Stay current with our quarterly bulletin with the latest insights and research from our expert team at Embrion.

It has become increasingly common for people to talk about how passionate they are about their work. But is this a good thing? As employers we certainly want hard working and committed individuals in our team. In fact, research evidence tells us that one of the best predictors of success in a job is hard work – what we as psychologists call ‘conscientiousness’.

However, what happens when people become too ‘conscientious’? When hard work turns into obsessive, defensive and compulsive behaviours at work. Recent research (Schellenberg & Bailis, 2015) suggest that having more than one passion, or something that we love doing, is better for us than having a single force or obsession in our lives.

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Human error is recognized as the leading cause of a significant portion of incident and accidents. This is as true for trips and falls, as it is for offshore vessel collisions and plane crashes. 

Within human error, fatigue and stress are key factors that can increase the risk of incidents. Some individuals cope heroically in the face of stress, such as Captain Chesley Sullenberger, who steered his plane and passengers to safety, landing on the Hudson River in New York after a double engine failure. Others fare less well, sometimes with fatal results.

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Influence is nothing new. Retailers have long embraced the science of persuasion with the aim of getting us to buy things we might not otherwise have bought. For those of us concerned about safety we can learn from our colleagues in retail to shape the behavioural choices of our employees.
The history of persuasion can be traced back at least 4,000 years to the days of the Greeks and use of ‘Rhetoric’. Rhetoric is the ability of a communicator to influence the behaviours of others – usually to get someone to vote for you, rather than an opponent.Over the past 50 years or so, influence and persuasion have become a foundation stone in consumer psychology. Retailers encourage us to buy one brand rather than another, or buy 'while stocks last'.

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First impressions lead to a multitude of assumptions, and trustworthiness is one of them. Research suggests that faces with v-shaped eyebrows and frowning mouths are consistently judged as less trustworthy than others with ^-shaped brows and mouths with upturned corners (this may be related to the former betraying a hidden anger and the latter having a more positive undertone).

A study published this month by Dr Brian Holtz in the journal Personnel Psychology suggests that a person's looks can influence perceptions, not only of how trustworthy their character might be, but of whether their actual deeds are fair and well-intentioned.

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