Faces And Friendliness: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

A new study adds to the “nature vs nurture” debate about the fusiform face area, a region of the brain specialised for processing faces, reports Neuroskeptic at Discover Magazine. Researchers found that both blind and sighted people show activation of this area when touching models of faces, suggesting that visual experience, at least, isn’t necessary for the area to become specialised.

Humans have prospered as a species because of our “friendliness”, such as our tendency to perform acts of kindness towards other members of our in-group — even those we don’t know. That’s the argument made at Science Focus by Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods, who have a book out called “Survival of the Friendliest”.

Some people worry that wearing a mask prevents us from conveying our emotions to others. But our eyes reveal a surprising amount of information about our mental states, writes Nigel Holt at The Conversation.

Having high self-control is associated with a range of positive outcomes, such as better academic performance and a healthier lifestyle. But it’s not all good, writes David Robson at BBC Worklife. People high in self-control may be more likely to behave selfishly — if they know they can get away with it — and follow orders to perform immoral actions like grinding up insects and giving others electric shocks.

What’s it like to struggle to recognise family and friends? At The Guardian, Katherine May has written a poignant account of her experience with face blindness.

Elon Musk showcased his much-hyped Neuralink implants last week, with a demonstration of how the device can record neuronal activity from the cortex of pigs and wirelessly broadcast it to a computer. The technology behind the implants is impressive but not exactly new, writes Tanya Lewis at Scientific American — it draws on decades of advancements in the field. The company hopes that one day the implants could help people with paralysis, though there are still plenty of hurdles to overcome.

More research is out this week about the emotional toll of the coronavirus pandemic and it’s not good news. In the United States, the number of people experiencing symptoms of depression is three times higher than it was pre-pandemic, reports Rhitu Chatterjee at NPR. People on low incomes or who’ve lost jobs or loved ones are at particularly high risk.

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