The Emotions Of Music And The Meaning Of Life: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

It’s hard for researchers to study the brain activity involved in social interactions when they can only conduct MRI scans on a single person at a time. But what if you could squeeze two people into the scanner at once? At Science, Kelly Servick reports on the development of new, rather intimate imaging arrangements, in which two participants lie face-to-face while having their brains scanned simultaneously.  

Music can make us feel a range of emotions — but are those experiences common to everyone, or specific to our own cultural groups? A new study has identified “13 distinct and very specific feelings”, such as feelings of triumph or awe, that were shared by both Chinese and American participants when listening to music, reports David Noonan at Scientific American. This suggests that at least some of our music-induced emotional experiences are universal.

After an exhausting 2019, many of us may be aiming to work on our own well-being this year. But what are the most effective strategies for becoming better, happier people? David Robson has the answers at The Guardian. (And if you’re after more psychology-informed tips for maintaining your new year’s resolutions, check back with Research Digest early next week for a whole feature on the topic).

An Iron Age skull discovered in the UK in 2008 contained brain matter that had somehow been preserved for 2,600 years. Now scientists think they know why, writes George Dvorsky at Gizmodo. Researchers found that the remarkable preservation was due to the way proteins had become tightly packed in the brain material, preventing the normal decay process.

“We are not just ghostly entities living inside machine-like bodies in an indifferent world. Human life is not a meaningless space between birth and death, spent trying to enjoy ourselves and forget about our predicament. I believe that human life and the world mean much more than that.” At The Conversation, psychologist Steve Taylor explores what his own research has taught him about the meaning of life.

How did researchers recently test whether cuttlefish see in three dimensions? By giving them cute 3D glasses and getting them to watch 3D movies, of course. The team found that — contrary to what scientists had previously believed — the creatures do indeed have 3D vision, and use their depth perception for hunting, writes Veronique Greenwood at The New York Times. Check out the article for plenty of videos of the bespectacled cephalopods.

We tend to take the positive parts of life in our stride, but we can end up really fixated on the bad ones. Why do we find negative experiences so salient? In The Guardian’s ‘Science Weekly’ podcast, Ian Sample interviews psychologist Roy Baumeister on the “power of negativity” — and how to avoid focusing too much on the bad things in life.

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