Thursday, October 19, 2017

“Naked Bonobo” demolishes myth of sexy, egalitarian bonobos

Faux-nobo: “Naked Bonobo” demolishes myth of sexy, egalitarian bonobos. Edward Clint • Oct 9, 2017.

Just a selection of a very interesting post reviewing Lynn Saxon's book:

That said, bonobo society is far from peaceful and bonobos are far from gentle.

    Kano (1992) found a majority of one group’s individuals had “abnormalities” of the limbs, digits, ears, eyeballs, genitalia, and other parts. 28 counts of total loss of a finger or toe, 96 counts of partial loss. Only one of the 22 adult males had intact fingers and toes. 32 counts of ear lacerations which almost always result from fighting. (p. 117-8)
    At Apenheul Zoo in the Netherlands, five female bonobos attacked a male and were seen gnawing on his toes; the flesh could be seen between their teeth as they chewed away.  (p. 119)
    At least two zookeepers have lost parts of digits (p. 119)
    While releasing bonobos back into the wild after rehabilitation at a sanctuary, three trackers were attacked and mutilated. They lost noses, bits of fingers and one lost an ear. One of the men spent a month in the hospital and two required a year of reconstructive facial surgery. (p. 122)
    Overall, male-male aggression rates are similar in chimpanzees and bonobos (p. 126)

Female aggression toward infants and other females

    The alpha female at Twycross Zoo took the infant of the lowest ranking female, even though she was still nursing her own infant. After weeks of rough treatment at the alpha’s hands, she lost interest and the infant had to be removed for human rearing as it showed signs of “weakness and dehydration”.  (p. 120-121)
    There are at least 8 cases of infant abduction or victim of aggressive behavior at the Plankendael and Stuttgart zoos; the mothers of the stolen infants behaved nervously and showed signs of distress. While trying to get their infants back, some of the females would present for genito-genital rubbing. (p. 121)

Is there anything sexier than bartering a sex act for your baby’s life?

    In one Lomako group, aggression between females was about 7 times higher when two or more oestrous females were in the party than when there was only one. (p. 124)

I thought that females were keeping the peace with sex, not causing fights over sex?

Next, are bonobos egalitarian? That is, are various goods and resources (food, sex, social support) more evenly distributed among individuals? Chimpanzees are thought to have the opposite arrangement, a more rigid rank system that greatly privileges the chimp elites. Saxon writes that bonobos are probably somewhat more egalitarian than chimpanzees, but much less so than is commonly supposed. Sometimes, it is not clear that there is a difference at all.

    A female-biased sex ratio is taken to be evidence of male intrasexual competition. Competition is a physiologically taxing and risky enterprise that leads to early death for many males. The problem here is that, overall, the sex ratio of chimpanzees and bonobos is very similar.
    Both females and males had higher mating rates when they were aggressors compared to when they were targets of aggression.  (p. 124)
    Bonobo society, including its females, rewards rank and aggression:
        Females strongly prefer high ranking males. When in oestrus, this preference intensifies.
        High ranking males are more aggressive, and actively block other males from access to fertile females.
    Ranking female “wingmoms” aid their sons (but not daughters) in bullying and picking fights to advance their status. (p. 115)
    Feeding is highly segmented by rank. Low ranking individuals may be charged or attacked if attempting to line-jump.
    Female bonobos disperse to other groups around adolescence. When accepted in their new group, they solicit sex acts from higher ranking males at food sites. This behavior, and their total libido, drops substantially as they gain rank. In order words, they’re forced to barter sex for food. Not because they’re eager for sexual contact. When they don’t have to, they don’t. Few consider coerced prostitution a sign of gender equality.


4. Should humans envy bonobos?

Perhaps the most important idea in this book is that the “great” parts of the faux-nobo lifestyle wannabes want us to emulate, properly understood, become disturbing if not nightmares outright:

“Sexy” bonobos have the most frequent sex as sub-adults and sexual contact between juveniles, infants, and adults is quite common and normal.

“Tension-reducing” sex among bonobos is most often not about fun. It is not about enthusiastic consent, but coercion on threat of aggression. Like humans, we know that bonobos have preferred sexual partners. But the social friction most likely occurs between two individuals who are not close or friendly. Bonobos are therefore required to offer sexual contact to individuals they do not like. Faced with an agitated, aggressive male you do not care for, how do you women feel about offering copulation to calm him? And men, how do you feel about offering a penis to rub or your rump for the same? This is the bonobo way.

The overwhelming majority of sexual actions involving genitals do not involve ejaculation or (so far as can be told) orgasm in bonobos. This includes masturbation and intercourse.

Hedge Fund Managers With Psychopathic Tendencies Make for Worse Investor

Hedge Fund Managers With Psychopathic Tendencies Make for Worse Investors. Leanne ten Brinke, Aimee Kish, Dacher Keltner. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. First published date: October-19-2017.

Abstract: It is widely assumed that psychopathic personality traits promote success in high-powered, competitive contexts such as financial investment. By contrast, empirical studies find that psychopathic leaders can be charming and persuasive, but poor performers who mismanage, bully, and engage in unethical behavior. By coding nonverbal behaviors displayed in semistructured interviews, we identified the psychopathic, Machiavellian, and narcissistic tendencies in 101 hedge fund managers, and examined whether these traits were associated with financial performance over the course of 10 diverse years of economic volatility (2005-2015). Managers with greater psychopathic tendencies produced lower absolute returns than their less psychopathic peers, and managers with greater narcissistic traits produced decreased risk-adjusted returns. The discussion focuses on the costs of Dark Triad traits in financial investment, and organizational leadership more generally.

Vindeby, The World’s First Offshore Wind Farm Retires: A Post-Mortem

World’s First Offshore Wind Farm Retires: A Post-Mortem. M J Kelly, Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom. Date: 18/10/17

The first-ever offshore wind farm, Vindeby, in Danish waters, is being decommissioned after twenty-five years, DONG Energy has announced.[1] By its nature it was an experiment, and we can now see whether or not is has been a successful alternative to fossil or nuclear-fuelled electricity.

It consisted of eleven turbines, each with a capacity of 0.45 MW, giving a total export capacity for the wind farm of 5 MW. The hub height of each turbine was 37.5 m and blade height 17 m, small by today’s standards. Because of its date of construction, it would have been all but totally reliant on conventional energy for its manufacture and installation. The original stated project cost was £7.16 million in 1991, which is equivalent to approximately £10 million today.[2]

During its lifetime, it delivered 243 GWh to the Danish electricity grid. This means that the actual amount of electricity generated was 22% of that which would have been generated if it had delivered 5 MW all the time for 25 years. In technical terms, it had a load factor of 0.22. From the same source we see the initial expectation was that 3506 houses would be powered annually, with a saving of 7085 tonnes of carbon dioxide per annum.[3] There was no clear indication of Vindeby’s expected lifetime. Since the average household’s annual use of energy in Denmark[4] is 5000 kWh, we can calculate that the windfarm’s anticipated energy output was 438 GWh over its 25-year lifetime. The actual total of 243 GWh was therefore only 55% of that expectation.

The (annual average) spot price for electricity from both the European Energy Exchange and Nordpool quoted over the period 2006–2014 dropped approximately linearly from €50–55/MWh in 2006 to €32–37/MWh in 2014.[5] If we assume that this trend was constant over 1991–2017, we can see that the average wholesale price paid for the Vindeby electricity was of order of €50/MWh. On this basis the revenue of the windfarm was approximately €12 million: perhaps €15 million at today’s prices. This means that the windmill spent 75% of its life paying off the £10 million cost of its construction, and most of the rest paying for maintenance. In terms of effective energy revenue, the return on input cost was close to 1:1. The individual project may have been just profitable, but the project is insufficiently productive as will be seen below.

Other windfarms have performed even worse. Lely, an smaller farm sited off the Netherlands coast, was decommissioned last year.[6] It consisted of four turbines of 0.5 MW capacity, and cost £4.4 million in 1992. One nacelle and blades failed in 2014 because of metal fatigue.[7] It produced 3500 MWh per year, implying a load factor of 20%. At the same €50/MWh as above, it would have earned €4.2 million, less than the initial project cost, let alone the additional cost of any maintenance, by any way of reckoning.[8]

The reader should note that the analysis above assumes that the scrap value of the wind turbines will pay for the decommissioning process, and so does not degrade the ratio any further: presumably the bases will remain in the sea. This assumption has been made explicit for the Cowley Ridge wind farm in Alberta, Canada, for which the actual electricity energy delivered into the Canadian grid is not in the public domain, so this similar exercise cannot be repeated.[9]

For a typical fossil-fuel plant, effective energy revenue return on input cost is of the order of 50:1 if one considers the plant alone and about 15:1 when one includes the cost of the fuel. For a nuclear plant the ratio is more like 70:1, and the fuel is a negligible part of the overall cost. The energy generation and distribution sector makes up approximately 9% of the whole world economy, suggesting that the global energy sector has an energy return ratio of 11:1.[10] It is this high average ratio, buoyed by much higher ratios in certain areas (e.g.15:1 in Europe), that allows our present world economy to function.

The lesson learned from the considerations discussed above is that wind farms like these early examples could not power a modern economy unless assisted by substantial fossil-fuelled energy.

Interestingly, DONG Energy, which built Vindeby, is proposing the much newer and bigger Hornsea Project One in the North Sea. This wind farm will have 174 turbines, each with a hub height of 113 m, 75 m blades and a nameplate capacity of 7 MW. It is due to be commissioned in 2020.[11] The project capacity is 1218 MW, and it has a current cost estimate of €3.36 billion. No clear statement of expected lifetime has been provided, but DONG has stated that 862,655 homes will be powered annually. Assuming the average per-household electricity use in the UK[12] to be 4000 kWh, this implies a constant generation of 394 MW over the year, which is 32% of capacity, which is probably realistic.

The agreed wholesale price of the Hornsea energy over the next twenty-five years is £140/MWh. Even assuming a very generous load factor of 50%, Hornsea’s lifetime revenue would be about £20 billion, suggesting a ratio of revenue to cost of 6:1 (reduced further by any maintenance costs), still barely half the average value that prevails in the global economy, which is more than 85% fossil-fuel based.

The secret of the fossil fuel success in the world economy is the high calorific value of the fuel. A ton of coal costing £42.50 produces of the order of 2000 kWh of electricity in a new coal-fired power plants (up 30% from older plants). This sells for £400 wholesale, with an energy return on energy invested (EROEI) of 10:1. A therm of natural gas costs £0.40, and produces 30 kWh of electricity, which sells for £6, representing an EROEI of 15:1.  Fuel-less technologies do not have this advantage.

The disappointing results from Vindeby, and the likely results from Hornsea and similar projects must be seen in the context of the increasing wealth of a growing world population. If all the world’s 10.3 billion people alive in 2055 were to lead a European (as opposed to American) style of life, we would need 2.5 times the primary energy as used today. If, say, half of the energy is suddenly produced with an energy return on investment of 5.5:1 (i.e. half the present world average), then for the same investment we would get only 75% of the energy and we would need to cut energy consumption: the first 10% reduction could come by curtailing higher education, international air travel, the internet, advanced medicine and high culture. We could invest proportionately more of our economy in energy production than we do now, but that will still mean a step backward against the trend of the last 200 years of reducing the proportion of the total economy taken by the energy sector.[13] To avoid this undesirable scenario we would need new forms of energy to match the fossil/nuclear fuel performance.

In this context it is useful to remember that global economic growth is very sensitive to the cost of energy. The energy cost spikes in the mid-1970s and in 2010 form the boundaries between the 5% growth rate of the global economy from 1950–1975, the 3% from 1980–2008, and the 2.5% since 2012. There is a lot at stake in the choice between cheap fossil fuels and expensive renewables.













[13] Until the industrial revolution, the UK economy operated on an energy return investment of 2:1: see C. W. King, J P Maxwell and A Donovan, ‘Comparing world economic and net energy metrics, Part I: Single Technology and Commercial Perspective’ Energies 2015: 12949-74. The 2:1 ratio applies in some parts of Africa today: when half the economy is spent providing food and fuel, it leaves little over for other activities.

Changes in the Public Acceptance of Immigrants and Refugees in Germany in the Course of Europe’s ‘Immigration Crisis’

Christian S Czymara, Alexander W Schmidt-Catran; Refugees Unwelcome? Changes in the Public Acceptance of Immigrants and Refugees in Germany in the Course of Europe’s ‘Immigration Crisis’, European Sociological Review, , jcx071,

Abstract: Based on an innovative design, combining a multi-factorial survey experiment with a longitudinal perspective, we examine changes in the public acceptance of immigrants in Germany from the beginning of the so-called ‘migration crisis’ to after the sexual assaults of New Year’s Eve (NYE) 2015/2016. In contrast to previous studies investigating similar research questions, our approach allows to differentiate changes along various immigrant characteristics. Derived from discussions making up the German immigration discourse during this time, we expect reduced acceptance especially of those immigrants who were explicitly connected to the salient events, like Muslims and the offenders of NYE. Most strikingly, we find that refugees were generally highly accepted and even more so in the second wave, whereas the acceptance of immigrants from Arab or African countries further decreased. Moreover, female respondents’ initial preference for male immigrants disappeared. Contrary to our expectations, we find no changes in the acceptance of Muslims. We conclude that (i) public opinion research is well advised to match the particular political and social context under investigation to a fitting outcome variable to adequately capture the dynamics of anti-immigrant sentiment and that (ii) the vividly discussed upper limits for refugees seem to be contrary to public demands according to our data.

Birth order: no meaningful effects on life satisfaction, locus of control, interpersonal trust, reciprocity, risk taking, patience, impulsivity, or political orientation

Probing Birth-Order Effects on Narrow Traits Using Specification-Curve Analysis. Julia M. Rohrer, Boris Egloff, and Stefan C. Schmukle. Psychological Science. First published date: October-17-2017. DOI 10.1177/0956797617723726

Abstract: The idea that birth-order position has a lasting impact on personality has been discussed for the past 100 years. Recent large-scale studies have indicated that birth-order effects on the Big Five personality traits are negligible. In the current study, we examined a variety of more narrow personality traits in a large representative sample (n = 6,500–10,500 in between-family analyses; n = 900–1,200 in within-family analyses). We used specification-curve analysis to assess evidence for birth-order effects across a range of models implementing defensible yet arbitrary analytical decisions (e.g., whether to control for age effects or to exclude participants on the basis of sibling spacing). Although specification-curve analysis clearly confirmed the previously reported birth-order effect on intellect, we found no meaningful effects on life satisfaction, locus of control, interpersonal trust, reciprocity, risk taking, patience, impulsivity, or political orientation. The lack of meaningful birth-order effects on self-reports of personality was not limited to broad traits but also held for more narrowly defined characteristics.

Not aware of the improvement, but drinking alcohol significantly betters observer-ratings for Dutch language, specifically pronunciation

Dutch courage? Effects of acute alcohol consumption on self-ratings and observer ratings of foreign language skills. Fritz Renner, Inge Kersbergen, Matt Field, and Jessica Werthmann. Journal of Psychopharmacology. First published date: October-18-2017. DOI 10.1177/0269881117735687


Aims: A popular belief is that alcohol improves the ability to speak in a foreign language. The effect of acute alcohol consumption on perceived foreign language performance and actual foreign language performance in foreign language learners has not been investigated. The aim of the current study was to test the effects of acute alcohol consumption on self-rated and observer-rated verbal foreign language performance in participants who have recently learned this language.

ethods: Fifty native German speakers who had recently learned Dutch were randomized to receive either a low dose of alcohol or a control beverage that contained no alcohol. Following the experimental manipulation, participants took part in a standardized discussion in Dutch with a blinded experimenter. The discussion was audio-recorded and foreign language skills were subsequently rated by two native Dutch speakers who were blind to the experimental condition (observer-rating). Participants also rated their own individual Dutch language skills during the discussion (self-rating).

Results: Participants who consumed alcohol had significantly better observer-ratings for their Dutch language, specifically better pronunciation, compared with those who did not consume alcohol. However, alcohol had no effect on self-ratings of Dutch language skills.

Conclusions: Acute alcohol consumption may have beneficial effects on the pronunciation of a foreign language in people who have recently learned that language.

Infants React with Increased Arousal to Spiders and Snakes

Itsy Bitsy Spider…: Infants React with Increased Arousal to Spiders and Snakes. Stefanie Hoehl, Kahl Hellmer, Maria Johansson and Gustaf Gredeb├Ąck. Front. Psychol., October 18 2017,

Abstract: Attention biases have been reported for ancestral threats like spiders and snakes in infants, children, and adults. However, it is currently unclear whether these stimuli induce increased physiological arousal in infants. Here, 6-month-old infants were presented with pictures of spiders and flowers (Study 1, within-subjects), or snakes and fish (Study 1, within-subjects; Study 2, between-subjects). Infants’ pupillary responses linked to activation of the noradrenergic system were measured. Infants reacted with increased pupillary dilation indicating arousal to spiders and snakes compared with flowers and fish. Results support the notion of an evolved preparedness for developing fear of these ancestral threats.