Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Men are more optimistic than women; men are also more prone to be wrong in their beliefs about the future economic situation; & in sharp economic downturns, the gender differences in optimism disappear

Bjuggren, Carl Magnus & Elert, Niklas, 2019. "Gender Differences in Optimism," Working Paper Series 1275, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.

Abstract: This paper examines gender differences in optimism about the economy. We measure optimism using Swedish survey data in which respondents stated their beliefs about the country’s future economic situation. We argue that this measure of optimism is preferable to common measurements in the literature since it avoids confounding individuals’ economic situation with their perception of the future and it can be compared to economic indicators. In line with previous research, we find that men are more optimistic than women; however, men are also more prone to be wrong in their beliefs about the future economic situation. Furthermore, in sharp economic downturns, the gender differences in optimism disappear. This convergence in beliefs can be explained by the amount of available information on the economy.

Do we want to regulate ideas conflict, or compete and promote our own ideas, or avoid conflict and yield to others' ideas?

Sociocognitive Conflict Regulation: How to Make Sense of Diverging Ideas. Fabrizio Butera, Nicolas Sommet, Céline Darnon. Current Directions in Psychological Science, February 4, 2019.

Abstract: Sociocognitive conflict arises when people hold different views or ideas about the same object, and it has the potential to promote learning, cognitive development, and positive social relations. The promotion of these outcomes, however, depends on how the conflict is regulated and with what goals: Mastery goals predict epistemic conflict regulation and the elaboration of multiple ideas, performance-approach goals predict competitive conflict regulation and the promotion of one’s own ideas, and performance-avoidance goals predict protective conflict regulation and yielding to other people’s ideas. Conflict regulation thus determines the conditions under which confronting diverging ideas results in positive cognitive and relational outcomes.

Keywords: sociocognitive conflict, conflict regulation, achievement goals, learning, cognitive development

The concept of conflict has a lengthy history in psy-chological science, albeit with different interpretations. From early studies on intergroup conflict (Sherif, 1966) to more recent work on oppression (Sidanius & Pratto, 2001), social psychology has traditionally focused on destructive conflicts (Sommet, Quiamzade, & Butera, 2017) based on competition between individuals and between groups. On the contrary, from Piaget’s studies on the equilibration of cognitive structures (1975/1985) to work on conceptual change (Chi, 2008), cognitive psychology and the learning sciences have focused on constructive conflicts based on individual exposure to contradictory information (Limón, 2001). The present article presents the integrative framework of sociocog-nitive conflict stemming from research on sociocogni-tive development (Doise & Mugny, 1984) and social influence (Pérez & Mugny, 1996). This line of research has demonstrated that conflict can be either construc-tive or destructive depending on the way it is regulated (Butera, Darnon, & Mugny, 2011).

The Concept of Sociocognitive Conflict

The concept of sociocognitive conflict was introduced by Mugny and Doise (1978) and Doise and Mugny (1984) to account for the finding that children interact-ing with others are more likely to progress on a task than children working alone. This work was based on Piaget’s concept of cognitive conflict (Piaget, 1975/1985), which arises when a child’s cognitive structures are disrupted by new and inconsistent information. The disequilibrium that ensues requires some adjustment in the child’s cognitive structures, which leads to more elaborate knowledge and cognitive gains. Very often, however, direct information from the object is not available or is misleading, cognitive conflict does not take place, and people may carry on with false or suboptimal knowledge.

Doise and Mugny (1984) reasoned that children reach a higher level of cognitive development when interacting with others than when working alone because the disequilibrium may come from the diver-gent point of view of their partner. The disruption of previous knowledge by a dissenting partner is called sociocognitive conflict. This conflict requires some adjustment and may thereby result in more elaborate knowledge. The constructive effects of such conflictual interactions have been documented in dozens of experiments with children (Doise & Mugny, 1984) and adults (Darnon, Buchs, & Butera, 2002), replicated by other laboratories (Ames & Murray, 1982), and extended to the realm of professional and political decision making (see Johnson’s, 2015, work on “constructive controversy”) and interactions in computer-supported collaborative learning groups (see Kapur’s, 2008, work on “productive failure”).

Importantly, the observed progress is accounted for by conflict and not merely by interaction: Mugny and Doise (1978) showed that interaction led to progress even when a child interacted with a partner who had a lower level of cognitive development, which is incon-sistent with an explanation in terms of the mere transfer of competences. Later, Doise and Mugny (1979) showed that interindividual conflict (between two children with opposing viewpoints) led to greater cognitive progress than intraindividual conflict (each child experiencing two viewpoints).

Table 1.  Items Used to Assess Self-Reported Sociocognitive Conflict Regulation (From Darnon, Muller, Schrager, Pannuzzo, & Butera, 2006; Sommet et al., 2014)

Conflict-regulation strategy: Epistemic
When disagreements occurred, to what extent did you . . .
•Try to think about the text again in order to understand better?
•Try to examine the conditions under which each point of view could help you understand?
•Try to think of a solution that could integrate both points of view?

Conflict-regulation strategy: Competitive relational
When disagreements occurred, to what extent did you . . .
•Try to resist by maintaining your initial position?
•Try to show your partner was wrong?
•Try to show you were right?

Conflict-regulation strategy: Protective relational
When disagreements occurred, to what extent did you . . .
•Think your partner was certainly more correct than you?
•Comply with his/her proposition?
•Agree with his/her own way of viewing things?

Table 2.  Instructions Used to Manipulate Achievement Goals (From Darnon, Harackiewicz, Butera, Mugny, & Quiamzade, 2007; Darnon, Muller, Schrager, Pannuzzo, & Butera, 2006)

Achievement goal: Mastery
“It is very important for you to accurately understand the aims of this experiment. You are here to acquire new knowledge that could be useful to you, to understand correctly the experiments and the ideas developed in the text, and to discover new concepts. In other words, you are here to learn.”

Achievement goal: Performance-approach
“The experimenters will evaluate your performance. It is important for you to perform well and obtain a good grade on the different tasks presented here. You should know that a lot of students will do this task. You are asked to keep in mind that you should try to distinguish yourself positively, that is, to perform better than the majority of students. In other words, what we ask you here is to show your competencies, your abilities.”

Achievement goal: Performance-avoidance
“The experimenters will evaluate your performance. It is important for you to avoid performing poorly and not obtain a bad grade on the different tasks presented here. You should know that a lot of students will do this task. You are asked to keep in mind that you should try not to distinguish yourself negatively, that is, try not to perform more poorly than the majority of students. In other words, what we ask you here is to avoid performing poorly.”

Captive apes failed to respect others' claim on food resources & frequently monopolized the resources when had opportunity; children respected & made spontaneous verbal references to ownership

Children, but not great apes, respect ownership. Patricia Kanngiesser et al. Developmental Science, April 30 2019.

Abstract: Access to and control of resources is a major source of costly conflicts. Animals, under some conditions, respect what others control and use (i.e., possession). Humans not only respect possession of resources, they also respect ownership. Ownership can be viewed as a cooperative arrangement, where individuals inhibit their tendency to take others’ property on the condition that those others will do the same. We investigated to what degree great apes follow this principle, as compared to human children. We conducted two experiments, in which dyads of individuals could access the same food resources. The main test of respect for ownership was whether individuals would refrain from taking their partner's resources even when the partner could not immediately access and control them. Captive apes (N = 14 dyads) failed to respect their partner's claim on food resources and frequently monopolized the resources when given the opportunity. Human children (N = 14 dyads), tested with a similar apparatus and procedure, respected their partner's claim and made spontaneous verbal references to ownership. Such respect for the property of others highlights the uniquely cooperative nature of human ownership arrangements.

It was claimed that the ability to recall personal past events is uniquely human; but great apes can remember specific events for long periods of time (months to years); the forgetting curve is similar to ours

Long-Term Memory of Past Events in Great Apes. Amy Lewis, Dorthe Berntsen, Josep Call. Current Directions in Psychological Science, January 2, 2019.

Abstract: It has been claimed that the ability to recall personal past events is uniquely human. We review recent evidence that great apes can remember specific events for long periods of time, spanning months and even years, and that such memories can be enhanced by distinctiveness (irrespective of reinforcement) and follow a forgetting curve similar to that in humans. Moreover, recall is enhanced when apes are presented with features that are diagnostic of the event, consistent with notions of encoding specificity and cue overload in human memory. These findings are also consistent with the involuntary retrieval of past events in humans, a mode of remembering that is thought to be less cognitively demanding than voluntary retrieval. Taken together, these findings reveal further similarities between the way humans and animals remember past events and open new avenues of research on long-term memory in nonhuman animals.

Keywords: great apes, long-term memory, spontaneous retrieval, episodic memory, event memory

Why so many people trust others, even complete strangers, given their social cynicism & aversion to taking risks? People trust at unexpectedly high rates because they feel a social obligation to do so

Why People Trust: Solved Puzzles and Open Mysteries. David Dunning, Detlef Fetchenhauer, Thomas Schlösser. Current Directions in Psychological Science, April 30, 2019.

Abstract: Interpersonal trust is essential for a productive and rewarding social life, yet it presents many theoretical puzzles, particularly among strangers, because its existence violates the rational-actor model. Here, we focus on two mysteries. One is cognitive, focusing on why people cynically underestimate how trustworthy their peers are. The second is behavioral, focusing on why so many people trust others, including complete strangers, given their social cynicism and aversion to taking risks. Regarding the behavioral mystery, we adopt a normative approach, proposing that people trust at unexpectedly high rates because they feel a social obligation to do so. This approach implies that trust may be more about the behavior itself than about downstream consequences, that people are not “giving” so much as “giving in” to social pressures, and that their choices may have more to do with emotion than calculation.

Keywords: trust, economic games, prosocial behavior, norms, social exchange

Drinking alcohol (compared with placebo or control) increased the positive image held by observers

Self-Expression While Drinking Alcohol: Alcohol Influences Personality Expression During First Impressions. Edward Orehek et al. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, April 30, 2019.

Abstract: People are motivated to be perceived both positively and accurately and, therefore, approach social settings and adopt means that allow them to reach these goals. We investigated whether alcohol consumption helps or hinders the positivity and accuracy of social impressions using a thin-slicing paradigm to better understand the effects of alcohol in social settings and the influence of alcohol on self-expression. These possibilities were tested in a sample of 720 participants randomly assigned to consume an alcohol, placebo, or control beverage while engaged in conversation in three-person groups. We found support for the hypothesis that alcohol (compared with placebo or control) increased the positivity of observers’ personality expression, but did not find support for the hypothesis that alcohol increased the accuracy of personality expression. These findings contribute to our understanding of the social consequences of alcohol consumption, shedding new light on the interpersonal benefits that alcohol can foster.

The “Inclusivity Analysis” feature allows filmmakers “to quickly assign and measure the ethnicity, gender, age, disability or any other definable trait of the characters,” or determine if they pass the Bechdel Test

Screenplay Software Adds Tool to Assess a Script’s Inclusiveness. Melena Ryzik. TNYT Apr 26 2019.

One of the most widely used screenplay programs in Hollywood has a new tool to help with gender equality and inclusion. In an update announced Thursday, Final Draft ( — software that writers use to format scripts — said it will now include a proprietary “Inclusivity Analysis” feature, allowing filmmakers “to quickly assign and measure the ethnicity, gender, age, disability or any other definable trait of the characters,” including race, the company said in a statement.

It also will enable users to determine if a project passes the Bechdel Test, measuring whether two female characters speak to each other about anything other than a man. The Final Draft tool, a free add-on, was developed in collaboration with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media at Mount Saint Mary’s University, which has been at the forefront of studying the under-representation of women on screen.

From 2018: These results support the existence of characteristic neural traits in artists, who display reduced reactions to monetary reward acceptance and increased reactions to monetary reward rejection

From 2018...  Reactivity of the Reward System in Artists During Acceptance and Rejection of Monetary Rewards. Roberto Goya-Maldonado, Maria Keil, Katja Brodmann & Oliver Gruber. Creativity Research Journal, Volume 30, 2018 - Issue 2, Pages 172-178. Apr 20 2018.

Abstract: Humans possess an invaluable ability of self-expression that extends into visual, literary, musical, and many other fields of creation. More than any other profession, artists are in close contact with this subdomain of creativity. Probably one of the most intriguing aspects of creativity is its negative correlation with the availability of monetary reward. The aim of this study was to investigate the reactivity of the dopaminergic reward system in artists and nonartist controls using the desire-reason-dilemma (DRD) paradigm, which allows separate evaluation of reactivity to the acceptance and rejection of rewards. Using fMRI, blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD) responses were measured in key regions of the reward system, namely the ventral striatum (VS), the ventral tegmental area (VTA), and the anterior ventral prefrontal cortex (AVPFC). In contrast to controls, artists presented significantly weaker VS activation in reward acceptance. Additionally, they showed stronger suppression of the VS by the AVPFC in reward rejection. No other differences in demographic or behavioral data were evidenced. These results support the existence of characteristic neural traits in artists, who display reduced reactions to monetary reward acceptance and increased reactions to monetary reward rejection.

Chronotype (morningness/eveningness) is associated with preference for the timing of many types of behavior, most notably sleep; also associated with aspects of personality, like prosocial behavior

The impact of chronotype on prosocial behavior. Natalie L. Solomon, Jamie M. Zeitzer. PLOS, April 30, 2019.

Introduction: Chronotype (morningness/eveningness) is associated with preference for the timing of many types of behavior, most notably sleep. Chronotype is also associated with differences in the timing of various physiologic events as well as aspects of personality. One aspect linked to personality, prosocial behavior, has not been studied before in the context of chronotype. There are many variables contributing to who, when, and why one human might help another and some of these factors appear fixed, while some change over time or with the environment. It was our intent to examine prosocial behavior in the context of chronotype and environment.

Methods: Randomly selected adults (N = 100, ages 18–72) were approached in a public space and asked to participate in a study. If the participants consented (n = 81), they completed the reduced Morning-Eveningness Questionnaire and the Stanford Sleepiness Scale, then prosocial behavior was assessed.

Results/Conclusions: We found that people exhibited greater prosocial behavior when they were studied further from their preferred time of day. This did not appear to be associated with subjective sleepiness or other environmental variables, such as ambient illumination. This suggests the importance of appreciating the differentiation between the same individual’s prosocial behavior at different times of day. Future studies should aim at replicating this result in larger samples and across other measures of prosocial behavior.



Individual differences in the time at which people prefer to do particular behaviors, most notably sleep, are referred to as chronotype. In essence, chronotype describes whether someone is a “morning” person or an “evening” person. While many (50%) individuals identify somewhere between the extremes of chronotype, around 30% of individuals identify as morning type and 20% identify as evening type [1,2]. An individual’s chronotype is likely created by an interaction between the endogenous circadian pacemaker and its responses to light [3,4] and can be modulated by factors such as age [2,5,6] and life circumstance (e.g., needing to get to work early over years may shift preference towards earlier hours). There are a variety of physiologic events that vary by chronotype (e.g., timing of melatonin [7], core temperature [8], and cortisol [9]), as well behaviors that vary by chronotype (e.g., cognition, mood, susceptibility to stress and personality traits) [10,11]. A meta-analysis examining the association between chronotype and personality, as described by the Big Five Personality Model [12], found that conscientiousness is the personality dimension that relates most to morningness. Agreeableness is also related to morningness, although to a lesser degree, and openness to experience, extraversion and neuroticism, contribute a very small degree [12].
Another variable linked to both agreeableness and conscientiousness, prosocial behavior, has received little attention in terms of its potential modulation by chronotype. Prosocial behavior, or an action that is done for the benefit of another human or society as a whole, is regulated by both situational and dispositional variables [13]. The study of situational determinants of prosocial behavior was the focus of most early investigation. Among the situational variables that could influence prosocial behavior are setting (rural settings eliciting more prosocial behavior than urban settings) [14,15], other behaviors (e.g., cell phone use) [16], amount of sunlight [17], and weather [18]. Noise has also been found to be negatively correlated with prosocial behavior, with high noise levels interfering more with verbal help than with physical help [19]. Opportunities in which the situation is viewed as uncontrollable, such as a medical emergency, are likely to evoke more prosocial behavior [20], while the presence of bystanders reduces prosocial behavior [21]. More recently, however, there has been increasing interest in examining how dispositional (trait) variables relate to prosocial behavior. Agreeableness and conscientiousness are the personality traits most correlated with prosocial behavior [2224]. Other variables associated with prosocial behavior include sex [25] and age [26,27].
As both chronotype and prosocial behavior are linked to agreeableness, conscientiousness, and other aspects of personality, we wanted to explore whether chronotype is linked to prosocial behavior. One previous study examining adolescents found morningness to be correlated positively with prosocial behavior, and negatively with behavioral problems [28]. We specifically hypothesized that individuals would be more likely to engage in prosocial behavior if asked to do so when closer to their preferred time of day. We secondarily hypothesized that sleepiness, a common occurrence in many adults that can be associated with chronotype [29] and impacts many aspects personality [30], would be negatively associated with prosocial behavior.

Materials and methods

Participants (N = 100) were approached at the Mountain View Caltrain Station in Mountain View, California. This location was chosen because many people waiting at the station may have some extra time and may not be immediately headed somewhere. Participants were approached when a train was not scheduled to depart from the platform within the next eight minutes. The same researcher (NS) approached all individuals. The researcher approached every third person on the platform to reduce the likelihood that the researcher was biasing their choice of participant. If the next participant was within earshot of the last participant, the researcher would move on to the next person on the platform who was out of earshot of the last participant.
To control for the effects of socializing and peer influence, only individuals standing alone were sampled. Individuals with others standing nearby were approached while individuals clearly traveling with another were not. Children (individuals who appeared to be less than 17 years old), people on crutches, people with heavy packages or others who might not be fully capable of filling out the questionnaires were excluded.
When the participant finished the survey, the researcher thanked them and employed a sidewalk interview method [14,18,31,32] by saying the following script, which was adapted from the sociology department of the University of Minnesota [18]: “We are also conducting a second study related to sleep. Although the survey is 80 questions long, you do not have to answer all of the questions. How many questions would you be willing to answer to help me?” [...]