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Work Psychology - page 6

What’s the first thing that pops into your head?

in Work Psychology by

Information that is easily retrieved from memory has greater influence on our behaviour and judgment. This cognitive bias is called the ‘availability heuristic’. For example, we might think a particular risk is more likely if we have experienced the consequence of this risk rather than basing our judgement on facts.

On warmer days, people may be more likely to believe in long term climate change. Indeed, we tend to remember the first thing and the last thing we hear, which may bias interviewers towards the first and last job applicant.

Given the importance of certain decisions in complex working environments, how can we best ensure that we don’t make decisions based on a salient memory?

Fortunately, I’ve developed a decision-making tool that can help. Let me know if you would like to know more.

do people change?

in Work Psychology by

You are more likely to believe people can change after experiencing failure. Believing otherwise would suggest you will continue to fail.

We generally believe that either people can incrementally change, called incremental views, or that we essentially remain the same, called entity views. Recent research suggests that our view depends on our motivation at a given time. After experiencing failure, we are more likely to support an incremental view because we’d prefer to believe that we can improve.

Experiencing success, by contrast, does not have any effect. That is, if we believe in a entity view, it’s good news. You will continue to be successful. If you believe in an incremental view, then it’s good news too. You are not only successful but could continue to build on this success. When a culture endorses an entity view, they can be less inclined to invest in training and development of people, and are more inclined to resist change. These findings imply that individuals—possibly entire organisations—will be more open to changing their approach after experiencing a series of setbacks.


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When groups gather, they have a tendency to share information that everyone in the group already knows, called ‘shared information’, rather than new ideas or information, called ‘unshared information’. This tendency often results from groups meeting to reach a consensus on an issue and is particularly prominent when under time pressure.

This means we are often discussing ideas, opinions and options that do not challenge our thinking or encourage more informed decision-making. Some of the ways to challenge this issue are to include people with divergent views, and intentionally discussing new topics rather than following the same agenda at meetings.

I told you so!

in Work Psychology by

Do you know an ‘I told you so’ person? If we are honest with ourselves, we’d recognise that we are all this person. The ‘hindsight bias’ makes us believe that certain events were obvious and predictable. For example, after serious incidents, such as space shuttle disasters and financial crises, individuals look back and believe these unexpected events were, in fact, obvious and predictable.

These individuals are biased by their knowledge of the consequence. This bias can also make us less forgiving of mistakes. We might, for example, claim a person should have known better at the time.

Alarmingly, knowing about the hindsight bias isn’t helpful because research also shows being aware of the hindsight bias does not reduce it! This is another bias called the ‘bias blackspot’. Ok, there is something that can be done. The hindsight bias can be reduced by getting people to think through alternative explanations for the same event.

I’m sure you’ll enjoy this one

in Work Psychology by


How do we know how someone will react? For example, when telling a joke, we already have a hunch that the audience will find it funny. When we recommend a difficult course of action, we anticipate that the person may become agitated or angry. If you are like most people, you simulate in your head how you would feel in the situation to predict how someone else will feel.

However, research suggests that we often get this wrong. Because we don’t tend to get emotional about events or difficult situations that we have experienced many times, we can underestimate the effects of these situations on others.

get obsessed! get obsessed!

in Work Psychology by

People who are passionate about a achieving a goal—to the point of obsession—can help increase performance after experiencing failure. These individuals, according to research, invest so much of themselves in the activity that they become especially motivated to succeed after experiencing setbacks.

In the workplace, there are benefits of having passionate individuals pursue goals that require dedication and persistence. However, the downside is that these same people may find it hard to let go of an idea or goal and could aggravate others who don’t share the same vision.

I do have the heart to tell you this

in Work Psychology by


Subtle changes to behaviour can affect decision-making. In this study, people were subtly manipulated into touching their head or their chest (heart). The head-touchers made more logical decisions. The heart touchers were more motivated by emotion.

The researchers suggest that we unconsciously learn to associate the heart with emotion and the head with logic through popular culture.

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