Friday, October 20, 2017

Origin of the RNA world: The fate of nucleobases in warm little ponds

Origin of the RNA world: The fate of nucleobases in warm little ponds. Ben Pearce et al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Published online before print October 2, 2017, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1710339114

Significance: There are currently two competing hypotheses for the site at which an RNA world emerged: hydrothermal vents in the deep ocean and warm little ponds. Because the former lacks wet and dry cycles, which are well known to promote polymerization (in this case, of nucleotides into RNA), we construct a comprehensive model for the origin of RNA in the latter sites. Our model advances the story and timeline of the RNA world by constraining the source of biomolecules, the environmental conditions, the timescales of reaction, and the emergence of first RNA polymers.

Abstract: Before the origin of simple cellular life, the building blocks of RNA (nucleotides) had to form and polymerize in favorable environments on early Earth. At this time, meteorites and interplanetary dust particles delivered organics such as nucleobases (the characteristic molecules of nucleotides) to warm little ponds whose wet-dry cycles promoted rapid polymerization. We build a comprehensive numerical model for the evolution of nucleobases in warm little ponds leading to the emergence of the first nucleotides and RNA. We couple Earth's early evolution with complex prebiotic chemistry in these environments. We find that RNA polymers must have emerged very quickly after the deposition of meteorites (less than a few years). Their constituent nucleobases were primarily meteoritic in origin and not from interplanetary dust particles. Ponds appeared as continents rose out of the early global ocean, but this increasing availability of "targets" for meteorites was offset by declining meteorite bombardment rates. Moreover, the rapid losses of nucleobases to pond seepage during wet periods, and to UV photodissociation during dry periods, mean that the synthesis of nucleotides and their polymerization into RNA occurred in just one to a few wet-dry cycles. Under these conditions, RNA polymers likely appeared before 4.17 billion years ago.

Motor cortex and volitional control: Ability to suppress undesired movement

Motor cortex — to act or not to act? Christian Laut Ebbesen & Michael Brecht. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 18, 694–705 (2017), doi:10.1038/nrn.2017.119

Abstract: The motor cortex is a large frontal structure in the cerebral cortex of eutherian mammals. A vast array of evidence implicates the motor cortex in the volitional control of motor output, but how does the motor cortex exert this 'control'? Historically, ideas regarding motor cortex function have been shaped by the discovery of cortical 'motor maps' — that is, ordered representations of stimulation-evoked movements in anaesthetized animals. Volitional control, however, entails the initiation of movements and the ability to suppress undesired movements. In this article, we highlight classic and recent findings that emphasize that motor cortex neurons have a role in both processes.

My commentary: Most of the interest in the motor cortex is about movement initiation, forgetting the important issue of control (when to stop, at which distance, etc.). This paper reviews both functions (start and stop).

The highest-earning women's wages are penalized by obesity as much as five times that of the lowest earners

On the Distributional and Evolutionary Nature of the Obesity Wage Penalty. Christian Brown, P. Wesley Routon. Economics & Human Biology,

•    We examine the obesity wage penalty across the wage distribution and career.
•    Quantile and fixed-effect quantile regression control for unobserved heterogeneity.
•    We find an increasingly severe penalty across the wages distribution for women.
•    The obesity wage penalty has grown over time and may slow wage growth.

Abstract: The economics literature supports a link between labor market measures, such as earnings, and health conditions, such as obesity. There is reason to believe the effects of obesity on wages may vary for high- and low-earning individuals and that obesity wage effects may evolve over a lifecycle or from generation to generation. Drawing on data from two longitudinal surveys, we estimate quantile and fixed effect quantile regressions, among others, to further examine the obesity wage effect. Results suggest an increasingly severe penalty across the wage distribution for females. Specifically, the highest-earning women may be penalized as much as five times that of the lowest earners. Results for males suggest that penalties may be present at select wage levels, while prior research has generally found no male obesity penalty. We also provide evidence that the obesity penalty has increased across generations and limited evidence that it may slow earnings growth over one’s lifetime.

JEL: I10; I14; J31
Keywords: Obesity; earnings; wage penalty; longitudinal quantile regression; NLSY79; NLSY97

My commentary: What we imagine is the life of the obese persons? We intuitively believe that getting up in the morning is more slow, that with age the knees will suffer more due to the excessive weight of the body above them, and in some way productivity diminishes.

For those earning less, which are not penalized, the more physical nature of work needs a greater BMI than those of higher earnings.

"Alternatively, individuals with higher BMI may be self-selecting into lower wages by reducing their involvement in the labor market. This is possible if individuals with higher BMIs expect to work less, work for fewer years, or experience attendant health conditions that will limit their ability to work and their employee lifecycle. Further, if higher BMI individuals expect to face discrimination, this may reduce job search time and desire to seek out training, education, and promotion opportunities.

Conversely, obesity penalties are found for the higher key quantiles of the distribution generally associated with more sedentary and competitive forms of work. If BMI is not an important determinant of low wages, and is a major determinant of higher wages, this may suggest that discrimination occurs in the labor market. In an asymmetrical information context, employers discriminate against obese individuals by paying them less or denying opportunities [...] because obesity is seen as an observable proxy for unobservable negative characteristics. It could be that employers are expecting an increased likelihood of healthcare costs and are preemptively selecting obese employees out of employment opportunities which would result in an increasing lifetime earnings profile."

Thursday, October 19, 2017

“Naked Bonobo” demolishes myth of sexy, egalitarian bonobos

Faux-nobo: “Naked Bonobo” demolishes myth of sexy, egalitarian bonobos. Edward Clint • Oct 9, 2017.

Just a selection of a very interesting post reviewing Lynn Saxon's book:

That said, bonobo society is far from peaceful and bonobos are far from gentle.

    Kano (1992) found a majority of one group’s individuals had “abnormalities” of the limbs, digits, ears, eyeballs, genitalia, and other parts. 28 counts of total loss of a finger or toe, 96 counts of partial loss. Only one of the 22 adult males had intact fingers and toes. 32 counts of ear lacerations which almost always result from fighting. (p. 117-8)
    At Apenheul Zoo in the Netherlands, five female bonobos attacked a male and were seen gnawing on his toes; the flesh could be seen between their teeth as they chewed away.  (p. 119)
    At least two zookeepers have lost parts of digits (p. 119)
    While releasing bonobos back into the wild after rehabilitation at a sanctuary, three trackers were attacked and mutilated. They lost noses, bits of fingers and one lost an ear. One of the men spent a month in the hospital and two required a year of reconstructive facial surgery. (p. 122)
    Overall, male-male aggression rates are similar in chimpanzees and bonobos (p. 126)

Female aggression toward infants and other females

    The alpha female at Twycross Zoo took the infant of the lowest ranking female, even though she was still nursing her own infant. After weeks of rough treatment at the alpha’s hands, she lost interest and the infant had to be removed for human rearing as it showed signs of “weakness and dehydration”.  (p. 120-121)
    There are at least 8 cases of infant abduction or victim of aggressive behavior at the Plankendael and Stuttgart zoos; the mothers of the stolen infants behaved nervously and showed signs of distress. While trying to get their infants back, some of the females would present for genito-genital rubbing. (p. 121)

Is there anything sexier than bartering a sex act for your baby’s life?

    In one Lomako group, aggression between females was about 7 times higher when two or more oestrous females were in the party than when there was only one. (p. 124)

I thought that females were keeping the peace with sex, not causing fights over sex?

Next, are bonobos egalitarian? That is, are various goods and resources (food, sex, social support) more evenly distributed among individuals? Chimpanzees are thought to have the opposite arrangement, a more rigid rank system that greatly privileges the chimp elites. Saxon writes that bonobos are probably somewhat more egalitarian than chimpanzees, but much less so than is commonly supposed. Sometimes, it is not clear that there is a difference at all.

    A female-biased sex ratio is taken to be evidence of male intrasexual competition. Competition is a physiologically taxing and risky enterprise that leads to early death for many males. The problem here is that, overall, the sex ratio of chimpanzees and bonobos is very similar.
    Both females and males had higher mating rates when they were aggressors compared to when they were targets of aggression.  (p. 124)
    Bonobo society, including its females, rewards rank and aggression:
        Females strongly prefer high ranking males. When in oestrus, this preference intensifies.
        High ranking males are more aggressive, and actively block other males from access to fertile females.
    Ranking female “wingmoms” aid their sons (but not daughters) in bullying and picking fights to advance their status. (p. 115)
    Feeding is highly segmented by rank. Low ranking individuals may be charged or attacked if attempting to line-jump.
    Female bonobos disperse to other groups around adolescence. When accepted in their new group, they solicit sex acts from higher ranking males at food sites. This behavior, and their total libido, drops substantially as they gain rank. In order words, they’re forced to barter sex for food. Not because they’re eager for sexual contact. When they don’t have to, they don’t. Few consider coerced prostitution a sign of gender equality.


4. Should humans envy bonobos?

Perhaps the most important idea in this book is that the “great” parts of the faux-nobo lifestyle wannabes want us to emulate, properly understood, become disturbing if not nightmares outright:

“Sexy” bonobos have the most frequent sex as sub-adults and sexual contact between juveniles, infants, and adults is quite common and normal.

“Tension-reducing” sex among bonobos is most often not about fun. It is not about enthusiastic consent, but coercion on threat of aggression. Like humans, we know that bonobos have preferred sexual partners. But the social friction most likely occurs between two individuals who are not close or friendly. Bonobos are therefore required to offer sexual contact to individuals they do not like. Faced with an agitated, aggressive male you do not care for, how do you women feel about offering copulation to calm him? And men, how do you feel about offering a penis to rub or your rump for the same? This is the bonobo way.

The overwhelming majority of sexual actions involving genitals do not involve ejaculation or (so far as can be told) orgasm in bonobos. This includes masturbation and intercourse.

Hedge Fund Managers With Psychopathic Tendencies Make for Worse Investor

Hedge Fund Managers With Psychopathic Tendencies Make for Worse Investors. Leanne ten Brinke, Aimee Kish, Dacher Keltner. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. First published date: October-19-2017.

Abstract: It is widely assumed that psychopathic personality traits promote success in high-powered, competitive contexts such as financial investment. By contrast, empirical studies find that psychopathic leaders can be charming and persuasive, but poor performers who mismanage, bully, and engage in unethical behavior. By coding nonverbal behaviors displayed in semistructured interviews, we identified the psychopathic, Machiavellian, and narcissistic tendencies in 101 hedge fund managers, and examined whether these traits were associated with financial performance over the course of 10 diverse years of economic volatility (2005-2015). Managers with greater psychopathic tendencies produced lower absolute returns than their less psychopathic peers, and managers with greater narcissistic traits produced decreased risk-adjusted returns. The discussion focuses on the costs of Dark Triad traits in financial investment, and organizational leadership more generally.

Vindeby, The World’s First Offshore Wind Farm Retires: A Post-Mortem

World’s First Offshore Wind Farm Retires: A Post-Mortem. M J Kelly, Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom. Date: 18/10/17

The first-ever offshore wind farm, Vindeby, in Danish waters, is being decommissioned after twenty-five years, DONG Energy has announced.[1] By its nature it was an experiment, and we can now see whether or not is has been a successful alternative to fossil or nuclear-fuelled electricity.

It consisted of eleven turbines, each with a capacity of 0.45 MW, giving a total export capacity for the wind farm of 5 MW. The hub height of each turbine was 37.5 m and blade height 17 m, small by today’s standards. Because of its date of construction, it would have been all but totally reliant on conventional energy for its manufacture and installation. The original stated project cost was £7.16 million in 1991, which is equivalent to approximately £10 million today.[2]

During its lifetime, it delivered 243 GWh to the Danish electricity grid. This means that the actual amount of electricity generated was 22% of that which would have been generated if it had delivered 5 MW all the time for 25 years. In technical terms, it had a load factor of 0.22. From the same source we see the initial expectation was that 3506 houses would be powered annually, with a saving of 7085 tonnes of carbon dioxide per annum.[3] There was no clear indication of Vindeby’s expected lifetime. Since the average household’s annual use of energy in Denmark[4] is 5000 kWh, we can calculate that the windfarm’s anticipated energy output was 438 GWh over its 25-year lifetime. The actual total of 243 GWh was therefore only 55% of that expectation.

The (annual average) spot price for electricity from both the European Energy Exchange and Nordpool quoted over the period 2006–2014 dropped approximately linearly from €50–55/MWh in 2006 to €32–37/MWh in 2014.[5] If we assume that this trend was constant over 1991–2017, we can see that the average wholesale price paid for the Vindeby electricity was of order of €50/MWh. On this basis the revenue of the windfarm was approximately €12 million: perhaps €15 million at today’s prices. This means that the windmill spent 75% of its life paying off the £10 million cost of its construction, and most of the rest paying for maintenance. In terms of effective energy revenue, the return on input cost was close to 1:1. The individual project may have been just profitable, but the project is insufficiently productive as will be seen below.

Other windfarms have performed even worse. Lely, an smaller farm sited off the Netherlands coast, was decommissioned last year.[6] It consisted of four turbines of 0.5 MW capacity, and cost £4.4 million in 1992. One nacelle and blades failed in 2014 because of metal fatigue.[7] It produced 3500 MWh per year, implying a load factor of 20%. At the same €50/MWh as above, it would have earned €4.2 million, less than the initial project cost, let alone the additional cost of any maintenance, by any way of reckoning.[8]

The reader should note that the analysis above assumes that the scrap value of the wind turbines will pay for the decommissioning process, and so does not degrade the ratio any further: presumably the bases will remain in the sea. This assumption has been made explicit for the Cowley Ridge wind farm in Alberta, Canada, for which the actual electricity energy delivered into the Canadian grid is not in the public domain, so this similar exercise cannot be repeated.[9]

For a typical fossil-fuel plant, effective energy revenue return on input cost is of the order of 50:1 if one considers the plant alone and about 15:1 when one includes the cost of the fuel. For a nuclear plant the ratio is more like 70:1, and the fuel is a negligible part of the overall cost. The energy generation and distribution sector makes up approximately 9% of the whole world economy, suggesting that the global energy sector has an energy return ratio of 11:1.[10] It is this high average ratio, buoyed by much higher ratios in certain areas (e.g.15:1 in Europe), that allows our present world economy to function.

The lesson learned from the considerations discussed above is that wind farms like these early examples could not power a modern economy unless assisted by substantial fossil-fuelled energy.

Interestingly, DONG Energy, which built Vindeby, is proposing the much newer and bigger Hornsea Project One in the North Sea. This wind farm will have 174 turbines, each with a hub height of 113 m, 75 m blades and a nameplate capacity of 7 MW. It is due to be commissioned in 2020.[11] The project capacity is 1218 MW, and it has a current cost estimate of €3.36 billion. No clear statement of expected lifetime has been provided, but DONG has stated that 862,655 homes will be powered annually. Assuming the average per-household electricity use in the UK[12] to be 4000 kWh, this implies a constant generation of 394 MW over the year, which is 32% of capacity, which is probably realistic.

The agreed wholesale price of the Hornsea energy over the next twenty-five years is £140/MWh. Even assuming a very generous load factor of 50%, Hornsea’s lifetime revenue would be about £20 billion, suggesting a ratio of revenue to cost of 6:1 (reduced further by any maintenance costs), still barely half the average value that prevails in the global economy, which is more than 85% fossil-fuel based.

The secret of the fossil fuel success in the world economy is the high calorific value of the fuel. A ton of coal costing £42.50 produces of the order of 2000 kWh of electricity in a new coal-fired power plants (up 30% from older plants). This sells for £400 wholesale, with an energy return on energy invested (EROEI) of 10:1. A therm of natural gas costs £0.40, and produces 30 kWh of electricity, which sells for £6, representing an EROEI of 15:1.  Fuel-less technologies do not have this advantage.

The disappointing results from Vindeby, and the likely results from Hornsea and similar projects must be seen in the context of the increasing wealth of a growing world population. If all the world’s 10.3 billion people alive in 2055 were to lead a European (as opposed to American) style of life, we would need 2.5 times the primary energy as used today. If, say, half of the energy is suddenly produced with an energy return on investment of 5.5:1 (i.e. half the present world average), then for the same investment we would get only 75% of the energy and we would need to cut energy consumption: the first 10% reduction could come by curtailing higher education, international air travel, the internet, advanced medicine and high culture. We could invest proportionately more of our economy in energy production than we do now, but that will still mean a step backward against the trend of the last 200 years of reducing the proportion of the total economy taken by the energy sector.[13] To avoid this undesirable scenario we would need new forms of energy to match the fossil/nuclear fuel performance.

In this context it is useful to remember that global economic growth is very sensitive to the cost of energy. The energy cost spikes in the mid-1970s and in 2010 form the boundaries between the 5% growth rate of the global economy from 1950–1975, the 3% from 1980–2008, and the 2.5% since 2012. There is a lot at stake in the choice between cheap fossil fuels and expensive renewables.













[13] Until the industrial revolution, the UK economy operated on an energy return investment of 2:1: see C. W. King, J P Maxwell and A Donovan, ‘Comparing world economic and net energy metrics, Part I: Single Technology and Commercial Perspective’ Energies 2015: 12949-74. The 2:1 ratio applies in some parts of Africa today: when half the economy is spent providing food and fuel, it leaves little over for other activities.

Changes in the Public Acceptance of Immigrants and Refugees in Germany in the Course of Europe’s ‘Immigration Crisis’

Christian S Czymara, Alexander W Schmidt-Catran; Refugees Unwelcome? Changes in the Public Acceptance of Immigrants and Refugees in Germany in the Course of Europe’s ‘Immigration Crisis’, European Sociological Review, , jcx071,

Abstract: Based on an innovative design, combining a multi-factorial survey experiment with a longitudinal perspective, we examine changes in the public acceptance of immigrants in Germany from the beginning of the so-called ‘migration crisis’ to after the sexual assaults of New Year’s Eve (NYE) 2015/2016. In contrast to previous studies investigating similar research questions, our approach allows to differentiate changes along various immigrant characteristics. Derived from discussions making up the German immigration discourse during this time, we expect reduced acceptance especially of those immigrants who were explicitly connected to the salient events, like Muslims and the offenders of NYE. Most strikingly, we find that refugees were generally highly accepted and even more so in the second wave, whereas the acceptance of immigrants from Arab or African countries further decreased. Moreover, female respondents’ initial preference for male immigrants disappeared. Contrary to our expectations, we find no changes in the acceptance of Muslims. We conclude that (i) public opinion research is well advised to match the particular political and social context under investigation to a fitting outcome variable to adequately capture the dynamics of anti-immigrant sentiment and that (ii) the vividly discussed upper limits for refugees seem to be contrary to public demands according to our data.

Birth order: no meaningful effects on life satisfaction, locus of control, interpersonal trust, reciprocity, risk taking, patience, impulsivity, or political orientation

Probing Birth-Order Effects on Narrow Traits Using Specification-Curve Analysis. Julia M. Rohrer, Boris Egloff, and Stefan C. Schmukle. Psychological Science. First published date: October-17-2017. DOI 10.1177/0956797617723726

Abstract: The idea that birth-order position has a lasting impact on personality has been discussed for the past 100 years. Recent large-scale studies have indicated that birth-order effects on the Big Five personality traits are negligible. In the current study, we examined a variety of more narrow personality traits in a large representative sample (n = 6,500–10,500 in between-family analyses; n = 900–1,200 in within-family analyses). We used specification-curve analysis to assess evidence for birth-order effects across a range of models implementing defensible yet arbitrary analytical decisions (e.g., whether to control for age effects or to exclude participants on the basis of sibling spacing). Although specification-curve analysis clearly confirmed the previously reported birth-order effect on intellect, we found no meaningful effects on life satisfaction, locus of control, interpersonal trust, reciprocity, risk taking, patience, impulsivity, or political orientation. The lack of meaningful birth-order effects on self-reports of personality was not limited to broad traits but also held for more narrowly defined characteristics.

Not aware of the improvement, but drinking alcohol significantly betters observer-ratings for Dutch language, specifically pronunciation

Dutch courage? Effects of acute alcohol consumption on self-ratings and observer ratings of foreign language skills. Fritz Renner, Inge Kersbergen, Matt Field, and Jessica Werthmann. Journal of Psychopharmacology. First published date: October-18-2017. DOI 10.1177/0269881117735687


Aims: A popular belief is that alcohol improves the ability to speak in a foreign language. The effect of acute alcohol consumption on perceived foreign language performance and actual foreign language performance in foreign language learners has not been investigated. The aim of the current study was to test the effects of acute alcohol consumption on self-rated and observer-rated verbal foreign language performance in participants who have recently learned this language.

ethods: Fifty native German speakers who had recently learned Dutch were randomized to receive either a low dose of alcohol or a control beverage that contained no alcohol. Following the experimental manipulation, participants took part in a standardized discussion in Dutch with a blinded experimenter. The discussion was audio-recorded and foreign language skills were subsequently rated by two native Dutch speakers who were blind to the experimental condition (observer-rating). Participants also rated their own individual Dutch language skills during the discussion (self-rating).

Results: Participants who consumed alcohol had significantly better observer-ratings for their Dutch language, specifically better pronunciation, compared with those who did not consume alcohol. However, alcohol had no effect on self-ratings of Dutch language skills.

Conclusions: Acute alcohol consumption may have beneficial effects on the pronunciation of a foreign language in people who have recently learned that language.

Infants React with Increased Arousal to Spiders and Snakes

Itsy Bitsy Spider…: Infants React with Increased Arousal to Spiders and Snakes. Stefanie Hoehl, Kahl Hellmer, Maria Johansson and Gustaf Gredebäck. Front. Psychol., October 18 2017,

Abstract: Attention biases have been reported for ancestral threats like spiders and snakes in infants, children, and adults. However, it is currently unclear whether these stimuli induce increased physiological arousal in infants. Here, 6-month-old infants were presented with pictures of spiders and flowers (Study 1, within-subjects), or snakes and fish (Study 1, within-subjects; Study 2, between-subjects). Infants’ pupillary responses linked to activation of the noradrenergic system were measured. Infants reacted with increased pupillary dilation indicating arousal to spiders and snakes compared with flowers and fish. Results support the notion of an evolved preparedness for developing fear of these ancestral threats.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Supplementing multivitamins and iodine to deficient children and learning to play a musical instrument raises the IQ

Raising IQ among school-aged children: Five meta-analyses and a review of randomized controlled trials. John Protzko. Developmental Review, Volume 46, December 2017, Pages 81-101.

•    There have been 36 RCTs attempting to raise IQ in school-aged children.
•    Nutrient supplementation includes multivitamins, iron, iodine, and zinc.
•    Training includes EF and reasoning training, and learning a musical instrument.
•    We meta-analyze this literature to provide a best-evidence summary to date.
•    Multivitamin & iodine supplementation, and learning a musical instrument, raise IQ.

Abstract: In this paper, we examine nearly every available randomized controlled trial that attempts to raise IQ in children from once they begin kindergarten until pre-adolescence. We use meta-analytic procedures when there are more than three studies employing similar methods, reviewing individual interventions when too few replications are available for a quantitative analysis. All studies included in this synthesis are on non-clinical populations. This yields five fixed-effects meta-analyses on the roles of dietary supplementation with multivitamins, iron, and iodine, as well as executive function training, and learning to play a musical instrument. We find that supplementing a deficient child with multivitamins raises their IQ, supplementing a deficient child with iodine raises their IQ, and learning to play a musical instrument raises a child’s IQ. The role of iron, and executive function training are unreliable in their estimates. We also subject each meta-analytic result to a series of robustness checks. In each meta-analysis, we discuss probable causal mechanisms for how each of these procedures raises intelligence. Though each meta-analysis includes a moderate to small number of studies (< 19 effect sizes), our purpose is to highlight the best available evidence and encourage the continued experimentation in each of these fields.

Deciding for oneself, we are averse to loss; deciding for one other, aversion is significantly reduced

Decision making for others: The case of loss aversion. Sascha C. Füllbrunn and Wolfgang J. Luhan. Economics Letters,

•    We test whether loss aversion plays a role in risky decisions making for others.
•    Deciding for oneself, we find loss aversion levels similar to the literature.
•    Deciding for one other only, we find loss aversion to be significantly reduced.
•    Deciding for oneself and one other at the same time, we find no difference.

Abstract: Risky decisions are at the core of economic theory. While many of these decisions are taken on behalf of others rather than for oneself, the existing literature finds mixed results on whether people take more or less risk for others then for themselves. Recent studies suggest that taking decisions for others reduces loss aversion, thereby increasing risk taking on behalf of others. To test this, we elicit loss aversion in three treatments: making risky decisions for oneself, for one other subject, or for the decision maker and another person combined. We find a clear treatment effect when making decisions for others but not when making decisions for both.

JEL classification: C9; D3; D8
Keywords: Decision making for others; Risk taking; Loss aversion; Experiment

Acquiescence: People can explicitly recognize that their intuitive judgment is wrong but, nevertheless, stick with it

Risen JL. Acquiescing to intuition: Believing what we know isn't so. Soc Personal Psychol Compass. 2017;e12358.

Abstract: When people identify an error in their initial judgment, they typically try to correct it. But, in some cases, they choose not to—even when they know, in the moment, that they are being irrational or making a mistake. A baseball fan may know that he cannot affect the pitcher from his living room but still be reluctant to say “no-hitter.” A person may learn that flying in an airplane is statistically safer than driving a car and still refuse to fly. Dual-process models of judgment and decision making often implicitly assume that if an error is detected, it will be corrected. Recent work suggests, however, that models should decouple error detection and correction. Indeed, people can explicitly recognize that their intuitive judgment is wrong but, nevertheless, stick with it, a phenomenon known as acquiescence. My goals are to offer criteria for identifying acquiescence, consider why people acquiesce even when it incurs a cost, discuss how lessons that are learned in cases when acquiescence is clearly identified can be exported to cases when acquiescence may be harder to establish, and, more broadly, describe the implications of a model that decouples error detection and error correction.

Why museum visitors touch the exhibits when they do not have permission to do so

Rehabilitating unauthorised touch or why museum visitors touch the exhibits. Fiona Candlin.  The Senses and Society, Volume 12, 2017 - Issue 3, Pages 251-266.

Abstract: In 2014 The Senses and Society published a special issue on “Sensory Museology.” Registering the emergence of this new multi-disciplinary field, the editor usefully observed that “its most salient trend has been the rehabilitation of touch.” Arguably, however, touch has only been rehabilitated as an area of study insofar as it is authorised by the museum. Scholars have rarely considered the propensity of visitors to touch museum exhibits when they do not have permission to do so. In this article I suggest that the academic emphasis on authorised forms of contact privileges the institution’s aims and perspective. Conversely, researching unauthorised touch places a higher degree of emphasis on the visitors’ motivations and responses, and has the capacity to bring dominant characterisations of the museum into question. I substantiate and work through these claims by drawing on interview-based research conducted at the British Museum, and by investigating why visitors touch the exhibits without permission, what they touch, and what experiences that encounter enables.

Keywords: Sensory museology, touch, museums, exhibits, visitors, vandalism

Thus, the visitors therefore touched the objects on display to establish that were real and not replicas, to find out about the material qualities of an exhibit and the processes by which it was made, and to get a grasp on the skill involved in its manufacture. They also touched to make contact with the past. It is possible that a consciousness of being connected to past eras and peoples is what prompts visitors to touch, but judging from the interviews it seems that this experience is predicated on actual contact. Visitors needed to put their hands into the places that their predecessors touched, or to use their bodies to mimic the shapes of the initial makers and users in order to conceive of, or to bridge the enormous geographical and historical distances that lie between them and the objects’ contexts of production.
For the visitors, touching the sculptures of animals and humans had a markedly different dynamic to that of touching architectural exhibits such as columns or sarcophagi. It did not provide a connection with the past, rather the representational character of the sculptures outweighed the consideration of who made the carvings, when, and under what conditions. These sculptures were not primarily conceived as products of human endeavor, but as quasi-men, women, and animals.
A similar logic applied to the way that visitors touched other figures, both clothed and unclothed, and animals. Visitors behaved in ways that were appropriate to the real-life version of that thing, for example, stroking a horse’s nose, but precisely because it is a carving, they were free to push the boundaries of what is acceptable or safe.

A Replication of Thomas Piketty's Data on the Concentration of Wealth in the US. By Richard Sutch

The One Percent across Two Centuries: A Replication of Thomas Piketty's Data on the Concentration of Wealth in the United States. Richard Sutch. Social Science History, Volume 41, Issue 4, Winter 2017 , pp. 587-613.

Abstract: This exercise reproduces and assesses the historical time series on the top shares of the wealth distribution for the United States presented by Thomas Piketty in Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Piketty's best-selling book has gained as much attention for its extensive presentation of detailed historical statistics on inequality as for its bold and provocative predictions about a continuing rise in inequality in the twenty-first century. Here I examine Piketty's US data for the period 1810 to 2010 for the top 10 percent and the top 1 percent of the wealth distribution. I conclude that Piketty's data for the wealth share of the top 10 percent for the period 1870 to 1970 are unreliable. The values he reported are manufactured from the observations for the top 1 percent inflated by a constant 36 percentage points. Piketty's data for the top 1 percent of the distribution for the nineteenth century (1810–1910) are also unreliable. They are based on a single mid-century observation that provides no guidance about the antebellum trend and only tenuous information about the trend in inequality during the Gilded Age. The values Piketty reported for the twentieth century (1910–2010) are based on more solid ground, but have the disadvantage of muting the marked rise of inequality during the Roaring Twenties and the decline associated with the Great Depression. This article offers an alternative picture of the trend in inequality based on newly available data and a reanalysis of the 1870 Census of Wealth. This article does not question Piketty's integrity.

Very little of value can be salvaged from Piketty’s treatment of data from the nineteenth century. The user is provided with no reliable information on the antebellum trends in the wealth share and is even left uncertain about the trend for the top 10 percent during the Gilded Age (1870–1916). This is noteworthy because Piketty spends the bulk of his attention devoted to America discussing the nineteenth-century trends (Piketty 2014: 347–50).

The heavily manipulated twentieth-century data for the top 1 percent share, the lack of empirical support for the top 10 percent share, the lack of clarity about the procedures used to harmonize and average the data, the insufficient documentation, and the spreadsheet errors are more than annoying. Together they create a misleading picture of the dynamics of wealth inequality. They obliterate the intradecade movements essential to an understanding of the impact of political and financial-market shocks on inequality. Piketty’s estimates offer no help to those who wish to understand the impact of inequality on “the way economic, social, and political actors view what is just and what is not” (Piketty 2014: 20).

Hunting Strategies with Cultivated Plants as Bait and the Prey Pathway to Animal Domestication

Hunting Strategies with Cultivated Plants as Bait and the Prey Pathway to Animal Domestication. Serge Svizzero. International Journal of Research in Sociology and Anthropology, Volume 2, Issue 2, 2016, PP 53-68.

Abstract: For various reasons related to human diet, social prestige or cosmology, hunting -especially of large preys- has always been central in foragers' societies. When pre-Neolithic foragers have iven up their nomadic way of life they have faced a sink-source problem about game procurement in the resource-catchment area around their settlements. Baiting, by mean of the cultivation of wild plants in food plots, may have help them to attract herbivores, thus improving the return of hunting activities. These foragers were also motivated by the capture of wild animals alive, in order to keep fresh meat for a while, to translocate these animals or for milk exploitation. For this capture, the use of a passive form of drive hunting seems best suited. The cultivation of food plots within the funnel and the corral might have been used to attract wild herbivores into the drive. Baiting was therefore designed either to increase the hunt or to improve the capture of large wild herbivores such as the Near-Eastern wild caprines that were later domesticated. Therefore baiting should be viewed as a hunting strategy as well as an unconscious selection mechanism since it has inadvertently contributed to the prey pathway to animal domestication

Keywords: Neolithic revolutions, hunter-gatherers, sedentism, animal domestication, unconscious  selection, large herbivores, drive hunting, Near East.

Home sharing driving up rents. Evidence from Airbnb in Boston

Is home sharing driving up rents? Evidence from Airbnb in Boston. Keren Horn & Mark Merante. Journal of Housing Economics, Volume 38, December 2017, Pages 14-24.

Abstract: The growth of the sharing economy has received increasing attention from economists. Some researchers have examined how these new business models shape market mechanisms and, in the case of home sharing, economists have examined how the sharing economy affects the hotel industry. There is currently limited evidence on whether home sharing affects the housing market, despite the obvious overlap between these two markets. As a result, policy makers grappling with the effects of the rapid growth of home sharing have inadequate information on which to make reasoned policy decisions. In this paper, we add to the small but growing body of knowledge on how the sharing economy is shaping the housing market by focusing on the short-term effects of the growth of Airbnb in Boston neighborhoods on the rental market, relying on individual rental listings. We examine whether the increasing presence of Airbnb raises asking rents and whether the change in rents may be driven by a decline in the supply of housing offered for rent. We show that a one standard deviation increase in Airbnb listings is associated with an increase in asking rents of 0.4%.

Ultimately, our analysis supports the contention that home sharing is increasing rents by decreasing the supply of units available to potential residents

For political candidates, an increased audience diversity is associated with a reduced ‘Liking’

Trumped by context collapse: Examination of ‘Liking’ political candidates in the presence of audience diversity. Ben Marder. Computers in Human Behavior,

•    Examination of the effect of audience diversity on ‘Liking’ political candidates.
•    Survey of 1027 potential voters prior the 2016 US presidential election.
•    Increased audience diversity is associated with a reduced ‘Liking’.
•    Increased audience diversity predicts greater social anxiety.
•    ‘Non-Likers’ have a more diverse audience than ‘Likers’.

Abstract: Harnessing social media such as Facebook is now considered critical for electoral success. Although Facebook is widely used by the electorate, few have ‘Liked’ the Facebook pages of the political candidates for whom they vote. To provide understanding of this discrepancy, the present paper offers the first investigation on the role of audience diversity on ‘Liking’ behavior, as well as its association with varying degrees of social anxiety that may arise from ‘Liking’ political candidates. A survey of potential voters who used Facebook preceding the 2016 Presidential Election was conducted ( = 1027). Using the lens of Self-Presentation Theory, results found that for those who had not already ‘Liked’ Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, their intention to do so before the election was negatively associated with the diversity of their Facebook audience. This relationship was mediated by their expected degree of social anxiety from ‘Liking’ the candidate. A comparison of audience diversity of participants who had ‘Liked’ a candidate vs. those who had not ‘Liked’ a candidate also showed that increased audience diversity hinders ‘Liking’. This paper contributes to the knowledge of engagement with politicians through social media as well as the study of audience diversity more generally. Implications for managers are provided.

Keywords: Social media; Politics; Context collapse; Social anxiety; Facebook; Audience diversity

Psychedelic use associated with reduced odds of larceny/theft, assault, arrest for a property crime & for a violent crime

The relationships of classic psychedelic use with criminal behavior in the United States adult population. Peter S Hendricks et al. Journal of Psychopharmacology,

Abstract: Criminal behavior exacts a large toll on society and is resistant to intervention. Some evidence suggests classic psychedelics may inhibit criminal behavior, but the extent of these effects has not been comprehensively explored. In this study, we tested the relationships of classic psychedelic use and psilocybin use per se with criminal behavior among over 480,000 United States adult respondents pooled from the last 13 available years of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2002 through 2014) while controlling for numerous covariates. Lifetime classic psychedelic use was associated with a reduced odds of past year larceny/theft (aOR = 0.73 (0.65–0.83)), past year assault (aOR = 0.88 (0.80–0.97)), past year arrest for a property crime (aOR = 0.78 (0.65–0.95)), and past year arrest for a violent crime (aOR = 0.82 (0.70–0.97)). In contrast, lifetime illicit use of other drugs was, by and large, associated with an increased odds of these outcomes. Lifetime classic psychedelic use, like lifetime illicit use of almost all other substances, was associated with an increased odds of past year drug distribution. Results were consistent with a protective effect of psilocybin for antisocial criminal behavior. These findings contribute to a compelling rationale for the initiation of clinical research with classic psychedelics, including psilocybin, in forensic settings.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

How Will China's Industrial Modernization Plan affect Workers? By Boy Luethje

How Will China's Industrial Modernization Plan affect Workers? By Boy Luethje. East-West Center, Oct 17 2017.

HONOLULU (Oct. 17, 2017) -- Today’s discussions about the future of manufacturing are awash with visions of revolutionary change. Digital technologies are expected to create a “fourth industrial revolution”—a world of seamlessly interconnected “smart factories” driven by artificial intelligence, cloud computing and big data applications.

In line with this thinking, China has developed a master plan to transform its vast manufacturing base from low-cost export production to highly automated advanced manufacturing aimed primarily at the domestic market. The plan was drafted by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) and was outlined in 2015 in a comprehensive government document titled “Made in China 2025.”

Made in China 2025 gives a strong role to China’s new multinationals in areas such as solar systems, wind turbines, LED, household appliances and, most prominently, telecommunications and advanced Internet services. The plan thus reflects the increased importance of large non-state-owned enterprises as drivers of innovation and marks a substantial change in economic power relations in China.

Serious questions remain, however, for China’s large, low-wage labor force, particularly related to labor markets, the transformation of work and industrial relations. Reforms are needed in areas such as vocational training, human-resource management, wage and incentive systems, appraisal of skills, and workplace safety and privacy. Yet the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, the Ministry of Education, the All China Federation of Trade Unions and other mass organizations have been mostly absent from the drafting and execution of the program.

Some relevant labor laws have been extended in recent years and offer improved protections for workers related to mass layoffs, workplace safety and employment of temporary workers. Current discussions are dominated, however, by demands to discontinue key provisions of the 2008 Labor Contract Law in order to facilitate the massive job reductions underway in state-owned heavy industries and coal mining.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government and research institutions have not provided any valid assessment of the potential labor-market effects of Made in China 2025. The relevant statistics are scattered among various government agencies, making it difficult to assess the labor-market, social-security, training and other implications of the program. Ongoing research on current automation projects and policies clearly indicates that massive job cuts lie ahead. The effect will vary by industry and region:

.    In predominantly state-owned manufacturing, such as the automotive industry, the job impacts of digitalization appear to be relatively minor. Many factories are already characterized by high levels of automation, and digital technologies can be introduced gradually.
.    Among private Chinese and multinational manufacturers with large, low-wage labor forces, the effects of transformation from labor-intensive to automated manufacturing are potentially much greater. In some model “Internet factories” of home-appliance makers, more than 50 percent of the manufacturing workforce has already been cut.
.    Job reductions are potentially highest among labor-intensive small and medium enterprises. Here, relatively simple automation equipment can replace large numbers of semi- and low-skilled workers. A recent study in the city of Dongguan in central Guangdong Province found job reductions of 67 to 85 percent in such companies, often affecting the workers with the best skills and bargaining positions.

The situation in Guangdong Province illustrates the negative effects of top-down industrial policies. Ambitious to become China’s leading region in factory automation, the provincial government has promoted Made in China 2025 with the slogan “Robot-Replaces-Man.” City governments have picked up the message and make the replacement of workers a top criterion in their plans to subsidize the procurement of robots. The issue of job cuts and retraining is mostly ignored because many of the workers who lose their jobs are migrants from other regions.

The Dongguan city government reported that in 2015, the first year of its “Robot-Replaces-Man” program, 1,262 participating companies cut 71,000 jobs. With a working population of more than five million, the local labor market may absorb these job losses for the time being. In the long term, however, serious problems may occur.

Overall, digital technologies have significant potential to change the structure of manufacturing, improve cooperation within production networks and relocate production closer to end markets. For China, digital manufacturing could ease pressures for large-scale urbanization and related problems of labor migration.

Instead of the present top-down approach, industrial policies “from below” could integrate technological upgrading with strategies to develop a skilled workforce and rebalance labor markets. Industrial cities in the Pearl River Delta, for example, could support industrial upgrading by making subsidies for automation equipment conditional upon improvements in working conditions and training of workers. Long-term development of a skilled industrial workforce could be supported by granting permanent residence (called hukou) to migrant workers who graduate from vocational training programs. Last but not least, the provincial and local trade unions could enforce standards of decent work and accelerate the implementation of collective bargaining in privately owned enterprises.

Such approaches exist, but the innovative potential of digital manufacturing to improve conditions for China’s huge workforce remains unexplored due to pressure for short-term profits and the absence of institutional reform. There will most likely be job losses, but the key challenge is to find the right mix of automation and a higher-skilled labor force for long-term growth.
Dr. Boy Luethje is a Professor and Volkswagen Endowed Chair of Industrial Relations and Social Development at Sun Yat-sen University’s School of Government in Guangzhou, China. In January and February 2017, he was a Visiting Scholar at the East-West Center. Dr Luethje recently published a chapter with co-author Florian Butollo, ‘“Made in China 2025”: Intelligent manufacturing and work,’ in the book The New Digital Workplace: How New Technologies Revolutionise Work, published by Palgrave-Macmillan.

After seeing an agent attain two goals equally often at varying costs, infants expected the agent to prefer the goal it attained through costlier actions

Liu, Shari, Tomer D Ullman, josh tenenbaum, and Elizabeth Spelke. 2017. “Ten-month-old Infants Infer the Value of Goals from the Costs of Actions”. PsyArXiv. October 17.

Abstract: Infants understand that people pursue goals, but how do they learn which goals people prefer? Here, we test whether infants solve this problem by inverting a mental model of action planning, trading off the costs of acting against the rewards actions bring. After seeing an agent attain two goals equally often at varying costs, infants expected the agent to prefer the goal it attained through costlier actions. These expectations held across three experiments conveying cost through different physical path features (jump height and width; incline angle), suggesting that an abstract variable, such as ‘force’, ‘work’ or ‘effort’, supported infants’ inferences. We model infants' expectations as Bayesian inferences over utility-theoretic calculations, providing a bridge to recent quantitative accounts of action understanding in older children and adults.

Dramatic pretend play games uniquely improve emotional control in young children

Goldstein TR, Lerner MD. Dramatic pretend play games uniquely improve emotional control in young children. Dev Sci. 2017;e12603.

Abstract: Pretense is a naturally occurring, apparently universal activity for typically developing children. Yet its function and effects remain unclear. One theorized possibility is that pretense activities, such as dramatic pretend play games, are a possible causal path to improve children's emotional development. Social and emotional skills, particularly emotional control, are critically important for social development, as well as academic performance and later life success. However, the study of such approaches has been criticized for potential bias and lack of rigor, precluding the ability to make strong causal claims. We conducted a randomized, component control (dismantling) trial of dramatic pretend play games with a low-SES group of 4-year-old children (N = 97) to test whether such practice yields generalized improvements in multiple social and emotional outcomes. We found specific effects of dramatic play games only on emotional self-control. Results suggest that dramatic pretend play games involving physicalizing emotional states and traits, pretending to be animals and human characters, and engaging in pretend scenarios in a small group may improve children's emotional control. These findings have implications for the function of pretense and design of interventions to improve emotional control in typical and atypical populations. Further, they provide support for the unique role of dramatic pretend play games for young children, particularly those from low-income backgrounds.

Generic language encourages to categorize individuals using a lower evidentiary standard regardless of negative consequences

When Your Kind Cannot Live Here: How Generic Language and Criminal Sanctions Shape Social Categorization. Deborah Goldfarb et al. Psychological Science,

Abstract: Using generic language to describe groups (applying characteristics to entire categories) is ubiquitous and affects how children and adults categorize other people. Five-year-olds, 8-year-olds, and adults (N = 190) learned about a novel social group that separated into two factions (citizens and noncitizens). Noncitizens were described in either generic or specific language. Later, the children and adults categorized individuals in two contexts: criminal (individuals labeled as noncitizens faced jail and deportation) and noncriminal (labeling had no consequences). Language genericity influenced decision making. Participants in the specific-language condition, but not those in the generic-language condition, reduced the rate at which they identified potential noncitizens when their judgments resulted in criminal penalties compared with when their judgments had no consequences. In addition, learning about noncitizens in specific language (vs. generic language) increased the amount of matching evidence participants needed to identify potential noncitizens (preponderance standard) and decreased participants’ certainty in their judgments. Thus, generic language encourages children and adults to categorize individuals using a lower evidentiary standard regardless of negative consequences for presumed social-group membership.

Typical courses and critical thinking skills acquired during a semester are not sufficient to prompt skepticism about myth statements

Class Dis-Mythed: Exploring the Prevalence and Perseverance of Myths in Upper-Level Psychology Courses. Michael Root and Caroline Stanley.

Description: Undergraduates (N = 117) from two mid-sized universities enrolled in one of three psychology courses (Cognitive Psychology, Learning & Memory, or Personality) completed surveys about commonly held psychology myths related to the course in which they were enrolled. Students completed the surveys at the beginning and end of the semester. The purpose of our study was twofold. First, we wanted to measure the prevalence of myth beliefs in undergraduates taking upper level psychology courses. Second, we wanted to discern whether course content alone (i.e., readings, lectures, class activities, tests, and assignments) was sufficient to disabuse undergraduates of their myth beliefs. Although all three courses had prerequisite psychology courses, beginning-of-semester responses indicated that students in all three classes believed a majority of the myths related to the subject matter of their course. End-of-semester responses indicated that, unless a myth was explicitly debunked in a course (e.g., material in a Learning & Memory course contradicted their belief that people have different learning styles), myth beliefs persisted throughout the semester. Our results suggest that typical course content and any critical thinking skills acquired during a semester is not sufficient to prompt skepticism about myth statements. Instead, we argue that a more effective strategy to dispel common myths that may hinder undergraduates reasoning and critical thinking skills is for instructors to make undergraduates explicitly aware of these myths and how research fails to support them.

Check also: Dispelling the Myth: Training in Education or Neuroscience Decreases but Does Not Eliminate Beliefs in Neuromyths. Kelly Macdonald et al. Frontiers in Psychology, Aug 10 2017.

Peak olfactory acuity is 9pm... Maybe to help finding sexual mates.

The Influence of Circadian Timing on Olfactory Sensitivity. Rachel S Herz, Eliza Van Reen, David Barker, Cassie J Hilditch, Ashten Bartz, Mary A Carskadon. Chemical Senses, bjx067,

Abstract: Olfactory sensitivity has traditionally been viewed as a trait that varies according to individual differences but is not expected to change with one’s momentary state. Recent research has begun to challenge this position and time of day has been shown to alter detection levels. Links between obesity and the timing of food intake further raise the issue of whether odor detection may vary as a function of circadian processes. To investigate this question, thirty-seven (21 male) adolescents (M age =13.7 years) took part in a 28-hr forced-desynchrony (FD) protocol with 17.5 hours awake and 10.5 hours of sleep, for seven FD cycles. Odor threshold was measured using Sniffin’ Sticks six times for each FD cycle (total threshold tests = 42). Circadian phase was determined by intrinsic period derived from dim light melatonin onsets. Odor threshold showed a significant effect of circadian phase, with lowest threshold occurring on average slightly after the onset of melatonin production, or about 1.5 ○ (approximately 21:08 hours). Considerable individual variability was observed, however, peak olfactory acuity never occurred between 80.5 ○- 197.5 ○ (~02:22-10:10 hours). These data are the first to show that odor threshold is differentially and consistently influenced by circadian timing, and is not a stable trait. Potential biological relevance for connections between circadian phase and olfactory sensitivity are discussed.

Keywords: adolescents, food intake, forced desynchrony, individual differences, odor threshold, trait-state

Citizens believe others, especially their political rivals, gravitate toward like-minded news

Public Perceptions of Partisan Selective Exposure. Perryman, Mallory R.. The University of Wisconsin - Madison, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2017. 10607943.

From the introduction:

This dissertation investigates citizens’ perceptions of where others turn to for news, i.e., perceived exposure. In two empirical studies, I demonstrate how the assumptions that perceivers make about media and the assumptions they make about other people ultimately produce a perception of perceived partisan selective exposure. I test the extent to which citizens believe that they and others engage in selective media habits and examine the cognitive shortcuts that perceivers use to make such assessments. Ultimately, this investigation concludes that citizens believe others, especially their political rivals, gravitate toward like-minded news.

Though this is the first examination of public perceptions of selective exposure, it is not the first study to try and gauge perceptions of others’ media use. Capturing beliefs about others’ media exposure originated with research into perceived media effects, an avenue of research concerned with the ways in which people believe media impact other people. It is easy to see how  perceived exposure is a core tenet of perceived media effects research: In order to believe others have been affected by a media message, a perceiver must first assume the others-in-question have been exposed to that message.
Understanding why citizens believe certain others interact with certain media messages thus requires revisiting the basic principles of perceived media effect research –- research that explores how individuals make assumptions other people, about media, and about what happens when other people encounter that media.

Check also: The Myth of Partisan Selective Exposure: A Portrait of the Online Political News Audience. Jacob L. Nelson, and James G. Webster. Social Media + Society,

And: Echo Chamber? What Echo Chamber? Reviewing the Evidence. Axel Bruns. Future of Journalism 2017 Conference.

And: Stanley, M. L., Dougherty, A. M., Yang, B. W., Henne, P., & De Brigard, F. (2017). Reasons Probably Won’t Change Your Mind: The Role of Reasons in Revising Moral Decisions. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

And: Fake news and post-truth pronouncements in general and in early human development. Victor Grech.Early Human Development,

And: Science Denial Across the Political Divide -- Liberals and Conservatives Are Similarly Motivated to Deny Attitude-Inconsistent Science. Anthony N. Washburn, Linda J. Skitka. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 10.1177/1948550617731500

And: Biased Policy Professionals. Sheheryar Banuri, Stefan Dercon, and Varun Gauri. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 8113.

And: Dispelling the Myth: Training in Education or Neuroscience Decreases but Does Not Eliminate Beliefs in Neuromyths. Kelly Macdonald et al. Frontiers in Psychology, Aug 10 2017.

And: Wisdom and how to cultivate it: Review of emerging evidence for a constructivist model of wise thinking. Igor Grossmann. European Psychologist, in press. Pre-print:

And: Individuals with greater science literacy and education have more polarized beliefs on controversial science topics. Caitlin Drummond and Baruch Fischhoff. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 114 no. 36, pp 9587–9592, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1704882114

And: Expert ability can actually impair the accuracy of expert perception when judging others' performance: Adaptation and fallibility in experts' judgments of novice performers. By Larson, J. S., & Billeter, D. M. (2017). Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 43(2), 271–288.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Psychopaths are willing and able to disclose how they are under conditions of confidentiality, and do not mind being so

Kelley, S. E., Edens, J. F., Donnellan, M. B., Mowle, E. N. and Sörman, K. (), Self- and Informant Perceptions of Psychopathic Traits in Relation to the Triarchic Model. Journal of Personality. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/jopy.12354


Objective: The validity of self-report psychopathy measures may be undermined by characteristics thought to be defining features of the construct, including poor self-awareness, pathological lying, and impression management. The current study examined agreement between self- and informant perceptions of psychopathic traits captured by the triarchic model (Patrick, Fowler, & Krueger, 2009) and the extent to which psychopathic traits are associated with socially desirable responding.

Method: Participants were undergraduate roommate dyads (N = 174; Mage = 18.9 years; 64.4% female; 59.8% Caucasian) who completed self- and informant-reports of boldness, meanness, and disinhibition.

Results: Self-reports of psychopathic traits reasonably aligned with the perceptions of informants (rs = .36 - .60) and both predicted various types of antisocial behaviors, although some associations were only significant for monomethod correlations. Participants viewed by informants as more globally psychopathic did not engage in greater positive impression management. However, this response style significantly correlated with self- and informant-reported boldness, suppressing associations with antisocial behavior.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that participants are willing and able to disclose psychopathic personality traits in research settings under conditions of confidentiality. Nonetheless, accounting for response style is potentially useful when using self-report measures to examine the nature and correlates of psychopathic traits.

Higher paternal age at offspring conception increases de novo genetic mutations & the children would be less likely to survive and reproduce

Older fathers' children have lower evolutionary fitness across four centuries and in four populations. Ruben Arslan et al. Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, Volume 284, issue 1862, September 13 2017. DO 10.1098/rspb.2017.1562

Abstract: Higher paternal age at offspring conception increases de novo genetic mutations. Based on evolutionary genetic theory we predicted older fathers' children, all else equal, would be less likely to survive and reproduce, i.e. have lower fitness. In sibling control studies, we find support for negative paternal age effects on offspring survival and reproductive success across four large populations with an aggregate N > 1.4 million. Three populations were pre-industrial (1670–1850) Western populations and showed negative paternal age effects on infant survival and offspring reproductive success. In twentieth-century Sweden, we found minuscule paternal age effects on survival, but found negative effects on reproductive success. Effects survived tests for key competing explanations, including maternal age and parental loss, but effects varied widely over different plausible model specifications and some competing explanations such as diminishing paternal investment and epigenetic mutations could not be tested. We can use our findings to aid in predicting the effect increasingly older parents in today's society will have on their children's survival and reproductive success. To the extent that we succeeded in isolating a mutation-driven effect of paternal age, our results can be understood to show that de novo mutations reduce offspring fitness across populations and time periods.

Menarcheal timing is accelerated by favorable nutrition but unrelated to developmental cues of mortality or familial instability

Menarcheal timing is accelerated by favorable nutrition but unrelated to developmental cues of mortality or familial instability in Cebu, Philippines. Moira A. Kyweluka et al. Evolution and Human Behavior,

Abstract: Understanding the determinants of pubertal timing, particularly menarche in girls, is an important area of investigation owing to the many health, psychosocial, and demographic outcomes related to reproductive maturation. Traditional explanations emphasized the role of favorable nutrition in maturational acceleration. More recently, work has documented early maturity in relation to markers of familial and environmental instability (e.g. paternal absence), which are hypothesized to serve as cues triggering adaptive adjustment of life history scheduling. While these studies hint at an ability of human females to accelerate maturity in stressful environments, most have focused on populations characterized by energetic excess. The present study investigates the role of developmental nutrition alongside cues of environmental risk and instability (maternal absence, paternal absence, and sibling death) as predictors of menarcheal age in a well-characterized birth cohort born in 1983 in metropolitan Cebu, the Philippines. In this sample, which was marked by a near-absence of childhood overweight and obesity, we find that menarcheal age is not predicted by cues of risk and instability measured at birth, during childhood and early adolescence, but that infancy weight gain and measures of favorable childhood nutrition are strong predictors of maturational acceleration. These findings contrast with studies of populations in which psychosocial stress and instability co-occur with excess weight. The present findings suggest that infancy and childhood nutrition may exert greater influence on age at menarche than psychosocial cues in environments characterized by marginal nutrition, and that puberty is often delayed, rather than accelerated, in the context of stressful environments.

Keywords: Life history theory; Puberty; Reproductive timing; Human growth; Fertility milestones

Automated Driving: Use With Caution

Automated driving: Safety blind spots. Ian Y. Noy, David Shinar, William J. Horrey. Safety Science, Volume 102, February 2018, Pages 68–78.

•    Automated driving has the potential to improve traffic safety in the long term.
•    For the foreseeable future, partially AD present unwitting consequences.
•    Drivers’ role will change and lead to potential confusion or traffic conflicts.
•    Human factors research is needed address new questions of partial automation.
•    Integration within the broader cyber-physical world is an emerging challenge.
•    This paper identifies areas that require explicit and urgent scientific exploration.

Abstract: Driver assist technologies have reached the tipping point and are poised to take control of most, if not all, aspects of the driving task. Proponents of automated driving (AD) are enthusiastic about its promise to transform mobility and realize impressive societal benefits. This paper is an attempt to carefully examine the potential of AD to realize safety benefits, to challenge widely-held assumptions and to delve more deeply into the barriers that are hitherto largely overlooked. As automated vehicle (AV) technologies advance and emerge within a ubiquitous cyber-physical world they raise additional issues that have not yet been adequately defined, let alone researched. Issues around automation, sociotechnical complexity and systems resilience are well known in the context of aviation and space. There are important lessons that could be drawn from these applications to help inform the development of automated driving. This paper argues that for the foreseeable future, regardless of the level of automation, a driver will continue to have a role. It seems clear that the benefits of automated driving, safety and otherwise, will accrue only if these technologies are designed in accordance with sound cybernetics principles, promote effective human-systems integration and gain the trust by operators and the public.

Keywords: Automated driving; Safety; Driver-vehicle interaction; Psychology; Autonomous vehicles

Criminal behavior transmission is strongest from mothers to daughters, then by mothers to sons, fathers to daughters, and fathers to sons

A systematic review and meta-analysis of the intergenerational transmission of criminal behavior. Sytske Besemer et al. Aggression and Violent Behavior,

•    This meta-analysis synthesized results for around 3 million children.
•    Risk for criminal behavior is roughly 2.4 times higher for kids with criminal parents.
•    Studies considering covariates show the risk to be about 1.8 times higher.
•    Transmission was strongest from mothers to daughters, lowest for fathers to sons.
•    Transmission appeared stronger for cohorts born after 1981.

Abstract: Children whose parents exhibit criminal behavior (CB) appear to have an increased risk of displaying CB themselves. We conducted a systematic review and pooled results from 23 samples in 25 publications (including 3,423,483 children) in this meta-analysis of intergenerational transmission of CB. On average, children with criminal parents were at significantly higher risk for CB compared with children without criminal parents (pooled OR = 2.4). Studies taking into account covariates also showed increased risk for CB (pooled OR = 1.8). Transmission was strongest from mothers to daughters, followed by mothers to sons, fathers to daughters, and fathers to sons. Moreover, transmission appeared stronger for cohorts born after 1981. When we examined methodological quality and other characteristics of studies, response rates, sample size, or use of official records vs. self- or other-reports of parental CB did not moderate outcomes. However, we found stronger transmission for samples that used convenience or case-control sampling, and in studies in which parental CB clearly preceded offspring CB. We discuss mechanisms underlying intergenerational transmission, including social learning, criminogenic environments, biological proneness, and criminal justice bias. Finally, we consider limitations and directions for future research as well as policy implications for breaking the cycle of intergenerational crime.

Keywords: Parental crime; Intergenerational transmission; Antisocial behavior; Criminal behavior; Longitudinal study

On why is so strong the transmission mother-daughter: [it] could be that CB is less common for women, so women who engage in such behavior might be more deviant compared with men who engage in CB. This finding would be similar to the gender paradox observed in developmental psychopathology, wherein the gender for which the problem behavior is rarer, compared with the gender in which the problem behavior is more common, displays a more severe form or presentation of the problem behavior (Eme, 1992; Loeber & Keenan, 1994; Wasserman, McReynolds, Ko, Katz, & Carpenter, 2005). Even if mothers’ and fathers’ criminal behavior was not different in terms of its seriousness, it is far rarer for women to be convicted of crime compared with men. Thus, there may be more stigma – both in society in general, as well as in the law enforcement and criminal justice system – for women with histories of CB, who might also be more likely to be labeled as ―disturbed‖ rather than criminal (Hedderman & Gelsthorpe, 1997). Another explanation might be that mothers are more often the main caretakers of their children, such that maternal incarceration following conviction would be significantly more disruptive on children in the home. When fathers are incarcerated, children often stay with their mother; if mothers are incarcerated, children are more likely to move in with other family members or foster parents (Bloom, 1993; Fishman, 1983; Hissel, Bijleveld, & Kruttschnitt, 2011; Myers, Smarsh, Amlund-Hagen, & Kennon, 1999).

Yet another explanation could be that antisocial fathers who are absent might serve as a potential protective factor. Indeed, Jaffee, Moffitt, Caspi, and Taylor (2003) found that when fathers engaged in high levels of CB, the more time they lived with their children, the more problem behavior their children had. Farrington and Crago (2016) also found that intergenerational transmission of crime was stronger when children were not separated from their parents. Of note, previous studies (e.g. Farrington, Barnes, & Lambert, 1996: Rowe & Farrington, 1997) have suggested that intergenerational transmission is stronger for samegender relationships, which was not supported by the findings of the present meta-analysis. On the other hand, we did not find support for our prediction that intergenerational transmission would be stronger, overall, for male than female offspring Although boys are more vulnerable than girls to a host of neurodevelopmental disorders and to the effects of life stressors, it may be the case that, over longer spans of development, both genders are prone to the cascade of effects related to parental CB.

Education has positive impact on tax morale for net beneficiaries of the welfare state, &a negative one for net contributors

Education and tax morale. David Rodríguez-Justicia, Bernd Theilen. Journal of Economic Psychology,

•    We analyse two channels through which education shapes tax morale.
•    Tax morale of net receivers of welfare state benefits increases with education.
•    Tax morale of net contributors to the welfare state decreases with education.
•    A fairer tax system and better institutions raise tax morale of the highly educated.

Abstract: While the determinants of tax morale have been widely studied in the literature, surprisingly, the fundamental influence of education on tax morale has yet to be investigated. Given the insights from the psychological and political science literature about the role of education in the formation of social values, in this paper, we analyze two channels through which education shapes tax morale. We find that education has a positive impact on tax morale for those individuals that are net beneficiaries of the welfare state, and a negative impact for those that are net contributors. Furthermore, our results indicate that the more highly educated because of their better knowledge on public affairs exhibit higher levels of tax morale in countries that have better quality public services, a fairer tax system and higher quality institutions.

JEL classification: H26; H52; I25
Keywords: Tax morale; Tax compliance; Education; Welfare state benefits; Trust in public institutions

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Rhesus macaques expect others to dynamically update their representations of unseen objects

What do monkeys know about others’ knowledge? Lindsey A. Drayton, Laurie R. Santos. Cognition, Volume 170, January 2018, Pages 201–208.

•    Monkeys expect others to track a hidden object during a rotational displacement task.
•    Monkeys do not show a curse of knowledge bias.
•    Results are consistent with the hypothesis that monkeys represent what others know.

Abstract: Recently, comparative psychologists have suggested that primates represent others’ knowledge states. Evidence for this claim comes from studies demonstrating that primates expect others to maintain representations of objects when those objects are not currently visible. However, little work has explored whether nonhuman primates expect others to share the more sophisticated kinds of object knowledge that they themselves possess. We therefore investigated whether primates attribute to others knowledge that is acquired through the mental transformation of a static object representation. Specifically, we tested whether rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) expected a human demonstrator to solve a difficult rotational displacement task. In Experiment 1, monkeys watched a demonstrator hide a piece of fruit in one of two boxes. The monkey and the demonstrator then watched the boxes rotate 180°. We found that monkeys looked longer when the demonstrator reached into the box that did not contain the fruit, indicating that they expected her to be able to track the fruit to its current location. In Experiment 2, we ruled out the possibility that monkeys simply expected the demonstrator to search for the food in its true location. When the demonstrator did not witness the rotation event, monkeys looked equally long at the two reaching outcomes. These results are consistent with the interpretation that rhesus macaques expect others to dynamically update their representations of unseen objects.

Keywords: Theory of mind; Knowledge representation; Comparative cognition; Object knowledge

Leaving late: Understanding the extent and predictors of college late departure

Leaving late: Understanding the extent and predictors of college late departure. Zachary Mabel, Tolani A. Britton. Social Science Research,

Abstract: Research on college dropout has largely addressed early exit from school, even though a large share of students who do not earn degrees leave after their second year. In this paper, we offer new evidence on the scope of college late departure. Using administrative data from Florida and Ohio, we conduct an event history analysis of the dropout process as a function of credit attainment. Our results indicate that late departure is widespread, particularly at two- and open-admission four-year institutions. We estimate that 14 percent of all entrants to college and one-third of all dropouts completed at least three-quarters of the credits that are typically required to graduate before leaving without a degree. Our results also indicate that the probability of departure spikes as students near the finish line. Amidst considerable policy attention towards improving student outcomes in college, our findings point to promising new avenues for intervention to increase postsecondary attainment.

Keywords: Postsecondary completion; College dropout; Late departure; Human capital

How Disgust Becomes Law

Patrick, Carlton and Lieberman, Debra, How Disgust Becomes Law (August 24, 2017). Forthcoming in The Moral Psychology of Disgust, Nina Strohminger & Victor Kumar (Eds.), London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2018.

Abstract: This chapter provides a psychological examination of the many ways in which disgust permeates the law. Using an evolutionary lens, the chapter explores the various adaptive functions of disgust, and shows how those functions can be co-opted by psychological systems designed to generate and enforce moral norms. In doing so, the chapter also provides an explanation for why and how many of the behaviors we view as "disgusting" tend to become behaviors we label "wrong."

Keywords: evolutionary analysis in law, legal theory, disgust and the law, law and psychology, behavioral biology, morality, evolutionary psychology

A second way that disgust is used by systems sensitive to alliance formation and group condemnation relates to communication. When individuals broadcast signals of disgust, they provide a means to infer the likelihood of alliance formation in the service of condemning a particular behavior. Personal disgust, when echoed by another person and then another person and then another, is a cue of mental alliance that can facilitate the formation of a coalition targeting particular individuals engaging in the disgust eliciting act. Disgust is not unique in this respect. Hearing the terms “I hate people who tailgate on the highway” can rally the troops as well. President Trump (and he is hardly the first) has continually attempted to incite fear and anger in an attempt to marginalize Mexicans seeking to immigrate to the US. These kinds of phrases give an indication of others’ willingness to form an alliance condemning others. In this way, disgust language and facial expressions can either be or not be actual felt disgust. One can personally feel disgust and communicate this, or one can merely use the language of disgust.

Disgust originates largely to reduce contact with foreigners, and the deviant or marginalized

Rottman, J., DeJesus, J. M., & Gerdin, E. (forthcoming). The social origins of disgust. In N. Strohminger & V. Kumar (Eds.), The moral psychology of disgust. London: Rowman & Littlefield.

Despite being perfectly nutritious, consuming bugs is considered gross in many cultures [...] What is the function of such an irrational response, one that may continue to endanger the natural environment? Do people experience disgust toward insects because of perceived disease risks? Are people reacting to the reminder that they are eating an animal, in the same way that many people react negatively to eating a whole fish (with its head and eyes) compared to a fish fillet? We argue that social risks may instead be motivating this reaction. More broadly, moving beyond the example of entomophagy, we claim that disgust is much more deeply enmeshed in social and moral considerations than has been previously acknowledged. [...] In this chapter, we propose an alternative to the recurrent claim that disgust evolved for the sole purpose of facilitating the avoidance of toxins and infectious disease [...]

We do not deny that disease avoidance is a crucial element of disgust, but we believe that there is more to the story. We argue that a central component of the adaptive value of disgust lies in the motivation it provides for reducing contact with people who are considered to be deviant or marginalized, both for disease-related and reputation-related reasons (see Chudek and Henrich 2011, for a discussion of the adaptive function of social norms). We hereby introduce the “Social Origins” hypothesis as a crucial addition to the Physical Origins hypothesis to provide a more complete evolutionary account of disgust. According to our hypothesis, disgust originated largely as a functional response for preventing contact with foreigners or people acting in non-normative ways. This response serves a dual adaptive purpose: reducing human-borne illnesses and maintaining reputational status within one’s social group, either separately or simultaneously. Therefore, while avoiding pathogens is a crucial component of a full explanation of disgust’s origins and functions, we argue that simple disease avoidance was not the sole or even the primary driver of the evolution of disgust in humans.

Manipulating courtship opportunities made Drosophila pseudo. sing longer, faster, and fly and move faster

Mate choice intensifies motor signalling in Drosophila. Allan Debelle et al. Animal Behaviour, Volume 133, November 2017, Pages 169–187.

•    We experimentally increased or decreased sexual selection in Drosophila populations.
•    We perform an in-depth analysis of the response of a motor signal (pulse rate).
•    Polyandrous males sing at a faster rate and do so for longer than monogamous males.
•    Fast song rates are associated with overall increased male motor performance.
•    Increasing the opportunity for mate choice increased male motor performance.

Mate choice has the potential to act on the evolution of motor performance via its direct influence on motor sexual signals. However, studies demonstrating this are rare. Here, we performed an in-depth analysis of Drosophila pseudoobscura courtship song rate, a motor signal under mate choice in this species, and analysed the response of this signal to sexual selection manipulation using experimental evolution. We show that manipulating the opportunity for sexual selection led to changes in song production rate and singing endurance, with males from the polyandrous populations producing faster song rates over longer time periods than males from monogamous populations. We also show that song rate was correlated with estimates of overall courtship vigour. Our results suggest that the action of mate choice on a motor signal has affected male motor performance displayed during courtship. We consider potential selective benefits associated with changes in motor performance, including condition-dependent signalling, and discuss the implications of these results for the study of motor signals under sexual selection.

Keywords: courtship song; Drosophila pseudoobscura; experimental evolution; interpulse interval; mate choice; motor performance; sexual selection

My commentary: Manipulating courtship opportunities made Drosophila pseudo. sing longer, faster, and fly and move faster. We are not so distant...

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Sebastian Heilmann's Leninism Upgraded: Restoration and Innovation Under Xi Jinping

Event Recap -- Leninism Upgraded: Restoration and Innovation Under Xi Jinping. Sebastian Heilmann. Harvard's University Asia Center. April 13, 2017.

When Xi Jinping assumed the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in late 2012, he was confronted with a serious erosion of central party control, informal power networks and entrenched corruption. How did Xi handle this existential threat and consolidate his leadership? At a Critical Issues Confronting China seminar titled “Leninism Upgraded: Restoration and Innovation Under Xi Jinping,” Sebastian Heilmann, President of the Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS) in Berlin, former Visiting Fellow at the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies and former research fellow at the Harvard-Yenching Institute, explained this conundrum and distilled Xi’s approach to leadership into four restorations and five innovations.

First of all, in contrast to other post-1978 Chinese leaders, Xi prioritized political recentralization over economic restructuring in the implementation of the CCP’s agenda for “comprehensively deepening reforms” that has been under way since 2013.

Second, Xi boosted central authority by expanding disciplinary parallel bureaucracies and by implementing a relentless rectification campaign within the CCP under the cloak of anti-corruption.

Third, Xi has imposed “top-level design” (顶层设计), which stands for a system of centralized and top-down policy-making. This reversed the policies of the Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin eras of the 1980s and 1990s, when policy intelligence was believed to be distributed across the political system, and local-level experimentation and bottom-up problem-solving were actively encouraged.

Fourth, Xi streamlined political power by aggressively attacking informal groupings within the party. In effect, tangible intra-party factional activity has reached a low point in CCP history.

In addition to these restorative measures that follow classical Leninist prescriptions, there are innovative elements in Xi’s approach to transform the CCP and make it fit for the 21st century.

First, Xi reorganized the party’s core executive around leader-driven central leading groups that predetermine decisions by formal top-level CCP organs. The separation of party organs from the management of economic affairs under previous leaders was downgraded to a mere “division of labor” (党政分工), thereby bringing party organs back into regular administrative and economic decision-making.

Second, with Wang Huning as his strategic advisor, Xi put much effort into hardening CCP ideological prescriptions, with the intention to delegitimize “Western values” and re-conceptualize the global political and economic order from a Chinese perspective. Though it appears questionable whether a monistic, uniform ideology can be imposed on Chinese society today that is characterized by very diverse lifestyles, value orientations and worldviews, the intensity of CCP ideological work under Xi is starkly different from the much more relaxed approach taken by his post-1978 predecessors.

Third, under Xi Jinping’s leadership, China abandoned Deng Xiaoping’s guiding foreign policy principle of “hiding your strength and biding your time” (韬光养晦). It became more assertive on a global level and sometimes aggressive in dealing with neighboring countries (such as South Korea recently). China has significantly expanded its maritime capabilities, and broadened its economic diplomacy and external funding to open up doors abroad. Meanwhile, China moved into spaces where U.S. presence is weak (such as Central Asia) or is being weakened (multilateral trade and climate policy). Instead of Deng’s “hide and bide” guideline, Xi’s foreign policy pursues the Maoist guerrilla principle of “avoiding the solid main force and instead moving toward the empty spaces” (避实就虚).

Fourth, China harnessed new technologies in cyberspace and social media for political communication. Based on the belief that public opinion in the internet era must be actively shaped and controlled by the CCP, the party’s cyber-administrators moved beyond clumsy censorship by using, for instance, refined algorithms to steer viewers away from subversive content to officially-approved content.

Fifth, under Xi’s leadership, China is building a system of “digital Leninism” through new types of business and social regulation. With financial and communication activities increasingly taking place online, Chinese regulators aim at compiling encompassing “social credit” scores, a kind of big data-enabled rating system, for every market participant, thereby gaining access to detailed and regularly updated data profiles of all companies and citizens.

What will Xi’s leadership look like after the 19th Party Congress in the fall of 2017? According to Heilmann, the best-case scenario is that Xi, after further consolidating his power, will feel secure enough to allow some degree of political relaxation and to decentralize some decision-making power, thereby reinvigorating bottom-up economic and policy dynamism. The worst-case scenario is further political and economic ossification as a result of rigid party control and expanded surveillance instruments. For international relations, Heilmann anticipated that, if liberal democracies continue to appear torn and weak, China will find an environment conducive to attacking “Western values” and promote its own version of political order based on non-liberal principles, not just domestically but also increasingly on a global level and in multilateral institutions.

In one year China is making 107 towers taller than 200m. The US needed decades to build 189 ones.

Asia Dreams in Skyscrapers. By Jason M Barr
The New York Times, Oct 11 2017

The skyscraper was born in the United States, but in recent years, it has grown and flourished in Asia. Countries there recognize that to be seen as a player on the global stage, it helps to have tall buildings.

Over a century ago, New York and Chicago demonstrated that the skyscraper is, fundamentally, a solution to an economic problem: how to allow for hundreds, if not thousands, of people and businesses to be at the same place at the same time. Urban clustering, especially in a high-tech world, is more important than ever. By promoting density, skyscrapers confer a competitive advantage and allow a city to become a beacon of commerce.

In April, President Xi Jinping of China announced plans for a new city, Xiongan, not far from Beijing. A kind of Chinese field of dreams, Xiongan is to be built on what is now hundreds of square miles of farmland and towns, house millions of people and be a center for technology jobs. Like the cities it’s being modeled after — Shenzhen, near Hong Kong, and Shanghai, particularly its Pudong neighborhood — it may someday claim the world’s tallest skyscrapers. The Ping An Finance tower in Shenzhen, completed this year, at 115 stories, is the fourth-tallest building in the world, while the Shanghai Tower, completed in 2015, at 128 stories, is the second-tallest skyscraper on the planet.

Since the 1990s, the world’s tallest buildings have been built in the East. The current prize holder — the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (828 meters, or about 2,717 feet, 2010) — will be soon be surpassed by the Jeddah Tower in Saudi Arabia (1,000 meters, or about 3,281 feet, 2020). Nine of the 10 world’s tallest buildings are in Asia. In addition, the continent now has more 150-meter (about 492 feet) or taller buildings than the rest of the continents combined.

An awe-inspiring skyline is a city’s announcement that it is open for business and confident in its future growth. Supertall structures stand as “place makers” in the planning process, since they create neighborhood landmarks to draw companies, residents, tourists and foreign direct investment. China is now a nation full of capitalists. Arab workers are no longer just oil drillers, but global traders and financiers.

But just as important, cities that have record-breaking buildings are not just constructing super-tall monoliths. There is a strong correlation between the number of tall buildings of all sizes and the likelihood a city will have a supertall building; heights and frequencies are strongly related. The Burj Khalifa and Shanghai Tower, for example, are the most visible signs that a city embraces skyscrapers more broadly to enhance economic growth and the quality of life of residents and companies.

Consider where these nations stand. Over the last decade, the average annual gross domestic product growth rates in India, China, Indonesia and Malaysia were, in most years, more than three times that of the United States. As part of this development, nations expand their financial and banking sectors; research shows that skyscrapers are needed for this to happen.

Furthermore, China is witnessing what is arguably the greatest internal migration in human history. In 1979, only about 19 percent of its residents lived in urban areas; today that figure is about 57 percent, and this movement shows no sign of slowing. To put this in perspective, the number of Chinese residents who have moved to cities since 1979 (600 million) is greater than the total current population of North America (580 million). By comparison, in 1900, urbanization in the United States was at 40 percent; by 1970, it was up to 74 percent, and has since inched up to 82 percent.

Given this rapid growth, governments generally have two options: They can encourage tall buildings to satisfy the urban demand, or they can restrict building heights, which then increases sprawl, congestion and the distances between people. As a result, Asian governments establish land-use rules that increase density, as well as sponsor international architecture competitions, provide subsidies or simply lend support. Across China, we see a strong correlation between the heights of cities’ skyscrapers and the size of their populations and local economies.

Interestingly, the Chinese government has also indirectly created political incentives for their construction. Because of one-party rule, career promotion within the Communist Party is based on the ability to “get things done” — and building skyscrapers can serve that purpose. Recent research suggests that younger local officials build more skyscrapers and invest in more infrastructure to enhance their standing within the government.

In the United States, high-rise construction remains controversial. Though things are starting to change, at its core, the country remains dedicated to promoting single-family homes in the suburbs and sprawling car-dependent office parks. Many municipalities put up hurdles for tall building construction, allowing them only in densest parts of the central city. As a result, we see a flowering of new supertall buildings there, but they are frequently derided as “safe deposit boxes with views.” Because of the negative perceptions, it has become difficult to have conversations about how they can make cities more resilient and less dependent on fossil fuels.

What is the future of the skyscraper? As long as Asian countries pursue lifestyles similar to that of the West, skyscrapers will continue to be built, as they not only help foster economic growth, but also establish a city’s skyline, which then becomes part of a city’s identity and character.

As technological improvements make building skyscrapers easier and faster, the race for the world’s tallest building will continue as well. Since 1890, their heights have grown, on average, about 17 feet per year. Statistically speaking, this suggests that a mile-high building will be built in the middle of the 22nd century. But don’t tell that to Tokyo, which wants to get there first by 2045.

Jason M. Barr, a professor of economics at Rutgers University-Newark, is the author of “Building the Skyline: The Birth and Growth of Manhattan’s Skyscrapers.”