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Sunday, September 22, 2019

Generalizable and Robust TV Advertising Effects: Substantially smaller advertising elasticities compared to the results documented in the literature

Shapiro, Bradley and Hitsch, Guenter J. and Tuchman, Anna, Generalizable and Robust TV Advertising Effects (September 17, 2019). SSRN:

Abstract: We provide generalizable and robust results on the causal sales effect of TV advertising for a large number of products in many categories. Such generalizable results provide a prior distribution that can improve the advertising decisions made by firms and the analysis and recommendations of policy makers. A single case study cannot provide generalizable results, and hence the literature provides several meta-analyses based on published case studies of advertising effects. However, publication bias results if the research or review process systematically rejects estimates of small, statistically insignificant, or “unexpected” advertising elasticities. Consequently, if there is publication bias, the results of a meta-analysis will not reflect the true population distribution of advertising effects. To provide generalizable results, we base our analysis on a large number of products and clearly lay out the research protocol used to select the products. We characterize the distribution of all estimates, irrespective of sign, size, or statistical significance. To ensure generalizability, we document the robustness of the estimates. First, we examine the sensitivity of the results to the assumptions made when constructing the data used in estimation. Second, we document whether the estimated effects are sensitive to the identification strategies that we use to claim causality based on observational data. Our results reveal substantially smaller advertising elasticities compared to the results documented in the extant literature, as well as a sizable percentage of statistically insignificant or negative estimates. If we only select products with statistically significant and positive estimates, the mean and median of the advertising effect distribution increase by a factor of about five. The results are robust to various identifying assumptions, and are consistent with both publication bias and bias due to non-robust identification strategies to obtain causal estimates in the literature.

Keywords: Advertising, Publication Bias, Generalizability
JEL Classification: L00, L15, L81, M31, M37, B41, C55, C52, C81, C18

To prevent the bysiness-cycle instabilities and ethical issues of laissez-faire, the mandarins in developing economies try to skip the laissez-faire stage, starting at a greater regulation level

Premature Imitation and India’s Flailing State. Shruti Rajagopalan and Alexander Tabarrok. The Independent Review, v. 24, n. 2, Fall 2019, pp. 165–186.

There is the same contrast even between people; between the few highly westernized, trousered, natives educated in western universities, speaking western languages, and glorifying in Beethoven, Mill, Marx or Einstein, and the great mass of their countrymen who live in quite other worlds. —W. Arthur Lewis, “Economic Development with Unlimited Supplies of Labour”

Lant Pritchett(2009) has called India a flailing state. A flailing state is what happens when the principal cannot control its agents. The flailing state cannot implement its own plans and may have its plans actively subverted when its agents work at cross purposes. The Indian state flails because it is simultaneously too large and too small: too large because the Indian government attempts to legislate and regulate every aspect of citizens’ lives and too small because it lacks the resources and personnel to rule according to its ambitions. To explain the mismatch between the Indian state’s ambitions and its abilities, we point to the premature demands by Indian elite for policies more appropriate to a developed country. We illustrate with four case studies on maternity leave, housing policy, open defecation, and education policy. We then conclude by discussing how the problem of limited state capacity points to presumptive laissez-faire as a preferred governing and learning environment for developing countries. Matt Andrews, Lant Pritchett, and Michael Woolcock (2017) point to one explanation for India’s flailing state. In order to satisfy external actors, the Indian state and other recipients of foreign funding often take on tasks that overwhelm state capacity, leading to premature load bearing. As these authors put it, “By starting off with unrealistic expectations of the range, complexity, scale, and speed with which organizational capability can be built, external actors set both themselves and (more importantly) the governments they are attempting to assist to fail” (62). The expectations of external actors are only one source of imitation, however. Who people read, listen to, admire, learn from, and wish to emulate is also key. We argue that another factor driving inappropriate imitation is that the Indian intelligentsia—the top people involved in politics, the bureaucracy, universities, think tanks, foundations, and so forth—are closely connected with Anglo-American elites, sometimes even more closely than they are to the Indian populace. As a result, the Indian elite initiates and supports policies that appear to it to be normal even though such policies may have little relevance to the Indian population as a whole and may be wildly at odds with Indian state capacity. This kind of mimicry of what appear to be the best Western policies and practices is not necessarily ill intentioned. It might not be pursued to pacify external or internal actors, and it is not a deliberate attempt to exclude the majority of citizens from the democratic policy-making process. It is simply one by-product of the background within which the Indian intellectual class operates. The Indian elites are more likely, because of their background, to engage with global experts in policy dialogues that have little relevance to the commoner in India.

In the next sections, we discuss the flailing state and the demographics of the Indian elite. We then illustrate with case studies on maternity leave, housing policy, open defecation, and right-to-education policy how India passes laws and policies that make sense to the elite but are neither relevant nor beneficial to the vast majority of Indians. We conclude with a discussion of the optimal governing and learning environment when state capacity is limited.

Conclusion: Limited State Capacity Calls for Presumptive Laissez-Faire

The Indian state does not have enough capacity to implement all the rules and regulations that elites, trying to imitate the policies of developed economies, desire. The result is premature load bearing and a further breakdown in state capacity. It doesn’t follow that rule by non elites would be better. It could be worse. Nevertheless, there are some lessons about what kinds of things can and cannot be done with limited state capacity. States with limited capacity have great difficulty implementing tasks with performance goals that are difficult to measure and contested. In any bureaucracy, the agents involved ask themselves whether to perform according to the bureaucracy’s goals  or to their own. Incentives can ideally be structured so that goals align. But when states have limited capacity and performance goals are difficult to state or measure, it becomes easier for agents to act in their own interests.

At the broadest level, this suggests that states with limited capacity should rely more on markets even when markets are imperfect—presumptive laissez-faire. The market test isn’t perfect, but it is a test. Markets are the most salient alternative to state action, so when the cost of state action increases, markets should be used more often. Imagine, for example, that U.S. government spending had to be cut by a factor of ten. Would it make sense to cut all programs by 90 percent? Unlikely. Some programs and policies are of great value, but others should be undertaken only when state capacity and GDP per capita are higher. As Edward Glaeser quips, “A country that cannot provide clean water for its citizens should not be in the business of regulating film dialogue” (2011). A U.S. government funded at one-tenth the current level would optimally do many fewer things. So why doesn’t the Indian government do many fewer things? Indeed, when we look across time, we see governments providing more programs as average incomes rise. Over the past two hundred years, for example, the U.S. government has grown larger and taken on more tasks as U.S. average incomes have increased. But when we look across countries today, we do not see this pattern. Poor countries do not have notably smaller governments than rich countries. Indeed, poor countries often regulate more than rich countries (Djankov et al. 2002).

The differing patterns make sense from the perspective of the folk wisdom of much development economics. From this perspective, the fact that the developed economies might have started out more laissez-faire is an irrelevant historical observation. In fact, according to this view, because the developed economies have already evidently learned that laissez-faire led to inefficiencies, business-cycle instabilities, and environmental, distributional, and other ethical problems, it makes sense for the less-developed economies to skip the laissez-faire stage. Thus, the folk wisdom of development economics holds that what a developing economy learns from the history of developed economies is to avoid the mistakes of relative laissez-faire and begin with greater regulation.

In the alternative view put forward here, relative laissez-faire is a step to development, perhaps even a necessary step, even if the ultimate desired end point of development is a regulated, mixed economy. Presumptive laissez-faire is the optimal form of government for states with limited capacity and also the optimal learning environment for states to grow capacity. Under laissez-faire, wealth, education, trade, and trust can grow, which in turn will allow for greater regulation.

Moral exemplars are often held up as objects to be admired, which is thought to induce to emulate virtuous conduct; but admiration induces passivity rather than an incentive to self-improvement

From 2018... The Vice of Admiration. Jan-Willem van der Rijt. Philosophy, Volume 93, Issue 1, January 2018 , pp. 69-90.

Abstract: Moral exemplars are often held up as objects to be admired. Such admiration is thought beneficial to the admirer, inducing him or her to emulate virtuous conduct, and deemed flattering to the admired. This paper offers a critical examination of admiration from a broadly Kantian perspective, arguing that admiration – even of genuine moral exemplars – violates the duty of self-respect. It also provides an explanation for the fact that moral exemplars themselves typically shun admiration. Lastly, it questions the assumption that admiration leads to emulation on the basis of scientific findings that indicate that admiration induces passivity in the admirer rather than an incentive to self-improvement.

Australian banknotes: 15–35 per cent are used to facilitate legitimate transactions, 4–7 per cent are used for transactions in the shadow economy, 5–10 per cent are lost; the others are hoarded

Where's the Money An Investigation into the Whereabouts and Uses of Australian Banknotes. Richard Finlay  Andrew Staib  Max Wakefield. The Australian Economic Review, September 20 2019.

Abstract: The Reserve Bank of Australia is the sole issuer and redeemer of Australian banknotes, but between issuance and destruction there is little information about where banknotes go or what they are used for. We estimate the whereabouts and uses of Australian banknotes, and find that 15–35 per cent are used to facilitate legitimate transactions, 4–7 per cent are used for transactions in the shadow economy, while the remainder are non‐transactional. The vast majority of non‐transactional banknotes are likely to be hoarded, and we estimate that 5–10 per cent of outstanding banknotes are lost or collected.

The Association Between Repeated Romantic Rejection and Change in Ideal Standards (which are lowered, & more flexibility is introduced), & Lower Self-Perceived Mate Value

The Association Between Romantic Rejection and Change in Ideal Standards, Ideal Flexibility, and Self-Perceived Mate Value. Nicolyn H. Charlot, Rhonda N. Balzarini, and Lorne J. Campbell. Social Psychology, September 20, 2019.

Abstract. Research has shown that ideal romantic standards predict future partner characteristics and influence existing relationships, but how standards develop and change among single individuals has yet to be explored. Guided by the Ideal Standards Model (ISM), the present study sought to determine whether repeated experiences of romantic rejection and acceptance over time were associated with change in ideal standards, ideal flexibility, and self-perceived mate value (N = 208). Results suggest repeated experiences of rejection correspond to decreases in ideal standards and self-perceived mate value and increases in ideal flexibility, though no effects emerged for acceptance. Given the predictive nature of ideal standards and the link rejection has with such, findings from this study contribute to a greater understanding of relationship formation processes.

Keywords: romantic relationships, ideal standards, ideal flexibility, self-perceived mate value, rejection, acceptance

Long-term, stable marriages of midlife Americans were characterized by a linear increase in relationship satisfaction over 20 years & a linear decline in sexual satisfaction in the same time frame

Relationship and sexual satisfaction: A developmental perspective on bidirectionality. Christopher Quinn-Nilas. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, September 19, 2019.

Abstract: Researchers have investigated the directionality between relationship and sexual satisfaction; however, there remains no definitive conclusion. Previous longitudinal studies have not conceptualized relationship and sexual satisfaction as systematic developmental processes and have focused on predicting scores at later time points. Instead, researchers should be concerned with understanding how relationship and sexual satisfaction change together over time. The objective of this study was to use longitudinal data from midlife American marriages to test the directionality of the association between relationship satisfaction and sexual satisfaction. Multivariate latent growth curve modeling of 1,456 midlife Americans married for 20 years from the Midlife in the United States study was used to compare directionality models. Findings support that long-term, stable marriages of midlife Americans at the sample level were characterized by a linear increase in relationship satisfaction over 20 years and a linear decline in sexual satisfaction during the same time frame. A co-change model, wherein relationship and sexual satisfaction changed together over time, fit the data best. Trajectory correlations showed that changes in relationship and sexual satisfaction were strongly interconnected. High initial levels of sexual satisfaction protected against declines in relationship satisfaction over 20 years. Results support that relationship and sexual satisfaction change together over time and highlight that the longitudinal association between these outcomes is dynamic rather than static.

Keywords: Marriage, midlife Americans, MIDUS, multivariate growth curve, relationship satisfaction, sexual satisfaction

The MLGCM methodology is a key strength of this study because it allowed the examination of bidirectional associations between sexual and relationship satisfaction growth factors and allowed each outcome to be estimated as its own developmental process. Furthermore, this study is novel because it approached the question of directionality between relationship and sexual satisfaction by systematically testing competing unidirectional and bidirectional models using characteristics of change trajectories rather than static scores. This is partly buttressed by the large sample drawn from a nationally representative study that meets standards for statistical power (Hertzog et al., 2006). The 20-year longtime horizon underlying the MIDUS study has made possible inferences covering a substantial amount of time.

Despite the noted strengths, several limitations of the study are noteworthy. This study used single indicator measurement to assess relationship and sexual satisfaction. Additionally, several limitations are introduced by having only three time points. Having three time points does not allow for the thorough testing of nonlinear or more complex trends which could be assessed using a daily diary format (e.g., Day et al., 2015).Even though the duration of the MIDUS study was long, which allowed for long-term inferences, this structure neglects the more idiosyncratic microdevelopments and microchanges that may occur ona smallertime scale (i.e.,day to day,weektoweek, month to month, yeartoyear).
The original MIDUS data were from a nationally representative sample obtained with random-digit dialing, but it should be noted that there may be a selection effect inherent to the current study’s inclusion criteria (participants who stayed married to the same person for the entire duration). In the current study, the regressive bidirectional model (Model 8) was discarded because the design of the MIDUS study did not contain a meaningful intercept point. Although this is true in the present analyses, in other study designs that contain substantive intercepts (i.e., studies that begin at the start of a marriage), the regressive model need not be discarded. In such a case, a more thorough assessment can be made between the correlated model and the regressive model. Another limitation concerns the wording of the sexual satisfaction question, which asked about sexual satisfaction broadly rather than specifically about the marital relationship.

Heritability of alcohol consumption in adulthood, Finland twins: The youngest show greater non‐shared environmental & additive genetic influences than the old ones

Birth cohort effects on the quantity and heritability of alcohol consumption in adulthood: a Finnish longitudinal twin study. Suvi Virtanen  Jaakko Kaprio  Richard Viken  Richard J. Rose  Antti Latvala. Addiction, December 19 2018.

Aims: To estimate birth cohort effects on alcohol consumption and abstinence in Finland and to test differences between birth cohorts in genetic and environmental sources of variation in Finnish adult alcohol use.

Design: The Older Finnish Twin Cohort longitudinal survey study 1975–2011.

Setting: Finland.

Participants: A total of 26 121 same‐sex twins aged 18–95 years (full twin pairs at baseline n = 11 608).

Measurements: Outcome variables were the quantity of alcohol consumption (g/month) and abstinence (drinking zero g/month). Predictor variables were 10‐year birth cohort categories and socio‐demographic covariates. In quantitative genetic models, two larger cohorts (born 1901–20 and 1945–57) were compared.

Findings: Multi‐level models in both sexes indicated higher levels of alcohol consumption in more recent birth cohorts and lower levels in earlier cohorts, compared with twins born 1921–30 (all P < 0.003). Similarly, compared with twins born 1921–30, abstaining was more common in earlier and less common in more recent cohorts (all P < 0.05), with the exception of men born 1911–20. Birth cohort differences in the genetic and environmental variance components in alcohol consumption were found: heritability was 21% [95% confidence interval (CI) = 0–56%] in the earlier‐born cohort of women [mean age 62.8, standard deviation (SD) = 5.3] and 51% (95% CI = 36–56%) in a more recent cohort (mean age 60.2, SD = 3.7) at the age of 54–74. For men, heritability was 39% (95% CI = 27–45%) in both cohorts. In alcohol abstinence, environmental influences shared between co‐twins explained a large proportion of variation in the earlier‐born cohort (43%, 95% CI = 23–63%), whereas non‐shared environmental (54%, 95% CI = 39–72%) and additive genetic influences (40%, 95% CI = 13–61%) were more important among more recent cohorts of men and women.

Conclusion: The contribution of genetic and environmental variability to variability in alcohol consumption in the Finnish population appears to vary by birth cohort.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Punish or Protect? How Close Relationships Shape Responses to Moral Violations

Punish or Protect? How Close Relationships Shape Responses to Moral Violations. Aaron C. Weidman et al. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, September 19, 2019.

Abstract: People have fundamental tendencies to punish immoral actors and treat close others altruistically. What happens when these tendencies collide—do people punish or protect close others who behave immorally? Across 10 studies (N = 2,847), we show that people consistently anticipate protecting close others who commit moral infractions, particularly highly severe acts of theft and sexual harassment. This tendency emerged regardless of gender, political orientation, moral foundations, and disgust sensitivity and was driven by concerns about self-interest, loyalty, and harm. We further find that people justify this tendency by planning to discipline close others on their own. We also identify a psychological mechanism that mitigates the tendency to protect close others who have committed severe (but not mild) moral infractions: self-distancing. These findings highlight the role that relational closeness plays in shaping people’s responses to moral violations, underscoring the need to consider relational closeness in future moral psychology work.

Keywords: moral psychology, close relationships, loyalty, harm, self-distancing

Classroom Size and the Prevalence of Bullying and Victimization: Smaller classrooms sees more bullying

Classroom Size and the Prevalence of Bullying and Victimization: Testing Three Explanations for the Negative Association. Claire F. Garandeau, Takuya Yanagida, Marjolijn M. Vermande, Dagmar Strohmeier and Christina Salmivalli. Front. Psychol., September 20 2019.

Abstract: Classroom size - i.e., the number of students in the class - is a feature of the classroom environment often found to be negatively related to bullying or victimization. This study examines three possible explanations for this negative association: (a) it is due to measurement effects and therefore only found for peer-reports (Hypothesis 1), (b) bullying perpetrators are more popular and have more friends in smaller classrooms (Hypothesis 2), (c) targets of bullying are more popular and have more friends in larger classrooms (Hypothesis 3). Multilevel regression analyses were conducted on a sample from Austria (1,451 students; Mage = 12.31; 77 classes) and a sample from the Netherlands (1,460 students; Mage = 11.06; 59 classes). Results showed that classroom size was negatively associated with peer-reported bullying and victimization in both samples, and with self-reported bullying and victimization in the Dutch sample only, suggesting partial support for Hypothesis 1. Students high in bullying were found to be more popular in smaller than in larger classrooms in the Austrian sample. The negative link between victimization and popularity was found to be stronger in smaller classrooms than in larger classrooms in the Dutch sample. However, classroom size was not found to moderate links between bullying or victimization and friendship in either sample. Hypotheses 2 and 3 were supported, but only for popularity and in a single sample. Further research is needed to better understand the higher prevalence of bullying found in smaller classrooms in many studies.

The prevalence of bullying and victimization in classrooms is not merely the result of individual characteristics of the bullying perpetrators and their targets but is influenced by features of the classroom environment (Saarento et al., 2015). These contextual characteristics include the anti-bullying attitudes and behaviors of peer bystanders (Salmivalli et al., 2011) and of teachers (Veenstra et al., 2014; Oldenburg et al., 2015), as well as aspects of the peer social network, such as the degree of status hierarchy in the classroom (Garandeau et al., 2014). Classroom size - i.e., the number of students in the class - is a structural feature that has often been investigated in relation to academic achievement (see Finn et al., 2003), with smaller classrooms often found to be beneficial for academic performance (Hoxby, 2000; Shin and Raudenbush, 2011) and even earnings later in life (Fredriksson et al., 2013). Intuitively, we would expect the same advantageous effects of small classrooms on bullying. Smaller classrooms should logically protect against bullying thanks to higher adult/child ratios, allowing a more effective monitoring of children’s negative behaviors by school personnel.
Classroom size has been investigated in many studies on victimization and bullying, often as a control variable rather than a main predictor of interest. Surprisingly, very few studies found evidence of a protective effect of smaller classroom networks on bullying or victimization (Whitney and Smith, 1993; Khoury-Kassabri et al., 2004). The large majority of studies examining the link between classroom size and bullying or victimization found them to be either negatively associated (e.g., Vervoort et al., 2010) or unrelated (e.g., Thornberg et al., 2017). However, the reason why bullying and victimization would be more prevalent in smaller classrooms remains unclear.
The present study aims to test for three possible explanations for this negative association: First, the negative association may not reflect an actual social phenomenon but result from a measurement effect, related to the way peer-reported scores are computed. In this case, the prevalence-size link should be negative for peer-reported, but not for self-reported bullying and victimization (Hypothesis 1). Second, it is possible that bullying perpetrators enjoy higher status and are more socially connected in smaller classrooms, which in turn facilitates their bullying behavior. Engaging in bullying may be associated with higher perceived popularity and more friendships in smaller than in larger classrooms (Hypothesis 2). Third, victims may have less social support and fewer opportunities for friendships in smaller classrooms, which in turn could contribute to the maintenance of their victimization. Being victimized may be associated with lower perceived popularity and fewer friendships in smaller than in larger classrooms (Hypothesis 3). These hypotheses will be tested with large samples from two countries, using both self-reports and peer-reports of bullying and victimization.

How Should We Measure City Size? Theory and Evidence Within and Across Rich and Poor Countries

How Should We Measure City Size? Theory and Evidence Within and Across Rich and Poor Countries. Remi Jedwab, Prakash Loungani, and Anthony Yezer. IMF Working Papers, WP/19/203. Sep 2019.

Abstract: It is obvious that holding city population constant, differences in cities across the world are enormous. Urban giants in poor countries are not large using measures such as land area, interior space or value of output. These differences are easily reconciled mathematically as population is the product of land area, structure space per unit land (i.e., heights), and population per unit interior space (i.e., crowding). The first two are far larger in the cities of developed countries while the latter is larger for the cities of developing countries. In order to study sources of diversity among cities with similar population, we construct a version of the standard urban model (SUM) that yields the prediction that the elasticity of city size with respect to income could be similar within both developing countries and developed countries. However, differences in income and urban technology can explain the physical differences between the cities of developed countries and developing countries. Second, using a variety of newly merged data sets, the predictions of the SUM for similarities and differences of cities in developed and developing countries are tested. The findings suggest that population is a sufficient statistic to characterize city differences among cities within the same country, not across countries.

JEL Classification Numbers: R13; R14; R31; R41; R42; O18; O2; O33

We cannot know these things with certainty, but it seems nonhuman primates don't understand themselves to be playing roles with intentional coordination or division of labor

The role of roles in uniquely human cognition and sociality. Michael Tomasello. Journal of the Theory of Social Behavior, August 16 2019.

Abstract: To understand themselves as playing a social role, individuals must understand themselves to be contributing to a cooperative endeavor. Psychologically, the form of cooperation required is a specific type that only humans may possess, namely, one in which individuals form a joint or collective agency to pursue a common end. This begins ontogenetically not with the societal level but rather with more local collaboration between individuals. Participating in collaborative endeavors of this type leads young children, cognitively, to think in terms of different perspectives on a joint focus of attention ‐ including ultimately an objective perspective ‐ and to organize their experience in terms of a relational‐thematic‐narrative dimension. Socially, such participation leads young children to an understanding of self‐other equivalence with mutual respect among collaborative partners and, ultimately, to a normative (i.e. moral) stance toward “we” in the community within which one is forming a moral role or identity. The dual‐level structure of shared endeavors/realities with individual roles/perspectives is responsible for many aspects of the human species' most distinctive psychology.

2.1 Social roles in great apes and early humans?

Humans' nearest primate relatives, chimpanzees and bonobos, live in complex social groups. From an external (functionalist) perspective it is of course possible to speak of the various roles individuals are playing in the group. But does this notion have any meaning for them? Does it make sense, from their point of view, to say that the dominant male chimpanzee is playing the role of peacemaker in the group?
While we cannot know these things with certainty, the proposal here is that neither chimpanzees nor bonobos (nor any other nonhuman primates) understand themselves to be playing roles in anything. Although many, perhaps most, of their social interactions are competitive (even if bonobos are less aggressive), they also cooperate in some ways, and so the notion of role is at least potentially applicable. As a frequently occurring example, if one chimpanzee begins fighting with another, it often happens that the friends of each of the combatants join into the fray on the side of their friend. It is unlikely that they see themselves as playing roles in this coalition. More likely, each individual is participating for her own individual goal, sometimes helping the other in that context. But they are basically just fighting side by side, without intentional coordination or division of labor toward a common goal. As another example, when chimpanzee or bonobo pairs are engaged in mutual grooming, we could say from the outside that one is in the groomer role and one is the groomee role. But again this interpretation may be totally our own; they may just be searching for fleas and enjoying being cleaned, respectively. And, for whatever it is worth, both agonistic coalitions and grooming are social interactions that are performed by all kinds of other species of mammals and even birds.
By far the most plausible candidate for an understanding of social roles in nonhuman primates is chimpanzee group hunting. What happens prototypically is that a small party of male chimpanzees spies a red colobus monkey somewhat separated from its group, which they then proceed to surround and capture. Normally, one individual begins the chase and others scramble to the monkey's possible escape routes. Boesch (2005) has claimed that there are roles involved here: the chaser, the blocker, and the ambusher, for instance. Other fieldworkers have not described the hunts in such terms, noting that during the process (which can last anywhere from a few minutes to half an hour) individuals seem to switch from chasing to blocking and to ambushing from minute to minute (Mitani, personal communication). In the end, one individual actually captures the monkey, and he obtains the most and best meat. But because he cannot dominate the carcass on his own, all participants (and many bystanders) usually get some meat (depending on their dominance and the vigor with which they harass the captor; Gilby, 2006). Tomasello, Carpenter, Call, Behne, and Moll (2005) thus propose a “lean” reading of this activity, based on the hypothesis that the participants do not have a joint goal of capturing the monkey together – and thus there are no individual roles toward that end. Instead, each individual is attempting to capture the monkey on its own (since captors get the most meat), and they take into account the behavior, and perhaps intentions, of the other chimpanzees as these affect their chances of capture. In general, it is not clear that the process is fundamentally different from the group hunting of other social mammals, such as lions and wolves and hyenas, either socially or cognitively. Experimental support for this interpretation will be presented below.
The evolutionary hypothesis is that at some point in human evolution, early humans began collaborating with one another in some new ways involving shared goals and individual roles. The cognitive and motivational structuring of such collaborative activities is best described by philosophers of action such as Bratman (2014), Searle (2010), and Gilbert (2014), in terms of human skills and motivations of shared intentionality. The basic idea is that humans are able to form with others a shared agent ‘we’, which then can have various kinds of we‐intentions. In Bratman's formulation, for example, two individuals engage in what he calls a shared cooperative activity when they each have the goal that they do something together and they both know together in common conceptual ground that they have this shared goal. This generates roles, that is, what “we” expect each of “you” and “me” to do in order for us to reach our shared goal. Gilbert (2014) highlights the normative dimension of such roles. When two participants make a joint commitment to cooperate, for example, each pledges to the other that she will play her role faithfully until they have reached their shared goal. If either of them shirks her role they will together, as a shared agent, chastise her – a kind of collaborative self‐regulation of the shared agency. This special form of cooperative organization scales up to much larger social structures and institutions such as governments or universities, in which there are cooperative goals and well‐defined roles that individuals must play to maintain the institution's cooperative functioning.
Tomasello (2014, 2016) provides a speculative evolutionary account of how humans came to engage with one another in acts of shared intentionality. There were two steps. The first step came with early humans (i.e., beginning with the genus Homo some 2 million years ago to approximately.4 million years ago). Due to a change in their feeding ecology ‐ perhaps due to more intense competition from other species for their normal foods ‐ early humans were forced to collaborate with one another to obtain new kinds of resources not available to their competitors (e.g., large game and also plant resources requiring multiple individuals for harvesting). In these early collaborative activities, early human individuals understood their interdependence ‐ that each needed the other ‐ and this led them to structure their collaborative activities via skills and motivations of joint intentionality: the formation of a joint agency to pursue joint goals via individual roles. As partners were collaborating toward a joint goal, they were jointly attending to things relevant to their joint goal – with each retaining her own individual perspective (and monitoring the other's perspective) at the same time. Such joint attention means not only that individuals are attending to the same situation, but each knows that each is also attending to their partner's attention to the relevant situation, etc.: there is recursive perspective‐taking. When individuals experienced things in joint attention those experiences entered their common ground as joint experience or knowledge, so that in the future they both knew that they both knew certain things.
The second step came with modern humans (i.e., beginning with Homo sapiens sapiens some 200,000 years ago). Due to increasing group sizes and competition with other groups, humans began organizing themselves into distinctive cultures. In this context, a cultural group may be thought of as one big collaborative activity aimed at group survival, as all individuals in the group were dependent on one another for many necessities, including group defense. To coordinate with others, including in‐group strangers, it was necessary to conform to the cultural practices established for just such coordination. Knowledge of these cultural practices was not just in the personal common ground of two individuals who had interacted in the appropriate circumstances previously, as with early humans, but rather such knowledge was in the cultural common ground of the group: each individual knew that all other members of the group knew these things and knew that they knew them as well even if they had never before met. Making such cultural practices formal and explicit in the public space turned them into full‐blown cultural institutions, with well‐defined roles (from professional roles to the most basic role of simply being a group member in good standing) that must be played for their maintenance. The new cognitive skills and motivations underlying the shift to truly cultural lifeways were thus not between individuals but between the individual and the group – involving a kind of collective agency ‐ and so may be referred to as collective intentionality.
The proposal is thus that the notion of social role, as understood by participants in a social or cultural interaction, came into existence in human evolution with the emergence of shared intentionality, as the psychological infrastructure for engaging in especially rich forms of collaborative, even cultural, activities. The notion of social role is thus indissociable, psychologically speaking, from cooperation. The evolutionary precursor to the notion of a societal role, as typically conceived by sociologists and social psychologists, is thus the notion of an individual role in a small‐scale collaborative activity; societal roles in larger‐scale cultural institutions build on this psychological foundation.

A million loyalty card transactions: Disconnect between predicting pro-environmental attitudes (against plastic bags) & a specific ecological behaviour measured objectively in the real world

Lavelle-Hill, Rosa E., Gavin Smith, Peter Bibby, David Clarke, and James Goulding. 2019. “Psychological and Demographic Predictors of Plastic Bag Consumption in Transaction Data.” PsyArXiv. September 20. doi:10.31234/
Abstract: Despite the success of plastic bag charges in the UK, there are still around a billion single-use plastic bags bought each year in England alone, and the government have made plans to increase the levy from 5 to 10 pence. Previous research has identified motivations for bringing personal bags to the supermarket, but little is known about the individuals who are continuing to frequently purchase single-use plastic bags after the levy. In this study, we harnessed over a million loyalty card transaction records from a high-street health and beauty retailer linked to 12,968 questionnaire responses measuring demographics, shopping motivations, and individual differences. We utilised an exploratory machine learning approach to expose the demographic and psychological predictors of frequent plastic bag consumption. In the transaction data we identified 2,326 frequent single-use plastic bag buyers, which we matched randomly to infrequent buyers to create the balanced sub-sample we used for modelling (N=4,652). Frequent bag buyers spent more money in store, were younger, more likely to be male, less frugal, open to new experiences, and displeased with their appearance compared with infrequent bag buyers. Statistical regional differences also occurred. Interestingly, environmental concerns did not predict plastic bag consumption, highlighting the disconnect between predicting pro-environmental attitudes and a specific ecological behaviour measured objectively in the real world.

Friday, September 20, 2019

New Coal Plants Totaling over 579 GW in the Pipeline, Say NGOs

NGOs Release New Global Coal Exit List for Finance Industry. Urgewald, Sep 20 2019.

Berlin, September 19, 2019
Companies Driving the World’s Coal Expansion Revealed

One day before the Global Climate Strike, Urgewald and 30 partner NGOs have released a new update of the “Global Coal Exit List” (GCEL), the world’s most comprehensive database of companies operating along the thermal coal value chain.

“Our 2019 data shows that the time for patient engagement with the coal industry has definitely run out,” says Heffa Schuecking, director of Urgewald. While the world’s leading climate scientists and the United Nations have long warned that coal-based energy production must be rapidly phased out, over 400 of the 746 companies on the Global Coal Exit List are still planning to expand their coal operations. “It is high time for banks, insurers, pension funds and other investors to take their money out of the coal industry,” says Schuecking.

The Global Coal Exit List (GCEL) was first launched in November 2017 and has played an influential role in shaping the coal divestment actions of many large investors, especially in Europe. Over 200 financial institutions are now registered users of the database and investors representing close to US$ 10 trillion in assets are using one or more of the GCEL’s divestment criteria to screen coal companies out of their portfolios.

The database covers the largest coal plant operators and coal producers; companies that generate over 30% of their revenues or power from coal and all companies that are planning to expand coal mining, coal power or coal infrastructure.

According to ET Index research: “The Global Coal Exit List produced by Urgewald is an excellent tool for understanding asset stranding and energy transition risks. The tool provides one of the most comprehensive and in-depth databases for coal generation and expansion.”

And the Insurer Zurich says: “The GCEL is a valuable input to implement our coal policy on the insurance side as it is the only data source that also assesses private companies.”

Overview of the 2019 GCEL

The database provides key statistics on 746 companies and over 1,400 subsidiaries, whose activities range from coal exploration and mining, coal trading and transport, to coal power generation and manufacturing of equipment for coal plants. Most of the information in the database is drawn from original company sources such as annual reports, investor presentations and company websites. All in all, the companies listed in the GCEL represent 89% of the world’s thermal coal production and almost 87% of the world’s installed coal-fired capacity.

New Coal Plants Totaling over 579 GW in the Pipeline

While the global coal plant pipeline shrank by over 50% in the past 3 years, new coal plants are still planned or under development in 60 countries around the world. If built, these projects would add over 579 GW to the global coal plant fleet, an increase of almost 29%.[1] The 2019 GCEL identifies 259 coal plant developers. Over half of these companies are not traditional coal-based utilities, and are therefore often missed by financial institutions’ coal exclusion policies. Typical examples are companies like the Hong Kong based textiles producer Texhong – which plans to build a 2,100 MW coal power station in Vietnam – or very diversified companies, like Japan’s Sumitomo Corporation, which is developing new coal plants in Bangladesh, Vietnam and Indonesia. As Kimiko Hirata from the Japanese NGO Kiko Network notes, “All five of Japan’s largest trading houses are on the Global Coal Exit List as they are still building new coal-fired capacity either at home or abroad.”

One of the most unexpected coal plant developers is the Australian company “Shine Energy”, which describes its mission as “helping Australia transition to a renewable future.” At the same time, Shine Energy is planning to develop a 1,000 MW coal power station “to return one of North Queensland’s oldest coal mining towns to its former glory,” as an Australian news outlet says.[2]
Coal Mining and Coal Infrastructure Expansion

Over 200 companies on the GCEL are still expanding their coal mining activities often in the face of enormous resistance by local communities. While some large coal miners such as South32 have begun offloading their thermal coal assets, most of the world’s largest coal producers are still in expansion mode. Out of the 30 companies which account for half of the world’s thermal coal production, 24 are pursuing plans to still increase their coal production. Glencore, the world’s 8th largest coal producer, was recently applauded by climate-concerned investors for agreeing to set a cap of 150 million tons for its annual coal production. In actual fact this still leaves plenty of space for a production increase: Glencore’s 2018 coal production was 129 million tons.

In many regions of the world, the development of new coal mines is dependent on the development of new coal transport infrastructure such as railways or coal port terminals. 34 companies on the GCEL are identified as coal infrastructure expansionists. These include the Indian company Essar, which is building a coal export terminal in Mozambique, or Russia’s VostokCoal, which is building two coal port terminals on the fragile Tamyr peninsula in order to begin mining one of the world’s largest hard coal deposits in the Russian Arctic.

The fact that Adani Ports & Special Economic Zones – a subsidiary of the coal-heavy Adani Group – was able to recently raise US$ 750 million through a bond issue, shows that financial institutions still have a blind spot in regards to the role logistics and transport companies play for the expansion of the coal industry.[3] “Our research shows that the expansion of coal mining, coal transport and coal power all go hand in hand. If we want to avoid throwing more fuel into the fire, the finance industry needs to follow the example set by Crédit Agricole,” says Schuecking. In its new policy from June 2019, the French bank announced that it will end its relationship with all clients that are planning to expand thermal coal mining, coal-fired power capacity, coal transport infrastructure or coal trading.[4]


From Poland to the Philippines and from Mozambique to Myanmar, local communities are challenging new coal projects in the courts and on the streets. And on September 20th, millions of climate strikers from around the world are calling for an end to coal and other fossil fuels. The Global Coal Exit List shows that the problem of dealing with coal is finite: 746 companies that the finance world needs to leave behind to make the Paris goals achievable.

Interesting Facts & Stats around the Global Coal Industry


Out of the 746 parent companies listed on the GCEL, 361 are either running or developing coal power plants, 237 are involved in coal mining and 148 are primarily service companies, which are active in areas such as coal trading, coal processing, coal transport and the provision of specialized equipment for the coal industry.[5]

The 4 countries with the most coal companies are China (164), India (87), the United States (82) and Australia (51).

The world’s largest thermal coal producer is Coal India Limited. Last year, the company produced 534 million tons, accounting for 8% of world thermal coal production.[6] The second largest coal producer is China Energy Investment Corporation with 510 million tons.

27 companies account for half of the world’s installed coal-fired capacity. The largest coal plant operator worldwide is China Energy Investment Corporation with 175,000 MW installed coal-fired capacity.

The world’s largest coal plant developer is India’s National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC). It plans to build 30,541 MW of new coal-fired capacity.

One of the largest equipment providers for the coal plant pipeline is General Electric. It is involved in the construction of new coal plants in 18 countries, out of which half are frontier countries, with little or no coal-fired capacity as of yet. Another important manufacturer and EPC[7] contractor is Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction from South Korea. Doosan Heavy is involved in at least 8 coal power plants totalling 10,9 GW under construction in South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam and Botswana.


Plans for new coal plants threaten to push 26 “frontier countries” into a cycle of coal-dependency.[8]

The 10 countries with the largest coal plant pipelines are: China (226,229 MW), India (91,540 MW), Turkey (34,436 MW), Vietnam (33,935 MW) Indonesia (29,416 MW), Bangladesh (22,933), Japan (13,105 MW), South Africa (12,744 MW), the Philippines (12,014 MW) and Egypt (8,640 MW).

In the European Union, the country with the largest coal power expansion plans is Poland (6,870 MW). Out of 23 companies, which have coal mining expansion plans in Europe, 7 are expanding in Poland and 9 in Turkey. In both countries the opposition against new coal projects is strong. Villagers from Turkey’s Muğla region are protesting against the plans of Bereket, IC Holding and Limak Energy to extend the lifetimes of polluting coal plants and expand the area’s lignite mines.

Japan is the country with the highest percentage of coal power expansion projects overseas. Out of 30 GW of coal-fired capacity planned by Japanese companies, 51% are being developed abroad.

The country with the largest absolute coal power expansion plans abroad is, however, China. Chinese companies are planning to build new coal plants totalling 54 GW in 20 countries. These account for 24% of the total coal power capacity being developed by Chinese companies.

Out of 99 coal companies operating in Indonesia, 63 are headquartered overseas.

Financial Institutions:

In August 2019, Indonesian citizens filed a court case in South Korea, asking for an injunction to prevent South Korea’s financial institutions from financing the construction of two new coal power plants near Jakarta.

In spite of its new “climate speak”, BlackRock is the world’s largest institutional investor in coal plant developers. In December 2018, it held shares and bonds in value of over US$ 11 billion in these companies.

In June 2019, The Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global took a further step down the coal divestment path by excluding all companies, which operate over 10 GW of coal-fired capacity or produce over 20 million tons of coal annually. The Pension Fund now applies two of the three GCEL criteria to its portfolio. Its total coal divestment since 2015 is estimated to be around € 9 billion.

26 commercial banks have committed to no longer participate in project finance deals for new coal plants. 9 major banks have also committed to ending corporate finance for clients whose coal share of revenue or coal share of power generation is above a designated threshold.[9]

Philippine NGOs have just launched a campaign to move the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) to also stop financing coal.

16 insurers have ended or severely restricted underwriting for coal projects. Reinsurers representing 45% of the global reinsurance market have taken significant coal divestment steps.[10]

First financial institutions have begun announcing dates for a complete phase-out of coal from their investments. Among these are, for example KLP, Storebrand, Nationale Nederlanden, Allianz, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Crédit Agricole.

[1] The world’s installed coal-fired capacity is currently 2,026 GW.
[5] The numbers are based on companies’ primary role in the coal industry. Many companies on the GCEL are active in two or even all three of these categories.
[6] According to the IEA, world thermal coal production was 6,780 Mt in 2018.
[7] Engineering, Procurement and Construction
[8] Out of these 26 countries, 15 have no coal-fired capacity as of yet and 11 have 600 MW or less.

Oversight can make things worse: In the US, 42% of public infrastructure projects report delays or cost overruns; oversight increases delays by 6.1%–13.8% and overruns by 1.4%–1.6%

Oversight and Efficiency in Public Projects: A Regression Discontinuity Analysis. Eduard Calvo, Ruomeng Cui, Juan Camilo Serpa. Management Science, Sep 10 2019.

Abstract: In the United States, 42% of public infrastructure projects report delays or cost overruns. To mitigate this problem, regulators scrutinize project operations. We study the effect of oversight on delays and overruns with 262,857 projects spanning 71 federal agencies and 54,739 contractors. We identify our results using a federal bylaw: if the project’s budget is above a cutoff, procurement officers actively oversee the contractor’s operations; otherwise, most operational checks are waived. We find that oversight increases delays by 6.1%–13.8% and overruns by 1.4%–1.6%. We also show that oversight is most obstructive when the contractor has no experience in public projects, is paid with a fixed-fee contract with performance-based incentives, or performs a labor-intensive task. Oversight is least obstructive—or even beneficial—when the contractor is experienced, paid with a time-and-materials contract, or conducts a machine-intensive task.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Overconfidence over the Lifespan, Evidence from Germany: Both the level of relative placement and the overplacement probability increase with age up to one's fifties

Overconfidence over the Lifespan: Evidence from Germany. Tim Friehe, Markus Pannenberg. Journal of Economic Psychology, September 20 2019, 102207.

Abstract: This paper investigates if and how overconfidence at the individual level changes over the course of a life. We provide age profiles of a novel continuous overconfidence measure and the probability of being overconfident, conditioning on personality traits (including the Big 5 and optimism), economic preferences, cognitive ability, and the individual's socio-economic status. Our empirical work relies on representative panel data sets from Germany, and individuals' both self-assessed and actual percentile in the monthly gross wage distribution are incorporated in our measure of overconfidence. We find that both the level of relative placement and the overplacement probability increase with age up to one's fifties.

Find considerable evidence of hot hand shooting in and across individuals, supporting fans' and experts' widely held belief in the hot hand among NBA shooters

Miller, Joshua B., and Adam Sanjurjo. 2018. “Is It a Fallacy to Believe in the Hot Hand in the NBA Three-point Contest?.” OSF Preprints. October 30. doi:10.31219/

Abstract: The NBA Three-Point Contest has been considered an ideal setting to study the hot hand, as it showcases the elite professional shooters that hot hand beliefs are typically directed towards, but in an environment that eliminates many of the confounds present in game action. We collect 29 years of NBA Three-Point Contest television broadcast data (1986-2015), apply a statistical approach that improves on those of previous studies, and find considerable evidence of hot hand shooting in and across individuals. Our results support fans' and experts' widely held belief in the hot hand among NBA shooters.

Examination of 55 countries: Yellow is more joyful in colder and rainier ones

The sun is no fun without rain: Physical environments affect how we feel about yellow across 55 countries. Domicele Jonauskaite et al. Journal of Environmental Psychology, September 19 2019, 101350.

•    Yellow is associated with joy across the world.
•    This association might originate from yellow reminding of sun and warmth.
•    We analysed yellow-joy associations collected in 55 countries.
•    Yellow is more joyful in colder and rainier countries.
•    This joyfulness seems stable; it was independent of the current season.

Abstract: Across cultures, people associate colours with emotions. Here, we test the hypothesis that one driver of this cross-modal correspondence is the physical environment we live in. We focus on a prime example – the association of yellow with joy, – which conceivably arises because yellow is reminiscent of life-sustaining sunshine and pleasant weather. If so, this association should be especially strong in countries where sunny weather is a rare occurrence. We analysed yellow-joy associations of 6625 participants from 55 countries to investigate how yellow-joy associations varied geographically, climatologically, and seasonally. We assessed the distance to the equator, sunshine, precipitation, and daytime hours. Consistent with our hypotheses, participants who live further away from the equator and in rainier countries are more likely to associate yellow with joy. We did not find associations with seasonal variations. Our findings support a role for the physical environment in shaping the affective meaning of colour.

From 2018... Disgust as a Mechanism for Decision Making Under Risk: For a given potential benefit, males in an effectively-polygynous mating system accept the risk of harm more willingly than do females

From 2018... Disgust as a Mechanism for Decision Making Under Risk: Illuminating Sex Differences and Individual Risk-Taking Correlates of Disgust Propensity. Adam M Sparks et al. Emotion, Vol 18(7), Oct 2018, 942-958

The emotion disgust motivates costly behavioral strategies that mitigate against potentially larger costs associated with pathogens, sexual behavior, and moral transgressions. Because disgust thereby regulates exposure to harm, it is by definition a mechanism for calibrating decision making under risk. Understanding this illuminates two features of the demographic distribution of this emotion. First, this approach predicts and explains sex differences in disgust. Greater female disgust propensity is often reported and discussed in the literature, but, to date, conclusions have been based on informal comparisons across a small number of studies, while existing functionalist explanations are at best incomplete. We report the results of an extensive meta-analysis documenting this sex difference, arguing that key features of this pattern are best explained as one manifestation of a broad principle of the evolutionary biology of risk-taking: for a given potential benefit, males in an effectively-polygynous mating system accept the risk of harm more willingly than do females. Second, viewing disgust as a mechanism for decision making under risk likewise predicts that individual differences in disgust propensity should correlate with individual differences in various forms of risky behavior, because situational and dispositional factors that influence valuation of opportunity and hazard are often correlated across multiple decision contexts. In two large-sample online studies, we find consistent associations between disgust and risk avoidance. We conclude that disgust and related emotions can be usefully examined through the theoretical lens of decision making under risk in light of human evolution.

The End of a Stereotype: Only Children Are Not More Narcissistic Than People With Siblings

The End of a Stereotype: Only Children Are Not More Narcissistic Than People With Siblings. Michael Dufner et al. Social Psychological and Personality Science, September 19, 2019.

Abstract: The current research dealt with the stereotype that only children are more narcissistic than people with siblings. We first investigated the prevalence of this stereotype. In an online study (Study 1, N = 556), laypeople rated a typical only child and a typical person with siblings on narcissistic admiration and narcissistic rivalry, the two subdimensions of the Narcissistic Admiration and Rivalry Questionnaire. They ascribed both higher admiration and higher rivalry to the only child. We then tested the accuracy of this stereotype by analyzing data from a large and representative panel study (Study 2, N = 1,810). The scores of only children on the two narcissism dimensions did not exceed those of people with siblings, and this result held when major potentially confounding covariates were controlled for. Taken together, the results indicate that the stereotype that only children are narcissistic is prevalent but inaccurate.

Keywords narcissism, development, only children, stereotypes

From 2016... The Double Edged Drug: Is Widespread Alcohol Use Crucial to the Development and Functioning of Modern, Democratic, and Peaceful Courting Societies?

From 2016... The Double Edged Drug: Is Widespread Alcohol Use Crucial to the Development and Functioning of Modern, Democratic, and Peaceful Courting Societies? Gregory S. Paul. International Journal of Business and Social Science, Vol. 7, No. 12; December 2016.

Abstract: Despite legal alcohol being consumed by the great majority in most nations, there is surprisingly little research regarding the grand impact of its use on societies, and even less on its nonuse by persons and cultures. Correlations find significant relationships between levels of alcohol consumption, gender equality,and sociopolitical conditions, with the latter two being the best when alcohol intake is moderately high. Experimentation and observation have shown that alcohol is an effective social lubricant, especially in situations regarding courting and initial sexual encounters. It is proposed that widespread use of legal alcohol is an important prerequisite for the courting cultures that has to be present for women to enjoy the sociosexual freedom thatis necessary for the development of the advanced democratic politics that in turn generate the highest levels of socioeconomic prosperity and security. Societies that ban alcohol are correspondingly apparently unable to achieve gender equality, full democracy,and prosperity, and the common Islamic religious prohibition may be a critical factor in the difficulty of Muslim nations in achieving sociopolitical modernity. Nonuse can also adversely impact individuals by hindering their ability to socialize, including sexually, although nonuse also has it positives. Excessive use of alcohol is also detrimental on a national scale, although not as much as is nonuse.

Keywords: alcohol, ethanol, legal, prohibition, gender equality, sexual activity, socioeconomics, democracy, Islam.

Belief in free will is associated with lower indecisiveness; however, one boundary condition of this effect is that it is limited to individuals with high self-concept clarity

Freeing or freezing decisions? Belief in free will and indecisiveness. Michail D. Kokkoris, Roy F. Baumeister, UlrichKühnen. Processes, Volume 154, September 2019, Pages 49-61.

•  Tests two competing hypotheses about the relation between free will and indecisiveness.
•  The evolutionary hypothesis would predict that free will reduces indecisiveness.
•  The existentialist hypothesis would predict that free will increases indecisiveness.
•  Results show that belief in free will is associated with lower indecisiveness.
•  This effect is limited to individuals with higher self-concept clarity.

Abstract: Does belief in free will free or freeze decision-making? The existentialist hypothesis, rooted in views of free will as a source of anguish and hesitation, would predict that free will impedes decisions by increasing indecisiveness. In contrast, the evolutionary hypothesis, rooted in views of free will as a driver of effective social functioning, would predict that free will facilitates decisions by reducing indecisiveness. Results of five studies using various measures of indecisiveness (trait) and indecision (state), various operationalizations of free will beliefs (measured and manipulated), and various decision tasks provide support to the evolutionary hypothesis. Belief in free will is consistently associated with lower indecisiveness. However, one boundary condition of this effect is that it is limited to individuals with high self-concept clarity. These findings contribute to the literature on indecisiveness and advance our knowledge about the benefits of belief in free will for decision-making.

Keywords: Free willIndecisivenessSelf-concept clarityDecision-makingExistentialism

Both grandmothers and grandfathers reported higher rate of life satisfaction and quality of life than non-grandparents; grandmothers reported fewer depressive symptoms than women without grandchildren

Transition to Grandparenthood and Subjective Well-Being in Older Europeans: A Within-Person Investigation Using Longitudinal Data. Antti O. Tanskanen et al. Evolutionary Psychology, September 18, 2019.

Abstract: The transition to grandparenthood, that is the birth of the first grandchild, is often assumed to increase the subjective well-being of older adults; however, prior studies are scarce and have provided mixed results. Investigation of the associations between grandparenthood and subjective well-being, measured by self-rated life satisfaction, quality of life scores, and depressive symptoms, used the longitudinal Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe from 13 countries, including follow-up waves between 2006 and 2015 (n = 64,940 person-observations from 38,456 unique persons of whom 18,207 had two or more measurement times). Both between-person and within-person (or fixed-effect) regression models were executed, where between-person associations represent results across individuals, that is, between grandparents and non-grandparents; within-person associations represent an individual’s variation over time, that is, they consider whether the transition to grandparenthood increases or decreases subjective well-being. According to the between-person models, both grandmothers and grandfathers reported higher rate of life satisfaction and quality of life than non-grandparents. Moreover, grandmothers reported fewer depressive symptoms than women without grandchildren. The within-person models indicated that entry into grandmotherhood was associated with both improved quality of life scores and improved life satisfaction. These findings are discussed with reference to inclusive fitness theory, parental investment theory, and the grandmother hypothesis.

Keywords: Fixed-effect regression, grandmother hypothesis, inclusive fitness theory, parental investment theory, Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe, subjective well-being, transition to grandparenthood

Representation of the breast: According to the specific nerve architecture that underlies breast sensation, where the medial & lateral sides of one breast are asymmetrically represented in bilateral primary somatosensory cortex

Somatotopic mapping of the human breast using 7 T functional MRI. Jop Beugels et al. NeuroImage, September 18 2019, 116201.

•    Stimulation of the breast resulted in a robust response on the dorsal surface of S1.
•    Unilateral breast stimulation resulted in bilateral activity in S1.
•    Medial and lateral breast sides are asymmetrically represented in both hemispheres.
•    The nipple cluster is larger, more selective and more responsive than other parts.
•    No gender differences in the magnitude of cortical responses and representations.

Abstract: How are tactile sensations in the breast represented in the female and male brain? Using ultra high-field 7 T MRI in ten females and ten males, we demonstrate that the representation of tactile breast information shows a somatotopic organization, with cortical magnification of the nipple. Furthermore, we show that the core representation of the breast is organized according to the specific nerve architecture that underlies breast sensation, where the medial and lateral sides of one breast are asymmetrically represented in bilateral primary somatosensory cortex. Finally, gradual selectivity signatures allude to a somatotopic organization of the breast area with overlapping, but distinctive, cortical representations of breast segments. Our univariate and multivariate analyses consistently showed similar somatosensory breast representations in males and females. The findings can guide future research on neuroplastic reorganization of the breast area, across reproductive life stages, and after breast surgery.

The Limits of Nudging: Can Descriptive Social Norms Be Used to Reduce Meat Consumption? It seems that nudging was a total failure.

Brachem, Johannes, Henry Krüdewagen, and York Hagmayer. 2019. “The Limits of Nudging: Can Descriptive Social Norms Be Used to Reduce Meat Consumption? It's Probably Not That Easy.” PsyArXiv. September 19. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: A high level of meat consumption is associated with high emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) and significantly contributes to anthropogenic climate change. One promising approach to reduce meat consumption without restrictions to freedom of choice might be the use of descriptive social norms as nudging interventions. We report two preregistered, randomized experiments (N1 = 450 and N2 = 899) in which we investigated whether written displays of true descriptive social norms about the rising popularity of vegetarian and vegan meals can be used to effectively nudge people towards more sustainable food choices, i.e. reduced meat consumption. Additionally, the main effect of subjects’ environmental attitude and a possible interaction of the social norms intervention and environmental attitude were examined. Participants were asked to choose one of five meals in 29 (Exp. 1) and 28 (Exp. 2) trials, resulting in a total of 38,222 observations. Subjects with a higher environmental attitude were more likely to choose meat-free meals, OR1 = 3.50, [2.84, 4.32]; OR2 = 2.79, [2.40, 3.23]. The results of both experiments showed no significant effect of the social norms intervention on subjects’ likelihood to select meat-free meals, OR1 = 0.73, 95% CI [0.49, 1.09]; OR2 = 0.97, [0.81, 1.16], and no interaction of the intervention with environmental attitude. An exploratory analysis suggested that subjects chose more meat-free meals if those made up a bigger portion of the offer. The results are discussed with regard to possible explanations, including a potentially high context-dependency of the efficacy of social norms interventions. The data, materials and preregistrations are available from

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

End of Life & Finding the Right Words to Stop Cancer Screening in Older Adults

Finding the Right Words to Stop Cancer Screening in Older Adults. Rebecca Voelker. JAMA, September 18, 2019. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.14732

During her geriatric medicine fellowship in 2012, Nancy Schoenborn, MD, took notice of the American Geriatrics Society’s new guideline on caring for older adults with multimorbidity. Its advice for clinicians to incorporate prognosis into their clinical decision-making “really made a lot of sense to me…and it was supported by evidence,” said Schoenborn, an associate professor in the Division of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

But when she considered how physicians should implement that advice, she didn’t have the words for it. Literally. “[I]t wasn’t clear how we should talk about it,” she said. The issue was particularly salient in cancer screening guidelines, which often use life expectancy of less than 10 years as the time to stop screening. Especially in primary care settings, where most cancer screening takes place, Schoenborn struggled with how physicians should tell healthy older patients they no longer need a mammogram, prostate-specific antigen test, or other routine cancer screening.

“If they pointed to the [guideline] and said, ‘Look, it says don’t screen if you have less than 10 years to live,’…that’s not going to go over very well,” she said. So Schoenborn went straight to the front lines. She and her colleagues interviewed older adults and primary care clinicians about how to discuss life expectancy in clinical decision-making and stopping cancer screening. In their most recent study, the investigators compared perspectives from both sides.

The study’s “good news is that there are several common themes that both the physicians and the patients agreed upon,” said Alexia Torke, MD, associate professor of medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine, who has published research on cancer screening cessation. “That provides a good, brief framework for starting off this conversation,” added Torke, who wasn’t involved in the study.

Benefits vs Harms

Clinicians and older adults agree that talks about stopping cancer screening should include a discussion of the benefits and harms. “Every screening test has risks,” noted Elizabeth Eckstrom, MD, MPH, chief of geriatrics at the Oregon Health & Science University. “Mammography is a perfect example because there are so many false-positives. [W]ith colonoscopy…you could perforate the colon at a time when the person should never have had the procedure in the first place.”

When they’re armed with information about the pros and cons of screening, older adults in the study said the decision on whether to have the test should be their own. Clinicians agreed. Said one clinician who was interviewed: “I tell them that we are a team, so I explain the information and…then I leave it up to them.” But if older patients forgo screening, they also don’t want to feel that they’re receiving less care. “I would not want to just [stop screening] and then just not do anything else,” an older adult in the study said.

Perhaps the chief worry among clinicians was that by suggesting it’s time to stop cancer screenings, patients could become angry and feel their physician was giving up on them. “That was really a major concern and barrier” for clinicians, Schoenborn said. Added Eckstrom: “It’s a big deal emotionally for a lot of doctors.”

But older patients said they wouldn’t think badly of their physician for suggesting it’s time to stop screening. “They were actually not as reluctant as the doctors thought,” Schoenborn noted. “Many of them were willing, some had already stopped, and if they trusted their doctor it was not necessarily perceived as a negative thing.” In fact, patients in the study hoped clinicians would find that perception reassuring, she added.

Between a Rock and the Guidelines

The hurdle is talking about life expectancy with older adults. “When people go in for a routine checkup and you’re going to talk about whether they should get a mammogram or a colonoscopy, they’re not expecting a decision about how long they’re going to live,” Torke said. “That’s something we need to consider if we’re even going to bring up that topic.”

In her study, Schoenborn said discussing life expectancy “did not really resonate with them…nobody liked that.” But when the subject was raised a little differently during the study—talking about ending cancer screening in terms of age, health status, and functional abilities—adults in the study were far more receptive. “Everyone thought that was a great idea,” she noted.

“So there was a disconnect in their perception between the inputs that we use to calculate life expectancy and the idea in the words of life expectancy itself,” Schoenborn said. “They didn’t really think about life expectancy as this conglomerate measure of their age, health, and function.”

That puts clinicians in a tough spot, she added. “They’re giving these guidances on what the ‘right thing to do’ is, but it’s in a language that they can’t just directly tell the patients very easily.”

Rather than use the guidelines’ blunt phrasing about life expectancy, clinicians can frame the message for older patients whose other health issues are of greater concern than cancer screening. For example, Eckstrom noted, explaining to an older woman that finding ways to help prevent her frequent falls is a priority over mammography.

Focusing on other health priorities “hopefully would give [clinicians] some place to start to have that conversation,” Schoenborn said. Eckstrom also has another strategy. “Sometimes I say, ‘You get to graduate from cancer screening; it’s a good thing. You don’t need this anymore,’” she explained. Some of her patients are relieved to learn they no longer need cancer screening tests. “Who wants another colonoscopy in their 80s?” she said.

But even if clinicians find the right words, institutional barriers can get in their way. Some insurance companies offer incentives for physicians to screen patients, but “they’re not putting upper age limits on it,” Eckstrom said. So instead of being made to feel their performance is subpar, physicians order the tests.

Automated computer systems in clinics and hospitals where physicians “have to click through a lot of things not to do something” also pose obstacles, Schoenborn said. And then there are radiology departments that send routine reminders about mammograms, she added. So some patients who had decided to stop screening for breast cancer go in for a mammogram because a reminder told them they’re due.

The Flip Side of Success

Decades of public health messages have emphasized the importance of cancer screening. “We have these very clear, consistent messages that sit on the side of a [mailbox] or on a billboard: get your colonoscopy,” Torke said.

Clinicians and patients get into the routine of regular screening, and advocacy groups sport pink ribbons to encourage mammograms. “There is a lot of emotional attachment to doing that,” Schoenborn said. “It’s part of being a good citizen.”

But the time may be ripe for a “more public health approach to raise awareness in the public that stopping screening can be the right thing,” she added. “Maybe a first step is just to raise awareness that it’s not something we all have to do until we die.”

The Lure of Counterfactual Curiosity: We are willing to seek information about how much they could have won, even at a cost, and even though it has a negative emotional impact (it leads to regret)

FitzGibbon, Lily, Asuka Komiya, and Kou Murayama. 2019. “The Lure of Counterfactual Curiosity: People Incur a Cost to Experience Regret.” OSF Preprints. September 18. doi:10.31219/

Abstract: After making a decision, it is sometimes possible to seek information about how things would be if one had acted otherwise. In the current study we investigated the seductive lure of this counterfactual information, namely counterfactual curiosity. We demonstrate in a set of five experiments using an adapted Balloon Analogue Risk Task with varying costs of information, that people are willing to seek information about how much they could have won, even at a cost, and even though it has a negative emotional impact (it leads to regret). We go on to show that despite its lack of utility, people increased their risk-taking after receiving information about large missed opportunities, leading to poorer future outcomes. This suggests that information about counterfactual alternatives has incentive salience properties – people simply cannot help seeking it.

Educational attainment and achievement: Heritability is generally higher at greater equality levels, suggesting that inequality stifles the expression of educationally relevant genetic propensities

Genes and Gini: What inequality means for heritability. Fatos Selita and Yulia Kovas. Journal of Biosocial Science, Volume 51, Issue 1, January 2019, pp. 18-47.

Summary: Research has established that genetic differences among people explain a greater or smaller proportion of the variation in life outcomes in different environmental conditions. This review evaluates the results of recent educationally relevant behavioural genetic studies and meta-analyses in the context of recent trends in income and wealth distribution. The pattern of results suggests that inequality and social policies can have profound effects on the heritability of educational attainment and achievement in a population (Gene–Gini interplay). For example, heritability is generally higher at greater equality levels, suggesting that inequality stifles the expression of educationally relevant genetic propensities. The review concludes with a discussion of the mechanisms of Gene–Gini interplay and what the findings mean for efforts to optimize education for all people.

Rolf Degen summarizing: The sensory brain responds at first more strongly to expected events, then to the unexpected

Press, Clare, Peter Kok, and Daniel Yon. 2019. “The Perceptual Prediction Paradox.” PsyArXiv. August 14. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: From the noisy information bombarding our senses our brains must construct percepts that are veridical – reflecting the true state of the world – and informative – conveying the most important information for adjusting our beliefs and behaviour. Influential theories in the cognitive sciences suggest that both of these challenges are met through mechanisms that use expectations about the likely state of the world to shape what we perceive. However, current models explaining how expectations render perception either veridical or informative are mutually incompatible. Given the multitude of domains applying these conflicting models, it is essential that we consider whether and how this paradox can be resolved. We contend that ideas from the research on learning and inference may offer a resolution.

Tribalism and tribe survival: Governments and other entities sponsoring mass weddings

Here Comes the Bride. And the Bride. And the Bride. Mass Weddings Boom in Lebanon. Ben Hubbard. The New York Times, Sept. 15, 2019.

BKERKE, Lebanon — Classical music swelled as the bride stepped from a white sedan onto a red carpet, took the arm of her tuxedoed groom and walked down the aisle, both grinning as their relatives cheered nearby.

The next bride did the same. And the next. And the next. And the next.

Once the couples — 34 that day — reached their seats, the patriarch of the Maronite Church, dressed in crimson robes and gripping a scepter topped with a golden cross, led Mass and declared the whole lot husbands and wives.

It was Lebanon’s fourth mass wedding in three weeks, representing a social phenomenon that has been growing here and across the Middle East.

In a region where marriage remains highly valued but economic pressures and costly celebrations have priced many couples out, powerful benefactors have stepped in, sponsoring large-scale ceremonies to make sure that young people get hitched.

[Image Nineteen couples gathered at a resort in Jiyeh, Lebanon, last month for a mass wedding organized by Oasis of Hope, a group linked to a Shiite political party.CreditDalia Khamissy for The New York Times]

Politics, faith and Lebanon’s complicated demographics play a role too, in this country with 18 officially recognized sects.

Political parties sponsor weddings for young members to reinforce their loyalty, and gratitude. Religious and ethnic minorities — which means everyone in splintered Lebanon — consider marriage and procreation essential to their long-term survival. And armed groups encourage their fighters to marry so that their children can become the fighters of the future.

A few weeks before the Maronite nuptials, Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group and political party, oversaw a similar enormous wedding for 31 couples. That was tiny compared with a mass wedding in Lebanon earlier this year that brought together 196 couples and was sponsored by the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas.

But the nearby Gaza Strip — where an Egyptian-Israeli blockade keeps people poor and locked in — beats them all, often because of competition between foreign sponsors eager to win friends by expediting marriages.

In 2015, the United Arab Emirates sponsored a mass wedding there for 200 couples. Two months later, Turkey seriously upped the ante, bankrolling a ceremony for 2,000 couples that was attended by officials from Hamas, the militant group that rules the territory.

[Image Part of the Maronite ceremony in Bkerke. Most couples join mass weddings for financial reasons, because they cannot afford their own celebrations.CreditDalia Khamissy for The New York Times]

Mass weddings hold a lot of appeal for couples who cannot afford their own celebrations, or want to spend their money on other things, like building homes or starting businesses.

“They take care of everything, God bless them,” said Roni Abu Zeid, 35, who got married in the Maronite mass wedding, which was held in Bkerke, a town near the Mediterranean coast, north of Beirut. It is the headquarters of the Maronite Church.

Mr. Zeid is a soldier, and with his salary it was difficult to save the $20,000 he needed to outfit a home and host his own wedding party. So he gladly joined the mass wedding.

“If we got married elsewhere, we would have suffered,” he said.

His wedding was sponsored by the Maronite League, a nonprofit group associated with the church. Maronites are the largest of the Christian groups that make up about 36 percent of Lebanon’s population.

Fadi Gerges, an official with the league, said it was natural for minorities to encourage their youths to procreate in a country where demographics affect power.

“When any ethnic group feels they are in danger, they pull together,” he said. “When they see the numbers going up on the other side, they think maybe they can place a pebble to prevent a landslide.”

This year’s mass wedding was the group’s 10th in 11 years, bringing the number of couples it has married to 274. So far, those unions have resulted in only three divorces and more than 100 children.
After dinner in Jiyeh, the families took photos of a large, tiered cake.CreditDalia Khamissy for The New York Times

To be part of the league’s group ceremony, couples must apply. At least one of the couple must be a Maronite, and the groom must have a house and a job.

Accepted couples get a free suit for the groom, a dress for the bride, invitations, flowers, photos, $2,000 in cash and a blessing from the patriarch — a big bonus for the devout.

During the ceremony, the couples came forward one by one to say their “I dos” while their families clapped and ululated from the audience. A camera on a crane shot footage for a television broadcast while a drone zoomed about filming the proceedings.

The league once provided refreshments, but unfortunate jostling between families for drinks and snacks put an end to that, Mr. Gerges said.

[Image Oasis of Hope, a group that sponsored the wedding in Jiyeh, also helped the couples set up homes, giving them furniture and appliances.CreditDalia Khamissy for The New York Times]

The league gives couples marital support as needed while encouraging procreation. This year, it will outfit a nursery for the first 10 couples to give birth. Other religious and political groups provide different perks.

The same week as the wedding in Bkerke, 19 couples gathered at a resort in Jiyeh, a beachfront town south of Beirut, for another mass wedding organized by Oasis of Hope, a volunteer group linked to the Amal Movement, a Shiite political party.

Tables adorned with white cloths, candles and appetizers filled the lawn and surrounded the swimming pool, rare luxuries for the mostly poor families who came to see their young people wed.

Fatima Qabalan, an organizer, said the group had married about 300 couples in 12 mass weddings over the years. It not only provided them with a fancy celebration they could not otherwise afford, but helped them set up homes, giving them furniture and appliances.

[Image Ghassan Mohsen taking a photograph of his new wife, Huda Mallah, by the sea in Jiyeh.CreditDalia Khamissy for The New York Times]

The group gave precedence to the children of party members who had been wounded or killed in Lebanon’s wars, but also to the poor, to help their marriages get off the ground.

“If we didn’t help them start and set up their home, they would be going into debt and heading for failure,” Ms. Qabalan said.

While waiters in starched shirts distributed trays of grilled meat and piles of rice and fish, party officials gave speeches and a prominent journalist took to the microphone to remind the couples of the importance of childbearing to the “resistance,” or the struggle against Israel.

A dance troupe stormed in, banging drums, chanting and waving flaming batons and giant red hearts. Then the couples proceeded through the crowd, the grooms in black suits and ties, and the brides in white dresses with attached hair veils. Their relatives snapped photos as they passed.

Ali Ala’ideen, a groom whose hair was slicked back like Elvis’s, said that he and his new wife could not afford a honeymoon, but that he was grateful to be married.

“If it wasn’t a group wedding,” he said, “we wouldn’t have been able.”

After dinner, the families took photos of a large, tiered cake. Fireworks boomed over the Mediterranean, there was a bit of dancing, and the couples left to start their lives together.

One groom, Abdullah Dbouk, said his wife had caught his eye when he was hospitalized for appendicitis and saw her working as a nurse. Once he was out, he tracked down her family.

“As soon as I could walk, I went to see them,” he said.

The couple visited and chatted on Facebook for months before getting engaged, but lacked the money for a big wedding party. So they asked officials from the Amal Movement if they could join the mass wedding.

“It was fate,” said the bride, Nour Awarkeh, 20.

“Thank God for the appendicitis!” said the 26-year-old groom.

Follow Ben Hubbard on Twitter: @NYTBen

Hwaida Saad contributed reporting.

A version of this article appears in print on Sept. 15, 2019, Section A, Page 8 of the New York edition with the headline: Here Come the Brides. (This Time, 34 of Them.).

Diners paying with cash received either $1 or $6 of change over the correct amount; in 128 out of 192 tables, the diners did not return the excessive change; women returned the extra change much more often than men

The cost of being honest: Excessive change at the restaurant. Chp 4.2 in Dishonesty in Behavioral Economics - Perspectives in Behavioral Economics and the Economics of Behavior, 2019, Pages 267-288. Ofer H. Azar, Shira Yosef, Michael Bar-Eli.

Abstract: In a field experiment conducted in an Israeli restaurant, diners paying with cash received either 10 or 40 Shekels (about €2 or €8) of change over the correct amount. In 128 out of 192 tables, the diners did not return the excessive change. Women returned the extra change much more often than men, especially among repeated customers. Interestingly, a table with a woman and a man resembles a male table and not a female table. Repeated customers returned the excessive change much more often than one-time customers. Tables with two diners were not significantly more likely to return the excessive change than tables with one diner. We hypothesized that customers will return more often 10 extra Shekels than 40, but found a strong pattern in the opposite direction. This implies that in some situations the psychological cost of dishonest behavior increases more rapidly than the amounts involved.

People dislike telling lies; Business and Economics (B&E) students are significantly less lie averse than others; female B&E students tell the truth least often, whereas female students from other majors do so most often

Do economists lie more? Chp 3.1 in Perspectives in Behavioral Economics and the Economics of Behavior, 2019, Pages 143-162. Raúl López-Pérez, Eli Spiegelman.

Abstract: Experimental evidence suggests that some people dislike telling lies, and tell the truth even at a cost. We also use experiments, to study the sociodemographic covariates of such lie aversion. We find political ideology and religiosity to be without predictive value; however, subjects’ major is predictive: Business and Economics (B&E) subjects are significantly less lie averse than other majors. This is true even after controlling for subjects’ beliefs about the overall rate of deception, which predict behavior very well. Although B&E subjects expect most others to lie in our decision problem, the effect of the field of study remains. Regarding gender, females and males are equally likely to be lie-averse. In a more disaggregated analysis, however, we also observe that female B&E students tell the truth least often, whereas female students from other majors do so most often. These differences between female students, not observed for the males, seem in fact to drive the larger part of the differences between B&E and the other students.

Reward, pleasure, threat, fear, and disgust are emotional labels that we often use with confidence, as if we knew the identity of their corresponding psychological processes

A Liking Versus Wanting Perspective on Emotion and the Brain. Kent C Berridge. Chp 12 of The Oxford Handbook of Positive Emotion and Psychopathology, June Gruber (Ed.). 2019

Abstract: Reward, pleasure, threat, fear, and disgust are emotional labels that we often use with confidence, as if we knew the identity of their corresponding psychological processes. Those psychological processes of emotion are quite real and deeply grounded in brain systems shared by humans with many animals. But, the identity of fundamental psychological components within emotion are sometimes mistaken because only the final products are experienced, losing the identity of important psychological components that arise en route. Some of those components can have counterintuitive psychological features. For example, the experience of pleasant rewards actually contains distinct psychological processes of “liking” (hedonic impact) and “wanting” (incentive salience). Experience of fear-evoking threats hides distinct psychological components of passive reaction and an actively coping form of fearful salience. Perhaps most counterintuitively, the component of “fear” salience in threat shares a hidden psychological and neural relationship to that of “wanting” for rewards. These psychological components have implications both for ordinary emotions and for pathological disorders ranging from addiction to paranoia. Affective neuroscience studies in this way can produce surprises and insights into the psychological structure of emotions.

Keywords: emotion, affect, brain studies, wanting, liking, subjective feelings, emotional reactions

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

We model the increase of U.S. adult obesity since the 1990s as a legacy of increased consumption of excess sugars among children of the 1970s and 1980s

U.S. obesity as delayed effect of excess sugar. R. Alexander Bentley, Damian J. Ruck, Hillary N.Fouts. Economics & Human Biology, September 17 2019, 100818,

•  While many population health studies have invoked sugar as a major causal factor in the obesity epidemic, few have explicitly explored the temporal delay between increased sugar consumption and rising obesity rates.
•  We model the increase of U.S. adult obesity since the 1990s as a legacy of increased consumption of excess sugars among children of the 1970s and 1980s.
•  The model captures the generational time lag through a stochastic process of superfluous sugar calories increasing obesity rates over the lifespan of each birthyear cohort.
•  Driven by annual USDA sugar consumption figures, the two-parameter model replicates three aspects of the data: Delayed timing and magnitude of the national rise in obesity since 1970.
•  Profile of obesity rates by age group for a recent year.
•  Change in obesity rates by age group among pre-adults.
•  Our results indicate that past U.S. sugar consumption is at least sufficient to explain adult obesity change in the past 30 years.

Abstract: In the last century, U.S. diets were transformed, including the addition of sugars to industrially-processed foods. While excess sugar has often been implicated in the dramatic increase in U.S. adult obesity over the past 30 years, an unexplained question is why the increase in obesity took place many years after the increases in U.S. sugar consumption. To address this, here we explain adult obesity increase as the cumulative effect of increased sugar calories consumed over time. In our model, which uses annual data on U.S. sugar consumption as the input variable, each age cohort inherits the obesity rate in the previous year plus a simple function of the mean excess sugar consumed in the current year. This simple model replicates three aspects of the data: (a) the delayed timing and magnitude of the increase in average U.S. adult obesity (from about 15% in 1970 to almost 40% by 2015); (b) the increase of obesity rates by age group (reaching 47% obesity by age 50) for the year 2015 in a well-documented U.S. state; and (c) the pre-adult increase of obesity rates by several percent from 1988 to the mid-2000s, and subsequent modest decline in obesity rates among younger children since the mid-2000s. Under this model, the sharp rise in adult obesity after 1990 reflects the delayed effects of added sugar calories consumed among children of the 1970s and 1980s.

Keywords: ObesitySugarHigh-fructose corn syrupSocioeconomic status