Showing posts from 2017

Even When It's Off, It's Playing with Your Brain

You always know where it is.  When you're in the shower.  Driving home from work.  Watching TV.

No, we're not talking about your partner.  We're discussing your phone.

Now a new study says the mere presence of our phone, well, reduces brain power, according to

Your cognitive capacity is significantly reduced when your smartphone is within reach — even if it’s off. That’s the takeaway finding from a new study from the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin. McCombs Assistant Professor Adrian Ward and co-authors conducted experiments with nearly 800 smartphone users in an attempt to measure, for the first time, how well people can complete tasks when they have their smartphones nearby even when they’re not using them. In one experiment, the researchers asked study participants to sit at a computer and take a series of tests that required full concentration in order to score well. The tests were geared to measure participants’ available cogni…

Did You Know Sleeping at the Wrong Time May Worsen OCD?

I admit I'm compulsive.

No, I'm not one of those sad sacks who pile rotten eggs and dirty dishes from 2013 in the sink, climbing over boxes and mountains of clothes to get from end of the living room to the other.

But I have to finish an article the minute it's assigned and I will drive on the shoulder until I can squeeze into a line of unmoving cars.  I didn't say I was polite!

Now a new study says that people who go to bed late may just be developing OCD. reports that these late-night-lovers have less control over OCD symptoms.

A late bedtime is associated with lower perceived control of obsessive thoughts, according to new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York, the web site reports. Binghamton University Professor of Psychology Meredith E. Coles and former graduate student Jessica Schubert (now at University of Michigan Medical School) monitored 20 individuals diagnosed with OCD and 10 individuals endorsing subthreshold OCD …

Morality, Anyone? It's Still Out There

It almost seems like it's out of vogue.

Morality, that is.  

We have a president who lies just about every time he opens his mouth, a congress that looks the other way, an attorney general who fidgets and flushes uncomfortably when asked to speak the truth (and doesn't).

But how do we find out way back?

Experts say it's how guilty we feel when we do something wrong, and then, what we do about it. I'm ashamed to admit that recently, with my new car and too-big side mirrors, I clipped someone else's mirror driving by.  I think most of the damage was done to my mirror -- I had to have it soldered back into place.  But I didn't leave a note for the other person, and to this day (about a week and a half later), I still feel guilty.  Unlike the teenager who backed into my two-month-old car at a high school event and did leave a sorrowful note under my windshield.  (I was parked in a fire lane so I covered the cost of my new driver's side door.)

According to newswise.c…

Think the Best Way to Work Is All Speed, All the Time? Not So Fast, Actually

When given a task, who hasn't set about it with great gusto and panache, hoping to get it done quickly?

Well now a new study is saying that's not the way to do it.

According to, real productivity comes when we have an initial push, yes, but then lie back a little.

Researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing (figures, right?) developed a model to gain insight into how workers’ efforts are best distributed over a single workday. The ideal profiles of effort follow one of two patterns, depending on the nature of the work:

A high-low-high effort pattern, they found, is the best way to manage fatigue when the rate at which the employee works can be modulated. The idea is to begin and end the day with maximum intensity, but take it easier in the middle.But in some jobs, effort cannot be modulated. Workers operating a machine, or attending to customers at a retail store or restaurant, or performing mental tasks that require constant concentration must be eit…

Too Charismatic? It May Hurt You in the Workplace

You spell bind your audiences.  Everyone laughs at your jokes.  You've even received a standing ovation after a speech.  You have charisma.

But is that a good -- or bad -- thing?

A new study finds that charismatic leaders do better when they're somewhere in the middle -- not too charismatic but not lacking charisma altogether.

Those with lower amounts (but not too low) of charisma are more effective, according to

Too much may hinder a leader, the website reports, based on research published by the American Psychological Association. “Our findings suggest that organizations may want to consider selecting applicants with mid-range levels of charisma into leadership roles, instead of extremely charismatic leaders,” says Jasmine Vergauwe, a doctoral student at Ghent University and lead author of the study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Vergauwe studied subjects using a charismatic personality test, 56 questions, known as the charismat…

New Boss in Town? Don't Panic. Well, Maybe.

Who hasn't panicked when there's a new boss?

Big duh but whenever there's a change at work, employees tend to feel stress and distrust and may even want to quit.

According to, almost one-third of U.S. workers are cynical about organizational changes and management's motives.

At a time of change and uncertainty across the country, American adults who have been affected by change at work are more likely to report chronic work stress, less likely to trust their employer and more likely to say they plan to leave the organization within the next year compared with those who haven’t been affected by organizational change, according to a survey released by the American Psychological Association, as reported by the website. Half of American workers say they have been affected by organizational changes in the last year, are currently being affected by organizational changes or expect to be affected by organizational changes in the next year, according to APA’s 2017…

Like to Help Other People? Be Careful. It Could Be Hazardous to Your Health.

I tend to be a pretty empathetic sort.  In high school my parents used to always criticize me because I was forever taking the side of the forgotten (or bullied) kid and they wanted me in the popular crowd.  Guess they saw how that turned out.

But now a new study is saying that walking a mile in another's shoes may wind up being hazardous to your health, according to


A University of Buffalo researcher says it's how we arrive at empathy that counts.

When it comes to empathy, the idiom that suggests “walking a mile in their shoes” turns out to be problematic advice, according to new research published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology.

“That’s because there are two routes to empathy and one of them is more personally distressing and upsetting than the other,” says Michael Poulin, an associate professor in the University at Buffalo Department of Psychology and co-author of the study led by University of Pennsylvania psychologist Anneke E.K. Buffo…

Stop Talking About the Election at Work: It's Hurting You

Admit it. You're sick to death of the election.  And yet people at work are still talking about it at the water cooler (and in the lunchroom and the bathrooms and walking in and out of the front doors).  Now a new study says it's hurting workers and causing stress.

American workers are more likely to say they are feeling stressed and cynical because of political discussions at work now than before the 2016 presidential election, according to survey results released today by the American Psychological Association, according to

The survey found that 26 percent of full-time and part-time employed adults said they felt tense or stressed out as a result of political discussions at work since the election, an increase from 17 percent in September 2016 when they were asked about political discussions at work during the election season. More than one in five (21 percent) said they have felt more cynical and negative during the workday because of political talk a…

Have a Good Memory? You May Tire of Your Experiences More Quickly

So you're smiling pretty smugly because you just remembered where you saw that woman who said hello to you.  But guess what?  Having a great memory may just make you tire of experiences more quickly.


"People with larger working memory capacities actually encode information more deeply," quotes Noelle Nelson, lead author of this research published in the Journal of Consumer Research. "They remember more details about the things they've experienced, and that leads them to feel like they've had it more. That feeling then leads to the large capacity people getting tired of experiences faster."

The new study provides a window into how memory could be the key to becoming satiated, especially on products or habits they hope to quit, such as eating unhealthy foods.

"Our findings suggest that if they can enhance their memory for the other times they've eaten these foods, they may feel satiated and then not seek out those unheal…

Want More Self-Control? It May Zap Your Confidence

I don't know about you but I hate it when I'm not in control, of the world or myself.  I arrive minutes early (it enrages my son) for just about anything, because I like to get the lay of the land.  And I check my email a thousand times (well, maybe more like a hundred) times before I go out because I don't want to miss anything.

Now a new study says that wanting more self-control can actually hinder our efforts to obtain it.  

Huh? Haven't we all been programmed to strive for self-control? Whether it's wanting that extra piece of chocolate cake (Donald Trump, I'm looking at you) or unwise spending habits (that's me), going after that extra bit of self-control can, well, maybe harm us rather than help us, in the end. reports that new research points out that, ironically, wanting to have more self-control could actually be an obstacle to achieving it (regardless of one’s actual level of self-control). The study, done by Bar-Ilan University, in…

And . . Grant Your Low-Level Employees Some Autonomy. You May Be Surprised by the Results.

In keeping with my earlier blog on autonomy in the workplace, another study has now found that, to innovate, large firms should let their employees choose how to do their jobs.

But we're not just talking managers. reports that companies that can quickly respond to external changes are more likely to achieve long-term success, and by this measure, small firms already  excel.

New research by New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) School of Management assistant professor Radoslaw Nowak suggests a fix for this drawback: empowering low-level employees, according to the website.

An organization’s capacity to absorb new information and to implement corresponding changes, known as “absorptive capacity,” declines as it gets bigger. In this sense, large companies are advised to take a cue from comparatively laid-back start-ups. “As they grow,” says Nowak, “organizations tend to become more political and bureaucratic. That creates structural barriers to communication.”

Have Some Control at Work? It's Better Than a Raise

It's no surprise.  Autonomy in the workplace makes us, well, feel better.

Now a new study is saying that having control over our jobs enhances our well-being and job satisfaction.  I've even read that it may help us to stay well!

I know you've probably read, like I have, how people who have to work under totally controlled situations (and sometimes at night) are more prone to frustration, anger, even cancer, in some cases.

The study, conducted by the University of Birmingham, reported that those working in management reported the highest levels of autonomy in their work, with 90% reporting ‘some’ or ‘a lot’ of autonomy in the workplace.

Professionals surveyed report much less autonomy, particularly over the pace of work and over their working hours. For other employees, 40-to-50% of those surveyed experienced much lower autonomy while around half of lower-skilled employees experience no autonomy over working hours at all.

"The positive effects associated with in…

Are You About to Have an Epiphany? A New Study Says You Can Tell When Someone's Going To

I remember where I was exactly.  Waiting for my son to return from track in the rain and darkness, while all the other kids hopped into their parents' cars and took off.  I tend to be an alarmist, by nature (and also, by husband), so I started panicking and thinking of all the things that could have gone wrong to make him be so late to the car.

Was there a fight in school?  Did someone go after him in the locker room?  Was a teacher holding him hostage?  (I know, I know, I'm a bit dramatic.)

But having experienced some trauma in life, serious illness, childhood abuse, and always -- sadly -- expecting more, I couldn't help fearing something bad had happened to him.

And then I saw him sauntering out of the gym, and I realized, he can take care of himself.

It's not that I haven't stopped worrying.  But I had an "aha" moment, sitting in the car. And now researchers are saying that they can tell when you're about to have one.

According to, sci…

Wear Different Hats at Work? How You Think About Them May Just Affect Your Performance

Some days you're the manager.  Some days you're the employee.  And some days you just don't feel like coming in to work at all.

Sound like you?

A new study has found that struggling with those different identities at work may just affect your job performance.

According to, employees who believe their different identities enhance each other are more productive than others, the study found. But workers who feel their identities are in conflict see a hit to their performance.

 “We tend to think of our work role identities one at a time, as if they were completely separate,” says Steffanie Wilk, co-author of the study and associate professor of management and human resources at The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business. “But this research shows that the interactions are important. The way we manage and think about our different roles could be affecting how well we do our jobs.”

People are familiar with the concept of identity conflict and enhance…

How Cancer Taught Me Gratefulness

I learned about gratefulness when I was diagnosed with cancer.  Not that I was grateful to have cancer!  But it opened my eyes to what was good about my life, and to celebrate it, because who knew what the future held?

I used to live only in the future.  Living in the present seemed like a nice idea, but I could never do it.  There was always that next project at work, or would my boyfriend ever marry me (he did), then dinner with my in-laws (with whom I did not get along).  Let me get through that first, and then I'll worry about the present, I thought.

But cancer's a funny thing.  When you're told you have it, you kind of don't want to live in the future anymore, because who knows what it holds?

I had a friend who was diagnosed with Stage 4 renal cancer when I was going through treatment.  Friends and I would go sit with her when she was having chemo (I remember running hot water over her hands to try to get her veins to open up).   But what amazed me most was that s…

Different Cultures in the Office: Fight Fair But Not the Same

Let's face it.  No one likes conflict in the office. But did you know that different cultures have different ways of confronting people?

A major cultural difference between the West and the East is what’s commonly called “indirect” forms of confrontation. In the United States, one of the most “direct” nations in the world, directness during conflict resolution is a cardinal virtue, signifying efficiency, egalitarianism and professionalism, according to

But in East Asian nations like Japan, South Korea and parts of China, some of the more “indirect” nations in the world, direct action can be taken as fatally disrespectful because it does not allow the offender to recognize the problem and decide how to fix it.

Researchers argue that indirect conflict resolution is fundamentally misunderstood in the West — and the stakes are high, because research suggests that direct communicators who square off against an indirect conflict management style, for example in a…

Lonely? Don't Get a Cold

Are you lonely tonight?

No, I'm not channeling Elvis.  But a new study says that if you are, that cold is going to feel worse.

I suppose it makes sense.  Back when I was single, everything seemed harder because there was no soft place to fall.  Getting sick was the worst (which I often did, in many of my jobs where I traveled often, though I did come home from a vacation in the Bahamas with strep throat -- though it did lead to how I met my husband.  But that's a story for another time).

Having a cold is bad enough, but having a cold if you’re lonely can actually feel worse, according to research published by the American Psychological Association, reports.

By finding lonely people and infecting them with the cold virus (how cruel), researchers determined that those who had weaker social networks were more likely to report their cold symptoms were more severe than cold sufferers who didn’t feel lonely, according to the study published in the APA journal Heal…

Adverse Events Can Drive Us to the Extreme

Are you getting divorced?  Going through a serious illness?  Failing a class?

All of these, believe it or not, can push you toward political polarization.

A new study says that adverse events can push us to the extreme.  According to, unexpected life events ranging from illness to relationship stress can lead to political polarization, pushing moderates toward the spectrum’s extremes, says a recently published study that’s breaking new ground on personally-experienced adversity and its effect on political attitudes.

Though a handful of studies have explored the effect of community-wide tragedies on personal beliefs, this current research looks exclusively at self-reported personal experience, a phenomenon that can produce different responses than what happens in the wake of collective events, such as reaction to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“We’re talking about people’s experience with adversity broadly construed,” says Michael Poulin, an associate professor of ps…

Afraid of Robots? They Make Some People Fear More Than Just Losing Their Jobs

Did you know that people who are afraid of robots and other high technology are also afraid of losing their jobs and suffer from anxiety-related mental health issues?  That's what a new study is saying.

I suppose it makes sense.  I would imagine that something that seems so out of (your) body would be pretty threatening if you're a little timid about the world.

According to, more than a third of study participants fear job loss to technology more than they do romantic rejection, public speaking and police brutality.  That also makes sense.  Who  do you know who doesn't know computers can easily get a job?

But they're actually not alone.

“If you’re afraid of losing your job to a robot, you’re not alone,” says researcher Paul McClure, a sociologist in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences. “This is a real concern among a substantial portion of the American population. They are not simply a subgroup of generally fearful people.”

Previous research has …