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 Right Face for the Job

PAFF_021915_FacesofLeadership_newsfeaturePicking a leader should be about assessing the experience and skills an individual can bring to the table, but a new study finds that getting ahead may be easier for people with the right facial features.

In a study published in The Leadership Quarterly, psychological scientists from Carnegie Mellon University, Warwick Business School, and West Point Military Academy found that people were surprisingly good at matching leaders’ faces to their real professions. Study authors Christopher Y. Olivola, Dawn L. Eubanks, and Jeffrey B. Lovelace suggest that we may be choosing leaders, at least in part, based on unconscious biases towards certain facial features.

“In fact, just having facial features that make one look like a good generic leader might not be sufficient to reach the most prestigious leadership positions in a domain; one may also need to possess facial features that stereotypically…


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Powerful People Think They Can Control Time

PAFF_021215_PowerandTime_newsfeatureTime is supposedly the great equalizer. No matter how much money we make, how famous we are, or how much clout we yield in the office, we are all limited by the same number of hours in a day.

However, a recent study from psychological scientists Alice Moon and Serena Chen of the University of California, Berkeley demonstrates that feeling a sense of power leads people to perceive themselves as able to control time, and that they have more of time at their disposal.

“Given that the objective experience of time is uniform for everyone, it would seem safe to assume that all people perceive time in the same way,” Moon and Chen write in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. “Instead, across 557 participants, five studies, and several ancillary studies, we established that power leads to an increase in perceived time…


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The Perils of Being a ‘Chameleon’ in a Job Interview

PAFF_020915_DarksideChameleonEffect_newsfeatureWe often unconsciously mirror the behavior of those around us, particularly when we’re trying to make a good impression, a phenomenon known as the “chameleon effect.” Research shows that, in general, mimicking another person’s gestures, inflections, or posture tends to make us come across as more likeable to that person.

But a new study conducted by a team of psychological scientists from Texas Tech University and Drew University finds that people will also unwittingly mimic negative behaviors that can potentially get them into trouble.

Researchers K. Rachelle Smith-Genthôs, Darcy A. Reich, Jessica L. Lakin, and Mario P. Casa de Calvo found that in a simulated phone interview, job applicants inadvertently mimicked the negative tone of voice of a potential boss, which led to lower performance reviews compared to a control group with a neutral-toned interviewer.

“The current study demonstrates that people will…


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Feelings of Entitlement Enhance Creativity

PAFF_020315_EntitlementCreativity_newsfeatureEntitlement is rarely viewed as a positive quality. But a recent study finds that a sense of entitlement can lead to one surprisingly positive outcome—increased creativity.

Entitled people are unapologetic about getting what they want, when they want it, without regard for anyone else. By definition, entitled people feel that the rules just do not apply to them, and this can easily lead to problems in the workplace. Researchers have found that people who feel a sense of entitlement are more likely to make unethical decisions, break rules, and engage in hostile behavior.

But across four experiments, psychological scientists Emily M. Zitek of Cornell University and Lynne C. Vincent of Vanderbilt University found that small doses of entitlement may stimulate people’s creative problem-solving skills.

“When people feel more entitled, they will think and act differently than others, and the more they do…


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The Power of Puppies: Looking at Cute Images Can Improve Focus

PAFF_013015_PowerofPuppies_newsfeatureThis weekend millions of dollars will be riding on…puppies?

Some of the most expensive ads in the history of TV will air this Sunday during the National Football League’s Super Bowl game. This year, ads during the big game are reportedly going for an astounding $4.5 million per 30-second slot.

With only 30 seconds to win over viewers’ attention, and millions of dollars on the line, several major ad campaigns are utilizing a particular strategy for making their ads memorable—lots of adorable puppies. And this may be because, as research has shown, looking at cute images does more than make us smile.

In a study published in the journal PLoS ONE, psychological scientists from Hiroshima University in Japan demonstrated that “cute” pictures of baby animals, including puppies and kittens, can have powerful effects on attention and concentration.

Led by researcher Hiroshi Nittono,…


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