Category: Announcements

Our 10 most popular posts of 2016

Adorable toddler girl with looking directly at the camera
Three-year-olds keep track of when you’re indebted to them

It’s been a funny old year, but through it all we’ve kept on doing our thing and loved every minute of it: bringing you daily reports on the latest psychology research. Contributing writer Alex Fradera and I have covered the entire field, everything from the way infant memory works to research on the psychophysiology of post-sex pillow talk. We told you about failed replication attempts, including smiling apparently not having an effect on mood, and provided feature-length research roundups on topics like eye contact and psychology myths. We released four episodes of our PsychCrunch podcast, including an Olympic special on how to use psychology to be a stronger competitor. Roughly twice per month we also published brilliant guest contributions from psychologists and science writers, including posts on why so many people dislike the word moist and how teens are more likely to reject junk food when it’s framed as rebellion.

I like to think that our stories might have helped you make sense of topical events, nurtured your love of psychology, offered you hope, maybe even made you smile. It’s been a privilege to write for you and I hope you’ll join us again in 2017. Until then, here’s a list of the 10 research stories that – based on number of clicks – seemed to intrigue you the most this year. Happy Holidays! —Christian Jarrett, editor

thinkstockphotos-159040387Men who can tell a good story are seen as more attractive and higher status

By age 3, kids know when you owe them one

Why do so many people believe in psychic powers?

The police believe a lot of psychology myths related to their work

Students of today are more afraid of growing up than in previous generations

Head x-ray, brain in MRIThis is what eight weeks of mindfulness training does to your brain

Experienced meditators have brains that are physically 7 years younger than non-meditators

You hear a voice in your head when you’re reading, right?

Why is it so hard to persuade people with facts?

A daily cold shower seems to have some psychological benefits

Following the latest psychology research just got really easy


Introducing the Research Digest App for iOS and Android

Today we’ve launched the free Research Digest app for Apple and Android smartphones and tablets, bringing you a new and convenient way to keep up-to-date with all our latest research reports.

The in-app help screens will show you how to customise the home page according to your preferred subject categories. You can also share our reports quickly and easily from within the app, as well as creating a scrapbook of your favourite items.

Search your app store for “Research Digest” or click to download now via Apple / Google Play / or Amazon.

Please let us know what you think via comments or by reviewing and rating the app in your store.

The new app joins our other outlets including the Research blog, our weekly email, and our frequently updated Twitter and Facebook accounts, all of which will continue as before.

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Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.

Our free weekly email will keep you up-to-date with all the psychology research we digest: Sign up!

Our most popular posts of 2015

This has been a record-breaking year for the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest blog – in terms of the amount of material we’ve published, and in the number of people reading our posts. In a tight contest, here are the 10 posts that received the most hits in 2015:

1. Weird things start to happen when you stare into someone’s eyes for 10 minutes
by Christian Jarrett
A psychologist based in Italy says he has found a simple way to induce in healthy people an altered state of consciousness – simply get two individuals to look into each other’s eyes for 10 minutes while they are sitting in a dimly lit room. Read more

2Guilt-prone people are highly skilled at recognising other people’s emotions
by Christian Jarrett
It’s not pleasant to feel perpetually that you’re responsible for mishaps and screw-ups, but some people do. Psychologists recognise this as a distinct trait, which they call “guilt-proneness” and now they’ve discovered that it tends to go hand in hand with an enhanced ability to recognise other people’s emotions. Read more

3Feeling like you’re an expert can make you closed-minded by Alex Fradera
What happens to us as we accrue knowledge and experience, as we become experts in a field? Competence follows. Effortlessness follows. But certain downsides can follow too. Read more

4The “Backfire Effect”: Correcting false beliefs about vaccines can be surprisingly counterproductive by Simon Oxenham
Forty-three per cent of the US population believes wrongly that the flu vaccine can give you flu. In fact any adverse reaction to the vaccine, besides a temperature and aching muscles for a short time, is rare. It stands to reason that correcting this misconception would be a good move for public health, but debunking this false belief actually has a seriously counterproductive effect. Read more

5. 10 Hellish psychology studies you’ll be glad not to have participated in 
by Christian Jarrett
Many psychology studies involve nothing more challenging for participants than sitting down with a short paper questionnaire and ticking off agreement or not with a series of anodyne statements. This post is not about that kind of research. Here, we take a tour of some rather more arduous and quirky experiments from the psychology archives. Read more

6The psychology of Facebook, digested
by Christian Jarrett
With over a billion users, Facebook is changing the social life of our species. Common topics for study are links between Facebook use and personality, and whether the network alleviates or fosters loneliness. The torrent of new data is overwhelming and much of it appears contradictory. To help, we’ve digested many of the most important studies. Read more

7What kinds of actions do people think of as most stupid? by Christian Jarrett
To avoid people thinking you’re stupid, above all you need to refrain from undertaking risky tasks for which you lack suitable knowledge or skills. That’s according to this study, the first to systematically investigate the kinds of behaviours that people consider to be stupid or foolish.

8The psychology of mindfulness, digested
by Christian Jarrett
Mindfulness is a hot topic in psychology and beyond. And yet, a dissenting voice in this chorus of enthusiasm, a new book out last month – The Buddha Pill: Can Meditation Change You? – warned that mindfulness is not harmless. Here we dive into the research literature to bring you up to speed in a jiffy. Read more

9Expert philosophers are just as irrational as the rest of us
by Dan Jones
If you want to improve your tennis swing, learn how to repair your car, or master the piano, you’re likely to seek the help of an expert. Similarly, many people who want to sharpen their critical thinking skills turn to one of the many books written by philosophers. But what if philosophers are just as susceptible to bad thinking as the rest of us? Read more

10What the textbooks don’t tell you about psychology’s most famous case study 
by Christian Jarrett
It’s a remarkable, mythical tale with lashings of gore – no wonder it’s a favourite of psychology students the world over. I’m talking about Phineas Gage, the 19th century railway worker who somehow survived the passing of a 3-foot long tamping iron through the front of his brain and out the top of his head. What happened to him next? Read more

I wonder what this list says about people’s interests and concerns in 2015? 
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Post compiled by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.

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The 100 most followed psychologists and neuroscientists on Twitter!

Updated for November 2015, here are the 100 most followed psychologists and neuroscientists on Twitter based on follower counts recorded over the last few weeks. If we’ve missed anyone (individuals, not organisations or publications) who should be in the top 100, please let us know via comments and we’ll add them in. This is an update to our November 2014 post. We’re aware there are issues with lists like this (for example, Twitter accounts vary in how many active followers they have), but we hope you will find it useful nonetheless. Three BPS Twitter accounts are included below, but are not counted in the tally towards 100.

1st place Andrew Mendonsa. Clinical psychologist. Followers: 371769
Sam Harris. Neuroscientist, author. Followers: 343930
Steven Pinker. Evolutionary psychologist, author. Followers: 204280
Kiki Sanford. Neurophysiologist turned sci communicator. Followers: 198899
Ian Wallace. “Dream psychologist”. Followers: 147903
Richard Wiseman. Psychologist, blogger and author. Followers: 138755
Laura Kauffman. Child psychologist. Followers: 107074
Dan Ariely. Behavioural Economist, author. Followers: 100889
George Huba. Psychologist. Followers: 98273
10Travis Langley. Social psychologist and author. Followers: 92603
Joe Guse. Comedian turned psychologist. Followers: 72325
Neuroskeptic. Blogger and neuroscientist. Followers: 68538
Daniel Goleman. Emotional intelligence expert. Followers: 62290
Leah Klungness. Author and psychologist. Followers: 60591
Dolors Reig. Social psychologist (tweets in Spanish). Followers: 60875

BPS Research Digest. That’s Us! Followers: 57811

Anthony Risser. Neuropsychologist, blogger. Followers: 49283

Steve Silberman. Author on autism. Followers: 45500 

The Psychologist magazine! Followers: 45449

Adam Grant. Organisational psychologist. Followers: 44464
Dylan William. Educational psychologist. Followers: 44060
20Yankı Yazgan. Child psychiatrist/ psychology faculty. Followers: 44073

 Melanie Greenberg. Clinical health psychologist. Followers: 42835
 Richard Thaler. Behavioural economist. Followers: 41971


BPS Official! Followers: 35062


Amy Cuddy. Social psychologist. Followers: 34125
Jeremy Dean. Psychology blogger. Followers: 25136
25 Shawn Achor. Positive psychologist. Followers: 33404
Vaughan Bell. Clinical neuropsychologist, blogger. Followers: 32683

Simon Rego. Cognitive behavioural psychologist. Followers: 32618
Miguel Escotet. Psychologist. Followers: 31420
Marsha Lucas. Neuropsychologist. Followers: 30353
30 Kelly McGonigal. Psychologist. Followers: 27458
David Eagleman. Neuroscientist, author. Followers: 25882
Mo Costandi. Neuroscience writer, blogger. Followers: 25869
Jo Hemmings. Celebrity psychologist. Followers: 25771
Bob Sutton. Organisational psychologist and author. Followers: 25592
Aleks Krotoski. Psychologist, tech journalist. Followers: 24900
Dean Burnett. Neuroscientist and comedian. Followers: 24896
Dan Gilbert. Psychologist. Followers: 24745
David Dobbs. Neuroscience writer. Followers: 24280
Paul Bloom. Psychologist. Followers: 24164

40 Evan Sinar. Organisational psychologist. Followers: 23,999
Noah Gray. Neuroscience editor. Followers: 22319

John Froiland. School psychologist. Followers: 21285
Susan Whitbourne. Psychologist. Followers: 21212
Sarah-Jayne Blakemore
. Cognitive neuroscientist. Followers: 20283
David Ballard. Work psychologist. Followers: 20004
Dorothy Bishop. Developmental neuropsychologist. Followers: 19941
Jonathan Haidt. Psychologist. Followers: 19853
Simon Baron-Cohen. Developmental psychologist. Followers: 19700
Marilyn Price-Mitchell. Developmental Psychologist. Followers: 18937

50 Ciaran O’Keeffe. Parapsychologist. Followers: 18379
Scott Kaufman. Cognitive psychologist, author. Followers: 18649
Daniel Levitin. Psychologist, author. Followers: 17892
Heidi GrantHalvorson. Social psychologist. Followers: 17717
Craig Malkin. Clinical psychologist. Followers: 17701

Robert Cialdini. Social psychologist. Followers: 17298
Uta Frith. Developmental neuropsychologist. Followers: 17163
Sun Wolf. Social neuroscientist. Followers: 17058
Pascal Wallisch. Neuroscientist. Followers: 16275

Micah Allen. Cognitive neuroscientist. Followers: 16050
60 Melissa McCreery. Clinical Psychologist. Followers: 15094


Christian Jarrett. Editor of the Research Digest! Followers: 14950


Tanya Byron. Clinical psychologist, TV presenter, columnist. Followers: 13878
Stephan Guyenet. Neurobiologist. Followers: 13114
Lee Keyes. Psychologist. Followers: 13034
Andrea Kuszewski. Robopsychologist. Followers: 12924
Andrea Letamendi. Clinical psychologist. Followers: 12892
Todd Kashdan. Psychologist. Followers: 12792
Professor Bob. Psychologist. Followers: 12761

Cary Cooper. Occupational psychologist. Followers: 12646
70 David Webb. Psychology tutor, blogger. Followers: 12545
Sophie Scott. Neuroscientist. Followers: 11889

Pam Spurr. Agony aunt. Followers: 11816

Clark Quinn. Organisational psychologist. Followers: 11674
Petra Boynton. Psychologist, sex educator. Followers: 11622
Susan Weinschenk. Psychologist and author. Followers: 11605

Philip Zimbardo. You know, the Stanford Prison Experiment guy. 11547
David Rock. Work psychologist. Followers: 11433
Honey Langcaster-James. Psychologist and coach. Followers: 11337
Maia Szalavitz. Neuroscience journalist. Followers: 10961
80 James Moore. Cognitive Neuroscientist. Followers: 10943

Timothy Lomauro. Clinical psychologist. Followers: 10709
Shelley Bonanno. Psychologist and psychotherapist. Followers: 10341 
Jason Goldman. Developmental psychologist, science writer. Followers: 10288
Neuro Bonkers. Blogger. Followers: 10208

Stew Friedman. Organisational psychologist, author. Followers: 10152
Bradley Voytek. Neuroscientist and self-professed geek. Followers: 10133

Michael Woodward “Dr. Woody”. Organisational psychologist. Followers: 10097
Claudia Hammond. Radio presenter. Followers: 9832
Cheryl Arutt. Clinical and forensic psychologist. Followers: 9719

90 Jay Watts. Clinical psychologist, Lacanian. Followers: 9569
Todd Finnerty. Psychologist. Followers: 9448
Margarita Holmes. Psychologist and sex therapist. Followers: 8906
Steven Novella. Neurologist and sceptic. Followers: 8450
Rory O’Connor. Health psychologist, suicide researcher. Followers: 8368

Bruce Hood. Cognitive scientist. Followers: 8336
Patrick McGee: Health psychologist. Followers: 8094 

Kevin Mitchell. Neurogeneticist. Followers: 7837
Andy Field. Psychologist and stats whiz. Followers: 7680
Hugo Spiers. Neuroscientist. Followers: 7642

100 Graham Jones. Internet (cyber) psychologist. Followers: 7609

Our free fortnightly email will keep you up-to-date with all the psychology research we digest: Sign up!

Our most popular posts of 2014

1. Jailed criminals think they are kinder, more trustworthy and honest than the average member of the public

2The ten most controversial psychology studies ever published

3Happy people think they’re good at empathising with the pain of others. They’re wrong

4What the textbooks don’t tell you – one of psychology’s most famous experiments was seriously flawed

5A man’s fighting ability is written in his face

6Ten of the most counterintuitive psychology findings ever published

7Childhood amnesia kicks in around age seven

8Students learn better when they think they’re going to have to teach the material

9Why are extraverts happier?

10Systematic evidence of fake crying by a baby

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Post compiled by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.

The 100 most followed psychologists and neuroscientists on Twitter

Updated for November 2014, here are the 100 most followed psychologists and neuroscientists on Twitter based on follower counts recorded over the last few weeks. If we’ve missed anyone (individuals, not organisations) who should be in the top 100, please let us know via comments and we’ll add them in. This is an update to our February 2014 post. Check the comments to that earlier post for even more psychologists on Twitter than we were able to include here. We’re aware there are issues with lists like this (for example, Twitter accounts vary in how many active followers they have), but we hope you find it useful nonetheless. BPS Twitter accounts are presented below, but not counted in the tally towards 100.

Andrew Mendonsa. Clinical psychologist. Followers: 393234
Sam Harris. Neuroscientist, author. Followers: 250966
Kiki Sanford. Neurophysiologist turned sci communicator. Followers: 174275
Steven Pinker. Evolutionary psychologist, author. Followers: 151984
Richard Wiseman. Psychologist, blogger and author. Followers: 135145
Laura Kauffman. Child psychologist. Followers: 106984
Dan Ariely. Behavioural Economist, author. Followers: 81949
Oliver Sacks. Neurologist and author. Followers: 80157
George Huba. Psychologist. Followers: 77181
Joe Guse. Comedian turned psychologist. Followers: 74914
Leah Klungness. Author and psychologist. Followers: 60591
Travis Langley. Social psychologist and author. Followers: 60043
Dolors Reig. Social psychologist (tweets in Spanish). Followers: 58700
Neuroskeptic. Blogger and neuroscientist. Followers: 47625

BPS Research Digest. The BPS Research Digest! Followers: 46828

Yankı Yazgan. Child psychiatrist/ psychology faculty. Followers: 40381
Melanie Greenberg. Clinical health psychologist. Followers: 38751
Anthony Risser. Neuropsychologist, blogger. Followers: 34450

The Psychologist magazine. Followers: 33234

Dylan William. Educational psychologist. Followers: 32928
Miguel Escotet. Psychologist. Followers: 31948

Marsha Lucas. Neuropsychologist. Followers: 31073
Richard Thaler. Behavioural economist. Followers: 30206
Vaughan Bell. Clinical neuropsychologist, blogger. Followers: 29263


BPS Official. Followers: 26746


Adam Grant. Organisational psychologist. Followers: 29103
Aleks Krotoski. Psychologist, tech journalist. Followers: 24255
25th place Simon Rego. Cognitive behavioural psychologist. Followers: 23932
Jo Hemmings. Celebrity psychologist. Followers: 23740
Jeremy Dean. Psychology blogger. Followers: 23424
Shawn Achor. Positive psychologist. Followers: 23,330
Amy Cuddy. Social psychologist. Followers: 22837
Kelly McGonigal. Psychologist. Followers: 21733
Mo Costandi. Neuroscience writer, blogger. Followers: 21614
David Dobbs. Neuroscience writer. Followers: 21427
Noah Gray. Neuroscience editor. Followers: 20954

Bob Sutton. Organisational psychologist and author. Followers: 20879
David Eagleman. Neuroscientist, author. Followers: 205714
Dean Burnett. Neuroscientist and comedian. Followers: 18759
David Ballard. Work psychologist. Followers: 18459

Marilyn Price-Mitchell. Developmental Psychologist. Followers: 17652
Dan Gilbert. Psychologist. Followers: 17418
Paul Bloom. Psychologist. Followers: 16957
Sun Wolf. Social neuroscientist. Followers: 16517
Susan Whitbourne. Psychologist. Followers: 16511

Daniel Levitin. Psychologist, author. Followers: 16108
Dorothy Bishop. Developmental neuropsychologist. Followers: 15937

Pascal Wallisch. Neuroscientist. Followers: 15910
Sarah-Jayne Blakemore. Cognitive neuroscientist. Followers: 15829
Scott Kaufman. Cognitive psychologist, author. Followers: 15675
Ciaran O’Keeffe. Parapsychologist. Followers: 15504
Melissa McCreery. Clinical Psychologist. Followers: 15394
Heidi GrantHalvorson. Social psychologist. Followers: 15277
50th place Craig Malkin. Clinical psychologist. Followers: 15004

Robert Cialdini. Social psychologist. Followers: 14980
John Froiland. School psychologist. Followers: 14905
Simon Baron-Cohen. Developmental psychologist. Followers: 14824
Jonathan Haidt. Psychologist. Followers: 14225
Uta Frith. Developmental neuropsychologist. Followers: 13529

Micah Allen. Cognitive neuroscientist. Followers: 12540
Christian Jarrett. Editor of the Research Digest. Followers: 12312

Andrea Letamendi. Clinical psychologist. Followers: 11809

Todd Kashdan. Psychologist. Followers: 11623
Lee Keyes. Psychologist. Followers: 11399
David Webb. Psychology tutor, blogger. Followers: 11369
Honey Langcaster-James. Psychologist and coach. Followers: 11285
Maria Konnikova. Neuroscience blogger and author. Followers: 11182
Petra Boynton. Psychologist, sex educator. Followers: 10960
Professor Bob. Psychologist. Followers: 10783

James Moore. Cognitive Neuroscientist. Followers: 10298
Tanya Byron. Clinical psychologist, TV presenter, columnist. Followers: 10287
Cary Cooper. Occupational psychologist. Followers: 10275
Pam Spurr. Agony aunt. Followers: 10170
Susan Weinschenk. Psychologist and author. Followers: 10010
David Rock. Work psychologist. Followers: 9995

Maia Szalavitz. Neuroscience journalist. Followers: 9968
Jay Watts. Clinical psychologist, Lacanian. Followers: 9341
Andrea Kuszewski. Robopsychologist. Followers: 9135

75th place Bradley Voytek. Neuroscientist and self-professed geek. Followers: 9002
Timothy Lomauro. Clinical psychologist. Followers: 8996

Stephan Guyenet. Neurobiologist. Followers: 8795
Jason Goldman. Developmental psychologist, science writer. Followers: 8749
Sophie Scott. Neuroscientist. Followers: 8722

Cheryl Arutt. Clinical and forensic psychologist. Followers: 8690
Margarita Holmes. Psychologist and sex therapist. Followers: 8689
Claudia Hammond. Radio presenter. Followers: 8430
Neuro Bonkers. Blogger. Followers: 8397
Todd Finnerty. Psychologist. Followers: 8066
Bruce Hood. Cognitive scientist. Followers: 7870

Steven Novella. Neurologist and sceptic. Followers: 7635
Graham Jones. Internet (cyber) psychologist. Followers: 7529

John Grohol. Founder of Psychcentral. Followers: 6814
Shelley Bonanno. Psychologist and psychotherapist. Followers: 6549
Jay Dadlani. Psychologist. Followers: 6361
Rory O’Connor. Health psychologist, suicide researcher. Followers: 6292

Jordan Gaines Lewis. Neuroscientist, blogger. Followers: 6247
Jesse Bering. Psychologist, blogger. Followers: 6239
Kevin Mitchell. Neurogeneticist. Followers: 6230
Patrick McGee: Health psychologist. Followers: 6202 Kathleen Young. Clinical psychologist. Followers: 5930
Gary Marcus. Psychologist, author and blogger. Followers: 5923

Hugo Spiers. Neuroscientist. Followers: 5817
100th place Andy Field. Psychologist and stats whiz. Followers: 5737

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Thanks to Emma Smith at the BPS for updating the follower counts

A new morning

So it’s the morning after the night before, when I raised a glass to my departing friend and colleague Dr Christian Jarrett. As Editor of the Research Digest and Journalist on The Psychologist, Christian has given more than a decade of exemplary service to the British Psychological Society. Today we pause to pay tribute to him and to look ahead to an exciting new era for the Research Digest.

To me, a job well done is about a legacy left. I can pay no greater compliment to Christian than to echo two sentiments I have heard repeatedly since he announced his departure. Firstly, the Research Digest has been a genuine ‘game changer’ in the way psychology is taught, reported and perceived. Secondly, to a large extent Christian has become the Research Digest: ‘those are big shoes to fill’, many have commented. (My Dad was a clown: now those are big shoes to fill).

Over the past week or so, I have been sharing some of Christian’s greatest hits on Twitter using the hashtag #psychwriter. It’s some body of work: 259 issues of the fortnightly e-mail, well over 1500 journal articles digested, and numerous excellent features in his Psychologist journalist role. Some of my personal favourites: a host of special features on the Digest blog, including ‘sin week’, ‘psychology to the rescue’ and ‘one nagging thing you still don’t understand about yourself’; some phenomenally successful individual Digest posts; and features for The Psychologist on topics as diverse as holidays, horror, homelessness, space, impostor syndrome, virtual reality, pain, architecture, non-conscious influence, competition, humour, cyborgs, the maternal brain, sin, the default mode network, when therapy causes harm, psychology’s myths, the journey to undergraduate psychology, and the psychology of stuff and things.

That’s quite a back catalogue by anyone’s standards, and Christian leaves the Research Digest in rude health: 364,000 page views on the blog in the last month, 32,000 subscribers to the e-mail, 39,000 followers on Twitter. But this isn’t just about numbers. We know the Research Digest has had a growing influence in teaching and the media: that is important to us, and it is largely due to the consistency and quality of Christian’s work. We thank him warmly, and look forward to his new adventures.

So what next for us?

As you may have seen, the recruitment process is underway. We are thrilled that the Society’s leadership have approved the appointment of not one but two full-time posts: a new Research Digest Editor, and a Journalist for The Psychologist. You can find details on the Society’s website. These are exciting roles for those with a passion for psychology and science communication. But be quick: the closing date for both roles is 31 March.

This extra resource should allow us to look ambitiously to the future: more regular postings, the integration of our Occupational Digest editor Dr Alex Fradera, and the possibility of multimedia developments such as a regular podcast. Christian and I have already worked on a new HTML version of the Digest e-mail, and on The Psychologist side a new website is on the horizon.

All expansion and development on the Research Digest will remain true to the simple, central aim: research, digested. We want to cement and build upon a reputation as the authoritative source of reports on the latest empirical research in psychology.

Interviews for the posts will take place on 1 and 2 May, so we are hopeful of having a new Digest Editor in position around the start of July. In the meantime, we will get by with a little help from our friends. I have sought out some top bloggers in psychology, people who have perhaps influenced or been influenced by the Research Digest, and from the start of April we will have a series of posts from ‘guest hosts’: Mind Hacks, the Guardian science blog network, Neuroskeptic, Advances in the History of Psychology, Dr Petra, Melanie Tannenbaum and more. We are grateful to them for helping us avoid ‘cyber tumbleweed’ and we look forward to their contributions.

With the best will in the world, however, it may be a good few months before anything approaching ‘normal service’ is resumed. We hope you will bear with us during this period of transition: you make the Research Digest what it is, and we need you on the next leg of our continuing journey.

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Post written by Dr Jon Sutton, Managing Editor of The Psychologist, for the BPS Research Digest.

Goodbye, and thanks for the ride!

The creator of the Research Digest blog is moving on …

We had a habit, my wife and I, of walking on Saturday afternoons along the pretty narrowboat canal between Slaithwaite and Marsden, in West Yorkshire. We’d buy The Guardian when we got there, find a cosy cafe, and I’d flick through the jobs section with tea and a scone. Nearing the end of my PhD, I was in a quandary over what I’d do next. I knew I couldn’t spend the rest of my life studying eye movements, discovering more and more about less and less.

But can you really earn a living out of a fascination with psychology and a love for writing, as I hoped to do? I’d managed to find a few freelance opportunities, but not enough to form the foundation of a career. The weekends rolled by and I was beginning to think my dream job didn’t really exist.

Then one day in 2003, around the time that millions marched on London against the Iraq war, I saw it. The British Psychological Society were seeking a part-time Editor/Writer for their new “e” Research Digest (the ad put the quaint “e” in inverted commas just like that, in reference to the Digest being an email newsletter). I couldn’t believe my eyes.

“The role involves researching journal papers in psychology, and editing and re-writing these into a brief accurate and user-friendly format …” it said. 

Well, here we are, eleven years on. I’ve written and edited 259 Research Digest fortnightly emails in that time, not missing a single issue. This means I’ve digested well over 1,500 journal articles! The fact is, my dream job quickly became a passion. The distinction between work and pleasure was blurred. The email subscriber counts took off, heart-warming feedback began to filter through, from teachers, journalists, lecturers, clinicians and students.

With this reception, I felt it wasn’t enough to restrict the Digest to a fortnightly email. In 2005, I created the Research Digest blog, allowing the freedom for images, more interaction with readers, and the chance to reach new audiences. The blog started to break the US and the rest of world – Digest posts were getting picked up by The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Freakonomics, and many, many more. In 2010, the Digest won Best Psychology Blog in the inaugural Research Blogging Awards.

My aim throughout has been to strike a delicate balance – to showcase the science of psychology, to share my enthusiasm for the subject, but to also include a healthy dose of scepticism. I’ve strived to cover every corner of the discipline, from sighing rats to crying therapists, from hiding toddlers to neuroscience power failures.

I’ve added more features: Extras posts to list all those eye-catching studies I didn’t have time to report on; Special Issue Spotter posts to keep readers up to speed; annual retrospectives; advertisements, so that by last year the Digest was virtually self-financing; I helped launch the Occupational Digest; and in more recent years, introduced Feast posts summarising the best psychology resources and articles from the previous week. And I’ve invited others to the party. For example, in 2009, I had great fun asking psychologists to reveal “one nagging thing they still don’t understand about themselves” (see all the guest features). The evolution continues. I’m pleased to say that a new, colourful html version of the Digest email is just around the corner.

Back in 2003 I could never have imagined how the Digest would take off (over 8.5 million blog page views since 2007, including 364,000 during the last month. We now have over 32,000 subscribers to the email, and over 38,000 followers on Twitter), nor where it would take me. Among other invites, I’ve given a talk in a pub basement in Manchester on “lessons for life from the Research Digest”, and twice chatted on Radio 4 about items from the Digest.

But all good things must come to an end. While it’s time for me to move on to new challenges, I’m delighted to announce that the British Psychological Society have agreed to replace my half-time editor position with a new full-time editor, maximising the chance to build on the Digest success so far. Adverts for the job are on the BPS website. Maybe today you will be walking along your equivalent of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, wondering what next to do with your career. If so, and if this opportunity is for you – good luck! (By the way, I’m also leaving my other half-time role as journalist on The Psychologist – adverts for this position, also being expanded to full-time, are here).

I want to thank sincerely all you Digest readers, everyone who has contributed to or commented on the blog, everyone who has supported the Digest, my manager and colleague Jon Sutton, and all those of you who have sent me such generous feedback. It really has been a pleasure. Please do stay in touch. I’m on Twitter @Psych_Writer, and other ways to reach me are on my website.

Goodbye, and thanks for the ride!
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Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.

The ten most popular Research Digest posts of all time


This week I’m leaving my position as Research Digest editor. Taking one last look back at the archives, these were my ten most popular posts since Google started counting page views in 2007. What made these so popular do you think?

1. Jailed criminals think they’re kinder and more trustworthy than average (from 2014).

2. Why do children hide by covering their eyes? (from 2012).

3. Want people to trust you? Try apologising for the rain (from 2013).

4. How walking through a doorway increases forgetting? (from 2011).

5. Why do humans walk in circles? (from 2012).

6. Childhood amnesia kicks in around age 7 (from 2014).

7. A study of suicide notes left by children and adolescents (from 2013).

8. Why are extraverts happier? (from 2014).

9. Systematic evidence of fake crying by a baby (from 2014).

10. Smiling fighters are more likely to lose (from 2013).

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Post compiled by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.