Hand Gestures And Sexist Language: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

It’s wrong to say that introverts have fared better during the pandemic, writes Lis Ku at The Conversation. Instead, studies have shown that in many ways introverts’ wellbeing has suffered more than that of extraverts. This could be because extraverts may have more social support, for instance, or because extraversion is related to superior coping strategies — although Ku emphasises that there are likely many other traits, beliefs and values that are also important in determining people’s response to lockdown.

A new trial suggests that the psychedelic drug psilocybin could be as good as existing antidepressant drugs at treating depression, when it is combined with psychotherapy. However, researchers caution that more work with larger, more diverse samples is needed before the drug could be used outside of a research setting, reports Nicola Davis at The Guardian.

­When the queen of a colony of Indian jumping ants dies, the worker ants compete to become the new queen. Now researchers have discovered that in the process, these would-be-queens shrink their brains by about 20%. The team suspects that this is because there are fewer cognitive demands placed on an ant whose primary job is simply to reproduce, reports Annie Roth at The New York Times, so energy that would be going to the workers’ brains is better spent on the reproductive system instead.

Why are older, single women labelled with the negative term “spinster”, while the only word for an unmarried man is the much more neutral “bachelor”?  At BBC Future, Sophia Smith Galer delves into the words we use to discuss men and women — and asks whether language simply reflects the sexism of society, or might actually perpetuate those biases.

Parents often worry that social media is having negative effects on children’s mental health. But what does the science say? Well, there’s not much evidence either way, writes Andrew Przybylski at BBC Science Focus, because social media companies don’t share their data with researchers. But given that social media may be an important outlet for many young people, well-intentioned efforts to intervene could end up backfiring.

Can boosting kids’ “grit” help them to achieve academic success? It’s a popular idea, but one without a huge amount of evidence behind it, writes Jesse Singal at Nautilus, in an extract from his new book.

Making hand gestures during a lesson can help people learn abstract concepts. In a recent study, participants watched an animated lesson about statistical models and then completed a test. Those who had made hand gestures to imitate parts of the lesson subsequently performed better on the test than those who had made no gestures, or those who had made gestures that were inconsistent with the lesson. Matthew Hutson explains the work at Scientific American.

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