Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Why we devote ourselves to knowledge, the arts and the sciences

1  Caspar Heineman Tumblr blog, Nov 4 2012,

“I wasn’t always smart, I was actually very stupid in school… [T]here was a boy who was very attractive who was even stupider than I was. And in order to ingratiate myself with this boy who was very beautiful, I began to do his homework for him – and that’s how I became smart, I had to do all this work to just keep ahead of him a little bit, in order to help him. In a sense, all the rest of my life I’ve been trying to do intellectual things that would attract beautiful boys.”

— Michel Foucault, 1983

“Why become well-versed in science and the arts if not to impress a lovely little woman?”

— Leopold von Sacher-Masoch

Evolutionary Approaches to Complex, Asymmetrically Structured Societies; extending the gene/culture theory with a 3rd level, encompassing polities divided by class & ruled by elites

An evolutionary approach to complex hierarchical societies. Theodore Koditschek. Behavioural Processes, Volume 161, April 2019, Pages 117-128.

•    Proposes A New Framework for Framing Evolutionary Approaches to Complex, Asymmetrically Structured Societies.
•    Draws on Gene/Culture ‘Dual Inheritance Co-evolutionary Theories from Evolutionary Anthropology.
•    Extends This Bi-Level Theory to Incorporate a Third Level, Encompassing Polities Divided by Class and Ruled by Elites.
•    Further Extends This Tri-Level Theory to Incorporate a Fourth Level Encompassing Modern, Economically Expansive Capitalist Societies.

Abstract: Evolutionary anthropologists have been remarkably successful in developing ‘dual inheritance’ theories of gene/culture coevolution that analyze the interaction of each of these factors without reducing either one to the other’s terms. However, efforts to extend this type of analysis to encompass complex, class-divided hierarchical societies, grounded in formal laws, political institutions, and trajectories of sustained economic development have scarcely begun. This article proposes a provisional framework for advancing such a multi-level co-evolutionary analysis that can encompass multiple forms of social organization from simple hunting/foraging groups to agrarian states and empires, up through the global capitalist system of our own day. The article formulates tools to conceptualize some of the ways in which ‘selection’ and ‘adaptation’ operate at every level to bring genes, cultures, states, and market exchange into provisional alignment with one another. It considers some of the ways in which modes of production’, ‘modes of coercion’ and ‘modes of persuasion’ interact complexly, at different societal levels.

How far can human nature, history, and society be explained in evolutionary terms? The question has long been controversial and has generated some of the most heated debates in the history of the social sciences. During the nineteenth century, many grandiose, sweeping claims were made in the affirmative, only to see the influence of such views decline in subsequent decades. Criticized for the racist, sexist, and elitist assumptions in which they were grounded, such evolutionary theorizing was further undermined by the modern synthesis in twentieth century biology, which focused on the role of genetics in shaping physical characteristics, implicitly leaving the study of human social behavior, social development, and organization to the non-evolutionary social sciences. During the 1960s and 70s, the rise of sociobiology threatened to up-end this consensus by proposing genetic explanations for behavior, but the biological reductionism of its leading promoters was vigorously resisted, and the traditional division of labor between the sciences of nature and of nurture continued to prevail. In evolutionary psychology and in human behavioral ecology, Darwinian processes are widely invoked, but in the remainder of the social sciences little attention to them is paid (Kevles, 1985; Degler, 1991; Segerstråle, 2000).

A major exception to this generalization can be found among a group of self-styled evolutionary anthropologists, who have devised a hybrid paradigm for bio-social theory that promises a completely novel way of restoring the evolutionary approach to human affairs. Eschewing any unilateral recourse to biological determinism, these evolutionary anthropologists have focused on the ways in which culture and biology interact. While certainly recognizing that human behavior is rooted in our heredity, they are concerned to understand how culture has co-evolved with our innate psychology, and how the two have mutually constructed one another in a manner that is unique among life forms. As they have pioneered this new approach to the nature/nurture conundrum, the evolutionary anthropologists have givenus the opportunity to break through a major impasse that has habitually tripped social scientists up. When we begin to apply their methods to the study of complex, asymmetrically structured societies, however, (such as those in which most humans through recorded history have lived) certain key modifications will need to be made. In this paper, I briefly outline these modifications and explore some of the ways in which they may be able to fortify the foundations on which a comprehensive evolutionary social science could be built.

Yet, none of these solutions proved to be permanent, as the conditions of competition and wealth creation changed. In the post-1975 period, full-scale globalization has unleashed forces that are now generating both massive economic growth, and also new types of destabilizing crisis. World trade and real Gross World Product have tripled during this period, approximately doubling real global per capita incomes during a periodwhen the rate of population increase has been slowing down. At the same time, these gains have been distributed very unevenly, as wages of less skilled workers in the developed countries have stagnated, pools of deep poverty and underdevelopment continue to fester (especially below the equator), and even in the richest countries, some 20% of the national income, and 35% of the national wealth,is monopolized by the top one percent. On every continent, irresistible surges of de-regulation and regressive taxation have jeopardized the viability of the welfare state, even as vast waves of migration have roiled labor markets everywhere around the globe. The result has been to exacerbate previous inequalities, and to disempower organized labor, pitting workers against one another, and fuelling the cultural politics of conflicting religions, ethnicities, and identities. Both dramatic economic growth and spectacular social dislocation have, overthe past generation, become the orders of the day (Piketty, 2014; Stiglitz, 2017; Data from Wikipedia entries on ‘World Population’, ‘Gross World Product’, and ‘Wealth Inequality in the United States’).

Hypergamy (a husband's earning capacity systematically exceeds that of his wife) is an important feature of Norwegian mating patterns, being Norway one of the most equalized societies

Almås, Ingvild & Kotsadam, Andreas & Moen, Espen R & Røed, Knut, 2019. "The Economics of Hypergamy," CEPR Discussion Papers 13606,

Abstract: Partner selection is a vital feature of human behavior with important consequences for individuals, families, and society. Hypergamy occurs when a husband's earning capacity systematically exceeds that of his wife. We provide a theoretical framework that rationalizes hypergamy even in the absence of gender differences in the distribution of earnings capacity. Using parental earnings rank, a predetermined measure of earnings capacity that solves the simultaneity problem of matching affecting earnings outcomes, we show that hypergamy is an important feature of Norwegian mating patterns. A vignette experiment identifies gender differences in preferences that can explain the observed patterns.

Keywords:marriage, gender identity, labor supply, household specialization

Most organic evolution involves non-Darwinian processes; much behavioral selection is non-teleonomic; non-Darwinian processes provide a better model for most cultural evolution than does selection by consequences

The non-Darwinian evolution of behavers and behaviors. Peter R. Killeen. Behavioural Processes, Volume 161, April 2019, Pages 45-53.

•    Most organic evolution involves non-Darwinian processes.
•    Much behavioral selection is non-teleonomic.
•    Non-Darwinian processes provide a better model for most cultural evolution than does selection by consequences.

Abstract: Many readers of this journal have been schooled in both Darwinian evolution and Skinnerian psychology, which have in common the vision of powerful control of their subjects by their sequalae. Individuals of species that generate more successful offspring come to dominate their habitat; responses of those individuals that generate more reinforcers come to dominate the repertoire of the individual in that context. This is unarguable. What is questionable is how large a role these forces of selection play in the larger landscape of existing organisms and the repertoires of their individuals. Here it is argued that non-Darwinian and non-Skinnerian selection play much larger roles in both than the reader may appreciate. The argument is based on the history of, and recent advances in, microbiology. Lessons from that history re-illuminate the three putative domains of selection by consequences: The evolution of species, response repertoires, and cultures. It is argued that before, beneath, and after the cosmically brief but crucial epoch of Darwinian evolution that shaped creatures such as ourselves, non-Darwinian forces pervade all three domains.

Keywords: Non-Darwinian evolution Selection by consequences Tree of life Lateral gene transfer Meme Microbes

What Might Have Been: Near Miss Experiences and Adjustment to a Terrorist Attack—narrowly avoiding a traumatic event leads to “survivor guilt” or distress over one’s comparative good fortune

What Might Have Been: Near Miss Experiences and Adjustment to a Terrorist Attack. Michael J. Poulin, Roxane Cohen Silver. Social Psychological and Personality Science, April 24, 2019.

Abstract: Near miss experiences—narrowly avoiding a traumatic event—are associated with distress, despite signaling good fortune. For some, near miss experiences call to mind those who, unlike oneself, were directly affected by the event, leading to “survivor guilt” or distress over one’s comparative good fortune. Survivor guilt, in turn, may function as upward counterfactual thinking about others’ negative outcomes, leading to intrusive thoughts and post-traumatic stress. We compared individuals who did or did not report a near miss with respect to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks—that is, almost being directly affected—in a national longitudinal study (N = 1,433). Near miss experiences predicted higher levels of reexperiencing symptoms and probable post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as maintenance of reexperiencing symptoms over the next 3 years. These associations were partially accounted for by survivor guilt. Near misses may be associated with distress in part because they entail reflection on negative outcomes for others.

Keywords: stress, trauma, meaning, terrorism

Humans and their working dogs: Comparing the human-dog socially distributed cognitive system with humans using non-biological tools and human interaction with draft animals

Distributed cognition criteria: Defined, operationalized, and applied to human-dog systems. Mary Jean Amon, Luis H. Favela. Behavioural Processes, Volume 162, May 2019, Pages 167-176.

•    Distributed cognitive systems exhibit three criteria: interaction-dominant dynamics, agency, and shared task-orientation.
•    The three criteria allow for socially distributed cognitive systems to be distinguished from other group tasks.
•    Some interactions between domesticated dogs and humans can be properly characterized as distributed cognition.
•    Human-dog distributed cognitive systems are contrasted with extended cognitive systems (human-tool use) and obedience tasks.
•    These criteria and examples demonstrate the expansive scope of distributed cognition theory beyond verbal interactions.

Abstract: Distributed cognition generally refers to situations in which task requirements are shared among multiple agents or, potentially, off-loaded onto the environment. With few exceptions, socially distributed cognition has largely been discussed in terms of intraspecific interactions. This conception fails to capture some forms of group-level cognition among human and non-human animals that are not readily measured or explained in mentalistic or verbal terms. In response to these limitations, we argue for a more stringent set of empirically-verifiable criteria for assessing whether a system is an instance of distributed cognition: interaction-dominant dynamics, agency, and shared task orientation. We apply this framework to humans and working dogs, and contrast the human-dog socially distributed cognitive system with humans using non-biological tools and human interaction with draft animals. The human-dog system illustrates three operationalizable factors for classifying phenomena as socially distributed cognition and extends the framework to interspecies distributed cognition.

Keywords: Agency Distributed cognition Dogs Extended cognition Interaction dominance Working animal

Sculpting sex differences: Microglia are more phagocytic in the male amygdala during neonatal development; androgen-induced endocannabinoids increase phagocytosis in males, producing a sex difference in juvenile social play

Microglial Phagocytosis of Newborn Cells Is Induced by Endocannabinoids and Sculpts Sex Differences in Juvenile Rat Social Play. Jonathan W. VanRyzin et al. Neuron, Volume 102, Issue 2, 17 April 2019, Pages 435-449.e6.

•    Microglia are more phagocytic in the male amygdala during neonatal development
•    Androgen-induced endocannabinoids increase phagocytosis in males
•    Microglia engulf viable newborn astrocytes in a complement-dependent manner
•    Developmental phagocytosis produces a sex difference in juvenile social play

Summary: Brain sex differences are established developmentally and generate enduring changes in circuitry and behavior. Steroid-mediated masculinization of the rat amygdala during perinatal development produces higher levels of juvenile rough-and-tumble play by males. This sex difference in social play is highly conserved across mammals, yet the mechanisms by which it is established are unknown. Here, we report that androgen-induced increases in endocannabinoid tone promote microglia phagocytosis during a critical period of amygdala development. Phagocytic microglia engulf more viable newborn cells in males; in females, less phagocytosis allows more astrocytes to survive to the juvenile age. Blocking complement-dependent phagocytosis in males increases astrocyte survival and prevents masculinization of play. Moreover, increased astrocyte density in the juvenile amygdala reduces neuronal excitation during play. These findings highlight novel mechanisms of brain development whereby endocannabinoids induce microglia phagocytosis to regulate newborn astrocyte number and shape the sexual differentiation of social circuitry and behavior.

We can be very good sisters and brothers with unknown, not-related-to-us guys if our family co-members are away: Grooming behavior of female Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata yakui)

Behavioral responses to changes in group size and composition: a case study on grooming behavior of female Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata yakui). Yosuke Kurihara, Mari Nishikawa, Koji Mochida. Behavioural Processes, Volume 162, May 2019, Pages 142-146.

•    Changes from multi-female to one-female groups were observed in Japanese macaques.
•    Adult females increased their grooming efforts in one-female periods.
•    They continued kin-biased grooming in one-female periods.
•    Unrelated juveniles were alternative grooming partners for them in one-female periods.
•    Rare observations of social changes are useful for understanding animal societies.

Abstract: Primates flexibly change their grooming behavior depending on group size and composition to maintain social relationships among group members. However, how drastic social changes influence their grooming behavior remains unclear. We observed the grooming behavior of adult female Japanese macaques in two groups temporarily formed as one-female groups from multi-female groups and compared their behaviors between the multi-female and one-female periods. Adult females more frequently performed grooming with both their relatives and unrelated juveniles during the one-female period when other adult females were unavailable as alternatives to their absent familiar partners. The increased grooming time and diversity of grooming partners might alleviate the short-term stress caused by the loss of grooming partners and reduce social instability or mitigate the long-term stress due to disadvantages in intergroup conflicts. Our study provides rare evidence on the flexibility in grooming behavior of primates and encourages accumulating case reports for understanding behavioral responses of primates to drastic social changes.

In rats: Resurgence of a target behavior suppressed by a combination of punishment and alternative reinforcement

Resurgence of a target behavior suppressed by a combination of punishment and alternative reinforcement. Rusty W. Nall, Jillian M. Rung, Timothy A. Shahan. Behavioural Processes, Volume 162, May 2019, Pages 177-183.

•    Initially, rats performed a target behavior for access to food.
•    Next, target behavior was punished and alternative behavior was reinforced.
•    Finally, target and alternative behavior were extinguished and resurgence occurred.
•    No resurgence occurred following punishment without alternative reinforcement.
•    The present results suggest implications for theory and applied treatment.

Abstract: Differential-reinforcement-based treatments involving extinction of target problem behavior and reinforcement of an alternative behavior are highly effective. However, extinction of problem behavior is sometimes difficult or contraindicated in clinical settings. In such cases, punishment instead of extinction may be used in combination with alternative reinforcement. Although it is well documented that omitting alternative reinforcement can produce recurrence (i.e., resurgence) of behavior previously suppressed by extinction plus alternative reinforcement, it remains unclear if resurgence similarly occurs for behavior previously suppressed by punishment plus alternative reinforcement. The present experiment examined this question with rats. In Phase 1, a target behavior (lever pressing) was reinforced with food pellets. In Phase 2, the target behavior continued to be reinforced, but it also produced mild foot shock and an alternative behavior (nose poking) also produced food. Finally, all consequences were removed and resurgence of target behavior occurred. Resurgence did not occur for another group that similarly received punishment of target behavior in Phase 2 but not alternative reinforcement. These results indicate that resurgence was a product of the history of exposure to and then removal of alternative reinforcement and that the removal of punishment alone did not produce resurgence of target behavior.

Keywords: Punishment Rats Relapse Resurgence

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Extensive Pavlovian modifications of sexual behavior; learning experiences enhance how the species-typical cues of a sexual partner stimulate sexual behavior, increasing rates of fertilization of eggs & numbers of offspring produced

The behavior system for sexual learning. Michael Domjan, Germán Gutiérrez. Behavioural Processes, Volume 162, May 2019, Pages 184-196,

•    Reviews the current status of the behavior system for sexual learning.
•    In addition to reviewing research with quail (which was the focus of prior paper), in this treatment research with rats is also incorporated into the characterization of the behavior system.
•    Unlike prior papers which dealt primarily with sexual learning in males, in this review we also discuss in detail sexual learning in females.
•    For the first time the characterization of the sexual learning system includes detailed information on how learning facilitates fertilization and reproductive success.
•    Although much progress has been made in characterizing the sexual learning system, we include an extensive section discussing areas for future research.
•    A new perspective on how sexual learning can contribute to evolutionary change is included.

Abstract: In this paper we review and update evidence relevant to formulating a behavior system for sexual learning. We emphasize behavioral rather than neurobiological evidence and mechanisms. Our analysis focuses on three types of responses or response modes: general search, focal search, and consummatory or copulatory behavior. We consider how these response modes are influenced by three categories of stimuli: spatially distributed contextual cues, arbitrary localized stimuli, and species-typical cues provided by the sexual partner. We characterize behavior control by these types of stimuli before and after various Pavlovian conditioning procedures in which the unconditioned stimulus is provided by copulation with a sexual partner. The results document extensive Pavlovian modifications of sexual behavior. These conditioning effects reflect new conditioned responses that come to be elicited by various categories of stimuli. In addition, the conditioning of contextual cues and localized stimuli facilitate sexual responding to species-typical cues. Thus, learning experiences enhance how the species-typical cues of a sexual partner stimulate sexual behavior. These modulatory conditioning effects not only produce significant behavioral changes but also increase rates of fertilization of eggs and numbers of offspring produced. These latter findings suggest that sexual learning can lead to differential reproductive success, which in turn can contribute to evolutionary change.

Keywords: Sexual conditioning Conditioned fertility Quail Behavior systems Sexual learning Constraints on learning Pavlovian conditioning Male sexual behavior Female sexual behavior Sperm competition Sperm allocation Conditioned copulation General search Focal search Sign tracking Place preference

Bottlenose dolphins do not behave prosocially in an instrumental helping task: Ignore their partners and did not help them reach a preferred toy

Bottlenose dolphins do not behave prosocially in an instrumental helping task. Ana Pérez-Manrique, Antoni Gomila. Behavioural Processes, Apr 24 2019.

•    A group of captive bottlenose dolphins were tested in an instrumental helping task
•    Bottlenose dolphins did not behave prosocially in this task
•    Dolphins ignore their partners and did not help them reach a preferred toy

Abstract: Although bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) are known for being a highly social species that live in complex societies that rely on coalition formation and cooperative behaviours, experimental studies on prosocial behaviour in this species are scarce. Helping others reach their goals (instrumental helping) is considered as an example of prosocial behaviour. Thus, in this pilot study, we examined whether a group of five captive bottlenose dolphins would behave prosocially in an instrumental helping task. Dolphins were given the opportunity to share tokens that allow their partners to obtain a preferred toy. Dolphins were tested in their free time and they could choose to share the tokens or do nothing. None of the dolphins shared the tokens, instead, they preferred to play with them, ignoring their partners. They did transfer the tokens to other sides of the pool but out of the reach of their partners. Therefore, this group of dolphins did not spontaneously help their partners in this task, showing no preference for other-regarding behaviour in this context.

Individual outcomes of irrational thinking, including belief in the paranormal and non-scientific thinking: althought it diminishes financial profitability, the component of belief in the paranormal improves the psychological state

Is irrational thinking associated with lower earnings and happiness? Shoko Yamane, Hiroyasu Yoneda, Yoshiro Tsutsui. Mind & Society, Apr 23 2019.

Abstract: This study investigates the individual outcomes of irrational thinking, including belief in the paranormal and non-scientific thinking. These modes of thinking are identified through factor analysis of eleven questions asked in a large-scale survey conducted in Japan in 2008. Income and happiness are used as measures of individual performance. We propose two hypotheses. Previous studies in finance lead us to consider Hypothesis 1 that both higher belief in the paranormal and non-scientific thinking are associated with lower income. Literature on the association between religion, the paranormal, and happiness suggest Hypothesis 2 that higher belief in the paranormal is associated with greater happiness, while higher non-scientific thinking is associated with greater unhappiness. To examine these hypotheses, we regress income and happiness on belief in the paranormal and non-scientific thinking with appropriate control variables. We employ the Mincer-type wage function as the income equation. Income, sex, and age are controlled in the happiness equation. Analysis supports both hypotheses, which highlights the complex features of irrationality. Although irrationality results in diminishing financial profitability, the component of belief in the paranormal improves the psychological state.

Keywords: Irrational belief Happiness Paranormality Factor analysis Income

1 Introduction

This study aims to discover whether rational thinking is necessary for better human performance (income and happiness), using Japanese data. Rationality is the essen-tial assumption of traditional economics, meaning that based on facts, agents think and act logically, in order to achieve their goals, given their constraints.1

The consequences of irrationality, i.e., violating requirements of logical rationality, have been studied in the field of behavioral finance. Shumway and Wu (2006) empirically analyzed the Shanghai stock exchange and found that traders who display the disposition effect, i.e., exhibit a greater propensity to realize gains compared to losses, earn less profits. Barber and Odean (2001) showed that men transact too often because of their overconfidence, leading to low profitability. These empirical results are consistent with the hypothesis that irrationality reduces profitability. However, there exists the possibility that irrationality works in an opposite direction. DeLong et al. (1990) theoretically analyzed the efficiency of a financial market that consists of a mix of rational and irrational agents and showed that this market can be inefficient if irrational agents comprise a substantial fraction of market participants.2 Thus, if irrational agents dominate, behaving irrationally in concordance with many other irrational agents can be profitable.

On the contrary, it is not known how irrationality is associated with happiness.3 In this study, we measure individuals’ degree of logical thinking by assessing the extent to which they believe in science and paranormal phenomena. Although these may seem to be two sides of the same coin, they essentially have different characteristics, as is demonstrated in Sect. 2.4 Many studies reported that those individuals who are deeply religious are happier (Koenig et al. 2001). Wills (2009) reported that higher satisfaction with spirituality and religiosity brings about significantly higher well-being (see also Cohen 2002), suggesting that those who believe in paranormal phenomena may be happier, since belief in religion overlaps, in part, belief in paranormal phenomena (see Sect. 2.2).

In order to address the question as to whether irrational thinking leads to lower profitability measured by income and happiness, we conducted an original survey in Japan. Of all the questions, 11 deal with paranormal phenomena and scientific facts. Using factor analysis, we extract two factors, namely, belief in paranormality and non-scientific thinking. We analyzed the association between these two factors and individual outcomes in terms of income and happiness.1 For more discussions on rationality, see Wilkinson (2008).2 The authors assume that rational agents are risk averse, which restricts them from carrying out unlimited arbitrage.3 Nevertheless, how happiness depends on various attributes and traits has been extensively investigated (see, e.g., Frey and Stutzer 2002). For example, based on a dictator game experiment, Konow and Earley (2008) found that more generous people report greater happiness.4 Lindeman and Aarnio (2007) offered some support for this; they reported that superstition is well predicted by ontological confusion, but not by analytical thinking.

1 Spirits and ghosts exist
2 Heaven exists
3 God or Gods exist
4 Life after death exists
5 God knows about all the wrong things we’ve done
6 It is possible to move an object by using psychokinesis
7 I believe in fortune telling
8 A person’s blood type indicates their character

Non-scientific thinking
1 Human beings evolved from other living things
2 You should place a greater value on thinking with your head than with your heart
3 What is written in science books is true

When individuals feel similar to their future self, they are more likely to delay present gratification & make plans for the long run; greater perceived similarity to the future self is linearly associated with greater life satisfaction 10 y later

Identity Over Time: Perceived Similarity Between Selves Predicts Well-Being 10 Years Later. Joseph S. Reiff, Hal E. Hershfield, Jordi Quoidbach. Social Psychological and Personality Science, April 23, 2019.

Abstract: When individuals feel similar to their future self, they are more likely to delay present gratification and make plans for the long run. But do these feelings of similarity actually correspond with heightened well-being for the future self? Theoretically, making patient decisions in the present could lead to a future self who is better off and thus more satisfied. Alternatively, perceived overlap with the future self could cause people to continually deny themselves pleasures in the present, diminishing satisfaction over time. To adjudicate between these possibilities, we use a 10-year longitudinal data set (N = 4,963) to estimate how thoughts about one’s future self in an initial survey predict life satisfaction 10 years later. Controlling for initial life satisfaction, greater perceived similarity to the future self is linearly associated with greater life satisfaction 10 years after the original prediction, a finding that is robust to a number of alternative analyses.

Keywords: identity over time, future self, well-being, life span development

7 years after passage of a Renewable Portfolio program, the required renewable share of generation is 1.8 pct higher & average retail electricity prices are 1.3 cent/kWh, 11% higher (12 years after, 4.2 pct higher, & costs are 17% higher)

Do Renewable Portfolio Standards Deliver? Michael Greenstone, Richard McDowell, Ishan Nath. University of Chicago, Becker Friedman Institute for Economics Working Paper No. 2019-62. Apr 19 2019.

Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) are the largest and perhaps most popular climate policy in the US, having been enacted by 29 states and the District of Columbia. Using the most comprehensive panel data set ever compiled on program characteristics and key outcomes, we compare states that did and did not adopt RPS policies, exploiting the substantial differences in timing of adoption. The estimates indicate that 7 years after passage of an RPS program, the required renewable share of generation is 1.8 percentage points higher and average retail electricity prices are 1.3 cents per kWh, or 11% higher; the comparable figures for 12 years after adoption are a 4.2 percentage point increase in renewables’ share and a price increase of 2.0 cents per kWh or 17%. These cost estimates significantly exceed the marginal operational costs of renewables and likely reflect costs that renewables impose on the generation system, including those associated with their intermittency, higher transmission costs, and any stranded asset costs assigned to ratepayers. The estimated reduction in carbon emissions is imprecise, but, together with the price results, indicates that the cost per metric ton of CO2 abated exceeds $130 in all specifications and ranges up to $460, making it least several times larger than conventional estimates of the social cost of carbon. These results do not rule out the possibility that RPS policies could dynamically reduce the cost of abatement in the future by causing improvements in renewable technology.

The relations between social network site use and Big Five traits were weak or nil; the moderator effects of study country and participant gender were mixed

Social network site use and Big Five personality traits: A meta-analysis. Chiungjung Huang. Computers in Human Behavior, Volume 97, August 2019, Pages 280-290.

•    The relations between social network site use and Big Five traits were weak or nil.
•    The moderator effects of study country and participant gender were mixed.
•    Effects of the rest of moderators were not supported.

Abstract: This meta-analysis summarized the relations between social network site use and neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness. Sixty-one articles comprising 67 independent samples (N = 22,899 participants) were identified. The overall correlations of social network site use with neuroticism (avg-r= 0.08) and extraversion (avg-r= 0.09) were about positively small, while conscientiousness had a negative and quite small correlation with social network site use with  avg-r = −0.04. Openness and agreeableness were not significantly correlated with social network site use with avg-r = −0.01. The effects of most moderators, including publication outlet, site participants spent time, scale of time spent, indicator of social network site use, Big Five measure, and participant age were not significant. In contrast, the effects of country where the study was conducted and participant gender were mixed.

Monday, April 22, 2019

A War Is Ending: Chinese energy industry asks to build 300–500 new coal power plants by 2030

China’s power industry calls for hundreds of new coal power plants by 2030. Lauri Myllyvirta. Greenpeace Unearthed, March 28 2019.

Under the proposal, the country could add a large coal power plant every 2 weeks for the next 12 years

The largest power producers in China have asked the government to allow for the development of between 300 and 500 new coal power plants by 2030 [...].


In its review of the government’s five-year-plan, China Electricity Council (CEC) – the influential industry body representing China’s power industry – recommended adopting a ‘cap’ for coal power capacity by 2030 — but the 1300GW limit proposed is 290GW higher than current capacity. The target is for the country’s coal-fired capacity to continue to grow until peaking in 2030.

The cap would enable China to build 2 large coal power stations a month for the next 12 years, and grow the country’s capacity by an amount nearly twice the size of Europe’s total coal capacity.


The Chinese government has not adopted the industry proposal, but it is under consideration.

[...] Both the China National Renewable Energy Center 2C scenario and the IEA Sustainable Development Scenario, a fairly unambitious emission reduction scenario that would be likely to lead to more than 2 degrees warming, have China’s thermal power capacity falling around 900GW by 2030 — a 200GW reduction from 2020 to 2030, as opposed to a 200GW increase proposed by the industry.

[I]n a scenario consistent with the reductions in coal use needed to meet the 1.5C target, China’s coal-fired capacity must fall by around 350GW from 2020 to 2030 to reach 680GW, taking the rapid development of renewable energy into consideration.

The capacity proposed by the CEC plan is therefore almost twice as high as the level consistent with 1.5C.

Analysis also suggests that at least 50GW of coal capacity will retire by 2030 – probably more like 200GW – which means that the gross addition of capacity under the CEC plan would be around 330GW to 470GW.

130GW is currently under construction in China (WHAT!!!! ***), with an additional 30-40GW of projects that already started construction but were suspended or delayed due to Beijing’s various overcapacity policies.


For context, the total German coal/lignite plant capacity is less than 50GW, while in Poland it is below 30 GW.

Full text, charts and links at

*** The Greenpeace writer pretends not to know about this: China is building coal power again. Feng Hao. China Dialogue, Sep 28 2018.
CoalSwarm published a report on September 26 warning that 259 gigawatts of coal power capacity – equivalent to the entire coal power fleet of the United States – is being built in China despite government policies restricting new builds.

Check also how a forensic examination of china’s national accounts 2008-2016 establish that growth was overstated by more than 13pct:
Chen, Wei, Xilu Chen, Chang-Tai Hseih and Zheng (Michael) Song. 2019. “A Forensic Examination of China’s National Accounts” BPEA Conference Draft, Spring.

If that is true, there is no incentive to close the door to coal.

And finally check how Pakistan's pivot to coal goes running with Chinese help: Plan to spend $35bn loan from China on new power stations looks set to continue under Khan
Pakistan’s pivot to coal to boost energy gets critics fired up. Kiran Stacey in Lahore July 31, 2018. Financial Times.

Evaluating the Impact of Ethnic Television on Political Participation: Access to Spanish‐language television is associated with decreases in turnout, ethnic civic participation, and political knowledge

Tuning In, Not Turning Out: Evaluating the Impact of Ethnic Television on Political Participation. Yamil Ricardo Velez, Benjamin J. Newman. American Journal of Political Science, April 15 2019.

Abstract: Despite the importance of ethnic television within immigrant communities, its effects on political participation are unclear. On the one hand, ethnic media can mobilize and inform voters. On the other hand, it can serve as a source of diversion and reduce the desire to participate. To evaluate these competing possibilities, we implement a geographic regression discontinuity (GRD) approach involving Federal Communication Commission reception boundaries for Spanish‐language television stations in two states. Additionally, we replicate and unpack our GRD analyses using three nationally representative samples of Latinos. Across multiple studies, we find that access to Spanish‐language television is associated with decreases in turnout, ethnic civic participation, and political knowledge. We conclude by discussing the implications of these findings on the ethnic politics, political communication, and social capital literatures.

Does state capacity lowers violence? The find that post office density is a strong, consistent, & negative predictor of dueling behavior

Jensen, Jeffrey and Ramey, Adam, Going Postal: State Capacity and Violent Dispute Resolution (March 13, 2019). SSRN,

Abstract: Scholars have long tried to understand the conditions under which actors choose to use violent versus non-violent means to settle disputes, and many argue that violence is more likely in weakly-institutionalized settings. Yet, there is little evidence showing that increases in state capacity lowers the use of violent informal institutions to resolve disputes. Utilizing a novel dataset of violence --- specifically, duels --- across American states in the 19th Century, we use the spread of federal post offices as an identification strategy to investigate the importance of state capacity for the incidence of violent dispute resolution. We find that post office density is a strong, consistent, and negative predictor of dueling behavior. Our evidence contributes to a burgeoning literature on the importance of state capacity for development outcomes.

Keywords: Violence, Dueling, Political Economy, American Political Development
JEL Classification: K42, N31, O17

Trait grandiose narcissism positively predicted helping but narcissistic rivalry predicted it negatively; participants reported more helping on days they felt more narcissistic, but only if mood was low

State and trait narcissism predict everyday helping. Siyin Chen, Rebecca Friesdorf & Christian H. Jordan. Self and Identity, Apr 22 2019.

ABSTRACT: Though grandiose narcissism may seem incompatible with prosocial behavior, evidence of how they relate is mixed. We extend research on this relation by (1) assessing everyday helping, (2) distinguishing narcissistic admiration and rivalry, and (3) assessing state narcissism. Using daily diary methodology and multilevel modeling (N = 380; total observations = 4292), we assess trait narcissism (grandiose, admiration and rivalry), state narcissism, and daily helping over 14 days. Trait grandiose narcissism positively predicted helping but narcissistic rivalry predicted it negatively. State narcissism also positively predicted helping: Participants reported more helping on days they felt more narcissistic. Mood, however, interacted with state narcissism: state narcissism predicted greater helping when daily mood was low but not high.

KEYWORDS: Grandiose narcissism, state narcissism, prosocial behavior

Check also how they found a positive relationship between the endorsement of good citizenship (voting, paying taxes, staying informed, etc.) and narcissism: Who makes a good citizen? The role of personality. Scott Pruysers, Julie Blais, Phillip G.Chen. Personality and Individual Differences. Volume 146, 1 August 2019, Pages 99-104.

The Emergence of Modern Languages: Has Human Self-Domestication Optimized Language Transmission?

The Emergence of Modern Languages: Has Human Self-Domestication Optimized Language Transmission? Antonio Benítez-Burraco and Vera Kempe. Front. Psychol., April 17 2018.


Our uniquely human ability to learn and use languages (aka language-readiness) has been hypothesized to result from species-specific changes in brain development and wiring that habilitated a new neural workspace supporting cross-modular thinking, among other abilities (Boeckx and Benítez-Burraco, 2014; see Arbib, 2012, 2017 for a similar view). Strikingly, behavioral modernity did not emerge on a par with cognitive modernity. On the contrary, it is only well after our split from Neanderthals and Denisovans that modern behavior becomes evident around the world (see Mellars et al., 2007; but also Hoffmann et al., 2018; for tentative evidence of behavioral modernity in Neanderthals). This emergence of modern behavior has been linked to the rise of modern languages, i.e., exhibiting features such as elaborate syntax including extensive use of recursion. The potential of these languages to convey sophisticated meanings and know-how in ways that allows sharing of knowledge with others is assumed to have arisen in a reciprocal relationship with complex cultural practices (Sinha, 2015a,b; Tattersall, 2017). Thus, even if not its main trigger, complex language is at the very least a by-product and facilitator of modern behavior.

Because the human brain and human cognition have remained substantially unmodified since our origins, behavioral modernity and modern languages are assumed to be the product of cultural evolution via niche construction (Sinha, 2009, 2015b; Fogarty and Creanza, 2017). This may include feedback effects of culture on our cognitive architecture in the form of the creation of “cognitive gadgets” (Clarke and Heyes, 2017) through small modifications in learning and data-acquisition mechanisms like attentional focus or memory resources (Lotem et al., 2017), but without involving significant neuro-anatomical changes (Figure 1). However, this explanation may be insufficient: Recent research suggests that aspects of the human distinctive globular skull and brain might have evolved gradually within our species in response to accompanying genetic changes, reaching present-day human variation between about 100 and 35 thousand years ago (kya), in parallel with the emergence of behavioral modernity (Neubauer et al., 2018). Thus, it may not be entirely appropriate to equate neuro-anatomical modernity with cognitive modernity; instead, the language-ready brain can be conceived of as a brain with the potential for cognitive modernity. Here we argue that these neuro-anatomical and concomitant behavioral changes are largely manifestations of human self-domestication, which constitutes a possible pathway toward cognitive modernity and sophisticated linguistic abilities. We focus specifically on parenting and teaching behaviors as foundations of cultural transmission processes that may have facilitated the exploitation of our cognitive potential and, ultimately, the emergence of modern languages.

From things to thinking: Cognitive archaeology

From things to thinking: Cognitive archaeology. Adrian Currie, Anton Killin. Mind & Language, March 13 2019.

Abstract: Cognitive archaeologists infer from material remains to the cognitive features of past societies. We characterize cognitive archaeology in terms of trace‐based reasoning, which in the case of cognitive archaeology involves inferences drawing upon background theory linking objects from the archaeological record to cognitive (including psychological, symbolic, and ideological) features. We analyse such practices, examining work on cognitive evolution, language, and musicality. We argue that the central epistemic challenge for cognitive archaeology is often not a paucity of material remains, but insufficient constraint from cognitive theories. However, we also argue that the success of cognitive archaeology does not necessarily require well‐developed cognitive theories: Success might instead lead to them.

From 2017... The material record and the antiquity of language: Material proxies show symbolism was adopted subsequent to origin of H. sapiens; the driver of symbolic thought was probably spontaneous invention of language

From 2017: The material record and the antiquity of language. Ian Tattersall. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, Volume 81, Part B, October 2017, Pages 247-254.

•    Symbolic thought is detectable only via symbolic material proxies
•    These show symbolism was adopted subsequent to origin of H. sapiens
•    Driver of symbolic thought was probably spontaneous invention of language

Abstract: One view of language origins sees it as ancient and selection-driven; the other as recent and emergent. Such disagreement occurs because language is ephemeral, detectable only by indirect proxies. Because internalized language and symbolic thought are tightly linked, the best archaeological proxies for language are symbolic objects. Nothing indicates convincingly that any hominid behaved symbolically prior to Homo sapiens, which originated 200 kyr ago but started behaving symbolically only 100 kyr later. Most probably the necessary neural underpinnings arose exaptively in the extensive developmental reorganization that gave rise to anatomically distinctive Homo sapiens, and were recruited subsequently via a necessarily behavioral stimulus. This was most plausibly the spontaneous invention of externalized language, in an isolate of Homo sapiens in Africa, that initiated a feedback process between externalized structured language and internalized language/organized thought. These subsequently spread in tandem throughout a species already biologically predisposed for them. Despite its qualitatively remarkable result, this exaptive process would have been perfectly routine and unremarkable in terms of evolutionary mechanism.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Italy, 1285-1550: The Renaissance art market was to a large extent competitive, and that an important determinant of artistic innovation was related to economic incentives

The Economics of Renaissance Art. Federico Etro. Ca' Foscari University of Venice, July 2017.

Abstract: I analyze the Renaissance art market in Italy through a unique dataset on primary commissions between 1285 and 1550. Hedonic regressions on the real price of paintings allow me to advance evidencethat the art market was to a large extent competitive, and that an important determinant of artistic innovation during Renaissance was related to economic incentives. Price differentials reflected quality differentials as perceived at the time (whose proxy is the length of the biography of Vasari, in the 1568 Edition of his Vite) and did not depend on the regional destination of the commissions, as expected under monopolistic competition with free entry. I show an inverse-U relation between prices and ageof execution, which is consistent with a reputational theory of artistic effort, and a substantial increase of the real price of paintings since the 1420s. The latter suggests that artistic differentiation, deeper realism and innovations (as linear perspective) may have been driven by increasing profitability of the profession.
It was in Florence more than in any other place that men became perfect in all the arts,especially in painting, since in that city men are spurred by three things. The first is censure,which is uttered freely and by many... The second is that, if a man wishes to live there, he must be industrious, which is naught else than to say that he must continually exercise his intelligence and his judgment, must be ready and adroit in his affairs, and, finally, must know how to make money... The third, which is perchance no less potent than the others, is an eagerdesire for glory and honor (Vasari, 1568)
Keywords: Renaissance, Economic theory of art history

Puritanism in the Soviet Union: Re-printing of a 1997 book, Eric Naiman's "Sex in Public: The Incarnation of Early Soviet Ideology."

Puritanism in the Soviet Union: Re-printing of a 1997 book, Eric Naiman's "Sex in Public: The Incarnation of Early Soviet Ideology."

Princeton University Press, Legacy Edition, Mar 2019,

On 1 January 1925, Izvestiia published an attack on a new book by Martyn Liadov, the rector of Sverdlov Communist University, the highest Party school.1 In this work, based on a series of lectures to communist cadres under his tutelage, the rector had revealed that nonseasonal sexual desire and, implicitly, menstruation had been inflicted by capitalism on the female body. "In no animal," he had explainded, "is sexuality a dominant emotion throughout the whole year. It appears only at a  specific time, during the female's spring head. [...] For a prolonged historical period (and this is clear from a wide range of historical sources) man, like all other animals, mated only once a year. [...] When a market economy developed, when private property began to be accumulated, then woman, too, was transformed into private propoerty and had to be prepared to satisfy her master's demand at any time."2 Refuting Liadov (a noted Party historian) and Aron Zalking (a "psychoneurologist" who frequently published articles about sex in the Komsomol press), the Soviet health commissar, Nikolai Semashko, charged in Izvestiia that they were turning Marx "inside out" in their ignorance of basic biological and historical facts. [...]

I didn't expect such numbers: Found a high prevalence of rape (13.06%) in women having chronic migrane, and 30% of refractory migraine

High Prevalence of Rape and Sexual Abuse among Chronic and Refractory Migraine Patients (P3.10-010). Agustin Oterino Duran, Maria Toriello, Fernando Iglesias, Fernando Hoyuela, Sara Perez-Pereda, Vicente Gonzalez-Quintanilla, Olga Umaran, Javier-Gonzalo Ocejo. Neurology, April 09, 2019; 92 (15 Supplement) May 7, 2019.


Objective: To analyze the prevalence of early adverse experiences and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among migraine patients in an outpatient migraine-dedicated clinic.

Background: PTSD has a prevalence of 22% among migraineurs, hardly increasing the risk for higher disability. Adverse childhood experiences (ACE) have been associated with migraine and had a strong correlation with migraine severity.

Design/Methods: We prospectively analyzed the prevalence of PTSD in a hospital-based migraine-dedicated outpatient clinic. We randomly selected 64 subjects among aproximately 1000 subjects attended a year. Self-administered MIDAS, Beck Anxiety (BAI), and Depression (BDI) inventories, Fatigue Scale (FS), and Traumatic Questionaire (TQ) were obtained from all patients. Chi2, t-test, and non-parametric tests were used.

Results: After informed consent, a total of 64 patients 46 CM (10 had refractory migraine [RM[) mean of age 45.00±8.5y) and 18 frequent, episodic migraine (39.17±11.7y; p=0.036). MIDAS was higher in CM (91.65±77.0) than EM (50.7±29.9; p=0.032) and higher number of headache days (CM=61.65±23.7; EM=36.75±20.9; p=0.014). BDI, BAI, and FS showed no differences among EM, CM nor RM. TQ was positively answered in 13/18 EM, and in 31/46 CM (n.s.). A total of 5 subjects recognized having been raped (3 RM, 2 CM); 2 suffered incest. Physical abuse was recognized in 11 patients (6 CM, 3 RM, and 2 EM); 8 suffered severe aggression (6MC, 1RM, 1EM);16 recognized mobbing, bulling, or psychological misconduct (14 MC, 1 RM, 1 EM). We found no differences in SF-12 both physical (EM=36.68±9.7; CM=35.4±8.9) and mental dimensions (EM=42.36±11.3; CM=40.17±11.2). SF-12 components inversely correlated with PTSD, BDI, BAI, and FSS scores (for all p<0.01).

Conclusions: We found a high prevalence of rape (13.06%) in women having CM, and 30% of RM. PTSD was associated with more disabling migraine.

We suggest that antecedents of sexual abuse, physical abuse, and violation could be routinally addressed in chronic migraine to undergo specific psychological therapies.

Estimated and final cost subsidies in New York City's new ferry: From an initial subsidy of $6.60 per trip, the final cost is $24.75 per trip (plus $2.75 that each passenger must pay)

A Ferry Subsidy of $24.75 a Ride? New York City’s Costs Are Ballooning. Patrick McGeehan. The New York Times, Apr 17 2019,


One of the new routes Mr. de Blasio announced this year — between Coney Island and Wall Street — is projected to require a subsidy from the city of $24.75 for every passenger, according to a report from the Citizens Budget Commission, a nonpartisan, nonprofit civic organization.

The commission said that the average subsidy for each passenger in the system’s first year of operation was $10.73, far more than the $6.60 subsidy the de Blasio administration originally estimated.

City officials say the subsidy will fall as the system attracts more riders. They now project that it will drop to less than $8 per passenger, after the addition in the next two years of routes to Coney Island, the North Shore of Staten Island and Ferry Point Park in the Bronx.

But that forecast hinges on an estimate that two million riders a year will opt to pay $2.75 to ride from Staten Island to the West Side of Midtown when they can get to Lower Manhattan on the city-run Staten Island Ferry for free.


Although it would cost $27.50 per person to ride the ferry from Coney Island to Wall Street, according to the Citizens Budget Commission’s report, the estimated 1,100 commuters will only pay $2.75.


Divergence of female & male genitalia can occur in early stages, not only at later stages of speciation (after the accumulation of other reproductive isolating barriers)

Correlated divergence of female and male genitalia in replicated lineages with ongoing ecological speciation. Ryan Greenway et al. Evolution, April 16 2019.

ABSTRACT: Divergence of genital traits among lineages has the potential to serve as a reproductive isolating barrier when copulation, insemination, or fertilization are inhibited by incompatibilities between female and male genitalia. Despite widespread evidence for genital trait diversity among closely related lineages and coevolution of female and male genitalia within lineages, few studies have investigated genital evolution during the early stages of speciation. We quantified genital variation in replicated population pairs of Poecilia mexicana with ongoing ecological speciation between sulfidic (H2S‐containing) and nearby non‐sulfidic habitats. These analyses revealed rapid and correlated divergence of female and male genitalia across evolutionarily independent population pairs exposed to divergent selection regimes. Both sexes exhibited convergent evolution of genital traits among populations inhabiting similar habitat types. Our results demonstrate that genital evolution can occur during the early stages of speciation‐with‐gene‐flow, potentially as a result of variation in the intensity of sexual conflict among populations. Our results suggest genitalia may contribute to early stages of divergence, and challenge the generality of previously suggested mechanisms of genital evolution in poeciliids.

Keywords: convergence, genital evolution, reproductive  isolation, Poecilia mexicana, reinforcement, sexual isolation

Divergence of genital traits has been hypothesized to serve as an effective reproductive isolating barrier when successful copulation, insemination, or fertilization are inhibited or prevented due to incompatibilities between the genitalia of males and females from different lineages [...]. Even though genitalia are among the most rapidly evolving morphological traits (Eberhard 1985), with concomitant implications for the evolution of reproductive isolation [...], the timing and role of mechanical isolation via genital divergence as a barrier to gene flow during speciation remains unclear (Langerhans et al. 2016; Yassin 2016). [...] Few studies have explicitly investigated patterns of genital evolution during early stages of the speciation process [...]. As a result, the question remains whether genital divergence can contribute to reproductive isolation early in the speciation process, or if genital divergence occurs only at later stages of speciation, after the accumulation of other reproductive isolating barriers (e.g., as a consequence of reinforcement upon secondary contact).

[...] Populations of P. mexicana have independently colonized toxic, hydrogen sulfide(H2S)-rich springs in multiple tributaries of the Río Grijalva in southern Mexico (Greenway et al.2014). Sulfide spring fishes are locally adapted and differ from ancestral populations in adjacent non-sulfidic habitats in physiological, morphological, behavioral, and life-history traits(Tobler et al. 2018). Trait divergence includes changes in sexual behaviors(less coercive mating attempts in sulfidic populations; Plath et al. 2003; Plath 2008)as well as aggression and boldness (both reduced in sulfidic populations; Riesch et al. 2009; Bierbach et al. 2017), which could influence genital evolution. Populationsin sulfidespringsare also genetically differentiated from neighboring populations in non-sulfidic habitats despite a lack of physical barriers(Plath et al. 2013). Reproductive isolation between populationsin different habitat typesis in part facilitated by natural selection against migrants, as reciprocal translocation experiments revealed strong selection against migrants from non-sulfidic habitats into sulfide springs, as well as varying levels of selection against sulfidic individuals moving into non-sulfidic habitats (Plath et al. 2013). Additionally, mate choice experiments have revealed significant association preferences for individuals of the same ecotype in non-sulfidic females from populations adjacent to sulfide springs (Plath et al. 2013), which arelinked to adaptive differences in body shape that serve as cues (Greenway et al. 2016). Importantly, neither sulfidic females nor femalesfrom non-sulfidic populations in river drainages lacking sulfide spring populations exhibit significant association preferences, suggesting that reinforcement ( selection for assortative mating) may have shaped female association preferences (Greenway et al. 2016). However, the observed strengths of natural selection against immigrants and assortative mating preferences alone are not strong enough to explain the low observed levels of gene flow (Plath et al. 2013), indicating that other reproductive isolating barriers, such as genital incompatibilities, likely contribute to the strong reproductive isolation observed between populations (Bierbach et al. 2017).

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Chimpanzees: The alpha male never directed aggression towards the infant; rather, he displayed attentive behaviours (holding the infant to his chest, supporting her while moving, grooming her)

Infant carrying by a wild chimpanzee father at Bulindi, Uganda. Marie Cibot et al. Primates, April 20 2019.

Abstract: Although infanticide by wild adult male chimpanzees has been reported from multiple sites, affiliative infant carrying by males is rare. We observed infant carrying by an alpha male chimpanzee at Bulindi (Uganda) on two consecutive mornings and collected faecal samples from the newborn infant female, her mother and all candidate fathers to determine whether the alpha male was the infant’s father using a likelihood-based method of paternity assignment. In contrast to previous observations of male care of orphans, in this case the mother was present during observations. Further, unlike reports of male aggression towards infants, the infant was reunited with her mother on the third morning, and survived. Neither mother nor infant presented visible injuries. The alpha male never directed aggression towards the infant. Rather, he displayed attentive behaviours, for example by holding the infant to his chest, supporting her while moving, grooming her, and ‘cuddling’ and ‘rocking’ her. Paternity results revealed with a high degree of certainty that the alpha male was the infant’s father. There are several alternative explanations for the male’s behaviour, but this unusual case also highlights the need for further studies to determine under what circumstances adult male chimpanzees can recognise their own offspring.

Keywords: Infant carrying Paternity Pan troglodytes Bulindi Uganda

U.S. Strength and Alliance Relationships: The World's Most Successful Nonproliferation Tools?

U.S. Strength and Alliance Relationships: The World's Most Successful Nonproliferation Tools? Christopher Ashley Ford, US State Dept. Apr 18 2019.

Remarks by Dr. Christopher Ashley Ford, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation
Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, Capitol Hill Club
Washington, DC, April 18, 2019

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you, Peter, for your kind introduction.

In my line of work, I speak frequently about the importance of the global nonproliferation regime, and about the security benefits that institutions such as the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) provide to all States Party – and indeed, especially to the non-nuclear weapon states, insofar as the nonproliferation regime helps keep their regional neighbors and rivals from acquiring nuclear weapons. I also emphasize that it is the foundation of nonproliferation commitments and of standards for nuclear safety and security practices provided by that regime that makes worldwide sharing the benefits of peaceful nuclear technology possible and helps create the possibility of moving further toward nuclear disarmament. In my corner of the State Department, we work continually to maintain and improve the nonproliferation norms, institutions, and practices that help make all this possible.

Nevertheless, I’d like to speak today about another critical aspect of the global nonproliferation regime, albeit one that isn’t frequently talked as such. I refer to the United States’ alliance relationships, and to the deterrence and reassurance dynamics that result from our maintenance of a strong conventional and nuclear military posture.

To be sure, U.S. officials frequently refer to the impact our global “extended deterrence” relationships have had over the decades in helping prevent nuclear weapons proliferation. One hears this less, though, from foreign officials, and people don’t usually talk of U.S. military power and alliance relationships as being part of the global nonproliferation regime itself.

But I would submit that this aspect of the nonproliferation regime is exceedingly important, and should be discussed more widely. I’d like to dwell on this theme a little bit today, to you here at this breakfast, for I believe that no serious understanding of the global nonproliferation regime can ignore the importance and the impact of U.S. power as a nonproliferation tool. In fact, U.S. power is perhaps the world’s most successful nonproliferation tool – and we should not let ourselves forget this.

I. Forestalling an Anticipated Cascade of Proliferation

Students of Cold War nuclear history will know that highly classified U.S. intelligence estimates of proliferation potential in the 1950s and 1960s highlighted the danger that many countries would develop nuclear weapons. A number of National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) from the period have been declassified and publicly released, and you can find them on line fairly easily.

If you do, you’ll see an amazing number of places identified during those years as likely to acquire the ability to develop such weapons – and perhaps indeed increasingly likely to choose to do so as others progressively weaponized. NIEs from that era, for instance, discuss the possibility of weaponization in Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Czechoslovakia, France, East Germany, West Germany, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Japan, Pakistan, Poland, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the United Arab Republic (that is, present-day Egypt and Syria).

Thank goodness, nothing nearly so dramatic as that potential cascade of proliferation actually occurred, though of course a small number of countries did eventually end up weaponizing. Commentators are quite right to give much credit for this to the NPT – which entered into force half a century ago next year – and to the institutions built up around and in relation to that treaty. And they do deserve much credit for forestalling the proliferation catastrophe that was initially feared.

But it is not the NPT alone that deserves credit. To give further credit where it is due, the Soviet Union actually helped, by policing its allies during the Cold War to prevent them from developing independent nuclear weapons capabilities. Of course, one might have wished that Moscow had been less willing to support and encourage China’s nuclear weapons program in the 1950s – but at least Nikita Khrushchev eventually thought better of this before fulfilling his previous promise to give Beijing a prototype nuclear weapon just before Mao Zedong began starving millions of his subjects to death during the so-called “Great Leap Forward.” On the whole, however, the Soviets quite properly recognized their own interest – and a common global interest – in preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and Moscow was for the most part willing to act on this understanding, not least in cooperating with the United States in jointly drafting the NPT.

One might also wish that modern China and Russia took nonproliferation more seriously today. Beijing’s continued willingness to permit Chinese serial proliferators, such as Li Fangwei (also known as Karl Lee) to engage in transfers to Iran’s ballistic missile program – and Moscow’s current diplomatic assault upon global institutions for WMD control and accountability at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the United Nations, and the International Atomic Energy Agency – are nothing short of shameful. Whatever the reasons for this behavior – whether it is mere laxity in support of nonproliferation norms or deliberate efforts to appease their clients and counter U.S. influence – I think history will not treat them kindly for undermining the U.S.-led world order that has kept the peace and ensured prosperity since the Second World War. But Soviet power, at least, does deserve some credit for helping forestall the cascade of proliferation of which those early U.S. NIEs warned.

That said, however, it is worth stressing the great – and, ultimately, much more important – degree to which United States alliances and military posture, both conventional and nuclear, played a pivotal role in preventing the worst of what the Central Intelligence Agency worried in a 1966 NIE could be a cascade of “snowballing” of proliferation. Remembering the potency of U.S. global power as a nonproliferation tool is important not just so that we can really understand this history, but also because U.S. power is still a potent nonproliferation tool in ways that it would be unwise, or perhaps tragic, for present-day policymakers and the public to forget or to dismiss.

II. United States Power as a Nonproliferation Instrument

If you think back over the list I just read of the governments the 1950s and 1960s NIEs identified as potential future proliferators, I think it will be hard not to be struck by the extent to which many of them ended up being covered in various formal or informal ways under the so-called “nuclear umbrella” of U.S. “extended deterrence” during the Cold War, and thereafter. For quite a few countries, U.S. security relationships were critical factors in persuading them that, notwithstanding their growing degree of technological sophistication and access to the requisite materials, nuclear weaponization was unnecessary and needlessly risky.

As a serving U.S. government official, I have to be careful about what I say in this regard, but these issues have been discussed and documented in the academic literature for some years – so I would encourage you to consult such works to fill in any gaps that I may have to leave here today. But it is notably clear now not only that quite a few countries were forestalled from beginning to explore indigenous weaponization as a result of U.S. security guarantees, but also that a combination of U.S. security assurances and diplomatic pressure not to weaponize led a number of countries actually to abandon nuclear weapons programs that were already underway. Nonproliferation norms do not enforce themselves, and it is important to remember the critical role that U.S. power and diplomacy played in preventing the number of nuclear weapons possessors in the world today from being considerably higher.

U.S. military posture helped forestall certain countries’ weaponization choices in various ways. NATO’s so-called “nuclear burden sharing” that entails the forward deployment of U.S. non-strategic nuclear weapons to Europe as a component of NATO’s nuclear deterrent, for instance, was designed to enhance deterrence by confronting the Soviets with a higher likelihood of nuclear response to any territorial aggression against NATO, even if Moscow’s intercontinental assets were somehow to deter an American strategic response because this might lead to retaliation against U.S. cities. But this arrangement also had the clear purpose of promoting nonproliferation, inasmuch as it helped persuade NATO allies that their security needs could and would be met without the need for indigenous nuclear weaponization, despite persistent threats from Moscow. NATO’s ultimate choice of this nuclear policy, in other words, augmented both deterrence and nonproliferation – in both cases, thankfully, quite successfully.

Tellingly, Moscow, itself recognized and accepted this enormous nonproliferation benefit from NATO’s nuclear policy, despite efforts by the current Russian regime to pretend otherwise. This can clearly be seen in now-declassified NATO and U.S. documents, such as the records from the U.S.-Soviet working group on negotiating the language that ultimately became Article I of the NPT.

Specifically, a September 1966 memorandum from that working group memorializes the Soviet delegation’s abandonment of its previous insistence upon language that would not only have prohibited the transfer to any non-nuclear weapon state of nuclear weapons themselves or control over them (as the NPT currently does), but also would have prevented consultation and planning for contingencies. This is why the NPT’s Article I has never presented any legal bar to NATO’s nuclear policy. One can attribute the 1966 Soviet concession in large part to Moscow’s grudging appreciation that NATO’s approach was key to dissuading NATO countries such as West Germany from pursuing weaponization of their own – as well as of the fact that the alternative to having NATO nuclear sharing blessed by Article I was something Moscow liked even less, namely, the then proposed “Multilateral Nuclear Force.”

But the nonproliferation benefit of U.S. military power and security policy was not limited to NATO members alone. Elsewhere in Western Europe outside NATO, U.S. security assurances helped lead to the abandonment of exploratory nuclear weapons programs in multiple additional countries. In East Asia, too, at least two governments abandoned their nuclear weapons programs as a result of a combination of U.S. pressure and U.S. military reassurances.

These various proliferation “dogs that didn’t bark” – if you’ll permit me to borrow from the Sherlock Holmes tale The Hound of the Baskervilles – are a critical aspect of our collective nonproliferation history. The nuclear weapons programs that didn’t happen, or that stopped, as a result of U.S. power and diplomatic engagement in deterring aggression and dissuading weaponization are today thankfully invisible. However, they are a huge part of the story of how the global nonproliferation regime managed to prevent the parade of proliferation problems about which so many U.S. NIEs worried so grimly in the 1950s and 1960s.

III. Conclusion

I believe this is an important lesson for us to remember here at today’s breakfast as we explore trends in and implications of developments in nuclear posture and policy among the various possessor states in this modern, 21st century context. Many of the most challenging aspects of the nuclear world today relate to the re-emergence and resurgence of great power competition, and its various manifestations in nuclear postures. Some of these dynamics are new, for we are all clearly in a very different strategic place in 2019 than U.S. leaders had hoped and expected to be as they looked forward at the nuclear future during the initial post-Cold War period.

But as we Americans work to cope with this novelty, and to re-learn how to devise and implement a sober and effective competitive strategy against aggressive Great Power rivals, we must also not forget the past. In particular, I would urge you to remember the ways in which our own conventional and nuclear military power has historically served not merely our own security interests, but also the broader interests of international peace and security by helping forestall the proliferation of mankind’s most dangerous weapons and thus greatly reducing the risk of nuclear conflict.

Critically, this impact is not purely historical, for such dynamics continue to operate in today’s world. As we contemplate how best to meet our national security needs and keep the peace, therefore, I urge you to keep these lessons in mind. The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review was quite clear in this regard. A strong U.S. nuclear posture not only defends our allies against conventional and nuclear threats, but also helps allies forgo the need to develop their own nuclear arsenals. We are resolutely dedicated to ensuring that the United States’ strength in the world remains unquestioned and that this might continues to be used both to protect the lives and interests of the American people and to reduce proliferation dangers worldwide.

Thank you.

 Nuclear Disarmament Colloquium: Closing Remarks. Christopher Ashley Ford. Geneva, Switzerland, April 15, 2019.

Dr. Christopher Ashley Ford, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation

Excellencies, ladies, and gentlemen, I want to start by thanking Ambassador Gabrielse, Tom Coppen, and their colleagues from the Netherlands for organizing today’s colloquium, and for their tireless work to elevate global disarmament discourse. While multilateral fora are often the most visible stages upon which debates over nuclear disarmament play out, it is unfortunately also too often the case that diplomats on the disarmament and nonproliferation circuit simply repeat the same stale formulae for years at a time. The traditional discourse has become so frequently repetitive that many of us who do this a lot, especially in places such as the Conference on Disarmament here in Geneva, could probably give each other’s speeches from memory if we had to — or a good facsimile thereof, at any rate.

Especially right now, however — in a period in which, notwithstanding the remarkable disarmament progress that has been made since the end of the Cold War, global security conditions are deteriorating rather than improving — it seems very clear that more creativity and initiative are needed if our collective disarmament discourse is to be relevant to the challenges that we actually face in the world. Accordingly, it is wonderfully refreshing to see hybrid diplomatic and academic conferences, such as this one, exploring new ideas and providing nuanced thinking in support of a new and more constructive discourse.

Accordingly, I wish to thank today’s presenters. Perhaps never has the discourse around nuclear disarmament been in greater need of fresh thinking — something that all of you have contributed today. These discussions could hardly be more timely, and it is fantastic that my Dutch colleagues have so successfully pulled this event together.

You can be sure that your contributions here will certainly not go to waste; to the contrary, I have every confidence that they will be valuable contributions to the debates and discussions that will soon be getting underway through the “Creating the Environment for Nuclear Disarmament” (CEND) initiative. CEND, of course, is aimed at bringing countries together in a constructive dialogue exploring ways in which it might be possible to ameliorate conditions in the global security environment so as to make that environment more conducive to further progress toward — and indeed, ultimately to achieve — nuclear disarmament.

From a U.S. perspective, we shared some of our ideas about the CEND initiative in a Working Paper at last year’s NPT Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) meeting, and in follow-up discussions at Wilton Park in the UK last December. I also look forward to having much more to say at this year’s PrepCom in New York about how we hope to operationalize this effort, as well as about the kind of questions it might be useful for the CEND working group to address. Nevertheless, we recognize that progress depends on this being a shared endeavor, taking into account other concepts and perspectives. Accordingly, I am gratified by the constructive responses and new ideas presented at this colloquium, which will enrich our future dialogue.

There have been so many interesting contributions here today that it’s hard to know where to start, and your collective insights defy easy summary. But I have been struck by the recurrence of some themes in these discussions — themes that I suspect it will be important for us all to remember as we continue to engage with these matters. A few that struck me, in no particular order:

    The importance of security dynamics and dilemmas in affecting nuclear weapons-related decisions, as well as the “messy” and politically idiosyncratic ways in which such decisions are made in practice — which makes clear that disarmament-focused decisions need to be alive to factors and considerations in addition to the usual sort of debates over the existence, non-existence, or numbers of the nuclear weapons themselves;

    An apparent tension between approaches — and choices of institutional fora for resolving disarmament problems — that rely heavily upon great power choices and participants and approaches that stress more “democratized” answers involving broader participation;

    A tension between the idea of nuclear disarmament to reduce the risk of nuclear war and the fear that such a move could open the door once again to non-nuclear war, raising questions about how the international community is to cope with the challenges of maintaining security in a disarmed environment;

    Unresolved questions about how to enforce any elimination of nuclear weapons;

    Paradoxical dynamics with respect to how emerging technologies and other forms of WMD affect disarmament issues — such as by simultaneously seeming to encourage some to conclude that nuclear deterrence is more necessary than ever in the face of such novel threats, while encouraging others to conclude that the risks of deterrence breakdown are high enough that disarmament is more attractive than ever; and

    The importance of how disarmament dilemmas and questions are framed and understood for consideration and decision, suggesting that the development and maintenance of narratives of disarmament — one way or the other — is a critical element of how the international community struggles with these matters.

Such thematic issue-spotting just scratches the surface, of course. But I can assure you that these discussions here today will be carefully studied, and I look forward to engaging more with you along these lines in the months ahead.

It is hard to overstate how important it is that thoughtful people continue to make new contributions to a new disarmament discourse. Let me be blunt. The global disarmament debate needs more efforts like this — and more contributions such as what you have offered here today.

It seems clear to me that traditional approaches to disarmament are not meeting the pressing needs of today’s world, just as it is clear that some of the more new-fangled approaches that have arisen out of some countries’ frustration with even more disarmament not having occurred cannot meet these needs. I would argue that, traditional approaches, at least of the sort which we were fortunate to be able to employ in earlier post-Cold War years, have largely run out of steam — both because the many weapons made unnecessary by the end of Cold War tensions have now already been dismantled, and because conditions in the global security environment are today worsening rather than improving.

As I stated earlier, today’s discussions could not have been timelier. Two weeks from today, most of the nations of the world will come together for the third and final Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. There, the United States will detail its vision for operationalizing the CEND concept. From there, it will be up to the initiative’s participants to set the agenda and determine the mandate for the CEWG and its functional subgroups. Your inputs — both today and going forward — are vital to ensuring that this process reaches its full potential and reveals avenues for real progress on long-stalled efforts toward nuclear disarmament.

As we work with international partners to make this emerging dialogue a reality, I think the approach and the insights that animate today’s colloquium are precisely the right ones. I think we all share a commitment to bringing into being a world that is not only free of nuclear weapons, but is also one in which all people are safer and more secure than today. But these concepts are not necessarily synonymous — and that is why CEND’s focus upon the security environment is so important.

For my part, I do not want a world free of nuclear weapons merely in ways analogous to how the world of 1942 was free of them. That is, I do not seek a future world that might have temporarily banished “the Bomb,” but which remains susceptible to catastrophic, non-nuclear conflict between great powers — conflict that would not just be capable of killing millions itself, but which would create powerful incentives for countries to tumble back toward nuclear weaponization, arms races, and even nuclear use. Nor, of course, do I want a world that has eliminated nuclear weapons merely by setting them off in a cataclysmic nuclear war, after which the shattered remnants of humanity might be left essentially unable to rebuild such arsenals for a considerable period of time. Those are clearly not the right ways to do it!

Disarmament efforts that ignore the security dynamics of the real world in which actual countries make actual nuclear-related decisions — or efforts that disdain grappling with the challenges of prudent and effective nuclear posture for so long as such devices still exist, or with the challenges of preventing aggression and conflict thereafter — are approaches that are doomed to failure. We need a better sort of disarmament than that.

As I think some of the themes of today’s discussions have helped make clear, doing disarmament effectively, and doing it sustainably, requires engagement with hard questions of stability and security, and must explore the entanglement of nuclear questions with the myriad power and security dynamics of a troubled world. This, notably, will ask of us a kind of far-sighted multilateral dialogue about security conditions — and their potential amelioration — that has previously been in tragically short supply in the disarmament community. Nevertheless, we are working to change that, as this colloquium helps to demonstrate.

And so, I say “thank you” to all of you here today. Thank you for your interest in exploring such a dialogue; thank you for the insights you have shared here today about the challenges and possibilities of such a way forward; and thank you for your willingness to contribute to this great effort at the outset of what I hope will be a continuing and very productive journey together.

Please know that the United States is listening with great interest to your thoughtful insights, your fresh ideas, and your sincere critiques — and that you can count on me to continue to engage in future such efforts in the months and years ahead.

Thank you.

Optimal Well-Being After Major Depression: Only 10% of adults with study-documented depression were thriving 10 years later. To me, it is depressing to hear about that 10pct

Optimal Well-Being After Major Depression. Jonathan Rottenberg et al. Clinical Psychological Science, February 8, 2019.

Abstract: Can people achieve optimal well-being and thrive after major depression? Contemporary epidemiology dismisses this possibility, viewing depression as a recurrent, burdensome condition with a bleak prognosis. To estimate the prevalence of thriving after depression in United States adults, we used data from the Midlife Development in the United States study. To count as thriving after depression, a person had to exhibit no evidence of major depression and had to exceed cutoffs across nine facets of psychological well-being that characterize the top 25% of U.S. nondepressed adults. Overall, nearly 10% of adults with study-documented depression were thriving 10 years later. The phenomenon of thriving after depression has implications for how the prognosis of depression is conceptualized and for how mental health professionals communicate with patients. Knowing what makes thriving outcomes possible offers new leverage points to help reduce the global burden of depression.

Keywords: depression, emotion, epidemiology, happiness

Popular version: APS, Mar 17 2019,

Internet connection frequency features are positively correlated with academic performance, whereas traffic volume features are negatively associated

Prediction of academic performance associated with Internet usage behaviors using machine learning algorithms. Xing Xu et al. Computers in Human Behavior, April 20 2019.

•    New metrics to assess student’s academic performance are proposed.
•    Real Internet usage data of 4000 undergraduate students were calculated.
•    Undergraduate student’s academic performance can be differentiated and predicted from Internet usage behaviors.
•    Behavior discipline plays a vital role in student’s academic success.
•    Prediction accuracy generally increases with added features.

Abstract: College students are facilitated with increasingly convenient access to the Internet, which has a civilizing influence on students’ learning and living. This study attempts to reveal the association between Internet usage behaviors and academic performance, and to predict undergraduate’s academic performance from the usage data by machine learning. A set of features, including online duration, Internet traffic volume, and connection frequency, were extracted, calculated and normalized from the real Internet usage data of 4000 students. Three common machine learning algorithms of decision tree, neural network and support vector machine were used to predict academic performance from these features. The results indicate that behavior discipline plays a vital role in academic success. Internet connection frequency features are positively correlated with academic performance, whereas Internet traffic volume features are negatively associated with academic performance. From the perspective of the online time features, Internet time consumed results in unexpected performance between different datasets. Furthermore, as the number of features increase, prediction accuracy is generally improved in the methods. The results show that Internet usage data are capable of differentiating and predicting student’s academic performance.

These findings identify a common neural substrate underlying diverse general anesthetics drugs and natural sleep and reveal a crucial role of the neuroendocrine system in regulating global brain states

A Common Neuroendocrine Substrate for Diverse General Anesthetics and Sleep. Li-Feng Jiang-Xie et al. Neuron, April 18, 2019.

    •     General-anesthesia-activated neurons (AANs) are identified in hypothalamus
    •     AANs consist mainly of neuroendocrine cells in and near the supraoptic nucleus
    •     Activation of AANs promotes slow-wave sleep and extends general anesthesia
    •     Inhibition of AANs shortens general anesthesia and disrupts natural sleep

Summary: How general anesthesia (GA) induces loss of consciousness remains unclear, and whether diverse anesthetic drugs and sleep share a common neural pathway is unknown. Previous studies have revealed that many GA drugs inhibit neural activity through targeting GABA receptors. Here, using Fos staining, ex vivo brain slice recording, and in vivo multi-channel electrophysiology, we discovered a core ensemble of hypothalamic neurons in and near the supraoptic nucleus, consisting primarily of neuroendocrine cells, which are persistently and commonly activated by multiple classes of GA drugs. Remarkably, chemogenetic or brief optogenetic activations of these anesthesia-activated neurons (AANs) strongly promote slow-wave sleep and potentiates GA, whereas conditional ablation or inhibition of AANs led to diminished slow-wave oscillation, significant loss of sleep, and shortened durations of GA. These findings identify a common neural substrate underlying diverse GA drugs and natural sleep and reveal a crucial role of the neuroendocrine system in regulating global brain states.

Over 4 million nonfinancial firms from 21 countries, 1995–2015: A lower effective marginal tax rate improves firms’ survival chances, robust result when they partition the sample into country subgroups

Death and Taxes: Does Taxation Matter for Firm Survival? Serhan Cevik, Fedor Miryugin. IMF Working Paper No. 19/78, April 19, 2019.

Summary: This paper investigates the impact of taxation on firm survival, using hazard models and a large-scale panel dataset on over 4 million nonfinancial firms from 21 countries over the period 1995–2015. We find ample evidence that a lower level of effective marginal tax rate improves firms’ survival chances. This result is not only statistically but also economically important and remains robust when we partition the sample into country subgroups. The effect of taxation on firms’ survival probability is found to exhibit a non-linear pattern and be stronger in developing countries than advanced economies. These findings have important policy implications for the design of corporate tax systems. The challenge is not simply reducing the statutory tax rate, but to level the playing field for all firms by rationalizing differentiated tax treatments across sectors, asset types and sources of financing.

Can People Detect Ideological Stance from Facial Photographs? Seems not.

Can People Detect Ideological Stance from Facial Photographs? Tamsin K. Saxton, Sophie L. Hart,Lucy V. Desai, Thomas V. Pollet. Human Ethology, Volume 34, 17-25, April 17, 2019.

ABSTRACT: Nonverbal cues are instrumental in animal social interactions, and humans place especial value on facial appearance and displays to predict and interpret others’ behaviours. Several studies have reported that people can judge someone’s political orientation (e.g. Republican vs Democrat) based on facial appearance at greater-than-chance accuracy. This begs the question of the granularity of such judgements. Here, we investigate whether people can judge one aspect of political orientation (attitudes to immigration) based on the facial photographs that politicians use to represent themselves on the European Parliament website. We find no evidence of such ability, and no evidence for an interaction between the judges’ own attitudes to immigration and their accuracy. Many studies report facial manifestations of attitudinal and behavioural proclivities, and yet we should not lose sight of the fact that facial appearance may be a relatively impoverished cue relative to other potential sources of information.

Keywords: Appearance, face judgements, thin slices.

Even so, it was not so a far-fetched idea... Check People Can Accurately (But Not Adaptively) Judge Strangers’ Antigay Prejudice from Faces. Ravin Alaei, Nicholas O. Rule. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, Apr 5 2019.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Advantageous Selection in a Voluntary Army: Volunteers and drafted men showed no significant difference in fatalities, but volunteers earned distinguished awards at a higher rate than drafted men

“Gallantry in Action”: Evidence of Advantageous Selection in a Voluntary Army. Javier A. Birchenall, Thomas G. Koch. The Journal of Law and Economics, Volume 58, Number 1, February 1, 2015.

Abstract: A voluntary army’s quality exceeds or falls below a drafted army’s average quality depending on whether selection is advantageous or adverse. Using a collection of data sets that cover the majority of the US Army soldiers during World War II, we test for adverse selection into the army. Rather, we find advantageous selection: volunteers and drafted men showed no significant difference in fatalities, but volunteers earned distinguished awards at a higher rate than drafted men, particularly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Analyses at the level of units concur with our findings based on enlistment records.

Savoring, or one’s tendency to attend to and enjoy previous, current, and future positive events, is positively related to relationship satisfaction; especially so in the anticipative branch of savoring

Lenger, K. A., & Gordon, C. L. (2019). To have and to savor: Examining the associations between savoring and relationship satisfaction. Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice, 8(1), 1-9.

Abstract: Savoring, or one’s tendency to attend to and enjoy previous, current, and future positive events, is composed of 3 facets: savoring in anticipation, savoring the present moment, and savoring in reminiscence. Whereas research is now accumulating on potential benefits that savoring may have for a variety of individual indicators of well-being, it remains unclear whether savoring may also be relevant to relational well-being. The present investigation seeks to address this gap in the literature by establishing whether savoring is associated with relationship satisfaction, and if so, which facet(s) of savoring are the strongest predictors of relationship satisfaction. Data were collected from 122 undergraduates from a southeastern university currently participating in monogamous dating relationships. Analyses revealed that total savoring as well as each facet of savoring, namely, anticipation, present moment, and reminiscence, were positively related to relationship satisfaction. A subsequent simultaneous multiple regression analysis indicated that anticipation uniquely predicted relationship satisfaction, above and beyond reminiscence and present moment facets of savoring. Overall, it appears that attending to and enjoying positive events is associated with a happier relationship. Furthermore, these data suggest that anticipation may be a component of savoring that is particularly relevant to relationship satisfaction. Results are discussed in the context of optimizing relational well-being.

Visual perfection: Our data are best explained by a model that is based on the optimal decision strategy, but with imperfections in its execution (suboptimal inference)

Imperfect Bayesian inference in visual perception. Elina Stengård, Ronald van den Berg. PLOS, April 18, 2019.

Abstract: Optimal Bayesian models have been highly successful in describing human performance on perceptual decision-making tasks, such as cue combination and visual search. However, recent studies have argued that these models are often overly flexible and therefore lack explanatory power. Moreover, there are indications that neural computation is inherently imprecise, which makes it implausible that humans would perform optimally on any non-trivial task. Here, we reconsider human performance on a visual-search task by using an approach that constrains model flexibility and tests for computational imperfections. Subjects performed a target detection task in which targets and distractors were tilted ellipses with orientations drawn from Gaussian distributions with different means. We varied the amount of overlap between these distributions to create multiple levels of external uncertainty. We also varied the level of sensory noise, by testing subjects under both short and unlimited display times. On average, empirical performance—measured as d’—fell 18.1% short of optimal performance. We found no evidence that the magnitude of this suboptimality was affected by the level of internal or external uncertainty. The data were well accounted for by a Bayesian model with imperfections in its computations. This “imperfect Bayesian” model convincingly outperformed the “flawless Bayesian” model as well as all ten heuristic models that we tested. These results suggest that perception is founded on Bayesian principles, but with suboptimalities in the implementation of these principles. The view of perception as imperfect Bayesian inference can provide a middle ground between traditional Bayesian and anti-Bayesian views.

Author summary: The main task of perceptual systems is to make truthful inferences about the environment. The sensory input to these systems is often astonishingly imprecise, which makes human perception prone to error. Nevertheless, numerous studies have reported that humans often perform as accurately as is possible given these sensory imprecisions. This suggests that the brain makes optimal use of the sensory input and computes without error. The validity of this claim has recently been questioned for two reasons. First, it has been argued that a lot of the evidence for optimality comes from studies that used overly flexible models. Second, optimality in human perception is implausible due to limitations inherent to neural systems. In this study, we reconsider optimality in a standard visual perception task by devising a research method that addresses both concerns. In contrast to previous studies, we find clear indications of suboptimalities. Our data are best explained by a model that is based on the optimal decision strategy, but with imperfections in its execution.

Popular summary: