New research facility has business in mind

2 October 2007 –for immediate release

A ground-breaking research centre devoted to understanding the way we think and act in the workplace has been launched at Aston Business School in Birmingham.

The Organisational Cognitive Neuroscience Centre (OCNC) is believed to be one of the first of its kind in the world and will also conduct research into our thought-processes as consumers.

The OCNC will look to develop existing research on subjects such as the so-called toxic manager syndrome and how decision-making, such as appointing new members of staff, can be influenced by the attractiveness of candidates.

Launched by Dr Michael Butler and Dr Nick Lee of Aston Business School, part of Aston University, and Dr Carl Senior of the university’s School of Life and Health Sciences, the OCNC will particularly look at ways in which organisational cognitive neuroscience can be applied in the world of business.

“Our aim is to advance theoretical understanding of the cognitive processes which underlie human behaviour in markets and organisations,” explains Dr Senior, “and to develop applications which have socially and managerially-beneficial outcomes.

“Effectively, we will be looking at the differences in our thought-processes when we enter the workplace or a business environment and trying to understand why those changes happen.”

There have been a number of advances in brain imaging techniques in recent years and Dr Lee adds that the OCNC will look to bring existing research strands together to provide a much deeper understanding.

“In some respects we are taking two steps backwards in order to progress,” he continues. “But there will be significant practical applications in doing this.

“For example, there is an application in terms of marketing science and advertising. We absorb different information in different ways and through cognitive neuroscience techniques we will be able to understand a lot more about how and why people process the information in advertisements. This will enable business to target consumers more effectively.”

Such practical applications are key to both the creation of the OCNC and the type of work the research team will be concentrating on. All three Directors of the OCNC are keen to stress that one of the aims is to make links to practice, so that when they collaborate in research they will work on practical issues that affect organisational members.

Dr Butler explains that the trio will be publishing a book in December linked to the launch of the OCNC, which will also expand on ways in which businesses and organisations can use the expertise and research gathered at the centre.

“Traditionally in organisations you have observed behaviour,” he says. “But we want to go deeper and take a detailed look at the motivations that make people think and act in the way they do in a business environment, either as an employee or a consumer.

“As well as developing the idea of the toxic manager – the effective manager who meets all his goals and targets and yet has very poor relationships with subordinates – we can also look into why we choose particular banks or buy CDs from particular shops.”

The OCNC will provide research leadership, by way of high-quality publications, innovative research collaborations and original doctoral-level research in what is still the embryonic field of organisational cognitive neuroscience.


Note to editors:

• Dr Carl Senior – A Lecturer in Cognitive Neuroscience in the Neurosciences Research Institute at the School of Life and Health Sciences, Aston University, Carl Senior has published extensively on a range of topics in the cognate disciplines in high impact journals such as Nature. He has edited two books, Neuroimaging in Psychiatry (Dunitz Press, 2003) and Methods in Mind (The MIT Press, 2006) and also the Guest Editor, along with Dr Gina Rippon, of a special issue of the International Journal of Psychophysiology titled “Cognitive neuroscience: the new psychophysiology ?”

• Dr Nick Lee - The Research Convenor for the Marketing Group at Aston Business School, Aston University, Nick Lee is also the Director of the Research Degrees programme within the Marketing Group. His main research interests all flow from the domains of social/organisational psychology and research methods. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Marketing Science, and serves on the editorial boards of a number of academic journals. He is a regular reviewer for a number of other internationally-reputed journals.

• Dr Michael Butler - A Lecturer in the Work and Organisational Psychology Group at Aston Business School, Aston University, Michael Butler's teaching reflects his research interests in change management/strategy, decision-making (behavioural), discourse analysis, government and society and organisation behaviour/theory. In particular, he is currently researching two streams of activity: downsizing in the motor industry and the neurosciences of leadership and decision-making.

• The OCNC is based at Aston University and has an Advisory Board of Dr Gina Rippon, Professor Graham Hooley, Professor Paul Furlong, Professor Michael West, Professor Stefano Seri and Professor Robert Martin.

• For more information go to www.aston.ac.uk/ocnc, where Carl Senior, Michael Butler and Nick Lee also discuss the creation of the OCNC in a podcast.

Media enquiries:

• Paul Groves, Honorary Visiting Journalist, Aston Business School, Aston University, Birmingham. Email:p.d.groves@aston.ac.uk; Tel: 0121 204 3025; 07899 755252.

• Colleen Bass, Marketing and Planning Co-ordinator, Aston Business School, Aston University, Birmingham. Email:c.p.bass@aston.ac.uk; Tel: 0121 204 3057.

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