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Category Archive: psychology

If we want to get real good at something we have to work real hard

zwoegenA few days ago I spoke to a manager who told me that she had had a conversation with a subordinate in which she had communicated some clear expectations she had of him. She told me that she had found it quite hard to prepare for the conversation. In this conversation she had used our technique of progress-focused directing. With this approach you formulate very specifically what you expect of the subordinate (this is called your expectation) and you give a clear reason for your expectation (this is called the rationale). This manager told me that, during her preparation, she had found it hard to formulate the rationale. She said she had made it quite difficult for herself and that she made her rationale very complex at first. Only at the end of her preparation she had managed to formulate her rationale in a brief and simple way. When she told me this, I asked her whether the conversation had led to the desired result. She said it had and added: “But I wonder why I make things so hard and difficult during my preparation.” Click here to read more »

Blaming people never contributes to progress

imagesWhen something has gone wrong we are often inclined to assigning blame to individuals or groups. It happens in families, in schools, in companies, and in politics. The assumption is apparently that assigning blame is useful and necessary for solving the problems in question. But is this true? I don’t think it is.

I think that blaming people never contributes to progress. The reason is that the person who is blamed will view this as an attack and will try to defend himself. As psychologists Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson show in their book Mistakes were made but not by me, people seldom agree with accusations against them. In the way in which people view reality and their own choices and behaviors, a mechanism of self-justification operates. Click here to read more »

Autonomy support at work

autonomy support and controlSelf-determination theory (SDT) is one of the most powerful frameworks to understand how human flourishing can develop. Here is a very brief recap of what it is*. SDT assumes two things about human beings: 1) that they are naturally active and growth-oriented, and 2) that they have a tendency toward psychological integration. This second process means that, as people encounter new experiences, they are challenged to integrate them with existing aspects of themselves. This process of integration leads individuals to develop increasingly complex self-structures in which values and regulatory processes from outside are internalized. Click here to read more »

What is meaningful work?

workAs Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer have shown, making progress in work that is meaningful is one of the most motivating, if not the most motivating, things in work. Even small progress may have a big positive impact on one’s inner work life (this is the authors’ term for perception, emotions and motivations in one’s work).

‘Meaningful progress’, of course, consists of two parts: the meaningful part and the progress part. I have focused a lot on the progress element in many previous posts. I’d now like to focus on the meaningful part. Click here to read more »

How progress can make itself invisible

progress levelThe feeling of making progress in something which is important to you is very motivating. But sometimes you make progress without being aware of it and thus you miss this motivating effect needlessly. In this article I explained some reasons why achieved progress can sometimes be hard to notice. One reason I mentioned is sensory adaptation. This means that we get used to the progress we have made and because of this we stop perceiving it. A second reason I mentioned is that we may interpret progress negatively. An example of this is that we may view the availability of technological resources not as advantages but as perils or problems. A third reason why we may not notice progress is that we may, sometimes unconsciously, concurrently raise the bar for ourselves. When this happens, not only our competence level has increased but also the level we aim for. Because of this, the distance between our current level and our goal remains the same (or even increases). Click here to read more »

P-Curve Analyses: Finding out which Social Priming Effects are Likely to be True

p-curveProfessors are Not Elderly: Evaluating the Evidential Value of Two Social Priming Effects Through P-Curve Analyses

By Daniel Lakens

Abstract: It is possible that the number of false positives in the literature is much greater than is desirable due to a combination of low statistical power, publication bias, and flexibility when analyzing data. Recently, some researchers have argued the replicability crisis social priming research is greatly exaggerated (Dijksterhuis, 2014; Stroebe & Strack, 2014). To quantify the extent to which researcher degrees of freedom are a real problem, I present two p-curve analyses that examine the evidential value of research lines on professor priming and elderly priming. The results indicate studies examining elderly priming are p-hacked, while studies examining professor priming contain evidential value. I believe a polarized discussion about whether social priming is true or not, whether direct replications or conceptual replications are preferable, or whether methodological rigor or theory development is needed is unlikely to lead to scientific progress. Instead, we have to meta-analytically evaluate individual effects based on their evidential value, and collaboratively examine what is likely to be true. Read full paper here.

Interview with me about psychology

interview cvI was interviewed for a website for aspiring psychologists about my experiences as a psychologist and my views on my profession. You can read it here.

Prosocial behaviors often follow patterns of intuitive psychological processes rather than control-oriented processes

donorIntuitive Prosociality
Jamil Zaki and Jason P. Mitchell

Abstract: Prosocial behavior is a central feature of human life and a major focus of research across the natural and social sciences. Most theoretical models of prosociality share a common assumption: Humans are instinctively selfish, and prosocial behavior requires exerting reflective control over these basic instincts. However, findings from several scientific disciplines have recently contradicted this view. Rather than requiring control over instinctive selfishness, prosocial behavior appears to stem from processes that are intuitive, reflexive, and even automatic. These observations suggest that our understanding of prosociality should be revised to include the possibility that, in many cases, prosocial behavior—instead of requiring active control over our impulses—represents an impulse of its own.

Download full article.

In praise of high-level cognitive control when performing complex tasks

High level cognitive controlIn Going from Good to Great with Complex Tasks, Ozgun Atasoy explains that the belief that consciously thinking about what we are doing, when performing complex tasks, by definition harms our performance, is wrong. It is true that some type of conscious thinking can harm our functioning. For example, when we are typing on a keyboard, we run largely on auto-pilot. If we would try to consciously control the typing of each separate letter, this would slow us down a great deal and probably cause us to make many mistakes.

But, as Atasoy explains, when we are performing complex tasks, running on autopilot (performing it with little cognitive control/engagement) leads to sub-optimal performance in the sense that our performance becomes rigid. We lose the ability respond to unexpected events. Also, the task is likely to become boring, this way. Click here to read more »

Mastery goals work well when there is autonomy-support

When are mastery goals more adaptive? It depends on experiences of autonomy support and autonomy

By Benita, Moti; Roth, Guy; Deci, Edward L.
Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol 106(1), Feb 2014, 258-267.

Abstract: Mastery goals are generally considered the most adaptive achievement goals. In 2 studies, we tested whether, in line with self-determination theory, participants’ experiences of autonomy support and autonomy would affect the relations between mastery goals and psychological outcomes. In Study 1 (an experiment), 117 college students, randomly assigned to 3 groups (autonomy-supportive, autonomy-suppressive, neutral), adopted an intrapersonal-competence standard to improve graphic quality of handwriting. Results showed that mastery goals led to more positive emotional experiences when given in an autonomy-supportive context relative to the other two. Study 2 extended the research to natural settings and learners’ motives among 7th and 8th graders (n = 839) responding to questionnaires about a specific class. Results revealed stronger relations of mastery goals with interest and enjoyment and with behavioral engagement when students perceived their level of choice (experience of autonomy) as high rather than low. We therefore propose that research on achievement goals should consider both the contexts and the motives accompanying the goals.


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