Astronauts And Ambivalence: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

Researchers have used virtual reality to explore how art and nature elicit feelings of the sublime. The team compared people’s emotional responses when they saw a 360° VR version of Van Gogh’s The Starry Night to when they saw a realistic portrayal of the actual area depicted in the painting. They found that both VR videos induced sublime feelings — but participants’ responses were more intense for the naturalistic video, reports Sarah Wells at Inverse.


We’re often expected to fall firmly on one side or the other of an issue — but is there something to be said for embracing ambivalence? Writing at Psyche, Iris Schneider highlights the benefits of holding two opposing opinions simultaneously.


More on dolphin psychology this week: researchers have found that the marine creatures co-ordinate behaviour through vocal cues. Dolphins appear to use clicks to synchronise their jumps, for instance, while in another study, two dolphins who had to press buttons simultaneously to get a treat used whistles to co-ordinate. But not everyone is convinced that these are examples of intentional communication, as Christa Lesté-Lasserre reports at Science.


Playing with ultra-thin dolls can leave young girls feeling they should be thinner themselves, writes researcher Lynda Boothroyd at The Conversation. Boothroyd’s team gave girls aged between five and nine either ultra-thin dolls or more realistic, child-like dolls to play with. The former group showed lower body satisfaction and a thinner “ideal self” after playing with the dolls.


We’ve written a lot about lab-based trials of psychedelic drugs for treating mental health conditions but now the first clinic to offer psychedelic-assisted treatment is about to open in the UK. Alexandra Jones has the story at The Guardian.


Astronauts spending time in zero gravity could develop problems with emotion recognition, reports Sara Rigby at BBC Science Focus. To simulate long periods of weightlessness, participants spent 60 days lying in a bed that was tilted down towards their heads. The participants became slower at recognising facial expressions and tended to categorise expressions as angry more than happy or neutral. But it’s not clear whether microgravity itself caused these changes, or whether they were the result of spending long periods in isolation and confinement.


Is psychology a form of secular mythology? That’s the argument made by Rami Gabriel at Aeon. Psychology satisfies our need to understand why we are like we are, for instance, and gives us guidance about how to live our lives — much like religious texts or the myths of the ancient world.

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