7 ± 2: Psychological Testing for Pilots, the Efficacy of Anxiety Meds, and How Google Distorts Perceptions of Intelligence

This is 7 ± 2, my weekly psychological science roundup. Below are 7 ± 2 stories from the past 7 ± 2 days featuring the latest in psychological science.

1. Human Brain Project Needs a Rethink. Just like the human brain itself, the European Commission’s billion-euro Human Brain Project (HBP) defies easy explanation. Launched 18 months ago, the massive project is complex and, to most observers, confusing. Many people—both scientists and non-scientists—have thus accepted a description of the project that emerged from its leaders and its publicity machine: the aim of simulating the entire human brain in a supercomputer and so find cures for psychiatric and neurological disorders.

2. Psychological Tests for Pilots Cannot Prevent Crashes, say Experts. Every day pilots assume responsibility for hundreds of lives. But the tests airlines use to assess qualified pilots’ mental and psychological fitness for the job vary from country to country, are invariably perfunctory and can never perfectly predict how an individual will behave in particular circumstances on any given day.

3. Stereotypes lower math performance in women, but effects go unrecognized. A new study suggests that gender stereotypes about women’s ability in mathematics negatively impact their performance. And in a significant twist, both men and women wrongly believe those stereotypes will not undermine women’s math performance — but instead motivate them to perform better.

4. 85 college students tried to draw the Apple logo from memory. 84 failed. Could you draw the ubiquitous Apple computer logo from memory? Probably not, as it turns out.

5. Memories May Not Live in Neurons’ Synapses. As intangible as they may seem, memories have a firm biological basis. According to textbook neuroscience, they form when neighboring brain cells send chemical communications across the synapses, or junctions, that connect them. Each time a memory is recalled, the connection is reactivated and strengthened. The idea that synapses store memories has dominated neuroscience for more than a century, but a new study by scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles, may fundamentally upend it: instead memories may reside inside brain cells. If supported, the work could have major implications for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a condition marked by painfully vivid and intrusive memories.

6. Brain development in children could be affected by poverty, study shows. Brain scans of children and young adults have revealed that specific brain regions tend to be smaller in those from poorer backgrounds than those born into wealthier families.

7. Publication bias and ‘spin’ raise questions about drugs for anxiety disorders. A new analysis reported in JAMA Psychiatry raises serious questions about the increasingly common use of second-generation antidepressant drugs to treat anxiety disorders.

8. Google ‘makes people think they are smarter than they are.’ Searching the internet for information gives people a ‘widely inaccurate’ view of their own intelligence, Yale psychologists believe.

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