Monday, April 8, 2019

Partisans who blatantly dehumanize members of the opposing party prefer greater social distance from opponents (reduced interpersonal tolerance); also associated with perceptions of greater moral distance

Partisan Dehumanization in American Politics. Erin C. Cassese. Political Behavior, Apr 8 2019,

Abstract: Despite evidence that dehumanizing language and metaphors are found in political discourse, extant research has largely overlooked whether voters dehumanize their political opponents. Research on dehumanization has tended to focus on racial and ethnic divisions in societies, rather than political divisions. Understanding dehumanization in political contexts is important because the social psychology literature links dehumanization to a variety of negative outcomes, including moral disengagement, aggression, and even violence. In this manuscript, I discuss evidence of partisan dehumanization during the 2016 U.S. Presidential campaign and demonstrate how a focus on dehumanization can expose new relationships between moral psychology and partisan identity. Using data from two surveys conducted in October of 2016, I show that partisans dehumanize their political opponents in both subtle and blatant ways. When I investigate the correlates of dehumanization, I find that partisans who blatantly dehumanize members of the opposing party prefer greater social distance from their political opponents, which is indicative of reduced interpersonal tolerance. I also find that blatant dehumanization is associated with perceptions of greater moral distance between the parties, which is indicative of moral disengagement. These results suggest that dehumanization can improve our understanding of negative partisanship and political polarization.

Keywords: Dehumanization Partisanship Social identity Political polarization Moral disengagement

The genetic variants associated with income are related to better mental health than those linked to educational attainment; & team was able to predict 2.5% of income differences using genetic data alone

Genetic analysis identifies molecular systems and biological pathways associated with household income. W. David Hill, Neil M. Davies, Stuart J. Ritchie, Nathan G. Skene, Julien Bryois, Steven Bell, Emanuele Di Angelantonio, David J. Roberts, Shen Xueyi, Gail Davies, David C.M. Liewald, David J. Porteous, Caroline Hayward, Adam S. Butterworth, Andrew M. McIntosh, Catharine R. Gale, Ian J. Deary. bioRxiv, Mar 2012.

Abstract: Socio-economic position (SEP) is a multi-dimensional construct reflecting (and influencing) multiple socio-cultural, physical, and environmental factors. Previous genome-wide association studies (GWAS) using household income as a marker of SEP have shown that common genetic variants account for 11% of its variation. Here, in a sample of 286,301 participants from UK Biobank, we identified 30 independent genome-wide significant loci, 29 novel, that are associated with household income. Using a recently-developed method to meta-analyze data that leverages power from genetically-correlated traits, we identified an additional 120 income-associated loci. These loci showed clear evidence of functional enrichment, with transcriptional differences identified across multiple cortical tissues, in addition to links with GABAergic and serotonergic neurotransmission. We identified neurogenesis and the components of the synapse as candidate biological systems that are linked with income. By combining our GWAS on income with data from eQTL studies and chromatin interactions, 24 genes were prioritized for follow up, 18 of which were previously associated with cognitive ability. Using Mendelian Randomization, we identified cognitive ability as one of the causal, partly-heritable phenotypes that bridges the gap between molecular genetic inheritance and phenotypic consequence in terms of income differences. Significant differences between genetic correlations indicated that, the genetic variants associated with income are related to better mental health than those linked to educational attainment (another commonly-used marker of SEP). Finally, we were able to predict 2.5% of income differences using genetic data alone in an independent sample. These results are important for understanding the observed socioeconomic inequalities in Great Britain today.

Changes in life satisfaction are associated with changes in consumption, not in income; increased conspicuous consumption seems strongly associated with improved well-being than is increased nonconspicuous consumption

Consumption Changes, Not Income Changes, Predict Changes in Subjective Well-Being. Gordon D. A. Brown, John Gathergood. Social Psychological and Personality Science, April 8, 2019.

Abstract: Does happiness depend on what one earns or what one spends? Income is typically found to have small beneficial effects on well-being. However, economic theory suggests that well-being is conferred not by income but by consumption (i.e., spending on goods and services), and a person’s level of consumption may differ greatly from their level of income due to saving behavior and taxation. Moreover, research within consumer psychology has established relationships between people’s spending in specific categories and their well-being. Here we show for the first time using panel data that changes in life satisfaction are associated with changes in consumption, not changes in income. We also find some evidence that increased conspicuous consumption is more strongly associated with improved well-being than is increased nonconspicuous consumption.

Keywords: income, consumption, conspicuous consumption, well-being, life satisfaction

From 2018: Wisdom, Foolishness, and Toxicity in Human Development

Wisdom, Foolishness, and Toxicity in Human Development. Robert J. Sternberg. Research in Human Development, Volume 15, 2018 - Issue 3-4, Aug 29 2018.

Abstract: Socialization of young people today especially emphasizes cognitive and academic-skills development. Although these skills are important, society is making a serious mistake in underestimating the importance of wisdom-based skills. As a result, we are raising a generation of individuals who may be smart but may also be foolish, or even worse, toxic to themselves and others. This article newly contributes a discussion of toxicity. The author discusses what schools can do to place more emphasis on education for wisdom.

Civilization as we have known it is facing challenges that few people would have expected it to face as the world enters the middle of the 21st century. [...] The world has gotten better in many ways over the years (Pinker, 2012), but in other ways it has gotten much worse. The potential for destruction is unequaled in the history of our civilization because of the presence of nuclear weapons sufficient to destroy the world and leaders who just might use them. Here is the irony behind what is going on in the world: The average IQ around the world increased by 30 points during the 20th century—two full Standard Deviations (Flynn, 1987, 2016)—the difference between borderline intellectual challenge average performance, and between average performance and IQ-derived estimates of intellectual giftedness. That is an absolutely incredible rise in IQ. Moreover, the rise has continued in the United States of the 21st century, so this difference underestimates the growth of traditional cognitive abilities in the United States. The increase in IQs has manifested itself in important and in some cases, obvious ways—staggering advances in advanced technologies and the ability to use those technologies, highly sophisticated scientific and engineering research, and some among the upper intellectual “class” figuring out how to exploit their high IQs to make gobs of money, whether on Wall Street, Silicon Valley, or elsewhere, in a way that never before was possible in the history of civilization. The rise the world has experienced in IQs cannot be due solely or even largely to genetic changes: The period of time was simply too short for such a high level of mutation to have occurred. And the increase in IQs cannot be caused merely by selective mating, because selective mating (better choosing intellectual matches) would increase the Standard Deviation (or variation) of IQs in the next generation, but probably not the Mean (because people with low IQs, like people with high IQs, also would choose matches to their IQs). If the increases in IQs result from students being better socialized in their homes and better educated in schools, then something perhaps is missing from that socialization and education. What might be missing?


One thing that is missing is the transmission of wisdom, or the utilization of one’s cognitive skills and knowledge toward the achievement of a common good; by balancing one’s own, others’, and larger (such as communal) interests, over the long- as well as the short–terms, through the infusion of positive ethical values (Sternberg, 1998; Sternberg & Jordan, 1995). Positive ethical values to some extent may be culturally defined; but certain ethical values, such as honesty, integrity, justice, compassion, and sincerity, seem to be cross-cultural and even to transcend cultures (Sternberg, 1998). Of course, the definition given here is only one definition of wisdom. Another related but distinct definition is that of wisdom as addressing difficult problems regarding the meaning and conduct of life. On this view, wisdom is the perfect integration of knowledge with character and mind with virtue. Wisdom thus represents truly outstanding knowledge and judgment as well as advice (see Kunzmann & Baltes, 2005). Other definitions exist as well (see Grossmann, in press; Sternberg & Glueck, in press; Sternberg & Jordan, 2005). I would argue, however, that the most distinguishing characteristic of wise people is that they bring out the best in other people. On this view, wisdom is judged not only on the basis of a person’s performance, but also on the positive effect of one’s performance on others in jointly helping to achieve a common good. Various and diverse measures have been proposed to assess wisdom (see Kunzmann, in press; Webster, in press). These measures give some reading on a person’s wisdom in a variety of different kinds of tasks and situations. According to a “balance” theory I have proposed of wisdom and its relation to intelligence (Sternberg, 2003), intelligence is a necessary but not sufficient component of wisdom. One cannot truly be wise if one is not fairly intelligent, because intelligence, even in the narrow sense of IQ, involves the analytical skills needed for various kinds of convergent problem solving. One simply cannot be wise without being analytically skilled: One needs to be able to distinguish good ideas from bad ideas, and useful ideas from useless or even destructive ideas. As a result, one would expect that wisdom and intelligence would be positively related. And indeed, people’s implicit theories of intelligence and wisdom suggest that the two characteristics do indeed positively covary (Sternberg, 1985b). But might it be possible that, as the analytical aspect of intelligence (IQ) increased, wisdom actually simultaneously could decrease? The answer, I believe, is yes. I suggest that wisdom has decreased, on average, largely as a result of a perverse reward system in schooling and society (Sternberg, in press). To the extent that wisdom and intelligence would positively covary, it would be because when society develops analytical intellectual skills, it simultaneously develops as well wisdomrelated skills. But what if it doesn’t? What if it does the opposite, developing IQ-based intellectual skills at the expense of wisdom-related ones? In past times, character education was built into schooling, if not explicitly, then implicitly. The early McGuffey readers (McGuffey, reprinted 1982) emphasized character education and the development of virtues as much as they emphasized development of reading and other verbal skills. Although character education has not typically been an explicit part of the school experience, it generally has been an implicit part, at least in the past. But character education and wisdom development are disappearing, if they are not already gone, in an age of standardized testing (Kamenetz, 2015; Kohn, 2000; Nichols & Berliner, 2007). If standardized tests do not measure character, what difference does character or wisdom make to school administrators who are seeking high test scores almost any way they can get them? Schools, administrators, teachers, and students are evaluated for things other than wisdom, and those other things take precedence (Nichols & Berliner, 2007). These other things take the form primarily of performances of students on a variety of standardized tests of achievement. These other things may be important to IQ and intelligence more generally (Sternberg, 1985a), but they may effectively kick wisdom-related skills out of the curriculum. We may be left with students who, even if smart, are foolish.


The absence of wisdom may be labeled “foolishness” (Sternberg, 2002). What happens when smart people become foolish, even notably foolish (Sternberg, 2002, 2004, in press)? Such people would show certain characteristics, ones that seem to be increasingly prevalent among the more influential and powerful people in our societies:

1. Unrealistic optimism with respect to their ideas: They believe that if an idea is theirs, certainly, because they are so smart, it must be good.

2. Egocentrism: They come to believe that it’s all about them. In the extreme, they become narcissistic, concerned primarily or only with themselves and their own enhancement.

3. False omniscience: They believe they know everything, or everything they need to know. They fail to know what they do not know or to understand what is not knowable, at least at a given time in a given place.

4. False omnipotence: They believe they are all powerful—that they can do whatever they want.

5. False invulnerability: They believe that because they are so clever and so powerful they can get away with anything.

6. Ethical disengagement: They come to believe that ethics are important for other people but that they are above ethical consideration.

When so many religious and national political leaders, up to the top, show these characteristics, what kind of hope can we realistically hold out for young people? We need to hope that parents and teachers will hold up foolish leaders as negative role models, but do they? For a variety of reasons, they may not hold up foolish leaders as negative role models. Instead, the parents and teachers may actually admire the foolish leaders. Why? Because the fundamental principle of interpersonal attraction is that we are attracted to people similar to ourselves (Sternberg, 1998), and there are very few wise people out there. People may elect fools, but those fools are “their fools.” Another way to look at this phenomenon is in terms of Haidt’s (2013) of the “righteous mind.” We divide ourselves into tribes, and even if someone is a fool, he is “our fool” versus “their fool.” Foolishness is not the worst possible outcome of failing to develop wisdom. The worst possible outcome is not the absence of wisdom (foolishness), but rather its opposite, toxicity.


Around the world, including in the Americas, governments are increasingly led by toxic leaders who bring out the worst in people. These leaders typically are elected on the basis of their charisma and populistic false claims to benefit people who perceive themselves as having been victimized by whatever the current system is. They sometimes are referred to as “pseudotransformational” leaders (Bass, 1998). Lipman-Blumen (2006) has written of the allure of toxic leaders—leaders who bring down their organizations or countries and bring down their followers with them (see also Kellerman, 2004). These leaders are the opposite of being wise. Their values are different from those of wise people. Although wise people have prosocial and constructive values (Staudinger, Doerner, & Mickler, 2005), toxic people have antisocial and destructive values. I would suggest that toxic people, and especially toxic leaders, tend to be arrogant—they look down on others; ill tempered—they are constantly autocratic in their relations with others—they want their way and are not much interested in other people’s views; self-absorbed or narcissistic—what they do is for their own benefit and/or glorification; dividers—they tend to seek control by pitting individuals or groups against each other; angry— they constantly seem to be highly critical of other people but rarely or never are they critical of themselves; unethical—they violate ethical precepts with abandon because they do not care about them. Often they are people who exhibit the dark triad of Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy (Paulhus & Williams, 2002). Toxicity may be related in some respects to populism (Mudde & Kaltwasser, 2017), which often involves pitting the supposed “real” or “pure” people against a supposedly corrupted elite. We can see the outlines of such thinking not only among many political leaders today, but also among many of their followers.


Table 3. Six Procedures for Teaching for Wisdom (After Sternberg, 2001).
1 Encourage students to read classic works of literature, history, and philosophy to learn and reflect on the wisdom of past generations.
2 Engage students in class discussions, projects, and essays that encourage them to discuss the lessons they have learned from classic works and to think about how they can be applied to their own lives and the lives of others. Especially emphasize dialogical and dialectical thinking.
3 Encourage students to study not only knowledge and received “truth,” but also ethical values, as developed during their reflective thinking.
4 Place increased emphasis on critical, creative, practical, and wise thinking in the service of good ends.
5 Encourage students to think about how almost any topic they study might be used for better or for worse ends, and about how important those ends are.
6 Remember that a teacher is always a role model! To role-model wisdom, adopt a Socratic approach to teaching, inviting students to play a more active role in constructing learning—from their own point of view and from that of others.
7 Remind students to seek a common good rather than a good only for people whom they perceive to be like themselves or to be members of their own “tribe.”

Having something to look forward to is a keystone of well-being; anticipation of a future reward can be more gratifying than the experience of reward itself; hippocampal-midbrain circuit enhances the pleasure of anticipation

Hippocampal-midbrain circuit enhances the pleasure of anticipation in the prefrontal cortex. Kiyohito Iigaya, Tobias U. Hauser, Zeb Kurth-Nelson, John P. O’Doherty, Peter Dayan, Raymond J. Dolan. Mar 26 2019.

Abstract: Having something to look forward to is a keystone of well-being. Anticipation of a future reward, like an upcoming vacation, can be more gratifying than the experience of reward itself. Theories of anticipation have described how it causes behaviors ranging from beneficial information-seeking to harmful addiction. Here, we investigated how the brain generates and enhances anticipatory pleasure, by analyzing brain activity of human participants who received information predictive of future pleasant outcomes in a decision-making task. Using a computational model of anticipation, we show that three regions orchestrate anticipatory pleasure. We show ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) tracks the value of anticipation; dopaminergic midbrain responds to information that enhances anticipation, while the sustained activity in hippocampus provides for functional coupling between these regions. This coordinating role for hippocampus is consistent with its known role in the vivid imagination of future outcomes. Our findings throw new light on the neural underpinnings of how anticipation influences decision-making, while also unifying a range of phenomena associated with risk and time-delay preference.