An Olympian on the Couch? The Strange History of Psychiatric Tests, plus more weekly links


A selection of recent behavioral science news, articles, and resources of note:

  • Feeling like an Olympian might be as easy as tuning in to your TV. Reviewing recent research on the experience of being a spectator, Brian Barth writes, “It seems that fans can share much of an athlete’s thrill, without all the talent, training, and exertion.” Though you probably won’t make it on the front of a Wheaties box. (Nautilus)


Photo: U.S. Army

  • Competing at an Olympic level is a mental and physical roller coaster, so it’s no surprise that at the end of the ride, regardless of their success, participants are wiped out psychologically and physiologically. Some of the most successful athletes—from Michael Phelps to Allison Schmitt—have experienced this post-Olympic dip. To help address the problem, psychologists are working to help athletes create an identity that doesn’t revolve solely around sports, so the crash after the games isn’t so intense. (The Atlantic)
  • Nobody wants to finish last at the Olympics, but those who come in third tend to be happier than those in second. The Behavioral Insights Team dives into the Olympics with a look at the ways loss aversion, happiness, and the scientific method as applied to improvement all play a role in the World’s games. (Behavioral Insights Team)
  • The forthcoming Psychobook explores the history of psychiatric and psychological tests revealing the absurd and often noxious history of mental assessment. Elif Bautman peers into these methodological relics of the past, prompting us to wonder: Are today’s tools much better? (The New Yorker)
  • Psychologist Sanjay Srivastava is teaching a new course this fall, PSY 607: Everything is Fucked. Ok, it’s not a real course, but he did create a syllabus to get you thinking about where psychology is now and where it’s heading. (The Hardest Science and The Chronicle of Higher Education)
  • In the New York Times, David Kirp reviews research by psychologists who hope to boost college graduation rates by increasing belonging and improving mindsets. (New York Times)


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