More Psychological Phenomenon to Consider at Work

Did you know that the psychological phenomenon you learned about in psychology class can actually be applied at work? Several months ago we showed you how you can apply the psychological phenomenons failure to store and conformity in the workplace to gain an advantage. To continue this series, we are adding two more psychological phenomenons that should be considered in the workplace.

1. Obedience to Authority

Have you been disappointed by your subordinates inappropriate actions only to be supplied with a response of, “I was only following orders.” Were they really just following orders? Is it your fault that action occurred? Consider Milgram’s studies of conformity conducted in 1961. In his studies, he developed a shock generator with shock levels that ranged from 30 volts to 450 volts and had the switches labeled by their different shock values (e.g., slight shock, moderate shock, danger, severe shock, XXX). Forty male, volunteer participants were asked to deliver a shock to the “student” behind a wall if they did not answer a question correctly. Unbeknownst to the participant, the student was actually a confederate of the experiment that did not receive any shocks. Throughout the experiment, as the participant delivered the shocks, the students would yell, pound on the walls, and demand for them to stop. Eventually, the student would no longer respond to the shocks or answer any of the questions. All the while the proctor would say, “Please continue” or “The experiment requires that you continue.” The participants were very anxious, agitated, and angry at the proctor yet 65% of the participants in the study delivered the maximum shocks. It seemed that having an authority figure present dramatically increased compliance.

psychology tricks infoHow to apply this at work:

When in a leadership position, consider your role as a leader and the influence you have on your subordinates. Be aware of the influence that you have on them and focus on leading fairly and responsibly. Your actions and words can hold a lot of power. If you are a subordinate, carefully consider the orders you are given and do not be afraid to speak up if they are not in line with your own values.


2. Drive Theory

Picture yourself before an important presentation with a large audience waiting intently for you to begin. You begin to sweat and feel a rush of energy run through your body. Most people have been in a similar situation before and all experience some form of arousal. The goal is to manifest it to your advantage by considering drive theory. Drive theory is based on the premise that the presence of an audience will create an arousal, which will cause the typical behavior in that situation to become dominant. In other words, if you are in front of an audience, you will likely revert to behaviors that are most natural to you.

psychology tricks infoHow to apply this at work:

Practice, practice, practice. The key is to practice your presentation so many times that you are sick of hearing it. It has been embedded in your mind and you can recite it at any point without taking a pause. You have now made it a dominant behavior. When it is time to present, your natural behavior will be to present calmly and confidently.


Are there psychological theories or phenomena that you are curious to learn more about? Let us know and we will include them in future posts!


About the Author:


Cognitive Performance Group, LLC is a woman-owned small business with offices in Orlando, Florida, and Cleveland, Ohio. It was founded by Dr. Karol G. Ross, Jennifer K. Phillips, and William A. Ross. The three CPG Principals developed the concept for a company to support cognitive performance improvement in industry and government. (more...)

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