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.

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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Older Workers Possess Unique Cognitive Strengths

PAFF_040715OlderWorkersCognitiveSkills_newsfeatureAlthough some abilities tend to decline over time, new research finds that other cognitive skills actually improve with age.

Scientists have long known that our ability to analyze novel problems and reason logically, also known as fluid intelligence, peaks around age 20 and then begins a slow decline. However, two new studies confirm that skills related to crystallized intelligence—made up of a person’s acquired knowledge and experience—appear to peak later in life, often after age 40.

In a study recently published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, psychological scientist Rachael M. Klein, a doctoral candidate at the University of Minnesota, examined the relationship between age and business-related cognitive skills in a sample of high-level executives.

A sample of 3,375 executive-level job candidates ranging in age from 20 to 74 years old completed a specially developed managerial and professional test battery. Along with…


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Walking at Lunchtime Buffers Against Workplace Stress

PAFF_040315_LunchtimeWalking_newsfeatureManagers may want to take note: A new study shows that taking a lunchtime walk provides employees with a much-needed afternoon mood boost.

It should come as no surprise that exercise can provide stress-busting benefits to workers, but most research looking at the implications of physical activity in the workplace has relied on people’s reports of how they felt days, weeks, or even months ago.

A team of researchers led by psychological scientist Cecilie Thøgersen-Ntoumani of Curtin University in Australia made use of a specially designed cell phone app to gauge the changes in people’s mood in the moment, in an attempt to get a more accurate picture of how exercise influences mood throughout the workday.

A group of 75 members of a university’s administrative staff was recruited to participant in a workplace walking program. Nearly all of the participants were female,…


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