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.

Can Cash Counter Workplace Ostracism?

PAFF_111215_OstracismCash_newsfeatureFrom being ignored during meetings to being left out of after-work happy hours, research shows that office ostracism can be just as distressing as workplace harassment and bullying.

Ultimately, ostracism takes a toll on employees’ performance at work: Ostracized employees are less likely to go out of their way to please clients, cooperate with team members, or help their colleagues than those who feel valued by their peers.

In a surprising finding, psychological scientists Aurelia Mok (City University of Hong Kong) and David De Cremer (University of Cambridge) found that the mere thought of money can help buffer against the pernicious effects of ostracism.

“On the surface, researchers may assume that reminders of money make ostracized employees act even less prosocial given evidence linking both money and ostracism to a lack of prosocial behavior,” the researchers write in the European Journal…


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Why Monday is the Best Day for Setting New Goals

PAFF_111015_MondaysGoals_newsfeatureMaybe you’ve been talking about taking that professional development class for months now, or you’ve really been meaning to update your retirement savings plan. It would really help you manage your stress if only you could get yourself to go to the gym. Setting goals is easy, but actually accomplishing them tends to be a lot harder.

New research in Psychological Science suggests that we may be more likely to actually follow through with our professional goals if we start on a Monday rather than a Thursday.

Across five studies, psychological scientists Hengchen Dai (Washington University in St. Louis), Katherine Milkman (University of Pennsylvania), and Jason Riis (University of Pennsylvania) found that people are more motivated to pursue their goals on certain dates.

People tend to attribute negative traits and failures to their past selves while maintaining a positive image of…


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Superforecasters: The Art of Accurate Predictions

PAFF_110515_PowerofPredictions_newsfeatureWill Venezuela cut gasoline subsidies? Will the US Federal Reserve raise interest rates before the end of the year? Your guess is as good as mine, unless you happen to be what University of Pennsylvania psychology professor Philip Tetlock has identified as a “superforecaster.”

When we decide to change jobs, make an investment, or launch a business, we make that decision based on what we think the future will hold. The problem is, we’re just not that good at accurately anticipating the future. We’re susceptible to hindsight bias, we’re overconfident about what we really know, and our predictions are often self-serving.

Superforecasters, on the other hand, are able to overcome many of these cognitive hurdles, helping them forecast future global events with surprising accuracy.

“I call them superforecasters because that is what they are. Reliable evidence proves it,” Tetlock writes in a…


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The Leadership Style That Can Make Men Look Inferior

PAFF_110315_MaleLeadershipInferior_newsfeatureModern leadership consultants often counsel managers about the importance of seeking help and input from staff to enact change. Asking for assistance and input enhances creativity, improves decision-making, and boosts an organization’s performance.

But requesting help also carries a reputational cost. Research dating back to the 1970s shows that asking for help can lead others to question your competence. A new study indicates that this phenomenon has a particularly undermining effect on men’s professional image.

The study draws from research on gender roles, expectations, and biases. Duke University business professor Ashleigh Shelby Rosette, psychological scientist Jennifer S. Mueller of University of San Diego, and behavioral researcher R. David Lebel of University of Pittsburgh wanted to find out how men who seek help are evaluated in workplace settings.

To do so, they first referenced studies on biases and conventions that impede women from…


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Uncovering the Extravert Advantage

PAFF_102915_ExtravertAdvantageMFB_newsfeatureWhen it comes to winning the office personality contest, extraverts seem to have the advantage.

Several studies have found that extraverts, compared with their more introverted colleagues, often have higher-quality social interactions that help them build rapport with other people. This social proficiency gives extraverts a distinct edge when it comes to networking for a new job or getting noticed by the boss for a promotion.

But scientists have yet to pinpoint the exact behaviors that lead to this “extravert advantage.” Studies haven’t found any consistent differences between extraverts and introverts when it comes to nonverbal behaviors related to social bonding, such as eye-contact, smiling, and openness.

In a new study, Duke University psychological scientists Korrina Duffy and Tanya Chartrand identified one key behavior that help explain why and how extraverts are so socially adept: mimicry.

Mimicry occurs when people unconsciously copy…


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