Carlson School of Management
  1. Study Finds Using a Treadmill while Working Can Boost Productivity

    Posted: Tuesday March 04, 2014

    12-month study shows the benefits of walking while working extend beyond burning extra calories

    Walking while you work may not only improve an employee's health, it may also boost productivity, according to new research from the University of Minnesota just published in PLOS ONE.

    Professor of Work and Organizations Avner Ben-Ner and his coauthors studied employees using treadmills instead of office chairs as they work. The subjects were 40 employees of a Twin Cities financial services company. Their offices were refitted to have a computer, phone, and writing space on a desk in front of a treadmill to be operated by the employee at up to two mph. The walkers were studied for one year and data on performance and work-related activities and events were collected through surveys of the walkers and their supervisors. Additionally, each walker was given an energy expenditure monitoring device a month before their treadmills were installed. These devices were to be worn continuously during waking hours.

    The results of the study were encouraging - the treadmills had a significantly favorable impact on both physical activity and work performance. As would be expected, walkers were burning more calories than before the study began - by about 7 to 8 percent a day. "It's not a lot, but if you take a sedentary office worker and you spread it around the day, that's a good outcome," Ben-Ner says.

    'Substantial Increase' in Productivity Observed

    More interesting is the marked increase in worker productivity. After an initial decline as employees learned how to adjust to walking while working on their tasks, productivity went up. Production measures were derived from employee and supervisor surveys of quantity of performance, quality of performance, and quality of interaction with co-workers. An overall performance measure was on a 10-point scale. "For the duration of the study, productivity increased by close to a point," Ben-Ner says. "That's a substantial increase."

    Ben-Ner calls the outcome of the study a win-win situation. "It's a health-improving option that costs very little. I think there will be an increasing number of employers who will invest $1,000 or $2,000 in outfitting a persons' workstation," he says. "The employer benefits from the employee being active and healthy and more smart because more blood is flowing to the brain."

    Ben-Ner suggests that future research could examine various circumstances that could affect employee performance. It may be that less physically fit employees or those who have more cognitively complex tasks may gain relatively more from the use treadmill workstations. Generational difference among employees also may play a role.
    "I'm willing to bet my hat and my boots too that millennials will be more open to something like this because they grew up and came of age in a time concerning these types of things," he says. "It will be easier than trying to break in someone who is 50 years old and a lifelong sedentary person and get them to start walking."

    "Treadmill Workstations: The Effects of Walking while Working on Physical Activity and Work Performance" by Avner Ben-Ner, Darla J. Hamann, Gabriel Koepp, Chimnay U. Manohar, and James Levine was published February 20, 2014 by PLOS ONE, an international, peer-reviewed, open-access, online publication.

  2. Ovulation alters women's economic decisions by making them want to have status over other women

    Posted: Friday February 28, 2014

    New research could have important implications for marketers, consumers and researchers.

    For approximately one week every month, millions of women change their economic behavior and become more focused on their social standing relative to other women. According to new research from The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) and the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management, the ovulatory cycle alters women's behavior by subconsciously motivating them to outdo other women. This research could have important implications for marketers, consumers and researchers.

    The researchers conducted three studies, one of which had ovulating and nonovulating women play the "dictator game." In this popular economic experiment, a person is given a fixed amount of money that she can choose to share with another person.

    "We found that ovulating women were much less willing to share when the other person was another woman. They became meaner to other women," said Kristina Durante, assistant professor of marketing at the UTSA College of Business and lead author of the study.

    Whereas nonovulating women shared about 50% of the money with another woman, ovulating women shared only half as much, keeping the rest of the cash for themselves.

    In another study, women made product choices that could either maximize their individual gains or maximize their relative gains compared to other women. For example, women indicated if they preferred to have a $25,000 car while other women got $40,000 cars (Option A) or have a $20,000 car while other women got $12,000 cars (Option B). The study found that ovulating women preferred Option B, choosing products that would give them higher standing compared to other women.

    "What's interesting about this finding is that ovulating women are so concerned about their relative position that they are willing to take less for themselves just so that they could outdo other women," said study coauthor Vladas Griskevicius, associate professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management.

    But the studies find that ovulation doesn't always make women want more status. When women played against a man rather than a woman in the dictator game, the researchers found an even more surprising result. Whereas ovulating women became meaner to women, they became nicer to men. While nonovulating women shared about 45% of the money with a man, ovulating women gave 60% of the money to the man.

    "These findings are unlike anything we have ever seen in the dictator game. You just don't see people giving away more than half of their money," noted Durante. "One possibility is that we're seeing ovulating women share more money as a way to flirt with the men."

    "Money, Status, and the Ovulatory Cycle" was published in the February issue of Journal of Marketing Research and builds on Durante and Griskevicius' previous work that has shown how the ovulatory cycle alters preferences for romantic partners, clothing, food and even politics. Based on studies rooted in theory and research in evolutionary biology and evolutionary consumer behavior, their findings that ovulating women jockey for position over other women is consistent with the literature on animals. For example, studies have shown that female monkeys become more aggressive toward other females when fertile.

    Ultimately, Durante and Griskevicius' findings on women's monthly hormonal fluctuations could have important implications for consumers, marketers and researchers. Marketers especially might be able to use this information strategically by emphasizing the superiority of a given product in advertising, promotions and messages to female consumers.

    The full text article is available here.

  3. University of Minnesota Research Reveals Luxury Products' Role in Relationships

    Posted: Wednesday July 24, 2013

    Study shows women's pricy purchases can keep rivals away from their mate

    Purchasing designer handbags and shoes is a means for women to express their style, boost self-esteem, or even signal status. New University of Minnesota research suggests some women also seek these luxury items to prevent other women from stealing their man.

    Through a series of five experiments featuring 649 women of varying ages and relationship statuses, Carlson School of Management Associate Professor Vladas Griskevicius and PhD student Yajin Wang discovered how women's luxury products often function as a signaling system directed at other women who pose a threat to their romantic relationships.

    "It might seem irrational that each year Americans spend over $250 billion on women's luxury products with an average woman acquiring three new handbags a year, but conspicuous consumption is actually smart for women who want to protect their relationship," says Griskevicius, coauthor of The Rational Animal: How Evolution Made Us Smarter Than We Think. "When a woman is flaunting designer products, it says to other women 'back off my man.'"

    Griskevicius and Wang first investigated what other women infer about a woman's relationship partner based on the luxuriousness of her possessions. "We found that a woman who is wearing luxury items and designer brands is perceived to have a more devoted partner and as a result other women are less likely to flirt with him," says Wang. "Regardless of who actually purchased the items, other women inferred that the man had something to do with it and is thus more devoted to her."

    In another study, Griskevicius and Wang made participants feel jealous by having them imagine that another woman was flirting with their man. Shortly afterward, the women completed a seemingly unrelated task in which they drew a luxury brand logo on a handbag. The result? When women felt jealous, they drew designer logos that were twice the size of those in the other conditions.

    "The feeling that a relationship is being threatened by another woman automatically triggers women to want to flash Gucci, Chanel, and Fendi to other women," explains Wang. "A designer handbag or a pair of expensive shoes seems to work like a shield, where wielding a Fendi handbag successfully fends off romantic rivals."

    Another of Griskevicius and Wang's studies revealed that when romantic relationships were threatened, women not only desired more expensive handbags, cars, cell phones, and shoes, they also spent 32 percent more of their own money for a chance to win an actual luxury spending spree.

    This research highlights that luxury products serve an important function in relationships, but that men and women use conspicuous consumption for a different purpose. Past research by Griskevicius has found that men often seek expensive products to show off to the opposite sex in order to attract them as mates. The current studies reveal that women often seek expensive products to show off to the same sex in order to protect their turf.

    "The fact that most women's luxury products are aimed to impress other women helps explain why men have a hard time figuring out if a woman's handbag costs $50 or $5,000," adds Griskevicius. "Women's designer products are geared to show off to other women not men."

    A surprising finding in the paper was that feelings of jealousy triggered a desire for luxury products not just for women in committed relationships but also for single women. "Many single women obviously want designer products, but instead of these products saying back off my current man, the single woman is saying back off my future man," adds Wang. "Conspicuous consumption for women has a lot to do with subtle status within the female group."

    "Conspicuous Consumption, Relationships, and Rivals: Women's Luxury Products as Signals to Other Women" is currently in press at the Journal of Consumer Research.

  4. If We Go Over the Fiscal Cliff, Will People Spend or Save?

    Posted: Monday January 14, 2013

    Research from Associate Professor of Marketing Vlad Griskevicius suggests childhood environments may hold the key

    In the face of hard times, which strategy gives us the best shot at survival: saving for the future or spending resources on immediate gains? The answer may depend on the economic conditions we faced in childhood, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

    Drawing on life history theory, Associate Professor Vladas Griskevicius of the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management and colleagues hypothesized that the strategy a person takes when times are tight may be determined, at least in part, by features of their childhood environment.

    The researchers hypothesized that people who grew up unpredictable, harsh conditions (e.g., poverty), would take a "fast" strategy, focusing on immediate gains and ignoring long-term consequences. People who grew up in more predictable, comfortable conditions, however, would take a "slow" strategy, delaying immediate gratification in an effort to increase future payoffs.

    In two experiments, the researchers primed half of the participants to think about economic recession. All of the participants then completed tasks related to risk-taking and impulsive decision-making.

    Participants who grew up in poorer homes responded to recession cues with riskier, more impulsive responses than participants in the control group, consistent with a "fast" strategy. They were also faster to approach luxury good temptations. Participants who grew up in wealthier homes, on the other hand, responded to recession cues by showing less risky, less impulsive responses than participants in the control group, consistent with a "slow" strategy. They were also slower to approach the luxury goods.

    In a third experiment, Griskevicius and colleagues found evidence that these different life history strategies may manifest as oxidative stress as detected in urine, a physiological indicator of cellular damage that can be accelerated by environmental stressors (such as those associated with poverty).

    "These experiments show that our early childhood environment can program our life history strategy for the rest of our lives," says Griskevicius. "During good times, the tendencies associated with fast versus slow strategies can be dormant, but they emerge under duress."

    Importantly, these tendencies can influence our responses in automatic and non-deliberative ways -- showing up even at the physiological level.

    The trade-offs we make in times of scarcity have important consequences, but the researchers emphasize that neither strategy is inherently good or bad.

    "Lots of research assumes that delay of gratification is always a good thing, but the current research suggests that it's sometimes smart to be impulsive," Griskevicius explains. "For people who expect to live in a harsh and unpredictable environment, it's more adaptive to be impulsive and maximize present resources and opportunities."


    The APS journal Psychological Science is the highest ranked empirical journal in psychology. For a copy of the article "When the Economy Falters, Do People Spend or Save? Responses to Resource Scarcity Depend on Childhood Environments" and access to other Psychological Science research findings, please contact Anna Mikulak at 202-293-9300 or

  5. Research Sheds New Light on Job Search Demands

    Posted: Wednesday November 28, 2012

    Study helps employed and unemployed job seekers prepare for and cope with challenges

    New research on the challenges and demands that job seekers face may help professionals better navigate their job-search experience. The study, conducted by the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management and TheLadders, and today published in Personnel Psychology, found five layers of context-related, job-search demands encountered by both employed and unemployed job seekers.

    "There is a lot of information on specific job-searching techniques, but there is very little about the process itself," said the paper's lead author Connie Wanberg, the Industrial Relations Faculty Excellence Chair at the Carlson School. "This study provides a realistic preview of the job-search process, as well as lessons about coping with the challenges and surprises people faced."

    The authors conducted a rigorous, qualitative investigation of the experiences of 40 unemployed, 23 employed and nine partially employed white-collar, managerial-level job seekers. Interviewing professionals seeking positions in finance, human resources, marketing, operations and sales allowed the researchers to focus on the difficulties of the job search, rather than economic challenges.

    Analyzing the responses, researchers determined that five major types of context-related, job-search demands existed within employed and unemployed job seekers: omnibus, organizational, social, task and personal. These types, or layers, contained 13 common categories:

    1. Economic conditions
    2. Employment status
    3. Insistence on a perfect match
    4. Lake of professionalism, competence or efficiency
    5. Vague/dated advertising
    6. Demographic discrimination
    7. Social network
    8. Depersonalization
    9. Uncertainty
    10. Repeated rejection
    11. Monotony
    12. Impact on the family and finances
    13. Job decisions

    According to Wanberg, one of the most common obstacles job seekers faced was feeling that they were in a black hole, stuck in a situation from which they cannot escape.

    "Frequently, individuals talked about how they would send their resumes into a black hole and rarely heard back from a company - sometimes even after getting an interview," says Wanberg. "Additionally, we heard that it was challenging to find the right fit between a person's skills and the jobs they were applying for."

    Many job seekers started their search too broadly and learned to become more specific over time. Conversely, others began their search with a too-narrow approach and were later forced to become less specific to achieve success.

    Interview subjects also noted the depersonalization of the search process. Job seekers repeatedly experienced a lack of professionalism by HR departments, citing examples of last-minute cancelations, excessive waiting time, out-of-date job postings, and interviewers who lacked knowledge and experience.

    Coping with Job Search Demands

    While the job-seeking experience was a source of frustration, those who kept a positive attitude with successful coping behaviors found the hunt to be energizing, and were better at developing strategies to manage their situations. Positive responses included maintaining individual self-confidence, exercising, volunteering, seeking job-search advice from a career coach, or making time for fun activities.

    "Job seeker responses indicated several examples of learning, increased insight, and changes of strategy in the search process, said Archana Agrawal, vice president of strategy at TheLadders. "For at least some members of our sample, the enjoyment of job search seemed to stem directly from the challenge involved. Some individuals remarked that they saw the search as a game, or a hunt to be mastered."
    The study also suggests focusing on learning goals that can help job seekers overcome the likely setbacks in the process.

    "Navigating the Black Hole: Explicating Layers of Job Search Context and Adaptational Responses" appears in the current issue of Personnel Psychology. A white paper, commissioned by TheLadders, can be downloaded here.

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