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Monday, September 24, 2018

Krugman: Trump’s tariffs really are a big, bad deal. Their direct economic impact ***will be modest*** (?!), although hardly trivial

Now, to put Krugman's words in perspective, see the first results of Google search " trump tariffs will damage," the very constructive way to report and pour opinions that most journalists have:
Companies Warn More China Tariffs Will Cripple Them and Hurt ...
Aug 20, 2018 - The Trump administration, which will hold trade talks with the Chinese this week, began six days of hearings on its proposal to tax another $200 ...

Tariffs to Raise Cost of Rebuilding After Hurricane Florence - The New ...
3 days ago - The Trump administration imposed a 20 percent tariff on Canadian softwood ... It will take months to repair the damage from the floods, he said.

Rebuffed by Trump on Tariffs, Businesses Mount Coordinated Pushback
Sep 12, 2018 - The Tariffs Hurt the Heartland campaign focuses heavily on the economic ... September for The New York Times by the online polling firm SurveyMonkey. ... have all publicly warned Mr. Trump that his tariffs will hurt the very ...

Opinion | How China Wins the Trade War - The New York Times
Aug 8, 2018 - President Trump exhorts his supporters that tariffs “mean jobs and great ... Reduced American demand for Chinese products does hurt China.

If the Trade War Starts to Damage the Economy, Here's How You'll Be ...
Jul 24, 2018 - “Still, tariffs hurt, and we're starting to see some precursors of an impact already.” ... By the time there would be solid evidence that the trade war was doing damage, the damage would already ....  
Opinion | Getting Hurt by Trump's Tariffs - The New York Times
Jul 15, 2018 - They will, we hope, understand that a man's conduct, knowledge, ... of the New York edition with the headline: Getting Hurt by Trump's Tariffs.

Opinion | Trump Has No Idea What His Tariffs Have Unleashed for ...
Jul 26, 2018 - His trade war will hurt business at a time when the rural population is aging, and it will probably hollow out farm communities.

But he, one the high priests of the anti-Trumpian church, the man who on election night 2016 "gave in temporarily to a temptation" he warns others about, to let his "political feelings distort" his "economic judgment," although "quickly retracted the claim," and "issued a mea culpa" (because being "an old-fashioned guy," he tries "to admit and learn from" his mistakes), says what you see above as title.

See his article:
Making Tariffs Corrupt Again. Paul Krugman. TNYT, Sept. 20, 2018

Syverson on productivity mismeasurement and slowdown, plus effect of AI on the slowdown

Interview with Chad Syverson. Aaron Steelman. Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, June 2018,;postID=3293709683462798846

EF: Some have argued that the productivity slowdown since the mid-2000s is due to mismeasurement issues — that some productivity growth hasn't been or isn't being captured. What does your work tell us about that?

Syverson: It tells us that the mismeasurement story, while plausible on its face, falls apart when examined. If productivity growth had actually been 1.5 percent greater than it has been measured since the mid-2000s, U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) would be conservatively $4 trillion higher than it is, or about $12,000 more per capita. So if you go with the mismeasurement story, that's the sort of number you're talking about and there are several reasons to believe you can't account for it.

First, the productivity slowdown has happened all over world. When you look at the 30 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries we have data for, there's no relationship between the size of the measured slowdown and how important IT-related goods — which most people think are the primary source of mismeasurement — are to a country's economy.

Second, people have tried to measure the value of IT-related goods. The largest estimate is about $900 billion in the United States. That doesn't get you even a quarter of the way toward that $4 trillion.

Third, the value added of the IT-related sector has grown by about $750 billion, adjusting for inflation, since the mid-2000s. The mismeasure­ment hypothesis says that there are $4 trillion missing on top of that. So the question is: Do we think we're only getting $1 out of every $6 of activity there? That's a lot of mismeasurement.

Finally, there's the difference between gross domestic income (GDI) and GDP. GDI has been higher than GDP on average since the slowdown started, which would suggest that there's income, about $1 trillion cumulatively, that is not showing up in expenditures. But the problem is that was also true before the slowdown started. GDI was higher than GDP from 1998 through 2004, a period of relatively high-productivity growth. Moreover, the growth in income is coming from capital income, not wage income. That doesn't comport with the story some people are trying to tell, which is that companies are making stuff, they're paying their workers to produce it, but then they're effectively giving it away for free instead of selling it. But we know that they're actually making profits. We might not pay directly for a lot of IT services every time we use them, but we are paying for them indirectly.

As sensible as the mismeasurement hypothesis might sound on its face, when you add up everything, it just doesn't pass the stricter test you would want it to survive.

EF: Would you consider artificial intelligence (AI) a general-purpose technology? If so, how do you assess the view that the returns on investment in AI have been disappointing?

Syverson: It's way too early. There are two things creat­ing this lag for AI. First, aggregate AI capital right now is essentially zero. This stuff is really just starting to be used in production. A lot of it is simply experimental at this point. Second, a lot of it has to do with complementarity. People have to figure out what sorts of things AI can aug­ment, and we're not anywhere down that road yet.

Erik, Daniel, and I are going out on a limb a little bit by saying this, but we think AI checks the boxes for a general-purpose technology. And it seems that with some fairly modest applications of AI, the produc­tivity slowdown goes away. Two applications that we look at in our paper are autonomous vehicles and call centers.

About 3.5 million people in the United States make their living as motor vehicle operators. We think maybe 2 million of those could be replaced by autonomous vehi­cles. There are 122 million people in private employment now, so just a quick calculation says that's an additional boost of 1.7 percent in labor productivity. But that's not going to happen overnight. If it happens over a decade, that's 0.17 percent per year.

About 2 million people work in call centers. Plausibly, 60 percent of those jobs could be replaced by AI. So when you do the same kind of calculation, that's an additional 1 percent increase in labor productivity; spread out over a decade, it's 0.1 percent per year. So, from those two applica­tions alone, that's about a quarter of a percent annual accel­eration for a decade. So you only need maybe six to eight more applications of that size and the slowdown is gone.

The unprecedented socioeconomic rise of African Americans at mid-century is causally related to the labor shortages induced by WWII

World War II and African American Socioeconomic Progress. Andreas Ferrara. Warwick Univ, Sept 2018, Working Paper No. 387.

Abstract: This paper argues that the unprecedented socioeconomic rise of African Americans at mid-century is causally related to the labor shortages induced by WWII. Results from combining novel military and Census data in a difference-in-differences setting show that counties with an average casualty rate among semi-skilled whites experienced a 13 to 16% increase in the share of blacks in semi-skilled jobs. The casualty rate also has a significant reduced form effect on cross-state migration, wages, home ownership, house value, and education for blacks. Using survey data from 1961, IV regression results indicate that the economic upgrade, which is instrumented with the semi-skilled white casualty rate, is also associated with an increase in social status. Both black and white individuals living in treated counties are more likely to have an interracial friendship,  live in mixed-race neighborhoods, and to have reduced preferences for segregation.

JEL codes: J15, J24, N42
Keywords: African-Americans; Inequality; Race-Relations; World War II

Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator placement has been found to lead to apprehension to engage in physical activity, chronic anxiety, decreased physical and social functioning, a nagging fear of being shocked by the device, and the development of “phantom shocks”

Treatment of phantom shocks: A case report. Danielle R Hairston et al. The International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine,

Abstract: Implantable cardioverter-defibrillators have become standard preventive treatment for patients with ventricular arrhythmias and other life-threatening cardiac conditions. The advantages and efficiency of the device are supported by multiple clinical trials and outcome studies, leading to its popularity among cardiologists. Implantation of the device is not without adverse outcomes. Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator placement has been found to lead to negative psychological and psychosocial sequelae such as apprehension to engage in physical activity, chronic anxiety, decreased physical and social functioning, a nagging fear of being shocked by the device, and the development of “phantom shocks.” Defined as patient-reported shocks in the absence of evidence that the implantable cardioverter-defibrillator device has discharged, phantom shocks could impact the mental health of those affected. This article reviews the case of Mr. L, a 47-year-old man with ischemic cardiomyopathy who was seen by the psychiatry consultation team while under cardiologic care because he reported that his implantable cardioverter-defibrillator device had been shocking him despite no objective evidence after interrogating the device. A literature review of phantom shocks, their associated symptomatology, and psychological consequences are outlined and discussed.

Keywords: implantable cardioverter-defibrillators, shock, phantom shocks, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder

Sexism, Rape Myths and Feminist Identification Explain Gender Differences in Attitudes Toward the #metoo Social Media Campaign in Two Countries

Kunst, Jonas R., April Bailey, Claire Prendergast, and Aleksander Gundersen. 2018. “Sexism, Rape Myths and Feminist Identification Explain Gender Differences in Attitudes Toward the #metoo Social Media Campaign in Two Countries.” PsyArXiv. September 24. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: On October 15, 2017, actress Alyssa Milano popularized the #metoo campaign, which sought to expose the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault in public domains by encouraging victims to share their experiences on social media using the hashtag ‘metoo.’ The online campaign rapidly grew to a global phenomenon, which was generally well supported. However, some criticized the campaign online as a “battle of the sexes,” which pits men against women. The present cross-cultural research investigated whether gender differences in attitudes and feelings toward #metoo are due to underlying differences in ideologies and experiences that only partly overlap with gender. We surveyed respondents in the United States, where the campaign began, and in Norway, a highly gender-egalitarian country. In both countries, men expressed less positivity toward #metoo than women and perceived it as substantially more harmful and less beneficial. These gender differences were largely accounted for by men being higher than women in hostile sexism, higher in rape myth acceptance, and lower in feminist identification. The results, hence, suggest that gender differences in attitudes to social media campaigns such as #metoo might be best characterized as dimensional ideological differences rather than fundamental group differences.

Do People Have Reproductive Goals? Constructive Preferences and the Discovery of Desired Family Size: Desired family size may, we suggest, be a discovery rather than a goal

Do People Have Reproductive Goals? Constructive Preferences and the Discovery of Desired Family Size. Máire Ní Bhrolcháin, Éva Beaujouan. In: Schoen R. (eds) Analytical Family Demography. The Springer Series on Demographic Methods and Population Analysis, vol 47, pp 27-56


The frequency of uncertainty in response to survey questions on fertility expectations is relatively high. This is inconsistent with the classical rational choice model implicit in much demographic research. Whether for this or other reasons, the phenomenon is by and large overlooked. Uncertainty in relation to fertility is, we suggest, genuine rather than the result of faulty measurement or poorly motivated responses. Its relatively high frequency requires that it is accounted for in any theory of fertility decision making.

Adapting ideas from behavioral economics, psychology, and political science we propose an alternative theoretical approach in which fertility intentions and preferences are thought of as constructed. Preferences are constructed when they are not drawn from a stored memory but assembled on the spot from information accessible at the time; reports of such preferences can be very sensitive to context. In this approach, uncertainty is not anomalous and some enduring apparent contradictions in survey findings on fertility intentions, expectations and preferences are explicable. Ideas in political science have the potential to enhance our understanding of responses to survey questions on preferences and intentions. Preference construction theory could provide an avenue to a better understanding of fertility preferences. Desired family size may, we suggest, be a discovery rather than a goal. Establishing the nature, origin and operation of fertility preferences is essential to answering the question whether fertility differentials and trends reflect choice or constraint or some mixture of the two.

They played a task to be probabilistically rewarded based on the pattern of 3 cards that were revealed after a 5-s delay; during this, they could instead pay a cost to find out the next card’s identity immediately; and did

Cabrero, Jose A. M. R., Jian-Qiao Zhu, and Elliot A. Ludvig. 2018. “Costly Curiosity: People Pay a Price to Resolve an Uncertain Gamble Early.” PsyArXiv. September 24. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: Humans are inherently curious creatures, continuously seeking out information about future outcomes. Such advance information is often valuable, potentially allowing people to select better courses of action. In non-human animals, this drive for information can be so strong that they forego food or water to find out a few seconds earlier whether an uncertain option will provide a reward. Here, we assess whether people will exhibit a similar sub-optimal preference for advance information. Participants played a card-flipping task where they were probabilistically rewarded based on the pattern of 3 cards that were revealed after a 5-s delay. During this delay, participants could instead pay a cost to find out the next card’s identity immediately. This choice to find out early did not influence the eventual outcome. Participants preferred to find out early about 80% of the time when the information was free; they were even willing to incur an expense to get advance information about the eventual outcome. The expected magnitude of the outcome, however, did not impact the likelihood of finding out early. These results suggest that humans, like animals, value non-instrumental information and will pay a price for such information, independent of its utility.

Intergenerational Mobility at the Top of the Educational Distribution: A doctoral degree largely detaches individuals from their social origins

Intergenerational Mobility at the Top of the Educational Distribution. Florencia Torche. Sociology of Education,

Abstract: Research has shown that intergenerational mobility is higher among individuals with a college degree than those with lower levels of schooling. However, mobility declines among graduate degree holders. This finding questions the meritocratic power of higher education. Prior research has been hampered, however, by the small samples of advanced degree holders in representative surveys. Drawing on a large longitudinal data set of PhD holders—the Survey of Doctorate Recipients—this study examines intergenerational mobility among the American educational elite, separately for men and women and different racial/ethnic groups. Results show substantial mobility among PhD holders. The association between parents’ education and adult children’s earnings is moderate among men and nonexistent among women with doctoral degrees. However, women’s earnings converge to an average level that is much lower than men’s, signaling ‘‘perverse openness’’ for women even at the top of the educational distribution. Among men, there is variation in mobility by race and ethnicity. The intergenerational socioeconomic association is null for Asian men, small for white and black men, and more pronounced for Hispanics. Educational and occupational mediators account for intergenerational association among blacks and whites but not Hispanic men. A doctoral degree largely detaches individuals from their social origins in the United States, but it does not eliminate all sources of inequality.

Keywords: class inequality, higher education, meritocracy, intergenerational mobility, graduate education

Sunday, September 23, 2018

What Fantasies Can Do to Your Relationship & The Effects of Sexual Fantasies on Couple Interactions: Dyadic fantasizing was associated with heightened desire & increased engagement in relationship-promoting behaviors

What Fantasies Can Do to Your Relationship: The Effects of Sexual Fantasies on Couple Interactions. Gurit E. Birnbaum et al. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin,

Abstract: Research addressing the underlying functions of sexual fantasies has mainly focused on variables associated with frequency and content of fantasies. Relatively less is known about how sexual fantasizing affects the relationship. Four studies examined the contribution of fantasizing about one’s partner (“dyadic fantasies”) to relationship outcomes. In Studies 1 and 2, participants fantasized either about their partner or about someone else and rated their desire to engage in sex and other nonsexual relationship-promoting activities with their partner. In Studies 3 and 4, romantic partners recorded their fantasies and relationship interactions each evening for a period of 21 and 42 days, respectively. In Study 4, partners also provided daily reports on relationship perceptions. Overall, dyadic fantasizing was associated with heightened desire and increased engagement in relationship-promoting behaviors. Relationship perceptions explained the link between dyadic fantasies and relationship-promoting behaviors, suggesting that such fantasies benefit the relationship by enhancing partner and relationship appeal.

Keywords: extradyadic, fantasies, relationship quality, sexual desire, sexuality

Why are some societies more religious than others? One answer is religious coping: Individuals turn to religion to deal with unpredictable life events, like natural disasters, even though the effect decreases after a while

Acts of God? Religiosity and Natural Disasters Across Subnational World Districts. Jeanet Sinding Bentzen. University of Copenhagen.

Abstract: Religious beliefs influence individual behavior in many settings. But why are some societies more religious than others? One answer is religious coping: Individuals turn to religion to deal with unbearable and unpredictable life events. To investigate whether coping can explain global differences in religiosity, I combine a global dataset on individual-level religiosity with spatial data on natural disasters. Individuals become more religious if an earthquake recently hit close by. Even though the effect decreases after a while, data on children of immigrants reveal a persistent e§ect across generations. The results point to religious coping as the main mediating channel, but alternative explanations such as mutual insurance or migration cannot be ruled out entirely. The findings may help explain why religiosity has not vanished as some scholars once predicted.

Hawkish leaders face fewer domestic barriers than doves when it comes to pursuing reconciliation with foreign enemies. Two causal mechanisms: Voters are more confident in rapprochement when it is pursued by a hawk & are more likely to view those hawks as moderates

Hawks, Doves, and Peace: An Experimental Approach. Michaela Mattes, Jessica L. P. Weeks. American Journal of Political Science,

Abstract: An old adage holds that “only Nixon could go to China”; that is, hawkish leaders face fewer domestic barriers than doves when it comes to pursuing reconciliation with foreign enemies. However, empirical evidence for this proposition is mixed. In this article, we clarify competing theories, elucidate their implications for public opinion, and describe the results of a series of survey experiments designed to evaluate whether and why there is a hawk's advantage. We find that hawks are indeed better positioned domestically to initiate rapprochement than doves. We also find support for two key causal mechanisms: Voters are more confident in rapprochement when it is pursued by a hawk and are more likely to view hawks who initiate conciliation as moderates. Further, the hawk's advantage persists whether conciliatory efforts end in success or failure. Our microfoundational evidence thus suggests a pronounced domestic advantage for hawks who deliver the olive branch.

Our results are the opposite of the good genes hypothesis prediction and suggest that in western, healthy populations, human mate preferences for more symmetric bodies are not related to immune competence

Human body symmetry and immune efficacy in healthy adults. Boguslaw Pawlowski et al. American Journal of Physical Anthropology,


Objectives: More symmetric organisms are perceived as more attractive. Fluctuating asymmetry (FA) i.e. small, random deviations from perfect bilateral symmetry, is supposed to inform about developmental instability. According to the good genes hypothesis, a low level of FA is a putative cue to an organism's biological quality. An important aspect of this quality is the immune system functioning. The aim of this study was to evaluate the relationship between immune system functioning and body symmetry in healthy people.

Materials and Methods: The composite body FA (cFA) was assessed on the basis of six bilateral traits (on hands and feet). The ISF was determined by many innate (total complement and lysozyme activity, neutrophils function) and adaptive immune parameters (T CD3 and B CD19 lymphocytes, total IgA and IgG and response to flu vaccine). A total of 98 men and 92 women were subjected to flu (among them 37 men and 30 women also to tetanus) vaccination. The blood samples were collected before and 4 weeks after the antigens exposure. Immunomodulatory factors: participant's age, body fat, and free testosterone level, were controlled.

Results: Apart from the weak positive association between CD3 or CD19 and cFA in men, we found no association between the level of body symmetry and the rest of the analyzed immune parameters for both sexes.

Discussion: Our results are the opposite of the good genes hypothesis prediction and suggest that in western, healthy populations, human mate preferences for more symmetric bodies are not related to immune competence.

Driving near-accidents: People evaluated the consequences of an unexpected turn of events to be more extreme when it was presented as a counterfactual possibility rather than an actual occurrence

Learning from what might have been – judgments and evaluations of counterfactual outcomes. Jens Andreas Terum. PhD dissertation. The Artic University of Norway. November 2017.


The aim of the present thesis is to contribute to the understanding of how people construct hypothetical alternatives to past events, and further explore the role of such counterfactual thinking in learning from accidents and near-accidents. In Paper 1 we introduced the notion that counterfactual thinking is a form of mental simulation that relies on abstract, gist based representations of the world, and therefore promote s a focus on schematic and prototypical outcomes. For events with a clear valence, this should lead counterfactual speculations to be more extreme, or unambiguously good or bad, compared to ordinary predictions. In line with our expectation, people evaluated the consequences of an unexpected turn of events to be more extreme, when it was presented as a counterfactual possibility rather than an actual occurrence.

Paper 2 replicated the main finding in Paper 1, and extended the investigation to include affective evaluations. Consistent with the previous finding, participants exaggerated consequence estimates, but affective evaluations indicated an opposite effect: factual events were evaluated as more emotionally impressive than the same events presented as counterfactual, for both positive and negative outcomes. These apparently contradictory findings were discussed within the framework of Construal Level Theory, and it is suggested that both findings are compatible with an abstract, high – level account of counterfactual thinking.

In Paper 3 we investigate d learning from accidents and near-accidents. By asking people about their thoughts and feelings following accidents and near-accidents, we examined the degree to which these experiences had inspired caution. The results indicated that accidents inspired more caution than near-accidents. Furthermore, repeated experience with Judgments and evaluations of counterfactual outcomes near accidents app eared to have inspired caution, but we observed no change in caution following repeated experience with near-accidents. Learned carefulness did not seem to be associated with reported emotional intensity of the counterfactual outcomes imagined. However, learned carefulness was strongly associated with self-focused upward counterfactuals and the specific emotions of unpleasantness and regret, implicating the role of deliberate reflection .

In sum, the thesis contributes to research on counterfactual thinking by showing that counterfactuals promote a focus on extreme consequences, but attenuated affective reactions, consistent with the idea that counterfactual thinking is more abstract and schematic than future oriented thinking. One implication may be that learning from near-misses and close escapes is more contingent on deliberate reflection rather than affective assimilation.

Oil Sanctions Against Iran Prove Potent: “The president is doing the opposite of what the experts said, and it seems to be working out”

Oil Sanctions Against Iran Prove Potent. Clifford Krauss. TNYT, Sep 19 2018.

HOUSTON — When President Trump announced in May that he was going to withdraw the United States from the nuclear agreement that the Obama administration and five other countries negotiated with Iran in 2015 and reimpose sanctions on the country, the decision was fraught with potential disaster.

If Mr. Trump’s approach worked too well, oil prices would spike and hurt the American economy. If it failed, international companies would continue trading with Iran, leaving the Islamic Republic unscathed, defiant and free to restart its nuclear program.

But the policy has been effective without either of those nasty consequences, at least so far.

Nearly two months before American oil sanctions go into effect, Iran’s crude exports are plummeting. International oil companies, including those from countries that are still committed to the nuclear agreement, are bailing out of deals with Tehran.

And remarkably, the price of oil in the United States has risen only modestly while gasoline prices have essentially remained flat. The current global oil price hovers around $80 a barrel, $60 below the highs of a decade ago.

“The president is doing the opposite of what the experts said, and it seems to be working out,” said Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy and Economic Research, a research and consulting firm.

Initial signs of a foreign-policy success could benefit Mr. Trump politically as Republicans try to hold on to control of Congress. The president and lawmakers allied with him could point to the administration’s aggressive stand toward Iran as evidence that his unconventional approach to diplomacy has been much more fruitful and far less costly than Democrats have been willing to acknowledge.

The administration’s tactical advantage could be fleeting, of course, if Iran retaliates with cyberattacks or militarily, incites more militia violence in Iraq, or revives its nuclear program.

The most important reason that predictions of higher oil prices have been wrong is that there is plenty of oil sloshing around the world. The United States has become a huge exporter of oil in the last several years and is now shipping roughly the same amount — more than two million barrels a day — that Iran did earlier this year.

Trade tensions and economic problems in developing countries like Turkey and Argentina might also be slowing the growth of energy demand.

Another thing in Mr. Trump’s favor is that while governments in Europe and Asia have publicly opposed his decision to withdraw from the nuclear agreement, many businesses in those places have made a different calculation. They have concluded that it makes little financial sense to risk investments in and trade with the United States by doing business with Iran.

Until Mr. Trump’s May announcement, Western allies considered the nuclear deal with Iran a success. In exchange for agreeing to strict limits on its nuclear program and international monitoring, Iran was allowed to re-enter the global oil market. The deal lifted restrictions on foreign companies doing business in Iran and gave the country access to frozen assets overseas.

After Nov. 4, companies that buy, ship or insure shipments of Iranian oil can be excluded from the American market and banking system unless they obtain waivers from the administration.

Trump administration officials say its sanctions are designed to punish Iran for its interventions in Syria, Yemen and other countries.

For Iran, the timing could not be worse. The country has lost influence over oil prices as other producers have eclipsed its energy industry, which has not kept up with technological advances.

At the beginning of the century, Iranian officials could shake the oil markets by staging military maneuvers or merely hinting that they would reduce supplies. Back then, American oil production was falling and global demand for crude was surging.

But those days are long gone. Like the United States, countries including Canada and Brazil are also exporting more oil. Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iraq have also increased production, helping to keep oil prices in check. Saudi Arabia and its Persian Gulf allies are only too happy to support the sanctions against their chief rival, Iran, by expanding exports.

[chart] Sources: Thomson Retuers; Energy Information Administration

That has provided a buffer for the global oil market as Iranian exports dropped by more than 25 percent, or around 600,000 barrels a day, between June and the start of September. Exports are expected to drop by an additional half-million barrels when American sanctions go into effect. All told, exports could drop from a high of 2.7 million barrels this year to fewer than a million in 2019 — lowering the country’s exports to less than 1 percent of the global market, from about 3 percent earlier this year.

That would further squeeze the Iranian government, which had $50 billion in oil revenue last year; oil and petroleum products make up about 70 percent of the country’s exports by value.

“For Iran, it shows the leverage that they have had through oil has not only diminished but may never return,” said Amy Myers Jaffe, a senior fellow specializing in energy at the Council on Foreign Relations. “People just don’t care if they are going to lose business in Iran. People don’t feel desperate for supply.’’

The sanctions are so onerous that even companies from countries opposed to Mr. Trump’s approach are withdrawing from Iran.

South Korea, Iran’s third-biggest oil market last year, halted purchases in August after buying 194,000 barrels a day in July. Shipments to France and Japan, two other major markets, are also dropping.

OMV, the Austrian oil company, recently backed out of an agreement with the National Iranian Oil Company to evaluate oil fields. Hellenic Petroleum of Greece, Spain’s Repsol and Italy’s Eni are winding down oil purchases.

The Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a conservative Washington think tank, found that 71 foreign companies planned to withdraw from Iran, 19 intended to stay and 142 were undecided or hadn’t said as of early September.

“Big international companies have to ask themselves what risks are they willing to take on,” said David Adesnik, the foundation’s director of research. “Even if you don’t have a business in the U.S. you can be cut off from our financial system, and that’s not something a truly global firm can afford.”

The next big shoe to drop appears to be India, Iran’s second-biggest oil market after China. Reliance Industries, the nation’s leading refiner, has said it will stop buying Iranian crude when American sanctions kick in. And the State Bank of India, the country’s largest lender, has told refiners that it will block payments for Iranian crude.

American officials are waging a public and private campaign to persuade foreign leaders to cut economic ties with Iran — and to buy more American oil.

During a visit to India this month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the administration was seeking a total halt to Iranian oil exports, although countries will be given time to switch suppliers.

“Purchases of Iranian crude will go to zero from every country or sanctions will be imposed,” Mr. Pompeo said.

The sanctions could allow Russian and Chinese companies to replace Western businesses in Iran. After Washington denied it a waiver, the French oil giant Total pulled out of a contract to develop the South Pars gas field, leaving a potential opening to China’s CNPC to increase its investment in the field.

China, which imports a half-million barrels of Iranian crude a day, can more easily resist American policy than other countries. That’s because its smallest refiners and domestic banks have little or no exposure to the United States.

Russia is another obstacle.

Gazprom and Rosneft, two state-controlled Russian oil and gas giants, are negotiating oil development deals worth roughly $10 billion with the Iranian oil ministry.

For its part, Iran is not sitting still. The state-run Iranian tanker company is storing oil on its fleet of supertankers rather than shut down production, which can damage wells. Iran could smuggle oil over land through Pakistan and Afghanistan, and barter with trading companies to get around sanctions.

International transactions are largely denominated in dollars, which strengthens American sanctions. Over time, Iran’s oil trade could shift to other currencies, particularly the Chinese renminbi.

“We will continue by all means to both produce and export,” President Hassan Rouhani of Iran said recently on state TV. “Oil is in the front line of confrontation and resistance.”

A version of this article appears in print on Sept. 20, 2018, on Page B1 of the New York edition with the headline: Oil Sanctions Against Iran Prove Potent

Luxury goods are beneficial signals that bestow social benefits like positive evaluations & compliance, but there can be high costs when it comes to warmth; costs appear to be driven by impression management concerns rather than envy

The Dark Side of Luxury: Social Costs of Luxury Consumption. Christopher Cannon, Derek D. Rucker. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin,

Abstract: Extant research demonstrates that luxury goods are beneficial signals that bestow upon individuals social benefits that range from positive evaluations to compliance. In contrast to this perspective, the current work explores the idea that luxury goods can carry significant negative social costs for actors. Across four experiments, the social cost of luxury is examined. Although individuals who display luxury goods are ascribed higher status, they can pay a hefty tax when it comes to warmth. The social costs of luxury consumption appear to be driven by impression management concerns rather than envy. Consequently, whether the consumption of luxury goods yields positive or negative social consequences for an actor critically depends both on whether status or warmth is relevant for a decision and observers’ own lay beliefs about luxury consumption. Overall, this work reveals the more complex psychology of individuals’ interpretation and response to actors’ use of luxury goods.

Keywords: luxury consumption, social influence, status, warmth, impression management

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Machiavellianism & psychopathy predicted narrow AI risk perception above what other traits/characteristics do; in individuals with self-reported knowledge of AI, the Dark Triad traits were associated with risk perception

Individual Differences in Risk Perception of Artificial Intelligence. Benno G. Wissing and Marc-André Reinhard. Swiss Journal of Psychology, Volume 77, Issue 4, pp. 149-157.

Abstract: This cross-sectional study (N = 325) investigated the relationship between the Dark Triad personality traits and the perception of artificial intelligence (AI) risk. Narrow AI risk perception was measured based on recently identified perceived risks in the public. Artificial general intelligence (AGI) risk perception was operationalized in terms of plausibility ratings and subjective probability estimates on deceptive AI scenarios developed by Bostrom (2014), in which AI-sided deception is described as a function of intelligence. Machiavellianism and psychopathy predicted narrow AI risk perception above the shared variance of the Dark Triad and above the Big Five. In individuals with self-reported knowledge of machine learning, the Dark Triad traits were associated with AGI risk perception. This study provides evidence for the existence of substantial individual differences in the risk perception of AI.

Keywords: artificial intelligence, Big Five, Dark Triad, Machiavellian intelligence, machine intelligence, risk perception

Oxytocin administration increased men's attraction to unfaithful women & wanting short-term relationships, whereas women became more averse to unfaithful men & exhibited an even greater preference for having long-term relationships with faithful ones

Oxytocin amplifies sex differences in human mate choice. Lei Xu, Benjamin Becker, Ruixue Luo, Xiaoxiao Zheng, Weihua Zhao, Qiong Zhang, Keith Kendrick. bioRxiv, doi:

Abstract: Infidelity is the major cause of partnership breakups across cultures and individuals with a history of infidelity are more likely to repeat it, although they may also present a greater opportunity for short-term sexual relationships. Here we have firstly investigated sex-differences in the attractiveness and perceived relationship potential of individuals who have exhibited fidelity or infidelity in a previous relationship. We also examined whether these sex differences are amplified by the neuropeptide oxytocin which promotes partner bonds but may also enhance sex-differences in social priorities. While both sexes valued faithful individuals most for long-term relationships, men were more interested in having short-term relationships with previously unfaithful individuals than women, irrespective of current relationship status. Oxytocin administration increased mens attraction to unfaithful women and wanting short-term relationships with them, whereas women became more averse to unfaithful men and instead exhibited an even greater preference for having long-term relationships with faithful ones. The oxytocin effect on relationship-choice was only found in single individuals in line with their higher priority for finding a prospective partner. Thus, oxytocin release during courtship may first act to amplify sex-dependent priorities in attraction and mate choice before subsequently promoting romantic bonds with preferred individuals.

Liberals and conservatives have mainly moved further apart on a wide variety of policy issues; the divergence is substantial quantitatively and in its plausible political impact: intra party moderation has become increasingly unlikely

Peltzman, Sam, Polarizing Currents within Purple America (August 20, 2018). SSRN:

Abstract: The ideology of average Americans has changed little since the 1970s. Then as now around 30 percent identify liberal or conservative and 40 percent are moderates. In contrast to this stable “purple” distribution political parties have become more polarized into “red” and “blue” ideological camps with much less overlap than in the past. This paper contributes to the literature that seeks to reconcile these divergent trends by examining changes in the policy preferences within ideological categories. I analyze answers to a stable set of questions in the General Social Survey. The key finding is that liberals and conservatives have mainly moved further apart on a wide variety of policy issues. The divergence is substantial quantitatively and in its plausible political impact: intra party moderation has become increasingly unlikely.

Keywords: political polarization, political ideology, economic policy, social policy
JEL Classification: D72, D78

Friday, September 21, 2018

Genital Piercing: Childhood and Adolescent Behaviors That Serve as Predictors and Scores on Scales Measuring Hypersexuality and Risky Sexual Behavior, Sexual Orientation, Depression, Conflict, Intimacy, & Sexual Satisfaction

Genital Piercing: Childhood and Adolescent Behaviors That Serve as Predictors and Scores on Scales Measuring Hypersexuality and Risky Sexual Behavior, Sexual Orientation, Depression, Conflict, Intimacy, and Sexual Satisfaction. Karen Griffee et al. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, Volume 24, 2017 - Issue 1-2, Pages 58-78.

ABSTRACT: Groups of 62 women and 25 men with genital piercings were compared to same-sex controls without genital piercing (2,549 women and 1,427 men, respectively) on measures of sexual orientation, intimacy, conflict, sexual satisfaction, depression, numbers of sexual partners, and numbers of times they engaged in sexual behaviors with female and male partners as adults. As adults, both women and men with genital piercings scored higher on the measures of same-sex orientation, hypersexuality, and risky sexual behavior and had more adult male partners and same-sex partners than controls. Women with genital piercings were more likely than controls to endorse being sexually addicted.

Sister-brother Incest: Findings were consistent with other reports of early and persistent hyper-eroticization of incest victims

Sister-brother Incest: Data from Anonymous Computer Assisted Self Interviews. Stephen L. O'Keefe, Keith W. Beard, Sam Swindell, Sandra S. Stroebel, Karen Griffee & Debra H. Young. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, Volume 21, 2014 - Issue 1,

Abstract: Retrospective data were entered anonymously by 1,178 adult men using computer-assisted self-interview. Twenty-seven were victims of sister-brother incest (SBI), 119 were victims of child sexual abuse by an adult female (CSA-AF) before 18 years of age, 1,032 were controls. SBI was often the first sexual experience for the victim. Our findings were consistent with other reports of early and persistent hyper-eroticization of incest victims. SBI increased the likelihood of engaging in behaviors as an adult consistent with a co-existing or primary male-male sexual orientation, and SBI and CSA-AF had deleterious impacts on adult men's sexual adjustment with their adult partners.

Adult Women: 10.6% had exposed themselves in public, 5.1% reported having urges to expose themselves in public, 5.9% had engaged in some sort of sex with underage males, & 2.4% reported they had sexual intercourse with underage males

Exhibitionism and Sex with Underage Males in Adult Women. Sandra S. Stroebel et al. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity,

Abstract: Data from 2,607 female participants in an anonymous computerized study were entered by the participants themselves: 276 (10.6%) had exposed themselves in public, 134 (5.1%) reported having urges to expose themselves in public, 153 (5.9%) had engaged in some sort of sex with underage males, and 100 (2.4%) reported they had sexual intercourse with underage males. As predicted by conditioning, modeling, and critical period learning theories, exposure to nudity within the nuclear family and partnered early sexual experimentation involving breast or genital exposure significantly increased the likelihood of participants exposing themselves in public and having such urges.

Women are less frequently apprehended by police for genital exposure than are men and, as a result, exhibitionism has been less studied in women (Fedoroff, Fishell, & Fedoroff, 1999). For example, Fedoroff, Fishell, and Fedoroff (1999) reported that 6 of 118 men (5%) referred for paraphilia assessment met criteria for exhibitionism. In contrast only 14 women had been referred for assessment; yet 4 (29%) were diagnosed with exhibitionism.  Similarly, there are fewer studies of the origins of exhibitionism in women than in men. There are several extensive reports of individual female patients in psychoanalysis that describe direct genital exhibitionism of women that resulted in their sexual arousal (e.g., Balsam, 2008; Grob, 1985).

Swindell et al. (2011) explored the early antecedents that predicted adult male exhibition-like behavior using epidemiological techniques and extensive information on the study participant’s experiences within and outside their nuclear families during childhood and adolescence. Exhibition-like experiences that had occurred prior to the age of 18 were statistically significant predictors of exhibitionistic behavior in the adult men studied.  Swindell et al. (2011) explained the relationship between the early exhibition- like events in leading to the adult male exhibitionism as mediated by Pavlovian (classical) and operant conditioning as well as modeling of exhibitionism by the children’s parents and their giving tacit approval through modeling (Bandura, 1986).

In her Master’s thesis on the early antecedents of female exhibition-like behavior, Fouch (2015) reported similar findings in preliminary data and attributed the influence of the early experiences to critical period learning, a phenomenon that has also been shown to have a very powerful influence on adult sexual behavior (Griffee et al., 2014a, 2014b). For reviews of conditioning studies in humans and animals see Hoffman (2012) and Pfaus et al. (2012), respectively. Conditioning to visual cues not available in partnered sex may explain the high level of sexual dysfunction during partnered sex found in those using internet pornography (Park et al., 2016), a conclusion also supported by results of Blais-Lecours, Vaillancourt-Morel, Sabourin, and Godbour (2016) and van Oosten and Vandenbosch (2017).

Serendipitously, the camera phones capable of taking pictures and transmitting them wirelessly were just becoming available the same year data collection for the present study began (2002) and their quality improved steadily during the entire interval of data collection (2002–2014, Hill, 2013). The internet (Corley & Hook, 2012, p. 59), web-cams, and smartphones (Drouin & Landgraff, 2012; Nielsen, Paasonen, & Spisak, 2015; Sevcikova, 2016; van Oosten & Vandenbosch, 2017) provided new ways for people to remotely expose their bodies and/or genitals to others digitally and electronically (Corley & Hook, 2012, p. 59). Sexting (transmitting cell-phone textual messages with sexual content with or without sexual photos) was the word coined to describe this new phenomenon. Female sex-offenders use the internet to groom victims, find supportive others, find co-offenders, and download and upload child pornography (Elliot & Ashfield, 2011).

These new electronic technologies also opened new routes that researchers could use to study the exhibitionists and that police could use to catch or entrap perpetrators of exhibitionism. For example, Hugh-Jones, Gough, and Littlewood (2005) reported on exhibitionists who agreed to provide interviews over the internet, and Elliot and Ashfield (2011) used the internet to find and evaluate websites catering to pedophilic sex-offenders.  Furthermore, a Google search by the present authors on November 22, 2017 found four news reports of unrelated events in four different U.S.  states between September 2, 2017 and November 22, 2017, in which adult female teachers between the ages of 22 and 27 years admitted to sending photos of their nude or scantily clad bodies to one or more underage male teenage student’s smartphones. Three of the four electronically exhibitionistic- perpetrator-teachers went on to have sex with their underage male students before being arrested (e.g., Farberov, 2017; Haxel & Palmer, 2017; McBride, 2017; Silverman, 2017). The arrest in the fourth case occurred shortly after the perpetrator-teacher sent her pictures to five different male students because a parent found the picture on a student’s phone (McBride, 2017). These four perpetrator teachers would have been 15 years younger when cell phones capable of taking and sending pictures first became available in the United States (approximately 7–12 years of age, Hill, 2013).

This set of four cases was not exhaustive. The 4-month interval that included the four cases indicates the high frequency of such cases. To illustrate that such behavior of female teachers with underage male students has been frequently reported in prior recent news sources and that they were titillating to a male audience, we cite a Caveman Circus (Caveman Circus, 2015) internet website post entitled “The 18 hottest teachers caught having sex with their students” which provided descriptions of the sexual behaviors of 18 female teachers who had been caught having sex with underage students—complete with pictures of the teachers (often taken on the courthouse steps) when accessed on November 25, 2017. However, by November 27, 2017 the pictures had been taken down. Given the laws against such activities, the frequent news reports detailing the arrests of teacher-perpetrators, and the length of their jail sentences, why would school teachers send inappropriate pictures to—or engage in sex with— underage students?

There is growing awareness that like men, women can also become sexually addicted, although there has been far less research on female sexual addiction than on sexual addiction in males (for review, see McKeague, 2014 and Rosenberg, Carnes, & O’Connor, 2014). Female sex addicts differ from male sex addicts in that acting-out in women tends to involve relationships (McKeague, 2014). Sexual addiction frequently develops in the teenage years or in the early twenties, and 6.7% of 209 female college students’ scores on the PATHOS screening questionnaire (a self-administered questionnaire for detecting sexual addiction) were consistent with sexual addiction (Cashwell, Giordano, Lewis, Wachtel, & Bartley, 2015). In the research and treatment literature, female sex addicts are framed as victims whose behaviors are passive (e.g., McKeague, 2014; Opitz, Tsytsarev & Froh, 2009), however exhibitionism is aggressive, not passive.

Additionally, there are fewer studies of female sexual predators who have male victims than studies of male sexual predators who have female victims.  Untested assumptions have been that minor males are not harmed when they believe that they participated voluntarily and that males are protected by impotence when they are coerced into sex (Sarrel & Masters, 1982; see Deering & Mellor, 2010; and Grayston & De Luca, 1999 for reviews). O’Keefe et al. (2014) found 27 victims of sister-brother incest (2.3%) and 119 victims of child sexual abuse (CSA, 10.1%) by adult women among 1,178 men who had provided data anonymously. The present study expands on Fouch (2015) by using a more recent database containing additional cases and by exploring the co-occurrence between female exhibitionism and adult women becoming sexual perpetrators by having sex with underage male victims.

Smartphones reduce smiles between strangers

Smartphones reduce smiles between strangers. Kostadin Kushlev et al. Computers in Human Behavior,

•    Strangers smiled less to one another when they had their phones in a waiting room.
•    Participants were randomly assigned in pairs to have or not have their phones.
•    Smiling behavior was coded by trained researchers blind to hypotheses.
•    The effects applied to frequency of Duchenne smiles and to total smiling time.
•    This preregistered study shows that phones are altering the fabric of social life.

Abstract: New developments in technology—from the printing press to television—have long facilitated our capacity for “absent presence,” enabling us to escape the limits of our immediate environment. Does being constantly connected to other people and activities through our smartphones diminish the need to engage with others in the immediate social world, reducing the likelihood of approach behavior such as smiling? In a preregistered experiment, strangers waited together with or without their smartphones; their smiling was later coded by trained assistants. Compared to participants without smartphones, participants with smartphones exhibited significantly fewer smiles of any kind and fewer genuine (Duchenne) smiles. These findings are based on objective behavioral coding rather than self-report and provide clear evidence that being constantly connected to the digital world may undermine important approach behavior.

World-class athletes are perceived as more facially attractive than amateur athletes, with women athletes perceived as more facially attractive than men, & these findings generally occur to a greater extent for female than male respondents

Facial Attractiveness as a Function of Athletic Prowess. Richard P. Bagozzi et al. Evolutionary Psychology,

Abstract: We investigate the relationship between facial attractiveness and athletic prowess. We study the connection between subjective facial attractiveness (measured on a 5-point scale of judged facial attractiveness) and athletes by gender and age of respondents. Five age classes were investigated in Studies 1–5: preadolescents (average age: 8.85 years: n = 92), adolescents (average age: 15.8 years; n = 82), young adults (average age: 21.6 years; n = 181), middle-aged adults (average age: 47.5 years; n = 189), and older adults (65 years old; n = 183). The findings show that world-class athletes are perceived as more facially attractive than amateur athletes, with women athletes perceived as more facially attractive than men, and these findings generally occur to a greater extent for female than male respondents. These findings hold for preadolescents, adolescents, young adults, and older adults. However, results were mixed for middle-aged adults where generally amateur athletes were evaluated more attractive than world-class and men athletes more attractive than women.

Keywords: facial attractiveness, athletic prowess, age and gender differences

Marital satisfaction and mortality in the United States adult population: Reducing marital dissatisfaction may increase longevity

Whisman, M. A., Gilmour, A. L., & Salinger, J. M. (2018). Marital satisfaction and mortality in the United States adult population. Health Psychology,

Objective: The present study examined the association between marital satisfaction and all-cause mortality in a large, representative sample of American adults. Gender was evaluated as a potential moderator of this association.

Method: Ratings of marital satisfaction from married adults < 90 years of age (N = 19,246) were extracted from the 1978 – 2010 waves of the General Social Survey and linked to mortality data from the National Death Index. Discrete-time survival analysis was used to evaluate the association between marital satisfaction and mortality.

Results: After statistically adjusting for demographic variables, the odds of dying for married individuals who described their marriage as very happy or pretty happy were significantly lower than the odds of dying for married individuals who described their marriage as not too happy. The association between marital satisfaction and mortality was not moderated by gender.

Conclusions: The significant prospective association between marital satisfaction and mortality suggests that reducing marital dissatisfaction may increase longevity. Further longitudinal research is warranted to (a) replicate the current findings, and (b) evaluate whether increasing marital satisfaction through clinical intervention increases longevity

Contagion theory, including the nature of essence & its relation to conceptions of the soul and self, backward contagion, the process of transmission & whether contact is necessary or sufficient for it to occur, relation between positive & negative contagion

Carol Nemeroff and Paul Rozin, "Back in Touch with Contagion: Some Essential Issues," Journal of the Association for Consumer Research 0, no. 0 (-Not available-): 000.

Abstract: Since the introduction of contagion theory to the psychological literature in the 1980s and 1990s, research and interest in the topic have proliferated, especially as related to consumer perceptions and preferences. In this article we review current conceptual issues in contagion theory, including the nature of essence and its relation to conceptions of the soul and self, backward contagion, the process of transmission and whether contact is necessary or sufficient for it to occur, the relation between positive and negative contagion, the status of the eight originally proposed defining features of psychological contagion, and the companion “law of similarity.” We conclude with a discussion of sustainability-relevant applications of contagion theory in the public interest, such as food and water supply and safety, ownership and the sharing economy, and health care. Future research should devote increased attention to cultural differences in psychological contagion and begin to explore emerging impacts of virtual environments on the extended sense of self, reality, and attendant contagion-based thinking

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Public Health in a Cross-National Lens: The Surprising Strength of the American System Compared to France and the UK

Public Health in a Cross-National Lens: The Surprising Strength of the American System. Michael S. Sparer, Anne-Laure Beaussier. J Health Polit Policy Law (2018) 43 (5): 825-846.

Abstract: Critics of the US health system argue that a higher proportion of the health dollar should be spent on public health, both to improve outcomes and to contain costs. Attempts to explain the subordinate status of public health in America highlight such factors as distrust in government, federalism, and a bias toward acute care. This article considers these assumptions by comparing public health in the United States, England, and France. It finds that one common variable is the bias toward acute care. That the United States has such a bias is not surprising, but the similar pattern cross-nationally is less expected. Three additional findings are more unexpected. First, the United States outperforms its European peers on several public health metrics. Second, the United States spends a comparable proportion of its health dollar on prevention. Third, these results are due partly to a federalism twist (while all three nations delegate significant responsibility for public health to local governments, federal officials are more engaged in the United States) and partly to the American version of public health moralism. We also consider the renewed interest in population health, noting why, against expectations, this trend might grow more quickly in the United States than in its European counterparts.

Costly female appearance-enhancement provides cues of short-term mating effort: The case of cosmetic surgery

Costly female appearance-enhancement provides cues of short-term mating effort: The case of cosmetic surgery. Hannah K. Bradshaw et al. Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 138, 1 February 2019, Pages 48-55.

Abstract: Across three studies, we explore the relationship between cosmetic surgery, which functions as a costly appearance-enhancement tactic, and women's short-term mating effort. Study 1 demonstrates that women who exert increased short-term mating effort are more accepting of costly appearance-enhancement techniques (i.e., cosmetic surgery), but not relatively low-cost appearance-enhancement techniques (i.e., facial cosmetics). Study 2 and 3 further show that both men and women use information regarding a female targets' cosmetic surgery usage to infer increased short-term mating effort. Moreover, Study 3 demonstrates that inferences of short-term mating effort do not differ as a function of whether the target received facial or body cosmetic surgery. The findings of the current research demonstrate that women's engagement in extreme beautification procedures can influence others' perceptions of their short-term mating effort.

Reimagining of Schrödinger’s cat breaks quantum mechanics — and stumps physicists: In a multi-‘cat’ experiment, the textbook interpretation of quantum theory seems to lead to contradictory pictures of reality, physicists claim

Reimagining of Schrödinger’s cat breaks quantum mechanics — and stumps physicists. Davide Castelvecchi. Nature

In a multi-‘cat’ experiment, the textbook interpretation of quantum theory seems to lead to contradictory pictures of reality, physicists claim.

In the world’s most famous thought experiment, physicist Erwin Schrödinger described how a cat in a box could be in an uncertain predicament. The peculiar rules of quantum theory meant that it could be both dead and alive, until the box was opened and the cat’s state measured. Now, two physicists have devised a modern version of the paradox by replacing the cat with a physicist doing experiments — with shocking implications.

Quantum theory has a long history of thought experiments, and in most cases these are used to point to weaknesses in various interpretations of quantum mechanics. But the latest version, which involves multiple players, is unusual: it shows that if the standard interpretation of quantum mechanics is correct, then different experimenters can reach opposite conclusions about what the physicist in the box has measured. This means that quantum theory contradicts itself.

The conceptual experiment has been debated with gusto in physics circles for more than two years — and has left most researchers stumped, even in a field accustomed to weird concepts. “I think this is a whole new level of weirdness,” says Matthew Leifer, a theoretical physicist at Chapman University in Orange, California.

The authors, Daniela Frauchiger and Renato Renner of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, posted their first version of the argument online in April 2016. The final paper appears in Nature Communications on 18 September1. (Frauchiger has now left academia.)

Weird world

Quantum mechanics underlies nearly all of modern physics, explaining everything from the structure of atoms to why magnets stick to each other. But its conceptual foundations continue to leave researchers grasping for answers. Its equations cannot predict the exact outcome of a measurement — for example, of the position of an electron — only the probabilities that it can yield particular values.

Quantum objects such as electrons therefore live in a cloud of uncertainty, mathematically encoded in a ‘wavefunction’ that changes shape smoothly, much like ordinary waves in the sea. But when a property such as an electron’s position is measured, it always yields one precise value (and yields the same value again if measured immediately after).

The most common way of understanding this was formulated in the 1920s by quantum-theory pioneers Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, and is called the Copenhagen interpretation, after the city where Bohr lived. It says that the act of observing a quantum system makes the wavefunction ‘collapse’ from a spread-out curve to a single data point.

The Copenhagen interpretation left open the question of why different rules should apply to the quantum world of the atom and the classical world of laboratory measurements (and of everyday experience). But it was also reassuring: although quantum objects live in uncertain states, experimental observation happens in the classical realm and gives unambiguous results.

Now, Frauchiger and Renner are shaking physicists out of this comforting position. Their theoretical reasoning says that the basic Copenhagen picture — as well as other interpretations that share some of its basic assumptions — is not internally consistent.
What’s in the box?

Their scenario is considerably more involved than Schrödinger’s cat — proposed in 1935 — in which the feline lived in a box with a mechanism that would release a poison on the basis of a random occurrence, such as the decay of an atomic nucleus. In that case, the state of the cat was uncertain until the experimenter opened the box and checked it.

In 1967, the Hungarian physicist Eugene Wigner proposed a version of the paradox in which he replaced the cat and the poison with a physicist friend who lived inside a box with a measuring device that could return one of two results, such as a coin showing heads or tails. Does the wavefunction collapse when Wigner’s friend becomes aware of the result? One school of thought says that it does, suggesting that consciousness is outside the quantum realm. But if quantum mechanics applies to the physicist, then she should be in an uncertain state that combines both outcomes until Wigner opens the box.

Frauchiger and Renner have a yet more sophisticated version (see ‘New cats in town’). They have two Wigners, each doing an experiment on a physicist friend whom they keep in a box. One of the two friends (call her Alice) can toss a coin and — using her knowledge of quantum physics — prepare a quantum message to send to the other friend (call him Bob). Using his knowledge of quantum theory, Bob can detect Alice’s message and guess the result of her coin toss. When the two Wigners open their boxes, in some situations they can conclude with certainty which side the coin landed on, Renner says — but occasionally their conclusions are inconsistent. “One says, ‘I’m sure it’s tails,’ and the other one says, ‘I’m sure it’s heads,’” Renner says.


The experiment cannot be put into practice, because it would require the Wigners to measure all quantum properties of their friends, which includes reading their minds, points out theorist Lídia Del Rio, a colleague of Renner’s at ETH Zurich.

Yet it might be feasible to make two quantum computers play the parts of Alice and Bob: the logic of the argument requires only that they know the rules of physics and make decisions based on them, and in principle one can detect the complete quantum state of a quantum computer. (Quantum computers sophisticated enough to do this do not yet exist, Renner points out.)

Duelling interpretations

Physicists are still coming to terms with the implications of the result. It has triggered heated responses from experts in the foundations of quantum theory, many of whom tend to be protective of their pet interpretation. “Some get emotional,” Renner says. And different researchers tend to draw different conclusions. “Most people claim that the experiment shows that their interpretation is the only one that is correct.”

For Leifer, producing inconsistent results should not necessarily be a deal breaker. Some interpretations of quantum mechanics already allow for views of reality that depend on perspective. That could be less unsavoury than having to admit that quantum theory does not apply to complex things such as people, he says.

Robert Spekkens, a theoretical physicist at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Canada, says that the way out of the paradox could hide in some subtle assumptions in the argument, in particular in the communication between Alice and Bob.

“To my mind, there’s a lot of situations where taking somebody’s knowledge on board involves some translation of their knowledge.” Perhaps the inconsistency arises from Bob not interpreting Alice's message properly, he says. But he admits that he has not found a solution yet.

For now, physicists are likely to continue debating. “I don’t think we’ve made sense of this,” Leifer says.

In mice: Clearance of senescent glial cells prevents tau-dependent pathology and cognitive decline

Clearance of senescent glial cells prevents tau-dependent pathology and cognitive decline. Tyler J. Bussian, Asef Aziz, Charlton F. Meyer, Barbara L. Swenson, Jan M. van Deursen & Darren J. Baker. Nature (2018),

Abstract: Cellular senescence, which is characterized by an irreversible cell-cycle arrest1 accompanied by a distinctive secretory phenotype2, can be induced through various intracellular and extracellular factors. Senescent cells that express the cell cycle inhibitory protein p16INK4A have been found to actively drive naturally occurring age-related tissue deterioration3,4 and contribute to several diseases associated with ageing, including atherosclerosis5 and osteoarthritis6. Various markers of senescence have been observed in patients with neurodegenerative diseases7,8,9; however, a role for senescent cells in the aetiology of these pathologies is unknown. Here we show a causal link between the accumulation of senescent cells and cognition-associated neuronal loss. We found that the MAPTP301SPS19 mouse model of tau-dependent neurodegenerative disease10 accumulates p16INK4A-positive senescent astrocytes and microglia. Clearance of these cells as they arise using INK-ATTAC transgenic mice prevents gliosis, hyperphosphorylation of both soluble and insoluble tau leading to neurofibrillary tangle deposition, and degeneration of cortical and hippocampal neurons, thus preserving cognitive function. Pharmacological intervention with a first-generation senolytic modulates tau aggregation. Collectively, these results show that senescent cells have a role in the initiation and progression of tau-mediated disease, and suggest that targeting senescent cells may provide a therapeutic avenue for the treatment of these pathologies.

Self-assessed intelligence & relations with constructs associated with intelligence, tendencies & opportunities to develop intelligence, constructs associated with biased self-assessments, & positive states and life achievements

The “Other” Relationships of Self-Assessed Intelligence: A Meta-Analysis. Matt C. Howard, Joshua Cogswell. Journal of Research in Personality,

•    SAI is most often studied alongside psychometric intelligence or gender.
•    The current article “takes stock” of the “other” relationships of SAI.
•    SAI is meta-analytically shown to be related to other important variables.
•    SAI is meta-analytically shown to be related to several aspects of well-being.

Abstract: The primary goal of the current article is to “take stock” of the “other” relationships of self-assessed intelligence (SAI). The current article groups the relationships of SAI into four categories: constructs associated with intelligence (openness, emotional intelligence), tendencies and opportunities to develop intelligence (conscientiousness, education, age, SES, prior IQ test experience), constructs associated with biased self-assessments (extraversion, neuroticism, narcissism, honesty-humility, race), and positive states and life achievements (positive self-regard, psychological well-being, academic achievement). The meta-analytic results demonstrate that almost all variables from these four categories significantly relate to SAI, with the exception of prior IQ test experience. These relationships are also consistent when accounting for psychometric intelligence, and no studied moderator variables consistently influence the magnitude of these results.

People possess a functionally integrated mental system to detect conspiracies that in all likelihood has been shaped in an ancestral human environment in which hostile coalitions—that is, conspiracies that truly existed—were a frequent cause of misery

Conspiracy Theories: Evolved Functions and Psychological Mechanisms. Jan-Willem van Prooijen, Mark van Vugt. Perspectives on Psychological Science,

Abstract: Belief in conspiracy theories—such as that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were an inside job or that the pharmaceutical industry deliberately spreads diseases—is a widespread and culturally universal phenomenon. Why do so many people around the globe believe conspiracy theories, and why are they so influential? Previous research focused on the proximate mechanisms underlying conspiracy beliefs but ignored the distal, evolutionary origins and functions. We review evidence pertaining to two competing evolutionary hypotheses: (a) conspiracy beliefs are a by-product of a suite of psychological mechanisms (e.g., pattern recognition, agency detection, threat management, alliance detection) that evolved for different reasons, or (b) conspiracy beliefs are part of an evolved psychological mechanism specifically aimed at detecting dangerous coalitions. This latter perspective assumes that conspiracy theories are activated after specific coalition cues, which produce functional counterstrategies to cope with suspected conspiracies. Insights from social, cultural and evolutionary psychology provide tentative support for six propositions that follow from the adaptation hypothesis. We propose that people possess a functionally integrated mental system to detect conspiracies that in all likelihood has been shaped in an ancestral human environment in which hostile coalitions—that is, conspiracies that truly existed—were a frequent cause of misery, death, and reproductive loss.

Keywords: conspiracy theories, evolutionary psychology, coalitions, adaptation, by-product

Vegans view their diets as more central to their identity, take more pride in their diets, feel more stigmatized for following their diets, have stronger dietary motivations, & judge omnivorous dieters more harshly than do vegetarians

A Comparison of Dietarian Identity Profiles Between Vegetarians and Vegans. Daniel L. Rosenfeld. Food Quality and Preference,

•    Vegans view their diets as more central to their identity than do vegetarians.
•    Vegans take more pride in their diets than do vegetarians.
•    Vegans feel more stigmatized for following their diets than do vegetarians.
•    Vegans have stronger dietary motivations than do vegetarians.
•    Vegans judge omnivorous dieters more harshly than do vegetarians.

Abstract: Vegetarianism and veganism are often grouped together in nutritional and psychological investigations. Yet an emerging body of literature has highlighted that vegetarians and vegans differ along a number of neurological, attitudinal, and behavioral variables. In this research, I found that vegetarians and vegans exhibit different dietarian identity profiles. Compared to vegetarians, vegans saw their dietary patterns as more intertwined with their identity (higher centrality), had more positive feelings toward their dietary in-group (higher private regard), felt as if other people judge them more negatively for following their dietary patterns (lower public regard), evaluated out-group dieters more negatively (lower out-group regard), and had stronger motivations for following their dietary patterns (higher prosocial, personal, and moral motivations). By distinguishing between vegetarians and vegans more concretely, investigators can capture meaningful within-group heterogeneity in how people think, feel, and behave when it comes to eschewing animal products.

Volunteering improves subjective well-being, offsetting 20-53pct of W-B losses from unemployment & 16-30pct of W-B losses from long-term health conditions, benefitting the most unhappy; don't last beyond a year

Does Kindness Lead to Happiness? Voluntary Activities and Subjective Well-Being. Elisabetta Magnani, Rong Zhu. Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics,

•    This paper investigates empirically the effects of voluntary activities on subjective well-being;
•    We show that volunteering significantly improves people’s subjective well-being;
•    The positive effects of volunteering are highly heterogeneous along the well-being distribution;
•    We find evidence of complete subjective well-being adaptation one year after volunteering;
•    We explore three channels through which volunteering affects subjective well-being.

Abstract: This paper investigates empirically the effects of voluntary activities on subjective well-being. After controlling for individual fixed effects, we show that volunteering significantly improves people’s subjective well-being. The positive well-being effects of volunteering are highly heterogeneous, with larger impact at the lower end of the distribution of subjective well-being. Our dynamic analysis shows that the beneficial effects of volunteering are transitory. We find evidence of complete subjective well-being adaptation one year after volunteering. We show that more frequent socialisation, increasing satisfaction with feeling part of local community and rising satisfaction with neighbourhood living in are three channels for the contemporaneous positive linkage between volunteering and subjective well-being.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

People judged that altering some moral facts was impossible—not even God could turn morally wrong acts into morally right acts; but thought that God could make physically impossible and logically impossible events occur

Reinecke, Madeline G., and Zachary Horne. 2018. “Immutable Morality: Even God Could Not Change Some Moral Facts.” PsyArXiv. September 19. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: The idea that morality depends on God is a widely held belief. This belief entails that the moral “facts” could be otherwise because, in principle, God could change them. Yet, some moral propositions seem so obviously true (e.g., the immorality of killing someone just for pleasure) that it is hard to imagine how they could be otherwise. In two experiments, we investigated people’s intuitions about the immutability of moral facts. Participants judged whether it was even possible, or possible for God, to change moral, logical, and physical facts. In both experiments, people judged that altering some moral facts was impossible—not even God could turn morally wrong acts into morally right acts. Strikingly, people thought that God could make physically impossible and logically impossible events occur. These results demonstrate the strength of people’s metaethical commitments and shed light on the nature of morality and its centrality to thinking and reasoning.

Girls surpass boys in educational attainment: The best explanation is boys' greater disperson of academic achievement

What Explains the Gender Gap Reversal in Education? The Role of the Tail Hypothesis. Laurent Bossavie, Ohto Kanninen. Policy  Research  Working  Paper 8303.

Abstract: The gender gap reversal in educational attainment is ubiquitous in high-income countries, as well as in a growing share of low- and middle-income countries. To account for the reversal, this paper proposes a theoretical framework in which the interplay between the distributions of academic aptitudes and changes in the net benefits of schooling over time affect the gender composition of those getting more schooling. The framework is used to formulate and test alternative hypotheses to explain the reversal. The paper introduces the tail dynamics hypothesis, which builds on the lower dispersion of academic achievement among females observed empirically. It also studies the mean dynamics hypothesis, which is based on previous literature. Both hypotheses can explain the reversal in this framework. However, the assumption behind the tail hypothesis is better supported by the data. Its predictions are also consistent with gender differences in Scholastic Achievement Test score dynamics and in international test score distributions that cannot be explained by previous theories.

Canada Health System: The status quo represents a compromise struck decades ago between payers & physicians & organizations, & the current system works just well enough for those who both need it & vote; but cannot readily meet the changing health care needs of a population

Lessons From the Canadian Experience With Single-Payer Health Insurance: Just Comfortable Enough With the Status Quo. Noah Ivers et al. JAMA Intern Med. 2018;178(9):1250-1255. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.3568

Abstract: With single-payer public health insurance again on the political radar in the United States at both the state (California) and federal (Democrat party) levels, the performance of the Canadian health care system during the last 50 years and the lessons it may offer should be considered. Canadians are proud of their universal approach to health insurance based on need rather than income. The system has many strengths, such as the ease of obtaining care, relatively low costs, and low administrative costs, with effectiveness and safety roughly on par with other countries, including those, such as the United States, that spend considerably more per capita. There are increasing frustrations, however, with system performance, especially with issues related to access and coordination of care. Medicine has changed dramatically since the introduction of Canadian Medicare in the late 1960s, which primarily covered acute care physician and hospital services—the needs of the time. Meaningful reforms that match coverage and services to changing needs, especially those of community-based patients with multiple chronic conditions, have been difficult to implement. The status quo represents a compromise struck decades ago between payers and physicians and organizations that provide health care, and the current system works just well enough for those who both need it and vote. Enacting substantial change simply carries too much risk. Perhaps the most important lesson that the United States can learn from Canada’s experience during the last 50 years is that a single-payer health care system solves a lot of problems, but it does not equate to an integrated, well-managed system that can readily meet the changing health care needs of a population.

Feedback loop of environmental unpredictability and harshness which destabilizes intrauterine hormonal conditions in mothers, leading to global health problems, and nonheterosexual preferences in female offspring; bonobos and lions examples are discussed

A Life History Approach to the Female Sexual Orientation Spectrum: Evolution, Development, Causal Mechanisms, and Health. Severi Luoto, Indrikis Krams, Markus J. Rantala. Archives of Sexual Behavior,

Abstract: Women’s capacity for sexual fluidity is at least as interesting a phenomenon from the point of view of evolutionary biology and behavioral endocrinology as exclusively homosexual orientation. Evolutionary hypotheses for female nonheterosexuality have failed to fully account for the existence of these different categories of nonheterosexual women, while also overlooking broader data on the causal mechanisms, physiology, ontogeny, and phylogeny of female nonheterosexuality. We review the evolutionary-developmental origins of various phenotypes in the female sexual orientation spectrum using the synergistic approach of Tinbergen’s four questions. We also present femme-specific and butch-specific hypotheses at proximate and ultimate levels of analysis. This review article indicates that various nonheterosexual female phenotypes emerge from and contribute to hormonally mediated fast life history strategies. Life history theory provides a biobehavioral explanatory framework for nonheterosexual women’s masculinized body morphology, psychological dispositions, and their elevated likelihood of experiencing violence, substance use, obesity, teenage pregnancy, and lower general health. This pattern of life outcomes can create a feedback loop of environmental unpredictability and harshness which destabilizes intrauterine hormonal conditions in mothers, leading to a greater likelihood of fast life history strategies, global health problems, and nonheterosexual preferences in female offspring. We further explore the potential of female nonheterosexuality to function as an alloparental buffer that enables masculinizing alleles to execute their characteristic fast life history strategies as they appear in the female and the male phenotype. Synthesizing life history theory with the female sexual orientation spectrum enriches existing scientific knowledge on the evolutionary-developmental mechanisms of human sex differences.

Keywords: Female sexual orientation Homosexuality Neurodevelopment Evolutionary-developmental psychology Behavioral endocrinology Life history evolution Women’s health

Lead us not into temptation: The seven deadly sins as a taxonomy of temptations

Lead us not into temptation: The seven deadly sins as a taxonomy of temptations. Edward Burkley, Melissa Burkley, Jessica Curtis, Thomas Hatvany. Social and Personality Psychology Compass,

Abstract: People constantly experience a tug‐of‐war between their self‐control on one end and their temptations on the other. Although a great deal of research has examined such self‐control dilemmas, much of it has focused on the “push” of self‐control rather than the “pull” of temptations. To facilitate future work on this latter construct, we sought to create a taxonomy of temptations. Using a top‐down approach, we relied on the philosophical and historical concept of the seven deadly sins—gluttony, greed, lust, sloth, envy, pride, and wrath—to identify and define the most commonly experienced temptations. In support of this taxonomy, we review evidence for the role that self‐control plays in resisting each of these seven temptation domains, including work on trait self‐control and momentary exertions of self‐control. Where applicable, we identify areas where research is lacking and make suggestions for future work. Lastly, we discuss how this taxonomy offers researchers both theoretical and practical benefits.

Difficult to know if the effects of alcohol consumption on mate-selection are due to social factors or cohabitation leading to becoming more similar over time; found that genetic variants related to alcohol may, via effect on alcohol behaviour, influence mate selection

Alcohol consumption and mate choice in UK Biobank: comparing observational and Mendelian randomization estimates. Laurence J Howe, Dan J Lawson, Neil M Davies, Beate St. Pourcain, Sarah J Lewis, George Davey Smith, Gibran Hemani. bioRxiv,

Abstract: Alcohol use is correlated within spouse-pairs, but it is difficult to disentangle the effects of alcohol consumption on mate-selection from social factors or cohabitation leading to spouses becoming more similar over time. We hypothesised that genetic variants related to alcohol consumption may, via their effect on alcohol behaviour, influence mate selection. Therefore, in a sample of over 47,000 spouse-pairs in the UK Biobank we utilised a well-characterised alcohol related variant, rs1229984 in ADH1B, as a genetic proxy for alcohol use. We compared the phenotypic correlation between spouses for self-reported alcohol use with the association between an individual's self-reported alcohol use and their partner's rs1229984 genotype using Mendelian randomization. This was followed up by an exploration of the spousal genotypic concordance for the variant. We found strong evidence that both an individual's self-reported alcohol consumption and rs1229984 genotype are associated with their partner's self-reported alcohol use. The Mendelian randomization analysis, found that each unit increase in an individual's weekly alcohol consumption increased their partner's alcohol consumption by 0.29 units (95% C.I. 0.20, 0.38; P=2.15x10-9). Furthermore, the rs1229984 genotype correlated within spouse-pairs, suggesting that some spousal correlation existed prior to cohabitation. Although the SNP is strongly associated with ancestry, our results suggest that this concordance is unlikely to be explained by population stratification. Overall, our findings suggest that alcohol behaviour directly influences mate selection.

Living longer with help from others: Seeking advice lowers mortality risk

Living longer with help from others: Seeking advice lowers mortality risk. Rebecca K Delaney, Nicholas A Turiano, JoNell Strough. Journal of Health Psychology,

Abstract: Associations between self-sufficiency and advice seeking with mortality risk were examined to assess the long-term implications of individualistic and interpersonally oriented strategies. Wave 1 participants from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (N = 6116, 25–75 years, Mage = 46.38 years) completed questionnaires assessing demographics, self-sufficiency, advice seeking, social support, and health. Cox proportional hazard models indicated that each standard deviation increase in seeking advice was associated with an 11 percent decreased hazard of dying 20 years later. Self-sufficiency was not significantly related. Future research should examine contexts in which interpersonal strategies are adaptive, as seeking advice from others promotes longevity.

Keywords: advice seeking, dependence, independence, mortality, social support

“Bad” agents are identified more quickly & accurately than benign ones; but incorrectly attributing bad character to good people damages existing relationships; cognitive mechanism permits flexible updating of beliefs to forgive sooner

Siegel, Jenifer, Christoph Mathys, Robb Rutledge, and Molly Crockett. 2018. “Beliefs About Bad People Are Volatile.” PsyArXiv. September 17. doi:10.1038/s41562-018-0425-1

Abstract: People form moral impressions rapidly, effortlessly, and from a remarkably young age. Putatively “bad” agents command more attention and are identified more quickly and accurately than benign or friendly agents. Such vigilance is adaptive, but can also be costly in environments where people sometimes make mistakes, because incorrectly attributing bad character to good people damages existing relationships and discourages forming new ones. The ability to accurately infer others’ moral character is critical for healthy social functioning, but the computational processes that support this ability are not well understood. Here we show that moral inference is explained by an asymmetric Bayesian updating mechanism where beliefs about the morality of bad agents are more uncertain (and thus more volatile) than beliefs about the morality of good agents. This asymmetry appears to be a property of learning about immoral agents in general, as we also find greater uncertainty for beliefs about bad agents’ non-moral traits. Our model and data reveal a cognitive mechanism that permits flexible updating of beliefs about potentially threatening others, a mechanism that could facilitate forgiveness when initial bad impressions turn out to be inaccurate. Our findings suggest that negative moral impressions destabilize beliefs about others, promoting cognitive flexibility in the service of cooperative but cautious behavior.

“Happiness pie” (approx 50% of differences are due to genetic factors, 10pct to life circumstances, & 40% available to be changed via volition) is a defective theory; & it is not clear how we can influence substantially our own happiness level

Brown, Nicholas J. L., and Julia M. Rohrer. 2018. “Re-slicing the “happiness Pie”: A Re-examination of the Determinants of Well-being” PsyArXiv. September 18. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: In an influential article, Lyubomirsky, Sheldon, and Schkade (2005) argued that individuals have considerable leeway to increase their levels of chronic happiness. These authors supported their arguments with a model (subsequently popularized under the name of the “happiness pie”) in which approximately 50% of individual differences in happiness are due to genetic factors and 10% to life circumstances, leaving 40% available to be changed via volitional activities. We re-examined Lyubomirsky et al.’s claims and found several apparent deficiencies in their chain of arguments. First, it is not clear that such a split between the possible sources of variance in individual happiness is informative with respect to an individual’s potential to influence his or her well-being. Second, the suggested semi-formalized model of happiness suffers from several weaknesses that might bias the model in favor of assigning more variance to volitional activities. Third, the estimates for the variance attributable to genetic factors and life circumstances that were used to determine the relative size of the slices of the “happiness pie” are questionable. We conclude that there is little empirical evidence for the variance decomposition suggested by the “happiness pie,” and that even if it were valid, it is not necessarily informative with respect to the question of whether individuals can truly exert substantial influence over their own chronic happiness level.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Real Story of Those Empty New York City Storefronts : Retail employment is rising, in part, because of job growth outside of Manhattan; overall, the number of retail establishments in NYC is up 15% since 2007

The Real Story of Those Empty New York City Storefronts. Michael Mandel. Progressive Policy Institute Blog, Sep 10 2018.


Last week, the New York Times produced a visually stunning story about shuttered storefronts in NYC. The story’s premise, told in pictures, was a simple one:

*** New York City’s streetscape has been transformed — visually and economically — by the staggering numbers of vacant storefronts now dotting its most popular retail corridors.

We’ve all seen the empty storefronts, and they are certainly striking.  However, while the story had data on retail vacancy rates, there were no figures on retail employment or active retail establishments. I thought I’d fill in the gap.

First, here’s a chart of retail jobs in NYC, courtesy of the BLS. It turns out that despite the empty storefronts, NYC retail employment is at a 30-yr high. Retail jobs even rose in 2018, based on the first 7 months of the year:


Retail employment is rising, in part, because of job growth outside of Manhattan.  For example, retail employment in Brooklyn is up 34% since 2007.  Retail employment in the Bronx is up 30%, albeit off a low base. People can now shop in their home boroughs, rather than coming into Manhattan. This is a good thing:


The BLS also counts the number of retail establishments with employees. This is especially interesting, given the emphasis in the NY Times article on empty storefronts. What we see is that the number of retail establishments has fallen in Manhattan since 2007. But every other borough is up significantly. For example, the number of retail establishments in Brooklyn is up by 31% since 2007. Overall, the number of retail establishments in NYC is up 15% since 2007:


How can we explain this? In part, the vacant storefronts are the unintended result of  prosperity.  New York City has seen an enormous amount of development in recent years, including construction of ground-level retail as part of housing and office construction.  That’s how we can simultaneously get growing retail employment and empty storefronts.

But there’s another factor as well. Government figures tell us that retail is a low-productivity, low-pay industry (auto dealership are an exception).  Real wages for production and nonsupervisory workers in retail are at the same level as they were thirty years ago.   Productivity growth for grocery stores and department stores has been stunningly slow for thirty years (annual productivity growth rates of 0.4% and 0.7%, respectively, since 1987).

So the piled-up mountains of imported clothing and food shipped from afar found in most stores may no longer be the best use of some of the most expensive real estate in the world.  Perhaps we need to be thinking in terms of alternative uses for ground level space, like a return to light manufacturing of custom goods based on advanced technologies.  That may need a change in zoning, and a change in thinking about urban space as well.  But for now, realize that empty storefronts do not mean that the jobs have gone away.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger: Psychological trauma and its relationship to enhanced memory control

Hulbert, J. C., & Anderson, M. C. (2018). What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger: Psychological trauma and its relationship to enhanced memory control. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

Abstract: Control processes engaged in halting the automatic retrieval of unwanted memories have been shown to reduce the later recallability of the targets of suppression. Like other cognitive skills that benefit from practice, we hypothesized that memory control is similarly experience dependent, such that individuals with greater real-life experience at stopping retrieval would exhibit better inhibitory control over unwanted memories. Across two experiments, we found that college students reporting a greater history of trauma exhibited more suppression-induced forgetting of both negative and neutral memories than did those in a matched group who had reported experiencing little to no trauma. The association was especially evident on a test of suppression-induced forgetting involving independent retrieval cues that are designed to better isolate the effects of inhibitory control on memory. Participants reporting more trauma demonstrated greater generalized forgetting of suppressed material. These findings raise the possibility that, given proper training, individuals can learn to better manage intrusive experiences, and are broadly consistent with the view that moderate adversity can foster resilience later in life.

Should we men in search of girls feel lonely? Neil Shinhababu says we shouldn't, there are "Possible Girls" somewhere (although it is not really somewhere)

Possible Girls. Neil Shinhababu. 2008.

Abstract: I argue that if David Lewis’ modal realism is true, modal realists from different possible worlds can fall in love with each other. I offer a method for uniquely picking out possible people who are in love with us and not with our counterparts. Impossible lovers and trans-world love letters are considered. Anticipating objections, I argue that we can stand in the right kinds of relations to merely possible people to be in love with them and that ending a trans-world relationship to start a relationship with an actual person isn’t cruel to one’s otherworldly lover.

David Lewis famously holds that reality consists not only of our own universe, but also of countless other universes as real as our own. According to Lewis' modal realism, every possible way that a universe could be is instantiated by one of these .possible worlds.. Lewis calls our world the "actual world," but "actual" signifies only that it is the universe he happens to inhabit. He regards "actual" as an indexical like "I" or "here" - a resident of another world could use it to refer to her world. "Possible" indicates some world that the speaker might or might not inhabit. The reason we never meet the residents of other worlds is that as stuck in their worlds as we are in ours. Their worlds and ours aren.t spatiotemporally or causally connected.

The ability to causally interact with your partner is important to many aspects of happy romantic relationships, but not to all of them. It.s quite pleasant simply to know that your partner loves you and appreciates being loved by you. A loving relationship with a faraway person can enhance one's self-esteem and turn loneliness into contentment. As a lonely philosopher, I've come to wonder: If modal realism is true, can I have a loving relationship with someone from another possible world?

This paper will try to answer that question. The answer, I think, is yes. Given that every possible world is real, I shouldn.t feel lonely. There are many possible girls out there in worlds where modal realism is widely accepted. Some of the girls are single, and are pining for a boy in a world that isn't their own. Some of them are pining for a boy who fits exactly my description, down to the smallest detail. Some worlds hold legions of girls who desire a boy from a world other than theirs, and who fits exactly my description.

Since I.m not good at dealing with lots of romantic relationships at once, I.ll want to pick just one of the girls. It shouldn.t be hard to find one who will suit my desires . the space of logical possibility abounds with kind, beautiful, intelligent girls who want a boy exactly like me. The notion of a closest possible world, used in Lewis. analysis of counterfactuals, might be useful in narrowing down the options. Once I think out the characteristics that I want my girlfriend to have, maybe I''ll just choose the closest possible world to ours where there's only one girl like that, and who wants a boy like me. The girl from that world will be my girlfriend.

There is a problem with this proposal, though. [...]

There is a way to get love letters from your possible girlfriend [...]

While relationships with possible girls involve a broadening of my romantic horizons, some suggest that I’m still being too narrow-minded. They would have me go beyond the Lewisian framework and consider relationships with impossible girls. These girls inhabit impossible worlds where some propositions are both true and false. [...]

There is one more issue to consider. With luck, at some point I’ll find an actual girlfriend. Since I don’t want to be unfaithful, I’ll have to break up with my possible girlfriend if I want to enter into an actual relationship. One might criticize me for this. My possible girlfriend is spending eons of her life singing about me and my world! Isn’t it heartless to break up with someone who has so much invested in a relationship?

This is not as big a problem as it seems. Since all the facts about my doings will be in my possible girlfriend’s song – they’re ways that my world differs from hers – the fact that I’m destined to break up with her will be something she knows from the outset. She could’ve chosen a more permanent boyfriend from among my counterparts. It’s mysterious why she still chose me. But actual girls are mysterious to me in many ways, [...]