Wednesday, September 26, 2018

In Sweden’s Preschools, Boys Learn to Dance and Girls Learn to Yell

In Sweden’s Preschools, Boys Learn to Dance and Girls Learn to Yell. Ellen Barry. The New York Times, Mar 24 2018,

STOCKHOLM — Something was wrong with the Penguins, the incoming class of toddlers at the Seafarer’s Preschool, in a wooded suburb south of Stockholm.

The boys were clamorous and physical. They shouted and hit. The girls held up their arms and whimpered to be picked up. The group of 1- and 2-year-olds had, in other words, split along traditional gender lines. And at this school, that is not O.K.

Their teachers cleared the room of cars and dolls. They put the boys in charge of the play kitchen. They made the girls practice shouting “No!” Then they decided to open a proper investigation, erecting video cameras in the classroom.

Science may still be divided over whether gender differences are rooted in biology or culture, but many of Sweden’s government-funded preschools are doing what they can to deconstruct them. State curriculum urges teachers and principals to embrace their role as social engineers, requiring them to “counteract traditional gender roles and gender patterns.”

It is normal, in many Swedish preschools, for teachers to avoid referring to their students’ gender — instead of “boys and girls,” they say “friends,” or call children by name. Play is organized to prevent children from sorting themselves by gender. A gender-neutral pronoun, “hen,” was introduced in 2012 and was swiftly absorbed into mainstream Swedish culture, something that, linguists say, has never happened in another country.

One of the few peer-reviewed efforts to examine the method’s effects, published last year in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, concluded that some behaviors do go away when students attend what the study called “gender-neutral” preschools.

For instance, the children at these schools do not show a strong preference for playmates of the same gender, and are less likely to make assumptions based on stereotypes. Yet, the scientists found no difference at all in the children’s tendency to notice gender, suggesting that may be under a genetic influence.

At the Seafarer’s Preschool, the effort sometimes has the feeling of a venture into uncharted territory.

On a recent Friday in Hammarbyhojden, south of Stockholm, Elis Storesund, the school’s in-house gender expert, sat bent over a work sheet with two teachers of the 4- and 5-year-old Seagulls, reviewing their progress on gender objectives.

“When we are drawing,” said Melisa Esteka, 31, one of the teachers, “we see that the girls — they draw a lot — they draw girls with lots of makeup and long eyelashes. It’s very clear that they are girls. We ask, ‘Don’t boys have eyelashes?’ And they say, ‘We know it is not like that in real life.’”

Ms. Storesund, 54, nodded thoughtfully. “They are trying to understand what it is to be a girl,” she said.

Ms. Esteka looked frustrated. She had set a goal for herself: To stop the children from identifying things as “for girls” or “for boys.” But lately, her students were absorbing stereotypes from billboards and cartoons, and sometimes it seemed like all the slow, systematic work of the Seafarer’s Preschool was flying away overnight.

“There is so much they bring with them,” she said. “They bring the whole world with them. We can’t stop that from happening.”

Sweden’s experiment in gender-neutral preschools began in 1996 in Trodje, a small town near the edge of the Baltic Sea. The man who started it, Ingemar Gens, was not an educator but a journalist who dabbled in anthropology and gender theory, having studied Swedish men seeking mail-order brides in Thailand. Newly appointed as a district “equal opportunity expert,” Mr. Gens wanted to break down the norm of stoic, unemotional Swedish masculinity.

Preschool struck him as the right place to do this. Swedish children spend much of their early life in government-funded preschools, which offer care at nominal cost for up to 12 hours a day starting at the age of 1.

Two schools rolled out what was called a compensatory gender strategy. Boys and girls at the preschools were separated for part of the day and coached in traits associated with the other gender. Boys massaged each other’s feet. Girls were led in barefoot walks in the snow, and told to throw open the window and scream.

“We tried to do that — to educate boys in what girls already knew, and vice versa,” said Mr. Gens, now 68. A wave of criticism broke over him, but that was expected.

“They said we were indoctrinating the kids,” he said. “I say we’re always indoctrinating kids. Bringing them up is indoctrination.”

Teachers were required to review videotapes of themselves with the children, to identify subtle differences in the way they interacted with boys and girls. Many found that they used more words, and more complex sentences, with girls.

Helena Baggstrom, who taught at one of the schools, recalled watching footage of herself in a cloakroom, attending to children as they bundled up to go outside. She saw, to her shock, that she had helped one boy after another get dressed and run out the door. The girls, she realized, were expected to dress themselves.

“It was hard at first to see patterns,” she said. “We saw more and more, and we were horrified at what we saw.”

The strategy of separating boys and girls was later set aside in favor of a “gender neutral” approach intent on muting differences. Still, the spirit of Mr. Gens’s experiment had percolated through the government. In 1998, Sweden added new language to its national curriculum requiring that all preschools “counteract traditional gender roles and gender patterns” and encourage children to explore “outside the limitations of stereotyped gender roles.”

Traditionalists have raised occasional protests, complaining of liberal brainwashing. The far-right Sweden Democrats party, which won about 13 percent of the vote in 2014, has promised to roll back teaching that “seeks to change all children and young people’s behavior and gender identity.”

But in a political environment deeply split over immigration, gender-equality policies enjoy the support of Sweden’s largest parties, the center-left Social Democrats and the center-right Moderates.

A columnist and mathematician named Tanja Bergkvist, one of the few figures who routinely attacks what she calls “Sweden’s gender madness,” says many Swedes are uncomfortable with the practice but are afraid to criticize it in public.

“They don’t want to be regarded as against equality,” she said. “Nobody wants to be against equality.”

In Trodje, the first wave of preschoolers to attend gender-neutral preschools are now 20-somethings.

Elin Gerdin, 26, part of that first wave, is studying to be a teacher. In appearance she is conventionally feminine, her long dark hair coaxed into spirals with a curling iron. This is something she points out — that in appearance she is conventionally feminine. It is the first sign that she views gender as something you could put on or take off, like a raincoat.

“This is a choice I have made because this is me,” she said of her appearance. “And this is me because I am a product of society.”

There are moments when her early education comes back to her in flashes.

Ms. Gerdin’s friends have begun to have babies, and they post pictures of them on Facebook, swathed in blue or pink, in society’s first act of sorting. Ms. Gerdin gets upset when this happens. She feels sorry for the children. She makes it a point to seek her friends out and tell them, earnestly, that they are making a mistake. This feels to her like a responsibility.

“We are a group of children who will grow up, and we will have children, and we will talk to them about this,” she said. “It is not easy to change a whole society.”

That process was just beginning at the Seafarer’s Preschool on a recent morning, when the children scrambled out of voluminous snowsuits. Underneath his, Otto, a sturdy 3-year-old, was wearing a dress.

Otto prefers to wear dresses because he likes the way they fan out when he spins around, and it does not make him unusual here. Up until now, no one in Otto’s life — not his grandparents, or babysitters, or fellow 3-year-olds — has told him that boys do not wear dresses, said his mother, Lena Christiansson, 36, matter-of-factly. She would like this to continue as long as possible.

This expectation has become increasingly common, said Ms. Storesund, the Seafarer’s gender specialist.

“Now, parents ask us, ‘What are you doing about gender?’” she said.

Ms. Storesund is on hand to confront classroom dilemmas: When boys in the group for 3-year-olds refused to paint, or dance, and the group threatened to split along gender lines, she was brought in to unpack the problem, tinkering with the activities until she coaxed the boys back to equal participation.

Preserving a gender-neutral environment is not simple. Carina Sevebjork Saur, 57, who has been teaching at the school for a year and a half, said she often catches herself saying the wrong thing, like an offhand compliment on a child’s appearance.

“You are on your way to saying something, as a reflex, but you have to hold it back,” she said. “You can comment on clothes in other ways: ‘Oh, my goodness, how many polka dots!’”

The effort is compensated, teachers said, by the impression that they are unraveling mysteries, and as spring approached, some changes could be observed among the Penguins.

One of the group’s teachers, Izabell Sandberg, 26, noticed a shift in a 2-year-old girl whose parents dropped her off wearing tights and pale-pink dresses. The girl focused intently on staying clean. If another child took her toys, she would whimper.

“She accepted everything,” Ms. Sandberg said. “And I thought this was very girlie. It was like she was apologizing for taking up space.”

Until, that is, a recent morning, when the girl had put a hat on and carefully arranged bags around herself, preparing to set off on an imaginary expedition. When a classmate tried to walk off with one of her bags, the girl held out the palm of her hand and shouted “No” at such a high volume that Ms. Sandberg’s head swiveled around.

It was something they had been practicing.

By the time March rolled round, the girl had gotten so loud that she drowned out the boys in the class, Ms. Sandberg said. At the end of the day, she was messy. The girl’s parents were less than delighted, she said, and reported that she had become cheeky and defiant at home.

But Ms. Sandberg has plenty of experience explaining the mission to parents.

“This is what we do here, and we are not going to stop it,” she said.

Christina Anderson contributed reporting.

A version of this article appears in print on March 25, 2018, on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: In Sweden, Preschools Teach Boys to Dance, and Girls to Yell.

Moral reasoning / In S Thompson-Schill (Ed.), Language & Thought. Volume 3 of Stevens' Handbook of Experimental Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience

Moral reasoning. Lily Tsoi and Liane Young. In S Thompson-Schill (Ed.), Language & Thought. Volume 3 of Stevens' Handbook of Experimental Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience (4th ed.).

Abstract: Understanding people’s minds is essential for effectively navigating our social world. This chapter focuses on the capacity to attribute and reason about minds (theory of mind; ToM) and its role in moral cognition. The section on moral judgment focuses on the circumstances in which people rely on mental states for moral judgments and how ToM may differ depending on the moral domain. We provide a functional explanation for these patterns of mental state reasoning that contrasts the need to regulate interpersonal relations with the need to protect the self. The section on moral behavior focuses on interactions with moral agents (e.g., friends, foes, ingroups, outgroups). We examine how ToM is deployed during two fundamental social contexts (i.e., cooperation and competition) and elaborate on the circumstances in which people fail to consider the minds of others. We end by providing some evidence that ToM can improve interpersonal and intergroup relations.

Key Terms: morality, theory of mind, mentalizing, cooperation, competition, dehumanization, social cognition

Check also: The relevance of moral norms in distinct relational contexts: Purity versus harm norms regulate self-directed actions. James A. Dungan, Alek Chakroff, and Liane Young. PLoS One. 2017; 12(3): e0173405.

Abstract: Recent efforts to partition the space of morality have focused on the descriptive content of distinct moral domains (e.g., harm versus purity), or alternatively, the relationship between the perpetrator and victim of moral violations. Across three studies, we demonstrate that harm and purity norms are relevant in distinct relational contexts. Moral judgments of purity violations, compared to harm violations, are relatively more sensitive to the negative impact perpetrators have on themselves versus other victims (Study 1). This pattern replicates across a wide array of harm and purity violations varying in severity (Studies 2 and 3). Moreover, while perceptions of harm predict moral judgment consistently across relational contexts, perceptions of purity predict moral judgment more for self-directed actions, where perpetrators violate themselves, compared to dyadic actions, where perpetrators violate other victims (Study 3). Together, these studies reveal how an action’s content and its relational context interact to influence moral judgment, providing novel insights into the adaptive functions of harm and purity norms.

In order to be loved, you also have to be feared; the idea that without projecting any kind of power, other countries will be attracted to the European model, that’s a form of utopianism

Bruno Maçães on the Spirit of Adventure (Ep. 50). Tyler Cowen, Sep 2018,

Bruno Maçães, senior advisor at Flint Global is author of The Dawn of Eurasia — On the Trail of the New World Order []

MAÇÃES: This raises deep philosophical questions and political questions. If you want Turkey to become like Europe, then you have to project European power across Turkey. If Europe no longer has that ability, then you shouldn’t be surprised that Turkey looks elsewhere.

It’s very simple. I think I say in the book that in order to be loved, you also have to be feared. This idea that you find in Europe now, that without projecting any kind of power, other countries will be attracted to the European model, that’s a form of utopianism. I just cannot see that happen.

COWEN: So Europe lacks the spirit of adventure.

MAÇÃES: That is certainly the case. I think you see that. One of the areas where the spirit of adventure today is more relevant and important is technology. You see in Europe the idea that technology’s against us, and we should resist this rather than embrace it. A very negative spirit, which I think is a good example of how adventure has disappeared from the European psyche.

A higher proportion of opposite-sex individuals in one's occupational sector is associated with higher divorce risk; this holds for both men & women, but associations are somewhat stronger for men and vary by education

Higher divorce risk when mates are plentiful? Evidence from Denmark. Caroline Uggla, Gunnar Andersson. Royal Society Biology Letters, DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2018.0475

Abstract: Work from social and biological sciences has shown that adult sex ratios are associated with relationship behaviours. When partners are abundant, opportunities for mate switching may increase and relationship stability decrease. To date, most of the human literature has used regional areas at various levels of aggregation to define partner markets. But, in developed countries, many individuals of reproductive age spend a considerable amount of time outside their residential areas, and other measures may better capture the opportunities to meet a (new) partner. Here, we use Danish register data to test whether the sex ratio of the occupational sector is linked to divorce. Our data cover individuals in Denmark who married during 1981–2002 and we control for age at and duration of marriage, education and parity. Results support the prediction that a higher proportion of opposite-sex individuals in one's occupational sector is associated with higher divorce risk. This holds for both men and women, but associations are somewhat stronger for men and vary by education. Our results highlight the need to study demographic behaviours of men and women simultaneously, and to consider partner markets beyond geographical areas so that differing strategies for males and females may be examined.

The environmental costs and benefits of high-yield farming

The environmental costs and benefits of high-yield farming. Andrew Balmford et al. Nature Sustainability, volume 1, pages477–485 (2018).

Abstract: How we manage farming and food systems to meet rising demand is pivotal to the future of biodiversity. Extensive field data suggest that impacts on wild populations would be greatly reduced through boosting yields on existing farmland so as to spare remaining natural habitats. High-yield farming raises other concerns because expressed per unit area it can generate high levels of externalities such as greenhouse gas emissions and nutrient losses. However, such metrics underestimate the overall impacts of lower-yield systems. Here we develop a framework that instead compares externality and land costs per unit production. We apply this framework to diverse data sets that describe the externalities of four major farm sectors and reveal that, rather than involving trade-offs, the externality and land costs of alternative production systems can covary positively: per unit production, land-efficient systems often produce lower externalities. For greenhouse gas emissions, these associations become more strongly positive once forgone sequestration is included. Our conclusions are limited: remarkably few studies report externalities alongside yields; many important externalities and farming systems are inadequately measured; and realizing the environmental benefits of high-yield systems typically requires additional measures to limit farmland expansion. Nevertheless, our results suggest that trade-offs among key cost metrics are not as ubiquitous as sometimes perceived.

A Freudian explanation of the development of superego structures that prioritize law/crime, security, tradition, and progress, distinguish how liberals and conservatives differ in their tastes in humor

Explaining Differing Tastes in the Humor of Liberals and Conservatives. Todd L. Belt, Hawaii Univ.

Abstract: This paper explains how liberals and conservatives differ in their tastes in humor. The primary contribution of this paper is the development of a theory that explains these differences by matching psychological theories of humor to political science theories that explain personality traits of liberalism and conservatism. The secondary contribution involves the empirical testing of hypotheses are then drawn from this theory using data from 400 humorous still images collected by the author and the Library of Congress during the 2016 election cycle. The results indicate that a Freudian explanation of the development of superego structures that prioritize law/crime, security, tradition, and progress, distinguish how liberals and conservatives differ in their tastes in humor. The paper concludes with a discussion of the ramifications of differing tastes in political humor for future political discourse and civility.

Sexism was a significantly stronger predictor of voting for Trump the more left-leaning (vs. right-leaning) the voter; sexism played a role in Clinton's electoral loss, & she correctly characterized sexism as endemic (especially on the left)

Why Pillory Hillary? Testing the endemic sexism hypothesis regarding the 2016 U.S. election. Valerie Rothwell, Gordon Hodson, Elvira Prusaczyk. Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 138, 1 February 2019, Pages 106-108.

Abstract: The present study used nationally representative American National Election Studies (ANES) data to examine the potential role of sexism in the 2016 presidential election. We hypothesized not only that sexism would predict voting for Trump (vs. Clinton), but that its role would be stronger on the political left (vs. right). The sample consisted of 1916 Clinton or Trump voters (51.41% women; Mage = 51.78, SD = 17.16; 79.5% White) who completed measures of political ideology and hostile sexism. Greater conservatism or sexism significantly predicted voting for Trump (vs. Clinton). As expected, sexism was a significantly stronger predictor of voting for Trump the more left-leaning (vs. right-leaning) the voter. Not only was Clinton correct that sexism played a role in her electoral loss, but she correctly characterized sexism as endemic, an influence especially perceptible on the left.

There is a positive association between female height, higher educational levels, & greater same-sex attraction (female–female) vs a negative effect of lower income levels & more offspring

Man, Woman, “Other”: Factors Associated with Nonbinary Gender Identification. Stephen Whyte, Robert C. Brooks, Benno Torgler. Archives of Sexual Behavior,

Abstract: Using a unique dataset of 7479 respondents to the online Australian Sex Survey (July–September 2016), we explored factors relevant for individuals who self-identify as one of the many possible nonbinary gender options (i.e., not man or woman). Our results identified significant sex differences in such factors; in particular, a positive association between female height, higher educational levels, and greater same-sex attraction (female–female) versus a negative effect of lower income levels and more offspring. With respect to sex similarities, older males and females, heterosexuals, those with lower educational levels, and those living outside capital cities were all more likely to identify as the historically dichotomous gender options. These factors associated with nonbinary gender identification were also more multifaceted for females than for males, although our interaction terms demonstrated that younger females (relative to younger males) and nonheterosexuals (relative to heterosexuals) were more likely to identify as nonbinary. These effects were reversed, however, in the older cohort. Because gender can have such significant lifetime impacts for both the individual and society as a whole, our findings strongly suggest the need for further research into factors that impact gender diversity.