Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Extraordinary Altruists Exhibit Enhanced Self–Other Overlap in Neural Responses to Distress

Extraordinary Altruists Exhibit Enhanced Self–Other Overlap in Neural Responses to Distress. Kristin M. Brethel-Haurwitz et al. Psychological Science,

Abstract: Shared neural representations during experienced and observed distress are hypothesized to reflect empathic neural simulation, which may support altruism. But the correspondence between real-world altruism and shared neural representations has not been directly tested, and empathy’s role in promoting altruism toward strangers has been questioned. Here, we show that individuals who have performed costly altruism (donating a kidney to a stranger; n = 25) exhibit greater self–other overlap than matched control participants (n = 27) in neural representations of pain and threat (fearful anticipation) in anterior insula (AI) during an empathic-pain paradigm. Altruists exhibited greater self–other correspondence in pain-related activation in left AI, highlighting that group-level overlap was supported by individual-level associations between empathic pain and firsthand pain. Altruists exhibited enhanced functional coupling of left AI with left midinsula during empathic pain and threat. Results show that heightened neural instantiations of empathy correspond to real-world altruism and highlight limitations of self-report.

Keywords: altruism, empathy, neural simulation, nondirected living kidney donation

Mate value: Kindness, & physical attraction desirability saturate at the 90th percentile, although we do not tire of them; but intelligence, & easygoingness are fastidious after the 90th percentile

Exceptional intelligence and easygoingness may hurt your prospects: Threshold effects for rated mate characteristics. Gilles E. Gignac, Clare L. Starbuck. British Journal of Psychology,

Abstract: Prospective mate characteristics such as kindness, intelligence, easygoingness, and physical attraction are ranked consistently highly by both men and women. However, rank measurement does not allow for determinations of what level of a mate characteristic is rated most desirable. Based on a more informative percentile scale measurement approach, it was reported recently that mean desirability ratings of IQ in a prospective partner peaked at the 90th percentile, with a statistically significant reduction from the 90th to the 99th percentiles. The purpose of this investigation was to replicate the recently reported non‐linear desirability effect associated with IQ, in addition to the evaluation of three other valued mate characteristics: easygoing, kindness, and physical attraction. Based on a sample of 214 young adults, it was found that all four mate characteristics peaked at the 90th percentile. However, the IQ and easygoing mean desirability ratings evidenced statistically significant mean reductions across the 90th to the 99th percentiles, whereas kindness and physical attraction did not. Finally, the objectively and subjectively assessed intelligence of the participants was not found to be associated with the participants’ desirability ratings of IQ. We interpreted the results to be consistent with a broadly conceptualized threshold hypothesis, which states that the perceived benefits of valued mate characteristics may not extend beyond a certain point. However, mate characteristics such as intelligence and easygoing become somewhat less attractive at very elevated levels, at least based on preference ratings, for reasons that may be biological and/or psycho‐social in nature.

Cleaner wrasse pass the mark test. What are the implications for consciousness and self-awareness testing in animals?

Cleaner wrasse pass the mark test. What are the implications for consciousness and self-awareness testing in animals? Masanori Kohda et al. bioRxiv,

Abstract: The ability to perceive and recognise a reflected mirror image as self (mirror self-recognition, MSR) is considered a hallmark of cognition across species. Although MSR has been reported in mammals and birds, it is not known to occur in any other major taxon. A factor potentially limiting the ability to test for MSR is that the established assay for MSR, the mark test, shows an interpretation bias towards animals with the dexterity (or limbs) required to touch a mark. Here, we show that the cleaner wrasse fish, Labroides dimidiatus, passes through all phases of the mark test: (i) social reactions towards the reflection, (ii) repeated idiosyncratic behaviours towards the mirror (contingency testing), and (iii) frequent observation of their reflection. When subsequently provided with a coloured tag, individuals attempt to remove the mark in the presence of a mirror but show no response towards transparent marks, or to coloured marks in the absence of a mirror. This remarkable finding presents a challenge to our interpretation of the mark test – do we accept that these behavioural responses in the mark test, which are taken as evidence of self-recognition in other species, mean that fish are self-aware? Or do we conclude that these behavioural patterns have a basis in a cognitive process other than self-recognition? If the former, what does this mean for our understanding of animal intelligence? If the latter, what does this mean for our application and interpretation of the mark test as a metric for animal cognitive abilities?