Friday, December 1, 2017

Although people tend to see themselves in the best possible light, also have a surprisingly grim, and inevitable, outlook on their social lives

Deri, S., Davidai, S., & Gilovich, T. (2017). Home alone: Why people believe others’ social lives are richer than their own. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 113(6), 858-877.

Abstract: Although decades of research show that people tend to see themselves in the best possible light, we present evidence that people have a surprisingly grim outlook on their social lives. In 11 studies (N = 3,293; including 3 preregistered), we find that most people think that others lead richer and more active social lives than they do themselves. We show that this bias holds across multiple populations (college students, MTurk respondents, shoppers at a local mall, and participants from a large, income-stratified online panel), correlates strongly with well-being, and is particularly acute for social activities (e.g., the number of parties one attends or proximity to the “inner circle” of one’s social sphere). We argue that this pessimistic bias stems from the fact that trendsetters and socialites come most easily to mind as a standard of comparison and show that reducing the availability of extremely social people eliminates this bias. We conclude by discussing implications for research on social comparison and self-enhancement.

Because people value living their lives in contact with reality, and care about who they are and what they do (“authenticity”), they reject living in a machine of only pleasurable experiences, but can accept an experience pill or a pill that improves overall functioning

Nozick’s experience machine: An empirical study. Frank Hindriks & Igor Douven. Philosophical Psychology,

Abstract: Many philosophers deny that happiness can be equated with pleasurable experiences. Nozick introduced an experience machine thought experiment to support the idea that happiness requires pleasurable experiences that are “in contact with reality.” In this thought experiment, people can choose to plug into a machine that induces exclusively pleasurable experiences. We test Nozick’s hypothesis that people will reject this offer. We also contrast Nozick’s experience machine scenario with scenarios that are less artificial, and offer options which are less invasive or disruptive than being connected to a machine, specifically scenarios in which people are offered an experience pill or a pill that improves overall functioning.

Keywords: Experience machine, happiness, Nozick

Not All Skepticism Is Equal: Exploring the Ideological Antecedents of Science Acceptance and Rejection

Not All Skepticism Is Equal: Exploring the Ideological Antecedents of Science Acceptance and Rejection. Bastiaan T. Rutjens, Robbie M. Sutton, Romy van der Lee. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin,

Abstract: Many topics that scientists investigate speak to people’s ideological worldviews. We report three studies—including an analysis of large-scale survey data—in which we systematically investigate the ideological antecedents of general faith in science and willingness to support science, as well as of science skepticism of climate change, vaccination, and genetic modification (GM). The main predictors are religiosity and political orientation, morality, and science understanding. Overall, science understanding is associated with vaccine and GM food acceptance, but not climate change acceptance. Importantly, different ideological predictors are related to the acceptance of different scientific findings. Political conservatism best predicts climate change skepticism. Religiosity, alongside moral purity concerns, best predicts vaccination skepticism. GM food skepticism is not fueled by religious or political ideology. Finally, religious conservatives consistently display a low faith in science and an unwillingness to support science. Thus, science acceptance and rejection have different ideological roots, depending on the topic of investigation.

Keywords science, religion, conservatism, morality, science skepticism, anti-science

Studying voluntary contributions to a public good: Four clearly distinct behavioural types account for over 90% of participants

Behavioural types in public goods games: A re-analysis by hierarchical clustering. Francesco Fallucchi & R. Andrew Luccasen.

Abstract: We re-analyse participant behaviour in standard economics experiments studying voluntary contributions to a public good. Previous approaches were based in part on a priori models of decision-making, such as maximising personal earnings, or reciprocating the behaviour of others.  Many participants however do not conform to one of these models exactly, requiring ad hoc adjustments to the theoretical baselines to identify them as belonging to a given behavioural type.  We construct a typology of behaviour based on a similarity measure between strategies using hierarchical clustering analysis.  We identify four clearly distinct behavioural types which together account for over 90% of participants in six experimental studies.  The resulting type classification distinguishes behaviour across groups more consistently than previous approaches.

Keywords: behavioral economics, cluster analysis, cooperation, public goods
JEL Classifications: C65, C71, H41.

Own-maximisers (OWN, 25.8% of participants) allocate zero or very few tokens to the group account in all contingencies, named because the modal allocation is zero. The modal behaviour among strong conditional cooperators (SCC, 38.8%) is to match average allocations on a one-to-one basis. The classification contrasts these with weak conditional cooperators (WCC, 18.9%), who have allocation strategies that are increasing in the allocations of other group members, contributing on average about half as much as the other group members. There is a small but distinct group of unconditional cooperators (UNC, 4.7%), corresponding to contributions which are at or near full contribution of the tokens  to the group account. (Recall that full contribution to the group account maximises the group’s total earnings from those tokens.) This labeling parallels that of Kurzban and Houser (2005), where, in a setting in which participants play the game repeatedly, those whose always contribute more than the average of the others in their group are called (unconditional) “cooperators”. The final cluster (11.8%) is labeled various (VAR), and contribute on average about one-half of the tokens. This group is the most diverse; in addition to a high frequency of contributions exactly equal to 10, there are also “negative conditional contributors” (Burton-Chellew et al., 2016) who decrease their contribution in response to higher contributions by others.