Sunday, November 5, 2017

Skepticism toward unfounded beliefs requires sufficient cognitive ability AND motivation to be rational

Epistemic rationality: Skepticism toward unfounded beliefs requires sufficient cognitive ability and motivation to be rational. Tomas Ståhl, Jan-Willem van Prooijen. Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 122, February 01 2018, Pages 155–163.

•    Analytic thinking is not sufficient to promote skepticism toward various unfounded beliefs.
•    Analytic thinking and valuing epistemic rationality interactively predict skepticism.
•    Cognitive ability, rather than analytic cognitive style, seems to account for these findings.

Abstract: Why does belief in the paranormal, conspiracy theories, and various other phenomena that are not backed up by evidence remain widespread in modern society? In the present research we adopt an individual difference approach, as we seek to identify psychological precursors of skepticism toward unfounded beliefs. We propose that part of the reason why unfounded beliefs are so widespread is because skepticism requires both sufficient analytic skills, and the motivation to form beliefs on rational grounds. In Study 1 we show that analytic thinking is associated with a lower inclination to believe various conspiracy theories, and paranormal phenomena, but only among individuals who strongly value epistemic rationality. We replicate this effect on paranormal belief, but not conspiracy beliefs, in Study 2. We also provide evidence suggesting that general cognitive ability, rather than analytic cognitive style, is the underlying facet of analytic thinking that is responsible for these effects.

Keywords: Paranormal belief; Conspiracy belief; Cognitive ability; Analytic cognitive style; Epistemic rationality; Importance of rationality

Check also: Public Perceptions of Partisan Selective Exposure. Perryman, Mallory R.. The University of Wisconsin - Madison, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2017. 10607943.

And: Dispelling the Myth: Training in Education or Neuroscience Decreases but Does Not Eliminate Beliefs in Neuromyths. Kelly Macdonald et al. Frontiers in Psychology, Aug 10 2017.

And: Wisdom and how to cultivate it: Review of emerging evidence for a constructivist model of wise thinking. Igor Grossmann. European Psychologist, in press. Pre-print:

And: Science Denial Across the Political Divide -- Liberals and Conservatives Are Similarly Motivated to Deny Attitude-Inconsistent Science. Anthony N. Washburn, Linda J. Skitka. Social Psychological and Personality Science,

And: Biased Policy Professionals. Sheheryar Banuri, Stefan Dercon, and Varun Gauri. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 8113.

And: Individuals with greater science literacy and education have more polarized beliefs on controversial science topics. Caitlin Drummond and Baruch Fischhoff. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 114 no. 36, pp 9587–9592,

And: Expert ability can actually impair the accuracy of expert perception when judging others' performance: Adaptation and fallibility in experts' judgments of novice performers. By Larson, J. S., & Billeter, D. M. (2017). Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 43(2), 271–288.

And: Bottled Water and the Overflowing Nanny State, by Angela Logomasini. How Misinformation Erodes Consumer Freedom. CEI, February 17, 2009

And Competing cues: Older adults rely on knowledge in the face of fluency. By Brashier, Nadia M.; Umanath, Sharda; Cabeza, Roberto; Marsh, Elizabeth J.
Psychology and Aging, Vol 32(4), Jun 2017, 331-337.

Similar but different: Interviewing monozygotic twins discordant for musical practice

Similar but different: Interviewing monozygotic twins discordant for musical practice. Helene Eriksson et al. Musicae Scientiae, Volume: 21 issue: 3, page(s): 250-266.

Abstract: Musical engagement is influenced by both environmental and genetic factors. Here, we explored non-genetic influences on musical engagement by performing semi-structured interviews of 10 Swedish monozygotic twin pairs that were highly discordant for piano practicing. The interviews were organized into five sections – (i) perceived reasons for the discordance; (ii) childhood differences in specific music related variables; (iii) strong memories of music; (iv) the perceived meaning of music in life and for health; and (v) language interests – and analyzed using response categorization. The playing twins from an early age found music more interesting and enjoyable than their co-twins and also gave richer and more elaborate descriptions of the meaning of music in life, in several cases emphasizing that music was important for their personal identity. In line with this, an analysis of previously collected web questionnaire data showed that the playing twins had a significantly higher openness to experience and proneness to experience flow during musical activities. In contrast, the twins reported essentially no within-pair differences in the musical engagement of their peers, parental support, music teacher, ensemble playing, public performances, and their interest and aptitude for languages. The interviews gave no indication that the differences in musical engagement were caused by systematic environmental influences that were consistent across twin pairs. Rather, the respondents presented a wide range of different explanations for their discordance in musical activity, suggesting that the remaining influences on musical engagement, when genetics and family environment are controlled for, may be highly individual and idiosyncratic.

The dark side of experiencing job autonomy: Unethical behavior

The dark side of experiencing job autonomy: Unethical behavior. Jackson Lu et al. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Volume 73, November 2017, Pages 222-234,

Abstract: To date, job autonomy has been conceptualized as a job characteristic that elicits positive outcomes. In contrast, the present studies unveiled a potential dark side of experiencing job autonomy: unethical behavior. Using field surveys on Israeli employees, Studies 1 and 2 found that experienced job autonomy not only positively predicted job satisfaction (thus replicating past research), but also positively predicted unethical behavior. Using experimental designs, Studies 3a and 3b drew on actual job autonomy policies from real-world corporations to prime American employees to experience different levels of job autonomy. Compared to participants in the low-autonomy or autonomy-unrelated control conditions, participants in the high-autonomy condition were more likely to behave unethically because they felt less constrained by rules. Moreover, the relationship between experienced job autonomy and unethical behavior was moderated by the importance that participants assigned to having job autonomy, such that the experience of high job autonomy was less likely to elicit unethical behavior from participants for whom having job autonomy was more important. In addition to replicating all of these findings, Study 4 revealed that the experience of high job autonomy simultaneously increased unethical behavior and creativity, further demonstrating job autonomy to be a double-edged sword. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

The Paradox of Family Structure and Plans After Work: Why Single Childless Employees May be the Least Absorbed at Work

The Paradox of Family Structure and Plans After Work: Why Single Childless Employees May be the Least Absorbed at Work. Tracy Dumas & Jill Perry-Smith. Academy of Management Journal,

Abstract: Existing research shows that positive family experiences can affect work positively. In this article, however, we consider how family can enhance work even when family experiences are not explicitly positive. We draw on boundary theory and cognitive psychology's current concerns theory to consider how employees' family structures and associated after-work activities affect their work absorption. A survey of business school alumni (study 1) revealed that single, childless workers reported lower absorption than workers with other family structures. Further, a daily diary study of university employees (study 2), showed that employees' planned after-work activities explained the relationship between family structure and work absorption. Specifically, single, childless workers anticipated fewer domestic after-work activities, resulting in lower work absorption. Due to similarities between domestic responsibilities and work tasks — e.g., their obligatory and goal-directed nature — anticipating domestic responsibilities after work reinforces, rather than distracts from, the work mindset, thus keeping employees more immersed psychologically in their work. This finding suggests that having a spouse and/or children can affect employees' work absorption positively through the anticipation of domestic duties after work. Thus, our study contributes to a more comprehensive view of how employees' work and non-work lives are connected.

CEOs born into poor families outperform those born into wealthy families without higher risk-taking

From Playground to Boardroom: Endowed Social Status and Managerial Performance. Fangfang Du. Arizona State University Working Paper,

Abstract: By matching a CEO's place of residence in his or her formative years with U.S. Census survey data, I obtain an estimate of the CEO's family wealth and study the link between the CEO's endowed social status and firm performance. I find that CEOs born into poor families outperform those born into wealthy families, as measured by a variety of proxies for firm performance. There is no evidence of higher risk-taking by the CEOs from low social status backgrounds. Further, CEOs from poor families are better able to preserve the firm's human capital during periods of financial distress and demonstrate greater ability to develop successful innovation. As a result, such CEOs perform better in firms with high R&D spending.

The Paradox of Intelligence: Heritability and Malleability Coexist in Hidden Gene-Environment Interplay

Sauce, B., & Matzel, L. D. (2017). The Paradox of Intelligence: Heritability and Malleability Coexist in Hidden Gene-Environment Interplay. Psychological Bulletin. Advance online publication.

Abstract: Intelligence can have an extremely high heritability, but also be malleable; a paradox that has been the source of continuous controversy. Here we attempt to clarify the issue, and advance a frequently overlooked solution to the paradox: Intelligence is a trait with unusual properties that create a large reservoir of hidden gene–environment (GE) networks, allowing for the contribution of high genetic and environmental influences on individual differences in IQ. GE interplay is difficult to specify with current methods, and is underestimated in standard metrics of heritability (thus inflating estimates of “genetic” effects). We describe empirical evidence for GE interplay in intelligence, with malleability existing on top of heritability. The evidence covers cognitive gains consequent to adoption/immigration, changes in IQ's heritability across life span and socioeconomic status, gains in IQ over time consequent to societal development (the Flynn effect), the slowdown of age-related cognitive decline, and the gains in intelligence from early education. The GE solution has novel implications for enduring problems, including our inability to identify intelligence-related genes (also known as IQ’s “missing heritability”), and the loss of initial benefits from early intervention programs (such as “Head Start”). The GE solution can be a powerful guide to future research, and may also aid policies to overcome barriers to the development of intelligence, particularly in impoverished and underprivileged populations.

The social behavioral, emotional, and cognitive mechanisms underlying narcissistic personality traits

The social behavioral, emotional, and cognitive mechanisms underlying narcissistic personality traits. Marjan Sharifi. Fachbereich Erziehungswissenschaft und Psychologie
der Freien Universität Berlin,

The cornerstone of a healthy society is social cohesion, which is based on good interpersonal relationships. Given the rampant rise in narcissistic values in our society (see, e.g., Twenge, & Campbell, 2009; Paris, 2014), it is important to understand the mechanisms behind this interpersonally disruptive personality trait.

This dissertation examines the underlying cognitive, emotional, and social behavioral mechanisms of individuals with a high number of narcissistic traits. Narcissists are known for their self-aggrandizing personality type which ultimately masks an insecure inner self. It is argued that the narcissists’ self-image is molded through dynamic interactions between self-enhancing intra- and exploitative interpersonal regulation strategies (Morf, & Rhodewalt, 2001). Accordingly, the three main research questions addressed in this thesis are:

1) What self-generated thoughts underlie the intra-individual regulation strategies of narcissists? 2) What are the mechanisms driving the interpersonally disruptive narcissistic social behaviors in active, and reactive roles? and 3) How does the grandiose ego of narcissists bias their judgment in assessing another person's emotional state?

The first study reveals that greater numbers of pathological narcissistic traits are associated with higher levels of mind-wandering, and the content of these thoughts were more socially focused (self- and other-related), temporally focused (past- and future-oriented), and more negative. Most notably, positive thoughts were only related to narcissism when they were associated with self-related and future-oriented thoughts. Thus, the content of the narcissist’s self-generated thoughts suggest two different patterns that could affect their intrapersonal regulation strategies: fantasy-driven thought patterns and patterns akin to rumination. These thought patterns may indicate why narcissists have a grandiose self-image and also a susceptibility to pathological vulnerability.

The second study examined ongoing social interactions where there were possibilities for acts of generosity and punishment amongst individuals with a range of pathological narcissistic traits. There were two main findings. First, narcissists are less generous in situations where there is a risk of being punished, and this maladaptive behavior is mediated with a reduction in perspective taking.

Second, higher narcissism scores are related to increased levels of punishment, and this retributive behavior is mediated by the narcissists experiencing anger. In the final study, the tendency to both experience and also attribute the social emotions of envy and Schadenfreude was examined. A competitive social comparison task was used amongst individuals with only high and low levels of grandiose narcissistic traits. It was found that high-level narcissists do not personally experience more envy or Schadenfreude compared to low-level narcissists. However, they do have a tendency to attribute these emotions onto others. These results indicate that narcissists do not use their own emotional state as a frame of reference when assessing another individual’s emotional state in a similar situation, but instead assume others will react differently.

Taken together, this thesis advances knowledge about the mechanisms underlying inter- and intra-personal regulation strategies of the narcissistic personality trait. As a result, it can serve as a possible source of inspiration for future intervention studies and further research on narcissistic personality traits.

Political voting follows not fair-mindedness (the weight on oneself versus others) but equality-efficiency tradeoffs

Distributional preferences and political behavior. Raymond Fisman, Pamela Jakiela, Shachar Kariv. Journal of Public Economics, Volume 155, November 2017, Pages 1-10.

Abstract: We document the relationship between distributional preferences and voting decisions in a large and diverse sample of Americans. Using a generalized dictator game, we generate individual-level measures of fair-mindedness (the weight on oneself versus others) and equality-efficiency tradeoffs. Subjects' equality-efficiency tradeoffs predict their political decisions: equality-focused subjects are more likely to have voted for Barack Obama in 2012, and to be affiliated with the Democratic Party. Our findings shed light on how American voters are motivated by their distributional preferences.

Expectations of Western Zen fans -- Seeking Solitude in Japan’s Mountain Monasteries

We are a bit crazy... Visitors of monasteries in Japan write about their disappointing travel:
Reading up on the shukubo options before my trip, I learned that many previous visitors to Koyasan were irked by the simplicity of the lodgings. Some wrote on that their rooms were too cold, or that they could hear their neighbors snoring through the 200-year-old paper walls of the temple. More than one reviewer complained that the multicourse vegan meals were too simple to satiate people who are accustomed to eating meat. “Take snacks or you will starve,” one warned.

Others felt that they weren’t quite receiving a good enough spiritual bang for their buck. “I expected something a bit spiritual and to feel that Zen/Buddhist vibe,” one visitor from Ohio complained, “I have to say I did not feel it.” Some complained that the monks running the temples didn’t speak enough English, or didn’t offer visitors enough individual attention. “The major disappointment came during dinner,” another wrote. “I was expecting to have the opportunity to mingle with the monks.”


Full article :Seeking Solitude in Japan’s Mountain Monasteries. By ANNA HEZEL
The New York Times, Oct 11, 2017

at the link:


“Your eyes should be neither open nor closed,” explained the monk at the front of the room. “They should be sort of sleepy — like a Buddha.” It was my first time meditating, and I was anxious about making some sort of conspicuous misstep. I squinted, then tried to relax my eyelids, but inadvertently began to focus on the bright orange cushion of the person in front of me. I closed my eyes with an inward sigh of exasperation at having such a difficult time following instructions. The monk leading the session told us cheerfully that it might help to rest our vision on the tips of our noses.

I was sitting in the carpeted meditation hall of an 1,100-year-old Buddhist temple in Koyasan, in a mountainous region of southeastern Japan. The hall was separated from the temple’s garden by only a thin sliding wooden door, and the air inside was crisp and piney, threaded with smoke from incense burning on the altar. About 15 other sleepy-eyed tourists from the United States, Europe and Australia (the class was for English-speaking visitors) surrounded me across the floor, steadily counting their breaths.

Koyasan is one of the premier destinations for Buddhist pilgrims in Japan, and is considered one of the holiest sites in the country. It was chosen 1,200 years ago by the monk Kobo-Daishi for its lotus-like geography — a shallow valley nestled into a mountain — to be the headquarters of Esoteric Shingon Buddhism. The religion, which dates to the Tang dynasty, places an emphasis on daily ritual as a means of reaching enlightenment in an immediate, practicable way, developing what several monks described as a “Buddha nature.” Over the course of the last century, the religion’s birthplace has also attracted an increasing number of visitors without any background in Buddhism — visitors who seek out mountains, peace, history, or just a fleeting connection with the mysticism of another time.

I came for a little bit of each of these, teased by the promise of a remote corner of the country, thousands of miles removed, both physically and mentally, from the frenetic anxieties of New York. I wanted to challenge myself to a place with a different logic and rhythm, and to see myself disappear briefly into the magnitude of a 1,200-year-old rite. Also appealing was the prospect of a place that was truly dark at night — a place where the thick, spindly velvet of steep, tree-covered mountainsides soaks up the darkness completely. And like many others, as I would learn, I also wanted something a little bit naïve and capitalistic: to buy an ascetic experience.

THE MOUNTAIN IS DOTTED with a total of 52 shukubo, temples that historically offered overnight lodging to pilgrims. Most of these have also begun to welcome non-pilgrim tourists in recent decades (there are a dozen or so holdouts). For $80 to $150 per night, per person, you can sleep on a tatami mat on the floor of a traditional guest room in a 1,000-year-old temple, eat the monks’ traditional vegan fare, and participate in the daily meditation and prayer. A few of the temples advertise amenities like sutra writing classes, views of monks raking the gardens below, or natural hot springs to bathe in — features you can’t filter for on Airbnb or And in the case of many of the temples, you can’t be totally sure what you are getting — an ambiguity that appealed to me in an era when every possible travel destination is so scrupulously documented and Instagrammed.

Although the temples on Koyasan were originally reserved for the most devout pilgrims, Buddhism is famously accepting of other religions. So over the last century, as temples in Japan and elsewhere began to struggle financially with fewer donations coming in, the natural solution was to open the doors a little wider and welcome visitors who were curious about Buddhism.

Reading up on the shukubo options before my trip, I learned that many previous visitors to Koyasan were irked by the simplicity of the lodgings. Some wrote on that their rooms were too cold, or that they could hear their neighbors snoring through the 200-year-old paper walls of the temple. More than one reviewer complained that the multicourse vegan meals were too simple to satiate people who are accustomed to eating meat. “Take snacks or you will starve,” one warned.

Others felt that they weren’t quite receiving a good enough spiritual bang for their buck. “I expected something a bit spiritual and to feel that Zen/Buddhist vibe,” one visitor from Ohio complained, “I have to say I did not feel it.” Some complained that the monks running the temples didn’t speak enough English, or didn’t offer visitors enough individual attention. “The major disappointment came during dinner,” another wrote. “I was expecting to have the opportunity to mingle with the monks.”

I found these comments more entertaining than dissuasive. I wanted to go and prove to myself how little I was bothered by a chill in the air or a little noise through the walls. Maybe that would be its own form of spiritual growth on a micro scale — proof of my own congruity with the universe even under mildly uncomfortable conditions.

Arriving at this micro-enlightenment would take many modes of transportation, it turned out. Although Koyasan is only about 86 miles outside of Kyoto, the journey to get there is its own self-selecting odyssey. From Kyoto, I took three separate trains past power plants, greenhouses, small towns, backyard yuzu trees and grass tennis courts. At the base of the mountain, I shuffled off the train and onto a cable car along with a handful of European backpackers. At the top of the mountain, a bus waited for us to make the final journey along mortifyingly steep cedar-studded ravines into the center of Koyasan.

I arrived at my temple, Eko-in (part of the Danjo Garan temple complex), just as an American couple and their teenage son were checking in. A monk showed us where to put our shoes by the broad carved wood entrance. Outfitted with wooden slippers, I walked through a maze of creaky wooden hallways to my room, a small, serene square of space with elaborately painted sliding doors and a large window looking out onto the temple’s central garden. The room came equipped with a TV, a space heater, a telephone, and Wi-Fi. Waiting for me were some small red bean sweets and a kettle full of hot water for tea.

When it was time for dinner, a fleet of several monks arrived, bearing a carafe of hot sake and several lacquerware platforms for the food, each containing a clutter of small bowls. The traditional temple cuisine, called shojin-ryori, incorporates a bright variety of tastes, textures and colors. Tiny cups of vegetable broth and miso soup flocked around plates of delicate tempura squash, lotus root and shiso leaves. A pot of slightly bland but hearty cabbage and mushroom udon sat over a little flame. My favorite dish was one that Koyasan is famous for: a savory tofu-like pudding called goma dofu, made from ground sesame and arrowroot flour.

Once it was dark, I slipped out of my room and down to the main entrance of the temple to retrieve my shoes and join the nighttime tour of Okunoin Cemetery. An English-speaking monk led a group of about 20 guests from Eko-in and some of the surrounding temples through the lantern-lit paths of Japan’s largest cemetery, pointing out the moss-covered tombs of important national figures, including the inventor of Kabuki and the founder of Panasonic. Since Buddhism values all forms of life, our guide explained, not all of the graves belonged to human beings; the writing on one of them translated essentially to “R.I.P. Ants.” In the 600-year-old cedars overhead, we could hear the chirps and squeaks of flying squirrels rippling through the brisk air.

In the early morning, before breakfast was served, guests of the temple were invited to attend morning prayer and a daily fire ceremony. The printed schedule left in our room requested that visitors not use flash photography and issued a stern warning: “The morning service and fire ritual are NOT A TOURIST SHOW, monks must do them every day to show daily appreciation to Buddhist saints.”

In spite of this, few attendees of the fire ritual could resist capturing a moment or two of cellphone video: the drums, chanting and flames rising up to the ceiling of the temple as the presiding monk burned a stack of wooden slats with prayers written on them. Most managed to do this surreptitiously while kneeling quietly. About halfway through the ceremony, though, my eyes widened when I recognized a Frenchwoman from the cemetery tour standing at the back of the room, doing what could only be described as dancing to the beat of the drums. None of the monks seemed visibly bothered by her spontaneous self-expression.

KOYASAN BECAME A Unesco World Heritage site in 2004 (as part of the sacred sites of the Kii mountain range), and since then, the number of annual foreign visitors has more than quadrupled, while the number of Japanese visitors has declined.

More tourists seeking solace and simplicity can make a place a lot less placid, and as a visitor, it’s difficult to avoid the fact that you’re contributing to the din and litter that comes with this influx of foreigners. And yet, it is incredibly moving to be invited into the quiet, enveloping darkness of a cemetery at night — to add your footsteps to the tens of thousands that have worn down a stone path over the centuries. You come to realize how little space you can take up and how little noise you can make if you want to.

Jynne Martin, a friend who had recommended Koyasan, first traveled there 10 years ago and returned this past winter, staying at Shojoshin-in both times. On her first trip, she saw only two other tourists at the temple — the rest of the visitors were pilgrims. On her most recent trip, she saw exclusively tourists.

To her mild disappointment, Shojoshin-in had updated their amenities to include TV and internet in all of their guest rooms. A few convenience shops and a vending machine of beer had also been added to one of the main roads in town. Even so, for Jynne, Koyasan did not lose its magic. “I feel like there’s this echo and resonance within the forest and in the cemetery and in the temples where there’s some low hum or vibration that feels like it’s just been going for years and years,” she said. “I think there’s just a beautiful energy on the top of the mountain. Even with the TV and internet.”

After checking out of my room at Eko-in, I chatted for a few minutes with Yuta Kobayashi, one of the monks who run the temple. Mr. Kobayashi told me that while the temples in Koyasan used to rely on devout Buddhists for donations, they increasingly rely on income from tourists. “The Japanese government and the Japanese people don’t have a responsibility to keep the old buildings or to keep the old culture,” he said.

I asked him if he ever reads online reviews of his temple. He told me that he does. “Good opinions or bad opinions — I accept both,” he said. “And if I can change or make something better, I want to do my best.” The only type of review that ever irks him, he added, are reviews that accuse the temple’s 1,100-year-old rituals of being performatory or touristy. “We do this every morning,” he said with a laugh. “Even when people don’t stay here.”

At Eko-in (497 Koyasan; 0736-56-2514;, for 15,000 yen per person (about $130), you can reserve a traditional guest room with a garden view, a shared bathroom and two meals. For 20,000 yen per person, you can reserve a room with a private bath and toilet. Prices fluctuate slightly based on season.

At Shojoshin-in (556 Koyasan;, 10,800 to 12,960 yen per person will get you a room with a shared bathroom. For 16,200 yen per person, you can reserve a room with a private bathroom. Two meals are included, but no alcohol is served.

Guest rooms with shared bathrooms at Fukuchi-in (657 Koyasan; 0736-56-2021, range from 14,000 to 16,500 yen per person, depending on whether or not the room has a garden view. Rooms with private toilets are available for 18,500 yen per person. An outdoor hot spring is available to all guests.

A version of this article appears in print on October 22, 2017, on Page TR7 of the New York edition with the headline: A Search for Solitude on a Mountain of Monasteries.