Thursday, April 5, 2018

Sexual orientation, competitiveness and income: Gay men compete less than straight men. Lesbians compete as much as straight women

Sexual orientation, competitiveness and income. Thomas Buser, Lydia Geijtenbeek, Erik Plug. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jebo.2018.03.017

Highlights
•    We ask whether differences in preferences for competition can explain why gays earn less than other men and lesbians earn more than other women.
•    We conduct an experiment on a Dutch online survey panel to measure the competitive preferences of gay, lesbian and straight panel members.
•    We link our experimental measure of competitiveness to earnings and education data.
•    Gay men compete less than straight men. Lesbians compete as much as straight women.
•    Competitiveness predicts earnings and education levels and differences in competitive preferences can partially explain the gay earnings penalty.

Abstract: Do gays earn less than other men because they are less competitive? Do lesbians earn more than other women because they are more competitive? To answer these questions, we conduct an experiment on a Dutch online survey panel to measure the competitive preferences of gay, lesbian and straight panel members. We find that gay men compete less than straight men, while lesbians compete as much as straight women. Linking our experimental measure of competitiveness to earnings and education data, we find that competitiveness predicts earnings and education levels and that differences in competitive preferences can partially explain the gay earnings penalty but not the lesbian premium.

Of course, a piece about frogs surviving our devilish devices to kill them is not in the front page, but page six or part D: A Few Species of Frogs That Vanished May Be on the Rebound

A Few Species of Frogs That Vanished May Be on the Rebound. Carl Zimmer. The New York Times, March 29, 2018. Full article with photos at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/29/science/frog-species-panama-fungus-rebound.html

Photo - A healthy variable harlequin frog with golden coloring in the streams of Panama. Credit Cori Richards-Zawacki

In 2013, two biologists named Jamie Voyles and Corinne L. Richards-Zawacki spent weeks slogging up and down mountainsides in Panama. “We were bug-bitten and beat up,” recalled Dr. Voyles, now an assistant professor at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Near the end of their trek, they came to a stop. In front of them sat the object of their quest: a single gold-and-black frog.

“I can’t tell you what that moment was like,” Dr. Voyles said.

She had feared that variable harlequin frogs had disappeared entirely from Panama. As recently as the early 2000s, they had been easy to find in the country’s high-altitude forests.

“They used to be so abundant that you could barely walk without stepping on them,” Dr. Voyles said.

But in recent years, Dr. Voyles and her colleagues started to encounter sick frogs, and then dead ones. And then they couldn’t find any variable harlequin frogs at all.

Many other species at Dr. Voyles’s research sites in Panama suffered the same grim fate. As had frogs around the world. Dr. Voyles and other frog researchers found that many of the dead frogs were covered with the same aggressive skin fungus, known as Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis or Bd.

As Bd spread from forest to forest, and continent to continent, researchers feared that amphibians might suffer mass extinctions. Today, many species of frogs and toads are still dwindling, and some have disappeared altogether.

But scientists like Dr. Voyles have also found a little cause for hope: a handful of species appear to be coming back. After discovering variable harlequin frogs again, she and her colleagues have returned to their Panama research sites and found a few other species that had previously vanished.

“They’re not in large numbers — their abundances are low,” Dr. Voyles said. “But we think that as more time goes by, we’ll find more species that we thought were lost.”

Now scientists are trying to figure out what accounts for these rebounds. On Thursday, Dr. Voyles and her colleagues published evidence suggesting that the frogs have gained potent defenses in their skin against the fungus.

Photo A Pristamantis frog in Panama. Credit Cori Richards-Zawacki

But other experts are divided about whether the researchers found a cause of the rebound. It’s possible that there are other causes at work. Even climate change — which is posing its own threats to many frog species — may be temporarily helping some frogs withstand the fungus.

When Dr. Voyles rediscovered a few vanished frog species, she initially suspected that the Bd fungus was becoming less deadly. In outbreaks of other pathogens, they have sometimes evolved into milder forms that no longer wipe out the hosts they depend on for their survival.

To test that idea, Dr. Voyles and her colleagues got hold of frozen Bd samples gathered in Panama in 2004, early in the epidemic. They infected frogs with the old fungus, and observed how it compared to new strains of Bd. “It’s still pretty lethal over a decade later,” Dr. Voyles said. “So I was wrong.”

Dr. Voyles was left with the possibility that the frogs themselves had changed. At first she found this idea unlikely, because there hadn’t been much time for the frogs to evolve. While Bd can multiply in a matter of days, it can take many months for a frog to develop into a sexually mature adult.

She tested the hypothesis anyway. Dr. Voyles and her colleagues knew that frogs fight infections with potent skin secretions containing pathogen-killing molecules. Dr. Voyles and other researchers have found that when they add skin secretions to lab-grown Bd, it slows down the fungus’s growth.

Dr. Voyles wondered if frogs had acquired more potent skin secretions, allowing them to rebound. To test that possibility, she and her colleagues collected skin secretions from captive frogs in the Maryland Zoo. The frogs descend from ancestors that had been captured in Panama before the Bd epidemic.

The researchers added skin secretions from captive frogs to petri dishes of growing Bd. They then measured how much the frog’s secretions slowed down the fungus’s growth.

They then carried out the same treatment with skin secretions taken from rebounding populations of wild frogs. The researchers found a big difference between the two trials.

“We had multiple species that were between two and fivefold different in their effectiveness,” said Dr. Voyles, “which is pretty striking.”

Dr. Voyles speculated that some species of frogs included a few mutants with skin secretions that were effective against Bd. While many other frogs died off, the mutants survived and passed down their defensive genes.

James P. Collins, an evolutionary ecologist at Arizona State University, said he found Dr. Voyles’s explanation compelling. “This would be the first candidate I’d put on the table,” he said.
A scientist swabs a glass frog to gather a sample for study. Jamie Voyles

But Karen R. Lips of the University of Maryland wasn’t persuaded that the researchers made a convincing case for skin secretions. “They don’t actually provide data that really supports that,” she said.

To determine how much good skin secretions do, Dr. Lips said, it would be necessary to infect frogs and see whether stronger skin secretions actually keep more frogs alive.

Dr. Lips’s skepticism comes from her own research on frog defenses. In some of her studies, she focuses not on skin secretions, but on the genes involved in the frog immune system.

She and her colleagues have found that some frogs respond to infections by switching on many of these genes and using them to make lots of immune-related proteins. But those frogs all die, along with the frogs that have a weaker genetic response.

“Their genes are going crazy, but it doesn’t matter,” Dr. Lips said.

It’s possible that the immune system of frogs will turn out to be a key to the rebound of some species, or their skin secretions — or both. It’s also possible that other factors matter.

The Bd fungus can grow only in cool temperatures. If some frogs moved down to lower altitudes where it’s warmer, they might be spared.

“You wind up selecting for animals that like to live in some spots as opposed to animals that live in cooler, shady spots,” Dr. Collins said.

In some places, the frogs may not even have to move to gain this protection. In February, a team of Spanish researchers reported that three species of frogs in Spain are growing in numbers, even though Bd is present in the country and it can infect all the species there. They concluded that global warming is raising the temperature where the frogs live, keeping the fungus in check.

In these cases, the frogs may be getting only a temporary reprieve. Their habitats may eventually get too hot not only for the fungus, but for the frogs themselves.

“The skin secretion part of the story is probably not the only thing that’s going on,” Dr. Voyles acknowledged. “There’s probably lots of different reasons why different species have survived and, in some cases, recovered.”

Dr. Voyles also emphasized that the recovery of a few species was no reason to lean back and assume that nature would take care of the Bd crisis.

“I want to put out the message that this is still bad,” she said. The rebound, she argues, “definitely is a glimmer of hope. But it does not mean by any means that everything is back and there is no problem.”


A version of this article appears in print on April 3, 2018, on Page D3 of the New York edition with the headline: Frog Species on the Rebound.


Europe's international edition: page 6, Rebound Offers Hope For Frog Species

Consumption of hard news television programs has a negative effect on the development of mental well-being over time. Soft news consumption, by contrast, has a marginally positive impact on the trend in well-being

Jul 2017: News Consumption and Its Unpleasant Side Effect: Studying the Effect of Hard and Soft News Exposure on Mental Well-Being Over Time. Mark Boukes, Rens Vliegenthart. Journal of Media Psychology Theories Methods and Applications 29(3):137-147, 10.1027/1864-1105/a000224

Abstract: Following the news is generally understood to be crucial for democracy as it allows citizens to politically participate in an informed manner; yet, one may wonder about the unintended side effects it has for the mental well-being of citizens. With news focusing on the negative and worrisome events in the world, framing that evokes a sense of powerlessness, and lack of entertainment value, this study hypothesizes that news consumption decreases mental well-being via negative hedonic experiences; thereby, we differentiate between hard and soft news. Using a panel survey in combination with latent growth curve modeling (n = 2,767), we demonstrate that the consumption of hard news television programs has a negative effect on the development of mental well-being over time. Soft news consumption, by contrast, has a marginally positive impact on the trend in well-being. This can be explained by the differential topic focus, framing and style of soft news vis-à-vis hard news. Investigating the effects of news consumption on mental well-being provides insight into the impact news exposure has on variables other than the political ones, which definitively are not less societally relevant.

Keywords: news consumption, mental well-being, hedonic experiences, negativity, hard versus soft news

h/t: https://twitter.com/DegenRolf

We are positively biased about our personal future while at the same time being negatively biased about the future of our country

Shrikanth, S., Szpunar, P. M., & Szpunar, K. K. (2018). Staying positive in a dystopian future: A novel dissociation between personal and collective cognition. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/xge0000421

Abstract: The future of groups of people is a topic of broad interest in society and academia. Nonetheless, relatively little is known about the manner in which people think about the collective future of groups, and whether personal and collective future thinking represent distinct domains of future-oriented cognition. In the present studies (N = 691), we used an adapted future fluency task to demonstrate a novel domain-by-valence interaction between personal and collective future thinking, such that U.S.-based participants were positively biased about their personal future while at the same time being negatively biased about the future of their country. We further present evidence that this valence-based dissociation extends into the distant future, emerges in a non-U.S. (Canadian) sample, depends on the individual’s relation to the group, and has consequences for how people think about the world around them. Taken together, our findings represent the first behavioral evidence of a dissociation between personal and collective future thinking, and suggest that the study of collective future thinking represents a fruitful endeavor for psychological science.

h/t: https://twitter.com/DegenRolf

Clinton supporters, in contrast, remained below baseline levels of general happiness six months after the election. Moral and political values, and exposure to media inconsistent with those values, predicted lasting change in subjective well-being

Article in press: Lench, H. C., Levine, L. J., Perez, K., Haggenmiller, Z. K., Carlson, S. J., & Tibbett, T. (2018). Changes in subjective well-being following the U.S. Presidential Election of 2016. Emotion. https://escholarship.org/uc/item/3bv7f8sd

Abstract: This investigation examined predictors of changes over time in subjective well-being (SWB) after the 2016 United States presidential election. Two indicators of SWB-general happiness and life satisfaction-were assessed three weeks before the election, the week of the election, three weeks later, and six months later. Partisanship predicted both indicators of SWB, with Trump supporters experiencing improved SWB after the election, Clinton supporters experiencing worsened SWB after the election, and those who viewed both candidates as bad also experiencing worsened SWB after the election. The impact of the election on SWB decreased over time, with all participants returning to baseline life satisfaction six months after the election. Trump supporters and those who viewed both candidates as bad for the country also returned to baseline general happiness six months after the election. Clinton supporters, in contrast, remained below baseline levels of general happiness six months after the election. Moral and political values, and exposure to media inconsistent with those values, predicted lasting change in subjective well-being. National events can affect how people perceive the overall quality of their lives and these effects are exacerbated when moral and political values are involved.

h/t:  https://twitter.com/DegenRolf