Postcodes And Pigs: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

Plenty of work suggests that we have a “reminiscence bump” for music, tending to preferentially recall songs from our teenage years and young adulthood. Now a new study has found that while music from these years is indeed more familiar, it’s not always the case that we like it more. Younger participants in particular didn’t show a strong preference for music from their youth. “This suggests that songs from our adolescence can become closely entangled with memories from our past even if we don’t personally value the music,” writes researcher Kelly Jakubowski at The Conversation.

Researchers have created “mini-brains” containing a genetic variant from our Neanderthal and Denisovan cousins. The brain organoids are different from regular human ones: they are smaller, have a rougher texture, and show differences at the neuronal level, reports Ariana Remmel at Nature. But some researchers are sceptical about how much these organoids can really tell us about the brains of our extinct relatives.

Pigs have been trained to play a rudimentary computer game, the BBC reports. The animals learned to control a joystick with their snouts to move a cursor to a target, receiving a reward of food pellets when successful. We already know pigs are intelligent animals, but the work shows that they can even understand the association between moving a joystick and the movement of a cursor on screen.

Did you know that cognitive psychologists were behind the design of the UK postcode system? Researchers from the University of Cambridge drew on memory research in order to create “one of the most memorable postcode systems in the world”, explains Marc Smith in his blog.

Psychology can also teach writers about how to create complex characters, writes Kira-Anne Pelican at Psyche. In particular, Pelican recommends thinking about your character’s “Big Five” personality traits and how these might influence their behaviour.

Despite being in the middle of a pandemic, many of us will have experienced moments when we realise how connected we are to each other. At The Guardian, psychologist Lisa Feldman Barrett discusses the way in which we can have a profound effect on the body and minds of others, even at a distance.  

Tom Hanks’ announcement that he had COVID-19 in March 2020 may have made people take coronavirus more seriously. That’s according to a study conducted immediately after the news broke last year. Participants said that seeing a high profile and well-liked public figure contract the disease made COVID-19 seem more like a threat, reports Jeremy Blum at HuffPost. The authors suggest that celebrities could make good spokespeople for public health campaigns.

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