Thursday, July 18, 2019

Alcohol produces dramatically larger positive mood enhancing and negative mood relieving effects when consumed in social contexts compared to when it is consumed in isolation

Understanding social factors in alcohol reward and risk for problem drinking. Catharine E. Fairbairn, Brynne A. Velia. Psychology of Learning and Motivation, July 18 2019.

Abstract: Researchers have long sought to capture acute rewarding effects associated with drinking alcohol with the view that a better understanding of alcohol's rewards will ultimately inform our knowledge of factors motivating problematic drinking. Importantly, however, although most everyday alcohol consumption occurs in social contexts, and drinkers report that socially enhancing effects of alcohol motivate their drinking, researchers studying alcohol's effects have often examined participants drinking alone and have neglected social elements of alcohol's impact on experience. Here, we present a program of work aimed at examining the social rewards individuals gain from alcohol consumption with the aim of achieving a more complete picture of factors that might reinforce alcohol consumption and potentially lead some to drink excessively. Using methods and measures aimed at tapping social elements of experience, we revisit questions that have been of enduring interest in the alcohol literature, including the question of what mechanisms might explain alcohol's rewarding effects, whether there exist individual differences in sensitivity to alcohol's rewards, as well as the extent to which context-level factors might moderate rewards gained from alcohol. We also explore questions left unanswered within this body of work, together with ongoing and future research directions.

Analysis of 22,484 pornography websites indicated that 93% leak user data to a third party; tracking on these sites is highly concentrated by Google, Oracle and Facebook

Tracking sex: The implications of widespread sexual data leakage and tracking on porn websites. Elena Maris, Timothy Libert, Jennifer Henrichsen. arXiv, Jul 15 2019.

Abstract: This paper explores tracking and privacy risks on pornography websites. Our analysis of 22,484 pornography websites indicated that 93% leak user data to a third party. Tracking on these sites is highly concentrated by a handful of major companies, which we identify. We successfully extracted privacy policies for 3,856 sites, 17% of the total. The policies were written such that one might need a two-year college education to understand them. Our content analysis of the sample's domains indicated 44.97% of them expose or suggest a specific gender/sexual identity or interest likely to be linked to the user. We identify three core implications of the quantitative results: 1) the unique/elevated risks of porn data leakage versus other types of data, 2) the particular risks/impact for vulnerable populations, and 3) the complications

Robust relation between higher testosterone & increased unfaithful behavior; in this sample of men aged between 40 & 75 years, 37.5% answered having been unfaithful in the current relationship

Higher testosterone levels are associated with unfaithful behavior in men. C. Klimas et al. Biological Psychology, July 18 2019, 107730.

•    A robust relation between higher testosterone and increased unfaithful behavior was observed.
•    Infidelity was measured using direct and sensitive indirect (crosswise) questioning.
•    In this sample of men aged between 40 and 75 years, 37.5% men answered having been unfaithful in the current relationship
•    Subsample analysis indicates a positive association between testosterone and infidelity to be present primarily in men without sexual dysfunction.

Background: Infidelity in romantic relationships is a common, but severe issue often causing breakup and severe psychological impairment. Higher levels of testosterone are related to mating-behavior, sexual desire, and infidelity in men with sexual dysfunctions. Previous studies, have insufficiently addressed the potential role of testosterone in infidelity in healthy men.

Methods: A sample of 224 middle-aged self-reporting healthy men being currently in a relationship completed questionnaires on relationship characteristics, infidelity, and provided overnight-fasting saliva samples for testosterone quantification.

Results: In the sample, 37.5% men answered having been unfaithful in the current relationship, while 29% were identified as fulfilling criteria for a sexual dysfunction. Adjusting for covariates, a significant positive association for the frequency of unfaithful behavior and testosterone levels emerged. Subsample analysis indicates a positive association between testosterone and infidelity only to be present in men without sexual dysfunction.

Conclusion: Unfaithful behavior in males is associated with higher testosterone levels.

Emotional Expressions Reconsidered: Challenges to Inferring Emotion From Human Facial Movements

Emotional Expressions Reconsidered: Challenges to Inferring Emotion From Human Facial Movements. Lisa Feldman Barrett et al. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, July 17, 2019.

Abstract: It is commonly assumed that a person’s emotional state can be readily inferred from his or her facial movements, typically called emotional expressions or facial expressions. This assumption influences legal judgments, policy decisions, national security protocols, and educational practices; guides the diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric illness, as well as the development of commercial applications; and pervades everyday social interactions as well as research in other scientific fields such as artificial intelligence, neuroscience, and computer vision. In this article, we survey examples of this widespread assumption, which we refer to as the common view, and we then examine the scientific evidence that tests this view, focusing on the six most popular emotion categories used by consumers of emotion research: anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise. The available scientific evidence suggests that people do sometimes smile when happy, frown when sad, scowl when angry, and so on, as proposed by the common view, more than what would be expected by chance. Yet how people communicate anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise varies substantially across cultures, situations, and even across people within a single situation. Furthermore, similar configurations of facial movements variably express instances of more than one emotion category. In fact, a given configuration of facial movements, such as a scowl, often communicates something other than an emotional state. Scientists agree that facial movements convey a range of information and are important for social communication, emotional or otherwise. But our review suggests an urgent need for research that examines how people actually move their faces to express emotions and other social information in the variety of contexts that make up everyday life, as well as careful study of the mechanisms by which people perceive instances of emotion in one another. We make specific research recommendations that will yield a more valid picture of how people move their faces to express emotions and how they infer emotional meaning from facial movements in situations of everyday life. This research is crucial to provide consumers of emotion research with the translational information they require.

Keywords: emotion perception, emotional expression, emotion recognition

Faces are a ubiquitous part of everyday life for humans. People greet each other with smiles or nods. They have face-to-face conversations on a daily basis, whether in person or via computers. They capture faces with smartphones and tablets, exchanging photos of themselves and of each other on Instagram, Snapchat, and other social-media platforms. The ability to perceive faces is one of the first capacities to emerge after birth: An infant begins to perceive faces within the first few days of life, equipped with a preference for face-like arrangements that allows the brain to wire itself, with experience, to become expert at perceiving faces (Arcaro, Schade, Vincent, Ponce, & Livingstone, 2017; Cassia, Turati, & Simion, 2004; Gandhi, Singh, Swami, Ganesh, & Sinhaet, 2017; Grossmann, 2015; L. B. Smith, Jayaraman, Clerkin, & Yu, 2018; Turati, 2004; but see Young and Burton, 2018, for a more qualified claim). Faces offer a rich, salient source of information for navigating the social world: They play a role in deciding whom to love, whom to trust, whom to help, and who is found guilty of a crime (Todorov, 2017; Zebrowitz, 1997, 2017; Zhang, Chen, & Yang, 2018). Beginning with the ancient Greeks (Aristotle, in the 4th century BCE) and Romans (Cicero), various cultures have viewed the human face as a window on the mind. But to what extent can a raised eyebrow, a curled lip, or a narrowed eye reveal what someone is thinking or feeling, allowing a perceiver’s brain to guess what that someone will do next?1 The answers to these questions have major consequences for human outcomes as they unfold in the living room, the classroom, the courtroom, and even on the battlefield. They also powerfully shape the direction of research in a broad array of scientific fields, from basic neuroscience to psychiatry.

Understanding what facial movements might reveal about a person’s emotions is made more urgent by the fact that many people believe they already know. Specific configurations of facial-muscle movements2 appear as if they summarily broadcast or display a person’s emotions, which is why they are routinely referred to as emotional expressions and facial expressions. A simple Google search for the phrase “emotional facial expressions” (see Box 1 in the Supplemental Material available online) reveals the ubiquity with which, at least in certain parts of the world, people believe that certain emotion categories are reliably signaled or revealed by certain facial-muscle movement configurations—a set of beliefs we refer to as the common view (also called the classical view; L. F. Barrett, 2017b). Likewise, many cultural products testify to the common view. Here are several examples:

    Technology companies are investing tremendous resources to figure out how to objectively “read” emotions in people by detecting their presumed facial expressions, such as scowling faces, frowning faces, and smiling faces, in an automated fashion. Several companies claim to have already done it (e.g.,, 2018; Microsoft Azure, 2018). For example, Microsoft’s Emotion API promises to take video images of a person’s face to detect what that individual is feeling. Microsoft’s website states that its software “integrates emotion recognition, returning the confidence across a set of emotions . . . such as anger, contempt, disgust, fear, happiness, neutral, sadness, and surprise. These emotions are understood to be cross-culturally and universally communicated with particular facial expressions” (screen 3).

    Countless electronic messages are annotated with emojis or emoticons that are schematized versions of the proposed facial expressions for various emotion categories (, 2019).

    Putative emotional expressions are taught to preschool children by displaying scowling faces, frowning faces, smiling faces, and so on, in posters (e.g., use “feeling chart for children” in a Google image search), games (e.g., Miniland emotion games; Miniland Group, 2019), books (e.g., Cain, 2000; T. Parr, 2005), and episodes of Sesame Street (among many examples, see Morenoff, 2014; Pliskin, 2015; Valentine & Lehmann, 2015).3

    Television shows (e.g., Lie to Me; Baum & Grazer, 2009), movies (e.g., Inside Out; Docter, Del Carmen, LeFauve, Cooley, and Lassetter, 2015), and documentaries (e.g., The Human Face, produced by the British Broadcasting Company; Cleese, Erskine, & Stewart, 2001) customarily depict certain facial configurations as universal expressions of emotions.

    Magazine and newspaper articles routinely feature stories in kind: facial configurations depicting a scowl are referred to as “expressions of anger,” facial configurations depicting a smile are referred to as “expressions of happiness,” facial configurations depicting a frown are referred to as “expressions of sadness,” and so on.

    Agents of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) were trained to detect emotions and other intentions using these facial configurations, with the goal of identifying and thwarting terrorists (R. Heilig, special agent with the FBI, personal communication, December 15, 2014; L. F. Barrett, 2017c).4

    The facial configurations that supposedly diagnose emotional states also figure prominently in the diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric disorders. One of the most widely used tasks in autism research, the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test, asks test takers to match photos of the upper (eye) region of a posed facial configuration with specific mental state words, including emotion words (Baron-Cohen, Wheelwright, Hill, Raste, & Plumb, 2001). Treatment plans for people living with autism and other brain disorders often include learning to recognize these facial configurations as emotional expressions (Baron-Cohen, Golan, Wheelwright, & Hill, 2004; Kouo & Egel, 2016). This training does not generalize well to real-world skills, however (Berggren et al., 2018; Kouo & Egel, 2016).

    “Reading” the emotions of a defendant—in the words of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, to “know the heart and mind of the offender” (Riggins v. Nevada, 1992, p. 142)—is one pillar of a fair trial in the U.S. legal system and in many legal systems in the Western world. Legal actors such as jurors and judges routinely rely on facial movements to determine the guilt and remorse of a defendant (e.g., Bandes, 2014; Zebrowitz, 1997). For example, defendants who are perceived as untrustworthy receive harsher sentences than they otherwise would (J. P. Wilson & Rule, 2015, 2016), and such perceptions are more likely when a person appears to be angry (i.e., the person’s facial structure looks similar to the hypothesized facial expression of anger, which is a scowl; Todorov, 2017). An incorrect inference about defendants’ emotional state can cost them their children, their freedom, or even their lives (for recent examples, see L. F. Barrett, 2017b, beginning on page 183).

But can a person’s emotional state be reasonably inferred from that person’s facial movements? In this article, we offer a systematic review of the evidence, testing the common view that instances of an emotion category are signaled with a distinctive configuration of facial movements that has enough reliability and specificity to serve as a diagnostic marker of those instances. We focus our review on evidence pertaining to six emotion categories that have received the lion’s share of attention in scientific research—anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise—and that, correspondingly, are the focus of the common view (as evidenced by our Google search, summarized in Box 1 in the Supplemental Material). Our conclusions apply, however, to all emotion categories that have thus far been scientifically studied. We open the article with a brief discussion of its scope, approach, and intended audience. We then summarize evidence on how people actually move their faces during episodes of emotion, referred to as studies of expression production, following which we examine evidence on which emotions are actually inferred from looking at facial movements, referred to as studies of emotion perception. We identify three key shortcomings in the scientific research that have contributed to a general misunderstanding about how emotions are expressed and perceived in facial movements and that limit the translation of this scientific evidence for other uses:

    Limited reliability (i.e., instances of the same emotion category are neither reliably expressed through nor perceived from a common set of facial movements).

    Lack of specificity (i.e., there is no unique mapping between a configuration of facial movements and instances of an emotion category).

    Limited generalizability (i.e., the effects of context and culture have not been sufficiently documented and accounted for).

We then discuss our conclusions, followed by proposals for consumers on how they might use the existing scientific literature. We also provide recommendations for future research on emotion production and perception with consumers of that research in mind. We have included additional detail on some topics of import or interest in the Supplemental Material.

Are Children a Joy or a Burden? The educated hold more negative views

Are Children a Joy or a Burden? Individual- and Macro-level Characteristics and the Perception of Children. Haya Stier, Amit Kaplan. European Journal of Population, July 16 2019.

Abstract: This study examines how individuals perceive children, focusing on two dimensions—the positive aspects of having children and the perception of children as a burden—and taking into account relations with both individual- and macro-level characteristics. Three dimensions are examined on the macro-level: policies that support families, the cultural environment, and economic conditions. The study is based on the 2012 ISSP module on “Family and Gender Roles” and covers 24 OECD countries. The findings show that countries vary widely in their negative perceptions of children, but evince relatively greater similarity in their positive perceptions. Institutional support for children and working parents and traditional family values as captured by religiosity are important factors in explaining cross-country variation in negative perceptions of children. Further, policies may help men and women adopt a more positive view of children and reduce differences among educational groups in relation to children.

Keywords: Children Attitudes ISSP Comparative study

Visually attending to a video together facilitates great ape social closeness

Visually attending to a video together facilitates great ape social closeness. Wouter Wolf and Michael Tomasello. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Volume 286, Issue 1907, July 17 2019.

Abstract: Humans create social closeness with one another through a variety of shared social activities in which they align their emotions or mental states towards an external stimulus such as dancing to music together, playing board games together or even engaging in minimal shared experiences such as watching a movie together. Although these specific behaviours would seem to be uniquely human, it is unclear whether the underlying psychology is unique to the species, or if other species might possess some form of this psychological mechanism as well. Here we show that great apes who have visually attended to a video together with a human (study 1) and a conspecific (study 2) subsequently approach that individual faster (study 1) or spend more time in their proximity (study 2) than when they had attended to something different. Our results suggest that one of the most basic mechanisms of human social bonding—feeling closer to those with whom we act or attend together—is present in both humans and great apes, and thus has deeper evolutionary roots than previously suspected.

1. Introduction

Humans create and maintain social relationships in ways that are seemingly unique in the animal kingdom. Specifically, humans are able to create social closeness through all kinds of shared activities and experiences that do not require direct physical interaction but instead seem to satisfy a fundamental need to share the experience with other individuals [1]. Although the precise psychological mechanisms through which such activities result in social closeness remain unclear, humans have been shown to connect with one another by doing such things as making music together [2], acting together in synchrony [3], dancing together [4,5], playing team sports together [6] or by sharing experiences through gossip [7] or attitudes [8], or disclosing personal information [9]. In a recent study, Wolf et al. [10] demonstrated that even after a minimal shared interaction in which participants were attending to the same thing without otherwise communicating, they reported feeling closer to that participant [11].

Throughout the animal kingdom, the individuals of many species act in coordination with conspecifics. For example, dolphins often behave in synchrony [12], many bird species coordinate their song and dance in a mating context [13,14], and great apes travel together [15] and sometimes hunt monkeys together [16]. But do behavioural interactions in which individuals focus on an external stimulus together create stronger social relationships or bonds between participants? To our knowledge, there are no studies examining such a relationship in any non-human species, and indeed some theorists have suggested that this method of social bonding might be uniquely human [5,10].

As always in comparison with humans, great apes are a special case because of their close phylogenetic connection. Operational definitions of social closeness (bonding) in great ape research usually rely on interactions involving physical closeness (e.g. grooming and physical play [17–19] and/or spatial proximity [20]. However, given that apes do engage in a variety of coordinated (and even to some degree cooperative activities) such as building and fighting in coalitions and alliances [21], as well as travelling and hunting in groups [22], the question is whether, like humans, great apes have evolved a psychological mechanism that leads them to create social closeness with others through shared experiences. On the other hand, it might be that connecting with others through shared experiences is a uniquely human phenomenon.

To answer this question, we adapted Wolf et al.’s [10] paradigm for apes and conducted two studies in which participants shared the experience of attending to a video together with a human experimenter (study 1) or a conspecific (study 2). In the control condition, a human experimenter (study 1) or conspecific (study 2) sat in the same place but was not watching the video. We then compared the apes' subsequent behaviour towards their partner—approaching and/or remaining in physical proximity—between the two conditions.

In recent decades, educational fields have resisted intelligence research; we created a survey of beliefs about intelligence & administered it to a sample of the general public & a sample of teachers

Warne, Russell T., and Jared Z. Burton. 2019. “Beliefs About Human Intelligence in a Modern American Sample.” PsyArXiv. July 17. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: Research in educational psychology consistently finds a relationship between intelligence and academic performance. However, in recent decades, educational fields, including gifted education, have resisted intelligence research, and there are some experts who argue that intelligence testing should not be used in identifying giftedness. Hoping to better understand this resistance to intelligence research, we created a survey of beliefs about intelligence and administered it online to a sample of the general public and a sample of teachers. We found that there are conflicts between currently accepted intelligence theory and beliefs from the American public and teachers, which has important unintended consequences on gifted education, educational policy and the effectiveness of interventions.

There may be a tendency for the public to support empirical theories on intelligence when they support egalitarian ideals, & are less accepted as they appear contrary to these principles