Cuteness And Self-Compassion: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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

Like humans, octopuses have both an active and quiet stage of sleep, reports Rodrigo Pérez Ortega at Science. Researchers found that for 30-40 minutes of sleep the creatures are fairly still with pale skin, but for about 40 seconds their skin turns darker and they move their eyes and body. In humans, dreaming happens in the active, REM stage, but scientists still don’t know whether the octopuses also dream during their active sleep.

During the pandemic we haven’t only missed out on socialising — we’ve also been deprived of novel experiences. And a lack of novelty can be detrimental to our wellbeing and even our cognitive functioning, writes Richard A Friedman at The Guardian.

A growing body of evidence suggests that sustaining head injuries in sports raises the risk of players developing neurodegenerative diseases. Now a longitudinal study following a cohort of Americans has found that even mild head injuries can increase the risk of dementia, reports Sara Harrison at Wired. The team also found that the increase in risk was greater for women than men and for White than Black people, but more work is needed to understand these differences.

What’s going on in our brains when we look at a cute little baby or kitten? At Science Focus, Thomas Ling explores the neuroscience of cuteness.

Some people who have recovered from Covid-19 report a loss of smell — or experience previously nice smells as unpleasant. And that can have devastating social consequences, writes Alyson Krueger at The New York Times: many sufferers report that they are no longer able to be intimate with loved ones or eat meals with friends and family.

Scientists have looked at the personality and cognitive abilities of “psychonauts”, people who experiment with psychedelic drugs and document their experiences. This group showed high levels of sensation-seeking and risk-taking, report the researchers, Barbara Sahakian and George Savulich, at The Conversation. But they didn’t have any deficits in learning and memory (unlike a group of “club drug” users who were seeking help for addiction), suggesting that they were avoiding harmful patterns of drug use.

Being kind to ourselves is vital for our wellbeing and personal growth — and yet a lot of us are not very good at it. At Psyche, Christina Chwyl examines the research around self-compassion, and explores how we might become better friends to ourselves.

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

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