Failed Nudges And A Digital Christmas: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

Christmas is likely to be very different this year, with many family reunions potentially taking place remotely. But why do we struggle so much with the idea of a “digital Christmas”?  David Robson takes a look at what the psychology has to say at The Observer.

Many efforts to “nudge” people’s behaviour don’t work — but as we’ve written before, it’s important that even failed attempts are published so that we can learn from them. Now a new study has found that these failed interventions often share common features, such as an emphasis on encouraging people to behave in line with social norms, reports Layal Liverpool at New Scientist.

Could Alzheimer’s disease be triggered by microbes like the herpes virus? At Nature, Alison Abbott has a feature exploring what was once a “fringe theory”, but which researchers are now beginning to take seriously.

Artificial neural networks took their inspiration from the way that the brain processes information and now they are helping to us understand more about those brain pathways. Anil Ananthaswamy explores the parallels between the brain and these models in a longread at Wired.

Whether a psychology study supports a liberal or conservative worldview seems to make no difference to how replicable it is. That’s according to an analysis of nearly 200 studies which we reported on last year when it was still in pre-print form. Now the paper has been published and the authors, Diego Reinero and Jay Van Bavel, have written an interesting summary over at Scientific American.

Psychologists are trying to better understand the experience of people who hear voices, in order to make sure that they receive the support they need. Those who hear voices can end up withdrawing from others and feeling isolated, writes researcher Bryony Sheaves at The Conversation but it can help to have support in the form of social connection, and for other people to be open to conversations about their experiences.

There’s a lot of hype about the potential clinical or cognitive benefits of electrical brain stimulation — much of it unfounded. At Psyche, Hannah Filmer takes a measured but optimistic look at the future of the technology.

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