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.


Can Leadership Potential be Predicted at Age 10?

PAFF_060515_ChildhoodLeadership_newsfeatureNew research concludes that the foundations of leadership may be laid early in life, suggesting that our cognitive abilities as children strongly influence our odds of moving up the corporate ladder as adults.

Analyzing data from almost 17,000 working individuals in the UK collected in two major studies over a span of 4 decades, psychological scientists Michael Daly, Mark Egan, and Fionnuala O’Reilly of Stirling University found that high scores for cognitive abilities at age 10 dramatically improved the odds of becoming the boss by age 50.

“The results suggest that early individual differences in childhood general cognitive ability may profoundly shape trajectories of leadership across working life,” the researchers write in the journal Leadership Quarterly.

At age 10 or 11, children in the study completed measures of their verbal skills, reasoning, and general cognitive abilities. Beginning in their 20s, the participants…

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A ‘Learning’ Attitude Helps Boost Job Search Success

PAFF_060315_LearningAttitudeSuccess_newsfeatureFor most jobseekers, the job hunt is no picnic — disappointment, rejection, and desperation seem to have become hallmarks of the typical job search. It’s common to hear stories of job hunters who have submitted hundreds of applications before getting a single interview.

No one will argue that looking for a new job isn’t stressful, but new research finds that the way people manage and channel this stress could have a big impact on their ultimate success.

Psychological scientists Serge da Motta Veiga from Lehigh University and Daniel Turban of the University of Missouri found that people who viewed their job hunt as an opportunity to learn may increase their odds of successfully landing a job.

The researchers spent 3 months tracking a group of 120 college seniors just getting ready to hit the job market for the first time. While on…

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Thinking of Time as Money Stifles ‘Green’ Behaviors

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A new study demonstrates that the way we’re paid—not just how much—can exert a disturbing influence on our willingness to recycle.

Even though recycling a soda can or a piece of paper takes just a few seconds, psychological scientists Ashley Whillans and Elizabeth Dunn of the University of British Columbia found that people are far less likely to engage in these sorts of “green” behaviors when they are paid by the hour rather than salaried.

“We show that people are less likely to engage in environmental behavior if they are paid by the hour, a form of compensation that leads people to see their time as money,” Whillans and Dunn write in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

In their first study, Whillans and Dunn analyzed data from a nationally representative sample of over 10,000 individuals from 5000 British…

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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. 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, Jason…

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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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