Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Participants viewed psychiatric disorders as more likely to be innate and immutable when the diagnosis was supported by a brain test as compared to a behavioral test

Essentialist Biases Toward Psychiatric Disorders: Brain Disorders Are Presumed Innate. Iris Berent  Melanie Platt. Cognitive Science, April 19 2021.

Abstract: A large campaign has sought to destigmatize psychiatric disorders by disseminating the view that they are in fact brain disorders. But when psychiatric disorders are associated with neurobiological correlates, laypeople's attitudes toward patients are harsher, and the prognoses seem poorer. Here, we ask whether these misconceptions could result from the essentialist presumption that brain disorders are innate. To this end, we invited laypeople to reason about psychiatric disorders that are diagnosed by either a brain or a behavioral test that were strictly matched for their informative value. Participants viewed disorders as more likely to be innate and immutable when the diagnosis was supported by a brain test as compared to a behavioral test. These results show for the first time that people spontaneously essentialize psychiatric conditions that are linked to the brain, even when the brain probe offers no additional diagnostic or genetic information. This bias suggests that people consider the biological essence of living things as materially embodied.

From 2020... Some advertisements work well across many cultures, others do not

From 2020... The evolution-similarity matrix: an evolutionary psychology perspective on cross-cultural advertising. Lachezar Ivanov ORCID , Jordan Buck , Rory Sutherland. Innovative Marketing Volume 16 2020, Issue #2, pp. 159-167, July 3, 2020.

Abstract: The standardization/adaptation debate in cross-cultural advertising is a topic on which little consensus prevails and which remains heavily discussed. Using evolutionary psychology, this paper presents a typology of advertising cues and explains their cross-cultural relevance and transportability. The paper highlights three distinct categories – human universals (evolved similarities), local adaptations (evolved differences), and local socialization (differences not due to evolution). The paper contributes to advertising theory by providing a meta-framework for the study of cross-cultural similarities and differences in the processing of advertising cues. It further assists advertising practice by delivering a framework aiding in cross-cultural advertising copy decisions. By raising the questions that the paper poses to develop the proposed typology categories, advertisers can identify which advertising cues are malleable by advertising and which are based on innate human preferences and are relatively stable. With that knowledge in hand, advertisers can decide when and to what extent to use a standardization approach versus an adaptation approach.

Keywords: ad appeals, adaptation, cross-cultural, evolutionary psychology, evolved differences, evolved similarities, international, standardization

Your Personality does not Care Whether you Believe it Can Change: Beliefs about Whether Personality can Change do not Predict Change among Emerging Adults

Your Personality does not Care Whether you Believe it Can Change: Beliefs about Whether Personality can Change do not Predict Trait Change among Emerging Adults. Nathan W. Hudson et al. European Journal of Personality, December 2, 2020.

Abstract: Theorists have suggested that beliefs about whether personality can change might operate in a self–fulfilling fashion, leading to growth in personality traits across time. In the present two studies, we collected intensive longitudinal data from a total of 1339 emerging adults (ns = 254 and 1085) and examined the extent to which both global beliefs that personality can change (e.g. ‘You can change even your most basic qualities’) and granular beliefs that the individual Big Five personality domains can change (e.g. ‘You can change how extraverted and enthusiastic you generally are’) predicted trait change across approximately 4 months. Results indicated that traits did change across time, yet beliefs that personality can change were almost completely unrelated to actual change in personality traits. Our findings suggest that personality development during emerging adulthood does not depend to any meaningful degree on whether or not individuals believe that their traits can change. © 2020 European Association of Personality Psychology

Keywords: adult personality development, implicit theories of personality, personality mindsets, fixed vs. growth, mindsets, entity vs. incremental orientation

Societies characterized by higher importance of religion or higher degree of church attendance reported higher likelihood of staying at home behavior

Cooperation and Trust Across Societies During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Angelo Romano et al. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, April 13, 2021.

Abstract: Cross-societal differences in cooperation and trust among strangers in the provision of public goods may be key to understanding how societies are managing the COVID-19 pandemic. We report a survey conducted across 41 societies between March and May 2020 (N = 34,526), and test pre-registered hypotheses about how cross-societal differences in cooperation and trust relate to prosocial COVID-19 responses (e.g., social distancing), stringency of policies, and support for behavioral regulations (e.g., mandatory quarantine). We further tested whether cross-societal variation in institutions and ecologies theorized to impact cooperation were associated with prosocial COVID-19 responses, including institutional quality, religiosity, and historical prevalence of pathogens. We found substantial variation across societies in prosocial COVID-19 responses, stringency of policies, and support for behavioral regulations. However, we found no consistent evidence to support the idea that cross-societal variation in cooperation and trust among strangers is associated with these outcomes related to the COVID-19 pandemic. These results were replicated with another independent cross-cultural COVID-19 dataset (N = 112,136), and in both snowball and representative samples. We discuss implications of our results, including challenging the assumption that managing the COVID-19 pandemic across societies is best modeled as a public goods dilemma.

Keywords: cooperation, trust, COVID-19, institutions, social dilemmas, culture

Recent review papers have suggested that many behaviors required to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic (e.g., maintaining social distance, washing hands, self-imposed quarantine) can be construed as social dilemmas, involving a conflict between short-term immediate self-interests and long-term collective benefits (Johnson et al., 2020Van Bavel et al., 2020). If the COVID-19 pandemic indeed creates a social dilemma, then research on cross-societal differences on cooperation and trust should help predict responses to COVID-19 and potentially offer insights into policies that could regulate behaviors in response to COVID-19 (Johnson et al., 2020).

To address this question, we utilized a survey across 41 societies linking country-level predictors (cooperation, trust, institutional quality, religion, historical prevalence of pathogens) with individual-level prosocial COVID-19 responses, behaviors, and support for behavioral regulations to address COVID-19. Results revealed substantial cross-societal variation in individuals’ self-reported willingness to engage in prosocial COVID-19 behaviors (e.g., social distancing, donating to charities), self-reported actual prosocial COVID-19 behaviors (e.g., hand washing, staying at home), and support for behavioral regulation policies (e.g., mandatory quarantine, vaccination). We applied theory and research on cooperation and trust across societies to predict these outcomes related to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we did not find any consistent support for our pre-registered hypotheses that these cross-societal differences in prosocial COVID-19 responses and support for policies would be associated with country-level differences in cooperation or trust among strangers. These results were replicated using an additional dataset which included a larger sample of countries, and also when restricting the analyses in the present study to only include countries with age-gender representative samples of around 1,000 participants.

We also examined how several societal-level factors may play a role in responding to the pandemic. Several theories explain why societies differ in cooperation among strangers, emphasizing the quality of institutions (Hruschka & Henrich, 2013), religiosity (Norenzayan et al., 2014), and historical prevalence of pathogens (Fincher & Thornhill, 2012). The current results, however, revealed no consistent association between these cross-societal factors and prosocial COVID-19 responses. We also did not find consistent support for our hypotheses that societies characterized by lower levels of cooperation (and trust) would implement stricter government policies. Societies with lower cooperation and trust also did not display larger increases in prosocial COVID-19 responses in relation to more stringent rules. Taken together, the results of this study question the value of using cross-cultural research on social dilemmas to guide policy making in response to the pandemic.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic may still create a large-scale public goods dilemma among strangers, cross-societal differences in cooperation and trust among strangers may not be relevant to individual decision-making in response to an emerging pandemic. Instead, COVID-19 responses may be understood in light of (1) individual differences in tendencies to trust and cooperate with strangers (Aschwanden et al., 2020), (2) proself motivations instead of prosocial, that is, people may engage in costly self-sacrifices (e.g., social distancing) to benefit themselves, their families, co-habitants, co-workers, and/or neighbors (not anonymous strangers), (3) a psychology functionally specialized for disease avoidance (Schaller, 2011Tybur et al., 2013) instead of cooperation, and/or (4) differences in information about the pandemic across societies, which might play a major role in shifting how people perceive this situation (independent of whether the situation is truly a social dilemma). Accordingly, people may not even recognize their mutual dependence with broader societal members, and could frame the situation entirely different than a public goods dilemma, such as total independence from others (i.e., own and others’ social distancing decisions don’t affect others’ outcomes) or as a situation with asymmetrical dependence (i.e., only the elderly benefit from one’s costly cooperation; Balliet et al., 2017Gerpott et al., 2018).

Another possibility is that COVID-19 does not create a public goods dilemma, but instead creates a different interdependent situation, which would produce a different set of expectations for behavior. For example, social distancing during the dilemma may best be understood as a chicken game (Smith & Price, 1973), where the most favorable outcome for each person is doing the opposite of what others choose to do. In this frame, costly self-sacrifices may result in the best outcome for an individual when others are not engaging in costly self-sacrifices (e.g., social distancing), but when other people are engaging in these costly behaviors, then people would achieve the best outcome by not making the sacrifices. However, in this kind of situation, everyone would receive a better outcome if each person engages in social distancing, relative to when each person does not. If the COVID-19 pandemic represents a chicken game, this would question the relevance of cooperation and trust in public goods dilemmas to understand responses to the pandemic. Indeed, we tested a number of pre-registered hypotheses based on the assumption that cooperation in a public goods dilemma among strangers would be key to understand variation across societies in responses to the pandemic, but we failed to find consistent support for these hypotheses across different datasets. Therefore, researchers wanting to extend implications of cross-societal cooperation research to policy in response to the pandemic would be advised to follow along these lines of inquiry, and collect data to test their assumptions and theory prior to making policy recommendations.

One limitation of the present research is worth noting. We used country-level indicators of cooperation and trust. Although we found considerable between-country variation in responses to the pandemic, this variation was not explained by cross-societal differences in cooperation and trust. While cross-societal differences in cooperation and trust have been widely used in past research to predict individual behaviors across societies (e.g., Gächter & Schulz, 2016Romano et al., 2017Schulz et al., 2019), future research can measure individual differences in cooperation and trust, and then examine whether these measures are able to detect cross-societal variation in individual behaviors in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this limitation, the present study embodies several strengths, including (1) being guided by theory and pre-registered hypotheses about cooperation across societies, (2) utilizing a sample comprised of a large and varied set of societies, (3) revealing results which were robust across different operationalizations of the predictor variables (i.e., cooperation and trust) and outcome variables (i.e., motivations, behaviors), and (4) cross-validating the results with alternative datasets which comprised even larger number of societies and representative samples, addressing the possible concern that our results may be due to the sampling strategy and methods (see SI).

To conclude, we applied theory of human cooperation across societies to generate pre-registered hypotheses about prosocial COVID-19 responses across 41 societies and found no consistent support for these hypotheses. Previous papers have claimed that a social dilemma framework can guide policy making in response to the pandemic, without offering any empirical evidence about whether the pandemic actually poses a social dilemma, and whether theory and research from this domain apply to predict variation in behaviors in response to the pandemic. To guide evidence-based policies to address the pandemic, it is necessary to offer robust evidence that previous theory and research apply to this context. Cooperation may still be relevant to understanding responses to the pandemic, but the current findings strongly suggest the need to revisit fundamental assumptions about the nature of COVID-19 responses and do the relevant empirical research prior to making policy recommendations.

One appears more attractive in a selfie with other people than in isolation, as long as the other people are equally or less attractive

Change in Evaluation Mode Can Cause a Cheerleader Effect. Claude Messner, Mattia Carnelli and Patrick Stefan Hähener. Front. Psychol., April 21 2021.

The cheerleader effect describes the phenomenon whereby faces are perceived as being more attractive when flanked by other faces than when they are perceived in isolation. At least four theories predict the cheerleader effect. Two visual memory processes could cause a cheerleader effect. First, visual information will sometimes be averaged in the visual memory: the averaging of faces could increase the perceived attractiveness of all the faces flanked by other faces. Second, information will often be combined into a higher-order concept. This hierarchical encoding suggests that information processing causes faces to appear more attractive when flanked by highly attractive faces. Two further explanations posit that comparison processes cause the cheerleader effect. While contrast effects predict that a difference between the target face and the flanking faces causes the cheerleader effect due to comparison processes, a change in the evaluation mode, which alters the standard of comparison between joint and separate evaluation of faces, could be sufficient for producing a cheerleader effect. This leads to the prediction that even when there is no contrast between the attractiveness of the target face and the flanking faces, a cheerleader effect could occur. The results of one experiment support this prediction. The findings of this study have practical implications, such as for individuals who post selfies on social media. An individual’s face will appear more attractive in a selfie taken with people of low attractiveness than in a selfie without other people, even when all the faces have equally low levels of attractiveness.


The goal of this study was to demonstrate that a change in evaluation mode could cause a cheerleader effect. The results show that faces are perceived as more attractive when they are flanked by faces of low rather than high attractiveness, even when the target faces do not differ in attractiveness from the flanking faces. This is in line with the predictions of the change in evaluation mode and that the presence of flanking faces changes the evaluation mode (Hsee and Leclerc, 1998Hsee and Zhang, 2010).

Contrast Effect and Evaluation Mode

The contrast hypothesis and the evaluation mode do not contradict each other. Both theories argue that judgments are constructed by contrasts. When flanking faces are available, target face attractiveness is evaluated in contrast to flanking faces. The contrast between the target face and the flanking face could cause a cheerleader effect (Ying et al., 2019). However, if no flanking faces are available, observers base their judgment on the contrast with their internal standards (Hsee and Zhang, 2010). This change from an external to an internal standard of comparison could cause a cheerleader effect as well. In our experiment, we minimized the contrast between the target faces and the flanking faces. In the condition with unattractive targets flanked by equally unattractive flankers, we observed a cheerleader effect.

In our experiment, we had no direct measure of the change in evaluation mode. Our argumentation is based on the idea that a contrast between target and flanking face attractiveness is a necessary condition for a contrast effect. Therefore, we selected targets and flankers which are very similar in their degree of attractiveness. However, minimal contrasts between target and flanking face attractiveness still exist. Therefore, we cannot rule out the possibility that minimal contrasts cause the cheerleader effect in those conditions as well. However, there are additional results which support our hypotheses. First, when considering faces with low attractiveness with equally low attractive flanking faces the cheerleader effect is greater than when considering highly attractive faces with unattractive flanking faces, although the contrasts are smaller. Second, we calculated the difference between the attractiveness of each target face with equally attractive flankers (minimal contrasts) and with more or less attractive flankers respectively (high contrast). In both conditions with high contrast there was a correlation between the contrast and the cheerleader effect. However, in both conditions with minimal contrast there was no correlation between the contrast and the cheerleader effect.

The aim of this paper is to introduce the idea that a change of evaluation mode is a process which could cause a cheerleader effect. Falsifying other processes is not an aim of this paper. Actually, even small changes could cause other processes to influence the evaluation of facial attractiveness.

Real-Time Rating vs. Memory

This study focused on real-time impressions and not on memory-based judgments. Therefore, the participants rated the attractiveness of faces online while these faces were in view. However, real-time ratings differ from memory-based judgments (Hastie and Park, 1986Ying et al., 2020). It is possible that visual memory processes have a higher influence on attractiveness ratings when judgments are memory-based but not when they occur in real time. In a recent study, participants evaluated faces after they had disappeared from the screen (Ying et al., 2019). Although the interval was short, the participants gave memory-based judgments. Ying et al.’s results could be interpreted as a mix between cognitive and visual memory processes because they show that facial attractiveness was more favorable when faces were flanked by faces of both low and high attractiveness.

Simultaneous and Sequential Presentation of Faces

Similar to memory-based judgments are situations where people evaluate a face online and compare it with a formerly viewed face. Such situations attest to two opposing influences: on the one hand a face is rated as more attractive when it follows a face of low attractiveness (Pegors et al., 2015Ying et al., 2019), while on the other hand a face is rated as more attractive when a face of high attractiveness precedes it (Pegors et al., 2015). Therefore, judgments of the perceived attractiveness of flanked faces may differ when they are recalled compared to when they are made in real time. In addition, there is evidence that the cognitive processes differ if the observer evaluates a group of faces simultaneously or sequentially (Ying et al., 2020).

First Impressions vs. Familiar Faces

One important limitation of our study concerns the familiarity of the faces. Similar to other studies of the cheerleader effect, we measured the attractiveness of faces that were unfamiliar to the participants. Therefore, our results are based exclusively on the first impression of these faces. The precise mechanisms by which the attractiveness of a familiar face is influenced by flanked faces remains to be determined. However, attractiveness judgments are not only influenced by physical aspects but also by psychological aspects, such as associations (Rhodes and Zebrowitz, 2002) or sentimental feelings (Yang and Galak, 2015). It is possible that the more an attractiveness rating is influenced by psychological aspects, the less it is influenced by flanking faces.

Highly Attractive Flankers

It seems that a reversal of the cheerleader effect is less likely to occur than the cheerleader effect. In the present study, we found a reversal of the cheerleader effect when target faces were flanked by highly attractive faces only for target faces of low attractiveness, but not when highly attractive target faces were flanked by equally highly attractive faces. Similarly, Ying et al. (2019) reported cheerleader effects and no reversal of the cheerleader effect even when the flankers were attractive. One possible explanation is that in addition to cognitive processes, additional processes, such as averaging in the visual memory, generally increase facial attractiveness in groups.

Extremely Attractive Faces

A further limitation pertains to extremely attractive faces. We did not use extremely attractive faces. The potential to increase the attraction of extremely attractive faces is limited. Therefore, due to the ceiling effect, one would expect no or minimal cheerleader effects for extremely attractive people. In addition, if a person is unambiguously attractive, like Scarlett Johansson or Chris Hemsworth, observers do not need additional information to build their impressions. They have sufficient information for their evaluation, will not contrast them to flanking faces, and will not sample additional information (Simon, 1955Fiedler and Bless, 2010Stüttgen et al., 2012). However, for people with more ambiguous levels of attractiveness, such as John C. Reilly or Rebel Wilson, observers will consider the attractiveness of flanking faces (Messner, manuscript in preparation).

Assimilation vs. Contrast

Judgments are not always formed in contrast to something; they can be formed in assimilation toward something as well (Sherif et al., 1958Mussweiler, 2003Bless and Schwarz, 2010). Assimilation corresponds to the idea of hierarchical encoding. An explanation of the cheerleader effect based on hierarchical encoding is based on two assumptions: First, observers calculate the mean attractiveness of faces they see simultaneously; second, observers differentiate between the target face and other faces and bias their evaluation of the attractiveness of the target face toward the main attractiveness of the group of other faces. While evidence for the first assumption exists (Luo and Zhou, 2018), no such evidence exists for the second assumption (Luo and Zhou, 2018Carragher et al., 2019Ying et al., 2019). However, it is possible that additional redundancy would facilitate differentiation between the target face and the flanking faces and foster hierarchical encoding.


The change in evaluation mode has a high impact on marketing practice. A seller of low-budget products (e.g., a cheap-looking watch) presents the products alongside other low-budget products (other cheap-looking watches), while the seller of luxury goods presents the products separately (Hsee and Leclerc, 1998). This article provides evidence that similar processes are relevant for self-marketing, assuming the goal is that observers evaluate one’s attractiveness highly when one posts selfies on social media. One appears more attractive in a selfie with other people than in isolation, as long as the other people are equally or less attractive. The higher one’s own attractiveness, the less one benefits from this effect; however, it is not beneficial to post a selfie taken with other people in the frame if the attractiveness of these other people is high. Finally, the more unambiguous one’s attractiveness, the less one is affected by flanking faces.

College Students in the Western World are Becoming Less Emotionally Intelligent

College Students in the Western World are Becoming Less Emotionally Intelligent: A Cross‐Temporal Meta‐Analysis of Trait Emotional Intelligence. Mahreen Khan  Amirali Minbashian  Carolyn MacCann. Journal of Personality, April 19 2021.


Objective: Over the last two decades, Western society has undergone a marked cultural transformation characterised by rising individualism. Concurrently, the digital landscape has transformed through the rise of social media and smartphones. These factors have previously been implicated in changing individuals’ attitudes, behaviour and interpersonal interactions. We investigated whether these societal changes have coincided with changes in trait emotional intelligence (EI) over the last 17 years in Western university students.

Method: We examined this question using a cross‐temporal meta‐analysis (k = 70; N = 16,917).

Results: There was no change in overall trait EI; however, the trait EI domains “wellbeing,” “self‐control” and “emotionality” demonstrated significant decreases with time, after controlling for gender composition and between‐country differences.

Conclusion: We discuss these findings in relation to how they contribute to our understanding of trait EI, and how they add to the literature on how Western society is changing with time.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Short-term mate attraction tactics: Men's behaviours that were considered most effective by women are related to investment and long-term interest (dinner, movies, spending time with her)

Want to Hookup?: Sex Differences in Short-term Mate Attraction Tactics. T. Joel Wade, Maryanne L. Fisher, Catherine Salmon & Carly Downs. Evolutionary Psychological Science, Apr 20 2021.

Abstract: While a great deal of psychological research has been conducted on sex-specific mate choice preferences, relatively little attention has been directed toward how heterosexual men and women solicit short-term sexual partners, and which acts are perceived to be the most effective. The present research relied on an act nomination methodology with the goal of determining which actions are used by men and women to solicit a short-term “hook-up” partner (study 1) and then determine which of these actions are perceived as most effective by men and women (study 2). Using sexual strategy theory, we hypothesized that actions that suggest sexual access would be nominated most often by women whereas actions that suggest a willingness to commit were expected to be nominated most often by men. Additionally, men and women were predicted to rate actions by men that suggest a willingness to commit as most effective and actions by women that suggest sexual access as most effective. The results were consistent with these hypotheses. These findings are discussed in the context of both short- and long-term mating strategies and mate solicitation. The relationship between motivation, sexual strategies, and sexual behavior are examined, along with the need for research on the hookup tactics and motivations of self-identifying gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals.

Men owning shirts with larger luxury brand logos were rated higher on mating effort, lower on parental investment, higher on interest in brief sexual affairs, lower on interest in long-term committed relationships

Phenotypic Mimicry Distinguishes Cues of Mating Competition From Paternal Investment in Men’s Conspicuous Consumption. Daniel J. Kruger. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, April 15, 2021.

Abstract: Evolutionary psychologists propose that men’s conspicuous consumption facilitates mate attraction because it predicts resource investment in offspring. This article elaborates on the ultimate functions of men’s luxury displays based on Life History Theory. Three studies provide evidence for phenotypic mimicry, in which consumer product features mimicking male secondary sex characteristics indicate investment in mating competition, at the expense of paternal investment. Men owning shirts with larger luxury brand logos were rated higher on mating effort, lower on parental investment, higher on interest in brief sexual affairs, lower on interest in long-term committed romantic relationships, higher in attractiveness to women for brief sexual affairs, lower in attractiveness to women for long-term committed relationships, and higher in developmental environment unpredictability compared with men owning shirts displaying a smaller logo. Participants recognized the strategic use of luxury display properties across social contexts but did not consistently associate product properties with owners’ physiological characteristics.

Keywords: conspicuous consumption, secondary sex characteristics, mating effort, parental investment

People found the speech of the opposite political camp more offensive than their own, although they denied any influence of camp affiliation on offensiveness

Whose Words Hurt? Contextual Determinants of Offensive Speech. Manuel Almagro Holgado et al. Research Gate, April 2021.

Abstract: Tracing the boundaries of freedom of expression is a matter of wide societal and academic import—especially, as these boundaries encroach on the politics of inclusion. Yet the elements that constitute offensive speech and determine its legal status remain poorly defined. In two studies, we examined how lay judges evaluate the offensiveness of various social generics. Replicating prior work, we found that non-linguistic features (including speaker intent and outcomes on the audience) modulated the statements’ perceived meaning. The speaker’s identity—and, in particular, their membership in the target group—independently influenced evaluations of offensive speech among conservatives and progressives alike. When asked to disclose their abstract principles, or jointly evaluate two contrastive cases, participants tended to deny the relevance of identity while primarily endorsing the intent principle. Taken together, our findings confirm that assessments of offensive speech are governed by contextual features, some of which are not introspectively deemed relevant.

Extremely valuing happiness often predicts worse well-being and mental health

The paradox of pursuing happiness. Felicia KZerwas, Brett Q Ford. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, Volume 39, June 2021, Pages 106-112.


• Extremely valuing happiness often predicts worse well-being and mental health.

• A cybernetic model can articulate the process of happiness pursuit.

• Each core component of the pursuit of happiness can go awry in multiple ways.

• People also hold happiness-related traits that influence the pursuit of happiness.

• Trait-level concern about happiness may especially hinder the happiness pursuit.

Abstract: Most people want to feel happy; however, some evidence suggests that the more people value happiness, the less happy they are. To make sense of this paradox, we leverage existing models of goal pursuit to identify core components of the process of pursuing happiness, highlighting how each of these components may go awry. Then, we introduce two fundamental traits that put pressure on the core components of the process and in turn further influence the outcome of pursuing happiness. Together, this nuanced approach to the pursuit of happiness across levels of analysis helps us organize existing literature and make better predictions about when, why, and for whom the pursuit of happiness may backfire and when it is likely to succeed.

Conscientiousness and openness are two personality traits that bring higher earnings, while agreeableness and neuroticism (low emotional stability) are associated with receiving lower earnings

Sofie Cabus & Joanna Napierala & Stephanie Carretero, 2021. "The Returns to Non-Cognitive Skills: A Meta-Analysis," JRC Working Papers on Labour, Education and Technology 2021-06, European Commission Joint Research Centre.

Abstract: This paper discusses the returns to non-cognitive skills based on results of a meta-analysis. The systematic literature review of articles published in the last decade and analysing labour market outcomes and non-cognitive skills allowed us to extract more than 300 estimates linking earnings and non-cognitive skills, most often measured by the Big Five inventory. The results of meta-analysis point to heterogeneity in the estimated signs and significance of a particular non-cognitive skill. We observe that conscientiousness and openness are two personality traits that bring higher earnings, while agreeableness and neuroticism (low emotional stability) are associated with receiving lower earnings. Some gender differences are also observed. Older and female participants seemed to benefit more from programmes targeted at developing non-cognitive skills than younger participants and men. However, there is a positive selection of female participants to enrol to programmes with better prospects (e.g. longer in duration).

So-called "senseless" homicides are not acts of pure randomness and lunacy but contain clear indications of planing and selectivity

Making sense of senseless murders: The who, what, when, and where? Kylie S. Reale  Eric Beauregard  Julien Chopin  Nathan Wells. Behavioral Sciences & the Law, April 16 2021.

Rolf Degen's take:

Abstract: The phenomenon of “senseless” or “motiveless” homicide refers to homicides that lack an objective external motivation. Despite the unique challenges these homicides pose to police, few empirical studies have been conducted on the topic and existing studies are limited to clinical studies using small samples. To overcome existing empirical shortcomings, the current study used a sample of 319 homicide cases where no motive was established during the investigation to describe the “who” (offender and victim characteristics), “what” (modus operandi, crime characteristics), “where” (encounter, crime, and body recovery associated locations), and “when” (time of the crime) of the entire criminal event. Findings provide insight into the entire crime‐commission process and suggest a different dynamic to “senseless” homicide from what has been described in previous literature. Implications for police investigative practice are discussed.

Monday, April 19, 2021

The modesty and sympathy facets of the Agreeableness domain were significantly correlated with successful lying

Personality characteristics of the successful liar. Alvin Malesky  Alicia Nicole Isenberg  David McCord. Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling, April 15 2021.

Abstract: The relationship between personality, behavioral cues, and the ability to tell a convincing lie was examined. Participants were administered the M5‐120 personality inventory and videotaped while retelling a partially scripted story. A group of raters reviewed the video clips and decided whether the participants were lying or being honest. Findings revealed a significant relationship between successful lying and the Agreeableness domain of personality. Specifically, the modesty and sympathy facets of the Agreeableness domain were significantly correlated with successful lying. These results suggest that personality may play a role in the ability to successfully lie. In addition, significant correlations were demonstrated between body language and successful lying and between facial expressions and successful lying.

Brain Mechanisms Underlying the Subjective Experience of Remembering

Simons, Jon, Maureen Ritchey, and Charles Fernyhough. 2021. “Brain Mechanisms Underlying the Subjective Experience of Remembering.” PsyArXiv. April 19. doi:10.1146/annurev-psych-030221-025439

Abstract: The ability to remember events in vivid, multisensory detail is a significant part of human experience, allowing us to relive previous encounters and providing us with the store of memories that shape our identity. Recent research has sought to understand the subjective experience of remembering: what it feels like to have a memory. Such remembering involves reactivating sensory-perceptual features of an event, and the thoughts and feelings we had when the event occurred, integrating them into a conscious first-person experience. It allows us to reflect on the content of our memories, and to understand and make judgments about them, such as distinguishing events that actually occurred from those we might have imagined or been told about. In this review, we consider recent evidence from functional neuroimaging in healthy participants and studies of neurological and psychiatric conditions, which is shedding new light on how we subjectively experience remembering.

I Enjoy Hurting My Classmates: On the Relation of Boredom and Sadism in Schools

Pfattheicher, Stefan, Ljiljana B. Lazarević, Yngwie A. Nielsen, Erin C. Westgate, Ksenija Krstić, and Simon Schindler. 2021. “I Enjoy Hurting My Classmates: On the Relation of Boredom and Sadism in Schools.”

Abstract: Schools can be a place of both love and of cruelty. We examine one particular type of cruelty that occurs in the school context: sadism, that is, harming others for pleasure. Primarily, we propose and test whether boredom plays a crucial role in the emergence of sadistic actions at school. In two well-powered studies (total N = 1,038) using both self- and peer-reports, we first document that sadistic behavior occurs at school, although at a low level. We further show that those students who are more often bored at school are more likely to engage in sadistic actions. Overall, the present work contributes to a better understanding of sadism in schools and points to boredom as one potential motivator. We discuss implications for research on sadism and boredom, in the school context and beyond.

Check also When there is no alternative, boredom increases sadistic behavior across the board, even among individuals low in dispositional sadism

Pfattheicher, Stefan, Ljiljana B. Lazarevic, Erin C. Westgate, and Simon Schindler. 2020. “On the Relation of Boredom and Sadistic Aggression.” PsyArXiv. September 9.

And Psychopathy subfactors distinctively predispose to dispositional and state-level of sadistic pleasure. Jill Lobbestael, Martijn van Teffelen, Roy F. Baumeister. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, Feb 2019.

A look at Próspera, the charter city taking shape in Honduras

A look at Próspera, the charter city taking shape in Honduras. Astral Codex Ten, Apr 14 2021.


6. Will Próspera be a libertarian / anarcho-capitalist utopia?

Sort of but not really.

The people behind Próspera are mostly libertarians, but they’re trying to avoid using the word “libertarian” too much when talking about their project. Partly because the libertarian brand scares people. But partly because their vision is more complicated than just small government.

Charter cities fall into an awkward crack in libertarian ideology. Almost every libertarian agrees that you can make rules (even arbitrary rules) about what people can do on your own property, and anyone who wants to stay on your property has to follow your rules. But what’s the difference between that, versus a government “owning” its territory and making rules for its citizens? In practice the difference is that going in someone’s house - or even their golf course - is a choice you made, and they have clear title of ownership. But being in a country happens involuntarily, and the President doesn’t “own” America in the same way an ordinary person might own a house.

But if someone did own an entire city, and you chose to be in that city, theoretically they should be able to make whatever laws they wanted, and not even the most zealous libertarian could protest. The issue hadn’t really come up before. But here we are.

Próspera is erring on the side of small government, because that’s what they expect will work best. But their overriding motive is making their city a nice place to live and work, and when small government conflicts with that, the city usually wins.

So for example, when you buy land in Próspera, you’ll have to sign a Covenant Restricting Vice Industry Uses - ie you can’t turn your house into a joint brothel+casino and do unethical medical experiments in the basement. Even the strictest libertarian has to admit this is fair; if you sign a contract, you’ve got to follow it. But you can tell HPI plans to have the town be ship-shape, well-organized, and family-friendly, instead of the sort of Wild West vibe some people associate libertarianism with.

Also, Próspera remains bound by several Honduran laws that Honduras refuses to exempt them from, including laws against abortion, euthanasia, and most gun ownership.

6.1. But they’ll at least have really low taxes, right?

The lowest in the world.

The Próspera Charter declares that income taxes cannot exceed 10%; anyone who wants to raise taxes above that will have to pass a full constitutional amendment in a system deliberately designed to be hard to change. There are also some other minor taxes, but the Charter says that (after certain conditions are met) total taxes may never exceed 7.5% of GDP, and total debt may not exceed 20% of GDP (with various specifications and caveats). From HPI documentation:

This is a key improvement upon the American system, as unlimited debt can potentially lead to untenable fiscal situations which threaten the economic health, stability, and shared prosperity of the jurisdiction

Where do the taxes go?

- 12% go to Honduras, as their incentive for allowing ZEDEs at all
- 44% go to the General Service Provider, a private company that handles things like sanitation and power. This will probably be an HPI subsidiary which subcontracts out to Jacobs Engineering, the same company that did a lot of the work in Sandy Springs.
- 44% go to the Próspera municipal government, to handle whatever services they can’t subcontract out.

How does HPI make money? They get a cut of the membership fees and the General Service Provider money, but their real cash cow is probably land development. They buy empty land, develop it into a thriving city, then sell it to people who want to live in thriving cities at a huge markup. The more thriving the city, the higher the land value, and the more money HPI makes - which they think puts the incentives in the right place.

Rolf Degen summarizing... Beta-blockers impaired the ability to learn when to take advantageous risks that lead to desired outcomes

Neurophysiological Contributors to Advantageous Risk-Taking: An Experimental Psychopharmacological Investigation. Jennifer K MacCormack, Emma Armstrong-Carter, Kathryn L Humphreys, Keely A Muscatell. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, nsab047, April 16 2021.

Rolf Degen's take:

Abstract: The ability to learn from experience is critical for determining when to take risks and when to play it safe. However, we know little about how within-person state changes, such as an individual’s degree of neurophysiological arousal, may impact the ability to learn which risks are most likely to fail vs. succeed. To test this, we used a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled design to pharmacologically manipulate neurophysiological arousal and assess its causal impact on risk-related learning and performance. Eighty-seven adults (45% female, Mage= 20.1 ± 1.46 years) took either propranolol (n= 42), a beta-adrenergic receptor blocker that attenuates sympathetic nervous system-related signaling, or a placebo (n= 45). Participants then completed the Balloon Emotional Learning Task, a risk-taking task wherein experiential learning is necessary for task success. We found that individuals on propranolol, relative to placebo, earned fewer points on the task, suggesting that they were less effective risk-takers. This effect was mediated by the fact that those on propranolol made less optimal decisions in the final phase of the task on trials with the greatest opportunity for advantageous risk-taking. These findings highlight how neurophysiological arousal supports risk-related learning and, in turn, more advantageous decision-making and optimal behavior under conditions of risk.

Nonverbal Mechanisms Predict Zoom Fatigue and Explain Why Women Experience Higher Levels than Men

Fauville, Geraldine and Luo, Mufan and Queiroz, Anna C. M. and Bailenson, Jeremy N. and Hancock, Jeff, Nonverbal Mechanisms Predict Zoom Fatigue and Explain Why Women Experience Higher Levels than Men (April 5, 2021). SSRN:

Abstract: There is little data on Zoom Fatigue, the exhaustion that follows video conference meetings. This paper administers the Zoom Exhaustion & Fatigue scale to 10,591 participants from a convenience sample and tests the associations between five theoretical nonverbal mechanisms and Zoom Fatigue – mirror anxiety, being physically trapped, hyper gaze from a grid of staring faces, and the cognitive load from producing and interpreting nonverbal cues. First, we show that daily usage predicts the amount of fatigue, and that women have longer meetings and shorter breaks between meetings than men. Second, we show that women have greater Zoom fatigue than men. Third, we show that the five nonverbal mechanisms for fatigue predict Zoom fatigue. Fourth, we confirm that mirror anxiety mediates the difference in fatigue across gender. Exploratory research shows that race, age, and personality relate to fatigue. We discuss avenues for future research and strategies to decrease Zoom fatigue.

Keywords: Zoom Fatigue, Video Conference, Gender, Nonverbal Communication

JEL Classification: communication

Popular version: 'Zoom Fatigue' May Finally Have an Explanation, And It's Affecting Women More (

A large interdisciplinary literature on the relationship between age & subjective well-being (happiness) has produced very mixed evidence; these authors argue that this is due to potential sources of bias

Kratz, Fabian, and Josef Brüderl. 2021. “The Age Trajectory of Happiness.” PsyArXiv. April 18. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: A large interdisciplinary literature on the relationship between age and subjective well-being (happiness) has produced very mixed evidence. In this paper we argue that this is due to potential sources of bias that may distort the assessment of the age-happiness relationship. Most biases tend to produce a spuriously U-shaped age trajectory. In contrast, applying our suggested specification to German panel data we find a (nearly monotonic) declining age happiness trajectory.

Fig 4b Predicted age-happiness trajectories 

Summary and Conclusions

How aging affects happiness is an important research question for the social and behavioral sciences. Our literature review demonstrates that many conflicting age trajectories have been reported in the literature. As this state of research is quite unsettling for the science of happiness, we discuss—informed by recent advances in the methodology of causal analysis—model specifications used by researchers in this field. Altogether, we identify four main biases that may distort the age trajectory of happiness. By using the German SOEP data, we show that distortions may be huge producing even qualitatively different conclusions. We demonstrate that by using different combinations of mis-specifications it is possible to generate (almost) every trajectory that has been reported in the literature. With a model specification that avoids these four biases, we find an age-happiness trajectory that declines slowly over adulthood (altogether about half a scale point). The decline comes to a halt and we observe even a small increase (about one tenth of a scale point) during the golden ages. Afterwards, in old age a very steep decline in happiness sets in.

From these results we derive several conclusions that pertain to future research on happiness.  The overarching conclusion is that SWB scholars should take causal reasoning seriously in their future research. They should precisely define their research question and explicitly justify their model specification chosen according to the research question (these conclusions do not pertain to SWB research alone, but to all kind of social research as Lundberg et al. (forthcoming) argue forcefully).

Qualifying the research question before estimating age-SWB profiles is essential. Is the main research aim to describe how happy the living population is, or how SWB develops with rising age? If the aim is to answer the second research question about aging and thus to estimate a causal effect of age on SWB, scholars should not use (repeated) cross-sectional data, because these may be affected by mortality selection bias. And there is no cure for this with only cross-sectional data available. Only with panel data following the same respondents over time mortality selection bias can be fixed.

Even when using panel data, scholars must carefully consider potential sources of under^Band overcontrol bias and select an estimation approach that strictly relies on within-person variation to minimize mortality selection bias. In our empirical illustration with the SOEP, the less familiar sources of bias, (i.e., overcontrol and mortality selection bias) cause more severe distortions than does undercontrol bias. We illustrated that selective mortality exhibits drastic consequences on the association between age and subjective well-being affecting even qualitative conclusions: Mortality selection systematically removes the unhappiest of the oldest 21 old and therefore every approach that relies somehow on between persons variation underestimated the deteriorating impact of aging on subjective well-being (especially among the oldest old).

Avoiding these misspecifications is not only important for future research on the age trajectory of happiness but also for any kind of happiness research. Age is usually (and well justified) used as a control variable when investigating other determinants of happiness. Using mis-specified age trajectories can severely bias estimates of such treatment effects: the bias in the control variable age transfers to the treatment effect of interest (a formal statement of this so-called “bias transfer” can be found in Ranjbar & Sperlich, 2019). Therefore, it is important to use flexible parametrizations of the age effect in happiness research more generally.  Including linear and quadratic age terms only might be problematic.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Sleep duration is not significantly correlated with overall academic performance for US adolescents, but sleep quality is.

Associations between Sleep and Academic Performance in US Adolescents: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Leslie A. Musshafen et al. Sleep Medicine, April 17 2021.


• There is a complex relationship between sleep and academic performance.

• There are limited objective measures of sleep utilized in the existing literature.

• Sleep duration is not significantly correlated with overall academic performance.

• Sleep quality is significantly correlated with overall academic performance.

• Aspects of sleep quality such as number of night awakenings demonstrate a negligible, but significant correlation with academic performance outcomes.

Abstract: This systematic review and meta-analysis aim to investigate the relationship between sleep and academic performance in students enrolled in secondary education programs in the United States. The study team conducted a literature search of 4 databases—PubMed, Embase, CINAHL, and ERIC—on September 19 and repeated December 17, 2020. Studies were included if they were observational, published in a peer-reviewed, non-predatory journal, available in full-text, written in English, included adolescents enrolled in an organized academic program, took place in the US, and evaluated the effect of sleep duration and/or sleep quality on academic performance. After excluding reviews, editorials, interventions, and those targeting diagnostic groups, 14 studies met inclusion criteria. Risk of bias was assessed using the NIH Quality Assessment Tool for Observational Cohort and Cross-Sectional Studies; 12 studies were found to be good or high quality, 2 were adequate/fair or poor quality. A meta-analysis of 11 of the included studies revealed that sleep duration (r= 0.03; 95%CI -0.027, 0.087; p= 0.087) and sleep quality (r= 0.089; 95%CI 0.027, 0.151; p= 0.005) had negligible correlations with academic performance (non-significant and significant, respectively). Inconsistencies in definitions, methods, and measures utilized to assess sleep duration, sleep quality, and academic performance constructs may offer insight into seemingly conflicting findings. Given the pivotal role sleep plays in development, future investigations utilizing validated and objective sleep and academic performance measures are needed in adolescents.

Keywords: adolescentstudentsleepacademic performancesystematic reviewmeta-analysis

Citizens in Western democracies often have negative attitudes toward political bodies, yet consistently re-elect their own representatives to these same political bodies

Why People Hate Congress but Love Their Own Congressperson: An Information Processing Explanation. Joris Lammers et al. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, April 17, 2021.

Abstract: Citizens in Western democracies often have negative attitudes toward political bodies, yet consistently re-elect their own representatives to these same political bodies. They hate Congress, but love their own congressperson. In contrast to resource-based explanations, we propose that this Paradox of Congressional Support is partly due to the wide availability of negative information about politicians in open societies combined with basic processes of information processing. Five studies found that unrelated negative political information decreases attitudes toward political categories such as U.S. governors but has no effect on attitudes of familiar, individual politicians (e.g., one’s own governor); additional studies further identify familiarity as the critical process. Importantly, we demonstrate that this effect generalizes to all U.S. regions and remains when controlling for and is not moderated by political ideology. These results place a presumed macrolevel political paradox within the domain of cognitive mechanisms of basic information processing.

Keywords: paradox of congressional support, political attitudes, categorization

Men & women: Magnitude of differences, small, fluctuated somewhat as a function of the psychological domain (cognitive variables, social & personality variables, well-being), but was largely constant across age, culture, & generations

Zell, E., Krizan, Z., & Teeter, S. R. (2015). Evaluating gender similarities and differences using metasynthesis. American Psychologist, 70(1), 10–20. Apr 2021.

Abstract: Despite the common lay assumption that males and females are profoundly different, Hyde (2005) used data from 46 meta-analyses to demonstrate that males and females are highly similar. Nonetheless, the gender similarities hypothesis has remained controversial. Since Hyde’s provocative report, there has been an explosion of meta-analytic interest in psychological gender differences. We utilized this enormous collection of 106 meta-analyses and 386 individual meta-analytic effects to reevaluate the gender similarities hypothesis. Furthermore, we employed a novel data-analytic approach called metasynthesis (Zell & Krizan, 2014) to estimate the average difference between males and females and to explore moderators of gender differences. The average, absolute difference between males and females across domains was relatively small (d = 0.21, SD = 0.14), with the majority of effects being either small (46%) or very small (39%). Magnitude of differences fluctuated somewhat as a function of the psychological domain (e.g., cognitive variables, social and personality variables, well-being), but remained largely constant across age, culture, and generations. These findings provide compelling support for the gender similarities hypothesis, but also underscore conditions under which gender differences are most pronounced.

Relationship between intelligence and creative achievement: Albeit statistically significant, is of small-to-moderate size

Karwowski, Maciej, Marta Czerwonka, Ewa Wiśniewska, and Boris Forthmann. 2021. “How Is Intelligence Test Performance Associated with Creative Achievement? A Meta-analysis.” PsyArXiv. April 17. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: This paper presents a meta-analysis of the links between intelligence test scores and creative achievement. A three-level meta-analysis of 117 correlation coefficients from 30 studies has found a correlation of r = .16 (95% CI: .12, .19), closely mirroring previous meta-analytic findings. The estimated effects were stronger for overall creative achievement and achievement in scientific domains than for correlations between intelligence scores and creative achievement in the arts and everyday creativity. No signs of publication bias were found. We discuss theoretical implications and provide recommendations for future studies.

Check also Creativity and the Dark Triad: A Meta-Analysis. Izabela Lebud, Bernadetta Figur, Maciej Karwowski. Journal of Research in Personality, March 21 2021, 104088.

Early alphabetic writing; Its proliferation in the Southern Levant should be considered a product of Levantine-Egyptian interaction during the mid 2nd millennium BC, rather than of later Egyptian domination

Early alphabetic writing in the ancient Near East: the ‘missing link’ from Tel Lachish. Felix Höflmayer, Haggai Misgav, Lyndelle Webster,  Katharina Streit. Antiquity, April 15 2021.

Abstract: The origin of alphabetic script lies in second-millennium BC Bronze Age Levantine societies. A chronological gap, however, divides the earliest evidence from the Sinai and Egypt—dated to the nineteenth century BC—and from the thirteenth-century BC corpus in Palestine. Here, the authors report a newly discovered Late Bronze Age alphabetic inscription from Tel Lachish, Israel. Dating to the fifteenth century BC, this inscription is currently the oldest securely dated alphabetic inscription from the Southern Levant, and may therefore be regarded as the ‘missing link’. The proliferation of early alphabetic writing in the Southern Levant should be considered a product of Levantine-Egyptian interaction during the mid second millennium BC, rather than of later Egyptian domination.

Historical context

The newly discovered inscription from Tel Lachish is currently the earliest securely dated example of early alphabetic writing in the Southern Levant. In order to assess the importance of this find, we briefly review the other potential early alphabetic examples from the area.

A disputed contender for the earliest example is a scarab from Tell Abu Zureiq, in the Jezreel Valley. Found in a Middle Bronze Age tomb excavated by Meyerhof (1989), the scarab was dated to the Thirteenth to Fifteenth Dynasties (Giveon 1988: 22; Keel 1997: 17). Its base depicts a man and four signs, which Giveon (1988: 22) originally interpreted as Egyptian hieroglyphs. Kitchen (1989) suggested that these signs could be read as early alphabetic characters, an interpretation rejected by Keel (1997: 16–17), but recently endorsed by Morenz (2011: 164–65).

Another potential early alphabetic inscription is the much-discussed Lachish Dagger, which was discovered in 1934 by the British Expedition in tomb 1502, and dated to the late Middle Bronze Age (Tufnell 1958: 254). The bronze dagger exhibits four potential early alphabetic signs (Tufnell 1958: 128; Sass 1988: 53–54; Hamilton 2006: 390–91), and most scholars accept this interpretation (e.g. Albright 19481969: 10; Naveh 1987: 26; Hamilton 2006: 303–4; Goldwasser 2006: 132, 2016: 140–42; Morenz 2011: 170–71; Lemaire 2017: 106; Haring 2020: 59). In 1988, Sass agreed that the inscription was probably early alphabetic, pointing out that it would be the only one that could be securely dated to the Middle Bronze Age (Sass 1988: 54). He later grew more cautious, however, and suggested that the signs might not be early alphabetic after all (Sass 2004–2005: 150).

A third example that has been dated to the Middle Bronze Age is the so-called ‘Gezer Sherd’. Exhibiting three early alphabetic characters, this sherd was found in 1929 on the surface of Tel Gezer (Albright 1935). It was soon dated to the Middle Bronze Age (Albright 1935)—an attribution accepted by many scholars (e.g. Albright 1969: 10; Naveh 1987: 26; Hamilton 2006: 308–309; Morenz 2011: 166; Goldwasser 2016: 143). Sass was more cautious, however, arguing that the sherd could not be classified typologically, and that its date could range from Middle Bronze Age to the Early Iron Age (Sass 1988: 55). He later concluded that the Gezer Sherd is essentially undatable (Sass 2004–2005: 149).

Several inscriptions on an assemblage of storage jars from Tel Gezer have also been interpreted as early alphabetic writing (Seger 19832013: 186–96; Goldwasser 2016: 142–43). These jars were found in storerooms next to the southern gate area (field IV) and were associated with stratum XVIII (early Late Bronze Age) and stratum XIX (late Middle Bronze Age) (Seger 2013). Most of the jars were inscribed with a single sign, with only two jars bearing two signs each. Sass (1988: 98) mentioned these Gezer jars briefly as examples of early alphabetic writing, but later re-interpreted them as bearing only potters’ marks (Sass 2004–2005: 166, footnote 97).

A fragmentary plaque from Shechem is frequently mentioned in the corpus of potential Middle Bronze Age early alphabetic inscriptions from the Southern Levant (Böhl 1938). According to the earliest publications, this object was found in a Middle Bronze Age building, just above the floor, together with typical, contemporaneous Tell el-Yahudiyah pottery (Böhl 1938: 2). Scholars have long accepted a Middle Bronze or early Late Bronze Age date for the plaque (Albright 19481969: 10–11; Leibovitch 1963; Wimmer 2001; Hamilton 2006: 308), which represents the lower right portion of a stela depicting a person facing to the left and clad in a heavy garment (‘Wulstsaummantel’)—a common Middle Bronze Age garment type (Wimmer 2001). The plaque's archaeological context, however, has been questioned due to the early excavation techniques with limited stratigraphic control, and the lack of a final excavation report (Sass 1988: 57). The early alphabetic nature of the characters has also been called into question (Sass 2004–2005: 149–50).

Yet another disputed early alphabetic inscription was found at Tel Nagila in the 1960s. Here, a body sherd of a jug, with an inscription incised before firing, was discovered in area A, a residential area provisionally dated to the end of the Middle or the early Late Bronze Age (Amiran & Eitan 1965: 121). Sass (1988: 54), however, rightly emphasised the lack of a clear stratigraphic context for that sherd. Later, quoting David Ilan, who observed that a large Late Bronze Age building disturbed the Middle Bronze Age strata in the area where the inscription was found, Sass concluded that the Tel Nagila sherd “is to be regarded as unstratified, and a LBII origin [is] not implausible” (Sass 2004–2005: 159).

The dates and interpretations of the evidence for the earliest occurrences of early alphabetic writing in the Southern Levant are therefore ambiguous, as only the Lachish Dagger (if accepted as early alphabetic) was found in a clear archaeological context datable to the Middle Bronze Age (as rightly pointed out by Sass (1988: 54)). The discovery of the new early alphabetic inscription at Tel Lachish pushes back the earliest securely datable occurrence considerably, and we can now show that early alphabetic writing was employed in the Southern Levant by the mid fifteenth century BC (early Late Bronze Age). This evidence not only closes the gap between the development of early alphabetic inscriptions around Serabit el-Khadim and Wadi el-Hol in Upper Egypt, and its more widespread Southern Levantine use in the later Late Bronze Age, but also suggests that early alphabetic writing was already present in the Southern Levant by the (late) Middle Bronze Age.

The new early alphabetic inscription also underscores the importance of Tel Lachish as an early centre of writing (Goldwasser 2016: 151; Naʾaman 2020). Indeed, Lachish has yielded more examples of Late Bronze Age early alphabetic inscriptions than any other site. In addition to the Lachish Dagger and the new inscription discussed here, the site has yielded four other examples of alphabetic writing. In tomb 527, the British Expedition of 1935 found a bowl (Lachish bowl one) bearing a painted inscription (Tufnell 1958: 129). This tomb also contained a Cypriot Base Ring II juglet and a local imitation of a Mycenaean straight-sided alabastron (Tufnell 1958: 239). Tufnell (1958: 129) considered this tomb to be contemporaneous with the late Fosse temple II or early Fosse temple III, and thus coeval (or slightly earlier) with stratum VII on the mound. In absolute terms, this dates to the fourteenth or thirteenth century BC (Ussishkin 2004b: 57). In Fosse temple III, the British Expedition found the well-known Lachish Ewer, which bears a painted early alphabetic inscription (Tufnell et al1940: 47–54; Tuffnell 1958: 130). As Fosse temple III corresponds to stratum VII on the mound, the Ewer roughly dates to the thirteenth century BC (Ussishkin 2004b: 57).

A fragment of a bowl bearing a black-ink inscription comprising two straight lines of characters was found by the Tel Aviv Expedition in pit 3867, in area S (Lemaire 2004). This pit belongs to stratum VI and dates to the twelfth century BC (Ussishkin 2004b: 57). Finally, another inscription from stratum VI—a pottery sherd with several characters incised before firing—was found in the inner part of a Late Bronze Age temple in area BB during recent excavations by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Southern Adventist University (Sass et al. 2015).