1. Want people to trust you? Try apologising for the rain.
“Superfluous apologies represent a powerful and easy-to-use tool for social influence,” the researchers said. “Even in the absence of culpability, individuals can increase trust and liking by saying ‘I’m sorry’ – even if they are merely ‘sorry’ about the rain.”

2. The 100+ most followed psychologists and neuroscientists on Twitter.
When we updated the list in July, the top five were: Andrew Mendonsa (clinical psychologist), Kiki Sanford (neurophysiologist turned science communicator), Sam Harris (neuroscientist and author), Richard Wiseman (psychologist, blogger and author) and Laura Kauffman (child psychologist). Look out for another update next year.

3. Smiling fighters are more likely to lose.
… [UFC] fighters who smiled more intensely prior to a fight were more likely to lose, to be knocked down in the clash, to be hit more times, and to be wrestled to the ground by their opponent (statistically speaking, the effect sizes here were small to medium). On the other hand, fighters with neutral facial expressions pre-match were more likely to excel and dominate in the fight the next day, including being more likely to win by knock-out or submission.

4. A study of suicide notes left by children and young teens.
Contrary to their predictions, the researchers said that “the notes are coherent and do not reveal confusion or overwhelming emotions. The children and young adolescents emphasise their consciousness of what they are about to do and they take full responsibility.”

5. Women’s true maths skills unlocked by pretending to be someone else.
By separating their performance from their own identity, it seems the women performing under an alias no longer felt pressure to avoid being seen as an example of the harmful gender stereotype [that women are weaker at maths than men].

6. Older, more experienced therapists cry more often in therapy.
Looking at the correlates of being a therapist who cries in therapy, it was older, more experienced therapists and those with a psychodynamic approach, who were more likely to be criers. Surprisingly perhaps, female therapists were no more likely to cry in therapy than male therapists, despite the fact that they reported crying more often in daily life than the men.

7. Kids experience schadenfreude by age four, maybe earlier.
The kids of all ages (four to age years) showed evidence of schadenfreude, suggesting their emotional response to another person’s distress was influenced by their moral judgements about that person. That is, they were more likely to say they were pleased and that it was funny if the story character experienced a misfortune while engaging in a bad deed.

8. LEGO figures are getting angrier.

Nevermind increasingly violent video games or the ever-present danger of an uncensored internet, a far more insidious and unexpected change is afoot that could be affecting our children’s emotional development. Researchers have discovered that the faces on LEGO Minifigures are becoming increasingly angry and less happy.

9. The supposed benefits of open-plan offices do not outweigh the costs.
“Our results categorically contradict the industry-accepted wisdom that open-plan layout enhances communication between colleagues and improves occupants’ overall work environmental satisfaction,” the researchers concluded. They added: “… considering previous researchers’ finding that satisfaction with workspace environment is closely related to perceived productivity, job satisfaction and organisational outcomes, the open-plan proponents’ argument that open-plan improves morale and productivity appears to have no basis in the research literature.”

10. Working memory training does not live up to the hype.
The results were absolutely clear. Working memory training leads to short-term gains on working memory performance on tests that are the same as, or similar to, those used in the training. “However,” the researchers write, “there is no evidence that working memory training produces generalisable gains to the other skills that have been investigated (verbal ability, word decoding, arithmetic), even when assessments take place immediately after training.”

Compare this year’s top 10 to last year’s.
See also: the top 10 psychology books of 2013.

Christian Jarrett has edited and written the BPS Research Digest since its inception in 2003 and he created the blog in 2005 (contact him on christianjarrett [@] gmail.com). Christian chooses and writes up the studies covered here. He also compiles the fortnightly Digest email, manages the Twitter and Facebook pages, helps with promotion and advertising, and oversees the new Occupational Digest (edited by Dr Alex Fradera).