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.


Women Face Backlash for Speaking Up at Work

PAFF_012015_SpeakingWhileFemale_newsfeatureFrom the floor of the US Senate to auditions for orchestras, researchers have found that men are often seen as more competent and powerful for talking, while women are more harshly criticized, more frequently interrupted, and judged as less competent for the same behavior.

“Either she’s barely heard or she’s judged as too aggressive. When a man says virtually the same thing, heads nod in appreciation for his fine idea,” write psychological scientist Adam Grant and Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg in a recent New York Times op-ed. “As a result, women often decide that saying less is more.”

In a study he authored, Grant describes how speaking up about ideas for improvements at work—also known as “voice”—can be a risky undertaking for women.

“Despite its potential contributions to organizations, voice is a risky endeavor for employees, as it challenges…

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Sleep Deprivation Linked To Inappropriate, Unethical Behavior on the Job

PAFF_011515_DeviantBehaviorSleepWork_newsfeatureAs workers in the United States continue to work more hours every year, the National Sleep Foundation finds that Americans on average are also gradually getting fewer hours of sleep each year. For many workers, staying late and burning the midnight oil is worn as a badge of honor; but research suggests that losing sleep for workers may come at a price for organizations.

Psychological scientists Michael S. Christian and Aleksander P.J. Ellis found evidence suggesting that sleep-deprived employees, those who received less than 6 hours of sleep in a night, were more likely to be engage in negative and unethical behavior at work the next day.

Previous research indicates that sleep deprivation has little effect on logical reasoning, but can impair the function of the prefrontal cortex, a brain region involved in self-regulation and emotions, which reduces our ability to regulate…

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Attitudes About Who Brings Home the Bacon Lag Behind Economic Reality

PAFF_011315_BringingHometheBacon_newsfeatureIncreasingly, women in the US are becoming the primary breadwinners for their families. Numbers from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics show that more men are engaging in caretaker activities at home while more women are bringing home the bacon. Since the worldwide economic recession hit in 2008, wives have earned more than their husbands in almost one third of American dual-income households.

Despite these trends, people tend to prefer the “traditional” model of the male breadwinner, regardless of gender, age, and race, a new study indicates.

A team of psychological scientists led by Catherine H. Tinsley of Georgetown University hypothesized that people’s deep-rooted beliefs about gender roles may be slower to change than the major behavioral shifts evidenced within society and the workforce.

“Although objective indicators, such as real wages and workforce participation, show women closing the gender gap at the…

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It Pays to Have an Eye for Emotions

PAFF_010815_EmotionsPayWork_newsfeatureFrom Gordon Gekko in Wall Street to Miranda Priestly in the Devil Wears Prada, successful people in the workplace are often shown as tough and single-minded, with little concern for the feelings of others. In most fields, intrapersonal “soft skills” are rarely given the same weight as more technical qualifications. But a new study finds that an eye for emotions can really pay off.

After looking at a diverse group of working adults in Germany, an international team of researchers led by University of Bonn psychological scientists Tassilo Momm and Gerhard Blickle found that workers skilled at recognizing emotions brought home bigger paychecks compared to their less emotionally perceptive peers.

“The better people are at recognizing emotions, the better they handle the politics in organizations and the interpersonal aspects of work life, and thus the more they earn in their jobs,” the…

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Negotiating with Nothing Holds Surprise Benefits

Standard advice for negotiators is to always come to the bargaining table with an alternative offer. Viable alternatives, even weak ones, are thought to provide negotiators with more power to leverage better deals. But new research from an international team of psychological scientists suggests that powerlessness can sometimes be an advantage.PAFF_010615_PowerlessNegotiations_newsfeature

Experienced negotiators often enter talks with an alternative deal called a BATNA–Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement—in their back pocket. The BATNA is essentially a backup plan, and parties who possess a strong BATNA are able to wield more power in negotiations.

But researchers Michael Schaerer and Roderick I. Swaab of INSEAD in France and Adam D. Galinsky of Columbia University hypothesized that a weak BATNA may actually sabotage our chances, acting as a cognitive anchor that predisposes us to accept lower offers. Negotiators with no alternative, no power, and no…

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