Saturday, April 20, 2019

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

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

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

Keywords: Infant carrying Paternity Pan troglodytes Bulindi Uganda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I. Forestalling an Anticipated Cascade of Proliferation

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

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

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

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

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

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

II. United States Power as a Nonproliferation Instrument

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

III. Conclusion

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

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

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

Thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

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

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

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

Keywords: depression, emotion, epidemiology, happiness

Popular version: APS, Mar 17 2019,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keywords: Appearance, face judgements, thin slices.

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