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.

Networking Style May Predict Profits for Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurship is a risky endeavor. Of all new firms, around one-third will close within the first two years and over half will have closed within their first four years. However, one thing that has been shown to greatly PAFF_081214_networkingrevenueMFB_newsfeatureimprove the odds of success for new businesses: face-to-face networking.

A team of psychological scientists, led by Jeffrey M. Pollack of North Carolina State University, investigated how different approaches to networking might end up impacting the bottom line for entrepreneurs.

In a recent study, Pollack and colleagues hypothesized that even though all entrepreneurs have the same ultimate goal of making more money, they might be utilizing different strategies for balancing risk and security in their networking styles.

For example, someone more inclined to “play it safe” might focus on interacting with a select group of people they already know, rather than wasting time and…


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Feminine Faces Offered Less at the Negotiation Table

Women often come away from the negotiation table with lower salaries and less advantageous terms than men. New research suggests that in the first moments of bargaining negotiators may be equating feminine features PAFF_0804_WomenNegotiationMFB_newsfeaturewith negative stereotypes about women’s negotiating skills.

In a recent study, psychological scientists Eric Gladstone and Kathleen M. O’Connor of Cornell University looked at how the possession of feminine facial features impacted negotiations. The researchers hypothesized that people with feminine facial features, even men, would be perceived as more cooperative, less aggressive, and less assertive.

Based on this instantaneous visual assessment, negotiators are likely to treat people with more feminine features as less effective bargainers.

Gladstone and O’Connor used a standardized set of photos of real faces of men and women for the experiment. Several distinct feature make faces appear more feminine, such as faces with less prominent eye-brow…


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The Key to Work-Life Balance is Really Work-Life Harmony

PAFF_0725_WorkLifeHarmony_newsfeatureShould you leave now to make it on time to a family dinner, or stay late at work to finish up that last minute project? At some point, most of us have probably had to choose between the demands of work and our personal lives.

Research has consistently shown that a healthy “work-life balance” is vital for maintaining job satisfaction and avoiding burnout. However, a new study suggests that the idea of “work-life balance” itself may be a problem.

The standard concept of work-life balance is often seen as a zero-sum game, where work and life are completely separate domains that are constantly competing for time and energy.

In contrast, the concept of “work-life harmony” visualizes work and life roles as being interconnected and dependent on each other, rather than separate and in competition.

In a recent study, psychological scientists He Lu…


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Women May See Tradeoff Between Power at Home and at Work

PAFF_072914_womenpowerworkMFB_newsfeatureWomen earn less money, hold fewer public leadership positions, and have fewer legal rights than men in much of the world. Yet, when it comes to making decisions about the home, women are often portrayed as the ones calling the shots.

While taking charge of household decisions may seem like a positive role for women, a recent study found that holding power over household decisions may have unanticipated consequences.

Psychological scientists Melissa J. Williams (Emory University) and Serena Chen (University of California, Berkeley) hypothesized that women would experience power as a tradeoff. As women gained a greater sense of power in the household, they would chose not to seek additional power in the workplace.

To test this, they carried out three studies to examine how making decisions about the home would affect women’s ambition in the workplace.

In the first study, women…


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More Breaks May Help You Go With the “Flow” at Work

Giving employees more breaks and vacation time may actually help improve their performance on the job by increasing their experiences of “flow,” according to new research.

It’s common for people to feel tired after work, but after taking time off for a vacation or a fun evening out they’re likely to feel refreshed or recovered. According to the effort-recovery model (ERM), this occurs because people require a reserve of cognitive resources to maintain performance throughout the day. When demands are reduced, such as during leisure time, cognitive resources are restored.

In a recent study, a group of psychological scientists led by Maike E. Debus (University of Zurich) tracked 121 programmers to see how recovery affects “flow” — a state of total, enjoyable immersion in a task — throughout the work day. Athletes who find themselves “in the zone” experience flow, and the…


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