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.

Turbulent Teen Years Linked to Adult Unemployment

PAFF_042816_TurbulentTeensUnemployment_newsfeatureNegative emotional experiences during our teen years may take a toll on our ability to land a job as adults, according to a new study.

Psychological scientists Mark Egan, Michael Daly, and Liam Delaney of the University of Stirling examined employment patterns for over 7,000 Americans born between 1980 and 1984. Their analysis revealed that early life emotional distress – feeling anxious or depressed as a teen – was a major risk factor for unemployment in adulthood.

Highly distressed adolescents were 32% more likely to be unemployed as adults and experienced 11 weeks (28%) more unemployment compared to their non-distressed peers. Overall, the negative impact of high levels of distress during adolescence was “similar to a one standard deviation decrease in intelligence, and double the magnitude of having a serious physical health problem,” Egan, Daly, and Delaney explain.

“These findings provide strong…


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How to Give Workers a (Better) Break

PAFF_042716_BetterBreaks_newsfeatureTaking a break, whether for lunch or an afternoon cup of coffee, is an essential part of most people’s workdays. Research has shown that building breaks into our day helps keep us sharp and productive on the job. But after diving into data on workday breaks, Baylor University psychological scientists Emily Hunter and Cindy Wu discovered that many of our assumptions about the best way to take a break are wrong.

“Surprisingly little research investigates employee breaks at work, and even less research provides prescriptive suggestions for better workday breaks in terms of when, where, and how break activities are most beneficial,” Hunter and Wu write.

In many offices, the typical culture is to work throughout the morning, with breaks saved for lunch or the late afternoon. Hunter and Wu hypothesized that – much like workers all over the world – people…


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Intuition – It’s More Than a Feeling

PAFF_042116_MeasuringIntuition_newsfeatureGreat leaders make smart decisions, even in difficult circumstances. From Albert Einstein to Oprah Winfrey, many top leaders ascribe their success to having followed their intuition. New research shows how going with our gut instincts can help guide us to faster, more accurate decisions.

Intuition — the idea that individuals can make successful decisions without deliberate analytical thought — has intrigued philosophers and scientists since at least the times of the ancient Greeks. But scientists have had trouble finding quantifiable evidence that intuition actually exists.

Now, a team of researchers from the University of New South Wales has come up with a novel technique demonstrating just how much unconscious intuition can inform — and even improve — our decision-making. The research team — psychological scientists Galang Lufityanto, Chris Donkin, and Joel Pearson — recently published their findings in Psychological Science.


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To Be More Persuasive, Repeat Yourself

PAFF_042016_RepeatPersuasion_newsfeatureThe philosopher Plato wrote that there is no harm in repeating a good thing. Even better, a new study finds that repeating key points during your next meeting is a good way to sway colleagues’ decisions.

Across two experiments, Stefan Schulz-Hardt (Georg-August-University) and colleagues demonstrated that repeating specific information during a discussion was enough to change someone’s mind.

“From a rational point of view, information repetitions constitute redundancy and, hence, should not affect the recipient’s decision,” the researchers write. “By contrast, in two experiments we demonstrate that selectively repeating information in favor of a particular decision alternative changes preference ratings in favor of this alternative and makes a decision for this alternative more likely.”

The trio of German psychological scientists noticed that during discussions, people tend to repeat the information that supports their view. Yet, there had been little research examining whether…


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Let’s Get Lunch! Group Meals Spur Cooperation

PAFF_041516_LetsGetLunch_newsfeatureGetting people from diverse backgrounds to work together smoothly is one of the biggest challenges organizations face. One of the easiest ways to encourage employees to cooperate may be as easy as pie – or, maybe that sandwich place around the corner. Companies that invest in an inviting cafeteria or shared meal space may be getting a particularly good return on their investment, according to new research from Cornell University.

To find out how group meals go on to influence team cooperation within organizations, psychological scientist Brian Wansink and colleagues designed their study around a group known for sharing meals on the job: firefighters.

“We are interested in the degree to which behavior that might seem superfluous or wasteful to outside observers ultimately carries significant importance for organizational performance,” the researchers write. “As a prototypical example of worksites where coworkers eat with…


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