The old good cop, good cop routine!

October 1, 2013

Picture the scene: a bare interview room with a nasty cheap table and a few chairs, a flickering strip light illuminating a cocky villain, two cops firing questions. Time to cough!

Despite the movies it seems this may not be the best way to get a confession. Recent research has shown that a supportive (smiling, nodding, cup of tea, biscuit?) interrogator has a positive effect on interviewing. Interestingly truth tellers provide more detail than liars, but only with a supportive interviewer. It seems that by creating a calm and reassuring environment the second interviewer helps the honest interviewee to tell their (true) story in greater detail; but that this makes the lack of genuine detail available to the villain stand out more…

Original article: Samantha Mann, Aldert Vrij, Dominic J. Shaw, Sharon Leal, Sarah Ewens, Jackie Hillman, Par Anders Granhag, Ronald P. Fisher (2013). Two heads are better than one? How to effectively use two interviewers to elicit cues to deception. Legal and Criminological Psychology DOI: 10.1111/j.2044-8333.2012.02055.x

BPS blog on same research: http://bps-research-digest.blogspot.com/2013/09/forget-good-cop-bad-cop-real-psychology.html


Science of Persuasion (or how to get someone to do what you want them to do…)

December 7, 2012

Great animated video on the science (six universal principles) of persuasion, based on the research of Dr. Robert Cialdini, Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing, Arizona State University.

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFdCzN7RYbw&list=UU8IMseLCZx2BZe3thxHXnog&index=1&feature=plcp


How the Internet is ruining your brain

July 4, 2012

 


Seeing what there is to see

March 26, 2011

I was reminded of this famous selective attention experiment a few weeks ago. Watch the video, following the instructions carefully:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJG698U2Mvo


The entrepreneurs of identity

March 19, 2011

As business psychologists we spend a great deal of time trying to identify leadership. And to help us there’s a mighty army of personality and leadership questionnaires, as well as numerous books that claim to pinpoint the ‘habits’ that distinguish successful leaders from the rest. In contrast there is little on the way in which leadership can grow from a leader’s role as part of a group.

Less I-ness, more we-ness

The group perspective on leadership, or the ‘social identity’ approach to organisational psychology, works on the premise that our sense of self isn’t fixed. It exists on a continuum that runs from self-interested personal identity (‘I-ness’) to group orientated social identity (‘we-ness’); with our position being determined by social context. What is more we tend to act on an individualistic basis when we compare ourselves to an ‘in-group’, such as one composed of our work colleagues; whereas when the comparison is with an ‘out-group’, such as a competitor, we are far more likely to act in a group-orientated manner.

Who are we?

It follows that if social rather than personal identity is better at explaining what we do in groups, then measures of the latter, such as personality questionnaires, are not going to be good predictors of behaviour.

In terms of leadership it also seems likely that a concentration on the individual isn’t the answer. If leadership is about group behaviour then it’s really about creating a shared identity that binds the group together. Thus true leadership is about helping to create, shape and sustain a sense of ‘who and what we are’.

What happened to my charisma?

Those that are masters at creating shared identity are also likely to be described as charismatic. However if charisma is dependent on the management of group identity, then if you lose your ability to shape this identity your charisma will evaporate – an effect that can be readily observed in the world of politics!

Overall then, perhaps there’s one expression that sums up social identity and leadership: great leaders are the entrepreneurs of identity. And what they do is to help us create our perception of who we are.

Note: The expression ‘entrepreneurs of identity’ is probably best attributed to Alex Haslam and Steve Reicher. If you’re interested in this area you might also like to read Alex Haslam’s book, Psychology in Organizations: The Social Identity Approach, published by Sage.

Picture credit: Ambro/freedigitalphotos.net


Why don’t meetings work?

March 11, 2011

The place holder on the left-hand table says 'Reserved', that on the left says 'Extraverted'.Every time I attend a meeting I am struck by the fact that most of what goes on is an utter waste of time. What is it about the situation that just seems to bring out the unproductive in us? Something I have to say which is aided and abetted by the curse of the PowerPoint presentation. A method of boring people that is surely without rival. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a picture and a thousand words, that’s something else entirely.

The reason that most meetings flounder can also be attributed to Parkinson’s Law of Triviality (that’s C.Northcote Parkinson of ‘Parkinson’s Law’ fame). Put simply this draws the distinction between the amount of time that’s spent discussing complex and difficult issues, such as business strategy, as opposed to simple and ultimately unimportant things like the location or colour of a bike shed. Hence the alternative name for the law, that of ‘bike-shedding’.  

Bike-shedding

We all feel comfortable talking about the bike shed (or the colour scheme to use on the website, the type of water cooler to have etc) because we think we understand what’s going on, and this limits are chances of appearing stupid. But when it comes to strategy there’s far more scope for seeming to be ignorant, if not a complete noodle. Thus the result is one hour discussing the ‘bike shed’, and ten confused and nervous minutes contemplating the strategic direction of the business. There’s also something else going on…

So to add to the Law of Triviality, and Parkinson’s other laws, the famous first law: ‘work expands to fill the time available for its completion’, and the less well-known second law: ‘expenditure rises to meet income’; I would like to add my law of meetings.

Parkinson’s Law of Meetings

Having studied meetings over the course of many years I can report that the ‘law of meetings’ states that there are only three types of people who attend:

  • Type A: This person does all the talking but knows none of the answers.
  • Type B: This person does none of the talking but does know the answers.
  • Type C: This person doesn’t know why they’re at the meeting.

These types map neatly onto three second-order personality factors: Type A is Extraverted (a ‘do-think-do’ sort of person); Type B is Neurotic (a ‘think-think-maybe do’ sort of person); and Type C is clearly Psychotic (detached, and angry and resentful about having their time wasted).

And this is why so little is achieved, because A+B+C≠Decision.

Oops, must go, I’ve got a teleconference in a few minutes…


Wilful Blindness

February 21, 2011

Peer pressure, role modeling, obedience to authority, group think, cognitive dissonance, selective attention, love… it’s a wonder we can think straight.  Well actually a lot of the time perhaps we don’t. Quite apart from the forces of social psychology messing with our minds, the plumbing of the brain itself does a great job of physically reducing the flow of what we know. Perhaps that’s not surprising as we all have to deal with about 34GB of data every day. But does all this matter? In one sense, no, because it’s what gets us through life. And you could argue it’s what makes us uniquely human. But, and it’s a big ‘but’, when it stops us seeing what we should see, and stops us doing what we should do, then it can be a major problem.  Far more damaging than courageously ‘turning a blind eye’ in a sea battle (Nelson at the Battle of Copenhagen), because not ‘seeing’ or acknowledging uncomfortable truths can literally lead to disaster. The sort of disaster that can end in ecological calamity, world financial meltdown, health scandals, military failure and always, ruined lives. Small things like that.

If you want to know how this can be, and how we can all be unconsciously (and consciously) wilfully blind, then get a copy of Margaret Heffernan’s new book: Wilful Blindness: Why we Ignore the Obvious at our Peril. It’s just out in the UK and is published by Simon & Schuster. You can also catch a video trailer on YouTube at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCUKGK6JOJo


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