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.

Psychological Scientists Address the Challenges of an Aging Workforce

PAFF_051915_ChallengesAgingWorkforce_newsfeatureOlder adults are a growing proportion of the American workforce in unprecedented numbers. For the first time since 1948, American employees over age 65 outnumber teenage workers, according to a report from AARP. Â Yet, older workers are still beset by discriminatory hiring and negative stereotypes about their capabilities and competence.

Last week, psychological scientists from the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) hosted a congressional briefing in the Senate demonstrating how evidence-based strategies can help organizations and policymakers successfully manage the emerging challenges of the world’s aging workforce.

APS Fellow Ruth Kanfer of the Georgia Institute of Technology, Lisa Finkelstein of Northern Illinois University, and Mo Wang of the University of Florida spoke on current research demonstrating how science-based strategies can help establish practices that keep older workers engaged and active on the job.

A 2014 meta-study from Songqi Liu,…


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Customer Loyalty May Depend on the Race of a Company’s Leader

PAFF_051515_LoyaltyLeadersRace_newsfeatureFranklin Raines was appointed CEO of Fannie Mae in 1999 — making him the first black CEO in America to lead a Fortune 500 company. Since then, only 14 other black CEOs have assumed the top leadership role within America’s most powerful companies.

For years, researchers have found evidence that managers show bias against black personnel, particularly when they’re in positions that involve customer contact. But new research explores how this racial bias extends all the way to the most senior leadership roles of a company.

“Whereas prior work focused exclusively on rank-and-file employees, we find that customer discrimination appears applicable to leaders as well,” psychological scientist Derek R. Avery of Temple University and his co-authors write. “It seems that leaders can influence customer behavior directly, beyond any indirect effects through their subordinates.”

The research team hypothesized that when a company is…


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Two Hormones Predict Negotiators’ Success

PAFF_051315_HormonesInBargaining_newsfeatureNew research recently published in Psychological Science demonstrates that two hormones can exert a strong influence over a bargainer’s success in a negotiation: testosterone and the stress hormone cortisol.

Testosterone is often associated with aggressive behavior, so we might assume that the more testosterone the better when it comes to the bargaining table.

However, driving a hard bargain is about more than maximizing your earnings; negotiators also have to worry about how their economic goals might conflict with their social ones.

Being too financially aggressive in a negotiation can put a strain on the social relationship between a buyer and seller. An offer that’s too low can come across as disrespectful, unfair, or even insulting. People will sabotage a negotiation—even acting against their own financial best interests—just to retaliate against the perceived social insult of a low-ball offer.

In a new…


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When Clothing Style Influences Cognitive Style

PAFF_050815_ClothesCognitiveStyle_newsfeatureIt’s common knowledge that clothes have a strong influence over the way other people perceive us; you may be talented and qualified, but sweatpants at a job interview probably won’t communicate your ambition to a potential boss.

But clothes don’t just shape the way other people see us. New research from a team of psychological scientists from California State University, Northridge and Columbia University finds that the clothes we wear can also influence the way we think.

Across five experiments, study authors Michael Slepian, Simon Ferber, Joshua Gold, and Abraham Rutchick found that dressing to impress enhanced people’s ability to engage in abstract thinking.

“The formality of clothing might not only influence the way others perceive a person, and how people perceive themselves, but could influence decision making in important ways through its influence on processing style,” the researchers write.

Slepian and…


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Better Get to Work: Procrastination May Harm Heart Health

PAFF_050515_ProcrastinationHeartHealth_newsfeatureEven with a deadline looming and a pile of work, many people still find themselves wasting time checking social media or reading up on the latest sports scores. For businesses, procrastination can take a serious toll on productivity; for employees, wasting too much time can ruin deadlines as well as relationships.

New evidence suggests that procrastination doesn’t just hurt your work, it may also seriously damage your health.

A recent study indicates that chronic procrastination may make people more vulnerable to serious health conditions, like cardiovascular disease and hypertension.

Psychological scientist Fuschia Sirois of Bishop’s University in Quebec reports that trait procrastination—that is, a tendency to delay important tasks despite the negative consequences—was significantly associated with having hypertension or cardiovascular disease (HT/CVD) even after controlling for the effects of age, race, educational level, and other personality factors.

Evidence suggests that putting off…


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