Monday, January 7, 2019

Author estimates the degree to which scientists are willing to change the direction of their work in exchange for resources

Myers, Kyle, The Elasticity of Science (August 22, 2018).

Abstract: This paper estimates the degree to which scientists are willing to change the direction of their work in exchange for resources. Novel data from the National Institutes of Health is used to estimate an entry model that accounts for strategic interactions. Inducing a scientist to change their direction by 1 standard deviation, a qualitatively small difference, requires a four-fold increase in funds, an extra $1 million per year. But at current levels, the costs and benefits of directed versus undirected research appear to be quite similar.

Keywords: economics of science
JEL Classification: H50, I23, O31, O33, O38

How Do We Redirect Scientific Investigation? Chuck Dinerstein. ACSH, Jan 2 2019.

The economic term for haggling over the size of the carrot is elasticity. Using NIH grant data from 2002 to 2009 and the similarity of applicants’ prior work to the objectives of each RFA grant a recent paper looks at the scientists’ bargain. The measure of similarity was based upon how much of scientists prior published abstracts used terminology found in the individual RFA application research objectives – the underlying assumption was the use of the same scientific language was a useful marker for the underlying science to be similar.

It is no surprise that scientists apply to highly “similar” projects, especially when they are more readily available, because of less competition, and come with good funding. So what tradeoffs do scientists make changing course and applying for less similar projects?

*    The more aligned a scientist’s and RFA research interest, the less weight is put on the amount of the total award. But as the similarity becomes less, the amount of the grant rises. A "30% less" similar field would be where a researcher was studying a vaccine for a particular virus using a specific research animal and was asked instead to investigate a vaccine for a different virus but still using the same research animal and approach. By the author’s calculation scientists require an additional $1 million/annually to change course.
*    Competition for grants is another consideration, and the author found that scientists traded an increased award size of about $80,000 for one more competitor for funding.

Put into other words, scientists are willing to be redirected, but it comes at a cost, an award about 65% greater than what they might have gotten for staying the course. That premium helps cover the adjustments necessary for tangibles, like equipment and the intangible, research preferences.

*    RFA grants result in a 16 - 24% increase in publications. But that direction is short-lived with many researchers returning to their “primary interests” once the research award ends.
*    When looking at the output of both the winners and “losers” of the RFA awards, there seems to be no difference in quantity or quality, as measured by the publishing journal’s “impact.” In the words of the author, RFA’s “create more not better science.”

What can we conclude? Not surprisingly, applicants choose the path they believe will be most likely to be funded. To get more externally directed research, to move science in the direction of “our choosing,” we must pay for a larger carrot and “…it is likely  that much larger,  sustained  levels of investments  would  be necessary  to  generate meaningful  long-run  changes.” As with all things, when we look at the devil in the details, we find human behavior is often more than “if you build it, they will come.”

The self–other knowledge asymmetry in cognitive intelligence, emotional intelligence, and creativity

The self–other knowledge asymmetry in cognitive intelligence, emotional intelligence, and creativity. Aljoscha C. Neubauer et al. Heliyon, Volume 4, Issue 12, December 2018, e01061.

Abstract: The self–other knowledge asymmetry model (SOKA) assumes that some personality traits might be open to oneself and other persons (‘open area’), while other traits are more accurately perceived by others (‘blind spot’); a third group of traits might be visible only to oneself and not to others (‘hidden area’), and finally a trait might neither be visible to oneself nor to one's peers (‘unknown area’). So far, this model has been tested only for personality traits and general intelligence, not for more specific abilities; to do so was the novel intention of our study. We tested which of six abilities (verbal, numerical, and spatial intelligence; interpersonal and intrapersonal competence; and creative potential/divergent thinking ability) are in which SOKA area. We administered performance tests for the six abilities in two samples – 233 14-year-olds and 215 18-year-olds – and collected self- and peer-ratings for each domain. Numerical intelligence and creativity were judged validly both from self- and peer-perspectives (‘open area’). In the younger sample verbal intelligence was validly estimated only by peers (‘blind spot’), whereas the older group showed some insight into their own abilities as well (‘blind spot’ to ‘open area’). While in the younger group only the pupils themselves could validly estimate their intra- and interpersonal competence (‘hidden area’), in the older group peers were also successful in estimating other's interpersonal competence, albeit only with low accuracy (‘hidden area’ to ‘open area’). For 18-year-olds, spatial ability was in the hidden area too, but in 14-year-olds this could neither be validly estimated by pupils themselves nor by peers (‘unknown area’). These results implicate the possibility of non-optimal career choices of young people, and could, therefore, be helpful in guiding professional career counselling.

Few psychological or physiological processes are universally beneficial; most positive phenomena reach inflection points where their effects turn negative; mindfulness is unlikely to be an exception

Can Mindfulness Be Too Much of a Good Thing? The Value of a Middle Way. Willoughby B Britton. Current Opinion in Psychology,

•    Few psychological or physiological processes are universally beneficial.
•    Most positive phenomena reach inflection points where their effects turn negative.
•    Mindfulness is unlikely to be an exception to the inverted U-shape curved principle.
•    Some mindfulness-related processes have negative effects under certain conditions.
•    Research that includes the full range of possible effects would improve the efficacy of mindfulness.

Abstract: Previous research has found that very few, if any, psychological or physiological processes are universally beneficial. Instead, positive phenomena tend to follow a non-monotonic or inverted U-shaped trajectory where their typically positive effects eventually turn negative. This review investigates mindfulness-related processes for signs of non-monotonicity. A number of mindfulness-related processes—including, mindful attention (observing awareness, interoception), mindfulness qualities, mindful emotion regulation (prefrontal control, decentering, exposure, acceptance), and meditation practice—show signs of non-monotonicity, boundary conditions, or negative effects under certain conditions. A research agenda that investigates the possibility of mindfulness as non-monotonic may be able to provide an explanatory framework for the mix of positive, null and negative effects that could maximize the efficacy of mindfulness-based interventions.

Between 1950 & 1959, the highest earning 1 percent of Americans paid an effective tax rate of 42 percent. By 2014, it was only down to 36.4 percent

Did the Rich Really Pay Much Higher Taxes in the 1950s? The Answer Is a Little Complicated. Jordan Weissmann. Slate,  Aug 07, 2017.

American progressives like to remember the mid–20th century as a time when the only thing higher than a Cadillac’s tail fin was the top marginal tax rate (which, during the Eisenhower years peaked above 90 percent for the very rich). Uncle Sam took 90 cents on the dollar off the highest incomes, and—as any good Bernie Sanders devotee will remind you—the economy thrived.

Conservatives, however, often try to push back on this version of history, pointing out that those staggeringly high tax rates existed mostly on paper; relatively few Americans actually paid them. Recently, the Tax Foundation’s Scott Greenberg went so far as to argue that “taxes on the rich were not that much higher” in the 1950s than today. Between 1950 and 1959, he notes, the highest earning 1 percent of Americans paid an effective tax rate of 42 percent. By 2014, it was only down to 36.4 percent—a substantial but by no means astronomical decline.


Greenberg is not pulling his numbers out of thin air. Rather, he’s drawing them directly from a recent paper by Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, and Gabriel Zucman in which the three economists—all well-loved by progressives—estimate the average tax rates Americans at different income levels have actually paid over time. Their historical measure includes federal, state, and local levies—including corporate, property, income, estate, sales, and payroll taxes. And lest you think Greenberg is misrepresenting anything, here’s Piketty & co.’s own graph (rates on rich folks are shown in green).

[ Source: Piketty, Saez, and Zucman]

There are a few obvious reasons why the taxes the rich actually paid in the 1950s were so much lower than the confiscatory top rates that sat on the books. For one, the max tax rates on investment income were far lower than on wages and salaries, which gave a lot of wealthy individuals some relief. Tax avoidance may have also been a big problem. Moreover, there simply weren’t that many extraordinarily rich households. Those fabled 90 percent tax rates only bit at incomes over $200,000, the equivalent of more than $2 million in today’s dollars. As Greenberg notes, the tax may have only applied to 10,000 families.

To Greenberg, the takeaway from this is simple: Progressives should stop fixating on the tax rates from 60 years ago. “All in all, the idea that high-income Americans in the 1950s paid much more of their income in taxes should be abandoned. The top 1 percent of Americans today do not face an unusually low tax burden, by historical standards.”

I’m not convinced. Effective tax rates on 1 percenters may not have fallen by half, as some on the left might be tempted to imagine. But they are down by about 6 percentage points1 at a time when the wealthy earn a vastly larger share of the national income. That drop represents a lot of money. Moreover, as Greenberg admits, tax rates on top 0.1 percent have fallen by about one-fifth since their 1950s heights. That rather severely undercuts the idea that taxes on the wealthy haven’t fallen “much.”

 Moreover, there may be reasons to support higher taxes beyond their ability to raise revenue. One popular theory among left-leaning intellectuals right now—advanced by Piketty, Saez, and their protegée Stefanie Stantcheva—is that high tax rates actually ease income inequality by discouraging CEOs and professionals from demanding exorbitantly high pay for their services.* In other words, thanks to high tax rates, people didn’t bother trying to get as rich. After all, there’s no point in bargaining for a giant bonus if the government is going to clip off most of it. I wouldn’t say the theory has been accepted as a consensus fact at this point, but it’s certainly alive and being taken seriously.

So the real tax rates rich Americans paid in the 1950s may not have been so stratospherically high as some progressives assume. But they also may have helped create a more egalitarian society. That seems worth considering.

[Full text and links in the article above]

There may be a variety of reasons why more democratic states are engaged in higher levels of international trade; a larger concern for consumer interests, however, is likely not among them

The Absence of Consumer Interests in Trade Policy. Timm Betz and Amy Pond. The Journal of Politics,

Abstract: Why are some countries more open to trade than others? Prominent explanations emphasize differences in the influence of voters as consumers. Consumers benefit from lower prices. Because governments in democracies are more responsive to voters, they should implement lower tariffs. We develop and evaluate an implication of this line of argument. If lower tariffs are a response to consumer interests, lower tariffs should be concentrated on products most relevant to consumers. Using data on consumption shares across product categories, we report evidence that consumer interests do not account for lower tariffs. Governments place higher tariffs on goods with higher consumption shares, and we find no evidence that this relationship attenuates under more democratic institutions. There may be a variety of reasons why more democratic states are engaged in higher levels of international trade. A larger concern for consumer interests, however, is likely not among them.

Keywords: trade, consumers, democracy, tariffs, contract enforcement

Human foetuses and newborns smile first during sleep, before they smile while awake and interacting with caregivers; adults may have true smiling and laughing, a true inner mirth, during sleep

Smiling asleep: A study of happy emotional expressions during adult sleep. Marion Clé et al. Journal of Sleep Research,

Abstract: Human foetuses and newborns smile first during sleep, before they smile while awake and interacting with caregivers. Whether smiling persists during adult sleep, and expresses inner joy, is yet unknown. Smiles were looked for during night‐time video‐polysomnography combined with electromyography of the zygomatic and orbicularis oculi muscles in 100 controls, 22 patients with sleepwalking and 52 patients with rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behaviour disorder. Autonomous reactions (heart rate and level of vasoconstriction) and the presence of rapid eye movements were examined during smiles and laughs. On visual examination of the face video clips synchronous with zygomatic contraction, 8% of controls smiled while asleep (7% in REM sleep and 1% in non‐REM sleep). Some patients with sleepwalking also smiled and laughed during N2 sleep and N3 parasomnia. Half of the patients with REM sleep behaviour disorder smiled and one‐third laughed, mostly during REM sleep. The 173 happy faces included mild smiles (24.8%), open‐mouth smiles (29.5%) and laughs (45.7%). More than half of the smiles were the Duchenne (genuine) type, including an active closure of the eyelids. Approximately half of the smiles and laughs were temporally associated with rapid eye movements. There was no increased heart rate variability during smiles and laughs. Two scenic behaviours including smiles and laughs suggested that the happy facial expression was associated with a happy dreaming scenario. Smiling and laughing occasionally persist during adult sleep. There are several lines of evidence suggesting that these happy emotional expressions reflect a true inner mirth.

Greed: A majority of participants reported an excessive desire for money or materials (clothes, books, &c, 68%); also non-material items (time, love, &c, 32pct)

Understanding greed as a unified construct. Glenn W. Lambie, Jaimie Stickl Haugen. Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 141, 15 April 2019, Pages 31-39,

Abstract: The concept of greed is a popular topic since the economic crisis of 2008. Much of the psychological research relating to greed aligns greed as a situation-specific trait as opposed to a dispositional trait. Thus, there is a need to enhance our understanding of greed as a disposition and explore individual differences that may influence behavior. Since individuals conceptualize greed in various ways, there is a lack in understanding of the construct. We propose a unified definition of greed and outline the extant research on dispositional greed, focusing on existing greed assessments. Considering our working definition of greed, we advocate that there is a need for future research to enhance definitional clarity, including the development of an additional greed assessment that more accurately encapsulates this complex construct.

Increased fruit & vegetable consumption can enhance mental well-being; both increasing frequency & increasing quantity matter; a hump-shaped relationship appeared between age & fruit & vegetable consumption

Lettuce be happy: A longitudinal UK study on the relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and well-being. Neel Ocean, Peter Howley, Jonathan Ensor. Social Science & Medicine,

•    Increased fruit & vegetable consumption can enhance mental well-being.
•    Increasing frequency and increasing quantity of consumption both matter.
•    The relationship is robust to different measures of well-being.
•    A hump-shaped relationship appeared between age and fruit and vegetable consumption.

Rationale: While the role of diet in influencing physical health is now well-established, some recent research suggests that increased consumption of fruits and vegetables could play a role in enhancing mental well-being. A limitation with much of this existing research is its reliance on cross-sectional correlations, convenience samples, and/or lack of adequate controls.

Objective: We aim to add to the emerging literature on the relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and well-being by using longitudinal data from a study in the United Kingdom (UK).

Method: We employ panel data analytical techniques on three waves collected between 2010 and 2017 (i.e., following the same individuals over time) in the UK Household Longitudinal Survey. We also control for time-variant confounders such as diet, health, and lifestyle behaviours.

Results: Fixed effects regressions show that mental well-being (GHQ-12) responds in a dose-response fashion to increases in both the quantity and the frequency of fruit and vegetables consumed. This relationship is robust to the use of subjective well-being (life satisfaction) instead of mental well-being. We also document a hump-shaped relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and age.

Conclusion: Our findings provide further evidence that persuading people to consume more fruits and vegetables may not only benefit their physical health in the long-run, but also their mental well-being in the short-run.