Magic Tricks And Media Literacy: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

Sleep researchers often takes a “brain-centric” approach to their work, measuring sleep stages using EEG, for instance, or examining how sleep affects learning and memory. Yet rudimentary creatures also sleep — including the hydra, an aquatic organism which has a basic nervous system but no brain at all.  The findings suggest that our primitive ancestors slept before they even evolved brains, writes Veronique Greenwood at Wired

In his recent testimony to a House of Commons committee, Dominic Cummings blamed “groupthink” for various failures by the government to adequately tackle the coronavirus pandemic. But at The Guardian, psychologists Stephen Reicher and John Drury explain that the concept of groupthink is “highly contested”, and doesn’t really reflect how groups actually make decisions.

When in our history did humans learn to count — and did our Neanderthal cousins also have a system for noting numerical information? Colin Barras explores the possibilities in a fascinating feature at Nature.

In a recent paper, researchers report performing magic tricks for a very unusual audience: Eurasian jays. The birds fell for just one of the three different sleight-of-hand tricks, while humans were tricked by all three. The jays’ apparent resistance to the tricks could reflect the fact they don’t have the same expectations as humans about hand movements, writes researcher Elias Garcia-Pelegrin at The Conversation.

Be wary of articles telling you how to “boost your dopamine levels” to achieve happiness. The associations between our neurotransmitter levels and emotional states are much more complicated than those kinds of headlines suggest, explains Dean Burnett at Psyche.

People who overestimate their media literacy skills are also more likely to view and share fake news. The effects are fairly small, reports John Timmer at Ars Technica, but are consistent with other work on the Dunning-Kruger effect (and similar to another paper we covered in March, which found a “bullshit blindspot” among people who were overconfident in their own intellectual abilities).

Puppies have a natural capacity to understand human attempts at communication, according to a new study. The team found that Golden Retrievers and Labradors were pretty good at responding to pointing and baby talk at just 8 weeks old, reports Christa Lesté-Lasserre at New Scientist. These abilities seem to have a substantial genetic component, which makes sense given that humans have bred dogs to be social.

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