Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Illusion of Knowledge through Facebook News? Effects of Snack News in a News Feed on Perceived Knowledge, Attitude Strength, and Willingness for Discussions

Illusion of Knowledge through Facebook News? Effects of Snack News in a News Feed on Perceived Knowledge, Attitude Strength, and Willingness for Discussions. Svenja Schäfer. Computers in Human Behavior, September 4 2019.

•    Many news posts make people feel more knowledgeable than they are
•    Only knowledge perception (not actual knowledge) is related to attitudes and behavior
•    Many news posts indirectly affect attitudes and behavior through perceived knowledge
•    News articles improve both actual knowledge and knowledge assessment

Abstract: Research indicates that using social network sites as a source for news increases perceived knowledge even if, objectively, people fail to acquire knowledge. This might result from the frequent repetition of topics in news posts caused by multiple news outlets posting about the same news topics and the algorithm that favors similar postings. These repeated encounters can have a positive effect on the perception of knowing more, even if actual learning hardly occurs. An experiment (N=810, representative of German Internet users) tested these assumptions. Participants were assigned to one of four groups and received a news feed with no information, few news posts, many news posts, or a full-length news article. Results indicate that the reception of many news posts increased perceived knowledge that is not paralleled by a gain in factual knowledge. Perceived knowledge mediates effects of reading many news posts on more extreme attitudes and the willingness for discussions. Even if participants who read the news article gained factual knowledge, they did not feel more knowledgeable than participants who were exposed to a news feed containing news posts. The results emphasize the meaning of engaging with full news articles, both for learning facts and for more accurate knowledge assessments.

Generalized anxiety: Most psychological and self-help interventions exerted greater effects than the waitlist group, but no psychological interventions had greater effects compared with the psychological placebo

Pharmacological and psychological interventions for generalized anxiety disorder in adults: A network meta-analysis. Ting-Ren Chen et al. Journal of Psychiatric Research, September 1 2019.

Abstract: Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a significant and common mental illness with a lifetime prevalence of 3.7%. Regardless of the complexity of treatment decisions for GAD, few studies have conducted systematic comparisons of the efficacies of varying interventions. Thus, this study performed a valid network meta-analysis (NMA) of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to synthesize direct and indirect evidence for alternative interventions for GAD. We searched four major bibliographic databases, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Embase, PsycINFO, and PubMed, for published RCTs of adult patients with a diagnosis of GAD and allowed for all comorbidities. A total of 91 articles (14,812 participants) were identified in the final NMA. The results showed that all pharmacological treatments except for serotonin modulators and second-generation antipsychotics had greater effects than placebo: norepinephrine–dopamine reuptake inhibitors (standardized mean difference (SMD) −1.84, 95% credible interval −3.05 to −0.62), noradrenergic and specific serotonergic antidepressants (−0.91, −1.62 to −0.20), melatonergic receptor agonists (−0.68, −1.15 to −0.21), selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs; −0.67, −0.90 to −0.43), azapirones (−0.58, −1.00 to −0.17), anticonvulsants (−0.56, −0.85 to −0.28), serotonin–norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs; −0.54, −0.79 to −0.30), and benzodiazepines (BZDs; −0.40, −0.65 to −0.15). Most psychological and self-help interventions exerted greater effects than the waitlist group. However, no psychological interventions had greater effects compared with the psychological placebo. Overall, most pharmacological interventions had larger effect sizes than psychological interventions, and most psychological interventions showed larger effect sizes than self-help interventions.

Check also An analysis of psychotherapy versus placebo studies. Leslie Prioleau, Martha Murdock and Nathan Brody. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Volume 6 Issue 2, June 1983 , pp. 275-285.

Abstract: Smith, Glass, and Miller (1980) have reported a meta-analysis of over 500 studies comparing some form of psychological therapy with a control condition. They report that when averaged over all dependent measures of outcome, psychological therapy is. 85 standard deviations better than the control treatment. We examined the subset of studies included in the Smith et al. metaanalysis that contained a psychotherapy and a placebo treatment. The median of the mean effect sizes for these 32 studies was. 15. There was a nonsignificant inverse relationship between mean outcome and the following: sample size, duration of therapy, use of measures of outcome other than undisguised self-report, measurement of outcome at follow-up, and use of real patients rather than subjects solicited for the purposes of participation in a research study. A qualitative analysis of the studies in terms of the type of patient involved indicates that those using psychiatric outpatients had essentially zero effect sizes and that none using psychiatric inpaticnts provide convincing evidence for psychotherapeutic effectiveness. The onty studies clearly demonstrating significant effects of psychotherapy were the ones that did not use real patients. For the most part, these studies involved small samples of subjects and brief treatments, occasionally described in quasibeliavioristic language. It was concluded that for real patients there is no evidence that the benefits of psychotherapy are greater than those of placebo treatment.

China's Vice Premier: "We must strengthen the guidance and management of public opinion."

China's Vice Premier: Pork Shortages Must Not Spoil the Party. Dim Sums blog, Sep 2 2019.

Excerpts of blog:

Chinese officials are worried that a 10-million-ton pork shortage could spoil upcoming communist party celebrations, according to a transcript of a speech ordering local officials to bolster pork supplies. In fact, the speech's instructions to "manage public opinion" and constant shifting of priorities of the communist regime suggest the celebrations may ring hollow anyway.

As the country's year-old African swine fever epidemic began to send pork prices into the stratosphere this summer, the government's rhetoric gradually shifted from admonitions to stop the spread of the disease to pronouncements that the disease is "under control" and commands to restore "normal" production and trade. On August 20-21, Premier Li Keqiang visited food markets and chaired a State Council meeting that adopted "more detailed policies and an attitude of urgency" to cope with the pork supply crisis.

On August 22, Vice Premier Hu Chunhua told communist party officials to prioritize the rebuilding of pork production capacity and preservation of pork supplies as an important "political task." The full transcript posted on a pork industry site warned officials that widespread pork shortages could occur during the upcoming moon festival, National day, New Year, and spring festival holidays if they fail to take measures. Shortages would affect the "happy and peaceful atmosphere" during the upcoming 70th anniversary of the Peoples Republic, the vice premier said. Furthermore, Hu warned that a gaping hole in the pork supply and unaffordable pork for low-income people would impair the image of the communist party in 2020 when the "well-off society" is scheduled to be achieved.

Most Chinese news media posted only the 3-paragraph summary of the Vice Premier's remarks that omits these admonitions. The full transcript--apparently an internal communication addressed to "comrades"--was posted only on social media. The full transcript is a surprisingly candid assessment of problems and shortcomings in the pork sector that are kept hidden in documents for the public.

Vice Premier Hu's remarks included a number of items that rarely appear in government-approved documents for public consumption:

    The ASF virus is now endemic in China (在我国定植).
    According to Hu, unannounced investigations found large numbers of dead pigs where no disease had been reported, indicating that the actual number of ASF cases exceeds the number reported.
    Hu acknowledged that China's pork supply situation will be "extremely severe" during the 4th quarter of this year and first half of 2020
    The Chinese government estimates that the country will have a 10-million-metric-ton deficit in pork supply this year.
    Premier Hu said the projected 10-mmt deficit exceeds the amount of pork traded in international markets.
    Monthly estimates of swine inventories by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs are based on monitoring of 4000 pig-raising villages and 13,000 scaled-up farms.
    With its short production cycle, poultry will be the main substitute relied upon to fill the deficit. China will struggle to increase poultry production by 3 mmt this year, Hu said.
    After years of prioritizing control of manure pollution by closing or moving farms, local officials are now accused of over-zealous enforcement and are ordered to pare back zones where livestock farms are banned and pay for re-building hog farms.
    Hu acknowledged that there hasn't been much progress in cleaning up manure pollution
    Local leaders in pork-producing regions have been asking for slaughterhouses to be built in their counties because subsidized pig farms generate no tax revenue and pigs are mostly trucked off to cities for slaughter. This pattern is said to "unsustainable," and trucking pigs around the country is acknowledged as contributing to the spread of disease.
    Hu acknowledged chronic weakness and under-funding of grassroots veterinary services.

Hu Chunhua recommended numerous policy measures to stabilize production and maintain market supplies of pork. Provincial and local officials are responsible for implementing these policies:

    Pork farms and companies are to be given short-term aid.
    Banks must not cut off lending to swine farms and slaughterhouses; subsidized loans should be given to swine farms. Provincial government loan guarantee organizations should prioritize recovery of swine farms.
    Poultry companies should also be given aid to expand.
    Each province is charged with maintaining a degree of self-sufficiency in pork. The mayors' market basket system will hold city officials accountable for supplying pork and other nonstaple foods to their citizens.
    Pork reserves should be expanded and made more effective.
    Pork-deficit provinces and cities are to form long-term pork supply agreements with neighboring pork-surplus provinces and counties to establish contiguous regions self-sufficient in pork.
    Officials should work out arrangements by which wealthy cities pay pork-producing counties to support their farms and infrastructure.
    Land and credit should be set aside to build slaughter facilities in pork-producing counties.
    2 billion yuan in food subsidies for low-income people have been announced.

Previous announcements targeted aid to large-scale farms, but the State Council's August 21 circular extended support to household-operated farms and removed a minimum requirement of 15 mu (1 hectare) of land for a farm to receive support.

Vice Premier Hu wrapped up his address by emphasizing two points that are distinctive features of the communist regime:

    "We must strengthen the guidance and management of public opinion."    "Stabilization of production and maintaining supply are an important political task."

[not the author's emphasis]

In China's economic model, government officials are the "directors of the play" and "companies are actors on the stage." It follows that officials have privileged access to information so they can pull the strings to organize the play. Hu reflects this duality by goading officials to "apply force on internal matters" and "in external matters do well on propaganda, issuance of information, and managing public opinion" (italics added). In the same vein, Hu advised statistical bureaus to increase the frequency of "confidential" or "secret" surveys so the government can devise timely support measures. In other words, Chinese statistics are internal information for the government's use; statistics are only released to the public after being massaged and molded into a propaganda statement.

The vice premier's remarks reveal a contradiction regarding information gathering. Like an angry schoolmaster, Hu Chunhua chided local officials for not reporting of disease to central authorities and promises they will be punished for doing so. While he is aghast that local officials withhold information from him, the Vice Premier seems to have no problem withholding information from the public. Hu believes information released to the public must be carefully managed to shape their opinion. The public cannot be trusted with information because they might panic and hoard pork or try to corner the market. (And of course, government officials would never do this themselves.)

Management of public opinion is evident from a comparison of Premier Hu's speech with a Peoples Daily propaganda article. While Premier Hu warned officials about an impending shortage of pork and potential market instability, Peoples Daily quoted a Ministry of Agriculture official who declared that "The overall meat supply is assured" and "the pork market is overall stable." Premier Hu told officials they face a long, difficult battle against ASF, but articles intended for the public declare that the disease is under control and normal production and marketing can now resume.

The elevation of promoting pork production as a "political task" reveals the constantly changing crisis-driven priorities kicked down to local officials. Efforts to control manure pollution are an example of the constant oscillation of "political tasks." Policy pronouncements in the last two months have included vague admonishments not to go beyond legal requirements in designating zones where livestock farms are banned or limited. These refer to a an ongoing tug of war over efforts to clean up pollution from pig manure in a rapidly urbanizing society. The first livestock law in 2005 included a provision that called for each community to designate zones where livestock farms would be banned,  limited or encouraged. Livestock farms would be restricted near residential areas, institutions of higher education, drinking water sources, markets, roads, and scenic areas. This idea was rarely implemented until 2013 when a water pollution prevention action plan issued by the state council called for designating such zones by the end of 2017 and destroying or moving farms from zones where they were banned.

In 2017, the Ministry of Agriculture issued a document criticizing local officials for being overzealous in designating farm-ban zones--although the examples they gave seem consistent with language describing the zone designation going back to the 2005 livestock law. Two years later, facing a pork shortage, officials now seem to have decided the Ministry of Agriculture is right by ordering local officials to scale back the pig-ban zones and rebuilding pig farms that were demolished. In his teleconference, Premier Hu also seemed to admit that little had been done to promote treatment and utilization of pig manure although it was a feature of the 2016-2020 plan for the swine sector. Environmental control seems to have been pushed aside as a priority now that there's a pork supply crisis.

In response to a comment, the author says:

In China, employees of statistical organizations must be vetted for political reliability, and even low-level managers must spend months at a communist party training school before taking up their positions. The head of the organization is assigned to his/her post by the communist party and serves as party secretary.

Gaze patterns of sexually fluid women and men at nude females and males

Widman, D. R., Bennetti, M. K., & Anglemyer, R. (2019). Gaze patterns of sexually fluid women and men at nude females and males. Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences,

Abstract: Investigations of sexual fluidity have consistently found that women are more fluid than men. Several theories have been proposed to explain this sex difference. Two of these suggest that women are sexually fluid due to reproductive pressure from men. These theories suggest that women are fluid, in part, to satisfy male sexual behavior, either by engaging in and enhancing polygynous matings or allowing extrapair copulations for the men with those women the men’s mates select. This suggests that women, in their assessment of the attractiveness of other women, should assess female attractiveness as men do. The current study examined gaze patterns of heterosexual men and women while looking at nude male and female models. The results replicate the common findings that women are more fluid than men and that men gaze at the breasts of nude female models. We also report men who believe that they are more successful at mating gaze more at male chests than less confident men and that women do gaze at sexualized body areas of men, specifically the hips and groin. Finally, as hypothesized, more fluid women spend more time gazing at the breasts of nude female models, suggesting a male pattern of attractiveness assessment.

Comparative thanatology encompasses the study of death-related responses in non-human animals to elucidate the evolutionary origins of human behavior in the context of death; seems that chimpanzees console bereaved mothers

Do chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) console a bereaved mother? Zoë Goldsborough et al. Primates, September 4 2019.

Abstract: Comparative thanatology encompasses the study of death-related responses in non-human animals and aspires to elucidate the evolutionary origins of human behavior in the context of death. Many reports have revealed that humans are not the only species affected by the death of group members. Non-human primates in particular show behaviors such as congregating around the deceased, carrying the corpse for prolonged periods of time (predominantly mothers carrying dead infants), and inspecting the corpse for signs of life. Here, we extend the focus on death-related responses in non-human animals by exploring whether chimpanzees are inclined to console the bereaved: the individual(s) most closely associated with the deceased. We report a case in which a chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) mother experienced the loss of her fully developed infant (presumed stillborn). Using observational data to compare the group members’ behavior before and after the death, we found that a substantial number of group members selectively increased their affiliative expressions toward the bereaved mother. Moreover, on the day of the death, we observed heightened expressions of species-typical reassurance behaviors toward the bereaved mother. After ruling out several alternative explanations, we propose that many of the chimpanzees consoled the bereaved mother by means of affiliative and selective empathetic expressions.

Keywords: Thanatology Consolation Empathy Bereavement Chimpanzees

Striking discrepancies between what people want in a potential partner and what the opposite gender imagines they want in romantic relationships; in addition, women appear to be better at imagining men’s preferences

Jago, Carl P. 2019. “What Women Say They Want Versus What Men Imagine They Do: A Convenient Method for Characterizing and Comparing Self-reported and Perceived Preferences.” PsyArXiv. September 4. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: Previous research has shown that, in the context of romantic relationships, men preferentially advertise traits such as wealth, status, and ambition while women preferentially advertise physical attractiveness. This finding is somewhat surprising in light of other previous research showing that men and women report these traits to be less important than others such as trustworthiness, intelligence, and warmth. In the current study, we addressed one potential reason for the disconnect, which is that men and women’s beliefs about what the other gender prefers are misguided. To address this, we asked participants to both self-report the traits they prefer in a romantic partner and to indicate what they imagine the opposite gender prefers. The results reveal some striking discrepancies between what people want in a potential partner and what the opposite gender imagines they want. In addition, women appear to be better at imagining men’s preferences, and we discuss several reasons why this might be the case.