Monday, September 4, 2017

Revisiting the risk of automation

Revisiting the risk of automation. Melanie Arntz, Terry Gregory and Ulrich Zierahn. Economics Letters, Volume 159, October 2017, Pages 157-160,

•    Occupation-level approaches significantly overestimate automation potentials.
•    Automation risk of US jobs drops from 38 to 9% when accounting for job-level tasks.
•    3 out of 4 jobs are less automatable compared to the median job of this occupation.
•    Workers apparently specialize in non-automatable niches within their profession.

Abstract: In light of rapid advances in the fields of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics, many scientists discuss the potentials of new technologies to substitute for human labour. Fuelling the economic debate, various empirical assessments suggest that up to half of all jobs in western industrialized countries are at risk of automation in the next 10 to 20 years. This paper demonstrates that these scenarios are overestimating the share of automatable jobs by neglecting the substantial heterogeneity of tasks within occupations as well as the adaptability of jobs in the digital transformation. To demonstrate this, we use detailed task data and show that, when taking into accounting the spectrum of tasks within occupations, the automation risk of US jobs drops, ceteris paribus, from 38 % to 9 %.

Adult sex ratios and partner scarcity among hunter–gatherers: Implications for dispersal patterns and the evolution of human sociality

Adult sex ratios and partner scarcity among hunter–gatherers: Implications for dispersal patterns and the evolution of human sociality. Karen Kramer, Ryan Schacht and Adrian Bell. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, Sept 19 2017,

Abstract: Small populations are susceptible to high genetic loads and random fluctuations in birth and death rates. While these selective forces can adversely affect their viability, small populations persist across taxa. Here, we investigate the resilience of small groups to demographic uncertainty, and specifically to fluctuations in adult sex ratio (ASR), partner availability and dispersal patterns. Using 25 years of demographic data for two Savannah Pumé groups of South American hunter–gatherers, we show that in small human populations: (i) ASRs fluctuate substantially from year to year, but do not consistently trend in a sex-biased direction; (ii) the primary driver of local variation in partner availability is stochasticity in the sex ratio at maturity; and (iii) dispersal outside of the group is an important behavioural means to mediate locally constrained mating options. To then simulate conditions under which dispersal outside of the local group may have evolved, we develop two mathematical models. Model results predict that if the ASR is biased, the globally rarer sex should disperse. The model's utility is then evaluated by applying our empirical data to this central prediction. The results are consistent with the observed hunter–gatherer pattern of variation in the sex that disperses. Together, these findings offer an alternative explanation to resource provisioning for the evolution of traits central to human sociality (e.g. flexible dispersal, bilocal post-marital residence and cooperation across local groups). We argue that in small populations, looking outside of one's local group is necessary to find a mate and that, motivated by ASR imbalance, the alliances formed to facilitate the movement of partners are an important foundation for the human-typical pattern of network formation across local groups.

KEYWORDS: Savannah Pumé; adult sex ratio; dispersal; human evolution; hunter–gatherers; sexual selection

Languages in Drier Climates Use Fewer Vowels

Languages in Drier Climates Use Fewer Vowels. Caleb Everett. Frontiers in Psychology, July 2017,

Abstract: This study offers evidence for an environmental effect on languages while relying on continuous linguistic and continuous ecological variables. Evidence is presented for a positive association between the typical ambient humidity of a language’s native locale and that language’s degree of reliance on vowels. The vowel-usage rates of over 4000 language varieties were obtained, and several methods were employed to test whether these usage rates are associated with ambient humidity. The results of these methods are generally consistent with the notion that reduced ambient humidity eventually yields a reduced reliance of languages on vowels, when compared to consonants. The analysis controls simultaneously for linguistic phylogeny and contact between languages. The results dovetail with previous work, based on binned data, suggesting that consonantal phonemes are more common in some ecologies. In addition to being based on continuous data and a larger data sample, however, these findings are tied to experimental research suggesting that dry air affects the behavior of the larynx by yielding increased phonatory effort. The results of this study are also consistent with previous work suggesting an interaction of aridity and tonality. The data presented here suggest that languages may evolve, like the communication systems of other species, in ways that are influenced subtly by ecological factors. It is stressed that more work is required, however, to explore this association and to establish a causal relationship between ambient air characteristics and the development of languages.

KEYWORDS: adaptation; environment; evolution; language; phonetics; psychological

Tennis grunts communicate acoustic cues to sex and contest outcome

Tennis grunts communicate acoustic cues to sex and contest outcome. Jordan Raine, Katarzyna Pisanski & David Reby. Animal Behaviour, Volume 130, August 2017, Pages 47-55,

Abstract: Despite their ubiquity in human behaviour, the communicative functions of nonverbal vocalizations remain poorly understood. Here, we analysed the acoustic structure of tennis grunts, nonverbal vocalizations produced in a competitive context. We predicted that tennis grunts convey information about the vocalizer and context, similar to nonhuman vocal displays. Specifically, we tested whether the fundamental frequency (F0) of tennis grunts conveys static cues to a player's sex, height, weight, and age, and covaries dynamically with tennis shot type (a proxy of body posture) and the progress and outcome of male and female professional tennis contests. We also performed playback experiments (using natural and resynthesized stimuli) to assess the perceptual relevance of tennis grunts. The F0 of tennis grunts predicted player sex, but not age or body size. Serve grunts had higher F0 than forehand and backhand grunts, grunts produced later in contests had higher F0 than those produced earlier, and grunts produced during contests that players won had a lower F0 than those produced during lost contests. This difference in F0 between losses and wins emerged early in matches, and did not change in magnitude as the match progressed, suggesting a possible role of physiological and/or psychological factors manifesting early or even before matches. Playbacks revealed that listeners use grunt F0 to infer sex and contest outcome. These findings indicate that tennis grunts communicate information about both the vocalizer and contest, consistent with nonhuman mammal vocalizations.

The Perverse Effects of Subsidized Weather Insurance

Omri Ben-Shahar & Kyle D. Logue, "The Perverse Effects of Subsidized Weather Insurance," 68 Stanford Law Review 571 (2016).

Abstract. This Article explores the role of insurance as a substitute for direct regulation of risks posed by severe weather. In pricing the risk of human activity along the predicted path of storms, insurance can provide incentives for efficient location decisions as well as for cost-justified mitigation efforts in building construction and infrastructure. Currently, however, much insurance for severe-weather risks is provided and heavily subsidized by the government. This Article demonstrates two primary distortions arising from the government's dominance in these insurance markets. First, existing government subsidies are allocated differentially across households, resulting in a significant regressive redistribution favoring affluent homeowners in coastal communities. This Article provides some empirical measures of this effect. Second, existing government subsidies induce excessive development (and redevelopment) of storm-stricken and erosion-prone areas. While political efforts to scale back the insurance subsidies have so far failed, this Article contributes to a reevaluation of the social regulation of weather risk by exposing the unintended costs of government-subsidized insurance.

Correcting for Bias in Psychology: A Comparison of Meta-analytic Methods

Carter, Evan C, Felix D Schönbrodt, Will M Gervais, and Joseph Hilgard. 2017. “Correcting for Bias in Psychology: A Comparison of Meta-analytic Methods”. PsyArXiv. September 1.

Abstract: Publication bias and questionable research practices in primary research can lead to badly overestimated effects in meta-analysis. Methodologists have proposed a variety of statistical approaches to correcting for such overestimation. However, much of this work has not been tailored specifically to psychology, so it is not clear which methods work best for data typically seen in our field. Here, we present a comprehensive simulation study to examine how some of the most promising meta-analytic methods perform on data typical of psychological research. We tried to mimic realistic scenarios by simulating several levels of questionable research practices, publication bias, and heterogeneity, using study sample sizes empirically derived from the literature. Our results indicate that one method – the three-parameter selection model (Iyengar & Greenhouse, 1988; McShane, Böckenholt, & Hansen, 2016) – generally performs better than trim-and-fill, p-curve, p-uniform, PET, PEESE, or PET-PEESE, and that some of these other methods should typically not be used at all. However, it is unknown whether the success of the three-parameter selection model is due to the match between its assumptions and our modeling strategy, so future work is needed to further test its robustness. Despite this, we generally recommend that meta-analysts of data in psychology use the three-parameter selection model. Moreover, we strongly recommend that researchers in psychology continue their efforts on improving the primary literature and conducting large-scale, pre-registered replications.

Ovulatory Changes in Sexuality

Arslan, Ruben C, Katharina M Schilling, Tanja M Gerlach, and Lars Penke. 2017. “Ovulatory Changes in Sexuality”. PsyArXiv. September 4.

Abstract: Previous research reported ovulatory changes in women’s appearance, mate preferences, extra- and in-pair sexual desire and behaviour, but has been criticised for small sample sizes, inappropriate designs, and undisclosed flexibility in analyses. In the present study, we sought to address these criticisms by preregistering our hypotheses and analysis plan and by collecting a large diary sample. We gathered over 26 thousand usable online self-reports in a diary format from 1043 women, of which 421 were naturally cycling. We inferred the fertile period from menstrual onset reports. We used hormonal contraceptive users as a quasi-control group, as they experience menstruation, but not ovulation. We probed our results for robustness to different approaches (including different fertility estimates, different exclusion criteria, adjusting for potential confounds, moderation by methodological factors). We found robust evidence supporting previously reported ovulatory increases in extra-pair desire and behaviour, in-pair desire, and self-perceived desirability, as well as no unexpected associations. Yet, we did not find predicted effects on partner mate retention behaviour, clothing choices, or narcissism. Contrary to some of the earlier literature, partners’ sexual attractiveness did not moderate the cycle shifts. Taken together, the replicability of the existing literature on ovulatory changes was mixed. We conclude with simulation-based recommendations for reading the past literature and for designing future large-scale preregistered within-subject studies to understand ovulatory cycle changes and the effects of hormonal contraception. Interindividual differences in the size of ovulatory changes emerge as an important area for further study.

The effect of the presence of an audience on risk-taking while gambling: the social shield

The effect of the presence of an audience on risk-taking while gambling: the social shield. Jérémy E. Lemoine & Christine Roland-Lévy. Social Influence.

Abstract: Being in a social context influences risk-taking behavior. This study aims to identify the effect of an audience’s presence on risk-taking while gambling. One hundred and thirty-two university students played a computer roulette game. They were randomly allocated to one of our three conditions: (i) either they played alone; or (ii) in the presence of the experimenter; or (iii) in the presence of the experimenter, while being videotaped. Results revealed a significant effect on risk-taking in the participants with the presence of an audience, with more risk-averse behaviors in the two types of audience conditions than in the alone condition. No differences were found between the two audience conditions. Thus, an audience may prevent risk-taking and provide a social shield.

Keywords: Social facilitation, prospect theory, risk-taking, gambling, audience

Aggression and sleep: a daylight saving time natural experiment on the effect of mild sleep loss and gain on assaults

Aggression and sleep: a daylight saving time natural experiment on the effect of mild sleep loss and gain on assaults. Rebecca Umbach, Adrian Raine, and Greg Ridgeway. ournal of Experimental Criminology,

Objectives: The purpose of this study was to test the effect of a mild, short-term sleep loss/gain on assault rates.

Methods: Using National Incidence Based Reporting System data and city-reported data from Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles, we calculated the difference in assault rates on the Monday immediately following daylight saving time (DST) as compared to the Monday a week later using a Poisson quasi-maximum likelihood estimator model. The same analyses were performed to examine effects of the return to standard time in the fall. We employed several falsification checks.

Results: There were 2.9% fewer (95% CI: –4.2%, −1.6%, p < 0.0001) assaults immediately following DST, when we lose an hour, as compared to a week later. In contrast, there was a 2.8% rise in assaults immediately following the return to standard time, when an hour is gained, as compared to a week later (95% CI: 1.5%, 4.2%, p < 0.0001). Multiple falsification analyses suggest the spring findings to be robust, while the evidence to support the fall findings is weaker.

Conclusions: This study suggests that mild and short-term changes in sleep do significantly affect rates of assault. Specifically, ***there is support for the theory that mild sleepiness possibly associated with an hour loss of sleep results in reduced assaults***. This contradicts the simple inverse relationship currently suggested by most of the correlational literature. This study and the mixed findings presented by experimental studies indicate that measurement variability of both sleep and aggression may result in conflicting findings.

Keywords: Aggression, Antisocial behavior, Crime, Daylight saving time, Sleep