Tag Archives: Anxiety

Writing Power Primer Increases Efficacy in High-Stakes Performance

Adam Galinsky

Adam Galinsky

Power is the central regulator of human interactionbecause it creates patterns of deference, reduces conflict, creates division of labor — all things that make our species successful,” opined Columbia’s Adam Galinsky.

Francesca Gino

Francesca Gino

He evaluated a power-enhancing technique used by Francesca Gino of Harvard Business School when she applied for academic positions at top-tier universities after initial unsuccessful interviews.

Gino wrote a “power prime” by summarizing a time she felt powerful.
She reviewed this prime before she presented a talk and interviewed for academic roles.
Using this approach, Gino received job offers from four top universities, in contrast to her previously attempts.

David Dubois

David Dubois

Galinsky extended this anecdotal evidence by empirically investigating whether changes in feelings of power are associated with different outcomes in professional interviews, with collaborators David Dubois of INSEAD, Tilburg University’s Joris Lammers, and Derek Rucker of Northwestern University.

Joris Lammers

Joris Lammers

They asked job applicants and business school admission candidates to write about a time they felt powerful or powerless.
Independent judges, who were unaware of the different instructions, rated “applicant’s” written and face-to-face interview performance.
Evaluators assigned highest scores to those who recalled power experiences.

Derek Rucker

Derek Rucker

Judges preferred power-primed applicants, citing their greater persuasiveness and confidence.
These candidates received more offers of job roles and business school admission than those who wrote about powerless experiences or those who considered neither powerful nor powerless situations.

Sian Beilock

Sian Beilock

An earlier post highlighted Sian Beilock’s investigation of writing as a coping tool in stressful academic situations.
Her collaborators at University of Chicago, Vanderbilt, and Pace Universities showed that students could manage test anxiety by writing about their concerns to maintain a calm mindset.

These findings suggest that recalling an experience of personal power can influence impressions of persuasiveness, competence, and likability in professional interviews.
This effect can be enhanced by writing about power experiences to increase confidence and positive outlook when working toward desired goals.

-*How do you prepare for challenging professional interviews?
-*How effective have your found “power primes” in high-stakes performance situations?

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Anxiety Linked to Risk of Behaving Unethically

Sreedhari Desai

Sreedhari Desai

Anxious people were more likely to act with self-interested unethical behavior, in studies by University of North Carolina’s Sreedhari Desai and Maryam Kouchaki of Northwestern.

Maryam Kouchaki

Maryam Kou

Anxiety was also associated with increased threat perception and decreased concern about personal unethical actions in simulated subordinate–supervisor pairs.

Desai noted that “Individuals who feel anxious and threatened can take on self-defensive behaviors and focus narrowly on their own basic needs and self-interest.
This can cause them to be less mindful of principles that guide ethical and moral reasoning – and make them rationalize their own actions as acceptable
.”

Charles Carver

Charles Carver

Engaging in unethical behaviors may offer more options and greater control over outcomes, found University of Miami’s Charles Carver and Michael Scheier of Carnegie Mellon.
Unethical behavior was also associated with feelings of greater autonomy and influence, particularly in ambiguous situations, according to Ohio State’s  Roy Lewicki.

Michael Scheier

Michael Scheier

People can experience a cheater’s high‘ instead of guilt, found University of Washington’s Nicole E. Ruedy, Celia Moore of London Business School, Harvard’s Francesca Gino, and Maurice E. Schweitzer of Wharton.
University of California, San Francisco’s Paul Ekman referred to cheaters’ exuberance as “duping delight.”

Roy Lewicki

Roy Lewicki

Cheaters reported emotional uplift and self-satisfaction instead of guilt they predicted in Ruedy’s research

Nicole Ruedy

Nicole Ruedy

Nearly180 people completed a four-minute anagram task to earn $1 for every correctly unscrambled word.
Participants then rated current feelings from positive to negative, both before and after the task.

Celia Moore

Celia Moore

Volunteers’ actual answers on the task were compared from imprints between their answer sheets to determine which participants reported inaccurate results.

More than 40% of these volunteers wrote in additional answers to increase their earnings, and reported significantly positive feelings after cheating on the task.

Francesca Gino

Francesca Gino

Even when Ruedy’s team told volunteers that researchers knew participants may be providing inaccurate reports in an insoluble anagram task, more than half the participants reported implausibly high scores.

Cheaters had higher levels of positive affect even when confronted with the team’s awareness of their potential cheating.
They also showed higher levels of self-satisfaction and feeling clever, capable, accomplished, satisfied, and superior.

Earning more money didn’t add to the “cheater’s high,” suggesting a top threshold for positive feelings associated with cheating.

Maurice Schweitzer

Maurice Schweitzer

These findings suggest that organizational leaders can increase employee quality-of-life and diminish unethical workplace behaviors by clarifying roles, which reduces anxiety.

Leaders can reduce employees’ anxiety by:

Paul Ekman

Paul Ekman:

  • Setting realistic expectations for employee workload,
  • Adopting Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) and flex time,
  • Emphasizing the value of experimentation, flexibility, and innovation.

-*How have you seen high-anxiety workplaces affect employees’ ethical judgment?

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Anxiety Undermines Negotiation Performance

Maurice Schweitzer

Maurice Schweitzer

Anxious negotiators make lower first offers, exit earlier, and earn lower profits  due to their “low self-efficacy” beliefs, according to Harvard’s Alison Wood Brooks and Maurice E. Schweitzer of University of Pennsylvania,

Alison Wood Brooks

Alison Wood Brooks

Brooks and Schweitzer induced anxious feelings or neutral reactions during continuous “shrinking-pie” negotiation tasks.
Compared with negotiators experiencing neutral feelings, negotiators who feel anxious typically expect to achieve lower profits, present more cautious offers, and respond more cautiously to propositions presented by negotiation counterparts.

Anxious negotiators who achieved poor bargaining outcomes did not manage emotions with cognitive strategies including:

Julie Norem

Julie Norem

  • Strategic optimism, indicated by expecting positive outcomes without anxiety or detailed reflection, according to University of Miami’s Stacie Spencer and Julie Norem of Wellesley,
  • Reattribution, identified by considering alternate interpretations of events to increase optimism and self-efficacy beliefs,
  • Defensive pessimism, marked by high motivation toward achievement coupled with negative expectations for future challenges, leading to increased effort and preparation, according to Wellesley College’s Julie Norem and Edward Chang of University of Michigan.
Edward Chang

Edward Chang

Norem and Cantor concluded that defensive pessimists performed worse when “encouraged by telling them that that based on their academic performance, they should expect to perform well on anagram and puzzle tasks.

Among university students, defensive pessimism was related to lower self-esteem, self-criticism, pessimism, and discounting previous successful performances when they began university studies, according to Norem and Brown’s Jasmina Burdzovic Andreas.

Jasmina Burdzovic Andreas

Jasmina Burdzovic Andreas

However, their longitudinal study demonstrated that self-esteem increased to almost the same levels as optimists during their four years of university study.
Pessimists’ precautionary countermeasures may have resulted in strong performance, which built credible self-esteem.

Defensive pessimism’s positive performance outcomes suggest that this cognitive strategy is an effective, if uncomfortable, approach to managing anxiety and performance motivation.

-*How do you manage anxiety in high-stakes negotiations?

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Emotional Awareness Enables Focus, Risk-taking Even When “Stressed”

Jeremy Yip

Jeremy Yip

Greater emotional understanding enables people to quell the “incidental emotion” of anxiety while they focus on decisions, according to Wharton’s Jeremy Yip and Stéphane Côté of University of Toronto.

Stéphane Côté

Stéphane Côté

Incidental emotions that influence decision-making have been called “the affect heuristic” by University of Oregon’s Paul Slovic, Melissa Finucane of the East-West Center, Ohio State’s Ellen Peters, and Donald MacGregor, then of Decision Research.

Paul Slovic

Paul Slovic

People with greater emotional intelligence can separate unpleasant thoughts and feelings from decision making and are less likely to show the affect heuristic bias in risky decisions.

Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud considered this ability to separate unpleasant thoughts and feelings as a defense mechanism deployed unconsciously to reduce anxiety and preserve self-esteem.
He called this experience “isolation,” contrasted with “compartmentalization,” which he defined as separating unpleasant emotions from each other.

Roy Baumeister

Roy Baumeister

Florida State’s Roy F. Baumeister, with Karen Dale then of Case Western, and Baruch College’s Kristin L. Sommer, documented recent studies that demonstrate “isolation” as a defense mechanism or coping strategy to contain negative feelings, “emotional contagion,” and “spillover.”

John Mayer

John Mayer

Yip and Côté demonstrated the relationship among emotional intelligence, evoked anxiety and propensity to make riskier choices in their lab studies of more than 100 volunteers, who completed the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test developed by Yale’s Peter Salovey and David R. Caruso with John D. Mayer of University of New Hampshire.

David R Caruso

David R Caruso

One group received an anxiety-provoking assignment:  One minute to prepare a videotaped speech shown to peers studying “academic and social standing” at the university.
The other group was given a less stressful assignment:  Prepare a grocery list.

Volunteers in both groups could choose their compensation for participating in the study: Receive $1, or take a one in 10 chance to receive $10.

Melissa Finucane

Melissa Finucane

For those given the stressful speech-writing task, people who scored higher on emotional intelligence chose the riskier option to receive $10 three times as often as those who scored lower on emotional intelligence.

In contrast, volunteers who completed the low-stress task made similar choices for compensation no matter the level of emotional intelligence.

Ellen Peters

Ellen Peters

However, people can learn emotional awareness skills to enable mental focus and contain unrelated incidental emotions, according to related studies by Yip and Côté.

They demonstrated this ability to contain anxiety when some volunteers in the speech-writing task were told they “might feel worried” because making a speech is an anxiety-producing task.
Other speech-creators received no further instructions.

Kristin Sommer

Kristin Sommer

Yip and Côté “primed” no emotion among some grocery list-creators by saying that they “may feel no emotion” or no instructions.
Participants were then primed to separate their emotions from their decision-making by being told that their emotions were irrelevant to their decisions.

 Volunteers read information about the benefits of receiving flu injections and consequences of no inoculation during flu season.
Then participants were given the option to register for nearby flu injection clinic.

The reminder that emotions were irrelevant to decisions changed previous results, by increasing the frequency that participants with lower emotional awareness chose the riskier option of not attending the flu injection clinic.

 The findings suggest that adults can reduce emotional bias in decision-making by explicitly identifying emotions and separating them from critical thinking processes

Questions that enable people to separate emotions, thoughts, and decisions include:

  • How do I feel right now?
  • What is causing me to feel that way?
  • And are my feelings relevant to the decision I need to make?

-*How do you avoid the affect heuristic when making decisions?

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Evidence-Based Stress Management – Physical Exercise – Part 5 of 5

Michael Hopkins-David Bucci

Michael Hopkins-David Bucci

“The positive stress of exercise prepares cells and structures and pathways within the brain so that they’re more equipped to handle stress in other forms,” argue Michael Hopkins, FC DavisMichelle VanTieghemPaul Whalen and David Bucci of Dartmouth.

Michelle VanTieghem

Michelle VanTieghem

They compared effects of a single exercise session or repeated sessions on non-exercising volunteers who were genotyped to determine brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a nerve growth factor important in long-term memory.

Paul Whalen

Paul Whalen

Participants were measured on novel object recognition (NOR) memory and mental health dimensions before and after engaging in a 4-week exercise program or a single exercise session.

More frequent exercisers performed better on object recognition memory and said they experienced less stress, but only when their 4 week program included a final test.
In contrast, a single exercise session did not affect recognition memory and resulted in increased perceived stress levels.

This study found no relationship between exercise-induced cognitive benefits and changes in mood and anxiety, suggesting that perceived stress is controlled by a different neural system.

Timothy Schoenfeld

Timothy Schoenfeld

In contrast, Princeton’s Timothy Schoenfeld, Pedro Rada, Pedro Pieruzzini, Brian Hsueh, and Elizabeth Gould, reported different results with mice.
They investigated the paradox of exercise:  It promotes new, excitable brain cells that can aid learning and memory, yet exercise can induce calm in various brain areas.

Elizabeth Gould

Elizabeth Gould

Schoenfeld and team controlled for pre-existing nervousness in adult mice and allowed half to exercise and half to remain sedentary over a six week period.

Exercisers were more willing to cautiously explore and spend time in open areas, suggesting they were more confident and less anxious than their sedentary counterparts.

Brian Hsueh

Brian Hsueh

The runners’ brains developed new, excitable neurons in the hippocampus’ ventral region, associated with processing emotions and releasing GABA, which inhibits brain activity such as the subjective experience of anxiety.

All animals encountered the physical stress of cold water for five minutes, and showed many immediate early genes indicating neuron firing.
However, the runner rats calmed more rapidly due to their release of GABA after this physical stress.

Though this study was conducted with animals, the findings suggest that physical exercise builds capacity to recover more rapidly from stress by regulating anxiety through ventral hippocampus inhibition.

Brett Klika

Brett Klika

Like other stress management recommendations, regular exercise is difficult for many to adopt as an habit.
For reluctant exercisers, Brett Klika and Chris Jordan of Human Performance Institute offer a rapid but challenging solution: “Seven Minutes of Steady Discomfort.”

Chris Jordan

Chris Jordan

Their Scientific 7-Minute Workout includes 12 exercises using a chair, wall and body weight, for interval training alternating large muscles in the upper and lower body.
Each exercise is performed for 30 seconds, at a discomfort rating of 8 on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 10 second rest between.
Though quick, this routine may not be easy, and further willpower may be needed to adopt this approach.

Kirsten Burgomaster

Kirsten Burgomaster

McMaster University’s Kirsten BurgomasterKrista Howarth, Stuart PhillipsMaureen MacDonaldSL McGeeMartin Gibala with Mark Rakobowchuk now of Brunel University validated Klika and Jordan’s proposed Seven Minutes of Discomfort.

Stuart Phillips

Stuart Phillips

They noted that even a few minutes of training at an intensity approaching maximum capacity produces molecular changes within muscles comparable to those of several hours of endurance training like running or bike riding.

John Salamone

John Salamone

Motivational help may be available by activating nucleus accumbens dopamine, which can regulate motivation and lead to goal initiation and persistence, according to University of Connecticut’s John Salamone and Mercè Correa of Universitat Jaume I of Castellón.

Mercè Correa

Mercè Correa

They refined the common assumption that dopamine is associated with reward systems and noted that nucleus accumbens dopamine, involved in appetitive and aversive motivational processes, may provide a biochemical approach to managing motivation and task persistence.

Though it may be difficult to muster the motivation to exercise regularly, these research findings suggest that regular exercise can lead to increased coping and cognitive abilities.

-*To what extent should workplaces promote exercise to reduce stress and increase cognitive performance?

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Evidence-Based Stress Management – Social Support – Part 3 of 5

George Vaillant

George Vaillant

Personal relationships and social support have been shown to buffer the negative effects of stress inside and outside the workplace, according to George Vaillant, then of Harvard, with colleagues SE MeyerKenneth Mukamal, and Stephen Soldz.

Kenneth Mukamal

Kenneth Mukamal

They evaluated data from a 50-year prospective multivariate study of 223 men and found that engaging with others during a stressful event improves mood, but withdrawing from others increases anxiety, depression, and stress.
In this sample, friends seemed more important than closeness to spouse and to children for sustained physical health.

Lawrence Fisher

Lawrence Fisher

Social  relationships that buffer stress and anxiety include family closeness and connectedness, problem-focused family coping skills, clear family organization, explicit decision making, and direct communication  according to University of California, San Francisco’s Lawrence Fisher and Karen Weihs of University of Arizona.

Stephen Soldz

Stephen Soldz

In contrast, lack of social connections can increase both stress and susceptibility to disease agents due to alterations in the neuroendocrine system, according to Vaillant and team.

Karen Weihs

Karen Weihs

Undermining relationship characteristics include hostility, criticism, and blame within the family; family perfectionism and rigidity; and psychopathology, according to Fisher and Weihs.

Stress-reducing social support can come from animal companions, according to SUNY Buffalo’s Karen AllenBarbara Shykoff, and Joseph Izzo, who demonstrated that “nonevaluative social support” from animal companions reduces blood pressure in response to mental stress.

Joseph Izzo

Joseph Izzo

Forty-eight hypertensive volunteers were assigned to random comparison groups:  One group had animal companions in addition to an anti-hypertensive medication (angiotensin-converting-enzyme inhibitor or ACE inhibitor) and the other group received medication only.

Before participants received medication, volunteerss in both groups had similar physical responses to stress, measured by blood pressure, heart rate, and plasma renin activity.

Allen, Shykoff, and Izzo monitored these physical indicators after experimental mental stressors (serial subtraction and speech), compared with baseline measures.
They found that although medication alone lowers resting blood pressure, social support from animal companions was associated with lower blood pressure in response to mental stress.

Mark Ellenbogen

Mark Ellenbogen

Like some other stress management recommendations, this research-based finding requires willingness, and commitment to engage with others when it may seem easier and more appealing to be alone.

Oxytocin may promote seeking social support when experiencing stress and the impulse to withdraw from others, shown in research by Concordia University’s Mark Ellenbogen and Christopher Cardoso.

Christopher Cardoso

Christopher Cardoso

They demonstrated that oxytocin can increase a person’s trust in others following social rejection.
Volunteers received oxytocin nasal spray or a placebo, then experienced experimentally-induced social rejection when confederates challenged, interrupted, and ignored the participants.

Volunteers who inhaled oxytocin before the experimental social rejection and who reported greater distress on mood and personality questionnaires also said they generally invest greater trust in other people.
In contrast, oxytocin had no effect on trust among volunteers who were not bothered by the evoked social rejection.

These findings suggest that oxytocin may help individuals experiencing stress access the benefits of social support and may become an additional stress management option.

-*How can workplaces enable social support for employees experiencing stress?

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Evidence-Based Stress Management – Vitamins, Probiotics – Part 1 of 5

The majority of U.S. adults experience significant anxiety and stress each day, often compounded by the use of multiple electronic devices, cognitive overload, and “social comparison” when participating in social media.

Amy Arnsten

Amy Arnsten

General stress and anxiety can negatively affect work performance because it can undermine prefrontal cognitive abilities and eventually lead to architectural changes in prefrontal dendrites, according to Yale’s Amy Arnsten.

John Medina of Seattle University concurred, noting that prefrontal cortex structural damage occurs when catecholamines and glucocorticoids are released during stress experiences.

John Medina

John Medina

He amplified Arnsten’s findings by linking these substances to declines in processing language and math, working memory, and attention regulation as well as to increased fear conditioning and memory for negative emotional states.

Stress management recommendations abound, and this series of five blog posts reviews research evidence supporting suggestions that usually require commitment and willpower, such as eliminating multi-tasking and reducing internet usage.

Michael Roizen

Michael Roizen

If reducing media usage is an unappealing prospect, heavy users can cite  Michael Roizen‘s findings at Cleveland Clinic, that the internet can be a vehicle for stress management.
He reported that internet-based stress management programs are effective.

Two familiar nutritional suggestions have been reconfirmed in recent research:  Include vitamins as well as probiotics (beneficial bacteria) found in fermented foods such as yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, soft cheese, miso, sourdough bread, sour pickles or supplements.

Bonnie Kaplan

Bonnie Kaplan

University of Calgary’s Bonnie Kaplan validated claims that vitamin and mineral supplements can enhance mental energy, manage stress, enhance mood and reduce fatigue for those prone to anxiety and depression as well as for healthy adults.

Kaplan found that among 97 adults with diagnosed mood disorders, higher vitamin and mineral intake over three days were significantly correlated with enhanced mood, better mental functioning and reduced stress.

Sara-Jayne Long

Sara-Jayne Long

David Benton

David Benton

Similarly, Sara-Jayne Long and David Benton of University of Swansea showed that people who took a multivitamin pill for a month experienced a 68 percent reduction in anxiety and perceived stress, but not depression, fatigue or confusion, in their meta-analytic review.
Supplements containing high doses of B vitamins may be more effective in improving mood states.

Kirsten Tillisch

Kirsten Tillisch

Kirsten Tillisch of UCLA and 10 collaborators demonstrated the cognitive benefits of eating foods containing probiotics.
Tillisch and team reported that women who regularly consumed probiotics in yogurt showed altered brain function in managing stress and anxiety both while in a resting state and in response to an emotion-recognition task.

Participants were women between ages 18 and 55, divided into three groups who consumed different dietary products:

  • Yogurt containing a mix of several probiotics twice a day for four weeks
  • Dairy product that looked and tasted like the yogurt but contained no probiotics
  • No fermented milk product

Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) scans before and after the four-week study and found that women who consumed the probiotic yogurt were better able to modulate experimentally-induced anxiety and stress.

Participants showed decreased activity in the insula when they viewed a series of pictures of people with angry or frightened faces and matched them to other faces showing the same emotions.
In addition, volunteers had somatosensory cortex activity during the emotional reactivity task, demonstrating better stress coping.

During the resting brain scan, participants in each group showed differing activity patterns in the brainstem’s periaqueductal grey area and the prefrontal cortex, confirming the impact of dietary change on signals to and from the intestine to the brain.

Probiotics were associated with enhanced stress management, with the benefits popularized by journalist Michael Pollan.

For those unenthusiastic about foods containing probiotics, supplements may complement vitamins in a stress-containment program.

-*How effective have you found probiotics, vitamins, and reduced internet usage to manage stress?
-*What approaches do you use to initiate and sustain habit change for stress management?

RELATED POSTS

Motivation to Manage Stress

Mindful Attention (Part 2)

Social Support (Part 3)

Music (Part 4)

Nature

Sleep

Organizational Roles, Practices

Look for related posts on:

  • Mindful Attention (Part 2)
  • Social Support (Part 3)
  • Music (Part 4)
  • Physical Exercise (Part 5)

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