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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

After attending economics training, judges use more economics language, render more conservative verdicts in economics cases, rule against regulatory agencies more often, & render longer criminal sentences

Ideas Have Consequences:  The Impact of Law and Economics on American Justice. Elliott Ash, Daniel L. Chen, Suresh Naidu. July 16, 2018, http://elliottash.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/ash-chen-naidu-2018-07-15.pdf

Abstract: This paper provides a quantitative analysis of the effects of the law and economics movement on the U.S. judiciary. Using the universe of published opinions in U.S. Circuit Courts and 1 million District Court criminal sentencing decisions linked to judge identity, we estimate the effect of attendance in the controversial Manne economics training program, an intensive two-week course attended by almost half of federal judges. After attending economics training, participating judges use more economics language, render more conservative verdicts in economics cases, rule against regulatory agencies more often, and render longer criminal sentences. These results are robust to adjusting for a wide variety of covariates that predict the timing of attendance. Comparing non-Manne and Manne judges prior to program start and exploiting variation in instructors further assuage selection concerns. Non-Manne judges randomly exposed to Manne peers on previous cases increase their use of economics language in subsequent opinions, suggesting economic ideas diffused throughout the judiciary. Variation in topic ordering finds that economic ideas were portable from regulatory to criminal cases.

Keywords: Judicial Decision-Making, Ideology, Intellectual History.
JEL codes: D7, K0, Z1

Hugs and kisses – the role of motor preferences and emotional lateralization for hemispheric asymmetries in human social touch

Hugs and kisses – the role of motor preferences and emotional lateralization for hemispheric asymmetries in human social touch. Sebastian Ocklenburg et al. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2018.10.007

Highlights
•    We review recent works on the lateralization of human social touch.
•    Kissing, Cradling and Embracing are investigated.
•    Side biases in social touch are determined by both motor and emotive biases.

Abstract: Social touch is an important aspect of human social interaction - across all cultures, humans engage in kissing, cradling and embracing. These behaviors are necessarily asymmetric, but the factors that determine their lateralization are not well-understood. Because the hands are often involved in social touch, motor preferences may give rise to asymmetric behavior. However, social touch often occurs in emotional contexts, suggesting that biases might be modulated by asymmetries in emotional processing. Social touch may therefore provide unique insights into lateralized brain networks that link emotion and action. Here, we review the literature on lateralization of cradling, kissing and embracing with respect to motor and emotive bias theories. Lateral biases in all three forms of social touch are influenced, but not fully determined by handedness. Thus, motor bias theory partly explains side biases in social touch. However, emotional context also affects side biases, most strongly for embracing. Taken together, literature analysis reveals that side biases in social touch are most likely determined by a combination of motor and emotive biases.

Dishonest people seek a partner who will also lie—a “partner in crime” ; honest people, by contrast, engage in ethical free riding: They refrain from lying but also from leaving dishonest partners, taking advantage of their partners’ lies

Ethical Free Riding: When Honest People Find Dishonest Partners. Jörg Gross et al. Psychological Science, https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797618796480

Abstract: Corruption is often the product of coordinated rule violations. Here, we investigated how such corrupt collaboration emerges and spreads when people can choose their partners versus when they cannot. Participants were assigned a partner and could increase their payoff by coordinated lying. After several interactions, they were either free to choose whether to stay with or switch their partner or forced to stay with or switch their partner. Results reveal that both dishonest and honest people exploit the freedom to choose a partner. Dishonest people seek a partner who will also lie—a “partner in crime.” Honest people, by contrast, engage in ethical free riding: They refrain from lying but also from leaving dishonest partners, taking advantage of their partners’ lies. We conclude that to curb collaborative corruption, relying on people’s honesty is insufficient. Encouraging honest individuals not to engage in ethical free riding is essential.

Keywords: behavioral ethics, ethical decision making, cooperation, dishonesty, partner selection, collaboration, rotation, open data, open materials

Jealousy evolved & has its own unique motivational state aimed at preventing others from usurping important relationships; has a core form that exists in infants and nonhuman animals and an elaborated form in humans that emerges as cognitive sophistication develops

Jealousy as a Specific Emotion: The Dynamic Functional Model. Mingi Chung, Christine R. Harris. Emotion Review, https://doi.org/10.1177/1754073918795257

Abstract: We review the jealousy literature and present our Dynamic Functional Model of Jealousy (DFMJ), which argues that jealousy evolved and has its own unique motivational state aimed at preventing others from usurping important relationships. It has a core form that exists in infants and nonhuman animals and an elaborated form in humans that emerges as cognitive sophistication develops. The DFMJ proposes that jealousy is an unfolding process with early and late phases that can be differentially impacted by relationship and personality factors. It also notes the importance of looking at multiple concomitants of jealousy, including action tendencies. We discuss how jealousy fits with current emotion theories and suggest that theories of specific emotions need to be broadened.

Keywords: attachment style, basic emotions, distinct emotions, Dynamic Functional Model of Jealousy, evolution, functional, jealousy, personality, relational variables, specific emotions

Intergenerational transmission of paternal trauma among US Civil War ex-POWs: Severe paternal hardship as a prisoner of war led to high mortality among sons, but not daughters, born after the civil war who survived to the age of 45; adequate maternal nutrition countered the effect

Intergenerational transmission of paternal trauma among US Civil War ex-POWs. Dora L. Costa, Noelle Yetter, and Heather DeSomer. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1803630115

Significance: Understanding whether paternal trauma is transmitted to children to affect their longevity, the mechanisms behind any transmission, and the reversibility of paternal trauma can inform health interventions and increase our understanding of the persistence of health within families. We show that severe paternal hardship as a prisoner of war (POW) led to high mortality among sons, but not daughters, born after the war who survived to the age of 45 but that adequate maternal nutrition countered the effect of paternal POW trauma in a manner most consistent with epigenetic explanations. We are not aware of any large sample studies in human populations that examine the reversibility of paternal trauma nor the long-term impact of paternal ex-POW status on children.

Abstract: We study whether paternal trauma is transmitted to the children of survivors of Confederate prisoner of war (POW) camps during the US Civil War (1861–1865) to affect their longevity at older ages, the mechanisms behind this transmission, and the reversibility of this transmission. We examine children born after the war who survived to age 45, comparing children whose fathers were non-POW veterans and ex-POWs imprisoned in very different camp conditions. We also compare children born before and after the war within the same family by paternal ex-POW status. The sons of ex-POWs imprisoned when camp conditions were at their worst were 1.11 times more likely to die than the sons of non-POWs and 1.09 times more likely to die than the sons of ex-POWs when camp conditions were better. Paternal ex-POW status had no impact on daughters. Among sons born in the fourth quarter, when maternal in utero nutrition was adequate, there was no impact of paternal ex-POW status. In contrast, among sons born in the second quarter, when maternal nutrition was inadequate, the sons of ex-POWs who experienced severe hardship were 1.2 times more likely to die than the sons of non-POWs and ex-POWs who fared better in captivity. Socioeconomic effects, family structure, father-specific survival traits, and maternal effects, including quality of paternal marriages, cannot explain our findings. While we cannot rule out fully psychological or cultural effects, our findings are most consistent with an epigenetic explanation.

Moral conviction stems from a distinctive mode of mental processing that is tied to automatic affective reactions; conviction about political objects positively predicts arousal evoked by the objects, while attitude extremity and importance do not

Fired Up by Morality: The Unique Physiological Response Tied to Moral Conviction in Politics. Kristin N. Garrett. Political Psychology, https://doi.org/10.1111/pops.12527

Abstract: Studies provide mounting evidence that morally convicted attitudes elicit passionate and unyielding political responses. Questions remain, however, whether these effects occur because moral conviction is another strong, versus a distinctly moral dimension of attitude strength. Building on work in moral psychology and neuroscience, I argue that moral conviction stems from a distinctive mode of mental processing that is tied to automatic affective reactions. Testing this idea using a lab experiment designed to capture self‐reported moral conviction and physiological arousal, I find that conviction about political objects positively predicts arousal evoked by the objects, while attitude extremity and importance do not. These findings suggest that moral conviction items do tap into moral processing, helping to validate the conviction measure. They also illustrate the value of using physiological indicators to study politics, help explain why morally convicted attitudes trigger such fervent responses, and raise normative questions about political conflict and compromise.

Psychological research is, on average, afflicted with low statistical power; only about 8% of studies have adequate power (using Cohen’s 80% convention); the good news is that we find only a small amount of average residual reporting bias

Stanley, T. D., Carter, E. C., & Doucouliagos, H. (2018). What meta-analyses reveal about the replicability of psychological research. Psychological Bulletin, http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/bul0000169

Abstract: Can recent failures to replicate psychological research be explained by typical magnitudes of statistical power, bias or heterogeneity? A large survey of 12,065 estimated effect sizes from 200 meta-analyses and nearly 8,000 papers is used to assess these key dimensions of replicability. First, our survey finds that psychological research is, on average, afflicted with low statistical power. The median of median power across these 200 areas of research is about 36%, and only about 8% of studies have adequate power (using Cohen’s 80% convention). Second, the median proportion of the observed variation among reported effect sizes attributed to heterogeneity is 74% (I2). Heterogeneity of this magnitude makes it unlikely that the typical psychological study can be closely replicated when replication is defined as study-level null hypothesis significance testing. Third, the good news is that we find only a small amount of average residual reporting bias, allaying some of the often-expressed concerns about the reach of publication bias and questionable research practices. Nonetheless, the low power and high heterogeneity that our survey finds fully explain recent difficulties to replicate highly regarded psychological studies and reveal challenges for scientific progress in psychology.

Respondents in same‐sex relationships experience similar levels of commitment, satisfaction, & emotional intimacy as their counterparts in different‐sex relationships; relationship of males is sexually less exclusive

The Qualities of Same‐Sex and Different‐Sex Couples in Young Adulthood. Kara Joyner, Wendy Manning, Barbara Prince. Journal of Marriage and Family, https://doi.org/10.1111/jomf.12535

Abstract

Objective: The recognition of sexual minorities in social science research is growing, and this study contributes to knowledge on this population by comparing the qualities of same‐sex and different‐sex relationships among young adults.

Background: The findings of studies on this topic may not be generalizable because they are limited to coresidential unions and based on convenience samples. This study extends prior research by examining multiple relationship qualities among a nationally representative sample of males and females in dating and cohabiting relationships.

Method: The authors ; compare young adults in same‐sex and different‐sex relationships with respect to relationship quality (commitment, satisfaction, and emotional intimacy) and sexual behavior (sexual frequency and sexual exclusivity). Drawing on the 4th wave of data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health ( http://www.cpc.unc.edu/projects/addhealth), they use multiple regression to compare: male respondents with different‐sex partners, male respondents with same‐sex partners, female respondents with different‐sex partners, and female respondents with same‐sex partners.

Results: Consistent with previous research, the authors find that respondents in same‐sex relationships experience similar levels of commitment, satisfaction, and emotional intimacy as their counterparts in different‐sex relationships. They also corroborate the finding that male respondents in same‐sex relationships are less likely than other groups of respondents to indicate that their relationship is sexually exclusive.

Conclusion: This study provides an empirical basis for understanding the relationships of sexual minority young adults.

Proof of pluralistic ignorance about what is considered attractive in the gay community; & of a significant association between pluralistic ignorance & body image concerns, particularly among men not in committed relationships

Pluralistic Ignorance of Physical Attractiveness in the Gay Male Community. Daniel E. Flave-Novak & Jill M. Coleman. Journal of Homosexuality, https://doi.org/10.1080/00918369.2018.1522811

ABSTRACT: Researchers have found that a disproportionate percentage of men diagnosed with eating disorders identify as gay, and there is extensive evidence that gay men have significantly more body image concerns than heterosexual men (Bosley, 2011). The current studies investigated whether pluralistic ignorance exists about what is considered attractive in the gay community. It was hypothesized that gay males would privately reject the notion that only a mesomorphic (thin and muscular) body type is attractive, yet incorrectly assume that their peers are attracted primarily to a mesomorphic body type. The studies found evidence for the existence of pluralistic ignorance about what is considered attractive in the gay community. Further, there was evidence for a significant association between pluralistic ignorance and body image concerns, particularly among men who were not in committed romantic relationships.

KEYWORDS: Body image, gay men, norms, physical attractiveness

Monday, October 15, 2018

Conservatives’ individual-level attitudes toward diverse political issues (e.g., abortion, gun control, welfare) were more dispersed across the political spectrum than were liberals’ attitudes due to to having several moral foundations

Pyszczynski, Tom, Pelin Kesebir, Matt Motyl, Andrea Yetzer, and Jacqueline M. Anson. 2018. “Ideological Consistency, Political Orientation, and Variability Across Moral Foundations.” PsyArXiv. October 10. doi:10.31234/osf.io/qgmsc

Abstract: We conceptualized ideological consistency as the extent to which an individual’s attitudes toward diverse political issues are coherent among themselves from an ideological standpoint. Four studies compared the ideological consistency of self-identified liberals and conservatives. Across diverse samples, attitudes, and consistency measures, liberals were more ideologically consistent than conservatives. In other words, conservatives’ individual-level attitudes toward diverse political issues (e.g., abortion, gun control, welfare) were more dispersed across the political spectrum than were liberals’ attitudes. Study 4 demonstrated that variability across commitments to different moral foundations predicted ideological consistency and mediated the relationship between political orientation and ideological consistency.

Observed negative impact of socioeconomic status on olfactory function could reflect differential exposures to xenobiotic agents, cultural differences, familiarity with odors or their names, cognitive development, or other factors

Relationship of socioeconomic status to olfactory function. Aurélio Fornazieri et al. Physiology & Behavior, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2018.10.011

Highlights
•    This research employs data from the largest clinical study of olfaction ever performed outside of North America and Europe.
•    Lower education levels and economic status were independently associated with an adverse influence on standardized olfactory test scores.
•    The observed negative impact of socioeconomic status on olfactory function could reflect differential exposures to xenobiotic agents, cultural differences, familiarity with odors or their names, cognitive development, or other factors.

Abstract: Socioeconomic status can significantly impact health. To what degree education and other socioeconomic factors influence the chemical sense of olfaction is not clear. Most studies that have assessed such influences come from countries lacking large disparities in education and income and generally view such measures as nuisance variables to be controlled for statistically. In this study, we evaluated the influences of education and income on odor identification in a diverse sample of subjects from Brazil, a society where large disparities in both income and education are present. The 40-item University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test (UPSIT) was administered to 1572 healthy Brazilian citizens with no self-reported olfactory or gustatory deficits and for whom detailed socioeconomic and educational status data were obtained. Univariate and multivariate models were employed to examine the influence of socioeconomic status on the test scores. After controlling for age, sex, ethnicity, and smoking behavior, income and educational level were positively and independently related to the olfactory test scores (respective ps < 0.001 & 0.01). Both linear and quadratic functions described the relationship between the UPSIT scores and the levels of education and socioeconomic status. Individuals of lower socioeconomic status performed significantly worse than those of higher socioeconomic status on 20 of the 40 odorant items. This study demonstrates socioeconomic status is significantly associated with influence the ability to identify odors. The degree to which this reflects differential exposures to xenobiotic agents, cultural differences, familiarity with odors or their names, cognitive development, or other factors requires further investigation.

We like to be scared: After voluntary arousing negative experiences, reported affect improved, particularly for those that reported feeling tired, bored, or stressed prior to the experience

Kerr, M., Siegle, G. J., & Orsini, J. (2018). Voluntary arousing negative experiences (VANE): Why we like to be scared. Emotion. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/emo0000470

Abstract: This study examined survey data and neural reactivity associated with voluntarily engaging in high arousal negative experiences (VANE). Here we suggest how otherwise negative stimuli might be experienced as positive in the context of voluntary engagement. Participants were recruited from customers who had already purchased tickets to attend an “extreme” haunted attraction. Survey data measuring self-report affect, expectations, and experience was collected from 262 adults (139 women and 123 men; age M = 27.5 years, SD = 9.3 years) before and after their experience. Changes in electroencephalographic (EEG) indices of reactivity to cognitive and emotional tasks were further assessed from a subsample of 100 participants. Results suggested that participants’ reported affect improved, particularly for those that reported feeling tired, bored, or stressed prior to the experience. Among those whose moods improved, neural reactivity decreased in response to multiple tasks. Together, these data suggest that VANE reduces neural reactivity following stress. This result could explain post-VANE euphoria and may be adaptive in that it could help individuals to cope with subsequent stressors. To the extent that this phenomenon replicates in clinical situations, it could inform clinical interventions by using VANE principles to reduce neural reactivity to subsequent stressors.

This paper establishes a new fact about educational production: ordinal academic rank during primary school has long-run impacts that are independent from underlying ability

Top of the Class: The Importance of Ordinal Rank. Richard Murphy, Felix Weinhardt. NBER Working Paper No. 24958. http://www.nber.org/papers/w24958

Abstract: This paper establishes a new fact about educational production: ordinal academic rank during primary school has long-run impacts that are independent from underlying ability. Using data on the universe of English school students, we exploit naturally occurring differences in achievement distributions across primary school classes to estimate the impact of class rank conditional on relative achievement. We find large effects on test scores, confidence and subject choice during secondary school, where students have a new set of peers and teachers who are unaware of the students’ prior ranking. The effects are especially large for boys, contributing to an observed gender gap in end-of-high school STEM subject choices. Using a basic model of student effort allocation across subjects, we derive and test a hypothesis to distinguish between learning and non-cognitive skills mechanisms and find support for the latter.

Democracy's Unique Advantage in Promoting Economic Growth: Quantitative Evidence for a New Institutional Theory

Democracy's Unique Advantage in Promoting Economic Growth: Quantitative Evidence for a New Institutional Theory. Rui Tang, Shiping Tang. Kyklos, https://doi.org/10.1111/kykl.12184

Summary: Bringing together the classic defense of liberty and democracy, the political economy of hierarchy, endogenous growth theory, and the new institutional economics on growth, we propose a new institutional theory that identifies democracy's unique advantage in prompting economic growth. We contend that the channel of liberty‐to‐innovation is the most critical channel in which democracy holds a unique advantage over autocracy in promoting growth, especially during the stage of growth via innovation. Our theory thus predicts that democracy holds a positive but indirect effect upon growth via the channel of liberty‐to‐innovation, conditioned by the level of economic development. We then present quantitative evidence for our theory. To our best knowledge, we are the first to propose such an indirect and conditional effect of democracy upon economic development and provide systematic evidence. Our study promises to integrate and reconcile many seemingly unrelated and often contradictory theories and evidence regarding regime and growth, including providing a possible explanation for the inconclusive results from regressing overall regime score against the rate of economic growth or change in level of GDP per capita.

Humans exhibit important shifts in this aspect of our social cognition: younger individuals attend more to negative stimuli, whereas older adults tend to focus on positive information; rhesus monkeys show an increasing negativity bias with age

Developmental shifts in social cognition: socio-emotional biases across the lifespan in rhesus monkeys. Alexandra G. Rosati, Alyssa M. Arre, Michael L. Platt, Laurie R. Santos. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00265-018-2573-8

Abstract: Humans exhibit a suite of developmental changes in social cognition across the lifespan. To what extent are these developmental patterns unique? We first review several social domains in which humans undergo critical ontogenetic changes in socio-cognitive processing, including social attention and theory of mind. We then examine whether one human developmental transition—a shift in socio-emotional preferences—also occurs in non-human primates. Specifically, we experimentally measured socio-emotional processing in a large population of rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) ranging from infancy to old age. We tested whether macaques, like humans, also exhibited developmental shifts from a negativity bias at younger ages, indicating preferential attention to negative socio-emotional stimuli, to a positivity bias at older ages. We first assessed monkeys’ (n = 337) responses to negative socio-emotional stimuli by comparing their duration of looking towards photos of negative conspecific signals (threat displays) versus matched neutral expressions. In contrast to the pattern observed in humans, we found that older monkeys were more attentive to negative emotional stimuli than were younger monkeys. In a second study, we used the same method to examine monkeys’ (n = 132) attention to positive (affiliative displays) versus matched neutral expressions. Monkeys did not exhibit an overall preference for positive stimuli, nor major age-related changes in their attention. These results indicate that while monkeys show robust ontogenetic shifts in social preferences, they differ from humans by exhibiting an increasing negativity bias with age. Studies of comparative cognitive development can therefore provide insight into the evolutionary origins of human socio-cognitive development.

Significance statement: Humans are characterized by complex and flexible social behavior. Understanding the proximate psychological mechanisms and developmental processes that underpin these social behaviors can shed light on the evolutionary history of our species. We used a comparative developmental approach to identify whether a key component of human social cognition, responses to emotionally-charged social stimuli, are shared with other primates. Humans exhibit important shifts in this aspect of our social cognition: younger individuals attend more to negative stimuli, whereas older adults tend to focus on positive information. These shifts are thought to appropriately tailor our age-dependent social goals. We found that, unlike humans, rhesus monkeys show an increasing negativity bias with age. By examining primate cognition across the lifespan, this work can help disentangle how complex forms of social behavior emerge across species.

Keywords: Social cognition Comparative development Primates Socio-emotional biases Emotional signals

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Harming animals and massacring humans: Characteristics of public mass and active shooters who abused animals

Harming animals and massacring humans: Characteristics of public mass and active shooters who abused animals. Arnold Arluke, Adam Lankford, Eric Madfis. Behavioral Sciences and the Law , https://doi.org/10.1002/bsl.2385

Abstract: Researchers have extensively studied the tendency of certain violent criminals to hurt or torture animals, primarily focusing on domestic abusers and serial killers. However, little is known about the extent or nature of prior animal abuse among active shooters and public mass shooters. Public mass and active shooters essentially represent a single offender type: they are people who commit rampage attacks in public places and attempt to harm multiple victims beyond a single target. The only difference is that “mass” shootings are traditionally defined as cases resulting in the death of four or more victims, while “active” shootings have no minimum threshold. This study aimed to identify all publicly reported cases of active and mass shooters who engaged in animal cruelty, describe the nature of their violence toward animals and humans, and examine how they differ from other perpetrators without this history. Overall, this study found 20 cases of offenders with a publicly reported history of animal abuse. Comparisons between offenders with and without this history indicated that animal‐abusing offenders were more likely to be young and White, less likely to die at the crime scene, and more likely to kill and wound a large number of victims. While this finding supports the idea that animal abuse might be a warning sign for a small but deadly minority of mostly youthful offenders, it is likely not a robust signal of future shooters in general because animal abuse is rarely reported in this population of offenders at large.


We discovered hundreds of genes that, when their activity is enhanced, suppressed, or turned off, lengthen life & enhance health under laboratory conditions; does this support George Williams’ 1957 paper aobut antagonistic pleiotropy hypothesis of aging?

Is Antagonistic Pleiotropy Ubiquitous in Aging Biology? Steven N Austad Jessica M Hoffman.  Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health, eoy033, https://doi.org/10.1093/emph/eoy033

Abstract: George Williams’ 1957 paper developed the antagonistic pleiotropy hypothesis of aging, which had previously been hinted at by Peter Medawar. Antagonistic pleiotropy, as it applies to aging, hypothesizes that animals possess genes that enhance fitness early in life but diminish it in later life and that such genes can be favored by natural selection because selection is stronger early in life even as they cause the aging phenotype to emerge. No genes of the sort hypothesized by Williams were known sixty years ago, but modern molecular biology has now discovered hundreds of genes that, when their activity is enhanced, suppressed, or turned off, lengthen life and enhance health under laboratory conditions. Does this provide strong support for Williams’ hypothesis? What are the implications of Williams’ hypothesis for the modern goal of medically intervening to enhance and prolong human health? Here we briefly review the current state of knowledge on antagonistic pleiotropy both under wild and laboratory conditions. Overall, whenever antagonistic pleiotropy effects have been seriously investigated, they have been found. However, not all trade-offs are directly between reproduction and longevity as is often assumed. The discovery that antagonistic pleiotropy is common if not ubiquitous implies that a number of molecular mechanisms of aging may be widely shared among organisms and that these mechanisms of aging can be potentially alleviated by targeted interventions.

Topic: aging phenotype genes longevity molecular biology reproductive physiological process pleiotropism elderly

Strong discrepancy between stated and revealed behavior: given a natural setting, people may actually behave inconsistently with the way in which they otherwise “brand” themselves; this is a big problem for predictability of survey answers

Why (field) experiments on unethical behavior are important: Comparing stated and revealed behavior. Yonas Alema et al. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jebo.2018.08.026

Highlights
•    Field experiment on unethical behavior.
•    Comparison of stated behavior and revealed behavior.
•    Experiment induces reciprocity and guilt in two treatments.
•    Result 1: strong discrepancy between stated and revealed behavior.
•    Result 2: inducing reciprocity and guilt reduces unethical behavior compared to control.

Abstract: Understanding unethical behavior is essential to many phenomena in the real world. We carry out a field experiment in a unique setting that varies the levels of reciprocity and guilt in an ethical decision. A survey more than one year before the field experiment allows us to compare at the individual level stated unethical behavior with revealed behavior in the same situation in the field. Our results indicate a strong discrepancy between stated and revealed behavior, regardless of the specific treatment in the field experiment. This suggests that, given a natural setting, people may actually behave inconsistently with the way in which they otherwise “brand” themselves. Our findings raise caution about the interpretation of stated behavioral measures commonly used in research on unethical behavior. In addition, we show that inducing reciprocity and guilt leads to a decrease in unethical behavior.

Antisocial behavior is heritable, but heritability varies by subtype and age; adversity predicts antisocial behavior directly & moderates genetic effects; we need genome-wide association studies of antisocial behavior with larger sample sizes

Genetic influences on antisocial behavior: recent advances and future directions. Arianna M Gard, Hailey L Dotterer, Luke W Hyde. Current Opinion in Psychology, Volume 27, June 2019, Pages 46-55, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2018.07.013

Highlights
•    The heterogeneity of antisocial behavior needs to be considered in genetic studies.
•    Antisocial behavior is heritable, but heritability varies by subtype and age.
•    Adversity predicts antisocial behavior directly and moderates genetic effects.
•    Genome-wide association studies of antisocial behavior with larger sample sizes are needed.
•    Polygenic risk scores may capture cumulative genetic effects on antisocial behavior.
•    Neurogenetics links genes to behavior via the brain.

Abstract: Understanding the etiology of antisocial behavior (i.e. violence, criminality, rule-breaking), is essential to the development of more effective prevention and intervention strategies. We provide a summary of the genetic correlates of antisocial behavior, drawing upon findings from behavioral, molecular, and statistical genetics. Across methodologies, our review highlights the centrality of environmental moderators of genetic effects, and how behavioral heterogeneity in antisocial behavior is an important consideration for genetic studies. We also review novel analytic techniques and neurogenetic approaches that can be used to examine how genetic variation predicts antisocial behavior. Finally, to illustrate how findings may converge across approaches, we describe pathways from genetic variability in oxytocin signaling to subtypes of antisocial behavior.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

The high regard of organic food is a meme; not in genetic terms, but as a cultural artefact that spreads, affects social cognition, & propagates in the social environment as a true statement to be believed

Organic Food Appeals to Intuition and Triggers Stereotypes. Marjaana Lindeman, Joonas Anttila. International Journal of Psychological Studies, Vol. 10, No. 3 (2018). DOI:10.5539/ijps.v10n3p66

Abstract: Evidence suggests that the benefits of organic food are overstated. In study 1, factors predicting positive attitudes toward organic food (OF), food processing and additives were investigated. Intuitive thinking style was the strongest predictor, followed by categorical thinking, belief in simplicity of knowledge and susceptibility to health myths. In Study 2, the effect of OF consumer status on perceived warmth and competence was examined. OF-positive participants rated the OF consumer similarly as the conventional consumer. However, OF-negative participants regarded the OF consumer as warmer but less competent than the conventional consumer. In Study 3, perceptions of a couple were examined similarly. OF consumer couple's relationship was more idealized by the OF-positive participants whereas other participants regarded the OF consumer couple's relationship as less satisfactory. In addition, intuitive thinking style increased positive judgments about the stimulus persons in Studies 2 and 3. Eating organic food may thus evoke positive and negative stereotypes, and intuitive thinkers may be especially receptive to OF marketing and influenced by a preference for natural.




Check also Sweet taste of prosocial status signaling: When eating organic foods makes you happy and hopeful. Petteri Puska et al. Appetite, https://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/11/consumers-told-their-organic-food.html

Dopaminergic basis for signaling belief updates, but not surprise, and the link to paranoia

Dopaminergic basis for signaling belief updates, but not surprise, and the link to paranoia. Matthew M. Nour, Tarik Dahoun, Philipp Schwartenbeck, Rick A. Adams, Thomas H. B. FitzGerald, Christopher Coello, Matthew B. Wall, Raymond J. Dolan, and Oliver D. Howes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1809298115

Significance: To survive in changing environments animals must use sensory
information to form accurate representations of the world. Surprising sensory information might signal that our current beliefs about the world are inaccurate, motivating a belief update. Here, we investigate the neuroanatomical and neurochemical mechanisms underlying the brain’s ability to update beliefs following informative sensory cues. Using multimodal brain imaging in healthy human participants, we demonstrate that dopamine is strongly related to neural signals encoding belief updates, and that belief updating itself is closely related to the expression of individual differences in paranoid ideation. Our results shed new light on the role of dopamine in making inferences and are relevant for understanding psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia, where dopamine function is disrupted.

Abstract: Distinguishing between meaningful and meaningless sensory information is fundamental to forming accurate representations of the world. Dopamine is thought to play a central role in processing the meaningful information content of observations, which motivates an agent to update their beliefs about the environment. However, direct evidence for dopamine’s role in human belief updating is lacking. We addressed this question in healthy volunteers who performed a model-based fMRI task designed to separate the neural processing of meaningful and meaningless sensory information. We modeled participant behavior using a normative Bayesian observer model and used the magnitude of the model-derived belief update following an observation to quantify its meaningful information content. We also acquired PET imaging measures of dopamine function in the same subjects. We show that the magnitude of belief updates about task structure (meaningful information), but not pure sensory surprise (meaningless information), are encoded in midbrain and ventral striatum activity. Using PET we show that the neural encoding of meaningful information is negatively related to dopamine-2/3 receptor availability in the midbrain and dexamphetamine-induced dopamine release capacity in the striatum. Trial-by-trial analysis of task performance indicated that subclinical paranoid ideation is negatively related to behavioral sensitivity to observations carrying meaningful information about the task structure. The findings provide direct evidence implicating dopamine in model-based belief updating in humans and have implications for understating the pathophysiology of psychotic disorders where dopamine function is disrupted.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Mice: Performance in behavioral tasks did not correlate strongly with number of neurons; whereas neuronal number is a good predictor of cognitive skills across species, it is not a predictor of cognitive across individuals within a species

Lack of correlation between number of neurons and behavioral performance in Swiss mice. Kleber Neves, Gerson D. Guercio, Yuri Anjos-Travassos, Stella Costa, Ananda Perozzo, Karine Montezuma, Suzana Herculano-Houzel, Rogerio Panizzutti
bioRxiv 428607; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/428607

Abstract: Neuronal number varies by several orders of magnitude across species, and has been proposed to predict cognitive capability across species. Remarkably, numbers of neurons vary across individual mice by a factor of 2 or more. We directly addressed the question of whether there is a relationship between performance in behavioral tests and the number of neurons in functionally relevant structures in the mouse brain. Naive Swiss mice went through a battery of behavioral tasks designed to measure cognitive, motor and olfactory skills. We estimated the number of neurons in different brain regions (cerebral cortex, hippocampus, olfactory bulb, cerebellum and remaining areas) and crossed the two datasets to test the a priori hypothesis of correlation between cognitive abilities and numbers of neurons. As previous evidence indicates that environmental enrichment may increase neurogenesis and improve neuronal survival, we added a control group that did not undergo cognitive testing to rule out the possibility that our test battery could alter the neuronal number. We found that behavioral testing did not change numbers of neurons in the cerebral cortex and in the hippocampus. Surprisingly, performance in the behavioral tasks did not correlate strongly with number of neurons in any of the brain regions studied. Our results show that whereas neuronal number is a good predictor of cognitive skills across species, it is not a predictor of cognitive, sensory or motor ability across individuals within a species, which suggests that other factors are more relevant for explaining cognitive differences between individuals of the same species.

Industrial Revolution: Some psychological traits –lower level of time discounting, higher level of optimism, decreased materialistic orientation, & higher level of trust in others– are likely to increase the rate of innovation

Psychological Origins of the Industrial Revolution. Nicolas Baumard. Behavioral and Brain Sciences (forthcoming), https://www.cambridge.org/core/services/aop-cambridge-core/content/view/6CBACB4C2DFB11F5A13D3B4A5E9E2EB4/S0140525X1800211Xa.pdf/psychological_origins_of_the_industrial_revolution.pdf

Since the Industrial Revolution, human societies have experienced high and sustained rates of economic growth. Recent explanations of this sudden and massive change in economic history have held that modern growth results from an acceleration of innovation. But it is unclear why the rate of innovation drastically accelerated in England in the 18th century. An important factor might be the alteration of individual preferences with regard to innovation due to the unprecedented living standards of the English during that period, for two reasons. First, recent developments in economic history challenge the standard Malthusian view according to which living standards were stagnant until the Industrial Revolution. Pre-industrial England enjoyed a level of affluence that was unprecedented in history. Second, Life History Theory, a branch of evolutionary biology, has demonstrated that the human brain is designed to respond adaptively to variations in resources in the local environment. In particular, a more favorable environment (high resources, low mortality) triggers the expression of future-oriented preferences. In this paper, I argue that some of these psychological traits –a lower level of time discounting, a higher level of optimism, decreased materialistic orientation, and a higher level of trust in others– are likely to increase the rate of innovation. I review the evidence regarding the impact of affluence on preferences in contemporary as well as past populations, and conclude that the impact of affluence on neuro-cognitive systems may partly explain the modern acceleration of technological innovations and the associated economic growth.

Rolf Degen summarizing: If competition is framed as competition with oneself, rather than with other people, women are more competitive than men

Gender differences in interpersonal and intrapersonal competitive behavior. Jeffrey Carpenter, Rachel Frank, Emiliano Huet-Vaughn. Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socec.2018.10.003

Highlights
•    We ask if gender affects an individual’s willingness to compete against oneself
•    Our lab experiment randomly sorts subjects to compete against others or themselves
•    Women select intrapersonal competition more than interpersonal competition
•    Women select intrapersonal competition comparatively more than men
•    Perseverance or ”grit” does not predict competitive behavior
•    Men are more risk-seeking and this has some effect on the inclination to compete

Abstract: Gender differences in competitive behavior continue to be documented by econo-mists and other social scientists; however, the bulk of the research addresses competition with others and excludes other economically relevant contests. In this paper, we ask: how does gender affect how individuals react to competing against themselves? In a laboratory experiment in which some subjects compete against others and some compete against themselves, we find women select into intrapersonal competition at significantly higher rates than interpersonal competition and comparatively more than men. In addition, we find that while perseverance or “grit” does not explain the gender difference in behavior, risk attitudes have some explanatory power.

Schadenfreude is higher in real-life situations compared to psychologists' experiments in the lab

Schadenfreude is higher in real-life situations compared to hypothetical scenarios. Maria Luz Gonzalez-Gadea, Agustin Ibanez, Mariano Sigman. PLOS, October 11, 2018, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0205595

Abstract: Schadenfreude (i.e., the pleasure derived from another’s misfortune) has been widely studied by having participants imagine how they would feel in hypothetical scenarios describing another person’s pain or misfortune. However, research on affective forecasting shows that self-judgments of emotions are inaccurate in hypothetical situations. Here we show a study in which we first presented a hypothetical schadenfreude situation and few months later, due to an exceptional circumstance, the situation turned out to happen in reality. This fortuitous circumstance allowed us to compare people’s imagined emotional reactions with their actual feelings. Results showed that schadenfreude was higher in the real situation than in the hypothetical one. More importantly, participants used different proxies to predict their emotional reaction: while out-group dislike served as a proxy of schadenfreude in both types of scenario, the degree of in-group identification also increased schadenfreude in those who had experienced the real event, arguably a mechanism to promote positive self-evaluation. These results highlight the importance of assessing schadenfreude in the heat of the moment.


Thursday, October 11, 2018

More-skilled workers tend to live in larger cities where they earn higher wages; larger cities are also more unequal

Inequality in and across Cities. Jessie Romero and Felipe F. Schwartzman. Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Economic Brief October 2018, No. 18-10. https://www.richmondfed.org/publications/research/economic_brief/2018/eb_18-10

Abstract: Inequality in the United States has an important spatial component. More-skilled workers tend to live in larger cities where they earn higher wages. Less-skilled workers make lower wages and do not experience similar gains even when they live in those cities. This dynamic implies that larger cities are also more unequal. These relationships appear to have become more pronounced as inequality has increased. The evidence points to externalities among high-skilled workers as a significant contributor to those patterns.

Distinct facial expressions represent pain and pleasure across cultures

Distinct facial expressions represent pain and pleasure across cultures. Chaona Chen, Carlos Crivelli, Oliver G. B. Garrod, Philippe G. Schyns, José-Miguel Fernández-Dols, and Rachael E. Jack. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1807862115

Significance: Humans often use facial expressions to communicate social messages. However, observational studies report that people experiencing pain or orgasm produce facial expressions that are indistinguishable, which questions their role as an effective tool for communication. Here, we investigate this counterintuitive finding using a new data-driven approach to model the mental representations of facial expressions of pain and orgasm in individuals from two different cultures. Using complementary analyses, we show that representations of pain and orgasm are distinct in each culture. We also show that pain is represented with similar face movements across cultures, whereas orgasm shows differences. Our findings therefore inform understanding of the possible communicative role of facial expressions of pain and orgasm, and how culture could shape their representation.

Abstract: Real-world studies show that the facial expressions produced during pain and orgasm—two different and intense affective experiences—are virtually indistinguishable. However, this finding is counterintuitive, because facial expressions are widely considered to be a powerful tool for social interaction. Consequently, debate continues as to whether the facial expressions of these extreme positive and negative affective states serve a communicative function. Here, we address this debate from a novel angle by modeling the mental representations of dynamic facial expressions of pain and orgasm in 40 observers in each of two cultures (Western, East Asian) using a data-driven method. Using a complementary approach of machine learning, an information-theoretic analysis, and a human perceptual discrimination task, we show that mental representations of pain and orgasm are physically and perceptually distinct in each culture. Cross-cultural comparisons also revealed that pain is represented by similar face movements across cultures, whereas orgasm showed distinct cultural accents. Together, our data show that mental representations of the facial expressions of pain and orgasm are distinct, which questions their nondiagnosticity and instead suggests they could be used for communicative purposes. Our results also highlight the potential role of cultural and perceptual factors in shaping the mental representation of these facial expressions. We discuss new research directions to further explore their relationship to the production of facial expressions.

Evolutionary Explanations for Humor and Creativity. Or it is sexual selection?

Creativity and Humor. Chapter 10 - Evolutionary Explanations for Humor and Creativity. Aaron Kozbelt. Explorations in Creativity Research 2019, Pages 205-230. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-813802-1.00010-7

Abstract: In this chapter, I explore evolutionary explanations for humor and creativity, via humor production—the ability to generate a verbal comment or behavior that other people find funny. Proposed evolutionary mechanisms for the origin of the human capacity for humor production include Darwinian natural selection and sexual selection. Natural selection explanations for humor are hampered by the difficulty of distinguishing genuine adaptations from evolutionary by-products, and by a problematic emphasis on group selection. A sexual selection view of humor as a trait-indicator of genetic fitness has been studied extensively and boasts impressive empirical support. Alternatives to the trait-indicator view, such as the use of humor to signal compatibility, interest, or warmth, have also been suggested. The wide range of interpersonal contexts in which humor production can play out suggests a pluralism of mechanisms underlying humor production ability—rich fodder for future research.

Silver medalists’ life expectancy is less than that of gold and bronze medalists; perceived dissatisfactory competition outcomes may adversely affect health

The Effects of Competition Outcomes on Health: Evidence from the Lifespans of U.S. Olympic Medalists. Adriaan Kalwij. Economics & Human Biology, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ehb.2018.10.001

Highlights
•    Silver medalists’ life expectancy is less than that of gold and bronze medalists.
•    Perceived dissatisfactory competition outcomes may adversely affect health.
•    Competition outcomes could play a causal role in the positive SES-health gradient.

Abstract: This paper investigates the effects of competition outcomes on health by using U.S. Olympic medalist lifespans and medal colors as a natural experiment. Whereas the life expectancies of gold and bronze medalists do not differ significantly, life expectancy of silver medalists is about 2.4 and 3.9 years less than these former, respectively. These findings are readily explainable by insights from behavioral economics, psychology, and human biology, which suggest that (perceived) dissatisfactory competition outcomes may adversely affect health. Competition outcomes that affect socioeconomic status (SES) could, therefore, play an important causal role in the positive SES-health gradient among the general population.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Firms headquartered in countries with strict environmental policies perform their polluting activities abroad in countries with relatively weaker policies, but emit less overall CO2 globally due to strict policies at home

Exporting Pollution. Itzhak Ben-David, Stefanie Kleimeier, Michael Viehs. NBER Working Paper No. 25063. http://www.nber.org/papers/w25063

Abstract: Despite awareness of the detrimental impact of CO2 pollution on the world climate, countries vary widely in how they design and enforce environmental laws. Using novel micro data about firms’ CO2 emissions levels in their home and foreign countries, we document that firms headquartered in countries with strict environmental policies perform their polluting activities abroad in countries with relatively weaker policies. These effects are stronger for firms in high-polluting industries and with poor corporate governance characteristics. Although firms export pollution, they nevertheless emit less overall CO2 globally in response to strict environmental policies at home.

Hillary Clinton: 'You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for'

Clinton: 'You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for'. Rachel Ventresca, CNN, October 9, 2018, https://edition.cnn.com/2018/10/09/politics/hillary-clinton-civility-congress-cnntv

Washington (CNN)Hillary Clinton said Tuesday that civility in America can only begin again if Democrats win back the House or Senate this fall.

"You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about," Clinton said in an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour. "That's why I believe, if we are fortunate enough to win back the House and or the Senate, that's when civility can start again. But until then, the only thing that the Republicans seem to recognize and respect is strength."

Clinton alluded to previous controversies -- like the 2000 election recount to the "swift boat" attacks against John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election to the confirmation of Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh -- as evidence of what she sees as hardball tactics by Republicans.

"I remember what they did to me for 25 years -- the falsehoods, the lies, which unfortunately people believe because the Republicans have put a lot of time, money, and effort in promoting them," Clinton said. "So when you're dealing with an ideological party that is driven by the lust for power, that is funded by corporate interests who want a government that does its bidding, it's -- you can be civil, but you can't overcome what they intend to do unless you win elections."

Clinton said a top priority of a Democratic House and Senate should be to scrutinize President Donald Trump. Asked if Democrats should impeach Trump, Clinton sidestepped.

"The question about impeachment — you know, that will be left to others to decide," Clinton said. "I want to stop the degrading of the rule of law. The delegitimizing of elections. One of their priorities should be, let's protect our elections. Let's make sure that we have electoral security. Let's end the suppression of voters. So there is a big agenda if the Democrats take over."

CNN's Mick Krever contributed to this report.

Backward magical contagion: discomfort or pleasure when something like hair falls into the possession of a negatively- or positively-perceived individual; lots of people experience such fear

Reversing the causal arrow: Incidence and properties of negative backward magical contagion in Americans. Paul Rozin, Christopher Dunn, Natalie Fedotova. Judgment and Decision Making, Vol. 13, No. 5, Sept 2018, pp. 441-450, http://journal.sjdm.org/14/14511/jdm14511.html

Abstract: Backward magical contagion describes instances in which individuals (sources) express discomfort or pleasure when something connected to them (medium; e.g., hair, a diary) falls into the possession of a negatively- or positively-perceived individual (recipient). The reaction seems illogical, since it is made clear that the source will never experience the object again, and the psychological effect appears to reverse the standard forward model of causality. Backward magical contagion was originally believed to be a belief held only within traditional cultures. Two studies examined negative backward contagion in adult Americans in online surveys. Study 1 indicated that backward contagion effects occur commonly, particularly when a recipient knows of the medium’s source. Study 2 showed that backward contagion effects tend to be neutralized when the recipient burns the object, as opposed to just possessing it or discarding it. Ironically, in traditional cultures, burning is a particularly potent cause of backward contagion.

Keywords: magic, contagion, backward causation

Risk Factors Related to Cognitive Distortions Toward Women and Moral Disengagement: A Study on Sex Offenders

Risk Factors Related to Cognitive Distortions Toward Women and Moral Disengagement: A Study on Sex Offenders. Giulio D’Urso, Irene Petruccelli, Simona Grilli, Ugo Pace. Sexuality & Culture, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12119-018-9572-9

Abstract: Violence against women is a heterogeneous phenomenon worldwide. In order to better understand this phenomenon, it is also necessary to study the offenders against women. Therefore, the present study investigates, in the light of risk factors, the individual and social characteristics (related to adolescence), the moral disengagement strategies and cognitive distortions of 120 sex offenders detained in Italian jails. We administered the semi-structured interview for data collection regarding family, social and medical histories and the manner in which the deviant act was carried out, the Moral Disengagement Scale, and the Vindictive Rape Attitude Questionnaire to investigate the presence of cognitive distortions toward women. Results show important risk factors in the genesis of moral disengagement strategies in the offenders: the use of substances and being institutionalized in their past. In addition, through a multiple regression model, we noticed how education levels represent a negative predictor of cognitive distortions towards women and the attribution of blame to a positive predictor. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

Keywords: Sex offenders Moral disengagement Cognitive distortions Risk factors Substance abuse Institutionalization Adolescence

Relationships and Infidelity in Pornography: An Analysis of Pornography Streaming Websites

Relationships and Infidelity in Pornography: An Analysis of Pornography Streaming Websites. Kyler R. Rasmussen, Daniel Millar, Jeremy Trenchuk. Sexuality & Culture, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12119-018-9574-7

Abstract: Research suggests that pornography has the potential to inform sexual and romantic scripts, but no studies have examined the relational content within modern mainstream pornography. In this article, we present a content analysis of 190 sexually explicit online video clips from mainstream pornography streaming websites, coding for the relationship between participants (if any) and whether the video portrayed acts of infidelity. We also contrasted those clips with a comparison sample of 77 YouTube videos. We found that depictions of on-screen committed relationships were relatively rare in pornography (7.9% of videos) compared to YouTube (18.2%), but that infidelity was relatively common (25.3% vs. 2.6%), with pornography more likely to depict women as engaging in infidelity than men. Relational content was more likely to be included in a pornographic clip when the video portrayed a fictional narrative. These findings are consistent with past research connecting pornography consumption with open and liberal sexuality.

Keywords: Casual sex Content analysis Infidelity Pornography

Studies with the strongest research designs indicate that psychotherapy may be considerably less effective than we tend to believe; in fact, different psychotherapies may be equally ineffective

Insight Into Insight in Psychotherapy. Per Høglend. American Journal of Psychiatry, https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.2018.18050634

There have been more than 5,000 randomized controlled trials of psychotherapy. Most meta-analyses conclude that psychotherapy is effective for a range of disorders, and different modalities of therapy are equally effective. However, studies with the strongest research designs indicate that psychotherapy may be considerably less effective than we tend to believe (1). In fact, different psychotherapies may be equally ineffective. Too many patients fail to respond or continue to experience residual symptoms after treatment termination. All treatments for mental disorders have a wide margin for improvement.

Mental health professionals still believe that psychotherapy can be improved by theoretical discussion, logic, and expert opinion (2). This may be one of the reasons for the existence of several hundred “brand name” psychotherapies. However, in order to improve clinical theories, treatment interventions, and training, we need to identify how psychotherapy works—the mechanisms of change underlying the treatment effects (3). It is only with the specification of mediators of change, whether psychological (3) or biological (4), that the field will move forward. Many mechanisms may have an impact in the complex process of psychotherapy, but insight is regarded as one of the most important mechanisms of change, not only in dynamic psychotherapy (5) but also, increasingly, in cognitive behavioral therapy (6) and experiential psychotherapy (7).

In this regard, the study reported in this issue of the Journal by Jennissen and colleagues (8) is timely. This is the first meta-analysis of studies with data on the insight-outcome correlation. The meta-analysis is generally well done, with all of the elements that one would want to see—checks for heterogeneity, study quality, weighting, risk of publication bias. The authors screened more than 12,000 abstracts, assessed 261 full-text papers, and ended up with 22 studies (with 23 effect sizes). Their definition of insight is broad, but it is mainstream and reasonably accurate. They define it as “patients’ understanding of associations between past and present experiences, typical relationship patterns, and the relation between interpersonal challenges, emotional experience, and psychological symptoms.” The eligibility criteria used are sensible. [...]

[...]

Jennissen et al. report a consistent pattern of associations between insight and outcome across disorders and therapy types. There was a significant moderate relationship (r=0.31) between insight and treatment outcome. The study was not powered to detect moderators of the insight-outcomes associations. Overall, the findings constitute preliminary support for the importance of insight in different forms of psychotherapy.

Jennissen and colleagues’ choice to include many different diagnoses and different treatments in their meta-analysis may reflect current developments in our field. Given the shared brain circuitry, genes found across disorders, medications used across disorders, and the reality of considerable comorbidity, there is growing recognition that only a few domains of dysfunction may extend across the many DSM diagnostic categories. Caspi et al. (9) have argued that psychopathology could be explained with one general psychopathology dimension. The Research Domain Criteria initiative of the National Institute of Mental Health focuses on only a few domains of dysfunction, social processes being one of them. Transdiagnostic approaches and unified trans-theoretical treatment protocols may improve future research.

Jennissen and colleagues’ meta-analysis estimated a moderate association between insight and psychotherapy outcome across diagnostic categories and different schools of psychotherapy. Its magnitude is comparable to effect sizes of established treatment factors, such as therapeutic alliance. A large number of studies have documented a moderate but consistent relationship between therapeutic alliance and outcome, across different treatments and diagnoses (10). Brain changes, too, mainly in the prefrontal cortex, cingulate gyrus, and amygdala, are associated with symptom improvement across different diagnoses and treatments (11). However, an association with outcome is necessary but not sufficient. Just like insight and alliance, brain changes may be a consequence of symptom change or a proxy for some other therapeutic change processes. Further longitudinal research with study designs that include most or all steps in mediation research is necessary to establish insight, or alliance, or brain changes as mechanisms for treatment outcome. In our own research into the effect of insight on the outcome of psychotherapy, my colleagues and I found that use of a specific technique in dynamic psychotherapy (transference work) increased gain of insight during therapy substantially, with a subsequent improvement in outcome (12).

[full text and references in link above]

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8  Jennissen S, Huber J, Ehrenthal JC, et al.: Association between insight and outcome of psychotherapy: systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Psychiatry 2018;175:961–969

Domesticated Foxes Developing Laughter To Please Us

Domesticated Foxes Laugh with You (and Without You). Lee Alan Dugatkin. Psychology Today, Oct 2018,  https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/the-prince-evolution/201810/domesticated-foxes-laugh-you-and-without-you

Excerpts:

[...]

This part of the story begins in the 1980s when Lyudmila heard some of the domesticated foxes vocalizing in an odd new way, making a high-pitched “haaaaaw, haaaaaw, haw, haw, haw” sound when people approached them. Lyudmila thought it sounded like they were laughing and called it the “ha ha” vocalization. But neither Lyudmila nor the other researchers in the fox study had knowledge of how to study vocalizations, so not much came of the new sounds. Then, in 2005, Lyudmila got a phone call from Svetlana Gogoleva.

[...]

[...] What she found was that the “ha ha” sounds mimicked the sound of human laughter very closely. Closer than any other nonhuman vocalization. When she looked at a spectrogram that allowed her to visualize the domesticated fox “ha ha” sound, and a spectrogram of human laughter, she was hard pressed to tell the difference. The similarity was astonishing. Almost eerie. Of course, the domesticated foxes make their “ha ha” sound regardless of what we might consider funny. But that doesn’t change the fact that the domestication experiment has now produced foxes that not only act and look like a lapdog, but will give you a “ha ha” when you need a laugh, as well as when you do not.

Gogoleva and Lyudmila hypothesize that the tame foxes make the “ha ha” sound to attract human attention and prolong interaction with people. Somehow, they propose, the tame foxes have become adept at pleasing us by the sound of our own laughter. How, they don’t know, but a more pleasant way for one species to bond with another is hard to imagine.



Check also Smiles as Multipurpose Social Signals. Jared Martin et al. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, https://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/09/origin-of-smile-in-animals-could-be.html and references therein.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Emotional toll that psychotherapy may impose on mental health professionals: A protective role of quality of life was not observed for clinical supervision or personal therapy

Laverdière, O., Kealy, D., Ogrodniczuk, J. S., Chamberland, S., & Descôteaux, J. (2018). Psychotherapists’ professional quality of life. Traumatology, http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/trm0000177

Abstract: Psychotherapists’ daily activities entail working closely with individuals presenting with psychological distress and suffering from various mental disorders. This work relies upon relational and emotional capacities that are drawn upon during therapy sessions. Increasingly, researchers and clinicians have directed their attention toward examining the emotional toll that psychotherapy may impose on mental health professionals and the impact of such work on their professional quality of life. However, to date, psychotherapists in general practice have not been the focus of inquiry, which is the objective of the current study. To this end, 240 psychotherapists were surveyed, completing questionnaires relating to their working conditions, professional quality of life, and dispositional empathy. Results indicated significant negative associations between dimensions of professional quality of life and various work characteristics, such as workload, conducting only long-term psychotherapies or only with individuals, working in institutional settings, and working with trauma victims. A protective role was not observed for clinical supervision or personal therapy, but dispositional empathy was positively associated to dimensions of professional quality of life. Findings are discussed in relation to professional activities and self-care practices.

We Slow as We Age, but May Not Need to Slow Too Much

We Slow as We Age, but May Not Need to Slow Too Much. Gretchen Reynolds. The New York Times, Oct. 3, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/03/well/move/running-age-declines-slower.html
Although declines in running and other activities are unavoidable, they may be less steep than many of us fear.

Most of us who are older competitive runners are not able to race at anywhere near the same speed as we did when we were 30.

But we can perhaps aim to slow down at the same pace as Bernard Lagat, Ed Whitlock and other greats of masters running, according to a timely new analysis by two professors from Yale University.

The new analysis, which refines famous past research by one of the scientists, finds that, although declines in running performance with age are ineluctable, they may be less steep than many of us fear.

And, perhaps most important, the new research updates a popular formula and calculator that runners past the age of 40 can use to determine how fast we can expect to slow down and provides us with reasonable, age-appropriate finishing-time targets for ourselves.

Scientists do not know precisely why, from a physiological standpoint, we are less able to maintain our old, swifter pace as we reach middle age.

There is evidence from past studies that even in lifelong athletes, hearts become a bit less efficient over time at pumping blood and delivering oxygen and muscles a bit less adept at creating sustained power.

Changes deep within our cells, particularly in the energy-producing mitochondria, are thought to contribute to these age-related performance declines, as are simpler explanations such as creeping weight gain and a drop-off in hard training.

But the upshot is that, after a certain point, we cannot keep up with the kids or with our own previous bests.

Professor Ray Fair, an economist at Yale who mainly analyzes and predicts election outcomes, is familiar with this tribulation, since, now in his mid-70s, he is also an experienced masters marathon runner whose times have been slowing year by year.

About a decade ago, he began to wonder whether his rate of performance decline was typical and, being a predictive statistical modeler, decided to find out.

He turned first to information about world records for runners by age group. These times represent what is possible by the best runners in the world as they age.

And cumulatively, he found, the records proved that champion runners slow like the rest of us.

But there was a pattern to the slowing, Dr. Fair realized. As he reported in a 2007 study, the masters world record times rose in a linear fashion, with some hiccups, until about age 70, when they begin to soar at a much higher rate.

Using statistical modeling based on this pattern, Dr. Fair developed a formula that could predict how fast other, less-exceptional runners might expect to run as they grew older. He incorporated this formula into an influential calculator that he made available free on his website. (The calculator also predicts age-related performance declines in swimming and chess, using the same statistical techniques.)

The calculator soon became popular with runners, for whom it provided age-adjusted viable goal times, allowing them to swap despondency about their current plodding for gratification if they had managed to remain at or near their “regression line,” as Dr. Fair termed the age-adjusted predicted finishes.

But recently, Dr. Fair began to question whether his statistical model provided the best estimates of people’s likely race times and, for the new analysis, which was published in print this month in The Review of Economics and Statistics, he approached a Yale colleague, Edward Kaplan.

Dr. Kaplan is an expert in a complex type of statistical analysis known as extreme value theory, which focuses on exceptional deviations from the norm.

By definition, world records are exceptional deviations from the norm.

Together, Dr. Fair and Dr. Kaplan reanalyzed data about world masters running records through 2016 for the 5K, 10K, half marathon and marathon events, up to age 95.

They used only men’s records, since the number of older female participants has been small, Dr. Fair says, making current women’s records statistically suspect.

They then ran the numbers, using several different models, and found that, over all, age-adjusted finishing times are slightly slower now than in the 2007 version, rising about 1 percent a year.

But runners seem to be maintaining that rate of decline longer, until they are about age 80, when slowness drastically intensifies.

But even for 90-year-olds, the decline is limited, Dr. Fair points out.

Nonagenarians can expect to be “about twice as slow as they were in their prime,” he says, “which I think is encouraging.”

Interestingly, the new study’s extreme-value analysis also suggests that older runners have not yet become as fast as they could be.

The complicated calculations indicate that current world records for older runners theoretically could drop by as much as 8 percent in the future, Dr. Kaplan says, providing all of us new benchmarks for our own aging performance.

Dr. Fair has now introduced an updated version of his calculator, incorporating the new models.

To use it, visit his endearingly austere website at fairmodel.econ.yale.edu/aging and click on the link entitled “All other running (2018 updated age factors).”

There, enter your best time for whichever event interests you and the age at which you set that time. If you were younger than 40, use age 40 anyway, since the calculator assumes you will not have slowed much before reaching that age, Dr. Fair says.

You then will see your predicted times for your chosen event at every age through 95.

These figures presume that you have continued to train and maintain high fitness over the years, which many of us have not.

They also assume that recreational runners age and slow at the same rate as world-class runners, which has not been proven experimentally.

But even with these limitations, Dr. Fair says, the predictions give us something to shoot for.

“Aim for your regression line,” he says.

A version of this article appears in print on Oct. 9, 2018, on Page D4 of the New York edition with the headline: Slowing as We Grow Older

Sexual Arousal Patterns of Identical Twins with Discordant Sexual Orientations

Sexual Arousal Patterns of Identical Twins with Discordant Sexual Orientations. Tuesday M. Watts, Luke Holmes, Jamie Raines, Sheina Orbell & Gerulf Rieger. Scientific Reportsvolume 8, Article number: 14970 (2018). https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-33188-2

Abstract: Genetically identical twins can differ in their self-reported sexual orientations. However, whether the twins’ subjective reports reflect valid differences in their sexual orientations is unknown. Measures of sexual orientation, which are free of the limitations of self-report, include genital arousal and pupil dilation while viewing sexual stimuli depicting men or women. We examined these responses in 6 male twin pairs and 9 female twin pairs who reported discordant sexual orientations. Across measures, heterosexual male twins responded more strongly to women than to men. Their homosexual co-twins showed an opposite pattern. Heterosexual female twins responded equally to both sexes, whereas their homosexual co-twins responded somewhat more to women than men. These differences within pairs were similar to differences between unrelated heterosexual and homosexual males and females. Our study provides physiological evidence confirming twins’ discordant sexual orientations, thereby supporting the importance of the non-shared environment for the development of sexual orientation and sexual arousal.

Research from diverse subdisciplines of psychology sheds light on Schadenfreude; novel tripartite taxonomy of Schadenfreude: Aggression, rivalry, and justice; the process of dehumanization may lie at the core of Schadenfreude

Schadenfreude deconstructed and reconstructed: A tripartite motivational model. Shensheng Wang, Scott O. Lilienfeld, Philippe Rochat. New Ideas in Psychology, Volume 52, January 2019, Pages 1-11. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.newideapsych.2018.09.002

Highlights
•    Research from diverse subdisciplines of psychology sheds light on Schadenfreude.
•    We propose a novel tripartite taxonomy of Schadenfreude: Aggression, rivalry, and justice.
•    The process of dehumanization may lie at the core of Schadenfreude.

Abstract: Schadenfreude is the distinctive pleasure people derive from others' misfortune. Research over the past three decades points to the multifaceted nature of Schadenfreude rooted in humans’ concerns for social justice, self-evaluation, and social identity. Less is known, however, regarding how the differing facets of Schadenfreude are interrelated and take shape in response to these concerns. To address these questions, we review extant theories in social psychology and draw upon evidence from developmental, personality, and clinical research literature to propose a novel, tripartite, taxonomy of Schadenfreude embedded in a motivational model. Our model posits that Schadenfreude comprises three separable but interrelated subforms (aggression, rivalry, and justice), which display different developmental trajectories and personality correlates. This model further posits that dehumanization plays a central role in both eliciting Schadenfreude and integrating its various facets. In closing, we point to fruitful directions for future research motivated by this novel account of Schadenfreude.

Preference for realistic art predicts support for Brexit

Preference for realistic art predicts support for Brexit. Noah Carl, Lindsay Richards, Anthony Heath. The British Journal of Sociology, https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-4446.12489

Abstract: Following the UK’s EU referendum in June 2016, there has been considerable interest from scholars in understanding the characteristics that differentiate Leave supporters from Remain supporters. Since Leave supporters score higher on conscientiousness but lower on neuroticism and openness, and given their general proclivity toward conservatism, we hypothesized that preference for realistic art would predict support for Brexit. Data on a large nationally representative sample of the British population were obtained, and preference for realistic art was measured using a four‐item binary choice test. Controlling for a range of personal characteristics, we found that respondents who preferred all four realistic paintings were 15–20 percentage points more likely to support Leave than those who preferred zero or one realistic paintings. This effect was comparable to the difference in support between those with a degree and those with no education, and was robust to controlling for the respondent’s party identity.

Face proportions: Facial attractiveness increases with the enlargement of the uncovered eye surface as well as the reduction in nose and lip size

Impact of face proportions on face attractiveness. Mateusz Przylipiak et al. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2018;1–6. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/jocd.12783
Summary

Background: Proportions of face components appear to play a role in facial attractiveness.

Aims: The aim of the study was to establish the best proportions of face components in relation to whole face shape for facial attractiveness.

Methods: Only one face component (eye, nose, or lips) of a model in a series of photographs was altered using a computer program. Alterations consisted of size reduction or augmentation by 5% or 10%. Each photograph depicted a particular face component altered to either 90%, 95%, 100%, 105%, or 110% of its original size. Collages of photographs were shown to 167 individuals (male and female) for a fixed period of 7 seconds. Their task was to indicate the most attractive photograph
of a model in a presented collage.

Results: In total, 48.1% of individuals preferred enhanced eyes both in males and females. We found that the preferred mean eye size in women was statistically significantly higher than that in men. In total, 64.8% of respondents preferred reduced nose proportions in women (27.5% found a reduction to 90% of the original size more attractive while 37.3% preferred a reduction to 95%). It was demonstrated that the preferred mean nose size was statistically significantly lower in females in comparison with males. Respondents expressed a greater preference for nose reduction in women in comparison with men. 38.4% of respondents (in regard to both male and female mouth) preferred reduced mouth. 40.7% of respondents preferred reduced mouth in the female model.

Conclusions: Our work delivers statistically significant evidence that facial attractiveness increases together with the enlargement of the uncovered eye surface as well as the reduction in nose and lip size. Data were obtained using modern collective intelligence methods of validation.

KEYWORDS: attractiveness, eyes, face, mouth, nose, proportions

Individuals who indicated poor mating performance experienced more negative emotions (sadness, loneliness), fewer positive emotions (happiness, excitement), & were less satisfied with their lives

The emotional cost of poor mating performance. Menelaos Apostolou, Marios Shialos, Polyxeni Georgiadou. Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 138, 1 February 2019, Pages 188-192. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2018.10.003

Highlights
•    People who experienced poor mating performance experienced more negative emotions.
•    People who experienced good mating performance experienced more positive emotions.
•    Mating performance had a moderate to strong effect on emotions and wellbeing.
•    About one in two participants faced difficulties in intimate relationships.

Abstract: Recent studies indicated that a considerable proportion of adult individuals experience poor mating performance: They face considerable difficulties in attracting and retaining mates. Using an evolutionary theoretical framework, we hypothesized that poor mating performance would be associated with more negative and fewer positive emotions as well as low life satisfaction. Evidence from an online sample of 735 participants provided strong support for this hypothesis. In particular, we found that individuals who indicated poor mating performance, experienced more negative emotions such as sadness and loneliness, and fewer positive emotions such as happiness and excitement, and they were less satisfied with their lives. On the other hand, those who indicated a good performance in mating, experienced more positive emotions and fewer negative emotions, and they were more satisfied with their lives. As indicated by the effect sizes, mating performance had a moderate to strong effect on positive and negative emotions and wellbeing. Also, consistent with the results of previous research, we found that about one in two participants faced difficulties in either starting or keeping an intimate relationship.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Evolution of property and possession: Some non-human primates show respect for property

Rethinking the evolution of property and possession: A review and methodological proposition. Lucy Tibble, Susana Carvalho. Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News, and Reviews, https://doi.org/10.1002/evan.21748

Abstract: Property is a key feature of modern human society; however, identifying the origin of this multifaceted behavior poses a formidable challenge. Here, we explore the methodologies for researching the origin of property. We discuss how an interdisciplinary approach can shed light on how our human ancestors shifted behaviorally from possessing an object to having exclusive property control over it. Possession occurs when social group members only respect an individual's claim to have exclusive access to an object when the individual has physical control over the object. Property occurs when an individual can claim exclusive access to an object, without challenge, regardless of whether the object is in their physical control or not. Researchers across different disciplines have asked what, if anything, distinguishes human property behavior from the behavior of other animals? Further, when and how did this behavior evolve in our lineage? Due to the considerable methodological challenges posed by researching this topic, few studies have been able to directly address these questions. In this review, we explore the challenges involved in defining property and possession and suggest a two‐step approach to interdisciplinary definitions. Next, we evaluate four core approaches to the study of property behavior: evolutionary game theory, ethology, comparative cognition, and developmental psychology. Finally, we propose an empirical study, using an ethological approach to test the presence of property and possessive behavior in a natural setting, using our closest living relative, the chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes). Overall, we argue that this field of research is at a turning point, where the novel integration of various methods may provide an explanation to the origin of property.

Already known, but not discussed: Wind power reduces emissions while causing climatic impacts such as warmer temperatures, effect strongest at night when temperatures increase with height; wind's warming can exceed avoided warming from reduced emissions for a century

Climatic Impacts of Wind Power. Lee M. Miller, David W. Keith. Joule, October 04, 2018, DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.joule.2018.09.009

Highlights
    •    Wind power reduces emissions while causing climatic impacts such as warmer temperatures
    •    Warming effect strongest at night when temperatures increase with height
    •    Nighttime warming effect observed at 28 operational US wind farms
    •    Wind's warming can exceed avoided warming from reduced emissions for a century

Summary: We find that generating today's US electricity demand (0.5 TW e) with wind power would warm Continental US surface temperatures by 0.24°C. Warming arises, in part, from turbines redistributing heat by mixing the boundary layer. Modeled diurnal and seasonal temperature differences are roughly consistent with recent observations of warming at wind farms, reflecting a coherent mechanistic understanding for how wind turbines alter climate. The warming effect is: small compared with projections of 21st century warming, approximately equivalent to the reduced warming achieved by decarbonizing global electricity generation, and large compared with the reduced warming achieved by decarbonizing US electricity with wind. For the same generation rate, the climatic impacts from solar photovoltaic systems are about ten times smaller than wind systems. Wind's overall environmental impacts are surely less than fossil energy. Yet, as the energy system is decarbonized, decisions between wind and solar should be informed by estimates of their climate impacts.

Child Care Tax Credits: substantial pass-thru, over half of every dollar is passed through to care providers in the form of higher prices and wages

Give Credit Where?: The Incidence of Child Care Tax Credits. Luke P. Rodgers. Journal of Urban Economics, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jue.2018.10.002

Abstract: The cost of child care can affect a family’s employment, location, and commuting decisions. Child care tax credits are intended to relieve the financial burden of child care for working families, yet the benefit incidence may fall on child care providers if they increase prices in response to credit generosity. Using policy-induced variation in the Child and Dependent Care Credit, this paper presents evidence of substantial pass-through: over half of every dollar is passed through to providers in the form of higher prices and wages. Increased non-refundable credit generosity may have the unintended effect of making child care less affordable for low-income families, a result with distributional and spatial implications due to income sorting of families within an urban area.

The One Percent in New Zealand more strongly legitimize the political & economic systems in society, express lower support for redistributive taxation; & report higher life satisfaction, self-esteem & belongingness compared to everyone else

The Political Attitudes and Subjective Wellbeing of the One Percent. Nikhil K. Sengupta, Chris G. Sibley. Journal of Happiness Studies, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10902-018-0038-4

Abstract: In capitalist societies, individuals who occupy the highest positions in the economic hierarchy feature prominently in the political discourse under the moniker of the One Percent. However, little is known about how the psychology of One Percent might differ from that of the average person. Using a large, nationally representative sample in New Zealand (N = 14,650), we aimed to fill this gap examining the political attitudes and subjective wellbeing of the top one percent of the income distribution. We found that, compared to general public, the One Percent in New Zealand more strongly legitimize the political and economic systems in society, and express lower support for redistributive taxation. They also report higher life satisfaction, self-esteem and belongingness compared to everyone else. Thus, the One Percent benefit not only economically and politically from the current system, but also psychologically. Moreover, their political beliefs serve to bolster the inequality from which they benefit.

Keywords: Inequality One Percent Political attitudes Subjective wellbeing

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“We are the 99%”—the rallying cry of the Occupy Wall Street movement—was a call for society to unite against the disproportionate power of a small group of economic elites: The One Percent (Occupy Wall Street 2011). This moniker of the One Percent has now entered the lexicon and become a prominent feature of the political discourse on inequality in Western democracies (e.g., The Equality Trust 2017; Carroll and Kertscher 2016). The people to whom this label is applied are argued to be using their influence to bend policy to their own ends, subverting the democratic process (e.g., Stilgitz 2011).

However, these arguments are currently being made in the absence of data about the how the political psychology of individuals that constitute this group might differ from that of the average person. We know very little about how the One Percent view the political and economic systems under which they live, or how they feel about redistributive policies designed to reduce inequality. These are important gaps because claims about how the One Percent exercise their power depend upon claims about their political attitudes as a group (see Gilens 2005). We aim to fill these gaps by comparing the political attitudes of the One Percent in New Zealand to the general population, using a large, representative sample (N = 14,650; see Table 1 for a comparison between New Zealand’s One Percent and the One Percent in other major economies).

How cohabitation, marriage, separation, and divorce influence BMI: The benefits of marriage or cohabitation do not necessarily include a healthier BMI

Mata, J., Richter, D., Schneider, T., & Hertwig, R. (2018). How cohabitation, marriage, separation, and divorce influence BMI: A prospective panel study. Health Psychology, 37(10), 948-958. dx.doi.org/10.1037/hea0000654

Objective: This study examines how changes in cohabitation or marital status affect Body Mass Index (BMI) over time in a large representative sample.

Method: Participants were 20,950 individuals (50% female; 19 to 100 years), representative of the German population, who provided 81,926 observations over 16 years. Face-to-face interviews were used to obtain demographic data, including cohabitation and marital status, height, body weight, and weight-relevant behaviors (exercise, healthy eating, and smoking). Control variables included age, notable changes in status (life events such as having children or change in employment status), perceived stress, and subjective health.

Results: Cohabitation led to significant weight gain in men and women—after four years or longer, about twice the gain associated with marriage (controlling for weight-related behaviors, age, children, employment, stress, and health). BMI after separation was largely comparable to BMI before starting cohabitation; women lost some weight in the first year, men gained some weight after four or more years of separation. Divorce generally predicted weight gain. Changes in exercise, healthy eating, and smoking did not attenuate the effect of changes in relationship status on BMI.

Conclusions: This is among the first longitudinal studies to directly compare the effects of key changes in relationship status on BMI. The findings extend and qualify previous results by showing that the benefits of marriage or cohabitation do not necessarily include a healthier BMI. They also suggest that relationship transitions—particularly moving in with a partner and divorce—may be important time windows for weight gain prevention.

A Reanalysis of Creativity & Religiosity: Creativity & religiosity have a negative relationship in terms of people's attitudes & values toward creativity as well as their perceptions of environment for creativity

Creativity and Religiosity: A Reanalysis with Regional Predictors. Selcuk Acar, Mark A. Runco & Uzeyir Ogurlu. Creativity Research Journal, Volume 30, 2018 - Issue 3, Pages 316-321, https://doi.org/10.1080/10400419.2018.1488349

Abstract: Building on previous research showing a negative relationship between conservatism and creativity, the present investigation focused specifically on religiosity in the context of the United States. Because of the association between conservatism and religiosity, creativity might have a negative association with religiosity, too. To this end, individuallevel and regional data were matched by linking responses to psychometric measures such as Attitudes and Values toward Creativity to regional data such as church attendance. These analyses controlled other regional variables including education, diversity, and socio-economic status. Two-level analyses with individual data at Level 1 and county data at Level 2 indicated that people from more religious locations held less positive attitudes and values toward creativity and rated their environment as less creative. On the other hand, creative personality, ideational behavior and creative achievement were not significantly related to religiosity. Those analyses provided evidence that creativity and religiosity have a negative relationship in terms of people's attitudes and values toward creativity as well as their perceptions of environment for creativity. Findings were discussed in terms of types of religiosity and other socio-cultural variables.

Does Religion Hinder Creativity? A National Level Study on the Roles of Religiosity and Different Denominations

Does Religion Hinder Creativity? A National Level Study on the Roles of Religiosity and Different Denominations. Zhen Liu et al. Front. Psychol., Oct 8 2018, https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01912

Creativity plays an irreplaceable role in economic and technological development. It seems that religion has a negative association with creativity. If it is true, how can we interpret the rapid development of human society with religious believers comprising 81% of global population? Based on the datasets of the World Values Survey and the Global Creativity Index, this study examined the effects of different religions/denominations on national creativity, and the moderation effect of gross domestic product per capita (GDPpc) in 87 countries. The results showed that: (1) religiosity was negatively associated with creativity at national level; (2) Proportions of Protestant and Catholic adherents in a country were both positively associated with national creativity, while proportion of Islam adherents was negatively associated with national creativity; (3) GDPpc moderated the relationships of creativity with overall religiosity, proportion of Protestant adherents, and proportion of Catholic adherents. In countries with high GDPpc, national religiosity and proportion of Islam could negatively predict national creativity, and proportion of Protestants could positively predict national creativity; in countries with low GDPpc, these relationships became insignificant. These findings suggest that national religiosity hinders creativity to a certain extent. However, some denominations (i.e., Protestant and Catholic) may exert positive influences on creativity due to their religious traditions and values. The religion–creativity relationship at national level only emerges in affluent countries.

On the Necessity of Consciousness for Sophisticated Human Action

On the Necessity of Consciousness for Sophisticated Human Action. Roy F. Baumeister et al. Front. Psychol., October 8 2018, https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01925

Abstract: In this essay, we aim to counter and qualify the epiphenomenalist challenge proposed in this special issue on the grounds of empirical and theoretical arguments. The current body of scientific knowledge strongly indicates that conscious thought is a necessary condition for many human behaviors, and therefore, consciousness qualifies as a cause of those behaviors. We review illustrative experimental evidence for the causal power of conscious thought while also acknowledging its natural limitations. We argue that it is implausible that the metabolic costs inherent to conscious processes would have evolved in humans without any adaptive benefits. Moreover, we discuss the relevance of conscious thought to the issue of freedom. Many accounts hold conscious thought as necessary and conducive to naturalistic conceptions of personal freedom. Apart from these theories, we show that the conscious perception of freedom and the belief in free will provide sources of interesting findings, beneficial behavioral effects, and new avenues for research. We close by proposing our own challenge via outlining the gaps that have yet to be filled to establish hard evidence of an epiphenomenal model of consciousness. To be sure, we appreciate the epiphenomenalist challenge as it promotes critical thinking and inspires rigorous research. However, we see no merit in downplaying the causal significance of consciousness a priori. Instead, we believe it more worthwhile to focus on the complex interplay between conscious and other causal processes.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Significant social change often comes from the unleashing of hidden preferences; it also comes from the construction of novel preferences

Sunstein, Cass R., Unleashed (August 22, 2017). http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3025749

Abstract: Significant social change often comes from the unleashing of hidden preferences; it also comes from the construction of novel preferences. Under the pressure of social norms, people sometimes falsify their preferences. They do not feel free to say or do as they wish. Once norms are weakened or revised, through private efforts or law, it becomes possible to discover preexisting preferences. Because those preferences existed but were concealed, large-scale movements are both possible and exceedingly difficult to predict; they are often startling. But revisions of norms can also construct rather than uncover preferences. Once norms are altered, again through private efforts or law, people come to hold preferences that they did not hold before. Nothing has been unleashed. These points bear on the rise and fall (and rise again, and fall again) of discrimination on the basis of sex and race (and also religion and ethnicity). They also help illuminate the dynamics of social cascades and the effects of social norms on diverse practices and developments, including smoking, drinking, police brutality, protest activity, veganism, drug use, crime, white nationalism, “ethnification,” considerateness, and the public expression of religious beliefs.

Re “Masturbation: Scientific Evidence and Islam’s View”: Evidence to support a negative relationship between masturbation & health was not scrutinized, & evidente to support or a non-negative relationship was largely ignored

Response to “Masturbation: Scientific Evidence and Islam’s View”. David Speed, Ryan T. Cragun. Journal of Religion and Health, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10943-018-0627-x

In a recent article entitled, “Masturbation: Scientific Evidence and Islam’s View”, the author Hoseini (2017) set out to discuss the harmful effects of masturbation and how it was prohibited within Islam. Generally, Hoseini’s arguments appeared to have started with a conclusion rather than arriving at one based on all of the available data. Overall, Hoseini’s argumentation suffered from three recurring issues: (1) Masturbation was inexplicably portrayed as deviant; (2) Evidence to support a negative relationship between masturbation and health was not scrutinized; (3) Evidence to support a non-negative relationship between masturbation and health was largely ignored. Each of these points will be addressed in turn.

Sex differences in adolescent physical aggression: Evidence from sixty‐three low‐and middle‐income countries: Sex differences in physical aggression decrease as societal gender inequality increased

Sex differences in adolescent physical aggression: Evidence from sixty‐three low‐and middle‐income countries. Amy Nivette, Alex Sutherland, Manuel Eisner, Joseph Murray. Aggressive Behavior, https://doi.org/10.1002/ab.21799

Abstract: A great deal of research shows that adolescent and adult males are more likely to engage in physical aggression and violence than females are. However, few studies have examined cross‐cultural variation in sex differences, particularly among low‐ and middle‐income countries [LMICs]. Based on social role and sexual selection theories, we derived two hypotheses regarding possible variations in sex differences across societal contexts: 1) sex differences increase with societal gender polarization (social role theory) and 2) sex differences are exacerbated in societies where socio‐economic opportunities are scarce, unequal, or insecure (prediction derived from sexual selection theory). The current study examined the prevalence of and variation in sex differences in physical aggression, as measured by frequent fighting, among 247,909 adolescents in 63 low‐ and middle‐income countries. The results show that, overall, males were over twice as likely (OR = 2.68; 95% CI = 2.60–2.76) to report frequent fighting in the past 12 months than females. However, sex differences vary significantly across LMICs, wherein countries with higher female prevalence rates have smaller sex differences in frequent fighting. Contrary to expectations derived from social role theory, sex differences in physical aggression decrease as societal gender inequality increased. In regards to sexual selection theory, we find no evidence that sex differences in frequent fighting varies according to societal rule of law or income inequality.