Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Women are less competitive than men in most contexts; men are more likely to believe that competition improves performance, builds character, and leads to creative problem-solving

Lay beliefs about competition: Scale development and gender differences. Selin Kesebir, Sun Young Lee, Andrew J. Elliot, Madan M. Pillutla. Motivation and Emotion, July 24 2019.

Abstract: Women are less competitive than men in most contexts studied. This difference has been linked to the gender gap in socio-economic outcomes. To examine whether this gender difference is linked to differential beliefs about competition, we developed a scale measuring lay beliefs about competition and tested whether these beliefs account for gender differences in competitive attitudes and behaviors. A mini meta-analysis (N = 2331) of responses to this scale shows that men attribute more positive outcomes to competition than women. In particular, men are more likely to believe that competition improves performance, builds character, and leads to creative problem-solving. In contrast, the gender differences are smaller, less robust, and inconsistent for the different negative outcomes attributed to competition, such as encouraging unethical behavior, hurting self-esteem, and damaging relationships. We also show in two studies that only positive lay beliefs about competition predict competitive attitudes and behaviors, and account for (some of) the gender difference in competitiveness. We discuss possible reasons that women and men hold different beliefs about competition and the implications of these differences for the optimal design of social and organizational structures.

Keywords: Competitiveness Gender Lay theories Gender gap

HAHAHAHAHA: Apparently genuine cases of ghost possession (in this case, patient's criminal behavior was due to episodic ghost possession) can be exorcism-resistant; clopenthixol may relieve symptoms

Exorcism-resistant Ghost Possession Treated with Clopenthixol. Anthony S. Hale and Narsimha R. Pinninti. The British Journal of Psychiatry, Volume 165, Issue 3. September 1994, pp. 386-388.

Background: An Indian man now in Britain explained his criminal behaviour as episodic ghost possession. Traditional exorcisms failed to help.
Method: ‘Western’ diagnosis of dissociative state or paranoid schizophrenia was made. Treatment commenced using trifluoperazine and clopenthixol.
Results: The patient underwent remission during neuroleptic treatment, despite previous evidence of genuine possession.
Conclusions: Many cultures give rise to apparently genuine cases of ghost possession. Neuroleptics may relieve symptoms of exorcism-resistant possession.

A 22-year-old unemployed Hindu Indian male, in Britain with his family since the age of six, was interviewed while remanded for theft of a taxi, robbery, and kidnap of the driver. [...]
His parents initially would not listen, fearing stigma, but eventually consulted local religious leaders. They sent him to holy places in India where he was exorcised, by a Hindu priest and later a Moslem peer. Impatient with the failure, which seemed to increase the ghost's anger, he unsuccessfully consulted Christian priests. During the periodof remand, the patient displayed periods of nocturnal anxiety, withdrawal, depersonalisation and apparent response to hallucinations. Routine physical examination and blood chemistry, haematology and endocrinology were normal. The patient was apyretic, although complained of being hot. Blood and urine screens for illicit drugs were negative. EEG and computerised tomography scans were normal. Family relationships seemed comfortable and supportive. We were disturbed by a telephone call from the prison chaplain who described seeing the ghost possess the patient in prison, seeing a descending cloud and an impression of a face alarmingly like a description of the dead woman given to us by the patient, of which the chaplain denied prior knowledge. Similar reports came from frightened cellmates. He and our hospital chaplain concurred on genuine possession. This is an acceptable belief within the context of pastoral counselling (Isaacs, 1987). Western medical belief systems led us to a differential diagnosis of dissociative state or paranoid schizophrenia. However, we were conscious that the beliefs of at least four priests from three different religions cast doubt on the delusional nature of the phenomena. Exorcism having failed, we prescribed trifluoperazine (4mg daily) producing apparent remission. Following return to remand prison, he was commenced on a depot neuroleptic, zuclopenthixol decanoate, remaining in remission 12 weeks later following hospital transfer.

Let's stop the unfairness of having the same rights! 18–27yr olds: 6x voting weight; 68+yr olds: 1x voting weight

Age-Weighted Voting. William MacAskill. Jul 12 2019. Crossposted from the Effective Altruism Forum.

If we’re trying to positively influence the long-run future, we immediately run into the problem that predicting the future is hard, and our best-guess plans today might turn out to be irrelevant or even harmful depending on how things turn out in the future. The natural response to this issue is to instead try to change incentives — in particular, political incentives — such that people are encouraged take actions that are better from the perspective of the long-run future. As a comparison: the best action for feminist men in the 19th century wasn’t to figure out how best to help women directly (they probably would have failed dismally, especially if they were aiming at long-term benefits to women); it was to campaign to give women the vote, so that women could represent their own interests.

The trouble with the analogous reasoning when if comes to future people is that, being not-yet-existent, future people can’t represent their own interests. So ‘give future people the vote’ isn’t a viable option.

But there’s an alternative path. Generations overlap, and so by doing more to empower younger people today, we give somewhat more weight to the interests of future people compared to the interests of present people. This could be significant. Currently, the median voter is 47.5 years old in the USA; the average age of senators in the USA is 61.8 years. With an aging population, these numbers are very likely to get higher over time: in developed countries, the median age is project to increase by 3 to 7 years by 2050 (and by as much as 15 years in South Korea). We live in something close to a gerontocracy, and if voters and politicians are acting in their self-interest, we should expect that politics as a whole has a shorter time horizon than if younger people were more empowered.

So one way of extending political time horizons and increasing is to age-weight votes. The idea is that younger people would get more heavily weighted votes than older people, very roughly in proportion with life expectancy. A natural first pass system (though I think it could be improved upon) would be:

18–27yr olds: 6x voting weight
28–37yr olds: 5x voting weight
38–47yr olds: 4x voting weight
48–57yr olds: 3x voting weight
58–67yr olds: 2x voting weight
68+yr olds: 1x voting weight

Later edit: Note that, even with such heavy weights as these, the (effective) median voter age (in the US) would go from 55 to 40. (H/T Zach Groff for these numbers). Assuming that the median voter theorem approximately captures political dynamics of voting, weighting by (approximate) life-expectancy would therefore lengthen political horizons somewhat, but wouldn’t result in young people having all the power.

As well as the potential benefits from extending political time horizons, I think this proposal looks promising on some other dimensions too:

It would be fair. In this scenario, all citizens get equal voting weight, it’s just that this voting power is unequally distributed throughout someone’s life.

In fact, there are arguments that it would be fairer than the current system. First, it’s fairer insofar as there’s a closer association between who has power over which policies are enacted and who has to bear the benefits and costs of those policies. It avoids scenarios where some people can vote for short-termist policies that benefit them even though they don’t have to live with the long-run consequences. Second, the current system gives less voting power to people who have the misfortune of dying young. The age-weighted system mitigates this to an extent. Finally, if it does succeed in encouraging policies with better long-term consequences, it would be fairer to future generations, who are currently completely disenfranchised; though these generations still wouldn’t be able to represent themselves, they would at least be benefitted to a greater degree.

It would mitigate intertemporal inconsistency. In the UK’s European Union membership referendum, the voting pattern was heavily correlated with age: older people were much more likely to vote to leave the EU than younger people. My current (poorly informed) understanding is that, in terms of the correlation between age and conservatism, both aging itself and cohort effects play a role. If the latter is significant in this case, this suggests that, in twenty years’ time, most of Britain’s electorate will be in favour of being part of the EU. If so, then a huge amount of time and effort will have been wasted in the transition costs of leaving and rejoining.

There are, however, a number of open questions regarding age-weighting of voting, including:
Do younger people actually have more future-oriented views?
Does extending political horizons by 20 years provide benefits from the perspective of much longer timescales?
Are younger people less well-informed, and so apt to make worse decisions?
Is this just a way of pushing particular (left-wing) political views?
What would actually happen if this were put in place, and how good or bad would those effects be?
What’s the best mechanism for implementing age-weighting voting?
What would be the best plan for making age-weighting voting happen in the real world?

Some brief notes on these:

Age and future-orientation: One could argue that older people are more likely to consider the long run. They have less at stake in terms of personal interest, so therefore might weigh altruistic concerns comparatively more highly than self-interested concerns. (Imagine, at the limit, someone who was voting on their deathbed. They would only have moral concerns to guide their decision. Thanks to Christian Tarsney for this point). And, in general, voting behaviour isn’t well-explained by the ‘self-interested voter’ model. However, empirically there’s evidence that generations do tend to vote in their self-interest when it comes to issues that have different costs and benefits across time. Here’s Gabriel Ahlfeldt summing up some results from a recent paper:

“[O]lder voters are less likely to support measures that protect the environment, promote sustainable use of energy or improve transport. Older voters are also less likely to support expenditures on education or welfare policies, such as unemployment benefits, but they are more likely to support expenditures on health systems. The reasons for these tendencies can be different in every category. But it is difficult to find a singular explanation other than generational self-interest, which would explain why older voters tend to be generally less supportive of expenditures that benefit other generations and projects that have positive expected effects in the long run, but costs in the short run. It fits the bill that where it is harder to think of generational-specific interests such as on questions related to animal protection, women’s rights or urban development, there is also no evidence of a generation gap.”

(Thee authors have a follow-up article here.) However, more work on this seems crucial.

Age-weighted voting and the very long term. It’s hard to know to what extent extending political time horizons by a decade or two provides benefits for the very long term. My initial assumption would be that extending political horizons is somewhat beneficial for very long-term outcomes, though only weakly so. When I think through particular issues — in particular worries about risks from technologies that will only be developed in the coming decades, like advanced AI and advanced synthetic biology — politics having a longer time horizon tends to look pretty good. There is enormous willingness-to-pay to avoid existential catastrophes (over a trillion dollars to mitigate 0.1 percentage points of risk, even just looking at US citizens’ willingness to reduce chance of their own deaths [1]), so if we think technological risks are currently neglected, we need some debunking explanation of why this is so, and myopic political decision-making seems plausible. But more work on this seems crucial, too.

Age and wisdom: I suspect that this isn’t a major consideration in the choice between these voting systems: if we wanted a more epistocratic system, we would move quite far away from either of the current system or the age-weighting system.

But, if we are going this route, there are at least some reasons for thinking that younger voters would make better decisions. Education levels are rising, so younger people are on average better educated; they also have a more recent education, so are therefore more likely to be more up-to-date on contemporary knowledge. The Flynn effect means that IQ scores are rising, and this may be due in part to genuine increases in intelligence (though the Flynn effect has stalled in the US in recent years). As a counterargument, crystallised intelligence increases with age and, though fluid intelligence decreases with age, it seems to me that crystallised intelligence is more important than fluid intelligence for informed voting.

(Later Edit). Again, we should bear in mind that, even with the approximate life-expectancy weighting, the effective median voter age would move from 55 to 40. So, if we are thinking through epistocratic considerations, the key issue is whether 40 year olds make better decisions than 55 year olds, rather than whether 60 year olds make better decisions than 20 year olds.

Pushing particular political views: One might worry that this proposal would have major partisan consequences — if so, then proponents of the idea might be biased in favour of it if it is a way of sneaking in their favoured political views, and it would decrease political feasibility. And certainly, in the US at the moment, age-weighting voting would cause a one-time leftward swing. But this isn’t true across all generations. From a Pew Research report:

“As the Pew Research Center has often noted, it is not always the case that younger generations are more Democratic. Two decades ago, the youngest adults — Generation X — were the most Republican age cohort on balance, while the oldest — the Greatest Generation– were the most Democratic. In 1994, 47% of Gen Xers (then ages 18–29) identified with or leaned toward the Republican Party, while 42% identified as Democrats or leaned Democratic. And members of the Greatest Generation (then ages 67–81) — favored the Democratic Party over the GOP (49% to 42%)”
Other age-related positions can be surprising. Though younger people in the UK referendum were much more likely to vote in favour of remaining in the EU, younger people in the Scottish independence referendum were more likely to vote in favour of Scottish independence.

Political feasibility: It seems hard to believe that some voters would voluntarily give up power. But it’s happened before via suffrage movements. And there are ways we could taper in the voting weights such that no-one ever has less voting power than they would have had otherwise. Alternatively, we could delay the implementation of the age-weighting, exploiting time biases: if age-weighting only begins in twenty years’ time, then the older generation have little to lose by voting in its favour.

Thanks to Aron Vallinder, Zach Groff, Ben Grodeck, the other Global Priorities Fellows and staff at the Global Priorities Institute for helpful discussion of this idea.

[1] The value of a statistical life in the US is in the range of $3-$9 million dollars. Using the low estimate, among 350 million citizens, the US as a whole should be willing to spend over $1 trillion to mitigate an extinction risk by 0.1 percentage points.

Adults demonstrate aesthetic preferences for natural environments over urban ones; children aged 4–11 years do not show that preference for nature; there is a gradual development of that preference

The gradual development of the preference for natural environments. Kimberly L. Meidenbauer et al. Journal of Environmental Psychology, July 24 2019, 101328.

• Children aged 4–11 years do not show the preference for nature found in adults.
• With age, children's preferences for urban over natural environments decrease.
• More nearby nature is associated with fewer attention problems in children.
• The observed attentional benefits are unrelated to the children's preferences.
• Children's preferences were not linked to their home, school or play environments.

Abstract: Adults demonstrate aesthetic preferences for natural environments over urban ones. This preference has influenced theories like Biophilia to explain why nature is beneficial. While both adults and children show cognitive and affective benefits after nature exposure, it is unknown whether children demonstrate nature preferences. In the current study, 4-to-11-year-old children and their parents rated their preferences for images of nature and urban scenes. Parents' preferences matched those of a normative adult sample. However, children demonstrated robust preferences for urban over natural environments, and those urban preferences significantly decreased with age. Nature exposure around the home and nature-related activities, as reported by parents, did not predict children's preferences. Children with more nearby nature, however, had lower reported inattentiveness, but interestingly, this was unrelated to children's preferences for nature. These results provide an important step into future research on the role of preference in how children and adults benefit from nature.

Keywords: Nature preferencesChild developmentNature exposureAttention restoration theoryBiophiliaAestheticsCognition

A Closer Look at China’s Supposed Misappropriation of U.S. Intellectual Property

A Closer Look at China’s Supposed Misappropriation of U.S. Intellectual Property. Ana Maria Santacreu and Makenzie Peake. St Louis Fed, 2019, No. 5, Posted 2019-02-08.

The ongoing trade conflict between the United States and China dominates today's news on international trade. Analysts cite China's misappropriation of foreign intellectual property as an important source of bilateral tension that has prompted the United States to impose tariffs on certain Chinese goods.1

Given the growing trade tensions between the United States and China, and the economic implications of tariff increases, it is important to analyze whether China has taken steps to improve its enforcement of intellectual property rights. One way to do so is to look at data on China's royalty payments to the United States.

People and firms pay royalties to use intellectual property, which can be covered under licensing agreements, trademarks, patents, and copyrights. Royalties are recorded as a trade in services in the international balance of payments. For instance, payments for the use of U.S. technology by a Chinese firm are recorded as an import of services by China and an export of services by the United States. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) provides bilateral data on trade in services at the industry level over time and includes data on charges for the use of foreign intellectual property.2

The data show that Chinese royalty payments to the world grew from $1.4 billion in 1999 to $27.2 billion in 2017. In 2016, China ranked fourth in royalty payments to the world, at just under $30 billion, right behind the United States at just over $40 billion. Both countries are listed behind Ireland (just under $80 billion) and the Netherlands (just under $50 billion) in the same year. Ireland and the Netherlands are special cases because low corporate taxes in these countries incentivize profit shifting by multinational corporations located in other countries. For instance, several American companies have opened affiliates in these countries to transfer their technology (i.e., patents) there. The affiliate pays the parent company royalties for the profits obtained using those technologies. These profits are not repatriated to the United States and therefore are taxed at the lower corporate tax rates of Ireland and the Netherlands, where the affiliates are domiciled.3

[two charts, sources are OECD and OECD + World Bank]

In Figure 1A, we look specifically at China's payments for the use of U.S. intellectual property. The payments grew significantly, from $755 million in 1999 to $8.3 billion in 2017—more than 11-fold. Even more interesting, as shown in Figure 1B, is that China's royalty payments to the United States (blue line) grew faster than China's GDP (red line).

These data may suggest improvement of China's enforcement of intellectual property rights. One cannot infer from the data, however, whether China is paying what it would be expected to pay for the use of U.S. intellectual property. The issue of China's potential misappropriation of U.S. intellectual property calls for further research.

1 Office of the United States Trade Representative. "USTR Finalizes Tariffs on $200 Billion of Chinese Imports in Response to China's Unfair Trade Practices." Press release, September 2018;
2 OECD. Trade in Services (indicator). 2019;, accessed January 7, 2019.
3 Lardy, N.R. "China: Forced Technology Transfer and Theft?" Peterson Institute for International Economics, April 20, 2018.
© 2019, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect official positions of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis or the Federal Reserve System.

The peasants, the Guardian class, and trust in institutions and the elites

Notes from a nameless conference. Martin Gurri. July 23, 2019.

Sometime this year, I found myself at a conference centered around the theme of “regaining trust.”  For obvious reasons, I won’t name names, but it was a professional gathering of the old regime:  the industrial elites.  In their hundreds if not thousands, I was swarmed by people of good will who were also smart, articulate, and hyper-educated.  They craved, sincerely, to help the disadvantaged and save the earth.  The words “science” and “reason” were perpetually on their lips, as if they held the copyright for these terms – which, in a sense, they did.  And if they were a bit defensive, a tad obtuse, their intentions were the purest I could imagine.

So why, by their own admission, do they no longer inspire trust?

I have met their kindred before, in other glittering places.  They run the institutions that hold center stage in our society, but look on the world as if from a walled mountain fortress, where every loud noise from beyond is interpreted as risk and threat.  They disagree about minutia, but mostly move in lockstep, like synchronized swimmers, with word and thought.  They are earnest but extraordinarily narrow.  In a typical complaint, one speaker blamed the public for hiding in an “information bubble” – [...]

The same unmodulated whine about present conditions circled around and around, without even the ambition to achieve wit, depth, or originality:

*  The internet is the enemy:  of rationality, of democracy, of truth.  It must be regulated by enlightened minds.
*  The public resembles an eight-year-old who is always fooled by tricks and lies.  For its own protection, it must be constrained by a Guardian class.
*  Populism is the spawn of lies.  Even if it wins elections, it is never legitimate, and must be swept away by a higher authority.

None of this was up for discussion.  None of it was uttered with the least semblance of self-awareness.  In the same breath, a speaker called for the regulation of the web and the education of children in “tolerance.”  If I had pointed out the contradiction, the speaker, I’m certain, would have denied it.  Tolerance, for her, meant the obliteration of opinions she disliked.

In fact, each narrative loop I listed above ends with the elites happily in charge, and the obliteration of the wretched present.  If we wish to understand why trust evaporated in the first place, consider the moral and political assumptions behind this rhetorical posture

The industrial elites have lost their way.  In every major profession and institution, they once commanded vast, widely-admired projects that filled their lives with meaning and endowed the entire class with an unconquerable confidence.  But the twentieth century couldn’t be preserved forever, like a bug in amber.  The elites now face a radically transformed environment – and they are maladapted and demoralized.  An inability to listen, an impulse to spew jargon in broadcast mode, a demand for social distance as the reward for professional success:  such habits, which in the past placed them above and beyond the mob’s reach, now drag them down to contempt and mockery in the information sphere.  Among the public, trust has curdled into loathing.  The elites are horribly aware of their fall from grace – hence the conference – but being deaf to the public’s voice, they are clueless about how to respond.

To some extent, this is a family drama:  [...]

The senior people, largely white and male, seemed to believe that, in punishment for the sins of their fathers, trust had fractured along identity lines.  Women today were thought to trust only women, for example.  [...]

For younger elites, trust involves a sort of cosplay of historical conflicts.  They put on elaborate rhetorical superhero costumes, and fight mock-epic battles with Nazis, fascists, “patriarchs,” slave-owners, George III, and the like.  Because it’s only a game, no one gets seriously hurt – but nothing ever gets settled, either.  Eventually, the young cosplayers must put away their costumes, take one last sip of Kombucha, and set off, seething with repressed virtue, to make money in the world as it really is.

I was intrigued by the pathology of mutual dependence between these generational postures.  It’s the way abusive relationships are supposed to work – although, in all honesty, I was at a loss to say who was the abuser and who the abused.

We are living through the early stages of a colossal transformation:  from the industrial age to something that doesn’t yet have a name.  Many periods of history have been constrained by structural necessity.  This isn’t one of them.  Rather than a forking path, we face possibilities that radiate in every direction, like spokes from a hub.  Even the immediate future seems up for grabs.  We could see the formation of a hyper-connected liberal democracy, or plunge into nihilism and chaos – or we could contemplate arrangements and relations that are, at present, unimaginable.

The future will be determined not by vast, impersonal forces but by an accumulation of individual choices.  Ultimately, the elites must lead the way.  Whether selected by the public or self-anointed and self-perpetuating, they hold in hand the institutional levers of change:  that’s just how the world works in a complex civilization.  We will not transcend our petty and immobile present with protests or referendums.

The dilemma is that this present is defined by a radical distrust of the institutions of industrial society, and of the elites that control them, and of their statements and descriptions of reality.  The conference organizers got our predicament right.  At every level of contemporary social and political life, we are stuck in the muck of a profound crisis of authority.  The mass audience of the twentieth century has fractured like a fallen mirror.  An angry and alienated public inhabits the broken shards – and nobody speaks for the whole.  The elites who should take the first step into the unknown are paralyzed by doubt and fear.  They utter the words science and reason like incantations, claim ownership to Platonic truth, and believe, with astonishing unanimity, that they have been overthrown by a tsunami of lies.  One need only restore truth to its former throne of glory, with themselves as mediating lords, they imagine, and the masses, as in the golden past, will bend the knee of trust.

But the solid masses are now a fractured public.  Truth, for mediated information, is a question of perspective.  Today the political and media elites must deal with a huge number of competing perspectives:  theirs is but one reedy voice in the uproar.  It never occurs to them, as it never did to my conference-goers, that they would profit from understanding the splintered perspectives of the public:  why, for example, a devout Christian with eyes wide open might vote for a man like Donald Trump.  A canonical explanation for Trump already existed, involving the usual tropes – fake news, Facebook, Putin.  Racism took care of the remainder.

The decisive endeavor of our moment – far surmounting, I believe, any specific policy call – is the re-establishment of trust in the institutions of representative democracy.  Only after the system has been reformed and the public has been reconciled to it can we again talk about truth as a self-evident proposition.  Until then, all we will have is perspectives – fragments of truth circling, randomly, the gravitational power of some opinion.  Appealing to tribal identity only compounds the fragmentation.  Fighting imaginary fascists and Nazis can be no more rewarding than hugging an imaginary friend.  [...]

I left the conference uncertain about the prospects of the good people I had encountered there.  They belonged to the class that should take all the forward places in the great migration away from this frozen hour, toward the new.  Instead, they were transfixed with longing for a dead past.  And the clock, for them, is ticking.  [...]