Bee Brains And Eyebrows: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

You’ve probably heard of ASMR — or maybe experienced it yourself from watching videos of people doing things like whispering or rustling paper. But although such videos are incredibly popular, there have been surprisingly few studies on the phenomenon. Giulia Poerio explores what the research has revealed so far at The Conversation.

The feelings of “dissociation” caused by drugs like ketamine seem to be related to slow, rhythmic firing patterns of brain cells in an area called the retrosplenial cortex. Researchers identified this link first in rodents, reports Jon Hamilton at NPR, but then found that similar patterns were seen in a patient with epilepsy when they experienced dissociation. The work could help develop drugs to prevent dissociation — or induce it when it may be beneficial.

Scientists are trying to learn more about the neurological symptoms sometimes caused by COIVD-19. At Nature, Michael Marshall has written a useful overview of what we do and don’t know.

Talking to strangers is not always easy, but it can benefit our wellbeing, writes Emily Kasriel at BBC Future. Of course, it is much harder to have meaningful encounters with strangers during a pandemic, when so many of us are staying at home in our own bubbles. But, as Kasriel points out, there have also been plenty of examples of people helping out those they don’t know during the crisis.                        

Making friends can also be hard, especially as an adult. At Psyche, Marisa G Franco has some great tips for establishing — and maintaining — new friendships, based on psychological research.  

Bees with specialised diets, feeding off just specific kinds of flower, have larger brains than their less discerning cousins, reports Elizabeth Preston at The New York Times. The researchers suggest that bigger brains help these species to home in on their preferred flower when there are many options to choose from. Interestingly, the team also found that a bee’s brain size wasn’t related to their social behaviour.

Finally, this year’s Ig Nobel prizes were announced at a virtual ceremony yesterday. The annual awards celebrate the quirkier side of science: winners this year included a group which investigated the viability of knives made of human faeces (they don’t work), and another which examined how frequency of kissing was related to a nation’s level of income inequality (more inequality is associated with more kissing, apparently). In the psychology category, Miranda Giacomin and Nicholas Rule won for a study which found that people can identify narcissists based on their distinctive eyebrows. Jennifer Ouellette has more at Ars Technica.

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