Thursday, August 10, 2017

China’s Tool for Social Control: A Credit Rating for Everything

China’s New Tool for Social Control: A Credit Rating for Everything. By Josh Chin and Gillian Wong
Beijing wants to give every citizen a score based on behavior such as spending habits, turnstile violations and filial piety, which can blacklist citizens from loans, jobs, air travel
WSJ, Nov. 28, 2016

HANGZHOU, China—Swiping her son’s half-fare student card through the turnstile here one Monday afternoon, Chen Li earned herself a $6 fine and a reprimand from a subway-station inspector for not paying the adult fare.

A notice on a post nearby suggested more-dire consequences. It warned that infractors could be docked points in the city’s “personal credit information system.” A decline in Ms. Chen’s credit score, according to official pronouncements, could affect her daily life, including securing loans, jobs and her son’s school admission.

“I’m sure if it comes up, I can explain,“ Ms. Chen said, saying she picked up the card accidentally. “It was unintentional.”

Hangzhou’s local government is piloting a “social credit” system the Communist Party has said it wants to roll out nationwide by 2020, a digital reboot of the methods of social control the regime uses to avert threats to its legitimacy.

More than three dozen local governments across China are beginning to compile digital records of social and financial behavior to rate creditworthiness. A person can incur black marks for infractions such as fare cheating, jaywalking and violating family-planning rules. The effort echoes the dang’an, a system of dossiers the Communist party keeps on urban workers’ behavior.

In time, Beijing expects to draw on bigger, combined data pools, including a person’s internet activity, according to interviews with some architects of the system and a review of government documents. Algorithms would use a range of data to calculate a citizen’s rating, which would then be used to determine all manner of activities, such as who gets loans, or faster treatment at government offices or access to luxury hotels.

The endeavor reinforces President Xi Jinping’s campaign to tighten his grip on the country and dictate morality at a time of economic uncertainty that threatens to undermine the party. Mr. Xi in October called for innovation in “social governance” that would “heighten the capacity to forecast and prevent all manner of risks.”

The national social-credit system’s aim, according to a slogan repeated in planning documents, is to “allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step.”

Thus far, the pilot data-collecting systems aren’t yet tied together into what Beijing envisions as a sweeping system, which would assign each citizen a rating. It isn’t clear that Ms. Chen’s ticket infraction made it into any central system, although the notice warned that fare-dodgers risked being marked down starting Jan. 1; a station agent said only repeat offenders are reported.

Zan Aizong, a Hangzhou human-rights activist, sees the system, once it’s fully operational, as an Orwellian exercise to keep closer tabs on a populace already lacking basic liberties such as freedom of speech. “Tracking everyone that way,” Mr. Zan said, “it’s just like ‘1984.’ ”


China’s judiciary has already created a blacklisting system that would tie into the national social-credit operation. Zhuang Daohe, a Hangzhou legal scholar, cites the example of a client, part-owner of a travel company, who now can’t buy tickets for planes or high-speed trains because a Hangzhou court put him on a blacklist after he lost a dispute with a landlord.

“This has had a huge impact on the business,” said the client’s wife. “He can’t travel with clients anymore.” Added Mr. Zhuang: “What happens when it punishes the wrong person?”

Hangzhou officials didn’t respond to inquiries.

Another government system blacklists badly behaved tourists.

Driving the social-credit system are the State Council—China’s cabinet—and the central national-planning agency. A blueprint the cabinet published in 2014 stated it aimed to “build sincerity” in economic, social and political activity. It stressed the need for fair and clean government and for punishing polluting factories and bribe-takers.

Blacklists will expose offenders and restrict them from certain activities, while well-behaved citizens will earn access to “green lanes” that provide faster government services, the blueprint said. Citizens in jobs deemed sensitive—lawyers, accountants, teachers, journalists—will be subject to enhanced scrutiny, it said.

The State Council and national-planning agency didn’t respond to requests for comment.

China’s government must overcome technological and bureaucratic obstacles to build a system that can monitor 1.4 billion people. Government departments often guard their information, undermining efforts to build a unified database, and their systems often aren’t compatible, said Meng Tianguang, a political scientist at Beijing’s Tsinghua University who advises the government on applying “big data” to governance issues but isn’t directly involved in the social-credit system.

“Whether we can actually pull this off, we’re in a state of uncertainty at the moment,” Mr. Meng said. “Either way, it’s better than the traditional era,” until recently, he said, “when we had no data and policy was based on the judgment of individuals.”

The Shanghai government on an official website has identified scores of violations that can incur credit penalties in its pilot system, including falling behind on bills and breaking traffic rules. State-media reports list penalties for not being filial to one’s parents. (Under Chinese law, parents over 60 may sue children for not visiting regularly or not ensuring they have enough food.)

Penalties for low scorers will include higher barriers to obtaining loans and bans on indulgences such as luxury hotels, according to state-media reports.

The Shanghai system appears to still be in an early phase. Residents can check their social-credit records, but records reviewed by The Wall Street Journal didn’t show any nonfinancial data. Shanghai city officials didn’t respond to inquiries.

Despite official-media warnings and propaganda promoting sincerity, dozens of people interviewed in Shanghai weren’t aware of the social-credit plan. Many agreed more should be done to enforce higher moral standards, bemoaning habits such as spitting, cutting in line and being cold to strangers in need.

Research by Yang Wang, a Syracuse University expert on internet behavior, has shown Chinese internet users, accustomed to the idea of government snooping, are less concerned with online privacy than Americans. The most common word for privacy, yinsi, didn’t appear in popular Chinese dictionaries until the mid-1990s, he notes.

Behavior reports

In the tree-lined Yangjing neighborhood, subdistrict authorities maintain a database that gives a hint as to what elements of a broader social-credit system might look like. The database collects reports on locals’ behavior from residential committees, said Yuan Jianming, the head of the Yangjing Sincerity Construction Office.

Since mid-2015, the office has published a monthly “red list” of exemplary residents. Zhu Shengjun, 28, a high-school teacher, was named on a September red list. He said he didn’t know why. While he supported efforts to encourage better behavior, he hesitated at the idea of linking that with financial consequences, saying “it seems like too much of a stretch.”

The office also maintains a “gray list” of people behaving badly—throwing garbage out of windows, say—but the office hasn’t decided whether to publicize it, Mr. Yuan said.

In an area with a population of roughly 170,000, only around 120 have made Yangjing’s red list. Officials there complained to Chinese media this year that limited data sharing between departments was hampering efforts to rate people.

Businesses, too, get surveillance in pilot cities, where anyone can look up records on registered companies, though the records are sometimes incomplete. One objective: turning around what leaders see as a crippling lack of trust among citizens from decades of corruption and bare-knuckle competition.

So the social-credit system aims not just to collect data on individuals for official use, it seeks data on the behavior of businesses to analyze and show the results to consumers.

One example is food safety, a major issue since anger erupted over melamine-tainted milk powder that killed six infants in 2008. Subsequent scandals, including the sale of waste oil scooped up from gutters for reuse in restaurants, have continued to fuel mistrust.

Yangjing officials offer a solution: touch-screen displays they installed this summer in some restaurants. The screens, part of a local social-credit pilot system, offer an unusual level of transparency for China. Lit up with slogans—“Join heart to hand, be a model of sincerity” reads one—they display information about where ingredients came from and when waste oil was last picked up. Customers can watch videos on a mobile app showing chefs working, and the system displays the eatery’s health-department rating.

One recent Monday at Jujube Tree, a vegetarian restaurant, the food-safety console was partially obscured by poster board. Manager Wang Dacheng said it was because the system had erroneously downgraded the restaurant’s health rating, and local officials couldn’t fix it. “We have a lot of return customers. What if they come in and see that?” Mr. Wang said. He said he supported the system but was wary of its being applied without better controls.

Yangjing officials didn't respond to inquiries.

For initial social-credit efforts, local officials are relying on information collected by government departments, such as court records and loan and tax data. More-extensive logging of everyday habits, such as social-media use and online shopping, lies with China’s internet companies, including e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.

A credit-scoring service by Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial Services—one of eight companies approved to pilot commercial experiments with social-credit scoring—assigns ratings based on information such as when customers shop online, what they buy and what phone they use. If users opt in, the score can also consider education levels and legal records. Perks in the past for getting high marks have included express security screening at the Beijing airport, part of an Ant agreement with the airport.

“Especially for young people, your online behavior goes towards building up your online credit profile,” said Joe Tsai, Alibaba’s executive vice chairman, “and we want people to be aware of that so they know to behave themselves better.”

Alibaba shares aggregate data about online sales with China’s statistics bureau but doesn’t divulge personal data unless required to by law, for example in criminal investigations, Mr. Tsai said.

In the U.S., private concerns such as credit-reporting agencies and ride-sharing services compile certain ratings based on consumer data or reviews.

The local-government trials aren’t known to be tapping private-sector data, although the social-credit system blueprint designates internet data as a “strategic national resource” and calls for internet companies to contribute data, without getting into specifics.

Whether private and public data systems will be combined is still being hammered out, said Zhu Wei, a China University of Politics and Law scholar who has advised the government on social-credit efforts.

In an October speech screened to 1.5 million officials, Alibaba Chairman Jack Ma urged law-enforcement agencies to use internet data as a tool to identify criminals, according to posts on a Communist Party social-media feed. He didn’t mention sharing Alibaba’s user data. His comments raised eyebrows for broaching the notion that internet companies might share data with government agencies. Alibaba declined to make Mr. Ma available for comment. “We believe the application of machine learning and data analytics for the purpose of crime prevention is consistent with our core values: solving society’s problems,” the company said

In an interview Nov. 1 with state media, a deputy head of China’s central-planning agency, Lian Weiliang, noted that much of the government’s credit-related data were stuck on “isolated islands” and said a central data platform had been established to encourage information sharing. He said the platform had collected 640 million pieces of credit information from 37 central-government departments and various local governments.

The agency said the government has stopped untrustworthy people, identified by the court system, from buying airline tickets 4.9 million times.

Some advisers to the government, such as Mr. Zhu and Mr. Meng, said they were skeptical the system would meet the 2020 deadline because of the immense task of integrating data and keeping information secure.

In Hangzhou, where Ms. Chen used her son’s pass, residents can check their social-credit records at a government-services center. Records the Journal viewed showed only whether people had kept up with health-insurance and social-security payments—a far cry from the central government’s goals.

—Kersten Zhang, Alyssa Abkowitz and Qian Junya contributed to this article.

Appeared in the November 29, 2016, print edition as 'China’s New tool: a Social Credit score.'

Gene Editing Using CRISPR -- Why the Excitement?

JAMA Viewpoint
Gene Editing Using CRISPR -- Why the Excitement? Anthony L. Komaroff, MD
JAMA. Published online August 10, 2017. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.10159

The gene-editing technique known as CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) is only 5 years old, yet it has galvanized biomedical research and raised important ethical questions. What is it, how does it work, and how could it change medical practice?
The Evolution of Gene Editing

Biomedical scientists have been “editing” (or, at least, altering) genes for many years. Recombinant DNA technology allowed particular genes to be inserted into a plasmid (a circle of DNA) or into a virus: bacterial and yeast cells now could produce therapeutically useful human proteins, and viral vectors could perform gene therapy in humans. Gene targeting and RNA interference allowed the knockout of particular genes and the insertion of a healthy gene at the site of a defective gene. Zinc finger proteins and transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs) precisely altered specific genes. Then came CRISPR. Compared with these previous technologies, CRISPR is easier, faster, less expensive, and more powerful.

How Does CRISPR Work?

CRISPR technology depends on the fact that a strand of nucleic acid (DNA or RNA) with a particular sequence of bases binds naturally to another nucleic acid strand with a matching (complementary) sequence. The workhorse of CRISPR technology is a complex of RNA and protein (primarily nucleases). The most widely used complex is called CRISPR-Cas9.

The RNA in a CRISPR-Cas9 complex has 2 functions. One part is programmed to recognize a particular sequence of bases in the target gene, while the other holds the Cas9 proteins close. Cas9 then unwinds or unzips a double helix so that the target nucleic acid sequence is made “visible” to the matching CRISPR RNA sequence, which quickly binds to its target. Then Cas9 cuts both strands of the target DNA precisely at the right spot.

CRISPR can affect the structure of a gene and can correct a single-base mutation. For example, CRISPR can transform the gene for hemoglobin S (sickle cell globin) into the gene for hemoglobin A. It does this by adding into the CRISPR mix a short DNA sequence for the healthy hemoglobin A gene: after Cas9 cuts the globin gene at the point of the sickle mutation, the sequence that codes for hemoglobin A is inserted.

CRISPR also can affect the expression of a gene: it can shut off the production of a protein, or ramp it up. For example, it can edit the messenger RNA made by a gene; alternatively, it can edit the “noncoding” DNA in the genome that controls the expression of specific genes.
Using CRISPR in Living Organisms

The DNA that codes for the CRISPR RNA, and for the CRISPR proteins (such as Cas9), can be introduced into living organisms using viral vectors, lipid nanoparticles, and other means. Typically, the goal is to reach just the pertinent cells—for example, just hematopoietic stem cells if the goal is to generate hemoglobin A instead of hemoglobin S.

The delivery of CRISPR to a target tissue can be hazardous, and the CRISPR payload does not always reach the intended destination. One way of solving that problem is to first edit an organism’s target cells (such as hematopoietic stem cells) in the laboratory, allow the edited cells to multiply, and then reinfuse those edited cells into the organism, where they home to their target tissue (such as the bone marrow).

CRISPR also can generate organisms in which every cell has been altered in a specific way. For instance, editing the genes in a fertilized egg leads to animals that have the edited genes in every cell.

How Was CRISPR Discovered?

Some medical breakthroughs are inventions, others are discoveries, and some, like CRISPR, are both.

The path leading to CRISPR was tortuous and full of surprises. First, scientists discovered unusual structures in bacterial genomes: clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) followed by genes for various nuclease proteins. These structures were found to somehow aid a bacterium’s ability to prevent infection by viruses (bacteriophages). The mechanism was subsequently discovered: the CRISPR genes edit viral genes, thereby disabling the viruses.1,2

Then came ultimate discovery and the invention. Scientists realized that the CRISPR-Cas9 complex could be modified and simplified to produce a programmable tool by which the nucleic acids of all plant and animal species could be precisely edited.1,2 The technology was optimized for use in mammalian cells and to edit multiple genes simultaneously.3,4 Subsequent variants of CRISPR technology involving different nuclease proteins have been developed to make CRISPR simpler and more precise.
Limitations of CRISPR

CRISPR allows remarkably precise editing, but it is not perfect. Sometimes, unintended nucleic acid sequences get edited—so-called off-target effects. This may occur more frequently than had been thought. Furthermore, some genetic “defects” that increase the risk of one disease decrease the risk of another. For example, people with sickle cell disease are less vulnerable to malaria: fixing hemoglobin S to solve one problem may cause another. Moreover, scientists understand relatively little about the health effects of “fixing” any particular polymorphic variant. In addition, like any powerful technology, CRISPR could be abused. Indeed, the US intelligence community has publicly expressed concern that CRISPR could produce a weapon of mass destruction.5

How Is CRISPR Affecting Biological Research?

CRISPR technology has transformed genetic research with plants and microbes. It has greatly aided research with many animal models, such as fruit flies, worms, and zebrafish, and has revolutionized the process for creating genetically modified mice,6 essential tools for medical research. Also, CRISPR has made possible the editing of primate genomes. Moreover, CRISPR has been used to treat disease in mice: a viral vector carried a CRISPR complex programmed to edit a mutated gene for dystrophin into the skeletal and cardiac muscle of mice with Duchenne-like muscular dystrophy, and a single treatment led to greatly improved muscle function.7

How Might CRISPR Affect Medical Practice?

CRISPR has greatly reduced the tumor burden of human prostate cancer cells in mouse xenografts.8 It has made possible a test that can be used in resource-limited settings for immediate diagnostics, such as for Zika virus.9 CRISPR also has been used for editing genes in T cells, ex vivo, to program them to attack a patient’s tumor when those cells are reinfused.

Similarly, it may be possible to edit a patient’s hematopoietic stem cells to correct sickle cell anemia and β-thalassemia. Using CRISPR in humans to edit solid-organ cells in vivo, however, as in the mice with muscular dystrophy, is further off.

The role of CRISPR in treating most of the major causes of disability and death in the developed nations is uncertain. These diseases typically are influenced by variants in multiple genes, each of which only slightly increases disease risk. More important, lifestyle modification is likely to have a greater influence on preventing and controlling these diseases than gene editing, no matter how powerful the technology becomes.

Experiments using CRISPR to edit human germ cells are subject to particular scrutiny because such experiments affect all descendants. Gene editing followed by in vitro fertilization could eliminate the risk that a conceptus would inherit (and pass on) a terrible disease—but it also could create an editing error that would harm future generations. The use of CRISPR to edit disease-related genes in germ cells also could generate a demand to protect all offspring against future risks (such as reducing the risk of Alzheimer disease by converting the ε4 variant of APOE to an alternative polymorphism). Moreover, CRISPR could create a demand for “designer babies” with certain desired traits. Society needs to grapple now with the ethical questions raised by such demands, before the technology can satisfy them.
How Might CRISPR Affect Human Health More Broadly?

CRISPR is being used to make plants and animals resistant to disease; to create certain animals (eg, pigs and cows) that become “bioreactors” for making therapeutic human proteins; and to generate pigs that could serve as human organ donors (such as for heart valve tissue), because their organs do not elicit an immune attack following transplantation. Theoretically, CRISPR gene drives could render mosquitoes all over the globe incapable of hosting various human pathogens.

The discovery and invention of CRISPR are already having a profound effect on biomedical research and are beginning to have an impact on medical practice. The scientists who created the CRISPR technology probably cannot imagine all of the ways in which it will be used. Two of those scientists said it best: “Every time we unlock one of nature’s secrets, it signals the end of one experiment—and the beginning of many others.”5

References at the original source.

Dangerous Days: The Impact of Nationalism on Interstate Conflict

Dangerous Days: The Impact of Nationalism on Interstate Conflict. Jamie Gruffydd-Jones. Security Studies, Fall 2017, Pages 698-728,

Abstract: Does an upsurge in nationalism make interstate conflict more likely? This article gives evidence to suggest that spikes in nationalism do have a direct impact on the likelihood of disputes between states. In it, I use national days or anniversaries as occasions that increase the salience of a national identity and its historical wars. I show that in the two months following national days, conflict is markedly higher than would be expected - almost 30 percent more likely than the rest of the year-and particularly likely for states who initiate conflict or who have revisionist intentions. I demonstrate further how nationalist sentiment can increase international tensions with a case study of national anniversaries in China and Japan. Together, this evidence suggests that the increase in nationalism around national days provides both risks and opportunities to regimes and shapes when they choose conflict over cooperation in international relations.

The "Hearts and Minds" Fallacy: Violence, Coercion, and Success in Counterinsurgency Warfare

The "Hearts and Minds" Fallacy: Violence, Coercion, and Success in Counterinsurgency Warfare. Jacqueline Hazelton. International Security, Summer 2017, Pages 80-113,

Abstract: Debates over how governments can defeat insurgencies ebb and flow with international events, becoming particularly contentious when the United States encounters problems in its efforts to support a counterinsurgent government. Often the United States confronts these problems as a zero-sum game in which the government and the insurgents compete for popular support and cooperation. The U.S. prescription for success has had two main elements: to support liberalizing, democratizing reforms to reduce popular grievances; and to pursue a military strategy that carefully targets insurgents while avoiding harming civilians. An analysis of contemporaneous documents and interviews with participants in three cases held up as models of the governance approach - Malaya, Dhofar, and El Salvador - shows that counterinsurgency success is the result of a violent process of state building in which elites contest for power, popular interests matter little, and the government benefits from uses of force against civilians.

My comment: I am afraid that this is how things are.

The effect of media attention on terrorism

The effect of media attention on terrorism. Michael Jetter. Journal of Public Economics, September 2017, Pages 32-48,

Abstract: This paper tests for a causal connection between media attention devoted to terrorism and subsequent attacks. Analyzing 61,132 attack days in 201 countries produces evidence that increased New York Times coverage encourages further attacks in the same country. Using natural disasters in the United States as an exogenous variation diminishing media attention, the link appears causal. One additional article is suggested to produce 1.4 attacks over the following week, equivalent to three casualties on average. This result is robust to numerous alternative estimations and it appears unlikely that attacks are simply postponed. If terrorists do not receive media attention, they will attack less.

Assortative mating and couple similarity: Patterns, mechanisms, and consequences

Assortative mating and couple similarity: Patterns, mechanisms, and consequences. S. Luo. Social and Personality Psychology Compass,

Abstract: Assortative mating refers to the tendency of two partners' characteristics to be matched in a systematic manner, usually in the form of similarity. Mating with a similar partner has profound implications at the species, societal, and individual levels. This article provides a comprehensive review of research on couple similarity since 1980s. The review begins with the general patterns and trends observed in couple similarity on a range of domains including demographic variables, physical/physiological characteristics, abilities, mental well-being, habitual behaviors, attitudes, values, and personality. Next the bulk of the review focuses on analyses of 4 mechanisms leading to similarity: initial active choice, mating market operation, social homogamy, and convergence. Specific future research avenues are outlined to improve understanding of these mechanisms. Finally, the review discusses genetic, social, and psychological consequences of couple similarity.

My comment: Pearson reported in 1903 positive correlations in spouses' height, span of arms, and forearm length in 1,000 couples. [...] Previous research has examined couple similarity on a variety of attitudes and values: political orientation, religiosity, authoritarianism, family role attitudes, risk attitudes, personal values, etc. Strong similarity correlations with a typical range of .40s to .70s are reported for attitudes and a weaker range of .10s to .40s for values [...] Moderate partner similarity for abilities and intelligence has been documented, with correlations typically ranging from .20s to .40s [...], although there appears to be a gradual tendency to decline [...]. Additionally, partner correlations on verbal ability are higher than those on perceptual speed or spatial ability [...] patients' partners tend to have related disorders. For example, partners of schizophrenic patients are more likely to have non‐affective functional psychosis such as schizotypal, schizoid, paranoid, borderline, and narcissistic disorders, but not neurotic disorders [...] Moderate similarity in couples has been observed on a variety of habitual behaviors, hobbies, and lifestyle including alcohol, coffee, and tea consumption; smoking; circadian rhythm; and physical exercise with a typical range of .20s to .50s [...]. Diet similarity is lower than alcohol consumption [...]. Moreover, these correlations are not due to age assortment [...] traits such as Big Five factors, attachment avoidance and anxiety, positive and negative affectivity, self-esteem, and sensation seeking [show] correlations [...] with weak magnitude rarely above .30. [...] Ahmad, Gilbert, and Naqui's (1985) study of the height of 1,500 Pakistan couples in arranged marriages, which yielded a similarity correlation (r = .36) comparable to free‐choice marriages (BUT WE ARE TALKING JUST ABOUT HEIGHT, WHICH IS MEASURABLE BY THE COMMUNITY).


Social consequences
At the societal level, AM has profound implications for social and economical inequality (e.g., Schwartz, 2013). The discussion here primarily focuses on variables related to SES such as income and education. Homogamy on these variables produces an increasing number of couples of equal status, which leads to a larger gap between classes and reinforces their social status (Blossfeld, 2009). Harpending and Cochran (2015) used simulations to illustrate the powerful effect AM has on class stratification: When a population free of castes starts to practice 100% homogamy on a given variable (e.g., income), two castes begin to emerge after just one generation; after three generations, the two castes have grown to be 1.75 standard deviations apart.

A deterministic worldview promotes approval of state paternalism

A deterministic worldview promotes approval of state paternalism. Ivar Hannikainen et al. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Volume 70, May 2017, Pages 251-259,

Abstract: The proper limit to paternalist regulation of citizens' private lives is a recurring theme in political theory and ethics. In the present study, we examine the role of beliefs about free will and determinism in attitudes toward libertarian versus paternalist policies. Throughout five studies we find that a scientific deterministic worldview reduces opposition toward paternalist policies, independent of the putative influence of political ideology. We suggest that exposure to scientific explanations for patterns in human behavior challenges the notion of personal autonomy and, in turn, undermines libertarian arguments against state paternalism appealing to autonomy and personal choice.

When encountering easy-to-fake signals of commitment, such as verbal declarations of love, women show suspicion

Sexual Conflict in Human Mating. David M. Buss. Current Directions in Psychological Science,

Abstract: Despite interdependent reproductive fates that favor cooperation, males and females exhibit many psychological and behavioral footprints of sexually antagonistic coevolution. These include strategies of deception, sexual exploitation, and sexual infidelity as well as anti-exploitation defenses such as commitment skepticism and emotions such as sexual regret and jealousy. Sexual conflict pervades the mating arena prior to sexual consummation, after a mating relationship has formed, and in the aftermath of a breakup. It also permeates many other social relationships in forms such as daughter-guarding, conflict in opposite-sex friendships, and workplace sexual harassment. As such, sexual conflict constitutes not a narrow or occasional flashpoint but rather persistent threads that run through our intensely group-living species.

When encountering easy-to-fake signals of commitment, such as verbal declarations of love [...] women show suspicion or dubiety. [...] Women, more than men, tend to regret acts of sexual commission (e.g., having sex while drunk).

My comment: could it be for the anticipation of possible consequences, like disease and pregnancy?

Nietzsche: To see others suffer does one good, to make others suffer even more

The Role of Positive Affect in Aggression. David Chester. Current Directions in Psychological Science,

Abstract: Aggressive behavior hurts us all and is studied across psychology’s subdisciplines. Classical theories discuss the causes of aggression in the context of negative affect (e.g., frustration, pain). However, more recent research implicates positive affect as an important correlate and cause of aggression. Such aggressive pleasure likely evolved from ancient predatory tendencies that later yielded reproductive benefits, holds across reactive and proactive forms of aggression, and is used strategically as an item in many people’s emotion-regulation toolkit. Findings from psychological and neural sciences have converged to detail aggression’s hedonically pleasant qualities and the motivational and biological mechanisms through which they occur. This new approach generates novel hypotheses and might lead to effective interventions that mollify mankind’s aggressive tendencies.

To see others suffer does one good, to make others suffer even more: this is a hard saying but an ancient, mighty human, all-too-human principle. . . . Without cruelty there is no festival.
                —Friedrich Nietzsche, (1887-1913)

Aggressive acts such as sticking pins in a voodoo doll are associated with higher scores on positive affect measures (Chester & DeWall, 2017a; Chester, DeWall, & Enjaian, 2017). [Mathematical] analyses of various affect measures collected while participants aggressed in the laboratory revealed that a pleasure factor (e.g., “I felt delighted/pleasant/rewarded”) explained most of the variance in affect (Chester, 2017). [...] Approximately half of the variance in aggression is due to genetic factors (Moffitt, 2005). [...] Mice exhibit a so-called conditioned preference for experimental settings in which they aggressed against a conspecific (Martínez, Guillén-Salazar, Salvador, & Simón, 1995). This suggests that aggression is intrinsically reinforcing. Further, mice exert effort in order to aggress against a submissive conspecific, as they would with conventional reinforcers (e.g., food; Legrand, 2013). Chemically blunting activity in the mouse brain’s reward circuit subsequently reduced aggressive behavior (Couppis & Kennedy, 2008). These murine models of aggression are limited for many reasons, one of the most critical being that mice are not predators and thus their aggressive behaviors do not share the same evolutionary basis as humans. Despite these limitations, the innate reinforcement that aggression provides suggests a strong underlying neural basis. [...] Electrical brain recording studies showed that anger and aggressive responses to insult were associated with a neural signature of approach motivations, which are often indicative of positive affect (Carver & Harmon-Jones, 2009). Functional MRI techniques have demonstrated that retaliatory aggression is associated with greater activation in the brain’s reward circuitry (e.g., ventral striatum: Chester & DeWall, 2016, 2017b; Fig. 1).Thus, the brain’s reward circuit appears to strongly promote aggressive behavior. Taken together, there is a considerable and growing body of empirical evidence that positive affect playsa magnifying role in reactive aggressive behavior. [...] Proactive forms of aggression are less common and thus less well-researched. However, there is plentiful evidence that individuals seek out aggressive activities (e.g., hunting, violent video games) for the sake of enjoyment and not due to some prior provocation (Bushman & Whitaker, 2010). [...] Revenge may not be the only form of aggression that is sweet, and this sweetness may be a useful tool for individuals who seek to maintain positive affect.

Genetic and Environmental Influences on Household Financial Distress

Genetic and Environmental Influences on Household Financial Distress. Yilan Xu et al. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization. On-line August 10 2017, accepted, in press.

•    Financial behaviors are genetically influenced especially at the extremes of SES (socio-economic status).
•    Personality and cognition are linked to financial distress genetically.
•    Within-family factors also link personality and cognition to financial distress.
•    Neuroticism is a more important predictor of financial distress at low SES.
•    Cognitive ability is a more important predictor of financial distress at high SES.

Abstract: Heterogeneity of household financial outcomes emerges from various individual and environmental factors, including personality, cognitive ability, and socioeconomic status (SES), among others. Using a genetically informative data set, we decompose the variation in financial management behavior into genetic, shared environmental and non-shared environmental factors. We find that about half of the variation in financial distress is genetically influenced, and personality and cognitive ability are associated with financial distress through genetic and within-family pathways. Moreover, the genetic influences of financial distress are highest at the extremes of SES, which in part can be explained by neuroticism and cognitive ability being more important predictors of financial distress at low and high levels of SES, respectively.

JEL classification: D14; D31; G31
Keywords: household finance; personality traits; cognitive ability; socioeconomic status; behavior genetics

Personal and situational predictors of everyday snacking: An application of temporal self-regulation theory

Elliston, K. G., Ferguson, S. G. and Schüz, B. (2017), Personal and situational predictors of everyday snacking: An application of temporal self-regulation theory. Br J Health Psychol.


Objectives: This study aims at testing predictions derived from temporal self-regulation theory (TST) in relation to discretionary food choices (snacks). TST combines a motivational sphere of influence (cognitions and temporal valuations resulting in intentions) with a momentary sphere (encompassing social and physical environmental cues). This dual approach differs from current health behaviour theories, but can potentially improve our understanding of the interplay of personal and environmental factors in health behaviour self-regulation.

Design: A mixed event-based and time-based (Ecological Momentary Assessment) study in 61 adults aged between 18 and 64, with a BMI range between 18.34 and 39.78 (M = 25.66, SD = 4.82) over two weeks.

Methods: Participants recorded their food and drink intake for two weeks in real time using electronic diaries. Participants also responded to non-consumption assessments at random intervals throughout each day. Momentary cues (individual, situational, and environmental factors) were assessed both during food logs and non-consumption assessments. Motivational factors, past behaviour, and trait self-regulation were assessed during baseline.

Results: Multilevel logistic regression analyses showed that across all snack types, environmental cues and negative affect were associated with an increased likelihood of snacking. Perceiving a cost of healthy eating to occur before eating was associated with an increased likelihood of snacking, whereas intentions and self-regulation were not.

Conclusions: Discretionary food intake is largely guided by momentary cues, and motivational-level factors, such as intention and self-regulation, are less important in the initiation of discretionary food intake.

"Consistent with previous research (e.g., Groesz et al., 2012; O’Connor, Jones, Conner, McMillan, & Ferguson, 2008; Schüz, Bower, et al., 2015), negative affect was associated with an increased likelihood of snacking for both high-energy and overall snack intake. Negative affect might lead to self-control failures (Baumeister, 2002), making itmore likely that individualswill be unable to resist food temptations."

My comment: Now you know why I eat junk food... I am permanently in bad mood.