Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Understanding hostility in online political discussions: Non-hostile people opt out of the discussions, individuals prone to hostility could be more likely to participate in online than offline discussions

Why so angry? Understanding hostility in online political discussions. Alexander Bor &Michael Bang Petersen. Online disinformation: an integrated view conference 2019. Aarhus University. https://nordis.research.it.uu.se/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Online-Disinformation-Conference-Abstracts.pdf

Most US citizens consider online political discussions to be uncivil, aggressive and hostile. Although political discussions can get heated by their very nature, the available data suggests that online discussions are seen as much worse than offline discussions. Yet, while a range of studies has documented the existence of widespread perceptions of online political hostility, our understanding of the causes of these perceptions are limited. The aim of the present paper is to provide the first comprehensive review and empirical test of the potential mechanisms that could cause widespread online political hostility.

As our theoretical starting point, we distinguish between two broad factors: the messages sent and the message received. Two potential explanations relate to the first factor. The first explanation proposes negative behavioral changes. This suggests that people are more likely to send hostile messages online than offline. Anonymity is a frequently blamed culprit of online hostility, but online environments have several other unique features too; for example, people are often distracted or tired while crafting their messages. Such characteristics may undermine people’s emotion regulation mechanisms and may lead to increased hostility on online platforms. The second explanation proposes that online environments attract particular individuals and, thereby, change the composition of people participating in political discussions. Through such sorting, individuals prone to hostility could be more likely to participate in online than offline discussions. It is possible that whereas social defense mechanisms effectively guard offline discussions against hostile intruders, it is more difficult to exclude hostile parties from online discussions.

It is also important to consider whether the perceived hostility is exacerbated on the receivers’ end too. A third explanation suggests that the density of communication networks in online environments may also contribute to higher perceived hostility, even if the same messages are being sent by the same people. Whereas offline political discussions typically involve only a handful of people and rarely more than a few dozen, in online discussions hundreds can participate. In other words, any hostile message is likely to be received by many more people inan online discussion. Computer algorithms prioritizing comments with attention grabbing or controversial content likely intensify this effect. Finally, the perception effect proposes that even if none of the explanations above were true, it is possible that the same messages are perceived as more hostile online than in face-to-face interactions. People may have a harder time judging the hostility of messages they receive and may make more false-positive mistakes online, where they lack non-verbal cues, lack reputational information about the sender, and often see only fragments of a conversation thread. We test observable implications for these explanations relying on an original online survey of US citizens (N = 1500), conducted by YouGov on an approximately representative sample. The survey includes measures of political participation and hostility online and offline, perceptions of these environments as well as a wide array of personality measures.

Against common predictions, we find little evidence for behavior being corrupted by online environments or for sorting effects revealing the entry of new, hostile parties to online discussions. Our data shows very high correlations between online and offline behaviors including hostility (rs> 0.8). Moreover, personality measures, which indicate a general tendency for hostile political behavior(such as need for chaos, trait aggression, status driven risk-seeking and difficulties in emotion regulation), correlate highly with both online and offline hostility (0.4 < rs <0.6). We do find firm evidence for sorting caused by hostile individuals being more active onlinethan non-hostile individuals. According to our data, people who self-report sending hostile messages 1) spend more time on social media (but less time on other parts of the internet) and 2) discuss politics more than non-hostile individuals. These differences are particularly large when it comes to discussing politics with strangers.

We find suggestive evidence that perception and network effects also increase perceived hostility. Discussions with strangers correlate with negative impressions of online discussions. Importantly, this is not true for offline discussions: the more people discuss politics with strangers face-to-face, the more positive their evaluations get. Furthermore, due to the density of online communication networks, discussions with strangers are more frequent both in absolute and relative terms online than offline. The paper concludes with discussing the implications of these findings.

Lifting short-sale constraints leads to a decrease in stock price crash risk; effect is more pronounced for firms whose managers are more likely to hoard bad news & obfuscate financial information; & for those with more severe overinvestment

Short-sale constraints and stock price crash risk: Causal evidence from a natural experiment. Xiaohu Deng, Lei Gao, Jeong-Bon Kim. Journal of Corporate Finance, August 20 2019, 101498. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcorpfin.2019.101498

•    We study the causal relation between short-sale constraints and stock price crash risk.
•    Lifting short-sale constraints leads to a decrease in stock price crash risk.
•    The effect is more pronounced for firms whose managers are more likely to hoard bad news and obfuscate financial information.
•    The effect is more pronounced for firms with more severe overinvestment problems.
•    Short sellers play important roles in monitoring managerial disclosure strategies and real investment decisions.

Abstract: We examine the relation between short-sale constraints and stock price crash risk. To establish causality, we take advantage of a regulatory change from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)’s Regulation SHO pilot program, which temporarily lifted short-sale constraints for randomly designated stocks. Using Regulation SHO as a natural experiment setting in which to apply a difference-in-differences research design, we find that the lifting of short-sale constraints leads to a significant decrease in stock price crash risk. We further investigate the possible underlying mechanisms through which short-sale constraints affect stock price crash risk. We provide evidence suggesting that lifting of short-sale constraints reduces crash risk by constraining managerial bad news hoarding and improving corporate investment efficiency. The results of our study shed new light on the cause of stock price crash risk as well as the roles that short sellers play in monitoring managerial disclosure strategies and real investment decisions.

Blocking or unfriending others for political reasons is related to more expressive participation (discussing & posting about politics), & more demonstrative forms of participation (donating money & volunteering time)

Robertson, Craig and Fernandez, Laleah and Shillair, Ruth, The Political Outcomes of Unfriending: Social Network Curation, Network Agreeability, and Political Participation (July 24, 2019). SSRN: http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3426216

Abstract: Research has noted a link between social media use and political participation. Scholars have also identified a need to explain this link. The present study is a theoretical and empirical probe into the political outcomes of unfriending people on social media. Drawing on privacy management theory and the social identity perspective, it explores the relationship between social network curation (blocking or unfriending others on social media for political reasons), perceived social network agreeability (how often people agree with the political opinions or political content of friends on social media), and forms of political participation. Using data from a survey of US adults (N=2,018) and a structural equation modelling approach, study results indicate a relational path from social network curation, through expressive participation (e.g. discussing politics and posting about politics on social media), to more demonstrative forms of participation (e.g. donating money and volunteering time). The study contributes to our understanding of the link between social media use and political outcomes by focusing on a unique explanatory mechanism. Policy implications pertain to the role that social media use plays in fostering political involvement. Specifically, if cutting disagreeable friends out of one’s social network is associated with political participation, this raises normative concerns regarding engagement which is underpinned by political polarization and intolerance.

Keywords: social media, political participation, unfriending

Out of all the participating users who post comments in a particular shaming event, the majority of them are likely to shame the victim; shamers' follower counts increase faster than that of the nonshamers in Twitter

Online Public Shaming on Twitter: Detection, Analysis, and Mitigation. Rajesh Basak; Shamik Sural; Niloy Ganguly; Soumya K. Ghosh. IEEE Transactions on Computational Social Systems, Volume 6, Issue 2, April 2019, pp 208 - 220, DOI: 10.1109/TCSS.2019.2895734

Abstract: Public shaming in online social networks and related online public forums like Twitter has been increasing in recent years. These events are known to have a devastating impact on the victim's social, political, and financial life. Notwithstanding its known ill effects, little has been done in popular online social media to remedy this, often by the excuse of large volume and diversity of such comments and, therefore, unfeasible number of human moderators required to achieve the task. In this paper, we automate the task of public shaming detection in Twitter from the perspective of victims and explore primarily two aspects, namely, events and shamers. Shaming tweets are categorized into six types: abusive, comparison, passing judgment, religious/ethnic, sarcasm/joke, and whataboutery, and each tweet is classified into one of these types or as nonshaming. It is observed that out of all the participating users who post comments in a particular shaming event, majority of them are likely to shame the victim. Interestingly, it is also the shamers whose follower counts increase faster than that of the nonshamers in Twitter. Finally, based on categorization and classification of shaming tweets, a web application called BlockShame has been designed and deployed for on-the-fly muting/blocking of shamers attacking a victim on the Twitter.

Did parasite manipulation influence human neurological evolution? About Marco del Giudice's Invisible Designers: Brain Evolution Through the Lens of Parasite Manipulation

Did parasite manipulation influence human neurological evolution? Christopher Packham. Phys.org. Aug 26 2019. https://phys.org/news/2019-08-parasite-human-neurological-evolution.html

It seems so obvious that someone should have thought of it decades ago: Since parasites have plagued eukaryotic life for millions of years, their prevalence likely affected evolution. Psychologist Marco Del Giudice of the University of New Mexico is not the first researcher to suggest that the evolution of the human brain could have been influenced by parasites that manipulate host behavior. But tired of waiting for neurologists to pick up the ball and run with it, he has published a paper in the Quarterly Review of Biology that suggests four categories of adaptive host countermeasures against brain-manipulating parasites and the likely evolutionary responses of the parasites themselves. The idea has implications across a host of fields, and may explain human psychology, functional brain network structure, and the frustratingly variable effects of psychopharmaceuticals.

Detailed and gruesomely readable, the paper is a work of theory intended to provide a roadmap for deeper study that is likely to be agonizingly complex, and which will eventually require the involvement of neurologists, evolutionary biologists, psychologists, parasitologists and many others.

Manipulating host behavior

Many parasites manipulate host behavior in order to increase reproductive success and to spread across wider areas. Dr. Del Giudice cites such examples as Toxoplasma gondii, which hitches a ride in a rat and induces epigenetic changes in the rodent's amygdala. These changes diminish its predator aversion around cats, the protozoan's intended destination, and the only animal in which it can reproduce. (As a side effect, it can infect humans—people are a reproductive dead end for T. gondii, but it is also believed to alter human behavior.)

Del Giudice also cites rabies, which increases production of infectious saliva and induces the host's aversion to water, which further concentrates the saliva, and then engenders violent aggression to increase the likelihood of biting, a transmission route. And many sexually transmitted pathogens are known to manipulate host sexual behavior.

The point is that parasites are really bad for hosts, and it therefore stands to reason that the evolution of modern humans includes protective countermeasures that were selected for success and likely shaped the stupefyingly complex central nervous system

The paper is organized by four countermeasures hosts have evolved against manipulative parasites: restricting access to the brain; increasing the costs of manipulation; increasing the complexity of signaling; and increasing robustness. Within each category, Del Giudice suggests evolutionary responses by parasites to these countermeasures.

Restricting access to the brain

For aspiring higher organisms, keeping parasites out of the central nervous system is like Immunology 101; as Del Giudice points out, the adaptive benefits of restricting access to the brain also apply to non-parasitic pathogens. So the blood-brain barrier comprises the first line of defense as a layer of physical and chemical security.

Parasites have evolved other options to manipulate behavior from outside of the brain: Some produce behavior-altering substances like dopamine and release them into the blood; some manipulate the secretion of hormones; others activate specific immune responses in order to manipulate the host. Del Giudice also cites a number of parasites that evolved methods of passing through the blood-brain barrier in order to reach the brain physically.

Increasing the costs of manipulation

Some parasites release certain neurochemicals to alter host behavior. As a countermeasure, hosts could adapt by increasing the amount of particular neurochemicals required to induce such responses, greatly increasing the metabolic cost to the parasites. Since hosts are generally much larger, this increased cost could be completely negligible to the host while overwhelming the parasite's ability to produce enough of the neuroactive substance.

Del Giudice adds, "Since present-day instances of manipulation are mostly of the indirect kind, selection to increase the costs of signaling would have peaked a long time ago, possibly in the early stages of brain evolution… Paradoxically, if those countermeasures were so effective that they forced most parasites to adopt indirect strategies, they would have rendered themselves obsolete, eventually becoming a net cost without any prevailing benefits. If so, they may have been selected out owing to the relentless pressure for efficiency."

Increasing the complexity of signals

The central nervous system uses neuroactive substances as internal signals between neurons, brain networks and between the brain and other organs. Parasites can hijack these pathways to alter behavior by producing overriding signals or, as Del Giudice points out, corrupting existing ones. This entails breaking the host's internal signaling code.

Thus, a more complex signaling code is more difficult for a parasite to break. Instances of such a complexity increase include the requirement of joint action of different neurochemicals, or releasing neuroactive substances in specifically timed pulses. Expanding the set of transmission molecules and their binding receptors also increases complexity. More elaborate internal signals increase the time required to break. From an adaptive standpoint, this can close off the parasite's options, forcing it to develop other means of manipulation.

However, rising complexity raises the metabolic costs for the hosts, though these costs are disproportionately more expensive for parasites. And Del Giudice points out that increasing the complexity of a system "tends to create new points of fragility," which may be exploited by adapting parasites.

Increasing robustness

Increasing the robustness of a system basically amounts to damage control. Higher organisms tend to evolve in such a way that they can maintain normal behavior functionality, even during attack by a parasite. Del Giudice discusses a number of passive, reactive and proactive robustness host strategies, including redundancy and modularity of systems; so-called bow-tie network architectures; feedback-regulated systems that detect perturbations of the system and make corrective adjustments; and the monitoring of nonspecific cues such as immune system activities that indicate the presence of a parasitic pathogen.

Largely, robustness adaptations are likely to exclude fixed physiological adjustments, and instead favor the development of "plastic responses triggered by cues of infection." The reason is that if brain physiology and behavior are adapted to function best in the presence of a pathogen, then its absence would lead to non-optimal behaviors and reduced survival.

Del Giudice includes in the paper a discussion of the constraints on the evolution of countermeasures by hosts. These include metabolic and computational constraints such as energy availability and small body size—animals with larger brains can more easily evolve higher levels of protective complexity. This is one reason that behavior-altering parasites are more commonly observed in insects, which have provided fundamental examples of parasite strategies and host countermeasures.


Finally, the author includes a fascinating discussion of the implications of such adaptations for psychopharmacology. "Using psychoactive drugs to treat psychiatric symptoms is an attempt to alter behavior by pharmacological means. This is also what manipulative parasites do—even though, in the case of psychiatric treatment, the goal is to benefit the patient," Del Giudice writes.

Thus, adaptive responses to attacks by parasites could explain why antidepressants tend to induce tolerance in some patients—like parasites, the drugs seek to alter the organism's behavior, with the possibility that robust neural systems rebalance behavior pathways that have been altered by the drug. "It is worth considering the possibility that at least some of these reactive mechanisms may be specifically designed to detect and respond to parasite intrusions," Del Giudice writes. "If so, standard pharmacological treatments may unwittingly mimic a parasite attack and trigger specialized defensive responses." He adds that certain undesirable side effects of drugs could be metabolically expensive but useful adaptive features during a parasite infection, but detrimental to psychiatric treatment.

The paper is a theoretical exploration of the ideas surrounding parasitism as an evolutionary pressure, and as such, usefully illuminates how complex and difficult the question will be for researchers tackling the already challenging fields of neurophysiology and brain networks.

>>>> Marco del Giudice. Invisible Designers: Brain Evolution Through the Lens of Parasite Manipulation, The Quarterly Review of Biology (2019). DOI: 10.1086/705038

An additional marijuana dispensary leads to a reduction of 17 crimes per month per 10,000 residents (19 pct decline); crime reductions are highly localized, no evidence of spillover benefits to adjacent neighborhoods

Not in my backyard? Not so fast. The effect of marijuana legalization on neighborhood crime. Jeffrey Brinkman, David Mok-Lamme. Regional Science and Urban Economics, August 24 2019, 103460, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.regsciurbeco.2019.103460

Abstract: This paper studies the effects of marijuana legalization on neighborhood crime and documents the patterns in retail dispensary locations over time using detailed micro-level data from Denver, Colorado. To account for endogenous retail dispensary locations, we use a novel identification strategy that exploits exogenous changes in demand across different locations arising from the increased importance of external markets after the legalization of recreational marijuana sales. The results imply that an additional dispensary in a neighborhood leads to a reduction of 17 crimes per month per 10,000 residents, which corresponds to roughly a 19 percent decline relative to the average crime rate over the sample period. Reductions in crime are highly localized, with no evidence of spillover benefits to adjacent neighborhoods. Analysis of detailed crime categories provides insights into the mechanisms underlying the reductions.

Openness, low disgust sensitivity, and cognitive ability - traits and individual differences historically associated with less prejudice - may in fact also show evidence of worldview conflict

Brandt, M. J., & Crawford, J. T. (Accepted/In press). Worldview conflict and prejudice. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 1-99. Aug 27 2019. https://pure.uvt.nl/ws/portalfiles/portal/30699390/2019.BrandtCrawford.Worldviewconflictprejudice.Advances.pdf

Abstract: People are motivated to protect their worldviews. One way to protect one’ worldviews is through prejudice towards worldview-dissimilar groups and individuals. The traditional hypothesis predicts that people with more traditional and conservative worldviews will be more likely to protect their worldviews with prejudice than people with more liberal and progressive worldviews, whereas the worldview conflict hypothesis predicts that people with both traditional and liberal worldviews will be protect their worldviews through prejudice. We review evidence across both political and religious domains, as well as evidence using disgust sensitivity, Big Five personality traits, and cognitive ability as measures of individual differences historically associated with prejudice. We discuss four core findings that are consistent with the worldview conflict hypothesis: (1) The link between worldview conflict and prejudice is consistent across worldviews. (2) The link between worldview conflict and prejudice is found across various expressions of prejudice. (3) The link between worldview conflict and prejudice is found in multiple countries. (4) Openness, low disgust sensitivity, and cognitive ability - traits and individual differences historically associated with less prejudice - may in fact also show evidence of worldview conflict. We discuss how worldview conflict may be rooted in value dissimilarity, identity, and uncertainty management, as well as potential routes for reducing worldview conflict.

Do we find it desirable when people who agree with us nonetheless seek out views that we oppose? Observers strongly prefer individuals who seek out political views that the observer opposes

Seek and ye shall be fine: attitudes towards political perspective-seekers. Gordon Heltzel. Masters Thesis, University of British Columbia, Psychology. Aug 22 2019. http://hdl.handle.net/2429/71391

Description: Over the past two decades, growing political polarization has led to increasing calls for people to seek out and try to understand opposing political views. Although seeking out opposing views is objectively desirable behavior, do we find it socially desirable when people who agree with us nonetheless seek out views that we oppose? We find that observers strongly prefer individuals who seek out, rather than avoid, political views that the observer opposes. Across nine online studies we find a large preference for these political perspective-seekers, and in a lab study, 73% of participants chose to interact with a perspective-seeking confederate. This preference is weakly moderated by the direction of participants’ ideology and the strength of their beliefs. Moreover, it is robust regardless of why the individual seeks or avoids opposing views, and emerges even when the perspective-seeker is undecided and not already committed to participants’ own views. However, the preference disappears when a perspective-seeker attends only to the perspective that observers disagree with, disregarding the observer’s side. These findings suggest that, despite growing polarization, people still think it is important to understand and tolerate political opponents. This work also informs future interventions, which could leverage social pressures to promote political perspective-seeking and combat selective-exposure, thus improving political relations.

The neural profiles of overly positive self-evaluations that are driven by the desire to defend self-esteem are predictable & distinguishable from those arising from limited cognitive engagement

The advantages and disadvantages of self-insight: New psychological and neural perspectives. Jennifer S. Beer, Michelle A. Harris. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, May 24 2019. https://doi.org/10.1016/bs.aesp.2019.04.003

Abstract: People quickly assess the honesty of others but how honest are they with themselves and does it matter for their success and happiness? Our understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of self-insight is currently clouded by a number of measurement issues in the existing literature on self-evaluation and related constructs such as authenticity. Most studies do not use independent sources to evaluate self-concept, objectivity of the self-concept, and the consequence of their discrepancy. Additionally, daily diary studies indicate that research on related constructs such as authenticity may fail to capture accurate self-insight as intended. Furthermore, research drawing on neuropsychological populations, fMRI with healthy populations, and computational modeling has shown that not all self-insight failures are alike even if they appear the same at the level of behavioral measurement. For example, the neural profiles of overly positive self-evaluations that are driven by the desire to defend self-esteem are predictable and distinguishable from neural profiles of positive self-evaluation arising from limited cognitive engagement. Therefore, future research must aim for more rigorous measurement to understand the underlying cause of self-insight failure (rather than just identifying a shortcoming) to meaningfully understand the benefits and costs of different types of self-insight failure. The current research does not allow us to confidently conclude that self-insight has advantages over some types of self-insight failure (or vice versa) and we conclude by calling for more systematic investigation of why, when, where, and for whom self-insight is costly or beneficial.

Keywords: AuthenticityBrainComputational modelingFrontal lobefMRILesionSelfEmotionMotivationWell-being