Soothing loneliness with Facebook, plus mapping crowds and making a good first impression in this week’s news

What you see is where you go By considering a pedestrian’s line of sight and travel speed, researchers have created a more accurate model of how people navigate crowds without bumping into each other. Most such models consider human traffic flow in terms of physics, but the point-of-view approach is more realistic, researchers in Europe argue online April 18 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences . Collision physics does play a role when modeling superdense crowds: Coordinated behavior ceases, giving rise to turbulence. — Rachel Ehrenberg Facebook’s lonely pull Social networking site Facebook may temporarily distract some people from feelings of loneliness that can’t be soothed by computerized buddies. A team led by psychologist Kennon Sheldon of the University of Missouri in Columbia found that college students increasingly use Facebook as they feel more socially isolated. Students reported feeling closer to others when using Facebook, but at the same time described feeling lonely and unappreciated in their daily lives, the researchers report in the April Journal of Personality and Social Psychology . Loneliness encourages some people to turn to Facebook friends, providing temporary emotional relief but leaving larger problems unresolved, Sheldon proposes. — Bruce Bower Transparent first impressions Oddly enough, putting one’s best face forward helps to reveal one’s true self to others. College students more accurately discerned personality traits and intelligence levels of peers who attempted to make a good impression in videotaped interviews, compared to volunteers who acted naturally, say psychologist Lauren Human of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and her colleagues. People who try to present themselves in a positive light display a sense of confidence and involvement that draws close attention from others, enhancing observers’ ability to discern what impression-managers are really like, the researchers propose in an upcoming Social Psychological and Personality Science . — Bruce Bower

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