Monday, January 7, 2999

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Friday, January 18, 2019

Is Language Required to Represent Others’ Mental States? Language does not form an essential part of the process of reasoning online (“in the moment”) about false beliefs

Is Language Required to Represent Others’ Mental States? Evidence From Beliefs and Other Representations. Steven Samuel et al. Cognitive Science, https://doi.org/10.1111/cogs.12710

Abstract: An important part of our Theory of Mind—the ability to reason about other people's unobservable mental states—is the ability to attribute false beliefs to others. We investigated whether processing these false beliefs, as well as similar but nonmental representations, is reliant on language. Participants watched videos in which a protagonist hides a gift and either takes a photo of it or writes a text about its location before a second person inadvertently moves the present to a different location, thereby rendering the belief and either the photo or text false. At the same time, participants performed either a concurrent verbal interference task (rehearsing strings of digits) or a visual interference task (remembering a visual pattern). Results showed that performance on false belief trials did not decline under verbal interference relative to visual interference. We interpret these findings as further support for the view that language does not form an essential part of the process of reasoning online (“in the moment”) about false beliefs.

Both numerical magnitude & order processing were uniquely related to arithmetic achievement, beyond domain‐general factors (intellectual ability, working memory, inhibitory control, & non‐numerical ordering)

Disentangling the Mechanisms of Symbolic Number Processing in Adults’ Mathematics and Arithmetic Achievement. Josetxu Orrantia et al. Cognitive Science, https://doi.org/10.1111/cogs.12711

Abstract: A growing body of research has shown that symbolic number processing relates to individual differences in mathematics. However, it remains unclear which mechanisms of symbolic number processing are crucial—accessing underlying magnitude representation of symbols (i.e., symbol‐magnitude associations), processing relative order of symbols (i.e., symbol‐symbol associations), or processing of symbols per se. To address this question, in this study adult participants performed a dots‐number word matching task—thought to be a measure of symbol‐magnitude associations (numerical magnitude processing)—a numeral‐ordering task that focuses on symbol‐symbol associations (numerical order processing), and a digit‐number word matching task targeting symbolic processing per se. Results showed that both numerical magnitude and order processing were uniquely related to arithmetic achievement, beyond the effects of domain‐general factors (intellectual ability, working memory, inhibitory control, and non‐numerical ordering). Importantly, results were different when a general measure of mathematics achievement was considered. Those mechanisms of symbolic number processing did not contribute to math achievement. Furthermore, a path analysis revealed that numerical magnitude and order processing might draw on a common mechanism. Each process explained a portion of the relation of the other with arithmetic (but not with a general measure of math achievement). These findings are consistent with the notion that adults’ arithmetic skills build upon symbol‐magnitude associations, and they highlight the effects that different math measures have in the study of numerical cognition.

When the Muses Strike: Creative Ideas of Physicists and Writers Routinely Occur During Mind Wandering

When the Muses Strike: Creative Ideas of Physicists and Writers Routinely Occur During Mind Wandering. Shelly L. Gable, Elizabeth A. Hopper, Jonathan W. Schooler. Psychological Science, https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797618820626

Abstract: How often are creative ideas generated during episodes of mind wandering, and do they differ from those generated while on task? In two studies (N = 98, N = 87), professional writers and physicists reported on their most creative idea of the day, what they were thinking about and doing when it occurred, whether the idea felt like an “aha” moment, and the quality of the idea. Participants reported that one fifth of their most significant ideas of the day were formed during spontaneous task-independent mind wandering—operationalized here as (a) engaging in an activity other than working and (b) thinking about something unrelated to the generated idea. There were no differences between ratings of the creativity or importance of ideas that occurred during mind wandering and those that occurred on task. However, ideas that occurred during mind wandering were more likely to be associated with overcoming an impasse on a problem and to be experienced as “aha” moments, compared with ideas generated while on task.

Keywords: creativity, mind wandering, insight, open data, open materials

Disgust, sushi consumption, benefits, religion, and other predictors of acceptance of insects as food by Americans and Indians

Disgust, sushi consumption, and other predictors of acceptance of insects as food by Americans and Indians. Matthew B. Ruby, Paul Rozin. Food Quality and Preference, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodqual.2019.01.013

Highlights
•    Americans (82%) were more willing to try eating insects than were Indians (48%).
•    Benefits: Agreement was highest that rearing insects has low space requirements.
•    Risks: Agreement was highest that eating insects may cause allergic reactions.
•    USA: Willingness to eat insects was best predicted by Disgust and Benefit beliefs.
•    Consumption of sushi is a good predictor of insect acceptance.

Abstract

Insects are an important human food source, especially in developing countries, because of their efficiency at converting plant foods into animal protein, and their relatively low environment impact. The present study builds on some prior research on eating insects by surveying Indian and American adults. A composite measure of insect acceptance is developed. The results confirm prior findings that Americans are more accepting of insects as a potential food than Indians, and that men are more accepting than women. Substantially more Indians than Americans consider insect ingestion a violation of a protected/sacred value, suggesting a moral objection. Attitudes to and beliefs about insects and insect consumption are decomposed through factor analysis into the same five factors in both countries: Benefits, Risks, Disgust, Religion, and Suffering. Multiple regression indicates that for Americans, Disgust is the major predictor, followed by Benefits. For Indians, the best predictor is Benefits, followed by Disgust and Religion. In both countries, frequency of sushi consumption (a food commonly met with disgust when it was first introduced) is also a significant and substantial predictor of insect acceptance.

Investigating gender differences in school burnout from a self-worth perspective: Girls take school too seriously

Do girls take school too seriously? Investigating gender differences in school burnout from a self-worth perspective. Julia Herrmann, Karoline Koeppen, Ursula Kessels. Learning and Individual Differences, Volume 69, January 2019, Pages 150-161. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lindif.2018.11.011

Highlights
•    Lower school achievement is associated with higher levels of school burnout.
•    Independent of grades, girls report higher levels of exhaustion.
•    Girls report higher academic contingent self-esteem and lower global self-esteem.
•    Academic contingent SE and motivation explain gender differences in exhaustion.

Abstract: Recent investigations have suggested that a considerable percentage of teenagers, especially those in academic track schools, report school-related burnout symptoms (exhaustion, cynicism and inadequacy). Low school achievement and female gender are discussed as risk factors for the syndrome. We investigated school burnout from an individual differences perspective, focusing on aspects of self-esteem (global self-esteem; academic contingent self-esteem) and their associations with specific types of motivational regulation (intrinsic; extrinsic) in a sample of N = 649 9th graders (59% female; 40% males) from six academic track schools in Germany. We hypothesized that gender would be associated with school burnout symptoms and that global self-esteem, academic contingent self-esteem, intrinsic motivation, and extrinsic motivation would mediate the relations. We tested these associations in a structural equation model that was adjusted for grades. Girls' higher scores on exhaustion could be explained through pathways via self-esteem aspects and motivation. Results may inform prevention practices.


Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Minds of God(s) and Humans: Differences in Mind Perception in Fiji and North America; mind perception is shaped by culturally defined social expectations

The Minds of God(s) and Humans: Differences in Mind Perception in Fiji and North America. Aiyana K. Willard, Rita A. McNamara. Cognitive Science, https://doi.org/10.1111/cogs.12703

Abstract: Previous research suggests that how people conceive of minds depends on the culture in which they live, both in determining how they interact with other human minds and how they infer the unseen minds of gods. We use exploratory factor analysis to compare how people from different societies with distinct models of human minds and different religious traditions perceive the minds of humans and gods. In two North American samples (American adults, N = 186; Canadian students, N = 202), we replicated a previously found two‐factor agency/experience structure for both human and divine minds, but in Fijian samples (Indigenous iTaukei Fijians, N = 77; Fijians of Indian descent, N = 214; total N = 679) we found a three‐factor structure, with the additional containing items related to social relationships. Further, Fijians’ responses revealed a different three‐factor structure for human minds and gods’ minds. We used these factors as dimensions in the conception of minds to predict (a) expectations about human and divine tendencies towards punishment and reward; and (b) conception of gods as more embodied (an extension of experience) or more able to know people's thoughts (an extension of agency). We found variation in how these factors predict conceptions of agents across groups, indicating further theory is needed to explain how culturally generated concepts of mind lead to other sorts of social inferences. We conclude that mind perception is shaped by culturally defined social expectations and recommend further work in different cultural contexts to examine the interplay between culture and social cognition.

Additional siblings reduce wealth by about 38%; effect is more negatively associated with filial wealth with wealthier parents; contribution to population-level inequalities aside other socio-economic characteristics

Fewer Siblings, More Wealth? Sibship Size and Wealth Attainment. Philipp M. Lersch. European Journal of Population, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10680-018-09512-x

Abstract: This study examines the association between sibship size and wealth in adulthood. The study draws on resource dilution theory and additionally discusses potentially wealth-enhancing consequences of having siblings. Data from the German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP, N = 3502 individuals) are used to estimate multilevel regression models adjusted for concurrent parental wealth and other important confounders neglected in extant work. The main results of the current study show that additional siblings reduce wealth by about 38%. Parental wealth moderates the association so that sibship size is more negatively associated with filial wealth when parents are wealthier. Birth order position does not moderate the association between sibship size and wealth. The findings suggest that fertility in the family of origin has a systematic impact on wealth attainment and may contribute to population-level wealth inequalities independently from other socio-economic characteristics in families of origin such as parental wealth.

Some reaction time studies report faster responses when responses to temporal information are arranged in a spatially congruent manner; due to cultural localization of temporal information in a mental timeline

The Space–Time Congruency Effect: A Meta‐Analysis. Linda von Sobbe, Edith Scheifele, Claudia Maienborn, Rolf Ulrich. Cognitive Science, https://doi.org/10.1111/cogs.12709

Abstract: Several reaction time (RT) studies report faster responses when responses to temporal information are arranged in a spatially congruent manner than when this arrangement is incongruent. The resulting space–time congruency effect is commonly attributed to a culturally salient localization of temporal information along a mental timeline (e.g., a mental timeline that runs from left to right). The present study aims to provide a compilation of the published RT studies on this time–space association in order to estimate the size of its effect and the extent of potential publication bias in this field of research. In this meta‐analysis, three types of task are distinguished due to hitherto existing empirical findings. These findings suggest that the extent to which time is made relevant to the experimental task has a systematic impact on whether or not the mental timeline is activated. The results of this meta‐analysis corroborate these considerations: First, experiments that make time a task‐relevant dimension have a mean effect size of d = 0.46. Second, in experiments in which time is task irrelevant, the effect size does not significantly deviate from zero. Third, temporal priming studies have a surprisingly high mean effect size of d = 0.47, which, however, should be adjusted to d = 0.36 due to publication bias.

These findings underscore the contributions of heritable influences to the associations between parenting & virtuous character that have previously been assumed to be only environmentally influenced

Did I Inherit My Moral Compass? Examining Socialization and Evocative Mechanisms for Virtuous Character Development. Amanda M. Ramos, Amanda M. Griffin, Jenae M. Neiderhiser, David Reiss. Behavior Genetics, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10519-018-09945-4

Abstract: Virtuous character development in children is correlated with parenting behavior, but the role of genetic influences in this association has not been examined. Using a longitudinal twin/sibling study (N = 720; Time 1 (T1) Mage = 12–14 years, Time 3 (T3) Mage = 25–27 years), the current report examines associations among parental negativity/positivity and offspring responsibility during adolescence, and subsequent young adult conscientiousness. Findings indicate that associations among parental negativity and offspring virtuous character during adolescence and young adulthood are due primarily to heritable influences. In contrast, the association between concurrent parental positivity and adolescent responsibility was due primarily to heritable and shared environmental influences. These findings underscore the contributions of heritable influences to the associations between parenting and virtuous character that have previously been assumed to be only environmentally influenced, emphasizing the complexity of mechanisms involved in the development of virtuous character.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

From 1992: A proposal to classify happiness as a psychiatric disorder

A proposal to classify happiness as a psychiatric disorder. R P Bentall. J Med Ethics. 1992 Jun; 18(2): 94–98. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1619629

Abstract: It is proposed that happiness be classified as a psychiatric disorder and be included in future editions of the major diagnostic manuals under the new name: major affective disorder, pleasant type. In a review of the relevant literature it is shown that happiness is statistically abnormal, consists of a discrete cluster of symptoms, is associated with a range of cognitive abnormalities, and probably reflects the abnormal functioning of the central nervous system. One possible objection to this proposal remains--that happiness is not negatively valued. However, this objection is dismissed as scientifically irrelevant.




Health and Wealth in the Roman Empire: Romans paid a health price for their material wealth, their bones are smaller in the period of more power

Health and Wealth in the Roman Empire. Willem M. Jongman, Jan P.A.M.Jacobs Geertje, M. KleinGoldewijk. Economics & Human Biology, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ehb.2019.01.005

Highlights
•    We present the largest dataset of skeletal data for Roman history.
•    We do not attempt to reconstruct stature, but opt for trends in factor scores.
•    We find a downward trend until the first century AD, and improvement thereafter.
•    Our measure correlates negatively with population, but also with wages or diets.
•    Romans paid a health price for their material wealth.

Abstract: Ancient Rome was the largest and most populous empire of its time, and the largest pre-industrial state in European history. Recent though not universally accepted research suggests that at least for the most populous central periods of its history standard of living was also rather higher than before or after. To trace whether this is also reflected in Roman biological standard of living, we present the first large and more or less comprehensive dataset, based on skeletal data for some 10,000 individuals, covering all periods of Roman history, and all regions (even if inevitably unequally). We discuss both the methodologies that we developed and the historical results. Instead of reconstructing heights from the long bones assuming fixed body proportions or from one individual long bone, we apply exploratory factor analysis and calculate factor scores for 50-year periods. Our measure of the biological standard of living declined during the last two centuries B.C. and started to improve again, slowly at first, from the second century A.D. It correlated negatively with population, but also with other aspects of standard of living such as wages or diets.

More likely to stick with initial decisions, no matter which reasons are considered; this resistance to belief change is likely due to a motivated, biased evaluation of the reasons to support their initial beliefs (prior-belief bias)

Resistance to Position Change, Motivated Reasoning, and Polarization. Matthew L. Stanley, Paul Henne, Brenda W. Yang, Felipe De Brigard. Political Behavior, https://link.springer.com/journal/11109

Abstract: People seem more divided than ever before over social and political issues, entrenched in their existing beliefs and unwilling to change them. Empirical research on mechanisms driving this resistance to belief change has focused on a limited set of well-known, charged, contentious issues and has not accounted for deliberation over reasons and arguments in belief formation prior to experimental sessions. With a large, heterogeneous sample (N = 3001), we attempt to overcome these existing problems, and we investigate the causes and consequences of resistance to belief change for five diverse and less contentious socio-political issues. After participants chose initially to support or oppose a given socio-political position, they were provided with reasons favoring their chosen position (affirming reasons), reasons favoring the other, unchosen position (conflicting reasons), or all reasons for both positions (reasons for both sides). Our results indicate that participants are more likely to stick with their initial decisions than to change them no matter which reasons are considered, and that this resistance to belief change is likely due to a motivated, biased evaluation of the reasons to support their initial beliefs (prior-belief bias). More specifically, they rated affirming reasons more favorably than conflicting reasons—even after accounting for reported prior knowledge about the issue, the novelty of the reasons presented, and the reported strategy used to make the initial decision. In many cases, participants who did not change their positions tended to become more confident in the superiority of their positions after considering many reasons for both sides.

Sexual murderers in everyday life

Sexual murderers in everyday life. Jonathan James, Eric Beauregard, Jean Proulx. Journal of Criminal Justice, Volume 60, January–February 2019, Pages 64-73. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcrimjus.2018.12.001

Highlights
•    Sexual murderers are not different from the criminals described by classic criminology.
•    Sexual murderers are marginalized individuals who are dissatisfied with their lives.
•    Nonserial murderers were described as dysfunctional and having alcohol problems.
•    Serial murderers avoid arousing the suspicion of neighbors and police.
•    Homicidal fantasy may partially explain why some murderers become serial murderers.

Abstract: The objective of this study was to develop a psychosocial profile of sexual murderers and characterize their life context at the moment they decided to commit homicide—in some cases, on repeated occasions. To this end, serial sexual murderers (SSMs, n = 33) and nonserial sexual murderers (NSMs, n = 87) were compared in terms of sociodemographic characteristics, general and sexual lifestyles, criminal behaviors, cognitions, stressful events, and motivation to commit sexual homicide. The results of this study indicate that sexual murderers are marginalized individuals who are dissatisfied with their lives and whose crimes are triggered by stressful events. However, unlike NSMs, SSMs have a psychosocial profile and the criminal skills that allow them to avoid arousing the suspicion of neighbors and police. Moreover, the sexual tension they experience daily motivates them to commit carefully planned crimes. Taken together, these characteristics partially explain why these individuals are more likely than NSMs to commit a series of sexual homicides. While sexual homicide is an extreme phenomenon, it is nevertheless primarily committed by individuals whose characteristics resemble those of individuals who commit less spectacular crimes. It is thus not surprising that psychological theories of sexual assault and criminological theories are suitable for the study of this phenomenon.

Many are willing to incur a relatively high individual cost in order to adhere to an well-known superstition; but for for many, adherence is contingent on the the behavior of others

Invernizzi, Giovanna, Joshua B. Miller, Tommaso Coen, Martin Dufwenberg, and Luiz E. R. Oliveira. 2019. “Tra I Leoni: Revealing the Preferences Behind a Superstition.” OSF Preprints. January 16. doi:10.31219/osf.io/c5hx

Abstract: We investigate a superstition for which adherence is nearly universal. Using a combination of field interventions and a lab-style value elicitation, we measure the strength of peoples' underlying preferences, and to what extent their behavior is driven by social conformity rather than the superstition itself. Our findings indicate that both mechanisms influence behavior. While a substantial number of people are willing to incur a relatively high individual cost in order to adhere to the superstition, for many, adherence is contingent on the the behavior of others. Our findings suggest that it is the conforming nature of the majority that sustains the false beliefs of the minority.

Many gums or confectionaries incorporate chemical cooling agents to create the sensation of coldness; odorized & blue samples were rated as cooler than the non-odorized & other colored samples

Pellegrino, Robert, and Curtis Luckett. 2019. “The Effect of Odor and Color on Chemical Cooling.” PsyArXiv. January 15. doi:10.31234/osf.io/7em3t

Abstract: Chemesthesis, along with taste and olfaction, is a primary component of flavor that engages the trigeminal system through specific chemical binding. For instance, many gums or confectionaries incorporate chemical cooling agents, such as Wilkinson Sword (WS) compounds, to create the sensation of coldness. The current study was designed to evaluate crossmodal associations of color and aroma with the chemesthetic perception of cooling. A “minty” and non-odorized set of confectionary stimuli, colored green, blue or white, with moderate cooling properties (with WS-3) were used in this study.  In the first session, participants were randomly presented a stimuli and asked to rate several attributes including its cooling intensity on a generalized Labeled Magnitude Scale (gLMS). In the second session, the same participants were asked to relate cooling levels to different colors and which color relates to the “minty” odor. Additionally, open-ended reasons were given for association choices. Appearance and odor influenced the intensity of cooling sensation. In particular, the odorized and blue samples were rated as cooler than the non-odorized and other colored samples, respectively. The follow-up session confirms blue as a color associated with cooling properties, especially cool objects/abstract concepts. Meanwhile, odor’s enhancement on cooling sensation may be more perceptual in nature through affective matching from enhanced flavor.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Santiago Genoves, Acali Raft, and Mutiny on the Sex Raft: How a 70s science project descended into violent chaos

Mutiny on the Sex Raft: how a 70s science project descended into violent chaos. Stuart Jeffries. The Guardian, Mon Jan 14 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/film/2019/jan/14/mutiny-on-the-sex-raft-70s-experiment-santiago-genoves

When Santiago Genovés set sail across the Atlantic with 10 attractive people, he didn’t foresee hurricanes, epiphanies and murderous scheming. Marcus Lindeen’s new film retells a remarkable saga


Excerpts:

In 1973, Mexican anthropologist Santiago Genovés set out to test a hypothesis. He had been researching the connection between violence and sexuality in monkeys. “Most conflicts,” he noted, “are about sexual access to ovulating females.”

[Genovés’s advert for volunteers. Photograph: The Times]

But would this apply to humans, too? To find out, Genovés asked a British boat builder to make a 12x7 metre raft called the Acali on which he planned to sail with 10 sexually attractive young people across the Atlantic from the Canary Islands to Mexico. It was like a prototype for the glut of reality TV shows since, a Floating Love Island or Big Brother at Sea, but with a twist – the participants were so isolated from the rest of the world that it would have been futile to cry: “Get me out of here!” The only ways out were drowning or getting eaten by sharks.

Genovés was a veteran of extreme rafting. A few years earlier he had been one of the seven-strong multinational crew on Thor Heyerdahl’s two Ra expeditions to sail reed rafts, like those used in ancient Egypt, across the Atlantic. The Norwegian adventurer wanted to show how people of different races could cooperate effectively.

Genovés had even grander motives in planning his voyage: he sought to diagnose and cure world violence. To that end, he placed ads in international newspapers and made his selection from respondents, choosing a crew of strangers from different races and religions so that he could create a microcosm of the world. Among the five women and five men were a Japanese photographer, an Angolan priest, a French scuba diver, a Swedish ship’s captain, an Israeli doctor and an Alaskan

[The mixed-gender, multi-ethnicity, 11-strong crew, captained by Maria Björnstam (centre)]

To spur conflict onboard, Genovés minimised opportunities for privacy. His human guinea pigs were allowed no reading material. When they wanted to use the loo, they had to sit on a hole perched above the waves in full view of the other 10 and hope that the sea would wash their bottoms. Sex was logistically tricky. Either you would have to do it in full view of the others, or wait until the opportunity offered by night-time. Even then, two people were on duty, one keeping lookout and the other steering. If you were quick about it, crew members related, you could have it off – so long as one of you kept a hand on the helm throughout.

The boat would have no engines and would sail towards the Caribbean, just in time for hurricane season. Genovés knew that the Acali was sailing into danger but thought science justified the risk. “I believe that in a dangerous situation people will act on their instincts and I will be able to study them.”

He put women in charge, in part to reflect what he thought was growing gender equality. The raft was captained by Maria Björnstam and Edna Reves was ship doctor; men were given menial tasks. “I wonder if having women in power will lead to less violence or more,” mused Genovés. “Maybe men will become more frustrated when women are in charge, and try to take over power.”

Armed with questionnaires and spreadsheets that matched up rises in aggression and sexual activity with phases of the moon and wave height, he yearned to discover what humanity must do to live in peace. It didn’t quite work out that way.

What happened in the next 101 days is now chronicled in Marcus Lindeen’s documentary The Raft. Using 16mm film from the journey spliced with new footage in which surviving crew members recall their experiences 43 years after the Acali’s voyage, Lindeen recreates one of the weirdest social experiments of all time. “I suspect that if Santiago were alive today, he would be working in reality TV,” says the Swedish artist, theatre director, playwright and documentary maker.

Over Skype from Stockholm, Lindeen tells me he was looking for material to make a film akin to his debut documentary The Regretters. That 2010 film was about two Swedish men, both of whom had gone through sexual reassignment surgery to become women, regretted it, and transitioned back. “I was looking for another project that would involve a group coming back together and reflecting what had happened to them. I thought about a queer commune.” Then he read a book called Mad Science: 100 Amazing Experiments from the History of Science, which contained an account of Santiago Genovés’s Peace Project.

“I felt, ‘Oh my God. This is it!’” It was Homer’s Odyssey, an adult Lord of the Flies, with a hint of Fitzcarraldo and, fingers crossed, a rerun of 120 Days of Sodom. So he started to track down the crew, only to find many had died in the interim, including Genovés. “Maria, the captain, was Swedish so I got in touch with her quite quickly. But she was shy, and ashamed about her role on what had become called the Sex Raft, and initially didn’t want to take part.”

Then, having seen Lindeen’s earlier work, she changed her mind.

“She produced a box from her attic in Gothenburg that she had never opened before and we started looking thorough it.” Inside were photographs and blueprints for the construction of the raft, but most importantly a contacts book that set Lindeen off on the trail of the other crew members.

Once he had tracked down five women and one man and secured their agreement to take part, he commissioned a full-size replica raft to put on the soundstage where he would film them reminiscing. They had not met since the Peace Project docked in Mexico 43 years earlier, so the reunion was poignant.

In one of The Raft’s most powerful moments, Fé Seymour, an African American engineer, tells her white compatriot Mary Gidley of the strange dreamy sense she had of making the same journey across the Atlantic as her African ancestors on slave ships. “I would sit on the starboard side and look into the water. I would start to hear voices coming from down there … I would hear my ancestors call me. They could feel my flying over their bodies and their tragedies. It was one of the best things that happened to me.”

[...]

Not that Genovés’ raft was an antidote to the patriarchy. With a Caribbean hurricane brewing, Maria, the experienced ship’s captain, recommended they pull into a port to sit out the storm. Genovés, fearing the ruin of his experiment if they did so, mutinied and took control of the raft. “He wants to be very progressive and radical giving power to the women,” says Lindeen, “but when it comes to the crisis of the captaincy he’s very macho.”

But Genovés was symbolically castrated later, on the Atlantic crossing. A huge container ship bore down on the little raft and he panicked. Only Maria kept a cool head and organised flares to ward off the looming ship. After that, the guinea pigs turned on the scientist: Maria became captain again. Others on the raft even contemplated killing Genovés. Fé recalled imagining that everybody would put their hands on a knife and “plunge it into him so everybody was guilty. We would wrap him in a sheet, carry him over the railing and drop him.”

Overthrown, Genovés retreated below deck and collapsed into depression, made worse by news on the radio that his university wanted to be dissociated from the scandalous Sex Raft headlines. While lying there he started to cry for the first time since childhood and had an existential epiphany, writing: “Only one has shown any kind of aggression and that is me, a man trying to control everyone else, including himself.” The detached scientist had gone on a Conradian journey, ultimately realising that the heart of darkness was inside him.

[...]

From 2007 to 2016, implicit responses changed toward neutrality for sexual orientation, race, & skin-tone, are stable over time for age & disability attitudes & change away from neutrality for overweightness

Patterns of Implicit and Explicit Attitudes: I. Long-Term Change and Stability From 2007 to 2016. Tessa E. S. Charlesworth, Mahzarin R. Banaji. Psychological Science, https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797618813087

Abstract: Using 4.4 million tests of implicit and explicit attitudes measured continuously from an Internet population of U.S. respondents over 13 years, we conducted the first comparative analysis using time-series models to examine patterns of long-term change in six social-group attitudes: sexual orientation, race, skin tone, age, disability, and body weight. Even within just a decade, all explicit responses showed change toward attitude neutrality. Parallel implicit responses also showed change toward neutrality for sexual orientation, race, and skin-tone attitudes but revealed stability over time for age and disability attitudes and change away from neutrality for body-weight attitudes. These data provide previously unavailable evidence for long-term implicit attitude change and stability across multiple social groups; the data can be used to generate and test theoretical predictions as well as construct forecasts of future attitudes.

Keywords: implicit attitude change, implicit association test, long-term change, time-series analysis, open data, open materials

While in a romantic relationship, crushes were fairly common & seemed to have had few negative implications for the established relationship; of interest to therapists addressing couples’ attraction to others

Belu, C., & O'Sullivan, L. (2019). Roving Eyes: Predictors of Crushes in Ongoing Romantic Relationships and Implications for Relationship Quality. Journal of Relationships Research, 10, E2. doi:10.1017/jrr.2018.21

Abstract: Potential alternative partners can threaten the stability of established relationships, yet a romantic or sexual attraction to someone with whom you are not currently involved (i.e., a ‘crush’) appears common for those in relationships (Mullinax, Barnhart, Mark, & Herbenick, 2016). This study assessed prevalence of such crushes, individual and relationship predictors, and links to infidelity. Adults (N = 247, aged 25–45, 43.3% women) in romantic relationships completed surveys assessing individual characteristics (attention to alternatives, sociosexual orientation, attachment avoidance), relationship quality (satisfaction, commitment, intimacy), and infidelity. The degree of attention to alternatives predicted whether one had a crush on another while in a romantic relationship. Crushes were fairly common and seemed to have had few negative implications for those in established relationships. These findings will be of use to therapists addressing couples’ attraction to others.



Gendertrolling is correlated with both hostile sexism & social dominance orientation but neither variable is a unique predictor; significantly related to physical sadism, is motivated less by sexism than believed

Gendertrolls just want to have fun, too. AmandaPaananen, Arleigh J. Reichl. Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 141, 15 April 2019, Pages 152-156. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2019.01.011

Abstract: Previous research suggests online trolls choose their victims at random, and are motivated by sadistic tendencies. Gendertrolling, however, is directed specifically toward women (and those perceived as feminists or social justice warriors) and is often part of an organized effort to silence their voices. Thus, the purpose of this study was to determine if gendertrolling is predicted by hostile sexism and social dominance orientation, rather than the sadism underlying random trolling. Male participants (N = 347) were recruited online from highly trollable websites, including Youtube, Reddit, 4chan, and Amazon Mechanical Turk, and were asked to complete a series of personality and attitude inventories. As predicted, gendertrolling was correlated with both hostile sexism and social dominance orientation; however, a regression analysis showed neither variable was a unique predictor. Instead, gendertrolling was significantly related to random trolling, and both types of trolling were related to sadism, particularly physical sadism. Therefore, gendertrolling is evidently motivated less by sexism than is commonly believed.

Monday, January 14, 2019

We propose that a conservative orientation might promote physical health behaviors by promoting personal responsibility—overall health, greater physical activity engagement, and smoking cessation

Political orientation and physical health: The role of personal responsibility. Eugene Y. Chan. Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 141, 15 April 2019, Pages 117-122. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2019.01.005

Abstract: Are conservatives healthier than liberals? Aggregate and macro-level evidence have provided support for this possibility, yet individual-level analyses are missing and underlying processes unclear. We study how a person's political orientation might influence her physical health. We propose that a conservative orientation might promote physical health behaviors by promoting personal responsibility—and being personally-responsible means taking care of one's health. Across three studies, we find evidence for this hypothesis, with mediation evidence supporting our proposed personal responsibility account. We test our propositions on overall health (Study 1), greater physical activity engagement (Study 2), and smoking cessation (Study 3). Thus, we provide the first empirical illustration why conservatives may be healthier, offering implications for medical doctors and public health officials in encouraging healthy lifestyles.

Identify a large positive effect for subtitled original version broadcasts, as opposed to dubbed television, on English proficiency scores; governments could promote subtitling

TV or not TV? The impact of subtitling on English skills. Augusto Rupérez Micola, Ainoa Aparicio Fenoll, Albert Banal-Estañol, Arturo Bris. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jebo.2018.12.019

Highlights
•    We provide a fundamental and novel explanation of the quality of English spoken worldwide–the translation mode of foreign movies and shows in television.
•    We identify a large positive effect for subtitled original version broadcasts, as opposed to dubbed television, on English proficiency scores.
•    We analyze the historical circumstances under which countries opted for one of the translation modes and use it to account for the possible endogeneity of the subtitling indicator.
•    We disaggregate the results by type of skills - listening comprehension, speaking, reading and writing - and find that television is an especially beneficial tool for listening comprehension.
•    Our paper suggests that governments could promote subtitling as a means to improve foreign language proficiency which, in turn, enhances economic performance.

Abstract: We study the influence of television translation techniques on the worldwide distribution of English-speaking skills. We identify a large positive effect for subtitled original version broadcasts, as opposed to dubbed television, on English proficiency scores. We analyze the historical circumstances under which countries opted for one of the translation modes and use it to account for the possible endogeneity of the subtitling indicator. We disaggregate the results by type of skills and find that television works especially well for listening comprehension. Our paper suggests that governments could promote subtitling as a means to improve foreign language proficiency.

Memory capabilities: Found a gradual age-dependent, navigational experience–independent assembly of preconfigured trajectory-like sequences from persistent, location-depicting ensembles during postnatal week

Emergence of preconfigured and plastic time-compressed sequences in early postnatal development. U. Farooq, G. Dragoi. Science Jan 11  2019:Vol. 363, Issue 6423, pp. 168-173. DOI: 10.1126/science.aav0502

Memory capabilities develop with age
During memory formation, time-compressed neuronal sequences underlie consolidation as well as encoding of novel information. Such memory traces are largely contributed by a selection of preconfigured neuronal patterns. However, when and how these preconfigured patterns first emerge in the hippocampus is unknown. Farooq and Dragoi identified an age-dependent development of network preconfiguration into trajectory-like sequences. This preconfiguration was expressed spontaneously during sleep and emerged from the assembly of persistent, location-depicting ensembles, largely controlled by intrinsic developmental programs. Thus, the compressed binding of adjacent locations into spatial trajectories during navigation and their experience-dependent replay emerge in coordination from spontaneous preconfigured sequences.

Abstract: When and how hippocampal neuronal ensembles first organize to support encoding and consolidation of memory episodes, a critical cognitive function of the brain, are unknown. We recorded electrophysiological activity from large ensembles of hippocampal neurons starting on the first day after eye opening as naïve rats navigated linear environments and slept. We found a gradual age-dependent, navigational experience–independent assembly of preconfigured trajectory-like sequences from persistent, location-depicting ensembles during postnatal week 3. Adult-like compressed binding of adjacent locations into trajectories during navigation and their navigational experience–dependent replay during sleep emerged in concert from spontaneous preconfigured sequences only during early postnatal week 4. Our findings reveal ethologically relevant distinct phases in the development of hippocampal preconfigured and experience-dependent sequential patterns thought to be important for episodic memory formation.


Sunday, January 13, 2019

Liberals & conservatives evaluate the logical structure of entire arguments based on the believability of conclusions, leading to predictable patterns of logical errors; detect better the others' failures than their own

Gampa, Anup, Sean Wojcik, Matt Motyl, Brian A. Nosek, and Peter Ditto. 2019. “(Ideo)logical Reasoning: Ideology Impairs Sound Reasoning.” PsyArXiv. January 13. doi:10.31234/osf.io/hspj

Abstract: Beliefs shape how people interpret information and may impair how people engage in logical reasoning. In 3 studies, we show how ideological beliefs impair people's ability to: (1) recognize logical validity in arguments that oppose their political beliefs, and, (2) recognize the lack of logical validity in arguments that support their political beliefs. We observed belief bias effects among liberals and conservatives who evaluated the logical soundness of classically structured logical syllogisms supporting liberal or conservative beliefs. Both liberals and conservatives frequently evaluated the logical structure of entire arguments based on the believability of arguments’ conclusions, leading to predictable patterns of logical errors. As a result, liberals were better at identifying flawed arguments supporting conservative beliefs and conservatives were better at identifying flawed arguments supporting liberal beliefs. These findings illuminate one key mechanism for how political beliefs distort people’s abilities to reason about political topics soundly.

Lessons from the economics of populism. South African Reserve Bank's Governor Lesetja Kganyago's Speech Oct 2019

Lessons from the economics of populism. Governor Lesetja Kganyago’s address at the ABSIP National Conference Johannesburg. Friday October 19 2019. https://www.bis.org/review/r181019b.pdf

At the end of the road one cannot avoid wondering whether the mistakes of past populist regimes can be internalized by policymakers, politicians, and the population at large and, thus, be avoided in the future. Quite clearly, [history] suggest[s] that, in general, there is very little capacity (or willingness) of learning from other countries’ experiences. Indeed, one of the most striking regularities of these episodes is the insistence with which the engineers of the populist programs argue that their circ umstances are unique and thus immune from historical lessons from other nations.
        -Rudiger Dornbusch & Sebastian Edwards

My speech today is about populism, about its appeal and its weaknesses. Populism wins supporters in part because it speaks to ordinary people about real problems – problems other leaders can be too embarrassed or nervous to confront. For instance, when Hugo Chávez attacked corruption and inequality in Venezuela, he wasn’t just making troub le. He was confronting some longstanding problems of Venezuelan society. But populism also has a bad side: it pretends there are easy solutions, even where the re are none – where the problems are in fact very difficult.

Often the easy solutions have unintended effects, impacts that populists ignore or are unaware of. It is these unintended effects that usually end up hurting the people those easy solutions were meant to help. Populist governments tend to be especially weak on economics, which is a common reason why their projects fail. In my speech today, I will explore what it is about economics that populism get wrong, and what we can learn from that.

The knowledge I will detail is mostly drawn from Latin America, a place where populism has flourished o ver the past century. This experience is relevant for us because these economies closely resemble ours. In particular, they are middle income countries with high levels of inequality. Of course, every country is different. But the populist experience has b een so similar, across so many countries and time periods, that we can pull together a few clear lessons relevant to our times and circumstances.

Economic populism starts with deep dissatisfaction. 1 Too much unemployment, too much inequality, too much pove rty. The populist solution is to start spending – push as much demand as possible into the economy, without consideration of constraints. The argument is that more spending will make people better off. More demand encourages more supply, meaning more jobs and more investment. It’s supposed to be a virtuous circle. So the government starts spending money – as much as possible. It borrows from people’s pension funds. It borrows from the central bank and demands it buys its debt – which means printing money. I t spends the foreign exchange reserves. And at first sight, it works. As scholars of populism have noted, the immediate consequence of these policies tends to be a n economic boom. People who warn that populism is a disaster will look foolish.

There is mor e growth and big wage increases and more jobs. But it doesn’t last. Time and time again, the boom turns to bust. Inflation shoots up and growth collapses. Some populists realise their strategy has failed and change course. Others put their countries throug h even greater pain. During the 1950s, the Argentine president Juan Perón effectively aborted his populist programme when inflation neared 50%. 2 In Peru, Alan García abandoned his stimulus programme in 1988, with inflation well over 1000%. 3 In Venezuela, inflation is expected to reach one million percent this year, 4 and people are fleeing the country to find food, but the policy direction still hasn’t changed. What is it about the populist recipe that goes wrong? The literature focuses on t wo kinds of constraints: inflation and the balance of payments. Now these are things populists probably don’t see coming. They don’t understand the causes of inflation very well. And they may not even know what the balance of payments is. But these are pow erful forces, and ignoring them doesn’t mean they will leave you alone.

The inflation problem is fairly simple. If a government wants to stimulate demand, it will want low interest rates, and it will demand that the central bank print money to buy its bonds. This extra money does a couple of things. It raises demand, and with the economy running hot, firms and workers put up their prices. It causes the exchange rate to depreciate. And because people see the government is printing money, they start to put a lot of time and effort into figuring out where inflation is going, and raising their prices to keep ahead of it. This process then gets worse over time. In the first year, you get a fair amount of growth and a bit more inflation. In the second year, you get even more inflation and less growth. A few years in, inflation is running at very high levels – there are cases of inflation exceeding several thousand per cent a year, including Peru and Brazil, and as Zimbabwe showed us, there are many more zeroes th at can be added after that. This is poison to an economy – it destroys people’s savings and shuts down longer-term credit markets. It also interferes with the everyday business of buying and selling goods and services. So what starts with a nice growth bum p ends in a deep depression, and a large increase in poverty.

The other constraint is the balance of payments. When a populist government starts to push up spending, it increases domestic demand. That doesn’t change foreign demand so you don’t get more ex ports. In fact, local producers will probably be so worried about policy consistency and rising inflation that exports will stagnate. But the import bill still rises as demand booms, and that import bill needs to be paid somehow. Populists may hope that ne w demand will all go into domestic production, but they are invariably proved wrong. There are no modern economies that produce everything they need locally, from oil to machinery to food to smartphones. And foreigners like to be paid in hard currency, not an inflation and depreciation-prone currency. The shortage of forex therefore becomes a constraint – a bottleneck. No matter how much demand you push into the economy, you don’t get more supply because you can’t finance enough imports.

In economic terms, the import - intensity of demand means an economy can overheat even when other factors of production are lying idle, with high unemployment or factories operating below capacity. The symptoms of this foreign exchange constraint will be a widening current ac count deficit and strong depreciation pressure on the currency. So long as there are foreign exchange reserves left, or there are people willing to lend you dollars, the boom can go on. But as financing dries up, the government ends up going to the only le nder who will still take its calls, the IMF. Of course, the IMF isn’t interested in funding an unsustainable spending programme.

S o this means accepting the kind of spending cuts populists started out rejecting. There is also a third kind of constraint o n populism, which moves a bit slower but may be the most dangerous of all. I’ll call it the “ know - how ” constraint, and it is fundamentally about the sources of wealth.

In the populist narrative, that story is simple. They say, our country is rich. If the p eople are poor, that must be because someone else has hoarded these riches – like foreigners, or elites. The solution, then, is to redistribute the wealth to the people. In practice, however, although populists reliably point to sources of great wealth that they plan to redistribute – oil, land, gold, or something else – they invariably run into macroeconomic trouble. The wealth doesn’t cover the extra spending they want t o do. And they don’t appreciate that their anti-market rhetoric and policies disrupt production and kill off investment. As a result, they can deliver t emporary consumption booms, but not lasting improvements in welfare.

Redistributing an existing stock of wealth does not mean that that stock of wealth can be built again. Perhaps the most profound meditation on why this happens comes from Ricardo Hausmann, a Venezuelan economist and former finance minister currently teaching at Harvard. Professor Hausmann has, of course, had personal experience of a country that seems rich but whose people are nonetheless persistently poor. Accordingly, his analysis emphasises the value of know - how, of expertise. 5 Lasting wealth, by this account, isn’t in a country’s soil but in its citizen’s heads. Countries get rich because people develop specialised skills, and because they find ways to cooperate so they can do things much too complex for any individual to do a lone. To handle all this complexity and specialisation, people gather in firms, and firms interact in markets. The state can help with this whole process, for instance through investing in education, guaranteeing security and providing other public goods.

But if the state declares war on market mechanisms and condemns rich people, it starts to break the machine that generates wealth. It kills off investment. It scares skilled people away. In this world, natural resources don’t get used effectively, no matte r how abundant they are, and the economy doesn’t develop other kinds of industries either. This theory helps explain why resource wealth does not always generate national prosperity.

Certainly, there are countries with natural resources that are either v ery rich, like Norway, or that are reasonably prosperous, like Botswana. But there are also countries with the exact same resources that are poor, like Angola with oil or Sierra Leone with diamonds. And while there are countries that lack extraordinary nat ural resource endowments and are poor, like Malawi, 6 there are also countries that are resource - poor but highly developed, like South Korea or Germany. Clearly, there is more to wealth than winning the commodity lottery. This message doesn’t appeal to populists. For instance, p opulists do not want to hear about how a resource like oil is difficult to extract, that it requires highly qualified people and carefully maintained infrastructure and well - organised firms to manage the whole process.

More broadly, populists aren’t really interested in the hard work of development, the patient progress whereby you grow incomes by a few per cent a year, until after a generation you’ve become a developed country. For them, the country is already rich, and because the c ountry is rich, the problem must be that someone is stealing the wealth. Unfortunately, people fall for ‘get rich quick’ schemes all the time, and countries can fall for them too. There is abundant evidence that the economic strategy of populism leaves pe ople worse off than they were before. Yet somehow, the same ideas show up time and again, as if no - one ever learned from past mistakes.

The disaster playing out in Venezuela at the moment is no surprise to anyone who knows anything about Latin American history. We have seen the same basic story in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru and elsewhere. But all these economic disasters on Venezuela’s doorstep couldn’t spare that country from doing the same terrible things to itself. Yet it is perhaps too strong to conclude humans never learn. Venezuela aside, other countries have learned from populist mistakes, and constructed defences against repeating those errors. The fundamental mistake of economic populism is failing to understand constraints. Accordingly, the fundamental solution countries have adopted is building constraints into their policy framework. Instead of madly insisting there are no limits, no constraints, that everything is possible, policymakers look for what freedom of manoeuvre they enjoy within economic reality. In a sense, they design their macroeconomies to have brakes and airbags, not just accelerators.

Of course, accelerators are still useful. Modern policymakers almost universally acknowledge that there are ti mes and places where policy stimulus is appropriate. But those tools are for smoothing output over the cycle. They can’t deliver long - run development, and they won’t work in the presence of bottlenecks. If a government is facing rising inflation and a bind ing balance of payments constraint, stimulus is precisely the wrong strategy – as Turkey’s financial crisis is once again reminding us. Denying this reality just makes reality more painful. So what are the policy frameworks countries use to accommodate re ality? Latin American economists like to talk about a policy tripod, comprising inflation targeting, a floating exchange rate, and measures to protect fiscal sustainability.

The first part of the tripod, inflation targeting, directly tackles the problem of the inflation constraint, without sacrificing flexibility. If an economy is struggling and inflation is low, it’s an easy call to cut rates. If inflation expectations are well - anchored in line with the target, it’s easy to look through temporary supply sh ocks, such as oil or food price spikes. And if inflation is rising and inflation expectations are getting out of control, the policy framework will tell you it’s time to tighten, and an independent central bank will have the means to do so. If twenty years ago Venezuela had embraced inflation targeting and central bank independence, today they would have low and stable inflation, not hyperinflation. And they would be richer for it, even though they would at some point had to raise rates and made themselves unpopular. It is better to have unpopular central bankers from time to time than hyperinflation and expanding poverty.

The second leg of the policy tripod is a floating, market - determined exchange rate. Again, this sends everyone the right signals. If the currency is depreciating, it tells importers to cut back, and it tells exporters to raise production. By contrast, a fixed exchange rate helps everyone hide from economic realities too long – leading an economy to rely too much on imports, and to borrow too much in foreign currency. Fixed exchange rates create the appearance of stability, but they are so brittle that when they fail, they fall apart completely, doing tremendous damage.

By contrast, f loating exchange rate regimes are volatile, but resilient – they give you bad news immediately and help you deal with it, instead of storing it up for later. The final leg of the tripod is some kind of fiscal rule, to protect government’s solvency even when short-term pressures to spend more and borrow more are very high.

Chile, for example, has built systems to save copper income in good times, so when bad times come they don’t have to slash spending at the worst possible moment. Brazil has a fiscal responsibility law, which is meant to guarantee a primary budge t surplus except in emergencies, so debt levels stabilise over the economic cycle. Unfortunately, fiscal rules have proven eas y to break. The result is that countries can slip back into unsustainable fiscal policies, as has happened in Brazil, even as the other parts of the tripod stay standing.

In South Africa, we have implemented a policy of fiscal tr ansparency, so everyone can see what fiscal policy is doing and what we expect it to do. This has prompted a clear message from analysts, investors, the ratings agencies, international organisations and others that South Africa needs to maintain budget responsibility and get State-Owned Enterprise risks under control. This is a priority government has reiterated in successive Budget documents.

This macroeconomic tripod is not perfect. Unfortunately, there is no constitutional autopilot that can be written into law and will then produce national prosperity. That said, a sound macroeconomic framework can prevent a lot of pain. This is important, because the temp tation to do the wrong thing is clearly strong. This is evident from all the economic mistakes countries have made in history, and continue to make today. But I also know it is true because I often hear people in South Africa contemplating these temptations.

People ask, wouldn’t it be worth taking big risks, having more inflation, borrowing as much as we can get away with, if only we could get some growth and some jobs? They even say, in a highly unequal country like South Africa, wouldn’t it be politically safer to take macroeconomic risks to try and get poverty and unemployment lower? But this is wrong, for two reasons.

First, this only seems attractive until you’ve actually tried it. Macroeconomic stability is like oxygen. You don’t miss it until you have n’t got it, and then it’s all you can think about. People who want to engineer a short term boom and ignore the long term costs won’t like it when the long-term shows up, which history suggest normally starts after about two years. If you don’t think inflation matters, go try some. Or ask all the Zimbabweans or Venezuelans who had to leave their countries when their economies collapsed. Unorthodox policies have totally orthodox consequences, as those people can confirm.

Second, countries with difficult social foundations need to be more careful about macroeconomic stability, not more reckless. That’s because a macroeconomic crisis is an incredibly wrenching social experience, and you need a very strong society to get through one peacefully. When a country blows up its own macroeconomy, its policy options narrow, to the point where all the choices are bad ones. If you can get anyone to lend to you, it will be the IMF.

One way or another, you will end up doing real and brutal austerity. What we have had in South Africa over the past few years isn’t anything like this. We have interest rates close to all-time lows – the repo rate is at 6.5% currently – and government spending has been increasing every year, faster than inflation.

Real austerity is having interes t rates at 6 5%, as in Argentina at present, and cutting pensions and grants and firing government employees. We should avoid reckless economic policies unless we want to risk putting our society through that pain and stress

 This brings me to end of my speech. In conclusion, I would like to leave you with four principles for confronting populist economic policies, drawn from the ideas I have discussed today. First, rich countries don’t make rich people. If your development strategy is to return the wealth of the country to the people, you don’t have a development strategy. Real, lasting wealth is about know-how, not natural resources.

Second, if you hear someone urging stimulus and going for growth, ask how they plan on dealing with the macroeconomic constraints. What’s the plan for inflation? How are they going to meet the import bill to avoid a balance of payments crisis? If they don’ t have a serious answer, they aren’t serious. If they do have a serious answer, expect it to include policies like inflation targeting, a floating exchange rate and measures for keeping the fiscus solvent. These things cannot be ignored.

South Africa’s sti mulus and recovery package do es take these into account. Third, acute challenges of inequality, poverty and unemployment are not reasons to gamble on macroeconomic stability. South Africa’s social challenges mean we need to be extra careful about managin g the system carefully so it doesn’t blow up – not that we need to run the system as hot as we can get it and hope for the best. Finally, don’t ignore populists completely. They are very good at tapping into social frustrations – in a way, they are uncann ily good instruments for detecting where society is hurting most. They aren’t very good at economics, so their ideas routinely end in disaster, but that doesn’t mean they are altogether foolish. Rather, they are a reminder to better informed, more responsi ble people that things have to change. We cannot just say the populist path will end in disaster. It will. But we still have to point out another path. You cannot just be against populism – you need to be for something too. We need to talk about how we ar e going to get back to real and sustainable growth in South Africa.

Thank you.

---
1 This discussion of populist macroeconomics draws on the seminal essay by Rudiger Dornbusch and Sebastian Edwards (1990) “The Macroeconomics of Populism” in The Macroeconomics of Populism in Latin America, University of Chicago Press
2 Paul H. Lewis (1990). The Crisis of Argentine Capitalism, University of North Carolina Press
3 John Crabtree (1992) Peru Under García: An Opportunity Lost, University of Pittsburgh Press
4 Alejandro Werner (2018, July 23) “Outlook for the Americas: A tougher recovery” Available at: https://blogs.imf.org/2018/07/23/outlook-for-the-americas-a-tougher-recovery/
5 Hausmann, R., (2016). Economic Development and the Accumulation of Know - how. Welsh Economic Review. 24, pp.13 – 16. Available at: http://doi.org/10.18573/j.2016.10049. See also Hausmann (2017, March) “Das Knowhow Kapital” available at: https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/south-africa-zuma-knowhow-shortage-by-ricardo-hausmann-2017-03
6 For a discussion of the Malawian example, see Paul Collier (2007) The Bottom Billion, Oxford University Press

Talk from climate scientists might reduce support for climate regulation, & from health scientists might undermine public health; popular media stuff about racial bias & disadvantage may exacerbate discrimination

Elegant Science Narratives and Unintended Influences: An Agenda for the Science of Science Communication. Hart Blanton, Elif G. Ikizer. Social Issues and Policy Review, https://doi.org/10.1111/sipr.12055

Abstract: Scientists must share their work with the public in order to promote science‐based public discourse and policies. These acts of science communication are often evaluated in terms of their ability to inform (i.e., introduce accurate and accessible information) and engage (i.e., capture interest and maintain attention). We focus on a third basis by which science communication might be judged, influence. Science communicators exert influence when they shape public opinions in ways that affect their judgments and decisions, alter social and political discourse and debate, and guide social policy. We describe how the influence of any given science communication should be evaluated independent of its ability to inform or engage. We give particular attention in our analysis to the often unintended influences that well‐meaning science communicators can have. We begin by considering ways that communications from climate scientists might reduce support for climate regulation and communications from health scientists might undermine public health. We then develop two “case studies,” drawn from social psychology. These show how popular media descriptions of the science of racial bias and disadvantage might in some cases exacerbate racial discrimination and reduce concern for the disadvantaged. We close with an agenda for a more vigorous science of science communication; one that engages in two complementary pursuits. Critical studies identify the dominant and consequential effects that popular science communicators are having on public perceptions. Strategic studies advance and empirically test communication strategies that scientists can pursue to reduce—rather than exacerbate—social problems.

Assignment to a region in the global South causes Mormon missionaries to report greater interest in development/poverty; no difference in support for government aid/higher immigration, or in personal donations

Crawfurd, Lee. 2019. “Does Temporary Migration from Rich to Poor Countries Cause Commitment to Development? Evidence from Quasi-random Mormon Mission Assignments.” SocArXiv. January 10. doi:10.31235/osf.io/3hwga

Abstract: Public support in rich countries for global development is critical for sustaining effective government and individual action But the causes of public support are not well understood. Temporary migration to developing countries might play a role in generating individual commitment to development, but finding exogenous variation in travel with which to identify causal effects is rare. In this paper we address this question using a natural experiment – the assignment of Mormon missionaries to two-year missions in different world regions – and test whether the attitudes and activities of returned missionaries differ. I find that assignment to a region in the global South causes returned missionaries to report greater interest in global development and poverty, but no difference in support for government aid or higher immigration, and no difference in personal donations or other involvement.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Bullshit receptivity: Robustly associated with socially conservative (vs. liberal) self-placement, resistance to change; lowest among right-of-center social liberal voters & highest among left-wing greens

The complex relation between receptivity to pseudo-profound bullshit and political ideology. Nilsson, Artur; ERLANDSSON, Arvid and Västfjäll, Daniel (2018) In Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, http://lup.lub.lu.se/record/7d3b0b76-5bdf-4339-9235-673e9aafb3e0

Abstract: This research systematically mapped the relationship between political ideology and receptivity to pseudo-profound bullshit—that is, obscure sentences constructed to impress others rather than convey truth. Among Swedish adults (N = 985), bullshit receptivity was (a) robustly positively associated with socially conservative (vs. liberal) self-placement, resistance to change, and particularly binding moral intuitions (loyalty, authority, purity), (b) associated with centrism on preference for equality and even leftism (when controlling for other aspects of ideology) on economic ideology self-placement, and (c) lowest among right-of-center social liberal voters and highest among left-wing green voters. Most of the results held up when we controlled for perceived profundity of genuine aphorisms, cognitive reflection, numeracy, information processing bias, gender, age, education, religiosity, and spirituality. The results are supportive of theoretical accounts that posit ideological asymmetries in cognitive orientation, while also pointing to the existence of bullshit receptivity among both right- and left-wingers.


Check also Bullshit Makes the Art Grow Profounder: Evidence for False Meaning Transfer Across Domains. Martin Harry Turpin. MA Thesis, Waterloo Univ., Ontario. https://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2018/10/pairing-abstract-art-pieces-with.html

And Bullshit-sensitivity predicts prosocial behavior. Arvid Erlandsson et al. PLOS, https://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2018/08/bullshit-receptivity-perceived.html

Who Expresses Opinions in a Hostile Online Forum Environment and When: An individual’s race, issue involvement, issue knowledge, fear of isolation, & the revelation of identity influenced opinion expression

Who Expresses Opinions in a Hostile Online Forum Environment and When. Yu Won Oh. Mass Communication and Society, https://doi.org/10.1080/15205436.2019.1565785

Abstract: This study examines the issue of who tends to speak out against the tide of opinions on an online discussion forum, and which forum conditions facilitate an individual’s public expression of honest opinions. In response to the call for experimental research, this study employed simulated online forums to place participants in multifaceted hostile online discussion situations. The findings indicate that an individual’s race, issue involvement, issue knowledge, fear of isolation, and the revelation of identity influenced opinion expression online. In particular, fear of isolation, which has been pointed out as the main reason for silencing minority opinion holders, played an unexpected role as a motivator for frank expression of opinions online.

Keywords: Conditional features, experiments, hostile opinion environment, online discussion forums, opinion expression, speaking-out behavior


Pornographic Content and Real-Life Sexual Experiences in German Students: A considerable proportion of participants had no interest to experience activities they liked in pornography, especially unconventional activities

Pornographic Content and Real-Life Sexual Experiences: Findings From a Survey of German University Students. Urszula Martyniuk, Lukasz Okolski & Arne Dekker. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, https://doi.org/10.1080/0092623X.2018.1531334

Abstract: The aim of this study was to explore liked pornographic content and real-life experience with the depicted sexual activities in a nationwide sample of 1,197 German university students. The results indicate that there is a positive, content-specific association. Generally, the link was stronger for less conventional (less widespread) practices. However, a considerable proportion of participants had no interest to experience activities they liked in pornography and this was especially the case for the unconventional activities. This indicates that pornography use may constitute a distinct form of sexuality and may create an “intimate space” for sexual fantasies.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Drawings of real-world scenes during free recall reveal detailed object and spatial information in memory

Drawings of real-world scenes during free recall reveal detailed object and spatial information in memory. Wilma A. Bainbridge, Elizabeth H. Hall & Chris I. Baker. Nature Communications, volume 10, Article number: 5 (2019). https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-07830-6

Abstract: Understanding the content of memory is essential to teasing apart its underlying mechanisms. While recognition tests have commonly been used to probe memory, it is difficult to establish what specific content is driving performance. Here, we instead focus on free recall of real-world scenes, and quantify the content of memory using a drawing task. Participants studied 30 scenes and, after a distractor task, drew as many images in as much detail as possible from memory. The resulting memory-based drawings were scored by thousands of online observers, revealing numerous objects, few memory intrusions, and precise spatial information. Further, we find that visual saliency and meaning maps can explain aspects of memory performance and observe no relationship between recall and recognition for individual images. Our findings show that not only is it possible to quantify the content of memory during free recall, but those memories contain detailed representations of our visual experiences.

We recorded in a part of the macaque area TEO that is activated more by curved surfaces than by flat surfaces at different disparities using the same stimuli

Single-cell responses to three-dimensional structure in a functionally defined patch in macaque area TEO. Amir-Mohammad Alizadeh, Ilse C. Van Dromme, and Peter Janssen. Journal of Neurophysiology, https://doi.org/10.1152/jn.00198.2018

Abstract: Both dorsal and ventral visual pathways harbor several areas sensitive to gradients of binocular disparity (i.e., higher-order disparity). Although a wealth of information exists about disparity processing in early visual (V1, V2, and V3) and end-stage areas, TE in the ventral stream, and the anterior intraparietal area (AIP) in the dorsal stream, little is known about midlevel area TEO in the ventral pathway. We recorded single-unit responses to disparity-defined curved stimuli in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) activation elicited by curved surfaces compared with flat surfaces in the macaque area TEO. This fMRI activation contained a small proportion of disparity-selective neurons, with very few of them second-order disparity selective. Overall, this population of TEO neurons did not preserve its three-dimensional structure selectivity across positions in depth, indicating a lack of higher-order disparity selectivity, but showed stronger responses to flat surfaces than to curved surfaces, as predicted by the fMRI experiment. The receptive fields of the responsive TEO cells were relatively small and generally foveal. A linear support vector machine classifier showed that this population of disparity-selective TEO neurons contains reliable information about the sign of curvature and the position in depth of the stimulus.

NEW & NOTEWORTHY We recorded in a part of the macaque area TEO that is activated more by curved surfaces than by flat surfaces at different disparities using the same stimuli. In contrast to previous studies, this functional magnetic resonance imaging-defined patch did not contain a large number of higher-order disparity-selective neurons. However, a linear support vector machine could reliably classify both the sign of the disparity gradient and the position in depth of the stimuli.


More legislation, more violence? The impact of Dodd-Frank in Congo: Increased the incidence of battles with 44%; looting with 51% and violence against civilians with 28%

More legislation, more violence? The impact of Dodd-Frank in the DRC. Nik Stoop, Marijke Verpoorten, Peter van der Windt. PLOS, Aug 09 2018, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0201783

Abstract: The Dodd Frank Act was passed by the US Congress in July 2010 and included a provision—Section 1502—that aimed to break the link between conflict and minerals in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. To date there is only one rigorous quantitative analysis that investigates the impact of Dodd-Frank on local conflict events. Looking at the short-term impact (2011–2012), it finds that the policy backfired. This study builds on a larger, more representative, dataset of mining sites and extends the time horizon by three years (2013–2015). The results indicate that the policy also backfired in the longer run, especially in areas home to gold mines. For territories with the average number of gold mines, the introduction of Dodd-Frank increased the incidence of battles with 44%; looting with 51% and violence against civilians with 28%, compared to pre-Dodd Frank averages. Delving deeper into the impact of the conflict minerals legislation is important, as President Trump suspended the legislation in February 2017 for a two-year period, ordering his administration to replace it with another policy.

Summary in https://www.cato.org/publications/research-briefs-economic-policy/more-legislation-more-violence-impact-dodd-frank

Target appearance matters more for women; it matters more for impressions on youthful/attractiveness than trustworthiness or dominance dimensions; big role of racial & gender stereotypes

Xie, S. Y., Flake, J. K., & Hehman, E. (2018). Perceiver and target characteristics contribute to impression formation differently across race and gender. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/pspi0000160

Abstract: Social impressions arise from characteristics of both perceivers and targets. However, empirical research in the domain of impression formation has yet to quantify the extent to which perceiver and target characteristics uniquely contribute to impressions across group boundaries (e.g., race, gender). To what extent does an impression arise from “our mind” versus “a target’s face”, and does this process differ for impressions across race and gender? We explored this question by estimating intraclass correlation coefficients (ICCs) from cross-classified multilevel models of 188,472 face ratings from 2,230 participants (Study 1) and 219,658 ratings from 2,984 participants (Study 2). We partitioned the total variance in ratings on a trait dimension (trustworthiness, dominance, youthful/attractiveness) into variance explained by perceivers versus targets, and compared these ICCs among different groups (e.g., ratings of own- vs. other-group targets). Overarching results reveal (a) target appearance matters more for women than men, (b) target appearance matters more for impressions on youthful/attractiveness than trustworthiness or dominance dimensions, (c) differences in perceiver/target influences across race did not consistently replicate, and (d) these differences are absent in minimal groups, supporting the role of racial and gender stereotypes in driving these effects. Overall, perceiver characteristics contribute more to impressions than target appearance. Our findings disentangle the contributions of perceiver and targets to impressions and illustrate that the process of impression formation is not equal across various group boundaries.



Conditioned Pain Hypersensitivity in Male Mice and Humans: Re-exposure to a context associated with pain results in pain hypersensitivity; sensitivity is only present in males, via testosterone

Male-Specific Conditioned Pain Hypersensitivity in Mice and Humans. Loren J. Martin et al. Current Biology Jan 10 2019, https://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(18)31496-9?_

Highlights
•Re-exposure to a context associated with pain results in pain hypersensitivity
•Conditioned pain sensitivity is only present in males via testosterone
•The phenomenon can be demonstrated in both mice and humans
•The phenomenon is dependent on stress and blocked by zeta inhibitory peptide (ZIP)

Summary: Pain memories are hypothesized to be critically involved in the transition of pain from an acute to a chronic state. To help elucidate the underlying neurobiological mechanisms of pain memory, we developed novel paradigms to study context-dependent pain hypersensitivity in mouse and human subjects, respectively. We find that both mice and people become hypersensitive to acute, thermal nociception when tested in an environment previously associated with an aversive tonic pain experience. This sensitization persisted for at least 24 hr and was only present in males of both species. In mice, context-dependent pain hypersensitivity was abolished by castrating male mice, pharmacological blockade of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, or intracerebral or intrathecal injections of zeta inhibitory peptide (ZIP) known to block atypical protein kinase C (including the protein kinase Mζ isoform). In humans, men, but not women, self-reported higher levels of stress when tested in a room previously associated with tonic pain. These models provide a new, completely translatable means for studying the relationship between memory, pain, and stress.

Keywords: pain memory sex difference translation

We should acknowledge online sexual expression in adults of the general population as normal and mostly positive behavior

Are Online Sexual Activities and Sexting Good for Adults’ Sexual Well-Being? Results From a National Online Survey. Nicola Döring & M. Rohangis Mohseni. International Journal of Sexual Health, https://doi.org/10.1080/19317611.2018.1491921

Abstract
Objectives: Online sexual activities (OSA) and sexting are often framed as risk behaviors in adolescents. This study investigates experiences of adults.

Methods: Based on the positive sexuality approach, the current study measured prevalence, predictors, and perceived outcomes of OSA and sexting in a national online sample of N = 1,500 participants from Germany (ages 18–85).

Results: 68% of adults reported previous involvement in OSA and 41% in sexting. Perceived positive OSA and sexting outcomes outweighed the negative.

Conclusions: Sexual health professionals should acknowledge online sexual expression in adults of the general population as normal and mostly positive behavior.

Keywords: Cybersexuality, sexting, internet, sexual health promotion, pleasure




Check also: Sex toys, sex dolls, sex robots: Our under-researched bed-fellows. N. Döring, S. Pöschl. Sexologies, Volume 27, Issue 3, July–September 2018, Pages e51-e55. https://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2018/08/strong-negative-effects-are-attributed.html

Deplorables: Hatred, anger, and fear are significantly but only modestly related to political intolerance; the effects of emotions on intolerance are not consistently stronger among the unsophisticated

Gibson, James & Claassen, Christopher & Barceló, Joan. (2018). Deplorables: Emotions, Political Sophistication, and Political Intolerance. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/323972786

Abstract: While scholars have shown strong and enduring interest in the role of emotions in politics, questions remain about the connections between emotions and political intolerance. First, it is not clear which emotion (if any) is likely to produce intolerance toward one’s disliked groups, with different studies favoring hatred, anger, or fear. Second, it is unclear whether these effects of emotion are moderated by sophistication, as some conventional political thought argues. Do the less-sophisticated, in other words, rely on emotions when making judgments, therefore being less tolerant than sophisticates, who rely on reason? Here, we test both hypotheses using a large representative sample of the American population. We find that hatred, anger, and fear are significantly but only modestly related to political intolerance. Moreover, the effects of emotions on intolerance are not consistently stronger among the unsophisticated. These findings provide little support for the conventional assumption that the less sophisticated rely on emotions in making political judgments.

If the reward for creating a successful innovation is a top income, for extreme parameter values, maximizing the welfare of the middle class requires a negative top tax rate

Taxing Top Incomes in a World of Ideas. Charles I. Jones. Stanford Univ, September 2018. https://web.stanford.edu/~chadj/papers.html

Abstract: This paper considers the taxation of top incomes when the following conditions apply: (i) new ideas drive economic growth, (ii) the reward for creating a successful innovation is a top income, and (iii) innovation cannot be perfectly targeted by a separate research subsidy --- think about the business methods of Walmart, the creation of Uber, or the ``idea'' of Amazon.com. These conditions lead to a new term in the Saez (2001) formula for the optimal top tax rate: by slowing the creation of the new ideas that drive aggregate GDP, top income taxation reduces everyone's income, not just the income at the top. When the creation of ideas is the ultimate source of economic growth, this force sharply constrains both revenue-maximizing and welfare-maximizing top tax rates. For example, for extreme parameter values, maximizing the welfare of the middle class requires a {\it negative} top tax rate: the higher income that results from the subsidy to innovation more than makes up for the lost redistribution. More generally, the calibrated model suggests that incorporating ideas and economic growth cuts the optimal top marginal tax rate substantially relative to the basic Saez calculation.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Advertising as a Major Source of Human Dissatisfaction: Cross-National Evidence on One Million Europeans

Advertising as a Major Source of Human Dissatisfaction: Cross-National Evidence on One Million Europeans. Chloe Michel, Michelle Sovinsky, Eugenio Proto and Andrew J Oswald. Warwick Univ Economics Working Papers, 397. Jan 2019. https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/economics/research/centres/cage/manage/publications/397-2019_chloe_sovinsky_proto-oswald.pdf

Abstract: Advertising is ubiquitous in modern life.Yet might it be harmful to the happiness of nations? This paper blends longitudinal data on advertising with large-scale surveys on citizens well-being.The analysis uses information on approximately 1 million randomly sampled European citizens across 27 nations over 3 decades. We show that increases in national advertising expenditure are followed by significant declines in levels of life satisfaction.This finding is robust to adjustments for a range of potential confounders -- including the personal and economic characteristics of individuals, country fixed-effects, year dummies, and business-cycle influences.Further research remains desirable. Nevertheless, our empirical results are some of the first to be consistent with the hypothesis that, perhaps by fostering unending desires, high levels of advertising may depress societal well-being.

Germany, WWII: When a particular fighter pilot received public recognition, both the victory rate & the death rate of his former peers increased, depending on the intensity of prior interactions & social distance

Killer Incentives: Relative Position, Performance and Risk-Taking Among German Fighter Pilots, 1939-45. Philipp Ager, Leonardo Bursztyn, Lukas Leucht, Hans-Joachim Voth. http://home.uchicago.edu/~bursztyn/KillerIncentivesMarch2018.pdf

Abstract: How far are people willing to go to improve their relative standing? We examine the effects of public recognition on the performance and risk-taking among fighter pilots, using newly-collected data on death rates and victory claims of more than 5,000 German pilots during World War II. When a particular fighter pilot received public recognition, both the victory rate and the death rate of his former peers increased. The strength of this spillover depends on the intensity of prior interactions and social distance. Our results suggest that an intrinsic concern about relative standing, beyond instrumental consequences associated with public recognition, was a prime motivating force.

Heuristics and Trading Performance of Institutional Investors: Selling Fast and Buying Slow

Akepanidtaworn, Klakow and Di Mascio, Rick and Imas, Alex and Schmidt, Lawrence, Selling Fast and Buying Slow: Heuristics and Trading Performance of Institutional Investors (December 2018). http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3301277

Abstract: Most research on heuristics and biases in financial decision-making has focused on non-experts, such as retail investors who hold modest portfolios. We use a unique data set to show that financial market experts - institutional investors with portfolios averaging $573 million - exhibit costly, systematic biases. A striking finding emerges: while investors display clear skill in buying, their selling decisions underperform substantially - even relative to strategies involving no skill such as randomly selling existing positions - in terms of both benchmark-adjusted and risk-adjusted returns. We present evidence consistent with limited attention as a key driver of this discrepancy, with investors devoting more attentional resources to buy decisions than sell decisions. When attentional resources are more likely to be equally distributed between prospective purchases and sales, specifically around company earnings announcement days, stocks sold outperform counterfactual strategies similar to buys. We document managers' use of a heuristic that overweights a salient attribute of portfolio assets - past returns - when selling, whereas we do not observe similar heuristic use for buys. Assets with extreme returns are more than 50% more likely to be sold than those that just under- or over-performed. Finally, we document that the use of the heuristic appears to a mistake and is linked empirically with substantial overall underperformance in selling.

Keywords: behavioral finance; limited attention; heuristics; performance evaluation
JEL Classification: G02, G11, G23

Contrary to our expectations, there is no discernible link between emotions and estimates of minority group percentages, and in some cases, negative emotions reduce misperceptions

Nothing to fear? Anxiety, numeracy, and demographic perceptions. Yamil Ricardo Velez et al. Research & Politics, https://doi.org/10.1177/2053168018794583

Abstract: Studies have found that Americans tend to overestimate the size of minority populations, a pattern that potentially increases antipathy toward racial and ethnic outgroups due to heightened perceptions of intergroup competition. Recent research, however, suggests that providing people with accurate information about racial and ethnic demographics has no discernible impact on intergroup attitudes. In this study, we consider whether anxiety is responsible for overestimates of racial and ethnic groups in the USA. We conduct an experiment where we manipulate anxiety before asking subjects to estimate the size of racial and ethnic groups at the local and national level. Contrary to our expectations, our findings suggest that there is no discernible link between emotions and estimates of minority group percentages, and in some cases, negative emotions reduce misperceptions.

Keywords: Context, emotions, misperceptions

Rolf Degen summarizing: After decades of research, we still don't have a clue about which specific components of psychotherapy are helpful for clients, or if there are even any

The Role of Common Factors in Psychotherapy Outcomes. Pim Cuijpers, Mirjam Reijnders, and Marcus J.H. Huibers. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, Vol. 15:- (Volume publication date May 2019). https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-050718-095424

Abstract: Psychotherapies may work through techniques that are specific to each therapy or through factors that all therapies have in common. Proponents of the common factors model often point to meta-analyses of comparative outcome studies that show all therapies have comparable effects. However, not all meta-analyses support the common factors model; the included studies often have several methodological problems; and there are alternative explanations for finding comparable outcomes. To date, research on the working mechanisms and mediators of therapies has always been correlational, and in order to establish that a mediator is indeed a causal factor in the recovery process of a patient, studies must show a temporal relationship between the mediator and an outcome, a dose–response association, evidence that no third variable causes changes in the mediator and the outcome, supportive experimental research, and have a strong theoretical framework. Currently, no common or specific factor meets these criteria and can be considered an empirically validated working mechanism. Therefore, it is still unknown whether therapies work through common or specific factors, or both.

How and when taking pictures undermines the enjoyment of experiences; by constantly striving to document their experiences, consumers may unwittingly fail to enjoy those experiences to the fullest

How and when taking pictures undermines the enjoyment of experiences. Gia Nardini, Richard J. Lutz, Robyn A. LeBoeuf. Psychology & Marketing, https://doi.org/10.1002/mar.21194

Abstract: The consumption of experiences (as opposed to products) has seen an increasing amount of research attention in recent years. A key aspect of the experiential consumption journey is how the experience is consumed. For instance, people almost invariably take pictures during highly enjoyable experiences such as vacations or important family events. Although past research has suggested that taking pictures may enhance the enjoyment of moderately enjoyable experiences, the effect of picture taking on the real‐time enjoyment of highly enjoyable experiences is not clear. To address this matter, the authors investigate whether taking pictures affects consumers’ enjoyment of highly enjoyable hedonic experiences. A series of laboratory studies demonstrate that taking pictures (compared with not taking pictures) can decrease enjoyment of highly enjoyable experiences. This study suggests that, by constantly striving to document their experiences, consumers may unwittingly fail to enjoy those experiences to the fullest. These results have implications for how firms may best stage experiential offerings to enhance their customers’ experiences.

Perception of naturally dead conspecifics impairs health and longevity through serotonin signaling in Drosophila melanogaster

Perception of naturally dead conspecifics impairs health and longevity through serotonin signaling in Drosophila. Tuhin S Chakraborty, Christi M Gendron, Yang Lyu, Allyson S Munneke, Madeline N DeMarco, Zachary W Hoisington, Scott D Pletcher. bioRxiv 515312, https://doi.org/10.1101/515312

Abstract: Sensory perception modulates health and aging across taxa. Understanding the nature of relevant cues and the mechanisms underlying their action may lead to novel interventions that improve the length and quality of life. In humans, psychological trauma is often associated with the recognition of dead individuals, with chronic exposure leading to persistent mental health issues including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. The mechanisms that link mental and physical health, and the degree to which these are shared across species, remain largely unknown. Here we show that the vinegar fly, Drosophila melanogaster, has the capability to perceive dead conspecifics in its environment and that this perceptive experience induces both short- and long-term effects on health and longevity. Death perception is mediated by visual and olfactory cues, and remarkably, its effects on aging are eliminated by targeted attenuation of serotonin signaling. Our results suggest a complex perceptive ability in Drosophila that reveals deeply conserved mechanistic links between psychological state and aging, the roots of which might be unearthed using invertebrate model systems.



Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Civil service exam based on classics strengthened civil service's social prestige & weakened that of commerce; result is a more educated population & more Confucian temples, but lower wealth level

Mattingly, Daniel, When State-Building Hinders Growth: The Legacy of China's Confucian Bureaucracy (November 28, 2018). http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3292226

Abstract: Do countries with a long history of state-building fare better in the long run? Recent work has shown that earlier state-building may lead to higher levels of present-day growth. By contrast, I use a natural experiment to show that the regions of China with over a thousand years of sustained exposure to state-building are significantly poorer today. The mechanism of persistence, I argue, was the introduction of a civil service exam based on knowledge of Confucian classics, which strengthened the social prestige of the civil service and weakened the prestige of commerce. A thousand years later, the regions of China where the Confucian bureaucracy was first introduced have a more educated population and more Confucian temples, but lower levels of wealth. The paper contributes to an important debate on the Great Divergence, highlighting how political institutions interact with culture to cause long-run patterns of growth.

Keywords: state building, culture, growth, bureaucracies, institutions

Programmed altruistic, adaptive death that increases fitness could occur in C. elegans & S. cerevisiae; could promote worm fitness by enhancing inclusive fitness, or worm colony fitness through group selection

Does senescence promote fitness in Caenorhabditis elegans by causing death? Jennifer N. Lohr, Evgeniy R. Galimov, David Gems. Ageing Research Reviews, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.arr.2019.01.008

Highlights
•    Senescent death of older inviduals could benefit younger kin
•    Theory rules out such programmed death in outbred, dispersed populations
•    C. elegans breed as non-dispersed, clonal populations of protandrous hermaphrodites
•    Under these conditions programmed, adaptive death could evolve

Abstract: A widely appreciated conclusion from evolutionary theory is that senescence (aging) is of no adaptive value to the individual that it afflicts. Yet studies of Caenorhabditis elegans and Saccharomyces cerevisiae are increasingly revealing the presence of processes which actively cause senescence and death, leading some biogerontologists to wonder about the established theory. Here we argue that programmed death that increases fitness could occur in C. elegans and S. cerevisiae, and that this is consistent with the classic evolutionary theory of aging. This is because of the special conditions under which these organisms have evolved, particularly the existence of clonal populations with limited dispersal and, in the case of C. elegans, the brevity of the reproductive period caused by protandrous hermaphroditism. Under these conditions, death-promoting mechanisms could promote worm fitness by enhancing inclusive fitness, or worm colony fitness through group selection. Such altruistic, adaptive death is not expected to evolve in organisms with outbred, dispersed populations (e.g. most vertebrate species). The plausibility of adaptive death in C. elegans is supported by computer modelling studies, and new knowledge about the ecology of this species. To support these arguments we also review the biology of adaptive death, and distinguish three forms: consumer sacrifice, biomass sacrifice and defensive sacrifice.

More than 30% in individuals' perceived income justice can be attributed to genetic variation, the rest is mostly driven by idiosyncratic environmental effects; no evidence for gene-environment interactions

Neugart, Michael and Yildirim, Selen, What Determines Perceived Income Justice: Evidence from the German TwinLife Study (November 23, 2018). https://ssrn.com/abstract=3289604

Abstract: Whether individuals perceive their income as being fair has far reaching consequences in the labor market and beyond. Yet we know little on the determinants of variation in perceived income justice across individuals. In this paper we ask whether genes can explain parts of the variation. To this end, we analyze data from the German TwinLife study. We find that more than 30% in individuals' perceived income justice can be attributed to genetic variation. The rest is mostly driven by idiosyncratic environmental effects. We, furthermore, do not find evidence for gene-environment interaction effects.

Keywords: perceived income justice, twins, behavioral genetics
JEL Classification: D10, D90

Decreased brain connectivity in smoking contrasts with increased connectivity in drinking

Decreased brain connectivity in smoking contrasts with increased connectivity in drinking. Wei Cheng et al. eLife 2019;8:e40765, https://elifesciences.org/articles/40765

Abstract: In a group of 831 participants from the general population in the Human Connectome Project, smokers exhibited low overall functional connectivity, and more specifically of the lateral orbitofrontal cortex which is associated with non-reward mechanisms, the adjacent inferior frontal gyrus, and the precuneus. Participants who drank a high amount had overall increases in resting state functional connectivity, and specific increases in reward-related systems including the medial orbitofrontal cortex and the cingulate cortex. Increased impulsivity was found in smokers, associated with decreased functional connectivity of the non-reward-related lateral orbitofrontal cortex; and increased impulsivity was found in high amount drinkers, associated with increased functional connectivity of the reward-related medial orbitofrontal cortex. The main findings were cross-validated in an independent longitudinal dataset with 1176 participants, IMAGEN. Further, the functional connectivities in 14-year-old non-smokers (and also in female low-drinkers) were related to who would smoke or drink at age 19. An implication is that these differences in brain functional connectivities play a role in smoking and drinking, together with other factors.

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Discovered: different brain areas linked to smoking and drinking https://warwick.ac.uk/newsandevents/pressreleases/discovered_different_brain