Proficient Pigs And Political Polarisation: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

Could greater empathy help heal our current political divisions? Not according to this Wired article by Robert Wright. Researchers have found that more empathy for an “in group” may actually relate to greater hostility towards the “out group”. People with higher levels of empathy were more likely to be support no-platforming a speaker from an opposing party, for instance, and even showed more amusement when they read that a bystander in favour of that speaker had been hurt.


The Guardian’s “Science Weekly” podcast focuses on the controversy surrounding work by Hans Eysenck, which purported to find strong links between personality and cancer risk. It’s a great place to start if you haven’t been following the saga.


A story by Dalmeet Singh Chawla in Nature Index highlights recent research from the “Loss of Confidence Project”, which aims to encourage scientists to declare when they’ve lost confidence in their past findings. Half of respondents to an online survey said they’d lost confidence in some of their previous results, due to a combination of mistakes, misjudgements, and questionable research practices. However, less than 20% had publicly reported these doubts.


The latest trend to sweep Silicon Valley is so-called “dopamine fasting,” in which people abstain from pleasurable or stimulating experiences for a period of time. Is it perhaps just a fancy way of saying “taking a break”, couched in some pseudo-neuroscientific language? Sigal Samuel has the answers at Vox.


Social media has changed the way we interact and communicate with each other — and in doing so, has threatened democracy as we know it. That’s the argument of a feature in The Atlantic by Jonathan Haidt and Tobias Rose-Stockwell, which touches on some of the same issues we’ve explored here at Research Digest this week, such as outrage and moral grandstanding.


Pigs can now be added to the elite group of animals that are able to use tools, reports Karinna Hurley at Scientific American. Researchers at a zoo in Paris observed a Visayan warty pig called Priscilla using bits of bark to help dig out a nest. Other pigs even seemed to have learned the skill from her, they found. Check out the digging pigs in this video:


And finally, we recently reported on a study debunking the myth of the narcissistic only child — but there are also other incorrect stereotypes that only children face. At The Conversation, Ana Aznar points out that whether or not we have siblings makes very little difference to our personality, social skills or mental health.

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