Friday, March 22, 2019

People who learn that a newspaper does not suppress information exhibit a lower demand for news from it; the idea that people read partisan news because they see those papers as more informative seems wrong

Do People Value More Informative News? Felix Chopra, Ingar Haaland, Christopher Roth. March 2, 2019. https://www.briq-institute.org/wc/files/people/chris-roth/working-papers/do-people-value-more-informative-news.pdf

Abstract: We examine how people’s perceptions of media bias affect their demand for news. Drawing on a large representative sample of the US population, we measure and experimentally manipulate people’s beliefs about the extent to which newspapers suppress information. Inconsistent with the“more-information-is-better principle,” we find that people who learn that a newspaper is less likely to suppress information have a lower demand for news from this newspaper. Our results demonstrate that people have a demand for biased news, consistent with a desire to confirm pre-existing beliefs.

Keywords: Information, Belief polarization, Media Bias, News Consumption,Motivated Beliefs

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1 Introduction

What drives people’s demand for news? A core principle in economics is that more information is always better. While people’s demand for news articles should thus be strictly increasing in the informativeness of the news, a large literature has documented that newspapers report news in a biased way by slanting their news stories towards the beliefs of their readers (Gentzkow and Shapiro,2010). There are several ways to rationalize why people tend to read slanted news (Xiang and Sarvary, 2007). First, it could reflect a desire for better informationas they perceive news that are closer to their prior beliefs as more informative(Gentzkow and Shapiro, 2006). Second, it could reflect that people have other motives for reading the news that conflict with expanding their knowledge. For instance, people might receive utility from reading news that confirm their pre-existing beliefs (Golman et al., 2016; Loewenstein and Molnar, 2018).

Causally identifying people’s people’s motivation for reading news is difficult. First, to understand people’s motivations for reading biased news articles, oneneeds data on subjective perceptions of biases in reporting. Second, one needsexogenous variation in these perceptions to rule out omitted variable bias andreverse causality. For example, people may distort their stated beliefs to justifytheir news consumption habits. Third, one needs to measure people’s demandfor real-world news and their actual consumption of this news, holding constanttheir information set about news articles. We address these challenges by usingan experimental approach with real news articles which allows us to test whetherconsumers indeed value more informative news in a setting with high externalvalidity.

Drawing on a large representative sample of Americans, we first elicit peo-ple’s beliefs about the extent to which theNew York Timessuppresses information. For that purpose, we tell our respondents that the Congressional Budget Office(CBO), Congress’s official nonpartisan provider of cost and benefit estimates for legislation, published a report about the “Trump Healthcare Plan” (the AmericanHealth Care Act of 2017). We then tell them that the CBO estimated that thiswould (i) decrease the federal deficit by $119 billion and (ii) leave 23 millionmore people uninsured. We truthfully tell our respondents that Republicansclaimed that the the plan would decrease the federal deficit—but not increase thenumber of people without health coverage—while Democrats claimed that theplan would not decrease the deficit and increase the number of people withouthealth coverage. Subsequently, we ask our respondents to estimate the percentchance that theNew York Timesreported only the figure on the number of unin-sured people, only the figure on the deficit decrease, or both figures. This allowsus to quantify people’s beliefs about the extent of media bias in theNew YorkTimes. To introdude exogenous variation in people’s perceptions of media bias,we inform a random subsample of our respondents that theNew York Timesreported both estimates from the CBO. Finally, we measure our respondents’demand for news from theNew York Timesby asking them whether they wouldlike to read an article in the newspaper about the Trump Tax Plan based onestimates from the CBO. The “more-information-is-better principle” predictsthat people’s demand for news about the CBO should increase for respondentswho learn that the newspaper is less likely to suppress information from CBOreports.

The key finding of this paper is that respondents who learn that the NewYork Times does not suppress information significantly reduce their demand for reading an article in this newspaper by 3.4 percentage points. This corresponds to a reduction in the demand for news of 12 percent. The time spent reading the article does not vary significantly across treatment arms, suggesting that the treatment did not affect how carefully people read the article. The reduction indemand for news is driven by respondents who initially thought that the New York Timeswas more likely to suppress information and is absent for respondents with more accurate pre-treatment beliefs about the extent of media bias in the2 New York Times. Consistent with models of motivated beliefs, our results aredriven by respondents who—in light of their prior beliefs about the directionof the bias in reporting and their political affiliation—have a stronger motive toavoid news from an unbiased source. For example, among Republican-leaning respondents the reduction in the demand for news is driven by those respondents who initially thought that the New York Timesis more right-wing biased.

We leverage two tailored measures of beliefs about newspaper reportingto shed light on mechanisms. We provide evidence that treated respondents significantly update their beliefs about the biasedness of the reporting of the  NewYork Times. Our treated respondents are 6.9 percentage points more likely to think that theNew York Times does not suppress any information about the CBO reporton the Trump Tax Plan. Respondents are also 3.7 percentage points less likely to think that theNew York Times did not cover a CBO report highlighting the negative budget consequences of granting citizenship to young undocumented immigrants. We also provide evidence that our results are inconsistent witha series of alternative explanations: Respondents do not update their beliefsabout the technicality of reporting, the complexity of the article, or about thecharacteristics of the CBO. Several patterns in our data are inconsistent withalternative mechanisms, such as cognitive constraints, uncertainty about sourcequality, curiosity, and motives for diversifying news sources.

We contribute to the literature on media bias (Allcott and Gentzkow, 2017;DellaVigna and La Ferrara, 2015; DellaVigna and Kaplan, 2007; Enikolopov etal., 2011; La Ferrara et al., 2012; Gentzkow and Shapiro, 2006, 2010; Gentzkowet al., 2015, 2018; Gerber et al., 2009; Mullainathan and Shleifer, 2005; Qin etal., 2018) and the demand for slanted news (Durante and Knight, 2012; Garzet al., 2018). Gentzkow and Shapiro’s (2010) seminal work introduces a newindex of media slant that measures the similarity of a news outlet’s language tothat of a congressional Republican or Democrat. Their model-based estimatesreveal that readers have a strong preference for like-minded news, but this pattern3 is consistent both with rational Bayesian updating about the informativenessof news (Gentzkow and Shapiro, 2006) and a behavioral preference for beliefconfirmation (Golman et al., 2016). We contribute to this literature by providingthe first causal evidence on the question of whether people value more informativenews. Specifically, we provide evidence that people who learn that the New York Times does not suppress information exhibit a lower demand for news from this newspaper. Our results are inconsistent with the idea that people read partisannews because they perceive partisan newspapers as more informative, as proposedby Gentzkow and Shapiro (2006).1


6    Conclusion

Our paper provides novel evidence on whether people value more informativenews. The main finding of this paper is that respondents who learn that theNewYork Timesdoes not suppress information reduce their demand for articles fromthis newspaper. This is inconsistent with the normative benchmark prediction ofthe “more-information-is-better principle.” Our results are driven by individualswith initially larger biases in beliefs about the extent of media bias, and thosewho in expectation should receive the largest negative belief utility shock when reading an unbiased article. Our empirical findings are consistent with models of motivated beliefs according to which people mainly consume news in order to confirm their prior beliefs,and inconsistent with models according to which people mainly consume news to receive better information. Our findings have important policy implications: Our evidence suggests that transparency about media bias might backfire and actually increase political belief polarization by shifting people’s consumption of news towards more biased sources.

Indefinite life extension: Men supported it more than women, whereas women reported greater belief in an afterlife

Women Want the Heavens, Men Want the Earth: Gender Differences in Support for Life Extension Technologies. Uri Lifshin et al. Journal of Individual Differences, March 21, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1027/1614-0001/a000288

Abstract. Efforts are being made in the field of medicine to promote the possibility of indefinite life extension (ILE). Past research on attitudes toward ILE technologies showed that women and more religious individuals usually have more negative attitudes toward ILE. The purpose of this research was to investigate whether gender differences in attitude toward indefinite life extension technologies could be explained by religiosity, afterlife beliefs, and general attitudes toward science. In four studies (N = 5,000), undergraduate participants completed self-report questionnaires measuring their support for life extension as well as religiosity, afterlife beliefs, and attitude toward science (in Study 3). In all studies, men supported ILE more than women, whereas women reported greater belief in an afterlife. The relationship between gender and attitude toward ILE was only partially mediated by religiosity (Studies 2–4) and by attitudes toward science (Study 3).

Keywords: life extension, gender differences, religion, attitudes toward science

From 2018: Could Human Evolutionary Changes Be Behind Mental Disorders?

Could Human Evolutionary Changes Be Behind Mental Disorders? Charles Choi. Discover Magazine, August 9, 2018. http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/d-brief/2018/08/09/human-evolution-changes-caused-mental-disorders/#.XJTLerh7nIU

[...]

Scientists have long suspected that common ailments like lower back, knee and foot pain are likely due to the evolution of upright walking in the human family tree. And there may be a connection between the fact that 70 percent of adults develop impacted wisdom teeth and the evolutionary reduction of jaw size in the human lineage and modern changes in diet.

“Similarly, rapid expansion of brain size and cognitive abilities in humans has been key to our evolutionary success,” says study senior author David Kingsley, a developmental geneticist at Stanford University. However, at the same time, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia impact more than 3 percent of the world population. Kingsley reasoned this vulnerability to mental disorders might also stem from recent evolutionary changes controlling human brain size and structure.

To find out, Kingsley and his colleagues focused on DNA regions found in humans but not other animals. “We knew we might be onto something when a particular human-specific sequence was located right at one of the places that has previously been associated with common psychiatric diseases in human populations,” he says.

Hope For Treatment

Specifically, the scientists focused on the gene for a protein called CACNA1C, which helps direct the flow of calcium in and out of cells. Calcium influences the electrical activity of neurons and helps control the release of the neurotransmitters that neurons use to communicate with each other. Previous research has tied CACNA1C to risks for both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, as well as anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive symptoms and autism.

The researchers focused on the so-called “non-coding” parts of this gene – these are the ones that don’t carry instructions for building the CACNA1C protein. When they compared the standard human genome used as a reference guide with the diverse range of human genomes from across the globe collected for the 1,000 Genomes Project, they discovered a significant variation in one particular region of the gene.

The research team’s analysis of the 1,000 Genomes Project’s data suggested that changes in this particular region could be increasing or decreasing the activity of the CACNA1C gene in ways that might influence risk for mental disorders. “Fifteen years after the initial sequencing of the human genome, we are still finding important pieces of the genome that have been missed in previous studies,” Kingsley says.

[...]

The Netherlands’ pensions have high participation, good retirement income, strong capitalization & sustainability; greater risk-taking & choice in managing pension savings could help w/self-employed

Self-Employment and Support for the Dutch Pension Reform. Izabela Karpowicz. Working Paper No. 19/64. March 19, 2019. https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/WP/Issues/2019/03/19/Self-Employment-and-Support-for-the-Dutch-Pension-Reform-46663

Summary: The Netherlands’ pension system is characterized by high participation rates, adequate retirement income, strong capitalization and sustainability. Pressure points are arising, however, due to population aging and untransparent intergenerational transfers inherent in the system. Moreover, the Dutch pension system needs to adapt to the changing labor market landscape with an increasing share of workers in self-employment not covered by any pension arrangement. The government has proposed replacing collective defined-benefits schemes with personal accounts, and abolishing uniform premia and constant accrual rates. The micro-data analysis shows that allowing greater risk-taking and freedom of choice in managing pension savings could crowd self-employed into pension schemes.

The influence of daily news exposure on emotional states: Making us unhappy

Is the news making us unhappy? The influence of daily news exposure on emotional states. Natascha de Hoog, Peter Verboon. British Journal of Psychology, March 21 2019, https://doi.org/10.1111/bjop.12389

Abstract: There is evidence that exposure to negative news is making people feel bad, but not much is known about why this only affects some people or whether this also applies to everyday news exposure. This study examined the direct and indirect effects of daily news exposure on people's affective states. Using ecological momentary assessment (EMA), 63 respondents (24 men and 39 women) reported their news exposure and affective states five times a day for 10 days. In addition, personal relevance of the news and personality characteristics, neuroticism and extraversion, were assessed. Results showed that negative news perceptions were related to more negative affect and less positive affect, and these effects were moderated by personal relevance, but not personality characteristics. The implications of these outcomes are discussed.

Background

These days, news seems to be everywhere. People can be updated about the latest developments in the world during the entire day and seven days a week. News is not only received by television, newspapers, and through online news coverage, but also through social media. Even people who do not follow regular news updates can still be confronted by news events through the people they follow on social media (Kramer, Guillory, & Hancock, 2014). Even though news facts can have positive, neutral, or negative content, the majority of news coverage concerns topics with a negative valence (Haskins, Miller, & Quarles, 1984; Zillmann, Chen, Knobloch, & Callison, 2004), including topics like natural disasters, crime, the bad economy, terrorism, or war. Not only is the majority of news topics negative, people also tend to pay more attention to negative news (Zillmann et al., 2004). In addition, the majority of negative news coverage is directed towards people's emotions (Philo, 2002), and the sensationalism and confronting nature of news coverage have increased drastically over the last decades (Wang, 2012).

All this exposure to negative information about the state of the world is likely to have an impact on our state of mind, our moods, or even our general happiness (Galician, 1986). Surprisingly, not much research has been conducted on this topic. Even though there are many studies on news perception, the focus has mainly been on cognition, with studies looking at information processing and memory (Gerend & Sias, 2009), as well as framing (Sun, Krakow, John, Liu, & Weaver, 2016), and motivation (Lee & Chyi, 2014) or attitudes (Hollbert, Zeng, & Robinson, 2017), while the topic of emotions has received much less attention. When emotions do play a role, studies usually focus on emotions used in news (Brosius, 1993), rather than as an outcome of news exposure.

The studies available on the relationship between news exposure and affect do generally support the notion that exposure to news reports affects our moods and state of mind. More specifically, a direct relationship between negative news exposure and negative emotional states was found in a number of experimental studies (Balzarotti & Cicero, 2014; Johnston & Davey, 1997; Marin et al., 2012; McIntyre & Gibson, 2016; Szabo & Hopkinson, 2007; Unz, Schwab, & Winterhoff‐Spurk, 2008; Veitch & Griffitt, 1976). After being exposed to negative news reports, positive affect decreased, whereas negative affect, sadness, worries, and anxiety increased. Other studies have found indirect effects on psychological distress and negative affect through an increase in stress levels and irrational beliefs (McNaughton‐Cassill, 2001) or depression (Potts & Sanchez, 1994).

Non‐experimental research on the topic has mainly focused on the impact of very severe news events, like terrorist attacks. A study on the Boston Marathon terrorist attack (Holman, Garfin, & Silver, 2014) showed people's stress levels were higher after exposure to news about the attack for four weeks compared to stress levels right after the attack. Similarly, PTSD was found to increase after continuous news exposure about the 9/11 attacks (Ahern, Galea, Resnick, & Vlahov, 2004; Piotrkowski & Brannen, 2002). Similar findings are reported in studies on anthrax attacks (Dougall, Hayward, & Baum, 2005), children exposed to news about terror attacks (Pfefferbaum et al., 2002), and news coverage on infectious diseases like SARS (Hansen, 2009).

Thus, there is empirical evidence that exposure to negative news is making one feel bad, but why is that? Does this also apply to everyday news exposure? And does this affect everyone in the same way? The present research attempts to answer these questions by looking into the direct and indirect effects of daily news exposure on people's emotional states.
Theoretical background

Despite a number of studies on the impact of negative news exposure on emotional states, no theoretical explanation has been proposed for this effect. We postulate that cognitive appraisal theory might be a relevant framework in this context. Negative news can be seen as a stressor that needs to be evaluated and reacted to. As argued by cognitive appraisal theory (Ellsworth & Scherer, 2003; Lazarus & Folkman, 1984), when someone is exposed to a stressor, the stressor is appraised in order to elicit an appropriate emotional response. The cognitive appraisal process consists of two parts: (1) primary appraisal in which one establishes the importance (severity and relevance) of the stressor and (2) secondary appraisal that assesses the ability to cope with the stressor (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). In other words, when confronted with news reports, someone (1) evaluates the valence and severity of the stressor (e.g., negative and very serious) as well as the extent to which the news affects them (e.g., very relevant) and (2) whether this news is something within or beyond their control (e.g., little control). Together, this determines the affective response that follows.

When it comes to appraisal of news stories, we propose it is mainly primary appraisal that is of importance. Most news events are likely to be perceived as outside the person's control (Kleemans, de Leeuw, Gerritsen, & Buijzen, 2017; Maguen, Papa, & Litz, 2008), making secondary appraisal less relevant to investigate as it is unlikely to vary much from person to person. For example, news about wars, poverty, and the recession are all things a recipient cannot change or has any influence over. However, people tend to differ in how severe they perceive certain news facts, and they especially differ in personal relevance. This is amplified by later theories of cognitive appraisal (Lazarus, 1991; Smith & Kirby, 2000) that have argued it is mainly the extent to which a stressor is personally relevant to someone that affects the intensity of the emotions elicited by a stressor. The importance of personal relevance was also established in a broad range of studies, showing personal relevance as an important factor when it comes to attention to, processing of, and evaluation of information (Balzarotti & Cicero, 2014; De Hoog, 2013; Van t Riet, Ruiter, & De Vries, 2012). More specially, studies on news perception have found personal relevance to be a moderator of the effect of news valence on affective response (Balzarotti & Cicero, 2014; Marshall et al., 2007).

This corresponds with the notion of information processing theories (Chen, Duckworth, & Chaiken, 1999) that personal relevance is a crucial factor in determining how critical and intensive information is processed and evaluated. In dual process models (Evans & Frankish, 2012), as well as in later versions of cognitive appraisal theory (Lazarus, 1991), the relationship between cognitions and affect is seen as a continuous bidirectional process, wherein cognitions about information affect emotions that in turn affect cognitions about the information. People who are exposed to similar news information on a daily basis can end up in a downward spiral of appraisals leading to negative affect, negative affect leading to more negative appraisals of the news etc., which might explain why studies on continuous exposure to news about terrorist attacks found people felt worse after weeks of exposure than just after the fact (Ahern et al., 2004). It also corresponds with studies showing people who are anxious or depressed are more likely to focus on negative information or information that corresponds with their mental state (Davey & Wells, 2006), which in turn only increases their anxiousness or depression. It has to be pointed out that some studies have found the opposite effect, with people selecting to read news stories that are contrary to their current mood (Biswas, Riffe, & Zillmann, 1994; Kaspar, Ramos Gameiro, & K├Ânig, 2015).

Even though daily exposure to negative news can affect people negatively, not everyone is affected in the same way. While some people feel the burden of all that is wrong in the world, others seem to be able to brush it off and remain rather unaffected emotionally by the media they consume (Valkenburg & Peter, 2013). Individual differences in the cognitive appraisal process can partly explain this (Gross & John, 2003; Kuppens & Tong, 2010; Scherer, 2001), as studies have shown people with certain traits appraise situations differently and have dissimilar affective responses to stressors (Bolger & Schilling, 1991; Scheier & Carver, 1985; Tong, 2010).

Two personality characteristics that are especially relevant when it comes to appraisal and reactions to negative news are neuroticism (Bolger & Schilling, 1991; Tong, 2010) and extraversion (Gallagher, 1990; Rafienia, Azadfallah, Fathi‐Ashtiani, & Rasoulzadeh‐Tabatabaiei, 2008). Neuroticism is the general tendency to react in an anxious and negative matter to everyday stressors. Neuroticism has been linked to heightened negative affect, anxiety, and fear, as well as a general lower well‐being. In addition, neuroticism has been shown to negatively affect the primary appraisal process (Oliver & Brough, 2002), with people high in neuroticism reacting more strongly and negatively to stressors than people low in neuroticism (Bolger & Schilling, 1991; Tong, 2010). Thus, it was expected they would perceive news as more negative and feel more personally affected by it. Extroverts are known to be social, impulsive, optimistic, and easy‐going (Sanderman, Arrindell, Ranchor, Eysenck, & Eysenck, 2012). More specifically, extroverts report higher well‐being and experience more positive affect and less negative affect than introverts (Gallagher, 1990; Stafford, Ng, Moore, & Bard, 2010). In addition, extraversion is related to lower stress and fear levels (Penley & Tomaka, 2002). Indirectly, extraversion has been shown to be a moderator in the affective processing of information as well as the influence of affect on cognition (Rafienia et al., 2008; Stafford et al., 2010). Thus, it was expected they would perceive news as less negative.

The present research

So far, studies have shown that exposure to negative news reports can negatively affect one's emotional state, but these studies have mainly been experimental in nature or have focused on very serious events, like terrorist attacks. Not much is known about the effect of daily exposure to everyday news and why some people are more affected by news exposure than others. More research is needed into the possible negative effects of daily news exposure and the conditions under which they occur. Therefore, the present research looks at the direct and indirect effects of daily news exposure on people's emotional states.

The design of the study was derived from ecological momentary assessment (EMA) methodology (Conner, Tennen, Fleeson, & Barrett, 2009), and, to our knowledge, it is the first study that looks at the effects of news perception on emotional states using an intensive longitudinal design. This method uses a structured diary‐type set‐up used to assess people's thoughts, moods, and the exact context in real time, for a certain period of time, and has been shown to be very effective in capturing people's daily reality (Myin‐Germeys et al., 2009). Benefits of this method also include the minimization of bias in recall compared to assessments of mood and emotional states by traditional methods. In addition, compared to experimental studies, this method increases ecological validity, while also being able to assess causal effects.

The aim of the present study was to examine whether daily exposure to negative news would negatively affect people's emotional states. It was also explored whether personal relevance, extraversion, and neuroticism moderated this effect. We expected daily exposure to negative everyday news to affect emotional states. More specifically, we expected a positive relationship between how negative the news was perceived to be and negative affect (and a negative relationship for positive affect; hypothesis 1). In addition, we expected the impact of negative news on emotional states to be stronger when personal relevance is high (hypothesis 2), and for people who score high on neuroticism (hypothesis 3) or low on extraversion (hypothesis 4).


Discussion

The present study adds to the growing amount of literature on the effects of media exposure on well‐being and emotional states. The main aim of this study was to examine daily, everyday news exposure by testing whether negative affect and positive affect were influenced by daily news perceptions. In addition, we tested whether personal relevance of the news moderated the effect of the news perception and whether the personal difference variables, neuroticism and extraversion, were relevant in these associations. As expected, it was found that when daily news was perceived as more negative, people reported more negative affect and less positive affect. This corresponds with previous experimental studies (Balzarotti & Cicero, 2014; McIntyre & Gibson, 2016; Szabo & Hopkinson, 2007), as well as cross‐sectional and longitudinal studies on severe news facts (Ahern et al., 2004; Dougall et al., 2005; Holman et al., 2014). The results of the present study add to these findings by showing these same effects are found when looking at daily exposure to everyday news. Thus, news does not have to be very severe or shocking for people to be affected by it emotionally.

In addition, it was found that when personal relevance of the news was high, the reported negative affect also tended to be higher, stressing the importance of personal relevance in general and in appraisal of news especially (Balzarotti & Cicero, 2014; De Hoog, 2013; Lazarus, 1991; Smith & Kirby, 2000). Moreover, as expected, personal relevance of the news moderated the association of news valence on reported negative affect and positive affect, respectively, with negative news having a stronger impact on affect when personal relevance was high. This is in line with studies on news perception showing personal relevance to be an important moderator (Balzarotti & Cicero, 2014; Marshall et al., 2007).

These findings support cognitive appraisal theory (Ellsworth & Scherer, 2003; Lazarus, 1991; Lazarus & Folkman, 1984) as a relevant framework for explaining the effect of news perception on emotional states. As we postulated, when exposed to news facts, primary appraisal takes places, wherein someone assesses the severity and relevance of the news facts that in turn affect the emotional response. As the findings of the present study show, the more severe the news was perceived and the higher perceptions of personal relevance, the stronger the affective response. Although not the main focus of our study, additional analyses also showed support for our reasoning that when it comes to everyday news, secondary appraisal in the form of coping with the stressor plays a much smaller role, as most news stories are seen as outside of the person's control. Indeed, no direct or indirect effect of coping on affect was found, besides a small direct effect of coping on positive affect. Following the reasoning of cognitive appraisal theory, this implies that in order for people to be less affected by news exposure, the news either needs to be perceived as less severe or more under people's control. One way to achieve this could be for the media to stop stressing the negativity and severity of daily news and to provide more information about how people could cope with certain information, a concept recently described as constructive journalism (McIntyre & Gibson, 2016). Even though viewers might not have much control over the news, they do have control over how they cope with their emotional responses. Further studies should therefore look into the role of emotion‐focused coping in news exposure.

Because not everyone is affected in the same way by news exposure (Valkenburg & Peter, 2013), and individual differences seem to play an important role in this (Gross & John, 2003; Kuppens & Tong, 2010; Scherer, 2001), we explored the importance of two personality characteristics, namely neuroticism and extraversion (Bolger & Schilling, 1991; Gallagher, 1990; Tong, 2010). Neuroticism had a relatively large effect on both affect measures. People with higher scores on neuroticism reported more negative and less positive affect. However, even though neuroticism had a large effect on affect in general, neuroticism did not moderate the effect of news exposure on affect, nor did it affect perceptions of personal relevance. In addition, extraversion only was a moderator for positive affect. Even though previous studies have established the role of both personality factors in affective responses (Rafienia et al., 2008; Stafford et al., 2010), neither seems to have a strong effect on people's news perception. Extraversion makes people exposed to negative news have more positive affect, but not less negative affect. This seems to imply that extraverts still have the same response of negative emotions to exposure to negative news as everyone else, but they just do not let it affect their positive emotions. Neuroticism just makes people experience more negative affect in general (Bolger & Schilling, 1991).
Limitations and recommendations

Even though the results of this study show important insight into the effect of daily, everyday news exposure on affective responses, some limitations need to be mentioned. First of all, a convenience sample was used in this study, limiting the generalizability of the results. The sample had a representative distribution of gender and age, but mainly included people with a higher education. Thus, the sample was not very representative of the Dutch population. Future studies should attempt to use a more representative sample of people, especially to establish news effects in lower educated people. Secondly, even though we used an intensive longitudinal design (Conner et al., 2009) that is known for being able to capture people's daily experiences effectively, as well as minimizes bias and has more ecological validity than experimental studies (Myin‐Germeys et al., 2009), it is also a very intensive research method asking a lot of the investment of participants. As a consequence, compliance with the study instructions in EMA studies is known to be less than in cross‐sectional surveys. However, enough data points to detect moderate‐to‐large effects were still available to produce valid results when using ESM data (Delespaul, 1995). Thirdly, because we wanted to limit the burden of participants, we restricted the number of items to measure the relevant constructs. Even though some of these measures have been validated (Van der Steen et al., 2017) or appear to be reliable measures, we cannot be certain that personal relevance, which was assessed with a single item, was measured reliably. In future studies, a more extensive and reliable measure of personal relevance needs to be used.

This study is the first, to our knowledge, that looks at the effect of everyday news exposure, using an intensive longitudinal design (Conner et al., 2009). More research should be conducted using these – or similar – designs in order to truly capture the continuous nature of news exposure. These days, people do not just read or watch single news reports, but they are constantly exposed to news information, and the way we research this phenomenon should reflect the research designs we use. In addition, more research is needed into possible moderating or mediating factors. A clear picture that comes from this study, as well as previous studies, is that news exposure can negatively affect our moods; however, not enough is known about why some people are more affected by this than others.

So far, we know that factors that are important are personal relevance, but more individual difference measures need to be explored in order to get a better picture. Some interesting variables to consider include traits that could possibly affect how the news is perceived like locus of control (Bollini, Walker, Hamann, & Kestler, 2004) or optimism (Forgeard & Seligman, 2012), and specific variables related to cognitive appraisal and emotional responses such as coping style (Ben‐Zur, 2009), affective self‐regulatory efficacy (Bandura, Caprara, Barbaranelli, Gerbino, & Pastorelli, 2003), or emotion regulation (Gross & John, 2003). Besides individual differences, social influences should be considered. How news is received and perceived has a lot to do with one's social surroundings, like indirect news exposure through social media (Kramer et al., 2014). Surprisingly, relatively little research has been done on the role of social influence, like peer groups or social identity, in the effects of media exposure (Valkenburg, Peter, & Walther, 2016).

In conclusion, the present study showed the effect of daily news exposure on negative and positive affect and explored possible moderators. Negative news perception is related to more negative affect and less positive affect, and these effects are moderated by personal relevance. Thus, daily exposure to everyday news facts makes people feel bad, especially when they consider the news to be personally relevant. These results implicate we need to look more carefully at the way (negative) news is presented in the media, as well as the frequency of exposure to the news, in order to prevent people from being negatively affected by it.

The present study showed that having a happier spouse is associated not only with a longer marriage but also with a longer life

Having a Happy Spouse Is Associated With Lowered Risk of Mortality. Olga Stavrova. Psychological Science, March 21, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797619835147

Abstract: Studies have shown that individuals’ choice of a life partner predicts their life outcomes, from their relationship satisfaction to their career success. The present study examined whether the reach of one’s spouse extends even further, to the ultimate life outcome: mortality. A dyadic survival analysis using a representative sample of elderly couples (N = 4,374) followed for up to 8 years showed that a 1-standard-deviation-higher level of spousal life satisfaction was associated with a 13% lower mortality risk. This effect was robust to controlling for couples’ socioeconomic situation (e.g., household income), both partners’ sociodemographic characteristics, and baseline health. Exploratory mediation analyses pointed toward partner and actor physical activity as sequential mediators. These findings suggest that life satisfaction has not only intrapersonal but also interpersonal associations with longevity and contribute to the fields of epidemiology, positive psychology, and relationship research.

Keywords: life satisfaction, mortality, dyadic analyses, couples, open materials

Research has consistently shown that life satisfaction is associated with longevity (for a review, see Diener & Chan, 2011). For example, meta-analyses of long-term prospective studies have shown that higher life satisfaction predicts lower risk of mortality over decades (Chida & Steptoe, 2008). Although this literature has demonstrated an intrapersonal effect of life satisfaction (i.e., an effect of an individual’s life satisfaction on that individual’s mortality), it is less clear whether life satisfaction has interpersonal effects as well. In particular, does an individual’s life satisfaction affect the mortality risk of his or her spouse?

Epidemiological studies have demonstrated the importance of contextual characteristics (e.g., neighborhood characteristics; Bosma, Dike van de Mheen, Borsboom, & Mackenbach, 2001) for individuals’ longevity. Adopting the interpersonal perspective (Zayas, Shoda, & Ayduk, 2002), I propose that the characteristics (e.g., life satisfaction) of the people who are close to an individual can also make up that person’s context and, potentially, affect his or her life outcomes. For example, life satisfaction has been associated with healthy behaviors such as physical exercise (Kim, Kubzansky, Soo, & Boehm, 2017). Given that spouses tend to affect each other’s lifestyle (Jackson, Steptoe, & Wardle, 2015), having a happy spouse might increase one’s likelihood of engaging in healthy behaviors. In addition, happiness has been associated with helping behavior (O’Malley & Andrews, 1983). Hence, having a happy partner might be related to experiencing support from that partner and, consequently, might improve one’s health and longevity.

Indeed, a recent study found that spousal life satisfaction was associated with individuals’ self-rated health (Chopik & O’Brien, 2017), although such interpersonal effects were not detected for doctor-diagnosed chronic conditions (Chopik & O’Brien, 2017) or for inflammation markers (Uchino et al., 2018). None of the existing studies have explored whether spousal life satisfaction predicts individuals’ mortality. The present research examined this question using panel data of approximately 4,400 elderly couples in the United States. In addition, a set of exploratory mediation analyses tested the role of partner support as well as partner and actor physical activity as potential mechanisms for such an association.

Finally, it is possible that the level of spousal life satisfaction per se matters much less than the extent to which it is similar to individuals’ own life satisfaction. A growing body of research has underscored the level of congruence between partners’ dispositional characteristics as an important factor for their relationship and life outcomes (Dyrenforth, Kashy, Donnellan, & Lucas, 2010). Therefore, in an additional set of analyses, I explored whether the level of actor-partner similarity in life satisfaction was associated with actor mortality.

Discussion

Previous research has shown that individuals’ career success and relationship and life satisfaction are predicted by their spouses’ dispositional characteristics (Dyrenforth et al., 2010; Solomon & Jackson, 2014). The present research suggests that spouses’ reach might extend even further. A dyadic survival analysis using the data from 4,374 couples showed that having a spouse who was more satisfied with life was associated with reduced mortality.

What explains this interpersonal effect of life satisfaction? Exploratory mediation analyses established partner and actor physical activity as sequential mediators. One partner’s life satisfaction was associated with his or her increased physical activity, which in turn was related to increased physical activity in the other partner, which predicted that partner’s mortality. Yet, given the correlational nature of these data, these results should be interpreted with caution.

It is noteworthy that the effect of spousal life satisfaction was comparable in size to the effects of other well-established predictors of mortality, such as education and income (in the present study, HRs = 0.90 for partner life satisfaction, 0.93 for household income, and 0.91 for actor education). In fact, spousal life satisfaction predicted mortality as strongly as (and even more robustly than) an individual’s own life satisfaction and as strongly as basic personality traits, such as neuroticism and extraversion, predicted mortality in previous work (Jokela et al., 2013).

Although most existing research on predictors of mortality has focused nearly exclusively on individuals’ own characteristics, the present analyses revealed that the characteristics of a person who is close to an individual, such as a spouse, might be an equally important determinant of that individual’s mortality. Continuing this line of research, future studies might explore whether the interpersonal effect of life satisfaction on mortality is restricted to (marital) dyads or whether it extends to larger social networks.

To conclude, happiness is a desirable trait in a romantic partner, and marriage to a happy person is more likely to last than is marriage to an unhappy person (Lucas, 2005). The present study showed that having a happier spouse is associated not only with a longer marriage but also with a longer life.


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Alcohol Use May be Beneficial after all
If one restricts the focus to alcohol-related illnesses, it makes sense that any level of alcohol consumed increases the rate of these illnesses. Even if alcohol always increases the risk of alcohol-related diseases, it may still be associated with a boost in overall health.
This would explain why wealthy individuals, and affluent countries, both consume more alcohol and have a longer life expectancy.
In my own unpublished analysis of the connection between alcohol and life expectancy at birth, I found no evidence that countries with a higher proportion of drinkers, or with higher alcohol consumption per person, paid a price in lost life expectancy.
When the analysis was restricted to the wealthier half of countries - that drink more - I found that those countries that consumed more alcohol had a significantly higher life expectancy (even with national wealth, and religion, statistically controlled). Residents of countries where more of the people drank alcohol also lived significantly longer.
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Alcohol and Health: Despite the controversy, abstinent countries have the biggest health problems

Alcohol and Health: Controversy Continues. Nigel Barber. Psychology Today, Mar 21 2019. https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/the-human-beast/201903/alcohol-and-health-controversy-continues
Abstinent countries have the biggest health problems.

Excerpts:

We often hear how many people die of alcohol-related diseases. Such research considers the only pathology and ignores the possibility that alcohol has health benefits. Such benefits appear to be enjoyed mainly by the affluent.

In an earlier post, I argued that very damaging drug use is selected against. The best example of this is the phenomenon of genetic alcohol intolerance in Asian populations that had been bedeviled by excessive alcohol use thanks to the easy availability of homemade rice wine (1).

Learning also matters. Tobacco use declines via social learning once its adverse health effects become widely known (2). Why would so many people drink alcohol if it is so bad for health?

Alcohol Use and Adaptation

Alcohol is consumed in most countries and by over 40 percent of the population in countries around the world. Recent research, published in Lancet, found that any level of alcohol consumption increases morbidity and mortality from alcohol-related diseases.

Many scholars argue that this is another case of human behavior going badly off the rails in modern societies that are very different from ancestral environments to which we are supposedly adapted (2).

Yet, this picture of human limitations may be excessively bleak. Humans and other mammals are a great deal more adaptable to their current environments than this approach suggests. Moose growing up in locations where wolves are extinct loose all fear of their ancestral arch enemy.

Humans are more flexible than other species and quickly learn to avoid foods and drugs that are harmful, including highly addictive drugs such as tobacco (2).

Alcohol has complex health effects and there may not be a simple linear effect of increasing alcohol consumption undermining health as the Lancet study concludes.

The U-shaped Function

Research on cardiovascular disease found that there is a U-shaped relationship between illness and alcohol consumption (3). This means that people who drink unusually little have worse health than those who consume a moderate amount whereas heavy consumption is associated with a heavy health cost.

These findings are inconsistent with the conclusion that alcohol in any amount is harmful.

Yet, there is a way in which the contradiction could be resolved. Even if alcohol is always toxic, its use in moderate amounts could have beneficial effects for health if (a) it facilitates social interactions and thereby reduces isolation and increases bonding and social support and (b) the beneficial consequences outweigh the toxicity costs.

Hence wealthy people consume more alcohol than average but also enjoy much better health and longevity than poorer segments of the population.

Who Is Prejudiced, and Toward Whom? The Big Five Traits and Generalized Prejudice

Who Is Prejudiced, and Toward Whom? The Big Five Traits and Generalized Prejudice. Jarret T. Crawford, Mark J. Brandt. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, March 21, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167219832335

Abstract: Meta-analyses show that low levels of Openness and Agreeableness correlate with generalized prejudice. However, previous studies narrowly assessed prejudice toward low-status, disadvantaged groups. Using a broad operationalization of generalized prejudice toward a heterogeneous array of targets, we sought to answer two questions: (a) Are some types of people prejudiced against most types of groups? and (b) Are some types of people prejudiced against certain types of groups? Across four samples (N = 7,543), Openness was very weakly related to broad generalized prejudice, r = −.03, 95% confidence interval (CI) [−.07, −.001], whereas low Agreeableness was reliably associated with broad generalized prejudice, r = −.23, 95% CI [−.31, −.16]. When target characteristics moderated relationships between Big Five traits and prejudice, they implied that perceiver–target dissimilarity on personality traits explains prejudice. Importantly, the relationship between Agreeableness and prejudice remained robust across target groups, suggesting it is the personality trait orienting people toward (dis)liking of others.

Keywords: Big Five, agreeableness, openness, prejudice, generalized prejudice