Hummingbirds And Helpful Rats: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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Rats are generally Good Samaritans: they help other rats in trouble, particularly when they’re in a group. But after their companions are given drugs which make them passive, the rats seem to lose their willingness to help, reports Nell Greenfieldboyce at NPR. The findings have similarities with the bystander effect in humans, where the presence of unresponsive bystanders can make someone less likely to help.

Unconscious bias training has been in the spotlight recently, after Keir Starmer promised that the Labour party will undergo such training. And there’s of course no denying that people hold unconscious biases and prejudices. But, writes Tom Chivers at Unherd, the problem is that there’s very little evidence this kind of training, or the tools used to measure implicit racism, actually work.

Researchers have discovered that hummingbirds understand the concept of numerical order, writes Cathleen O’Grady at Science. The team lined up ten artificial flowers, putting food in just a single one (the first flower, for instance, or the third one along). After the hummingbirds had learned which flower contained food, the researchers then shuffled the flowers around and moved the whole line to another location. But the birds still went straight for the location in the line where they expected the food to be.

Traditionally, prosthetic limbs have been designed to either be functional or to appear realistic. But there’s another option: “expressive” prostheses, which allow an individual to express their own identity through the design of the limb, writes researcher Anna Vlachaki at The Conversation. Vlachaki and others have found that expressive prostheses can improve users’ well-being, and reduce negative attitudes from others in society.

Many psychologists are worried about the effects the coronavirus pandemic is having on our mental health. And there’s one group of people who may be particularly at risk of exhaustion and burn-out: the public health experts who have been working tirelessly throughout the pandemic. In The Atlantic, Ed Yong talks to these specialists about the toll the crisis is having on their own lives.

What’s the crisis like for someone who has obsessive-compulsive disorder? Matthew Cantor has written a moving and insightful account for The Guardian.

Finally, remember Brexit? Yes, that’s still going on — and the transition period ends on December 31st, so unless the country is going to leave with no deal, the UK and EU need to come to a compromise by then. Will that hard deadline help move things along? Sabrina Weiss looks at the psychology of deadlines and negotiations at Wired.

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