Sad Tweets And Horror Games: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

Why do some people automatically see a colour for each day of the week, or associate shapes with particular tastes? At Nautilus, Sidney Perkowitz writes about recent research into the origins of synaesthesia — and how the phenomenon could help researchers understand how consciousness emerges in the brain.

Birds and many other non-mammal vertebrates may be able to see colours that we humans can’t conceive of, writes Michael Le Page at New Scientist. That’s because they have a fourth cone in their retina that responds to ultraviolet light (humans only have three cones). Experiments have shown that when ultraviolet wavelengths combine with other wavelengths like those of red or blue light, the animals appear to see distinct colours.

We’ve just experienced the saddest two weeks on Twitter, according to a long-term project that has been tracking the sentiment of users for over a decade. The “hedonometer” compares the language used in tweets with a dictionary of sad and happy words. In the two weeks beginning May 26th, these words were, on average, sadder than at any point previously, reports Giuliana Viglione at Nature. However, it’s debatable how much we can glean from this kind of data.

We all respond differently to stress and trauma. But what exactly makes some people more resilient than others? At the New York Times, Eilene Zimmerman examines how we develop resilience, and what psychology can teach us about getting through the coronavirus crisis.

In the office, it’s easy to get informal feedback on your work: you just have to drop by your boss’s desk or chat to your colleagues over lunch. But in lockdown, where you have to arrange Zoom meetings or type out an email, things are different, write Nathan Eva and colleagues at The Conversation. The researchers have found that informal feedback improves employees’ work, and they suggest “promoting an organisation-wide culture of constructive and supportive feedback” while working remotely.

We’ve all seen images in the media vilifying people who are out in the park or queuing up outside shops. But the public has largely adhered to public health measures and not behaved selfishly, psychologist John Drury tells Nicola Davis at The Guardian. Drury warns against blaming the public for the UK’s high coronavirus toll, saying that to do so obscures the true reasons, such as political failures and systematic societal problems.

I’m planning on spending much of the weekend playing the just-released survival horror game The Last of Us Part II.  According to Farah Mohammed at JSTOR Daily, such games can be cathartic, personifying the more intangible fears that we face in day-to-day life — and allowing us to defeat them. This could explain why horror games seem to have been so popular in recent months, Mohammed suggests. Meanwhile, over at The Psychologist, Jacob Pendrey discusses the appeal of a game that couldn’t be more different: Animal Crossing.

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