Tuesday, June 4, 2019

United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and South Africa: In 9 of 10 public conflicts, at least 1 bystander, but typically several, will do something to help; increased bystander presence is related to a greater likelihood that someone will intervene

Philpot, R., Liebst, L. S., Levine, M., Bernasco, W., & Lindegaard, M. R. (2019). Would I be helped? Cross-national CCTV footage shows that intervention is the norm in public conflicts. American Psychologist, http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/amp0000469

Abstract: Half a century of research on bystander behavior concludes that individuals are less likely to intervene during an emergency when in the presence of others than when alone. By contrast, little is known regarding the aggregated likelihood that at least someone present at an emergency will do something to help. The importance of establishing this aggregated intervention baseline is not only of scholarly interest but is also the most pressing question for actual public victims—will I receive help if needed? The current article describes the largest systematic study of real-life bystander intervention in actual public conflicts captured by surveillance cameras. Using a unique cross-national video dataset from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and South Africa (N = 219), we show that in 9 of 10 public conflicts, at least 1 bystander, but typically several, will do something to help. We record similar likelihoods of intervention across the 3 national contexts, which differ greatly in levels of perceived public safety. Finally, we find that increased bystander presence is related to a greater likelihood that someone will intervene. Taken together these findings allay the widespread fear that bystanders rarely intervene to help. We argue that it is time for psychology to change the narrative away from an absence of help and toward a new understanding of what makes intervention successful or unsuccessful.

Improving Emotional Intelligence: A Systematic Review of Existing Work and Future Challenges

Kotsou, I., Mikolajczak, M., Heeren, A., Grégoire, J., & Leys, C. (2019). Improving Emotional Intelligence: A Systematic Review of Existing Work and Future Challenges. Emotion Review, 11(2), 151–165. https://doi.org/10.1177/1754073917735902

Abstract: Emotional intelligence (EI) can be defined as the ability to identify, express, understand, manage, and use emotions. EI has been shown to have an important impact on health, relationships, and work/academic performance. In this article, we present a systematic review of 46 EI intervention studies on adult populations in order to assess their outcomes. Overall, these findings provide some support for the efficacy of EI programs. However, important limitations in most of the studies restrict the generalizability of their results. We discuss the contributions and limitations of these studies and make recommendations for the development and implementation of future interventions.

Keywords: emotional intelligence, emotions, review, training

What are the Associations of Body Mass Index, Sexual Dysfunction and Mood in Midlife Women?

What are the Associations of Body Mass Index, Sexual Dysfunction and Mood in Midlife Women? F. Fairbanks, S. Faubion, K. Mara, E. Kapoor. Journal of Sexual Medicine, June 2019, Volume 16, Issue 6, Supplement 3, Page S22. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsxm.2019.03.504

Menopause-related symptoms affect millions of women worldwide and may impair quality of life. Weight gain is a common complaint among midlife women and is associated with metabolic syndrome, increased cardiovascular risk, and breast and uterine cancers. Psychologycal symptoms, primarily anxiety and depression, are also common among midlife women, particularly during the menopause transition. Nearly half of midlife women report sexual health concerns, and approximately 10% report distress associated with sexual concerns.

Increasingly, claims are being made by neuroscientists that adolescence is characterised by unique changes to the brain, that underlie what are claimed to be unique behavioural features of the teenage years; author disagrees

Against the Stream: The teenage brain is not unique. Philip Graham. BJPsych Bulletin, June 4 2019. https://doi.org/10.1192/bjb.2019.37

Abstract: Increasingly, claims are being made by developmental neuroscientists that adolescence is characterised by unique changes to the brain. These changes are said to underlie what are claimed to be unique behavioural features of the teenage years. In this paper, it is argued that the brain changes described begin before the teen years and continue long after them. This is not surprising, as there are no behavioural features that are specific to adolescence.

Young Women’s Desire for Sex: Despite sexual double standards, sexual desire is highly prevalent among young women, and is so powerful that when desire is high, they are less likely to use condoms or withdrawal

The Social Production and Salience of Young Women’s Desire for Sex. Abigail Weitzman. Social Forces, soz049, https://doi.org/10.1093/sf/soz049, May 29 2019

Abstract: Using data from the Relationship Dynamics and Social Life Study, a diverse sample of 925 women updated weekly for 2.5 years, I (1) describe how desire for sex varies across and within women during the transition to adulthood; (2) explore how desire corresponds with women’s social circumstances and experiences; and (3) assess the relationship between desire for sex, sexual activity, and contraceptive use. The strength of young women’s desire varies across demographic characteristics like religiosity and social class; changes after pivotal events like sexual debut; and varies with social ecology, such as friends’ attitudes. When women more strongly desire sex they are more likely to have sex and to use hormonal contraception. Moreover, the association between desire and sex is especially pronounced when women are using a hormonal method. In contrast, when women more strongly desire sex they are less likely to use condoms or withdrawal, irrespective of hormonal use. These findings suggest that sexual desire is socially situated and relevant for both anticipatory and situational decisions about contraception.

Evolutionary Theories and Men's Preferences for Women's Waist-to-Hip Ratio: Which Hypotheses Remain? A Systematic Review

Evolutionary Theories and Men's Preferences for Women's Waist-to-Hip Ratio: Which Hypotheses Remain? A Systematic Review. Jeanne Bovet. Front. Psychol., June 4 2019https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01221

Abstract: Over the last 25 years, a large amount of research has been dedicated to identifying men's preferences for women's physical features, and the evolutionary benefits associated with such preferences. Today, this area of research generates substantial controversy and criticism. I argue that part of the crisis is due to inaccuracies in the evolutionary hypotheses used in the field. For this review, I focus on the extensive literature regarding men's adaptive preferences for women's waist-to-hip ratio (WHR), which has become a classic example of the just-so storytelling contributing to the general mistrust toward evolutionary explanations of human behavior. The issues in this literature originate in the vagueness and incompleteness of the theorizing of the evolutionary mechanisms leading to mate preferences. Authors seem to have rushed into testing and debating the effects of WHR on women's attractiveness under various conditions and using different stimuli, without first establishing (a) clear definitions of the central evolution concepts (e.g., female mate value is often reduced to an imprecise concept of “health-and-fertility”), and (b) a complete overview of the distinct evolutionary paths potentially at work (e.g., focusing on fecundability while omitting descendants' quality). Unsound theoretical foundations will lead to imprecise predictions which cannot properly be tested, thus ultimately resulting in the premature rejection of an evolutionary explanation to human mate preferences. This paper provides the first comprehensive review of the existing hypotheses on why men's preferences for a certain WHR in women might be adaptive, as well as an analysis of the theoretical credibility of these hypotheses. By dissecting the evolutionary reasoning behind each hypothesis, I show which hypotheses are plausible and which are unfit to account for men's preferences for female WHR. Moreover, the most cited hypotheses (e.g., WHR as a cue of health or fecundity) are found to not necessarily be the ones with the strongest theoretical support, and some promising hypotheses (e.g., WHR as a cue of parity or current pregnancy) have seemingly been mostly overlooked. Finally, I suggest some directions for future studies on human mate choice, to move this evolutionary psychology literature toward a stronger theoretical foundation.


The ratio between the waist and the hips circumferences (Waist-to-Hip Ratio, or WHR) is a physical characteristic often used as an example to show that evolution shaped human mate preferences. It is also an example of just-so storytelling in evolutionary psychology. In 1993, Devendra Singh suggested that WHR represents a strong predictor of women's physical attractiveness (Singh, 1993a). He also argued that men's preference for a mate with a low WHR is adaptive, because a low WHR reflects a woman's high mate value. But what exactly is this “mate value”? During the past 25 years, the evolutionary literature on WHR and women's attractiveness has flourished, but the definition of this “mate value” is rarely expressed. In evolutionary biology, mate value is attached to the concept of reproductive success: a woman with a high mate value will increase the reproductive success of her mate(s). An increase in reproductive success is characterized by an increased number of descendants in next generations and can be achieved in various ways. First, survival until reproduction is indispensable. Second, the number of children born during an individual's lifespan is also crucial. But the survival and the quality of these children will directly impact their own reproductive success, and hence the number of grandchildren in the next generation, thus ultimately influencing the reproductive success of the grandparents. In short, a woman has higher value as a potential mate if she increases the number and quality of descendants a man will have (including the ones he has with other women). The question then is which of these components of reproductive success are actually linked to a mate's WHR? To answer this, I assemble the numerous hypotheses exposed since the idea of the WHR as an indicator of women's mate value was first suggested in 1993. These hypotheses are examined to determine which of the characteristics linked to WHR are most likely, in theory, to be translated into an increase in the reproductive success of the woman's mate.

The objective of this review is 2-fold. The first goal is to gather and pool all the existing evolutionary hypotheses regarding men's preferences for a certain (low, high or average) WHR. There are many reviews about men's preferences for women's WHR, but this is the first exhaustive review of the hypotheses mentioned in these studies. The second purpose of this paper is an in-depth theoretical examination of these hypotheses, which are often only briefly justified and, in some cases, have never been properly developed.

Most of the debate around WHR and attractiveness has centered on two other questions: “Is the preference for a low WHR universal?” and “Is WHR the best predictor of the attractiveness of women's bodies?” I will not address these two questions extensively here (it is beyond the scope of this paper), but a brief commentary seems necessary at this point. A preference for a relatively low WHR (i.e., low relatively to men's WHR, or low relatively to the average female WHR) has been observed in a large number of studies, including a wide range of populations and methods. With that in mind, results show that there is some variation in what is the exact value of the ideal WHR [reviewed in Brooks et al. (2015) and Cashdan (2008)]. The second debate concerns WHR as the “best” predictor for attractiveness. Authors have debated whether WHR or BMI is the best predictor of attractiveness and mate value (Tassinary and Hansen, 1998; Tovée et al., 1999; Furnham et al., 2005; Cornelissen et al., 2009a,b). As could be expected, the results vary according to the population and stimuli used. Other measurements have also been proposed to replace WHR (for example, hip or waist size alone, abdominal depth or waist/stature ratio: Brooks et al., 2010, 2015; Lassek and Gaulin, 2016). The objective of this paper is not to decide if WHR is the best measure of physical attractiveness or if the ideal WHR is universal or not. For our purposes, it is sufficient to note that the effect of WHR on attractiveness is widespread (even if the value of the preferred WHR varies), and large enough to warrant questions about its possible adaptive basis.

Conservatives are consistently more supportive of hydraulic fracturing (fracking), liberals are consistently more opposed; liberals (conservatives) who report being more informed are likely to see greater (lesser) risk from fracking

Seeing through risk-colored glasses: Risk and benefit perceptions, knowledge, and the politics of fracking in the United States. Emily L. Howell et al. Energy Research & Social Science, Volume 55, September 2019, Pages 168-178. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.erss.2019.05.020

Abstract: Political conservatives are consistently more supportive of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the U.S., while political liberals are consistently more opposed, yet the processes shaping this division are largely unexplored. Here, we illustrate how political polarization in support for fracking can be understood by how risk and benefit perceptions mediate the relationship between political ideology and support for fracking, with liberals seeing greater risk and less benefit. Importantly, however, especially for understanding opinion formation around the issue of fracking, perceived knowledge exacerbates this division. Liberals who report being more informed about fracking are likely to see greater risk from fracking. Conservatives who report being more informed, however, do not see a significantly different level of risk than do conservatives who are less informed but are much more likely than any other group to see greater benefit from fracking. The result is that those who perceive themselves as highly knowledgeable about fracking are the most likely to be polarized by political ideology in their perceptions of the level of risk and benefit associated with fracking and, in turn, their level of support for the technology. We discuss the implications of these findings for communication and decision-making in the politically polarized environment around fracking.