Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Monkeys form preferences for brand logos repeatedly paired with images of macaque genitals and high status monkeys, even though choosing them provided no tangible rewards (a decision mechanism not operating solely on material outcomes)

Acikalin MY, Watson KK, Fitzsimons GJ, Platt ML (2018) Rhesus macaques form preferences for brand logos through sex and social status based advertising. PLoS ONE 13(2): e0193055. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0193055

Abstract: Like humans, monkeys value information about sex and status, inviting the hypothesis that our susceptibility to these factors in advertising arises from shared, ancestral biological mechanisms that prioritize social information. To test this idea, we asked whether rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) show choice behavior that is similar to humans in response to sex and social status in advertising. Our results show that monkeys form preferences for brand logos repeatedly paired with images of macaque genitals and high status monkeys. Moreover, monkeys sustain preferences for these brand logos even though choosing them provided no tangible rewards, a finding that cannot be explained by a decision mechanism operating solely on material outcomes. Together, our results endorse the hypothesis that the power of sex and status in advertising emerges from the spontaneous engagement of shared, ancestral neural circuits that prioritize information useful for navigating the social environment. Finally, our results show that simple associative conditioning is sufficient to explain the formation of preferences for brand logos paired with sexual or status-based images.

Prior studies [15] demonstrated that monkeys will forego fruit juice rewards to view socially-relevant images such as photos of the genitals of males and females and the faces of high status males, suggesting these images have intrinsic value for the animals. An analogous study [24] found that American college students will forego monetary rewards for a glimpse of attractive members of the opposite sex, will wait longer to view attractive individuals than unattractive ones, and will work harder to view more attractive individuals, without being aware they are doing so. These findings suggest that people and monkeys spontaneously, and perhaps subconsciously, value socially-relevant information about others. Endorsing this idea, neurons in reward-related brain areas respond to photos of attractive conspecifics in both people and monkeys [25–27].

Together, these observations invite the hypothesis that receptivity to sex and status in advertising arises from spontaneous activation of neural circuits that prioritize social information in association with neural circuits that process brand information. Associations between a product, a social reward, and the cognitive and physiological state this reward induces in the consumer alone may be sufficient to bias preferences toward the product [28]. Through repeated pairings, brand information, including logos, would eventually become prioritized just as social stimuli are, through the process of conditioning [29]. This simple hypothesis remains to be tested directly in the context of responses to sex and status in advertising. This is an important question, as we do not know whether simple conditioning with socially salient stimuli is sufficient to induce preferences for otherwise neutral logos in the context of sex- and status-based advertising, or whether a more complex, culturally-bound decision process found only in humans is necessary to produce this behavior. In other words, can simple conditioning alone lead to preferences for brands with sexual or social-status based associations? Or, are culturally rooted, complex, and uniquely human mechanisms such as effects of sexual or status-based images on self-concept or selective perception necessary for the formation of such preferences [30, 31]? Because Old World monkeys and humans diverged twenty-five million years ago, the presence of this behavior in both species would suggest evolutionarily ancient origins. Shared brain circuits mediating social perception and valuation in rhesus macaques and humans provide a mechanism by which increased valuation of stimuli associated with social information may be translated into preferences for brands associated with sex and status in advertising [22, 32, 33].

The tribal nature of the human mind leads people to value party dogma over truth; those with political sophistication, science literacy, numeracy abilities, and cognitive reflection are more affected

The Partisan Brain: An Identity-Based Model of Political Belief. Jay J. Van Bavel, Andrea Pereira. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Feb 2018. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2018.01.004


Over 2 billion people use social media every day, and many use it to read and discuss politics. Social media also facilitate the spread of fake news and hyper-partisan content.

Online discussions of politicized topics, including political events and issues (e.g., same-sex marriage, climate change, gun control), resemble an echo chamber. That is, posts on these topics are shared primarily by people with similar ideological preferences.

Political polarization is most likely when users employ moral/emotional language. This may reflect ideological differences between people on the left versus right or partisanship.

Online partisan criticism that derogates political opponents increases political polarization.

Liberals are somewhat more likely to share cross-ideological content on social media (i.e., information posted by people with different ideological beliefs).

Democracies assume accurate knowledge by the populace, but the human attraction to fake and untrustworthy news poses a serious problem for healthy democratic functioning. We articulate why and how identification with political parties – known as partisanship – can bias information processing in the human brain. There is extensive evidence that people engage in motivated political reasoning, but recent research suggests that partisanship can alter memory, implicit evaluation, and even perceptual judgments. We propose an identity-based model of belief for understanding the influence of partisanship on these cognitive processes. This framework helps to explain why people place party loyalty over policy, and even over truth. Finally, we discuss strategies for de-biasing information processing to help to create a shared reality across partisan divides.

In the current paper we describe how the tribal nature of the human mind leads people to value party dogma over truth.


In this vein, one study examined the relationship between math skills and political problem-solving [58. In the control condition, people who were strong at math were able to effectively solve an analytical problem. However, when political content was added to the same analytical problem – comparing crime data in cities that banned handguns against cities that did not – math skills no longer predicted how well people solved the problem. Instead, liberals were good at solving the problem when it proved that gun control reduced crime, and conservatives were good at solving the problem when it proved the opposite. In short, people with high numeracy skills were unable to reason analytically when the correct answer collided with their political beliefs. This is consistent with research showing that people who score high on various indicators of information processing, such as political sophistication ([59; although see [48), science literacy [60, numeracy abilities [58, and cognitive reflection [61, are the most likely to express beliefs congruent with those of their party.

Partisan identity has been shown to affect memory. People are more likely to incorrectly remember falsehoods that support their partisan identity: Democrats were more likely than Republicans to incorrectly remember G.W. Bush on vacation during the Katrina hurricane, and Republicans were more likely than Democrats to falsely remember seeing Barack Obama shaking hands with the President of Iran.


Going one step further, there is evidence that political affiliations may even shape the way we see the world. In line with work demonstrating that social identities alter visual processing [65, a study showed that party affiliation shaped people’s perceptions after watching the video of a political protest, in other words an identity-relevant event [66. When participants thought that the video depicted liberally minded protesters (i.e., opposing military recruitment on campus), Republicans were more in favor of police intervention than Democrats, whereas the opposite emerged when participants thought the video showed a conservative protest (i.e., opposing an abortion clinic). Faced with the same visual information, people seem to have seen different things and drawn different conclusions depending on their political affiliations.
The Parties in our Heads: Misperceptions About Party Composition and Their Consequences. Douglas J. Ahler, Gaurav Sood. Aug 2017, http://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2018/01/we-tend-to-considerably-overestimate.html

The echo chamber is overstated: the moderating effect of political interest and diverse media. Elizabeth Dubois & Grant Blank. Information, Communication & Society, http://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2018/01/the-echo-chamber-is-overstated.html

Processing political misinformation: comprehending the Trump phenomenon. Briony Swire, Adam J. Berinsky, Stephan Lewandowsky, Ullrich K. H. Ecker. Royal Society Open Science, published on-line March 01 2017. DOI: 10.1098/rsos.160802, http://rsos.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/4/3/160802
Competing cues: Older adults rely on knowledge in the face of fluency. By Brashier, Nadia M.; Umanath, Sharda; Cabeza, Roberto; Marsh, Elizabeth J. Psychology and Aging, Vol 32(4), Jun 2017, 331-337. http://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/07/competing-cues-older-adults-rely-on.html

Stanley, M. L., Dougherty, A. M., Yang, B. W., Henne, P., & De Brigard, F. (2017). Reasons Probably Won’t Change Your Mind: The Role of Reasons in Revising Moral Decisions. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. http://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/09/reasons-probably-wont-change-your-mind.html

Science Denial Across the Political Divide — Liberals and Conservatives Are Similarly Motivated to Deny Attitude-Inconsistent Science. Anthony N. Washburn, Linda J. Skitka. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 10.1177/1948550617731500. http://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/09/liberals-and-conservatives-are.html

Biased Policy Professionals. Sheheryar Banuri, Stefan Dercon, and Varun Gauri. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 8113. http://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/08/biased-policy-professionals-world-bank.html

Dispelling the Myth: Training in Education or Neuroscience Decreases but Does Not Eliminate Beliefs in Neuromyths. Kelly Macdonald et al. Frontiers in Psychology, Aug 10 2017. http://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/08/training-in-education-or-neuroscience.html

Individuals with greater science literacy and education have more polarized beliefs on controversial science topics. Caitlin Drummond and Baruch Fischhoff. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 114 no. 36, pp 9587–9592, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1704882114, http://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/09/individuals-with-greater-science.html

Expert ability can actually impair the accuracy of expert perception when judging others' performance: Adaptation and fallibility in experts' judgments of novice performers. By Larson, J. S., & Billeter, D. M. (2017). Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 43(2), 271–288. http://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/06/expert-ability-can-actually-impair.html

Public Perceptions of Partisan Selective Exposure. Perryman, Mallory R. The University of Wisconsin - Madison, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2017. 10607943. http://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/10/citizens-believe-others-especially.html

The Myth of Partisan Selective Exposure: A Portrait of the Online Political News Audience. Jacob L. Nelson, and James G. Webster. Social Media + Society, http://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/09/the-myth-of-partisan-selective-exposure.html

Echo Chamber? What Echo Chamber? Reviewing the Evidence. Axel Bruns. Future of Journalism 2017 Conference. http://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/09/echo-chamber-what-echo-chamber.html

Fake news and post-truth pronouncements in general and in early human development. Victor Grech. Early Human Development, http://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/09/fake-news-and-post-truth-pronouncements.html

Consumption of fake news is a consequence, not a cause of their readers’ voting preferences. Kahan, Dan M., Misinformation and Identity-Protective Cognition (October 2, 2017). Social Science Research Network, http://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/10/consumption-of-fake-news-is-consequence.html
Psychology of Intelligence Analysis. Richards J. Heuer, Jr. CIA, Mar 2007. https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/books-and-monographs/psychology-of-intelligence-analysis/

Curing Analytic Pathologies. Jeffrey R. Cooper. CIA, May 2007. https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/books-and-monographs/curing-analytic-pathologies-pathways-to-improved-intelligence-analysis-1/

Re-experiencing one’s own life-events is a phenomenon with well-defined characteristics. Maybe a representation of life-events as a continuum exists in the cognitive system, and may be further expressed in extreme conditions of psychological and physiological stress.

The life review experience: Qualitative and quantitative characteristics. Judith Katz, Noam Saadon-Grosman, Shahar Arzy. Consciousness and Cognition, Volume 48, February 2017, Pages 76-86. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2016.10.011

•    Life review experience (LRE) is the vivid experience of one’s life-long autobiographical memories.
•    Abundant in patients in extremes situations, the LRE is yet to be thoroughly explored.
•    Phenomenological investigations in patients enable to qualitatively characterize LRE.
•    Quantitative investigation (LRE-scale) was composed as based on these phenomenological elements and run on 264 healthy people.
•    Results hint on a potential role of the neurocognitive mechanism underlying LRE in human cognition.


Background: The life-review experience (LRE) is a most intriguing mental phenomenon that fascinated humans from time immemorial. In LRE one sees vividly a succession of one’s own life-events. While reports of LRE are abundant in the medical, psychological and popular literature, not much is known about LRE’s cognitive and psychological basis. Moreover, while LRE is known as part of the phenomenology of near-death experience, its manifestation in the general population and in other circumstances is still to be investigated.

Methods: In a first step we studied the phenomenology of LRE by means of in-depth qualitative interview of 7 people who underwent full LRE. In a second step we extracted the main characters of LRE, to develop a questionnaire and an LRE-score that best reflects LRE phenomenology. This questionnaire was then run on 264 participants of diverse ages and backgrounds, and the resulted score was further subjected to statistical analyses.

Results: Qualitative analysis showed the LRE to manifest several subtypes of characteristics in terms of order, continuity, the covered period, extension to the future, valence, emotions, and perspective taking. Quantitative results in the normal population showed normal distribution of the LRE-score over participants.

Conclusion: Re-experiencing one’s own life-events, so-called LRE, is a phenomenon with well-defined characteristics, and its subcomponents may be also evident in healthy people. This suggests that a representation of life-events as a continuum exists in the cognitive system, and maybe further expressed in extreme conditions of psychological and physiological stress.

Sleep timing is linked to sociosexuality: Evidence from German, Polish, Slovak, and Spanish Females / Those with later sleep timing were less sociosexually restricted

Sleep timing is linked to sociosexuality: Evidence from German, Polish, Slovak, and Spanish females. Juan F Díaz-Morales et al. Time & Society,  https://doi.org/10.1177/0961463X18757390

Abstract: Given the known relationship between eveningness and sociosexuality among females, the aims of this study were: (a) to analyze this relationship in four countries using midsleep time on free days and morning affect measures of morningness–eveningness and (b) to test the role of dark personality and other relevant control variables in this relationship. Data from 1483 females were collected from Poland, Spain, Germany, and Slovakia. Adjusting for age, relationship status, country, age at first intercourse, and Dark Triad traits, the most universal findings were that females with later sleep timing were less sociosexually restricted (3% shared variance with sociosexuality). Sleep timing played a greater role in sociosexuality compared to morning affect. This finding showed that Dark Triad personality is not involved in association between morningness–eveningness and sociosexuality and it added a value to the importance of sleep–wake habits in mating preferences.

Keywords: Morningness–eveningness, sociosexuality, Dark Triad, females, cross-cultural

Social capital and online hate production: A four country survey

Social capital and online hate production: A four country survey. Markus Kaakinen et al. Crime, Law and Social Change, February 2018, Volume 69, Issue 1, pp 25–39, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10611-017-9764-5

Abstract: Hateful, threatening or degrading content has become a common part of today’s online interactions. However, little is known about the people who produce such content. This study analyzes online hate content production and its associations with cognitive indicators of social capital in both offline and online social networks. The data are derived from American, Finnish, German and British Internet users aged 15–30 (N = 3,565). Measures included questions concerning online hate, social capital and contextual control variables. The results indicate that hate content production is rare overall, despite its high visibility, and is related to social capital in two key ways. First, respondents with high social capital in offline social networks were less likely to produce hate content, and second, high social capital in online networks was associated with a higher probability of production.

Legalization of the cannabis market effects: Significant reduction in rapes and property crimes, increased consumption of marijuana & reduced consumption of other drugs and both ordinary & binge alcohol

Crime and the legalization of recreational marijuana. Davide Dragone, Giovanni Prarolo, Paolo Vanin, Giulio Zanella. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jebo.2018.02.005

Abstract: First-pass evidence is provided that the legalization of the cannabis market across US states is inducing a crime drop. We exploit the staggered legalization of recreational marijuana enacted by the adjacent states of Washington (end of 2012) and Oregon (end of 2014). Combining county-level difference-in-differences and spatial regression discontinuity designs, we find that the policy caused a significant reduction in rapes and property crimes on the Washington side of the border in 2013-2014 relative to the Oregon side and relative to the pre-legalization years 2010-2012. The legalization also increased consumption of marijuana and reduced consumption of other drugs and both ordinary and binge alcohol. Four possible mechanisms are discussed: the direct psychotropic effects of cannabis; substitution away from violence-inducing substances; reallocation of police effort; reduced role of criminals in the marijuana business.

Keywords: Cannabis; Recreational marijuana; Crime

Check also Gavrilova, E., Kamada, T. and Zoutman, F. (2017), Is Legal Pot Crippling Mexican Drug Trafficking Organisations? The Effect of Medical Marijuana Laws on US Crime. Econ J. http://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2018/01/is-legal-pot-crippling-mexican-drug.html

Impact of Protestant Evangelism on Economic Outcomes: Significant increases in religiosity & income, no changes in total labor supply, assets, consumption, food security, or life satisfaction, & a clear decrease in perceived relative economic status

Randomizing Religion: The Impact of Protestant Evangelism on Economic Outcomes. Gharad T. Bryan, James J. Choi, Dean Karlan. NBER Working Paper No. 24278, http://www.nber.org/papers/w24278

To test the causal impact of religiosity, we conducted a randomized evaluation of an evangelical Protestant Christian values and theology education program that consisted of 15 weekly half-hour sessions. We analyze outcomes for 6,276 ultra-poor Filipino households six months after the program ended. We find significant increases in religiosity and income, no significant changes in total labor supply, assets, consumption, food security, or life satisfaction, and a significant decrease in perceived relative economic status. Exploratory analysis suggests the program may have improved hygienic practices and increased household discord, and that the income treatment effect may operate through increasing grit.