Research Areas

Given the identity as a research team in HRM and OB and the associated I/O Psychology Master program, the team conducts research in a broad and varied range of topics. These include – but are not limited to:

HRM: Managerial Assessment

Assessment centers represent one of the key selection procedures for assessing managerial talent. In assessment centers, managers participate in simulations of future job tasks while being rated by trained assessors. In past research, the team discovered practical and evidence-based approaches for improving assessor training, distinct dimension measurement, and behavioral elicitation. Current research endeavors deal with the validity of hybrid assessment procedures and speed assessment for assessing adaptability and interpersonal competencies.

HRM: Situational Judgment Tests and High Stakes Selection

Situational Judgment tests confront applicants with descriptions of job-related scenarios and ask them to choose one of several predetermined responses. There exists a lot of interest to use situational judgment tests as supplements to more traditional cognitive ability tests in high-stakes testing (e.g., in the context of college admissions or in personnel selection). In the past, the research team set up and led a research program spanning ten years with great scientific significance and considerable international visibility. The team’s research showed that people’s scores on Situational Judgment Tests constructed as part of a college admission (to medical studies) were more predictive over the years, had incremental validity over cognitive ability tests, and were even able to predict physicians’ job performance nine years later. Recent research focuses on the role of situations in Situational Judgment Tests and how situation assessment in Situational Judgment Tests can be better understood and optimized.

HRM: Employer Branding and Organizational Attractiveness

The research team investigated which factors make organizations attractive to applicants. The Department was one of the pioneers to embed constructs from marketing such as the instrumental-symbolic framework and word-of-mouth into this domain. This is relevant as applicants’ job search and decision-making processes have a lot of parallels with consumers’ product choice in high involvement purchase decisions.

HRM: Adverse impact

The current practice of personnel selection faces the challenge of reconciling the competing goals of obtaining high-quality employees as well as a diverse workforce. The research team developed decision systems to weigh different predictors for balancing these seemingly competing goals, but also designed selection instruments (e.g., with multimedia stimulus formats and open-ended response formats) with less adverse impact and equal validity.

Organizational Behavior: Feedback

Providing feedback is one of the most widely accepted and applied psychological interventions across a wide range of settings. In general, feedback is believed to direct, motivate, and reward behavior. However, contrary to common sense, the feedback literature revealed that feedback interventions do not produce unequivocal positive effects on motivation and performance. The research team discovered how feedback interventions can be facilitated by reflection interventions, identified the main affective and cognitive mechanisms of feedback interventions, and examined under which conditions the best learning effects are to be expected.

Organizational Behavior: Motivation

The research team predominantly adopted a self-motives approach to the study of motivation underlying organizational behavior. For instance, studies of the research team examined how implicit downward and upward comparisons with colleagues determine pay satisfaction, how the interplay between different self-motives guide feedback-seeking, how implicit motives determine job search, how competitive motives lead to decreased performance and how intrinsic motivation is related to innovative behavior.

Organizational Behavior: Learning

In recent years, on-the-job, informal, and experiential learning has emerged as one of the most prevalent development strategies. Yet, a good theoretical understanding of the learning mechanisms is lacking. In addition, organizations and HR practitioners are currently in the dark as to how they may facilitate learning from experience in practice. The current lines of research of the Department discovered how active reflection interventions help people to learn from experience, and how providing different types of job challenges may be instrumental for competence development at different career stages.

Organizational Behavior: Proactive and innovative behavior

Organizations striving to keep their position in a global and competitive market, are under constant pressure to make the right decisions, to expand their business, and to come up with new and exciting products and services. In this respect, the notion of employees taking on a more proactive role by taking charge and coming up with new creative ideas has been advanced as a key element for organizational effectiveness. The research team scrutinized how innovative and proactive work behavior can be facilitated (for instance by developing new assessment instruments of proactive behavior, by conducting a meta-analysis of predictors of feedback-seeking behavior and by revealing how creativity shifts during the day by the dynamic interplay of positive and negative affect).

Occupational Health Psychology: Work stress and job demands

Historically, most research in occupational health psychology was targeted to exploring negative job related outcomes (e.g., stress, job strain, burnout, depression, sickness absence). Conversely, research in the last decade has focused rather on health and positive employee wellbeing. The Department studied both negative (work stress) and positive work outcomes (wellbeing and engagement). Two basic work stress models in this line of research are the Demand Control Model and the Effort Reward Imbalance Model. Using these models, the Department has, for instance, examined the value of these models for predicting emotional exhaustion, burnout, absence, learning motivation, and its underlying mechanisms in a variety of settings (e.g., teachers, health workers, IT professionals).

Organizational Research Methods: Survey and Scale Design

The goal of this research line is to address relevant methodological developments to help researchers working in areas represented within the domains of the organizational sciences and to promote a more effective understanding of current and new methodologies as applied in organizational research. Most of the research in this area focused on scale development and validation and on survey design. For instance, research of the Department revealed that adding frame-of-reference tags to personality scale items yields higher validities. Furthermore, meta-analytic research of the group identified specific response-enhancing techniques that are most effective for increasing survey response in specific samples. Finally, the extent to which method bias may negatively affect the validity of longitudinal surveys was examined.

Consumer Research: green consumption

To a growing extent, people take into account the environmental impact of their consumption choices (e.g., by purchasing organic produce or low-emission cars). But assessing environmental impact poses a much greater challenge to consumers than evaluating other benefits that are less abstract in nature (e.g., price, quality, taste,...). The research team tries to identify optimal ways of communicating sustainability related information to consumers. Research in the department has for instance uncovered the negative footprint illusion: Although adding a green to a non-green food product necessarily increases total environmental impact (footprint), consumers will sometimes erroneously estimate the total environmental impact of the combination of the green and non-green product lower than the same non-green product alone.

Consumer research: technology-based consumption

In catering to consumers, companies are grappling with the proliferation of digital platforms for offering products and services. Research in our department includes the design of measures that are valid for equivalently measuring satisfaction in offline and online retail. Specific attention also goes to digital content and the issue of digital piracy. Research in the department has identified key market segments in the consumer market for music and has shown that music piracy can best be countered by offering streaming services with a freemium model (with advertising based revenues for segments with a low willingness to pay, mainly younger age groups).

Assessment: Emotions and emotion intelligence

Emotions play a key role in all wakes of life. We develop new instruments for emotions and emotional intelligence based on the componential emotion framework. Within this framework emotions are defined as multi-componential processes that are elicited by goal-relevant events. The most widely recognized components are the appraisal, action tendency, bodily reaction, expression, and feeling components. In collaboration with the University of Geneva, Switzerland, we have demonstrated that emotion terms refer to specific appraisals, action tendencies, bodily reactions, expressions, and feelings across very different linguistic and cultural groups. We now apply this model for the assessment of guilt and shame. In this project we investigate whether the proposed difference between guilt and shame cultures can be empirically confirmed. Furthermore, we develop also new instruments for emotional intelligence that assess how well people understand the components of the emotion process in the context of their personal life and in the work context.

Assessment: Bias and equivalence

When assessment instruments are used with participants from different cultural groups it cannot be assumed that they assess the same psychological construct on the same scale. We investigate bias and equivalence in psychological assessment instruments, both in the context of cross-cultural research and in applied settings, such as in the selection setting. In our research we try to go beyond the mere identification of bias and try to understand the cultural causes of the bias. The acculturation orientation of the respondents is one of the explanations we currently focus on.