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.


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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New Study Busts Some Myths about Millennials

PAFF_041216_HumbleMillenials_newsfeatureMillennials, those born between the mid-1980s and early 2000s, have been maligned in the media as entitled, narcissistic, phone-addicted, and lazy. But new research shows that these negative stereotypes are inaccurate – millennials, who entered the workforce during tough economic times, are less narcissistic later in life than those who came of age during more prosperous times.

Researchers have observed that narcissists tend to be bad for business; they focus on their own goals at the expense of the goals of other people and tend to alienate the people around them. At the CEO level, studies have shown that narcissists also have the habit of giving themselves substantially higher salaries than their senior-level colleagues.

But previous research has also shown that narcissism can be tempered by adversity. In times of economic upheaval, young adults (18 – 25 years old) just entering the…

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Some Jobs May Help Prevent Cognitive Decline

PAFF_040716_JobsPreventCognitiveDecline_newsfeatureEven years after retirement, a mentally stimulating career may be keeping people’s minds active and memories sharp.

As people age, cognitive skills like memory and information processing speed tend to decline. But a large body of research suggests that this decline isn’t necessarily inevitable. As a team of experts explain in a comprehensive review published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, “the longitudinal evidence consistently shows that engaging in intellectually stimulating activities is associated with better cognitive functioning at later points in time.”

That is, evidence seems to suggest that staying mentally stimulated, socially active, and getting adequate aerobic exercise are all “cognitive enrichment” factors that appear to protect people’s minds from the ravages of aging.

And intriguing new research from psychological scientists from Heriot-Watt University and University of Edinburgh in Scotland suggests that a mentally challenging job may be…

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The Creative Power of ‘Outsiders’

PAFF_040516_CreativeOutsiders_newsfeatureCher’s 1998 hit single ‘Believe’ revolutionized the music industry by introducing the public to a new technology called Auto-Tune. With the push of a button, Auto-Tune allows music producers to correct a singer’s pitch to ensure that anyone can sing in seemingly perfect key. Although the technology has been widely adopted by the music industry – too widely adopted, some would argue – the invention of Auto-Tune didn’t come from a music industry insider, it was invented by a petroleum engineer.

Before turning to music, Dr. Harold (Andy) Hildebrand was developing technology to help oil companies discover oil based on seismic signals from detonations on the ground. Eventually, he switched his focus to music where he started applying the same digital signal processing to the human voice.

History is full of creative breakthroughs from unlikely sources, but when it comes to choosing…

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