Thursday, May 16, 2019

New evidence on the link between genes, psychological traits, and political engagement

New evidence on the link between genes, psychological traits, and political engagement. Aaron C. Weinschenk et al. Politics and the Life Sciences, Volume 38, Issue 1, Spring 2019, May 16 2019.

Abstract: We investigate the link between genes, psychological traits, and political engagement using a new data set containing information on a large sample of young German twins. The TwinLife Study enables us to examine the predominant model of personality, the Big Five framework, as well as traits that fall outside the Big Five, such as cognitive ability, providing a more comprehensive understanding of the underpinnings of political engagement. Our results support previous work showing genetic overlap between some psychological traits and political engagement. More specifically, we find that cognitive ability and openness to experience are correlated with political engagement and that common genes can explain most of the relationship between these psychological traits and political engagement. Relationships between genes, psychological traits, and political engagement exist even at a fairly young age, which is an important finding given that previous work has relied heavily on older samples to study the link between genes, psychological traits, and political engagement.

A behavior's environmental impact is judged differently depending on the intention; is judged less effective when based on environmental than selfish motives; this bias is driven by moral comparison (the feeling of moral reproach)

When good intentions go bad: The biased perception of the environmental impact of a behavior due to reliance on an actor's behavioral intention. Gea Hoogendoorn, Bernadette Sütterlin, Michael Siegrist. Journal of Environmental Psychology, May 16 2019.

•    People are subject to intention actor-observer bias when judging environmental impact.
•    A behavior's environmental impact is judged differently depending on the intention.
•    A behavior is judged less effective when based on environmental than selfish motives.
•    The intention bias is driven by moral comparison, i.e., the feeling of moral reproach.
•    The costlier it is perceived to conduct a behavior, the larger the moral gap.

Abstract: People engage in pro-environmental behaviors for various reasons. Depending on the intention underlying their behavior, they are perceived differently by others. Thus, the question arises whether the reason why a person performs a behavior not only influences how observers perceive that person, but also how observers evaluate the environmental impact of that person's behavior. We conducted two experiments, in which participants (i.e., observers) read a text describing a person (i.e., actor) engaging in a pro-environmental behavior for either self-serving or environmental reasons. We found that the environmental impact of an identical pro-environmental behavior was judged differently depending on the underlying behavioral intention of the actor. When the behavior was performed by the actor for pro-environmental reasons, the positive environmental impact was perceived to be lower than when the behavior was performed for self-serving reasons. These findings suggest that people are subject to an observer intention bias when judging the environmental impact of others' behavior. In two follow-up experiments, we identified moral comparison to be the mechanism underlying this observer intention bias. When reading about an environmentally motivated actor, participants experienced a stronger feeling of being judged as less moral by the actor, than when they read about an actor conducting the same behavior out of self-serving motivation. To cope with this feeling of being judged by others, people downplay the positive impact of the observed morally superior person's actions.

Strategies for Reducing Failures of Self-Control

Beyond Willpower: Strategies for Reducing Failures of Self-Control. Angela L. Duckworth, Katherine L. Milkman, David Laibson. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, February 13, 2019.

Abstract: Almost everyone struggles to act in their individual and collective best interests, particularly when doing so requires forgoing a more immediately enjoyable alternative. Other than exhorting decision makers to “do the right thing,” what can policymakers do to reduce overeating, undersaving, procrastination, and other self-defeating behaviors that feel good now but generate larger delayed costs? In this review, we synthesize contemporary research on approaches to reducing failures of self-control. We distinguish between self-deployed and other-deployed strategies and, in addition, between situational and cognitive intervention targets. Collectively, the evidence from both psychological science and economics recommends psychologically informed policies for reducing failures of self-control.

Keywords: self-control, behavior change, behavioral economics, self-regulation

First Study To Investigate How Attachment Style Changes Through Multiple Decades Of Life

Chopik, W. J., Edelstein, R. S., & Grimm, K. J. (2019). Longitudinal changes in attachment orientation over a 59-year period. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 116(4), 598-611.

Abstract: Research on individual differences in attachment—and their links to emotion, cognition, and behavior in close relationships—has proliferated over the last several decades. However, the majority of this research has focused on children and young adults. Little is known about mean-level changes in attachment orientation beyond early life, in part due to a dearth of longitudinal data on attachment across the life span. The current study used a Q-Sort-based measure of attachment to examine mean-level changes in attachment orientation from age 13 to 72 using data from the Block and Block Longitudinal Study, the Intergenerational Studies, and the Radcliffe College Class of 1964 Sample (total N = 628). Multilevel modeling was employed to estimate growth curve trajectories across the combined samples. We found that attachment anxiety declined on average with age, particularly during middle age and older adulthood. Attachment avoidance decreased in a linear fashion across the life span. Being in a relationship predicted lower levels of anxiety and avoidance across adulthood. Men were higher in attachment avoidance at each point in the life span. Taken together, these findings provide much-needed insight into how attachment orientations change over long stretches of time. We conclude with a discussion about the challenges of studying attachment dynamics across the life course and across specific transitions.

Popular version: First Study To Investigate How Attachment Style Changes Through Multiple Decades Of Life. Christian Jarrett. Research Digest, May 9 2019.


The data come from five historic projects, involving personality surveys of 628 US citizens born between 1920 and 1967. The shortest of these was 9 years and the longest was 47 years. They all involved participants being assessed repeatedly over many years using the California Adult Q-sort – a measure that includes 100 personality items. Chopik and his team focused on 14 key items from this measure, allowing them to compile scores for “anxious attachment” and “avoidant attachment” for each participant. People who score highly on “anxious attachment” fear rejection and constantly seek reassurance. People who score highly on “avoidant attachment” find intimacy uncomfortable and find it difficult to provide emotional support to others. Low scores on both anxiety and avoidance is a sign of having a secure attachment style.
The researchers stitched the data from the five historic samples together, so that they had scores for anxious and avoidant attachment spanning 59 years. Past research has already looked at how people of different ages vary in their attachment scores, but one problem with that kind of cross-sectional research is that any differences between people of different ages could be due to generational differences, rather than due to developmental trends. The new research largely overcome that problem, with Chopik and his team able to identify clear age-related trends in the same individuals over time.
Specifically, the team found that people’s anxious attachment tended to be high in adolescence, increasing into their young adulthood, before then declining through life into their middle and old age. Avoidant attachment showed less change with age, but started higher in adolescence and then declined in linear fashion through life.
The researchers surmised that attachment anxiety and avoidance may be high in adolescence due to the stressful transition from having primarily close bonds with parents to having meaningful relationships with peers and first romantic relationships. They also pointed out that mid-life – when anxiety and avoidance tend to decline – is arguably the time when we are most invested in various social roles and relationships and that “…increases in security often result from people becoming more comfortable in their relationships, gaining more evidence that the relationship will last, and having spouses who serve attachment needs and functions that promote close relations.” Meanwhile, in later life, when attachment anxiety and avoidance are typically lowest, they said people tend to be very focused on the here and now – “declines in anxiety and avoidance may reflect the efforts of older adults to become closer to their close friends and family,” they said.
Another finding from the study was that at all times of life, being in a close romantic relationship tended to go hand in hand with scoring lower on attachment anxiety and avoidance. “Romantic partners reward appropriate behaviour and admonish inappropriate behaviour … ,” the researchers said. “By investing in these social roles, individuals adhere to the rules and appropriate behaviour of close relationships and may change how they approach relationships accordingly, perhaps becoming more secure.”
It’s worth noting that this research looked at group averages, which inevitably masks the idiosyncratic ways that some people may change in their attachment style through life. The study is also limited by only involving participants from the US, the fact that it relied on extracting attachment scores from a measure not designed for that purpose, and that data was stitched together from multiple samples so as to cover the period from adolescence to later life. In a way, however, that last point is also a positive: “given the many ways in which these samples differed, the amount of consistency across the samples in estimating changes over time in attachment is even more remarkable. The converging evidence is a testament to the robustness of these results, such that they were found under different conditions in samples collected between 1936 and 2016,” the researchers explained.


Perfectionism is increasing over time; culprits are neoliberalism, meritocracy... and Texan Big Oil :-)

OK, the paper says nothing about Big Oil or Big Pharma... I was just channeling...

The full paper is interesting throughout if you have axes to grind with meritocracy, etc.


Curran, T., & Hill, A. P. (2019). Perfectionism is increasing over time: A meta-analysis of birth cohort differences from 1989 to 2016. Psychological Bulletin, 145(4), 410-429.

Abstract: From the 1980s onward, neoliberal governance in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom has emphasized competitive individualism and people have seemingly responded, in kind, by agitating to perfect themselves and their lifestyles. In this study, the authors examine whether cultural changes have coincided with an increase in multidimensional perfectionism in college students over the last 27 years. Their analyses are based on 164 samples and 41,641 American, Canadian, and British college students, who completed the Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale (Hewitt & Flett, 1991) between 1989 and 2016 (70.92% female, Mage = 20.66). Cross-temporal meta-analysis revealed that levels of self-oriented perfectionism, socially prescribed perfectionism, and other-oriented perfectionism have linearly increased. These trends remained when controlling for gender and between-country differences in perfectionism scores. Overall, in order of magnitude of the observed increase, the findings indicate that recent generations of young people perceive that others are more demanding of them, are more demanding of others, and are more demanding of themselves

Multidimensional Perfectionism
Perfectionism is broadly defined as a combination of excessively high personal standards and overly critical self-evaluations [...] One well-studied model of multidimensional perfectionism is that proposed by Hewitt and Flett (1991). In their model, perfectionism is understood in terms of the direction of perfectionistic beliefs and behaviors. When directed toward the self, individuals attach irrational importance to being perfect, hold unrealistic expectations of themselves, and are punitive in their self-evaluations (self-oriented perfectionism). When perceived to come from others, individuals believe their social context is excessively demanding, that others judge them harshly, and that they must display perfection to secure approval (socially prescribed perfectionism). When perfectionistic expectations are directed toward others, individuals impose unrealistic standards on those around them and evaluate others critically (other-oriented perfectionism). [...]


[...] Socially prescribed perfectionism is the most debilitating of the three dimensions of perfectionism. This is because the perceived expectations of others are experienced as excessive, uncontrollable, and unfair, making failure experiences and negative emotional states common (Hewitt & Flett, 1991). The debilitating nature of socially prescribed perfectionism is evident in research on college students, which has found this dimension of perfectionism to be positively associated with major psychopathology (e.g., anxiety, depressive symptoms, and suicide ideation; Martin, Flett, Hewitt, Krames, & Szanto, 1996; Hewitt, Flett, & Weber, 1994; Sherry, Hewitt, Flett, & Harvey, 2003). These relationships have been replicated in longitudinal and experimental studies (e.g., Flett, Endler, Tassone, & Hewitt, 1995; Hewitt, Flett, & Ediger, 1995; O’Connor, O’Connor, O’Connor, Smallwood, & Miles, 2004). Like self-oriented perfectionism, the reviews of Smith et al. (2016, 2017) showed that socially prescribed perfectionism predicted increases in depressive symptoms and suicide ideation over time, but to a much greater degree.


Cultural Change and Perfectionism Development

Emergence of Neoliberalism and Perfectionism
Cultural values in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom have undergone a remarkable change in recent decades. From the late 1970s onward, several events have brought about significant social and economic transformation. The postwar New Deal (United States and Canada), Consensus (United Kingdom), and the emergence of neoliberalism in the industrialized world has reshaped the cultural, political, and economic landscape (Blyth, 2002). Neoliberalism is a model of social studies and economics borne of revived (neo) 19th-century capitalist (liberal) principles. It elevates the market, and market-based systems of interpersonal evaluation, to the level of state-endorsed norms (Davies, 2014). Accordingly, market distortions fashioned by state interventionism (e.g., collective bargaining and public ownership) are minimized under neoliberal governance, replaced instead by efforts to foster unconstrained competition between self-interested individuals (e.g., deregulation and privatization; Harvey, 2005).
As young people internalize the cultural frames of neoliberalism, changes in how they construe a sense of self and identity are evident in various ways. Perhaps most notably, neoliberalism has seen the dominance of collectivism progressively give way to a wave of competitive individualism. For example, more recent generations of college students in the United States report higher levels of narcissism, extraversion, and self-confidence than previous generations (e.g., Twenge, 2001a; Twenge, Campbell, & Gentile, 2012; Twenge, Konrath, Foster, Campbell, & Bushman, 2008). At the same time, communal traits have waned. This is evident in that more recent generations of college students show less empathy toward others and are more likely to blame victims when things go wrong (e.g., Konrath, O’Brien, & Hsing, 2011; Malahy, Rubinlicht, & Kaiser, 2009; Twenge et al., 2012). Young people also appear now to be more self-interested and spend less time doing group activities for fun and more time doing individual activities for instrumental value or sense of personal achievement (see Twenge, 2014).
In the same fashion, behaviors associated with competition and the attainment of social standing have risen (Kasser, Ryan, Couchman, & Sheldon, 2004). In recent years, data suggests that individuals across the industrialized world have become preoccupied with upward social comparison, experience considerable status anxiety, and adopt materialism as a means of perfecting their lives in relation to others (e.g., De Botton, 2004; Marmot, 2004; Scott, Martin, & Schouten, 2014). The increase in materialism is particularly evident in the shifting values and behaviors of young people. Eighty-one percent of Americans born in the 1980s report that getting materially rich is among their most important life goals, a figure that is almost 20% higher than those born in the 1960s and 1970s (Pew Research Center, 2007). More recent generations of young people also borrow more heavily than did older generations at the same period of life span and spend, on average, a far greater proportion of their income on status possessions and image goods than did their parents (e.g., luxury vehicles and designer labels; Bricker, Ramcharan, & Krimmel, 2014; Jiang & Dunn, 2013; Parment, 2013).
Not only more dissatisfied with what they have, young people are also seemingly more dissatisfied with who they are (Eckersley, 2006). Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat have become ubiquitous, occupying 2 out of every 5 min spent online (GlobalWebIndex, 2016). The popularity of these platforms is, in part, explained by how they allow users to curate a perfect public image (Mendelson & Papacharissi, 2011). Yet rather than alleviate presentational and interpersonal anxieties, studies indicate that exposure to others’ perfect self-representations within social media can intensify one’s own body image concerns and sense of social alienation (Grabe, Ward, & Hyde, 2008; Paik & Sanchagrin, 2013). Other data suggests that young people are struggling to cope with a visual culture which emphases unrealistic body ideals. The most recent cohort data from the United States and the United Kingdom show that incidence of body dysmorphia and eating disorders has risen by approximately 30% among late adolescent girls since the advent of social media (e.g., PwC, 2015; Smink, van Hoeken, & Hoek, 2012; Thompson & Durrani, 2007). In the same countries, increasing numbers of young people are turning to plastic surgery and its promise of bodily perfection (e.g., British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, 2015; American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 2016; Thomas, 2015).
With general social malaise as a backdrop, neoliberalism has succeeded in shifting cultural values so to now emphasize competitiveness, individualism, and irrational ideals of the perfectible self (Verhaeghe, 2014). These ideals are systemic within contemporary language patterns, the media, and social and civic institutions, and are evident in the rise of competitive and individualistic traits, materialistic behavior, and presentational anxieties among recent generations of young people. Revisiting Hewitt et al.’s (2017) model, it is interesting to consider how young people are coming to construct a sense of self and identity in this kind of culture. The notion of a flawed and disordered self appears especially relevant (Banai, Mikulincer, & Shaver, 2005). That is, a sense of self overwhelmed by pathological worry and a fear of negative social evaluation, characterized by a focus on deficiencies, and sensitive to criticism and failure. This sense of self is a close match to the sense of self constructed by perfectionists and is reflected in many of the recent changes to self, identity, and behavior observed in young people. Young people appear to have internalized irrational social ideals of the perfectible self that, while unrealistic, are to them eminently desirable and obtainable. Broadly speaking, then, increasing levels of perfectionism might be considered symptomatic of the way in which young people are coping—to feel safe, connected, and of worth—in neoliberalism’s new culture of competitive individualism.

The Rise of Meritocracy and Perfectionism
The caveat emptor of neoliberalism lies in its meritocratic starting point. The perfect life and lifestyle—encapsulated by achievement, wealth, and social status—are available to anyone provided you try hard enough (Frank, 2016). According to neoliberal meritocracy, those who reach the top schools and colleges, or gain entry to occupations offering the most profitable employment, receive their due rewards of wealth and social status. For those who do not reach such educational and professional heights, the doctrine of meritocracy dictates they are less deserving and their poor achievement reflects their inadequate personal abilities (e.g., skills, intelligence, and efforts; Hayes, 2012). The doctrine of neoliberal meritocracy therefore falsely and insidiously connects the principles of educational and professional achievement, status, and wealth with innate personal value (e.g., Clark, 1965; Ehrenreich, 1989; Guinier, 2015). In turn, because individuals cannot avoid being sorted, sifted, and ranked by schools, universities, and the workplace, neoliberal meritocracy places a strong need to strive, perform, and achieve at the center of modern life.
Most acutely, the merging of academic and economic meritocracies has redefined the purpose of education. Whereas education has historically sought to provide young people with a broader repertoire of skills and knowledge, neoliberal meritocracy stresses that skills and knowledge are worthless unless they confer economic value (Verhaeghe, 2014). This places considerable pressure on young people to strive, compete, and meet increasingly higher expectations in school and college—less they wish to damage their future market price. The effects of merging academic and economic meritocracies are reflected in the escalating educational expectations of young people. In the United States, where cohort data is available, approximately half of high school seniors in 1976 expected to attain at least some college degree, by 2008 that figure had risen to over 80% (Jacob & Wilder, 2011). Yet actual degree attainment has failed to keep pace with rising expectations. The gap between the percentage of high school seniors expecting to obtain a college degree and the percent of young people with a college degree doubled between 1976 and 2000 and has continued to rise (Johnson & Reynolds, 2013; Reynolds, Stewart, MacDonald, & Sischo, 2006). Together, this research suggests that the expectations of many young people are increasingly unrealistic (Baird, Burge, & Reynolds, 2008).
As young people’s expectations have increased, so have the educational demands placed on them. Intense competition for elite college admission has meant that, relative to previous generations, current high school students in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom are subjected to more numerous and stringent standardized tests (Guinier, 2015). At the same time, although the number of students going to college has increased, the wage premium associated with a college degree has stagnated over the last 20 years (Moretti, 2013). One reason for this stagnation is a saturation of the graduate job market and underemployment among graduates in developed countries (i.e., holding jobs that do not require a degree), which is currently much higher among recent generations of college graduates than it was for older generations at the same period of life (Abel, Deitz, & Su, 2014). Instead, research in the United States and the United Kingdom shows that the college premium is now almost entirely attributable to the income of those with postgraduate degrees (Brynin, 2013; Shierholz & Mishel, 2013). Just 10% of the U.S. workforce, 7% of the Canadian workforce, and 11% of the U.K. workforce have postgraduate qualifications (Lindley & Machin, 2013; Statistics Canada, 2012). Young people, therefore, must complete a college degree, and now must also obtain a postgraduate qualification, if they are to demonstrate their economic merit.
Over time, then, meritocracy raises the bar of society’s expectations such that they become unattainable to the majority—especially for young people, and especially in terms of educational achievement. Perceptions of unrealistic achievement standards are common in models that seek to explain the development of perfectionism. Although written some time ago, Hamachek (1978) stated on the link between the need to achieve and perfectionism that “[perfectionists] may over-value performance and undervalue the self. He learns only through performance that he has a self” (p. 29). The notion that perfectionists come to overvalue accomplishment is also echoed and expanded upon in the recent writing of Hewitt et al. (2017). Here, perfectionism is conceived as a misguided attempt to procure others’ approval and repair feelings of unworthiness and shame through displays of high achievement. Hewitt et al.’s description of perfectionism development is allied to the machinations of meritocratic culture in that striving for high achievement standards and the attainment of perfection are actively encouraged and rewarded. Young people are taught that the principles of meritocracy are good, fair, and just. In response, they are compelled to demonstrate their merit, set increasingly higher and unrealistic goals, and come to define themselves in the strict and narrow terms of personal achievement.

Altered Parental Practices and Perfectionism
As we have described, neoliberalism and its doctrine of meritocracy have combined to shape a culture in which everybody is expected to perfect themselves and their lifestyles by striving to meet unrealistic achievement standards.

Intercourse frequency decreased with increased length of relationship; ratings of relationship passion were strongly associated with frequency; while men in general might desire sex more, men might be compromising more than women do

How intercourse frequency is affected by relationship length, relationship quality, and sexual strategies using couple data. By Grøntvedt, Trond Viggo; Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair; Mons Bendixen. Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, Apr 29 , 2019.

Abstract: The frequency of sexual intercourse within couples is associated with a variety of factors, such as relationship length, sexual and relationship satisfaction, and perceived quality of the relationship. Love, as a commitment device, might reduce interest in extrapair sex. Therefore, one can expect a negative association between measures of passion and sociosexual desire. Further, we wish to explore the effects of decoupling love and sex as measured by sociosexual attitudes on sexual frequency; as there might be a greater willingness to compromise on frequency of sex if sex is less related to expression of emotions and relational quality. We examined how men and women’s sociosexuality, relationship length and various dimensions of relationship quality impact couples’ intercourse frequency. Structural Equation Modeling analyses were performed on data from 92 romantically involved, heterosexual couples recruited at a Norwegian university. Participants’ age ranged from 19 to 30 years. The current relationship length ranged from 1 month to 9 years (M = 21 months). Intercourse frequency decreased with increased length of relationship. Both men and women’s ratings of relationship passion were strongly associated with frequency of having sex, but negatively associated with desire for extrapair sex. Intercourse was more frequent in couples where women reported less restricted attitudes, while men’s level of sociosexuality had no effect on intercourse frequency in any of the models. These novel findings suggest that while men in general might desire sex more, in this sample from a highly egalitarian nation, men might be compromising more than women do.

Investigating Individual Differences in Chimpanzee Mirror Self-Recognition and Cortical Thickness: Further evidence for the neuroanatomical foundations of mirror self-recognition abilities in chimpanzees

Investigating Individual Differences in Chimpanzee Mirror Self-Recognition and Cortical Thickness: A Vertex-Based and Region-of-Interest Analysis. William D. Hopkins et al. Cortex, May 16 2019.

Abstract: Mirror self-recognition (MSR), a recently evolved cognitive trait, is one of the most significant abilities that separate humans and great apes from more distantly related nonhuman primates. MSR may serve as the foundation for a number of related but more complex social cognitive abilities unique to humans and great apes including imitation, empathy, theory-of-mind, perspective taking and deception. However, our understanding of the neural basis of MSR in nonhuman primates remains largely unknown. The current study aimed to begin to fill this gap in the literature by investigating the neuroanatomical foundations of MSR in a sample of 67 captive chimpanzees. Vertex-based and region-of-interest analysis revealed significant differences in cortical thickness, particularly in males, in the cingulate cortex, inferior frontal gyrus and superior temporal and frontal cortex. The current study provides further evidence for the neuroanatomical foundations of mirror self-recognition abilities in chimpanzees.

The term “digital native” entered popular and academic discourse in the early 1990s to characterize young people who, having grown up surrounded by digital technology, were said to be highly technologically skilled; it's a myth

The Myth of the Digital Native and What It Means for Higher Education. Linda Corrin, Tiffani Apps, Karley Beckman, and Sue Bennett. The Oxford Handbook of Cyberpsychology. Edited by Alison Attrill-Smith, Chris Fullwood, Melanie Keep, and Daria J. Kuss. Sep 2018. DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780198812746.013.7

Abstract: The term “digital native” entered popular and academic discourse in the early 1990s to characterize young people who, having grown up surrounded by digital technology, were said to be highly technologically skilled. The premise was mobilized to criticize education for not meeting the needs of young people, thereby needing radical transformation. Despite being repeatedly discredited by empirical research and scholarly argument, the idea of the digital native has been remarkably persistent. This chapter explores the myth of the digital native and its implications for higher education. It suggests that the myth’s persistence signals a need to better understand the role of technology in young people’s lives. The chapter conceptualizes technology “practices,” considers how young adults experience technology in their college and university education, and how their practices are shaped by childhood and adolescence. The chapter closes with some propositions for educators, institutions, and researchers.

Keywords: digital literacy, digital native, education, educational technology, higher education, technology practices, young adults, students, college, university

In the late 1990s and early 2000s the idea of the “digital native” emerged (Bennett, Maton, & Kervin, 2008). In essence, it was proposed that because young people had grown up surrounded by technology, they had developed sophisticated technology skills superior to the adults around them. This made them “tech savvy” in a way that those from older generations could never be. And because of this difference, young people were dissatisfied with and disengaged from an education system that persisted with oldfashioned approaches to teaching and learning. This argument was used as the basis for calls for revolutionary, transformational change across education systems.

Since then, scholarly critique and empirical research have debunked the notion of the digital native (see Bennett & Corrin, 2017). Critiques have continually called into question the crude characterization of all young people as both highly adept with and avidly interested in digital technologies across the various aspects of their lives as well as the assertions about the implications for education. Research evidence has revealed a much more complex situation. The ways in which young people make use of digital technologies for learning, leisure, socializing, and work are richly diverse and very much dependent on the various contexts in which they engage. These findings reveal that there are indeed young people who are highly engaged with digital technologies, who are using opportunities that technologies provide to create and connect in new ways, and who participate via these technologies in activities and causes that interest them. But not all young people choose to or have the resources available to them to do so. This makes the universality of the digital native label inaccurate and misleading [...]

So what are we to make of the persistence of the notion of digital natives, given the nowsubstantial body of considered scholarship that has discredited this notion? The idea has had widespread popular appeal, perhaps because is seems to be true, based on anecdotal evidence. [...]

Beyond the power of anecdote, however, there are a number of ways to interpret the emergence of and continued interest in the digital native. Generational differences have long been a source of concern in many societies. This is reflected by the labelling and characterization of generations such as the “baby boomers,” “Generation X,” and the “millennials” (e.g., Howe & Strauss, 2000). The idea of the digital native can be seen as a variation of this familiar theme that pits generations against each other and serves to highlight one of many ways in which young people in general are different to older generations. But these generational stereotypes seldom withstand closer scrutiny, and the digital native stereotype, like others, is ultimately unhelpful in genuinely understanding the needs and interests of young people.

Another possible explanation could be that the notion of the digital native reflects a more general concern about the pace of change in modern life, as well as disquiet about the role of technology in driving social change. Again, this concern is not new. The history and sociology of technology reveal long-held misgivings about the ways in which technology has changed the nature of work, civic engagement, and social interaction well before the twenty-first century. Suggestions that an increased rate of change is further risking our ability to adjust to new technologies may explain recent heightened concerns, but the phenomenon itself is not new. From this perspective, characterizing young people as digital natives aligns with the concerns of many older people that technology is driving rapid change to the ways of life with which they are familiar. Thus, the idea of the digital native may reflect the genuine ambivalence that many feel about the role of technology in their lives and, more broadly, its influence on society.

Questions, too, might be posed about the motivations of those advocating for the existence of digital natives. In the field of educational technology, the vested interests of commercial vendors have led to many exaggerated claims that technology can and will revolutionize education (Buckingham, 2013). Education, for its part, has evolved over time, but much too slowly for some technology advocates. Academic reputations are also built on claims that technology will drive pedagogical innovations that will, in turn, increase student engagement and boost learning outcomes. Sceptics have often been labelled as Luddites in debates where polarized positions, untestable claims, and competing ideologies have, at times, overshadowed the findings of research and scholarship that necessarily lags the introduction of the latest technology.

There is clearly further work needed to discover what is at the heart of the concerns about young people and technology. While this is beyond the scope of this chapter, knowing more about why these questions exist is surely important. At the same time, this uncertainty should not prevent seeking to know more about the role technology plays in young people’s lives and consider what that means for education. As noted, scholars and researchers have already begun this quest [...]

We argue that while the idea of the digital native has been shown to be, at best, misleading and unhelpful, its persistence in our discourse, particularly about education, signals there is something underlying it that warrants our attention. It continues to invite us to ask important questions about how young people can, do, and could use technology to enhance their learning. This, in turn, raises important questions about teaching and teachers, educational systems and administrations, and institutional provision of technology infrastructure and learning spaces. [...]

We further argue that this research would benefit from a conceptualization of technology use that is underpinned by the notion of practice. A practice perspective allows us to go beyond regarding digital technologies as tools designed for particular uses to focusing on the ways in which individuals and groups adopt and adapt technologies and embed them in socially-constructed activities. These are technology practices—a notion that captures a range of possibilities and allows for technologies to be adopted and integrated into existing practices, for technologies to shape and so alter existing practice, and for entirely new practices to emerge. In this conceptualization, technologies are never “value free,” but instead carry the values and assumptions of designers and providers. At the same time, it gives possibility for users to adapt or disrupt the intended design or use. [...]

The focus of enquiry then becomes understanding the perspectives and practices of those using technologies, with consideration of the various contexts in which those practices occur. In education, this kind of research uses naturalistic approaches to explore “what is actually taking place when a digital technology meets an educational setting” (Selwyn, 2010, p. 70) rather than studying “state of the art” innovations. Such research complements a well-established and continuing tradition of research into specific pedagogical applications of technology by seeking to understand the nature of technology experiences more broadly. Understanding how students experience technology in their formal education and across their other life contexts is key to understanding how technology might be most effectively integrated [...]

A practice perspective also invites a particular way of considering how technology could best be integrated into education and, specifically, what skills, knowledge, and dispositions young people might need to develop in relation to technology (Bennett, 2014). Contemporary conceptualizations of digital literacy have evolved significantly from their predecessors, for example, computer literacy, ICT literacy. There is growing recognition that to be digitally literate means much more than having the skills to operate technology. [...]