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.

Wake Up! The Working World Has a Sleep Crisis

PAFF_112015_SleepCrisisPerspectivesMFB_newsfeatureThe United States is facing a public health crisis when it comes to sleep, and psychological scientists are calling for action.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least 10 hours of daily sleep for school-age children and 7–8 hours of sleep per night for adults. However, recent reports indicate that nearly 30% of American adults report an average of 6 or fewer hours of sleep per night.

In a new article, published in a special section of Perspectives on Psychological Science, Christopher Barnes (University of Washington) and Christopher Drake (Henry Ford Hospital, Sleep Disorders and Research Center) explain how this epidemic of sleep deprivation is not only harming Americans’ health, but costing businesses billions of dollar each year.

“Overall, sleep deprived employees will be more prone to mistakes, less aware that they are making mistakes, less creative,…


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Beating Cancer, But Battling Hiring Discrimination

PAFF_111715_CancerHiringBias_newsfeatureJob applicants who disclose their status as cancer survivors may be less likely to get a job offer, according to new research.

“Managers and employees should be mindful of the fact that although societal attitudes toward cancer survivors are generally quite positive, with people often viewing them as champions who have successfully overcome a traumatic experience, we nonetheless might perceive them as being less desirable employees simply because of their history with cancer,” said lead author Larry Martinez, assistant professor of hospitality management at Pennsylvania State University.

Previous research has shown that people often express paternalistic attitudes towards cancer survivors— assuming, for example, that they are less capable of working after recovery.

Findings like this suggest that disclosing a cancer diagnosis may lead to subtle forms of discrimination, such as lower perceptions of competence.

Martinez conducted the study under the guidance of…


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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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