The Science Behind Success

Welcome to The Science Behind Success -- a new blog series that explores the best ways to help our brains perform better at work. With psychological research and interviews with leaders in the field, we're showing you how psychology can help you overcome workplace obstacles and excel in your career. Because a little mindset change could go a long way.

Written by: Caroline Forsey


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science behind success



As a psychology minor, I've always been interested in the science behind behavior and thought.

Asch's conformity experiment, for instance, taught me the power and influence of groupthink.

Alternatively, the foot in the door technique (Freedman & Fraser, 1966), showed me the importance of asking for small requests first.

When I began working at HubSpot, I again noticed the extreme relevance of psychology in the workplace. I told a coworker about Amy Cuddy's power posing technique, which enabled her to feel more confident before her marketing presentation.

Additionally, I used my DiSC analysis to better understand how my behavior might be perceived by coworkers, and used that information to communicate more effectively with each member of my team.

All of which is to say -- psychology doesn't just have a place in the liberal arts. It has a place in the workplace, as well.

Psychology tactics can help you become a more effective leader, a happier employee, or a stronger public speaker.

Simply put, learning about psychology can make you more successful.

Which is why we've created this series.

Here, we're going to dive into a broad overview of what psychology can help you accomplish in the workplace. Additionally, we've linked resources at the bottom if you're interested in reading individual posts from this series.

Click here to download our free introductory ebook on marketing psychology.



Incorporating Psychology At Work

All departments in the workplace can benefit from learning and using psychology-based strategies, but certain departments benefit from different aspects of psychology. Let's break down some of those differences now.

Recruitment and psychology

Your HR and recruitment teams need to focus on psychology that suggests implicit biases may affect your hiring process. For instance, research has shown masculine language in a job description, including adjectives like "competitive" and "determined," results in women often believing they won't fit into the work environment. By ensuring gender-neutral language in your recruitment materials, you're more likely to receive a higher number of equally qualified candidates from both men and women.

Additionally, it's critical your recruiters are aware of any unfair judgments they might make against candidates based upon stereotypes. Doris Weichselbaumer, a professor at Johannes Kepler University Linz, in Linz, Austria, conducted research that showed when a fictitious character wore a headscarf in her resume photo, she needed to send almost five times as many applicants as the woman without a headscarf, to receive the same number of callbacks for interviews.

In general, psychology having to do with stereotypes, body language, implicit biases, language, tone, and emotion are most likely to improve your recruitment process, and help HR deal with mitigating internal conflict, as well.


Leadership and psychology

Anyone in a leadership position can benefit from incorporating psychology tactics in the workplace. At the most fundamental level, it's critical as a leader that you're able to develop empathy and a level of self-awareness that will allow you to engage and inspire your employees.

Research has found three areas where it's critical for senior leadership to be aligned -- energy and development passion, future-focused leader skills, and views on company culture. It's important your executive team take the time to look into various strategies other leadership teams have used to be successful -- and, what derails leadership teams from performing optimally.

In general, psychology having to do with motivation, empathy, people's perceptions of challenges, and language are most likely to improve your ability to lead well. 

Marketing and psychology

In 1975, researchers Worchel, Lee and Adewole conducted an experiment to evaluate how people would value cookies in two identical jars -- as it turned out, the cookies from the two-cookie jar received ratings twice as high as the 10 cookie jar, even though the cookies were exactly the same.

This study supports the notion of the scarcity principle. Ultimately, you might use scarcity principle to create a sense of urgency or demand around your products.

In another study, three groups at a restaurant were compared:

  • The first control group received mints, along with the check, with no mention of the mints. They tipped three percent.
  • The second group received two mints by hand, separate from the check -- for this group, the mints were explicitly pointed out. Their tips increased by about 14%.
  • The third group received a few mints with the check -- then, a few minutes later, the waiters came back with another set of mints and let the customers know they brought more 'just in case'. Their tips increased by 23%.

The study's results support the notion of reciprocity -- the more a group is given, the more they feel they need to return. For marketing, you might take advantage of reciprocity by providing potential customers with free sweatshirts or an exclusive ebook.

In general, psychology having to do with consumer buying behavior, language, design, individual motivation, and basic wants and needs can help you become a better marketer. 

Personal development and psychology

We've delved into this particular topic -- how an individual employee can use psychology tactics to become a better worker -- a lot in this series so far (including how to adopt a champion mindset, and how to adjust your body language to feel more powerful … check out the bottom posts to read more).

How you might use psychology as a personal development tool is an endless topic -- you can use psychology tactics to improve motivation and focus, become a more self-aware and empathetic employee, and ultimately perform better.


Most of this series will focus on how you can use psychology for personal development, so if you need further proof, check out the series posts below.

Science Behind Success Blog Posts

1. The Key to Productivity Isn't Your Mind, It's Your Body

Read this if you're interested in learning about embodied cognition, and how our bodies can affect our productivity levels. Hear from Josh Davis, Ph.D., the Director of Research and Lead Professor at the NeuroLeadership Institute, who wrote the international bestseller Two Awesome Hours: Science-Based Strategies to Harness Your Best Time and Get Your Most Important Work Done.

2. How Job Crafting Can Make Your Job More Meaningful

Read this if you're feeling uninspired or frustrated by your career, and need to learn how you can start enjoying your job more, today. Hear from Amy Wrzesniewski, a professor of organizational behavior at the Yale School of Management, who has conducted research on something she calls "Job crafting".

3. How to Use a Winner's Mindset to Become a Champion in the Workplace

Read this if you've always felt envious of champions like LeBron James or Taylor Swift, and if you're curious about the core elements of a winner. Hear from Simon Hazeldine, bestselling author of The Inner Winner: Performance Psychology Tactics That Give You An Unfair Advantage and consultant in the areas of leadership, sales performance, and applied neuroscience, who offers advice on how employees can use performance psychology to perform better in their roles (or, seek new ones).

4. Why Our Formula for Success Is All Wrong

Read this if you're interested in learning about the principles behind positive psychology, how to become happier in the workplace, and why our society's current formula for success is all wrong. Hear from Shawn Achor, who's been featured on Oprah, who's Ted Talk is second most watched of all time, and who's research has been published in Harvard Business Review, The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, and in his own books, including The Happiness Advantage.

5. How Personality Can Determine Job Performance

Read this if you're interested in learning about personality as a predictor of job performance, and how you might apply personality assessments to create a stronger recruitment process. Hear from Dr. Greg Barnett, who has a PhD in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, has consulted almost half of the Fortune 500 companies in the personality assessment domain, and is now the Head of Science at the Predictive Index.

6. How to Cultivate Psychological Safety for Your Team, According to Harvard Professor Amy Edmondson

Read this if you're interested in learning about why psychological safety matters for business innovation, the risks involved in not having psychological safety, and how teams can increase psychological safety in their own workplaces, today. Hear from Amy Edmondson, who first coined the term "psychological safety" in her research in 1999 and is now professor at Harvard Business School and author of the new book, The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth.


Click here to download our free introductory ebook on marketing psychology.


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