Trump Tweets And Cat Attachment: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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Our weekly round-up of the best psychology coverage from elsewhere on the web

Scientists can predict what country people are from just by looking at how colours make them feel, reports Eva Frederick at Science. Researchers found cultural differences in how people associate colours and emotions: Chinese participants showed the strongest association between red and joy, for example, while Greek participants were the only ones to relate purple to sadness. The team then used machine learning to guess where people were from based on the associations they made.


We’ve written a lot about the value — and limitations — of using Twitter in psychological research. Now researchers have analysed the language used by one of the world’s most (in)famous tweeters – President Donald Trump. They’ve found that Trump’s “linguistic style” changed depending on his goals at the time, according to this Q&A in Scientific American with the authors of the paper.


Much like human babies with their parents, cats show different patterns of attachment to their owners, Ed Cara at Gizmodo reports. Kittens were left in an unfamiliar room for a while, and the researchers observed the felines’ behaviour when their owners returned. Some showed “secure” behaviour and happily explored the area once their owner was back, while others were insecure, clinging to their owner or avoiding them altogether.


Excessive athletic training doesn’t just tire our bodies out – it can also have unwanted effects on cognition, writes Leslie Nemo at Discover’s D-brief blog. Elite athletes who increased their training regime were more likely to make impulsive decisions and showed dampened activity in a brain area involved in decision-making, researchers found. The result points to another way that “overtraining” could be detrimental.


“If we get fixated on screen time instead of asking much more careful questions about what kinds of experiments are being run on us by these companies, who owns our data, we’re going to miss out on a chance to hold these companies to account”. So concluded Professor Andrew Przybylski in a talk at Latitude Festival earlier this year, in which he busted some of the myths about screen time and its effects on young people. Read the full transcript over at The Psychologist.


Finally, in last week’s newsletter (sign up here!) we noted that Fritz Strack had won this year’s Ig Nobel psychology prize, for “discovering that holding a pen in one’s mouth makes one smile, which makes one happier — and for then discovering that it does not”. We also linked to our 2016 report on the failed replication that cast doubt on the original findings. Professor Strack sent us a link to his Ig Nobel lecture, below, in which he outlines some recent evidence that “facial feedback” can still influence our emotions — as long as the conditions are right (we also covered one of those studies last year).

Strack’s presentation, from about 1:16, is worth watching — as are the lectures from other winners, who study everything from how bacteria survives on different countries’ bank notes to why wombat poo is cube-shaped.

Compiled by Matthew Warren (@MattbWarren), Editor of BPS Research Digest