World Happiness And Psychedelic Placebos: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

The 2020 World Happiness Report has been published by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, with Finland ranking as the world’s happiest country. “Happiness” in the report doesn’t refer to the expression of emotion per se, writes Maria Cramer at the New York Times, but is rather about a sense of satisfaction in life and belief that members of one’s community care for each other — a particularly poignant definition given present circumstances.


An imaging technique adapted from geophysics could provide a new way of looking at the human brain, reports Ian Randall at Physics World. Researchers have traditionally been unable to scan the brain using ultrasound, as the waves are scattered by the skull. But now a team have shown that ultrasound can be used to record signals from inside the skull, with the help of a method normally used to construct images from below the surface of the Earth based on seismometer recordings.


Researchers have developed an AI capable of smelling certain odours, reports Gege Li at New Scientist. Chemical sensors respond to particular odours in the environment, and an algorithm then uses that pattern of response to identify the smell, similar to the processes used by the mammalian olfactory bulb.


It’s a myth that autistic people aren’t social, writes Scott Barry Kaufmann at Scientific American. Negative impressions about the social life of autistic people are driven by the biases of others –— including researchers.


Volunteers who thought they were taking part in a psychedelic drug study experienced mood changes and even hallucinations — but hours into the experience, they learned they had only been taking a placebo. At Discover Magazine, Neuroskeptic describes the lengths that researchers went to, in order to trick participants into thinking they were taking an active drug. The study highlights the importance of disentangling placebo effects from those actually caused by psychoactive substances.


What can crosswords teach us about memory? At Scientific American, Adrienne Raphel examines how word puzzles provide a glimpse into the inner workings of our mind.


Finally, a selection of  coronavirus-related psychology coverage from this week:

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