Joking Robots And Intelligent Apes: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

Keyboard for ideaOur weekly round-up of the best psychology coverage from elsewhere on the web

An MIT professor gave his students Fitbits to find out how exercise affected their academic performance — but instead stumbled upon some interesting insights into sleep, Jamie Ducharme at Time reports. Students who stuck to a consistent sleep pattern throughout the week seemed to do better in class, the team found, while differences in sleep quality between men and women could explain why female students were getting higher grades.


“I can’t rewind the past and make up for all of the bad experiences I have had. But I can use them to help me to help others. Autism fascinates me for its scientific conundrums, but also because I’ve lived it and I know how it feels.” Eloise Stark has written an insightful piece in Aeon on her autism journey.


Humour is such a uniquely human phenomenon that it seems laughable to want to teach a robot to crack jokes. But that’s not stopping researchers from trying, reports Arthur Miller at BBC Science Focus. Understanding the psychology of humour is clearly an important part of any attempt to create funny AI, such as this joke-tweeting robot which features in Miller’s piece:

All right, as robot jokes go — but maybe it could have a quick listen to our podcast on how to be funnier.


A small group of patients who were given brain-stimulating implants for severe depression are, overall, doing well several years later, Benedict Carey reports at the New York Times. But deep brain stimulation for treatment-resistant depression remains controversial — and the results of other studies have not been as promising.


Researchers have found further evidence that apes have a “theory of mind”, writes Tanya Loos at Cosmos. The ability to understand and anticipate others’ thoughts was once believed to belong exclusively to humans, but the new study adds to a growing body of evidence that some non-human primates may also possess it. Scroll down to the bottom of the Cosmos article for a video of the study’s methods, which, I am delighted to report, involve a researcher dressing up in an ape suit.


Our brain’s primary visual cortex normally processes incoming visual information from our eyes. But in blind people who use echolocation, this region is repurposed to processes sound echoes instead, reports Kelly Servick in Science. What’s more, the area seems to map out the spatial location of sounds, similar to the map of visual space it provides to sighted people.


Lastly, The Conversation is running a nice series of articles called “Curious Kids”, in which children can send in questions for experts to answer. Last week saw psychologist Frank T. McAndrew respond to the altogether excellent question “Why do old people hate new music?”. McAndrew outlines some of the research into musical taste — including the alarming fact that most people stop listening to new music by the time they’re 33 years old.

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

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