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.


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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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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