Thursday, July 4, 2999

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Monday, December 10, 2018

Female violence was more often directed towards their close environment (i.e. their children) & driven by relational frustration; also received lower punishments compared to males & were more often considered to be diminished accountable for their offenses due to a mental illness

Gender differences in violent offending: results from a multicentre comparison study in Dutch forensic psychiatry. Vivienne de Vogel, Eva de Spa. Psychology, Crime & Law, https://doi.org/10.1080/1068316X.2018.1556267

ABSTRACT: The past two decades, a disproportionate growth of females entering the criminal justice system and forensic mental health services has been observed worldwide. However, there is a lack of knowledge on the background of women who are convicted for violent offenses. What is their criminal history, what are their motives for offending and in which way do they differ from men convicted for violent offenses? In this study, criminal histories and the offenses for which they were admitted to forensic care were analyzed of 218 women and 218 men who have been treated between 1984 and 2014 with a mandatory treatment order in one of four Dutch forensic psychiatric settings admitting both men and women. It is concluded that there are important differences in violent offending between male and female patients. Most importantly, female violence was more often directed towards their close environment, like their children, and driven by relational frustration. Furthermore, female patients received lower punishments compared to male patients and were more often considered to be diminished accountable for their offenses due to a mental illness.

KEYWORDS: Gender, violence, forensic, criminal history

Big relaxation of views about cannabis: Decrease in religious affiliation, a decline in punitiveness, and a shift in media framing all contributed to changing attitudes

How and why have attitudes about cannabis legalization changed so much? Jacob Felson, Amy Adamczyk, Christopher Thomas. Social Science Research, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssresearch.2018.12.011

Abstract: Since the late 1990s public opinion about cannabis legalization has become drastically more liberal, and some states have begun to legalize cannabis for recreational use. Why have attitudes changed so much? Prior research has considered a few of the reasons for this change, but this is the first comprehensive and empirically-based study to consider the wide range of potential causes for how and why this happened. We use data from the General Social Survey, National Study of Drug Use and Health, and word searches from the New York Times. We find that attitudes largely liberalized via intracohort changes. Most Americans developed more liberal views, regardless of their race and ethnicity, gender, education, religious or political affiliation, or religious engagement. Changes in cannabis use have had minimal effects on attitudes, and legalization of cannabis has not prompted attitude change in neighboring states. As to root causes, evidence suggests that a decrease in religious affiliation, a decline in punitiveness, and a shift in media framing all contributed to changing attitudes.

Bavarian data: Women earn less in majority groups when their supervisor is of the same sex

Same-Sex Employees and Supervisors: The Effect of Homophily and Group Composition on Wage Differences. Christina Klug. Zeitschrift für Soziologie, Volume 47, Issue 4, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/zfsoz-2018-0116

Abstract: This article analyzes wage differences according to whether or not employees and their supervisors are of the same sex. The mechanism of homophily predicts that having supervisors of the same sex has a positive effect on wages. Additionally, we introduce four conflicting theories that consider group composition as a moderating factor. The hypotheses are tested with data from the Bavarian Graduate Panel via fixed-effect panel regressions. Results show that relative group sizes must be considered in order to see wage differences. These wage benefits emerge in minority and majority groups for male academics, but women earn less in majority groups when their supervisor is of the same sex.

Keywords: Homophily; Group Composition; Wage Differences; Supervisors; Employees

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Rolf Degen‏ summarizing: People were willing to sell football tickets at a lower price to those who shared their political leanings, with partisanship beating team preference

Grand Old (Tailgate) Party? Partisan Discrimination in Apolitical Settings. Andrew M. Engelhardt, Stephen M. Utych. Political Behavior, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11109-018-09519-4

Abstract: Recent work in political science demonstrates that the American public is strongly divided on partisan lines. Levels of affective polarization are so great, it seems, that partisanship even shapes behavior in apolitical settings. However, this literature does not account for other salient identity dimensions on which people make decisions in apolitical settings, potentially stacking the deck in favor of partisanship. We address this limitation with a pair of experiments studying price discrimination among college football fans. We find that partisan discrimination exists, even when the decision context explicitly calls attention to another social identity. But, importantly, this appears to function mostly as in-group favoritism rather than out-group hostility.

Keywords: Polarization Partisanship Social identity theory Experiments

Fear of death: Nature, development and moderating factors

Menzies, Ross G and Menzies, Rachel E. Fear of death: Nature, development and moderating factors [online]. In: Menzies, RE (Editor); Menzies, RG (Editor); Iverach, L (Editor). Curing the Dread of Death Theory, Research and Practice. Samford Valley, QLD: Australian Academic Press, 2018: 21-39. https://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=911350014779621;res=IELHSS

Abstract: How do we come to a mature view of death? Does it emerge in stages and, if so, what do these involve? Does anxiety arise as soon as a child can conceptualise death, or does it only appear with a fully developed, adult understanding of the concept? And what do we regard as an adult conception of death? Slaughter (2005) argues that the defining characteristic is to recognise death as a biological event caused by the failure of body systems. In contrast, young children may claim that the 'bogey man' or some other punishing agent is the cause of death. But would all adults pass Slaughter's (2005) test of death comprehension? After all, as Hoffman, Johnson, Foster, and Wright (2010) point out, adults can't agree on when life begins let alone why we take our last breath. Some will maintain that God has called a person home, and that God is the ultimate cause of death (and its creator, punishing us for the sins in the Garden of Eden). Clearly, death is a complex notion and religious and spiritual positions complicate the matter considerably.

Moralizing of Income Inequality: More liberal ideology was associated with less tolerance for diverging opinions on the issue in one’s social circle

O'Donnell, Michael and Chen, Serena, Political Ideology, the Moralizing of Income Inequality, and Its Social Consequences (September 22, 2018). http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3253666

Abstract: Income inequality is at its highest level in decades and is a key political and social issue in the U.S. today. However, there is a stark partisan divide on whether and how to address income inequality. We propose one reason for this: ideological differences in viewing the issue of income inequality in moral terms. Across five studies, involving more than 3,000 participants, conservative relative to liberal ideology was associated with a disinclination to see inequality as a moral issue and a dampened tendency to see it as morally wrong. Moreover, more liberal ideology was associated with less tolerance for diverging opinions on the issue in one’s social circle. Finally, although conservatives were reliably disinclined to moralize inequality, we found that they can be induced to view it as a more serious issue and express support for inequality-reducing political policies.

Keywords: Income Inequality, Morality, Political Ideology, Social Class

Women lowered both voice pitch parameters toward men who were most desired by other women & whom they also personally preferred

Voice pitch modulation in human mate choice. Katarzyna Pisanski et al. REBY Proceedings, http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/80518/1/__smbhome.uscs.susx.ac.uk_sc328_Desktop_Papers%20for%20SRO_REBY_Proceedings_B_NOV_2018_accepted_version.pdf

Abstract: Inter-individual differences in human fundamental frequency (F0, perceived as voice pitch) predict mate quality, reproductive success, and affect listeners’ social attributions. Although humans can readily and volitionally manipulate their vocal apparatus and resultant voice pitch, for instance in the production of speech sounds and singing, little is known about whether humans exploit this capacity to adjust the nonverbal dimensions of their voices during social (including sexual) interactions. Here, we recorded full-length conversations of thirty adult men and women taking part in real speed dating events, and tested whether their voice pitch (mean, range, and variability) changed with their personal mate choice preferences and the overall desirability of each dating partner. Within-individual analyses indicated that men lowered the minimum pitch of their voices when interacting with women who were overall highly desired by other men. Men also lowered their mean voice pitch on dates with women they selected as potential mates, particularly those who indicated a mutual preference (matches). Interestingly, although women spoke with a higher and more variable voice pitch toward men they selected as potential mates, women lowered both voice pitch parameters toward men who were most desired by other women and whom they also personally preferred. Between-individual analyses indicated that men in turn preferred women with lower-pitched voices, wherein women’s minimum voice pitch explained up to 55% of the variance in men’s mate preferences. These results, derived in an ecologically valid setting, show that individual and group-level mate preferences can interact to affect vocal behaviour, and support the hypothesis that human voice modulation functions in nonverbal communication to elicit favourable judgments and behaviours from others, including potential mates.

Keywords: mate choice, sexual selection , speed dating, nonverbal communication, fundamental frequency, vocal control

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Life satisfaction favors reproduction. The universal positive effect of life satisfaction on childbearing in contemporary low fertility countries

Life satisfaction favors reproduction. The universal positive effect of life satisfaction on childbearing in contemporary low fertility countries. Letizia Mencarini, Daniele Vignoli, Tugba Zeydanli, Jungho Kim. PLOS Dec 05, 2018. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0206202

Abstract: Do people with higher life satisfaction have more children? Having children requires considerable energy and investment on the part of parents. However, even in countries where contraceptives are easily available and widely used, where having children is optional and most of time the result of an intended action, parenthood has not gone “out of fashion”. This paper tests the hypothesis that higher life satisfaction fosters reproductive behavior. We argue that people satisfied with their overall life feel better prepared to start the monumental task of childrearing. If, it is suggested, life satisfaction facilitates fertility, then this positive link should be observable in contemporary low fertility societies. The hypothesis is tested by taking overall life satisfaction as a determinant of fertility behavior using long longitudinal data available for developed countries: namely for Australia, Germany, Russia, South Korea, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. We find that higher levels of subjective well-being are, indeed, associated with a higher probability of having children in all the countries considered. We, therefore, conclude that life satisfaction favors reproduction, at least in low fertility societies.

"Those who use Twitter are more likely to believe they have an understanding of the political issues facing our country"

Siegel, Ruby. 2017. “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Social Media: Understanding the Relationship Between Facebook, Twitter, and Political Understanding.” SocArXiv. December 15. doi:10.31235/osf.io/y4xts

Abstract: Social media is ubiquitous and holds a significant place in modern society. Social media feeds are inundated with political content and are used by politicians and citizens alike to post political commentary. Neither mass media nor politics are new areas of study in sociology, but the entanglement of the two is proving to be of interest, as some scholarship argues that social media is driving changes in how politics works in the United States. We must consider how the citizenry consumes and processes political information in the modern era in view of the interplay between social media and current events. This study examines how membership and/or regular use of Facebook, and membership and/or regular use of Twitter affects perceived political understanding. I propose that, respectively, Facebook and Twitter use will increase perception of political understanding. Analysis of data from the 2016 General Social Survey reveals that Twitter membership and/or regular use is correlated with political understanding; meaning that those who use Twitter are more likely to believe they have an understanding of the political issues facing our country. The data confirms that the relationship between social media and political understanding must be taken seriously, and warrants deeper exploration. There is a need for future research that explores the kinds of content individuals consume on social media and the time they spend on these sites in order to develop a more robust understanding of exactly how social media use affects political understanding.

Facial attractiveness has been linked to the averageness of a face, & more tentatively to a speaker’s vocal attractiveness, via the “honest signal” hypothesis, holding that attractiveness signals good genes; no link

Zäske, Romi, Stefan R. Schweinberger, and Verena G. Skuk. 2018. “Attractiveness and Distinctiveness in Voices and Faces of Young Adults.” PsyArXiv. July 9. doi:10.31234/osf.io/2avu3

Abstract: Facial attractiveness has been linked to the averageness (or typicality) of a face. More tentatively, it has also been linked to a speaker’s vocal attractiveness, via the “honest signal” hypothesis, holding that attractiveness signals good genes. In four experiments, we assessed ratings for attractiveness and two common measures of distinctiveness (“distinctiveness-in-the-crowd”- DITC and “deviation-based distinctiveness”-DEV) for faces and voices (vowels or sentences) from 64 young adult speakers (32 female). Consistent and strong negative correlations between attractiveness and DEV generally supported the averageness account of attractiveness for both voices and faces. By contrast, indicating that both measures of distinctiveness reflect different constructs, correlations between attractiveness and DITC were numerically positive for faces (though small and non-significant), and significant for voices in sentence stimuli. As the only exception, voice ratings based on vowels exhibited a moderate but significant negative correlation between attractiveness and DITC. Between faces and voices, distinctiveness ratings were uncorrelated. Remarkably, and at variance with the honest signal hypothesis, vocal and facial attractiveness were uncorrelated, with the exception of a moderate positive correlation for vowels. Overall, while our findings strongly support an averageness account of attractiveness for both domains, they provide little evidence for an honest signal account of facial and vocal attractiveness in complex naturalistic speech. Although our findings for vowels do not rule out the tentative notion that more primitive vocalizations can provide relevant clues to genetic fitness, researchers should carefully consider the nature of voice samples, and the degree to which these are representative of human vocal communication.


Friday, December 7, 2018

The Lack of European Productivity Growth: Causes and Lessons for the United States

The Lack of European Productivity Growth: Causes and Lessons for the United States. Jesús Fernández-Villaverde and Lee Ohanian. Cato Institute, Dec 05 2018, https://www.cato.org/publications/research-briefs-economic-policy/lack-european-productivity-growth-causes-lessons-united

[...]

The European economic slowdown began in the late 1970s and continues today. We make this comparison because the United States and Europe are similar in many respects and because the two episodes share many similar economic features. The post-World War II history of Western and Northern Europe provides insights into why the United States remains depressed relative to its past recovery trends. We also argue that the European experience offers guidance in terms of constructive economic policy changes for today’s U.S. economy.

[...]

From 1950 to 1980, most of Western Europe experienced unprecedented prosperity and structural transformation. The post-World War II Western European economic miracles demonstrate that economic recovery and very rapid per capita GDP growth occur even after the most devastating shocks. This is important, as it is often argued that the financial crisis and the resulting loss of wealth necessarily mean that recovery following the Great Recession will be delayed for a long time. The systematic and rapid growth of these European economies, all of which had lost enormous wealth during the war, provides a very strong counterexample of this view and is an important reason why we focus on policies and institutional factors that may be impeding the normal market process of economic recovery.

Indeed, transitional dynamics of post-World War II capital stocks being below their steady-state levels does not plausibly account for these growth miracles. While capital stock dynamics did play some role, productivity growth was the primary factor driving Western European economic growth. France, Germany, Italy, and Spain all experienced rapid yearly total factor productivity (TFP) growth between 2.6 and 3.2 percent over this period.

However, the convergence of Western European countries regarding GDP per capita relative to the United States stagnated after 1980. At the time, this long-run slowdown was challenging to identify. One reason was that the global economic slowdown that occurred in the late 1970s and early 1980s masked the underlying long-run shift in Western European economies. A second reason was the slowdown in U.S. TFP growth, which began in the 1970s. This led some observers to believe that the European slowdown was merely the natural consequence of global factors.

However, this view omits the important forces for continued catch-up in Europe. TFP levels in France, Germany, Italy, and other Western European countries remained about 40 percent below the U.S. level. This indicates that there was additional room for European catch-up and, more broadly, an opportunity for Europe to become more competitive with the United States in its export markets. Moreover, even if the European catch-up was slowing down, theory suggests this should have been a much more gradual process, in which we should observe a very slowly declining rate of TFP growth over time, rather than the discrete and sudden slowdown in TFP growth that occurred.

The change in performance in Western Europe became much starker after 1990. Since then, GDP per capita relative to the United States in Western European countries has experienced no catch-up (in Germany and the United Kingdom) or regressed (mildly in Spain and more strikingly in France and Italy).

TFP growth comes from the innovation and adoption of new technologies, business models, and managerial practices. Europe has been failing on all three fronts for the last several decades: the continent develops less economically useful technologies than other comparable economic regions, it is reluctant to allow the introduction of new business models, and it lags in the adoption of new managerial practices.

This unfortunate state of affairs is unrelated to cultural traits or idiosyncratic preferences. For centuries, Europe was at the forefront of technological innovation and adoption. Moreover, in the decades following World War II, Europeans showed a more than considerable skill in catching up with the technological frontier, innovating in relevant fields, and working more extended hours than North Americans.

The reason, instead, for the European lack of TFP growth is the pervasive dominance of what economists Stephen Parente and Edward Prescott have called “barriers to riches.” The most salient of these are widespread barriers to entry; the lack of competition in many industries and the lax enforcement of competition law; surrealistic regulations and pervasive unjustified licensing requirements across Europe; inefficient capital markets; an absence of top universities and lower research and development spending; and an aging population.

Fast European economic growth after World War II was fostered by institutions and governance that offered incentives and opportunities to adopt U.S. technologies and managerial organization, that invested heavily in public infrastructure, that favored the accumulation of physical and human capital, and that exploited the very close economic openness of the continent. But since the mid-1970s, Europe has changed course and run an unfortunate experiment that shows how institutions and policies negatively affect economic performance.

The European experiment offers a number of lessons for the United States today. European economic weakness began once institutions and policies changed. Institutional change resulted in higher taxes, much less competition (which depressed the entry of new businesses), and increased regulation of capital and labor markets. The timing of changes in European TFP growth and hours worked—the two determinants of economic growth—largely coincides with the timing of changes in European institutions and governance.

Until recently, U.S. institutional quality has changed in ways similar to that of Europe. Through 2016, tax rates increased, and in some states, they have increased considerably for the most productive earners. Regulation also rose significantly, especially in financial markets through DoddFrank legislation. This new financial regulation raised the cost of making loans, particularly small business loans. This is because there is a significant fixed-cost component in dealing with compliance and record-keeping issues that make smaller loans less profitable. This becomes even more challenging for small banks (community banks), which have a lower revenue base over which to spread the fixed costs.

On a more positive note, the slowdown in TFP triggered by so-called Baumol’s disease (i.e., the move toward services with stagnant productivity such as education) may be nearly complete, and in the future we may observe a substitution of demand toward services with higher productivity growth as their relative prices fall. Also, a large cut in the corporate tax rate is making U.S. companies more competitive with those in Europe, and a substantial decrease in business regulation, including a partial rollback of Dodd-Frank, has increased business efficiency and has reduced compliance and recordkeeping costs. U.S. labor input and investment’s share of output are growing, and GDP growth has increased. In our view, the continuation of these favorable recent developments will depend on whether the United States continues to adopt more pro-market economic policies.

NOTE:
This research brief is based on Jesús Fernández-Villaverde and Lee Ohanian, “The Lack of European Productivity Growth: Causes and Lessons for the United States,” Penn Institute for Economic Research Working Paper No. 18-024, September 2018, https://ideas.repec.org/p/pen/papers/18-024.html.

Whole number bias in humans: Seems intrinsic to the way humans solve quotient comparisons rather than a compensatory strategy

Intrinsic whole number bias in humans. Alonso-Díaz, Santiago, Piantadosi, Steven T., Hayden, Benjamin Y., Cantlon, Jessica F. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, Vol 44(9), Sep 2018, 1472-1481. http://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Fxhp0000544

Humans have great difficulty comparing quotients including fractions, proportions, and probabilities and often erroneously isolate the whole numbers of the numerators and denominators to compare them. Some have argued that the whole number bias is a compensatory strategy to deal with difficult comparisons. We examined adult humans’ preferences for gambles that differed only in numerosity, and not in factors that influence their expected value (probabilities and stakes). Subjects consistently preferred gambles with more winning balls to ones with fewer, even though the probabilities were mathematically identical, replicating prior results. In a second experiment, we found that subjects accurately represented the relative probabilities of the choice options during rapid nonverbal probability judgments but nonetheless showed biases based on whole numbers. We mathematically formalized and quantitatively evaluated cognitive rules based on existing hypotheses that attempt to explain subjects’ whole number biases during quotient comparisons. The results show that the whole number bias is intrinsic to the way humans solve quotient comparisons rather than a compensatory strategy.

How Much of Barrier to Entry is Occupational Licensing? It reduces equilibrium labor supply by an average of 17%-27%

How Much of Barrier to Entry is Occupational Licensing? Peter Q. Blair, Bobby W. Chung. NBER Working Paper No. 25262, November 2018. https://www.nber.org/papers/w25262

Abstract: We exploit state variation in licensing laws to study the effect of licensing on occupational choice using a boundary discontinuity design. We find that licensing reduces equilibrium labor supply by an average of 17%-27%. The negative labor supply effects of licensing appear to be strongest for white workers and comparatively weaker for black workers.

The Myth of the Philandering Man and the Crafty Woman: The expectations (or predictions) from the extended sexual infidelity hypothesis are not met , most human mating behavior is dominated by ‘caring and faithful’ women and men

The Myth of the Philandering Man and the Crafty Woman. Diego Lopez. Psychol Behav Sci Int J 4(3): PBSIJ.MS.ID.555637 (2017) 001.

Abstract: The monogamous human mating system arises from a unique psychological experience (i.e. falling in love), in which both partners make a conscious decision to choose a mate and establish a long-term relationship (a pair bond); this provides both intensive and extensive care for their offspring through most of their life. It is a trait particular to humans and one that generates both wonder and incredulity. A number of scholars, however, support a converse view where monogamy is merely an appearance - they argue that sexual infidelity is rampant with both partners. Nevertheless, on reviewing the evidence, it is clear that the expectations (or predictions) from the extended sexual infidelity hypothesis are not met; instead, the results are compatible with the sexually faithful human pair bond. It is concluded that most human mating behavior is dominated by ‘caring and faithful’ women and men. A host of other sexual behaviors are present in humans but these are secondary and elicited by infrequent or rare circumstances.

Keywords: Human mating system; Marriage; Monogamy; Sexual differentiation; Sexual infidelity; Sperm competition


Hysterical recollection of data about gorillas "talking" in some way to children, others

Advent of selfhood. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, Itai Roffman. Journal of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Sciences, https://meddocsonline.org/journal-of-veterinary-medicine-and-animal-sciences/advent-of-selfhood.pdf

Hysterical recollection of data:

1  Do gorillas per chance want to know something about we humans? Could they possibly hope to communicate something to us, just by their presence and demeanor? Observe the video on u-tube of a young adult gorilla communicating with human children, who are using the photos on their cell phones to communicate with the gorilla (https://youtu.be/vr8eMrnLLJo). This is clearly two-way communication between the gorilla and the children. There is no food reward for either species and no one trained the children to interpret the gorilla’s gesture and no one trained the gorilla to gesture to the children.

Zoo’s sometimes do not approve of this kind of behavior amongst gorillas in their collection, because it causes them to appear “too human” and they tend to discourage it. But there are many u-tube videos of gorillas looking at the photos on the iPhones and iPads of guests. They especially appreciate seeing  videos of other gorillas [1]. It is wrong for two closely related species to desire to communicate? It may be that the gorillas interested in photographs.


The oral histories of many indigenous groups in Congo and in Mali, speak of time in the past when apes and humans communicated linguistically on a regular basis and even shared words in overlapping languages [2]. Maybe [3] the children in this video, who don’t yet know that it is politically incorrect to do anything with apes that is not part of their “natural behavior,” are starting to break down the human/ape barrier. They may be [3] harkening back to an earlier time when communication between us and them was part of the “natural behavior” of both species. Of course it would be possible for zoos to set up an electronic means for apes and visitors to begin to learn how to talk to and another and for gorillas to communicate by video with gorillas in other zoos and even in the wild.


---
[1]  Why is this so special? A killer whale watches other cetaceans in TV: https://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/10/a-killer-whale-watches-other-cetaceans.html

[2] Great source! She proceeds to comparing the indigenous groups to children.

[3]  Maybe, maybe, maybe, lots of possibilities, multiverses, etc. Amazing.

Landscapes preferences in the human species could be influenced by the evolutionary past; no universal preference for images of savanna landscape; the rainforest landscape was the preferred one

The Influence of the Evolutionary Past on the Mind: An Analysis of the Preference for Landscapes in the Human Species. Joelson M. B. Moura et al. Front Psychol, Dec 07 2018. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02485

Abstract: According to some evolutionary psychologists, landscapes preferences in the human species are influenced by their evolutionary past. Because the Pleistocene savanna is the least inhospitable landscape, it was the most suitable environment for survival and influenced the evolution of hominids in such a way that even today the human being has a universal preference for these environments. However, there is controversy regarding this statement, because in some studies it was evidenced that people prefer images of landscapes that are similar to those of the environment where they live. In this sense, we want to test whether there is indeed a preference for images of the savanna landscape and how the current environmental context may influence this preference. We performed a study in three environmental contexts with different landscapes in order to be able to observe the influence of the familiar landscape on landscape preference, of which two rural communities — one presenting a landscape similar to the deciduous seasonal forest and another presenting a savanna-like landscape — that totaled 132 participants and one urban community with 189 participants. The stimulus consisted of 12 images representing the six major terrestrial biomes and two images of urban landscapes. The variables analyzed were the emotional responses and the preference of the participants in relation to the images of landscapes. We analyzed the data using the Kruskal–Wallis test. The obtained result did not corroborate the idea of universal preference for images of savanna landscape. The image of Rainforest landscape was the preferred one among all the three environmental contexts studied. In this way, the preference for landscape may have been shaped at different periods of human evolutionary history, and not just during the period when hominids lived on the savannah. As much as selective pressures of the Pleistocene savanna have shaped the human mind during the evolutionary history, other factors and different types of environments may have influenced human preferences for landscapes. Thus, evolutionary psychologists who analyze human preferences for images of landscapes, guided by the idea of the past influencing the present, must be cautious before generalizing their results, especially if other variables such as the cultural ones are not controlled.

The belief that honesty is effortful predicts subsequent dishonest behavior because it facilitates one’s ability to justify such actions

Lee, J. J., Ong, M., Parmar, B., & Amit, E. (2018). Lay theories of effortful honesty: Does the honesty–effort association justify making a dishonest decision? Journal of Applied Psychology, http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/apl0000364

Abstract: Are our moral decisions and actions influenced by our beliefs about how much effort it takes to do the right thing? We hypothesized that the belief that honesty is effortful predicts subsequent dishonest behavior because it facilitates one’s ability to justify such actions. In Study 1 (N = 210), we developed an implicit measure of people’s beliefs about whether honesty is effortful, and we found that this lay theory predicts dishonesty. In Study 2 (N = 339), we experimentally manipulated individuals’ lay theories about honesty and effort and found that an individual’s lay theory that honesty is effortful increased subsequent dishonesty. In Study 3, we manipulated (Study 3a; N = 294) and measured (Study 3b; N = 153) lay theories, and then manipulated the strength of situational force that encourages dishonesty, and found that an individual’s lay theory influences subsequent dishonesty only in a weak situation, where individuals have more agency to interpret the situation. This research provides novel insights into how our lay theories linking honesty and effort can help us rationalize our dishonesty, independent of whether a particular moral decision requires effort or not.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Relationships Among Sexual Identity, Sexual Attraction, and Sexual Behavior: Results from a Nationally Representative Probability Sample of Adults in the US

Relationships Among Sexual Identity, Sexual Attraction, and Sexual Behavior: Results from a Nationally Representative Probability Sample of Adults in the US. Tsung-chieh Fu et al. Archives of Sexual Behavior, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10508-018-1319-z

Abstract: Sexual orientation is a multi-dimensional concept, at a minimum comprised of sexual identity, sexual attraction, and sexual behavior. Our study aimed to assess relationships among self-identified sexual identity, sexual attraction, and sexual behaviors in a probability sample of adults in the U.S. and to identify associated factors with diverse patterns. We collected data from adults in the 2015 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, an Internet-based nationally representative probability survey of the general U.S. population. Concordance between sexual identity versus sexual attraction and sexual behaviors was assessed using percent agreement. We identified correlates of discordance using logistic regression. Concordance between sexual identity versus sexual attraction and past-year sexual behaviors was 94% and 96%, respectively, though our sample was predominately composed of heterosexual individuals. Women and sexual minority individuals reported greater discordance across sexuality-related measures than men and heterosexual individuals. Younger adults (aged 18–24 years) were more likely to report sexual behaviors discordant with sexual identity compared with older adults (including those ages 25–34 years). Higher levels of educational attainment were significantly associated with less discordance of reported recent sexual activity and sexual identity. Measures of sexual identity, attraction, and behaviors are not interchangeable. Future research should consider multiple sexuality-related measures in order to capture the complexity and variability of sexualities.

Keywords: Sexual identity Sexual attraction Sexual behavior Probability sample Sexual orientation

Measuring Cognitive Reflection Without Maths: Developing and Validating the Verbal Cognitive Reflection Test

Sirota, Miroslav, Lenka Kostovičová, Marie Juanchich, Chris Dewberry, and Amanda C. Marshall. 2018. “Measuring Cognitive Reflection Without Maths: Developing and Validating the Verbal Cognitive Reflection Test.” PsyArXiv. December 6. doi:10.31234/osf.io/pfe79

Abstract: The Cognitive Reflection Test (CRT) measures the ability to suppress an initial (incorrect) intuition and to reflect when solving three mathematical problems. It rapidly became popular for its impressive power to predict how well people reason and make decisions. Despite the popularity of the CRT, a major issue complicates its interpretation: the numerical nature of the CRT confounds reflection ability with mathematical ability. In addition, the statistical and psychometric properties of the CRT are suboptimal and an increasing proportion of participants have become familiar with it. We have addressed these issues by developing the Verbal CRT (CRT-V), a novel 10-item measure of cognitive reflection, using non-mathematical problems with good statistical and psychometric properties and with low familiarity. First, we selected suitable items with relatively low familiarity and optimal difficulty as identified in two different populations (Studies 1 and 2) and with high content validity as judged by an expert panel (Study 3). Second, we demonstrated a good criterion and construct validity for the test in different populations with a wide range of variables (Studies 4-6) and a good internal consistency and test-retest reliability (Study 7). The Verbal CRT was less associated with numeracy than the original CRT and was not biased against women as was the case with the original CRT. The Verbal CRT can complement existing tests of cognitive reflection; it will be especially appropriate for use in general adult populations and in populations that are less educated and mathematically anxious.


Sleep talking: A viable access to mental processes during sleep

Sleep talking: A viable access to mental processes during sleep. Valentina Alfonsi et al. Sleep Medicine Reviews, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.smrv.2018.12.001

Summary
Sleep talking is one of the most common altered nocturnal behaviours in the whole population. It does not represent a pathological condition and consists in the unaware production of vocalisations during sleep.

Although in the last few decades we have experienced a remarkable increase in knowledge about cognitive processes and behavioural manifestations during sleep, the literature regarding sleep talking remains dated and fragmentary. We first provide an overview of historical and recent findings regarding sleep talking, and we then discuss the phenomenon in the context of mental activity during sleep. It is shown that verbal utterances, reflecting the ongoing dream content, may represent the unique possibility to access the dreamlike mental experience directly. Furthermore, we discuss such phenomena within a cognitive theoretical framework, considering both the atypical activation of psycholinguistic circuits during sleep and the implications of verbal ‘replay’ of recent learning in memory consolidation.

Despite current knowledge on such a common experience being far from complete, an in-depth analysis of sleep talking episodes could offer interesting opportunities to address fundamental questions on dreaming or information processing during sleep. Further systematic polysomnographic and neuroimaging investigations are expected to shed new light on the manifestation of the phenomenon and related aspects.

Reexamining the Effect of Gustatory Disgust on Moral Judgment: A Multi-lab Direct Replication of Eskine, Kacinik, and Prinz (2011). Not Replicable

Ghelfi, Eric, Cody D. Christopherson, Heather L. Urry, Richie L. Lenne, Nicole Legate, Mary A. Fischer, Fieke M. A. Wagemans, et al. 2018. “Reexamining the Effect of Gustatory Disgust on Moral Judgment: A Multi-lab Direct Replication of Eskine, Kacinik, and Prinz (2011).” PsyArXiv. December 6. doi:10.31234/osf.io/349pk

Abstract: Eskine, Kacinik, and Prinz’s (2011) influential experiment demonstrated that gustatory disgust triggers feelings of moral disgust. This is a report of a large-scale multi-site direct replication of this study, conducted by participants in the Collaborative Replications and Education Project (CREP). Participants in each sample were randomly assigned to one of three beverage conditions: bitter/disgusting, control, or sweet. After consuming the assigned beverage, participants made a series of judgments indicating the moral wrongness of the behavior depicted in each of six vignettes. In the original study, drinking the bitter beverage led to higher ratings of moral wrongness than drinking the control and sweet beverages. The original authors found that a beverage contrast (bitter versus both control and sweet) was significant among conservative participants and not among liberal participants. In this report, random effects meta-analyses across all participants (N = 1,137 in k = 11 studies), conservative participants (N = 162, k = 3), and liberal participants (N = 648, k = 7) revealed standardized effect sizes that were smaller than reported in the original study. Most were in the opposite of the predicted direction and had 95% confidence intervals containing zero; all were smaller than the effect size the original authors had 33% power to detect. In sum, the overall pattern does not provide strong support for the theory that physical disgust via taste perception contributes to moral disgust. We also discuss limitations including low reliability of the moral judgment measure and low numbers of conservative participants across samples.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Sex differences in own and other body perception: Other body images, particularly of the opposite sex, may be of greater salience for men, whereas images of own bodies may be more salient for women

Sex differences in own and other body perception. Sarah M. Burke et al. Human Brain Mapping, https://doi.org/10.1002/hbm.24388

Abstract: Own body perception, and differentiating and comparing one's body to another person's body, are common cognitive functions that have relevance for self‐identity and social interactions. In several psychiatric conditions, including anorexia nervosa, body dysmorphic disorder, gender dysphoria, and autism spectrum disorder, self and own body perception, as well as aspects of social communication are disturbed. Despite most of these conditions having skewed prevalence sex ratios, little is known about whether the neural basis of own body perception differs between the sexes. We addressed this question by investigating brain activation using functional magnetic resonance imaging during a Body Perception task in 15 male and 15 female healthy participants. Participants viewed their own body, bodies of same‐sex, or opposite‐sex other people, and rated the degree that they appeared like themselves. We found that men and women did not differ in the pattern of brain activation during own body perception compared to a scrambled control image. However, when viewing images of other bodies of same‐sex or opposite‐sex, men showed significantly stronger activations in attention‐related and reward‐related brain regions, whereas women engaged stronger activations in striatal, medial‐prefrontal, and insular cortices, when viewing the own body compared to other images of the opposite sex. It is possible that other body images, particularly of the opposite sex, may be of greater salience for men, whereas images of own bodies may be more salient for women. These observations provide tentative neurobiological correlates to why women may be more vulnerable than men to conditions involving own body perception.

Psychological hibernation in Antarctica

Psychological hibernation in Antarctica. Gro M Sandal, Fons Van De Vijver, Nathan Smith. Frontiers in Psychology, 2018 Nov 19. DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02235

Abstract: Human activity in Antarctica has increased sharply in recent years. In particular during the winter months, people are exposed to long periods of isolation and confinement and an extreme physical environment that poses risks to health, well-being and performance. The aim of the present study was to gain a better understanding of processes contributing to psychological resilience in this context. Specifically, the study examined how the use of coping strategies changed over time, and the extent to which changes coincided with alterations in mood and sleep. Two crews (N=27) spending approximately 10 months at the Concordia station completed the Utrecht Coping List, the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS), and a structured sleep diary at regular intervals (x 9). The results showed that several variables reached a minimum value during the midwinter period, which corresponded to the third quarter of the expedition. The effect was particularly noticeable for coping strategies (i.e., active problem solving, palliative reactions, avoidance, and comforting cognitions). The pattern of results could indicate that participants during Antarctic over-wintering enter a state of psychological hibernation as a stress coping mechanism.


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Discussion
The findings from this study suggest that coping strategies, sleep quality, and PA were influenced by the environmental conditions to a smaller or larger degree during midwinter. Quadratic time-based models demonstrated the greatest effect sizes, suggesting that when the conditions are harshest, resources are more depleted and participants were less involved in any form of coping and reported less PA. Also subjective sleep quality showed a negative trend over time, a result consistent with other research (Bhargava et al., 2000; Pattyn et al., 2018) although at the end of the stay the average score did increase slightly. While chronic hypoxia might lead to deterioration in sleep quality in high altitude (Collet et al., 2015), the effect of hypoxia on adaptation among residents on Concordia has been shown to persist over time (Porcelli et al., 2018). Thus, we argue that hypoxia cannot explain seasonal variations in sleep quality observed in this study. The reduction in sleep quality and PA is consistent with the “midwinter syndrome” observed by other researchers (Bhargava et al., 2000; Palinkas and Suedfeld, 2008). It is noticeable that reports of NA remained low over time and did not show the expected change during midwinter. One possible explanation is that participants were reluctant to report distress.

Perhaps the most striking result from this study was the reduction in all of observed coping strategies during the midwinter period. This pattern contradicts the idea that emotional strategies and avoidance take over from more active strategies in situations involving chronic stressors. Our findings may reflect that participants became more indifferent or emotionally flat during the winter months. This interpretation is consistent with early research which noted the occurrence of a mild psychological fugue state known as the Antarctic stare, around the third quarter of the stay (Barabasz et al., 1983). The phenomenon state is characterized by an altered state of consciousness or pronounced absentmindedness, “drifting,” wandering off attention, and deterioration in situational awareness. We believe that this reaction is not unique to people overwintering in Antarctica. For example, during a 520 days confinement study (MARS500) crew members reported reduced need for stimulation around the third quarter (Sandal and Bye, 2015). Interactions between crew members declined, and one crew member showed indications of dissociation. The state of seeking reduced stimulation, and emotional flatness bears resemblance to what could be called “psychological hibernation.” A state of psychological hibernation may be beneficial for coping with the harshness of prolonged exposure to stress in extreme environments. The ability to “switch off” mentally has been associated with positive outcomes in the work stress literature (Sonnentag and Bayer, 2005). However, psychological detachment has also been described as a symptom of burnout after prolonged exposure to stress at work (Maslach and Leiter, 2016). Whilst psychological hibernation could be an adaptive response to the extreme conditions, especially if it disappears when conditions become less extreme (as evidenced by the increase in coping strategy use reported in the present study), understanding the nature of this phenomenon should be an avenue for future research. Further research is also needed to determine the extent to which this state might be associated with decrement in cognitive function and the ability to react to acute, safety-critical situations. So far studies on cognitive performance investigations on Antarctica have been controversial. While no detectable cognitive deterioration was found in a study of a crew overwintering on Concordia (Barkaszi et al., 2016), other researchers have shown that residence in Antarctica had a detrimental effect on cognition (Reed et al., 2001).

In social risk, the costs, benefits, & uncertainty of an action depend on the behavior of another individual; humans & chimpanzees overvalue the costs of a socially risky decision when compared with that of purely economic risk

Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) Are More Averse to Social Than Nonsocial Risk. Sarah E. Calcutt et al. Psychological Science, https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797618811877

Abstract: Social risk is a domain of risk in which the costs, benefits, and uncertainty of an action depend on the behavior of another individual. Humans overvalue the costs of a socially risky decision when compared with that of purely economic risk. Here, we played a trust game with 8 female captive chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) to determine whether this bias exists in one of our closest living relatives. A correlation between an individual’s social- and nonsocial-risk attitudes indicated stable individual variation, yet the chimpanzees were more averse to social than nonsocial risk. This indicates differences between social and economic decision making and emotional factors in social risk taking. In another experiment using the same paradigm, subjects played with several partners with whom they had varying relationships. Preexisting relationships did not impact the subjects’ choices. Instead, the apes used a tit-for-tat strategy and were influenced by the outcome of early interactions with a partner.

Keywords: trust, chimpanzee, risk, relationships, tit-for-tat

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Why Smart People Are Vulnerable to Putting Tribe Before Truth

Why Smart People Are Vulnerable to Putting Tribe Before Truth. Dan M Kahan. Scientific American, Dec 03 2018. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/why-smart-people-are-vulnerable-to-putting-tribe-before-truth/

Excerpts (full text and links in the link above):

What intellectual capacities—or if one prefers, cognitive virtues—should the citizens of a modern democratic society possess? For decades, one dominant answer has been the knowledge and reasoning abilities associated with science literacy. Scientific evidence is indispensable for effective policymaking. And for a self-governing society to reap the benefits of policy-relevant science, its citizens must be able to recognize the best available evidence and its implications for collective action.

This account definitely isn’t wrong. But the emerging science of science communication, which uses scientific methods to understand how people come to know what’s known by science, suggests that it is incomplete.

Indeed, it’s dangerously incomplete. Unless accompanied by another science-reasoning trait, the capacities associated with science literacy can actually impede public recognition of the best available evidence and deepen pernicious forms of cultural polarization.

The supplemental trait needed to make science literacy supportive rather than corrosive of enlightened self-government is science curiosity.

Simply put, as ordinary members of the public acquire more scientific knowledge and become more adept at scientific reasoning, they don’t converge on the best evidence relating to controversial policy-relevant facts. Instead they become even more culturally polarized.

This is one of the most robust findings associated with the science of science communication. It is a relationship observed, for example, in public perceptions of myriad societal risk sources—not just climate change but also nuclear power, gun control and fracking, among others.

In addition, this same pattern—the greater the proficiency, the more acute the polarization—characterizes multiple forms of reasoning essential to science comprehension: polarization increases in tandem not only with science literacy but also with numeracy (an ability to reason well with quantitative information) and with actively open-minded thinking—a tendency to revise one’s beliefs in light of new evidence.

The same goes for cognitive reflection. The Cognitive Reflection Test (CRT) measures how much people rely on two forms of information processing: “fast,” preconscious, emotion-driven forms of reasoning, often called “System 1”; or a conscious, deliberate, analytical, “slow” form, designated “System 2.”

There’s no doubt that scientific reasoning demands a high degree of proficiency in System 2 information processing. But as ordinary members of the public become more adept at this style of reasoning, they don’t think more like scientists. Instead, they become more reliable indicators of what people who share their group commitments think about culturally contested risks and related facts.

This relationship is readily apparent in public opinion survey studies (Figure 1). It has also been documented experimentally. Experiments catch these thinking capacities “in the act”: proficient reasoners are revealed to be using their analytical skills to ferret out evidence that supports their group’s position, while rationalizing dismissal of such evidence when it undermines their side’s beliefs.

Figure 1. Increasing polarization associated with various reasoning capacities and issues. Credit: Dan M. Kahan

What explains this effect? As counterintuitive as it sounds, it is perfectly rational to use one’s reason this way in a science communication environment polluted by tribalism.


What an ordinary member of the public thinks about climate change, for example, has no impact on the climate. Nor does anything that she does as a consumer or a voter; her individual impact is too small to make a difference. Accordingly, when she is acting in one of these capacities, any mistake she makes about the best available scientific evidence will have zero impact on her or anyone she cares about.

But given what positions on climate change have now come to signify about one’s group allegiances, adopting the “wrong” position in interactions with her peers could rupture bonds on which she depends heavily for emotional and material well-being. Under these pathological conditions, she will predictably use her reasoning not to discern the truth but to form and persist in beliefs characteristic of her group, a tendency known as “identity-protective cognition.”

One doesn’t have to be a Nobel prizewinner to figure out which position one’s tribe espouses. But if someone does enjoy special proficiency in comprehending and interpreting empirical evidence, it is perfectly predictable that she’ll use that skill to forge even stronger links between what she believes and who she is, culturally speaking.

Now consider curiosity.

Conceptually, curiosity has properties directly opposed to those of identity-protective cognition. Whereas the latter evinces a hardened resistance to exploring evidence that could challenge one’s existing views, the former consists of a hunger for the unexpected, driven by the anticipated pleasure of surprise. In that state, the defensive sentries of existing opinion have necessarily been made to stand down. One could reasonably expect, then, that those disposed toward science curiosity would be more open-minded and as a result less polarized along cultural lines.

This is exactly what we see when we test this conjecture empirically. In general population surveys, diverse citizens who score high on the Science Curiosity Scale (SCS) are less divided than are their low-scoring peers.

Indeed, rather than becoming more polarized as their science literacy increases, those who score highest on SCS tend to converge on what the evidence signifies about climate change, private gun ownership, nuclear power and the other risk sources.

Experimental data suggest why. Afforded a choice, low-curiosity individuals opt for familiar evidence consistent with what they already believe; high-curiosity citizens, in contrast, prefer to explore novel findings, even if that information implies that their group’s position is wrong (Figure 2). Consuming a richer diet of information, high-curiosity citizens predictably form less one-sided and hence less polarized views.

Figure 2. Selection of position-threatening news story. N= 750, nationally representative sample. Dotted lines denote 0.95 confidence intervals. Credit: Dan M. Kahan

This empirical research paints a more complex picture of the cognitively virtuous democratic citizen. To be sure, she knows a good deal about scientific discoveries and methods. But of equal importance, she experiences wonder and awe—the emotional signatures of curiosity—at the insights that science affords into the hidden processes of nature.

The findings on science curiosity also have implications for the practice of science communication. Merely imparting information is unlikely to be effective—and could even backfire—in a society that has failed to inculcate curiosity in its citizens and that doesn’t engage curiosity when communicating policy-relevant science.

What, then, should educators, science journalists, and other science communication professionals do to enlist the benefits of science curiosity?

The near-term answer to this question is straightforward: join forces with empirical researchers to study science curiosity and the advancement of their craft.

The value of such collaborations was a major theme of the National Academy of Sciences’ recent expert-consensus report Communicating Science Effectively. Indeed, connected lab-field initiatives of the kind envisioned by the NAS Report are already in place. The Science Curiosity Scale is itself the product of a collaborative project between social science researchers affiliated with the Cultural Cognition Project at Yale Law School (CCP) and the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania (APPC), on the one hand, and science film producers at Tangled Bank Studios, on the other.

Results from that initiative, in turn, inform a collaboration between APPC social scientists and science communicators at the public television station KQED. Funded by the National Science Foundation and the Templeton Foundation, that partnership is performing field studies aimed at making science films and related forms of communication engaging to science-curious members of culturally diverse groups—including the groups that are bitterly divided on climate change and other issues.

For now, there are no proven protocols for using science curiosity to help extinguish the group rivalries that generate public disagreement over policy-relevant science, particularly among the most science literate members of such groups.

But if the science of science communication is not yet in a position to tell science communicators exactly what to do to harness the unifying effects of curiosity, it unmistakably does tell them how to figure that out: by use of the empirical methods of science itself.
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Check also:

The key mechanism that generates scientific polarization involves treating evidence generated by other agents as uncertain when their beliefs are relatively different from one’s own:
Scientific polarization. Cailin O’Connor, James Owen Weatherall. European Journal for Philosophy of Science. October 2018, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp 855–875. https://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2018/12/the-key-mechanism-that-generates.html
Polarized Mass or Polarized Few? Assessing the Parallel Rise of Survey Nonresponse and Measures of Polarization. Amnon Cavari and Guy Freedman. The Journal of Politics, https://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2018/03/polarized-mass-or-polarized-few.html

Tappin, Ben M., and Ryan McKay. 2018. “Moral Polarization and Out-party Hate in the US Political Context.” PsyArXiv. November 2. https://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2018/11/moral-polarization-and-out-party-hate.html

Forecasting tournaments, epistemic humility and attitude depolarization. Barbara Mellers, PhilipTetlock, Hal R. Arkes. Cognition, https://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2018/10/forecasting-tournaments-epistemic.html

Does residential sorting explain geographic polarization? Gregory J. Martin & Steven W. Webster. Political Science Research and Methods, https://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2018/10/voters-appear-to-be-sorting-on-non.html

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: https://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2018/09/liberals-and-conservatives-have-mainly.html

Does Having a Political Discussion Help or Hurt Intergroup Perceptions? Drawing Guidance From Social Identity Theory and the Contact Hypothesis. Robert M. Bond, Hillary C. Shulman, Michael Gilbert. Bond Vol 12 (2018), https://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2018/10/having-political-discussion-with-out.html

All the interactions took the form of subjects rating stories offering ‘ammunition’ for their own side of the controversial issue as possessing greater intrinsic news importance:
Perceptions of newsworthiness are contaminated by a political usefulness bias. Harold Pashler, Gail Heriot. Royal Society Open Science, https://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2018/08/all-interactions-took-form-of-subjects.html
When do we care about political neutrality? The hypocritical nature of reaction to political bias. Omer Yair, Raanan Sulitzeanu-Kenan. PLOS, https://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2018/05/when-do-we-care-about-political.html

Democrats & Republicans were both more likely to believe news about the value-upholding behavior of their in-group or the value-undermining behavior of their out-group; Republicans were more likely to believe & want to share apolitical fake news:
Pereira, Andrea, and Jay Van Bavel. 2018. “Identity Concerns Drive Belief in Fake News.” PsyArXiv. September 11. https://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2018/09/democrats-republicans-were-both-more.html
In self-judgment, the "best option illusion" leads to Dunning-Kruger (failure to recognize our own incompetence). In social judgment, it leads to the Cassandra quandary (failure to identify when another person’s competence exceeds our own): The best option illusion in self and social assessment. David Dunning. Self and Identity, https://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2018/04/in-self-judgment-best-option-illusion.html

People are more inaccurate when forecasting their own future prospects than when forecasting others, in part the result of biased visual experience. People orient visual attention and resolve visual ambiguity in ways that support self-interests: "Visual experience in self and social judgment: How a biased majority claim a superior minority." Emily Balcetis & Stephanie A. Cardenas. Self and Identity, https://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2018/04/people-are-more-inaccurate-when.html

Can we change our biased minds? Michael Gross. Current Biology, Volume 27, Issue 20, 23 October 2017, Pages R1089–R1091. https://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/10/can-we-change-our-biased-minds.html
Summary: A simple test taken by millions of people reveals that virtually everybody has implicit biases that they are unaware of and that may clash with their explicit beliefs. From policing to scientific publishing, all activities that deal with people are at risk of making wrong decisions due to bias. Raising awareness is the first step towards improving the outcomes.
People believe that future others' preferences and beliefs will change to align with their own:
The Belief in a Favorable Future. Todd Rogers, Don Moore and Michael Norton. Psychological Science, Volume 28, issue 9, page(s): 1290-1301, https://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/09/people-believe-that-future-others.html
Kahan, Dan M. and Landrum, Asheley and Carpenter, Katie and Helft, Laura and Jamieson, Kathleen Hall, Science Curiosity and Political Information Processing (August 1, 2016). Advances in Political Psychology, Forthcoming; Yale Law & Economics Research Paper No. 561. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2816803
Abstract: This paper describes evidence suggesting that science curiosity counteracts politically biased information processing. This finding is in tension with two bodies of research. The first casts doubt on the existence of “curiosity” as a measurable disposition. The other suggests that individual differences in cognition related to science comprehension - of which science curiosity, if it exists, would presumably be one - do not mitigate politically biased information processing but instead aggravate it. The paper describes the scale-development strategy employed to overcome the problems associated with measuring science curiosity. It also reports data, observational and experimental, showing that science curiosity promotes open-minded engagement with information that is contrary to individuals’ political predispositions. We conclude by identifying a series of concrete research questions posed by these results.
Keywords: politically motivated reasoning, curiosity, science communication, risk perception

Facebook news and (de)polarization: reinforcing spirals in the 2016 US election. Michael A. Beam, Myiah J. Hutchens & Jay D. Hmielowski. Information, Communication & Society, http://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2018/03/our-results-also-showed-that-facebook.html

The Partisan Brain: An Identity-Based Model of Political Belief. Jay J. Van Bavel, Andrea Pereira. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, http://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2018/02/the-tribal-nature-of-human-mind-leads.html

The Parties in our Heads: Misperceptions About Party Composition and Their Consequences. Douglas J. Ahler, Gaurav Sood. Aug 2017, http://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2018/01/we-tend-to-considerably-overestimate.html

The echo chamber is overstated: the moderating effect of political interest and diverse media. Elizabeth Dubois & Grant Blank. Information, Communication & Society, http://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2018/01/the-echo-chamber-is-overstated.html

Processing political misinformation: comprehending the Trump phenomenon. Briony Swire, Adam J. Berinsky, Stephan Lewandowsky, Ullrich K. H. Ecker. Royal Society Open Science, published on-line March 01 2017. DOI: 10.1098/rsos.160802, http://rsos.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/4/3/160802

Competing cues: Older adults rely on knowledge in the face of fluency. By Brashier, Nadia M.; Umanath, Sharda; Cabeza, Roberto; Marsh, Elizabeth J. Psychology and Aging, Vol 32(4), Jun 2017, 331-337. http://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/07/competing-cues-older-adults-rely-on.html

Stanley, M. L., Dougherty, A. M., Yang, B. W., Henne, P., & De Brigard, F. (2017). Reasons Probably Won’t Change Your Mind: The Role of Reasons in Revising Moral Decisions. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. http://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/09/reasons-probably-wont-change-your-mind.html

Science Denial Across the Political Divide — Liberals and Conservatives Are Similarly Motivated to Deny Attitude-Inconsistent Science. Anthony N. Washburn, Linda J. Skitka. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 10.1177/1948550617731500. http://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/09/liberals-and-conservatives-are.html

Biased Policy Professionals. Sheheryar Banuri, Stefan Dercon, and Varun Gauri. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 8113. http://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/08/biased-policy-professionals-world-bank.html

Dispelling the Myth: Training in Education or Neuroscience Decreases but Does Not Eliminate Beliefs in Neuromyths. Kelly Macdonald et al. Frontiers in Psychology, Aug 10 2017. http://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/08/training-in-education-or-neuroscience.html

Individuals with greater science literacy and education have more polarized beliefs on controversial science topics. Caitlin Drummond and Baruch Fischhoff. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 114 no. 36, pp 9587–9592, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1704882114, http://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/09/individuals-with-greater-science.html

Expert ability can actually impair the accuracy of expert perception when judging others' performance: Adaptation and fallibility in experts' judgments of novice performers. By Larson, J. S., & Billeter, D. M. (2017). Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 43(2), 271–288. http://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/06/expert-ability-can-actually-impair.html

Public Perceptions of Partisan Selective Exposure. Perryman, Mallory R. The University of Wisconsin - Madison, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2017. 10607943. http://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/10/citizens-believe-others-especially.html

The Myth of Partisan Selective Exposure: A Portrait of the Online Political News Audience. Jacob L. Nelson, and James G. Webster. Social Media + Society, http://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/09/the-myth-of-partisan-selective-exposure.html

Echo Chamber? What Echo Chamber? Reviewing the Evidence. Axel Bruns. Future of Journalism 2017 Conference. http://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/09/echo-chamber-what-echo-chamber.html

Fake news and post-truth pronouncements in general and in early human development. Victor Grech. Early Human Development, http://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/09/fake-news-and-post-truth-pronouncements.html

Consumption of fake news is a consequence, not a cause of their readers’ voting preferences. Kahan, Dan M., Misinformation and Identity-Protective Cognition (October 2, 2017). Social Science Research Network, http://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/10/consumption-of-fake-news-is-consequence.html

Are Sex Differences in Preferences for Physical Attractiveness and Good Earning Capacity in Potential Mates Smaller in Countries with Greater Gender Equality? This was not replicable.

Zhang, Lingshan, Anthony J. Lee, Lisa M. DeBruine, and Benedict C. Jones. 2018. “Are Sex Differences in Preferences for Physical Attractiveness and Good Earning Capacity in Potential Mates Smaller in Countries with Greater Gender Equality?” PsyArXiv. December 4. doi:10.31234/osf.io/mtsx8

Abstract: On average, women show stronger preferences for mates with good earning capacity than men do, while men show stronger preferences for physically attractive mates than women do. Studies reporting that sex differences in mate preferences are smaller in countries with greater gender equality have been interpreted as evidence that these sex differences in mate preferences are caused by the different roles society imposes on men and women. Here we attempted to replicate previously reported links between sex differences in mate preferences and country-level measures of gender inequality in a sample of 3073 participants from 36 countries. Although women preferred mates with good earning capacity more than men did and men preferred physically attractive mates more than women did, we found little evidence that these sex differences were smaller in countries with greater gender equality. Although one analysis suggested that the sex difference in preferences for good earning capacity was smaller in countries with greater gender equality, this effect was not significant when controlling for Galton’s problem or when correcting for multiple comparisons. Collectively, these results provide little support for the social roles account of sex differences in mate preferences.

Uncoordinated dances associated with high reproductive success in a crane

Uncoordinated dances associated with high reproductive success in a crane. Kohei F Takeda Mariko Hiraiwa-Hasegawa Nobuyuki Kutsukake. Behavioral Ecology, ary159, https://doi.org/10.1093/beheco/ary159

Abstract: Coordinated mutual displays by 2 individuals are believed to play important roles in social and sexual communication. Although previous studies have described mutual displays in birds, few have conducted quantitative analyses. To understand the role of mutual signals, we investigated the reproductive function of pair dances in the red-crowned crane (Grus japonensis). We used an information theory approach to quantify the characteristics of the pair dance and tested the classical “pair bond hypothesis,” which states that the elaborate dance is related to reproductive success. We found that characteristics of the pair dances were related to reproductive success, but the results were not always consistent with the predictions. Dance duration increased as the breeding season approached. However, the past reproductive success of an individual was negatively related to dance coordination (i.e., mutual information) of a pair. These results partially support the pair bond hypothesis, but more importantly, also suggest the need to define the vague concept of a “pair bond” in a biologically reasonable, measurable way.

Curiosity share common neural mechanisms with extrinsic incentives (i.e. hunger for foods): acceptance (compared to rejection) of curiosity/incentive-driven gambles was accompanied with an enhanced activity in the striatum

Hunger for Knowledge: How the Irresistible Lure of Curiosity is Generated in the Brain. Johnny King L Lau, Hiroki Ozono, Kei Kuratomi, Asuka Komiya, Kou Murayama. bioRxiv, https://doi.org/10.1101/473975

Abstract: Curiosity is often portrayed as a desirable feature of human faculty. For example, a meta-analysis revealed that curiosity predicts academic performance above and beyond intelligence, corroborating findings that curiosity supported long-term consolidation of learning. However, curiosity may come at a cost of strong seductive power that sometimes puts people in a harmful situation. Here, with a set of three behavioural and two neuroimaging experiments including novel stimuli that strongly trigger curiosity (i.e. magic tricks), we examined the psychological and neural mechanisms underlying the irresistible lure of curiosity. We consistently demonstrated that across different samples people were indeed willing to gamble to expose themselves to physical risks (i.e. electric shocks) in order to satisfy their curiosity for trivial knowledge that carries no apparent instrumental values. Also, underlying this seductive power of curiosity is its incentive salience properties, which share common neural mechanisms with extrinsic incentives (i.e. hunger for foods). In particular, the two independent fMRI experiments using different kinds of curiosity-stimulating stimuli found replicable results that acceptance (compared to rejection) of curiosity/incentive-driven gambles was accompanied with an enhanced activity in the striatum.

Revisiting the Form and Function of Conflict: Neurobiological, Psychological and Cultural Mechanisms for Attack and Defense Within and Between Group

Revisiting the Form and Function of Conflict: Neurobiological, Psychological and Cultural Mechanisms for Attack and Defense Within and Between Groups. Carsten K W De Dreu, Jörg Gross. Behavioral and Brain Sciences · September 2018, https://doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X18002170


Abstract: Conflict can profoundly affect individuals and their groups. Oftentimes, conflict involves a clash between one side seeking change and increased gains through victory, and the other side defending the status quo and protecting against loss and defeat. However, theory and empirical research largely neglected these conflicts between attackers and defenders, and the strategic, social, and psychological consequences of attack and defense remain poorly understood. To fill this void, we model (i) the clashing of attack and defense as games of strategy, reveal that (ii) attack benefits from mismatching its target's level of defense, whereas defense benefits from matching the attacker's competitiveness, suggest that (iii) attack recruits neuro-endocrine pathways underlying behavioral activation and overconfidence, whereas defense invokes neural networks for behavioral inhibition, vigilant scanning and hostile attributions, and show that (iv) people invest less in attack than defense and attack often fails. Finally, we propose that (v) in intergroup conflict out-group attack needs institutional arrangements that motivate and coordinate collective action, whereas in-group defense benefits from endogenously emerging in-group identification. We discuss how games of attack and defense may have shaped human capacities for pro-sociality and aggression, and how third parties can regulate such conflicts, and reduce its waste.

The key mechanism that generates scientific polarization involves treating evidence generated by other agents as uncertain when their beliefs are relatively different from one’s own

Scientific polarization. Cailin O’Connor, James Owen Weatherall. European Journal for Philosophy of Science. October 2018, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp 855–875. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs13194-018-0213-9

Abstract: Contemporary societies are often “polarized”, in the sense that sub-groups within these societies hold stably opposing beliefs, even when there is a fact of the matter. Extant models of polarization do not capture the idea that some beliefs are true and others false. Here we present a model, based on the network epistemology framework of Bala and Goyal (Learning from neighbors, Rev. Econ. Stud. 65(3), 784–811 1998), in which polarization emerges even though agents gather evidence about their beliefs, and true belief yields a pay-off advantage. As we discuss, these results are especially relevant to polarization in scientific communities, for these reasons. The key mechanism that generates polarization involves treating evidence generated by other agents as uncertain when their beliefs are relatively different from one’s own.

Keywords: Polarization Network Network epistemology Social epistemology Agent based modeling Theory change

“All the Gays Are Liberal?” Sexuality and Gender Gaps in Political Perspectives among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Mostly Heterosexual, and Heterosexual College Students in the Southern USA

“All the Gays Are Liberal?” Sexuality and Gender Gaps in Political Perspectives among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Mostly Heterosexual, and Heterosexual College Students in the Southern USA. Meredith G. F. Worthen. Sexuality Research and Social Policy, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13178-018-0365-6

Abstract: Despite the stereotype that “all the gays are liberal,” sexual identity (sexual orientation) has largely been overlooked in explorations of political attitudes save a handful of studies. The existing research indicates that lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) people tend to be more liberal than heterosexuals, supporting a “sexuality gap” in liberalism; however, there is significantly less work focused on LGB attitudes toward specific politicized topics, even less research that investigates the role of gender in these relationships, and no existing studies focusing on mostly heterosexuals’ (MH) political attitudes. The current study explores sexuality and gender gaps in political perspectives among college students enrolled at a university in the southern USA (N = 1940). Specifically, sexual identity (lesbian, gay, bisexual, mostly heterosexual, and heterosexual); gender (man/woman); and the intersections among sexual identity and gender are explored as they relate to politicized perspectives (liberal ideology and feminist identity) and support of politicized issues (death penalty and legal abortion). It is hypothesized that liberal social justice perspectives may be particularly common among LGB people as a group and perhaps especially among lesbian and bisexual women due to their multiple oppressed identities. Results confirm sexuality gaps (heterosexual-LGB, MH-LGB, and B-LG) as well as gender gaps among MH and LGB students (MH women-MH men, bisexual women-bisexual men, gay men-lesbian women), though some gaps (B-LG and G-L) are in the opposite direction from expected. In addition, there is evidence of a bisexual woman consciousness that relates to strong liberalism among bisexual college women. Overall, this research seeks to fill the gaps in the literature, expand our knowledge about sexuality and gender gaps in political attitudes, and contribute to new lines of inquiry that focus on MH and LGB people’s perspectives. In doing so, the current study works toward a deeper understanding of ways college students can promote political change and advocate for social justice.

Keywords: Liberal Politics Gender gap Sexuality gap Lesbian Gay Bisexual Mostly heterosexual Heterosexual College students Social justice

Lower Waist-to-hip, Waist-to-stature, and Waist-to-bust Ratios Predict Higher Rankings of Plus-size Models

Aung, Toe, and Leah Williams. 2018. “Lower Waist-to-hip, Waist-to-stature, and Waist-to-bust Ratios Predict Higher Rankings of Plus-size Models in a Naturalistic Condition.” OSF Preprints. December 3. doi:10.31219/osf.io/zrxqj

Abstract: Previous research suggests that waist-to-hip ratio (WHR), waist-to-stature ratio (WSR), and waist-to-bust ratio (WBR) serve as cues of health and fertility in women, influencing the viewers’ perception of attractiveness. However, it is unclear to what extent these findings can be applied to the perception of female attractiveness in a naturalistic condition or in women with a higher body mass index. In this study, we tested whether lower WHR, WSR, and WBR increased the perceived attractiveness of plus-size models in a naturalistic condition. The WHR, WSR, and WBR were computed via biometric data (height, bust, waist, and hip measurements) of 49 U.S. plus-size models who have been listed on ranker.com. The photographs of these models have been viewed 2.60 million times and voted 146,000 times. The perception of attractiveness was operationalized as rankings, generated from the relative number of upvotes and downvotes from site visitors. Spearman correlations showed that lower WHR, WSR, and WBR were all positively correlated with higher rankings. In a subsequent ordinal logistic regression, only WSR and WBR remained as significant predictors of rankings. The principal component regression also revealed that the latent body component of WHR, WSR, and WBR predicted rankings of the models.
These findings cannot be accounted by the models’ general popularity or their anthropometric measures being similar to other types of models’ (e.g., fashion, glamor, playboy, and adult film models). Our findings suggest that smaller WHR, WSR, and WBR influence the perception of female attractiveness in a naturalistic condition, even among plus-size models.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Social animals show elaborate cognitive skills to deal with others, but there are few reports of animals physically using social agents & their respective responses as means to an end—social tool use; origins of Machiavellian intelligence

Schweinfurth, M. K., DeTroy, S. E., van Leeuwen, E. J. C., Call, J., & Haun, D. B. M. (2018). Spontaneous social tool use in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Journal of Comparative Psychology, 132(4), 455-463. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/com0000127

Abstract: Although there is good evidence that social animals show elaborate cognitive skills to deal with others, there are few reports of animals physically using social agents and their respective responses as means to an end—social tool use. In this case study, we investigated spontaneous and repeated social tool use behavior in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). We presented a group of chimpanzees with an apparatus, in which pushing two buttons would release juice from a distantly located fountain. Consequently, any one individual could only either push the buttons or drink from the fountain but never push and drink simultaneously. In this scenario, an adult male attempted to retrieve three other individuals and push them toward the buttons that, if pressed, released juice from the fountain. With this strategy, the social tool user increased his juice intake 10-fold. Interestingly, the strategy was stable over time, which was possibly enabled by playing with the social tools. With over 100 instances, we provide the biggest data set on social tool use recorded among nonhuman animals so far. The repeated use of other individuals as social tools may represent a complex social skill linked to Machiavellian intelligence.

Sharing food from a single plate increased perceived coordination among diners, which in turn led them to behave more cooperatively & less competitively toward each other; the effect on cooperation occurred among strangers also

Shared Plates, Shared Minds: Consuming  from a Shared Plate Promotes Cooperation. Kaitlin Woolley & Ayelet Fishbach. In press, Psychological Science, https://kaitlinwoolleycom.files.wordpress.com/2018/11/shared_plates-in-press.pdf

Abstract: A meal naturally brings people together, but does the way a meal is served and consumed further matter for cooperation between people? This research (n=1476) yielded evidence that it does. People eating from shared plates (i.e., Chinese style meal) cooperated more in social dilemmas and negotiations than those eating from separate plates. Specifically, sharing food from a single plate increased perceived coordination among diners, which in turn led them to behave more cooperatively and less competitively toward each other compared with individuals eating the same food from separate plates. The effect of sharing a plate on cooperation occurred among strangers, which suggests that sharing plates can bring together not only allies, but strangers as well.

Keywords: food consumption, cooperation, coordination, social dilemma, negotiation
The raw data and supplemental material for all studies are available at OSF: bit.ly/2nxqNXu

Sunday, December 2, 2018

A ‘Nordic model’ to respond to prostitution? More violence, adaptation of the sex industry, no reduction in trafficking

No model in practice: a ‘Nordic model’ to respond to prostitution? Sarah Kingston, Terry Thomas. Crime, Law and Social Change, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10611-018-9795-6

Abstract: The so-called Nordic model to respond to prostitution has been considered in legislative debates across Europe and internationally, and hailed by some as best practice to tackle sex trafficking and is believed to support gender equality. Yet, when we interrogate the utilisation of the Nordic countries laws by law enforcers, it is not being implemented as per the law. We argue that ‘all that is occurring is the transfer of rhetoric and ideology’ in these countries ((Stone Politics, 19 (1): 51–59, 1999) at 56). In this article, we expose the cracks in the so-called Nordic model, thereby discrediting the ‘persuasive’ nature of a unified Nordic approach to prostitution. We draw on policy transfer and comparative law literature to illuminate the problems and challenges of naïve adoption of this so-called model, arguing that this can lead to uninformed, inappropriate and incomplete transfer of the Nordic model, which then becomes a policy irritant, further exacerbating the very problems it seeks to address.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

When Those We Love Misbehave: For the most part, we evaluate them & their unethical actions less harshly, but exhibit greater negative effects on our own morality & perceived relationships when close others act unethically, compared to strangers

When the Ones We Love Misbehave: Exploring Moral Processes in Intimate Bonds. Rachel Chubak Forbes. Master of Arts Thesis, Psychology. University of Toronto. 2018. https://tspace.library.utoronto.ca/bitstream/1807/92174/3/Forbes_Rachel_C_201811_MA_thesis.pdf

Abstract: How do we respond when those we are closest to behave unethically? Previous research has almost exclusively investigated individuals' reactions to transgressions committed by strangers. Here we examined how observers evaluated close others and their misbehavior, how close others’ misbehaviour affected observers’own morality, and how relationship relevant outcomes were impacted when a close other, compared to a stranger, acted immorally. Participants read hypothetical transgressions (Study 1), recalled actual transgressions (Study 2), and witnessed transgressions occur in the laboratory committed by eomantic partners, friends, and strangers (Study 3). Effects were consistent across Studies 1 and 2, but less so for Study 3. For the most part, participants evaluated transgressors and their unethical actions less harshly, but exhibited greater negative effects on their own morality and perceived relationships when close others acted unethically, compared to strangers. This work suggests that sharing intimate bonds with transgressors impact moral evaluation.

Are Bigger Brains Smarter? There is a consistent association. Evidence From a Large-Scale Preregistered Study

Are Bigger Brains Smarter? Evidence From a Large-Scale Preregistered Study. Gideon Nave et al. Psychological Science, https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797618808470

Abstract: A positive relationship between brain volume and intelligence has been suspected since the 19th century, and empirical studies seem to support this hypothesis. However, this claim is controversial because of concerns about publication bias and the lack of systematic control for critical confounding factors (e.g., height, population structure). We conducted a preregistered study of the relationship between brain volume and cognitive performance using a new sample of adults from the United Kingdom that is about 70% larger than the combined samples of all previous investigations on this subject (N = 13,608). Our analyses systematically controlled for sex, age, height, socioeconomic status, and population structure, and our analyses were free of publication bias. We found a robust association between total brain volume and fluid intelligence (r = .19), which is consistent with previous findings in the literature after controlling for measurement quality of intelligence in our data. We also found a positive relationship between total brain volume and educational attainment (r = .12). These relationships were mainly driven by gray matter (rather than white matter or fluid volume), and effect sizes were similar for both sexes and across age groups.

Keywords: intelligence, educational attainment, brain volume, preregistered analysis, UK Biobank, open data, open materials, preregistered

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The Skinny on Brains: Size Matters. on H. Kaas. May 09 2017. www.dana.org/Cerebrum/2018/The_Skinny_on_Brains_Size_Matters/

Friday, November 30, 2018

Depression treatments: The effects are probably overestimated, relapse rates for patients who respond are very high (about 50% over 2 years), there is little evidence for long-term effectiveness, & there are the problems of publication bias, sponsorship bias, & others

The Challenges of Improving Treatments for Depression. Pim Cuijpers. JAMA. Published online November 30, 2018. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.17824

In the past few decades substantial progress has been made in the research and development of treatments for major depression. Many different types of medications and psychotherapy are currently available and rigorous studies have shown that antidepressants are more effective than placebo,1 and several types of psychotherapies are more effective than waiting list or other controls.2 These findings suggest that many patients with depression can be successfully treated. Based on these significant and positive effects, many of these treatments are included in treatment guidelines and are widely used in clinical practice. However, not all patients with depression recover with available treatments and several important challenges need to be resolved to improve existing treatments and to increase the number of patients who benefit from them.
Spontaneous Recovery and Placebo Effects

An important challenge is the high rates of spontaneous response and placebo effects. More than half of patients who receive antidepressants or psychotherapy respond to treatment. However, response rates are also high when patients receive placebo or no treatment. In a meta-analysis that included 44 240 patients from 177 studies, 54% of patients responded to antidepressants, whereas 38% responded to placebo.3 Comparable numbers have been reported for psychotherapies with response rates of 54% compared with response rates of 41% across control conditions.4 Patients with depression who do not seek care show comparable response rates. These findings differ when other outcomes, such as remission or significant clinical change, are used. That does not, however, change the basic challenge that a substantial proportion of patients who improve with medication or psychotherapy would have recovered without treatment or with placebo. This poses substantial challenges for investigators and clinicians.

Individuals who respond to medication will probably continue to use them for at least several months, even with the risk of adverse effects. Patients who respond to psychotherapy invest many hours and make considerable efforts during their treatment. For a majority of patients who respond to treatment, the potential adverse effects of medications and the time investment in psychotherapy might not be necessary to get better. However, it is not possible yet to predict which patients will recover spontaneously or will respond to placebo, although innovative machine learning techniques and other biological markers may be helpful in the future.

Spontaneous recovery also complicates the validity of clinical knowledge as well as research about treatments. Because many patients recover while receiving treatment, clinicians and patients are inclined to think that the treatment is what made them better. However, because many patients also would have recovered without treatment, clinical judgements are not necessarily related to treatment effect.


Nonresponse

In contrast to response to drug or placebo, a considerable group of patients are difficult to treat or do not respond to treatment. Although patients may respond to another drug after failure to respond to an initially prescribed drug, the chance of successful response is almost halved with every new treatment tried.5 Even after trying several different treatments, a substantial proportion of patients do not respond. One estimate suggests that approximately 30% of patients with depressive disorders have a chronic course with limited response to treatment.6

Another challenge is that the effects of treatment are probably overestimated. The relapse rates for patients who respond are very high (estimated at about 50% over 2 years),7 there is limited evidence for long-term effectiveness, and there are the problems of publication bias, sponsorship bias, and other sources of bias. Clinicians may have an optimistic view that these problems have little influence on outcomes or have a pessimistic view that no relevant treatment effect remains. In reality, the extent to which these factors affect outcomes is unknown.


How to Improve Treatments?

Worldwide, an estimated 330 million people have depression, which is linked with considerably diminished role functioning and quality of life, medical comorbidity, excess mortality, and high economic costs.8 Thus, addressing current therapeutic challenges and improving available treatments are critically important, regardless of the true effects of these treatments. How can this be done?

Additional research on the causes and etiological processes leading to depression is needed. The focus should be on which patients will respond to treatment, which could lead to the development of better and more targeted treatments for specific groups of patients. This may result in new approaches for preventing depression. However, this will take time and long-term investments.

A straightforward approach in the short-term is to develop treatments that are more effective than the current ones in acute phase depression. However, many drugs and psychotherapies have been developed over the past decades, and there is little evidence that one drug or psychotherapy is substantially more effective than the others. It is therefore unlikely that newly developed drugs and therapies will be substantially better than the ones that are currently available.

A potentially viable approach with respect to spontaneous recovery is to minimize treatments and reduce unnecessary resource use because many patients with depression will recover spontaneously, regardless of treatment. Clinicians already use a “watchful waiting” approach, by encouraging patients to wait before starting a treatment. Another option is to offer internet-based or other self-help interventions that involve no or minimal support from professionals, preferably in stepped-care models allowing patients who do not respond to these interventions to step up to more intensive treatment. Considerable evidence indicates that these internet-based interventions are effective and require less resources.9 Another option may be to clearly explain to patients what the chance for recovery is from treatment, from placebo, or from no treatment. This may stimulate patients with milder disorders to wait before starting treatment, whereas patients with severe disorders will probably prefer to initiate treatment.

There are also several priorities for patients with depression who have high relapse rates or those who do not respond to treatments. One important priority is to further examine relapse prevention. In routine practice, this often consists of maintenance treatment with drugs. However, convincing evidence indicates that psychological interventions can reduce relapse rates considerably, although these interventions are seldom implemented in routine care.

Another priority is to increase research on the treatment of chronic and resistant depression. Fortunately, these conditions are increasingly the focus of drug trials, and some promising new medications are being tested, such as ketamine.10 However, few psychological treatments are available that are specifically designed for chronic depression. The development of such therapies should have more priority than developing new therapies for acute depression that almost certainly will show comparable effects as already existing treatments.


Answering the Challenge

Evidence-based treatments can make a substantial difference in the lives of many patients. Nevertheless, for patients with depression many do not benefit from treatment, and some only partially benefit or only experience short-term improvement. Furthermore, a considerable group of treated patients would have also recovered without treatment. The group of patients in between these extremes are the ones who currently benefit from available treatments, but they are still a minority of all patients. Because of the public health effects of depression and the enormous related adverse effects on the quality of life of patients, it should be a priority to search for methods to increase the number of patients who benefit from treatment and in this way reduce the burden of depression.


Corresponding Author: Pim Cuijpers, PhD, Department of Clinical, Neuro and Developmental Psychology, Amsterdam Public Health Research Institute, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Van der Boechorststraat 7, 1081 BT Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: No disclosures were reported.

References
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Barth  J, Munder  T, Gerger  H,  et al.  Comparative efficacy of seven psychotherapeutic interventions for patients with depression: a network meta-analysis.  PLoS Med. 2013;10(5):e1001454. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001454
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Vittengl  JR, Clark  LA, Dunn  TW, Jarrett  RB.  Reducing relapse and recurrence in unipolar depression: a comparative meta-analysis of cognitive-behavioral therapy’s effects.  J Consult Clin Psychol. 2007;75(3):475-488. doi:10.1037/0022-006X.75.3.475
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Bloom  DE, Cafiero  E, Jané-Llopis  E,  et al. The global economic burden of noncommunicable diseases. Geneva, Switzerland: World Economic Forum. http://apps.who.int/medicinedocs/en/m/abstract/Js18806en. Published September 2011. Accessed November 18, 2018.
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Andrews  G, Basu  A, Cuijpers  P,  et al.  Computer therapy for the anxiety and depression disorders is effective, acceptable and practical health care: an updated meta-analysis.  J Anxiety Disord. 2018;55:70-78. doi:10.1016/j.janxdis.2018.01.00110.
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