Monday, August 7, 2017

How Linguistic Metaphor Scaffolds Reasoning

How Linguistic Metaphor Scaffolds Reasoning. Paul H. Thibodeau, Rose K. Hendricks, Lera Boroditsky. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Aug 05 2017,

Abstract: Language helps people communicate and think. Precise and accurate language would seem best suited to achieve these goals. But a close look at the way people actually talk reveals an abundance of apparent imprecision in the form of metaphor: ideas are ‘light bulbs’, crime is a ‘virus’, and cancer is an ‘enemy’ in a ‘war’. In this article, we review recent evidence that metaphoric language can facilitate communication and shape thinking even though it is literally false. We first discuss recent experiments showing that linguistic metaphor can guide thought and behavior. Then we explore the conditions under which metaphors are most influential. Throughout, we highlight theoretical and practical implications, as well as key challenges and opportunities for future research.

Keywords: analogy; decision making; framing; language and thought; metaphor; reasoning

Linguistic metaphors describe a topic of discussion in terms of a semantically unrelated domain [1–8]. Recent work in cognitive science has demonstrated that metaphors can shape the way people think (Table1). For instance, in one study, Alan Turing was seen as more of a genius with more exceptional inventions when his ideas were described as lightbulbs rather than as seeds [9]. In an other study, people were more likely to support reform, rather than enforcement-oriented, approaches to crime reduction when crime was described as a virus than as a beast. Experiments have also shown that personifying changes in stock prices (‘climbing’ and ‘slipping’), rather than objectifying them (‘increasing’ and ‘decreasing’ in value), makes people more likely to think recent price trajectories will continue into the future. And framing cancer as an ‘enemy’ in a ‘war’ has been found to reduce people’s intentions to engage in self-limiting preventative behaviors (e.g., eating less red meat, smoking less; [14]) and to think that it would be harder for cancer patients to come to terms with their situation [15]. Metaphors have also beens hown to affect behavior [16–20]. For instance, metaphor-based interventions – describing the brain as a ‘muscle’ that ‘grows’ with practice – can encourage students to adopt an incremental, rather than fixed, theory of intelligence [21]. In turn, an incremental theory of intelligence leads students to be more committed to their learning goals and persistent in the face of adversity.

[...] Neuroimaging studies have shown that vivid sensorimotor metaphors engage neural networks that represent the corresponding sensation or action. For example, hearing 'she grasped the idea' activates [the] motor cortex; hearing 'she is sweet' activates gustatory areas...

[...] One meta-analysis estimated that metaphorical language is about 6 percent more persuasive than comparable literal language...

My Spanish commentary: demagogues know about this and use it constantly. And I detect the use of these techniques in daily newspapers, like the NY Times, Financial Times and the Washington Post, or non-daily publications like The Economist, Nature/Science (especially regarding climate) or Scientific American. I guess that advertising uses this too, like images of tasty steaks in a grill, etc.

Global evidence of extreme intuitive moral prejudice against atheists

Global evidence of extreme intuitive moral prejudice against atheists. Will M. Gervais et al. Nature Human Behavior, 1, Article number: 0151 (2017).

Mounting evidence supports long-standing claims that religions can extend cooperative networks. However, religious prosociality may have a strongly parochial component. Moreover, aspects of religion may promote or exacerbate conflict with those outside a given religious group, promoting regional violence, intergroup conflict and tacit prejudice against non-believers. Anti-atheist prejudice—a growing concern in increasingly secular societies —affects employment, elections, family life and broader social inclusion. Preliminary work in the United States suggests that anti-atheist prejudice stems, in part, from deeply rooted intuitions about religion’s putatively necessary role in morality. However, the cross-cultural prevalence and magnitude—as well as intracultural demographic stability—of such intuitions, as manifested in intuitive associations of immorality with atheists, remain unclear. Here, we quantify moral distrust of atheists by applying well-tested measures in a large global sample (N = 3,256; 13 diverse countries). Consistent with cultural evolutionary theories of religion and morality, people in most—but not all— of these countries viewed extreme moral violations as representative of atheists. Notably, anti-atheist prejudice was even evident among atheist participants around the world. The results contrast with recent polls that do not find self-reported moral prejudice against atheists in highly secular countries, and imply that the recent rise in secularism in Western countries has not overwritten intuitive anti-atheist prejudice. Entrenched moral suspicion of atheists suggests that religion’s powerful influence on moral judgements persists, even among non-believers in secular societies.

How short is too short? An ultra-brief measure of the big-five personality domains implicates “agreeableness” as a risk for all-cause mortality

How short is too short? An ultra-brief measure of the big-five personality domains implicates “agreeableness” as a risk for all-cause mortality. Benjamin P Chapman, Ari J Elliot
Journal of Health Psychology, Aug 03 2017,

Abstract: Controversy exists over the use of brief Big Five scales in health studies. We investigated links between an ultra-brief measure, the Big Five Inventory-10, and mortality in the General Social Survey. The Agreeableness scale was associated with elevated mortality risk (hazard ratio = 1.26, p = .017). This effect was attributable to the reversed-scored item “Tends to find fault with others,” so that greater fault-finding predicted lower mortality risk. The Conscientiousness scale approached meta-analytic estimates, which were not precise enough for significance. Those seeking Big Five measurement in health studies should be aware that the Big Five Inventory-10 may yield unusual results.

"Those reporting that they often criticized others lived longer."

Third-person self-talk facilitates emotion regulation without engaging cognitive control: Converging evidence from ERP and fMRI

Third-person self-talk facilitates emotion regulation without engaging cognitive control: Converging evidence from ERP and fMRI. Jason Moser et al. Scientific Reports, July 2017,

Abstract: Does silently talking to yourself in the third-person constitute a relatively effortless form of self control? We hypothesized that it does under the premise that third-person self-talk leads people to think about the self similar to how they think about others, which provides them with the psychological distance needed to facilitate self control. We tested this prediction by asking participants to reflect on feelings elicited by viewing aversive images (Study 1) and recalling negative autobiographical memories (Study 2) using either “I” or their name while measuring neural activity via ERPs (Study 1) and fMRI (Study 2). Study 1 demonstrated that third-person self-talk reduced an ERP marker of self-referential emotional reactivity (i.e., late positive potential) within the first second of viewing aversive images without enhancing an ERP marker of cognitive control (i.e., stimulus preceding negativity). Conceptually replicating these results, Study 2 demonstrated that third-person self-talk was linked with reduced levels of activation in an a priori defined fMRI marker of self-referential processing (i.e., medial prefrontal cortex) when participants reflected on negative memories without eliciting increased levels of activity in a priori defined fMRI markers of cognitive control. Together, these results suggest that third-person self-talk may constitute a relatively effortless form of self-control.

Buying time promotes happiness

Buying time promotes happiness. Ashley V. Whillans et al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,

Significance: Despite rising incomes, people around the world are feeling increasingly pressed for time, undermining well-being. We show that the time famine of modern life can be reduced by using money to buy time. Surveys of large, diverse samples from four countries reveal that spending money on time-saving services is linked to greater life satisfaction. To establish causality, we show that working adults report greater happiness after spending money on a time-saving purchase than on a material purchase. This research reveals a previously unexamined route from wealth to well-being: spending money to buy free time.

Abstract: Around the world, increases in wealth have produced an unintended consequence: a rising sense of time scarcity. We provide evidence that using money to buy time can provide a buffer against this time famine, thereby promoting happiness. Using large, diverse samples from the United States, Canada, Denmark, and The Netherlands (n = 6,271), we show that individuals who spend money on time-saving services report greater life satisfaction. A field experiment provides causal evidence that working adults report greater happiness after spending money on a time-saving purchase than on a material purchase. Together, these results suggest that using money to buy time can protect people from the detrimental effects of time pressure on life satisfaction.

The Psychological Health Benefits of Accepting Negative Emotions and Thoughts: Laboratory, Diary, and Longitudinal Evidence

The Psychological Health Benefits of Accepting Negative Emotions and Thoughts: Laboratory, Diary, and Longitudinal Evidence. Brett Ford et al. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,

Abstract: Individuals differ in the degree to which they tend to habitually accept their emotions and thoughts without judging them — a process here referred to as habitual acceptance. Acceptance has been linked with greater psychological health, which we propose may be due to the role acceptance plays in negative emotional responses to stressors: acceptance helps keep individuals from reacting to — and thus exacerbating — their negative mental experiences. Over time, experiencing lower negative emotion should promote psychological health. To test these hypotheses, Study 1 (N = 1,003) verified that habitually accepting mental experiences broadly predicted psychological health (psychological well-being, life satisfaction, and depressive and anxiety symptoms), even when controlling for potentially related constructs (reappraisal, rumination, and other mindfulness facets including observing, describing, acting with awareness, and nonreactivity). Next, in a laboratory study (Study 2, N = 156), habitual acceptance predicted lower negative (but not positive) emotional responses to a standardized stressor. Finally, in a longitudinal design (Study 3, N = 222), acceptance predicted lower negative (but not positive) emotion experienced during daily stressors that, in turn, accounted for the link between acceptance and psychological health 6 months later. This link between acceptance and psychological health was unique to accepting mental experiences and was not observed for accepting situations. Additionally, we ruled out potential confounding effects of gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and life stress severity. Overall, these results suggest that individuals who accept rather than judge their mental experiences may attain better psychological health, in part because acceptance helps them experience less negative emotion in response to stressors.

Does a Culture of Happiness Increase Rumination Over Failure? It does.

Does a Culture of Happiness Increase Rumination Over Failure? Lucy McGuirk et al. Emotion,

Abstract: Promoting happiness within society is good for health, but could the overpromotion of happiness have a downside? Across 2 studies, we investigate 2 emotion norms associated with an emphasis on happiness — the importance of (a) seeking positive emotion, and (b) avoiding negative emotion — and whether these norms have implications for how people respond to, and seek to regulate, their negative emotional experiences. In Study 1, we used an experimental design to show that emphasizing the importance of happiness increased rumination in response to failure. In Study 2, we drew on cross-sectional evidence to investigate the other side of this equation, finding that emphasizing the importance of not experiencing negative emotional states (e.g., depression and anxiety) was also associated with increased rumination, and that this had downstream consequences for well-being. Together, the findings suggest that the overpromotion of happiness, and, in turn, the felt social pressure not to experience negative emotional states, has implications for maladaptive responses to negative emotional experiences.

To Err Is Robot: How Humans Assess and Act toward an Erroneous Social Robot

To Err Is Robot: How Humans Assess and Act toward an Erroneous Social Robot. Nicole Mirnig et al. Front. Robot. AI, 31 May 2017.

We conducted a user study for which we purposefully programmed faulty behavior into a robot’s routine. It was our aim to explore if participants rate the faulty robot different from an error-free robot and which reactions people show in interaction with a faulty robot. The study was based on our previous research on robot errors where we detected typical error situations and the resulting social signals of our participants during social human–robot interaction. In contrast to our previous work, where we studied video material in which robot errors occurred unintentionally, in the herein reported user study, we purposefully elicited robot errors to further explore the human interaction partners’ social signals following a robot error. Our participants interacted with a human-like NAO, and the robot either performed faulty or free from error. First, the robot asked the participants a set of predefined questions and then it asked them to complete a couple of LEGO building tasks. After the interaction, we asked the participants to rate the robot’s anthropomorphism, likability, and perceived intelligence. We also interviewed the participants on their opinion about the interaction. Additionally, we video-coded the social signals the participants showed during their interaction with the robot as well as the answers they provided the robot with. ***Our results show that participants liked the faulty robot significantly better than the robot that interacted flawlessly***. We did not find significant differences in people’s ratings of the robot’s anthropomorphism and perceived intelligence. The qualitative data confirmed the questionnaire results in showing that although the participants recognized the robot’s mistakes, they did not necessarily reject the erroneous robot. The annotations of the video data further showed that gaze shifts (e.g., from an object to the robot or vice versa) and laughter are typical reactions to unexpected robot behavior. In contrast to existing research, we assess dimensions of user experience that have not been considered so far and we analyze the reactions users express when a robot makes a mistake. Our results show that decoding a human’s social signals can help the robot understand that there is an error and subsequently react accordingly.

Prenatal Exposure to Progesterone Affects Sexual Orientation in Humans

Prenatal Exposure to Progesterone Affects Sexual Orientation in Humans. June Reinisch, Erik Lykke Mortensen & Stephanie Sanders. Archives of Sexual Behavior, July 2017, Pages 1239-1249,

Abstract: Prenatal sex hormone levels affect physical and behavioral sexual differentiation in animals and humans. Although prenatal hormones are theorized to influence sexual orientation in humans, evidence is sparse. Sexual orientation variables for 34 prenatally progesterone-exposed subjects (17 males and 17 females) were compared to matched controls (M age = 23.2 years). A case-control double-blind design was used drawing on existing data from the US/Denmark Prenatal Development Project. Index cases were exposed to lutocyclin (bioidentical progesterone = C21H30O2; MW: 314.46) and no other hormonal preparation. Controls were matched on 14 physical, medical, and socioeconomic variables. A structured interview conducted by a psychologist and self-administered questionnaires were used to collect data on sexual orientation, self-identification, attraction to the same and other sex, and history of sexual behavior with each sex. Compared to the unexposed, fewer exposed males and females identified as heterosexual and more of them reported histories of same-sex sexual behavior, attraction to the same or both sexes, and scored higher on attraction to males. Measures of heterosexual behavior and scores on attraction to females did not differ significantly by exposure. We conclude that, regardless of sex, exposure appeared to be associated with higher rates of bisexuality. Prenatal progesterone may be an underappreciated epigenetic factor in human sexual and psychosexual development and, in light of the current prevalence of progesterone treatment during pregnancy for a variety of pregnancy complications, warrants further investigation. These data on the effects of prenatal exposure to exogenous progesterone also suggest a potential role for natural early perturbations in progesterone levels in the development of sexual orientation.

Is the Lone Scientist an American Dream? Perceived Communal Opportunities in STEM Offer a Pathway to Closing U.S.–Asia Gaps in Interest and Positivity

Is the Lone Scientist an American Dream? Perceived Communal Opportunities in STEM Offer a Pathway to Closing U.S.–Asia Gaps in Interest and Positivity. Elizabeth Brown et al. Social Psychological and Personality Science,

Abstract: The United States lags behind many Asian countries in engagement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). An unexplored factor in these country-level differences may be U.S.–Asia gaps in perceptions of the goal opportunities provided by STEM. Across four studies, U.S. students perceived fewer communal opportunities (working with/helping/relationships with others) in STEM than Asian students; this differential perception contributed to U.S.–Asia gaps in STEM interest. Perceptions of communal opportunities in STEM did not follow from a general orientation to perceive that all careers provided communal opportunities but from communal engagement in STEM. Perceptions about communal opportunities in STEM predicted STEM interest, and communal experience in STEM predicted STEM interest beyond quantity of STEM exposure. Experimentally highlighting the perceived communal opportunities in science closed the cultural gap in positivity toward a scientist career (Study 5). Perceptions of communal opportunities in STEM provide a new vantage point to improve U.S. engagement in STEM.

at "the private California Institute of Technology, which by choice does not consider race as a factor, more than 40% of students were Asian-American in 2013, up from 26% in 1993"†)

"the share at University of California campuses at Berkeley and Los Angeles tops 30%."†

"In 1993 about 20% of Harvard students were Asian-American [...] now it is 22% Asian-American," approx. the same "at Princeton, Yale and other Ivy League schools."†

†  What Is Harvard Hiding? Wall Street Journal Editorial, Aug. 6, 2017.

‡  From official data: from approx 11 million people in 2000 to approx 20 million en 2015.

Non-official: > year 1990: 6 908 638; year 2000: 11 070 913.

Are Individualistic Societies Less Equal? Evidence from the Parasite Stress Theory of Values

Are Individualistic Societies Less Equal? Evidence from the Parasite Stress Theory of Values. Boris Nikolaev, Rauf Salahodjaev and Christopher Boudreaux. March 23, 2017.

Abstract: It is widely believed that individualistic societies, which emphasize personal freedom, award social status for accomplishment, and favor minimal government intervention, are more prone to higher levels of income inequality compared to more collectivist societies, which value conformity, loyalty, and tradition and favor more interventionist policies. The results in this paper, however, challenge this conventional view. Drawing on a rich literature in biology and evolutionary psychology, we test the provocative Parasite Stress Theory of Values, which suggests a possible link between the historical prevalence of infectious diseases, the cultural dimension of individualism-collectivism and differences in income inequality across countries. Specifically, in a two-stage least squares analysis, we use the historical prevalence of infectious diseases as an instrument for individualistic values, which, in the next stage, predict the level of income inequality, measured by the net GINI coe cient from the Standardized World Income Inequality Database (SWIID). Our findings suggest that societies with more individualistic values have significantly lower net income inequality. The results are robust even after controlling for a number of confounding factors such as economic development, legal origins, religion, human capital, other cultural values, economic institutions, and geographical controls.

In Plain Sight: The Neglected Linkage between Brideprice and Violent Conflict

In Plain Sight: The Neglected Linkage between Brideprice and Violent Conflict. Valerie M. Hudson and Hilary Matfess. August 02, 2017. International Security, v 42 | Issue 1 | Summer 2017, p.7-40
doi: 10.1162/ISEC_a_00289

Abstract: Approximately seventy-five percent of the world's population lives in countries where asset exchange upon marriage is obligatory. Rising brideprice—money or gifts provided to a woman's family by the groom and his family as part of marriage arrangements—is a common if overlooked catalyst of violent conflict. In patrilineal (and some matrilineal) societies where brideprice is practiced, a man's social status is directly connected to his marital status. Brideprice acts as a flat tax that is prone to sudden and swift increases. As a result, rising brideprice can create serious marriage market distortions that prevent young men, especially those who are poor or otherwise marginalized, from marrying. This phenomenon is especially evident in polygamous societies, where wealthy men can afford more than one bride. These distortions incentivize extra-legal asset accumulation, whether through ad hoc raiding or organized violence. In such situations, rebel and terror groups may offer to pay brideprice—or even provide brides—to recruit new members. Descriptive case studies of Boko Haram in Nigeria and various armed groups in South Sudan demonstrate these linkages, while an examination of Saudi Arabia's cap on brideprice and its efforts to arrange low-cost mass weddings illustrates the ways in which governments can intervene in marriage markets to help prevent brideprice-related instability. The trajectory of brideprice is an important but neglected early indicator of societal instability and violent conflict, underscoring that the situation and security of women tangibly affect national security.