Psykologin bakom lånebeslut

Det finns flera faktorer som påverkar en lånehandläggares beslutsprocess, både individuella och organisatoriska. Vikten av korrekta bedömningar när efterfrågan på lån stiger kan förstås genom att studera de stora ekonomiska kriser som den globala ekonomin har drabbats av som en följd av felaktiga lånebeslut och dess konsekvenser för både banker och kunder.

Carl-Christian Trönnberg har studerat psykologin bakom lånebeslut och kommit fram till att metoderna för att fatta korrekta lånebeslut skilde sig åt mellan bankerna och en bank rapporterade betydligt lägre användning av intuitiva resonemang än de andra.

Dessutom konstaterades att andelen problemlån var högre hos banker som i större utsträckning baserade lånebeslut på så kallad mjuk information e.g. kundrelationer.

Looking smart?

Humans often judge other people’s personality based on superficial characteristics such as the shape of their face or their facial expression. There was even a time when some psychologists believed that personality could be predicted by measuring the human skull (phrenology). But of course this is nonsense. Or is it?


In a recent article in the journal PLoS ONE Karel Kleisner from Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic, and his colleagues found that humans perceive individuals with a long face, sharp chin, larger nose, broader distance between the eyes, and slightly upturned edges of the mouth as more intelligent than individuals with the opposite facial characteristics. Not much of a surprise here. That is what humans do. Make quick judgements of human characteristics based on the cues they have available. However, the surprising finding was that the perception was accurate to a certain degree: those who were perceived as more intelligent in fact were. But this was only the case for men. There was no relationship between perceived and measured intelligence in women. Moreover, extremely intelligent men were perceived as less intelligent. There is an outline of the study on the PsyBlog.


Interestingly enough the authors of the study seem to be more concerned about finding an explanation for why there is NO relationship between perceived intelligence in women than they are in finding one for why there IS such a relationship in men. Thus, further backing up of this study might be necessary. However, what might be of practical interest to our readers are some findings the authors report alongside their key findings. Smiling faces are perceived as more intelligent than angry faces and perceived intelligence is also associated to perceived trustworthiness. Thus, smiling will make you appear more intelligent and trustworthy to others!

Rapport från frukostseminariet om upplevelser i världsklass

Hur gör man serviceproffs av ungdomar som aldrig tidigare jobbat? Hur omsätter man 20 000 ansökningar till Parks and Resorts vision - Upplevelser i världsklass?

Den 26 mars höll cut-e ett frukostseminarium tillsammans med Parks and Resorts om deras framgångsrika HR-arbete. Parks and Resorts är företaget bakom Gröna Lund, Skara Sommarland, Kolmården, Furuvik och Aquaria.

Under seminariet beskrevs Parks and Resorts senaste HR-satsning, utvecklingen av ett Situational Judgement Questionnaire - ett eget skräddarsytt servicetest som bygger på verkliga situationer som möter medarbetarna. Testet är det första i sitt slag i Skandinavien.  I arbetet med att utveckla och validera metoden deltog HR-avdelningen, forskare och psykologer från cut-e, ett 10-tal chefer, över 500 säsongsanställda och studenter från Stockholms universitet.

Stort tack till alla nya och gamla kontakter som deltog i seminariet.

Du missar väl inte cut-e‘s nyhetsbrev? Registrera dig här! Mer information om cut-e Sverige hittar du via

Dealing with undesirable behavior at work: theft

Two weeks ago we learned that 90 percent of people will cheat if they believe they will not get caught and that integrity is not stable, but rather depends on the circumstances. Thus, when intending to prevent dishonest or otherwise undesirable behaviour, employers can either select employees who are less prone to fall for the temptations of a situation or they can change the tempting circumstances. The latter does not seem to be as difficult as one might think.


An article by Wharton professor Adam Grant gives a few examples of such changes and their effectiveness. When stealing occurs in a company, managers often decide to install surveillance systems such as cameras. This can work, as a study by Lamar Pierce from Washington University in St. Louis shows. This, however, might backfire because it creates an atmosphere of mistrust. What Grant suggests is to take a closer look at why the undesirable behaviour happens. He cites a study by Gary Latham from the University of Toronto in which researchers were asked to find a way to reduce theft in a forest products company. Camera surveillance had been installed, but this had led to an increase in theft rates and employees even started stealing the surveillance cameras. What Latham did was find out why employees were stealing, and it turned out that they did it solely for the kick they got out of it. Therefore what the company did was establish a loan policy: employees could borrow whatever they wanted. This resulted in dropping theft rates and also in the return of previously “borrowed” material.


Latham concluded from his finding that stealing can, on the one hand, be dealt with by increasing the cost of stealing, but it can also be prevented by reducing the benefits of stealing. In the present study, it was the kick employees got out of stealing that suddenly was not there anymore after the loan system had been introduced. This is a good example of how a change of circumstances lead to a change in employees’ behavior.


What was the capital of Latvia again? And the French word for “main course”? And what do you call the guy who carries a golf player’s golf clubs and bag? Can’t remember? Well, this does not mean that you have a bad memory. Human memory is complex and it deals with our world surprisingly well, even if we think it is poor.


On his blog psychologist Jeremy Dean outlines some characteristics of our memory that maybe make us revise our idea of having a poor memory. When we are unable to recall something, it does not mean that it is gone, it just means that you do not have access to it at the moment. This means that even when you think you have lost a memory it will still be there and with the right trigger you will be able to recall it. You just need a certain cue. The context in which you learned what you are trying to recall might help. It will be easier to re-learn information you once learned than information that is completely new to you, even if the memory is hard to recall.


Moreover, forgetting is not such a bad thing. Forgetting is actually an integral part of an efficient memory. If we were able to recall everything we had ever learned it would make the process inefficient. A nice example is when trying to recall where you parked your car. Imagine you would recall all the places in which you ever parked it. On the other hand, when we manage to recall memories we should also be aware of the fact recall changes the memory and that recall is not really recall, but rather reconstruction. In an earlier post we learned that it is even possible to implant false memories. Therefore we should not trust our own memories too much.


Moreover, we are not good at assessing our own memory. We overestimate to what extent we will in the future be able to recall things we know or that come to our mind at the moment. Even if the content is very obvious and we believe we will not forget it, it is likely that we will. Just remember a situation in which you put something, e.g. your key, in a place that made absolute sense and then you could not find it any more later on. Thus, if there is something we definitely want to remember, we better write it down right away. Or we use the effortful way of learning it. The more effortful learning, the more effective it will be. Things that are easy to recall are not learnt well; we only learn when we have to work hard to recall something. Learning also depends on context, thus in order to get the learned content independent of context, we have to learn material in different contexts (e.g. in our study, outside, etc.) or we have to make sure to be in the same context in which we learned the material when we want to recall it.


By the way, the capital of Latvia is Riga, French for “main course” is “plat principal”, and the guy with the golf bag is a caddy.

Who can you trust?

This is a question that comes up frequently. You might ask yourself the question when closing a deal with a new business partner or when recruiting employees. If the business partner or employee really proves to be trustworthy, your confidence in them will pay off. But if not, you will be at a disadvantage. Thus, who can you trust and how can you know whom you can trust?


In an article in the Harvard Business Review social psychologist David DeSteno from Northeastern University in Boston addresses these questions. With respect to the first question – who can you trust – he comes to a somewhat disillusioning conclusion. 90 percent of people will cheat if they believe they will not get caught. Integrity is not stable, but rather depends on the circumstances. For example, increasing status and power are related to decreasing honesty and reliability. However, this does not mean that rich people are generally less trustworthy than poor people. Any momentary feeling of higher status, even if experimentally manipulated and just for a very short period of time such as a few hours, will make people act in a less trustworthy way.


We reported on this before: the situations we are in have a great influence on how we behave. However, in this post we also outlined that psychologist Philip Zimbardo identified a few critical aspects of situations that make “bad” behaviour more likely to appear. His research also shows that there are certain personality characteristics that make people less susceptible to the influence of the respective situations. This is for example what cut-e’s questionnaire squares does. It measures how likely someone is to fall for the cues of certain situations and show risky or unethical behaviour.


However, you will not always have such a questionnaire at hand. This takes us to the second question addressed in the introduction: how can you know whom you can trust? It seems that there are several cues of body language that, taken together and only taken together, can be indicators of a person’s trustworthiness: hand touching, face touching, crossing arms, and leaning away from the partner. Subconsciously most humans make use of these cues.


In a video Professor DeSteno explains an experiment they conducted on this topic. They found that individuals trust others more when acting face-to-face as opposed to chatting via computer, and that they subconsciously use exactly the four mentioned gestures to assess the other person’s honesty. Thus you may as well trust your gut feeling when assessing another person’s reliability. Additionally, David DeSteno suggests to be generous to the other person because this will make the other feel grateful, which in turn lowers the risk of them cheating on you. Generate a feeling of similarity, which yields the same effect. And, finally, do not threat the other person to punish dishonest behaviour because this will reduce their intrinsic motivation to be honest.

Synthetic happiness

Have you ever had this feeling that some event in the future will make your life so much better than it is now? For example, finally getting the promotion you have been working for, finding the partner that you have always been longing for, or losing the 10 kg of weight that you have been trying to get rid of for years? And then, finally, you will be the happiest person on the planet? Science says that you might be for a while, but you won’t be for long.


In a TED Talk, psychology professor Dan Gilbert from Harvard University explains that no matter whether we win a lottery or become paraplegic from one day to the other, we will after a certain amount of time return to our initial level of happiness. However, we have the “impact bias”, meaning that we overestimate the hedonic impact of future events. In truth these events have less impact than we think.
Dan Gilbert says there are two kinds of happiness: Natural happiness is when we get what we wanted. Synthetic happiness is what we make when we don’t get it. In a series of experiments he found that humans are actually pretty good at creating it for themselves. On the other hand a lot of misery stems from overrating the difference between the situation one is currently in and the alternative situation – from wanting too much what we do not have at the moment. Thus, he argues that happiness does not so much originate in what happens to us. Rather, we have the power to synthesise our happiness!

What is intelligence?

Intelligence is one of the most widely studied subjects in psychological science. It has been shown to be a good predictor of not only academic and job performance, but also of other life outcomes like socio-economic status, health, or well-being. But what IS intelligence, actually?

An interesting reply to this question comes from research on artificial intelligence (AI) research. Computer scientist Alex Wissner-Gross says: intelligence is a function to maximise future freedom of action and keep options open. In a TED Talk, his explains this notion and how it is applied in computer science.

It is a different perspective and it can be applied to systems that do not only learn, but define their own goals. This field of research is certainly one that is worth following and maybe it will help us understand human intelligence better. We will certainly follow up on this.

2013 top ten brain science studies

Neuroscience gives us fascinating insights into how our brains work and what incredibly flexible and miraculous, but also mysterious organs they are. An article in Forbes Magazine outlines the 2013 top ten brain science studies, with some of them having practical implications for our everyday lives. We outline the article here.


1. The brain takes toxins out of it while we sleep
During daytime, a lot of neurotoxins that are connected to diseases like Alzheimer’s assemble in our brain. Researchers now have found that while we sleep, so-called “hidden caves” in our brain open up and neurotoxins are flushed out by cerebrospinal fluid, a fluid found in the brain and spine. This study implies that our brain needs sleep to get rid of the waste it assembles during the daytime. Thus, lack of sleep is likely to be a brain killer.
The original article was published in the journal Science.


2. In our brain, we are closely connected to our friends
When we see that our friends are exposed to physical pain, the regions in our brain fire that are activated when we experience physical pain ourselves. This is not the case when we see strangers exposed to physical pain. This literally means that our loved ones become a part of ourselves.
The original article was published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.


3. We can see even though we might not realise it
Many regions in the brain seem to be involved in vision. There is a primary area, the visual cortex, which enables us to see the way we are used to. Sometimes this area is destroyed so that people are unable to see although their eyes and optic nerves are fully functional. This is called cerebral blindness. Researchers found that in a patient with cortical blindness, other regions in the brain can still detect another person’s gaze. What implications this has cannot be said at the moment, but it shows us once more how complex the brain is and maybe the insight can one day be used for helping people with cerebral blindness and maybe even other impairments of vision get along better in our vision-oriented world.
The original article was published in the journal Neuroscience.


4. Stress is related to cancer
There is a lot of research out there linking stress to cancer, but the findings are controversial. Now a study found stress to accelerate prostate cancer and make it less responsive to cancer drugs. Researchers assume that the stress hormone epinephrine turns off the cell death programme that would otherwise prevent cancer cells from growing.
The original study was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.


5. Extravert or introvert? Maybe both.
A well-studied personality trait is extraversion-introversion, with the extravert being outgoing, sociable, and sensation seeking, while the introvert is rather quiet, conscientious, and careful. Often the notion is that you are either one or the other, but not both. Recent research now found that there is indeed something in between, called ambiverts, who can switch between the two extremes depending on the needs of the situation. The study found ambiverts to be the best salespersons because they are on the one hand outgoing and convincing enough to close the deal and on the other hand able to listen to their clients. By the way, the study also found introverts to be just as good salespersons as extraverts.
The original study was published in the journal Psychological Science.


6. Growing a mini-brain from stem cells
Researchers were able to grow a mini brains that have distinct regions from stem cells. They did so by first nourishing the stem cells by certain nutrients and then putting the tissue they had grown into a bioreactor containing oxygen and nutrients. The mini-brains that had been created this way contained firing neurons and brain regions like the retina and cerebral cortex. This is still very basic research, but maybe this can one day cure heal brain diseases or injuries.
There is an article on this study on the Reuters homepage.


7. Exercise benefits the brain
There is evidence that exercise helps grow new brain cells, particularly in the hippocampus, the brain region associated with learning and memory, and particularly endurance exercise seems to foster neuron growth here. A recent study now taps into the mechanisms behind this effect and shows that exercise boosts the release of Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BNDF) via a protein. BNDF in turn stimulates the growth of neurons and preserves them.
The original article was published in the journal Cell Metabolism.


8. Enhancing our self-control
Researchers found that the region in our brain that is associated with self-control, the prefrontal cortex, can be stimulated by weak electrical stimulation. When stimulated in this way, study participants were better able to control themselves. The findings might help cure diseases like Tourette Syndrome, but maybe it can eventually also help us in understanding how we can enhance our self-control when we are healthy, but slightly undisciplined persons.
The original study was published in the journal Neuroscience.


9. Measuring consciousness
A topic that is constantly under discussion and always on the media is the question when someone can be declared dead. Often in patients who have suffered severe brain injury this is difficult to tell. A new method now seems to be able to detect whether there is still consciousness in the brain that could predict the patient’s recovery. The procedure entails three steps: first, the brain is exposed to a magnetic pulse that is supposed to wake it up. Then brain wave activity as a response to the pulse is measured and finally the activity is further analysed using a certain formula that can classify the complexity of the brain activity. The tool is designed to shed light on the question whether or not a patient will recover from the injuries.
The original study was published in the journal Science.


10. Coffee reduces the risk of suicide
A meta-analysis of over 200,000 people found caffeine to reduce the risk of suicide. Two to four cups of coffee seemed to be enough for this. The mechanism behind this seems to be the fact that caffeine is similar to a chemical in the brain, adenosine, that blocks receptors in the nervous system that receive signals for decreasing energy expenditure. Thus, caffeine seems to prevent the reduction of energy and stimulate the brain.
The original article was published in The World Journal of Biological Psychiatry.
The full article is available on the Forbes Magazine website.


What sort of office is beneficial for performance?

What kind of office makes us most creative, enhances productivity, creates a great working atmosphere and a sense of cohesion amongst employees? For a long time, it has been thought that an open environment would be ideal because it enhances communication and idea flow. However, recent research questions this notion.


An article in the New Yorker summarises research on open office environments and comes to a clear conclusion: this kind of setting enhances neither creativity nor productivity. For example, researchers followed up on a transition from a classical office to an open environment and found job performance, satisfaction with physical environment, and interpersonal relationships to deteriorate, while stress level rose. Moreover, a meta-analysis of over a hundred studies on open environments revealed that this setting is harmful for attention span, productivity, creative thinking, and job satisfaction. Finally, one study also found people who work in an open environment to be on sick leave more often than people working in smaller offices.

The results found are in line with research on what is beneficial for concentration, performance and team cohesion. For example, one big issue with open space offices is noise, which in turn is known to have a negative impact on concentration. Even worse, it is harmful for health because it raises the level of stress hormones. Furthermore, a sense of privacy is related to job performance, while feeling in control of your environment is beneficial for team cohesion and satisfaction. This sense of control includes for example adjusting temperature and lighting in a room, but also the way in which meetings are conducted.

There also seems to be an effect of age: younger individuals do not seem to be as affected by the detrimental effects of an open environment as older ones are. This might be due to the fact that they are more used to things like multi-tasking and dealing with distraction. However, their work performance is also affected by working in an open environment: those who are good at multi-tasking (i.e. those who are usually the ones that deal well with an open space office) are more susceptible to distractions than those who are not.

Generally, interruptions seem to be very detrimental to concentration and performance. We reported on this before. In consequence, for getting things done, it is important to be able to stick with them for elongated periods of time. The risk of being interrupted is greater in an open space office than in smaller ones.

Thus, to sum up the research mentioned: open space offices are detrimental for performance, team cohesion, and health and therefore whenever there is the choice, smaller offices should be preferred.

If I was rich…

If you were a rich person, would you behave differently from the way you behave now? How would you treat others around you? By contrast, what would change if you were poor? Not much, you think? Social psychologists are likely to disagree based on findings from a number of studies – they say your financial situation has a huge impact on your behaviour towards others.

Social psychologist Paul K. Piff from University of California at Berkeley was interested in the question how the experience of being a privileged player in a rigged game changes the way that people think about themselves and regard the other player. He conducted an experiment with 100 pairs of players in which he let them play the game of Monopoly. One of them was assigned a rich and the other a poor person’s role – randomly by flipping a coin. Dr. Piff was interested to see how their behaviour would change. The rich player began to move around the board louder and showed more signs of dominance while becoming ruder and less sensitive towards the other player. Finally, they became more demonstrative of their success and even ate more of the snack provided than the poor players. When rich players reflected upon why they had inevitably won this rigged game afterwards, they talked about what they had done to earn their success of the game. They ignored the features of the situation like the flipped coin that put them into the situation.

For some reason, blogger does not allow us to embed the TED Talk today, therefore we give you the link to Paul Piff’s TED Talk here: Paul Piff: Does money make you mean?
Being wealthy seems to considerably change people’s behaviour. Other experiments showed that richer people are less likely to share money they are given by the experimenter with a stranger and more likely to cheat in a game for winning a prize. Participants who were rich took two times as much candy from a jar that had been declared to be exclusively reserved for kids. Being wealthy seems to lead to more feelings of entitlement and higher self-interest, which may lead to outcomes like rule-breaking e.g. in traffic or unethical behaviour in work contexts.

However, this does not mean that rich people are bad people. Rather, it is more evidence for the fact that it is not only personality that determines our behaviour, but just as much the situations we are in. Psychologist Philip Zimbardo showed this in a very imposing manner in his famous Stanford prison experiment: people like you and me were randomly assigned either the role of a prisoner or of a guard. Within no time, the guards showed such brutal behaviour that the experiment needed to be stopped. Thus, apparently it does not require much for turning from a normal into an “evil” person. He identifies certain critical aspects of a situation that make counterproductive work behaviours more likely to appear: (1) Distraction: the individual is faced with many temptations; (2) Ambiguity: there are no clear rules; (3) Boredom: there is little variety; (4) Indifference: there is no cooperation; (5) Opportunism: the individual does not have his or her own opinions; (6) Superficiality: the individual does not think through the situation, behaviour and consequences.

On the other hand, there are interindividual differences in how likely people are to fall for the temptations of a situation and there are attributes that determine an individual’s susceptibility to the above mentioned critical aspects of situations (Zimbardo, 2007). These attributes can be summarized in two categories: impulse control and ethical awareness.

We could transfer this whole idea back to the context of work and ask: what makes an employee display unethical or risky behaviours? Based on Prof. Zimbardo’s findings, we can assess to what extent employees are prone to showing such behaviours in certain situations. This is e.g. what cut-e’s questionnaire squares does. It measures how likely someone is to fall for the cues of certain situations and show risky or unethical behaviour.

The good news about these findings is: the mechanism also works the other way round. For example, Paul Piffs points out that small psychological interventions can restore egalitarianism and empathy. Stressing values like cooperation, community, and compassion, and making rich people aware of the needs of others around them can considerably change their behaviour. Similarly, one can assume that a lot of counterproductive work behaviours can be changed by simply making people aware of the issues, of the consequences of their behaviour and of others’ needs.