Memes And Medals: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

Olympic athletes have always been under intense pressure, but this year the pandemic has added to the challenges they face. At Wired, Amit Katwala explores the impact that competing at the Olympics has on athletes’ mental health.


People who were allowed to travel further unsupervised when they were kids are more confident navigators as adults. That’s according to work by psychologist Vanessa Vieites, who describes her study at The Conversation. Men also reported being allowed to explore more as children, which went some way to explaining gender differences in adult wayfinding.


Instagram is rife with memes about mental health. But are these actually beneficial to people who have experienced trauma? At The Guardian, Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett takes a nuanced look at the possible benefits and dangers of this trend.  


Cockatoos in Sydney know how to raid household bins and, intriguingly, this is a behaviour that they seem to have learned from each other. Researchers found that before 2018, cockatoos in just a few suburbs were able to “dumpster dive”, reports Cathleen O’Grady at Science, but over time the behaviour spread out from those original locations. The team even found that there are local “subcultures” of cockatoos that have different strategies for opening the bins.


Giving a stranger a compliment is not nearly as awkward as we anticipate, and also makes them feel much happier than we expect. At BBC Worklife, David Robson looks at the research on compliments, and concludes that we should be giving each other more of them (within reason!).


Both antidepressants and psychological therapy produce changes in the brain’s response to emotional information — though a recent study found that these changes occur in different but related areas. At Psyche, researcher Camilla Nord explains the results, arguing that neuroscience has a central role to play in improving our understanding of mental health disorders and in the development of personalised treatments.  


Finally, yet more research has looked at whether bronze or silver medallists are happier. This time, researchers used software to analyse the faces of athletes on the podium in the last five Olympic Games. The team found that bronze medallists appeared to be happier than silver medallists, reports Vanessa Romo at NPR (contrary to the findings of a similar study we reported on a couple of years ago).

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