Chart-Toppers And Clever Kea: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

Psychology news seems to be taking a backseat in the media this week as concerns about coronavirus mount around the world. But psychologists also have much to contribute when it comes to understanding the current crisis and our responses to it.

At BBC Future, Bryan Lufkin examines the reasons that people panic buy, a phenomenon that is leaving some supermarket shelves empty and making it harder for healthcare professionals to get goods they need, such as face masks. And psychologists are urging authorities to prevent further anxiety and panic by providing clear information and accounting for “herd behaviour”, Hannah Devlin reports in The Guardian.

We’ve all been told to stop touching our faces — but although it seems like a simple preventative action, it turns out to be much easier said than done. At The New York Times, Jenny Gross talks to psychologists and other academics about some of the ways to stop the habit.

Meanwhile, at The Conversation, Daniel Jolley and Pia Lamberty explore why conspiracy theories tend to appear at times of crisis.

And finally over at The Psychologist, the team are compiling psychological perspectives on coronavirus. The page is being regularly updated, so keep an eye out for more.


In more uplifting news, scientists have found that humans are not the only creatures able to use statistical information to make decisions: so can kea, the mischievous alpine parrots native to New Zealand, reports Virginia Morell at Science.  Researchers first taught kea that a black token was associated with food. They then showed the kea two transparent jars containing black and orange tokens, and removed a token from each with a closed hand. The kea tended to pick whichever hand had taken a token from the jar with the greater proportion of black to orange tokens, suggesting that they had used this statistical information to figure out which hand offered the best chance of getting a food reward.


If you want to write a hit song, make sure to use the word “you” in it a lot. Researchers have found that songs that make it higher up the charts have a greater proportion of “you”s in them, writes Neuroskeptic at Discover Magazine. The team thinks this may be because hearing about “you” helps listeners to imagine the story of the song applying to someone in their own lives.


The United Nations has released a new report on social norms regarding gender, finding that almost 90% of people around the world show some level of prejudice against women. Interviewees were asked to respond to seven statements like “Men make better political leaders than women do” and “University is more important for a man than for a woman”. Only 10% of men and 14% of women showed no bias against women on any of these measures, reports Annalisa Merelli at Quartz.


Finally, the American Psychological Association has reaffirmed that playing violent video games is not linked to an increase in real-life violence, reports Kyle Orland at Ars Technica. However, the APA’s guidance also states that violent video games are related to small increases in aggressive behaviour, which some psychologists debate. Amongst other factors, they point to recent null findings in preregistered studies — such as this one we covered last year.

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