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.

CEOs Perceived as Moral Rally More Support

PAFF_042815_MoralJustificationCEOs_newsfeatureSome economists argue that a business leader’s primary responsibility is to maximize company profits and that the pursuit of any other goal, including contributing to the broader welfare, is just bad business.

Consider a CEO’s plan to provide employees with free, healthy meals. On the one hand, the CEO could justify the policy on the basis of a moral obligation to care for employees’ health. On the other hand, the CEO could use a pragmatic explanation; the availability of meals will motivate employees to work longer hours.

To get this plan off the ground the CEO must decide on the best way to justify this decision to stakeholders. Will the plan garner more support if it’s described as a moral obligation to contribute to employee well-being, or simply a way to improve the company’s bottom line?

According to a new study recently…


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Workplace Support Helps Parents Make More Time for Their Kids

PAFF_042415_WorkingParents_newsfeatureBetween juggling responsibilities at home and the office, working parents often report feeling stressed over conflicting demands on their time.

Employees who were part of a new study on reducing work-family conflict reported spending significantly more time with their kids without reducing their number of working hours.

An interdisciplinary team of behavioral researchers carried out the study as part of a larger initiative undertaken by The National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called the Work, Family and Health Study with the goal of improving the health of workers and their families, while also benefiting employers.

The researchers used an intervention called Support-Transform-Achieve-Results (STAR) that focused on training supervisors at a Fortune 500 IT company to be more supportive of their employees’ personal and family lives.

The STAR intervention’s emphasis on supervisor support and flexibility was expected…


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Optimism for Technology May Bias Financial Decisions

PAFF_042115_OptimismTechnology_newsfeatureFacebook claims more than 1 billion users, and Apple is widely cited as the world’s most valuable company. Constant technological innovation over the past few decades influences almost every aspect of our daily lives. However, new research suggests that you may want to think twice before betting on the next high-tech trend.

Across three experiments, psychological scientists Brent Clark from the University of South Dakota and Christopher Robert and Stephen Hampton of the University of Missouri demonstrated that people show an implicit association between technology and success, a phenomenon they call the ‘‘technology effect.’’

“We found that people unconsciously associate technology with the notion of success, and this association influences decisions about things like financial decisions, and forecasts of business performance,” says Chris Robert. “It is important to determine how this assumption may affect people’s choices because many important decisions involve technology…


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The Ethical Calculus of the Tax Cheat

PAFF_041415_CalculusofTaxCheats_newsfeatureAn economist might say that individual’s decision to break the rules comes down to a rational calculation of potential risks and benefits. If the potential benefits outweigh the potential risks, people are likely to take advantage of the opportunity to cheat.

However, people don’t break the rules as often as traditional economic models would predict. In the US, the reality is that most people do pay their taxes, even though risk of punishment (audits or fines) are relatively low.

Psychological scientists Shaul Shalvi and Rachel Barkan (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev), Francesca Gino (Harvard University), and Shahar Ayal (Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya) argue that this model fails to take an important factor into account: our self-image.

In a new article from Current Directions in Psychological Science, Shalvi and colleagues propose that people behave immorally only to a certain extent so that…


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The Sound of Employability: Interviewers Judge Your Voice

PAFF_041015_SoundofEmployability_newsfeatureNew research has identified one factor that can make a job applicant come across as smarter, warmer, and ultimately more employable than other candidates: the sound of their voice.

When it comes to acing a job interview, common wisdom holds that job applicants should dress smart, show up on time, and come prepared; but a new study from psychological scientists Nicholas Epley and Juliana Schroeder of the University of Chicago suggests that in order to put your best foot forward with a potential employer, job applicants should also make sure their voices are heard.

Even when spoken and written information about a candidate’s qualifications were identical, Epley and Schroeder predicted that evaluators would perceive job applicants as more intelligent after hearing—rather than reading—their qualifications.

Changes in the tone, cadence, and pitch of an individual’s voice may reveal their process of thinking and…


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