Friday, November 3, 2017

“There was 100% better treatment as a wife under Boko Haram. There was more gifts, better food, and a lot of sex that I always enjoyed.”

Rescued and deradicalised women are returning to Boko Haram. Why? By Hilary Matfess
Girls and women who join Boko Haram simply tend to see it as the best option available to them.
African Arguments, November 1, 2017

[Photo: It is not uncommon to hear of girls and women escaping IDP camps to return to their Boko Haram husbands. Credit: UD.]

This June, reports emerged that Aisha, the wife of Boko Haram commander, had fled her home in Maiduguri. The 25-year-old reportedly escaped the city to rejoin her husband Mamman Nur and other insurgents in the Sambisa Forest.

Stories of girls and young women leaving camps for internally-displaced persons to return to the notoriously brutal Boko Haram are not uncommon in north-eastern Nigeria. But Aisha’s story is particularly troubling. She had only recently completed a targeted, nine-month long deradicalisation programme.

If Aisha returned to Boko Haram despite all the resources dedicated to her deradicalisation and rehabilitation, what does the future hold for the scores of other women who receive significantly less support?

Why women join Boko Haram

The roughly 70-person deradicalisation programme in which Aisha participated was a mixture of psychosocial support and religious education. The provision of care to women who have been traumatised is certainly valuable, but the framing of this support as a deradicalisation programme mischaracterises the motivations of women who join Boko Haram.

In my conversations with women who joined the Islamist militant group of their own volition, many cite the opportunities that being a member of the insurgency provides. Aisha, who benefitted particularly thanks to her husband’s senior role as a commander, told Reuters in February that she was given slaves who “washed, cooked, and babysat for her”. “Even the men respected me because I was Mamman Nur’s wife,” she boasted.

However, even women who were not wives of elite fighters reported that joining the group conveyed tangible benefits. One woman I spoke to said: “There was 100% better treatment as a wife under Boko Haram. There was more gifts, better food, and a lot of sex that I always enjoyed.”

Another girl who married into the insurgency told me she particularly enjoyed the sect’s mandatory, near-daily Quranic education. “I was happy because I was meeting with my friends and getting learning,” she said, contrasting this with her much more intermittent access to schooling outside the group.

As detailed in my new book Women and the War on Boko Haram, women also often joined the insurgency because of the material improvement it can bring. Many women said they were drawn to Boko Haram because brideprices are paid directly to women rather than their family and because purdah – the practice of wife seclusion that’s associated with the socio-economic elite in northern Nigeria – is practiced widely.

These benefits contrast with typical experiences outside the insurgency. Only 4% of girls in northern Nigeria complete secondary school, while a UK government report estimates that 80% of women in eight northern states are unable to read. Early marriage is prevalent, access to health care is meagre, and the maternal mortality rate in the region is five times the global average.

Coming home

Women who are rescued or removed from Boko Haram return to the material deprivation and socio-political marginalisation that drove them to the group in the first place. But in addition, they may also come to face new forms of discrimination.

According to Dr Fatima Akilu, founder of the Neem Foundation, which provides psychosocial support, women who return home face the “possibility of violence”. Women may successfully go through the deradicalisation programme, she says, but then struggle in the community because of intense stigmatisation.

This accounts for both women who joined Boko Haram voluntarily and those abducted against their will. A UNICEF and International Alert report found that some community leaders are reticent to accept abducted women back into the community as “their ideas and ways of life may now be different and may not be good for the community”.

Despite widespread recognition of the problems of reintegration, there has yet to be a broad, community-oriented sensitisation programme to help girls return home. Furthermore, deradicalisation programmes generally do not focus on the sorts of livelihood development or skills acquisition that could help these single women support themselves and their children.

This mistrust and economic insecurity puts women who return at high risk of exploitation and gender-based violence.

[Full text and reference information in the link above]
Hilary Matfess’ book Women and the War on Boko Haram Wives, Weapons, Witnesses is out on 3 November 2017.

The scientific practices of experimental psychologists have improved dramatically

Psychology's Renaissance. Leif D. Nelson, Joseph P. Simmons, and Uri Simonsohn. Annual Review of Psychology, forthcoming.

Abstract: In 2010–2012, a few largely coincidental events led experimental psychologists to realize that their approach to collecting, analyzing, and reporting data made it too easy to publish false-positive findings. This sparked a period of methodological reflection that we review here and call Psychology’s Renaissance. We begin by describing how psychologists’ concerns with publication bias shifted from worrying about file-drawered studies to worrying about p-hacked analyses. We then review the methodological changes that psychologists have proposed and, in some cases, embraced. In describing how the renaissance has unfolded, we attempt to describe different points of view fairly but not neutrally, so as to identify the most promising paths forward. In so doing, we champion disclosure and preregistration, express skepticism about most statistical solutions to publication bias, take positions on the analysis and interpretation of replication failures, and contend that meta-analytical thinking increases the prevalence of false positives. Our general thesis is that the scientific practices of experimental psychologists have improved dramatically.

Keywords: p-hacking, publication bias, renaissance, methodology, false positives, preregistration

Psychologists have long been aware of two seemingly contradictory problems with the published literature. On the one hand, the overwhelming majority of published findings are statistically significant (Fanelli 2012, Greenwald 1975, Sterling 1959). On the other hand, the overwhelming majority of published studies are underpowered and, thus, theoretically unlikely to obtain results that are statistically significant (Chase & Chase 1976, Cohen 1962, Sedlmeier & Gigerenzer 1989). The sample sizes of experiments meant that most studies should have been failing, but the published record suggested almost uniform success.

There is an old, popular, and simple explanation for this paradox. Experiments that work are sent to a journal, whereas experiments that fail are sent to the file drawer (Rosenthal 1979). We believe that this “file-drawer explanation” is incorrect. Most failed studies are not missing. They are published in our journals, masquerading as successes.

The file-drawer explanation becomes transparently implausible once its assumptions are made explicit. It assumes that researchers conduct a study and perform one (predetermined) statistical analysis. If the analysis is significant, then they publish it. If it is not significant, then the researcher gives up and starts over. This is not a realistic depiction of researcher behavior. Researchers would not so quickly give up on their chances for publication, nor would they abandon the beliefs that led them to run the study, just because the first analysis they ran was not statistically significant. They would instead explore the data further, examining, for example, whether outliers were interfering with the effect, whether the effect was significant within a subset of participants or trials, or whether it emerged when the dependent variable was coded differently. Pre-2011 researchers did occasionally file-drawer a study, although they did not do so when the study failed, but rather when p-hacking did. Thus, whereas our file drawers are sprinkled with failed studies that we did not publish, they are overflowing with failed analyses of the studies that we did publish.

Masturbation to Orgasm Stimulates the Release of the Endocannabinoid 2-Arachidonoylglycerol

Fuss J, Bindila L, Wiedemann K, et al. Masturbation to Orgasm Stimulates the Release of the Endocannabinoid 2-Arachidonoylglycerol in Humans. J Sex Med 2017;14:1372–1379.


Background: Endocannabinoids are critical for rewarding behaviors such as eating, physical exercise, and social interaction. The role of endocannabinoids in mammalian sexual behavior has been suggested because of the influence of cannabinoid receptor agonists and antagonists on rodent sexual activity. However, the involvement of endocannabinoids in human sexual behavior has not been studied.

Aim: To investigate plasma endocannabinoid levels before and after masturbation in healthy male and female volunteers.

Outcomes: Plasma levels of the endocannabinoids 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), anandamide, the endocannabinoid-like lipids oleoyl ethanolamide and palmitoyl ethanolamide, arachidonic acid, and cortisol before and after masturbation to orgasm.

Methods: In study 1, endocannabinoid and cortisol levels were measured before and after masturbation to orgasm. In study 2, masturbation to orgasm was compared with a control condition using a single-blinded, randomized, 2-session crossover design.

Results: In study 1, masturbation to orgasm significantly increased plasma levels of the endocannabinoid 2-AG, whereas anandamide, oleoyl ethanolamide, palmitoyl ethanolamide, arachidonic acid, and cortisol levels were not altered. In study 2, only masturbation to orgasm, not the control condition, led to a significant increase in 2-AG levels. Interestingly, we also found a significant increase of oleoyl ethanolamide after masturbation to orgasm in study 2.

Clinical Translation: Endocannabinoids might play an important role in the sexual response cycle, leading to possible implications for the understanding and treatment of sexual dysfunctions.

Strengths and Limitations: We found an increase of 2-AG through masturbation to orgasm in 2 studies including a single-blinded randomized design. The exact role of endocannabinoid release as part of the sexual response cycle and the biological significance of the finding should be studied further. Cannabis and other drug use and the attainment of orgasm were self-reported in the present study.

Conclusion: Our data indicate that the endocannabinoid 2-AG is involved in the human sexual response cycle and we hypothesize that 2-AG release plays a role in the rewarding consequences of sexual arousal and orgasm.

Key Words: 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG); Anandamide (AEA); Oleoyl Ethanolamide (OEA); Masturbation; Orgasm; Sexuality; Reward; Cortisol

Adolescents with autism spectrum disorder exhibited more accurate metaperceptions than did typically developing adolescents

Metaperception in Adolescents With and Without Autism Spectrum Disorder. Lauren V. Usher et al. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders,

Abstract: This study compared how adolescents with and without autism spectrum disorder (ASD) evaluated unfamiliar peers (i.e., perceptions), as well as how adolescents believed they were evaluated by peers (i.e., metaperceptions). The Perceptions and Metaperceptions Questionnaire was designed to quantify perceptions and metaperceptions following a live interaction. For all adolescents, more positive perceptions of the peer were associated with more positive metaperceptions. Adolescents with ASD exhibited more accurate metaperceptions than did typically developing adolescents. More positive perceptions and metaperceptions were associated with higher levels of observed social competence across groups. Findings extend our understanding of typically and atypically developing adolescents’ impressions of unfamiliar peers and their ability to discern what peers think of them.

Across the first year, most infants have approximately 2.5 times more social interactions with women than men

Differential Trajectories in the Development of Attractiveness Biases Toward Female and Male Targets. Jennifer L. Rennels and Kirsty M. Kulhanek. In "Perception of Beauty", book edited by Martha Peaslee Levine, ISBN 978-953-51-3582-1, Print ISBN 978-953-51-3581-4, Published: October 25, 2017 under CC BY 3.0 license.  DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.69342

Abstract: Across the first year, most infants have approximately 2.5 times more social interactions with women than men. There is evidence that because of this differential experience, infants develop a cognitive representation for human faces that is weighted toward female-like and attractive. Subsequently, attractiveness is more salient when infants process female relative to male faces. These early asymmetries in facial experience and the greater saliency of attractiveness for female and male targets persist into early childhood, which contributes to attractiveness influencing children’s categorization and judgments of females more strongly than for males. During middle childhood, children’s facial representations become more differentiated, which might explain increases in children’s attractiveness biases for male targets during this developmental period. By adolescence, mating interests seem to combine with these developing facial representations to influence attractiveness preferences. This chapter reviews asymmetries in the saliency of attractiveness for female and male targets from infancy to adolescence and focuses on how cognitive facial representations likely guide how attractiveness influences children’s processing of female and male targets.

Keywords: development, face processing, attractiveness bias, sex differences, stereotyped attitudes

Has the rising placebo response impacted antidepressant clinical trial outcome? Data from the US FDA 1987‐2013

Has the rising placebo response impacted antidepressant clinical trial outcome? Data from the US Food and Drug Administration 1987‐2013. Arif Khan et al. World Psychiatry. 2017 September 21; 16(3): 328.

Abstract: More than fifteen years ago, it was noted that the failure rate of antidepressant clinical trials was high, and such negative outcomes were thought to be related to the increasing magnitude of placebo response. However, there is considerable debate regarding this phenomenon and its relationship to outcomes in more recent antidepressant clinical trials. To investigate this, we accessed the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reviews for sixteen antidepressants (85 trials, 115 trial arms, 23,109 patients) approved between 1987 and 2013. We calculated the magnitude of placebo and antidepressant responses, antidepressant‐placebo differences, as well as the effect sizes and success rates, and compared these measures over time. Exploratory analysis investigated potential changes in trial design and conduct over time. As expected, the magnitude of placebo response has steadily grown in the past 30 years, increasing since 2000 by 6.4% (r=0.46, p less than 0.001). Contrary to expectations, a similar increase has occurred in the magnitude of antidepressant response (6.0%, r=0.37, p less than 0.001). Thus, the effect sizes (0.30 vs. 0.29, p=0.42) and the magnitude of antidepressant‐placebo differences (10.5% vs. 10.3%, p=0.37) have remained statistically equivalent. Furthermore, the frequency of positive trial arms has gone up in the past 15 years (from 47.8% to 63.8%), but this difference in frequency has not reached statistical significance. Trial design features that were previously associated with a possible lower magnitude of placebo response were not implemented, and their relationship to the magnitude of placebo response could not be replicated. Of the 34 recent trials, two implemented enhanced interview techniques, but both of them were unsuccessful. The results of this study suggest that the relationship between the magnitude of placebo response and the outcome of antidepressant clinical trials is weak at best. These data further indicate that antidepressant‐placebo differences are about the same for all of the sixteen antidepressants approved by the FDA in the past thirty years.

Keywords: Antidepressants, clinical trials, placebo response, antidepressant‐placebo difference, effect size, success rate, enhanced interview techniques