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.

Logic Trumps Gut Instinct in Peer Reviews of Decision Makers

PAFF_101414_LogicalDecisions_newsfeatureWhen faced with making a tough decision do you tend to trust your gut, or do you logically review all the facts? In a recent study, psychological scientists Nicole L. Wood and Scott Highhouse of Bowling Green State University examined whether we can distinguish between “good” decision makers and “bad” decision makers by analyzing people’s go-to decision making style. Are rational decision makers seen as making better choices than people who follow their intuition?

One model for looking at decision-making, the General Decision-Making Style (GDMS), identifies five major styles that people use in making decisions: rational, intuitive, dependent, avoidant, and spontaneous. A rational style emphasizes logic, intuitives use their gut instincts, dependent decision makers tend to rely on outside guidance or advice, people who are avoidant try to postpone making a decision, and spontaneous decision makers want to finalize decisions as quickly…


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A “Green” Office May Beat a “Lean” Office

PAFF_100914_PlantsProductivity_newsfeatureA widely held design philosophy in the businesses world stipulates that a “lean office” with clear desks and plain walls will help streamline business operations and maximize productivity. However, a new study from an international team of researchers has found that sprucing up the office with a little greenery may actually enhance employee engagement and could even boost performance at the office.

In a series of three experiments, psychological scientists Marlon Nieuwenhuis (Cardiff University), Craig Knight (University of Exeter), Tom Postmes (University of Groningen), and Alex Haslam (University of Queensland) found that workers who had plants in their offices not only reported higher workplace satisfaction, but also demonstrated higher productivity.

“The ‘lean’ philosophy has been influential across a wide range of organizational domains,” study co-author Alex Haslam explained in a statement. “Our research questions this widespread conviction that less is more. Sometimes…


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The Face of Fortune: When CEO Appearance Predicts Company Success

PAFF_100714_CEOFacesCompanySuccess_newsfeatureCan we predict how successful a company will be just by looking at the CEO’s face? Several studies have shown that people are surprisingly good at judging a leader’s success based just based on a photo. For example, researchers have found that CEOs with masculine facial features that connote dominance and aggression tended to lead companies with greater annual net profits.

But a new study suggests that this relationship between CEO appearance and company profitability may depend on the broader economic climate.

Psychological scientists Nicholas O. Rule and Konstantin O. Tskhay from the University of Toronto found that while people were surprisingly good at predicting a company’s financial success based only on a photo of the CEO – but only when economic circumstances were favorable.

After the financial crisis in 2008, public backlash against major US companies and their CEOs was…


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Just a Job or a ‘Calling’? Passion and Meaning at Work Tied to Life Satisfaction

PAFF_10032014_CallingLifeSatisfaction_newsfeatureThe number one reason people stay at a job isn’t because of the pay, benefits, or even the chance for a promotion. According to a 2012 survey on workforce retention, the top reason people stay at a job is because they enjoy their work. But some people are so passionate about what they do for a living that they could be said to have a “calling” rather than just a job that’s a good fit.

In a new article, psychological scientists Tamara Hagmaier and Andrea E. Abele of the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg draw on previous research exploring links between work and well-being to describe this sort of “calling.” According to Hagmaier and Abele, a job qualifies as a calling if it has three specific components: a sense of perfect “fit” between their skills and interests and the requirements of the job, a…


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Number Crunching May Make People More Selfish


In the 1970s, the Ford Pinto became synonymous with unethical management decisions. Although it was known that the car had an unfortunate tendency to explode in rear-end collisions, Ford went ahead with production after a cost-benefit analysis predicted savings of $11 per car, at a cost of only 180 burn deaths. As a result, several dozen people were injured or killed before the design flaw came to light.

New research suggests that even basic math calculations may significantly increase people’s likelihood of engaging in selfish and unethical behavior.

Researchers Long Wang (City University of Hong Kong) Chen-Bo Zhong (University of Toronto), and J. Keith Murnighan (Northwestern University) hypothesized that number crunching may put people in a “calculative mindset” that makes them more likely to focus on a quantitative approach to solving a problem, overlooking a decision’s interpersonal or moral consequences.



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