Sunday, June 30, 2019

Strong empirical evidence for the fact that homeowners are happier than tenants; the effect seems to be robust over the years considered as well as for different specifications of our model

Are Homeowners Happier than Tenants? Empirical Evidence for Switzerland. Yvonne Seiler Zimmermann, Gabrielle Wanzenried. Wealth(s) and Subjective Well-Being pp 305-321, June 25 2019. Part of the Social Indicators Research Series book series (SINS, volume 76).

Abstract: Many people have a strong preference to own the house or apartment they are living in. Among other factors, homeownership is expected to affect the subjective well-being of individuals. Our paper analyzes the impact of homeownership on subjective well-being in Switzerland. Based on the data from the Swiss Houshehold Panel (SHP) over the time period from 2000 to 2016, we use a generalized ordered logit model to explain life satisfaction by a set of relevant factors including homeownership. Our results, which have been tested for robustness within several specifications, provide strong empirical evidence for the fact that homeowners are happier than tenants. This effect seems to be robust over the years considered as well as for different specifications of our model. In order to control for a potential reverse causality effect, we separately analyze the subsample of households that had a change in the homeownership but no changes with respect to other characteristics. The generated odds ratios confirm the positive impact of homeownership on people’s happiness and the absence of a reverse causality effect.

Keywords: Homeownership Subjective Well-being Generalized ordered logit models Reverse causality

Beauty, Gender, and Charitable Giving: Men donors will perceive attractive women as more likeable & deserving, while women donors will perceive attractive women as less needy & less deserving

Park, Jooyoung and Kim, Keongtae and Hong, Ying-Yi, Beauty, Gender, and Charitable Giving (June 18, 2019). SSRN:

Abstract: The authors retrieve data from a prosocial lending platform and conduct four experiments to examine the effects of facial attractiveness on charitable giving. The data show that facial attractiveness of women rather than men recipients more strongly affects donations and that donor gender determines whether beauty has positive or negative effects on charitable giving. Men donors will perceive attractive women as more likeable and deserving, while women donors will perceive attractive women as less needy and less deserving. The study highlights the importance of donor gender in understanding the impact of recipient attractiveness. The findings enhance understandings of beauty effects especially in the context of charitable giving and provide practical implications for individual recipients, charities and platform operators in sharing recipient images.

Keywords: attractiveness, beauty, charitable giving, crowdfunding, gender

What Suboptimal Choice Tells Us About the Control of Behavior

What Suboptimal Choice Tells Us About the Control of Behavior. Thomas R. Zentall. Comparative Cognition & Behavior Reviews, Volume 14: pp. 1–18.

Abstract: When animals make decisions that are suboptimal, it helps us to identify the processes that have evolved to produce this behavior. In an earlier article, I discussed three examples of suboptimal choice or bias (Zentall, 2016): (a) sunk cost, the tendency to continue on a losing project because of the amount already invested; (b) unskilled gambling, in which the loss is greater than the return; and (c) justification of effort, the bias to prefer conditioned stimuli that in training required more effort to obtain. Here I discuss three additional examples of suboptimal choice that we have studied in animals: (a) when less is better, in which animals prefer one piece of food (one preferred item) over two pieces of food (one preferred item plus one less preferred item); (b) suboptimal choice on the ephemeral choice task, in which animals prefer one piece of food now over two pieces of the same food, one now but the second briefly delayed; and (c) suboptimal choice in the midsession reversal task, errors of anticipation and perseveration. Each of these examples may help to identify the relative limits on behavioral flexibility found when animals are exposed to conditions that may be different from those that they would normally encounter in their natural environment. They also may help us to understand the origins of similar behavior when it occurs in humans.

Keywords: suboptimal choice, less is better, ephemeral reward, midsession reversal

Those of us who study the behavior of animals assume that they have evolved to maximize their success (e.g., at finding food), and much of learning theory (Skinner, 1938; Thorndike, 1911) is based on this premise. Animals select those responses that lead to the increased probability of reinforcement over those that do not. When animals’ behavior is consistent with this theory, it strengthens our belief in the validity of the theory. However, when animals show a preference for alternatives that result in less food over those that result in more food, it is important to try to understand why they do.

Kacelnik (2006) suggested that rationality in decision making can be defined in different ways. When defined by philosophers and psychologists, it has been judged in terms of the reasoning or thought processes that accompany the decisions. When defined by economists, it does not require thought processes but refers to behavior that is internally consistent and is compatible with expected utility maximization. When defined by biologists, it is broader and goes beyond the organism to allow for inclusive fitness (including benefit to one’s kin).

Sometimes, what appears to be an irrational choice may reflect a change in state. An animal’s preference for one kind of food over another may reverse if it has been sated on the preferred food, or an animal that has a choice between eating and being with conspecifics may choose the latter because being close to others may enhance feeding rate or may offer safety from predation (Kacelnik, 2006). Alternatively, the condition that the animal is in may cause it to choose less food over more food. For example, an animal may choose a low probability but possibly larger amount of food over a frequent but smaller amount of food but one that will not allow it to survive through the night (Stephens, 1981; see also Houston, McNamara, & Steer, 2007).

When animals prefer an alternative that provides them with less food over one that provides them with more (i.e., they choose suboptimally), on one hand, it may cause us to question the processes that underlie that behavior. In an earlier article in this journal (Zentall, 2016), I described a task in which pigeon showed a strong preference for one alternative that on 20% of the trials provided them with a signal for reinforcement and on 80% of the trials provided them with a signal for the absence of reinforcement, over a second alternative that always provided them with a signal for 50% reinforcement (Stagner & Zentall, 2010). With this procedure, not only do pigeons quickly show a preference for the 20% signaled over the 50% unsignaled reinforcement but they show no evidence that they learn to correct that preference with extensive training. Furthermore, that preference is not simply controlled by the uncertainty of the reinforcement associated with the higher probability of reinforcement alternative, because even when the alternatives are between 50% signaled reinforcement and 100% reinforcement, pigeons do not show a preference for the optimal alternative (McDevitt, Dunn, Spetch, & Ludvig, 2016; Smith & Zentall, 2016). In addition, a similar pattern of suboptimal choice can be shown when reinforcement magnitude is manipulated. For example, pigeons prefer a 20% chance of obtaining a signal for 10 pellets of food over a 100% chance of obtaining a signal for three pellets of food (Zentall & Stagner, 2011).

When animals choose suboptimally, it may tell us something about the natural environment in which the animals have evolved (Fortes, Pinto, Machado, & Vasconcelos, 2018). Several mechanisms may be responsible for this suboptimal choice. First, in nature, when an animal approaches a stimulus that signals the presence of food, it is likely that the probability of reinforcement will increase. Not so in this choice task in which choice frequency has no effect on the probability of reinforcement. Second, in nature, when an animal encounters a signal for the absence of food, that signal can generally be ignored, because the animal will simply reject it and look elsewhere for food (Fortes et al., 2018; Vasconcelos, Machado, & Pandeirada, 2018). That is, in nature there is no need to remain in its presence, so it does not acquire inhibitory value, whereas the animal must remain in its presence in the laboratory choice experiment.

Although the predictive value of the conditioned reinforcer that follows choice of each alternative, independent of its probability of occurrence, appears to predict choice (Smith & Zentall, 2016), evidence suggests that there may be a third factor (Case & Zentall, 2018; McDevitt et al., 2016). Case and Zentall (2018) found that when pigeons are given a choice between 50% signaled reinforcement and 100% reinforcement, they initially show indifference between the two alternatives; however, with continued training they show a significant preference for the suboptimal alternative (see also Kendall, 1974). Case and Zentall suggested that the preference for the suboptimal alternative may result from positive contrast between the expected value of reinforcement following choice of the suboptimal alternative and the value of the conditioned reinforcer that follows on half of the trials. Positive contrast would not be expected between choice of the optimal alternative and the conditioned reinforcer that follows, because the expected value of reinforcement is consistent with the value of reinforcement that follows. A similar mechanism was suggested by McDevitt et al. (2016), who proposed that the conditioned reinforcement that followed choice of the suboptimal alternative represented “good news,” whereas the conditioned reinforcement that followed choice of the optimal alternative was not newsworthy. Although identifying the predispositions responsible for suboptimal choice with this procedure will likely require further research, the inability of the pigeons to learn to choose optimally suggests that there are conditions under which pigeons do not appear to have the flexibility to overcome these predispositions.

In the earlier article (Zentall, 2016), I identified two other cases in which pigeons fail to choose optimally. The first was research on the sunk cost effect in which pigeons prefer to complete pecking on one reinforcement schedule over changing to another reinforcement schedule, even though changing to the other schedule would have reduced the time and effort (amount of pecking) to reinforcement. For example, pigeons first learned to peck 30 times for food when the color was green and 10 times for food when the color was red. They then learned that after pecking green a variable number of times, they would be given a choice between completing the pecks to green and switching to peck the red 10 times. Surprisingly, the pigeons preferred to return to pecking green, even when returning to green required as many as 25 more pecks (Pattison, Zentall, & Watanabe, 2012; see also Magalhães & White, 2014; Navarro & Fantino, 2005).

The second additional line of research described in the Zentall (2016) article actually involved a bias rather than a suboptimality. Pigeons were trained to peck a light to receive a choice between two colors. On some trials, a single peck was required and the choice was between, for example, red and yellow and choice of red was reinforced. On other trials, 20 pecks were required and the choice was between, for example, green and blue and choice of green was reinforced. On probe trials, pigeons were given a choice between red and green, the two colors both associated with reinforcement. Surprisingly, the pigeons showed a preference for green, the color that during training they had to work harder to obtain. When a similar effect has been found in humans (e.g., Aronson & Mills, 1959), it has been referred to as the justification of effort effect; however, we prefer to interpret this preference as a contrast effect. That is, the positive contrast between 20 pecks and green was greater than the positive contrast between one peck and red.

In the present article I examine three additional phenomena, each of which demonstrates a behavior that is suboptimal. The first is commonly referred to as the less is better effect; the second is the failure to learn to choose optimally on a task in which choice of one alternative provides two reinforcements, whereas the other provides only one (the ephemeral reward task); and the third is the failure to choose optimally on the midsession reversal task.

The Less Is Better Effect

Economists have traditionally held that when humans are given sufficient information, they generally make rational choices (Persky, 1995). This is the basis of rational choice theory (Becker, 1976). However, Tversky and Kahneman (1974) challenged this notion by showing that humans tend to use various affective heuristics in making decisions and those heuristics can be shown to lead to suboptimal decisions. Such an example is the less is better effect (sometimes referred to as the less is more effect), demonstrated in several experiments by Hsee (1998). In one example, Hsee asked subjects to estimate the value of a set of 24 dishes, all in good condition, or to estimate the value of a set of 40 dishes, but only 31 were in good condition. Surprisingly, the set of 24 dishes was valued higher than the set of 40 dishes. Apparently, the nine dishes of poor quality depreciated the value of the 31 good-quality dishes. The average quality of the set, as a whole, apparently overshadowed the objective judgment of the value of the set. But this effect may be unique to humans, who may be sensitive to the aesthetics of the two sets of dishes.

In another study, subjects were asked to imagine that a friend had given them a $55 wool coat from a store where coats cost between $50 and $500, or alternatively a $45 wool scarf from a store where scarves cost between $5 and $50 (Hsee, 1998). The subjects said that they would be happier with the scarf than with the coat because the purchase of the scarf would reflect greater generosity than the purchase of the coat. The scarf was at the high end of the range, whereas the coat was at the low end of the range. This finding suggests that if gift givers want their gift recipients to perceive them as generous, it would be better for them to give a high-value item from a low-value product category (e.g., a $45 scarf) than a low-value item from a high-value product category (e.g., a $55 coat).
Would animals show the same bias if food of different quality was used rather than dishes or clothing? According to optimal foraging theory (Stephens & Krebs, 1986), other factors being equal (e.g., the possibility of predation), nature should select against any tendency to prefer an alternative that provides less food. Kralik, Xu, Knight, Khan, and Levine (2012) tested this hypothesis. They found that monkeys readily would eat grapes and sliced cucumbers, but when offered a choice between them, they preferred the grapes. When the monkeys were offered a choice between a grape by itself or a grape and a slice of cucumber, however, they generally showed a strong preference for the grape alone.

A similar effect was found by Beran, Ratliff, and Evans (2009) for two of four chimpanzees when given a choice between a slice of banana and a similar slice of banana plus a slice of apple. Similarly, chimpanzees were indifferent between a preferred pellet and a similar pellet plus either a less preferred piece of carrot or a less preferred piece of apple (Sanchez-Amaro, Pereto, & Call, 2016). And when Beran, Evans, and Ratliff (2009) manipulated the quantity rather than the quality of the combined option, four chimpanzees preferred a 20 g slice of banana over the same 20 g slice of banana plus an additional 5 g slice of banana.

Dogs, too, have been found to show a less is better effect (Pattison & Zentall, 2014). Several dogs were found to eat a slice of carrot or a slice of cheese, but when given a choice, they preferred the cheese. However, when given a choice between the cheese and a combination of the cheese and the carrot, these dogs preferred the cheese alone (see Figure 1).

[full paper and figures in the link above]

Politicians/public figures often apologize after making controversial statements; it is assumed that they are wise to do so, but the public is either unaffected or becomes more likely to desire punishment

Hanania, Richard, Does Apologizing Work? An Empirical Test of the Conventional Wisdom (September 1, 2015). SSRN,

Abstract: Politicians and other public figures often apologize after making controversial statements. While it is assumed that they are wise to do so, this proposition has yet to be tested empirically. There are reasons to believe that apologizing makes public figures appear weak and risk averse, which may make them less attractive as people and lead members of the public to want to punish them. This paper presents the results of an experiment where respondents were given two versions of two real-life controversies involving comments made by public figures. Approximately half of the participants read a story that made it appear as if the person had apologized, while the rest were led to believe that the individual stood firm. In the first experiment, involving Rand Paul and his comments on the Civil Rights Act, hearing that he was apologetic did not change whether respondents were less likely to vote for him. When presented with two versions of the controversy surrounding Larry Summers and his comments about women scientists and engineers, however, liberals and females were much more likely to say that he definitely or probably should have faced negative consequences for his statement when presented with his apology. The effects on other groups were smaller or neutral. Overall, the evidence suggests that when a prominent figure apologizes for a controversial statement, the public is either unaffected or becomes more likely to desire that the individual be punished.

Keywords: Political psychology, polling, evolutionary psychology, pundits, public opinion, Donald Trump, political science

Heavy drinking is more prevalent in people aged 55-70 compared to those aged 23-54; in those aged 55-70 heavy drinking prevention should focus on the higher educated

Differences in alcohol use between younger and older people: Results from a general population study. Marjolein A. Veerbeek et al. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, June 29 2019.

•    Heavy drinking is more prevalent in people aged 55-70 compared to those aged 23-54.
•    Level of education of heavy drinkers differs between these age groups.
•    In those aged 55-70 heavy drinking prevention should focus on the higher educated.

Background: Prevention of problematic alcohol use is mainly focused on younger adults, while heavy drinking in middle-aged and older adults might be more frequent with more impact on functioning and health care use. Therefore, alcohol use and alcohol disorder in both age groups was compared. To facilitate age-specific prevention, it was examined whether risk factors of heavy drinking and impact on functioning and health care use differs across the life-span.

Methods: Data of people (23-70 years) were used from the Netherlands Mental Health Survey and Incidence Study-2 (N = 4,618), a general population-based cohort. Heavy alcohol use was defined as >14 drinks/week for women and >21 drinks/week for men. Alcohol disorder was defined as DSM-IV disorder of alcohol abuse and/or alcohol dependence. (Multinomial) logistic regression analyses were used to study risk factors of alcohol use and associations between alcohol use and health care use and functioning.

Results: The past-year prevalence of heavy alcohol was higher in older (55-70 years) compared to younger people (6.7% versus 3.8%), whereas alcohol disorder was less prevalent (1.3% versus 3.9%). Heavy alcohol use was associated with higher level of education in older adults compared to younger adults. Other characteristics of problematic alcohol use and its impact on functioning and health care use did not differ between age groups.

Conclusions: Heavy drinking is more prevalent among middle-aged and older people. Contrary to younger adults, prevention of heavy alcohol use in those aged 55-70 should focus on higher educated people.

There was a direct link between playing an instrument in their leisure time, during the day, & having more dreams including music; those dreams were more positively-toned regarding emotions

Music in dreams: A diary study. Nina König, Michael Schredl. Psychology of Music, June 29, 2019.

Abstract: In every culture and nation music has been mentioned as a sort of natural language. While the existence of dreams including music in musicians has been anecdotally reported, music in dreams have been rarely studied empirically. In the present study, 425 participants, mostly psychology students, reported their dreams in a dream diary for 14 days as well as the intensity of their dream emotions and answered a questionnaire about whether they play existing music or compose new music during the day. As expected, for persons playing an instrument in their leisure time, there was a direct link between playing an instrument during the day and having more dreams including music, thus confirming the continuity hypothesis of dreaming. In addition, dreams including music were more positively-toned regarding emotions than dreams in general. Further research might investigate, for example, whether dreams including music play a role in improving music performance skills.

Keywords: Music, dream, emotions, continuity hypothesis, playing an instrument

Acute carbohydrate consumption on mood: Some studies only reported results from questionnaire subscales that yielded significant differences while omitting those that did not

Fizzing out: no effect of acute carbohydrate consumption on mood. Michael D. Kendig, Margaret J. Morris. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews (2019) PII:S0149-7634(19)30362-8.


Policy interventions increasingly target sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) consumptionto discourage excess sugar intakegivenevidence for detrimental effects on body weight, metabolic function, anddental health. Yet it is also interesting to consider other impacts ofSSBs, given ongoing debate around their effects on mood and alertness.

The systematic review and meta-analysis by Mantantzis and colleagues (2019)makes atimely contributionto this topic. The study collates results from 31 experiments (1259 participants, 176 effect sizes) onthe acute effects of carbohydrate-containing drinks on moodmeasures.The authors note that mood is often a secondary outcome about which few direct predictions are made.

In these experiments, participants are asked to consume a beverage containing carbohydrates beforere ceiving questionnaires asking how they feel, often alongside cognitive tests. The carbohydrate is typically a sugar such as glucose, sucrose, fructose, or some mix of these. In the mood questionnaires usedmost commonly,the Profile of Mood States (POMS) and Bond-Lader VAS (BL-VAS),participants ratehow strongly their current affective state aligns with a range of positive and negative emotions, either on 5-point (POMS) or visual analogue (BL-VAS) scales. Mantantzis et al.(2019)generate effect sizes for nine affective domains, which are then combined to form a composite score foroverall mood. The authors also compared studies that assessed mood 0-30, 31-60 or over 60 minutes after consuming carbohydrates, with a view to identifying underlying mechanisms. For example, Mantantzis et al.(2019) note that past research has shown that carbohydrate consumption increases levels of the serotonin precursor tryptophan, particularly after an hour post-consumption. Thus, stronger positive mood effects should be seen after an hour if tryptophan underlies this relationship.

Strikingly, there was no evidence for positive effects of carbohydrate consumption on mood, and few significant differences between carbohydrate and placebooverall. Carbohydrates significantly reduced alertness relative to placebo when assessed at 31-60 minutes, and significantly increased fatigue when assessed 0-30 minutes after consumption. No effects of carbohydrates were found at any interval onthe other seven domains. Contrary to authors’ hypotheses, heterogeneity between studies was low, despite substantial variability in carbohydrate dose and type.The only instance of high heterogeneity was on measures of fatigue assessed61+ min post-consumption. Follow-up analyses of moderator variables revealeda trend for carbohydrate to reduce fatigue in studies involving physically demanding tasks.On the composite score of ‘overall mood’, there was a marginally significant difference favouring carbohydrate over placebo after 60 minutes. However, the authors found trends towards publication bias at this interval, noting that some studies only reported results from questionnaire subscales that yielded significant differences while omitting those that did not, skewing the overall effect size. This resul tshould therefore be interpreted with caution.

Additionally, authors were unable to obtain effect sizes for ~40% of eligible articles(20/51), underscoring the need for improved data sharing practices. This new evidence that carbohydrate intake does not enhance mood, at least over the short-term,is consistent with an earlier meta-analysis (Wolraich et al., 1995) which found no evidence for effects of sugar on behaviou rin children.

By contrast, there is evidence for improved cognition following acute glucose intake,though these effects are sensitive to procedural variables such as fasting duration and glucose dose (reviewed by Riby, 2004). Moreover, extensive evidence from rodent studies indicatesthat diets high in sugar can impair aspects of learning and memory (Beilharz et al., 2016), and a recent study in people reported positive associations between self-reported sugar intake and depressive symptoms (Knüppelet al., 2017).

What might explain the discrepancy between the null results found by Mantantzis and colleagues and popular notions of the ‘sugar high’ or ‘sugar rush’? Several differences between controlled laboratory studiesand real-world scenarios are interesting to consider. One key factor is blinding: Participants were unaware of whether their drink contained carbohydrate or placebo (typically non-nutritive sweetener) in 25 of the 31 studies assessed by Mantantzis et al. (2019). Similarly, the meta-analysis by Wolraich et al. (1995) on sugar and activity in children included double-blind experiments. The use of blinding precludes expectancy effects, where in preconceived notions about the effects of sugar increase the tendency to see such effects.Yet one recent study found that even expecting sugar increased tension (Giles et al., 2018), suggesting that such expectancy effects may not always be positive. Second, in real-world settings SSBsare often consumed in environments or occasions that are rewarding,such as social gatherings and work breaks. Repeated consumption in these settings may producepositive associations between sugary drinks and positive mood–a centre piece of advertising strategies. In research studies the potential for contextual variables to influence mood is usually controlled or eliminated. Whereas study participants consume these drinks in isolation and often after a fast, day-to-day consumption of sugary drinks is often accompanied by solid foods, such as fast food meals, which may drive –or wash out –mood effects.

As SSBs typically contain caffeine, people may misattribute mood benefits to the carbohydrate rather than caffeine content. One factor that appears to warrant further investigation is palatability, which we believe is among the primary driversof sugary drink consumption.


We believe this contribution to research on diet and mood will inform public debate on sugar consumption. It adds important new evidence suggesting that sugar consumption has nopositive effects on mood, at least under the conditions used in these experiments, and appears to increase fatigue and lower alertness. This shifts the balance of evidence for sugar intake further towards harm and away from any beneficial effects.

Beilharz, J. E., Maniam, J., & Morris, M. J. (2016). Short-term exposure to a diet high in fat and sugar, or liquid sugar, selectively impairs hippocampal-dependent memory, with differential impacts on inflammation. Behav BrRes, 306, 1-7.

Frank, G. K., Oberndorfer, T. A., Simmons, A. N., Paulus, M. P., Fudge, J. L., Yang, T. T., & Kaye, W. H. (2008). Sucrose activates human taste pathways differently from artificial sweetener. Neuroimage, 39(4), 1559-1569.

Formulas for Grief?

Formulas for Grief. Johanna N Riesel, Harvard Plastic Surgery Residency Program, Boston, MA 02115, USA., Vol 393 June 29, 2019.

After 9 years of surgical training, I know how long a finger can survive if amputated from the body. I know how long you should wait before lifting something heavy after surgery. I can determine how much of a drug you need to treat your infection based solely on your bodyweight. There are algorithms for all of that. But I have no idea how long I am supposed to grieve the dead.Formulas exist throughout medicine to make patient care safer and less subject to human error. Despite these scientific gains, there are complexities to the human catalogue of emotions that we are unable to simplify with mathematical predictions. Scientists have studied grief for years, but missing from all of their publications is an algorithm that allows me to care for myself in the midst of drenching heartbreak while still trying to care for others as a practising surgeon. As of yet, there are no formulas for grief.2 years ago, I lost one of my closest friends. We shared a bond from childhood so strong, I often thought of him as my brother.

After a two-decade-long battle with cancer, after a life-saving bone marrow transplant from his sister, after a double lung transplant, after marrying his incomparable wife, after the birth of their beautiful daughter, Greg passed away. In a memorial held in his honour, I spoke about Greg and the connection we shared to a room of his family and friends. I blamed the tears and choking gasps of air that sliced through my speech on the fact that I had not slept since working a 24-h hospital shift the day before. The next morning, I flew home and went back to work.I did not know how long I was allowed to grieve. As a surgeon, I am not allowed to have a bad day in the operating room, but as a surgical resident, there is an unspoken governance that makes taking time off complicated. Our hospital workflow relies on surgical residents. There is no duplication built into this sys-tem, permitting a balance of hospital productivity and unshared case volume on which graduate medical education relies to train future physicians. Furthermore, the demands of the health-care system are such that taking time off is fraught with conflict and guilt. Patients rely on physicians to heal them, and to do it now, not a couple of months from now. We are drawn to this responsibility and pursue it, despite the costs, quietly enjoying the glorification that comes with sacrifice.

Despite all that we learn in residency, we are not taught to grieve, be it for our loved ones or for our patients. After a severe complication or the death of a patient, many surgeons are lucky to receive even a whisper of empathy from another surgeon. This is not meant to be callous but, rather, functional. For any surgeon, it can feel unbearable to recognise your own grief, old or new, and not look away. Instead, the general counsel is to return to work as soon as possible, a prescription that might paint over the residue of pain from our most difficult cases. Common surgical culture buoys us to “get back on that horse”, and keep our eyes straight ahead, protecting us from the scorch of reliving traumatic experiences. This teaching can spill beyond the walls of the hospital and into our personal lives. In this, it seems we are rarely given the allowance, be it from our mentors or ourselves, to fall apart. Instead, strength, which is often mere stoicism in masquerade, is honoured and instilled.

So, we clench our teeth and swallow the gulp of tears and anguish. We lock our slippery hearts behind the protection of our ribcages. We pour ourselves into the work. After all, work can be a blessing in that way: a distraction from our pain. If you try hard enough, it might let you separate from it completely, all under the feel-good-refrain of doing it for the patients. Eventually, the pain lessens. Or perhaps we are accustomed to it. Our nerve endings once on fire with melancholy now seem desensitised to its presence.In surgery, we are taught that “all bleeding stops eventually”. The body will send proteins and platelets to plug the geyser of blood flow, or, eventually, the body will run out of blood to bleed. I see grieving in medicine the same way. To function and to perform, physicians can plug the leaks in their avenues of emotion, lest they drown us in a flood of heartbreak.

In his years in and out of hospitals, Greg was haunted by the way humanity was chipped from residents and doctors in their pursuit of training and practice. At times, he saw that change in me as well. I struggled to explain my rationale to him. It was never to make myself cold or dissociated from my patients, but rather, to dissociate myself from my own feelings so I could make decisions without the clouded veil of sentiment. Thereafter, I would be left with just the facts, stripped of their human proprietors. If I tried to feel every loss, either of my own or of my patients, I feared that I would bleed out from the volume of cumulative trauma, and never come back to the hospital again. So, I tried to feel none of them.

Few things are more comforting to a surgeon than the control of haemorrhage.But in this fragile state, even the tiniest disturbance can “pop the clot”, yet another dictum of surgery that teaches doctors to tolerate a lower blood pressure so as not to disturb a freshly formed blood clot that had stemmed the tides of bleeding. In states of grief, one image, one word, one memory can disrupt whatever control we thought we had. Suddenly, we bleed. And we bleed for all of the losses we had before but never let ourselves feel. I make it just beyond the threshold of my apartment, and I howl.Greg’s death taught me that I could not tamponade my grief. Regardless of who you are or what you do, you have to step into your grief. It will toss you about and drag you to the ground. It will kick the air from your lungs. But through this tumult, it will take you to a place where, eventually, you can stand again. Ignored emotions will recur until they receive the attention they need. We have to grieve and experience our losses. The challenge remains: when and how?

Although hospitals have policies for bereavement leave, there is no policy for the burden your colleagues will bear covering for you in your absence. There is no policy to dictate the resolution of your own feeling of guilt for abandoning your patients, projects, and partners. Most policies are also written for immediate family members and do not extend to the loss of a dear friend.Or so I thought. When a co-resident died unexpectedly, I found myself engulfed by support from the faculty, administrators, and senior officials at our hospital. Our institution offered sponsored dinners, transportation to attend the funeral, and any time off the residents needed without question. I never knew these resources were not only available but also abundant. Still, I wondered if I had known about them, would I have used them when Greg died? In the middle of a departmental grief counselling session for my co-resident, a colleague stood, turned to walk out of the room, and said, “well, I think that’s enough already. Let’s get back to work”.

I will never know if he was unable to endure the anguish of that moment, or whether he simply thought it was a waste of time. What I did know was why I never felt comfortable asking for time to grieve. I realise now that it will be my choice to follow that example or to set my own.2 years after losing Greg, the grief has lessened. I walk through the hospital not holding my breath in an effort to suffocate tears, but rather thinking of what I need to do next. The grief that once filled my ears with its thunderous roar is barely a din. It is not entirely gone: its stains and stench, like cigarette smoke in a carpet, are evidence of its intransience.

There is a tree dedicated to Greg on his old college campus. Its bark is thick and gnarled, with large cracks that fracture through its trunk like scars mirroring its weathered life. Two of its larger branches have been sawed off. The remaining boughs continue to grow upward, and green leaves sprout above the neighbouring trees, hungry for survival. So much of this tree reminds me of Greg. On a recent trip to visit the tree, I pressed my back into its trunk, trying to imagine that I was leaning against Greg’s shoulder. But the fissures and knots in the bark were sharp and painful, and they pushed me forward as if to say keep moving, don’t stay here. After a moment longer under the tree’s canopy, I walked away, refusing to look back. When I got home, a long drive and a grocery trip later, I stooped forward to unpack my suitcase. A patter of knocks sounded on the hardwood beneath my feet, directing my attention to something that had fallen from my back. A piece of thick, splintered bark from Greg’s tree lay on my bedroom floor.I once heard that the depth of one’s grief is a reflection of the love that was experienced and lost. If that is truth, or even plausible theory, is the formula for grief a symbol of infinity

Despite the adage time heals all wounds, I know the science behind wound healing. The body cannot heal a wound without a scar. Scars are never as strong as the skin they used to be, and they can become thick and raised as if to ward off intruders that might sense their inherent weakness. But scars also show us the lives we have lived. They show us whom we have loved and how they have changed us. After knitting together the shreds of our hearts after a loss or a trauma, they act as the glue that shows the body’s inherent instinct to heal, even when we did not want it to. Science has never found a cure for scars. We cannot make them disappear.So, I kissed that little piece of bark, and I placed it on my dresser, where it sits today. I often forget that it is there until I catch sight of it as I rush to get ready for work in the early morning hours. In the seconds that transpire between sight and recognition, my senses fill with warmth and light. There is a gentle buzz that pushes me forward, a soft thrill from understanding the permanence of love.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Socializing at Work & Evidence from a Field Experiment with Manufacturing Workers: How much are we willing to pay to work with friends

Park, Sangyoon. 2019. "Socializing at Work: Evidence from a Field Experiment with Manufacturing Workers." American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 11 (3): 424-55. DOI: 10.1257/app.20160650

Abstract: Through a field experiment at a seafood-processing plant, I examine how working alongside friends affects employee productivity and how this effect is heterogeneous with respect to an employee's personality. This paper presents two main findings. First, worker productivity declines when a friend is close enough to socialize with. Second, workers who are higher on the conscientiousness scale show smaller productivity declines when working alongside a friend. Estimates suggest that a median worker is willing to pay 4.5 percent of her wage to work next to friends.

Bargaining in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), the effect of cost, amount of gift, reciprocity, and communication: Absence of inequity aversion

Bueno-Guerra, N., Völter, C. J., de las Heras, Á., Colell, M., & Call, J. (2019). Bargaining in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes): The effect of cost, amount of gift, reciprocity, and communication. Journal of Comparative Psychology,

Abstract: Humans routinely incur costs when allocating resources and reject distributions judged to be below/over an expected threshold. The dictator/ultimatum games (DG/UG) are two-player games that quantify prosociality and inequity aversion by measuring allocated distributions and rejection thresholds. Although the UG has been administered to chimpanzees and bonobos, no study has used both games to pinpoint their motivational substrate. We administered a DG/UG using preassigned distributions to four chimpanzee dyads controlling for factors that could explain why proposers’ behavior varied substantially across previous studies: game order, cost for proposers, and amount for recipients. Moreover, players exchanged their roles (proposer/recipient) to test reciprocity. Our results show that proposers offered more in the DG than in the nonsocial baseline, particularly when they incurred no cost. In UG, recipients accepted all above-zero offers, suggesting absence of inequity aversion. Proposers preferentially chose options that gave larger amounts to the partner. However, they also decreased their offers across sessions, probably being inclined to punish their partner’s rejections. Therefore, chimpanzees were not strategically motivated toward offering more generously to achieve ulterior acceptance from their partner. We found no evidence of reciprocity. We conclude that chimpanzees are generous rational maximizers that may not engage in strategic behavior.

Check also... Cognitive Reflection Test in Predicting Rational Behavior in the Dictator Game. Monika Czerwonka, Aleksandra Staniszewska, Krzysztof Kompa. In International Conference on Computational Methods in Experimental Economics CMEE 2017: Problems, Methods and Tools in Experimental and Behavioral Economics pp 301-312,

Advantageous Inequity Aversion Does Not Always Exist: The Role of Determining Allocations Modulates Preferences for Advantageous Inequity. Ou Li, Fuming Xu4 and Lei Wang. Front. Psychol., May 23 2018,

Friday, June 28, 2019

Do Women Give Up Competing More Easily? Evidence from the Lab and the Dutch Math Olympiad

Do Women Give Up Competing More Easily? Evidence from the Lab and the Dutch Math Olympiad. Thomas Buser and Huaiping Yuan. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics. Jul 2019, Vol. 11, No. 3: Pages 225-252.

Abstract: We use lab experiments and field data from the Dutch Math Olympiad to show that women are more likely than men to stop competing if they lose. In a math competition in the lab, women are much less likely than men to choose competition again after losing in the first round. In the Math Olympiad, girls, but not boys, who fail to make the second round are less likely to compete again one year later. This gender difference in the reaction to competition outcomes may help to explain why fewer women make it to the top in business and academia. (JEL C90, D82, D91, J16)

Freudian Slip? The Changing Cultural Fortunes of Psychoanalytic Concepts

Freudian Slip? The Changing Cultural Fortunes of Psychoanalytic Concepts. Nick Haslam and Lotus Ye. Front. Psychol., June 28 2019.

Abstract: It is often argued that psychoanalysis has declined in prominence since its ascendance in the mid-20th century. To assess this claim we examined the trajectory of psychoanalytic concepts from 1900 to 2008 in the massive Google Books database. The changing relative frequency of a sample of English-language psychoanalytic terms was explored and compared to a sample of terms in French. The frequency of the English terms was further explored from 2008 to 2017 using the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA). The English terms rose steeply from the 1940s and declined steeply from the early 1990s. In contrast, the French terms rose steeply from the 1960s and plateaued from the 1970s. In addition, psychoanalytic terms were markedly more prominent in French since the 1960s. The findings are discussed in the context of historical trends in the reception of psychoanalysis in the Anglophone and Francophone worlds.


Psychoanalysis is often said to be in retreat as an intellectual tradition, a clinical practice, and a cultural phenomenon. Its supposed decline, celebrated by some and mourned by others, has been attributed to a variety of causes. The intellectual merit of psychoanalysis has been repeatedly challenged on scientific and political grounds. Its value as a clinical approach has been undermined on the one hand by the rise of pharmacological treatments and on the other hand by the advent of shorter-term and more “evidence-based” forms of psychotherapy. Its internal frictions have contributed to a growing marginalization and fragmentation of the psychoanalytic community (Stepansky, 2009). Culturally, the influence of psychoanalysis may have lost ground to other perspectives on mind and behavior, such as cognitivism or positive psychology.

Often missing in discussions of the apparent decline of psychoanalytic ideas is the recognition that these ideas may have different trajectories in different cultural contexts. The supposed eclipse of psychoanalysis may only be partial, and largely restricted to the Anglophone world, where many of the fiercest philosophical, psychological, and cultural critiques have been made. Any attempt to assess the changing historical fortunes of psychoanalysis must look beyond the Anglosphere.

The situation in the Francophone world is a case in point. Psychoanalysis came relatively late to France, Freud noting in his 1914 history of the psychoanalytic movement that it was the least receptive to his ideas of the European countries. The first French translation of his work only appeared in 1921 (Mangan, 1950). Despite these late beginnings, psychoanalysis experienced a rapid “blossoming” in the third quarter of the century (Cournut, 1990) and became a touchstone of intellectual life that extended into popular culture and the news media. As Turkle (1992) remarked, in the 1960s “the French attitude toward psychoanalysis swung from denigration and resistance to infatuation” (p.4). Psychoanalytic ideas also became prominent in psychiatry and clinical psychology, Botbol and Gourbil (2018) observing that large proportions of French psychiatrists conduct psychotherapy and describe themselves as psychoanalysts at a time when these proportions are small and diminishing in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Several reasons have been put forward for the continuing prominence of psychoanalysis in Francophone cultures. These include the high value traditionally placed on intellectuals, the tradition of secularism, the emergence of a distinctive French approach to psychoanalysis in the second half of the 20th century, and the centrality of this approach with the cultural revolution of the late 1960s. Whatever its cause, the enduring influence of psychoanalytic ideas in the Francophone world appears to stand in sharp contrast to the decline in the Anglosphere. Indeed, the fate of psychoanalysis in the two worlds appears to be quite distinct, a conclusion supported by a recent analysis showing very low rates of mutual citation of articles published in Anglo-American and French psychoanalytic journals (Potier et al., 2016).

Although the claim that psychoanalytic ideas have had different trajectories of cultural influence in English and French is credible, it has yet to be examined systematically. One way to do so is to use the tools of “culturomics” (Michel et al., 2011) to explore cultural trends by tracking changes in the frequency of words in massive text corpora. Although it lacks the capacity of more qualitative approaches to language analysis to examine detail and complexity, culturomic methods allow historical changes to be precisely quantified using massive text corpora. Using the Google Books corpus, which contains 500 billion words from 5 million digitized books, for instance, changes in the relative frequency of words (as a function of all words) can be examined as an index of their cultural salience. Researchers have used culturomic methods to explore shifts in individualist and collectivist values (Twenge et al., 2012; Hamamura and Xu, 2015; Zeng and Greenfield, 2015), concepts of happiness (Oishi et al., 2013), and concepts of morality (Wheeler et al., 2019), among others.

The present study explored historical changes in the cultural prominence of psychoanalysis by examining shifts in the frequencies of a large set of English and French psychoanalytic terms in two text corpora. The primary corpus was book-based (Google Books) because no comparably large, systematic, multi-lingual, and historically extended language corpus exists, although in principle the analyses could be conducted using newspapers, journal articles, or other sources of text. The English corpus was compared to a French corpus rather than a different language because of the often-remarked difference in the currency of psychoanalytic ideas in the two cultural contexts. (Further research might profitably extend this comparison to additional languages, such as German, Italian, and Spanish.) Contrasts were not attempted within the Anglosphere because widespread joint publication of books in different countries (e.g., the United States and the United Kingdom) obscures any national differences and our primary focus was on cross-linguistic comparison.

This research is not the first to employ a corpus methodology in the psychoanalytic context. For instance, Cariola (2014a, b) has used a computerized dictionary to assess body boundary imagery and to explore psychodynamic themes in Mein Kampf, and Salvatore et al. (2017) have used automated text analysis to examine psychotherapy transcripts. However, our study is the first to examine psychoanalytic discourse itself and employs a vastly larger corpus to do so.

The study was descriptive in nature rather than testing hypotheses. Nevertheless, based on historical considerations we anticipated that the trajectories of psychoanalytic terms in English and French would differ in predictable ways. In particular, we expected that English terms would rise in prominence earlier, decline more in recent decades, and be less salient overall in recent decades relative to their French equivalents.

No Personality Change Following Unemployment: A Registered Replication of Boyce, Wood, Daly, and Sedikides (2015)

No Personality Change Following Unemployment: A Registered Replication of Boyce, Wood, Daly, and Sedikides (2015). Timo Gnambs, Barbara Stiglbauer. Journal of Research in Personality, June 28 2019.

•    We aimed to replicate previous findings on job loss and personality change.
•    Latent change analyses revealed significant general changes in the Big Five traits.
•    There was no evidence for an effect of unemployment on changes in personality.
•    Analyses accounting for potential selection effects led to comparable results.
•    The results reported by Boyce et al. (2015) could not be replicated.

Abstract: The involuntary loss of paid employment represents an adverse life event that has been suggested to lead to personality change. However, previous research has reported highly contradictory findings. Therefore, a replication of Boyce et al. (2015) is presented. These authors originally identified nonlinear changes in openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. Using data from the German National Education Panel Study (N = 5,005), we examined the impact of unemployment on personality change across three years. Latent change analyses indicated no effect of job loss on any Big Five trait. Moderating effects of unemployment duration or gender were not found. Even analyses accounting for potential selection effects led to comparable results. Thus, personality seemed invariant despite changes in employment status.

Female sexual desire during courtship & newlywed phases is often followed by a loss of sexual desire; men may be gullible in terms of entering into a long-term commitment based on false assumptions about the amount of sex involved

The Mask of Love and Sexual Gullibility. Roy F. Baumeister, Jessica A. Maxwell, Geoffrey P. Thomas. SSSP 2018,

Abstract: Many people describe the time of being newly in love as one of life’s peak experiences. Years later, many are dismayed by the choices they made during love, and many people divorce after thinking they were to be married for life. How did they make such a grievous mistake? Traditional theory assumes that lovers are biased in judgments about their partners. This largely speculative essay suggests that evolution has shaped people to fall in love, not just in judging their partners, but in becoming more lovable themselves. Recent data indicate that female sexual desire during courtship and newlywed phases is often followed by a loss of sexual desire that undermines both spouses’ marital satisfaction.Men may therefore be gullible in terms of entering into a long-term commitment based on false assumptions about the amount of sex involved. This may serve as a useful model for the hypothesis that people become more lovable when in love.

An examination of psychosocial factors associated with malicious online trolling behaviors: Taken together, these results provide new information that may help to identify those at risk of engaging in trolling behavior

An examination of psychosocial factors associated with malicious online trolling behaviors. Krista Howard et al. Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 149, 15 October 2019, Pages 309-314.

Objective: Trolling, that is, triggering disruption and conflict for one's own amusement, is a malicious online behavior that causes substantial, negative consequences for its victims. Research is needed to better understand, and ultimately to prevent, trolling behavior. To this end, the current study examined potential demographic and psychosocial predictors of social media trolling behavior in a collegiate population.

Methods: College students (N = 504; 82% female) completed an online survey in which they provided demographics, information about their social media habits, and responses to validated personality and psychosocial assessment instruments. Participants were categorized as positive or negative for trolling behavior based on their self-reported social media habits.

Results: Based on the final regression model, significant predictors of trolling included male gender, greater need for participation in social media, and greater likelihood to make downward social comparisons on social media.

Conclusions: Taken together, these results provide new information that may help to identify those at risk of engaging in trolling behavior. These findings contribute to a developing literature that may lead to prevention and intervention strategies to reduce negative outcomes and to improve online experiences for everyone.

Gay Asian Americans Are Seen as More American Than Asian Americans Who Are Presumed Straight

Gay Asian Americans Are Seen as More American Than Asian Americans Who Are Presumed Straight. Mika Semrow et al. Social Psychological and Personality Science, June 27, 2019.

Abstract: Four studies investigate whether gay Asian Americans are stereotyped as more American than Asian Americans who are presumed straight. Gay Asian American men (Study 1) and women (Study 2) were rated as more American than their counterparts whose sexual orientation was unspecified. However, sexual orientation did not influence judgments of Whites’ American identity. The relationship between Asian Americans’ sexual orientation and perceptions of their American identity was mediated by a belief that American culture is relatively more accepting of gay people than Asian culture (Studies 3 and 4). Manipulating how accepting of gay people a target’s country of origin is relative to the United States altered ratings of American identity for gay but not straight targets (Study 4). Using an intersectional approach, these studies demonstrate that sexual orientation information comes together with race to influence who is likely to be perceived as American.

Keywords: race, sexual orientation, intersectionality, foreign stereotypes, acceptance

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Ghosting, or avoiding technologically-mediated contact with a partner instead of providing an explanation for a breakup, is a relatively new breakup strategy in modern romantic relationships

Koessler, R. B., Kohut, T., & Campbell, L. (2019). When Your Boo Becomes a Ghost: The Association Between Breakup Strategy and Breakup Role in Experiences of Relationship Dissolution. Collabra: Psychology, 5(1), 29.

Abstract: Ghosting, or avoiding technologically-mediated contact with a partner instead of providing an explanation for a breakup, has emerged as a relatively new breakup strategy in modern romantic relationships. The current study investigated differences in the process of relationship dissolution and post-breakup outcomes as a function of breakup role (disengager or recipient) and breakup strategy (ghosting or direct conversation) using a cross-validation design. A large sample of participants who recently experienced a breakup was collected and randomly split into two halves. Exploratory analyses were conducted in Sample A and used to inform the construction of specific hypotheses which were pre-registered and tested in Sample B. Analyses indicated relationships that ended through ghosting were shorter and characterized by lower commitment than relationships that ended directly. Recipients experienced greater distress and negative affect than disengagers, and ghosting disengagers reported less distress than direct disengagers. Ghosting breakups were characterized by greater use of avoidance/withdrawal and distant/mediated communication breakup tactics and less open confrontation and positive tone/self-blame breakup tactics. Distinct differences between ghosting and direct strategies suggest developments in technology have influenced traditional processes of relationship dissolution.

Keywords: relationship dissolution ,   breakup strategy ,   ghosting ,   breakup distress

Assortative mating shaped patters of inheritance throughout human evolution such that mate value is not distributed randomly across individuals: Desired traits covary around mate value

Assortative mating and the evolution of desirability covariation. Daniel Conroy-Beam et al. Evolution and Human Behavior, June 27 2019.

Abstract: Mate choice lies close to differential reproduction, the engine of evolution. Patterns of mate choice consequently have power to direct the course of evolution. Here we provide evidence suggesting one pattern of human mate choice—the tendency for mates to be similar in overall desirability—caused the evolution of a structure of correlations that we call the d factor. We use agent-based models to demonstrate that assortative mating causes the evolution of a positive manifold of desirability, d, such that an individual who is desirable as a mate along any one dimension tends to be desirable across all other dimensions. Further, we use a large cross-cultural sample with n = 14,478 from 45 countries around the world to show that this d-factor emerges in human samples, is a cross-cultural universal, and is patterned in a way consistent with an evolutionary history of assortative mating. Our results suggest that assortative mating can explain the evolution of a broad structure of human trait covariation.

Some guys have a disproportionate share of desirability, across many of the parameters we look for.

Poland: The estimated number of people viewing pornography on the Internet increased over three times (310%) between Oct 2004 & Oct 2016; 25% of Internet users aged 7 to 12 saw online pornography during a monthly period

Lewczuk, Karol, Adrian Wojcik, and Mateusz Gola. 2019. “Increase in the Prevalence of Online Pornography Use – Objective Data Analysis from the Period Between 2004 and 2016 in Poland.” PsyArXiv. June 27. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: Despite the considerable amount of attention presently devoted to the high accessibility of online pornography, very little formal analyses have been carried out to show how the advent and proliferation of Internet technology has changed the prevalence of pornography use in populations. We conducted an analysis based on objective website traffic data, representing the changes in the number of (1) Internet users generally, and (2) online pornography users specifically, between the years 2004 and 2016 in Poland. We observed a clear increase in the estimated number of people using online pornography in the analyzed period. The observed increase was much faster than, for example, the change indicated in similar analyses based on General Social Survey data. The estimated number of people viewing pornography on the Internet increased over three times (310%) between October 2004 and October 2016 – starting from an estimated 2.76 million in the first period, to 8.54 million in the last. Additionally, pornography viewership on the Internet was almost 2 times more prevalent among male (47%) than female Internet users (27%), and most popular in the 18-27 age group. Importantly, based on our data, a relatively high percentage (25%) of young Internet users aged 7 to 12 accessed online pornography during a distinct monthly period. Interestingly for this single age group, we did not obtain a strong difference in the prevalence of online pornography use between sexes – viewing pornographic websites was as frequent among young girls as young boys. Since our analysis is based on objective data, it does not share the limitations inherent of self-reports. However, our approach also has a few important limitations (e.g. the analysis does not include online activity generated on mobile devices and under the private browsing mode) which may lead to the underestimation of pornography use indices.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

In vegetarians, aversion towards nonvegetarian food prevails at the subjective level and is consistent with their personal beliefs. In contrast, at the neural level, the intrinsic motivational salience of this type of food is preserved

Food processing and emotion regulation in vegetarians and omnivores: An event-related potential investigation. Matteo Giraldo, Giulia Buodo, Michela Sarlo. Appetite, June 26 2019, 104334.

Abstract: The present study investigated cognitive reappraisal during exposure to vegetarian and nonvegetarian food cues in food-deprived vegetarian and omnivore participants. In particular, we were interested in clarifying the motivational meaning of the foods that vegetarians avoid, as revealed by self-reported food craving, valence, and arousal, as well as by ERP measures of neural processing during passive viewing and emotional regulation. Twenty-four vegetarians and twenty-one omnivores were instructed to either passively look at the pictures (Watch) or to change the appetitive value of the food (Increase or Decrease). In vegetarians, meat and fish dishes elicited lower desire to eat, pleasantness, and arousal during each condition as compared to both omnivores and vegetarian food. In contrast with the subjective data, no group differences were observed in any of the ERP measures, suggesting that similar neural processing of food-cues occurred in vegetarians and omnivores both during passive viewing and cognitive reappraisal. Concerning the late ERP effects during cognitive reappraisal, we found an enhancement of the P300 and LPP amplitudes during the Increase and the Decrease as compared to the Watch condition and a reduction of the SW amplitude in the Decrease as compared to Watch condition. These results suggest that in a food deprivation condition it is difficult to reduce the appetitive value of food stimuli, as this cognitive strategy appears to require greater effort and a longer time to be implemented with respect to up-regulation. Overall, our findings suggest that, in vegetarians, aversion towards nonvegetarian food prevails at the subjective level and is consistent with their personal beliefs. In contrast, at the neural level, the intrinsic motivational salience of this type of food is preserved.

Contrary to previous reports, our analyses found no significant effects of Internet exposure on brain structure & across a range of executive functions (impulse inhibition, attention control, task-switching & fluid intelligence)

Loh, Kep Kee, Priyanka Chakraborty, Anup Sadhu, Moumita Mukherjee, Himadri Datta, Garga Chatterjee, and Ryota Kanai. 2019. “Longitudinal Cognitive and Brain Changes Associated with One-month of Increased Internet Access.” PsyArXiv. June 26. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: Internet technologies have profoundly changed the way we access information, manage our tasks, consume media, and our social interactions. The present work aims to provide insights into the long-term, causal influence of Internet exposure on our cognitive systems via an unprecedented, intervention-based experiment where we investigated the potential brain and cognitive changes that occurred in a rare sample of 35 young Indian adults who had minimal prior contact with Internet-related technologies, after being provided with unlimited Internet access for a month. Additionally, we performed cross-sectional comparisons of brain structure and cognitive measures between these subjects and a control group that consisted individuals who are frequent users of the Internet. Our key findings indicated that one month of increased Internet access resulted in increased media-multitasking behaviors and decreased abilities to process emotional content in faces. Critically, contrary to previous reports, our cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses found no significant effects of Internet exposure on brain structure and across a range of executive functions (impulse inhibition, attention control, task-switching and fluid intelligence) and social-cognitive measures (social network sizes, loneliness and face perception ability).

Indirect effect through sexual disgust sensitivity explains over 50% of the total effect of sex on censorship support & renders the direct effect of sex non-significant; the indirect effect through pathogen disgust sensitivity is also significant

Sexual disgust sensitivity mediates the sex difference in support of censoring hate speech. Jinguang Zhang. Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 145, 15 July 2019, Pages 89-96.

Abstract: Prior research showed that women are generally more supportive than men of censoring hate speech and this sex difference remained significant after such variables as authoritarianism and political conservatism were controlled for. However, an explanation of that sex difference is lacking. A recent theory distinguishes between pathogen-, sexual, and moral disgust, and we hypothesize that pathogen- and sexual disgust sensitivity will mediate the sex difference in support of censoring hate speech. This is because 1) women typically show stronger pathogen- and sexual disgust sensitivity and 2) people higher in pathogen- and sexual disgust sensitivity are more repulsed by stimuli related to infection (e.g., blood) and sexual assaults. Hate speech can produce both types of stimuli by instigating violence. Indeed, two studies (N = 250 and 289) show a robust indirect effect through sexual disgust sensitivity that explains over 50% of the total effect of sex on censorship support and renders the direct effect of sex non-significant. The indirect effect through pathogen disgust sensitivity is also significant but the direct effect of sex remains significant. These findings extend censorship-attitude research, inform the explanation of a similar sex difference in political intolerance, and further suggest that sexual disgust sensitivity shapes political psychology.

Check also... From 2012: Predicting the Importance of Freedom of Speech and the Perceived Harm of Hate Speech. Daniel M Downs, Gloria Cowan. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, Volume42, Issue6, June 2012, Pages 1353-1375.

The More Modest You are, the Happier You are: The Mediating Roles of Emotional Intelligence and Self-esteem

The More Modest You are, the Happier You are: The Mediating Roles of Emotional Intelligence and Self-esteem. Chuhua Zheng, Yanhong Wu. Journal of Happiness Studies, June 26 2019.

Abstract: Modesty, often defined as a goal-direct self-presentational behavior, is highly beneficial to behavioral health regulation, self-efficacy, interpersonal relation, and group performance. Recent theories and studies have provided evidence that modesty is linked to adaptive well-being, but the potential mechanisms underlying this relationship remain poorly understood. This study examined the mediating roles of emotional intelligence (EI) and self-esteem (SE) in the relationship between modesty and subjective well-being (SWB) as well as depression among 500 Chinese adults. The results showed that higher levels of modesty were positively associated with EI, SE, SWB, and negatively correlated with depression. Furthermore, EI and SE were positively related to SWB, and were negatively related to depression. Path analyses indicated that EI and SE mediated the relationship between modesty and both SWB and depression in-sequence. EI was also a direct mediator between modesty and depression, whereas SE played an indirect role through its relationship with EI. These findings suggest an important role of modesty in promoting well-being and provide the preliminary evidence regarding possible mechanisms through which modesty contributes to well-being.

Keywords: Modesty Emotional intelligence Self-esteem Subjective well-being Depression

Time Use and Happiness of Millionaires: Evidence From the Netherlands

Time Use and Happiness of Millionaires: Evidence From the Netherlands. Paul Smeets et al. Social Psychological and Personality Science, June 25, 2019,

Abstract: How do the very wealthy spend their time, and how does time use relate to well-being? In two studies in the Netherlands, the affluent (N = 863; N = 690) and the general population (N = 1,232; N = 306) spent time in surprisingly similar ways such as by spending the same amount of time working. Yet the nature of their time use differed in critical ways that are related to life satisfaction. In Study 1, millionaires spent more time engaged in active leisure (e.g., exercising and volunteering) rather than passive leisure (e.g., watching television and relaxing). In Study 2, millionaires spent more time engaged in tasks at work over which they had more control. The affluent sample belongs to the top of the income and wealth distribution, representing a significantly wealthier sample than in previous studies. These results further our understanding of when and how wealth may translate into greater well-being. All materials for this article are available at

Keywords: time use, wealth, life satisfaction, millionaires, social class

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

From 2003: Transparency in prices increased them in the Danish concrete case

Government‐Assisted Oligopoly Coordination? A Concrete Case. Svend Albæk, Peter Møllgaard, Per B. Overgaard. The Journal of Industrial Economics, March 27 2003.

Abstract: In 1993 the Danish antitrust authority decided to gather and publish firm‐specific transactions prices for two grades of ready‐mixed concrete in three regions of Denmark. Following initial publication, average prices of reported grades increased by 15–20 percent within one year. We investigate whether this was due to a business upturn and/or capacity constraints, but argue that these seem to have little explanatory power. We conclude that a better explanation is that publication of prices allowed firms to reduce the intensity of oligopoly price competition and, hence, led to increased prices contrary to the aim of the authority.

Examine gaze patterns to erotic stimuli: Women knowing their being observed made significantly fewer fixations than men, whereas no such gender differences were found in the not-knowing condition

“I can see you”: The impact of implied social presence on visual attention to erotic and neutral stimuli in men and women. Sonia Milani, Lori A. Brotto, Alan Kingstone. The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, June 25, 2019.

Abstract: The watchful eye of others often leads people to alter their behaviour. Eye tracking methodology has been used to create implied social presence, as well as to examine gaze patterns to erotic stimuli, but the effects of implied social presence on visual attention to erotic and neutral stimuli remains largely unknown. In the present study, we examined precisely this issue. We compared looking behaviour of men and women who were either aware that their gaze patterns were being monitored (implied social presence) and those who lacked this knowledge (no implied presence). Women in the aware condition made significantly fewer fixations than men, whereas no such gender differences were found in the unaware condition. Across both conditions, men made significantly more fixations to the erotic stimuli compared to the neutral stimuli and the background. For women, no significant differences were found in the number of fixations to the erotic stimuli and the background, although women look at these areas more than the neutral stimuli. These results demonstrate that eye tracking creates an implied social presence, and this differentially affects the looking behaviour of women versus men. Moreover, gendered sexual norms coupled with the need to manage self-presentation may influence women’s sexual urges and expressions. The inhibition of sexuality displayed by women indicates that sexual double standards still exist in society and need to be addressed. As well, theoretical, methodological, and clinical implications of eye tracking methodology should be taken into consideration in future research.

Keywords: Erotic stimuli, eye tracking, implied social presence, impression management, sexual preferences, visual attention

Healthy and "sustainable" diets are neutral in taste; include less umami, salt, fat and bitter tastes

Taste profiles of diets high and low in environmental sustainability and health. L.M. van Bussel et al. Food Quality and Preference, June 21 2019, 103730.

•    Taste profiles differ between subgroups high and low on sustainability and health.
•    Healthy and sustainable diets are neutral in taste (39.4 en%)
•    Healthy and sustainable diets include less umami, salt, fat and bitter tastes.

Abstract: To mitigate the effects of climate change, we need to shift towards a more sustainable and healthier diet. This presumably affects the taste and texture of the diet. We assessed the taste profiles of current diets, of healthier and more sustainable diets and of less healthy and less sustainable diets in a Dutch adult population (n=1380) in the Nutritional Questionnaire Plus study. The Dutch Healthy Diet index and the pReCiPe-score were used to create tertiles by healthiness and sustainability of diets respectively. Based on the lowest and highest tertiles of these two indicators we constructed four subgroups. For each participant, we calculated the proportional contribution of taste clusters (n=6) to the total daily energy intake (en%) and the total amount consumed (gram%) using a taste database including ∼469 foods. The six taste clusters consisted of 1) neutral, 2) salt, umami, fat, 3) sweet, sour, 4) sweet, fat, 5) fat and 6) bitter tasting foods. ANOVA was used to evaluate the differences between subjects in the extreme tertiles. Results show that participants who have a healthier and more sustainable diet consumed less food products from the taste cluster ‘umami, salt, fat’ (16.1 en%) and ‘bitter’ (17.1 gram%) and more products from the taste cluster ‘neutral’ (41.9 en%) compared to participants that have a less healthy and less sustainable diet (umami, salt, fat: 25.6 en%; bitter: 29.0 gram%; neutral: 33.0 en%). Therefore, taste profiles should be taken into account when proposing menus and diets that are healthier and more sustainable.

The Effects of Pornography on Unethical Behavior in Business: The authors think that the consumers behave less ethically

The Effects of Pornography on Unethical Behavior in Business. Nathan W. Mecham, Melissa F. Lewis-Western, David A. Wood. Journal of Business Ethics, June 14 2019.

Abstract: Pornography is no longer an activity confined to a small group of individuals or the privacy of one’s home. Rather, it has permeated modern culture, including the work environment. Given the pervasive nature of pornography, we study how viewing pornography affects unethical behavior at work. Using survey data from a sample that approximates a nationally representative sample in terms of demographics, we find a positive correlation between viewing pornography and intended unethical behavior. We then conduct an experiment to provide causal evidence. The experiment confirms the survey—consuming pornography causes individuals to be less ethical. We find that this relationship is mediated by increased moral disengagement from dehumanization of others due to viewing pornography. Combined, our results suggest that choosing to consume pornography causes individuals to behave less ethically. Because unethical employee behavior has been linked to numerous negative organization outcomes including fraud, collusion, and other self-serving behaviors, our results have implications for most societal organizations.

Keywords: Pornography Ethics Unethical behavior Dehumanization

Pornography is not a new activity, but its use has increased significantly over the last 20 years (e.g., Price et al. 2016). As a result, an activity that was once primarily restricted to adolescent boys and a small proportion of adults has become more commonplace even in business settings. It is estimated that 40 million Americans regularly visit pornographic websites (Ropelato 2014). A 2018 survey finds that nearly 60% of respondents watch pornography at work, with half viewing pornography on a monthly basis and 10% viewing it daily (McDonald 2018). Indeed, 70% of all internet pornography traffic occurs between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., a time when most people are likely working (Conlin 2000; Covenant Eyes 2015). A recent Bloomberg article concludes that “watching porn at the office is extremely common” (Suddath 2014). In addition to the statistics, there are numerous anecdotal examples of pornography consumption at work.1 For example:
    During the past 5 years, the SEC OIG (Office of Inspector General) substantiated that 33 SEC employees and or contractors violated Commission rules and policies, as well as the government-wide Standards of Ethical Conduct, by viewing pornographic, sexually explicit or sexually suggestive images using government computer resources and official time (CNN 2010).

    For 2 years, a high-level executive at a New England finance company arrived at work each morning, said hello to his secretary, and then shut the door of his roomy, windowed office behind him. Like clockwork, he drew the blinds and tilted his computer screen toward him so that—should anyone suddenly barge in—they couldn’t tell what he was doing. For the next 6 h, and sometimes eight, he proceeded to cruise the Internet for the raunchiest porn sites he could find (Conlin 2000).

    Using the Freedom of Information Act, the News 4 I-Team obtained investigative records from a dozen federal agencies to gather a sampling of recent cases of computer misuse by employees. The sampling revealed at least 50 cases of large-scale or criminal pornography viewing at those 12 agencies since 2015, including several in which employees acknowledged spending large chunks of work days surfing for pornography (NBC 2018).

    Earlier this year an employee at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency got caught, almost literally, with his pants down. A special agent from the EPA’s Office of Inspector General showed up at the senior-level employee’s office to find out why he’d stored pornographic images on the network servers. The agent walked in on the guy—you guessed it—watching porn. When pressed, the employee admitted he’d been watching sexy sites for 2 to 6 h every workday since 2010 (Suddath 2014).

These statistics and anecdotal stories highlight that pornography consumption at work is a significant issue. While managers should be alarmed because of the time and resources wasted due to pornography consumption at work (with some estimating the loss to U.S. companies as high as $16.9 billion annually2), pornography consumption may be even more problematic if it negatively influences other workplace behaviors. Specifically, pornography consumption may influence employees’ propensity to behave unethically. Consequently, we investigate the causal relation between viewing pornography and unethical behavior.

We develop a model of how pornography increases unethical behavior based on prior research. Prior research suggests two likely paths for pornography consumption to increase unethical behavior. First, research has found that viewing pornography increases delay discounting (Lawyer 2008; Negash et al. 2016; Van den Bergh et al. 2008; Wilson and Daly 2004). Individuals with greater tendencies to heavily discount future outcomes are willing to give up a larger future benefit for a smaller immediate benefit. Greater delay discounting has been linked to reduced self-control and increased impulsive, short-sighted behavior (Fawcett et al. 2012), which increases unethical behavior (Lee et al. 2017). As such, increases in delay discounting from pornography consumption are expected to increase unethical behavior.

Second, prior research finds that moral disengagement increases unethical behavior (e.g., Detert et al. 2008; Gabbiadini et al. 2014). Bandura’s (1986) model of moral disengagement includes eight mechanisms3 that facilitate moral disengagement. We focus on one—dehumanization4—because prior research posits that pornography consumption increases the viewer’s propensity to dehumanize others (Fagan 2009; Peter and Valkenburg 2007; Schneider 2000). That is, if pornography consumption increases moral disengagement, then dehumanization is the likely mechanism. Thus, we expect that pornography consumption will increase unethical behavior if it increases employees’ tendencies to dehumanize others. In summary, we expect viewing pornography to be positively associated with unethical behavior and for this effect to manifest from increases in delay discounting, dehumanization, or both.

To examine the relation between pornography consumption and unethical behavior, we use two complementary methodologies, a survey and an experiment, that have different validity strengths and weaknesses. The survey allows us to test whether effects are present outside of a laboratory-setting. The experiment provides causal evidence and evidence on the underlying mechanisms (i.e., delay discounting and dehumanization). Together, consistent results across methodologies provide strong evidence that the effects are both causal and generalizable.

First, we conduct a survey using a sample reflective of the U.S. national population in demographics. In this sample of 1083 U.S. adults, we find that 44% of the sample report that they never view pornography, 24% report rarely viewing it, 22% occasionally view it, and 6% and 4% view it frequently and very frequently, respectively. We created a hypothetical situation that asked participants how likely they would be to dishonestly abuse a company’s policy for personal benefit (i.e., how likely they are to lie for monetary gain). We find a significant, monotonically increasing relation between pornography consumption and willingness to behave unethically (i.e., to lie for monetary gain). This relation is robust to controlling for various demographic characteristics of respondents.

Second, to provide evidence that our results are causal and not just associative in nature and to examine the role of delay discounting and dehumanization as possible mediating variables, we conduct an experiment. For our experiment, we employed participants to complete a task and measured if pornography consumption influenced their willingness to shirk work and lie about work performed—two common unethical workplace behaviors (Rodriguez 2015). To protect participants and yet collect the data necessary to test our hypotheses, we do not expose participants directly to pornography, but rather we asked participants in one experimental condition to recall and describe in detail their last viewing of pornography. This activated pornographic imagery in the minds of those who choose to view pornography and allowed those who do not choose to view it to avoid unwanted exposure. We then instructed participants that their job was to watch all of a 10-min video. The video was boring, thus providing participants with an incentive to skip the video. We later asked participants if they watched the entire video and measured who was lying by recording whether they actually watched the video or not.

The results of the experiment show that participants shirk work (by not watching the video) and lie about work performed 21% of the time when they recalled their last experience with pornography and only 8% of the time when they recalled a non-pornographic situation. Thus, viewing pornography increased lying by 2.6 times—a sizable and economically significant effect. Furthermore, we test the two possible mediators for the effect of pornography on unethical behavior—delay discounting and dehumanization. The results of our mediation analysis show only dehumanization as a statistically significant mediator. Pornography use increases viewers’ dehumanization of others, which in turn increases viewers’ willingness to shirk work and lie for personal benefit.

This paper contributes to the literature in several ways. This is the first study, of which we are aware, that shows the deleterious effects of pornography on unethical behavior. In addition, we can identify at least one mechanism by which pornography causes unethical behavior—by increasing dehumanization of others. Prior research argues that pornography consumption will increase dehumanization, but we are unaware of any causal evidence to this point. Thus, our experimental results support the commonly touted, but untested link between pornography and dehumanization. These results are also important for several aspects of organizational performance. First, Moore et al. (2012) provide evidence that employees’ propensity to morally disengage via dehumanization and other disengagement mechanisms leads to unethical organizational behavior including an increased propensity for fraud and other less egregious self-serving behavior. Similarly, Welsh et al. (2015) provide evidence that small ethical infractions pave the way for larger transgressions that lead to fraud and other corporate scandals.5 Thus, increases in employee pornography consumption are likely to increase firm-level fraud risk and the risk of other self-serving behaviors that hinder achievement of organizational goals.

Second, because pornography consumption causes dehumanization of others, the incidence of sexual harassment or hostile work environments is likely to increase with increases in employee pornography consumption. This is detrimental to organizations because harassment imposes both direct costs on the company (e.g., from payouts to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and plaintiffs, attorney’s fees) and indirect costs in terms of lost productivity and employee turnover. A 2016 report issued by the U.S. EEOC concludes that the indirect costs of lost productivity from harassment extends to all workers, not just those directly impacted, and that its true cost includes lost productivity, increased turnover, and damage to the firm’s reputation.

Finally, our results are important because they are suggestive of other potential costs of pornography in addition to unethical behavior. Because pornography increases employees’ propensity to dehumanize others, it also likely causes other negative outcomes that stem from dehumanization aside from unethical behavior. For example, dehumanization causes delegitimization (Bar-Tal 2000), which may be seen when an individual or group is delegitimized to prevent them from getting a promotion; aggression (Greitemeyer and McLatchie 2011; Rudman and Mescher 2012), which may be exhibited by verbal abuse of an employee by a manager; and unwillingness to help others (Andrighetto et al. 2014; Cuddy et al. 2007), which could have adverse effects especially in team projects. Given the negative effects of pornography we find in this study and that others have found (Malamuth and Ceniti 1986; Willoughby et al. 2014), it is important for business, political, and other leaders to consider the significant risks pornography poses to the achievement of organizational outcomes and respond accordingly.
Literature Review

Pornography is a broad term that encompasses many different facets. Because of its broad nature, we follow Negash et al. (2016) and define pornography as viewing any sexually explicit material.6 Over the last 25 years, the internet has increased access, affordability, and anonymity of pornography (Cooper et al. 2000). Psychologist term these vicissitudes the “triple-A” engine and note that they are the driving forces behind changes in pornography consumption because people can now access pornography from home or work, with anonymity, and at low (or no) cost (e.g., Cooper 1998; Cooper and Griffin-Shelley 2002). Not surprisingly, the consumption of pornographic materials has increased and is increasing successively with each new birth generation (Price et al. 2016; Wright 2013). Numerous commentaries report widespread use of pornography. For example, some note that nearly 30,000 users watch pornography every second on the internet (CNBC 2009; Ropelato 2014) and that porn sites receive more visitors than Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter combined (Huffington Post 2013; Negash et al. 2016). More conservative estimates suggest that pornography-related internet searches account for about 13% of worldwide internet traffic (Ogas and Gaddam 2012). Although it is difficult to estimate with precision trends in pornography consumption, one can confidently conclude that pornography consumption is common, and its use has increased in recent years (e.g., Ogas and Gaddam 2012; Price et al. 2016; Wright 2013).

Pornography consumption does not appear to be isolated to a small subset of society. Recent research examining pornography consumption suggests that at a minimum 27% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 89 have viewed pornography (Wright et al. 2014) and the rate of consumption is likely considerably higher for young adults. Carroll et al. (2008) report that 87% of young-adult males and 31% of young-adult females disclose some degree of pornography consumption. The high consumption of pornography and the rate of increase in its use have spurred significant academic interest, with many studies finding deleterious effects from viewing pornography.7

While prior research documents individual and relationship consequences of pornography consumption, the literature provides considerably less evidence on how pornography consumption influences organizations and society more broadly, including how it influences businesses. We are unaware of any research that directly tests how pornography consumption influences unethical behavior. Rest (1986) defines unethical behavior as any organizational member action that violates widely accepted (societal) moral norms. This definition of unethical behavior has been used (and found descriptive) in a variety of contexts (Kaptein 2008; Kish-Gephart et al. 2010; Treviño et al. 2006); thus, we employ it as our definition of unethical behavior. In this study, we examine whether pornography consumption influences decision maker’s tendency to behave unethically. More specifically, we examine if viewing pornography increases an individual’s propensity to engage in unethical behavior, which we operationalize in two ways: (1) dishonestly abusing company policies and (2) shirking and lying about work performed. These are relevant unethical workplace behaviors; a recent survey on unethical workplace behavior reports that the five most common infractions include (1) misuse of company time, (2) abusive behavior, (3) employee theft, (4) lying, and (5) violating the company internet policy (Rodriguez 2015).

We looked to prior research to identify mechanisms that were (1) likely to intensify when consuming pornography, and (2) likely to increase unethical behavior. Prior research suggests at least two, non-mutually exclusive mechanisms for pornography consumption to influence unethical behavior: it may (1) encourage delay discounting and (2) intensify dehumanization of others (and therefore increase moral disengagement).8 Prior research posits that these mechanisms activate or intensify when viewing pornography, although, as discussed in the following sections, the evidence on the actual effect of pornography on each mechanism is nuanced. Delay discounting and dehumanization have also been linked to changes in unethical behavior. Thus, we examine the relation between pornography consumption and unethical behavior and explore whether delay discounting and dehumanization mediate the relation. In the following sections, we discuss each of these mechanisms and then present our formal hypotheses.

Delay Discounting

Delay discounting is discounting future outcomes or preferring an outcome today over a more valuable future outcome (Lawyer 2008; Negash et al. 2016; Rachlin and Green 1972). Individuals who are willing to accept more valuable future rewards than less valuable immediate rewards have lower discount rates (i.e., outcomes lose less value over time), whereas individuals who prefer immediate gratification over larger future rewards are described as having higher discount rates. As an example, someone with a high delay discounting rate would rather receive $1 now than $10 a week from now, whereas a person with a lower delay discounting rate would wait the week to receive the larger amount.

Individuals who have high discount rates are described as “impatient, impulsive, short-sighted, or lacking in self-control” (Fawcett et al. 2012, p. 128). Higher levels of delay discounting are associated with behaviors such as addictions, impulsive decision making, substance abuse, risky sexual behavior, obesity, internet addiction, criminal behavior and excessive gambling (Buzzell et al. 2006; Chesson et al. 2006; Crean et al. 2000; Davis et al. 2010; Dixon et al. 2006; Lee et al. 2017; MacKillop 2013; Romer et al. 2010; Saville et al. 2010). That is, delay discounting is a strong predictor of short-sighted behavior including unethical behavior. Lee et al. (2017) also find that increases in crime are associated with increases in delay discounting suggesting that not only do individuals with greater delay discounts behave unethically but behaving unethically also increases delay discounting. Research has also linked pornography consumption to increases in delay discounting using both laboratory experiments and data collected from the field (Lawyer 2008; Negash et al. 2016; Van den Bergh et al. 2008; Wilson and Daly 2004).

Taken together, the research suggests that pornography consumption is associated with greater delay discounting and greater delay discounting is associated with unethical behavior. This suggests that pornography consumption will cause increases in unethical behavior because of increases in delay discounting. Increases in employees’ propensity to more heavily discount future outcomes relative to short-term benefits have the potential to influence numerous unethical decisions made by employees. For example, accountants decide about “massaging” the financial statement numbers to look good immediately, often to gain higher bonuses or increase the value of their equity-based compensation, at the expense of longer-term firm value (Bergstresser and Philippon 2006; Cohen et al. 2008; Graham et al. 2005; Holderness et al. 2018). Managers often must weigh the long-term benefits associated with complying with costly environmental regulations against the short-term payoff to non-compliance. Similarly, managers may gain short-term rewards from insider trading that impose long-term cost on the manager (and even the firm). As such, increases in delay discounting from employee consumption of pornography could negatively influence numerous organizational decisions. Likewise, higher discount rates and impulsivity may lead to unethical customer behavior such as shoplifting.


Moral self-regulation is one mechanism that individuals use to ensure that their behavior corresponds to ethical standards (Bandura 1999). The self-regulation process, however, can be activated or ignored (Bandura 1999; Detert et al. 2008). Moral disengagement is the term used to describe failing to activate (or ignoring) moral self-regulation. Failing to activate moral self-regulation via moral disengagement increases unethical behavior (e.g., Bandura 1991, 1999; Detert et al. 2008; Gabbiadini et al. 2014). Bandura’s (1986) model of moral disengagement includes eight mechanisms that lead to moral disengagement of which one is dehumanization.9

Dehumanization is the psychological process of viewing and treating others like objects or as a means to an end rather than as humans (Papadaki 2010; Saul 2006).10 High levels of dehumanizing acts occur in the most popular pornographic material (Bridges et al. 2010 Klaassen and Peter 2015; McKee 2005) and thus it is a commonly held belief that pornography increases dehumanization. Hence, we focus on dehumanization as the likely path to moral disengagement from pornography consumption. Moreover, research indicates that dehumanization is an “everyday social phenomenon” that is influenced by situational factors (Haslam 2006, 937) and does not require an “in” and “out” group but can occur as an individual phenomenon (Haslam et al. 2005).

While it is a commonly held belief that the dehumanizing acts in pornography increase pornography viewers’ tendency to dehumanize people, especially women, (Fagan 2009; Schneider 2000), most evidence is only correlational, not casual. For example, Peter and Valkenburg (2007) find an association between exposure to pornography and dehumanization of women; the authors note, however, that this relation could occur because pornography encourages dehumanization or because viewers who hold women in low regard are more likely to consume pornography. Complicating the issue further is the mixed correlational evidence. McKee (2007b) found that there was no relationship between pornography consumers’ attitudes toward women and the amount of pornography consumed. Using survey evidence, Hald and Malamuth (2008) report that pornography has a positive influence on men’s perception of women.

Ward (2002) is an exception that uses an experimental design to examine the causal relation between stereotypes depicted in media and teenagers’ attitudes and assumptions about those depicted in the media content. She finds a casual relation between media dehumanizing women and viewers beliefs that women are sex objects. Ward and Friedman (2006) find similar evidence. The results in both studies are obtained from media that would not be classified as pornography (e.g., clips from television shows such as Friends and Seinfeld), but one might expect that the results would also obtain for pornographic media and that the relation might even be stronger.

In summary, although pornography tends to include dehumanizing acts, the correlational evidence on the relation between pornography and dehumanization is mixed and the experimental evidence on the relation between media that reflects common stereotypes and viewers’ attitudes about women does not examine pornographic media. Thus, there is some uncertainty as to whether pornography does increase levels of dehumanization. With this study, we hope to add to the literature on pornography by providing experimental evidence on the causal relationship between viewing pornography and dehumanization and, in turn, whether dehumanization caused by viewing pornography increases unethical behavior.

Increases in unethical behavior from dehumanization have the potential to manifest in numerous business contexts. For example, an increased tendency to lie to obtain gain and to view others only as a means to an end is likely to be highly detrimental to team effectiveness and cooperation within an organization (Moore et al. 2012). Cooperation and trust across functional areas of expertise are often necessary to achieve important firm goals (e.g., developing new products, entering new markets, increasing customer satisfaction). As such, a substantial decrease in trust and cooperation from increased employee dehumanization of others has the potential to negatively impact firm-level outcomes. In addition, in recent years organizations have made large investments in programs aimed at retaining and developing talented women.11 These investments may be severely undermined when employees, particularly those in leadership positions, consume pornography. Related, increased employee propensity to dehumanize co-workers is likely to increase the incidence of sexual harassment or hostile work environments, both of which can decrease firm productivity and lead to costly litigation.

Finally, dehumanization can also affect the customer–firm relationship. Employees treating customers like objects rather than respecting their innate value as an individual is likely to reduce customer retention and may even generate negative online or media attention. On the other hand, customers can dehumanize firms by viewing a firm as a non-human entity rather than as a collection of individuals. For example, a customer who makes a fraudulent return can dehumanize the employees of a firm by thinking that they are only decreasing the firm’s profit but are not hurting any people. By viewing the firm as an object rather than a collection of individuals, a customer places the firm between themselves and the employees of the firm, who are ultimately affected by a customer’s unethical behavior. This perspective decreases the psychological proximity a customer feels toward those who are affected by the customer’s behavior and is likely to increase unethical customer behavior (Jones 1991).12