Horror Movies And Loot Boxes: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

Being positive is all well and good — but when do messages of hope and happiness start to become toxic? At Cosmic Shambles, Dean Burnett discusses the problem of “toxic positivity”, when people are told that they can or should simply choose to be happy, even in the face of adversity. It often comes in the form of trite sayings like “think happy thoughts”, which can leave people feeling that their negative emotions are not valid.


With many schools around the world still shut, lots of children are stuck at home without the usual chance to socialise with other kids. How might that affect their social development? Lydia Denworth talks to the experts for The Atlantic.


We’ve all seen the social media posts proclaiming that countries with female leaders are faring better in the pandemic than those with male leaders. But while there are clearly prominent examples of women-led nations whose response has been excellent — Germany and New Zealand, in particular — is this claim actually true? The evidence is pretty weak, writes Hilda Bastian at Wired, who points to the small sample size (as women still make up a small proportion of world leaders), as well as the confirmation bias that leads us to ignoring women-led countries that have not fared as well.


Meanwhile, even in workplaces where they are well-represented, women continue to face gender bias and discrimination. Researchers studied vets, a profession in which women make up the majority of employees, asking managers to assess the performance of a fictional worker. When they read that the employee was a woman, the managers believed they were less competent and recommended a lower salary, reports Jessica Hamzelou at New Scientist. And, revealingly, this bias was only seen in managers who believed that gender discrimination wasn’t an issue in the workplace.


The House of Lords Gambling Committee has called for loot boxes in video games to be regulated as gambling, reports BBC News. Studies have shown that there is a link between problem gambling and spending on loot boxes, which provide random rewards for players, though it’s a complex area of research still in its infancy.


Horror movie fans may be better equipped to deal with the distress caused by the pandemic, a preprint has claimed. Researchers found that fans of horror — and particularly fans of movies in which society collapses — reported less psychological stress during the pandemic, writes Ian Sample at The Guardian. This could be because watching these kinds of movies allows people to learn vicariously about how to act in disaster situations — although the authors do acknowledge that there could be some other third variable that is responsible for both turning someone into a horror fan and reducing their distress.


For our final link, something that’s not strictly psychology but fun nonetheless. It’s become something of a meme that when scientists submit their work for peer-review, “Reviewer 2” is always the one to shoot down the paper with nasty comments. But a (not-entirely-serious) analysis of papers submitted to one journal has found that it’s actually Reviewer 3 that’s the problem. “Not only is Reviewer 3 the bad actor, but Reviewer 3’s crafty enough that they get Reviewer 2 blamed,” researcher David Peterson tells John Timmer at Ars Technica.

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