Psychology of Performance – 38: Cognitive Bias Part 3

In this installment of the role of cognition in performance, Arielly has noted in his book, Predictably Irrational, that there are a number of salient variables related to performance in various domains. For example, a version of “where your mind goes the energy goes” is related to honesty. When people are asked to think about honesty, their awareness of honesty goes up as well as their honest behavior. He has further examples related to how an honor code can decrease cheating behavior. On the other hand performance in this area decreases (more cheating) as the distance in time, value, and so forth increases.  Another variable worth noting in the psychology of performance is that “loss aversion” appears to be a more powerful motivator on performance than potential “gain.” This has other implications for performance.

What are the implications? As a leader, manager, executive, or coach, it is relevant to have clear expectations that your group thinks about actively. The standards of behavior required to achieve the goals, and how to behave in the workplace, need regular mental rehearsal to increase compliance with the types of performance expected. To neglect this may result in group drift which results in under-performance. The implications of the “loss aversion” have many applications. For example, in the area of wellness and benefits, the fear of losing a benefit will predictably result in greater compliance than the allure of a reward. This is also true for individual work performance. People will work more to avoid losing their job than to get a reward. This is counter-intuitive from many business practices related to motivation and performance.

Remember to extend love and happiness to everyone you meet,

Robert A. Mines, Ph.D.,
CEO and Psychologist

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