Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Anti-Flynn effects -- What causes the secular declines in IQ? A Data Synthesis and Analysis of Predictors

Woodley of Menie, M. A., Peñaherrera-Aguirre, M., Fernandes, H. B. F., & Figueredo, A.-J. (2017). What Causes the Anti-Flynn Effect? A Data Synthesis and Analysis of Predictors. Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/ebs0000106

Abstract: Anti-Flynn effects (i.e., secular declines in IQ) have been noted in a few countries. Much speculation exists about the causes of these trends; however, little progress has been made toward comprehensively testing these. A synthetic literature search yielded a total of 66 observations of secular IQ decline from 13 countries, with a combined sample size of 302,234 and study midyears spanning 87 years, from 1920.5 to 2007.5. Multilevel modeling (MLM) was used to examine the effect of study midyear, and (after controlling for this and other factors) hierarchical general linear modeling (GLM) was used to examine the following sequence of predictors: domain “g-ness” (a rank-order measure of g saturation) Index of Biological State (IBS; a measure of relaxed/reversed selection operating on g), per capita immigration, and the 2-way interactions IBS × g-ness and Immigration × g-ness. The MLM revealed that the anti-Flynn effect has strengthened in more recent years. Net of this, the GLM found that g-ness was a positive predictor; that is, less aggregately g-loaded measures exhibited bigger IQ declines; IBS was not a significant predictor; however immigration predicted the decline, indicating that high levels of immigration promote the anti-Flynn effect. Among the interactions there was a negative effect of the Immigration × g-ness interaction, indicating that immigration promotes IQ decline the most when the measure is higher in g-ness. The model accounted for 37.1% of the variance among the observations.

Social Origins of Inventors, Parental Education, IQ -- Data from Finland

The Social Origins of Inventors. Philippe Aghion, Ufuk Akcigit, Ari Hyytinen, Otto Toivanen. NBER Working Paper No. 24110. http://www.nber.org/papers/w24110

Abstract: In this paper we merge three datasets - individual income data, patenting data, and IQ data - to analyze the determinants of an individual's probability of inventing. We find that: (i) parental income matters even after controlling for other background variables and for IQ, yet the estimated impact of parental income is greatly diminished once parental education and the individual's IQ are controlled for; (ii) IQ has both a direct effect on the probability of inventing an indirect impact through education. The effect of IQ is larger for inventors than for medical doctors or lawyers. The impact of IQ is robust to controlling for unobserved family characteristics by focusing on potential inventors with brothers close in age. We also provide evidence on the importance of social family interactions, by looking at biological versus non-biological parents. Finally, we find a positive and significant interaction effect between IQ and father income, which suggests a misallocation of talents to innovation.

I like that you feel my pain, but I love that you feel my joy -- Empathy for a partner’s negative versus positive emotions independently affect relationship quality

I like that you feel my pain, but I love that you feel my joy -- Empathy for a partner’s negative versus positive emotions independently affect relationship quality. Michael R. Andreychik. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, https://doi.org/10.1177/0265407517746518

Abstract: Given the myriad ways in which close relationships impact human well-being, it is important to understand the factors that contribute to healthy relationship functioning. One such factor is the extent to which partners empathize with each other’s emotional experiences. To date however, research examining empathy’s relevance for social relationships has focused overwhelmingly on empathy for others’ specifically negative emotions. Building on recent scholarship demonstrating the separability of empathy for others’ negative versus positive emotions, the present work argues that both of these empathic capacities contribute to relationship quality and that they do so via different pathways. A first study showed that whereas perceptions of a partner’s negative empathy and positive empathy were each independently associated with relationship quality, this association was substantially stronger for positive empathy. A second, experimental study demonstrated independent causal effects of negative empathy and positive empathy and showed that these effects were mediated by different mechanisms. These results suggest that although having a partner who empathizes with one’s negative emotions is good for relationships, having a partner who (also) empathizes with one’s positive emotions may carry even greater benefits.

Keywords: Close relationships, positive empathy, negative empathy, relationship science, social support

Explicit Sexual Movie Viewing in the United States According to Selected Marriage and Lifestyle, Work and Financial, Religion and Political Factors

Explicit Sexual Movie Viewing in the United States According to Selected Marriage and Lifestyle, Work and Financial, Religion and Political Factors. Aaron M. Frutos, Ray M. Merrill. Sexuality & Culture. Volume 21, Issue 4, pp 1062–1082. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12119-017-9438-6

Abstract: The purpose of the current study was to evaluate explicit sexual movie use among men and women in the United States according to relationship, lifestyle, work, financial, religious, and political factors. Analyses involved 11,372 adults who responded to questions about demographics and explicitly sexual movie use in the General Social Survey (GSS) from 2000 to 2014. Viewing of an explicit sexual movie in the previous year was significantly greater in men than women (35 vs. 16%); Blacks than Whites (33 vs. 22%); and never married (41 vs. 18% married, 31% separated, and 24% divorced). It also decreased with older age, higher education, and more children in the household. After model adjustment for these variables, viewing an explicit sexual movie was associated with a number of relationship, lifestyle, financial, religious, political, and other variables. For example, viewing such movies was related to less happiness in marriage, multiple sex partners in past year, less satisfaction with one’s financial situation, no religious preference, and a more liberal political orientation. The effect of some variables on pornography viewing differed between men and women. For example, out of men and women who consider themselves to be “not spiritual”, men were more likely to view pornography than women. Explicit sexual movie viewing is associated with factors from diverse domains, including poorer relationship quality, more liberal sexual views and practices, poorer economic conditions, lower religious orientation or commitment, and more liberal political views.

Homosexual orientation seems associated with a less pronounced sexual differentiation of brain white matter tracts & a less pronounced functional connectivity of the self-referential networks

Manzouri A, Savic I. Cerebral sex dimorphism and sexual orientation. Hum Brain Mapp. 2017;00:1–12. https://doi.org/10.1002/hbm.23908

Abstract: The neurobiology of sexual orientation is frequently discussed in terms of cerebral sex dimorphism (defining both functional and structural sex differences). Yet, the information about possible cerebral differences between sex-matched homo and heterosexual persons is limited, particularly among women. In this multimodal MRI study, we addressed these issues by investigating possible cerebral differences between homo and heterosexual persons, and by asking whether there is any sex difference in this aspect. Measurements of cortical thickness (Cth), subcortical volumes, and functional and structural resting-state connections among 40 heterosexual males (HeM) and 40 heterosexual females (HeF) were compared with those of 30 homosexual males (HoM) and 30 homosexual females (HoF). Congruent with previous reports, sex differences were detected in heterosexual controls with regard to fractional anisotropy (FA), Cth, and several subcortical volumes. Homosexual groups did not display any sex differences in FA values. Furthermore, their functional connectivity was significantly less pronounced in the mesial prefrontal and precuneus regions. In these two particular regions, HoM also displayed thicker cerebral cortex than other groups, whereas HoF did not differ from HeF. In addition, in HoM the parietal Cth showed “sex-reversed” values, not observed in HoF. Homosexual orientation seems associated with a less pronounced sexual differentiation of white matter tracts and a less pronounced functional connectivity of the self-referential networks compared to heterosexual orientation. Analyses of Cth suggest that male and female homosexuality are not simple analogues of each other and that differences from heterosexual controls are more pronounced in HoM.

There Is No Empirical Evidence for Critical Positivity Ratios: Comment on Fredrickson (2013)

There Is No Empirical Evidence for Critical Positivity Ratios: Comment on Fredrickson (2013). Carol A. Nickerson. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, https://doi.org/10.1177/0022167817740468

Abstract: Fredrickson and Losada (American Psychologist, 2005, 60, 678-686) theorized that a ratio of positive affect to negative affect (positivity ratio) of 2.9013 acts as a critical minimum for well-being. Recently, Brown, Sokal, and Friedman (American Psychologist, 2013, 68, 801-813) convincingly demonstrated that the mathematical work underlying this critical minimum positivity ratio was both flawed and misapplied. This comment addresses Fredrickson’s (American Psychologist, 2013, 68, 814-822) insistence that, regardless of the incorrect mathematical work, substantial empirical evidence exists both for critical minimum and maximum positivity ratios and, more generally, for a (unspecified) nonlinear relation between the positivity ratio and well-being, by first noting that there was a mismatch between Fredrickson and Losada’s (2005) theory and the data used to test it, then describing the methodological and statistical problems of Fredrickson and Losada’s empirical study (2005), and, finally, examining the other studies that Fredrickson (2013) cited as empirical evidence.

Strong evidence that for a number of issue areas, women are more supportive of an activist government than men of the same party

Lizotte, M.-K. (2017), Gender, Partisanship, and Issue Gaps. Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy. doi:10.1111/asap.12144

Abstract: A defining feature of American politics, including party identification, is the question of the proper role of government. Partisanship is a prevailing way that individuals organize their attitudes. Democrats should take the Democratic Party's positions, and Republicans should take the Republican Party's positions. Instead, people have conflicting considerations that shape their opinions. Given that gender is integral in structuring individuals’ positions in society, it is reasonable to expect that gender differences might produce intraparty differences. This article establishes a gender gap in scope of government that transcends partisanship. Using the cumulative American National Election Study Data 1994–2008, I find strong evidence that for a number of issue areas, women are more supportive of an activist government than men of the same party. Preferences regarding the scope of government provide a coherent explanation for these observed gaps.

First quantitative study of heterospecific sexual behavior between macaques and a non-primate species (sika deer)

Deer Mates: A Quantitative Study of Heterospecific Sexual Behaviors Performed by Japanese Macaques Toward Sika Deer. Noëlle Gunst, Paul L. Vasey, Jean-Baptiste Leca. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10508-017-1129-8

Abstract: This is the first quantitative study of heterospecific sexual behavior between a non-human primate and a non-primate species. We observed multiple occurrences of free-ranging adolescent female Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) performing mounts and sexual solicitations toward sika deer (Cervus nippon) at Minoo, central Japan. Our comparative description of monkey-deer versus monkey-monkey interactions supported the “heterospecific sexual behavior” hypothesis: the mounts and demonstrative solicitations performed by adolescent female Japanese macaques toward sika deer were sexual in nature. In line with our previous research on the development of homospecific sexual behavior in immature female Japanese macaques, this study will allow us to test other hypotheses in the future, such as the “practice for homospecific sex,” the “safe sex,” the “homospecific sex deprivation,” the “developmental by-product,” and the “cultural heterospecific sex” hypotheses. Further research will be necessary to ascertain whether this group-specific sexual behavior was a short-lived fad or an incipient cultural phenomenon and may also contribute to better understanding the proximate and ultimate causes of reproductive interference.

Education is Related to Greater Ideological Prejudice

P J Henry, Jaime L Napier; Education is Related to Greater Ideological Prejudice, Public Opinion Quarterly, , nfx038, https://doi.org/10.1093/poq/nfx038

Abstract: Decades of research have shown that education reduces individuals’ prejudices toward people who belong to different groups, but this research has focused predominantly on prejudice toward ethnic/racial groups, immigrant groups, and general nonconformists. However, it is not clear whether education reduces other prejudices against groups along different dimensions, including ideological identification. An analysis of American National Election Studies data from 1964 to 2012 shows that education is related to decreases in interethnic/interracial prejudice, but also to increases in ideological (liberal vs. conservative) prejudice. This finding could not be explained simply by the greater polarization of the American electorate in the past twenty years. The results require rethinking how and why education is associated with reduced prejudice for certain groups but not others.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Women's preferences for men's beards show no relation to their ovarian cycle phase and sex hormone levels

Women's preferences for men's beards show no relation to their ovarian cycle phase and sex hormone levels. Barnaby J.W. Dixson et al. Hormones and Behavior, Volume 97, January 2018, Pages 137–144. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.yhbeh.2017.11.006

Highlights
•    The first study testing whether hormonal variation among women is associated with preferences for men's beardedness
•    Results showed that preferences did not change over the menstrual cycle.
•    Preferences were also unrelated to changes in estradiol and progesterone over the menstrual cycle.
•    Our results suggest that women's preferences for men's beardedness may not change with fecundability.

Abstract: According to the ovulatory shift hypothesis, women's mate preferences for male morphology indicative of competitive ability, social dominance, and/or underlying health are strongest at the peri-ovulatory phase of the menstrual cycle. However, recent meta-analyses are divided on the robustness of such effects and the validity of the often-used indirect estimates of fertility and ovulation has been called into question in methodological studies. In the current study, we test whether women's preferences for men's beardedness, a cue of male sexual maturity, androgenic development and social dominance, are stronger at the peri-ovulatory phase of the menstrual cycle compared to during the early follicular or the luteal phase. We also tested whether levels of estradiol, progesterone, and the estradiol to progesterone ratio at each phase were associated with facial hair preferences. Fifty-two heterosexual women completed a two-alternative forced choice preference test for clean-shaven and bearded male faces during the follicular, peri-ovulatory (validated by the surge in luteinizing hormone or the drop in estradiol levels) and luteal phases. Participants also provided for one entire menstrual cycle daily saliva samples for subsequent assaying of estradiol and progesterone. Results showed an overall preference for bearded over clean-shaven faces at each phase of the menstrual cycle. However, preferences for facial hair were not significantly different over the phases of menstrual cycle and were not significantly associated with levels of reproductive hormones. We conclude that women's preferences for men's beardedness may not be related to changes in their likelihood of conception.

Keywords: Facial attractiveness; Menstrual cycle; Facial hair; Sexual selection

Neurobiology of Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation

Roselli, C. E. (), Neurobiology of Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation. J Neuroendocrinol, e12562. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/jne.12562

Abstract: Sexual identity and sexual orientation are independent components of a person's sexual identity. These dimensions are most often in harmony with each other and with an individual's genital sex, but not always. This review discusses the relationship of sexual identity and sexual orientation to prenatal factors that act to shape the development of the brain and the expression of sexual behaviors in animals and humans. One major influence discussed relates to organizational effects that the early hormone environment exerts on both gender identity and sexual orientation. Evidence that gender identity and sexual orientation are masculinized by prenatal exposure to testosterone and feminized in it absence is drawn from basic research in animals, correlations of biometric indices of androgen exposure and studies of clinical conditions associated with disorders in sexual development. There are, however, important exceptions to this theory that have yet to be resolved. Family and twin studies indicate that genes play a role, but no specific candidate genes have been identified. Evidence that relates to the number of older brothers implicates maternal immune responses as a contributing factor for male sexual orientation. It remains speculative how these influences might relate to each other and interact with postnatal socialization. Nonetheless, despite the many challenges to research in this area, existing empirical evidence makes it clear that there is a significant biological contribution to the development of an individual's sexual identity and sexual orientation.

Hot or not? How self-view threat influences avoidance of attractiveness feedback

Hot or not? How self-view threat influences avoidance of attractiveness feedback. Jennifer L. Howell, Kate Sweeny, Wendi Miller & James A. Shepperd. Self and Identity, https://doi.org/10.1080/15298868.2017.1401552

Abstract: In two studies, we examined whether people’s decision to receive evaluations of their own attractiveness depended on whether the evaluations came from sources that might threaten their self-views. Participants believed that evaluators rated their attractiveness based on a photograph taken earlier and ostensibly uploaded to a website. Participants then received the opportunity to view the attractiveness ratings from the evaluators. In both studies, and in a meta-analysis including two pilot studies that are reported in Supplemental Materials online, participants – particularly women – rated feedback as more threatening and avoided receiving feedback more when the ratings came from high-threat evaluators (university peers) than from low-threat evaluators (students at another university, older adults, or children). The robustness of this overall effect was confirmed in the meta-analysis. These results suggest that self-view threat can prompt information avoidance.
Keywords: Information avoidance, self-view threat, attractiveness

On the Dynamics of Ideological Identification: The Puzzle of Liberal Identification Decline

On the Dynamics of Ideological Identification: The Puzzle of Liberal Identification Decline. Elizabeth Coggins and James A. Stimson. Political Science Research and Methods, https://doi.org/10.1017/psrm.2017.38

Abstract: Our focus is a puzzle: that ideological identification as “liberal” is in serious decline in the United States, but at the same time support for liberal policies and for the political party of liberalism is not. We aim to understand this divorce in “liberal” in name and “liberal” in policy by investigating how particular symbols rise and fall as associations with the ideological labels “liberal” and “conservative.” We produce three kinds of evidence to shed light on this macro-level puzzle. First, we explore the words associated with “liberal” and “conservative” over time. Then we take up a group conception by examining the changing correlations between affect toward “liberals” and affect toward other groups. Finally, we consider the changing policy correlates of identification.

How Culture Affects Depression: Insight into culture's multifaceted influence on depression

How Culture Affects Depression: Insight into culture's multifaceted influence on depression. Marianna Pogosyan, Psychology Today, Dec 06, 2017
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/between-cultures/201712/how-culture-affects-depression

    "All happy families are alike, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way," Leo Tolstoy.


Poets and philosophers have long mused about the universal and idiosyncratic signature of our emotions. The human family shares a similar biology. Yet, culture leaves an undeniable imprint on our emotional narratives, including the way we feel and think of distress, how it manifests and how we cope with it. In her cross-cultural research on depression, psychologist Yulia Chentsova-Dutton likens depression’s constellations of symptoms to the starry sky. It’s the same universal experience of suffering, the same black vastness above our heads dotted with bright and dim lights. However, when we look at the night sky, as with the expression of depression around the world, we might notice some stars and miss others depending on where we are.

Here is Dr. Chentsova-Dutton in her own words on culture’s multifaceted influence on depression:


What are some causes of depression across cultures?

Many of the risk factors for depression are similar across cultures. These include gender, unemployment, traumatic events. The themes of depression tend to revolve around loss. But what people make of their losses and how they interpret their distress differs tremendously across cultures. In the West, we have increasingly pathologized depression and attributed it to biomedical factors. We tend to think that distancing people from their distress can be a functional way of helping them. However, teaching people that this very complex social, cultural, and biological phenomenon is entirely biological can backfire. It encourages people to ignore environmental factors, and instead, essentialize depression as a characteristic of themselves and their biology.


How does the meaning of depression vary around the world?

The meaning that people assign to suffering varies richly across cultures. Buddhism approaches suffering as an essential characteristic of life. We are mindful of it, yet, we don't try to chase it away. In Eastern European Orthodox Christianity and traditional Catholic contexts, there are two religious perspectives on suffering. On one hand, excessive suffering that blocks your goals is thought to be a sin. Simultaneously, suffering that allows you to stay engaged in your life is thought to bring you closer to God. It’s almost like broadcasting your suffering highlights you as a more complex and virtuous human being in other people’s eyes. Moreover, in India and Ecuador suffering can be interpreted as a rift in social networks that requires mending.


Should there be culture-specific approaches to depression?

We have evidence that public education efforts to teach people in non-western countries how to be properly depressed western-style result in changes in how people think about their distress. In Japan, for example, pharmaceutical companies once engaged in a systematic campaign to train people to recognize both major and minor depression as problems (“a cold of the soul”). I can imagine if somebody is suffering and finally there is a label, they might get treatment, which would be a positive outcome. I can also imagine people who have formerly obtained support and would have done well through the use of social networks and traditional mood regulation, are now thinking of themselves as sick. The older immigrants have a lot of cultural wisdom. Why do we assume that our knowledge is best for them, instead of learning from them and understanding how they cope? It’s a major direction for research for the next decades.


Are there genetic vulnerabilities for depression across cultures?

Genetic vulnerability differs substantially from country to country. East Asian contexts, for example, show a high prevalence of genes associated with depression. Yet, despite these vulnerabilities, they develop fewer cases of the disorder. One hypothesis is that genetic vulnerabilities have co-evolved with culture, creating extra protective factors (in this case, extra interdependence). However, when these people leave their cultural contexts, they have a higher risk of developing depression.


What factors protect against depression?

Social stability and functional relationships are big protective factors against depression. East Asian contexts promote stable social networks. For example, most adults in Japan are still in frequent contact with someone they have known since childhood. In countries like the U.S., that’s rarer because of high mobility levels. (Of course, it depends on the quality of the relationships: if you are stuck with people who create tensions for you, it can be problematic.) Another leading hypothesis is that some cultures reinforce ways of regulating emotions that may be more functional than others. Finally, by virtue of prioritizing emotions and personal happiness, in contexts like the U.S., we are creating a discrepancy between how we feel and how we are supposed to feel. This can lead to additional problems.


What is the role of emotion regulation?

Emotion regulation is increasingly becoming understood as a core factor in all affective disorders. In western societies, we don't see enough adaptive strategies like reappraisal: learning to tell yourself a different story that would eventually lead to different emotions. There is also not enough social regulation of emotion, which occurs by sharing our emotions with others. Research shows that cultures can facilitate functional regulation strategies. For example, Igor Grossmann’s work shows that Russians make rumination (generally considered a dysfunctional strategy) more functional by encouraging people to ruminate about the self from another person’s perspective, making rumination almost reappraisal-like in its quality.


How do symptoms of depression differ across cultures?

Best studied differences in expression of depression are whether symptoms are primarily experienced in the body, or as disorders of emotions and cognitions. In the U.S., we officially look for both, with an emphasis on affective features; you can’t be diagnosed with depression unless you have either depressed mood or anhedonia (lack of pleasure). On the other hand, research based on Chinese samples shows that people there are more likely to experience and express depression as bodily symptoms: the person is tired and not sleeping, they don't have energy and aren’t concentrating well. Historically, it’s the diagnosis of neurasthenia (weakness of the nerves), which migrated to China from Europe via the Soviet Union. Essentially, it’s major depression without the affective features.


How is depression assessed across cultures?

People don't seek help in the same manner, and help is not available in the same way. Moreover, the extent to which symptoms are recognized as pathology vs. an unpleasant but normative characteristic of life might differ. Assessment is a challenge in part because many of our assessment tools are based on the western set of criteria. Because of commonalities, we might catch some symptoms, but we might also miss presentations of the disorder that look different. We have started to develop tools that incorporate locally meaningful symptoms.

How do treatment methods differ across cultures?

Pharmaceutically, we know that prescriptions and doses need to be altered based on various factors, including ethnicity. There is accumulating data showing that some approaches that are effective in the U.S. (e.g., cognitive-behavioral therapy) are also looking promising in other cultures. Similarly, mindfulness approaches from the East have been found to be effective in western samples. We have this idea of therapy as individual-based, yet we know from research that having somebody next to you, even if you don't discuss your problems, is regulatory. Thus, approaches that make use of social ties have a lot of promise, particularly outside highly individualistic contexts. I’m hoping that this gap in clinical science will get increasingly filled and we will enrich our toolset of approaches for treating depression.

Many thanks to Yulia Chentsova-Dutton for being generous with her time and insights. Dr. Chentsova-Dutton is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Georgetown University and the head of the Culture and Emotions lab.

Marianna Pogosyan, Ph.D., is an intercultural consultant specializing in the psychology of cross-cultural transitions.

Fertility Preferences and Cognition: Religiosity and Experimental Effects of Decision Context on College Women

Marshall, E. A. and Shepherd, H. (2017), Fertility Preferences and Cognition: Religiosity and Experimental Effects of Decision Context on College Women. Fam Relat. doi:10.1111/jomf.12449

Abstract: Better models of culture and cognition may help researchers understand fertility and family formation. The authors examine cognition about fertility using an experimental survey design to investigate how fertility preferences of college women are affected by two prompts that bring to mind fertility-relevant factors: career aspirations and financial limitations. The authors test the effects of these prompts on fertility preferences and ask how effects vary with respondent religiosity, an aspect of social identity related to fertility preferences. The authors find significant effects of treatment on fertility preferences when accounting for religiosity: Less religious women who considered their career aspirations or financial limitations reported smaller desired family size, but this effect was attenuated for more religious women. This study demonstrates how fertility preferences are shaped by decision contexts for some sociodemographic groups. The authors discuss how the findings support a social–cognitive model of fertility.

The role of endocannabinoids is to maintain an exquisite balance of neurotransmitter levels, on one hand preventing excessive release & potential excitotoxicity while on the other hand ensuring adequate levels for optimal signaling

From “Azalla” to Anandamide: Distilling the Therapeutic Potential of Cannabinoids. Rajiv Radhakrishnan, David A. Ross. Biological Psychiatry, Volume 83, Issue 2, 15 January 2018, Pages e27–e29. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2017.11.017. Refers to Functional Redundancy Between Canonical Endocannabinoid Signaling Systems in the Modulation of Anxiety, by Gaurav Bedse, Nolan D. Hartley, Emily Neale, Andrew D. Gaulden, Toni A. Patrick, Philip J. Kingsley, Md. Jashim Uddin, Niels Plath, Lawrence J. Marnett, Sachin Patel. Biological Psychiatry, Volume 82, Issue 7, 1 October 2017, Pages 488-499

Rolf Dagen's commentary: The brain's natural marihuana hold a key position in the brain, commanding different unique channels, keeping the system in the so-called Goldilocks zone. https://twitter.com/DegenRolf/status/940099167468208129

---
What has emerged from these initial discoveries is one of the most fascinating stories in modern neuroscience: as it turns out, the endocannabinoid system is a unique regulatory neurotransmitter system, defying many properties of conventional neurotransmitters (6). First, unlike other neurotransmitters (e.g., serotonin, dopamine, acetylcholine), endocannabinoids are not stored in vesicles—rather, they are synthesized on demand. A second fascinating detail is that they are produced and released from the postsynaptic terminal (generally in response to the activation of other receptors, such as metabotropic glutamate receptor 1 or metabotropic glutamate receptor 5). Once released, they then diffuse into the synaptic cleft and act on the cannabinoid receptor on the presynaptic terminal to inhibit the further release of neurotransmitters (Figure 1). This process is known as retrograde signaling: a signal sent from the postsynaptic terminal to the presynaptic terminal, in this case acting as an inhibitory “brake” on the action of the neurotransmitter.

Retrograde signaling has been noted for only a few other neurotransmitters (e.g., nitric oxide and dynorphin). A third unique aspect of endocannabinoids is that they exhibit a property known as the entourage effect: their activity can be enhanced by structurally related, but otherwise biologically inactive, endogenous constituents [a property shared by other lipid mediators (7)]. A final property of the endocannabinoid system that is worth highlighting is that activation of the CB1R can have biphasic effects, which is to say that different levels of stimulation can lead to opposite types of outcomes. For example, low-dose stimulation of CB1R can have an anxiolytic effect, whereas high-dose stimulation may be ineffective or even anxiogenic.

The role of endocannabinoids is thus to maintain an exquisite balance of neurotransmitter levels, on one hand preventing excessive release and potential excitotoxicity while on the other hand ensuring adequate levels for optimal signaling. Effectively, they help keep neurotransmitter levels in the synapse in the so-called Goldilocks zone where the balance is “just right.” It is therefore not surprising that the endocannabinoid system is emerging as a significant player in the modulation of many physiological processes, ranging from pain sensation and autonomic system tone to the regulation of intrauterine development, appetite, mood, cognition, and anxiety. Given this wide role across physiological functions, it is not surprising that therapeutic uses have begun emerging for a range of medical conditions.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Effects of glucose and sucrose on mood: a systematic review of interventional studies

Effects of glucose and sucrose on mood: a systematic review of interventional studies. Ondine van de Rest Nikita L van der Zwaluw Lisette C P G M de Groot. Nutrition Reviews, nux065, https://doi.org/10.1093/nutrit/nux065.

Abstract

Context: Glucose is the main energy source for the brain, and as such, manipulation of glucose supply may affect brain function. It has been suggested that a change in blood glucose may influence mood.

Objective: The aim of this review was to investigate the potential effects of glucose and sucrose, compared with placebo, on mood.

Data Sources: The electronic databases PubMed and Scopus were searched. Reference lists of selected articles were checked manually.

Data Extraction: Randomized controlled trials or crossover trials comparing the effects of glucose or sucrose on mood that were published up to May 2017 were eligible. Potentially eligible articles were selected independently by 2 reviewers.

Results: In total, 19 studies were found. Thirteen studies investigated the effects of glucose consumption compared with placebo on mood. Seven of these 13 studies found no effect of glucose on mood. The other 6 studies found small and partial effects that may also be due to other factors like palatability and expectation. Seven of the 19 studies investigated the effects of sucrose ingestion versus placebo on mood. None of these studies found a positive effect on mood, and 1 study observed an adverse effect. One of the studies investigated the effects of both glucose and sucrose.

Conclusions: The results from this review show limited effects of glucose ingestion on mood and no effect of sucrose on mood.

Keywords: glucose, mood, sucrose, sugar

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Perfume is more pleasant if labeled with expensive brands

“Dior, J’adore”: The role of contextual information of luxury on emotional responses to perfumes. Tiffany Baer et al. Food Quality and Preference, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodqual.2017.12.003

Highlights
•    We tested the effect of contextual information of luxury on affective responses.
•    We presented nine perfumes with a luxurious, a non-luxurious and no label.
•    We used subjective, physiological and expressive indicators of affective responses.
•    Participants tended to rate luxurious perfumes as more pleasant and familiar.
•    Physiological and expressive responses were not sensitive to contextual information.

Abstract: Luxury conveys values of quality and rarity and holds a particular emotional meaning. Yet, studies conducted on the impact of contextual information of luxury on emotional responses to products remain scarce. In this study, we tested whether contextual information, in particular evoking luxury, could influence emotional responses to perfumes, which are known to be powerful elicitors of emotion. More specifically, we measured the subjective, physiological, and expressive components of participants’ emotional responses. We conducted an experiment in which participants had to smell and assess perfumed pens as well as blank pens (i.e., without perfume) presented either in a luxurious context (i.e., name, brand and bottle), a non-luxurious one, or no information. Results indicated that participants tended to rate perfumes as more pleasant and rated them as more familiar when presented in a luxurious context than in a non-luxurious one or without context, and the blank pen as more irritating in a non-luxurious context than in a luxurious one. However, we did not find evidence of a significant contextual information effect on expressive or physiological indicators. Our findings suggest that contextual information of luxury can moderately influence the subjective component of participants’ emotional responses, while no evidence for such effect was found with respect to the physiological and expressive components.

Keywords: Emotional response; Contextual information; Luxury; Perfumes; Psychophysiological measures

Sexually objectifying women reduces empathy: An fMRI investigation

Reduced empathic responses for sexually objectified women: an fMRI investigation, Carlotta Cogoni, Andrea Carnaghi, Giorgia Silani. Cortex, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cortex.2017.11.020

Abstract: Sexual objectification is a widespread phenomenon characterized by a focus on the individual´s physical appearance over his/her mental state. This has been associated with negative social consequences, as objectified individuals are judged to be less human, competent, and moral. Moreover, behavioral responses toward the person change as a function of the degree of the perceived sexual objectification. In the present study, we investigated how behavioral and neural representations of other social pain are modulated by the degree of sexual objectification of the target. Using a within-subject fMRI design, we found reduced empathic feelings for positive (but not negative) emotions toward sexually objectified women as compared to non-objectified (personalized) women when witnessing their participation to a ball-tossing game. At the brain level, empathy for social exclusion of personalized women recruited areas coding the affective component of pain (i.e., anterior insula and cingulate cortex), the somatosensory components of pain (i.e., posterior insula and secondary somatosensory cortex) together with the mentalizing network (i.e., middle frontal cortex) to a greater extent than for the sexually objectified women. This diminished empathy is discussed in light of the gender-based violence that is afflicting the modern society.

Keywords: Sexual Objectification; Empathy; Social exclusion; fMRI; Anterior Insula

Friday, December 8, 2017

Reassessing the Perimeter of Government Accounts in China -- Gov't Lies Persist Despite Positive Steps

Reassessing the Perimeter of Government Accounts in China. Rui Mano, Phil Stokoe. IMF Working Paper No. 17/272, http://www.imf.org/en/Publications/WP/Issues/2017/12/08/Reassessing-the-Perimeter-of-Government-Accounts-in-China-45455

Summary: China’s official general government accounts do not include off-budget quasi-fiscal spending unlike the IMF’s augmented government accounts. This paper argues that the broader concept of augmented government remains relevant despite recent positive measures to separate off-budget units from the government. In fact, new avenues to finance public infrastructure, such as Special Construction Funds and Government Guided Funds, have emerged and this paper re-defines the perimeter of augmented government to include them. Finally, concrete steps for improving China’s fiscal accounts are put forward. If these steps are taken, the perimeter of general government would expand relative to official statistics but would likely be narrower than where augmented aggregates place it.

IQ will go down, especially at the top of the curve

IQ decline and Piaget: Does the rot start at the top? James R. Flynn, , Michael Shayer. Intelligence, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.intell.2017.11.010

Highlights
•    Important national differences, particularly the contrast between Scandinavia and elsewhere.
•    Dutch trends show that IQ gains vary by age which is indicative of the strength of various causal factors.
•    Piagetian trends provide information conventional tests do not: that the largest losses may be at the top of the curve.

Abstract: The IQ gains of the 20th century have faltered. Losses in Nordic nations after 1995 average at 6.85 IQ points when projected over thirty years. On Piagetian tests, Britain shows decimation among high scorers on three tests and overall losses on one. The US sustained its historic gain (0.3 points per year) through 2014. The Netherlands shows no change in preschoolers, mild losses at high school, and possible gains by adults. Australia and France offer weak evidence of losses at school and by adults respectively. German speakers show verbal gains and spatial losses among adults. South Korea, a latecomer to industrialization, is gaining at twice the historic US rate.

When a later cohort is compared to an earlier cohort, IQ trends vary dramatically by age. Piagetian trends indicate that a decimation of top scores may be accompanied by gains in cognitive ability below the median. They also reveal the existence of factors that have an atypical impact at high levels of cognitive competence. Scandinavian data from conventional tests confirm the decimation of top scorers but not factors of atypical impact. Piagetian tests may be more sensitive to detecting this phenomenon.

Some people are attracted sexually to intelligence: A psychometric evaluation of sapiosexuality

Some people are attracted sexually to intelligence: A psychometric evaluation of sapiosexuality. Gilles E. Gignac, Joey Darbyshire, Michelle Ooi. Intelligence, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.intell.2017.11.009

Highlights
•    On average, the 90th IQ percentile (IQ ≈ 120) was rated the most sexually attractive.
•    The Sapiosexual Questionnaire (SapioQ) was found to measure a moderately strong single-factor.
•    The SapioQ scores were found to have coefficient alpha = 0.78.
•    Approximately 8% and 1% of the sample scored an average score of 4.0 and 4.5, respectively, on the SapioQ.
•    Objective intelligence did not relate to the SapioQ (r = − 0.02; BF01 = 12.84).

Abstract: The emergence of the popular culture notion of a sapiosexual, an individual who finds high levels of intelligence (IQ) the most sexually attractive characteristic in a person, suggests that a high IQ may be a genuinely sexually attractive trait, at least for some people. Consequently, mean desirability ratings of IQ on a percentile continuum were estimated, across sexual attraction specifically and long-term partner interest conditions (N = 383). Furthermore, we evaluated the psychometric properties of a newly developed measure, the Sapiosexuality Questionnaire (SapioQ). Finally, we estimated the correlation between objective intelligence and the SapioQ. On average, the 90th percentile of intelligence (IQ ≈ 120) was rated to be the most sexually attractive and the most desirable in a long-term partner. However, 8.1% and 1.3% of the sample scored above 4.0 and 4.5, respectively, on the SapioQ (theoretical range: 1 to 5), which had respectable psychometric properties. The desirability ratings across the IQ percentile continuum interacted with the two conditions (i.e., sexual attraction specifically versus partner interest), such that the rater desirability of IQ increased more substantially for partner interest than sexual attraction specifically across the 25th to 75th IQ percentiles. Finally, objective intelligence correlated negatively with rated sexual attraction specifically and partner interest for a hypothetical person at 25th and 50th percentiles of IQ (r ≈ − 0.25). By contrast, objective intelligence failed to correlate with sapiosexuality (r = − 0.02, p = 0.765; BF01 = 12.84). The results were interpreted to suggest that, for most people, a very high IQ in a partner (IQ 135 +) is not the most attractive level of intelligence, which may be considered supportive of a version of the threshold hypothesis of intelligence. Finally, although sapiosexuality may be a genuine psychological construct, it appears to be influenced by non-intellective factors.

Keywords: Mate preferences; Intelligence; Sapiosexuality; Some people are attracted sexually to intelligence

Basel III: Finalising post-crisis reforms

Basel III: Finalising post-crisis reforms

December 2017
The Basel III framework is a central element of the Basel Committee's response to the global financial crisis. It addresses shortcomings of the pre-crisis regulatory framework and provides a regulatory foundation for a resilient banking system that supports the real economy.
A key objective of the revisions incorporated into the framework is to reduce excessive variability of risk-weighted assets (RWA). At the peak of the global financial crisis, a wide range of stakeholders lost faith in banks' reported risk-weighted capital ratios. The Committee's own empirical analyses also highlighted a worrying degree of variability in banks' calculation of RWA. The revisions to the regulatory framework will help restore credibility in the calculation of RWA by:
  • enhancing the robustness and risk sensitivity of the standardised approaches for credit risk and operational risk, which will facilitate the comparability of banks' capital ratios
  • constraining the use of internally modelled approaches
  • complementing the risk-weighted capital ratio with a finalised leverage ratio and a revised and robust capital floor
An accompanying document summarises the main features of these revisions.
For more information on the Basel III reforms, see the Basel III webpage.

Examining the Roles of Pornography Use, Religiousness, and Moral Incongruence

Grubbs, Joshua, Joel Engelman, and Jennifer T Grant. 2017. “Who’s a Porn Addict? Examining the Roles of Pornography Use, Religiousness, and Moral Incongruence.”. PsyArXiv. December 8. psyarxiv.com/s6jzf

Abstract: Pornography use is a common but controversial behavior in developed nations. At present, the scientific community has not reached a consensus regarding whether or not people may be become addicted to or compulsive in use of pornography. Even so, there is considerable evidence that a substantial number of people are likely to perceive their use of pornography to be problematic or addictive in nature. Whereas prior works considered perceived addiction dimensionally, the present work sought to examine what might lead someone to specifically identify as a pornography addict. Consistent with prior research, pre-registered hypotheses predicted that religiousness, moral disapproval, and pornography use would emerge as consistent predictors of self-identification as a pornography addict. Three samples, involving adult pornography users (Sample 1, N=829; Sample 2, N=424) and undergraduates (Sample 3, N=231), were collected.  Across all three samples, male gender, moral incongruence, and pornography use behaviors consistently emerged as predictors of self-identification as a pornography addict. In contrast to prior literature indicating that moral incongruence and religiousness are the best predictors of perceived addiction (measured dimensionally), results from all three samples indicated that male gender and pornography use behaviors were the most strongly associated with self-identification as a pornography addict.

African elephants (Loxodonta africana) display remarkable olfactory acuity in human scent

African elephants (Loxodonta africana) display remarkable olfactory acuity in human scent matching to sample performance. Katharina E.M. von Dürckheim et al. pplied Animal Behaviour Science, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2017.12.004

Highlights
•    Habituated African elephants were trained to discriminate and match human odours using Matching to Sample (MTS) protocols.
•    African elephants displayed no loss of working memory, and successfully discriminated target odours.
•    African elephants also discriminated between related human individuals spanning three generations and including sibling pairs.
•    This experiment proved the elephants’ significant ability to perform well at operant conditioning tasks.

Abstract: This paper presents data on the success rate of African elephants in human scent matching to sample performance. Working with equipment and protocols similar to those used in the training of forensic canine units in Europe, scent samples were collected on cotton squares from twenty-six humans of differing ethnic groups, sexes and ages, and stored in glass jars. Three African elephants were trained to match human body scent to the corresponding sample. In total, four hundred and seventy trials, during which the elephant handlers were blind to the experiment details, were conducted. Each trial consisted of one scent that served as the starting (target) sample to which the elephant then systematically determined a potential match in any of the nine glass jars presented. Elephants matched target and sample at levels significantly higher than indicated by random chance, displayed no loss of working memory, and successfully discriminated target odours. They also discriminated between related human individuals spanning three generations and including sibling pairs. In addition to demonstrating scent matching capabilities, this experiment supported the elephants’ significant ability to perform well at operant conditioning tasks.

Keywords: African elephant; olfaction; scent discrimination; scent matching to sample

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Comparative assessments of dietary sugars on cognitive performance

The “sweet” effect: Comparative assessments of dietary sugars on cognitive performance. Rachel Ginieis et al. Physiology & Behavior, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2017.12.010

Highlights
•    Glucose and sucrose ingestion led to negative cognitive performances.
•    Negative effects due to blood glucose increase were more evident with overnight fasting.
•    Sugar effects on cognitive abilities are likely to be glucose-mediated.
•    Sweetness perception does not play a role in moderating cognitive performances.

Abstract: In recent years there has been increasing interest in studying cognitive effects associated with sugar consumption. Neuro-cognitive research has confirmed that glucose, as a main energy substrate for the brain, can momentarily benefit cognitive performances, particularly for memory functioning. However, there is still limited understanding of relative effects of other common sugars (e.g., fructose and sucrose) on cognitive performance. The present study tested in 49 people the effects of three common dietary sugars against a placebo sweetener (i.e., sucralose), on performance of three well-studied cognitive tasks – simple response time, arithmetic, and Stroop interference, all of which are suggested to rely on the prefrontal lobe. A double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over experimental design was used. Results revealed that ingestion of glucose and sucrose led to poorer performances on the assessed tasks as opposed to fructose and the placebo (p < 0.05); these effects were particularly pronounced under the fasting condition in comparison to the non-fasting condition (p < 0.001). Overall, these results indicate that cognitive effects of sugar are unlikely to be mediated by the perception of sweetness. Rather, the effects are mediated by glucose. Further research should systematically assess effects of dietary sugars on other cognitive domains, such as memory, to give further insights on effects of sugar consumption.

Keywords: Glucose facilitation effect; Sucrose; Fructose; Attention

The CSI-education effect: Do potential criminals benefit from forensic TV series?

The CSI-education effect: Do potential criminals benefit from forensic TV series? Andreas M.Baranowski, Anne Burkhardt, Elisabeth Czernik, Heiko Hecht. International Journal of Law, Crime and Justice. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijlcj.2017.10.001

Highlights
•    Overview over the state of the CSI effect.
•    First article to experimentally test if consumers of forensic series are better in committing crimes.
•    4 studies with mixed methodology to ensure reliability of the results.
•    Support of the notion that there is no connection between consumption of forensic series and skills in committing a crime.

Abstract: Forensic series have become popular over the last two decades. They have raised the importance of forensic evidence in the eyes of the public (CSI effect). However, it has not been investigated to what extent criminals may learn about forensic evidence through these shows. We used multiple approaches to tackle this potential CSI-education effect. First, we analyzed crime statistics for crime and detection rate. Second, we asked convicted criminals about their impressions about the usefulness of crime shows for covering up a crime. Third, we asked fans of crime series and a control group of non-watchers to slip into the role of a criminal by enacting the cleaning up a murder crime scene. Finally, a sample of 120 subjects had to clean up the scene of a would-be murder using a model. In none of these experiments did we find supportive evidence for the CSI-education effect.

Selfishness is attributed to men who help young women: Signaling function of male altruism

Selfishness is attributed to men who help young women: Signaling function of male altruism.
Yuta Kawamura, Takashi Kusumi. Letters on Evolutionary Behavioral Science, Vol 8, No 2 (2017). lebs.hbesj.org/index.php/lebs/article/view/lebs.2017.64

Abstract: To investigate the function of altruism as a mating signal especially among males, the present study examined whether the motivation of a man who behaves altruistically toward a woman is more likely to be perceived as selfish by a third party. In two studies, participants read vignettes about one person helping a stranger, after which they rated the helpers’ perceived selfish motivation. We manipulated the sex of the recipient and helper (Study 1) and the recipient’s age (young vs. old; Study 2). In both studies, a man who helped a young woman was regarded as having a more selfish motivation than was an individual who helped the same sex. Conversely, although a woman who helped a man was viewed as more selfish than was a woman who helped another woman, the effect was smaller than when the helper was male (Study 1). Furthermore, a man who helped an old woman was not regarded as more selfish than was a man who helped another man (Study 2). These results support the notion that male altruism works as a courtship display.




Folk intuitions about disadvantageous and advantageous inequity aversion

It’s not fair: Folk intuitions about disadvantageous and advantageous inequity aversion. Alex Shaw and Shoham Choshen-Hillel. Judgment and Decision Making, Vol. 12, No. 3, May 2017, pp. 208-223. http://journal.sjdm.org/17/17215a/jdm17215a.html

Abstract: People often object to inequity; they react negatively to receiving less than others (disadvantageous inequity aversion), and more than others (advantageous inequity aversion). Here we study people’s folk intuitions about inequity aversion: what do people infer about others’ fairness concerns, when they observe their reactions to disadvantageous or advantageous inequity? We hypothesized that, people would not intuitively regard disadvantageous inequity aversion by itself as being rooted in fairness, but they would regard advantageous inequity aversion by itself as being rooted in fairness. In four studies, we used vignettes describing inequity aversion of a made up alien species to assess people’s folk intuitions about inequity aversion. The studies supported our main hypothesis that disadvantageous inequity aversion, without advantageous inequity aversion, does not fit people’s folk conception of fairness. Instead, participants reported it to be rooted in envy. According to these results, the claim that disadvantageous inequity aversion reveals a concern with fairness, does not readily accord with people’s intuitions. We connect these findings to other pieces of evidence in the literatures of behavioral economics, developmental psychology, and social psychology, indicating that lay people’s intuitions may be on the mark in this case. Specifically, unlike advantageous inequity aversion, disadvantageous inequity aversion need not be rooted in a sense of fairness.

Keywords: fairness, inequity aversion, envy, social comparison, equity

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Analytic Atheism: A Cross-culturally Weak and Fickle Phenomenon?

Gervais, Will M, Michiel van Elk, Dimitris Xygalatas, Ryan McKay, Mark Aveyard, Emma E K BUCHTEL, Ilan Dar-Nimrod, et al. 2017. “Analytic Atheism: A Cross-culturally Weak and Fickle Phenomenon?”. PsyArXiv. December 6. psyarxiv.com/92r8x

Abstract: Religious belief is a topic of longstanding interest to psychological science, however the psychology of religious disbelief is a relative newcomer. One prominently discussed model is analytic atheism, wherein analytic thinking overrides religious intuitions and instruction. Consistent with this model, performance-based measures of reliance on analytic thinking predict religious disbelief in WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, & Democratic) samples. However, the generality of analytic atheism remains unknown. Drawing on a large global sample (N = 3459) from 13 religiously, demographically, and culturally diverse societies, we find that analytic atheism is in fact quite fickle cross-culturally, only appearing robustly in aggregate analyses and in three individual countries. Such complexity implies a need to revise simplistic theories of religious disbelief as primarily grounded in cognitive style. The results provide additional evidence for culture’s effects on core beliefs, highlighting the power of comparative cultural evidence to clarify core mechanisms of human psychological variation.

Evidence for a sex effect during overimitation: boys copy irrelevant modelled actions more than girls across cultures

Evidence for a sex effect during overimitation: boys copy irrelevant modelled actions more than girls across cultures. Aurélien Frick, Fabrice Clément, Thibaud Gruber. http://rsos.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/4/12/170367

Abstract: Children are skilful at acquiring tool-using skills by faithfully copying relevant and irrelevant actions performed by others, but poor at innovating tools to solve problems. Five- to twelve-year-old urban French and rural Serbian children (N = 208) were exposed to a Hook task; a jar containing a reward in a bucket and a pipe cleaner as potential recovering tool material. In both countries, few children under the age of 10 made a hook from the pipe cleaner to retrieve the reward on their own. However, from five onward, the majority of unsuccessful children succeeded after seeing an adult model manufacturing a hook without completing the task. Additionally, a third of the children who observed a similar demonstration including an irrelevant action performed with a second object, a string, replicated this meaningless action. Children's difficulty with innovation and early capacity for overimitation thus do not depend on socio-economic background. Strikingly, we document a sex difference in overimitation across cultures, with boys engaging more in overimitation than girls, a finding that may result from differences regarding explorative tool-related behaviour. This male-biased sex effect sheds new light on our understanding of overimitation, and more generally, on how human tool culture evolved.


Energizing, activating, & hedonic effects of fast thinking -- The effects are independent of thought content, fluency, and goal progress

Consequences of Thought Speed. Kaite Yang*, Emily Pronin. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, https://doi.org/10.1016/bs.aesp.2017.10.003

Abstract: The speed of thinking is a frequently overlooked aspect of mental life. However, the pace of thought is an essential property of thinking, and its consequences have recently begun to be discovered. In this chapter, we review the psychological consequences of accelerated and decelerated thought pace. We begin by examining how the manipulation of thought speed alters mood, self-perception, risk-taking, creativity, and arousal. We highlight the energizing, activating, and hedonic effects of fast thinking, and we show how thought-speed effects are independent of thought content, fluency, and goal progress. We describe an adaptive theory of thought speed wherein psychological responses to the acceleration of thinking confer adaptive advantages for confronting novel, urgent, and rapidly changing situations, and engaging in behaviors driven by appetitive motivation. Lastly, we discuss implications of thought speed and its manipulation for treatment of mental illness, for design and delivery of communications and messages, and for life in the age of rapid access and exposure to information.

Keywords: Thought speed; Emotion; Behavioral activation; Risk-taking; Creativity; Mania

Common knowledge, coordination, and the logic of self-conscious emotions

Common knowledge, coordination, and the logic of self-conscious emotions. Kyle A. Thomas, Peter DeScioli, Steven Pinker. Evolution and Human Behavior, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2017.12.001

Imagine spilling a plate of food into your lap in front of a crowd. Afterwards, you might fix your gaze on your cell phone to avoid acknowledging the bumble to onlookers. Similarly, after disappointing your family or colleagues, it can be hard to look them in the eye. Why do people avoid acknowledging faux pas or transgressions that they know an audience already knows about?

Following a transgression, people feel the negative self-conscious emotions of shame, embarrassment, or guilt, and these emotions help them regulate their relationships [...]. A transgressor has displayed ineptitude, which can damage his reputation as a valuable cooperator, or a disregard for someone’s welfare, which can damage his reputation as a trustworthy cooperator. The discomfort caused by the resulting emotions, even when privately felt, motivates a person to manage these threats by drawing his attention to the transgression and motivating him to make amends and avoid similar acts in the future [...].

The idea that self-conscious emotions regulate relationships also explains why the presence of an audience intensifies feelings of embarrassment, shame, and guilt [...] If onlookers infer that a transgression is the result of a stable disposition that predicts future incompetence or exploitation, they now have reason to devalue, ostracize, or punish the transgressor. To prevent these damaging consequences, the transgressor must persuade the onlookers either that the act was not intentional and hence unrepresentative of his underlying disposition, or that he will change his disposition and will not repeat the behavior in the future. Moreover, for such assurances to be more than self-serving cheap talk, they must be made credible: The transgressor must endure a cost, in the form of visible discomfort and perhaps tangible restitution, and display signs that the changed priorities are products of involuntary emotions rather than conscious strategic calculations. Indeed, research on the psychology of contrition and forgiveness shows that the negative self-conscious emotions have these specifications

Out-of-Control Sexual Behavior in Women

Out-of-Control Sexual Behavior in Women. Montgomery-Graham, S. Current Sexual Health Reports, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 200–206, December 2017. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11930-017-0125-2

Abstract

Purpose of Review: The goals of this article are to review the current research on out-of-control sexual behavior, also known as problematic hypersexuality, or hypersexual disorder, as it relates to women. Specifically, the paper reviews the existing epidemiological data, conceptualization of the symptoms, and measurement instruments used clinically and concludes by critically reviewing the small body of recent empirical research on out-of-control sexual behavior in women.

Recent Findings: Women are understudied and often not included in research about out-of-control sexual behavior. Empirical research studies use differing samples—clinical, community, and convenience samples—and use varying scales that capture different elements of the problematic hypersexuality construct. No clear clinical picture of women and problematic hypersexuality exists currently.

Summary: Future research should include women so researchers and clinicians can better understand clinical presentations, etiology, case conceptualization, and treatment of women presenting with beliefs and feelings that their sexual behavior is out of control.

Attitudinal Change Toward Same-Sex Parents: the Effect of the Explanation of the Etiology of the Homosexual Sexual Orientation

Attitudinal Change Toward Same-Sex Parents: the Effect of the Explanation of the Etiology of the Homosexual Sexual Orientation. Livia García, Gloria Garcia-Banda, Marcos Pascual-Soler, Laura Badenes-Ribera. Sexuality Research and Social Policy, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13178-017-0313-x

Abstract: The attributional theory of stigma maintains that the rejection of the stigmatized group increases when attributions are made to controllable causes rather than to genetic factors. Our study has two objectives: one, to provide evidence for the bifactorial structure of the scale of Beliefs about Children’s Adjustment in Same-Sex Families Scale (BCASSFS); and two, to carry out a direct replication of a previous experimental study about the effect of the etiology of the homosexual sexual orientation on attitudes toward same-sex parents. The sample was composed of 229 Spanish university students with a mean age of 26.18 years (SD = 9.43). This study demonstrates that the rejection of same-sex parents is greater when the homosexual sexual orientation is attributed to learning. The effect is observed in the scores on the two subscales: traditional rejection or individual opposition and modern rejection or normative opposition. The practical implications of our findings are related to homophobia intervention programs in educational settings or in the promotion of social change.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Relationship Between the Enhancement of Facial Features by Cosmetics and a Woman’s Increased “Halo Effect” and Perceived Reproductive Status

From the Pyramids to the Present: The Relationship Between the Enhancement of Facial Features by Cosmetics and a Woman’s Increased “Halo Effect” and Perceived Reproductive Status. Vibha Shekhar. 31st National Conference on Undergraduate Research, University of Memphis, Memphis, Tennessee, April 6-8, 2016. Published in 2017. http://ncurproceedings.org/ojs/index.php/NCUR2017/article/view/2312/1292

Abstract: Female makeup in the ancient Egyptian time period versus cosmetic use in Modern America was studied to determine whether cosmetics alter a women’s perceived reproductive status in order to help the reader understand whether society seems to equate a woman’s facial beauty with her fertility. To answer this question, journal articles that explored the types of cosmetics used by the ancient Egyptians, the cosmetics used by modern-day Americans, the relationship between the use of cosmetics in ancient Egypt and in modern-day America, the correlation between beauty and the beautiful individual’s “halo-effect” in society, and how individuals tend to perceive women as more fertile (and valuable) due to their physical attractiveness were examined. A study was conducted at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in which photographs of five Caucasian women wearing no makeup, modern-day makeup (applied in accordance to researchers Nancy Etcoff, Lauren Haley, David House, Angela McKeegan, Richard Russell, Ian Stephen, Shannon Stock, and Sarah Vickery), and ancient Egyptian style makeup (applied in accordance to individuals’ cosmetics portrayed by ancient Egyptian works of art), were shown to 11 VCU students (6 female, 5 male). The results were quite similar to those found by the aforementioned researchers, who found that attractive individuals are perceived as more socially competent and likeable, and receive better societal opportunities. Men, since the Neolithic time period, have sought to expand their bloodline, and tend to prefer beautiful women as the birth-givers, as men perceive beautiful women as more valuable and fertile than average-looking women12; therefore, because cosmetics increase a woman’s perceived beauty, cosmetics can therefore increase a woman’s perceived fertility as well. Women who wear cosmetics tend to reap the societal benefits of feminine beauty (collectively known as the “Halo Effect”), which is relevant because it demonstrates the idea that women no longer have to be naturally beautiful in order to receive societal benefits.

Keywords: Cosmetics, Halo-Effect, Perceived Fertility

Monday, December 4, 2017

Cross-spectrum microaggression perception: The association between participants’ ideological orientation & their judgements of ostensible microaggressions differed as a function of the apparent victims of ostensible microaggressions

Harper, Craig A. 2017. “Political Microaggressions Across the Ideological Spectrum”. PsyArXiv. November 29. psyarxiv.com/973v8

Abstract: Microaggressions – subtle slights that communicate implicit bias – have become a widespread concern in recent years. However, the empirical credibility of microaggression theory has been questioned due to a lack of conceptual clarity and the prevalence of methodological biases within microaggression research. This study examined the potential for cross-spectrum microaggression perception, challenging the idea that microaggression victims are purely traditionally ‘minority’ groups. Using an experimental online survey (N = 404), the association between participants’ ideological orientation and their judgements of ostensible microaggressions differed as a function of the apparent victims of ostensible microaggressions. While liberals were more punitive towards aggressors against left-wing-affiliated targets, conservatives demonstrated a similar antipathy for those aggressing against right-wing-affiliated groups. These associations were partially and asymmetrically moderated by participants’ emotional investment in their ideological orientation (i.e., collective narcissism). Implications for microaggression theory, and the study of politically-salient individual differences research, are addressed.

New Evidence of Generational Progress for Mexican Americans

New Evidence of Generational Progress for Mexican Americans. Brian Duncan, Jeffrey Grogger, Ana Sofia Leon, Stephen J. Trejo. NBER Working Paper No. 24067. http://www.nber.org/papers/w24067

U.S.-born Mexican Americans suffer a large schooling deficit relative to other Americans, and standard data sources suggest that this deficit does not shrink between the 2nd and later generations. Standard data sources lack information on grandparents’ countries of birth, however, which creates potentially serious issues for tracking the progress of later-generation Mexican Americans. Exploiting unique NLSY97 data that address these measurement issues, we find substantial educational progress between the 2nd and 3rd generations for a recent cohort of Mexican Americans. Such progress is obscured when we instead mimic the limitations inherent in standard data sources.

The Long-run Effects of Agricultural Productivity on Conflict, 1400-1900

The Long-run Effects of Agricultural Productivity on Conflict, 1400-1900. Murat Iyigun, Nathan Nunn, Nancy Qian. NBER Working Paper No. 24066. http://www.nber.org/papers/w24066

Abstract: This paper provides evidence of the long-run effects of a permanent increase in agricultural productivity on conflict. We construct a newly digitized and geo-referenced dataset of battles in Europe, the Near East and North Africa covering the period between 1400 and 1900 CE. For variation in permanent improvements in agricultural productivity, we exploit the introduction of potatoes from the Americas to the Old World after the Columbian Exchange. We find that the introduction of potatoes permanently reduced conflict for roughly two centuries. The results are driven by a reduction in civil conflicts.

Selling the snake oil of nudging: Only 7% of the studies applied power analysis, 2% used guidelines to improve the quality of reporting, no study was preregistered, & the used intervention nomenclatures were non-exhaustive & often have overlapping categories

Szaszi, B., Palinkas, A., Palfi, B., Szollosi, A., and Aczel, B. (2017) A Systematic Scoping Review of the Choice Architecture Movement: Toward Understanding When and Why Nudges Work. J. Behav. Dec. Making, doi: 10.1002/bdm.2035

Abstract: In this paper, we provide a domain-general scoping review of the nudge movement by reviewing 422 choice architecture interventions in 156 empirical studies. We report the distribution of the studies across countries, years, domains, subdomains of applicability, intervention types, and the moderators associated with each intervention category to review the current state of the nudge movement. Furthermore, we highlight certain characteristics of the studies and experimental and reporting practices that can hinder the accumulation of evidence in the field. Specifically, we found that 74% of the studies were mainly motivated to assess the effectiveness of the interventions in one specific setting, while only 24% of the studies focused on the exploration of moderators or underlying processes. We also observed that only 7% of the studies applied power analysis, 2% used guidelines aiming to improve the quality of reporting, no study in our database was preregistered, and the used intervention nomenclatures were non-exhaustive and often have overlapping categories. Building on our current observations and proposed solutions from other fields, we provide directly applicable recommendations for future research to support the evidence accumulation on why and when nudges work.

CO2 emissions in developed countries have stabilized, but emissions in developing countries have doubled due in part to offshoring economic activity from relatively environmentally-friendly places to others with lax environmental laws

Growth in emission transfers via international trade from 1990 to 2008. Glen P Peters et al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,  vol. 108 no. 21. http://www.pnas.org/content/108/21/8903

Abstract: Despite the emergence of regional climate policies, growth in global CO2 emissions has remained strong. From 1990 to 2008 CO2 emissions in developed countries (defined as countries with emission-reduction commitments in the Kyoto Protocol, Annex B) have stabilized, but emissions in developing countries (non-Annex B) have doubled. Some studies suggest that the stabilization of emissions in developed countries was partially because of growing imports from developing countries. To quantify the growth in emission transfers via international trade, we developed a trade-linked global database for CO2 emissions covering 113 countries and 57 economic sectors from 1990 to 2008. We find that the emissions from the production of traded goods and services have increased from 4.3 Gt CO2 in 1990 (20% of global emissions) to 7.8 Gt CO2 in 2008 (26%). Most developed countries have increased their consumption-based emissions faster than their territorial emissions, and non–energy-intensive manufacturing had a key role in the emission transfers. The net emission transfers via international trade from developing to developed countries increased from 0.4 Gt CO2 in 1990 to 1.6 Gt CO2 in 2008, which exceeds the Kyoto Protocol emission reductions. Our results indicate that international trade is a significant factor in explaining the change in emissions in many countries, from both a production and consumption perspective. We suggest that countries monitor emission transfers via international trade, in addition to territorial emissions, to ensure progress toward stabilization of global greenhouse gas emissions.

As predicted, happy men were inferred to be happier than happy women, but sad men were not inferred to be sadder than sad women

Do We Expect Women to Look Happier Than They Are? A Test of Gender-Dependent Perceptual Correction. John Eric Steephen, Samyak Raj Mehta, Raju Surampudi Bapi. Perception, https://doi.org/10.1177/0301006617745240

Abstract: Feminine facial features enhance the expressive cues associated with happiness but not sadness. This makes a woman look happier than a man even when their smiles have the same intensity. So, to correctly infer the actual happiness of a woman, one would have to subtract the effect of these facial features. We hypothesised that our perceptual system would apply this subtraction for women, but not for men. This implies that this female-specific subtraction would cause one to infer a man to be happier than a woman if both are matched for facial appearance and expression intensity. We tested this using androgynous virtual faces with equal expression intensity. As predicted, happy men were inferred to be happier than happy women, but sad men were not inferred to be sadder than sad women, supporting our hypothesis of a gender- and emotion-specific perceptual correction.

Keywords: facial emotion, gender difference, perceptual correction, nonverbal communication, emotion perception, vision, perceptual learning

“Everybody knows psychology is not a real science”: Public perceptions of psychology and how we can improve our relationship with policymakers, the scientific community, and the general public

Ferguson, C. J. (2015). “Everybody knows psychology is not a real science”: Public perceptions of psychology and how we can improve our relationship with policymakers, the scientific community, and the general public. American Psychologist, 70(6), 527-542. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0039405

Abstract: In a recent seminal article, Lilienfeld (2012) argued that psychological science is experiencing a public perception problem that has been caused by both public misconceptions about psychology, as well as the psychological science community’s failure to distinguish itself from pop psychology and questionable therapeutic practices. Lilienfeld’s analysis is an important and cogent synopsis of external problems that have limited psychological science’s penetration into public knowledge. The current article expands upon this by examining internal problems, or problems within psychological science that have potentially limited its impact with policymakers, other scientists, and the public. These problems range from the replication crisis and defensive reactions to it, overuse of politicized policy statements by professional advocacy groups such as the American Psychological Association (APA), and continued overreliance on mechanistic models of human behavior. It is concluded that considerable problems arise from psychological science’s tendency to overcommunicate mechanistic concepts based on weak and often unreplicated (or unreplicable) data that do not resonate with the everyday experiences of the general public or the rigor of other scholarly fields. It is argued that a way forward can be seen by, on one hand, improving the rigor and transparency of psychological science, and making theoretical innovations that better acknowledge the complexities of the human experience.


The problem of false positives and false negatives in violent video game experiments -- studies of aggression appear to be particularly prone to false positive results

The problem of false positives and false negatives in violent video game experiments. Christopher J. Ferguson. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, Volume 56, January–February 2018, Pages 35–43. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijlp.2017.11.001

Abstract: The problem of false positives and negatives has received considerable attention in behavioral research in recent years. The current paper uses video game violence research as an example of how such issues may develop in a field. Despite decades of research, evidence on whether violent video games (VVGs) contribute to aggression in players has remained mixed. Concerns have been raised in recent years that experiments regarding VVGs may suffer from both “false positives” and “false negatives.” The current paper examines this issue in three sets of video game experiments, two sets of video game experiments on aggression and prosocial behaviors identified in meta-analysis, and a third group of recent null studies. Results indicated that studies of VVGs and aggression appear to be particularly prone to false positive results. Studies of VVGs and prosocial behavior, by contrast are heterogeneous and did not demonstrate any indication of false positive results. However, their heterogeneous nature made it difficult to base solid conclusions on them. By contrast, evidence for false negatives in null studies was limited, and little evidence emerged that null studies lacked power in comparison those highlighted in past meta-analyses as evidence for effects. These results are considered in light of issues related to false positives and negatives in behavioral science more broadly.

Keywords: Video games; Violence; Aggression; Prosocial behaviors; Null results

An abundance of toys present reduced quality of toddlers’ play

The influence of the number of toys in the environment on toddlers’ play. Carly Dauch, Michelle Imwalle, Brooke Ocasio, Alexia E. Metz. Infant Behavior and Development, Volume 50, February 2018, Pages 78–87. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.infbeh.2017.11.005

Highlights
•    An abundance of toys present reduced quality of toddlers’ play.
•    Fewer toys at once may help toddlers to focus better and play more creatively.
•    This can done in many settings to support development and promote healthy play.

Abstract: We tested the hypothesis that an environment with fewer toys will lead to higher quality of play for toddlers. Each participant (n = 36) engaged in supervised, individual free play sessions under two conditions: Four Toy and Sixteen Toy. With fewer toys, participants had fewer incidences of toy play, longer durations of toy play, and played with toys in a greater variety of ways (Z = −4.448, p < 0.001, r = −0.524; Z = 2.828, p = 0.005, r = 0.333; and Z = 4.676, p < 0.001, r = 0.55, respectively). This suggests that when provided with fewer toys in the environment, toddlers engage in longer periods of play with a single toy, allowing better focus to explore and play more creatively. This can be offered as a recommendation in many natural environments to support children’s development and promote healthy play.

Pedigree size and relative fecundity in both the paternal and maternal sides of the homosexual women’s families were significantly higher than in the heterosexuals’ families

Possible Balancing Selection in Human Female Homosexuality. Andrea Camperio Ciani et al. Human Nature, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12110-017-9309-8

Abstract: A growing number of researchers suggest that female homosexuality is at least in part influenced by genetic factors. Unlike for male homosexuality, few familial studies have attempted to explore maintenance of this apparently fitness-detrimental trait in the population. Using multiple recruitment methods, we explored fecundity and sexual orientation within the pedigrees of 1,458 adult female respondents. We compared 487 homosexual and 163 bisexual with 808 heterosexual females and 30,203 of their relatives. Our data suggest that the direct fitness of homosexual females is four times lower than the direct fitness of heterosexual females of corresponding ages. The prevalence of nonheterosexuality within the homosexual female respondents’ families (2.83%) appear to be more than four times higher than the basal prevalence in the Italian population (0.63%). Pedigree size and relative fecundity in both the paternal and maternal sides of the homosexual women’s families were significantly higher than in the heterosexuals’ families. If confirmed, the relative average fecundity increase within the family seems to offset the loss in fitness due to the low direct fitness of homosexual females. Therefore, the balanced fecundity in the homosexual females’ families may allow the trait to be maintained at a low-frequency equilibrium in the population.

Keywords: Female homosexuality Fecundity Fitness Pedigrees Balancing selection

Extraordinary Altruists Exhibit Enhanced Self-other Overlap in Neural Responses to Distress

Brethel-Haurwitz, Kristin, Elise Cardinale, Kruti Vekaria, Emily L Robertson, Brian Walitt, John VanMeter, and Abigail Marsh. 2017. “Extraordinary Altruists Exhibit Enhanced Self-other Overlap in Neural Responses to Distress”. PsyArXiv. December 3. psyarxiv.com/hr2gy

Abstract: Shared neural representations during experienced and observed distress reflect empathy, which is hypothesized to support altruism. But the correspondence between real-world altruism and shared neural representations has not been directly tested; the role of empathy for distress in promoting altruism toward strangers has been recently questioned. Here we show that individuals who have performed costly altruism (donating a kidney to a stranger) exhibit greater self-other overlap in neural representations of pain and threat in anterior insula (AI) in an empathic pain paradigm. Altruists exhibited greater self-other correspondence in pain-related activation in left AI, highlighting that group-level overlap was supported by individual-level prediction of empathic pain by first-hand pain, but not threat. Altruists exhibited enhanced functional coupling of left AI with left mid-insula during empathic pain and threat, and bilateral amygdala during empathic threat. Results show that heightened neural instantiations of empathy correspond to real-world altruism and highlight limitations of self-report.


Sunday, December 3, 2017

Why is linguistics such a magnet for dilettantes and crackpots?

Talking gibberish: The study of languages has long been prone to nonsense. Gaston Dorren.
https://aeon.co/essays/why-is-linguistics-such-a-magnet-for-dilettantes-and-crackpots



Ah, for the days of fact-free linguistics! The pre-scientific era might have produced a lot of codswallop and hogwash, but how entertaining it is to look back upon. Scholars erred in ways that few modern linguists ever would. Today, their field of study is a respectable social science, exacting in its methods, broad in its scope and generous in its harvest. Without phoneticians, computers wouldn’t be able to process spoken English. Without sociolinguists, prejudice against dialects and non-Western languages would still be rife – or rather, rifer still. Forensic linguists help to solve crimes, clinical linguists treat people with language impairments, historical linguists shed light on language change and even on prehistoric culture and migration – the list goes on and on. As in other disciplines, pertinent questions and rigorous methods to answer them have been at the root of success.

When natural philosophy began to slowly develop into physics and other natural sciences, learned speculation in the human domain did not immediately follow suit. But it too gradually developed into what we now call the social sciences, and the study of language was one of the earliest adopters of the new methods. Its practitioners would pore over ancient texts written in long-dead languages and long-forgotten scripts, and compare them ever more systematically. This led to a breakthrough in the late 18th century, when there emerged new ideas about the historical origins of modern languages. Most of these ideas have stood the test of time.

But the budding discipline did not merely come up with new answers, it also changed the questions. Scholars of yore, when reflecting upon language, would wonder things such as: which of the contemporary languages was spoken by the first man? Which one is superior to the rest? And which of the human tongues deserves the label ‘divine’? Modern linguists will not touch those with a 10-foot pole. The oldest language is unknowable, but it was certainly different from anything spoken today. The ‘best’ language is impossible to define in any meaningful way. And as for ‘divine’ – the very word is meaningless in relation to languages, except in a cultural sense.

Not so in the olden days. Indeed, the answers seemed pretty obvious to many thinkers, if only thanks to that most anti-scientific habit of mind known as ethnocentrism. To the ancient Greeks, determining the world’s most excellent language was a perfect no-brainer: it could only be theirs. People who spoke differently were ‘barbarians’ or babblers. The Romans were only slightly more broad-minded. Their appreciation extended beyond Latin to other languages with a tradition of writing, especially Greek (which might conceivably even be superior), but also Punic, spoken by the Carthaginians, and Etruscan. All scriptless languages, however, were sneered at. Even in the late 5th century, with Rome’s power gone, the Roman aristocrat Sidonius Apollinaris called the Germanic language of the new rulers ‘an instrument of but three strings’.

Other cultures were equally self-complacent. In the last centuries BCE, the people of North India felt that their Sanskrit was nothing less than divine, and 1,000 years later the Arabs would feel likewise about the language of the Quran. For the Chinese, civilising the neighbouring peoples was practically tantamount to familiarising them with the only great language. The French of the Enlightenment, not to be outdone, deemed their language better than divine – it was logical.

This claim was perhaps most famously defended by the 18th-century writer Antoine de Rivarol on grounds that were both illogical and plain wrong. He argued that the French word order (subject first, followed by verb and then object) is both unique and more logical than any other. But not only is it extremely common among the world’s languages, it’s also an order that French itself very often does not respect – and these are only some of the more obvious objections.

As silly as it is, the notion of ‘French as the pinnacle of logic’ became an idée reçue. The cover of my first French dictionary, published in the 1950s (and not even in France!) claimed that the language was ‘an unsurpassed creation as a vehicle for the mind’. The Arabs, Chinese and Greeks would beg to differ.

Today, the language of choice is English, especially in most of the Western world. And sure enough, it has inherited French’s status as the allegedly superior language. How rich in vocabulary it is, how suitable for song and science, how clear, concise and, in a word, cool. And how this makes me – as a non-English speaker – chuckle. English is not a bad language as languages go but, a century from now, all the exultant praise will sound as silly as it would have sounded less than a century ago, before its rise to dominance.

Speakers of big languages are not the only ones to get carried away by love for their lingo. Quite a few people in Tamil Nadu in South India used quite literally to consider the Tamil language a goddess, and some still do. And early medieval Irish monks spun this elaborate yarn to prove that Irish Gaelic stood alone: after God had destroyed the Tower of Babel and confused the tongues of man, King Phenius of Scythia travelled thither with his son and 72 scholars. Out of the best elements of all the confused languages they found there, they created a new one: Irish.

As for the oldest language, this was Hebrew. At least, this is something that Christians commonly believed for more than 1,000 years. (Only Saint Ephrem the Syrian held that his own Syriac was older.) The Church Father Augustine, for instance, wrote in the 5th century:

so when the nations, by a prouder godlessness, earned the punishment of the dispersion and the confusion of tongues, … there was still the house of Heber in which the primitive language of the race survived. … His family preserved that language which is not unreasonably believed to have been the common language of the race, it was on this account thenceforth named Hebrew.

For a long time, it was considered heresy to doubt that the Hebrew language and script of the Bible were inspired by God – including the so-called vowel points, which were actually added by rabbis several centuries after the beginning of our era.

Even today, Christians who take the Bible literally adhere to the traditional view. In 2011, the Dutchman Willem Westerbeke published a theological tract titled ‘God Spoke Hebrew’. And as in Christianity, so elsewhere: one Thakur Prasad Verma in 2005 claimed not only that Sanskrit was the original language of all humankind, but that it was a direct gift from above: ‘Vedas are verbal transformations of God.’ And in a scholarly tome, too.

Outside the churches, the consensus slowly began to crack and crumble from the Renaissance on and, between the 16th and 18th centuries, one scholar after another came up with other ‘first languages’ (see table below). German was a popular candidate, but the 17th-century Swedish scholar Olof Rudbeck favoured his own mother tongue, for a reason that was nothing if not creative: Sweden, he argued, was Atlantis, and thus the cradle of human civilisation.

                                        [Full article in the link above.]

What Nihilism is

What Nihilism is.

"Once upon a time, in some out of the way corner of that universe which is dispersed into numberless twinkling solar systems, there was a star upon which clever beasts invented knowing. That was the most arrogant and mendacious minute of ‘world history’, but nevertheless,it was only a minute. After nature had drawn a few breaths, the star cooled and congealed, and the clever beasts had to die. – One might invent such a fable, and yet he still would not have adequately illustrated how miserable, how shadowy and transient, how aimless and arbitrary the human intellect looks within nature. There were eternities during which it did not exist. And when it is all over with the human intellect, nothing will have happened."
                                                                                                  (Nietzsche 1873)

Being fed up with life & with men: One life is more than enough

In Burma, in a Buddhist sermon by one of the most senior monks in the country:
I got talking to Daw Kyaing, aged 65, a woman with a lovely smile. I asked her why there were more women than men attending.

“Because only the women want to go to heaven. The men are busy drinking.”

“Where will the men go?

“To hell.”

“What do you want to be in in your next life?”

“I don’t want to come back in any form.”

“One life is enough?”

“More than enough.”

“You wouldn’t want to come back as a man?”

“No. I don’t want to drink. My husband was violent. We had 11 children. Now he can’t drink, so he doesn’t beat me anymore. I live with him, and grow rice, on a bend in the peaceful river.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/01/opinion/myanmar-rakhine-state-rohingya.html

I think that sums up things pretty well: Life is not worth living.Thats why there are anti-natalists: http://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/11/anti-natalist-philosophers-contend-life.html

Now, since you are alive, you may be useful to others. Or maybe you should be useful, we are not exempt of having good behavior, good words and good intentions:
  • care (with modest behavior) for your neighbors if you have no family or you are not in speaking terms with your kin;
  • try to be virtuous, from the easy to the difficult:
    • relatively easy: do not jump the queue, park the car well, do not litter, do not be noisy at home or in public, open the doors/give your seat to others (with modesty, not showing pompously you are such a good fellow), ...;
    • difficult: protect the weak, do not support discrimination of defenseless people --- this doesn't mean you need to offend the traditionalists in your country or family/clan/tribe, just be modest, rational and force you to believe that all human beings are that, human (not pigs/monkeys/cockroaches, as many say of those who are different), and behave with respect for all, despite their class defects (wrong religion, noisyness, wrong clothes, wrong customs, wrong politics, etc.);
  • work for some NGO some hours per week;
  • or create your own one --- possible ideas for your own NGO, besides helping neighbors:
  • teach your abilities to others (at work, to children in your area), always with modesty, since people is easly offended by those who offer help;
  • contribute a few pennies of your savings to buy a blanket, or water, or something else that is much needed for some person in your neighborhood (or a distant place, of course).
  • if you have talents for it, learn to play music, painting, etc., and entertain the others with your capabilities;
  • if you are exceptional in strength (physical and mental), you may some day be a firefighter, policeman, soldier;
  • try to be less sad, choleric, harsh to others;
  • physical exercise helps (doesn't guarantee) to be more useful in case of catastrophe.

Legal & readily accessible abortion is estimated to have caused a 34 pct reduction in first births, a 19 pct reduction in first marriages, & a 63 pct reduction in "shotgun marriages" prior to age 19

The Power of Abortion Policy: Reexamining the Effects of Young Women’s Access to Reproductive Control. Caitlin Knowles Myers. Journal of Political Economy, http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/pdfplus/10.1086/694293

Abstract: I provide new evidence on the relative “powers” of contraception and abortion policy in effecting the dramatic social transformations of the 1960s and 1970s. Trends in sexual behavior suggest that young women’s increased access to the birth control pill fueled the sexual revolution, but neither these trends nor difference-in-difference estimates support the view that this also led to substantial changes in family formation. Rather, the estimates robustly suggest that it was liberalized access to abortion that allowed large numbers of women to delay marriage and motherhood.

---
[...] policy environments in which abortion has legal and readily accessible by young women are estimated to have caused a 34 percent reduction in first births, a 19 percent reduction in first marriages, and a 63 percent reduction in "shotgun marriages" prior to age 19.

[...]

Between the 1950 and 1955 birth cohorts, the fraction of women having sex prior to age 18 increased from 34 to 47 percent.

[...] cohorts that experienced the most rapid changes in sexual behavior exhibited little change in fertility.

[...]

Lahey (2014)...finds that the introduction of abortion restrictions in the nineteenth century increased birthrates by 4-12 percent...