Tuesday, July 31, 2018

1 in 4 people preferred the perceptual concept of dark over the perceptual concept of light; these people scored higher in neuroticism, experienced greater depressive feelings in daily life; dark preferences shared relationship with generalised anxiety symptoms

Hello darkness my old friend: preferences for darkness vary by neuroticism and co-occur with negative affect. Michelle R. Persich, Jessica L. Bair, Becker Steinemann, Stephanie Nelson, Adam K. Fetterman & Michael D. Robinson. Cognition and Emotion, https://doi.org/10.1080/02699931.2018.1504746

ABSTRACT: Metaphors frequently link negative affect with darkness and associations of this type have been established in several experimental paradigms. Given the ubiquity and strength of these associations, people who prefer dark to light may be more prone to negative emotional experiences and symptoms. A five study investigation (total N = 605) couches these ideas in a new theoretical framework and then examines them. Across studies, 1 in 4 people preferred the perceptual concept of dark over the perceptual concept of light. These dark-preferring people scored higher in neuroticism (Studies 1 and 2) and experienced greater depressive feelings in daily life (Study 3). Moreover, dark preferences shared a robust relationship with depressive symptoms (Study 4) as well as generalised anxiety symptoms (Study 5). The results provide novel insights into negative affectivity and extend conceptual metaphor theory in a way that is capable of making individual difference predictions.

KEYWORDS: Neuroticism, negative affect, conceptual metaphor, darkness, preferences

Pettiness, or intentional attentiveness to trivial details of resource exchanges harms communal-sharing relationships by making (even objectively generous) exchanges feel transactional

Kim, T., Zhang, T., & Norton, M. I. (2018). Pettiness in social exchange. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. Advance online publication. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/xge0000463

Abstract: We identify and document a novel construct—pettiness, or intentional attentiveness to trivial details—and examine its (negative) implications in interpersonal relationships and social exchange. Seven studies show that pettiness manifests across different types of resources (both money and time), across cultures with differing tolerance for ambiguity in relationships (the United States, Switzerland, Germany, and Austria), and is distinct from related constructs such as generosity, conscientiousness, fastidious, and counternormativity. Indeed, people dislike petty exchanges even when the (petty) amount given is more generous (e.g., a gift card for $5.15 rather than $5), suggesting that pettiness may in some instances serve as a stronger relationship signal than are actual benefits exchanged. Attentiveness to trivial details of resource exchanges harms communal-sharing relationships by making (even objectively generous) exchanges feel transactional. When exchanging resources, people should be wary of both how much they exchange and the manner in which they exchange it.

In both sexes, hormone levels play an important role by increasing the sensitivity towards the sexual signals emitted by the potential partners & determining the expression of sexual signals that allows the potential partner or intra-sexual competitor to identify the reproductive status

Sexual Incentive and Choice. Armando Ferreira-Nuño et al. Current Sexual Health Reports, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11930-018-0158-1

Purpose of the Review: In the present manuscript, we review the most important sexual cues in rodents and mammals that influence mate choice. Sexual cues lead to the approach and selection of a partner.

Recent Findings: In both sexes, hormone levels play an important role by increasing the sensitivity towards the sexual signals emitted by the potential partners and determining the expression of sexual signals that allows the potential partner or intra-sexual competitor to identify the reproductive status. Similarly, sexual cues emitted by both sexes can modify the hormonal status of the potential partner or intra-sexual competitors, so that they can be better skilled reproductively for sexual competition.

Summary: Future research should analyze the impact of the use of hormonal contraceptives, since it has been shown that they alter the sexual signals emitted and could influence the selection of partners in humans. In addition, this review will be important for anyone using a rodent model to understand sexual motivation.

Did China think Donald Trump was bluffing on trade? How Beijing got it wrong

Did China think Donald Trump was bluffing on trade? How Beijing got it wrong. Wendy Wu Kristin Huang. South China Morning Post, Jul 31, 2018

With China and the United States at the centre of the biggest international trade dispute in decades, the South China Morning Post takes an in-depth look at the changing relationship between Beijing and Washington. In the second of a two-part series, Wendy Wu and Kristin Huang explain how China was caught off guard by US President Donald Trump’s aggressive trade action and explores whether Beijing is to blame for the conflict

China’s ruling Communist Party’s tightened control over think tanks and a crackdown on extravagance could be having an impact on how the leadership handles foreign affairs – and weakening Beijing’s understanding of US politics under President Donald Trump.

Sources and analysts say that Beijing appears to have been caught off guard by Trump’s protectionist trade blitz, and that it underestimated rising anti-China sentiment among the US elite.

Even last month when US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross visited Beijing, some in the capital were still hoping Washington could be persuaded not to go ahead with its threat to slap punitive tariffs on Chinese goods.

But the US was not convinced, imposing 25 per cent duties on US$34 billion of Chinese products from July 6 – prompting Beijing to do the same. Washington now plans to apply 10 per cent tariffs on another US$200 billion of Chinese goods, and Trump has said he is ready to put duties on every import from China.

“They [the Chinese leadership and researchers] didn’t realise how bad the sentiment here is getting. They thought Trump was just bluffing, and they still think like that,” according to a former US policy adviser, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“They say this is about the midterm elections and things will change after that. They are totally wrong and they totally misread the situation. I feel partly this is because they have become more insulated, and partly because nobody dares to tell Beijing that they are wrong.”


Sources and observers told the South China Morning Post that the problem is policies introduced by Beijing – driven by a need to consolidate the party’s power – that have discouraged policy advisers from having in-depth discussions with their US counterparts that would help them to understand the latest thinking in Washington, or from speaking their minds.

That has left Beijing without a comprehensive strategy to deal with the Trump administration, at least on the trade front, at a time of heightened tension and rivalry.

Six years ago, as President Xi Jinping’s major crackdown on corruption began, Beijing introduced a series of rules to curb overspending, including limits on government officials, academics and policy advisers travelling abroad.

Since then, many officials have had to hand in their personal passports and instead use special government duty passports when travelling – and in most cases they are barred from staying overseas for more than a week.

The policy has made it harder to get approval for overseas trips, according to a telecoms professor from a university in central China, who did not want to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter. He said he had to go through an extra checking process – from both the university and government agencies – before he could go to Honolulu for an international conference this year.

“Any teachers with PhD degrees or mid-level school leaders have to hand in their passports and other travel documents like the Exit-Entry Permit for Travelling to and from Hong Kong and Macau,” the professor said, adding that they were expected to use government duty passports.

The impact of the policy has also been noticed in the United States. A researcher with a US think tank said he and his colleagues welcomed discussions with their Chinese counterparts, but it was difficult because Beijing only allowed them to make brief visits.

“It’s getting difficult to have the Chinese [government advisers] to stay here for long. They are all on very short-term visas,” the researcher said. “They told us it is Beijing’s policy.”

Chinese advisers had been stymied by that policy, he said.

“This is bad. If they can only come and stay here for less than a week, it’s hard for them to really do the fact-finding and understand the changing sentiment in DC and New York. I think this is partly why the Chinese are not reading the situation here correctly,” the researcher said.

At the same time, Beijing is tightening ideological control in all aspects of life, including on university campuses, and demanding that the party line be strictly adhered to. Any unauthorised discussion of government policies can result in a reprimand for “improper discussion of a party directive”.

That has left Chinese advisers and Western diplomats worried about whether their suggestions will be filtered before they reach top-level officials, to ensure they are politically correct.

A former US official who frequently travels to China said Chinese advisers and officials who had previously been outspoken had become extremely tight-lipped, even in unofficial and private talks.

“It’s more difficult to know what they are thinking as they are just repeating the government and party rhetoric,” the former official said. “This will lead to a higher risk of wrong decisions, even fatal mistakes.”

An overreliance on traditional back-door channels is compounding the situation. According to the former US policy adviser, Beijing relies too much on the Wall Street and political elite, including Henry Paulson and Henry Kissinger, to understand US politics – people who do not have any influence over Trump.

“Trump doesn’t listen to them or talk to them. I think the Chinese leadership underestimated the situation,” the former adviser said.

Early on, Beijing had looked to Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner – the US president’s daughter and son-in-law, who are White House advisers – to build closer ties with Washington. But that approach was short-lived amid concern that relying on connections with Trump’s family could hurt China’s image, and with Kushner facing controversy over Russia’s involvement in the 2016 US presidential election.


With a trade war now under way, the finance ministry is stepping up research and policy consultation on US issues. Last week it set up an alliance of 20 think tanks to do just that, with one of its tasks to “conduct fundamental research, policy studies and prospective studies”.

Researchers involved in the alliance said China’s existing research on US affairs did not go deep enough, and it had left Beijing ill-prepared for the trade tussle.

Trump has said repeatedly, even before he came to power, that he would take a tough line on China – for example, naming Beijing as a currency manipulator.

But in Beijing, plans to handle Trump’s threats were often made at the last minute, according to a source in frequent contact with senior Chinese officials.

The source gave the example of China failing to analyse further measures to keep trade relations on track after the two sides agreed to a 100-day plan to improve economic ties in April last year, when Xi met Trump at the president’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

As trade tensions worsened, Beijing sent Vice-Premier Liu He to Washington in February and again in March, offering to buy more US products. But the list of products was prepared in a very “hasty manner”, according to the source.

“This sort of thing should have been done much earlier, as part of a comprehensive strategy, not just something that was drawn up overnight, days ahead of an important visit,” the source said.

Added to that, the State Council’s Development Research Centre, a liberal government think tank, has been left out of trade policy discussions by the party’s inner circle, according to the source.

Policy advice is vetted and submitted to the top leadership by the Central Financial and Economic Affairs Commission but “we have no idea how much of it has been passed to them”, the source said.

In April, a prominent Chinese economist who had been in the US on an academic trip, told an audience at Tsinghua University of how differently the spiralling trade conflict was being seen in America compared with China.

At that stage, think tanks and policymaking agencies in Washington had nearly completed plans for trade actions to be taken against Beijing and had reached consensus “not on whether there would be trade friction with China, but on the need to observe how China would respond”, according to a transcript of the economist’s speech.

“But from what was being said in domestic media, and public comments by Chinese officials before we left Beijing [for the US trip], it seemed that China was unprepared for the trade friction to come. The prevailing sentiment was that bilateral ties were manageable and on a normal track,” the economist said.


A big problem for China in handling the trade dispute with the US is that it lacks data and detailed scenario analyses, observers say.

One example is a study from May looking at the impact of US tariffs on China’s GDP growth. It was carried out by two researchers with the National Development and Reform Commission but based on US statistics. It is unclear whether the data was adjusted to reflect Beijing’s view of bilateral trade, but it concluded that GDP growth would be dragged down by about 0.2 percentage points – the same estimate reached in another government-backed study that looked specifically at the effect of 25 per cent tariffs on US$50 billion of products.

A former Chinese trade official said the estimates lacked detail and failed to take into account structural differences and changes in the supply chain.

That compares to the approach in Washington – its Section 301 investigation into China’s trade practices was accompanied by more than 3,000 footnotes and supported by data analysis and case studies, according to a Beijing think tank researcher.

“Although a lot of US-focused research has been done in China, we don’t have the depth and the detailed analysis. A lot of it is just superficial,” said the researcher, whose think tank is part of the new finance ministry alliance.

“We’re hoping our research and policy suggestions will reach the key decision makers through this new alliance,” the researcher added.

Wang Huiyao, founder and president of the Centre for China and Globalisation, another alliance member, said Beijing urgently needed research and data to give it a better understanding of the overall picture.
“Other than bilateral diplomatic ties, China must do more research on China-US trade numbers, on US laws and US industries,” Wang said.

Motivation could also be part of the problem, with some Chinese academics still driven by grants and fame, according to a government think tank researcher who focuses on US studies.

“China has sent scholars and researchers to the US for decades, yet they end up chasing personal gain because they are under pressure to publish papers in certain journals as soon as possible – or they’re busy applying for government-funded projects,” said the researcher, from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

“There are really very few Chinese who are out there in the field doing deep research on US culture, society and on politics.”

Emotional Function During Aging, Chapter 20 Of The Wiley Handbook on the Aging Mind and Brain

Emotional Function During Aging. Kuan‐Hua Chen, Steven Anderson.
Chapter 20, The Wiley Handbook on the Aging Mind and Brain. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118772034.ch20

Summary: This chapter reviews the literature on age‐related change in discrete emotions, current models and theories of emotional aging. It introduces an integrated perspective of aging and emotion (IPAE), intended to provide a comprehensive view of how aging may differentially affect the generation and regulation of discrete emotions. The chapter focuses on normal aging, although the boundary between normal and pathological brain aging can be vague, and many of the principles have implications for aging associated with the numerous psychiatric and neurological conditions that impact emotion. It also focuses on general trends in emotional functioning associated with aging, but also considers important individual differences. It is notable that age‐related increases in the complexity of emotional experience occurs across both positive and negative emotion domains. The chapter elaborates current theories and models proposed to explain these age‐related patterns in the generation and regulation of emotion.

Localization of an epileptic orgasmic feeling to the right amygdala, using intracranial electrodes

Localization of an epileptic orgasmic feeling to the right amygdala, using intracranial electrodes. Laurence Chatona et al. Cortex, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cortex.2018.07.013

Abstract: The limbic system has well-known functions in the regulation of human emotions and behaviour in general and sexual behaviour in particular. However, it is not clear which components of the limbic system are involved in orgasmic feelings. Although orgasmic aura can be elicited by direct electrical stimulation of the right mesial temporal lobe, the location of spontaneous and isolated orgasmic auras have not yet been reported in the literature. Here, we report on the first case of spontaneous orgasmic aura associated with a discharge in the right amygdala, following an investigation with depth electrodes in a woman with temporal lobe epilepsy. Her ictal orgasmic feeling reportedly felt the same as her physiological orgasms. This case sheds light on the amygdala’s key role in human sexual function.

Mapping sweetness preference across the lifespan for culturally different societies: unlike most western societies, Hadza and Tsimane’ show no decline in sweet preference with age; may be related to high energy expenditure

Mapping sweetness preference across the lifespan for culturally different societies. Robert Pellegrino et al. Journal of Environmental Psychology, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2018.07.012

•    Both Hadza and Tsimane’ societies liked sweetness more than the Polish society, with Hadza having the highest preference for sweets.
•    Unlike most western societies, Hadza and Tsimane’ show no decline in sweet preference with age.
•    Sweet taste preferences may be related to high energy expenditure that is maintained throughout the lifetime of some non-western societies or highly sweet foods (e.g. honey) as the main energy replenishment source.

Abstract: The preference of sweetened foods can be influenced by a variety of biological, psychological, sociological, and environmental factors. In this study, we focused on differences across three distinct societies: 1) a modern society (i.e., Polish people, n=199), 2) forager-horticulturalists from Amazon/Bolivia (Tsimane', n=138), and 3) traditional hunter-gatherers from Tanzania (Hadza, n=81). To measure sweet preference, participants were asked to drink three cups containing slightly acidic solutions (pH = 2.79) varying in sucrose concentration (w/v; 0%, 25%, 67%). Only 6% of the Polish participants chose the sweetest cup as their favorite, while this cup was chosen by 76% of the Hadza and 53% of the Tsimane’ participants. Further, age was a inversely related to sweet preference for Polish participants; however, age did not predict preferences for both Tsimane’ and Hadza tribes. We discuss our findings in the context of environmental and cultural differences between the participating populations.

Brain training, mindset, grit, deliberate practice, and the bilingual advantage are premised on the idea that environmental factors are the overwhelming determinants of success in real-world pursuits; none of them help significatively

Moreau, David, Brooke N. Macnamara, and Zach Hambrick. 2018. “Overstating the Role of Environmental Factors in Success: A Cautionary Note.” PsyArXiv. July 30. doi:10.31234/osf.io/sv9pz

Abstract: Several currently popular areas of research—brain training, mindset, grit, deliberate practice, and the bilingual advantage—are premised on the idea that environmental factors are the overwhelming determinants of success in real-world pursuits. Here, we describe the major claims from each of these areas of research, before discussing evidence for these claims, with a particular focus on meta-analyses. We then suggest that overemphasizing the malleability of abilities and other traits can have negative consequences for individuals, science, and society. We conclude with a call for balanced appraisals of the available evidence concerning this issue, to reflect current scientific discrepancies, and thereby enable informed individual decisions and collective policies.