Research: Having a Black Doctor Led Black Men to Receive More-Effective Care

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In the U.S., racial and ethnic minorities have higher rates of chronic disease, obesity, and premature death than white people. Black patients in particular have among the worst health outcomes, experiencing higher rates of hypertension and stroke. And black men have the lowest life expectancy of any demographic group, living on average 4.5 fewer years than white men.

A number of factors contribute to these health disparities, but one problem has been a lack of diversity among physicians. African Americans make up 13% of the U.S. population, but only 4% of U.S. doctors and less than 7% of U.S. medical students. (Of active U.S. doctors in 2013, 48.9% were white, 11.7% were Asian, 4.4% were Hispanic or Latinx, and 0.4% were American Indian or Alaska Native.) Research has found that physicians of color

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Why It’s So Hard for Us to Visualize Uncertainty

The U.S. presidential election did not unfold the way so many predicted it would. We now know some of the reasons why—polling failed—but watching the real-time results on Tuesday night wasn’t just surprising, it was confusing. Predictions swung back and forth, and it was hard to process the information that was coming in. So not only did the data seem wrong, the way we were presenting that data seemed wrong too. The next day I asked my colleague Scott Berinato, our data visualization expert,  if he would help explain this uncertainty—how we dealt with it, why it was so hard to grasp, and what’s so challenging about visualizing it. Nicole: What did you notice about how election predictions were being shown Tuesday night? Scott: A lot of people were were looking at the New York Times’ live presidential forecast, where you’d see a series of gauges
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Why Sourcing Local Food Is So Hard for Restaurants

As globalization has created longer and increasingly complex food supply chains, there has been a concomitant surge in demand for locally-sourced food. Some companies have ridden this wave. Chipotle, for example, differentiated itself from other restaurants by building a brand around a promise of fresh and local ingredients. But after the chain was linked to outbreaks of E. coli, norovirus, and salmonella last year, its emphasis on local sourcing was called into question. It turns out that a shorter supply chain doesn’t necessarily mean a less complicated one; in fact, working with smaller local producers can bring its own set of challenges, particularly when it comes to food safety testing and preparation. Chipotle has ramped up efforts to improve food safety since then, reportedly hiring two leading food safety experts and investing $10 million in helping smaller suppliers meet their updated safety standards. I recently spoke to Professor John Quelch,
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Why Do So Few Women Edit Wikipedia?

In 2008, a survey found that less than 13% of Wikipedia contributors worldwide were women. The free online encyclopedia that “anyone can edit” was outed as being mostly run by men. A follow up survey in 2011 found similar results: globally, 9% of contributors were women; in the U.S., it was 15%. Meanwhile, there appeared to be no significant gender difference in readership rates. These findings sparked profuse debate over what was discouraging women from contributing — yet there hasn’t been much of a change since then. Last year, Jimmy Wales, the founder of the Wikimedia Foundation, which runs the site, said that the organization failed to meet its goal of increasing women’s participation to 25% by 2015, despite launching several initiatives. This is as much of a business issue for Wikipedia as it is a societal one for the information age. Even though it is the
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To Recover Faster from Rejection, Shift Your Mindset

Everyone knows what rejection feels like. It’s a universal (and universally disliked) experience, but it’s one that we each experience differently. For the most part, people are pretty good at moving on with their lives — even better than they might guess. Sometimes, though, getting rejected hurts more than we expect, especially if our immediate response is to become self-critical. So what makes one person more resilient than another in the face of rejection? This is a popular topic in psychology, and researchers have investigated many contributing factors, such as differing attachment styles, coping mechanisms, and levels of self-esteem. But Lauren Howe, a doctoral student in social psychology at Stanford, wanted to understand why some people change how they see themselves after a rejection — and how this tendency differentiates who recovers over time and who continues to suffer. She learned that her professor, the psychologist Carol Dweck, had
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Narcissistic Students Get Better Grades from Narcissistic Professors

We’ve all heard it: Millennials are more narcissistic, entitled, and self-indulgent than generations past. Whether that makes you nod your head or roll your eyes — the evidence, after all, remains controversial and polarizing — the idea that narcissism has increased among college students over the last 25 years is worrisome from an organizational perspective. Millennials are the next generation of leaders. And while we know narcissism can be useful at times, research has linked narcissists’ sense of entitlement and belief that the rules don’t always apply to them to a range of counterproductive work behaviors, such as embezzlement, workplace incivility, bullying, and white-collar crime. So in 2011, Jim Westerman, a professor at Appalachian State University’s Walker College of Business, conducted a study of 16 professors and 536 undergraduate students in business and psychology. He wanted to see whether Millennial students were more narcissistic than their predecessors (they were) and, more
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Proof That Women Get Less Credit for Teamwork

Being able to work well with others is a standard requirement for most jobs today. But a new study suggests that women do not get their fair share of credit for group work, especially when they work with men. Heather Sarsons, a PhD candidate in economics at Harvard, gathered data on economists to see how teaming up with others (in this case to coauthor a paper) affects the likelihood of getting promoted (i.e., getting tenure), and whether it differs by gender. She found that coauthored papers correlate with fewer promotions for female academics. Women essentially experience a collaboration penalty, which is most pronounced when women coauthor with men and less pronounced the more female coauthors there are on a paper. Men, however, are not penalized at all for collaborating. Women are tenured at far lower rates than men in academia, and prior research has found that this can’t be
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It’s Better to Avoid a Toxic Employee than Hire a Superstar

Superstar employees are the obsession of the corporate world. They’re highly sought after, given the most attention and the best opportunities, generously rewarded, and expressly reassured after setbacks. And while some question whether such special treatment is appropriate, it’s clear that this group has outsize influence: high-performers have been estimated to be four times as productive as average workers, and research has shown that they may generate 80% of a business’s profits and attract other star employees. They can comprise the top 3% to 20% of a company’s workforce. But according to a recent working paper from Harvard Business School, there’s another group that can have an even greater effect on organizations: toxic workers. These are talented and productive people who engage in behavior that is harmful to an organization, say authors Dylan Minor, a visiting assistant professor at HBS, and Michael Housman, Chief Analytics Officer at
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What Generous People’s Brains Do Differently

Some people make giving look effortless. They’re the kind of people who bring donuts on Friday mornings and don’t think twice before helping overwhelmed colleagues, even if it means they end up working late (again). For these “givers,” taking one for the team comes too easily, and their needs often end up by the wayside. Meanwhile, others face more of a struggle when it comes to putting the group first. So how do the givers do it? What’s the difference? New research from the emerging field of neuroeconomics suggests that being generous is not as tough as some people think. But even so, it is pretty rare. To figure out why giving feels harder for some than for others, scientists at CalTech and Harvard studied what actually happens in the brain when people make an altruistic choice—one that benefits another at a cost to themselves. They found that
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Just Hearing Your Phone Buzz Hurts Your Productivity

By now we know that we’re (mostly) not supposed to multitask — that we can’t do two things at once very well and that it takes us a while to refocus when we switch from one task to another. This is why we put our phones screen-side down and slightly out of reach when we want to focus on something or show someone that we’re paying attention. But unless your phone is fully silenced or off, it’s probably still distracting you. The familiar buzz buzz of a new notification is not as innocuous as it seems. This may sound intuitive. But many people (including myself) might not realize just how beneficial switching from vibrate to silent can be. A new piece of research, “The Attentional Cost of Receiving a Cell Phone Notification,” reports that the reverberations of new notifications can distract us, even when we don’t look over to
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Survey: How Does Late-Night Emailing Affect You?


Looking for Problems Makes Us Tired

Photo by Andrew Nguyen

When employees see something amiss, you want them to be able to speak up. GM’s safety scandal last year is a good reminder why; the Challenger and Columbia explosions are classic case studies. People often avoid raising difficult issues, so the struggle to encourage this behavior has become a perennial management problem.

The latest addition to the corpus of research on this suggests why: Speaking up can wear us out. A new paper, forthcoming later this year in the Journal of Applied Psychology, studies the effects of different kinds of speech on employees. In “A Suggestion to Improve a Day Keeps Your Depletion Away,” authors Szu-Han (Joanna) Lin and Russell E. Johnson found that expressing concern and criticism (what’s called prohibitive voice) was more mentally taxing than suggesting ideas for improvement (promotive voice), and this mental fatigue led to increased reluctance to speak up again, later. Conversely, speaking up with ideas seemingly reduced employees’ fatigue.

This isn’t the first time the researchers have studied how desirable behaviors have consequences. We know that being fair, for example, leads to more motivated employees — but Johnson’s previous research found that enforcing fairness can take a mental and emotional toll on supervisors. He and Lin suspected that constantly monitoring for problems or mistakes could have a similar tiring effect.

To find out, they conducted two studies. Along with measuring the subsequent effects of prohibitive and promotive voice, they also looked at the personalities that prompted them. Psychologists have long drawn a distinction between promotion-focused personalities and prevention-focused personalities. People with a strong promotion focus are motivated by new opportunities and the potential for gain, while those with a strong prevention focus are more motivated by avoiding risk and loss.

In the first study, they collected data from self-reported surveys in four waves, separated by one-week intervals. Participants were asked to rate various statements on a five-point scale, with five being the most accurate. And according to the researchers, a separate validation study showed that the self-reports were good proxies for actual voice behavior.

The first week, researchers assessed focus with items such as: “Right now, I am focused on achieving positive outcomes at work” and “Right now, I am focused on preventing negative events at work.” The second week, they assessed voice behavior: “I proactively develop and make suggestions for issues that may influence the unit;” “I dare to point out problems when they appear in the unit, even if that would hamper relationships with colleagues.” Third, they measured mental fatigue or depletion: “I feel drained;” “Right now, it would take a lot of effort for me to concentrate on something.” Week

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