The year in research: top 10 of 2015

Each year, faculty of the University of Washington Foster School of Business produce influential research—on a wide array of topics—that advances academic theory and advises management practice. Here are 10 most-read research briefs on the Foster site in 2015.


pictures of little pies#1. Sweet Truth

Gratitude is universally considered a social good, the warm feeling that results from a kindness received. But gratitude has a dark side. Namely, it can impel us to eat more sweets, according to research by Ann Schlosser. The more we feel connected to others, the greater the temptation to indulge in sweet things when in a state of appreciation.


two cars with thumbs down graphics#2. Perverse Halo

A product recall is never good news for a firm. And, though it might seem like a great occasion for schadenfreude, a recall is not necessarily good news for competitors, either. Abhishek Borah finds that social media amplifies the damage of product recalls to firms—and their rivals.


person on top of a mountain with their hands in the air#3. The unburdening lightness of forgiving

We often think of forgiveness as a metaphorical unburdening, a “weight being lifted from our shoulders.” But forgiving also results in a literal unburdening. A study by Ryan Fehr demonstrates that the sense of lightness achieved by absolving someone who has done us wrong makes us perceive hills as less steep and even jump higher.


Hungry thief with devil horns#4. The Hungry Thief

Ever been so hungry that you can’t think of anything but food? Research by Scott Reynolds finds that the single-mindedness that results from a state of hunger or thirst makes people more likely to commit unethical acts that would satisfying that hunger or thirst—but less likely to lie, cheat or steal for reasons that don’t address the immediate physiological need.


lightbulb shattering#5. Exposed

For entrepreneurs, connections are as good as gold. Especially connections with the right investors. But connections with the wrong investors can inhibit a firm’s ability to innovate. Emily Cox Pahnke and Benjamin Hallen document a siphoning of valuable information that can occur when firms are indirectly tied to a competitor via a shared venture capital investor.


graphic of two heads with shared though bubble with a lightbulb on one side and gears on the other#6. Protest too much?

When campaigning for social change, disruption may win a few battles, but education is more likely to win the war. A study by Abhinav Gupta indicates that disruptive tactics such as protests can yield limited immediate success, but educational tactics that appeal to reason are more effective at expanding the objectives of a cause more broadly.


words DNA on a chalkboard#7. Inheritance

Each of the financial decisions we make is the result of innumerable—and sometimes unknowable—forces. Now we know that one of the most powerful of those forces is our individual DNA. A series of groundbreaking studies by Stephan Siegel establish that genes explain about one-third of the variation between individuals’ ways with money.


graphic of woman screaming#8. Fear Factor

Seen any scary movies lately? You probably didn’t see a bunch of product placements. After all, who wants their brand associated with so stressful an emotion? It turns out that marketers have no reason to be afraid of fear. Research by Lea Dunn reveals that being in a state of fear can create an immediate and emotional attachment to an unfamiliar brand.


woman wearing a red ruffled dress and yellow sandals#9. On Fashion

Fashion has gone mainstream. Not that haute couture has saturated the suburban mall, but rather that the broader force of fashion—the social dimension of consumer culture—now influences the sales of virtually every consumable. But what drives fashion’s inexorable cycles? A new model created by Hema Yoganarasimhan indicates that it’s cultural capital, not wealth.


graphic of lots of people with a few people in the middle emphasized with color#10. The Wisdom of (Small) Crowds

As life increasingly migrates online, the traditional work of experts is gradually giving way to the wisdom of crowds. We crowdsource, crowdfund, crowdtest, crowdcreate. Now Michael Wagner shows that the most efficient way to police online communities is through crowdvoting—and it takes surprisingly few people to work.


…And a Few Oldies-But-Goodies

picture of the Abraham Lincoln MemorialAdvantage: Humility

Humility may be a virtue. It’s also a competitive advantage. Michael Johnson finds that humble people—who view themselves accurately, are teachable, and appreciate others’ strengths—tend to be the best performers in individual and team settings. They also tend to make the most effective leaders.


man yelling into a megaphoneMean boss?

Managers are more likely to abuse their employees when they are not getting enough quality sleep, according to research by Chris Barnes. The result? Mistreated employees are less engaged and productive on abusive days. And the cumulative effect is poor performance, low job satisfaction and increased stress, unethical behavior and intensions to quit.

Images: all iStock; dessert: rulzluquepaz; cars: browndogstudios, leremy; devil: Meriel Jane Waissman, lineartestpilot, iamstudio; lightbulb: tiero