexpected perk: Telecommuting may help families avoid fast food.

“Working from home may be associated with more healthful dietary choices,” they write in Psychological Science in the Public Interest. “At least one study has found that individuals who reported having greater flexibility in terms of their work location also reported eating less fast food for dinner.”

In a 2008 study, Allen and Shockley specifically looked at the relationship between workplace flexibility and family dining habits. Their findings suggest that families actually want to eat together, but working parents struggle with finding enough time and…


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What a Mission to Mars Can Teach Us about Teamwork

PAFF_100615_TeamsinSpace_newsfeatureIn The Martian, astronaut Mark Watney is accidentally abandoned on the surface of the planet Mars. Through his own ingenuity he manages to stay alive on the inhospitable planet, but his only chance to make it home depends on the sophisticated collaboration between the crew still on the shuttle and his colleagues back on Earth.

As the film elegantly illustrates, some of the biggest challenges for a mission to Mars aren’t technological, they’re psychological.

Just imagine being trapped in a confined space with your coworkers 24 hours a day for over a year without seeing your friends or family. While disagreements in the office can hurt business, bickering in space can easily lead to fatal mistakes.

NASA is looking to psychological scientists to help keep teams in space functioning smoothly, regardless of the circumstances. In a recent article in Current Direction…


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Economic Growth Can’t Buy Happiness

PAFF_100115_EconomicsHappiness_newsfeatureIt’s often assumed that economic gains will lead to a corresponding boost in happiness, but science suggests that the relationship between economics and happiness is actually much more complicated. Research has shown that getting promotion or a raise can give people an emotional boost for a short period of time, but even winning the lottery doesn’t seem to make a permanent change in people’s overall satisfaction with life.

Just as individuals’ happiness depends on more than money, social scientists have observed that a country’s economic growth doesn’t always translate into greater happiness for its citizens. The economist Richard Easterlin documented this conundrum, now known as the Easterlin paradox.

Although some countries follow the Easterlin paradox, others do not. Critics have pointed out that in several countries — Italy, Denmark, and Luxembourg, for example — citizens’ happiness has increased in tandem with the…


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The Mixed Blessing of Workplace Friendships

PAFF_092915_MixedBlessingFriendship_newsfeatureThe next time you run into a helpful colleague at work, you may want to thank them for being a friend. Research has shown that friends at work not only make us inclined to like our jobs more, they may also be a boon for a business’s bottom line by enhancing employee performance.

According to a recent New York Times article by psychological scientist Adam Grant, “We may be underestimating the impact of workplace friendships on our happiness — and our effectiveness.”

For instance, employees who report having friends at work benefit from higher levels of productivity, retention, and job satisfaction, and report being seven times more likely to be engaged in their work compared to their “friendless” counterparts.

In a new study, a group of psychological scientists led by Jessica Methot of Rutgers University took a closer look at the…


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Some Advice on Advice: Timing Matters

PAFF_092215_AdviceOnAdvice_newsfeatureWe all need some advice sometimes, from getting help on a new project at work to making decisions about how to save for retirement. The problem is, we’re not always so good about taking other people’s advice.

“A large literature shows that people do not take advice particularly well, often overweighting their own opinions or ignoring the advice that they receive,” according to Duke University psychological scientist Christina Rader.

In a recent study, Rader and colleagues Jack Soll and Richard Larrick investigated how timing affects people’s willingness to follow outside advice. Are we more likely to follow advice before or after we’ve already had the chance to make our own decision?

To find out, the researchers ran a series of experiments asking participants to guess the age of a person in a photograph either before or after receiving advice on the person’s…


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