Dream Diaries And Awkward Acronyms: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

Psychologists interested in dreams spend a lot of time analysing dream diaries — but what if they could have a computer do all that laborious work for them? That’s the promise of a new algorithm that uses text analysis to look for patterns in people’s dream reports, writes Charlotte Hartley at Science. The tool could help researchers understand how dreams differ in different populations, or how the content of dreams relates to wellbeing.

Extreme worry and anxiety is rarely a good thing, but some level of worry can be adaptive. At BBC Future, Christine Ro takes a look at the benefits of worrying — and how to worry better.

Many people who live with eating disorders have experienced an exacerbation of their symptoms during the coronavirus pandemic, reports Michelle Konstantinovsky at Scientific American. There could be many reasons for this, including reduced social support and face-to-face therapy, a lack of structure, and increased feelings of anxiety.

Another study has found that there has been a reduction in anxiety among year nine students in southwest England during lockdown. While stuck at home, kids may have been protected from aspects of school which negatively affect their wellbeing, such as pressures associated with schoolwork and the need to navigate social relationships, writes researcher Emily Widnall at The Conversation. Indeed, the team found that those who felt most disconnected from school had the greatest improvement in wellbeing during lockdown.

We’re facing a very serious situation right now — but could silliness help us through it? At The Guardian, Elle Hunt explores the psychological benefits of whimsy and playfulness.

Finally, acronyms are becoming increasingly common in scientific papers, creating barriers for science communication, reports Hannah Seo at Popular Science. Researchers analysed 25 million papers published in the past 70 years, finding that abstracts and titles contained more than 1 million unique acronyms, most of which were only used a handful of times. More recent papers also contained a greater proportion of acronyms. There is clearly a place for acronyms, Seo writes, but overuse can make science less accessible to the public and even to scientists from different fields.

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