Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Predictive processing shows how seemingly pointless actions like fidgeting in fact can serve an uncertainty-reducing function; this proposal is extended to autistic stimming, which can be understood as a form of fidgeting

Fidgeting as self-evidencing: A predictive processing account of non-goal-directed action. Kelsey Perrykkad, Jakob Hohwy. New Ideas in Psychology, Volume 56, January 2020, 100750. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.newideapsych.2019.100750

•    Predictive processing shows how seemingly pointless actions like fidgeting in fact can serve an uncertainty-reducing function.
•    To resolve mounting uncertainty about the world, agents perform simple and precise actions, confirming their self-model.
•    This proposal is extended to autistic stimming, which can be understood as a form of fidgeting.

Abstract: Non-goal-directed actions have been relatively neglected in cognitive science, but are ubiquitous and related to important cognitive functions. Fidgeting is seemingly one subtype of non-goal-directed action which is ripe for a functional account. What's the point of fidgeting? The predictive processing framework is a parsimonious account of brain function which says the brain aims to minimise the difference between expected and actual states of the world and itself, that is, minimise prediction error. This framework situates action selection in terms of active inference for expected states. However, seemingly aimless, idle actions, such as fidgeting, are a challenge to such theories. When our actions are not obviously goal-achieving, how can a predictive processing framework explain why we regularly do them anyway? Here, we argue that in a predictive processing framework, evidence for the agent's own existence is consolidated by self-stimulation or fidgeting. Endogenous, repetitive actions reduce uncertainty about the system's own states, and thus help continuously maintain expected rates of prediction error minimisation. We extend this explanation to clinically distinctive self-stimulation, such as in Autism Spectrum Conditions, in which effective strategies for self-evidencing may be different to the neurotypical case.

Being politically incorrect makes communicators appear more authentic—specifically, less susceptible to external influence—albeit also less warm

Rosenblum, M., Schroeder, J., & Gino, F. (2019). Tell it like it is: When politically incorrect language promotes authenticity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/pspi0000206

Abstract: When a person’s language appears to be political—such as being politically correct or incorrect—it can influence fundamental impressions of him or her. Political correctness is “using language or behavior to seem sensitive to others’ feelings, especially those others who seem socially disadvantaged.” One pilot study, 6 experiments, and 3 supplemental experiments (N = 4,956) demonstrate that being politically incorrect makes communicators appear more authentic—specifically, less susceptible to external influence—albeit also less warm. These effects, however, are moderated by perceivers’ political ideology and how sympathetic perceivers feel toward the target group being labeled politically correctly. In Experiments 1, 2, and 3 using politically incorrect language (e.g., calling undocumented immigrants illegals) made a communicator appear particularly authentic among conservative perceivers but particularly cold among liberal perceivers. However, in Experiment 4 these effects reversed when conservatives felt sympathetic toward the group that was being labeled politically correctly or incorrectly (e.g., calling poor Whites white trash). Experiment 5 tests why political incorrectness can boost authenticity, demonstrating that it makes communicators seem less strategic. Finally, Experiment 6 examines the use of political language in a meaningful field context: perceived persuasion in real political debates. Debaters instructed to be politically correct (vs. politically incorrect) were judged by their uninstructed conversation partners to be easier to persuade during the conversation, although they actually reported being similarly persuaded. Together, these findings demonstrate when and how using politically incorrect language can enhance a person’s authenticity.

Near-accidents with cars were associated with a decrease in the safe driving... In some way, we take a near-accident as a success, and irresponsible behavior increases

Lessons learned from accident and near-accident experiences in traffic. Jens Andreas Terum, Frode Svartdal. Safety Science, Volume 120, December 2019, Pages 672-678. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssci.2019.07.040

•    Accidents were not associated with safe driving.
•    Near-accidents were associated with a decrease in the safe driving.
•    Learned caution is associated with assuming personal responsibility.

Abstract: The focus of this article is risky behavior in traffic. What do people learn from accidents and near-accidents? Experience with accidents may demand increased caution. However, near-accidents are inherently ambiguous: On the one hand, they signal that margins were good enough, inspiring increased risk-taking; on the other hand, they signal danger that could induce increased caution. To explore these issues, participants (N = 614) answered 47 questions related to safe traffic behavior as well as reported on their experiences with traffic accidents and near-accidents, assessing changes in cautiousness as well as cognitive (i.e., counterfactual thinking) and emotional mechanisms possibly involved in learning from such experience. Results indicate that people do not become more cautious after accidents, whereas repeated experiences with near-accidents seem to foster less cautious traffic behavior. We discuss emotional and cognitive mechanisms related to these effects, and suggest that cautiousness after near-accidents is associated with assuming personal responsibility and upward counterfactual comparisons. We conclude that the mechanisms involved in learning from near-accidents are theoretically interesting, as well as important for the understanding of safe driving behavior.

Women prioritizing career (over family) predicted greater similarity in mate preferences: Placed less importance on men’s parenting qualities, more importance on their access to financial resources, & preferred a career-oriented man

Breadwinner Seeks Bottle Warmer: How Women’s Future Aspirations and Expectations Predict Their Current Mate Preferences. Alyssa Croft et al. Sex Roles, August 14 2019. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11199-019-01080-6

Abstract: Contemporary women in Western cultures are often trying to juggle careers alongside personal and societal expectations for childrearing in an effort to “have it all.” We examine the effects of this balancing act on heterosexual women’s mate selection motivations. Across three Canadian samples (n = 360), we tested concurrent hypotheses about the desirability of both similar and complementary characteristics in a potential mate. Specifically, women’s aspirations (to prioritize career over family) and their expectations for the roles they will most likely adopt within their future partnerships (primary breadwinner and/or caregiver) were tested as key predictors of mate preferences. Although specific effects varied across samples, a mega-analysis of the combined sample and an internal meta-analysis of effect sizes from the three studies provided support for both complementary and similarity motives (controlling for gender role attitudes). Women’s aspirations to prioritize career (over family) predicted greater similarity in mate preferences, such that they placed less importance on men’s parenting qualities, more importance on their access to financial resources, and preferred a career-oriented over family-oriented exemplar. However, women’s expectations of actually taking on the breadwinner role predicted greater complementarity in mate preferences (greater desirability of parenting qualities and a family-oriented partner; with financial resources rated as less important). Our work expands current understanding of women’s decision-making processes when selecting a mate and has implications for men’s changing traits and roles.

Keywords: Gender roles Mate preferences Communal Agentic Expectations Aspirations

You are not as Cute as you Think you are: Emotional Responses to Expectancy Violations in Heterosexual Online Dating Interaction

You are not as Cute as you Think you are: Emotional Responses to Expectancy Violations in Heterosexual Online Dating Interactions. Maria DelGreco, Amanda Denes. Sex Roles, August 14 2019. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11199-019-01078-0

Abstract: Dating initiation is a challenging phase of heterosexual romantic relationship development, with men and women often having different expectations and interpretations of communicative cues. With online dating becoming increasingly popular, the challenges of relationship initiation are more apparent and may even lead to negative interpersonal interactions, such as online harassment. The present investigation employed expectancy violations theory to understand and explain perceptions of women’s responses to compliments in an online dating context. We predicted that due to general as well as gender-specific expectations for compliments and responses, when such expectations are violated, conflict and emotional reactions would arise. Using a sample of 413 U.S. undergraduate students, results indicated that women who negatively violate expectations by responding to a compliment using self-praise and agreement were generally evaluated more negatively than women who violated expectations in a positive way by disagreeing with the compliment and women who conformed to expectations by responding with “thank you.” Additionally, results showed that women who positively violated expectations were evaluated more negatively compared to women who conformed to expectations. Implications for expectancy violations theory and power in gendered online interactions are discussed.

Keywords: Online dating Compliments Expectancy violations theory Sexual harassment

Dopamine neurons encode reward prediction errors, used to update value predictions; the delivery of rewards is increased after a costly action, easing more rapid learning under high cost situation

The cost of obtaining rewards enhances the reward prediction error signal of midbrain dopamine neurons. Shingo Tanaka, John P. O’Doherty & Masamichi Sakagami. Nature Communications, volume 10, Article number: 3674 (2019). August 15 2019. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-11334-2

Abstract: Midbrain dopamine neurons are known to encode reward prediction errors (RPE) used to update value predictions. Here, we examine whether RPE signals coded by midbrain dopamine neurons are modulated by the cost paid to obtain rewards, by recording from dopamine neurons in awake behaving monkeys during performance of an effortful saccade task. Dopamine neuron responses to cues predicting reward and to the delivery of rewards were increased after the performance of a costly action compared to a less costly action, suggesting that RPEs are enhanced following the performance of a costly action. At the behavioral level, stimulus-reward associations are learned faster after performing a costly action compared to a less costly action. Thus, information about action cost is processed in the dopamine reward system in a manner that amplifies the following dopamine RPE signal, which in turn promotes more rapid learning under situations of high cost.


Humans and animals prefer a reward received after exerting a lot effort to obtain it compared to the same reward after a smaller amount of effort1,2,3. A number of explanations have been posited for this effect such as effort justification4,5 and the contrast effect6, in which greater value is attributed to an outcome obtained after paid effort. However, it remains unclear whether and how the processing of reward information in the brain is modulated by the effort expended to obtain a reward.

We focused specifically on the midbrain dopamine system, given the role of this system in promoting behavioral adaptation to rewards7,8,9. Dopamine neurons are known to represent reward prediction error (RPE) signals that can facilitate learning of reward predictions by the basal ganglia10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17. The strength of the RPE depends on the quantity, quality, and subjective value or utility of the reward7,18,19,20,21. Moreover, dopaminergic activity is modulated by costs and/or effort22,23. On this basis, we postulated that the dopaminergic RPE signal would be directly modulated by the cost paid to obtain a reward. Furthermore, because the RPE signal is causally involved in mediating learning of stimulus-reward associations24,25,26, we hypothesized that the cost paid to obtain the reward would directly increase the learning speed of stimulus-reward associations.

To test our hypotheses, we measured both behavior and dopaminergic activity in two Japanese monkeys while they performed a saccade based effort task. Monkeys react faster to a reward-predicting cue that is presented after a high-cost (HC) action compared with that after a low-cost (LC) action. The activity of dopaminergic neurons to the reward-predicting cues are increased by the paid cost. In addition, learning speed to the stimulus-reward association is also enhanced by the paid cost. Therefore, we suggest that the cost paid to obtain rewards increases the RPE signal in dopamine neurons and thereby enhances stimulus-reward associations.

Squirrels pilfer each other's nuts at high rates, observing how the others hide the caches; they steal less frequently from relatives

How squirrels protect their caches: Location, conspicuousness during caching, and proximity to kin influence cache lifespan. Mikel Maria Delgado, Lucia F Jacobs. bioRxiv, August 16, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1101/738237

Abstract: Scatter-hoarding animals cannot physically protect individual caches, and instead utilize several behavioral strategies that are hypothesized to offer protection for caches. We validated the use of physically altered, cacheable food items, and determined that intraspecific pilfering among free-ranging fox squirrels (N=23) could be assessed in the field. In this study we were able to identify specific individual squirrels who pilfered or moved caches that had been stored by a conspecific. We identified a high level of pilfering (25%) among this population. In a subsequent study, we assessed the fate of squirrel-made caches. Nineteen fox squirrels cached 294 hazelnuts with passive integrated transponder tags implanted in them. Variables collected included assessment and cache investment and protection behaviors; cache location, substrate, and conspicuousness of each cache; how long each cache remained in its original location, and the location where the cache was finally consumed. We also examined whether assessment or cache protection behaviors were related to the outcomes of buried nuts. Finally, we measured the population dynamics and heterogeneity of squirrels in this study, testing the hypothesis that cache proximity and pilferage tolerance could serve as a form of kin selection. Polymer chain reaction (PCR) was used to analyze hair samples and determine relatedness among 15 squirrels, and the potential impact of relatedness on caching behavior. Results suggested that cache protection behaviors and the lifespan of a cache were dependent on the conspicuousness of a cache. Squirrels may mitigate some of the costs of pilfering by caching closer to the caches of related squirrels than to those of non-related squirrels.