Stretched Words And Imaginary Beasts: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

Researchers have finalllyyyyyy studied the ways we elongate words on social media, reports Matt Simon at Wired. The team developed a program that searched through 100 billion tweets for stretched words, finding some interesting patterns. Some words, for example, tend to be “unbalanced” (think “thaaaanks”), while others are balanced (think “hahahahaha”). The Wired story has some cool charts that show how common different stretched variations were for particular words.

What makes people decide to donate money for tiger conservation, say, but not to save an endangered bat? It could be partly down to the animals’ physical features, reports Amanda Heidt at Science. Researchers looked at people’s responses to a variety of bizarre fictional creatures, finding that they were more likely to donate to conserve larger animals or those that were more colourful or that sported cooler colours. Check out the story for some great pictures of the imaginary beasts.

Back to real animals, and a new comparative psychology study suggests that goats  understand the meaning of some basic human gestures, writes Candice Wang at Popular Science. Researchers found that goats could follow a human’s pointing gesture to correctly locate a source of food — although not perfectly. They hope that their work can ultimately help to improve the well-being of farm animals.

Is it really Friday already? At Scientific American, Jacki Rocheleau looks at how the coronavirus lock-down is warping our perception of time.

While epidemiologists continue to track the spread of COVID-19, other researchers are investigating how conspiracy theories about the virus are transmitted.  A feature at Nature by Amy Maxmen and Philip Ball looks at the work of these scientists, and how it might help inform attempts to “flatten the curve” of misinformation.

Of course, simply attempting to debunk coronavirus myths may backfire, as several scientists explain in The Conversation. Repeating a claim — even when trying to debunk it — can make it seem more believable. Instead, it may be more useful to ensure that true information is made more accessible and easy to understand, they suggest.

Finally, it feels like everyone is playing the Nintendo game Animal Crossing right now — but can psychology explain its appeal? Pete Etchells has the answers at BBC Science Focus.

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