Thursday, January 4, 2018

No evidence that more physically attractive women have higher estradiol or progesterone

No evidence that more physically attractive women have higher estradiol or progesterone. Benedict C. Jones et al. bioRxiv, doi

Abstract: Putative associations between sex hormones and attractive physical characteristics in women are central to many theories of human physical attractiveness and mate choice. Although such theories have become very influential, evidence that physically attractive and unattractive women have different hormonal profiles is equivocal. Consequently, we investigated hypothesized relationships between salivary estradiol and progesterone and two aspects of women's physical attractiveness that are commonly assumed to be correlated with levels of these hormones: facial attractiveness (N=249) and waist-to-hip ratio (N=247). Our analyses revealed no evidence that women with more attractive faces or lower (i.e., more attractive) waist-to-hip ratios had higher levels of estradiol or progesterone. These results do not support the influential hypothesis that between-woman differences in physical attractiveness are related to estradiol and/or progesterone.

We find that virtually all core assumptions and hypothesized mechanisms of posttraumatic stress disorder lack compelling or consistent empirical support

Posttraumatic stress disorder: An empirical evaluation of core assumptions. Gerald M.Rosen, Scott O. Lilienfeld. Clinical Psychology Review, Volume 28, Issue 5, June 2008, Pages 837-868,

Abstract: The diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) rests on several core assumptions, particularly the premise that a distinct class of traumatic events is linked to a distinct clinical syndrome. This core assumption of specific etiology ostensibly distinguishes the PTSD diagnosis from virtually all other psychiatric disorders. Additional attempts to distinguish PTSD from extant conditions have included searches for distinctive markers (e.g., biological and laboratory findings) and hypothesized underlying mechanisms (e.g., fragmentation of traumatic memory). We review the literature on PTSD's core assumptions and various attempts to validate the construct within a nomological network of distinctive correlates. We find that virtually all core assumptions and hypothesized mechanisms lack compelling or consistent empirical support. We consider the implications of these findings for conceptualizing PTSD in the forthcoming edition of the American Psychiatric Association's diagnostic manual.

Keywords: Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD); Validity; Construct validity; Discriminant validity; Traumatic events;Criterion A; Symptom criteria

Whereas humans already prefer helpers by 3 months of age, bonobos favor hinderers, maybe from attraction to dominant individuals

Bonobos Prefer Individuals that Hinder Others over Those that Help. Christopher Krupenye, Brian Hare. Current Biology,

•    Bonobos discriminate between agents that either help or hinder others
•    Whereas humans already prefer helpers by 3 months of age, bonobos favor hinderers
•    Bonobos’ preference may stem from attraction to dominant individuals
•    This form of prosocial preference may be derived in humans

Summary: Humans closely monitor others’ cooperative relationships [1 ;  2]. Children and adults willingly incur costs to reward helpers and punish non-helpers—even as bystanders [3; 4 ;  5]. Already by 3 months, infants favor individuals that they observe helping others [6; 7 ;  8]. This early-emerging prosocial preference may be a derived motivation that accounts for many human forms of cooperation that occur beyond dyadic interactions and are not exhibited by other animals [9 ;  10]. As the most socially tolerant nonhuman ape [11; 12; 13; 14; 15; 16 ;  17] (but see [18]), bonobos (Pan paniscus) provide a powerful phylogenetic test of whether this trait is derived in humans. Bonobos are more tolerant than chimpanzees, can flexibly obtain food through cooperation, and voluntarily share food in captivity and the wild, even with strangers [ 11; 12; 13; 14; 15; 16 ;  17] (but see [18]). Their neural architecture exhibits a suite of characteristics associated with greater sensitivity to others [ 19 ;  20], and their sociality is hypothesized to have evolved due to selection against male aggression [ 21; 22 ;  23]. Here we show in four experiments that bonobos discriminated agents based on third-party interactions. However, they did not exhibit the human preference for helpers. Instead, they reliably favored a hinderer that obstructed another agent’s goal (experiments 1–3). In a final study (experiment 4), bonobos also chose a dominant individual over a subordinate. Bonobos’ interest in hinderers may reflect attraction to dominant individuals [24]. A preference for helpers over hinderers may therefore be derived in humans, supporting the hypothesis that prosocial preferences played a central role in the evolution of human development and cooperation.

Keywords: prosocial preference; prosocial motivation; social evaluation; third-party knowledge; cooperation; human evolution; human development; bonobo; great ape; reputation attribution

Historians and students asked to check on-line information often fell victim to easily manipulated features of websites, such as official-looking logos and domain names

Wineburg S., Breakstone J., McGrew S., Ortega T. (2018) Why Google Can’t Save Us. In: Zlatkin-Troitschanskaia O., Wittum G., Dengel A. (eds) Positive Learning in the Age of Information, pp 221-228,

Abstract: The Stanford History Education Group has prototyped, field tested, and validated a bank of assessments that tap civic online reasoning—the ability to judge the credibility of the information that floods young people’s smartphones, tablets, and computers. We developed 56 tasks and administered them to students across 12 states. In total, we collected and analyzed 7,804 student responses. From pre-teens to seniors in college, students struggled mightily to evaluate online information. To investigate how people determine the credibility of digital information, we sampled 45 individuals: 10 PhD historians, 10 professional fact checkers, and 25 Stanford University undergraduates. We observed them as they evaluated websites and engaged in open web searches on social and political issues. Historians and students often fell victim to easily manipulated features of websites, such as official-looking logos and domain names.

In 1994, 16 pct of Democrats had a “very unfavorable” view of the GOP, now are 38 pct. Then, 17 pct of Republicans had a “very unfavorable” view of Democrats, now it is 43 pct. Mutual opinion: closed-minded, dishonest, immoral, lazy, unintelligent

The Retreat to Tribalism. David Brooks
The New York Times, Jan 1, 2018

photo removed


[...] N.Y.U.’s Jonathan Haidt [listed] in a lecture delivered to the Manhattan Institute in November [...] some of the reasons centrifugal forces may now exceed centripetal: the loss of the common enemies we had in World War II and the Cold War, an increasingly fragmented media, the radicalization of the Republican Party, and a new form of identity politics, especially on campus.

Haidt made the interesting point that identity politics per se is not the problem. Identity politics is just political mobilization around group characteristics. The problem is that identity politics has dropped its centripetal elements and become entirely centrifugal.


From an identity politics that emphasized our common humanity, we’ve gone to an identity politics that emphasizes having a common enemy. On campus these days, current events are often depicted as pure power struggles — oppressors acting to preserve their privilege over the virtuous oppressed.

“A funny thing happens,” Haidt said, “when you take young human beings, whose minds evolved for tribal warfare and us/them thinking, and you fill those minds full of binary dimensions. You tell them that one side in each binary is good and the other is bad. You turn on their ancient tribal circuits, preparing them for battle. Many students find it thrilling; it floods them with a sense of meaning and purpose.”

The problem is that tribal common-enemy thinking tears a diverse nation apart.


In 1994, only 16 percent of Democrats had a “very unfavorable” view of the G.O.P. Now, 38 percent do. Then, only 17 percent of Republicans had a “very unfavorable” view of Democrats. Now, 43 percent do. When the Pew Research Center asked Democrats and Republicans to talk about each other, they tended to use the same words: closed-minded, dishonest, immoral, lazy, unintelligent.


Over the past two generations, however, excessive individualism and bad schooling have corroded both of those sources of cohesion.

In 1995, the French intellectual Pascal Bruckner published “The Temptation of Innocence,” in which he argued that excessive individualism paradoxically leads to in-group/out-group tribalism. Modern individualism releases each person from social obligation, but “being guided only by the lantern of his own understanding, the individual loses all assurance of a place, an order, a definition. He may have gained freedom, but he has lost security.”

In societies like ours, individuals are responsible for their own identity, happiness and success. “Everyone must sell himself as a person in order to be accepted,” Bruckner wrote. We all are constantly comparing ourselves to others and, of course, coming up short. The biggest anxiety is moral. We each have to write our own gospel that defines our own virtue.

The easiest way to do that is to tell a tribal oppressor/oppressed story and build your own innocence on your status as victim. Just about everybody can find a personal victim story. Once you’ve identified your herd’s oppressor — the neoliberal order, the media elite, white males, whatever — your goodness is secure. You have virtue without obligation. Nothing is your fault.

“What is moral order today? Not so much the reign of right-thinking people as that of right-suffering, the cult of everyday despair,” Bruckner continued. “I suffer, therefore I am worthy. … Suffering is analogous to baptism, a dubbing that inducts us into the order of a higher humanity, hoisting us above our peers.”


A version of this op-ed appears in print on January 2, 2018, on Page A15 of the New York edition with the headline: The Retreat To Tribalism.

Lower resting heart rate predicts the ability to detect deception: The rate indicates the level of autonomous arousal, the level of arousal influences information processing

Resting heart rate: A physiological predicator of lie detection ability. Geoffrey Duran, Isabelle Tapiero, George A. Michael. Physiology & Behavior,

•    An investigation of the ability to detect deception is proposed.
•    Resting heart rate predicts the ability to detect deception.
•    Resting heart rate indicates the level of autonomous arousal.
•    The level of arousal influences information processing.
•    Resting heart rate helps to distinguish between poor and good deception detectors.

Abstract: This study explored a psychophysiological measure, Resting Heart Rate (RHR), as a predicator of the ability to detect lies. RHR was recorded for 1 min and followed by a deception detection task in which participants were required to judge 24 videos of people describing a real-life event (50% truthful, 50% deceptive). Multiple regression analyses showed that, among other individual characteristics, only RHR predicted the ability to distinguish truth from lies. Importantly, the prediction was negative. This result suggests that the higher the RHR, the worse the detection of lies. Since the RHR is considered to be a physiological trait indexing autonomous arousal, and since high-arousal states can lead to restricted attentional resources, we suggest that limited selection and utilization of cues due to restricted attention is the reason why higher RHR leads to poor deception detection.

Keywords: Detection of deception; Resting heart rate; Arousal; Cue utilization theory

Drawing on an analysis of 1.2 million vehicle movements, we show that reduced road/street illuminance levels are associated with increased car speeding

Blind haste: As light decreases, speeding increases. Emanuel de Bellis et al. PLOS One,

Abstract: Worldwide, more than one million people die on the roads each year. A third of these fatal accidents are attributed to speeding, with properties of the individual driver and the environment regarded as key contributing factors. We examine real-world speeding behavior and its interaction with illuminance, an environmental property defined as the luminous flux incident on a surface. Drawing on an analysis of 1.2 million vehicle movements, we show that reduced illuminance levels are associated with increased speeding. This relationship persists when we control for factors known to influence speeding (e.g., fluctuations in traffic volume) and consider proxies of illuminance (e.g., sight distance). Our findings add to a long-standing debate about how the quality of visual conditions affects drivers’ speed perception and driving speed. Policy makers can intervene by educating drivers about the inverse illuminance‒speeding relationship and by testing how improved vehicle headlights and smart road lighting can attenuate speeding.