Swear Words And Psychedelics: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

Psycholinguists have taken a scientific approach to the creation of new swear words, reports Neuroskeptic at Discover Magazine. Researchers identified the ideal words to pair with profanities in order to come up with colourful new insults. Sticking -pig or -mouth to the end of your favoured swear word will probably have the desired effect, according to the work, while adding -newspaper or -fireplace could leave your insult falling flat.

The sense of smell is arguably the least appreciated of all our senses. But despite this “anti-olfactory prejudice” we have a lot to learn about human perception from studying smell, argues Ann-Sophie Barwich at Aeon.

There are two kinds of bird that make their home in cities: big-brained birds that have few offspring, and small-brained ones that breed often. That’s according to a recent study covered in a podcast from Scientific American. Birds with more brain power have an advantage when it comes to finding food and avoiding dangers. But for those with small brains, like pigeons, producing plenty of offspring means that the population can still survive even if some individuals die.

What is it about social media that seems to make us so angry? Amy Fleming explores the research at BBC Science Focus.

The former chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs has called for psychedelic drugs like psilocybin to be rescheduled, to make it easier to conduct scientific research on them, reports Nicola Davis at The Guardian. In an article in Cell, David Nutt and colleagues review recent evidence on the potential benefits of psychedelics for treating mental health disorders. But they also write that classifying the drugs as “Schedule 1” substances — meaning they have no medical value — makes it costly and more difficult to conduct this kind of work.

And finally, in psychology-related coronavirus coverage this week:

  • At The Conversation, Catherine Loveday explains why clapping with our neighbours in support of NHS workers was so uplifting.
  • If your life is feeling surreal right now, you’re not alone. Sudden change, a loss of routine, and being thrown into a completely new experience can all contribute to that sense of otherworldliness, writes Matt Simon at Wired.
  • How might the pandemic shift our norms, behaviours and attitudes? David Robson explores the possibilities at BBC Future.
  • At UnHerd, Stuart Ritchie argues that in the current crisis, psychologists need to avoid giving unhelpful advice based on the results of small lab studies that may not generalise.

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