Category: Occupational

Was that new Science paper hyped and over-interpreted because of its liberal message?

Schoolgirls reading a fairy tale togetherBy guest blogger Stuart Ritchie

It would be very concerning if “girls as young as six years old believe that brilliance is a male trait”, as The Guardian reported last week, especially if “this view has consequences”, as was argued in The Atlantic. Both stories implied girls’ beliefs about gender could be part of the explanation for why relatively few women are found working in fields such as maths, physics, and philosophy. These news stories, widely shared on social media, were based on a new psychology paper by Lin Bian at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and colleagues, published in Science, entitled “Gender stereotypes about intellectual ability emerge early and influence children’s interests”. The paper reported four studies, which at first appear to have simple, clear-cut conclusions. But a closer look at the data reveals that the results are rather weak, and the researchers’ interpretation goes far beyond what their studies have shown.

Continue reading “Was that new Science paper hyped and over-interpreted because of its liberal message?”

Detectives on the toll of investigating child deaths: it only gets harder

Abandoned Teddy-bear lying headless on concrete groundBy Alex Fradera

There has been little research into what it’s like for police detectives to investigate the death of a child. As bluntly stated in official police guidance documents “children are not meant to die”, and coping with these circumstances, especially as a detective and parent, could involve emotional and psychological demands beyond those experienced when investigating adult murders.

For a new explorative study in the Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology, Jason Roach and his colleagues surveyed 99 police detectives from 23 forces across England and Wales: most of them were white and male, and they had conducted investigations into an average of 30 adult murders and 7 unexplained child deaths. Compared to dealing with adult homicides, the detectives said they felt more pressure to solve cases involving children, found them harder to deal with emotionally, and thought more about them after the cases had ended.

Continue reading “Detectives on the toll of investigating child deaths: it only gets harder”

Work stress could be making your commute dangerous

11723980056_c0d5d0b70b_kBy Alex Fradera

British workers spend on average one hour commuting each day, and 57 per cent of commuters make their daily journeys by car. But this is a part of our lives we don’t talk much about, beyond the odd epithet about the traffic; maybe because it’s a strange time, betwixt home and work but not fully either. Potentially, the drive to work is a haven: I recall my mother’s glove compartment crammed with audio books, so she could enjoy those stretches of solo time. But it’s more liable to be caught in a crossfire of worries, fretting about Daniel’s pensive moods at the breakfast table, or anticipating criticisms about the last sales pitch. New research from the University of Haifa suggests these psychological stressors can make our time on the road not just unpleasant, but dangerous as well.

Continue reading “Work stress could be making your commute dangerous”

Is creativity something you inherit from your parents?

6930271257_36904725a1_bBy Alex Fradera

Jeb Bush’s failure to secure a Presidential triple-play is memorable perhaps because it’s an exception to a familiar routine: the family dynasty. It’s a routine especially common in the arts, where a writer’s family tree is apt to contain a couple of actors, a director, and maybe a flower arranger to boot. This might simply reflect upbringing – or maybe the powers of nepotism – but creative success also owes to temperament and talents, some of which may have their origins in our genetic makeup. The journal Behavioural Genetics has recently published a heritability study that explores how deeply a creative vocation sits in our DNA.

Continue reading “Is creativity something you inherit from your parents?”

Done tastefully, joke-telling at work could make you appear more confident and competent

Business people sitting together and having a joyful timeBy Alex Fradera

A little humor in the workplace appears broadly beneficial: it can increase productivity and creativity and helps to build trust. But before you get too carried away attempting to stun your colleagues with your wit, you might want to heed the findings from new research in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, which focused on the effect of humour attempts on our personal status. The work shows that while a well-judged gag can cover us in glory, misses can have negative consequences. What’s more, this risky nature partly explains why we hold funny people in esteem.

Continue reading “Done tastefully, joke-telling at work could make you appear more confident and competent”

Men: this study suggests it’s a really bad idea to cry in front of your colleagues

Businessman cries. Boss in puddle of tears. ToscaBy Alex Fradera

We’re supposed to be hungry for workplace feedback: after all, it can help us to eliminate blind spots in our self-knowledge, give us focus and surpass relationship issues. Often, though, it can be a bit hard to take. On the wrong day, when the feedback’s particularly upsetting, it may even bring us to tears. If this happens to you and you’re a man, according to new research in the Journal of Applied Psychology, it could spell bad news for your career prospects.

Continue reading “Men: this study suggests it’s a really bad idea to cry in front of your colleagues”

Job recruiters may be swayed by signs of our sexuality revealed in our faces

Human resource concept, Young businessman holding white billboarBy Alex Fradera

Vacant job roles should be filled on the candidate’s skills, experience and knowledge, not their identity. But that means dodging our deeply held stereotypes, such as men being a natural fit for decision-making roles like management and women for care-giving professions. Evidence suggests this also applies to sexual orientation, meaning, for instance, that CVs that indicate the candidate is homosexual (by mentioning college experience in a group promoting gay rights, for example) are likely to be seen by recruiters as a better match for care-giving roles. New research from the Journal of Applied Psychology adds to this, suggesting that merely looking gay is enough for a candidate to be treated in a biased way by recruiters.

Continue reading “Job recruiters may be swayed by signs of our sexuality revealed in our faces”

Why do left-handers earn less than right-handers?

Reaching Out Of MoneyBy Alex Fradera

It’s popularly believed that left-handers are uncommonly blessed with talents like high intelligence or an artistic temperament, but this is a myth. In fact, some studies even show cognitive deficits in lefties (though other research has failed to confirm this) and in terms of their take-home salaries, surveys suggest that left-handers lag behind the right-handed by as much as ten per cent, possibly indicating a difficulty in competing under commercial conditions. In a recent study in PLOS One, Marcello Sartarelli from the Universidad de Alicante attempted to replicate this deficit under controlled laboratory conditions using a simulated labour market. Lefties actually competed more strongly than expected, but they also exhibited some intriguing performance quirks linked with personality that set them apart from the right-handed majority.

Continue reading “Why do left-handers earn less than right-handers?”

Young bosses supervising older workers fosters resentment, harms performance

competitionBy Alex Fradera

Places of work have become fairer thanks to their embrace of meritocracy: the idea that the best person for the job is the right person for the job. Formal assessment processes, for example, help ensure that interviews are granted on merit, rather than allocating them based on which resumes remind the hiring manager of a younger version of themselves. One consequence of meritocracy is the replacement of seniority-based promotion – you get a better position when “it’s your time” – with one based on ability, a development that means younger people with the appropriate skills can leapfrog older colleagues and end up managing them. Unfortunately, according to new research in the Journal of Organizational Behavior, this can have nasty repercussions.

Continue reading “Young bosses supervising older workers fosters resentment, harms performance”

“In-group infamy” – we have a lasting memory for colleagues who let the side down

Coworkers in a meetingBy Alex Fradera

Are we more likely to remember the good or the bad done by people on our team? In general, we favour our own group over outsiders, classically demonstrated by Henri Tajfel’s “minimal group” experiments, in which sorting people into groups by something as arbitrary as a coin toss resulted in higher positive ratings of traits of in-group members, and more negativity towards out-group members. You might expect, then, that we’re disposed to remember our colleagues’ good behavior. But new research in Cognition shows us that the opposite is true.

Continue reading ““In-group infamy” – we have a lasting memory for colleagues who let the side down”