Friday, April 20, 2018

Willingness to transmit and the spread of pseudoscientific beliefs: Potentially due to the belief that holding the beliefs makes one seem more knowledgeable

Willingness to transmit and the spread of pseudoscientific beliefs. H. Mercier, Y. Majima, H. Miton. Applied Cognitive Psychology,

Summary: Pseudoscientific beliefs are widespread and can be damaging. If several studies have examined the factors leading people to accept pseudoscientific beliefs, no attention has been paid to the factors contributing to people's willingness to transmit these beliefs. To test whether the willingness to transmit pseudoscientific beliefs contributes to their spread, independent of their believability, we asked participants to rate statements corresponding either to pseudoscientific beliefs (Myths), or to their (correct) negations (Non‐Myths). Statements were rated on believability, on how willing participants would be to transmit them, and on how knowledgeable they would make someone who produces them. Results revealed that participants who believed in Myths were more willing to transmit them than the participants who believed in Non‐Myths were willing to transmit Non‐Myths. A potential factor driving the increased willingness to transmit both Myths and Non‐Myths might be participants' belief that holding the beliefs makes one seem more knowledgeable.

The Effect of Romantic Relationships on the Evaluation of the Attractiveness of One’s Own Face

The Effect of Romantic Relationships on the Evaluation of the Attractiveness of One’s Own Face. Jiaye Cai et al. i-Perception,

Abstract: The present study sought to explore the effect of romantic relationships on the attractiveness evaluation of one’s own face using two experiments with the probability evaluation and the subjective rating method. Experiment 1 and Experiment 2 enrolled couples and single individuals as participants, respectively. The results of the two experiments indicated that the participants evaluated their own face as significantly more attractive than did others of the same sex. More importantly, the romantic relationship enhanced the positive bias in the evaluation of self-face attractiveness, that is, couple participants showed a stronger positive bias than did single individuals. It was also found that a person in a romantic relationship was prone to overestimating the attractiveness of his or her lover’s face, from the perspective of both probability evaluation and rating score. However, the abovementioned overestimation did not surpass the evaluations of the exaggeratedly attractive face. The present results supported the observer hypothesis, demonstrating the romantic relationship to be an important influential factor of facial attractiveness. Our findings have important implications for the research of self-face evaluation.

Keywords: romantic relationship, attractiveness evaluation, self-face, probability evaluation, subjective rating

Pearson embedded "growth-mindset" and other psychological messaging into some versions of one of its commercial learning software programs, with modest signs that some such messaging can increase students' persistence when they run into difficulty

Pearson Tested 'Social-Psychological' Messages in Learning Software, With Mixed Results. Benjamin Herold on April 17, 2018,

The idea of inserting "social-psychological interventions" into learning software is gaining steam, raising both hopes and fears about the ways the ed-tech industry might seek to capitalize on recent research into the impact of students' mindsets on their learning.

One big new example, presented here today as part of the annual conference of the American Association of Educational Research: AERA Conference Button

Publishing giant Pearson recently conducted an experiment involving more than 9,000 unwitting students at 165 different U.S. colleges and universities. Without seeking prior consent from participating institutions or individuals, the company embedded "growth-mindset" and other psychological messaging into some versions of one of its commercial learning software programs. The company then randomly assigned different colleges to use different versions of that software, tracking whether students who received the messages attempted and completed more problems than their counterparts at other institutions.

The results included some modest signs that some such messaging can increase students' persistence when they start a problem, then run into difficulty. That's likely to bolster growth-mindset proponents, who say it's important to encourage students to view intelligence as something that can change with practice and hard work.

But the bigger takeaway, according to Pearson's AERA paper, is the possibility of leveraging commercial educational software for new research into the emerging science around students' attitudes, beliefs, and ways of thinking about themselves.

"Randomized control trials like this, at scale and embedded into widely used commercial products, are a valuable approach for improving learner outcomes in a rigorous and iterative way, while also contributing to the burgeoning literature on social-psychological interventions," the paper contends.
Concerns Over 'Low-Level Psychological Experimentation'

Outside experts consulted by Education Week offered skeptical reactions to the new Pearson study.

"It does not surprise me at all that corporations are attempting to monetize a promising way of thinking about a hairy problem," said Phi Delta Kappan CEO Joshua Starr, who was a major proponent of social-emotional learning during his time as superintendent of the Montgomery County, Md. school district (and who currently serves on the Aspen Institute's National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development.)

"There is some value" to Pearson's approach, Starr said, but "social-emotional learning is best promoted through strong communities and relationships."

And Ben Williamson, a lecturer at the University of Stirling in the United Kingdom who studies big data in education, raised other concerns. 

There's little evidence that focusing on growth mindset in the classroom will significantly benefit students, Williamson argued, citing recent analyses finding limited effects of mindset-based interventions.

In addition, Williamson maintained, companies such as Pearson would be wise to pay close attention to the growing public anxiety over the ways companies collect people's sensitive information and use it for psychological profiling and targeting. It's especially troubling, he said, that the company did not seek informed consent from the young people who became subjects in their study.

"It's concerning that forms of low-level psychological experimentation to trigger certain behaviors appears to be happening in the ed-tech sector, and students might not know those experiments are taking place," Williamson said.


Using commercial software allowed Pearson to see how the changes played out for real students and actual classrooms, DiCerbo said, generating more useful information than had it taken place in a lab.

And while the company is considering similar experiments involving other commercial software products used in higher education, she said, Pearson is preparing to selling off its K-12 business, meaning there are likely no short-term implications for those clients.

"We think these motivational aspects are really important for students' learning outcomes," DiCerbo said. "But the only way we're going to know for sure is to do the research."

Mixed Results

The paper presented by Pearson at AERA was titled "Embedding Research-Inspired Innovations in EdTech: An RCT of Social-Psychological Interventions, at Scale."


[The product] is typically used for introductory computer-science courses [...].

DiCerbo said that made sense as the first content area to test social-psychological messaging, because many students have a propensity to attribute failure in programming to a personal shortcoming, rather than seeing it as a challenge and opportunity to learn.

The idea was to see if students' motivation and achievement would be improved in either of two ways: 

.    Inserting "growth-mindset" messages (stressing the importance of effort and building skills over time) into the software's instructions and into the feedback it offered to students who provided wrong answers. An example: "No one is born a great programmer. Success takes hours and hours of practice."

.    Using "anchoring of effort" messages (seeking to leverage a common cognitive bias in which people tend to rely on the first piece of information they learn, even if it's irrelevant to the problem they're trying to solve.) Pearson's theory here was that students might not have any sense of how much effort is often required to solve computer-programming problems, so providing them with a high-end estimate based on analysis of previous users' experience could ground them in the expectation that multiple attempts would be necessary. An example: "Some students tried this question 26 times! Don't worry if it takes you a few tries to get it right."

The researchers were surprised to learn that students who didn't receive any special messaging from the software attempted to solve significantly more problems (212) than those who received growth-mindset messages (174 problems) or anchoring messages (156 problems.)

That finding suggested that the social-psychological interventions they were testing backfired, although DiCerbo said other factors—especially differences in how various instructors use the software in their classes—may have also played a role.

But the Pearson team also found that students who received the growth-mindset messages successfully completed more of the problems they started than their counterparts. These students were also significantly more likely to eventually solve problems they initially got incorrect, supporting the idea that encouraging a growth mindset can have positive benefits when students run into difficulty.


"Successfully applying theories like growth mindset is likely to require more precise targeting of specific learners and at specific moments in order to be effective," according to the company's study presented at AERA.

And DiCerbo said efforts to change students' mindsets through learning software are still in their earliest stages.

"It's still an open question as to whether technology is even capably of providing this type of feedback," she said.

Magical Contagion Effects in Consumer Contexts: It may be both negative (fly in your plate) or positive (a celebrity's dress)

Catching (Up with) Magical Contagion: A Review of Contagion Effects in Consumer Contexts. Julie Y. Huang, Joshua M. Ackerman and George E. Newman. Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, 2017, vol. 2, issue 4, 430 - 443.

Abstract: Over 20 years have passed since magical contagion was first introduced to psychology; we discuss how psychological and consumer behavior findings since then have deepened our understanding of this phenomenon. Recent research has shed light on the psychological mechanisms that underlie consumers’ contamination concerns (e.g., the behavioral immune system, disgust), confirming that people’s germ-related intuitions affect a wide variety of consumer judgments in areas that are only indirectly linked to disease-related threats (used products, [un]]familiar products, products contacting each other). Moreover, recent findings have also documented the ways that nonphysical essences might transfer from people to objects (celebrity products; positive consumer contagion). This recent body of work extends contagion research by demonstrating that physical contact is not a prerequisite for essence transfer and that the types of essences that are contagious are broader than originally conceived. We close by discussing future research into how magical contagion affects consumer and firm decision making.

Child Marriage in the United States: How Common Is the Practice, And Which Children Are at Greatest Risk

Child Marriage in the United States: How Common Is the Practice, And Which Children Are at Greatest Risk. Alissa Koski, Jody Heymann. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health,

CONTEXT: Marriage before the age of 18, commonly referred to as child marriage, is legal under varying conditions across the United States. The prevalence of child marriage among recent cohorts is unknown.

METHODS: American Community Survey data for 2010–2014 were used to estimate the average national and state‐level proportions of children who had ever been married. Prevalence was calculated by gender, race and ethnicity, and birthplace, and the living arrangements of currently married children were examined.

RESULTS: Approximately 6.2 of every 1,000 children surveyed had ever been married. Prevalence varied from more than 10 per 1,000 in West Virginia, Hawaii and North Dakota to less than four per 1,000 in Maine, Rhode Island and Wyoming. It was higher among girls than among boys (6.8 vs. 5.7 per 1,000), and was lower among white non‐Hispanic children (5.0 per 1,000) than among almost every other racial or ethnic group studied; it was especially high among children of American Indian or Chinese descent (10.3 and 14.2, respectively). Immigrant children were more likely than U.S.‐born children to have been married; prevalence among children from Mexico, Central America and the Middle East was 2–4 times that of children born in the United States. Only 20% of married children were living with their spouses; the majority of the rest were living with their parents.

CONCLUSIONS: Child marriage occurs throughout the country. Research on the social forces that perpetuate child marriage is needed to inform efforts to prevent it.