Thursday, June 22, 2017

Self-protection promotes altruism

Self-protection promotes altruism, by Eugene Chan
Evolution and Human Behavior,


    •Self-protection tendencies allowed our human ancestors to survive and thrive.
    •One primary strategy to protect oneself is to affiliate as there is “safety in numbers”.
    •One way to pursue this strategy would being more altruistic to others.
    •Thus, self-protection increases altruism, but only when there is the sufficient possibility of it being reciprocated.

Abstract: Self-protection tendencies allowed our human ancestors to survive and thrive. In three experiments, we find that individuals who have a salient self-protection motive are more altruistic to others, such as by helping them out or offering them more money in the dictator game paradigm. Self-protecting individuals desire to “bind together” as there is “safety in numbers”, and being altruistic to others should be one (but not the only) way to achieve this goal. Consistent with this reasoning, we find across three behavioral experiments using both non-monetary (Experiment 1) and monetary altruistic contexts (Experiments 2–3) that self-protecting individuals are more altruistic when the altruism is not anonymous (Experiment 1) and when they have the reasonable expectation of future interaction with the recipient (Experiment 2), both of which are situations that should increase affiliation. The effect attenuates when altruism does not help self-protecting individuals, such as when money is donated to impersonal organizations rather than individuals (Experiment 3). We finally discuss the theoretical contributions as well as limitations of our work.

Natural Disasters and Political Engagement: Evidence from the 2010–11 Pakistani Floods

Natural Disasters and Political Engagement: Evidence from the 2010–11 Pakistani Floods. By Christine Fair et al.
Quarterly Journal of Political Science, Spring 2017, Pages 99-141.

Abstract: How natural disasters affect politics in developing countries is an important question, given the fragility of fledgling democratic institutions in some of these countries as well as likely increased exposure to natural disasters over time due to climate change. Research in sociology and psychology suggests traumatic events can inspire pro-social behavior and therefore might increase political engagement. Research in political science argues that economic resources are critical for political engagement and thus the economic dislocation from disasters may dampen participation. We argue that when the government and civil society response effectively blunts a disaster's economic impacts, then political engagement may increase as citizens learn about government capacity. Using diverse data from the massive 2010–11 Pakistan floods, we find that Pakistanis in highly flood-affected areas turned out to vote at substantially higher rates three years later than those less exposed. We also provide speculative evidence on the mechanism. The increase in turnout was higher in areas with lower ex ante flood risk, which is consistent with a learning process. These results suggest that natural disasters may not necessarily undermine civil society in emerging developing democracies.

Information provision and consumer behavior: A natural experiment in billing frequency.

Information provision and consumer behavior: A natural experiment in billing frequency. By Casey Wichman
Journal of Public Economics, August 2017, Pages 13–33

Abstract: In this study, I estimate a causal effect of increased billing frequency on consumer behavior. I exploit a natural experiment in which residential water customers switched exogenously from bimonthly to monthly billing. Customers increase consumption by 3.5–5 percent in response to more frequent information. This result is reconciled in models of price and quantity uncertainty, where increases in billing frequency reduce the distortion in consumer perceptions. Using treatment effects as sufficient statistics, I calculate consumer welfare gains equivalent to 0.5–1 percent of annual water expenditures. Heterogeneous treatment effects suggest increases in outdoor water use.

Sexual regret in US and Norway: Effects of culture and individual differences in religiosity and mating strategy

Sexual regret in US and Norway: Effects of culture and individual differences in religiosity and mating strategy. By Mons Bendixen et al.
Personality and Individual Differences, 1 October 2017, Pages 246–251,


•    Men were significantly less likely to regret having had casual sex than women were.
•    Men were significantly more likely to regret passing up casual sex than women were.
•    More religious regretted having had casual sex more and passing up casual sex less.
•    Unrestricted regretted having had casual sex less and passing up casual sex more.
•    Overall regret and patterns of sex differences not different between nations

Abstract: Sexual regret was investigated across two disparate cultures: Norway (N = 853), a highly secular and sexually liberal culture, and the United States (N = 466), a more religious and more sexually conservative culture. Sex differences, individual differences in preferred mating strategy, religiosity, and cultural differences in sexual regret were analyzed. Men were significantly less likely to regret having had casual sex than women and were significantly more likely to regret passing up casual sexual opportunities than women. Participants who were more religious regretted having had casual sex more and regretted passing up casual sex less. Sexually unrestricted participants were less likely to regret having had casual sex and were more likely to regret passing up casual sex. Finally, North Americans and Norwegians did not differ significantly in overall amount of sexual regret nor in patterns of sex differences in sexual regret. Discussion focuses the robustness of sex differences across cultures, the importance of explaining individual differences within cultures, and on future directions for cross-cultural research.

Keywords: Sexual regret; Religiosity; Sociosexual orientation; Culture; Sexual strategies; One night stands

Strategic gerontocracy: Why nondemocratic systems produce older leaders

Strategic gerontocracy: Why nondemocratic systems produce older leaders. By Raul Magni Berton & Sophie Panel
Public Choice, June 2017, Pages 409–427.

Abstract: One characteristic of nondemocratic regimes is that leaders cannot be removed from office by legal means: in most authoritarian regimes, no institutional way of dismissing incompetent rulers is available, and overthrowing them is costly. Anticipating this, people who have a say in the selection of the leader are likely to resort to alternative strategies to limit his tenure. In this paper, we examine empirically the “strategic gerontocracy” hypothesis: Because selecting aging leaders is a convenient way of reducing their expected time in office, gerontocracy will become a likely outcome whenever leaders are expected to rule for life. We test this hypothesis using data on political leaders for the period from 1960 to 2008, and find that dictators have shorter life expectancies than democrats at the time they take office. We also observe variations in the life expectancies of dictators: those who are selected by consent are on average closer to death than those who seize power in an irregular manner. This finding suggests that gerontocracy is a consequence of the choice process, since it disappears when dictators self-select into leadership positions.

When the appeal of a dominant leader is greater than a prestige leader

When the appeal of a dominant leader is greater than a prestige leader. By Hemant Kakkar & Niro Sivanathan
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,

Abstract: Across the globe we witness the rise of populist authoritarian leaders who are overbearing in their narrative, aggressive in behavior, and often exhibit questionable moral character. Drawing on evolutionary theory of leadership emergence, in which dominance and prestige are seen as dual routes to leadership, we provide a situational and psychological account for when and why dominant leaders are preferred over other respected and admired candidates. We test our hypothesis using three studies, encompassing more than 140,000 participants, across 69 countries and spanning the past two decades. We find robust support for our hypothesis that under a situational threat of economic uncertainty (as exemplified by the poverty rate, the housing vacancy rate, and the unemployment rate) people escalate their support for dominant leaders. Further, we find that this phenomenon is mediated by participants’ psychological sense of a lack of personal control. Together, these results provide large-scale, globally representative evidence for the structural and psychological antecedents that increase the preference for dominant leaders over their prestigious counterparts.

Implications of maternity leave choice for perceptions of working mothers

Should I stay or should I go? Implications of maternity leave choice for perceptions of working mothers. By Thekla Morgenroth & Madeline Heilman
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, September 2017, Pages 53–56.


•    We investigate how women's decisions regarding maternity leave affects their evaluation.
•    Women who choose to take maternity leave are seen as less competent at work and less worthy of organizational rewards.
•    Women who choose not to take maternity leave are seen as worse parents and less desirable partners.
•    Perceptions of whether women prioritize family or work play an important role in these processes.

Abstract: Working mothers often find themselves in a difficult situation when trying to balance work and family responsibilities and to manage expectations about their work and parental effectiveness. Family-friendly policies such as maternity leave have been introduced to address this issue. But how are women who then make the decision to go or not go on maternity leave evaluated? We presented 296 employed participants with information about a woman who made the decision to take maternity leave or not, or about a control target for whom this decision was not relevant, and asked them to evaluate her both in the work and the family domain. We found that both decisions had negative consequences, albeit in different domains. While the woman taking maternity leave was evaluated more negatively in the work domain, the woman deciding against maternity leave was evaluated more negatively in the family domain. These evaluations were mediated by perceptions of work/family commitment priorities. We conclude that while it is important to introduce policies that enable parents to reconcile family and work demands, decisions about whether to take advantage of these policies can have unintended consequences – consequences that can complicate women's efforts to balance work and childcare responsibilities.

Women and African Americans are less influential when they express anger during group decision making

Women and African Americans are less influential when they express anger during group decision making. By Jessica Salerno, Liana Peter-Hagene & Alexander Jay
Group Processes & Intergroup Relations,

Abstract: Expressing anger can signal that someone is certain and competent, thereby increasing their social influence — but does this strategy work for everyone? After assessing gender- and race-based emotion stereotypes (Study 1), we assessed the effect of expressing anger on social influence during group decision making as a function of gender (Studies 2–3) and race (Study 3). Participants took part in a computerized mock jury decision-making task, during which they read scripted comments ostensibly from other jurors. A “holdout” juror always disagreed with the participant and four other confederate group members. We predicted that the contextual factor of who expressed emotion would trump what was expressed in determining whether anger is a useful persuasion strategy. People perceived all holdouts expressing anger as more emotional than holdouts who expressed identical arguments without anger. Yet holdouts who expressed anger (versus no anger) were less effective and influential when they were female (but not male, Study 2) or Black (but not White, Study 3) — despite having expressed identical arguments and anger. Although anger expression made participants perceive the holdouts as more emotional regardless of race and gender, being perceived as more emotional was selectively used to discredit women and African Americans. These diverging consequences of anger expression have implications for societally important group decisions, including life-and-death decisions made by juries.

Physical cleansing changes goal priming effects

Embodiment as procedures: Physical cleansing changes goal priming effects. B Ping Dong and Spike W. S. Lee (Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 2017[Apr], Vol 146[4], 592-605).

Physical cleansing reduces the influence of numerous psychological experiences, such as guilt from immoral behavior, dissonance from free choice, and good/bad luck from winning/losing. How do these domain-general effects occur? We propose an integrative account of cleansing as an embodied procedure of psychological separation. By separating physical traces from a physical target object (e.g., detaching dirt from hands), cleansing serves as the embodied grounding for the separation of psychological traces from a psychological target object (e.g., dissociating prior experience from the present self). This account predicts that cleansing reduces the accessibility of psychological traces and their consequences for judgments and behaviors. Testing these in the context of goal priming, we find that wiping one’s hands (vs. not) decreases the mental accessibility (Experiment 1), behavioral expression (Experiment 2), and judged importance (Experiments 3–4) of previously primed goals (e.g., achievement, saving, fitness). But if a goal is primed after cleansing, its importance gets amplified instead (Experiment 3). Based on the logic of moderation-of-process, an alternative manipulation that psychologically separates a primed goal from the present self produces the same effects, but critically, the effects vanish once people wipe their hands clean (Experiment 4), consistent with the notion that cleansing functions as an embodied procedure of psychological separation. These findings have implications for the flexibility of goal pursuit. More broadly, our procedural perspective generates novel predictions about the scope and mechanisms of cleansing effects and may help integrate embodied and related phenomena.

Not taking responsibility: Equity trumps efficiency in allocation decisions

Not taking responsibility: Equity trumps efficiency in allocation decisions. By  Gordon-Hecker, Tom; Rosensaft-Eshel, Daniela; Pittarello, Andrea; Shalvi, Shaul; Bereby-Meyer, Yoella
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Vol 146(6), Jun 2017, 771-775.

Abstract: When allocating resources, equity and efficiency may conflict. When resources are scarce and cannot be distributed equally, one may choose to destroy resources and reduce societal welfare to maintain equity among its members. We examined whether people are averse to inequitable outcomes per se or to being responsible for deciding how inequity should be implemented. Three scenario-based experiments and one incentivized experiment revealed that participants are inequity responsibility averse: when asked to decide which of the 2 equally deserving individuals should receive a reward, they rather discarded the reward than choosing who will get it. This tendency diminished significantly when participants had the possibility to use a random device to allocate the reward. The finding suggests that it is more difficult to be responsible for the way inequity is implemented than to create inequity per se.

The effect of sexual violence on negotiated outcomes in civil conflicts

The effect of sexual violence on negotiated outcomes in civil conflicts. By Tiffany Chu & Jessica Maves Braithwaite
Conflict Management and Peace Science,

Abstract: Combatants used sexual violence in approximately half of all civil conflicts since 1989. We expect that when groups resort to sexual violence they are organizationally vulnerable, unlikely to win, and as such they are inclined to salvage something from the conflict by way of a settlement. Using quantitative analysis of data on civil conflicts in the post-Cold War period, we find that a higher prevalence of sexual violence perpetrated by government forces precipitates negotiated outcomes. This is particularly true in contexts where both government and rebel forces utilize comparable levels of wartime rape and other forms of sexual abuse.

Mi resumen de lo que las autoras defienden: se estima que se ha utilizado la violencia sexual en approx la mitad de los conflictos desde 1989. Una mayor prevalencia de tal violencia perpetrada por fuerzas gubernamentales precipita negociaciones. Esto es especialmente cierto cuando el gobierno y los rebeldes utilizan niveles comparables de violación y otras formas de abuso sexual.

Evaluation of a proposal for reliable low-cost grid power with 100% wind, water, and solar

Evaluation of a proposal for reliable low-cost grid power with 100% wind, water, and solar. By Christopher T. M Clack, Staffan A. Qvist, Jay Apt,, Morgan Bazilian, Adam R. Brandt, Ken Caldeira, Steven J. Davis, Victor Diakov, Mark A. Handschy, Paul D. H. Hines, Paulina Jaramillo, Daniel M. Kammen, Jane C. S. Long, M. Granger Morgan, Adam Reed, Varun Sivaram, James Sweeney, George R. Tynan, David G. Victor, John P. Weyant, and Jay F. Whitacre. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Significance: Previous analyses have found that the most feasible route to a low-carbon energy future is one that adopts a diverse portfolio of technologies. In contrast, Jacobson et al. (2015) consider whether the future primary energy sources for the United States could be narrowed to almost exclusively wind, solar, and hydroelectric power and suggest that this can be done at “low-cost” in a way that supplies all power with a probability of loss of load “that exceeds electric-utility-industry standards for reliability”. We find that their analysis involves errors, inappropriate methods, and implausible assumptions. Their study does not provide credible evidence for rejecting the conclusions of previous analyses that point to the benefits of considering a broad portfolio of energy system options. A policy prescription that overpromises on the benefits of relying on a narrower portfolio of technologies options could be counterproductive, seriously impeding the move to a cost effective decarbonized energy system.

Abstract: A number of analyses, meta-analyses, and assessments, including those performed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and the International Energy Agency, have concluded that deployment of a diverse portfolio of clean energy technologies makes a transition to a low-carbon-emission energy system both more feasible and less costly than other pathways. In contrast, Jacobson et al. [Jacobson MZ, Delucchi MA, Cameron MA, Frew BA (2015) Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 112(49):15060–15065] argue that it is feasible to provide “low-cost solutions to the grid reliability problem with 100% penetration of WWS [wind, water and solar power] across all energy sectors in the continental United States between 2050 and 2055”, with only electricity and hydrogen as energy carriers. In this paper, we evaluate that study and find significant shortcomings in the analysis. In particular, we point out that this work used invalid modeling tools, contained modeling errors, and made implausible and inadequately supported assumptions. Policy makers should treat with caution any visions of a rapid, reliable, and low-cost transition to entire energy systems that relies almost exclusively on wind, solar, and hydroelectric power.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Family Formation and Close Social Ties Within Religious Congregations

Family Formation and Close Social Ties Within Religious Congregations. By Benjamin Gurrentz
Journal of Marriage and Family,

Abstract: The study of family and religion has yet to elaborate on the social ties that connect these two important and changing institutions. Specifically, how does family formation (i.e., marriage and childrearing) impact social ties to religious communities? Using longitudinal data from the Portraits of American Life Study (2006–2012) and fixed effects regression models that control for time-stable heterogeneity (N = 1,314), this study tests the effects of marriage and childrearing on changes in close congregational social ties. Fixed effects estimates suggest that marriage actually decreases close social ties to religious congregations, whereas rearing children within marital unions increases them. Thus, it is children, not marriage per se, that actually integrates married couples into religious communities. These contrasting effects tend to be the strongest among young adults, but they weaken with age as well as marital duration.

Scale of motivation to (re)work: Towards a new approach to the theory of self-determination

Scale of motivation to (re)work: Towards a new approach to the theory of self-determination. By  Camus, Gauthier; Berjot, Sophie; Amoura, Camille; Forest, Jacques
Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, Vol 49(2), Apr 2017, 122-132.

Abstract: The motivation of the unemployed to want to work again is an important topic for the workforce integration professionals, as well as researchers. However, there is currently no tool available to assess this type of motivation. Grounded in self-determination theory, we aim to overcome this gap by creating as well as validating such a scale. Seventeen items, reflecting the different subdimensions of motivation, were selected (following a pretest and 2 exploratory factor analyses (N = 88 and N = 94). Then these items were submitted to unemployed participants (N = 189), along with measures of self-efficacy, well-being and job search behaviours. A confirmatory factor analysis was performed and the links with other variables were analysed. All these analyses give credit to the validity of the scale of motivation to (re)work, hence creating a tool to answer the many questions that are facing practitioners and researchers in the field.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Customers increase consumption in response to more frequent information (monthly billing)

Information provision and consumer behavior: A natural experiment in billing frequency. By Casey Wichman
Journal of Public Economics, August 2017, Pages 13–33

Abstract: In this study, I estimate a causal effect of increased billing frequency on consumer behavior. I exploit a natural experiment in which residential water customers switched exogenously from bimonthly to monthly billing. Customers increase consumption by 3.5–5 percent in response to more frequent information. This result is reconciled in models of price and quantity uncertainty, where increases in billing frequency reduce the distortion in consumer perceptions. Using treatment effects as sufficient statistics, I calculate consumer welfare gains equivalent to 0.5–1 percent of annual water expenditures. Heterogeneous treatment effects suggest increases in outdoor water use.

Bag "Leakage": The Effect of Disposable Carryout Bag Regulations on Unregulated Bags

Bag "Leakage": The Effect of Disposable Carryout Bag Regulations on Unregulated Bags. By Rebecca Taylor
University of California Working Paper, May 2017,

Abstract: Governments often regulate the consumption of products with negative externalities (e.g., gasoline, tobacco, sugar). Leakage occurs when partial regulation results in increased consumption of products in unregulated parts of the economy. If unregulated consumption is easily substituted for regulated consumption, basing the success of a regulation solely on reduced consumption in the regulated market overstates the regulation’s welfare gains. This article quantifies leakage from an increasingly popular environmental policy — the regulation of disposable carryout bags (DCB). In California, DCB policies prohibit retail food stores from providing customers with thin plastic carryout bags at checkout and require stores to charge a minimum fee for paper carryout bags. However, all remaining types of disposable bags are unregulated (e.g., garbage bags, food storage bags, paper lunch sacks). Using quasi-random variation in local government DCB policy adoption in California from 2008-2015, I employ an event study design to quantify the effect of bag regulations on the consumption of plastic and paper carryout bags, as well as the consumption of other disposable bags sold. This article brings together two data sources: (i) weekly retail scanner data with product-level price and quantity information from 201 food stores in California, and (ii) observational data collected at checkout in seven Californian supermarkets. The main results show that a 40 million pound reduction of plastic from the elimination of plastic carryout bags is offset by an additional 16 million pounds of plastic from increased purchases of garbage bags (i.e., sales of small, medium, and tall garbage bags increase by 67%, 50%, and 5%, respectively). Additionally, DCB policies lead to a 69 million pound increase in paper carryout bags used annually. Altogether, I show that DCB policies are shifting consumers towards fewer but heavier bags. This bag "leakage" is an unintended consequence of DCB policies that offsets the benefits of reduced plastic carryout bag use. I conclude by discussing the environmental implications of policy-induced changes in the composition of plastic and paper bags, with respect to carbon footprint, landfilling, and marine pollution.

Improving the Electability of Atheists in the United States: A Preliminary Examination

Improving the Electability of Atheists in the United States: A Preliminary Examination. By Andrew Franks
Politics and Religion,

Abstract: Decades of polling data and recent research have demonstrated the magnitude of anti-atheist prejudice in the United States and its relationship to perceptions of atheists as immoral and untrustworthy. Across three studies, I examine the malleability of bias against atheists in the context of election politics. Informational manipulations of an atheist candidate's stated values (Study 1) and popularity (Study 2) improve participants’ perceptions of the morality and trustworthiness of and likelihood of voting for that atheist candidate, but religiously affiliated participants still prefer a similarly situated Christian candidate. Study 3 shows that participants are more likely to vote for an atheist when the opposing candidate was described as a theocrat. Implications of this research for ameliorating the under-representation of non-religious individuals in government are discussed.
Deception and Reception: The Behavior of Information Providers and Users. By Roman Sheremeta & Timothy Shields
Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, May 2017, Pages 445–456

•    We find significant proportions of both deceptive and non-deceptive information providers.
•    Users glean information from providers’ reports.
•    Users are overly optimistic of providers’ honesty.
•    Subjects who are deceptive providers and receptive users earn the highest payoffs.

Abstract: We investigate the behavior of information providers (underwriters) and users (investors) in a controlled laboratory experiment where underwriters have incentives to deceive and investors have incentives to avoid deception. Participants play simultaneously as underwriters and investors in one-shot information transmission games. The results of our experiment show a significant proportion of both deceptive and non-deceptive underwriters. Despite the presence of deceptive underwriters, investors are receptive to underwriters’ reports, gleaning information content, albeit overly optimistic. Within our sample, deception by underwriters and reception by investors are the most profitable strategies. Moreover, participants who send deceptive reports to investors, but at the same time are receptive to reports of underwriters, earn the highest payoffs. These results call into question the characterization of duped investors being irrational.

Investors react more favorably to disclosures containing self-inclusive language

Managers' Self-Inclusive Language in Conference Calls: Multi-Method Evidence. By Zhenhua Chen & Serena Loftus
Tulane University Working Paper, March 2017

Abstract: We investigate whether a subtle, but common, element of managers’ language, self-inclusive language (SIL), influences investors’ reactions to earnings conference calls. SIL is language that explicitly includes the speaker, and includes first-person singular and plural pronouns. We predict that investors react positively to managers’ SIL regardless of firm performance because SIL increases investors’ impression that managers can influence firm outcomes. To isolate the ceteris paribus effect of SIL on investors’ reactions, we use an experiment where we vary SIL and firm performance. Results of the experiment suggest that investors react more favorably to disclosures containing SIL than disclosures without SIL regardless of firm performance, consistent with our prediction. In a supplemental experiment, we find evidence suggesting that investors may be unaware of the effect of SIL. We also use the archival method to analyze over 50,000 earnings conference call transcripts, and find that market reactions to SIL are consistent with our experiment results. Taken together, our findings contribute to a growing literature on the influence of managers’ language choices on investors by offering multi-method evidence of the impact of a subtle and easily-overlooked component of managers’ language on investors’ judgments and decisions.

Political climate, optimism, and investment decision

Political climate, optimism, and investment decisions. By Yosef Bonaparte, Alok Kumar & Jeremy Page
Journal of Financial Markets,

Abstract: We show that people's optimism towards financial markets and the macroeconomy is dynamically influenced by their political affiliation and the current political climate. Individuals become more optimistic and perceive markets to be less risky and more undervalued when their preferred party is in power. Accordingly, investors increase allocations to risky assets and exhibit a stronger preference for high market beta, small-cap, and value stocks, and a weaker preference for local stocks. The differences in optimism and portfolio choice across political regimes are not explained by shifts in economic conditions or differential response to economic conditions by Democrat and Republican investors.

Would you choose to be happy? Tradeoffs between happiness and the other dimensions of life

Would you choose to be happy? Tradeoffs between happiness and the other dimensions of life in a large population survey. By Matthew Adler, Paul Dolan & Georgios Kavetsos
Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, July 2017, Pages 60–73,

Abstract: A large literature documents the determinants of happiness. But is happiness all that people want from life; and if so, what type of happiness matters to them? Or are they willing to sacrifice happiness (however it is defined) for other attributes in their lives? We show direct evidence that individuals trade-off levels of happiness with levels of income, physical health, family, career success and education in a large sample of UK and US individuals. On average, all types of happiness are preferred to other attributes except health. People prefer affective happiness (feeling good) over evaluative (life satisfaction) and eudaimonic (worthwhileness) components. This result is robust to methodological innovations, such as the use of vignettes and judgements of the lives described.
Implicit Self and the Right Hemisphere: Increasing Implicit Self-Esteem and Implicit Positive Affect by Left Hand Contractions. By Markus Quirin, Stephanie Fröhlich & Julius Kuhl European
Journal of Social Psychology,

Abstract: Unilateral hand contraction typically activates the contralateral hemisphere and has led to changes in psychological states and performances in previous research. Based on a right hemisphere model of the implicit self, we hypothesized and found that left hand contraction increases momentary levels of implicit self-esteem (Studies 1 and 2) and implicit positive affect (Study 3). The findings are discussed with respect to potential differences between the hemispheres in implicit and explicit affective processing and how they can be integrated in the existing literature on hemisphere asymmetries.

Cultural Patterns of Suicide in the United States: The Role of Honor Culture

New Insights on Cultural Patterns of Suicide in the United States: The Role of Honor Culture. By Marisa Crowder & Markus Kemmelmeier
Cross-Cultural Research,

Abstract: Cultural differences in suicide can be indicative of varying social pressures placed on individuals. High suicide rates in U.S. honor cultures have been proposed to reflect pressures associated with maintaining one’s reputation. We extend this argument by highlighting that honor concerns differentially impact individuals based on gender, ethnicity, and age. Controlling for relevant confounds, we show that suicide rates were highest among older European American men from honor cultures, presumably because aging may render these men less capable of conforming to cultural ideals of masculinity. We discuss the need for process-focused and subgroup analyses when examining the effects of culture on suicide.

Variation in the Serotonin Transporter Polymorphism (5-HTTLPR) and Inertia of Negative and Positive Emotions

Variation in the Serotonin Transporter Polymorphism (5-HTTLPR) and Inertia of Negative and Positive Emotions in Daily Life. By Eeske van Roekel et al.
Emotion, doi: 10.1037/emo0000336

Abstract: An important element of understanding the genotype–phenotype link in psychiatric disorders lies in identifying the psychological mechanisms through which genetic variation impacts mental health. Here we examined whether emotional inertia, the tendency for a person’s emotions to carry over from 1 moment to the next and a prospective predictor of the development of depression, is associated with a known genetic risk factor for emotional dysregulation, a polymorphism in the serotonin transporter gene (5-HTTLPR). Two hundred thirty-six adolescents recorded their positive and negative emotions in daily life 9 times a day for 6 consecutive days using smartphones, completed a depression questionnaire, and were genotyped for the 5-HTTLPR polymorphism. Carriers of the short 5-HTTLPR were characterized by higher inertia for negative emotions, even after controlling for depressive symptoms. These findings suggest a possible psychological pathway how the serotonin transporter gene contributes to risk for depression.

Dying Is Unexpectedly Positive

Dying Is Unexpectedly Positive. By Amelia Goranson et al.
Psychological Science,

Abstract: In people’s imagination, dying seems dreadful; however, these perceptions may not reflect reality. In two studies, we compared the affective experience of people facing imminent death with that of people imagining imminent death. Study 1 revealed that blog posts of near-death patients with cancer and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis were more positive and less negative than the simulated blog posts of nonpatients — and also that the patients’ blog posts became more positive as death neared. Study 2 revealed that the last words of death-row inmates were more positive and less negative than the simulated last words of noninmates — and also that these last words were less negative than poetry written by death-row inmates. Together, these results suggest that the experience of dying — even because of terminal illness or execution — may be more pleasant than one imagines.

Child Gender Influences Paternal Behavior, Language, and Brain Function

Child Gender Influences Paternal Behavior, Language, and Brain Function. By Jennifer Mascaro et al.
Behavioral Neuroscience, June 2017, Pages 262-273

Abstract: Multiple lines of research indicate that fathers often treat boys and girls differently in ways that impact child outcomes. The complex picture that has emerged, however, is obscured by methodological challenges inherent to the study of parental caregiving, and no studies to date have examined the possibility that gender differences in observed real-world paternal behavior are related to differential paternal brain responses to male and female children. Here we compare fathers of daughters and fathers of sons in terms of naturalistically observed everyday caregiving behavior and neural responses to child picture stimuli. Compared with fathers of sons, fathers of daughters were more attentively engaged with their daughters, sang more to their daughters, used more analytical language and language related to sadness and the body with their daughters, and had a stronger neural response to their daughter's happy facial expressions in areas of the brain important for reward and emotion regulation (medial and lateral orbitofrontal cortex [OFC]). In contrast, fathers of sons engaged in more rough and tumble play (RTP), used more achievement language with their sons, and had a stronger neural response to their son's neutral facial expressions in the medial OFC (mOFC). Whereas the mOFC response to happy faces was negatively related to RTP, the mOFC response to neutral faces was positively related to RTP, specifically for fathers of boys. These results indicate that real-world paternal behavior and brain function differ as a function of child gender.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Less than a third of the 65 Chinese highway & rail projects examined were “genuinely economically productive.”

China’s New Bridges: Rising High, but Buried in Debt. By Chris Buckley
TNYT, Jun 10 2017
China has built hundreds of dazzling new bridges, including the longest and highest, but many have fostered debt and corruption.

“The amount of high bridge construction in China is just insane,” said Eric Sakowski, an American bridge enthusiast who runs a website on the world’s highest bridges. “China’s opening, say, 50 high bridges a year, and the whole of the rest of the world combined might be opening 10.”

Of the world’s 100 highest bridges, 81 are in China, including some unfinished ones, according to Mr. Sakowski’s data. (The Chishi Bridge ranks 162nd.)

China also has the world’s longest bridge, the 102-mile Danyang-Kunshan Grand Bridge, a high-speed rail viaduct running parallel to the Yangtze River, and is nearing completion of the world’s longest sea bridge, a 14-mile cable-stay bridge skimming across the Pearl River Delta, part of a 22-mile bridge and tunnel crossing that connects Hong Kong and Macau with mainland China.

The country’s expressway growth has been compared to that of the United States in the 1950s, when the Interstate System of highways got underway, but China is building at a remarkable clip. In 2016 alone, China added 26,100 bridges on roads, including 363 “extra large” ones with an average length of about a mile, government figures show.


A study that Mr. Ansar helped write [] said fewer than a third of the 65 Chinese highway and rail projects he examined were “genuinely economically productive,” while the rest contributed more to debt than to transportation needs. [...]

In the country that built the Great Wall, major feats of infrastructure have long been a point of pride. China has produced engineering coups like the world’s highest railway, from Qinghai Province to Lhasa, Tibet; the world’s largest hydropower project, the Three Gorges Dam; and an 800-mile canal from the Yangtze River system to Beijing that is part of the world’s biggest water transfer project.
Leaders defend the infrastructure spree as crucial to China’s development.

“It’s very important to improve transport and other infrastructure so that impoverished regions can escape poverty and prosper,” President Xi Jinping said while visiting the spectacular, recently opened Aizhai Bridge in Hunan in 2013. “We must do more of this and keep supporting it.”

Indeed, the new roads and railways have proved popular, especially in wealthier areas with many businesses and heavy commuter traffic. And even empty infrastructure often has a way of eventually filling up, as early critics of the country’s high-speed rail and the Pudong skyscrapers in Shanghai have discovered.

Why do some societies fail to adopt more efficient institutions in response to changing economic conditions?

The Ideological Roots of Institutional Change, by Murat Iyigun & Jared Rubin
University of Colorado Working Paper, April 2017
Abstract:Why do some societies fail to adopt more efficient institutions in response to changing economic conditions? And why do such conditions sometimes generate ideological backlashes and at other times lead to transformative sociopolitical movements? We propose an explanation that highlights the interplay - or lack thereof - between new technologies, ideologies, and institutions. When new technologies emerge, uncertainty results from a lack of understanding how the technology will fit with prevailing ideologies and institutions. This uncertainty discourages investment in institutions and the cultural capital necessary to take advantage of new technologies. Accordingly, increased uncertainty during times of rapid technological change may generate an ideological backlash that puts a higher premium on traditional values. We apply the theory to numerous historical episodes, including Ottoman reform initiatives, the Japanese Tokugawa reforms and Meiji Restoration, and the Tongzhi Restoration in Qing China.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Physical Safety Promotes Socially (but Not Economically) Progressive Attitudes among Conservatives

Napier, J. L., Huang, J., Vonasch, A. J., and Bargh, J. A. (2017) Superheroes for Change: Physical Safety Promotes Socially (but Not Economically) Progressive Attitudes among Conservatives. Eur. J. Soc. Psychol., doi: 10.1002/ejsp.2315

Abstract: Across two studies, we find evidence for our prediction that experimentally increasing feelings of physical safety increases conservatives' socially progressive attitudes. Specifically, Republican and conservative participants who imagined being endowed with a superpower that made them invulnerable to physical harm (vs. the ability to fly) were more socially (but not economically) liberal (Study 1) and less resistant to social change (Study 2). Results suggest that socially (but not economically) conservative attitudes are driven, at least in part, by needs for safety and security.

Patients’ crying experiences in psychotherapy: Relationship with the patient level of personality organization, clinician approach, and therapeutic alliance

Patients’ crying experiences in psychotherapy: Relationship with the patient level of personality organization, clinician approach, and therapeutic alliance. By Zingaretti, Pietro; Genova, Federica; Gazzillo, Francesco; Lingiardi, Vittorio
Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, Vol 54(2), Jun 2017, 159-166.

Abstract: The present study sought to further understand patients’ crying experiences in psychotherapy. We asked 64 clinicians to randomly request one patient in their practice to complete a survey concerning crying in psychotherapy as well as a measure of therapeutic alliance. All clinicians provided information regarding their practice and patient diagnostic information. Fifty-five (85.93%) patients cried at least once, and 18 (28.1%) had cried during their most recent session. Patients’ frequency of crying episodes in therapy was negatively related with psychotic level of personality organization, while patients’ tendency to feel more negative feelings after crying was positively related to lower levels of personality organization. Patients’ feeling more in control after crying was positively related with an interpersonal therapeutic approach, while patients’ perception of therapists as more supportive after crying was positively related to a psychodynamic approach. Patients’ tendency to experience more negative feelings after crying was significantly related with both lower levels of personality organization and patients’ perception of the therapeutic alliance as weak. In regard to their most recent crying event in treatment, therapeutic alliance was related to gaining a new understanding of experience not previously recognized by the patient. Further, patients’ experiences of having never told anyone about their experience related to a crying episode, as well as their realization of new ideas and feeling of having communicated something that words could not express was positively related to the goal dimension of alliance. Patients’ perception of crying as a moment of genuine vulnerability, greater feelings of self-confidence and self-disclosure as well as having had a therapist response that was compassionate and supportive, was positively related with the bond dimension of alliance. Clinical implications and future research directions regarding patient crying experiences in psychotherapy are discussed.

Why Elites Love Authentic Lowbrow Culture: Overcoming High-Status Denigration with Outsider Art

Why Elites Love Authentic Lowbrow Culture: Overcoming High-Status Denigration with Outsider Art. By Oliver Hahl, Ezra W. Zuckerman, Minjae Kim
American Sociological Review

Abstract: We develop and test the idea that public appreciation for authentic lowbrow culture affords an effective way for certain elites to address feelings of authenticity-insecurity arising from “high status denigration” (Hahl and Zuckerman 2014). This argument, which builds on recent sociological research on the “search for authenticity” (e.g., Grazian 2005) and on Bourdieu’s (1993) notion of artistic “disinterestedness,” is validated through experiments with U.S. subjects in the context of “outsider” art (Fine 2004). The first study demonstrates that preference for lowbrow culture perceived to be authentic is higher when individuals feel insecure in their authenticity because they attained status in a context where extrinsic incentives are salient. The second study demonstrates that audiences perceive the members of erstwhile denigrated high-status categories to be more authentic if they consume lowbrow culture, but only if the cultural producer is perceived as authentic. We conclude by noting how this “authenticity-by-appreciation” effect might be complementary to distinction-seeking as a motivation for elite cultural omnivorousness, and we draw broader implications for when and why particular forms of culture are in demand.

Mi resumen de lo que los autores defienden: el aprecio por el arte lowbrow* proporciona a ciertas élites un modo eficaz de abordar la inseguridad sobre su autenticidad, dudas que emanan del la denigración del status alto (“high status denigration,” Hahl and Zuckerman 2014). La búsqueda de la autenticidad y el carácter desinteresado, no enfocado en lo lucrativo, de ciertas muestras artísticas, se someten a experimentos con sujetos estadounidenses. El primer estudio muestra que la preferencia por cultura lowbrow percibida como auténtica es alta cuando los sujetos se sienten inseguros sobre su autenticidad. El segundo estudio muestra que los otros perciben a miembros de las categorias denigradas (alto standing) como más auténticos si consumen cultura lowbrow, pero solo si el productor cultural se percibe como auténtico. Este efecto de autenticidad es complementario a la búsqueda de carácter único en la motivación del carácter omnívoro cultural de la élite.

* lowbrow art: An underground visual art movement that arose in the Los Angeles area in the late 1970s. Lowbrow is a widespread populist art movement with origins in the underground comix world, punk music, hot-rod street culture, and other California subcultures. It is also often known by the name pop surrealism. Most lowbrow artworks are paintings, but there are also toys, and sculptures. Many of the creators of lowbrow art are influenced by Acid house flyers, Advertising, Animated cartoons, Circus and Sideshow culture, Commercial art, Comic books, Erotica, Graffiti and Street art, Kitsch, Kustom Kulture, Mail art, Pop culture, Psychedelic art, Punk rock culture, Retro Illustration, Religious art, Pulp magazine art, Surf culture, Tattoo art, Tiki culture, Toys for adults, notably vinyl figurines, anti-political views, among many other things.

Are the ethnically tolerant free of discrimination, prejudice and political intolerance? They aren't.

Bizumic, B., Kenny, A., Iyer, R., Tanuwira, J., and Huxley, E. (2017) Are the ethnically tolerant free of discrimination, prejudice and political intolerance? Eur. J. Soc. Psychol., doi: 10.1002/ejsp.2263

Abstract: We hypothesized that the ethnically tolerant (i.e., people who are anti-ethnocentric and score very low on a measure of ethnocentrism) would perceive people with extremely incompatible values and beliefs as out-groups and would engage in discrimination, prejudice and political intolerance against them. Experiments among Australian citizens in Studies 1 (N = 224) and 2 (N = 283) showed that the ethnically tolerant perceived supporters of a message in favour of mandatory detention of asylum seekers as out-groups and consequently exhibited discrimination, prejudice and political intolerance against them. Study 3 with 265 U.S. citizens showed that, controlling for liberalism, ethnic tolerance led to prejudice against out-groups. This was replicated with 522 UK citizens in Study 4, which also showed that social identity, and not moral conviction, mediated the link between ethnic tolerance and prejudice. The findings suggest that the ethnically tolerant can be discriminatory, prejudiced and politically intolerant against fellow humans.

The self and autobiographical memories of immoral actions

I’m not the person I used to be: The self and autobiographical memories of immoral actions. By Stanley, Matthew L.; Henne, Paul; Iyengar, Vijeth; Sinnott-Armstrong, Walter; De Brigard, Felipe
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Vol 146(6), Jun 2017, 884-895

Abstract: People maintain a positive identity in at least two ways: They evaluate themselves more favorably than other people, and they judge themselves to be better now than they were in the past. Both strategies rely on autobiographical memories. The authors investigate the role of autobiographical memories of lying and emotional harm in maintaining a positive identity. For memories of lying to or emotionally harming others, participants judge their own actions as less morally wrong and less negative than those in which other people lied to or emotionally harmed them. Furthermore, people judge those actions that happened further in the past to be more morally wrong than those that happened more recently. Finally, for periods of the past when they believed that they were very different people than they are now, participants judge their actions to be more morally wrong and more negative than those actions from periods of their pasts when they believed that they were very similar to who they are now. The authors discuss these findings in relation to theories about the function of autobiographical memory and moral cognition in constructing and perceiving the self over time.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

How much information to sample before making a decision? It's a matter of psychological distance

How much information to sample before making a decision? It's a matter of psychological distance. By Vered Halamish & Nira Liberman
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, July 2017, Pages 111–116

Abstract:: When facing a decision, people look for relevant information to guide their choice. But how much information do they seek to obtain? Based on Construal Level Theory, we predicted that psychological distance from a decision would make participants seek more information prior to making a decision. Five experiments supported this prediction. When facing a decision between two decks of cards or two urns with marbles, participants preferred to sample more units of information for the purpose of making this decision in the distant future or for a friend (vs. in the near future or for themselves). These results suggest that expanding the scope of sampled experience is yet another way by which psychological distance affects decision making.

The Benefits of Forced Experimentation: Striking Evidence from the London Underground Network

The Benefits of Forced Experimentation: Striking Evidence from the London Underground Network. By Ferdinand Rauch, Shaun Larcom, Tim Willems

Abstract: We estimate that a significant fraction of commuters on the London underground do not travel their optimal route. Consequently, a tube strike (which forced many commuters to experiment with new routes) taught commuters about the existence of superior journeys -- bringing about lasting changes in behaviour. This effect is stronger for commuters who live in areas where the tube map is more distorted, thereby pointing towards the importance of informational imperfections. We argue that the information produced by the strike improved network-efficiency. Search costs are unlikely to explain the suboptimal behaviour. Instead, individuals seem to under-experiment in normal times, as a result of which constraints can be welfare-improving.

Part of the series Department of Economics Discussion Paper Series (Ref: 755 )

JEL Reference: D83,L91,R41

Keywords: Experimentation, Learning, Optimization, Rationality, Search

Need for uniqueness motivates conspiracy beliefs

Imhoff, R., and Lamberty, P. K. (2017) Too special to be duped: Need for uniqueness motivates conspiracy beliefs. Eur. J. Soc. Psychol., doi: 10.1002/ejsp.2265

Abstract: Adding to the growing literature on the antecedents of conspiracy beliefs, this paper argues that a small part in motivating the endorsement of such seemingly irrational beliefs is the desire to stick out from the crowd, the need for uniqueness. Across three studies, we establish a modest but robust association between the self-attributed need for uniqueness and a general conspirational mindset (conspiracy mentality) as well as the endorsement of specific conspiracy beliefs. Following up on previous findings that people high in need for uniqueness resist majority and yield to minority influence, Study 3 experimentally shows that a fictitious conspiracy theory received more support by people high in conspiracy mentality when this theory was said to be supported by only a minority (vs. majority) of survey respondents. Together, these findings support the notion that conspiracy beliefs can be adopted as a means to attain a sense of uniqueness.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Perceived social presence reduces fact-checking

Perceived social presence reduces fact-checking. By Youjung Jun, Rachel Meng, and Gita Venkataramani Johar
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences    vol. 114 no. 23
DOI 10.1073/pnas.1700175114,

Significance: The dissemination of unverified content (e.g., “fake” news) is a societal problem with influence that can acquire tremendous reach when propagated through social networks. This article examines how evaluating information in a social context affects fact-checking behavior. Across eight experiments, people fact-checked less often when they evaluated claims in a collective (e.g., group or social media) compared with an individual setting. Inducing momentary vigilance increased the rate of fact-checking. These findings advance our understanding of whether and when people scrutinize information in social environments. In an era of rapid information diffusion, identifying the conditions under which people are less likely to verify the content that they consume is both conceptually important and practically relevant.

Abstract: Today’s media landscape affords people access to richer information than ever before, with many individuals opting to consume content through social channels rather than traditional news sources. Although people frequent social platforms for a variety of reasons, we understand little about the consequences of encountering new information in these contexts, particularly with respect to how content is scrutinized. This research tests how perceiving the presence of others (as on social media platforms) affects the way that individuals evaluate information—in particular, the extent to which they verify ambiguous claims. Eight experiments using incentivized real effort tasks found that people are less likely to fact-check statements when they feel that they are evaluating them in the presence of others compared with when they are evaluating them alone. Inducing vigilance immediately before evaluation increased fact-checking under social settings.

Call My Rep! How Unions Overcame the Free-Rider Problem

Murphy, Richard John: Call My Rep! How Unions Overcame the Free-Rider Problem (March 01, 2017). CESifo Working Paper Series No. 6362. Available at SSRN:

Abstract: This paper proposes an explanation of why union membership has been increasing in some occupations, despite the opportunity to freeride on traditional union benefits. I model membership as legal insurance whose demand increases with the perceived risk of allegations. Using media reports on allegations against teachers as shocks to perceived risk, I find for every five reports occurring in a region, teachers are 2.5 percentage points more likely to be members in the subsequent year. These effects are larger when teachers share characteristics with the news story and explain 45 percent of the growth in teacher union membership since 1992.

Keywords: unions, teachers, media, insurance

JEL Classification: J510, J450, J320

Increase in own state's minimum wage increases frequency with which low-wage workers commute out of the state

Cross-state differences in the minimum wage and out-of-state commuting by low-wage workers. By Terra McKinnish
Regional Science and Urban Economics, Volume 64, May 2017, Pages 137–147

•  The federal minimum wage hike compressed cross-border minimum wage differentials.
•  Low wage workers responded by commuting out of states that increased their minimum wage.
•  Results are consistent with a disemployment effect of minimum wage increases.

Abstract: The 2009 federal minimum wage increase, which compressed cross-state differences in the minimum wage, is used to investigate the claim that low-wage workers are attracted to commute out of state to neighboring states that have higher minimum wages. The analysis focuses on Public Use Microdata Areas (PUMAs) that experience commuting flows with one or more neighboring state. A difference-in-differences-in-differences model compares PUMAs that experienced a sizeable increase or decrease in their cross-border minimum wage differential to those that experience smaller change in the cross-border differential. Out-of-state commuting of low wage workers (less than 10 dollars an hour) is then compared to that of moderate wage workers (10–13 dollars an hour). The results suggest that an increase in own state's minimum wage, relative to neighbor's, increases the frequency with which low-wage workers commute out of the state. The analysis is replicated on the subset of PUMAs that experience commuting flows with more than one neighboring state, so that the estimates are identified entirely within PUMA. As a whole, the results suggest that low-wage workers tend to commute away from minimum wage increases rather than towards them.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Rethinking the Benefits of Youth Employment Programs: The Heterogeneous Effects of Summer Jobs

Rethinking the Benefits of Youth Employment Programs: The Heterogeneous Effects of Summer Jobs
Jonathan Davis & Sara Heller
NBER Working Paper, May 2017

Abstract: his paper reports the results of two randomized field experiments, each offering different populations of youth a supported summer job in Chicago. In both experiments, the program dramatically reduces violent-crime arrests, even after the summer. It does so without improving employment, schooling, or other types of crime; if anything, property crime increases over 2-3 post-program years. To explore mechanisms, we implement a machine learning method that predicts treatment heterogeneity using observables. The method identifies a subgroup of youth with positive employment impacts, whose characteristics differ from the disconnected youth served in most employment programs. We find that employment benefiters commit more property crime than their control counterparts, and non-benefiters also show a decline in violent crime. These results do not seem consistent with typical theory about improved human capital and better labor market opportunities creating a higher opportunity cost of crime, or even with the idea that these programs just keep youth busy. We discuss several alternative mechanisms, concluding that brief youth employment programs can generate substantively important behavioral change, but for different outcomes, different youth, and different reasons than those most often considered in the literature.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Increase in deployment & combat injuries for white and Hispanic soldiers relative to black ones & for soldiers from high-income neighborhoods relative to those from low-income ones

Who Will Fight? The All-Volunteer Army after 9/11. By Susan Payne Carter, Alexander Smith & Carl Wojtaszek
American Economic Review, May 2017, Pages 415-419

Abstract: Who fought the War on Terror? We find that as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan progressed, there was an increase in the fraction of active-duty Army enlistees who were white or from high-income neighborhoods and that these two groups selected combat occupations more often. Among men, we find an increase in deployment and combat injuries for white and Hispanic soldiers relative to black soldiers and for soldiers from high-income neighborhoods relative to those from low-income neighborhoods. This finding suggests that an all-volunteer force does not compel a disproportionate number of non-white and low socio-economic men to fight America's wars.

IV.  Discussion
Today's all-volunteer force represents a diverse group of individuals serving for both patriotic and economic reasons. For those with fewer economic opportunities, a steady job may be the deciding factor in their enlistment decision; while for those with more outside options, wartime service may shape their deci- sion. Concerns over equity could arise under the  all-volunteer system if these enlistment motivations are differentially distributed across demographic groups. While we cannot uncover the distribution of these motivations, we can observe which groups bear the burden of war. Were the first sustained conflicts of the AVF.Iraq and Afghanistan..poor man.s fights.? To the contrary, during this time period it does not appear that there was an undue burden placed on blacks or individuals from low-income neighborhoods. The percentages of black and low-income enlistees decreased as fighting intensified, with these trends stopping when outside labor market opportunities diminished during the Great Recession and combat risk decreased. These trends were the same for men and women, although black women continued to be over-represented in the Army relative to the general population. Furthermore, black and low-income enlisted men were less likely than their white and high-income peers to be deployed or injured in combat. These differences are driven primarily by the military occupation an individual enters: black and low-income men were less likely to choose combat-intensive occupations than their white and high-income peers with the same eligibility.

Will the high-tech cities of the future be utterly lonely?

Will the high-tech cities of the future be utterly lonely? By Jessica Brown
The Week, April 24, 2017

In Britain, more than one in eight people say they don't consider anyone a close friend, and the number of Americans who say they have no close friends has roughly tripled in recent decades. A large proportion of the lonely are young; almost two-thirds of 16- to 24-year-old Brits said they feel lonely at least some of the time, while almost a third are lonely often or all the time.

Healthy offspring from freeze-dried mouse spermatozoa held on the International Space Station for 9 months

Healthy offspring from freeze-dried mouse spermatozoa held on the International Space Station for 9 months
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Significance: Radiation on the International Space Station (ISS) is more than 100 times stronger than at the Earth’s surface, and at levels that can cause DNA damage in somatic cell nuclei. The damage to offspring caused by this irradiation in germ cells has not been examined, however. Here we preserved mouse spermatozoa on the ISS for 9 mo. Although sperm DNA was slightly damaged during space preservation, it could be repaired by the oocyte cytoplasm and did not impair the birth rate or normality of the offspring. Our results demonstrate that generating human or domestic animal offspring from space-preserved spermatozoa is a possibility, which should be useful when the “space age” arrives.

Abstract: If humans ever start to live permanently in space, assisted reproductive technology using preserved spermatozoa will be important for producing offspring; however, radiation on the International Space Station (ISS) is more than 100 times stronger than that on Earth, and irradiation causes DNA damage in cells and gametes. Here we examined the effect of space radiation on freeze-dried mouse spermatozoa held on the ISS for 9 mo at –95 °C, with launch and recovery at room temperature. DNA damage to the spermatozoa and male pronuclei was slightly increased, but the fertilization and birth rates were similar to those of controls. Next-generation sequencing showed only minor genomic differences between offspring derived from space-preserved spermatozoa and controls, and all offspring grew to adulthood and had normal fertility. Thus, we demonstrate that although space radiation can damage sperm DNA, it does not affect the production of viable offspring after at least 9 mo of storage on the ISS.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Distress disclosure, depression, life satisfaction, and cultural differences

Distress disclosure and psychological functioning among Taiwanese nationals and European Americans: The moderating roles of mindfulness and nationality.
Kahn, Jeffrey H.; Wei, Meifen; Su, Jenny C.; Han, Suejung; Strojewska, Agnes
Journal of Counseling Psychology, Vol 64(3), Apr 2017, 292-301.

Abstract: Research using Western samples shows that talking about unpleasant emotions—distress disclosure—is associated with fewer psychological symptoms and higher well-being. These benefits of distress disclosure may or may not be observed in East Asia where emotional control is valued. Instead, mindfulness may be more relevant to emotion regulation in East Asia (e.g., Taiwan). In the present study, cultural context (Taiwanese nationals vs. European Americans) and mindfulness were examined as moderators of the relation between distress disclosure and both depression symptoms and life satisfaction. A sample of 256 Taiwanese college students and a sample of 209 European American college students completed self-report measures in their native language. Moderated multiple regression analyses revealed significant interaction effects of mindfulness and distress disclosure on both depression symptoms and life satisfaction for Taiwanese participants but not for European Americans. Specifically, distress disclosure was negatively associated with depression symptoms and positively associated with life satisfaction for Taiwanese low in mindfulness but not for Taiwanese high in mindfulness. For European Americans, distress disclosure was not associated with depression symptoms but was associated with higher life satisfaction, regardless of one’s level of mindfulness. These findings suggest that the potential benefits of disclosing distress are a function of one’s cultural context as well as, for those from Taiwan, one’s mindfulness.

Unintended Consequences: The Regressive Effects of Increased Access to Courts

Unintended Consequences: The Regressive Effects of Increased Access to Courts. By Anthony  Niblett & Albert  Yoon, University of Toronto - Faculty of Law
Small claims courts enable parties to resolve their disputes relatively quickly and cheaply. The court’s limiting feature, by design, is that alleged damages must be small, in accordance with the jurisdictional limit at that time. Accordingly, one might expect that a large increase in the upper limit of claim size would increase the court’s accessibility to a larger and potentially more diverse pool of litigants.

We examine this proposition by studying the effect of an increase in the jurisdictional limit of the Ontario Small Claims Court. Prior to January 2010, claims up to $10,000 could be litigated in the small claims court. After January 2010, this jurisdictional limit increased to include all claims up to $25,000. We study patterns in nearly 625,000 disputes over the period 2006-2013.

In this paper, we investigate plaintiff behavior. Interestingly, the total number of claims filed by plaintiffs does not increase significantly with the increased jurisdictional limit. We do find, however, changes to the composition of plaintiffs. Following the jurisdictional change, we find that plaintiffs using the small claims court are, on average, from richer neighborhoods. We also find that proportion of plaintiffs from poorer neighborhoods drops. The drop-off is most pronounced in plaintiffs from the poorest 10% of neighborhoods.

We explore potential explanations for this regressive effect, including crowding out, congestion, increased legal representation, and behavioral influences. Our findings suggest that legislative attempts to make the courts more accessible may have unintended regressive consequences.
Keywords: Courts, Regressive effects, Small claims court, Access to justice, Litigant behavior, Public goods, Empirical law and economics, Jurisdiction

From Existential to Social Understandings of Risk - Examining Gender Differences in Nonreligion

From Existential to Social Understandings of Risk - Examining Gender Differences in Nonreligion. By Penny Edgell, Jacqui Frost, Evan Stewart

Abstract: Across many social contexts, women are found to be more religious than men. Risk preference theory proposes that women are less likely than men to accept the existential risks associated with nonbelief. Building on previous critiques of this theory, we argue that the idea of risk is relevant to understanding the relationship between gender and religiosity if risk is understood not as existential, but as social. The research on existential risk focuses on religious identification as solely a matter of belief; as part of the movement away from this cognitivist bias, we develop the concept of social risk to theorize the ways that social location and differential levels of power and privilege influence women’s nonreligious choices. We show that women’s nonreligious preferences in many ways mirror those of other marginalized groups, including nonwhites and the less educated. We argue that nonreligion is socially risky, that atheism is more socially risky than other forms of nonreligion, and that women and members of other marginalized groups avoid the most socially risky forms of nonreligion.

When Children Rule: Parenting in Modern Families

When Children Rule: Parenting in Modern Families. By Sebastian Galiani, Matthew Staiger, Gustavo Torrens
NBER Working Paper No. 23087
NBER Program(s):   ED

During the 20th century there was a secular transformation within American families from a household dominated by the father to a more egalitarian one in which the wife and the children have been empowered. This transformation coincided with two major economic and demographic changes, namely the increase in economic opportunities for women and a decline in family size. To explain the connection between these trends and the transformation in family relationships we develop a novel model of parenting styles that highlights the importance of competition within the family. The key intuition is that the rise in relative earnings of wives increased competition between spouses for the love and affection of their children while the decline in family size reduced competition between children for resources from their parents. The combined effect has empowered children within the household and allowed them to capture an increasing share of the household surplus over the past hundred years

Pregnancy leads to long-lasting changes in human brain structure

Pregnancy leads to long-lasting changes in human brain structure. By Elseline Hoekzema et al.
Nature Neuroscience

Abstract: Pregnancy involves radical hormone surges and biological adaptations. However, the effects of pregnancy on the human brain are virtually unknown. Here we show, using a prospective ('pre'-'post' pregnancy) study involving first-time mothers and fathers and nulliparous control groups, that pregnancy renders substantial changes in brain structure, primarily reductions in gray matter (GM) volume in regions subserving social cognition. The changes were selective for the mothers and highly consistent, correctly classifying all women as having undergone pregnancy or not in-between sessions. Interestingly, the volume reductions showed a substantial overlap with brain regions responding to the women's babies postpartum. Furthermore, the GM volume changes of pregnancy predicted measures of postpartum maternal attachment, suggestive of an adaptive process serving the transition into motherhood. Another follow-up session showed that the GM reductions endured for at least 2 years post-pregnancy. Our data provide the first evidence that pregnancy confers long-lasting changes in a woman's brain.

A Virtual Out-of-Body Experience Reduces Fear of Death

A Virtual Out-of-Body Experience Reduces Fear of Death. By Pierre Bourdin et al.
PLoS ONE, January 2017

Abstract: Immersive virtual reality can be used to visually substitute a person’s real body by a life-sized virtual body (VB) that is seen from first person perspective. Using real-time motion capture the VB can be programmed to move synchronously with the real body (visuomotor synchrony), and also virtual objects seen to strike the VB can be felt through corresponding vibrotactile stimulation on the actual body (visuotactile synchrony). This setup typically gives rise to a strong perceptual illusion of ownership over the VB. When the viewpoint is lifted up and out of the VB so that it is seen below this may result in an out-of-body experience (OBE). In a two-factor between-groups experiment with 16 female participants per group we tested how fear of death might be influenced by two different methods for producing an OBE. In an initial embodiment phase where both groups experienced the same multisensory stimuli there was a strong feeling of body ownership. Then the viewpoint was lifted up and behind the VB. In the experimental group once the viewpoint was out of the VB there was no further connection with it (no visuomotor or visuotactile synchrony). In a control condition, although the viewpoint was in the identical place as in the experimental group, visuomotor and visuotactile synchrony continued. While both groups reported high scores on a question about their OBE illusion, the experimental group had a greater feeling of disownership towards the VB below compared to the control group, in line with previous findings. Fear of death in the experimental group was found to be lower than in the control group. This is in line with previous reports that naturally occurring OBEs are often associated with enhanced belief in life after death.

Propaganda can be effective at changing the behavior of all citizens even if most do not believe it

Propaganda and credulity, by Andrew T. Little. In
Games and Economic Behavior,Volume 102, March 2017, Pages 224–232

•   Propaganda can be effective at changing the behavior of all citizens even if most do not believe it.
•   This effect is particularly strong when citizens care a lot about behaving in a similar manner as others.
•    However, the government picks less propaganda when it is more effective.

Abstract: I develop a theory of propaganda which affects mass behavior without necessarily affecting mass beliefs. A group of citizens observe a signal of their government's performance, which is upwardly inflated by propaganda. Citizens want to support the government if it performs well and if others are supportive (i.e., to coordinate). Some citizens are unaware of the propaganda (“credulous”). Because of the coordination motive, the non-credulous still respond to propaganda, and when the coordination motive dominates they perfectly mimic the actions of the credulous. So, all can act as if they believe the government's lies even though most do not. The government benefits from this responsiveness to manipulation since it leads to a more compliant citizenry, but uses more propaganda precisely when citizens are less responsive.

JEL classification: D83

Keywords> Political economy; Propaganda; Authoritarian politics

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Political Persecutions and Social Capital: Evidence from Imperial China

Autocratic Rule and Social Capital: Evidence from Imperial China
Melanie Meng Xue, Mark  Koyama
November 30, 2016
GMU Working Paper in Economics No. 16-50

Abstract:     This paper studies the consequences of autocratic rule for social capital in the context of imperial China. Between 1660-1788, individuals were persecuted if they were suspected of subversive attitudes towards the autocratic ruler.   Using a difference-in-differences approach, our main finding is  that these persecutions led to an average decline of 38% in the number of charitable organizations in each subsequent decade.

To investigate the long-run effect of persecutions, we examine the impact that they had on the provision of local public goods.  During this period,  local public goods, such as basic education, relied primarily on voluntary contributions and local cooperation.   We show that persecutions are associated with lower provision of basic education suggesting that they permanently reduced social capital. This is consistent with what we  find in modern survey data:  persecutions left a legacy of mistrust and political apathy.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 83

Keywords: Social Capital, Institutions, Autocratic Rule, Persecutions, China

Insurance policy specifically for self-inflicted liver damage

China’s Zhongan sees scope for offbeat insurance.
Financial Times
Medical insurance often becomes invalid if the customer is drunk. But during the football World Cup in 2014, Shanghai-based Zhongan Insurance turned that rule upside down by offering Chinese football fans a policy specifically for self-inflicted liver damage.

It cost less than $1 and covered sports enthusiasts against alcohol poisoning for 30 days — paying out up to Rmb2,000 ($290) for hospital fees. It soon came to be known as “watching-football-drinking-too-much” insurance.

This has not been Zhongan’s only foray into more specialist areas of China’s insurancemarket. Another of its policies, called “high heat”, reimburses customers when the temperature hits 37°C. Another insures against flight delays — and, in many cases, pays out while the customer is still waiting in the departure lounge.

Zhongan has sold 5800m policies to 460m customers. This has quickly translated into profit.

Upward Mobility and Discrimination: The Case of Asian Americans

Upward Mobility and Discrimination: The Case of Asian Americans. By Nathaniel Hilger
NBER Working Paper No. 22748
October 2016
NBER Program(s):   LS

Asian Americans are the only non-white US racial group to experience long-term, institutional discrimination and subsequently exhibit high income. I re-examine this puzzle in California, where most Asians settled historically. Asians achieved extraordinary upward mobility relative to blacks and whites for every cohort born in California since 1920. This mobility stemmed primarily from gains in earnings conditional on education, rather than unusual educational mobility. Historical test score and prejudice data suggest low initial earnings for Asians, unlike blacks, reflected prejudice rather than skills. Post-war declines in discrimination interacting with previously uncompensated skills can account for Asians’ extraordinary upward mobility.

Sabotage occurs more often when Green Party candidates fail to win even minor offices

The political roots of domestic environmental sabotage
Benjamin Farrer & Graig Klein
Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties,

Volume 27, 2017 - Issue 2

Abstract: In this paper, we demonstrate that when environmentalist niche parties compete in a given constituency over a number of elections, but continually fail to win seats, then environmental sabotage becomes more frequent in that constituency. When mainstream tactics fail, radical tactics are used more frequently. Using a new data-set on the success rates of all Green Party candidates in US states, we show that environmental sabotage occurs more often when Green Party candidates fail to win even minor offices. This is true even when we control for other political expressions of environmentalism, such as interest group activity, and when we define ‘success’ through votes not seats. We discuss the implications of this for environmental politics, for social movements and democracy, and for political violence in the US.

Children of low-income parents are much less likely to become inventors than their higher-income counterparts

The Lifecycle of Inventors, by Alex Bell et al.
Harvard Working Paper, June 2016

Abstract: We use administrative records on the population of individuals who applied for or were granted a patent between 1996 and 2014 to characterize the lives of more than 1.2 million inventors in the United States. We show that children of low-income parents are much less likely to become inventors than their higher-income counterparts (as are minorities and women). Decompositions using third grade and older test scores indicate that this income-innovation gap can largely be accounted for by differences in human capital acquisition while children are growing up. We establish the importance of "innovation exposure effects" during childhood by showing that growing up in an area with a high innovation rate in a particular technology class is associated with a much higher probability of becoming an inventor specifically in that technology class. Similarly, exposure to innovation from parents or their colleagues in specific fields is also associated with greater future innovation by children in those same technological fields. Inventors' incomes are very skewed and uncertain at the start of their career. While our analysis does not directly identify the causal mechanisms that drive innovation, our descriptive findings shed light on which types of policy tools are likely to be most effective in sparking innovation. Calibrations suggest that "extensive margin" policies drawing more talented children from low-income families into the R&D sector have great potential to improve aggregate innovation rates.

Relationship between spicy food and aggressive cognition

You are what you eat: An empirical investigation of the relationship between spicy food and aggressive cognition. By Rishtee K. Batra, Tanuka Ghoshal, Rajagopal Raghunathan

Abstract: The popular saying “you are what you eat” suggests that people take on the characteristics of the food they eat. Wisdom from ancient texts and practitioners of alternative medicine seem to share the intuition that consuming spicy food may increase aggression. However, this relationship has not been empirically tested. In this research, we posit that those who consume “hot” and “spicy” food may be more prone to thoughts related to aggression. Across three studies, we find evidence for this proposition. Study 1 reveals that those who typically consume spicy food exhibit higher levels of trait aggression. Studies 2 and 3 reveal, respectively, that consumption of, and even mere exposure to spicy food, can semantically activate concepts related to aggression as well as lead to higher levels of perceived aggressive intent in others. Our work contributes to the literature on precursors of aggression, and has substantive implications for several stakeholders, including marketers, parents and policy makers.

Keywords: Aggressive cognition; Aggressive intent; Spicy food

Review of Vijay Joshi's India’s Long Road: The Search for Prosperity

India’s long road to prosperity, by Martin Wolf
Martin Wolf is impressed by an analysis of what the world’s largest democracy must do in order to thriveFinancial Times, May 24, 2017

India could do far better. That, in a sentence, is the conclusion of Vijay Joshi’s superb book. Joshi is an Indian economist who has spent most of his professional life at Oxford university. In this penetrating account of the past and present of Indian economic development, he casts a bright light on the prospects ahead. If India’s aim is to become a high-income country in the next generation, its economic, social and political performance needs to improve dramatically.

The good news is that there is room for improvement on many fronts. The bad news is that the obstacles to the needed improvement are huge. Worse, many emanate from the failures of the state and the political processes that guide it. Yet, as Joshi also notes, “The two fixed points in the socio-political setting of the Indian state’s development policies are that the country is a democracy, and an extremely diverse society.” The challenge is to improve performance within the constraints of these realities.

The success of Indian development matters, for at least three reasons: India will soon be the most populous country in the world; it is already far and away the largest democracy; and, above all, despite progress in the last three decades, between 270m and 360m Indians still lived in dire poverty (on slightly different definitions) in 2011 (that is, between 22 and 30 per cent of the population). If extreme poverty is to be eliminated from the world, it must be eliminated in India.

While the focus of India’s Long Road is on the economy, its analysis is appropriately comprehensive. It considers the post-independence growth record, the failure to create remunerative employment, the excessive role of publicly owned enterprises, the poor quality of Indian infrastructure and the inadequacy of environmental regulation. The book also analyses the successes and failures of macroeconomic management, the appalling quality of government-provided education and healthcare, the need for a better safety net for the poor, the long-term decay of the state, the prevalence of corruption and the role of India in the world economy.

In covering all these issues, Joshi combines enthusiastic engagement with the detachment of a scholar who has passed much of his life abroad. No better guide to India’s contemporary economy exists.

Over the past 70 years, India’s growth has shown two marked accelerations. The first followed independence in 1947. The second followed the economic liberalisation that began in the 1980s and accelerated dramatically after the balance of payments crisis of 1991. In the first period, growth averaged 3.5 per cent a year. In the second, it rose to 6 per cent (4 per cent per head). Unfortunately, after a further acceleration in the first decade of the 2000s, growth has slowed once again. The principal explanation for this recent slowdown is a marked weakening of investment by an over-indebted private sector.

                    "Joshi argues that India could provide a basic income to all by diverting resources wasted on subsidies"

So what should be the goal for the decades ahead? Joshi describes it simply as “rapid, inclusive, stable, and sustainable growth . . . within a political framework of liberal democracy”. More precisely, if incomes per head could grow at 7 per cent a year, India would achieve high-income status, at the level of Portugal, within a quarter of a century.

Only three economies have achieved something close to this in the past: Taiwan, South Korea and China. It represents an enormous challenge that cannot be met with the current “partial reform model”. The basic flaw of that model, argues Joshi, “is a failure to put the role of the state, and the relation between the state, the market, and the private sector, on the right footing”. The state, in brief, does what it does not need to do and fails to do what it does need to do.

It is no longer enough for the state merely to get out of the way, important though that still is in crucial areas. Among these is the labour market, whose huge distortions and inefficiencies have turned the demographic dividend into a demographic disaster.

Thus, in the 10 years from 1999 to 2009, India’s workforce increased by 63m. “Of these, 44 million joined the unorganized sector, 22 million became informal workers in the organized sector, and the number of formal workers in the organized sector fell by 3 million.” This is a social catastrophe. It is due not only to labour-market distortions, but to a host of constraints on the creation, operation and, not least, closure of organised and large-scale businesses.

Yet India also needs an effective state able to supply the public goods, public services and competent regulation on which an efficient economy depends. Unfortunately, that is not what now exists. All international surveys give India a very low rank for the efficiency and honesty of the state and the ease of doing business. Joshi argues that while the economy is more dynamic and the quality of policy has indeed improved since the 1980s, the quality of the state has deteriorated in many respects.

Among the many failures is the waste of state resources on inefficient subsidies that, though often given in the name of the poor, actually go to the better off. Indeed, one of the most original and persuasive aspects of the book is the argument that it would in principle be possible to provide a basic income to all Indians sufficient to lift everybody out of extreme poverty merely by diverting resources wasted on grotesquely costly subsidies. Yet, to take just one example, state governments continue to bribe farmers with free power, at the expense of a reliable electricity supply.

Will prime minister Narendra Modi be the new broom that sweeps all these cobwebs away? Alas no. His government’s performance is “mixed at best”. It has some achievements. But it has shown insufficient energy in tackling both the immediate problems of inadequate private investment, excessive debt and feeble banks, and the longer-term problems of dreadful education, lousy healthcare, weak infrastructure, corruption, regulatory incompetence, excessive interference and government waste.

A great opportunity for radically improved performance is being missed. This is not bad just for the Indian economy. There is a real danger that if the economy fails to perform as needed and desired, the governing Bharatiya Janata party will find itself increasingly attracted to its “dark side” of communal and caste division. That way lies not just economic failure, but possibly the destabilisation of Indian democracy, one of the great political achievements of the post-second world war era.

Those who care about the future of this remarkable country and indeed the future of democracy itself must hope that Modi gets this right. If they want to understand what he needs to do and why, they should first read this book.

India’s Long Road: The Search for Prosperity, by Vijay Joshi, Oxford University Press, RRP£22.99, 360 pages
Martin Wolf is the FT’s chief economics commentator