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.

The Mixed Blessing of Workplace Friendships

PAFF_092915_MixedBlessingFriendship_newsfeatureThe next time you run into a helpful colleague at work, you may want to thank them for being a friend. Research has shown that friends at work not only make us inclined to like our jobs more, they may also be a boon for a business’s bottom line by enhancing employee performance.

According to a recent New York Times article by psychological scientist Adam Grant, “We may be underestimating the impact of workplace friendships on our happiness — and our effectiveness.”

For instance, employees who report having friends at work benefit from higher levels of productivity, retention, and job satisfaction, and report being seven times more likely to be engaged in their work compared to their “friendless” counterparts.

In a new study, a group of psychological scientists led by Jessica Methot of Rutgers University took a closer look at the…


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Some Advice on Advice: Timing Matters

PAFF_092215_AdviceOnAdvice_newsfeatureWe all need some advice sometimes, from getting help on a new project at work to making decisions about how to save for retirement. The problem is, we’re not always so good about taking other people’s advice.

“A large literature shows that people do not take advice particularly well, often overweighting their own opinions or ignoring the advice that they receive,” according to Duke University psychological scientist Christina Rader.

In a recent study, Rader and colleagues Jack Soll and Richard Larrick investigated how timing affects people’s willingness to follow outside advice. Are we more likely to follow advice before or after we’ve already had the chance to make our own decision?

To find out, the researchers ran a series of experiments asking participants to guess the age of a person in a photograph either before or after receiving advice on the person’s…


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Aha! Close Your Eyes for Inspiration

Aha! Sometimes the solution to a tough problem comes suddenly, in a burst of insight. You may have been painstakingly hashing through the details for a new business plan for days, when suddenly a brilliant, creative solution strikes as you’re taking a shower or staring out the window.PAFF_091715_EyesClosedInspiration_newsfeature

New research from an international team of psychological scientists suggests a link between our “Aha! moments” and what we’re looking at. A study led by Carola Salvi of Milano-Bicocca University concluded that inspiration may be more likely to strike when we close or eyes or simply stare into space.

“Creative ideas seem often to appear when we close our eyes, stare at a blank wall, or gaze out of a window—all signs of shutting out distractions and turning attention inward,” the researchers write in Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.

Previous research from APS fellows John…


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Extraverted Populations Have Lower Savings Rates

PAFF_091515_ExtraversionSavings_newsfeatureParticular personality traits may have a powerful influence on a country’s economic outlook, according to new research.

Across three studies, University of Toronto psychological scientist Jacob Hirsh found that populations that tend to have higher levels of extraversion are less likely to save for the future.

Hirsh argues that understanding this link between personality and economic behavior will become even more essential as the world’s aging population begins to retire. High levels of debt accompanied by low savings pose national economic risks, including vulnerability to economic downturns and higher levels of unemployment.

“As defined benefit pension plans become less common, personal saving habits play an even stronger role in determining financial well-being during retirement,” Hirsh writes in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.

Previous research has found that higher levels of extraversion are associated with the preference for immediate gratification over delayed…


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Background Music Influences Buying Behavior

PAFF_091015_BackgroundMusic_newsfeatureBackground music has a surprisingly strong influence on what products consumers buy and how much they’re willing to pay for them, according to a new study from psychological scientists Adrian North and Lorraine Sheridan of Curtin University and Charles Areni of Macquarie University.

North and colleagues hypothesized that specific songs or musical genres could prime congruent concepts in a person’s memory, ultimately shifting people’s preferences and buying behavior. Hearing Edith Piaf in the grocery store may then be just the thing to nudge a buyer to choose a French wine over an Italian or South African one.

“Playing German music might make consumers think of beer and bratwurst, whereas French music might evoke images of wine and the Eiffel Tower,” the researchers explain.

In one experiment, 120 Scottish college students were assigned to one of four rooms in a lab. Each of…


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