Tuesday, April 24, 2018

When both the original study and its failed replication are correct

Noah, T., Schul, Y., & Mayo, R. (2018). When both the original study and its failed replication are correct: Feeling observed eliminates the facial-feedback effect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 114(5), 657-664. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/pspa0000121

Abstract: This article suggests a theoretically driven explanation for a replication failure of one of the basic findings in psychology: the facial-feedback effect. According to the facial-feedback hypothesis, the facial activity associated with particular emotional expressions can influence people’s affective experiences. Recently, a replication attempt of this effect in 17 laboratories around the world failed to find any support for the effect. We hypothesize that the reason for the failure of replication is that the replication protocol deviated from that of the original experiment in a critical factor. In all of the replication studies, participants were alerted that they would be monitored by a video camera, whereas the participants in the original study were not monitored, observed, or recorded. Previous findings indicate that feeling monitored or observed reduces reliance on internal cues in making judgments. Therefore, we hypothesize that recording the participants in the replication experiments reduced their reliance on the facial-feedback. To test the hypothesis, we replicated the facial-feedback experiment in 2 conditions: one with a video-camera and one without it. The results revealed a significant facial-feedback effect in the absence of a camera, which was eliminated in the camera’s presence. These findings suggest that minute differences in the experimental protocol might lead to theoretically meaningful changes in the outcomes. In our view, the theoretical and methodological approach advocated by our study changes failed replications from being the “end of the road” regarding entire fields of study into a new road for growth regarding our understanding of human nature.

An ambient coffee-like scent improved performance on an analytical reasoning task because it created higher performance expectations. Kind of placebo effect.

The impact of coffee-like scent on expectations and performance. Adriana Madzharo, Ning Ye, Maureen Morrin, Lauren Block. Journal of Environmental Psychology, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2018.04.001

•    An ambient coffee-like scent improved performance on an analytical reasoning task.
•    The scent created higher performance expectations.
•    Expectations about alertness are also associated with the scent.
•    An ambient coffee-like scent had a placebo effect on behavior.

ABSTRACT: The present research explores the effect of an ambient coffee-like scent (versus no scent) on expectations regarding performance on an analytical reasoning task as well as on actual performance. We show that people in a coffee-scented (versus unscented) environment perform better on an analytical reasoning task due to heightened performance expectations (Study 1). We further show that people expect that being in a coffee-scented environment will increase their performance because they expect it will increase their physiological arousal level (Study 2). Our results thus demonstrate that a coffee-like scent (which actually contains no caffeine) can elicit a placebo effect.

Keywords: olfaction; performance; coffee-like scent; placebo effects

India's liberalization cannot be explained with wealth-maximization alone; the prevalent ideology in India changed dramatically before the liberalization; commerce was looked upon as anti-social, now it is celebrated

The role of ideological change in India's economic liberalization. Nimish Adhia. The Journal of Socio-Economics, Volume 44, June 2013, Pages 103-111. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socec.2013.02.015

Abstract: The paper describes the role of ideological change in India's economic liberalization and provides evidence for it. Since the 1980s the most prevalent ideology has changed from condemning commerce and profit as anti-social, to tolerating—even applauding—commercial success. The paper reports on a content analysis of the most popular Hindi film each year since 1955, and finds that characters of rich merchants have changed from being portrayed as villains to being portrayed as heroes.

► I argue that India's liberalization cannot be explained with wealth-maximization alone. ► The prevalent ideology in India changed dramatically before the liberalization. ► Commerce was looked upon as anti-social, now it is celebrated. ► Content and narrative analysis of Indian films reveals the change in ideology.

The injunction of performing one’s duty without regard to outcomes has been the basis of much of the Indian philosophical and religious discourse.

The dilemma is recurrent in Indian films.... From the 1950s to the 1980s, the dilemmas invariably resolve in favor of duty. The mother in Mother India (1956) shoots and kills her wayward son as he attempts to kidnap a woman—an action that would have been shameful for the village. “I am the mother of the entire village,” she says as she picks up the gun. As the son collapses to the ground, she wails and rushes to his side, and is shown to lament his death for the rest of her life, but the film valorizes her as “Mother India.”

But then starting with Ram Teri Ganga Maili (1986) there is a spate of films that celebrate the assertion of one’s desire. The assertion commonly takes the form of falling in love—an audacious act in a society where the sexual mores are conservative and a majority of marriages are arranged on basis of familial and community criteria. The young lovers in the big hit Qayamat se Qayamat tak (Doomsday to Doomsday, 1988) elope and endure enormous hardships on account of their families’ opposition. The families had a falling out in the past when they were neighboring landlords in the country. The demands of familial loyalty, shown to arise in this way from a feudal setup and concluding in the death of the young lovers, are condemned by the film as savage and outdated. “We are not the property of our parents,” the young man once counsels his beloved. “We need not be carriers of their legacy of hate.”

Perceived mental health from men’s facial appearance reflected actual mental health; results held for subclinical autistic quotient, depressive symptoms, and schizotypy; and accuracy was not explained by attractiveness or other appearance variables

Cues to mental health from men’s facial appearance. Robert Ward, , Naomi Jane Scott. Journal of Research in Personality, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrp.2018.04.007

•    Perceived mental health from men’s facial appearance reflected actual mental health.
•    Results held for subclinical autistic quotient, depressive symptoms, and schizotypy.
•    Accuracy was not explained by attractiveness or other appearance variables.
•    Mental health vulnerability could lead to negative social evaluation.

Abstract: Previous work shows that mental health can be evident from neutral facial appearance. We assessed the accuracy of mental health perceptions from facial appearance, and how perceived mental health related to other appearance cues, specifically attractiveness, perceived physical health, and masculinity. We constructed composite images from men scoring high and low on autistic quotient, depressive symptoms, and schizotypy inventories, and asked observers to rate these images for mental health. We found perceived mental health reflected actual mental health in all cases. Furthermore, the accuracy of mental health inference was not fully explained by other appearance cues. We consider implications of accurate mental health detection from appearance, and the possibility that appearance could be a risk factor for mental health issues.

Keywords: facial appearance; mental health; attractiveness; masculinity

China’s Mistress-Dispellers

China’s Mistress-Dispellers. By Jiayang Fan. The New Yorker, June 26, 2017 Issue
How the economic boom and deep gender inequality have created a new industry.

Yu Ruojian was pleased to learn that his target ran a sex shop. Someone who worked in retail would be used to talking to strangers, and it would be easy, posing as a customer in such an intimate store, to bring the conversation around to personal matters. In March last year, he visited the store, in Wuxi, a city about seventy miles from Shanghai, where he lives. He told the proprietor, a gregarious woman in her forties whom I’ll call Wang, that he was looking for herbal remedies to help a friend whose marital relations were hampered by shyness. They chatted for half an hour before exchanging contact details. “I’ll be back to pester you soon enough,” Yu said as he left. “You’d better!” Wang responded, unaware that she’d walked into the first in a series of carefully laid traps.

A month earlier, Yu had heard from a woman in her fifties, the wife of a factory manager in Wuxi, who explained that her husband was having an affair with Wang. She had tolerated it for years, but now she’d found that he had spent more than two hundred thousand yuan—thirty thousand dollars—on her, savings that should have been going toward their old age and a house for their son.

Yu, a gentle-looking man in his early forties, with the placid demeanor of a yoga instructor, works as a mistress dispeller, a job that barely existed a decade ago but is becoming common in major Chinese cities. His clients are women who hope to preserve their marriages by fending off what is known in Chinese as a xiao san, or “Little Third”—a term that encompasses everything from a partner in a casual affair to a long-term “kept woman.” Mistress dispellers use a variety of methods. Some Little Thirds can be paid off or discouraged by hearing unwelcome details of their lovers’ lives—debts, say, or responsibility for an elderly parent—or shamed with notes sent to friends and family. If the dispeller or the client is well connected, a Little Third may suddenly find that her job requires her to move to another city. A female dispeller sometimes seeks to become a confidante, in order to advise the targeted woman that the liaison will inevitably crumble. In certain cases, a male mistress dispeller may even seduce the woman. Like all the mistress dispellers I spoke to, Yu said that he never resorts to this tactic, but he acknowledged that there are those who do.

A week after his first visit, Yu went back to the store. He had heard that Wang had recently purchased property nearby, and he let drop that he was looking to buy an apartment in the neighborhood. She offered to take him on a tour and introduce him to agents with properties to sell. In the course of several weeks, Yu and Wang started getting meals together, and eventually Yu invited her to Shanghai for a weekend sightseeing trip. She demurred at first but later accepted, on the condition that she could bring a girlfriend along.

Using his client’s money, Yu put the pair up at a hotel, showed them the city, and took them to sample its culinary specialties. On Shanghai’s famous river promenade, Yu took pictures of the two women and then got the friend to take several of him and Wang with their arms around each other. Once the weekend was over, these pictures found their way to Wang’s boyfriend. “A picture speaks louder than a thousand words, and, in a jealous man’s imagination, it can speak ten thousand,” Yu told me. The man ended the relationship, and returned to his wife, appreciative, if nothing else, of her loyalty. The mission had taken around four months in all.

As Yu spoke, it was hard to gauge his attitude to what he or anyone else had done. He seemed neither proud nor defensive, and offered no judgments on the behavior of those he encountered. He’d had all kinds of jobs, he told me, working in computer sales, right out of college, and then learning about psychology, Buddhism, and traditional Chinese arts. The emotional turmoil he’d caused seemed remote to him, as if his studies had enabled him to regard it with Zen composure. Things had been messy and painful before his involvement, and though the treatment he administered was painful, too, he’d been able to bring about a situation that was, on the whole, better.

Yu told me that he was on his second marriage and had one daughter from each. When I asked why his Wuxi client hadn’t considered divorce, he was incredulous. For a woman, divorce was rarely a sensible choice. “In today’s world, a secondhand woman is like a secondhand car,” he said. “Once it’s been driven, it’s not worth a fraction of its original selling price.” A secondhand man, on the other hand, Yu explained, is like renovated property in China’s real-estate market: “The value only appreciates.”

A volatile mixture of rapid social change, legal reforms, and traditional attitudes has created something approaching a crisis in Chinese marriage. In the past decade, the divorce rate has doubled. Adultery is the most prevalent cause, accounting for about a third of the cases, and men are more than thirteen times as likely to stray as women are. These trends are seen as troubling in a country that places a high social value on matrimony. Media outlets with close ties to the state frequently run stories with titles like “The Five-Year Itch” and “DNA Testing in China: Eroding Wedlock?” The government has signalled that it takes public morality seriously, in part by exposing the sexual misdeeds of high officials who fall afoul of President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption crusade. According to Xinhua, the state news agency, Zhou Yongkang, a former security chief who was arrested and expelled from the Communist Party in 2014, “committed adultery with a number of women in power-for-sex and money-for-sex trades.” Wild rumors spread on Chinese media that he had had more than four hundred lovers.

In divorces, women suffer disproportionately. Yu’s view of a woman’s poor chance at remarriage is widely shared, but there are more concrete issues, arising from economic disparity within marriages. Mistress dispellers are only one part of a broader industry that has sprung up to help wives rescue their unions, but their work has aroused particular fascination, as has the figure of the mistress herself, often portrayed in films and TV dramas as a predatory but irresistible homewrecker. While I was in a taxi in Shanghai, a song came on the radio that the driver mentioned was a favorite of his. Titled “Little Third,” it was the breakout single by a Henanese singer called Leng Mo, who sings to a woman about his bitter realization that he could never make her happy, given that “finally you have become someone else’s Little Third.” In another hit—“Di San Zhe” (“Third Party”), by the Malaysian-born superstar Fish Leong—a woman is magnanimous toward her rival, taking responsibility for the loss of her man and insisting that the third party shouldn’t be blamed: “Although your choice has destroyed me, I will take it positively.” It is an attitude that few wives in China can afford to share.

Yu is one of about three hundred employees of Weiqing Group, which bills itself as China’s “first professional transnational love hospital.” Weiqing—the name translates as “preserve feeling”—was founded sixteen years ago and provides an array of services, designed to save a marriage at all costs [...]

This article appears in the print edition of the June 26, 2017, issue, with the headline “The Third Person.”

    Jiayang Fan became a staff writer at The New Yorker in 2016.

Japan’s Rent-a-Family Industry: People who are short on relatives can hire a husband, a mother, a grandson. The resulting relationships can be more real than you’d expect

Japan’s Rent-a-Family Industry. By Elif Batuman. The New Yorker, April 30, 2018 Issue
People who are short on relatives can hire a husband, a mother, a grandson. The resulting relationships can be more real than you’d expect.https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/04/30/japans-rent-a-family-industry

image: The head of one rental-relative company described the service as “human affection expressed through the form of the family.”

Two years ago, Kazushige Nishida, a Tokyo salaryman in his sixties, started renting a part-time wife and daughter. His real wife had recently died. Six months before that, their daughter, who was twenty-two, had left home after an argument and never returned.

“I thought I was a strong person,” Nishida told me, when we met one night in February, at a restaurant near a train station in the suburbs. “But when you end up alone you feel very lonely.” Tall and slightly stooped, Nishida was wearing a suit and a gray tie. He had a deep voice and a gentle, self-deprecating demeanor.

Of course, he said, he still went to work every day, in the sales division of a manufacturing company, and he had friends with whom he could go out for drinks or play golf. But at night he was completely alone. He thought he would feel better over time. Instead, he felt worse. He tried going to hostess clubs. Talking to the ladies was fun, but at the end of the night you were alone again, feeling stupid for having spent so much money.

Then he remembered a television program he had seen, about a company called Family Romance, one of a number of agencies in Japan that rent out replacement relatives. One client, an elderly woman, had spoken enthusiastically about going shopping with her rental grandchild. “The grandchild was just a rental, but the woman was still really happy,” Nishida recalled.

Nishida contacted Family Romance and placed an order for a wife and a daughter to join him for dinner. On the order form, he noted his daughter’s age, and his wife’s physique: five feet tall and a little plump. The cost was forty thousand yen, about three hundred and seventy dollars. The first meeting took place at a café. The rental daughter was more fashionable than Nishida’s real daughter—he used the English word “sharp”—but the wife immediately impressed him as “an ordinary, generic middle-aged woman.” He added, “Unlike, for example, Ms. Matsumoto”—he nodded toward my interpreter, Chie Matsumoto—“who might look like a career woman.” Chie, a journalist, teacher, and activist, who has spiky salt-and-pepper hair and wears plastic-framed glasses, laughed as she translated this qualification.

The wife asked Nishida for details about how she and the daughter should act. Nishida demonstrated the characteristic toss of the head with which his late wife had rearranged her hair, and his daughter’s playful way of poking him in the ribs. Then the women started acting. The rental wife called him Kazu, just as his real wife had, and tossed her head to shake back her hair. The rental daughter playfully poked him in the ribs. An observer would have taken them for a real family.

Nishida booked a second meeting. This time, the wife and daughter came to his house. The wife cooked okonomiyaki, a kind of pancake that Nishida’s late wife had made, while Nishida chatted with the daughter. Then they ate dinner together and watched television.

More family dinners followed, usually at Nishida’s house, though one time they went out for monjayaki, another variety of pancake beloved by the late Mrs. Nishida. It hadn’t been a fancy meal, and Nishida wondered whether he should have taken the women, who were, after all, his guests, to a nicer place. Then again, in real life, the Nishidas hadn’t gone to any of those nicer places.

Before another meeting, it occurred to Nishida to send Family Romance a copy of his house key. When he came home from work that night, the lights were on, the house was warm, and a wife and daughter were there to say, “Welcome home.”

“That was very nice,” Nishida recalled, smiling slightly. He said he didn’t miss the women when they left—not with any sense of urgency or longing. But he did think, “It would be nice to spend some time like that with them again.”

Nishida said that, although he still calls them by the names of his wife and daughter, and the meetings still take the form of family dinners, the women have, to some extent, stopped acting and “turned into their own selves.” The rental wife sometimes “breaks out of the shell of the rental family” enough to complain about her real husband, and Nishida gives her advice. With this loosening of the roles, he realized that he, too, had been acting, playing the part of “a good husband and father,” trying not to seem too miserable, telling his daughter how to hold her rice bowl. Now he felt lighter, able for the first time to talk about his real daughter, about how shocked he had been when she announced her decision to move in with a boyfriend he had never met, and how they had argued and broken off contact.

On the subject of the real daughter, the rental daughter had a lot to say: as someone in her early twenties, she could tell that Nishida hadn’t spoken correctly, or expressed himself in the right way. He’d made it hard for his daughter to apologize and it was up to him to create an opening. “Your daughter is waiting for you to call her,” she told him. To me, this sentence had the eerie ring of something uttered at a séance. Nishida himself seemed uncertain about how and for whom the rental daughter had spoken. “She was acting as a rental daughter, but at the same time she was telling me how she felt as a real daughter,” he said. “And yet, if it was a real father-daughter relationship, maybe she wouldn’t have spoken this honestly.”


Hypersexuality, Gender, and Sexual Orientation: LGTBQ males had the highest scores of hypersexuality indicators

Hypersexuality, Gender, and Sexual Orientation: A Large-scale Psychometric Survey Study. Beata Bothe et al. Archives of Sexual Behavior, March 2018, DOI 10.1007/s10508-018-1201-z

Abstract: Criteria for hypersexual disorder (HD) were proposed for consideration in the DSM-5 but ultimately excluded for a variety of reasons. Regardless, research continues to investigate hypersexual behavior (HB). The Hypersexual Behavior Inventory (HBI) is one of the most robust scales assessing HB, but further examination is needed to explore its psychometric properties among different groups. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to examine the generalizability of the HBI in a large, diverse, non-clinical sample (N = 18,034 participants; females = 6132; 34.0%; Mage = 33.6 years, SDage = 11.1) across both gender and sexual orientation. Measurement invariance testing was carried out to ensure gender- and sexual orientation-based comparisons were meaningful. Results demonstrated when both gender and sexual orientation were considered (i.e., heterosexual males vs. LGBTQ males vs. heterosexual females vs. LGBTQ females), LGBTQ males had significantly higher latent means on the HBI factors. Results also demonstrated LGBTQ males had the highest scores on other possible indicators of hypersexuality (e.g., frequency of masturbation, number of sexual partners, or frequency of pornography viewing). These indings suggest LGBTQ males may be a group most at risk of engaging in hypersexual behavior, and LGBTQ females are at a higher risk of engaging in hypersexual activities due to coping problems. Given the large-scale nature of the study, the indings signiicantly contribute to the currently growing body of the literature on hypersexuality.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Online trolling is motivated (at least in part) by sadistic tendencies, minimizing perpetrator culpability in judgments of harmful behavior

Internet Trolling and Everyday Sadism: Parallel Effects on Pain Perception and Moral Judgment. Erin E. Buckels, Paul D. Trapnell, Tamara Andjelovic, Delroy L. Paulhus. Journal of Personality, https://doi.org/10.1111/jopy.12393


Objective: To clarify the association between online trolling and sadistic personality; and provide evidence that the reward and rationalization processes at work in sadism are likewise manifest in online trolling.

Method: Online respondents (total N = 1,715) completed self‐report measures of personality and trolling behavior. They subsequently engaged in one of two judgment tasks. In Study 1, respondents viewed stimuli depicting scenes of emotional/physical suffering, and provided ratings of (a) perceived pain intensity and (b) pleasure experienced while viewing the photos. In Study 2, the iTroll questionnaire was developed and validated. It was then administered alongside a moral judgment task.

Results: Across both studies, online trolling was strongly associated with a sadistic personality profile. Moreover, sadism and trolling predicted identical patterns of pleasure and harm minimization. The incremental contribution of sadism was sustained even when controlling for broader antisocial tendencies (i.e., the Dark Triad, callous‐emotionality, and trait aggression).

Conclusion: Results confirm that online trolling is motivated (at least in part) by sadistic tendencies. Coupled with effective rationalization mechanisms, sadistic pleasure can be consummated in such everyday behaviors as online trolling.


Regional differences in intelligence are positively associated with many economic, social and demographic phenomena, like income, health, educational and occupational achievement, and negatively associated with poverty, fertility and crime

Regional differences in intelligence in 22 countries and their economic, social and demographic correlates: A review. Richard Lynna, John Fuerst, Emil O.W. Kirkegaard. Intelligence, Volume 69, July–August 2018, Pages 24–36. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.intell.2018.04.004

•    Regional differences in intelligence are reported for fifteen countries.
•    These are positively associated with many economic, social and demographic phenomena.
•    These include income, health, educational and occupational achievement.
•    These are negatively associated with poverty, fertility and crime.

Abstract: Differences in intelligence have previously been found to be related to a wide range of inter-individual and international social outcomes. There is evidence indicating that intelligence differences are also related to different regional outcomes within nations. A quantitative and narrative review is provided for twenty-two countries (number of regions in parentheses): Argentina (24 to 437), Brazil (27 to 31), British Isles (12 to 392), Chile (15), China (31), Colombia (33), Denmark (7), Finland (4), France (90), Germany (16), India (33), Italy (12 to 19), Japan (47), Mexico (31 to 32), Peru (1468), Portugal (5), Russia (29 to 79), Spain (15 to 48), Switzerland (47), Turkey (12), the USA (30 to 3100), and Vietnam (61). Between regions, intelligence is significantly associated with a wide range of economic, social, and demographic phenomena, including income (r_unweighted =  .56), educational attainment (r_unweighted =  .59), health (r_unweighted =  .49), general socioeconomic status (r_unweighted =  .55), and negatively with fertility (r_unweighted = −.51) and crime (r_unweighted = −.20). Proposed causal models for these differences are noted. It is concluded that regional differences in intelligence within nations warrant further focus; methodological concerns that need to be addressed in future research are detailed.

Keywords: Intelligence; Cognitive ability; Income; Health; Achievement; Fertility; Crime; SES; General socioeconomic factor; Inequality

Infants’ prosocial behavior is governed by cost-benefit analyses

Infants’ prosocial behavior is governed by cost-benefit analyses. Jessica A.Sommerville et al. Cognition, Volume 177, August 2018, Pages 12-20. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2018.03.021

Abstract: Cost-benefit analyses are central to mature decision-making and behavior across a range of contexts. Given debates regarding the nature of infants’ prosociality, we investigated whether 18-month-old infants’ (N = 160) prosocial behavior is impacted by anticipated costs and benefits. Infants participated in a helping task in which they could carry either a heavy or light block across a room to help an experimenter. Infants’ helping behavior was attenuated when the anticipated physical costs were high versus low (Experiment 1), and high-cost helping was enhanced under conditions of increased intrinsic motivational benefits (Experiments 2 and 3). High-cost helping was further predicted by infants’ months of walking experience, presumably because carrying a heavy block across a room is more effortful for less experienced walkers than for more experienced walkers demonstrating that infants subjectively calibrate costs. Thus, infants’ prosocial responding may be guided by a rational decision-making process that weighs and integrates costs and benefits.

Keywords: Prosocial behavior, Infancy, Cost-benefit analyses, Shared preferences

h/t https://twitter.com/DegenRolf

How does social and sexual information processing map onto cortical circuits?

Socio-sexual processing in cortical circuits. Michael Brecht, Constanze Lenschow, Rajnish P Rao. Current Opinion in Neurobiology, Volume 52, October 2018, Pages 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.conb.2018.04.003

Abstract: How does social and sexual information processing map onto cortical circuits? Addressing this question has been difficult, because of a lack of circuit-oriented social neuroscience and an absence of measurements from interacting brains. Recent work showed social information is already differentially processed in the primary sensory cortices. Converging evidence suggests that prefrontal areas contribute to social interaction processing and determining social hierarchies. In social interactions, we identify gender in split seconds, but after centuries of anatomy we are still unable to distinguish male and female cortices. Novel data reinforce the idea of a bisexual layout of cortical anatomy. Physiological analysis, however, provided evidence for sex differences in cortical processing. Unlike other cortical circuits, sexual processing circuits undergo major rewiring and expansion during puberty and show lasting damage from childhood abuse.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Negative experiences may increase meaning in life; comprehension, a pillar of meaning in life, may be incited by negative experiences

It's Not Going to Be That Fun: Negative Experiences Can Add Meaning to Life. Kathleen D. Vohs, Jennifer L. Aaker, Rhia Catapano. Current Opinion in Psychology, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2018.04.014

•    Negative experiences may increase meaning in life
•    Comprehension, a pillar of meaning in life, may be incited by negative experiences
•    Comprehension converts disparate pieces into coherent, self-relevant wholes
•    That meaning in life differs from feeling good can offer rich theoretical insights

Abstract: People seek to spend time in positive experiences, enjoying and savoring. Yet there is no escaping negative experiences, from the mundane (e.g., arguing) to the massive (e.g., death of a child). Might negative experiences confer a hidden benefit to well-being? We propose that they do, in the form of enhanced meaning in life. Research suggests that negative experiences can serve to boost meaning because they stimulate comprehension (understanding how the event fits into a broader narrative of the self, relationships, and the world), a known pillar of meaning in life. Findings on counterfactual thinking, reflecting on events’ implications, and encompassing experiences into broad-based accounts of one's identity support the role of comprehension in contributing to life's meaning from unwanted, unwelcome experiences.

h/t https://twitter.com/DegenRolf

Three-year-olds know about land property and develop inferences of ownership

The development of territory-based inferences of ownership. Brandon W. Goulding, Ori Friedman. Cognition, Volume 177, August 2018, Pages 142–149. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2018.04.013

Abstract: Legal systems often rule that people own objects in their territory. We propose that an early-developing ability to make territory-based inferences of ownership helps children address informational demands presented by ownership. Across 6 experiments (N = 504), we show that these inferences develop between ages 3 and 5 and stem from two aspects of the psychology of ownership. First, we find that a basic ability to infer that people own objects in their territory is already present at age 3 (Experiment 1). Children even make these inferences when the territory owner unintentionally acquired the objects and was unaware of them (Experiments 2 and 3). Second, we find that between ages 3 and 5, children come to consider past events in these judgments. They move from solely considering the current location of an object in territory-based inferences, to also considering and possibly inferring where it originated (Experiments 4 to 6). Together, these findings suggest that territory-based inferences of ownership are unlikely to be constructions of the law. Instead, they may reflect basic intuitions about ownership that operate from early in development.

Keywords: Ownership; Territory; Cognitive development; Historical inference; Law and psychology; Cognitive offloading

h/t https://twitter.com/DegenRolf

21% of the pedestrians in an urban setting in Belgium violate traffic lights: Push buttons and worn off zebra markings increase the frequency of violations

Non-compliance with pedestrian traffic lights in Belgian cities. Kevin Diependaele. Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.trf.2016.11.017

•    21% of the pedestrians in an urban setting in Belgium violate traffic lights.
•    There is large variability; percentages below 15% and above 30% are no exceptions.
•    Higher traffic volume and complexity reduce the frequency of red-light running.
•    Gap acceptance theory can account for the effect of traffic volume and complexity.
•    Push buttons and worn off zebra markings increase the frequency of violations.
•    Auxiliary signals, either visual or auditory, have a lowering effect on violations.

Abstract: The frequency of red light running was investigated across the nine most populated cities in Belgium. The results show that approximately 21% of the pedestrians violate the lights. There is, however, large variability in the frequency of violations depending on the specific context. Traffic volumes, motorized as well as pedestrian volumes, and situational characteristics that are generally associated with higher traffic complexity (rush hours, number of driving directions, number of lanes per driving direction and the presence of a tram or bus lane) have a lowering effect. A number of technical characteristics of the pedestrian crossing were also found to exert a significant influence: push buttons and worn off zebra markings increase the frequency of violations. On the other hand, auxiliary signals, either visual or auditory, have a positive effect.

Keywords: Pedestrians; Red light running; Belgium

Can self-defeating humor make you and others happy? It seems so. Cognitive interviews reveal the adaptive side of the self-defeating humor style

Can self-defeating humor make you happy? Cognitive interviews reveal the adaptive side of the self-defeating humor style. Sonja Heintz, Willibald Ruch. International Journal of Humor Research, https://doi.org/10.1515/humor-2017-0089

Abstract: The present set of studies employs two cognitive interviewing techniques (thinking aloud and online cognitive probing) of the scale assessing the self-defeating humor style, aiming at delineating the role that self-defeating humor plays in self-esteem and emotions. The self-defeating humor style comprises humor to enhance one’s relationships with others at the expense of oneself, and has often been related to lower well-being. The analyses are based on 392 item responses of a typical sample (Study 1) and 104 item responses of high scorers on the self-defeating scale (Study 2). Content analyses revealed that higher scores on the self-defeating scale went along with humor (Study 1), with higher state self-esteem, with an improvement of one’s interpersonal relationships, and with more facial displays of positive emotions (Study 2). Additionally, the more humor was entailed in the item responses, the higher the state self-esteem and the improvement of relationships was and the more positive emotion words were employed. Thus, the humor entailed in the self-defeating humor style seemed rather beneficial both for oneself and others. These findings call for a reevaluation of past findings with this humor style and provide opportunities for future research and applications of humor interventions to improve well-being.

Keywords: self-defeating humor style; Humor Styles Questionnaire; self-esteem; emotions; cognitive interviews; self-directed humor

The Problem with Morality: Impeding Progress and Increasing Divides (Jan 2018)

Jan 2018
The Problem with Morality: Impeding Progress and Increasing Divides. Chloe Kovacheff, Stephanie Schwartz, Yoel Inbar, Matthew Feinberg. Social Issues and Policy Review, https://doi.org/10.1111/sipr.12045

Abstract: Morality is commonly held up as the pinnacle of goodness but can also be a source of significant problems, interfering with societal functioning and progress. We review the literature regarding how morality diverges from nonmoral attitudes, biases our cognitive processing, and the ways in which it can lead to negative interpersonal and intergroup consequences. To illustrate the negative implications of morality, we detail two specific examples of how moral convictions impair societal progress: the rejection of science and technology, and political polarization in the United States. Specifically, we discuss how moral convictions can cause individuals to challenge scientific facts (e.g., evolution), oppose technologies that can improve health and well‐being (e.g., vaccinations and GMO foods), and fuel political polarization and segregation. We conclude this review by suggesting strategies for policy makers and individuals to help overcome the problems morality can cause.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Women are not particularly inclined to wear red or pink during peak fertility, calling into question whether women use garment color to advertise their ovulatory status

McCullough, Michael E.,and Liana S Hone 2018. “Are Women More Likely to Wear Red or Pink at Peak Fertility? A Closer Look”. PsyArXiv. April 20. psyarxiv.com/8mv32

Abstract: Evolutionarily minded researchers have hypothesized that women advertise their ovulatory status by wearing red or pink, but many of these studies have been based on relatively small samples of women who have self-reported their clothing choices, an unorthodox practice in the biological study of coloration. In two studies, we evaluated the relationship between women’s fertility and (a) self-reports of their garment coloration; (b) trained raters’ judgments of their garment coloration as evinced in photographs that subjects took of themselves; (c) trained raters’ judgments of garment coloration in outfits that women drew onto mannequins to represent what they would wear to a party with attractive men in attendance; (d) automated color coding of the mannequins. We found no evidence that women are particularly inclined to wear red or pink during peak fertility using any of these measures, calling into question whether women use garment color to advertise their ovulatory status.

h/t https://twitter.com/DegenRolf

Friday, April 20, 2018

Willingness to transmit and the spread of pseudoscientific beliefs: Potentially due to the belief that holding the beliefs makes one seem more knowledgeable

Willingness to transmit and the spread of pseudoscientific beliefs. H. Mercier, Y. Majima, H. Miton. Applied Cognitive Psychology, https://doi.org/10.1002/acp.3413

Summary: Pseudoscientific beliefs are widespread and can be damaging. If several studies have examined the factors leading people to accept pseudoscientific beliefs, no attention has been paid to the factors contributing to people's willingness to transmit these beliefs. To test whether the willingness to transmit pseudoscientific beliefs contributes to their spread, independent of their believability, we asked participants to rate statements corresponding either to pseudoscientific beliefs (Myths), or to their (correct) negations (Non‐Myths). Statements were rated on believability, on how willing participants would be to transmit them, and on how knowledgeable they would make someone who produces them. Results revealed that participants who believed in Myths were more willing to transmit them than the participants who believed in Non‐Myths were willing to transmit Non‐Myths. A potential factor driving the increased willingness to transmit both Myths and Non‐Myths might be participants' belief that holding the beliefs makes one seem more knowledgeable.

The Effect of Romantic Relationships on the Evaluation of the Attractiveness of One’s Own Face

The Effect of Romantic Relationships on the Evaluation of the Attractiveness of One’s Own Face. Jiaye Cai et al. i-Perception,  https://doi.org/10.1177/2041669518765542

Abstract: The present study sought to explore the effect of romantic relationships on the attractiveness evaluation of one’s own face using two experiments with the probability evaluation and the subjective rating method. Experiment 1 and Experiment 2 enrolled couples and single individuals as participants, respectively. The results of the two experiments indicated that the participants evaluated their own face as significantly more attractive than did others of the same sex. More importantly, the romantic relationship enhanced the positive bias in the evaluation of self-face attractiveness, that is, couple participants showed a stronger positive bias than did single individuals. It was also found that a person in a romantic relationship was prone to overestimating the attractiveness of his or her lover’s face, from the perspective of both probability evaluation and rating score. However, the abovementioned overestimation did not surpass the evaluations of the exaggeratedly attractive face. The present results supported the observer hypothesis, demonstrating the romantic relationship to be an important influential factor of facial attractiveness. Our findings have important implications for the research of self-face evaluation.

Keywords: romantic relationship, attractiveness evaluation, self-face, probability evaluation, subjective rating

Pearson embedded "growth-mindset" and other psychological messaging into some versions of one of its commercial learning software programs, with modest signs that some such messaging can increase students' persistence when they run into difficulty

Pearson Tested 'Social-Psychological' Messages in Learning Software, With Mixed Results. Benjamin Herold on April 17, 2018, blogs.edweek.org/edweek/DigitalEducation/2018/04/pearson_growth_mindset_software.html

The idea of inserting "social-psychological interventions" into learning software is gaining steam, raising both hopes and fears about the ways the ed-tech industry might seek to capitalize on recent research into the impact of students' mindsets on their learning.

One big new example, presented here today as part of the annual conference of the American Association of Educational Research: AERA Conference Button

Publishing giant Pearson recently conducted an experiment involving more than 9,000 unwitting students at 165 different U.S. colleges and universities. Without seeking prior consent from participating institutions or individuals, the company embedded "growth-mindset" and other psychological messaging into some versions of one of its commercial learning software programs. The company then randomly assigned different colleges to use different versions of that software, tracking whether students who received the messages attempted and completed more problems than their counterparts at other institutions.

The results included some modest signs that some such messaging can increase students' persistence when they start a problem, then run into difficulty. That's likely to bolster growth-mindset proponents, who say it's important to encourage students to view intelligence as something that can change with practice and hard work.

But the bigger takeaway, according to Pearson's AERA paper, is the possibility of leveraging commercial educational software for new research into the emerging science around students' attitudes, beliefs, and ways of thinking about themselves.

"Randomized control trials like this, at scale and embedded into widely used commercial products, are a valuable approach for improving learner outcomes in a rigorous and iterative way, while also contributing to the burgeoning literature on social-psychological interventions," the paper contends.
Concerns Over 'Low-Level Psychological Experimentation'

Outside experts consulted by Education Week offered skeptical reactions to the new Pearson study.

"It does not surprise me at all that corporations are attempting to monetize a promising way of thinking about a hairy problem," said Phi Delta Kappan CEO Joshua Starr, who was a major proponent of social-emotional learning during his time as superintendent of the Montgomery County, Md. school district (and who currently serves on the Aspen Institute's National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development.)

"There is some value" to Pearson's approach, Starr said, but "social-emotional learning is best promoted through strong communities and relationships."

And Ben Williamson, a lecturer at the University of Stirling in the United Kingdom who studies big data in education, raised other concerns. 

There's little evidence that focusing on growth mindset in the classroom will significantly benefit students, Williamson argued, citing recent analyses finding limited effects of mindset-based interventions.

In addition, Williamson maintained, companies such as Pearson would be wise to pay close attention to the growing public anxiety over the ways companies collect people's sensitive information and use it for psychological profiling and targeting. It's especially troubling, he said, that the company did not seek informed consent from the young people who became subjects in their study.

"It's concerning that forms of low-level psychological experimentation to trigger certain behaviors appears to be happening in the ed-tech sector, and students might not know those experiments are taking place," Williamson said.


Using commercial software allowed Pearson to see how the changes played out for real students and actual classrooms, DiCerbo said, generating more useful information than had it taken place in a lab.

And while the company is considering similar experiments involving other commercial software products used in higher education, she said, Pearson is preparing to selling off its K-12 business, meaning there are likely no short-term implications for those clients.

"We think these motivational aspects are really important for students' learning outcomes," DiCerbo said. "But the only way we're going to know for sure is to do the research."

Mixed Results

The paper presented by Pearson at AERA was titled "Embedding Research-Inspired Innovations in EdTech: An RCT of Social-Psychological Interventions, at Scale."


[The product] is typically used for introductory computer-science courses [...].

DiCerbo said that made sense as the first content area to test social-psychological messaging, because many students have a propensity to attribute failure in programming to a personal shortcoming, rather than seeing it as a challenge and opportunity to learn.

The idea was to see if students' motivation and achievement would be improved in either of two ways: 

.    Inserting "growth-mindset" messages (stressing the importance of effort and building skills over time) into the software's instructions and into the feedback it offered to students who provided wrong answers. An example: "No one is born a great programmer. Success takes hours and hours of practice."

.    Using "anchoring of effort" messages (seeking to leverage a common cognitive bias in which people tend to rely on the first piece of information they learn, even if it's irrelevant to the problem they're trying to solve.) Pearson's theory here was that students might not have any sense of how much effort is often required to solve computer-programming problems, so providing them with a high-end estimate based on analysis of previous users' experience could ground them in the expectation that multiple attempts would be necessary. An example: "Some students tried this question 26 times! Don't worry if it takes you a few tries to get it right."

The researchers were surprised to learn that students who didn't receive any special messaging from the software attempted to solve significantly more problems (212) than those who received growth-mindset messages (174 problems) or anchoring messages (156 problems.)

That finding suggested that the social-psychological interventions they were testing backfired, although DiCerbo said other factors—especially differences in how various instructors use the software in their classes—may have also played a role.

But the Pearson team also found that students who received the growth-mindset messages successfully completed more of the problems they started than their counterparts. These students were also significantly more likely to eventually solve problems they initially got incorrect, supporting the idea that encouraging a growth mindset can have positive benefits when students run into difficulty.


"Successfully applying theories like growth mindset is likely to require more precise targeting of specific learners and at specific moments in order to be effective," according to the company's study presented at AERA.

And DiCerbo said efforts to change students' mindsets through learning software are still in their earliest stages.

"It's still an open question as to whether technology is even capably of providing this type of feedback," she said.

Magical Contagion Effects in Consumer Contexts: It may be both negative (fly in your plate) or positive (a celebrity's dress)

Catching (Up with) Magical Contagion: A Review of Contagion Effects in Consumer Contexts. Julie Y. Huang, Joshua M. Ackerman and George E. Newman. Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, 2017, vol. 2, issue 4, 430 - 443. http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/693533

Abstract: Over 20 years have passed since magical contagion was first introduced to psychology; we discuss how psychological and consumer behavior findings since then have deepened our understanding of this phenomenon. Recent research has shed light on the psychological mechanisms that underlie consumers’ contamination concerns (e.g., the behavioral immune system, disgust), confirming that people’s germ-related intuitions affect a wide variety of consumer judgments in areas that are only indirectly linked to disease-related threats (used products, [un]]familiar products, products contacting each other). Moreover, recent findings have also documented the ways that nonphysical essences might transfer from people to objects (celebrity products; positive consumer contagion). This recent body of work extends contagion research by demonstrating that physical contact is not a prerequisite for essence transfer and that the types of essences that are contagious are broader than originally conceived. We close by discussing future research into how magical contagion affects consumer and firm decision making.

Child Marriage in the United States: How Common Is the Practice, And Which Children Are at Greatest Risk

Child Marriage in the United States: How Common Is the Practice, And Which Children Are at Greatest Risk. Alissa Koski, Jody Heymann. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, https://doi.org/10.1363/psrh.12055

CONTEXT: Marriage before the age of 18, commonly referred to as child marriage, is legal under varying conditions across the United States. The prevalence of child marriage among recent cohorts is unknown.

METHODS: American Community Survey data for 2010–2014 were used to estimate the average national and state‐level proportions of children who had ever been married. Prevalence was calculated by gender, race and ethnicity, and birthplace, and the living arrangements of currently married children were examined.

RESULTS: Approximately 6.2 of every 1,000 children surveyed had ever been married. Prevalence varied from more than 10 per 1,000 in West Virginia, Hawaii and North Dakota to less than four per 1,000 in Maine, Rhode Island and Wyoming. It was higher among girls than among boys (6.8 vs. 5.7 per 1,000), and was lower among white non‐Hispanic children (5.0 per 1,000) than among almost every other racial or ethnic group studied; it was especially high among children of American Indian or Chinese descent (10.3 and 14.2, respectively). Immigrant children were more likely than U.S.‐born children to have been married; prevalence among children from Mexico, Central America and the Middle East was 2–4 times that of children born in the United States. Only 20% of married children were living with their spouses; the majority of the rest were living with their parents.

CONCLUSIONS: Child marriage occurs throughout the country. Research on the social forces that perpetuate child marriage is needed to inform efforts to prevent it.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

“But I Don’t Eat that Much Meat.” Situational Underreporting of Meat Consumption by Women

“But I Don’t Eat that Much Meat.” Situational Underreporting of Meat Consumption by Women. Hank Rothgerber. Society & Animals, DOI: 10.1163/15685306-12341468

Abstract: As arguments become more pronounced that meat consumption harms the environment, public health, and nonhuman animals, meat-eaters should experience increased pressure to justify their behavior. The present research further tested the notion that women employ indirect meat-eating justification strategies relative to men, specifically the claim that as a form of self-justification, women would underreport meat consumption when the context called in to question their dietary behavior. Men and women were randomly assigned to a treatment condition in which they were informed that they would watch a PETA documentary about meat production or to a control condition, and then they completed a questionnaire assessing the amount of various meats they consumed. Women reported eating less meat when threatened by watching the documentary, while male estimates were unchanged across conditions. Furthermore, this effect was sensitive to how much participants believed nonhuman animals shared similar emotions to humans.

Keywords: cognitive dissonance; gender; human-animal emotional similarity; meat-eating justification; meat consumption

No consistent uptick in aggressive content of sex videos over the past decade (the average video today contains shorter segments showing aggression); and videos with aggressive acts are both less likely to receive views and less likely to be ranked favorably by viewers, who prefer videos where women clearly perform pleasure

“Harder and Harder”? Is Mainstream Pornography Becoming Increasingly Violent and Do Viewers Prefer Violent Content? Eran Shor & Kimberly Seida. The Journal of Sex Research,

Abstract: It is a common notion among many scholars and pundits that the pornography industry becomes “harder and harder” with every passing year. Some have suggested that porn viewers, who are mostly men, become desensitized to “soft” pornography, and producers are happy to generate videos that are more hard core, resulting in a growing demand for and supply of violent and degrading acts against women in mainstream pornographic videos. We examined this accepted wisdom by utilizing a sample of 269 popular videos uploaded to PornHub over the past decade. More specifically, we tested two related claims: (1) aggressive content in videos is on the rise and (2) viewers prefer such content, reflected in both the number of views and the rankings for videos containing aggression. Our results offer no support for these contentions. First, we did not find any consistent uptick in aggressive content over the past decade; in fact, the average video today contains shorter segments showing aggression. Second, videos containing aggressive acts are both less likely to receive views and less likely to be ranked favorably by viewers, who prefer videos where women clearly perform pleasure.

The female sex appeal, based on women's bodily features attractive to men, is rather unusual in the animal kingdom, where males tend to show off the more catching and outlandish "sexual ornaments".

Rolf Degen https://twitter.com/DegenRolf summarizes:  The female sex appeal, based on women's bodily features attractive to men, is rather unusual in the animal kingdom, where males tend to show off the more catching and outlandish "sexual ornaments".

The evolution of male mate choice and female ornamentation; a review of mathematical models. Courtney L Fitzpatrick Maria R Servedio. Current Zoology, zoy029, https://doi.org/10.1093/cz/zoy029

Abstract: The evolution of male preferences and of female ornaments in species with traditional sex roles (i.e. polygyny) have been highlighted as areas in need of more active research by an accumulation of recent findings. The theoretical literature on these topics is relatively small and has centered on the evolution of male choice. Mathematical models have emphasized that, under polygyny, the evolution of male preferences faces much greater competition costs than does the evolution of female preferences. We discuss ways in which costly male choice can nonetheless evolve, via 1) direct selection that favors preferences, primarily through mating with highly fecund females, 2) mechanisms that rely on indirect selection, which weakly counters competitive costs of male preferences, and 3) genetic constraints, primarily in the form of pleiotropy of male and female preferences and traits. We also review a variety of mathematical models that have elucidated how costs to male preferences can be avoided. Finally we turn our attention to the relatively scant theoretical literature on the effects of male mate choice on the evolution of female traits. We emphasize the finding that the presence of male preferences cannot be assumed to lead to the evolution of female ornaments during polygyny, and point out situations where models have elucidated ways in which female ornaments can nevertheless evolve.

Keywords: male mate preferences, female ornaments, mathematical models

h/t: https://twitter.com/DegenRolf

Norway rats: Food-deprived individuals communicate need more intensively than satiated ones, and donors provide help corresponding to the intensity of the recipients’ communication

Schweinfurth, M. K., & Taborsky, M. (2018). Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus) communicate need, which elicits donation of food. Journal of Comparative Psychology. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/com0000102

Abstract: Reciprocal cooperation has been observed in a wide range of taxa, but the proximate mechanisms underlying the exchange of help are yet unclear. Norway rats reciprocate help received from partners in an iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma game. For donors, this involves accepting own costs to the benefit of a partner, without obtaining immediate benefits in return. We studied whether such altruistic acts are conditional on the communication of the recipient’s need. Our results show that in a 2-player mutual food-provisioning task, prospective recipients show a behavioral cascade reflecting increasing intensity. First, prospective receivers reach out for the food themselves, then they emit ultrasonic calls toward their partner, before finally showing noisy attention-grabbing behaviors. Food-deprived individuals communicate need more intensively than satiated ones. In return, donors provide help corresponding to the intensity of the recipients’ communication. This indicates that rats communicate their need, which changes the helping propensity of potential donors. Communication of need and corresponding adjustment of cooperation may be a widespread proximate mechanism explaining the mutual exchange of services between animals.

We think that our own behavior when drinking is similar to our sober behavior; that we are more able to maintain a balance between staying in control and having fun while drinking; that we are far from negative drinkers (like compulsive or anti-social ones); and attribute our drinking behaviors to situational factors, but describe other people as intentionally violent or aggressive

I Am Quite Mellow But I Wouldn't Say Everyone Else Is”: How UK Students Compare Their Drinking Behavior to Their Peers'. Emma L. Davies, Emma-Ben C. Lewis & Sarah E. Hennelly. Substance Use & Misuse, https://doi.org/10.1080/10826084.2017.1416403

ABSTRACT: Background: Excessive drinking is commonplace at UK Universities. Individuals may misperceive how much they drink compared to others and are less likely to think that they will suffer adverse consequences. Young people often distance themselves and their friends from ‘problem drinkers’. Objectives: The aim of the study was to explore how student drinkers compared their own drinking behaviors to the drinking behaviors of others. Methods: An online survey was completed by 416 students aged 18–30 (68.5% female). They were asked ‘how do you think your drinking compares with other people like you?' and ‘how do you think your behavior when you drink compares with other people like you?’ Answers were subjected to thematic analysis. Results: The first main theme was about ‘identification as a ‘good’ drinker’. Participants suggested their own behavior when drinking was similar to their sober behavior. Further, they viewed themselves as more able to maintain a balance between staying in control and having fun while drinking. The second main theme was about ‘distancing from being a ‘bad’ drinker. Participants distanced themselves from negative prototypical drinkers, such compulsive or anti-social drinkers. They also attributed their own drinking behaviors to situational factors, but described other people as intentionally violent or aggressive. Conclusions/Importance: These findings may explain the failure of some health messages to change drinking behaviors. If drinkers perceive that their behavior when they drink is better than other people's then they may discount intervention messages. Targeting these biases could be incorporated into future interventions.

KEYWORDS: Alcohol, correspondence bias, social comparison, prototypes, qualitative

Social identity, rather than partisanship or ideology, explains sorting in popular firlm viewership

Silver screen sorting: Social identity and selective exposure in popular film viewing. Jeremiah J. Castle, , Kyla Stepp. The Social Science Journal, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.soscij.2018.04.001

•    Selective exposure on the basis of social identity is an important factor in film viewership.
•    Our theory is tested using a sample of college students.
•    Wide gaps in movie viewership are apparent between partisans.
•    Social identity, rather than partisanship or ideology, explains sorting in movie viewership.

Abstract: While research in media and politics has long stressed the importance of television, the political impact of movies has largely been ignored. However, a small body of literature suggests that both political docudramas and popular films may have the capacity to change the issue attitudes of viewers. Building on that work, this paper examines the potential for selective exposure in movie viewership. We develop a theory that there is large-scale sorting into popular movies rooted in social identity theory. We argue that sorting is a result of two processes: film studios marketing films towards particular social groups and individuals sorting into films based on social group characteristics. We test this theory using a unique dataset in which undergraduate students were asked to rate trailers for a variety of political docudramas and popular films. Our results indicate that there is indeed widespread sorting into popular films on the basis of social identities rooted in socio-demographic traits.

Keywords: Movies; Films; Selective exposure; Social identity; Public opinion

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Young Children Negatively Evaluate and Sanction Free-riders, Even Absorbing Costs to Punish Further

Yang, Fan, You-jung Choi, Antonia Misch, Xin Yang, and Yarrow Dunham 2018. “In Defense of the Commons: Young Children Negatively Evaluate and Sanction Free-riders”. PsyArXiv. April 18. doi:10.17605/OSF.IO/XMQK8

Abstract: Human flourishing depends on individuals paying costs to contribute to common goods, but such arrangements are vulnerable to “free-riding”, in which individuals benefit from others’ contributions without paying costs themselves. Systems of tracking and sanctioning free-riders can stabilize cooperation, but the origin of such tendencies is not well understood. Here, we provide evidence that children as young as four negatively evaluate and sanction free-riders. Across six studies we show that these tendencies are robust, large in magnitude, tuned to intentional rather than unintentional non-contribution, and generally consistent across third- and first-party cases. Further, these effects cannot be accounted for by factors that frequently co-occur with free-riding, such as the costs that free-riding imposes on the group or that free-riding is often non-conformity. Our findings demonstrate that from early in life children both hold and enforce a normative expectation that individuals are intrinsically obligated to contribute to the common good.

An evolved psychological mechanism for detecting and deterring free-riders has been suggested as a potentially important contributor to the stability of cooperation in multi-party settings, and adults’ spontaneous detection and negative evaluation of free-riders is consistent with this possibility [...]. But adults have extensive experience with institutional and other societal sanctions directed at free-riders, raising an alternative explanation: sanctioning free-riders is a learned norm. While our results do not settle this issue, they show that the tendency to sanction free-riders emerges several years prior to formal schooling, when children are not yet expected to be regular contributors and are unlikely to be sanctioned for failing to contribute themselves. Indeed, for at least two reasons our results are challenging for straightforward socialization accounts. First, in an aggregated analysis for all cases of intentional free-riding (drawn from studies 1-5), we observed greater negativity towards free-riders in younger children, a pattern inconsistent with gradual norm internalization. Second, the developmental patterns observed here appear to emerge earlier than other forms of norm enforcement. For example, compared to free-riding, unfairness in dyadic interactions presumably occurs more frequently in children’s life and thus should be a more direct targetfor socialization.

However, if not directly affected, children do not sanction such violations until middle childhood (Blake & McAuliffe, 2011; McAuliffe et al., 2015). Therefore, our findings suggest that protracted social learning and extensive group experiences are not necessary for the emergence of a tendency to sanction free-riders. Our results are consistent with proposals for an evolved psychological machinery for cheater detection and sanctioning.

 h/t: https://twitter.com/DegenRolf

Heterosexual College Students Who Hookup with Same-Sex Partners

Heterosexual College Students Who Hookup with Same-Sex Partners. Arielle Kuperberg, Alicia M. Walker. Archives of Sexual Behavior, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10508-018-1194-7

Abstract: Individuals who identify as heterosexual but engage in same-sex sexual behavior fascinate both researchers and the media. We analyzed the Online College Social Life Survey dataset of over 24,000 undergraduate students to examine students whose last hookup was with a same-sex partner (N = 383 men and 312 women). The characteristics of a significant minority of these students (12% of men and 25% of women) who labelled their sexual orientation “heterosexual” differed from those who self-identified as “homosexual,” “bisexual,” or “uncertain.” Differences among those who identified as heterosexual included more conservative attitudes, less prior homosexual and more prior heterosexual sexual experience, features of the hookups, and sentiments about the encounter after the fact. Latent class analysis revealed six distinctive “types” of heterosexually identified students whose last hookup was with a same-sex partner. Three types, comprising 60% of students, could be classified as mostly private sexual experimentation among those with little prior same-sex experience, including some who did not enjoy the encounter; the other two types in this group enjoyed the encounter, but differed on drunkenness and desire for a future relationship with their partner. Roughly, 12% could be classified as conforming to a “performative bisexuality” script of women publicly engaging in same-sex hookups at college parties, and the remaining 28% had strong religious practices and/or beliefs that may preclude a non-heterosexual identity, including 7% who exhibited “internalized heterosexism.” Results indicate several distinctive motivations for a heterosexual identity among those who hooked up with same-sex partners; previous research focusing on selective “types” excludes many exhibiting this discordance.

Why Do People Volunteer? An Experimental Analysis of Preferences for Time Donations Instead of Money

Why Do People Volunteer? An Experimental Analysis of Preferences for Time Donations. Alexander L. Brown, Jonathan Meer, J. Forrest Williams. Management Science, https://doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.2017.2951

Abstract: Why do individuals volunteer their time even when recipients receive far less value than the donor’s opportunity cost? Previous models of altruism that focus on the overall impact of a gift cannot rationalize this behavior, despite its prevalence. We develop a model that allows for differential warm glow depending on the form of the donation. In a series of laboratory experiments that control for other aspects of volunteering, such as its signaling value, subjects demonstrate behavior consistent with the theoretical assumption that gifts of time produce greater utility than the same transfers in the form of money. Subjects perform an effort task, accruing earnings at potentially different wage rates for themselves or a charity of their choice, with the ability to transfer any of their personal earnings to charity at the end of the experiment. Subjects exhibit strong preferences for donating time even when differential wage rates make it costly to do so. The results provide new insights on the nature of volunteering and gift giving.

Promiscuous America: Smart, Secular, and Somewhat Less Happy

Promiscuous America: Smart, Secular, and Somewhat Less Happy. Nicholas H. Wolfinger. Institute for Family Studies, Apr 18 2018. Full article with images at https://ifstudies.org/blog/promiscuous-america-smart-secular-and-somewhat-less-happy


We like to think of America as sexually permissive. We’re bombarded with stories of rapid-fire Tinder liaisons and meaningless college hookups. The reality isn’t monastic but is more staid than most of us think. The median American woman has had three sex partners in her lifetime. The median man has had five.

These numbers have remained unchanged for decades: you have to look at people born prior to the 1940s, who came of age before the Sexual Revolution, to find lower numbers. The one exception is college-educated men, whose median tally has declined over the past couple of decades (the numbers for men who didn’t complete college have stayed the same).

But medians don’t tell the whole story. The distribution of promiscuity is skewed to the right: most people have only a few partners, but a few people have a whole lot. The data look like this:

Note: Ns = 17,252 (women) & 13,531 (men). Results are unweighted.

The yellow bars are medians, included to provide some perspective. Although most people have had only a few partners, a few have had a multitude (indeed, I capped the maximum at 100 so a single page graph would be intelligible). Five percent of women have had 16 or more partners; five percent of men have had 50 or more. One percent of American women have had over 35 partners; the comparable figure for men is 150.


The Trends

Overall, younger Americans are now having sex with fewer people than their Boomer or Gen X elders, but that’s not the case for the female promiscuous minority. The figure below looks at what portion of the sample for each survey year falls into the top five percentile for the entire sample; in order words, what proportion of women for each survey year had 16 or more partners. The data show a linear increase in the percentage of women who fall into the high side of sexual adventurousness. In 1990, about 3% of women had had over 15 sex partners. By 2016, this number was up to 7 percent. Additional analysis suggests that women’s increasing sexual adventurousness over the years of the time series represents a secular trend towards promiscuity.

Note: N = 17,252. Results are unweighted.

The story is different for men, for whom promiscuity was most common in the previous decade. Since then, a declining proportion of men have had 50 or more sex partners. Still, top-five percentile sexual exploration remains a bit more common for men than it was in the early 1990s, near the beginning of the time series.

Notes: N = 13,531. Results are unweighted.

The Predictable Demographic Differences

The residents of Promiscuous America are predictable in many ways. They’re less likely to be married and more likely to be divorced. They’re several times as likely as their less adventurous peers to have cheated on a spouse. They watch more porn. They’re more likely to be political liberals than moderates or conservatives. Many of them live in the western United States (for women, that means the intermountain west more than the west coast). They’re more likely to live in cities than in suburbs or rural areas.

It’s also predictable that the promiscuous are less religious than other Americans, but there are nevertheless interesting differences by denominational affiliation. Christians are the least likely to fall into the top 5% of the promiscuity distribution. Still, in terms of sheer percentage points, the differences between Christians and nonbelievers are not enormous. When it comes to “Other” faiths (including Muslims, Hindus, and myriad less common religions), the men behave like Christians. Other-faith women are more likely to reside in Promiscuous America Of all survey respondents to claim a denominational affiliation, Jews are the most likely to report high promiscuity (8% of Jewish women, 6% of Jewish men). The highest levels of promiscuity naturally belong to Americans who don’t claim a denominational affiliation. This includes 10% of unaffiliated women, and 7% of unaffiliated men.


​​​The Unanticipated Correlates of Promiscuity

Two related factors—education and intelligence—are highly predictive of having a large number of sex partners. Some of us have a mental portrait of Promiscuous America that looks like the Jerry Springer Show, but this doesn’t seem to comport with reality. People with post-graduate degrees are much more likely than their less-educated peers to be promiscuous, and this is especially true of women. Over 2% of women with advanced degrees fall into the top percentile of promiscuity; in other words, over 35 sex partners. Almost 1.5% of men report top-percentile promiscuity of 150 or more partners. Both these numbers are far higher than they are for people with less formal education. Generally speaking, people with high levels of education have the highest marriage rates and the lowest divorce rates, but their ranks also contain a sprinkling of sexual sybarites.


Related to education is the comparably higher intelligence of sexually adventurous Americans. The General Social Survey contains a 10-word vocabulary test that has been shown to have a high correlation (r = .71) with sophisticated IQ test results. Obviously, a 10-question test can’t do justice to a complex concept like intelligence, but for ease of explication, I’ll refer to its results as reflecting IQ or intelligence.

Both men and women in the top percentile of promiscuity report higher intelligence scores than do their less well-traveled peers. This also holds true for women but not men in the top 5% of promiscuity. Top-five percentile men have IQs only slightly higher than their less sexually adventurous peers.


The link between education and sexual exploration has long been clear. In his brilliant and ethically-challenged study of anonymous gay sex, the late sociologist Laud Humphreys observed that his educated respondents were more willing to explore a range of sexual activities. National data also show higher rates of anal sex among educated women. A small number of highly educated people seem to have channeled this curiosity into promiscuity. Perhaps this dynamic can also explain the proclivity for poly-partner promiscuity and intelligence. Finally, these associations seem particularly strong for women.

Does It Matter if You’re Promiscuous?

There are modest but still statistically significant differences in respondent happiness by promiscuity. The 5% most promiscuous respondents of both sexes are less likely to report being “very happy” and more likely to say they are “not too happy.” This pattern holds for women when looking at the top one percentile of promiscuity, but not men. In other words, men who report having had 150 or more sex partners are not any happier or unhappier than their non-Lothario counterparts, but that’s not true for women.


Multivariate analysis reveals that the happiness gap between Promiscuous America and their less sexually adventurous peers can be partly explained by marital status. Recall that promiscuous survey respondents are less likely to be married and more likely to be divorced. Regular readers of this blog are well aware of the fact that marriage and happiness are correlated, and this association might account for why some promiscuous adults are less happy. But there are likely other reasons, some of which might be anterior to both unhappiness and promiscuity. For instance, childhood sexual abuse increases the later-life chances of both promiscuity and unhappiness. In other words, there is no way of knowing if promiscuity is directly causing people to be unhappy.

The happiness story changes when promiscuous Americans get married. These respondents are not more or less happy in their relationships than their non-promiscuous peers. Some may have relegated their infidelities to their first marriages. A small number may be in polyamorous or other forms of open relationships, although it’s impossible to know with these data.

Contrary to public perception, typical sexual behavior hasn’t changed much in recent decades. But there will always be outliers, Americans who have a multitude of sex partners. This behavior is becoming more common for women, but less common for men. Perhaps these women are experiencing the last stages of the Sexual Revolution, stages that came earlier to men. It’s evidence for this proposition that there is no male equivalent to the term “slut shaming.”


Nicholas H. Wolfinger is Professor of Family and Consumer Studies and Adjunct Professor of Sociology at the University of Utah. His most recent book is Soul Mates: Religion, Sex, Love, and Marriage among African Americans and Latinos, coauthored with W. Bradford Wilcox (Oxford University Press, 2016). Follow him on Twitter at @NickWolfinger.

Sex Differences in Attraction to Familiar and Unfamiliar Opposite-Sex Faces: Men Prefer Novelty and Women Prefer Familiarity. Anthony C. Little, Lisa M. DeBruine, Benedict C. Jones. Archives of Sexual Behavior, July 2014, Volume 43, Issue 5, pp 973–981. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10508-013-0120-2

Abstract: Familiarity is attractive in many types of stimuli and exposure generally increases feelings of liking. However, men desire a greater number of sexual partners than women, suggesting a preference for novelty. We examined sex differences in preferences for familiarity. In Study 1 (N = 83 women, 63 men), we exposed individuals to faces twice and found that faces were judged as more attractive on the second rating, reflecting attraction to familiar faces, with the exception that men’s ratings of female faces decreased on the second rating, demonstrating attraction to novelty. In Studies 2 (N = 42 women, 28 men) and 3 (N = 51 women, 25 men), exposure particularly decreased men’s ratings of women’s attractiveness for short-term relationships and their sexiness. In Study 4 (N = 64 women, 50 men), women’s attraction to faces was positively related to self-rated similarity to their current partner’s face, while the effect was significantly weaker for men. Potentially, men’s attraction to novelty may reflect an adaptation promoting the acquisition of a high number of sexual partners.

Perception of Physical Attractiveness When Consuming and Not Consuming Alcohol: A Meta‐Analysis

Perception of Physical Attractiveness When Consuming and Not Consuming Alcohol: A Meta‐Analysis. Molly A. Bowdring, Michael A. Sayette. Addiction, https://doi.org/10.1111/add.14227

Background and Aims: Elucidating why people drink and why drinking can lead to negative psychosocial consequences remains a crucial task for alcohol researchers. Because drinking typically occurs in social settings, broader investigation of the associations between alcohol and social experience is needed to advance understanding of both the rewarding and hazardous effects of alcohol use. This review aimed to (a) estimate alcohol's relation to the perception of others' physical attractiveness and (b) suggest theoretical and methodological considerations that may advance the study of this topic.

Methods: Systematic review of Scopus and PsycInfo databases was conducted to identify experimental and quasi‐experimental studies, with either between‐ or within‐subjects designs, that assessed attractiveness ratings provided by individuals who had and had not consumed alcohol (k=16 studies, n=1,811). A meta‐analysis was conducted to evaluate alcohol's aggregate association with physical attractiveness perceptions. Separate a priori secondary analyses examined alcohol's associations with perception of opposite‐sex (k=12 studies) and same‐sex (k=7 studies) attractiveness.

Results: The primary analysis indicated that alcohol was significantly related to enhanced attractiveness perceptions (d=0.19, 95% CI=0.05‐0.32, p=.01; I2=5.28, 95% CI=0.00 to 39.32). Analysis of alcohol's association with perception of opposite‐sex attractiveness similarly yielded a small, significant positive association (d=0.30, 95% CI=0.16‐0.44, p<.01; I2=17.49, 95% CI=0.00 to 57.75). Alcohol's relation to perception of same‐sex attractiveness was not significant (d=0.04, 95% CI=‐0.18‐0.26, p=.71; I2=54.08, 95% CI=0.00 to 81.66).

Conclusions: Experimental and quasi‐experimental studies suggest that consuming alcohol may have a small effect of increasing perceived attractiveness of people of the opposite sex.

The strength of a message can affect whether or not an individual tells the truth; Stronger messages are found to increase truth-telling by 30 percentage points

Language and Lies. Glynis Gawn, Robert Innes. Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socec.2018.04.007

•    The strength of a message can affect whether or not an individual tells the truth.
•    An experiment measures how message type affects a sender’s intrinsic lie aversion.
•    “Strong” vs. “weak” messages significantly promote truthfulness in the experiment.
•    Stronger messages are found to increase truth-telling by 30 percentage points.
•    Differential aversion to “weak” vs. “strong” lies can be socially advantageous.

Abstract: Does an individual’s aversion to a lie depend upon the language used to communicate the lie? We adapt the Lopez-Perez and Spiegelman (2013) dot experiment to measure how a “weak” vs. “strong” message affects individuals’ propensities for truthfulness when there is a monetary incentive to lie and no other person is affected by the communication. Weak messages state a fact, whereas strong statements “solemnly swear” to the fact. In our first (between-subject) experiment, strong (vs. weak) statements increase the percentage of subjects choosing to tell the truth by approximately 30 percentage points in each of three different payoff scenarios that favor lying to a different extent. Because lies increase payoffs in the experiment, the weaker aversion to weaker lies is socially advantageous. In a second (within-subject) experiment participants choose between messages of different strength and we find (1) a preference for lying with weak (vs. strong) language, and (2) a significant fraction of subjects who are willing to pay a positive amount to avoid a strong vs. weak lie. From both experiments, we conclude that our subjects tend to be intrinsically less averse to dishonesty when a lie is conveyed with weak vs. strong language.

Keywords: Deception; Language; Communication; Lying Aversion

Using Massive Online Choice Experiments to Measure Changes in Well-being: Digital goods have created large gains in well-being that are missed by conventional measures of GDP and productivity

Using Massive Online Choice Experiments to Measure Changes in Well-being. Erik Brynjolfsson, Felix Eggers, Avinash Gannamaneni. NBER Working Paper No. 24514. http://www.nber.org/papers/w24514

Abstract: GDP and derived metrics (e.g., productivity) have been central to understanding economic progress and well-being. In principle, the change in consumer surplus (compensating expenditure) provides a superior, and more direct, measure of the change in well-being, especially for digital goods, but in practice, it has been difficult to measure. We explore the potential of massive online choice experiments to measure consumers’ willingness to accept compensation for losing access to various digital goods and thereby estimate the consumer surplus generated from these goods. We test the robustness of the approach and benchmark it against established methods, including incentive compatible choice experiments that require participants to give up Facebook for a certain period in exchange for compensation. The proposed choice experiments show convergent validity and are massively scalable. Our results indicate that digital goods have created large gains in well-being that are missed by conventional measures of GDP and productivity. By periodically querying a large, representative sample of goods and services, including those which are not priced in existing markets, changes in consumer surplus and other new measures of well-being derived from these online choice experiments have the potential for providing cost-effective supplements to existing national income and product accounts.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Greg Weiner's When Liberals Become Progressives: Because progress is an unadulterated good, it supersedes the rights of its opponents

When Liberals Become Progressives. By Greg Weiner
The New York Times, April 14, 2018, on Page A19 of the New York edition

Mr. Weiner was a senior aide to Senator Bob Kerrey before becoming a political scientist.

photo: Daniel Patrick Moynihan in the Capitol in 1995. He forthrightly described himself as a liberal, while today the label “progressive” is becoming more common.CreditDavid Scull/The New York Times

WORCESTER, Mass. — On the night of his election to the Senate in 1976, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Democrat of New York, declared: “I ran as a liberal. I was elected as a liberal.” This month, discussing her campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor of New York, Cynthia Nixon called for “progressive change.” The distinction matters.

In recent decades, the label “progressive” has been resurrected to replace “liberal,” a once vaunted term so successfully maligned by Republicans that it fell out of use. Both etymologically and ideologically, the switch to “progressive” carries historical freight that augurs poorly for Democrats and for the nation’s polarized politics.

Historical progressivism is an ideology whose American avatars, like Woodrow Wilson, saw progress as the inevitable outcome of human affairs. Of course, liberals and conservatives believe that their policies will result in positive outcomes, too. But it is another thing to say, as American Progressives did, that the contemporary political task was to identify a destination, grip the wheel and depress the accelerator.

The basic premise of liberal politics, by contrast, is the capacity of government to do good, especially in ameliorating economic ills. Nothing structurally impedes compromise between conservatives, who hold that the accumulated wisdom of tradition is a better guide than the hypercharged rationality of the present, and liberals, because both philosophies exist on a spectrum.

A liberal can believe that government can do more good or less, and one can debate how much to conserve. But progressivism is inherently hostile to moderation because progress is an unmitigated good. There cannot be too much of it. Like conservative fundamentalism, progressivism contributes to the polarization and paralysis of government because it makes compromise, which entails accepting less progress, not merely inadvisable but irrational. Even when progressives choose their targets strategically — Hillary Clinton, for example, called herself “a progressive who likes to get things done” — the implication is that progress is the fundamental goal and that its opponents are atavists.

Unlike liberalism, progressivism is intrinsically opposed to conservation. It renders adhering to tradition unreasonable rather than seeing it, as the liberal can, as a source of wisdom. The British philosopher Roger Scruton calls this a “culture of repudiation” of home and history alike. The critic of progress is not merely wrong but a fool. Progressivism’s critics have long experienced this as a passive-aggressive form of re-education.

Because progress is an unadulterated good, it supersedes the rights of its opponents. This is evident in progressive indifference to the rights of those who oppose progressive policies in areas like sexual liberation.

This is one reason progressives have alienated moderate voters who turned to Donald Trump in 2016. The ideology of progress tends to regard the traditions that have customarily bound communities and which mattered to Trump voters alarmed by the rapid transformation of society, as a fatuous rejection of progress. Trump supporters’ denunciation of “political correctness” is just as often a reaction to progressive condescension as it is to identity politics.

Where liberalism seeks to ameliorate economic ills, progressivism’s goal is to eradicate them. Moynihan recognized this difference between Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, which he always supported — as exemplified by his opposition to Clinton-era welfare reform — and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, which he sympathetically criticized. The New Deal alleviated poverty by cutting checks, something government does competently even if liberals and conservatives argued over the size of the checks. The Great Society partook more of a progressive effort to remake society by eradicating poverty’s causes. The result, Moynihan wrote, was the diversion of resources from welfare and jobs to “community action” programs that financed political activism.

This ideology of progress naturally aggrandizes the fastest route to the future, which is one reason progressivism has historically elevated the presidency to the center of the American regime. This insistence on progress based solely on reason also explains the doomed progressive aspiration, dating to the early 20th century, for “scientific legislation,” which seeks to transform the political into the rational. Yet policymaking in a republic is not, and should not be, purely rational. Constitutional institutions like the separation of powers instead require that policies develop gradually and command wide consensus — at least under normal circumstances.

But neither liberalism nor conservatism opposes rationality. Conservatism holds that accumulated tradition is a likelier source of wisdom than the cleverest individual at any one moment. It fears the tyranny of theory that cannot tolerate dissent. Liberalism defends constitutionalism. One of the finest traditions of 20th-century liberalism was the Cold War liberal who stood for social amelioration and against Soviet Communism. This genus — including Moynihan, Senator Henry Jackson and the longtime labor leader Lane Kirkland — was often maligned by progressives.

One cannot, of course, make too much of labels. But democracy is conducted with words, and progressivism, by its very definition, makes progress into an ideology. The appropriate label for those who do not believe in the ideology of progress but who do believe in government’s capacity to do good is “liberal.” They would do well, politically as well as philosophically, to revive it.

Greg Weiner is a political scientist at Assumption College and the author, most recently, of “American Burke: The Uncommon Liberalism of Daniel Patrick Moynihan.”

Among women, enjoyment of sexualization made them to see themselves as more heterosexual, more attractive, more open to unconventional sex acts, and having greater sentimentality about romantic relationships

Enjoyment of Sexualization and Feminism: Relationships with Sexual Self-Schema and Psychosexual Health. Michael Barnett, Idalia Maciel, Mallory Gerner. Sexuality & Culture, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12119-018-9515-5

Abstract: Feminists have debated whether enjoyment of sexualization (ES)—when women find sexualized attention from men rewarding—represents empowerment or patriarchal oppression. The purpose of this study was to investigate the psychosexual correlates of ES—sexual self-schema (SSS) and psychosexual health—among heterosexual college women (n = 754) and men (n = 389). Among women, ES was associated with a SSS in which women saw themselves as more heterosexual, more attractive, more open to unconventional sex acts, and having greater sentimentality about romantic relationships. Regarding psychosexual health, ES was not linked with general self-esteem but was associated with higher sexual esteem and lower sexual depression. Among men, ES was not related to SSS or psychosexual health. Overall, among women, ES was linked with positive outcomes, and it may represent women conforming to societal norms and using sexualized attention in order to obtain romantic intimacy. Rather than internalized misogyny, ES may represent an open approach to sexuality in which women take advantage of their sexualized position in society for their own empowerment.

Based upon our results, we cannot indicate whether ES is or is not a response to oppression, but it appears that for some women, it may be a strategic response that may have some beneficial outcomes. Our results seem to support the particular feminist view that ES may be a reflection of an open view of sexuality that allows for a sense of empowerment. More importantly, it may reflect women’s sense of awareness of their sexualized roles in society, and rather than falling victim to it, they have decided to use this awareness for their own benefit.

"A great deal of the public outcry against fake news, echo chambers and polarization on social media is itself based on misinformation"

Rolf Degen summarizes (https://twitter.com/DegenRolf): "A great deal of the public outcry against fake news, echo chambers and polarization on social media is itself based on misinformation."

Review of Barbera, Pablo and Tucker, Joshua A. and Guess, Andrew and Vaccari, Cristian and Siegel, Alexandra and Sanovich, Sergey and Stukal, Denis and Nyhan, Brendan (2018) Social media, political polarization, and political disinformation: a review of the scientific literature. William + Flora Hewlett Foundation, California. http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/87402/

Abstract: The following report is intended to provide an overview of the current state of the literature on the relationship between social media; political polarization; and political “disinformation,” a term used to encompass a wide range of types of information about politics found online, including “fake news,” rumors, deliberately factually incorrect information, inadvertently factually incorrect information, politically slanted information, and “hyperpartisan” news. The review of the literature is provided in six separate sections, each of which can be read individually but that cumulatively are intended to provide an overview of what is known — and unknown — about the relationship between social media, political polarization, and disinformation. The report concludes by identifying key gaps in our understanding of these phenomena and the data that are needed to address them.

The current conventional wisdom on the impact of misinformation is mostly based on journalistic reports documenting its spread during the 2016 election. Some of the earliest reporting on this topic was produced by Craig Silverman of Buzzfeed News. In a series of articles published around the time of the election, he demonstrated that engagement on Facebook was higher for fake content than for stories from major news outlets. Additional reporting by other outlets corroborated these initial findings (see e.g., Higgins et al. 2016; Rogers & Bromwich 2016; Timberg 2016). Overall, these reports paint a picture of the online news ecosystem in which misinformation and hyperpartisan stories are shared at rates comparable to news stories by mainstream media outlets, reaching millions of people.

This evidence has provided new fuel to the debate on the internet and social media as ideological echo chambers. The prevailing narrative is that online misinformation is amplified in partisan communities of like-minded individuals, where it goes unchallenged due to ranking algorithms that filter out any dissenting voice (see e.g., Pariser 2011; del Vicario et al. 2016). One of the leading proponents of this view is Cass Sunstein, who in his most recent book, #Republic, warns that balkanized online speech markets represent new threats to democracy because they are a breeding ground for informational cascades of “fake news” and conspiracy theories (Sunstein 2017). The outcome of this process, he argues, would be a society that is ill-informed and increasingly segregated and polarized along partisan lines, making political compromise increasingly unlikely.

However, the consensus in the scholarly literature is not as clear as these accounts would suggest. Boxell et al. (2017) show that, even if mass political polarization has grown in recent times, this increase has been largest among citizens least likely to use the internet and social media. Their results reveal that “the internet explains a small share of the recent growth in polarization” (p. 10612). Bakshy et al. (2015) and Barberá (N.d.) find that Facebook and Twitter users are exposed to a surprisingly high level of diverse views. Wojcieszak and Mutz (2009) provide similar evidence of frequent cross-cutting political exchanges in online discussion spaces. Survey data collected by the Pew Research Center (Duggan & Smith 2016) show that most users report being exposed to a variety of viewpoints on social media. Forty percent of social media users across different countries report being exposed to a diverse range of sources, according to data from 2017 Reuters Institute Digital News Report (Newman et al. 2017). Finally, regarding the spread of misinformation, Allcott and Gentzkow (2017) find that even if “fake news” stories were widely shared during the 2016 election, the average American saw, at most, several of them on social media.

Put together, this body of work challenges the conventional wisdom, but in many ways raises more questions than it answers. Even if average cross-cutting exposure is relatively high on average, there may be pockets of individuals who are indeed fully embedded in politically homogeneous communities, for whom online consumption of information could lead to increased extremism. Given the nearly universal presence of journalists on social media, messages shared on these platforms could have indirect effects even among the offline population. We also know little about the long-term consequences of online news consumption on political disaffection, civic knowledge, political participation, and social capital.

There is a clear need for further research addressing the questions above. In trying to structure the discussion of what is known and not yet known within this research agenda, it is useful to consider three potential mechanisms by which online consumption of political information could be impacting political processes: (1) changes in the volume of information being consumed, (2) the (diversity of) sources of such political content, and (3) how it is framed. The following sections discuss the effect of exposure to (mis)information online in key societal outcomes by focusing on how research on these three mechanisms helps resolve the tension between theory and empirics described above, and informs our knowledge of such broader questions.