Friday, November 30, 2018

Depression treatments: The effects are probably overestimated, relapse rates for patients who respond are very high (about 50% over 2 years), there is little evidence for long-term effectiveness, & there are the problems of publication bias, sponsorship bias, & others

The Challenges of Improving Treatments for Depression. Pim Cuijpers. JAMA. Published online November 30, 2018. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.17824

In the past few decades substantial progress has been made in the research and development of treatments for major depression. Many different types of medications and psychotherapy are currently available and rigorous studies have shown that antidepressants are more effective than placebo,1 and several types of psychotherapies are more effective than waiting list or other controls.2 These findings suggest that many patients with depression can be successfully treated. Based on these significant and positive effects, many of these treatments are included in treatment guidelines and are widely used in clinical practice. However, not all patients with depression recover with available treatments and several important challenges need to be resolved to improve existing treatments and to increase the number of patients who benefit from them.
Spontaneous Recovery and Placebo Effects

An important challenge is the high rates of spontaneous response and placebo effects. More than half of patients who receive antidepressants or psychotherapy respond to treatment. However, response rates are also high when patients receive placebo or no treatment. In a meta-analysis that included 44 240 patients from 177 studies, 54% of patients responded to antidepressants, whereas 38% responded to placebo.3 Comparable numbers have been reported for psychotherapies with response rates of 54% compared with response rates of 41% across control conditions.4 Patients with depression who do not seek care show comparable response rates. These findings differ when other outcomes, such as remission or significant clinical change, are used. That does not, however, change the basic challenge that a substantial proportion of patients who improve with medication or psychotherapy would have recovered without treatment or with placebo. This poses substantial challenges for investigators and clinicians.

Individuals who respond to medication will probably continue to use them for at least several months, even with the risk of adverse effects. Patients who respond to psychotherapy invest many hours and make considerable efforts during their treatment. For a majority of patients who respond to treatment, the potential adverse effects of medications and the time investment in psychotherapy might not be necessary to get better. However, it is not possible yet to predict which patients will recover spontaneously or will respond to placebo, although innovative machine learning techniques and other biological markers may be helpful in the future.

Spontaneous recovery also complicates the validity of clinical knowledge as well as research about treatments. Because many patients recover while receiving treatment, clinicians and patients are inclined to think that the treatment is what made them better. However, because many patients also would have recovered without treatment, clinical judgements are not necessarily related to treatment effect.


Nonresponse

In contrast to response to drug or placebo, a considerable group of patients are difficult to treat or do not respond to treatment. Although patients may respond to another drug after failure to respond to an initially prescribed drug, the chance of successful response is almost halved with every new treatment tried.5 Even after trying several different treatments, a substantial proportion of patients do not respond. One estimate suggests that approximately 30% of patients with depressive disorders have a chronic course with limited response to treatment.6

Another challenge is that the effects of treatment are probably overestimated. The relapse rates for patients who respond are very high (estimated at about 50% over 2 years),7 there is limited evidence for long-term effectiveness, and there are the problems of publication bias, sponsorship bias, and other sources of bias. Clinicians may have an optimistic view that these problems have little influence on outcomes or have a pessimistic view that no relevant treatment effect remains. In reality, the extent to which these factors affect outcomes is unknown.


How to Improve Treatments?

Worldwide, an estimated 330 million people have depression, which is linked with considerably diminished role functioning and quality of life, medical comorbidity, excess mortality, and high economic costs.8 Thus, addressing current therapeutic challenges and improving available treatments are critically important, regardless of the true effects of these treatments. How can this be done?

Additional research on the causes and etiological processes leading to depression is needed. The focus should be on which patients will respond to treatment, which could lead to the development of better and more targeted treatments for specific groups of patients. This may result in new approaches for preventing depression. However, this will take time and long-term investments.

A straightforward approach in the short-term is to develop treatments that are more effective than the current ones in acute phase depression. However, many drugs and psychotherapies have been developed over the past decades, and there is little evidence that one drug or psychotherapy is substantially more effective than the others. It is therefore unlikely that newly developed drugs and therapies will be substantially better than the ones that are currently available.

A potentially viable approach with respect to spontaneous recovery is to minimize treatments and reduce unnecessary resource use because many patients with depression will recover spontaneously, regardless of treatment. Clinicians already use a “watchful waiting” approach, by encouraging patients to wait before starting a treatment. Another option is to offer internet-based or other self-help interventions that involve no or minimal support from professionals, preferably in stepped-care models allowing patients who do not respond to these interventions to step up to more intensive treatment. Considerable evidence indicates that these internet-based interventions are effective and require less resources.9 Another option may be to clearly explain to patients what the chance for recovery is from treatment, from placebo, or from no treatment. This may stimulate patients with milder disorders to wait before starting treatment, whereas patients with severe disorders will probably prefer to initiate treatment.

There are also several priorities for patients with depression who have high relapse rates or those who do not respond to treatments. One important priority is to further examine relapse prevention. In routine practice, this often consists of maintenance treatment with drugs. However, convincing evidence indicates that psychological interventions can reduce relapse rates considerably, although these interventions are seldom implemented in routine care.

Another priority is to increase research on the treatment of chronic and resistant depression. Fortunately, these conditions are increasingly the focus of drug trials, and some promising new medications are being tested, such as ketamine.10 However, few psychological treatments are available that are specifically designed for chronic depression. The development of such therapies should have more priority than developing new therapies for acute depression that almost certainly will show comparable effects as already existing treatments.


Answering the Challenge

Evidence-based treatments can make a substantial difference in the lives of many patients. Nevertheless, for patients with depression many do not benefit from treatment, and some only partially benefit or only experience short-term improvement. Furthermore, a considerable group of treated patients would have also recovered without treatment. The group of patients in between these extremes are the ones who currently benefit from available treatments, but they are still a minority of all patients. Because of the public health effects of depression and the enormous related adverse effects on the quality of life of patients, it should be a priority to search for methods to increase the number of patients who benefit from treatment and in this way reduce the burden of depression.


Corresponding Author: Pim Cuijpers, PhD, Department of Clinical, Neuro and Developmental Psychology, Amsterdam Public Health Research Institute, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Van der Boechorststraat 7, 1081 BT Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: No disclosures were reported.

References
1.
Cipriani  A, Furukawa  TA, Salanti  G,  et al.  Comparative efficacy and acceptability of 21 antidepressant drugs for the acute treatment of adults with major depressive disorder: a systematic review and network meta-analysis.  Lancet. 2018;391(10128):1357-1366. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(17)32802-7
2.
Barth  J, Munder  T, Gerger  H,  et al.  Comparative efficacy of seven psychotherapeutic interventions for patients with depression: a network meta-analysis.  PLoS Med. 2013;10(5):e1001454. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001454
3.
Levkovitz  Y, Tedeschini  E, Papakostas  GI.  Efficacy of antidepressants for dysthymia: a meta-analysis of placebo-controlled randomized trials.  J Clin Psychiatry. 2011;72(4):509-514. doi:10.4088/JCP.09m05949blu4.
Cuijpers  P, Karyotaki  E, Weitz  E, Andersson  G, Hollon  SD, van Straten  A.  The effects of psychotherapies for major depression in adults on remission, recovery and improvement: a meta-analysis.  J Affect Disord. 2014;159:118-126. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2014.02.026
5.
Rush  AJ, Trivedi  MH, Wisniewski  SR,  et al.  Acute and longer-term outcomes in depressed outpatients requiring one or several treatment steps: a STAR*D report.  Am J Psychiatry. 2006;163(11):1905-1917. doi:10.1176/ajp.2006.163.11.1905
6.
Murphy  JA, Byrne  GJ.  Prevalence and correlates of the proposed DSM-5 diagnosis of chronic depressive disorder.  J Affect Disord. 2012;139(2):172-180. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2012.01.033
7.
Vittengl  JR, Clark  LA, Dunn  TW, Jarrett  RB.  Reducing relapse and recurrence in unipolar depression: a comparative meta-analysis of cognitive-behavioral therapy’s effects.  J Consult Clin Psychol. 2007;75(3):475-488. doi:10.1037/0022-006X.75.3.475
8.
Bloom  DE, Cafiero  E, Jané-Llopis  E,  et al. The global economic burden of noncommunicable diseases. Geneva, Switzerland: World Economic Forum. http://apps.who.int/medicinedocs/en/m/abstract/Js18806en. Published September 2011. Accessed November 18, 2018.
9.
Andrews  G, Basu  A, Cuijpers  P,  et al.  Computer therapy for the anxiety and depression disorders is effective, acceptable and practical health care: an updated meta-analysis.  J Anxiety Disord. 2018;55:70-78. doi:10.1016/j.janxdis.2018.01.00110.
Wilkinson  ST, Sanacora  G.  Considerations on the off-label use of ketamine as a treatment for mood disorders.  JAMA. 2017;318(9):793-794. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.10697

The article thus challenges the general notion that ‘terrorism always ends’; only certain types of jihadists will end, while others—such as al-Qaida & Islamic State—may survive indefinitely

Jihadism after the ‘Caliphate’: towards a new typology. Anne Stenersen. British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, https://doi.org/10.1080/13530194.2018.1552118

ABSTRACT: The rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and its subsequent split with al-Qaida in 2014, revealed there is still much we do not know about jihadism. Existing typologies of Islamism describe jihadism as a unitary phenomenon, characterized by a preference for violence over other methods for political change. This article presents a more fine-grained typology of jihadism that captures the core divisionary issues within the jihadist current. It argues that jihadist groups can be classified along two scales: the ‘takfirism’ scale defines how the group relates to society, and it runs from integration at one end, to separation on the other. The ‘pan-Islamism’ scale defines what the group fights for, and it runs from ethnic homeland on one end to umma on the other. The main argument is that jihadist groups ensure their survival by shifting their position along the scales—either by becoming less takfiri or more pan-Islamist. The article thus challenges the general notion that ‘terrorism always ends’. Only certain types of jihadists will end, while others—such as al-Qaida and Islamic State—may survive indefinitely.

Is creativity, hands-on modeling and cognitive learning gender-dependent?

Is creativity, hands-on modeling and cognitive learning gender-dependent? Julia Mierdel, Franz X. Bogner. Thinking Skills and Creativity, Volume 31, March 2019, Pages 91-102. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tsc.2018.11.001

Highlights
•    Combining hands-on modeling with experimentation is successful.
•    The model quality is not influenced by students’ individual creativity levels.
•    Girls produced significantly better structured DNA-models.
•    ‘Flow’ experiences and model quality are related with girls’ cognitive achievement.

Abstract: Modeling plays a key role in science research and education is considered to increase comprehensibility of abstract concepts and processes. Especially hands-on experiences in authentic learning environments offer students the opportunity to feel like real researchers and support the development of problem-based thinking skills. In our study, we applied an inquiry-based, out-of-school laboratory module that uses classic experimental challenges as well as innovative model-supported teaching to promote cognitive achievement. Our hands-on module was designed for 9th graders and combined experimentation and creative model work to visualize molecular and otherwise invisible contents of DNA-structure. After mental modeling, participants (N = 114; 40.87% female) produced a physical DNA-model using handcrafting materials. Our major aims were to evaluate the model qualities and to monitor potential relationships between successful model elaboration, individual creativity and knowledge levels. Therefore, we correlated students’ creativity levels with model quality scores as well as with cognitive achievement. While no relations were found for creativity and model elaboration further results were gender-dependent. Girls produced significantly higher model quality scores and significant positive correlations were revealed between short-term and mid-term knowledge levels. Correlations also were observed between girls’ cognitive achievement and the creativity subscale ‘flow’. In contrast, neither creativity nor model quality were decisive for boys cognitive achievement. Their average simpler modeling results did not correlate with the short-term and mid-term knowledge levels, although they achieved similar scores on both. Model elaboration seemingly provides more support for girls and offers a suitable approach for emphasizing creativity in science education. In attempting to attract girls to scientific ideas, creative modeling may further support hands-on experimentation.

Animated Disney female characters that exhibit low WHRs should be perceived as good; lower waist-to-hip ratio is more commonly associated with Disney princesses than Disney female villains

Aung, T., & Williams, L. (2018). Mirror, mirror on the wall: Whose figure is the fairest of them all? Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/ebs0000156

Abstract: Although the “what is beautiful is good” phenomenon has been examined in animated Disney movies, studies have not investigated what makes a particular Disney princess more beautiful than the others. In our study, we further investigated what makes a particular Disney female character (n = 20) beautiful by measuring and analyzing their waist-to-hip ratios (WHRs). From evolutionary perspectives, lower WHRs in women signal high reproductive potential, and are attractive to men and ideal for women. Thus, we expected that animated Disney female characters that exhibit low WHRs should be perceived as good. Our analyses suggest that lower WHR is more commonly associated with Disney princesses than Disney female villains. In addition, we found that WHRs of Disney princesses (Mdn = 0.50, range = 0.31–0.69) were less varied than those of the villains (Mdn = 0.66, range = 0.47–1.29), suggesting that the “what is beautiful is good” stereotype is strongly reflected in the smaller WHRs of Disney princesses.

Some articles on psychology of animals

The mating preferences of female fruitflies are strongly influenced by the existing preferences they observe in other females, generating traditions that are repeatedly passed on to others and spread in the population
 
The intense selection of chickens for production traits (egg laying) is thought to cause undesirable side effects & changes in behavior due to trade-offs from energy expenditure; contrary to expectations, productive hens show increased cognitive skills

Males reversed their initial preference for larger females in the presence of a conspecific audience male because they recognized the audience male as a competitor and tried to deceive that male about their real mating preference
 
A female fish that today doesn't need males to clone itself copulates with other species' males to stimulate embryonic development. Those males do that probably because the interactions of a sexual male and the female are observed by conspecific females and make that male more attractive
 
Sumatran orangutan mothers suppressed alarm calls up to 20 min until the model was out of sight in function of perceived danger for themselves & for an infant, suggesting high-order cognition
 
Chimpanzees appear to perceive similarity in primate faces in a similar way to humans. Information about perceptual similarity is likely prioritized over the potential influence of previous experience
 
Is birth attendance a uniquely human feature? New evidence suggests that Bonobo females protect and support the parturient
 
Prolonged transport and cannibalism of mummified infant remains by a Tonkean macaque mother
 

From 2017: Exceptionalism is not exceptional in relation to sexual and reproduction mechanisms — Contrasts of human and animal sexuality

Exceptionalism is not exceptional in relation to sexual and reproduction mechanisms: Contrasts of human and animal sexuality. Roy J. Levin. Clin. Anat. 30:940–945, 2017. https://doi.org/10.1002/ca.22960

Abstract: Speculation that the release of oxytocin by orgasm in the human female during coitus facilitates fertility by enhancing uterine sperm transport has been criticized as having no unequivocal empirical human evidence. However, a counter claim that this supports human “exceptionalism” as some form of uterine sperm transport occurs in other species. This is a misconception as it ignores that human uterine peristalsis, powered by contractions of the smooth muscle of the archimyometrium, facilitates sperm transport even without any systemic oxytocin involvement. Moreover, examination of various unique reproductive mechanisms in numerous animals also indicates that the claim is misjudged and rests on a biased interpretation of what “exceptionalism” means in this biological context. Ten chosen aspects of our sexuality are presented as being exceptional to humans.

From 2013: Sexual Wiring of Women's Breasts — Neuroscientists establish breasts as sexual organs

Sexual Wiring of Women's Breasts. Nigel Barber. Psychology Today, May 07, 2013. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-human-beast/201305/sexual-wiring-womens-breasts

Neuroscientists establish breasts as sexual organs

Excerpts (full text with links in the link above):

If men have sex on the brain, they are not alone. Recent research found that women’s sensory cortex has three distinct areas corresponding to stimulation of the clitoris, vagina, and cervix (1). To their surprise, researchers found that self stimulation of the nipples lights up the same areas. This sheds further light on the sexual importance of breasts.

In an earlier post, I discussed some evolutionary reasons that men are fascinated by women’s breasts and pointed out that stimulation of the breast plays a key role in women’s sexual arousal and satisfaction.


The Background

The permanently enlarged human breast is a peculiarity of our species (2). It may have some signal value in communicating fertility and plays a role in physical attractiveness.

Breasts are less eroticized in subsistence societies where women go topless than in our own where they are exploited in advertising, and in pornography. Even in subsistence societies, breasts are not entirely lacking in sexual significance and are generally stimulated in foreplay according to ethnographic accounts (3).

Moreover, the breasts play a key role in female sexual arousal and we are beginning to understand why in terms of hormones and neuroscience. In their classic report on the female sexual response, Masters and Johnson (4) pointed out that breast volume increases during sexual arousal in addition to changes in the areola and erection of the nipples.


The breast and bonding

The function of the breast in sexual behavior is sometimes attributed to face-to-face copulation that is unusual amongst mammals. If the breast is already used for mother- infant bonding, the argument goes, then it is a small step for it to be used in facilitating bonding between lovers. After all, it is in easy reach!

Stimulation of the nipple during breast feeding increases the amount of the hormone oxytocin that circulates. Oxytocin is often referred to as the “cuddling hormone” because it is released by male and female mammals during close social encounters of various kinds (5).

In addition to its general social effects, whereby a mother feels closeness for the baby she is feeding (and vice versa), there are other more specialized functions of oxytocin. One is that milk flows, a reflex known as the “milk let-down response” familiar to mothers and dairy farmers alike.

Another is sexual arousal, and orgasm. Some women experiencing intense pleasure - even orgasm - from breast feeding. This phenomenon was long written off as a mere oddity but neuroscientists are beginning to understand why it happens.


Sexual wiring of women’s brains

The great complexity of the female sexual response may be attributable to the fact that there is not one, but three sensory maps in the parietal cortex that light up in functional MRI images when the genitals are (self) stimulated. One represents the clitoris, another the vagina and the third represents the cervix.

All three of these maps also receive input when the nipple is stimulated. From a functional perspective, this means that the breast doubles as a truly sexual organ. It is not just an exciting visual stimulus for (most) men but also a key source of sexual pleasure for most women.

As to the wiring of men’s nipples the jury is out. Some men’s nipples are also responsive to sexual stimulation but the brain response has yet to be mapped.


Sources

1. Komisaruk, B. R., et al. (2011). Women’s clitoris, vagina, and cervix mapped on the sensory cortex: fMRI evidence. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 8, 2822-2830.

2. Barber, N. (1995). The evolutionary psychology of physical attractiveness: Sexual selection and human morphology. Ethology and Sociobiology, 16, 395-424.

3. Ford, C. S., & Beach, F. A. (1951). Patterns of sexual behavior. New York: Harper.

4. Masters, W. H., & Johnson, V. E. (1966). Human sexual response. Boston: Little Brown.

5. Uvnas-Moberg, K. (1998). Oxytocin may mediate the benefits of positive social interaction and emotions. Psychoneuroendocrinology 23: 819-835.






Nigel Barber, Ph.D., is an evolutionary psychologist as well as the author of Why Parents Matter and The Science of Romance, among other books.

The mating preferences of female fruitflies are strongly influenced by the existing preferences they observe in other females, generating traditions that are repeatedly passed on to others and spread in the population

Culture and conformity shape fruitfly mating. Andrew Whiten et al. Science Vol. 362, Issue 6418, pp. 998-999. DOI: 10.1126/science.aav5674

Summary: Culture pervades every aspect of human lives, its achievements providing a compelling explanation for our species' domination of the planet (1). Defined as the matrix of traditions built by previous generations and inherited by social learning, culture was long thought to be uniquely human. In recent decades, however, mounting evidence for culture defined in this way has accumulated for numerous vertebrate species and an expanding diversity of behaviors (2). Examples include migratory knowledge in bighorn sheep (3); foraging techniques in humpback whales (4), great tits (5), and bumble bees (6); and tool use in apes (2). These discoveries suggest that although human culture has developed unprecedented complexities, it evolved from more elementary forms shared with other species. On page 1025 of this issue, Danchin et al. (7) offer evidence that a species that may surprise many should be added to this growing animal “culture club”: the humble fruitfly. They show that the mating preferences of female fruitflies are strongly influenced by the existing preferences they observe in other females, generating traditions that are repeatedly passed on to others and spread in the population. Animal culture may be a much more widespread phenomenon than hitherto acknowledged.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Vertical pupils are perceived as more threatening; snake phobia, & not spider phobia, was found to be related to perceiving vertical pupils as threatening

The evil eye effect: vertical pupils are perceived as more threatening. Sinan Alper, Elif Oyku Us & Dicle Rojda Tasman. Cognition and Emotion, https://doi.org/10.1080/02699931.2018.1550741

ABSTRACT: Popular culture has many examples of evil characters having vertically pupilled eyes. Humans have a long evolutionary history of rivalry with snakes and their visual systems were evolved to rapidly detect snakes and snake-related cues. Considering such evolutionary background, we hypothesised that humans would perceive vertical pupils, which are characteristics of ambush predators including some of the snakes, as threatening. In seven studies (aggregate N = 1458) conducted on samples from American and Turkish samples, we found that vertical pupils are perceived as more threatening on both explicit (Study 1) and implicit level (Studies 2–7) and they are associated with physical, rather than social, threat (Study 4). Findings provided partial support regarding our hypothesis about the relevance of snake detection processes: Snake phobia, and not spider phobia, was found to be related to perceiving vertical pupils as threatening (Study 5), however an experimental manipulation of saliency of snakes rendered no significant effect (Study 6) and a comparison of fears of snakes, alligators, and cats did not support our prediction (Study 7). We discuss the potential implications and limitations of these novel findings.

KEYWORDS: Evolutionary psychology, horizontal pupil, snake detection theory, implicit association test, vertical pupil

In matters of the heart, as in many other matters generally, we adhere to existing states (“status quo bias”) & value them more (“endowment effect”)

I Have, Therefore I Love: Status Quo Preference in Mate Choice. Gul Gunaydin et al. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167217746339

Abstract: Decades of research indicate that individuals adhere to existing states (“status quo bias”) and value them more (“endowment effect”). The present work is the first to investigate status quo preference within the context of trade-offs in mate choice. Across seven studies (total N = 1,567), participants indicated whether they would prefer remaining with a current partner possessing a particular set of traits (e.g., high trustworthiness, low attractiveness) or switching to an alternative partner possessing opposite traits. Preference for a given trait was highest when the individual representing the status quo (one’s romantic partner or an interaction partner) possessed that trait. Concerns about hurting the partner, ambiguity avoidance, and biased construal of the partner and the alternative predicted status quo preference and disapproval of the current partner by network members eliminated this effect. These findings indicate that when it comes to matters of the heart, we tend to love what we currently have.

Keywords: status quo bias, endowment effect, decision making, romantic relationships, mate-choice trade-offs

Psychopathy and homicide are importantly linked and that psychopathic personality functioning is a significant risk factor for various forms of lethal violence

Psychopathic killers: A meta-analytic review of the psychopathy-homicide nexus. Bryanna Fox, Matt DeLisi. Aggression and Violent Behavior, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.avb.2018.11.005

Abstract: Despite cultural notions that psychopathy and homicide are strongly linked, there has not been a quantitative meta-analytic review of the association between psychopathy and homicide offending. The current study meta-analyzed data from 29 unique samples from 22 studies that included 2603 homicide offenders, and found that the mean psychopathy score on the PCL-R for a homicide offender was 21.2 (95% CI = 18.9–23.6). This score is indicative of moderate psychopathy. The overall effect size r = 0.68 was large, and effect sizes intensified in studies of more severe manifestations of homicide including sexual homicide (r = 0.71), sadistic homicide (r = 0.78), serial homicide (r = 0.74), and multi-offender homicide (r = 0.80). Current study findings make clear that psychopathy and homicide are importantly linked and that psychopathic personality functioning is a significant risk factor for various forms of lethal violence.

An oxytocin receptor gene has been associated with emotional traits such as positive affect and related constructs such as optimism and self-esteem; this seems not replicable

The Oxytocin Receptor Gene (OXTR) Variant rs53576 is Not Related to Emotional Traits or States in Young Adults. Tamlin S. Conner et al. Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02548

Abstract
BACKGROUND: To understand the genetic underpinnings of emotion, researchers have studied genetic variants in the oxytocin system, a hormone and neurotransmitter important to socio-emotional functioning. The oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) variant rs53576 has been associated with emotional traits such as positive affect and related constructs such as optimism and self-esteem. Individuals carrying the A allele (AG and AA genotypes) of rs53576 have been found to score lower in these traits when compared to GG homozygotes, although not always. Given recent mixed evidence regarding this polymorphism, replication of these associations is critical.

METHODS: Using a cross-sectional design, the present study tested the association between rs53576 and a wide variety of emotional traits and states in a sample of 611 young adults ages 18 - 25 of various ethnicities (European, Asian, Māori/Pacific Islander, other). Participants completed standard trait measures of positive and negative affect, depressive symptoms, life engagement, psychological well-being, optimism, and self-esteem. They also completed state measures of positive and negative affect and life engagement for 13-days using Internet daily diaries.

RESULTS: Controlling for ethnicity and gender, variation at the OXTR variant rs53576 obtained from blood samples was not related to any of the emotional traits or states. This null finding occurred despite measuring emotions in ‘near to real time’ using daily diaries and having sufficient power to detect a medium effect size difference between homozygous genotype groups.

CONCLUSION: These findings suggest that variation at the rs53576 locus may not be as involved in emotional differences as initial studies suggested.

Keywords: Oxytocin, Genetics, Rs53576, Mental Health, emotion, mood, Well-being, gene, Daily diary

Mindfulness not related to behavioral & speech markers of emotional positivity (or less negativity), interpersonally better connected (quality or quantity), or prosocial orientation (more affectionate, less gossipy or complaining)

Dispositional mindfulness in daily life: A naturalistic observation study. Deanna M. Kaplan, L. Raison, Anne Milek, Allison M. Tackman, Thaddeus W. W. Pace, Matthias R. Mehl. PLOS, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0206029

Abstract: Mindfulness has seen an extraordinary rise as a scientific construct, yet surprisingly little is known about how it manifests behaviorally in daily life. The present study identifies assumptions regarding how mindfulness relates to behavior and contrasts them against actual behavioral manifestations of trait mindfulness in daily life. Study 1 (N = 427) shows that mindfulness is assumed to relate to emotional positivity, quality social interactions, prosocial orientation and attention to sensory perceptions. In Study 2, 185 participants completed a gold-standard, self-reported mindfulness measure (the FFMQ) and underwent naturalistic observation sampling to assess their daily behaviors. Trait mindfulness was robustly related to a heightened perceptual focus in conversations. However, it was not related to behavioral and speech markers of emotional positivity, quality social interactions, or prosocial orientation. These findings suggest that the subjective and self-reported experience of being mindful in daily life is expressed primarily through sharpened perceptual attention, rather than through other behavioral or social differences. This highlights the need for ecological models of how dispositional mindfulness “works” in daily life, and raises questions about the measurement of mindfulness.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Those who minimize (vs. acknowledge) the extent to which their group is the target of discrimination report better well-being across myriad indicators: body mass index, social well-being, self-esteem, depression, & mental illness diagnosis

The Palliative Effects of System Justification on the Health and Happiness of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Individuals. Alexandra Suppes, Jaime L. Napier, Jojanneke van der Toorn. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167218785156

Abstract: Across three studies, we examine the correlates of subjective well-being and mental and physical health among members of a historically disadvantaged group, namely, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals. Results show those who minimize (vs. acknowledge) the extent to which their group is the target of discrimination report better well-being across myriad indicators (Studies 1-3). We also demonstrate that this effect is mediated by perceived system fairness (Study 1); holds above and beyond internalized homonegativity (Studies 1 and 3) and ingroup identification (Studies 2-3); and is true regardless of whether individuals reside in hostile or accepting environments (Study 2), and regardless of whether individuals had personally experienced discrimination (Study 3). For some indicators (namely, body mass index [BMI], social well-being, self-esteem, depression, and mental illness diagnosis), the relationship between minimization of discrimination and well-being was stronger among those who had frequent (vs. rare) discriminatory experiences.

Keywords: well-being, health, system justification, LGBT, discrimination

Border wall expansion, 2007-2010, harmed Mexican workers & high-skill U.S. workers, but benefited U.S. low-skill ones; reduced trade costs between US & Mexico by 25% should have reduced Mexico to US migration with welfare gains

Border Walls. Treb Allen, Cauê de Castro Dobbin, Melanie Morten. NBER Working Paper No. 25267, Nov 2018, https://www.nber.org/papers/w25267

What are the economic impacts of a border wall between the United States and Mexico? We use confidential data on bilateral flows of primarily unauthorized Mexican workers to the United States to estimate how a substantial expansion of the border wall between the United States and Mexico from 2007 to 2010 affected migration. We then combine these estimates with a general equilibrium spatial model featuring multiple labor types and a flexible underlying geography to quantify the economic impact of the wall expansion. At a construction cost of approximately $7 per person in the United States, we estimate that the border wall expansion harmed Mexican workers and high-skill U.S. workers, but benefited U.S. low-skill workers, who achieved gains equivalent to an increase in per capita income of $0.36. In contrast, a counterfactual policy which instead reduced trade costs between the United States and Mexico by 25% would have resulted in both greater declines in Mexico to United States migration and substantial welfare gains for all workers.

To quantify partisan audience bias, we developed a domain-level score by leveraging the sharing propensities of registered voters on a large Twitter panel; we found little evidence for the "filter bubble'' hypothesis

Auditing Partisan Audience Bias within Google Search. Ronald E. Robertson et al. Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction - CSCW archive. Volume 2 Issue CSCW, November 2018, Article No. 148, doi: 10.1145/3274417

Abstract: There is a growing consensus that online platforms have a systematic influence on the democratic process. However, research beyond social media is limited. In this paper, we report the results of a mixed-methods algorithm audit of partisan audience bias and personalization within Google Search. Following Donald Trump's inauguration, we recruited 187 participants to complete a survey and install a browser extension that enabled us to collect Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) from their computers. To quantify partisan audience bias, we developed a domain-level score by leveraging the sharing propensities of registered voters on a large Twitter panel. We found little evidence for the "filter bubble'' hypothesis. Instead, we found that results positioned toward the bottom of Google SERPs were more left-leaning than results positioned toward the top, and that the direction and magnitude of overall lean varied by search query, component type (e.g. "answer boxes"), and other factors. Utilizing rank-weighted metrics that we adapted from prior work, we also found that Google's rankings shifted the average lean of SERPs to the right of their unweighted average.


Check also: Few people are actually trapped in filter bubbles. Why do they like to say that they are? Plus: Are your Google results really that different from your neighbor’s? Laura Hazard Owen. NiemanLab, Dec 07 2018. http://www.niemanlab.org/2018/12/few-people-are-actually-trapped-in-filter-bubbles-why-do-they-like-to-say-that-they-are

Young adult mental health and functional outcomes among individuals with remitted, persistent and late-onset ADHD

Agnew-Blais, J., Polanczyk, G., Danese, A., Wertz, J., Moffitt, T., & Arseneault, L. (2018). Young adult mental health and functional outcomes among individuals with remitted, persistent and late-onset ADHD. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 213(3), 526-534. doi:10.1192/bjp.2018.97

Abstract

Background: Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is associated with mental health problems and functional impairment across many domains. However, how the longitudinal course of ADHD affects later functioning remains unclear.

Aims: We aimed to disentangle how ADHD developmental patterns are associated with young adult functioning.

Method: The Environmental Risk (E-Risk) Longitudinal Twin Study is a population-based cohort of 2232 twins born in England and Wales in 1994–1995. We assessed ADHD in childhood at ages 5, 7, 10 and 12 years and in young adulthood at age 18 years. We examined three developmental patterns of ADHD from childhood to young adulthood – remitted, persistent and late-onset ADHD – and compared these groups with one another and with non-ADHD controls on functioning at age 18 years. We additionally tested whether group differences were attributable to childhood IQ, childhood conduct disorder or familial factors shared between twins.

Results: Compared with individuals without ADHD, those with remitted ADHD showed poorer physical health and socioeconomic outcomes in young adulthood. Individuals with persistent or late-onset ADHD showed poorer functioning across all domains, including mental health, substance misuse, psychosocial, physical health and socioeconomic outcomes. Overall, these associations were not explained by childhood IQ, childhood conduct disorder or shared familial factors.

Conclusions: Long-term associations of childhood ADHD with adverse physical health and socioeconomic outcomes underscore the need for early intervention. Young adult ADHD showed stronger associations with poorer mental health, substance misuse and psychosocial outcomes, emphasising the importance of identifying and treating adults with ADHD.

Attitudes towards robots became more negative between 2012 and 2017; robots assisting at work showed the strongest negative trend; countries with a larger share of older citizens evaluated robots more favorably

Are robots becoming unpopular? Changes in attitudes towards autonomous robotic systems in Europe. Timo Gnambs, Markus Appel. Computers in Human Behavior, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2018.11.045

Highlights
•    Attitudes towards robots became more negative between 2012 and 2017.
•    Attitudes towards robots assisting at work showed the strongest negative trend.
•    Women with lower education evaluated robots more negatively.
•    Countries with a larger share of older citizens evaluated robots more favorably.

Abstract: Many societies are on the brink of a robotic era. In the near future, various autonomous computer systems are expected to be part of many people's daily lives. Because attitudes influence the adoption of new technologies, we studied the attitudes towards robots in the European Union between 2012 and 2017. Using representative samples from 27 countries (three waves, total N = 80,396), these analyses showed that, within five years, public opinions regarding robots exhibited a marked negative trend. Respondents became more cautious towards the use of robots. This tendency was particularly strong for robots at the workplace, which are, despite the drop, still more positively evaluated than robots performing surgeries or autonomous cars. Attitudes were more positive among men and people in white-collar jobs. Moreover, countries with a larger share of older citizens evaluated robotic assistance more favorably. In general, these results highlight increasing reservations towards autonomous robotic systems in Europe.

The impact of pseudo-psychological demonstrations make people believe that one can read a person’s mind by evaluating micro expressions, psychological profiles & muscle activities, & can prime a person’s behaviour through subtle suggestions

Fake science: The impact of pseudo-psychological demonstrations on people’s beliefs in psychological principles. Yuxuan Lan, Christine Mohr, Xiaomeng Hu, Gustav Kuhn. PLOS, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0207629

Abstract: Magicians use deception to create effects that allow us to experience the impossible. More recently, magicians have started to contextualize these tricks in psychological demonstrations. We investigated whether witnessing a magic demonstration alters people’s beliefs in these pseudo-psychological principles. In the classroom, a magician claimed to use psychological skills to read a volunteer’s thoughts. After this demonstration, participants reported higher beliefs that an individual can 1) read a person’s mind by evaluating micro expressions, psychological profiles and muscle activities, and 2) effectively prime a person’s behaviour through subtle suggestions. Whether he was presented as a magician or psychologist did not influence people’s beliefs about how the demonstration was achieved, nor did it influence their beliefs in pseudo-psychological principles. Our results demonstrate that pseudo-psychological demonstrations can have a significant impact on perpetuating false beliefs in scientific principles and raise important questions about the wider impact of scientific misinformation.

Doubling the permissible length of a Tweet led to more polite, less informal, more analytical, and overall healthier discussions online

Jaidka, Kokil and Zhou, Alvin and Lelkes, Yphtach, Brevity is the soul of Twitter: The constraint affordance and political discussion (November 20, 2018). https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3287552

Abstract: Many hoped that social networks would allow for the open exchange of information and a revival of the public sphere. Unfortunately, conversations on social media are often toxic and not conducive to healthy political discussion. Twitter, the most widely used social network for political discussions, doubled the limit of characters in a Tweet in November 2017, which provided a natural experiment to study the causal effect of technological affordances on political discussions with a discontinuous time series design. Using supervised and unsupervised natural language processing methods, we analyze 358,242 Tweet replies to U.S. politicians from January 2017 to March 2018. We show that the doubling the permissible length of a Tweet led to more polite, less informal, more analytical, and overall healthier discussions online. However, the declining trend in the political relevance of these tweets raises concerns about the implications of the changing norms for the quality of political deliberation.

Keywords: Political Communication, Political Discussion, Social Media, Computational Social Science

Study with rats sheds light on why women are roughly twice as likely as men to develop depression, anxiety and other stress-related problems, including difficulty with attention

Early Life Stress Drives Sex-Selective Impairment in Reversal Learning by Affecting Parvalbumin Interneurons in Orbitofrontal Cortex of Mice. Haley L. Goodwill et al. Cell Reports, Volume 25, ISSUE 9, P2299-2307.e4, Nov 27 2018.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2018.11.010

Highlights
    •    Early life stress leads to select deficits in reversal learning in female mice
    •    Impaired rule-reversal learning is associated with decreased PV and GAD67 in OFC
    •    Optogenetic silencing of OFC PV+ cells recapitulates ELS effects on reversal learning
    •    Optogenetic silencing of mPFC PV+ cells impairs rule shifting, but not reversal learning

Summary: Poverty, displacement, and parental stress represent potent sources of early life stress (ELS). Stress disproportionately affects females, who are at increased risk for stress-related pathologies associated with cognitive impairment. Mechanisms underlying stress-associated cognitive impairment and enhanced risk of females remain unknown. Here, ELS is associated with impaired rule-reversal (RR) learning in females, but not males. Impaired performance was associated with decreased expression and density of interneurons expressing parvalbumin (PV+) in orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), but not other interneuron subtypes. Optogenetic silencing of PV+ interneuron activity in OFC of control mice phenocopied RR learning deficits observed in ELS females. Localization of reversal learning deficits to PV+ interneurons in OFC was confirmed by optogenetic studies in which neurons in medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) were silenced and associated with select deficits in rule-shift learning. Sex-, cell-, and region-specific effects show altered PV+ interneuron development can be a driver of sex differences in cognitive dysfunction.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

When asking for assistance, is it beneficial to incentivize a helper by offering a motivated gift (gift with the hope of getting support in return)? Sometimes undermine the assistance that people hope to receive. A third of Americans had given such gift at least once

aknin, Lara, Dylan Wiwad, and Yuthika Girme. 2018. “Not All Gifts Are Good: The Potential Practical Costs of Motivated Gifts.” PsyArXiv. November 27. doi:10.31234/osf.io/stkx8

Abstract: People rely on support from others to accomplish mundane and momentous tasks. When asking for assistance, is it beneficial to incentivize a helper by offering a motivated gift (i.e. a gift with the hope of getting support in return)? Six studies (N>2,500) examine the frequency and potential costs of motivated gifts. In Study 1, a third of Americans indicated that they had given a motivated gift at least once, while nearly two-thirds believed they had received one. In Studies 2a-d, most participants who imagined receiving a motivated gift before a favor request reported lower willingness to help and anticipated satisfaction from helping than participants who imagined simply being asked for a favor. Finally, Study 3 replicates these findings with actual help provided among friends in a laboratory setting. Findings suggest that motivated gifts are relatively common but may sometimes undermine the assistance that people hope to receive.

Dystopian novels/movies enhance the willingness to justify radical—especially violent—forms of political action; no evidence for the conventional wisdom that they reduce political trust & efficacy

It’s the End of the World and They Know It: How Dystopian Fiction Shapes Political Attitudes. Calvert W. Jones and Celia Paris. Perspectives on Politics, Volume 16, Issue 4, December 2018 , pp. 969-989. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1537592718002153

Abstract: Given that the fictional narratives found in novels, movies, and television shows enjoy wide public consumption, memorably convey information, minimize counter-arguing, and often emphasize politically-relevant themes, we argue that greater scholarly attention must be paid to theorizing and measuring how fiction affects political attitudes. We argue for a genre-based approach for studying fiction effects, and apply it to the popular dystopian genre. Results across three experiments are striking: we find consistent evidence that dystopian narratives enhance the willingness to justify radical—especially violent—forms of political action. Yet we find no evidence for the conventional wisdom that they reduce political trust and efficacy, illustrating that fiction’s effects may not be what they seem and underscoring the need for political scientists to take fiction seriously.

Men who more strongly endorsed hostile sexism underestimated the power they had compared with their partners’ reports; this perception predicted greater aggression toward female partners; this was not the result of generally being more dominant & aggressive

An Interdependence Account of Sexism and Power: Men's Hostile Sexism, Biased Perceptions of Low Power, and Relationship Aggression. Emily J. Cross, Nickola C. Overall, Rachel S.T. Low, & James K. McNulty. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Nov 26, 2018.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/pspi0000167

Abstract: Protecting men’s power is fundamental to understanding the origin, expression, and targets of hostile sexism, yet no prior theoretical or empirical work has specified how hostile sexism is related to experiences of power. In the current studies, we propose that the interdependence inherent in heterosexual relationships will lead men who more strongly endorse hostile sexism to perceive they have lower power in their relationship, and that these perceptions will be biased. We also predicted that lower perceptions of power would in turn promote aggression toward intimate partners. Across 4 studies, men who more strongly endorsed hostile sexism perceived lower power in their relationships. Comparisons across partners supported that these lower perceptions of power were biased; men who more strongly endorsed hostile sexism underestimated the power they had compared with their partners’ reports of that power (Studies 1 and 2). These lower perceptions of power, in turn, predicted greater aggression toward female partners during couples’ daily interactions (Study 1), observed during couples’ video-recorded conflict discussions (Study 2), and reported over the last year (Studies 3 and 4). Moreover, the associations between hostile sexism, power, and aggression were specific to men perceiving lower relationship power rather than desiring greater power in their relationships (Studies 3 and 4), and they were not the result of generally being more dominant and aggressive (Studies 3 and 4), or more negative relationship evaluations from either partner (Studies 1– 4). The findings demonstrate the importance of an interdependence perspective in understanding the experiences, aggressive expressions, and broader consequences associated with hostile sexism.

Keywords: hostile sexism, relationship power, relationship aggression, biased perceptions
Supplemental materials: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/pspi0000167.supp

Reading faces: Participants correctly identified the high-narcissism male & female, & the high-psychopathy male significantly more often than by chance, & the high-psychopathy female significantly less often

Are dark triad cues really visible in faces? Victor Kenji M. Shiramizu, Luca Kozm, Lisa M. DeBruine, Benedict C. Jones. Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 139, 1 March 2019, Pages 214-216. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2018.11.011

Abstract: The ‘dark triad’ refers to the personality traits narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy. Previous research found that participants could distinguish dark triad faces when judging images with average facial characteristics of people who scored either high or low on these traits. These results suggest that faces contain valid cues to dark triad personality traits and that the dark triad is a set of physical-morphological characteristics, as well as a set of psycho-social characteristics. Because putative links between personality traits and facial appearance have often not replicated well across studies, we attempted to replicate these results with a new set of face images. Participants correctly identified the high-narcissism male and female prototypes and the high-psychopathy male prototype significantly more often than would be expected by chance. By contrast, our analyses showed no evidence that participants could discriminate between the high- and low-Machiavellianism prototypes for either sex. Surprisingly, participants correctly identified the high-psychopathy female prototype significantly less often than would be expected by chance alone. Together our results suggest that male and female faces contain valid cues of narcissism, but do not necessarily contain valid cues of psychopathy or Machiavellianism.

School achievement engenders high expectations about future prospects, yet markets are only contingently sensitive to that achievement; the misalignment schools-markets is perceived by academics as morally unacceptable

Magni-Berton, R., & Ríos, D. (2018). Why do academics oppose the market? A test of Nozick’s hypothesis. Current Sociology. https://doi.org/10.1177/0011392118812934

Abstract: In this article, the authors explore why academics tend to oppose the market. To this intent the article uses normative political theory as an explanatory mechanism, starting with a conjecture originally suggested by Robert Nozick. Academics are over-represented amongst the best students of their cohort. School achievement engenders high expectations about future economic prospects. Yet markets are only contingently sensitive to school achievement. This misalignment between schools and markets is perceived by academics – and arguably by intellectuals in general – as morally unacceptable. To test this explanation, the article uses an online questionnaire with close to 1500 French academic respondents. The data resulting from this investigation lend support to Nozick’s hypothesis.

Keywords Academics, attitudes, justice, the market, Nozick

Monday, November 26, 2018

Sensation seeking & the factor intellect/imagination predict liking of horror & frequency of use; gender, educational level, & age are also correlated; people seek out horror media with threatening stimuli that they perceive to be plausible

Clasen, M., Kjeldgaard-Christiansen, J., & Johnson, J. A. (2018). Horror, personality, and threat simulation: A survey on the psychology of scary media. Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/ebs0000152

Abstract: Horror entertainment is a thriving and paradoxical industry. Who are the consumers of horror, and why do they seek out frightening media? We provide support for the threat simulation theory of horror, according to which horror media provides a form of benign masochism that offers negative emotional stimulation through simulation of threat scenarios. Through an online survey of genre use and preference as well as personality traits and paranormal beliefs (n = 1,070), we find that sensation seeking and the fifth of the Big Five factors, intellect/imagination, predict liking of horror and frequency of use. Gender, educational level, and age are also correlated with horror liking and frequency of use (males show higher liking and more frequent use, whereas liking and use frequency are negatively correlated with educational level and age). People with stronger beliefs in the paranormal tend to seek out horror media with supernatural content, whereas those with weaker beliefs in the paranormal gravitate toward horror media with natural content, suggesting that people seek out horror media with threatening stimuli that they perceive to be plausible. While frightening media may be initially aversive, people high in sensation seeking and intellect/imagination, in particular, like intellectual stimulation and challenge and expect not just negative but also positive emotions from horror consumption. They brave the initially aversive response to simulate threats and so enter a positive feedback loop by which they attain adaptive mastery through coping with virtual simulated danger.

Check also So Disgusting, But You Can't Take Your Eyes Off the Screen: Can Personality Traits and Disgust Sensitivity Influence People's Love for Horror Movies? Ashley Marie Dillard. Western Carolina University, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2018. 10788427. https://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2018/09/significant-correlations-between.html

Normalized hurricane damage in the continental United States 1900–2017: Consistent with observed trends in the hurricane landfalls, the updated normalized loss estimates also show no trend

Normalized hurricane damage in the continental United States 1900–2017. Jessica Weinkle, Chris Landsea, Douglas Collins, Rade Musulin, Ryan P. Crompton, Philip J. Klotzbach & Roger Pielke Jr. Nature Sustainability (2018), https://www.nature.com/articles/s41893-018-0165-2

Abstract: Direct economic losses result when a hurricane encounters an exposed, vulnerable society. A normalization estimates direct economic losses from a historical extreme event if that same event was to occur under contemporary societal conditions. Under the global indicator framework of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the reduction of direct economic losses as a proportion of total economic activity is identified as a key indicator of progress in the mitigation of disaster impacts. Understanding loss trends in the context of development can therefore aid in assessing sustainable development. This analysis provides a major update to the leading dataset on normalized US hurricane losses in the continental United States from 1900 to 2017. Over this period, 197 hurricanes resulted in 206 landfalls with about US$2 trillion in normalized (2018) damage, or just under US$17 billion annually. Consistent with observed trends in the frequency and intensity of hurricane landfalls along the continental United States since 1900, the updated normalized loss estimates also show no trend. A more detailed comparison of trends in hurricanes and normalized losses over various periods in the twentieth century to 2017 demonstrates a very high degree of consistency.

People will often fight not for individual or collective material gain, but because of their commitment to abstract moral & sacred ideas; decisions to support or oppose war are descriptively deontological & are relatively insensitive to material costs or benefits

The Moral Logic of Political Violence. Jeremy Ginges. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2018.11.001

Abstract: There is a moral logic to reasoning about political violence. People will often fight not for individual or collective material gain, but because of their commitment to abstract moral and sacred ideas. Moreover, decisions to support or oppose war are descriptively deontological and are relatively insensitive to material costs or benefits.

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For example, in one set of experiments carried out with Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, participants were randomly presented with one of two compromises over a disputed issue such as Jerusalem: a straight compromise for peace, or the same compromise for peace plus a material incentive such as the promise of a life free of violence, or billions of dollars to the collective.  When participants were moral absolutists with respect to the issues in conflict (regarding them as sacred values) adding a material incentive backfired, ironically ‘increasing’ support for violent opposition to the deal. The existence of culturally specific sacred values does not itself impede tolerant interactions across cultures (Box 1). However, aggression may occur when one group acts to demean or threaten the second group’s sacred values.

Decisions about War Are Relatively Insensitive to Consequences
Rather than being a product of a breakdown in morality, war is often regarded as a moral necessity if not a moral good [2,7,13]. While moral reasoning is important to collective action in general [5], people tend to make decisions about war in a deontological way such that violence is either seen as prohibited or mandated.  This leads to decisions that are relatively insensitive to material consequences.  In anonymous surveys of Jewish Israelis living in the West Bank and Gaza, participation in non-violent protest (aggressive and non-aggressive) was related to both the perceived effectiveness of such behavior and its perceived ‘righteousness’. However, participation in violent attacks was predicted by righteousness and unrelated to effectiveness [3].

Cross-cultural experiments show similar effects [2]. In one experimental paradigm, participants were randomly assigned to consider their support for either a non-violent response (negotiation) or a violent response (armed attack) to the kidnapping and imminent murder of 100 innocent civilians.  In prior tests, participants thought both options were equally appropriate and desirable. However, when asked to indicate how many hostages they required to be rescued to support the response they were considering, participants in the negotiation condition demanded between 80 and 100 hostages to be rescued, while those in the armed attack condition option required only one hostage to be rescued.  Participants in themilitary conditions would often give strategic reasons for their responses, typically by arguing that violence will deter future attacks. Yet, a subsequent experiment showed that support for military options was similarly insensitive to its deterrent capability [2]. Thus, people reason differently about violent and nonviolent option in intergroup conflicts, using the logic of instrumental rationality for nonviolence, but deontological reasoning when making choices about political violence.  This can lead to systematic inconsistency of preferences for military action (Box 2).

Degree of perceived aggression in a robot's behavior did not have a significant impact on their decision to follow the robot's instruction; people often exhibit reactance in situations where they feel their freedom is being threatened

S. Agrawal and M. Williams, "Would You Obey an Aggressive Robot: A Human-Robot Interaction Field Study," 2018 27th IEEE International Symposium on Robot and Human Interactive Communication (RO-MAN), Nanjing, China, 2018, pp. 240-246. doi: 10.1109/ROMAN.2018.8525615

Abstract: Social Robots have the potential to be of tremendous utility in healthcare, search and rescue, surveillance, transport, and military applications. In many of these applications, social robots need to advise and direct humans to follow important instructions. In this paper, we present the results of a Human-Robot Interaction field experiment conducted using a PR2 robot to explore key factors involved in obedience of humans to social robots. This paper focuses on studying how the human degree of obedience to a robot's instructions is related to the perceived aggression and authority of the robot's behavior. We implemented several social cues to exhibit and convey both authority and aggressiveness in the robot's behavior. In addition to this, we also analyzed the impact of other factors such as perceived anthropomorphism, safety, intelligence and responsibility of the robot's behavior on participants' compliance with the robot's instructions. The results suggest that the degree of perceived aggression in the robot's behavior by different participants did not have a significant impact on their decision to follow the robot's instruction. We have provided possible explanations for our findings and identified new research questions that will help to understand the role of robot authority in human-robot interaction, and that can help to guide the design of robots that are required to provide advice and instructions.

Keywords: Robot sensing systems; Safety; Human-robot interaction; Security; Anthropomorphism; Surveillance


A 4-Year Longitudinal Study of the Sex-Creativity Relationship: There was female superiority in childhood & early adolescence, & male superiority was not found in adolescence & emerging adulthood

A 4-Year Longitudinal Study of the Sex-Creativity Relationship in Childhood, Adolescence, and Emerging Adulthood: Findings of Mean and Variability Analyses. Wu-Jing He. Front. Psychol., 26 November 2018 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02331

Abstract: The relationship between sex and creativity remains an unresolved research question. The present study aimed to approach this question through the lens of the developmental theory of sex differences in intelligence, which posits a dynamic pattern of sex differences in intellectual abilities from female superiority in childhood and early adolescence to male superiority starting at 16 years of age. A total of 775 participants from three age groups (i.e., children, adolescents, and emerging adults) completed a 4-year longitudinal study comprising four assessments of creative thinking at 1-year intervals. Creative thinking was assessed with the Test for Creative Thinking-Drawing Production. While the results revealed female superiority in childhood and early adolescence, male superiority was not found in adolescence and emerging adulthood. Rather, greater sex similarities and greater male variability were found based on mean and variability analyses, respectively. This study elucidated the link between sex and creativity by (1) taking a developmental perspective, (2) employing a 4-year longitudinal design in three age groups (i.e., children, adolescents, and emerging adults), and (3) analyzing sex differences based on both mean and variability analyses.

Contra media reports, there is no “loneliness epidemic” among older adults; contra previous literature, loneliness may not have cardiometabolic implications; such nonreplications are increasingly common

Loneliness does (not) have cardiometabolic effects: A longitudinal study of older adults in two countries. Social Science & Medicine, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2018.10.021

Highlights
•    Contrary to media reports, there is no “loneliness epidemic” among older adults.
•    Opposing previous studies, loneliness may not be linked to cardiometabolic outcomes.
•    Such nonreplications are common in the growing “biosocial science” literature.
•    More rigorous methods are available, and urgently need incorporation.

Abstract

Objectives: Mass media increasingly report a “loneliness epidemic.” A growing academic literature claims downstream effects of this experience on surrogate markers of cardiometabolic risk. Evidence on such influences is based on flawed samples and methodologies, rendering inferences questionable. The current study tested these claims.

Methods: Analysis was based on three-wave data on older adults from two national probability samples—the U.S. Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA). Models were gender-differentiated. Cardiovascular states were indexed by systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and metabolic condition by hemoglobin A1c. Fixed effects models were used for initial investigation, and subsequent triangulation was through a first-differencing approach with instrumental variables.

Results: Loneliness had no linkage with any of the three outcomes. Nor were prevalences indicative of an epidemic of this affective state. Both gender and cross-national variations emerged: women were lonelier than men in each sample, while ELSA participants of both genders were less so than their HRS counterparts.

Discussion: Contra previous literature, loneliness may not have cardiometabolic implications. Such nonreplications are increasingly common in the emerging “biosocial science” literature. Potential sources are discussed. More rigorous methods are available and urgently need incorporation to root out flawed inferences and conceptual models.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Despite vast increases in the time and money spent on research, progress is barely keeping pace with the past. What went wrong?

Science Is Getting Less Bang for Its Buck. Patrick Collison, Michael Nielsen. The Atlantic, Nov 16, 2018
https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/11/diminishing-returns-science/575665/

Despite vast increases in the time and money spent on research, progress is barely keeping pace with the past. What went wrong?

https://scientificreturns.org/diminishing-returns

What’s causing the productivity slowdown? The subject is controversial among economists, and many different answers have been proposed. Some have argued that it’s merely that existing productivity measures don’t do a good job measuring the impact of new technologies. Our argument here suggests a different explanation, that diminishing returns to spending on science are contributing to a genuine productivity slowdown.

We aren’t the first to suggest that scientific discovery is showing diminishing returns. In 1971, the distinguished biologist Bentley Glass wrote an article in Science arguing that the glory days of science were over, and the most important discoveries had already been made:
It’s hard to believe, for me, anyway, that anything as comprehensive and earthshaking as Darwin’s view of the evolution of life or Mendel’s understanding of the nature of heredity will be easy to come by again. After all, these have been discovered!

In his 1996 book The End of Science, the science writer John Horgan interviewed many leading scientists and asked them about prospects for progress in their own fields. What he found was not encouraging. Here, for instance, is Leo Kadanoff, a leading theoretical physicist, on recent progress in science:
The truth is, there is nothing—there is nothing—of the same order of magnitude as the accomplishments of the invention of quantum mechanics or of the double helix or of relativity. Just nothing like that has happened in the last few decades.

Horgan asked Kadanoff whether that state of affairs was permanent. Kadanoff was silent, before sighing and replying: “Once you have proven that the world is lawful to the satisfaction of many human beings, you can’t do that again.”

But while many individuals have raised concerns about diminishing returns to science, there has been little institutional response. The meteorologist Kelvin Droegemeier, the current nominee to be President Donald Trump’s science adviser, claimed in 2016 that “the pace of discovery is accelerating” in remarks to a U.S. Senate committee. The problem of diminishing returns is mentioned nowhere in the 2018 report of the National Science Foundation, which instead talks optimistically of “potentially transformative research that will generate pioneering discoveries and advance exciting new frontiers in science.” Of course, many scientific institutions—particularly new institutions—do aim to find improved ways of operating in their own fields. But that’s not the same as an organized institutional response to diminishing returns.

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Check also Are Ideas Getting Harder to Find? Nicholas Bloom, Charles I. Jones, John Van Reenen, and Michael Webb. NBER Working Paper No. 23782. https://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/09/are-ideas-getting-harder-to-find.html

How does nature exposure make people healthier?: Evidence for the role of impulsivity and expanded space perception

How does nature exposure make people healthier?: Evidence for the role of impulsivity and expanded space perception. Meredith A. Repke, Meredith S. Berry, Lucian G. Conway III, Alexander Metcalf, Reid M. Hensen, Conor Phelan. PLOS One, Aug 22 2018, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0202246

Abstract: Nature exposure has been linked to a plethora of health benefits, but the mechanism for this effect is not well understood. We conducted two studies to test a new model linking the health benefits of nature exposure to reduced impulsivity in decision-making (as measured by delay discounting) via psychologically expanding space perception. In study 1 we collected a nationwide U.S. sample (n = 609) to determine whether nature exposure was predictive of health outcomes and whether impulsive decision-making mediated the effect. Results indicated that Nature Accessibility and Nature Exposure From Home significantly predicted reduced scores on the Depression, Anxiety, Stress Scales (DASS) (p < .001, p = .03, respectively) and improved general health and wellbeing (p < .001, p < .01, respectively). Nature Accessibility also predicted reduced impulsive decision-making (p < .01), and Nature Accessibility showed significant indirect effects through impulsive decision-making on both the DASS (p = .02) and general health and wellbeing (p = .04). In Study 2, a lab-based paradigm found that nature exposure expanded space perception (p < .001), and while the indirect effect of nature exposure through space perception on impulsive decision-making did not meet conventional standards of significance (p < .10), the pattern was consistent with hypotheses. This combination of ecologically-valid and experimental methods offers promising support for an impulsivity-focused model explaining the nature-health relationship.

Sex workers sell information gleaned from their customers—specifically, corrupt police officers—to al-Shabaab; “If you want information here, you use the prostitutes and street kids"

al-Shabaab’s Mata Hari Network. Katharine Petrich. War on the Rocks, Aug 14 2018. https://warontherocks.com/2018/08/al-shabaabs-mata-hari-network/

Excerpts:

I recently spent several weeks in the slum districts of Nairobi, researching al-Shabaab’s criminal activities in the Horn of Africa. I expected to learn about the traditional criminal practices of terrorist groups: drugs, arms, money laundering, and perhaps even a regional particularity like sugar smuggling. What I wasn’t expecting to discover was a highly structured, hierarchical network in which sex workers sell information gleaned from their customers — specifically, corrupt police officers — to al-Shabaab. As one interviewee noted, “If you want information here, you use the prostitutes and street kids — they see everything, go everywhere, and nobody notices them.”

The strength and depth of this sex worker-militant network surprised me and many terrorism experts in the West I spoke with, but it’s an open secret among Nairobi residents. My first interview subject didn’t understand why I wanted more details — surely everyone knew about it? Many of my interviewees were neighbors of, or otherwise friendly with, the sex workers involved. They described an arrangement in which al-Shabaab offered money to women who picked up interesting information in the course of their regular sex work — pillow talk from politicians, police officers, and businessmen. One local memorably opined: “Of course! Half the reason these men go to [sex workers] is to complain about their lives. Why not get paid for listening?”

The co-option of sex workers as intelligence officers suggests that al-Shabaab is a rational actor willing to circumvent its highly public ideological stances when there is significant operational benefit to be gained. This calculating, bottom-line mentality runs counter to much of the international narrative about the group. The “Mata Hari” network also shows that al-Shabaab is an innovative organization that looks for unconventional solutions and is actively seeking to survive and expand, despite the long-running efforts by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and its international military partners. Al-Shabaab has increased its resilience to counter-terrorism operations by leveraging the safe haven of neighboring Kenya, a sanctuary of sorts created by porous borders, weak government integrity, and sympathetic communities. Finally, this is a group interested in working “behind the lines” deep in adversarial territory that has learned how to exploit human weakness and failures of integrity in its area of operation.

[...]

The rational choice to leverage sex workers’ access to powerful government and law enforcement figures offers a window into al-Shabaab’s cost-benefit calculations. The group imposes strict restrictions on female sexuality in Somalia, its primary area of operation: It bans independent sex work, has imposed the death penalty for adultery, considers sexual assault to be adultery (and thus punishable by stoning to death), and utilizes forced marriages and rape as a reward system for its male soldiers. Given this deeply conservative position inside Somalia, its willingness to cooperate with and reward sex work in Nairobi, where the group is more constrained in its activities, suggests al-Shabaab is a limited, rational organization with concrete territorial aims. It is not a maximalist extremist group prioritizing ideological principles over tangible benefits, and because the group has a state-based goal, it is comfortable supporting or at least engaging with activities that contravene sharia law. An informant remarked wryly, “Al-Shabaab likes [that group of sex workers] very much. They are worth many sins.” Other interviewees described how group members publicly banned and beat sex workers in one neighborhood, decrying their “wickedness,” while simultaneously protecting the sex workers involved in the intelligence network. Immorality seems to be a reasonable price to pay for real-time intelligence.

[...]

The strength of Nairobi’s “prostitute spy” network demonstrates al-Shabaab’s organizational innovation, rationality, and broad geographic range. If the militia has learned the effectiveness of co-opting sex work in Nairobi, organizational learning theory argues it will attempt to replicate that success in other areas. Indeed, media reports indicate similar gambits of using “very beautiful women” as intelligence officers have also occurred in Kenya’s Lamu, Tana River, and Garissa counties. This evolution suggests al-Shabaab may be permanently incorporating sex work into its portfolio of intelligence operations.

[...]

Full text with much more and many links in War on the Rocks, link above.

Paperwork burdens, “sludge,” reduces access to important licenses, programs, & benefits; its defenses turn out to be more attractive in principle than in practice; a form of cost-benefit analysis is essential

Sunstein, Cass R., Sludge and Ordeals (November 20, 2018). Duke Law Journal, Forthcoming. http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3288192

Abstract: In 2015, the United States government imposed 9.78 billion hours of paperwork burdens on the American people. Many of these hours are best categorized as “sludge,” reducing access to important licenses, programs, and benefits. Because of the sheer costs of sludge, rational people are effectively denied life-changing goods and services; the problem is compounded by the existence of behavioral biases, including inertia, present bias, and unrealistic optimism. In principle, a serious deregulatory effort should be undertaken to reduce sludge, through automatic enrollment, greatly simplified forms, and reminders. At the same time, sludge can promote legitimate goals. First, it can protect program integrity, which means that policymakers might have to make difficult tradeoffs between (1) granting benefits to people who are not entitled to them and (2) denying benefits to people who are entitled to them. Second, it can overcome impulsivity, recklessness, and self-control problems. Third, it can prevent intrusions on privacy. Fourth, it can serve as a rationing device, ensuring that benefits go to people who most need them. In most cases, these defenses of sludge turn out to be more attractive in principle than in practice. For sludge, a form of cost-benefit analysis is essential, and it will often argue in favor of a neglected form of deregulation: sludge reduction. Various suggestions are offered for new action by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which oversees the Paperwork Reduction Act; for courts; and for Congress.

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My comment:

This was the most cited legal and constitutional scholar in the US, almost as much as the next two guys combined (between 2009 and 2013)... It is difficult to overstate how harmful has been the kind of theories Mr Sunstein supported in his work for the previous federal president, justifying in many occasions laws and regulations of great cost with abandon. Partially compensating this, he acknowledges in a paper devoted for the first time to law/regulations costs and how unfair they are, that:

1  the costs of paperwork are enormous; 2  rational people are effectively denied life-changing goods and services; 3  the problem is compounded by the existence of behavioral biases, including inertia, present bias, and unrealistic optimism; 4  defenses of paperwork burden are specious (are more attractive in principle (!) than in practice); 5  a form of cost-benefit analysis is essential, and 6   analysis will often argue in favor of paperwork burden reduction, "neglected form of deregulation."

Welcome to sanity, all of you guys that most of the time payed so little attention to regulation costs and the rights of the people, and how our cognitive defects, our biases, make lots of regulatory actions not only unworkable, but damaging in big ways.

Choosing a meal to increase your appeal: How relationship status, sexual orientation, dining partner sex, and attractiveness impact nutritional choices in social dining scenarios

Choosing a meal to increase your appeal: How relationship status, sexual orientation, dining partner sex, and attractiveness impact nutritional choices in social dining scenarios. Michael Baker, Andie Strickland, Nicole D. Fox. Appetite, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2018.11.023

Abstract: The impact of social context on dining choices was investigated via an online experiment. Participants were assigned to different hypothetical dining partners of the same or opposite sex and varying levels of attractiveness (or no partner in a control condition) and were then asked to indicate what foods they would order if they were dining with this individual. Following a food selection task, the attractiveness of the hypothetical partner was rated, followed by the measurement of personal characteristics such as current relationship status, participant sex, and sexual orientation. Results revealed that among heterosexual participants, relationship status, partner sex, and partner attractiveness interacted to influence the total number of calories ordered. Heterosexual male and female participants who were not currently in a relationship and had been assigned to an opposite-sex dining partner tended to order fewer calories the more attractive that they perceived their partner to be. The findings of this study build upon previous research on social influences on dining behavior by examining the roles of relationship status and dining partner attractiveness on nutritional decision-making.

Social media as a source of political information do not reduce the compatibility of individual issue horizons: they are not caught in an 'echo chamber' or reduce issue diversity, top issue focus or issue overlap with others

Stefan Geiß, Melanie Magin, Birgit Stark, Pascal Jürgens, „Common Meeting Ground” in Gefahr? Selektionslogiken politischer Informationsquellen und ihr Einfluss auf die Fragmentierung individueller Themenhorizonte in: M&K Medien & Kommunikationswissenschaft, Seite 502 - 525, Jahrgang 66 (2018), Heft 4, https://doi.org/10.5771/1615-634X-2018-4-502

Abstract: The diversification of the political information supply has raised concerns about social integration and collective democratic self-determination. Automatically personalised media content on social network sites such as Facebook which make use of individual online behaviour are often suspected of facilitating fragmentation. People with extreme political attitudes are particularly seen as vulnerable and likely to losing touch with society as a whole, for instance, if they are caught in an ‘echo chamber’. We draw on data from an innovative operationalisation of issue fragmentation using individual-level data, investigating whether the use of such content reduces the compatibility of individual issue horizons; i.e. reduced issue diversity, top issue focus, and issue overlap with others. We also investigate how this contributes to the fragmentation of society, both generally and among political extremists. Empirically, we rely on data from a two-week daily diary study with 333 participants, who provided information on the two political issues they found most important on that day. Participants also specified which sources they relied on for political information about the relevant issue. Our results show that social media as a source of political information do not reduce the compatibility of individual issue horizons. However, relying on these media outlets increases the compatibility of issue horizons, particularly among those with extreme political attitudes. In conclusion, we discuss the implications of these findings for the self-determination of individuals and society in the digital world.

Sumatran orangutan mothers suppressed alarm calls up to 20 min until the model was out of sight in function of perceived danger for themselves & for an infant, suggesting high-order cognition

Time-space–displaced responses in the orangutan vocal system. Adriano R. Lameira and Josep Call. Science Advances, Nov 14 2018, Vol. 4, no. 11, eaau3401. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aau3401

Abstract: One of the defining features of language is displaced reference—the capacity to transmit information about something that is not present or about a past or future event. It is very rare in nature and has not been shown in any nonhuman primate, confounding, as such, any understanding of its precursors and evolution in the human lineage. Here, we describe a vocal phenomenon in a wild great ape with unparalleled affinities with displaced reference. When exposed to predator models, Sumatran orangutan mothers temporarily suppressed alarm calls up to 20 min until the model was out of sight. Subjects delayed their vocal responses in function of perceived danger for themselves, but four major predictions for stress-based mechanisms were not met. Conversely, vocal delay was also a function of perceived danger for another—an infant—suggesting high-order cognition. Our findings suggest that displaced reference in language is likely to have originally piggybacked on akin behaviors in an ancestral hominid.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Reward retroactively prioritizes memory for objects closest to the reward; there is a 24-hour delay & is stronger for mazes followed by a longer rest interval, suggesting a role for post-reward replay & overnight consolidation

Retroactive and graded prioritization of memory by reward. Erin Kendall Braun, G. Elliott Wimmer & Daphna Shohamy. Nature Communications, volume 9, Article number: 4886 (2018). https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-07280-0

Abstract: Many decisions are based on an internal model of the world. Yet, how such a model is constructed from experience and represented in memory remains unknown. We test the hypothesis that reward shapes memory for sequences of events by retroactively prioritizing memory for objects as a function of their distance from reward. Human participants encountered neutral objects while exploring a series of mazes for reward. Across six data sets, we find that reward systematically modulates memory for neutral objects, retroactively prioritizing memory for objects closest to the reward. This effect of reward on memory emerges only after a 24-hour delay and is stronger for mazes followed by a longer rest interval, suggesting a role for post-reward replay and overnight consolidation, as predicted by neurobiological data in animals. These findings demonstrate that reward retroactively prioritizes memory along a sequential gradient, consistent with the role of memory in supporting adaptive decision-making.

Ovulation, Sex Hormones, and Women’s Mating Psychology: No increase in preference for uncommited sex with men displaying putative fitness cues during the high-fertility phase of the menstrual cycle

Jones, Benedict C., Amanda Hahn, and Lisa M. DeBruine. 2018. “Ovulation, Sex Hormones, and Women’s Mating Psychology.” PsyArXiv. November 24. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2018.10.008

Abstract: The Dual Mating Strategy hypothesis proposes that women’s preferences for uncommitted sexual relationships with men displaying putative fitness cues increase during the high-fertility phase of the menstrual cycle. Results consistent with this hypothesis are widely cited as evidence that sexual selection has shaped human mating psychology. However, the methods used in most of these studies have recently been extensively criticized. Here we discuss (1) new empirical studies that address these methodological problems and largely report null results and (2) an alternative model of hormonal regulation of women’s mating psychology that can better accommodate these new data.

People evaluate their own voices as more attractive than the voices of others & that the self‐enhancement bias of voice attractiveness can be generalised to similar & familiar versions of self‐voice

One's own and similar voices are more attractive than other voices. Zhikang Peng, Yanran Wang, Linghao Meng, Hongyan Liu. Zhiguo Hu. Australian Journal of Psychology, https://doi.org/10.1111/ajpy.12235

Abstract

Objective: The aim of the present study was to explore whether people consider their own voice to be more attractive than others and whether the self‐enhancement bias of one's own voice could be generalised to other variants of self‐voice.

Method: Two experiments were conducted. In Experiment 1, female and male participants were asked to rate the attractiveness of three types of audio recordings (numbers, vowels, words) from same‐sex participants. In Experiment 2, the participants were instructed to rate the attractiveness of six types of audio signals: their own original voice, their recorded voice, a “pitch+20 Hz” audio recording, a “pitch−20 Hz” audio recording, a “loudness+10 dB” audio recording, and a “loudness−10 dB” audio recording. The participants also rated the similarity between the given audio signals and their own voices.

Results: Experiment 1 showed that the participants rated their own audio recordings as more attractive than others rated their audio recordings, and they rated their own audio recordings as more attractive than those of others. Experiment 2 revealed that the participants rated the recorded voices and the “loudness+/−10 dB” audio recordings as more attractive and similar than the “pitch+/−20 Hz” audio recordings.

Conclusions: The present study demonstrates that people evaluate their own voices as more attractive than the voices of others and that the self‐enhancement bias of voice attractiveness can be generalised to similar and familiar versions of self‐voice.

Response to Baron and Jost's False Equivalence: Are Liberals and Conservatives in the U.S. Equally “Biased”?

Partisan Bias and Its Discontents. Peter Ditto et al. Perspectives on Psychological Science, Nov 2018. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/328916374

Abstract: Baron and Jost (this issue) present three critiques of our meta-analysis demonstrating similar levels of partisan bias in liberals and conservatives: 1) that the studies we examined were biased toward finding symmetrical bias among liberals and conservatives, 2) that the studies we examined do not measure partisan bias but rather rational Bayesian updating, and 3) that social psychology is not biased in favor of liberals but biased instead toward creating false equivalencies. We respond in turn that: 1) the included studies covered a wide variety of issues at the core of contemporary political conflict and fairly compared bias by establishing conditions under which both liberals and conservatives would have similar motivations and opportunity to demonstrate bias, 2) we carefully selected studies that were least vulnerable to Bayesian counterexplanation and most scientists and laypeople consider these studies demonstrations of bias, and 3) there is reason to be vigilant about liberal bias in social psychology, but this does not preclude concern about other possible biases, all of which threaten good science. We close with recommendations for future research and urge researchers to move beyond broad generalizations of political differences that are insensitive to time and context.
Response to  False Equivalence: Are Liberals and Conservatives in the U.S. Equally “Biased”? Jonathan Baron and John T. Jost. Invited Revision, Perspectives on Psychological Science,

Abstract: On the basis of a meta-analysis of 51 studies, Ditto, Liu, Clark, Wojcik, Chen, et al. (2018) conclude that ideological “bias” is equivalent on the left and right of U.S. politics. In this commentary, we contend that this conclusion does not follow from the review and that Ditto and colleagues are too quick to embrace a false equivalence between the liberal left and the conservative right. For one thing, the issues, procedures, and materials used in studies reviewed by Ditto and colleagues were selected for purposes other than the inspection of ideological asymmetries. Consequently, methodological choices made by researchers were systematically biased to avoid producing differences between liberals and conservatives. We also consider the broader implications of a normative analysis of judgment and decision-making and demonstrate that the “bias” examined by Ditto and colleagues is not, in fact, an irrational bias, and that it is incoherent to discuss bias in the absence of standards for assessing accuracy and consistency. We find that Jost’s (2017) conclusions about domain-general asymmetries in motivated social cognition, which suggest that epistemic virtues are more prevalent among liberals than conservatives, are closer to the truth of the matter when it comes to current American politics. Finally, we question the notion that the research literature in psychology is necessarily characterized by “liberal bias,” as several authors have claimed.

Here is the end:
If academics are disproportionately liberal—in comparison with society at large—it just might be due to the fact that being liberal in the early 21st century is more compatible with the epistemic standards, values, and practices of academia than is being conservative.

Predispositions and the Political Behavior of American Economic Elites: Technology entrepreneurs support liberal redistributive, social, & globalistic policies but conservative regulatory policies

Predispositions and the Political Behavior of American Economic Elites: Evidence from Technology Entrepreneurs. David E. Broockman, Gregory Ferenstein, Neil Malhotra. American Journal of Political Science, https://doi.org/10.1111/ajps.12408

Abstract: Economic elites regularly seek to exert political influence. But what policies do they support? Many accounts implicitly assume economic elites are homogeneous and that increases in their political power will increase inequality. We shed new light on heterogeneity in economic elites' political preferences, arguing that economic elites from an industry can share distinctive preferences due in part to sharing distinctive predispositions. Consequently, how increases in economic elites' influence affect inequality depends on which industry's elites are gaining influence and which policy issues are at stake. We demonstrate our argument with four original surveys, including the two largest political surveys of American economic elites to date: one of technology entrepreneurs—whose influence is burgeoning—and another of campaign donors. We show that technology entrepreneurs support liberal redistributive, social, and globalistic policies but conservative regulatory policies—a bundle of preferences rare among other economic elites. These differences appear to arise partly from their distinctive predispositions.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Biased Study: Krebs et al.'s “Effect of Opioid vs Nonopioid Medications on Pain-Related Function in Patients With Chronic Back Pain or Hip or Knee Osteoarthritis Pain

Uncritical Publication of a Biased Study Leads to Misleading Media Reports. Lynn R Webster. Pain Medicine, pny234, https://doi.org/10.1093/pm/pny234

Excerpts:
On March 6, 2018, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a manuscript titled “Effect of Opioid vs Nonopioid Medications on Pain-Related Function in Patients With Chronic Back Pain or Hip or Knee Osteoarthritis Pain: The SPACE Randomized Clinical Trial,” by Krebs et al. [1]. The authors concluded that treatment with opioids was not superior to treatment with nonopioid medications for improving pain-related function over 12 months. The national interest in this topic and the putative results of the study led to headlines in major news outlets touting proof that opioids were not effective for chronic noncancer pain. The article is in the top 5% of all research outputs measured by Altmetric: As of this writing, 313 news stories from 191 outlets, 2 278 tweeters, 45 Facebook pages, nine blogs, and seven Redditors have reported on the study [2]. This much media reach could influence social and political policy for the better if the understanding of the research is valid. Unfortunately, the conclusions of the article were widely mischaracterized so that the extensive reporting could instead lead to harm. Four Letters to the Editor of JAMA, along with a reply by Krebs et al., were published, demonstrating that others also had concerns about the manuscript [3–7]. We as researchers and reviewers of manuscripts can better help people to understand this type of complicated research on controversial topics. Here is my analysis of how the journal authors, reviewers, and media got it wrong.

[...]

Here is a simple analogous illustration of how the pragmatic study design was compromised. In Scenario A, a market research study with the strict inclusion criteria of an RCT is conducted among ice cream consumers to determine their preferred ice cream flavor: chocolate, vanilla, or no preference. The average result will almost surely be either chocolate or vanilla.

Scenario B, in contrast, is a pragmatic trial that would include all consumers, both those who eat ice cream and those who do not, so the inference to consumers as a whole can be made. If the majority of study participants do not even eat ice cream, the average result will almost surely be no preference. The inference is wider, and yet the pragmatic study conclusion does not apply to the relevant market research question: If a consumer is going to buy ice cream (which will only happen with consumers who eat ice cream), which flavor will they choose? A reasonable person would realize that the pragmatic study approach is not useful in this situation.

A more extreme Scenario C would exclude ice cream consumers altogether, so the foregone conclusion is no preference. Now the study is so ludicrous that there is a legitimate question as to whether the study should be conducted. This scenario no longer represents pragmatic research because it violates the central principle of “little or no selection beyond the clinical indication of interest.” It is merely a poorly designed study with participant selection bias so extreme that it has no scientific validity.

What if after conducting the Scenario C study, the investigators did not point out the selection bias to the reader and the impact it had on the results (ice cream consumers were excluded, masking that chocolate is the more popular ice cream flavor)? What if, further, the investigators did not report the additional finding that consumers reported that they prefer chocolate over vanilla in other foods, misleading by omission? [...]

These omissions describe the errors in the JAMA article. By specifically excluding patients who had tolerated and presumably benefitted from opioids (ice cream consumers), the investigators studied only participants 1) who had previously tried opioids and discovered they did not respond to them and 2) patients who had never tried opioids because they had previously responded adequately to nonopioid medications. In the words of the analogy, they studied only people who do not consume ice cream.

Naturally, therefore, the JAMA study achieved the only finding possible: that both opioids and nonopioids reduced pain equally well in patients in whom opioids were not medically indicated. Unfortunately, and probably unintentionally, the authors’ conclusion underplayed the selection bias: “Treatment with opioids was not superior to treatment with nonopioid medications for improving pain-related function over 12 months. Results do not support initiation of opioid therapy for moderate to severe chronic back pain or hip to knee osteoarthritis pain.” This is not a false conclusion, but it is misleading. [...]

The study authors could have partially ameliorated these problems by informing JAMA readers of the serious selection bias. To accomplish this, the JAMA article should have contained a more complete description of how opioid users were identified and how they were excluded from the study. [...]