Sunday, June 4, 2017

Distress disclosure, depression, life satisfaction, and cultural differences

Distress disclosure and psychological functioning among Taiwanese nationals and European Americans: The moderating roles of mindfulness and nationality.
Kahn, Jeffrey H.; Wei, Meifen; Su, Jenny C.; Han, Suejung; Strojewska, Agnes
Journal of Counseling Psychology, Vol 64(3), Apr 2017, 292-301.

Abstract: Research using Western samples shows that talking about unpleasant emotions—distress disclosure—is associated with fewer psychological symptoms and higher well-being. These benefits of distress disclosure may or may not be observed in East Asia where emotional control is valued. Instead, mindfulness may be more relevant to emotion regulation in East Asia (e.g., Taiwan). In the present study, cultural context (Taiwanese nationals vs. European Americans) and mindfulness were examined as moderators of the relation between distress disclosure and both depression symptoms and life satisfaction. A sample of 256 Taiwanese college students and a sample of 209 European American college students completed self-report measures in their native language. Moderated multiple regression analyses revealed significant interaction effects of mindfulness and distress disclosure on both depression symptoms and life satisfaction for Taiwanese participants but not for European Americans. Specifically, distress disclosure was negatively associated with depression symptoms and positively associated with life satisfaction for Taiwanese low in mindfulness but not for Taiwanese high in mindfulness. For European Americans, distress disclosure was not associated with depression symptoms but was associated with higher life satisfaction, regardless of one’s level of mindfulness. These findings suggest that the potential benefits of disclosing distress are a function of one’s cultural context as well as, for those from Taiwan, one’s mindfulness.

Unintended Consequences: The Regressive Effects of Increased Access to Courts

Unintended Consequences: The Regressive Effects of Increased Access to Courts. By Anthony  Niblett & Albert  Yoon, University of Toronto - Faculty of Law
Small claims courts enable parties to resolve their disputes relatively quickly and cheaply. The court’s limiting feature, by design, is that alleged damages must be small, in accordance with the jurisdictional limit at that time. Accordingly, one might expect that a large increase in the upper limit of claim size would increase the court’s accessibility to a larger and potentially more diverse pool of litigants.

We examine this proposition by studying the effect of an increase in the jurisdictional limit of the Ontario Small Claims Court. Prior to January 2010, claims up to $10,000 could be litigated in the small claims court. After January 2010, this jurisdictional limit increased to include all claims up to $25,000. We study patterns in nearly 625,000 disputes over the period 2006-2013.

In this paper, we investigate plaintiff behavior. Interestingly, the total number of claims filed by plaintiffs does not increase significantly with the increased jurisdictional limit. We do find, however, changes to the composition of plaintiffs. Following the jurisdictional change, we find that plaintiffs using the small claims court are, on average, from richer neighborhoods. We also find that proportion of plaintiffs from poorer neighborhoods drops. The drop-off is most pronounced in plaintiffs from the poorest 10% of neighborhoods.

We explore potential explanations for this regressive effect, including crowding out, congestion, increased legal representation, and behavioral influences. Our findings suggest that legislative attempts to make the courts more accessible may have unintended regressive consequences.
Keywords: Courts, Regressive effects, Small claims court, Access to justice, Litigant behavior, Public goods, Empirical law and economics, Jurisdiction

From Existential to Social Understandings of Risk - Examining Gender Differences in Nonreligion

From Existential to Social Understandings of Risk - Examining Gender Differences in Nonreligion. By Penny Edgell, Jacqui Frost, Evan Stewart

Abstract: Across many social contexts, women are found to be more religious than men. Risk preference theory proposes that women are less likely than men to accept the existential risks associated with nonbelief. Building on previous critiques of this theory, we argue that the idea of risk is relevant to understanding the relationship between gender and religiosity if risk is understood not as existential, but as social. The research on existential risk focuses on religious identification as solely a matter of belief; as part of the movement away from this cognitivist bias, we develop the concept of social risk to theorize the ways that social location and differential levels of power and privilege influence women’s nonreligious choices. We show that women’s nonreligious preferences in many ways mirror those of other marginalized groups, including nonwhites and the less educated. We argue that nonreligion is socially risky, that atheism is more socially risky than other forms of nonreligion, and that women and members of other marginalized groups avoid the most socially risky forms of nonreligion.

When Children Rule: Parenting in Modern Families

When Children Rule: Parenting in Modern Families. By Sebastian Galiani, Matthew Staiger, Gustavo Torrens
NBER Working Paper No. 23087
NBER Program(s):   ED

During the 20th century there was a secular transformation within American families from a household dominated by the father to a more egalitarian one in which the wife and the children have been empowered. This transformation coincided with two major economic and demographic changes, namely the increase in economic opportunities for women and a decline in family size. To explain the connection between these trends and the transformation in family relationships we develop a novel model of parenting styles that highlights the importance of competition within the family. The key intuition is that the rise in relative earnings of wives increased competition between spouses for the love and affection of their children while the decline in family size reduced competition between children for resources from their parents. The combined effect has empowered children within the household and allowed them to capture an increasing share of the household surplus over the past hundred years

Pregnancy leads to long-lasting changes in human brain structure

Pregnancy leads to long-lasting changes in human brain structure. By Elseline Hoekzema et al.
Nature Neuroscience

Abstract: Pregnancy involves radical hormone surges and biological adaptations. However, the effects of pregnancy on the human brain are virtually unknown. Here we show, using a prospective ('pre'-'post' pregnancy) study involving first-time mothers and fathers and nulliparous control groups, that pregnancy renders substantial changes in brain structure, primarily reductions in gray matter (GM) volume in regions subserving social cognition. The changes were selective for the mothers and highly consistent, correctly classifying all women as having undergone pregnancy or not in-between sessions. Interestingly, the volume reductions showed a substantial overlap with brain regions responding to the women's babies postpartum. Furthermore, the GM volume changes of pregnancy predicted measures of postpartum maternal attachment, suggestive of an adaptive process serving the transition into motherhood. Another follow-up session showed that the GM reductions endured for at least 2 years post-pregnancy. Our data provide the first evidence that pregnancy confers long-lasting changes in a woman's brain.

A Virtual Out-of-Body Experience Reduces Fear of Death

A Virtual Out-of-Body Experience Reduces Fear of Death. By Pierre Bourdin et al.
PLoS ONE, January 2017

Abstract: Immersive virtual reality can be used to visually substitute a person’s real body by a life-sized virtual body (VB) that is seen from first person perspective. Using real-time motion capture the VB can be programmed to move synchronously with the real body (visuomotor synchrony), and also virtual objects seen to strike the VB can be felt through corresponding vibrotactile stimulation on the actual body (visuotactile synchrony). This setup typically gives rise to a strong perceptual illusion of ownership over the VB. When the viewpoint is lifted up and out of the VB so that it is seen below this may result in an out-of-body experience (OBE). In a two-factor between-groups experiment with 16 female participants per group we tested how fear of death might be influenced by two different methods for producing an OBE. In an initial embodiment phase where both groups experienced the same multisensory stimuli there was a strong feeling of body ownership. Then the viewpoint was lifted up and behind the VB. In the experimental group once the viewpoint was out of the VB there was no further connection with it (no visuomotor or visuotactile synchrony). In a control condition, although the viewpoint was in the identical place as in the experimental group, visuomotor and visuotactile synchrony continued. While both groups reported high scores on a question about their OBE illusion, the experimental group had a greater feeling of disownership towards the VB below compared to the control group, in line with previous findings. Fear of death in the experimental group was found to be lower than in the control group. This is in line with previous reports that naturally occurring OBEs are often associated with enhanced belief in life after death.

Propaganda can be effective at changing the behavior of all citizens even if most do not believe it

Propaganda and credulity, by Andrew T. Little. In
Games and Economic Behavior,Volume 102, March 2017, Pages 224–232

•   Propaganda can be effective at changing the behavior of all citizens even if most do not believe it.
•   This effect is particularly strong when citizens care a lot about behaving in a similar manner as others.
•    However, the government picks less propaganda when it is more effective.

Abstract: I develop a theory of propaganda which affects mass behavior without necessarily affecting mass beliefs. A group of citizens observe a signal of their government's performance, which is upwardly inflated by propaganda. Citizens want to support the government if it performs well and if others are supportive (i.e., to coordinate). Some citizens are unaware of the propaganda (“credulous”). Because of the coordination motive, the non-credulous still respond to propaganda, and when the coordination motive dominates they perfectly mimic the actions of the credulous. So, all can act as if they believe the government's lies even though most do not. The government benefits from this responsiveness to manipulation since it leads to a more compliant citizenry, but uses more propaganda precisely when citizens are less responsive.

JEL classification: D83
Keywords: Political economy; Propaganda; Authoritarian politics