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Friday, February 22, 2019

Fro 2014: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases

From 2014... The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study. Petroc Sumner et al. BMJ 2014;349:g7015. doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g7015 (Dec 10 2014).

Simplified:
40%... of the press releases contained exaggerated advice, 33%... contained exaggerated causal claims, and 36%... contained exaggerated inference to humans from animal research

Effects (removing details of confidence intervals): When press releases contained such exaggeration, 58% ..., 81% ..., and 86% ... of news stories, respectively, contained similar exaggeration, compared with exaggeration rates of 17% ...., 18% ..., and 10% ... in news when the press releases were not exaggerated. Odds ratios for each category of analysis were 6.5 ...times..., 20 ...times..., and 56 ...times...

Abstract

Objective To identify the source (press releases or news) of distortions, exaggerations, or changes to the main conclusions drawn from research that could potentially influence a reader’s health related behaviour.

Design Retrospective quantitative content analysis.

Setting Journal articles, press releases, and related news, with accompanying simulations.

Sample Press releases (n=462) on biomedical and health related science issued by 20 leading UK universities in 2011, alongside their associated peer reviewed research papers and news stories (n=668).

Main outcome measures Advice to readers to change behaviour, causal statements drawn from correlational research, and inference to humans from animal research that went beyond those in the associated peer reviewed papers.

Results 40% (95% confidence interval 33% to 46%) of the press releases contained exaggerated advice, 33% (26% to 40%) contained exaggerated causal claims, and 36% (28% to 46%) contained exaggerated inference to humans from animal research. When press releases contained such exaggeration, 58% (95% confidence interval 48% to 68%), 81% (70% to 93%), and 86% (77% to 95%) of news stories, respectively, contained similar exaggeration, compared with exaggeration rates of 17% (10% to 24%), 18% (9% to 27%), and 10% (0% to 19%) in news when the press releases were not exaggerated. Odds ratios for each category of analysis were 6.5 (95% confidence interval 3.5 to 12), 20 (7.6 to 51), and 56 (15 to 211). At the same time, there was little evidence that exaggeration in press releases increased the uptake of news.

Conclusions Exaggeration in news is strongly associated with exaggeration in press releases. Improving the accuracy of academic press releases could represent a key opportunity for reducing misleading health related news.


EU Commission said subsidies to UK renewables were €1.57 bn; correct figure is closer to €7bn

Authors of EU Commission Report Confirm Mistake
 
 
In his column earlier this week, Dr John Constable, the GWPF's energy editor, pointed out that the EU Commission’s recent study of the effect of climate and other policies on international competitiveness contained a substantive error. The report claimed that annual levies on UK consumers in 2016 for subsidies to renewable electricity were €1.57 billion, whereas the correct figure is closer to €7 billion.

The EU Commission’s consultants have confirmed the mistake in writing to Dr Constable:
“You are correct that the largest part of the other subsidies was from the Renewables Obligation and that these were not allocated to ‘financed by end users’ as they should have been. Thank you for spotting this error, we are correcting the figures and expect a revised report to be online soon."
Correcting this error will certainly have significant consequences for all sections of the report relying on calculations of Renewable Energy support costs for electricity consumers in 2016. Because of its magnitude it is likely to have consequences for the study’s estimates of the competitiveness impact on the EU28 overall as compared to the G20.
This is impact is already estimated to be very significant, with both domestic and industrial electricity prices being very substantially above those in the G20, with EU domestic prices being more than double those in the G20 and industrial prices approximately 50% higher.

Dr Constable said:

"The study is an important and major statement on the economic consequences of the EU’s energy and climate policies, and it is crucial that such work is as accurate as possible."


Notes for Editors
2. The EU Commission study can be found here: https://publications.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/d7c9d93b-1879-11e9-8d04-01aa75ed71a1/language-en

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Why we don't pay attention to "psychoanalysis": Female anatomy and hysterical duality

Female anatomy and hysterical duality. Aya Zaidel. The American Journal of Psychoanalysis, Feb 7 2019, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1057%2Fs11231-019-09180-8

Abstract: This article attempts to add another layer to our understanding of the phenomenon of hysterical duality. The author postulates that hysterical duality can be explained based on the dual-aspect model of feminine sexuality, which exhibits two initially contradictory paths: one derived from primary vaginal sensations and the other from clitoral pleasure. At first, these two paths create a fundamental split between representations of internal space, containment and motherhood and representations related to auto-eroticism and the effacement of the Other’s presence and needs. The author argues that this manifest contradiction makes the attainment of integration in feminine development an intricate and protracted process, which involves an act of inversion. This inversion entails a post-Oedipal disavowal of primary vaginal sexuality, pending its rediscovery through the encounter with the Other. Hysteria is thus viewed as the result of a failure to perform this inversion and an inability to extract oneself from the position of a “Vaginal Girl”, who defines herself through the desire of the other. This pathological course of development leaves the hysteric’s sexuality in a split state and traps her in the duality of clitoral pleasure versus penetration, which unconsciously represents humiliation and exploitation.

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By sketching this process along a timeline, we could argue that the girl knows what she is not supposed to know and thus cannot wait to rediscover what she already knew. Her premature knowledge of her vaginal sexuality operates as a trauma which halts time and development. Thus, she is denied of the suspension and incubation processes that are deemed so vital to feminine development by Freud, Montrelay and Braunschweig and Fain. In other words, the girl cannot perform the required act of inversion: to shift from pre-symbolic sensuous knowing (her primary knowledge of the vagina) to not-knowing (denial of her own sexuality and being part of a group) and then to mature knowing (acknowledging the vagina as part of a whole). Instead, we can theorize she is faced with three options: to adhere to her initial state, to adopt the opposite position or to keep alternating between these two states. All three options entail an incomplete transformation and a constant return to the same position.

It seems that one can notice the connection between the impossible predicament of the ‘‘vaginal child’’ and the phenomenology of hysteria. In fact, when one views hysteria as a failed inversion, one can see how it entails three potential presentations: the first entails acquiescing and holding one’s ground. In this state, the woman identifies herself as a container, a ‘‘cesspit’’, and presents the position of a good, placating and obedient girl. Under the surface, one finds outrage and a phantasmatic sadomasochistic world, where feminine sexuality is subjected to ‘‘vaginal logic’’ (i.e., operates in line with a devouring oral scheme). This state resembles what Montrelay called the first psychic economy, which is a continuation of the primary vaginal sensations which have an annihilating effect. As this state involves an unsymbolized sexuality which subverts the processes of representation and symbolization, this psychic position is related to somatization, dissociation, hysterical ‘‘excess’’ and ‘‘masquerading’’ and additional phenomena that express regions that were left without representation, as blind spots or dark continents. The second presentation entails a transition to an inverted position, but the inversion seems to stop midway. The woman is ‘‘stuck’’ in an oppositional stance that is linked to ‘‘clitoral logic’’, which states that only what is visible is  significant. This is a constant state of resistance and protest against the feeling of not being recognized by the group and it may manifest in symptoms of nausea, vomiting or vaginismus. However, as mentioned, this attempted rebellion merely betrays the woman’s surrender and her acceptance of phallocentric law. In this state, the anger and the outrage are on the surface, while underneath there is an inability to disengage from primary vaginality in order to eventually turn it into a source of pleasure. The third and perhaps most advanced presentation entails a constant motion between the two previous states, an oscillation between a state of inviting submission which conceals defiance and rejection of the Other and its opposite. This precludes any opportunity for completing the inversion and is rather a closed-off fluctuation between the two poles.

The various hysteric presentations, all of which involve being trapped midway between seduction and isolation—a result of being a ‘‘vaginal girl’’—can be depicted through different prisms. In sexual intercourse the woman cannot associate sexual pleasure with the vagina and penetration. This is because the vagina, with whom she is identified, is the very reason of her disappearance. Therefore, there is often a tremendous gap between the capacity for sexual arousal and enjoyment and different degrees of vaginismus and an unconscious notion of intercourse as humiliating. In other words, because the vagina is the locus of trauma, one can witness a ‘‘healthy’’ and often even a promiscuous and licentious sexuality, so long as the vagina is not involved. The trauma surrounding the existence of the vagina may account for the hysteric’s strange amalgamation of seductivity and disgust. According to this position, the hysteric is seductive because she is truly interested in sexual contact with the Other. In fact, she can only stay in the safe and visible areas of sexuality, where there is no risk of revelation, which equals  effacement. When consummation draws near, she becomes constricted and overwhelmed with shock, disgust and repulsion. She appears to be saying ‘‘I am willing to be sexual as long as no one needs anything from me, as long as I can keep from surrendering—thus simultaneously revealing and erasing myself’’.

The same dynamic, with its various presentations, is evident on the level of object-relations. Sometimes, the woman yearns for a ‘‘real’’ strong man who could rescue her from her intolerable identification with her mother. Unfortunately, that same man, whose presence indicates the existence of the vagina, symbolizes the very identification from which she is trying to liberate herself and paradoxically sends her back into her mother’s lap. In other words, her potential liberator is also her subjugator and she cannot reveal herself because this revelation means effacement. At other times, an opposite, ‘‘clitoral’’ logic may prevail, which is the very same logic under a different guise. In this case, the explicit presentation is that of a woman who defies her vaginal identity (which she had, in fact, failed to deny), who rejects the mother and identifies with the father, to the extent that she may sometimes argue that she has no need for a man at all. Nevertheless, this defiance can be intuitively recognized as a profound wish for a relation that could actualize and even force upon her the unattainable submission. That is, the origin and the outcome of this maneuver are identical to the previous one: intercourse is perceived as ‘‘providing a service’’ and penetration is not pleasurable. Yet another option, which may be more common, is the constant alternation between these two states, as described by Kohon (1984): identifying with the mother and rejecting the father at one moment and identifying with the father and rejecting the mother at another.

This dynamic, which is often evident in the transference of hysterical patients, places the analyst in an impossible situation. When the patient accepts and takes in an interpretation, she feels humiliated, erased and inferior in relation to the analyst. In her eyes, that which revealed her (an adaptive interpretation) had erased her; that which liberated her—had subdued her. Similarly, one can notice the constant motion between groveling and stubbornness, between a saccharine and a contentious attitude. Thus, there may be sudden shifts between struggle (accompanied by a sense that the analyst is superfluous), and undifferentiated yearning (accompanied by a sense of utter dependence). As mentioned, these two states seem to operate in a separate and detached manner.

In many ways, this description is similar to that of borderline personality disorder. Therefore, it begs the question of why not define these binary shifts as a derivative of a dependence/independence conflict and a good/bad split? This will not only offer a sound depiction of this dynamic but may also sever the offensive and perhaps even reductive link between hysteria and femininity. Unfortunately, history has shown that any depiction which ignores the sexual aspect makes hysteria disappear and erases its unique character. The hysterical woman, who traps the analyst in an impossible and intolerable dynamic, is often a woman who is capable of an integrated view of the Other, who can contain the Other, show empathy and be a kind and devoted mother to her children (or a sensitive and skilled therapist…).18 In other words, defining the hysteric split in terms of the basic Eros/Thanatos or good/bad split would be inaccurate and would hinder an integrated view. More than any difficulty in maintaining a complex, multi-faceted, intimate and close relationship, hysteria entails a constant sense of rage, victimhood and a difficulty in feeling satisfaction and enjoyment.

AFTERWORD
It sometimes seems that hysteria has no clearer indicator than its elusiveness. The plasticity of its symptoms, its ability to manifest as both a structure and a state and its way of bending itself to fit various suggested etiologies—these give the impression that we are looking at a mirage. Hysteria seems to absorb everything into it, to constantly reshape itself to suit the mold of what is projected onto it, to keep reinventing itself. It needs an audience and it lives for one, it fades when you look away and reappears according to the spectator’s will.

But hysteria is not only elusive, it is also difficult to understand and decipher: when you touch upon early experiences, you lose your grasp on later ones; when you focus on the mother, you lose hold on the father; when you treat endogenous factors, you let slip actual traumas and so on. Perhaps more than any other disorder, hysteria reveals to us just how limited our sight is, the extent to which the sense of sight itself is hysterical—obsessed with exteriority and beauty, incapable of representing things hidden and unknown, disguising what is secret behind a thousand masks.

In this paper, I have nevertheless tried to tackle a certain structural layer of this deception. I have described the complexity of feminine development, which disobeys the Aristotelian demand for a sequential plotline where one thing leads to another and instead moves in two separate channels at once. These channels, a product of how feminine anatomy may be registered in the unconscious, are supposed to progress towards a functional sexual unity in which vagina and clitoris, passivity and activity, maternal and paternal identity converge to create a being that is somewhat more whole. This is a highly intricate task because, as mentioned, progress in a given channel is in diametric opposition to its counterpart. The unification of these two modalities and their integration as two reciprocating positions occur through an act of inversion, which suspends the primary vaginal sensations pending their rediscovery. This inversion may lead to a more complete feminine position—which includes the ability to look beyond the visible and represent the ‘‘nothing’’.

According to this position, the hysterical woman is one who remained a ‘‘vaginal girl’’—who rushed along and began to shoulder the weight of knowing about the vagina and about the existence of an inner space prematurely—with the burden, the accelerated maturity, the victimhood, and the alienation this entails. Such accelerated maturation, stemming from external or internal circumstances, prevents the hysteric from cathecting her body as a whole and completing the course of feminine development. She thus fails to attain functional unity and her sexuality remains in a state of duality. She is caught in-between, in a closed world of duality, where she is either seductive or disgusted, inviting or isolated, groveling or stubborn. This perspective, which focuses on endogenic sexuality—which stays mysterious and hidden—may offer a clue. We can thus make the conjecture that the trauma of the hysteric lies not only in the encounter with the external world or with overwhelming sexuality in general; rather, it is simultaneously born from the body itself, from inside—as a premature and precocious representation of the vagina: the part of her sexuality that can offer pleasure and enrich the ego when sexual integration is achieved but, when it acts independently, grounded in primary, pre-symbolic sensations—it erases and is erased, annihilates and devours and, most of all—it is subservient to the Other.

Therefore, after trying not to be tricked by the deceptions of the gaze, but to find what is hidden and constant, we may return to Charcot’s immortal dictum:

‘‘C’est toujours la chose ge´nitale, toujours … toujours … toujours’’ [It’s always a question of the genitals, always … always … always …] (Gay, 1988, p. 92).19

We claim that venting can be epistemic work: if one vents to the right sort of person, knowledge can be gained about an oppressive social structure, one’s place in it, and how to repair the epistemic damage it creates

Venting as Epistemic Work. Juli Thorson & Christine Baker. Social Epistemology, https://doi.org/10.1080/02691728.2018.1561762 

ABSTRACT: We claim that venting can be epistemic work: if one vents to the right sort of person, knowledge can be gained about an oppressive social structure, one’s place in it, and how to repair the epistemic damage it creates. To justify this claim, we define both epistemic damage and venting, and contrast venting with related notions such as complaining and ranting. Using Code’s understanding of testimony, Dotson’s notion of a linguistic exchange, and Fricker’s distinction between testimonial and hermeneutical injustice, we describe when and how venting is epistemic work. We also discuss the way venting is distinct from consciousness raising. We conclude that although one goal of venting is to repair epistemic damage for individual women, venting’s positive epistemic impact prepares women to challenge hermeneutical injustice.

KEYWORDS: Venting, epistemic damage, epistemic personhood, testimony

Luck as a Double-edged Sword: Personnel and Performance Changes After Lucky Outcomes in the National Football League

Siler, Kyle. 2019. “Luck as a Double-edged Sword: Personnel and Performance Changes After Lucky Outcomes in the National Football League.” SocArXiv. February 20. doi:10.31235/osf.io/csfpy

Abstract: Luck is an omnipresent factor which influences experiences and outcomes for individuals and organizations. This article analyzes how lucky and unlucky outcomes influence future organizational learning, decision-making and performance. Team statistics and outcomes are analyzed over 769 National Football League seasons for 32 franchises from 1990-2015. Four specific sources of luck are identified and measured: 1) divergence of win outcomes from actual team quality; 2) difficulty of opposition; 3) fumble recovery rates and 4) player injuries. Teams and players have little or no influence over these lucky factors, which nevertheless influence game outcomes, and by extension, the careers of players and coaches. Luck alters game outcomes and in turn significantly influences the retention or firing of coaches and players, which shapes their career incentives and decision-making. In addition to negatively affecting future performance via distorted learning, luck can also generate perverse incentives; in this case, encouraging risk aversion and scapegoating. Mistaking noise for signal – and conflating luck with skill – is conducive to poorer future decisions and outcomes. Paradoxically, luck can provide a means of skill-based advantage for savvy decision-makers, who learn more effectively from noisy feedback than others who are misled.

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Lucky outcomes appear to induce distorted learning and suboptimal personnel decisions, which also degrades future performance.

Ten neuromyths were endorsed by more than 50% of prospective science teachers; existence of learning styles (93%) and the effectiveness of Brain Gym (92%) were most widespread

Pre-service Science Teachers’ Neuroscience Literacy: Neuromyths and a Professional Understanding of Learning and Memory. Finja Grospietsch and Jürgen Mayer. Front. Hum. Neurosci., Feb 14 2019. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2019.00020

Abstract: Transferring current research findings on the topic of learning and memory to “brain-based” learning in schools is of great interest among teachers. However, numerous international studies demonstrate that both pre-service and in-service teachers do not always succeed. Instead, they transfer numerous misconceptions about neuroscience, known as neuromyths, into pedagogical practice. As a result, researchers call for more neuroscience in teacher education in order to create a professional understanding of learning and memory. German pre-service science teachers specializing in biology complete neuroscientific modules (human biology/animal physiology) during their studies because they are expected to teach these topics to their students. Thus, they are required to demonstrate a certain degree of neuroscience literacy. In the present study, 550 pre-service science teachers were surveyed on neuromyths and scientific concepts about learning and memory. Pre-service science teachers’ scientific concepts increased over the course of their training. However, beliefs in neuromyths were independent of participants’ status within teacher education (first-year students, advanced students, and post-graduate trainees). The results showed that 10 neuromyths were endorsed by more than 50% of prospective science teachers. Beliefs in the existence of learning styles (93%) and the effectiveness of Brain Gym (92%) were most widespread. Many myths were endorsed even though a large share of respondents had thematically similar scientific concepts; endorsement of neuromyths was found to be largely independent of professional knowledge as well as theory-based and biography-based learning beliefs about neuroscience and learning. Our results suggest that neuromyths can exist in parallel to scientific concepts, professional knowledge and beliefs and are resistant to formal education. From the perspective of conceptual change theory, they thus exhibit characteristic traits of misconceptions that cannot simply be counteracted with increased neuroscientific knowledge. On the basis of our study’s findings, it can be concluded that new teacher programs considering neuromyths as change-resistant misconceptions are needed to professionalize pre-service science teachers’ neuroscience literacy. For this, an intensive web of exchange between the education field and neuroscientists is required, not just to deploy the latest scientific insights to refute neuromyths on learning and memory, but also to identify further neuromyths.

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

The prospect for electric vehicles as a climate change solution hinges on their ability to reduce gasoline consumption; but EVs are driven considerably fewer miles/y on average than gasoline-powered vehicles

How much are electric vehicles driven? Lucas W. Davis. Applied Economics Letters, Feb 20 2019. https://doi.org/10.1080/13504851.2019.1582847 

ABSTRACT: The prospect for electric vehicles as a climate change solution hinges on their ability to reduce gasoline consumption. But this depends on how many miles electric vehicles are driven and on how many miles would have otherwise been driven in gasoline-powered vehicles. Using newly-available U.S. nationally representative data, this paper finds that electric vehicles are driven considerably fewer miles per year on average than gasoline-powered vehicles. The difference is highly statistically significant and holds for both all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, for both single- and multiple-vehicle households, and both inside and outside California. The paper discusses potential explanations and policy implications. Overall, the evidence suggests that today’s electric vehicles imply smaller environmental benefits than previously believed.

KEYWORDS: Electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids, vehicle miles traveled, rebound effect

Stephen Jay Gould’s Analysis of the Army Beta Test in The Mismeasure of Man: Distortions and Misconceptions Regarding a Pioneering Mental Test (Army Beta Test)

Stephen Jay Gould’s Analysis of the Army Beta Test in The Mismeasure of Man: Distortions and Misconceptions Regarding a Pioneering Mental Test. Russell T. Warner, Jared Z. Burton, Aisa Gibbons and Daniel A. Melendez. J. Intell. 2019, 7(1), 6; https://doi.org/10.3390/jintelligence7010006

Abstract: In The Mismeasure of Man, Stephen Jay Gould argued that the preconceived beliefs and biases of scientists influence their methods and conclusions. To show the potential consequences of this, Gould used examples from the early days of psychometrics and allied fields, arguing that inappropriate assumptions and an elitist desire to rank individuals and/or groups produced incorrect results. In this article, we investigate a section of The Mismeasure of Man in which Gould evaluated the Army Beta intelligence test for illiterate American draftees in World War I. We evaluated Gould’s arguments that the Army Beta (a) had inappropriate content, (b) had unsuitable administration conditions, (c) suffered from short time limits, and (d) could not have measured intelligence. By consulting the historical record and conducting a pre-registered replication of Gould’s administration of the test to a sample of college students, we show that Gould mischaracterized the Army Beta in a number of ways. Instead, the Army Beta was a well-designed test by the standards of the time, and all evidence indicates that it measured intelligence a century ago and can, to some extent, do so today.

Keywords: intelligence; history of psychology; intelligence testing; Army Beta; Stephen Jay Gould; The Mismeasure of Man

The administration of aspirin made subjects more prone to experience disgust, probably as a compensation for the reduced inflammatory response

Lab, TCU H. 2019. “Why the Activities of the Immune System Matter for Social and Personality Psychology (and Not Only for Those Who Study Health).” OSF Preprints. February 20. doi:10.31219/osf.io/uwkvq

Abstract: A growing body of research finds that the activities of the immune system – in addition to protecting the body from infection and injury – also influence how we think, feel, and behave. Although research on the relationship between the immune system and psychological and behavioral outcomes has most commonly focused on the experiences of those who are ill or experiencing an acute immune response, we propose that the immune system may also play a key role in influencing such outcomes in those who are healthy. Here, we review theory and research suggesting that inflammation – a key component of the immune response to pathogens and stressors – may play an important modulatory role in shaping emotions, motivation, cognition, and behavior, even among those without symptoms of illness. Moreover, because inflammation occurs in response to a number of everyday social experiences (e.g., loneliness, stress), we propose that it may be an important mediator of many psychological and behavioral outcomes that are of interest to social and personality psychologists. We close by discussing potential opportunities for researchers looking to incorporate psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) into their area of inquiry.

Perceived Unfairness and Psychological Distress: Less Harmful as Age Increases

Perceived Unfairness and Psychological Distress: Less Harmful as Age Increases? Min-Ah Lee, Ichiro Kawachi. Social Justice Research, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11211-019-00325-9

Abstract: Does perceived unfairness influence psychological well-being differently according to age? We sought to examine the association between perceived unfairness and psychological distress, testing whether and how age moderates the association. Data were drawn from the Korean General Social Survey, a nationally representative cross-sectional sample, collected in 2 years (2011, 2012). The survey measured two types of perceived unfairness: distributive and procedural unfairness. We found that both types of perceived unfairness were positively and independently associated with psychological distress. Our results also showed effect modification by age; in other words, the harmful effects of perceived distributive and procedural unfairness on psychological distress decreased with age, suggesting that younger people were more distressed by perceived unfairness than older people. Our findings suggest that perceived unfairness is harmful to psychological well-being, but its effects become less salient as people age.

Why not release honest statements for research fields that are messy, inconsistent, have systematic methodological weaknesses or that may be outright unreproducible?

Embrace the unknown. Chris Ferguson. The Psychologist. For Mar 2019's issue, Feb 2019. https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/volume-32/march-2019/embrace-unknown
Chris Ferguson washes his hands of ‘science laundering’: cleaning up messy data for public consumption.

Excerpts:

Consider the basic premise ‘Does X cause Y?’ It’s at the root of almost any question of interest to the general public or policy makers. Does cognitive-behavioural therapy treat PTSD? Does the TV show 13 Reasons Why cause suicide in teens? Can implicit racism be tested for, and does training reduce racism in society? Generally speaking, people outside of psychological science (and arguably many people within it) want the answer to such simple questions. And it is often in the interest of professional guilds – the advocacy organisations that represent psychology and other sciences – to give simple answers. The result is a communication of quasi-scientific nostrums that are, at best, partially true and, at worst, absolute rubbish.

Science laundering is the washing away of inconvenient data, methodological weaknesses, failed replications, weak effect sizes, and between-study inconsistencies. The cleaned-up results of a research field are then presented as more solid, consistent and generalisable to real-world concerns than they are. Individual studies can be irresponsibly promoted by press release, or entire research fields summarised in policy statements in ways that cherry-pick data to support a particular narrative. Such promotions are undoubtedly satisfactory and easier to digest in the short-term, but they are fundamentally deceitful, and they cast psychology as a dishonest science.

Accusations of science laundering have been levelled at professional guilds such as the American Psychological Association (APA) for many years (Ferguson, 2015; O’Donohue & Dyslin, 1996). The formula appears to be to take an issue of great interest to the general public or policy makers and boil it down to simplistic truisms using science language. In most cases, these quasi-scientific truisms are either politically palatable for the members of the organisation, which creates the illusion that social science tends to support liberal causes (Redding, 2001), or appear to make psychological science indispensable to a policy decision when, in fact, it is not.

My own field of video game violence presents a case study in this phenomenon. Twice, in 2004 and 2013, the APA convened a taskforce to study the issue. Both were composed of a majority of individuals with strong, public, anti-game views, unbalanced by sceptical voices (Copenhaver & Ferguson, in press). This was particularly puzzling given that no fewer than 230 scholars had written to the APA expressing their concerns about the quality of their public stances on this issue (Consortium of Scholars, 2013). It’s hard to shake the sense that ‘science by committee’ may be an ineffective way to reach objective conclusions, and that a taskforce report has little to do with the true state of a science; in this case, an area that has suffered a series of retractions, corrections, failed replications (e.g. Przybylski et al., 2014), failed re-analyses and null results using preregistered designs (e.g. McCarthy et al., 2016). Video game science was repudiated by the US Supreme Court in the 2011 case Brown v. EMA, and some scholars have expressed the view that the APA’s continued public stance on this particular issue has damaged the credibility of psychological science in the eyes of the courts (Hall et al., 2011).

Why do this? Why not change course and release honest statements for research fields that are messy, inconsistent, have systematic methodological weaknesses or that may be outright unreproducible? Incentive structures. Individual scholars are likely seduced by their own hypotheses for a multitude of reasons, both good and bad. Big claims get grants, headlines, book sales and personal prestige. I note this not to imply wrongdoing, but to acknowledge we are all human and respond to incentives.

These incentive structures have been well documented in science more widely, and psychology specifically, in recent years. Unfortunately, the public remains largely unaware of such debates, and ill-equipped to critically evaluate research. As one recent example, Jean Twenge and colleagues (2018) released a study, covered widely in the press, linking screen use to youth suicides. However, another scholar with access to the same dataset noted in an interview that the magnitude of effect is about the same as for eating potatoes on suicide (see Gonzalez, 2018: effect sizes ranged from r = .01 to .11 depending on outcome). Such correlations are likely within Meehl’s ‘crud factor’ for psychological science, wherein everything tends to correlate with everything else, to a small but meaningless degree.

In some cases, the meaningfulness of a hypothesis (such as saving children from suicide) can seem critical, even if the effects are trivial. And I can understand why professional guilds, who can be considered to function as businesses for whom psychology is a product they must market, are driven to ‘get it out there’. Perhaps they lament the perception of psychology as a ‘soft’ science (e.g. Breckler, 2005). Psychologists are often pushed to be more assertive in marketing or branding psychology (e.g. Bray, 2009; Weir, 2014, although also see Koocher, 2006 for a different approach), and professional bodies actively advocate for psychological science (Bersoff, 2013). This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but such calls may inadvertently communicate that accuracy is of secondary importance. For instance, Weir (2014) quoted one scholar as indicating that ‘it’s more important to put the science out there, even if a news story misses some of the subtleties’.

To be clear, I am not suggesting anything remotely like bad faith: merely that the understandable zeal to promote psychological science may have backfired, insofar as promotional efforts often overlook psychology’s weaknesses.

The issue of poor communication can spill over into the clinical realm. For instance, a recent treatment guideline for post-traumatic stress disorder focused on recommending cognitive-behavioural therapy (APA, 2017). These recommendations were controversial with practitioners from other modalities, perhaps not surprisingly. A 2018 meta-analysis led by Joseph Carpenter found fairly modest results for CBT with PTSD (better results were found for other anxiety disorders), which raises the possibility that the clinical guidelines may be overselling its value.

Some readers may be thinking, ‘Isn’t it better to attempt to apply psychology to important societal issues even if the evidence available falls short of being conclusive? How certain do we really need to be before we stop fretting about overselling the value of our science?’ I take an unapologetically hard line on this: honesty must be a fundamental facet of scientific communication. We cannot and should not sweep under the rug inconvenient data, methodological weaknesses or tiny effect sizes for the sake of an appealing narrative, no matter how heartfelt that narrative may be. To do so simply isn’t scientific and, inevitably, will do more harm than good to our field.

In some cases, a ‘messy’ policy statement can still have important policy implications. They’re woefully difficult to find among professional guilds, but government reviews are sometimes more honest. For instance, a 2010 review of violent video game research correctly identified conclusions as inconsistent and limited by methodological flaws (Australian Government, Attorney General’s Department, 2010). Despite the messiness, this review paved the way for Australia to rate more violent games, which previously had been effectively censored, unavailable even to adults.

Ultimately, we should be looking to educate the public about data. People are complex; behaviour is messy. Often psychological science doesn’t have the answer, and we should be comfortable with a response that is murky, convoluted, difficult to parse, controversial, non-politically correct or simply ‘We don’t know’. It’s time for psychological science to embrace the unknown and become more honest about our debates, methodological weaknesses and inconsistencies.

Our brave pioneers

After climbing down from my high horse on science laundering, it is only fair to recognise that our field has seen some pioneers push toward better, more transparent and open methods. This ‘open science’ movement has often been fraught with controversy and even acrimony, but it deserves to take hold as a way forward to clearer scientific values.

[...]

Others, to be sure, are less enthusiastic. In one infamous early draft of a 2016 column by Susan Fiske, she referred to data replicators as ‘self-appointed data police’, and to ‘methodological terrorism’. Fiske’s detractors tended to view her comments as defending a status quo of elite scholars, restricting peer commentary and sheltering bad science. Her defenders worried over the proliferation of harsh peer comments online (comments that themselves did not go through peer review). In fairness, Fiske had a kernel of a fair point – the replication process did sometimes savage individual scholars in a way that appeared to kick a dog after it was down. For instance, Amy Cuddy appeared to be singled out as a sacrifice for the replication cause (see Susan Dominus’s 2017 New York Times piece). Although discrediting the power pose hypothesis is fair game, was it right for Cuddy to be humiliated repeatedly in the public eye? Did her own self-promotion, including a TED talk that remains the #1 Google search result for ‘power poses’, open her up to particularly harsh criticism? Do we feel less sympathy for Phil Zimbardo over new analyses of the Stanford Prison Experiment (see ‘Time to change the story’) because he spent decades promoting it?

These are hard questions to answer. Yet it’s clear we can’t go back. We can’t return to the false-positive results of the past, nor continue to reify them because they’re part of a comforting narrative of how wonderful psychological science is. Only by embracing change, openness and transparency can psychological science progress. Sure, let’s have a conversation about the most civil way to make these changes happen. But ultimately science is about data, not people, and we should worry less about personalities and more about methods that produce the best data. Those who have pushed for open science and this renaissance in psychology deserve great credit.

- Chris Ferguson is Professor of Psychology at Stetson University

Key sources

Copenhaver, A. & Ferguson, C.J. (in press). Selling violent video game solutions: A look inside the APA’s internal notes leading to the creation of the APA’s 2005 resolution on violence in video games and interactive media. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry.
Ferguson, C.J. (2015). ‘Everybody knows psychology is not a real science’: Public perceptions of psychology and how we can improve our relationship with policymakers, the scientific community, and the general public. American Psychologist, 70, 527–542.
Fiske, S. (2016). Mob rule or wisdom of crowds [Draft of article for APS Observer]. Available at http://datacolada.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Fiske-presidential-guest-column_APS-Observer_copy-edited.pdf
Gilbert, D.T., King, G., Pettigrew, S. & Wilson, T.D. (2016). Comment on ‘Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science’. Science, 351(6277), 1037.
Nosek, B.A., Ebersole, C.R., DeHaven, A.C. & Mellor, D.T. (2018). The preregistration revolution. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 115(11), 2600–2606.
Open Science Collaboration (2015). Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science. Science, 349(6251), 1–8.
Nelson, L.D., Simmons, J. & Simonsohn, U. (2018). Psychology’s renaissance. Annual Review of Psychology, 69, 511–534.
Simmons, J.P., Nelson, L.D. & Simonsohn, U. (2011). False-positive psychology: Undisclosed flexibility in data collection and analysis allows presenting anything as significant. Psychological Science, 22(11), 1359–1366.
Weir, K. (2014). Translating psychological science. APA Monitor, 45(9), 32. Available at www.apa.org/monitor/2014/10/translating-science.aspx

Keywords: Mental Health, Autism, Memory, Workplace, Health Psychology, Emotion, Children, Gender, Politics, Sport, Art, Trauma, War, Freud, Prison, Language, Replication, Therapy, Brain Injury, School, Suicide, Media, Music, Stress, Abuse, Ethics, Forensic, Intelligence, Behaviour Change, Dementia, Internet, Racism, Sexuality, Parenting, Addiction, Culture, Humour, International, Qualitative, Conflict, Educational, Psychosis, Religion, Depression, Fiction, Genetics, Public Engagement, Teaching, Brain, Happiness

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Males show higher variability in morphological traits (height), social-emotional traits (emotional intelligence), cognitive traits (short-term memory ability), & markers of physical & financial health

Bateman’s Principle Hypothesis. Geher, G. et al. EvoS Journal, Jan 2019, http://evostudies.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Geher-et-al_Vol8Iss1.pdf

ABSTRACT: In 1948, Bateman published a landmark paper bearing on the evolutionary variable of reproductive success (RS). Drawing on data regarding the life cycle of fruit flies, Bateman discovered that mating rates in various experiments all demonstrated higher variability in males than in females. Females were more likely to mate a moderate number of times while data from males were characterized by a clear variability in RS (with males likely to encounter low, moderate, high, or even extremely high levels of RS). This phenomenon, now known as Bateman’s Principle, has shown to be generally operative across various species including our own (Brown, Laland, & Mulder, 2013; Brown, Laland, & Mulder, 2009). The current work aims to address whether this basic asymmetry in variability across the sexes generalizes to trait domains that bear on RS. In other words, do males, relative to females, show higher variability in measures of morphological traits (e.g., height), social-emotional traits (e.g., emotional intelligence), cognitive traits (e.g., short-term memory ability), and important life outcome variables (e.g., markers of physical and financial health)? To address this issue, our methods included an intensive examination of the literature on male/female differences across a broad array of human domains. The literature review presented here addresses this idea, often referred to as the variability hypothesis (see Feingold, 1992), across a  broad-reaching suite of physical and behavioral dimensions. Ultimately, our results and conclusions provide strong evidence for the variability hypothesis in humans.

KEYWORDS: Sex Differences, Gender Differences, Variability, Evolutionary Psychology, Bateman’s Principle

Impact of yoga-based mind-body intervention: Re-established immunological tolerance by aiding remission at molecular and cellular level along with significant reduction in depression

Impact of yoga based mind-body intervention on systemic inflammatory markers and co-morbid depression in active Rheumatoid arthritis patients: A randomized controlled trial. Gautam, Surabhia | Tolahunase, Madhuria | Kumar, Umab | Dada, Rimaa. Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience, vol. Pre-press, no. Pre-press, pp. 1-19, 2018. https://content.iospress.com/articles/restorative-neurology-and-neuroscience/rnn180875

Abstract: Background:Recovery of the patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) depends on several physical and psychological factors, besides pharmacological treatment. Co-morbid depression adversely affects the outcome in RA. Usual medical therapies have a limited scope and fail to cure the psychological component of the disease. With advanced therapeutic options, achieving a state of remission has become the treatment goal, yoga based mind body intervention (MBI) may provide a holistic approach to its treatment dimension. Hence, MBIs become the need of hour as majority of diseases have a psychosomatic component. Objective:To explore the effect of Yoga based MBI on disease specific inflammatory markers and depression severity in active RA patients on routine disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) therapy.

Methods:A total of 72 RA patients were randomized into 2 groups: yoga group (yoga with DMARDs) and control group (DMARDs only). Blood samples were collected pre and post intervention for primary outcome measurements of systemic biomarkers. Disease activity score 28 erythrocyte sedimentation rate (DAS28ESR) and health assessment questionnaire disability index (HAQ-DI) were used to assess disease activity and functional status respectively at pre and post intervention time-points. Secondary outcome, depression severity, was assessed by Beck Depression Inventory II scale (BDI-II) at 2 weekly intervals during 8 weeks of the study interventional plan.

Results:After 8 weeks of yoga based MBI, there was significant decrease in the severity of RA as seen by reduction in levels of various systemic inflammatory markers as well as in DAS28ESR (p-value <0.0001; effect size = 0.210) and HAQ-DI (p-value 0.001; effect size = 0.159). Also, yoga group experienced a statistically significant time dependent step-wise decline in depression symptoms over the period of 8 weeks as compared to control group (p-value <0.0001; effect size = 0.5). Regression analysis showed greater reduction in the scores of BDI-II with DAS28ESR (R2 = 0.426; p <  0.0001) and HAQ-DI (R2 = 0.236; p = 0.003) in yoga group.

Conclusions: Yoga, a mind body intervention re-established immunological tolerance by aiding remission at molecular and cellular level along with significant reduction in depression. Thus in this inflammatory arthritis with a major psychosomatic component, yoga can be used as a complementary/adjunct therapy.

Keywords: Rheumatoid arthritis, yoga, immunomodulation, depression, inflammation, ageing, remission, oxidative stress

A meta-analysis of twin studies on genetic & environmental influences on spatial reasoning: Spatial ability is highly heritable, genetic contribution of spatial ability varies by age group, do not vary by sex

Genetic and environmental influences on spatial reasoning: A meta-analysis of twin studies. Michael J. King et al. Intelligence, Volume 73, March–April 2019, Pages 65-77. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.intell.2019.01.001

Highlights
• Spatial ability is highly heritable (meta-analytic mean a2 = .61).
• Genetic contribution of spatial ability varies by age group.
• Contributions do not vary by sex.
• Contributions do not vary by type of spatial ability measure.

Abstract: Behavioral genetic approaches, such as comparing monozygotic and dizygotic twins, are often used to evaluate the extent to which variations in human abilities are the result of genetic (heritable), shared environmental, and non-shared environmental factors. We conducted a meta-analysis on the twin study literature—comparing monozygotic and dizygotic twins—to provide clarity and a general consensus regarding the extent to which genetic and environmental factors contribute to variation in spatial ability. Consistent with previous work, we found that spatial ability is largely heritable (meta-analytic  = .61; 95% CI [.55, .66]), with non-shared environmental factors having a substantial impact (meta-analytic . = .43; 95% CI [.38, .49]), and shared environmental factors having very little impact (meta-analytic . = .07; 95% CI [.05, .10]). Moderator analyses were performed to establish if spatial ability type, sex, or age impacted the explanatory power of genetics or environmental factors. These effects did not differ significantly by sex or spatial ability type. However, the influence of shared environments did significantly differ depending on age. This result was driven by the youngest age group (ages 4–15) demonstrating relatively high amounts of shared environmental influence (c = .15, 95% CI [.10, .20]) compared with the other age groups (cs = .00–.07).

Keywords: Spatial reasoningBehavioral geneticsMeta-analysisCognitive developmentIntelligence

What Does it Mean to Have “No Personality” or “A Lot of Personality”? Those with a lot of personality were more liked, higher in extraversion, agreeableness, & openness, & less likely to be incidental characters

What Does it Mean to Have “No Personality” or “A Lot of Personality”? Natural Language Descriptions and Big Five Correlates. Jennifer V.Fayard, John Z. Clay, Felicia R. Valdez, Lesley A. Howard. Journal of Research in Personality, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrp.2019.02.004

Highlights
• A lot of personality had more complex qualitative description than no personality.
• A lot of personality was rated higher in extraversion than no personality.
• A lot of personality was rated higher in openness than no personality.
•  A lot of personality was liked more than no personality.

Abstract: The current study aimed to discover the meaning behind the common person descriptions “no personality” and “a lot of personality.” Participants provided narrative descriptions of both terms and rated the personalities of two fictional characters, one with “no personality” and one with “a lot of personality,” how much they liked each character, how central each character was in their story, and confidence in their ratings. Qualitative analysis found that four domains described “no personality” and eight described “a lot of personality.” Characters with a lot of personality were more liked, higher in extraversion, agreeableness, and openness, and less likely to be incidental characters. Finally, participants were less confident in their ratings for extraversion, openness, and agreeableness for “no personality.”

Keywords: Personality traitsperson perceptionqualitative

Irrespective of whether they were exposed to a disclaimer or not, most women who viewed ads featuring thin models thought that the image had been digitally modified

The effect of exposure to thin models and digital modification disclaimers on women's body satisfaction. Nehama Lewis  Ayellet Pelled  Nurit Tal‐Or. International Journal of Psychology, Feb 19 2019 https://doi.org/10.1002/ijop.12572

Abstract: This study tests the effectiveness of public health initiatives aimed at reducing the adverse effects of exposure to thin images in advertising on women's body satisfaction. Using an online experiment with 195 Israeli adult women, we test the effects of message factors that are expected to influence body satisfaction—the model's body size, and the presence and size of disclaimers. Compared with advertisements featuring a thin model, exposure to an average sized model was indirectly and positively associated with body size satisfaction, through the perception of the model's body size. However, exposure to disclaimers regarding digital modification of the model did not influence body satisfaction. Moreover, irrespective of whether they were exposed to a disclaimer or not, most participants who viewed ads featuring thin models thought that the image had been digitally modified. The results call for further research on the effectiveness of disclaimer labels for promoting body satisfaction.

Examined potential mechanism behind reduced birth rates related to unusually hot temperatures; found no significant effect on sexual activity on subsequent days

Ambient temperature and sexual activity: Evidence from time use surveys, Tamás Hajdu, Gábor Hajdu. Demographic Research, Volume 40 - Article 12 | Pages 307–318, DOI: 10.4054/DemRes.2019.40.12

Abstract

Background: Previous research has found that unusually hot temperatures reduce birth rates eight to ten months later.

Objective: We examine one of the potential mechanisms behind this relationship: the connection between ambient temperature and sexual activity.

Methods: We use individual-level data provided by three waves of the Hungarian Time Use Survey between 1986 and 2010 and daily weather data from the European Climate Assessment & Dataset project.

Results: Hot temperatures do not have a significant effect on sexual activity on a given day. Studying the dynamics of the relationship, we found that temperature does not influence sexual activity on subsequent days either.

Conclusions: Since high temperatures seem to have no negative effect on sexual activity, the relationship between temperature and sexual activity might be a mechanism of minor importance in the relationship between temperature and birth rates.

Contribution: Our paper is the first study of the relationship between ambient temperature and sexual activity that uses time use data.

Keywords: sexual behavior, temperature, time use, weather variability

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

In the late XIX century Britain had almost no mandatory shareholder protections, but had very developed financial markets; private contracting made the absence of statutory protections immaterial

Private Contracting, Law and Finance. Graeme G Acheson  Gareth Campbell  John D Turner. The Review of Financial Studies, hhz020, https://doi.org/10.1093/rfs/hhz020

Abstract: In the late nineteenth century Britain had almost no mandatory shareholder protections, but had very developed financial markets. We argue that private contracting between shareholders and corporations meant that the absence of statutory protections was immaterial. Using approximately 500 articles of association from before 1900, we code the protections offered to shareholders in these private contracts. We find that firms voluntarily offered shareholders many of the protections that were subsequently included in statutory corporate law. We also find that companies offering better protection to shareholders had less concentrated ownership.

JEL K22 - Business and Securities Law G34 - Mergers; Acquisitions; Restructuring; Corporate Governance N43 - Europe: Pre-1913 N23 - Europe: Pre-1913 G32 - Financing Policy; Financial Risk and Risk Management; Capital and Ownership Structure; Value of Firms; Goodwill G38 - Government Policy and Regulation

Can Money Buy Happiness? Evidence for European Countries: Happiness increases with individual income until a threshold of 27,913 Euro per year (rounded to 35,000 USD)

Can Money Buy Happiness? Evidence for European Countries. Gabriela Mihaela Muresan, Cristina Ciumas, Monica Violeta Achim. Applied Research in Quality of Life, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11482-019-09714-3

Abstract: This research comes to empirical investigate the influence of income on the level of happiness. Can money buy happiness? It’s one of the most frequently disputed and researched questions of all time. At first sight, it seems easy to assign a simple answer: yes or no, but the correct answer is more difficult than these. We start from the assumption that people need to be happy but also need financial resources to feel safe. We used a panel analysis on a sample of 26 European countries over the period 2008–2016. We found that happiness increases with individual income until a threshold of 27,913 Euro per year (rounded to 35,000 USD) in European countries. Also, we found that culture plays an essential role in the perception of happiness. Moreover, our results indicate that a lower power distance, a high individualism, a low level of uncertainty avoidance and a high indulgence statistically increase the level of happiness.

Truth-default theory: When people cognitively process the content of others’ communication, they typically do so in a manner characterized by unquestioned, passive acceptance

Documenting the Truth Default: The Low Frequency of Spontaneous, Unprompted Veracity Assessments in Deception Detection. David D Clare  Timothy R Levine. Human Communication Research, hqz001, https://doi.org/10.1093/hcr/hqz001

Abstract: The core idea of truth-default theory (T. R. Levine, 2014) is that when people cognitively process the content of others’ communication, they typically do so in a manner characterized by unquestioned, passive acceptance. Two deception detection experiments tested the existence of the truth-default by comparing prompted and unprompted evaluations of others. The first experiment involved viewing videotaped communication, and the second experiment involved live, face-to-face interactions. In both experiments, research confederates told the truth and lied about plausible and implausible autobiographical content. Participants completed both traditional, prompted, dichotomous truth-lie assessments and open-ended thought-listing measures. The order of the two types of measures was experimentally varied. The results supported the concept of a truth-default. Coded thought listings showed that, absent prior prompting, receivers mentioned consideration of the veracity of other’s communication less than 10% of the time.



The use of pornography and the relationship between pornography exposure and sexual offending in males: A systematic review

The use of pornography and the relationship between pornography exposure and sexual offending in males: A systematic review. Emily Mellor, Simon Duff. Aggression and Violent Behavior, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.avb.2019.02.003

Highlights
• There is no clear evidence to suggest a relationship between pornography and offending.
• Men who offend report less exposure to pornography
• Pornography use does not result in more harm to the victim.
• Definitions of pornography are poor.

Abstract
Background: Exposure to pornography is common, although research examining the use of pornography, and the relationship between exposure to pornography and offending, is contradictory. The purpose of this systematic review was to determine whether there was an association between pornography exposure and sexual offending in males.

Method: A comprehensive search of eight electronic databases was undertaken to systematically identify literature relating to pornography and offending. Reference lists of key journals were hand searched and contact was made with experts in the field to identify any unpublished work. A total of twenty-one studies were included in the review and all were assessed using a quality criteria tool adapted from the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (CASP, 2018).

Results: From the twenty-one studies included in the review, studies explored pornography use either prior to or during offending. Studies exploring the effects of pornography assessed recidivism, seriousness of the sexual offence and deviant sexual fantasies. The data synthesis indicated that the impact of pornography on offending is not always negative but that it is complex, particularly due to issues related to defining pornography.

Conclusion: The review yielded mixed findings largely due to variations in samples and a lack of agreed definitions for pornography. Recommendations are provided regarding the need for more recent longitudinal studies able to capture any possible changes within the pornography literature and its effect on sexual offenders, and the need for studies that provide specific definitions for pornography.

Consensus seeking –abandoning one’s own judgment to align with a group majority– is a fundamental feature of human social interaction; often occurs in the absence of any apparent economic/social gain

The Expression and Transfer of Valence Associated with Social Conformity. Prachi Mistry & Mimi Liljeholm. Scientific Reports, volume 9, Article number: 2154 (Feb 15 2019). https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-38560-4

Abstract: Consensus seeking – abandoning one’s own judgment to align with a group majority – is a fundamental feature of human social interaction. Notably, such striving for majority affiliation often occurs in the absence of any apparent economic or social gain, suggesting that achieving consensus might have intrinsic value. Here, using a simple gambling task, in which the decisions of ostensible previous gamblers were indicated below available options on each trial, we examined the affective properties of agreeing with a group majority by assessing the trade-off between social and non-social currencies, and the transfer of social valence to concomitant stimuli. In spite of demonstrating near-perfect knowledge of objective reward probabilities, participant’s choices and evaluative judgments reflected a reliable preference for conformity, consistent with the hypothesized value of social alignment.



Effects of celebrity gossip on trust: Prosocial women trusted their interaction partners more after gossiping, whereas proself women trusted their partners less

The effects of celebrity gossip on trust are moderated by prosociality of the gossipers. Konrad Rudnicki, Charlotte J.S. De Backer, Carolyn Declerck. Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 143, 1 June 2019, Pages 42-46. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2019.02.010

Abstract: Previous research suggests that gossip serves several functions in regulating group dynamics (e.g. bonding, entertainment) and is preferentially used by prosocial individuals to protect the group from exploitation. However, it is still unclear what mechanisms underlie these functions and compel prosocial people to gossip. Because gossip provides information about the attitudes and moral views of an interaction partner we hypothesized that for prosocial individuals it functions as a cue that enables trust to be established, even among strangers. We conducted an experiment with 122 female participants who did not know each other prior to the study. They were asked to gossip about celebrities (the most likely form of gossip between strangers) or perform a creativity task for 20 min in pairs before playing a trust game. Participants were categorized as prosocial or proself based on their social value orientation (SVO). To additionally test if the effect of gossip on trust differs in real-life interactions and online, participants interacted either face-to-face or online. The results show that, irrespective of the environment, prosocial women trusted their interaction partners more after gossiping, whereas proself women trusted their partners less.

Self-esteem as an adaptive sociometer of mating success: Evaluating evidence of sex-specific psychological design across 10 world region

Self-esteem as an adaptive sociometer of mating success: Evaluating evidence of sex-specific psychological design across 10 world regions. David P. Schmitt, Peter K. Jonason. Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 143, 1 June 2019, Pages 13-20, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2019.02.011

Abstract: According to an evolutionary-adaptive version of sociometer theory, because men, more than women, have faced the adaptive problem of obtaining large numbers of willing short-term mating partners, positive associations between self-esteem and number of past sexual partners should be stronger among men than women. We correlated self-esteem with number of past sexual partners in a sample of more than 16,000 people across 10 major regions of the world. Results largely supported our prediction. This amply powered research investigation provided a limited, but revealing, test of an evolutionary-adaptive sociometer theory of self-esteem. For men, successfully accessing more sexual partners, regardless of personal desire or the mores of wider culture, was generally associated with higher self-esteem. For women, the links between numbers of sexual partners and self-esteem were much more dependent on culture.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Operationalization of Excessive Masturbation—Development of the Excessive Masturbation Scale (EMS)

Operationalization of Excessive Masturbation—Development of the EMS. Wiebke Driemeyer, Jan Snagowski, Christian Laier, Michael Schwarz & Matthias Brand. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, Volume 25, 2018 - Issue 2-3, Pages 197-215. https://doi.org/10.1080/10720162.2018.1495586 

Abstract: Research has recently focused on hypersexual behavior and Internet-pornography-viewing disorder as potential psychopathological conditions, but specific aspects of the phenomena have been widely neglected. This study aimed to investigate excessive masturbation as a subset and symptom of hypersexual behaviors. 2 studies with independent samples have been conducted. In study 1 (n = 146), the Excessive Masturbation Scale (EMS) was designed and tested via explorative factor analysis. In study 2 (n = 255), the psychometric properties of the EMS were evaluated by confirmatory factor analysis. A replicable 2-factor structure (“Coping” and “Loss of Control”) was identified. The EMS showed good psychometric properties and provides a promising basis for further research.