Optical Illusions And Problematic Peer-Review: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

Visual illusions occur because our brains construct stories about how things should look, based on our experiences and expectations, which don’t always match up with reality. And with a greater understanding of how we (mis)interpret the visual world, perhaps we can also come to understand the more complicated biases in our thoughts and behaviour that have led to the polarised political climate, writes Brian Resnick at Vox. Aside from being a great read, the story contains some really nice examples of visual illusions that I had never come across before.

Over at The Conversation, Adrian Bardon has more on polarisation. People have a tendency to ignore evidence that threatens their worldview, a process called “motivated reasoning”, Bardon explains. This can help explain why simply providing information is not necessarily enough to tackle issues like climate denial.

Has lockdown left you feeling exhausted? You’re not alone: with our routines and normal habits all shaken up, many of us are faced with making a bunch of decisions every day, writes William Park at BBC Future — and this can be very tiring.

Spending time outside in green spaces benefits our mood and mental health — so lockdown has been particularly hard for many of those living in apartments in crowded cities. At The New York Times, Meg St-Esprit McKivigan talks to families struggling without access to green space (though many psychologists would likely dispute the article’s claim that “nature deficit disorder” is a real condition).

In the early 1990s, the world became aware of the plight of thousands of children growing up in awful conditions in Romanian orphanages. Psychologists who went to work with the orphans learned a lot about child development and the effects of neglect. Now Melissa Fay Greene has written a heart-breaking feature for The Atlantic, which describes the challenges these children have faced, and looks at how they are coping today.

Many scientists have challenged the notion that only papers published in peer-reviewed journals are of good quality — or that peer-review guarantees good quality. And now the coronavirus pandemic has really highlighted the limitations of the publishing process. Researchers are making coronavirus-related preprints available as quickly as possible, to ensure that information is shared more rapidly than the review process would allow, while several high profile, peer-reviewed journal papers have recently been retracted. At Wired, psychologist Simine Vazire discusses the issues with the traditional peer-review process, with some suggestions for how to improve things for the future.

Finally, if you know any young people interested in science, a great resource is Frontiers for Young Minds: an open-access journal which publishes papers written for — and reviewed by — kids.   This week, neuroscientists Kathryn Mills and Jeya Anandakumar explain why the adolescent brain is “literally awesome”, in a nice article that includes one of the best figures I’ve ever seen in a paper.

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