Organizational Neuroscience

Organizational neuroscience is an emerging field in management and organizational psychology that studies the role of the brain in workplace behavior. The aim is to investigate how neuroscience and its methodological toolkit (from brain imaging to hormonal studies) can advance theory and research in organizational behavior. We study, for example, the neural mechanisms involved in followership, the role of eye gazing in leadership emergence, and the hormonal correlates associated with prestige versus dominance-based leadership. We also use big data approaches to uncover potential biases in personnel selection, salaries and bonuses. Finally, we raise meta-theoretical questions about the field of organizational neuroscience, asking whether knowledge about the evolution of the human brain can aid modern organizational practices.


Leadership in Organizations

Effective leadership depends on the social dynamics between leaders and followers. We study questions such as the evolution of leadership across species, the emergence of leadership in teams, the role of physical (faces, bodies) and psychological traits (overconfidence, integrity) in leadership selection, and the role of gender and hierarchy in organizations.

We adopt an evolutionary perspective on leadership that crosses disciplinary boundaries and utilizes innovative methodologies, from biological markers, personality assessment, game theory, physiological measures, implicit and explicit measures, to fine-grained social interaction analyses.

Our combined expertise allow us to give sophisticated answers to questions about leader emergence and leader effectiveness. In addition, through the Leadership Lab we offer organizational practitioners theoretical and practical insights into how they can assess and develop leadership potential in the workforce.

Team and boardroom dynamics

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”

Ideally this statement is true when we work in teams. However, as probably most of us know from experience, team cooperation does not happen naturally. Instead, teams sometimes have destructive meeting dynamics or face challenges related to leadership, diversity, timing, and performance. Our research focuses on gathering insights into the positive and negative aspects of team work and providing evidence-based management strategies to tackle the potential problems of team cooperation in work teams, (senior) management teams and supervisory boards. We study from a psychological perspective a range of temporal team processes such as interaction patterns, the creation of shared mindsets, or emergent affective states. We seek to generate rigorous insights that are relevant both for research and for practice to ultimately help teams, at all levels of the organization, to become more effective.

Personality at Work

During selection procedures, obtaining reliable and valid estimates of the extent to which applicants are honest, emotional, extravert, agreeable, conscientious, and open to experience is of paramount importance for organizations to create an effective and committed workforce.

In our research, we focus on the six-dimensional HEXACO model of personality, which—according to cross-cultural lexical research—offers a more optimal description of personality than the more well-known Big Five personality model. By using a Situation-Trait-Outcome Activation (STOA) model, we investigate what effect personality has on, in, and through work-related situations.

When investigating personality, we especially focus on what we call the Three Nightmare Traits (TNT): low honesty-humility, low conscientiousness, and low agreeableness, which can have an especial detrimental effect on organizations, especially if a TNT person is in a leadership position.

Furthermore, we are interested in response biases (e.g., social desirability) in selection situations and how these can be reduced by using more unobtrusive measures of personality, such as games or through speech analysis. In the course of our research, we have constructed a number of personality, leadership, and communication styles instruments that are widely used by practitioners in the Netherlands and Belgium.