Category: Weekly links

Brainy Bumblebees And The Uncanny Valley: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

When creating cute creatures for movies, designers and animators must walk a fine line to avoid falling into the uncanny valley. Baby-like features — big eyes, large heads, round faces — can be appealing, writes Allyssia Alleyne at Wired. But make your character too human and it can look horrific, because we start to see it as one of our own kind, flaws and all.

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Early Birds And Bearded Dragons: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

A study on bearded dragons has honed in on the brain structure responsible for generating slow wave sleep patterns, writes Elizabeth Pennisi at Science. An area of the brain called the claustrum — not previously known to even exist in reptiles — was key: when the structure was damaged, the lizards could still sleep but showed no slow wave patterns. It’s been an interesting few months for bearded dragon research: as we wrote in December, the lizards apparently also succumb to optical illusions.

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Sad Songs And Smartphones: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

Recent years have seen a proliferation of mental health apps that claim to help relieve symptoms of depression. But there’s not much evidence that they really do anything, writes Tom Chivers at Unherd. Even in the few cases where there has been research into the effectiveness of the apps, the studies are often small and uncontrolled, raising questions about how solid the results are.


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Minibrains And Twitter Bots: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

Psychologists are increasingly turning to Twitter and other social networking sites to learn about human behaviour — but what happens when the accounts they’re studying don’t really belong to people at all? At Nature, Heidi Ledford explores how researchers are dealing with the problem of ever-more sophisticated bots.


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WEIRD Studies And Psychedelic Experiences: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

Psychologists have long recognised that the field has a bias towards studying people from Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic (WEIRD) societies. But how much is actually being done to correct this bias? Not enough, according to the experts interviewed by Michael Schulson in a story for Undark.

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Brain Parasites And Super-Recognisers: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

Researchers from tech company DeepMind have drawn inspiration from their own AI research to develop a new theory of how reinforcement learning works in the brain. Dopamine neurons respond to the difference between a predicted reward and the reward that an animal actually receives: so if the reward is greater than predicted, for instance, more dopamine will be released. But the team found that dopamine neurons in mice don’t all produce the same level of response, reports Donna Lu at New Scientistinstead, they show a distribution of responses, similar to techniques used in machine learning.

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The Emotions Of Music And The Meaning Of Life: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

It’s hard for researchers to study the brain activity involved in social interactions when they can only conduct MRI scans on a single person at a time. But what if you could squeeze two people into the scanner at once? At Science, Kelly Servick reports on the development of new, rather intimate imaging arrangements, in which two participants lie face-to-face while having their brains scanned simultaneously.  

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Blue Spaces And Whale Wisdom: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

Thinking of your sadness as a person — à la the Pixar movie Inside Out — can make you feel less sad. That’s according to a recent study which highlights the benefits of putting some distance between yourself and your emotions, reports Elle Hunt at The Guardian — though the strategy can backfire when it comes to positive emotions like happiness.


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Cat Whisperers And Dog Listeners: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

Why do children so readily believe in someone as ridiculous as Father Christmas — a man who flies around the world climbing down millions of chimneys, all in one night? It’s not that children are simply gullible beings, argues Rohan Kapitany at The Conversation: studies have shown that they can actually be pretty sceptical. Instead, it’s the detailed and committed actions modelled by adults — putting up trees, leaving out biscuits, hanging stockings — that seem to suggest to kids that of course this jolly red gift-giver must be real.


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Retail Ruses And Accent Attitudes: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) can help patients with Parkinson’s control their movement — but a new study has found that it also prevents some people from being able to swim. Nine patients — including two former competitive swimmers — were no longer able to keep afloat after receiving implants for DBS, reports Jennifer Walter for Discover. Past research has found that DBS can also disrupt other learned motor skills, such as golfing.

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