Sunday, September 8, 2019

The impact of social status on the derogation of ideological opponents: Support for prediction derived from hierometer theory that people with higher status would derogate ideological opponents less (evaluate them more charitably)

Gregg, A. P., Mahadevan, N., & Sedikides, C. (in press). Taking the high ground: The impact of social status on the derogation of ideological opponents. Social Cognition.

Abstract: People tend to derogate their ideological opponents. But how does social status affect this tendency? We tested a prediction derived from hierometer theory that people with higher status would derogate ideological opponents less (i.e., evaluate them more charitably). We further predicted that greater rhetoric handling prowess (RHP:feeling more confident and less intimidated while arguing) would mediate the effect. Study 1 established a link between higher status and lesser opponent derogation correlationally. Study 2 did so experimentally. Using a scale to assess RHP developed and validated in Study 3, Study 4 established that RHP statistically mediated the correlational link between status and derogation. In Study5, experimentally manipulating status affected RHP as predicted. However, in Study 6, experimentally manipulating RHP did not affect opponent derogation as predicted. Thus, our findings were substantially, but not entirely, consistent with our theoretically-derived predictions. Implications for hierometer theory, and related theoretical approaches, are considered.

Keywords: derogation, status, social status, rhetoric, hierometer theory

Infectious Disease Prevalence, Not Race Exposure, Predicts Both Implicit and Explicit Racial Prejudice Across the US

Infectious Disease Prevalence, Not Race Exposure, Predicts Both Implicit and Explicit Racial Prejudice Across the United States. Brian A. O’Shea et al. Social Psychological and Personality Science, July 15, 2019.

Abstract: What factors increase racial prejudice? Across the United States, increased exposure to Black Americans has been hypothesized to increase White Americans’ prejudicial attitudes toward Black Americans. Here we test an alternative explanation: People living in regions with higher infectious disease rates have a greater tendency to avoid out-groups because such avoidance reduces their perceived likelihood of contracting illnesses. Consistent with this parasite-stress hypothesis, we show that both White and Black individuals (N > 77,000) living in U.S. states in which disease rates are higher display increased implicit (automatic) and explicit (conscious) racial prejudice. These results survived the inclusion of several individual- and state-level controls previously used to explain variability in prejudice. Furthermore, showing disease-related primes to White individuals with strong germ aversion increased their explicit, but not implicit, anti-Black/pro-White prejudice. Domestic out-groups, not just foreigners, may therefore experience increased overt forms of prejudice when disease rates are high.

Keywords: parasite-stress theory, behavioral immune system, implicit association test, racial prejudice, Bayesian racism

Healthy personality, that of a fully functioning person: Around 30pct is additive genetic; the rest is non-shared environmental effects; shared environment has almost null effect

Bleidorn, W., Hopwood, C. J., Ackerman, R. A., Witt, E. A., Kandler, C., Riemann, R., . . . Donnellan, M. B. (2019). The healthy personality from a basic trait perspective. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,

Abstract: What basic personality traits characterize the psychologically healthy individual? The purpose of this article was to address this question by generating an expert-consensus model of the healthy person in the context of the 30 facets (and 5 domains) of the Revised NEO Personality Inventory (Costa & McCrae, 1992) system of traits. In a first set of studies, we found that the healthy personality can be described, with a high level of agreement, in terms of the 30 facets of the NEO-PI-R. High levels of openness to feelings, positive emotions, and straightforwardness, together with low levels on facets of neuroticism, were particularly indicative of healthy personality functioning. The expert-generated healthy personality profile was negatively correlated with profiles of pathological personality functioning and positively correlated with normative personality functioning. In a second set of studies, we matched the NEO-PI-R profiles of over 3,000 individuals from 7 different samples with the expert-generated healthy prototype to yield a healthy personality index. This index was characterized by good retest reliability and cross-rater agreement, high rank-order stability, and substantial heritability. Individuals with high scores on the healthy personality index were psychologically well-adjusted, had high self-esteem, good self-regulatory skills, an optimistic outlook on the world, and a clear and stable self-view. These individuals were low in aggression and meanness, unlikely to exploit others, and were relatively immune to stress and self-sufficient. We discuss the results in the light of their implications for both research and theory on healthy personality functioning.

Different languages, similar encoding efficiency: Comparable information rates across the human communicative niche

Different languages, similar encoding efficiency: Comparable information rates across the human communicative niche. Christophe Coupé, Yoon Oh, Dan Dediu & François Pellegrino. Science Advances, Sep 4 2019, Vol. 5, no. 9, eaaw2594. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaw2594

Abstract: Language is universal, but it has few indisputably universal characteristics, with cross-linguistic variation being the norm. For example, languages differ greatly in the number of syllables they allow, resulting in large variation in the Shannon information per syllable. Nevertheless, all natural languages allow their speakers to efficiently encode and transmit information. We show here, using quantitative methods on a large cross-linguistic corpus of 17 languages, that the coupling between language-level (information per syllable) and speaker-level (speech rate) properties results in languages encoding similar information rates (~39 bits/s) despite wide differences in each property individually: Languages are more similar in information rates than in Shannon information or speech rate. These findings highlight the intimate feedback loops between languages’ structural properties and their speakers’ neurocognition and biology under communicative pressures. Thus, language is the product of a multiscale communicative niche construction process at the intersection of biology, environment, and culture.

Mood differed as a function of exposure to various built and natural environments; positive mood was higher for pedestrians and for bicyclists; errand trips were associated with more negative mood

How transport modes, the built and natural environments, and activities are associated with mood: A GPS smartphone app study. Trevin E. Glasgow et al. Journal of Environmental Psychology, September 5 2019, 101345.

•  Experience sampling methodology used a phone app to measure mood during travel.
•  Mood differed as a function of exposure to various built and natural environments.
•  Positive mood was higher for pedestrians and for bicyclists.
•  Interpersonal conversation during trips was associated with more positive mood.
•  Errand trips were associated with more negative mood compared to other trips.

Abstract: Transportation-related mood studies relying on retrospective surveys incur recall bias, given the transient state of mood. Additionally, previous research in this domain has been limited to a single time-point measurement of mood, making it impossible to evaluate within-person variation. This study applied experience sampling methodology (ESM) to explore how mood during travel relates to transport mode, activities, and the built and natural environments. A smartphone application was employed to overcome the limitations of prior studies in this domain. Participants tracked their trips for at least one week and completed mood surveys after each trip. After accounting for within-person variation, active travel correlated with more positive mood than motorized travel, and mood was more positive when individuals talked to others during their trips. However, mood was more negative when completing errand trips as compared to other types of trips. Mood was lower when individuals travelled through places with a higher Walk Score®, but higher when individuals travelled through natural environments. All participants felt less safe when bicycling. This field study was one of the first to consider within-person differences in mood during travel as a function of various environmental and transportation characteristics. The research demonstrated how information on mood could be used to promote sustainable transportation (e.g., walking, bicycling), as well as how urban transportation infrastructure could be designed to enhance mental well-being.

Keywords: affectemotionsatisfactionwalkabilitytravel-based multitaskingtravel behavioractivity space

Multiple meta-analyses on key mental disorders yield a picture of limited benefits for psycho- & pharmacotherapy; the overall impression is that a dead end has been reached

Leichsenring F, Steinert C, Ioannidis JPA (2019). Toward a paradigm shift in treatment and research of mental disorders. Psychological Medicine 1–7, August 7 2019.

Overall, while a certain proportion of patients (who cannot be identified in advance) does benefit from available treatments, most patients do not remit and at least half of the patients do not respond to the available treatments (Cuijpers et al., 2014; Leucht, 2014; Liet al., 2017; Springer et al., 2018). Thus, results for the efficacy of psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy are sobering, indicating only a small incremental gain over TAU or placebo and limited rates for remission and response. As noted above, this (limited) incremental gain needs to be balanced against the efforts, costs, and side effects associated with psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy. The situation is aggravated by the numerous concerns mentioned above (e.g. biases, inflated effect sizes, low rates of replication, lack of long-term studies, stagnating or decreasing effect sizes) raising serious doubts about the available evidence.

Each mental disorder raises its own host of issues. However, recent evidence across multiple meta-analyses on key mental disorders provides an overarching picture of limited benefits for both psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy. Some differences for specific disorders are not strong enough to weaken the overall impression that a dead end has been reached in the treatment of mental disorders.

Female mice housed with castrated males have higher stress levels, & actively avoid such housing partners when provided with a refuge; seem to actively avoid males with low levels of testosterone

Female mice seek refuge from castrated males, but not intact or vasectomized males, mitigating a socially-induced glucocorticoid response. Teagan J. Gale, Michael G. Garratt, Robert C. Brooks. Physiology & Behavior, September 7 2019, 112678.

•  Female mice housed with castrated males have higher stress levels.
•  Female mice housed with castrated males actively avoid their housing partner when provided with a refuge.
•  We suggest that females actively avoid males with low levels of testosterone, and that their surrounding social partners can affect their physiology.

Abstract: Sexual conflict may be manifested during social interactions, shaping the costs of reproduction in sexually reproducing species. This conflict, and the physical necessity of intromission, can intensify the already costly nature of reproduction for female mammals. To identify and partition the costs that males inflict on females during mating and reproduction, we paired female mice with either other females or castrated, vasectomised, or intact (sham-vasectomised) males, thus manipulating exposure to social mating behavior and costs arising from fertilization. We also provided females with refuges where males could not enter, to test whether females show avoidance or attraction to males of different gonadal status expected to exhibit different levels of social behavior. We found that females paired with vasectomised and castrated males spent the most time in their refuge. Females housed with castrated males also had increased glucocorticoid levels, an effect that was mitigated when females could retreat from these males to a refuge. This suggests that females actively refuge from castrated males, and that housing with such males is sufficient to generate an increased glucocorticoid response. Our results show that females choose to refuge from males depending on the partner’s gonadal status, choices that are linked to social induced stress responses but not exposure to male mating behaviour.

Keywords: RefugeStressCosts of reproductionCastration

Most people aim to be about as morally good as their peers—not especially better, not especially worse; we notice the typical behavior of our peers, then calibrate toward so-so

Aiming for Moral Mediocrity. Eric Schwitzgebel. Res Philosophica, Volume 96, Issue 3, July 2019, Pages 347-368. DOI: 10.11612/resphil.1806

Abstract: Most people aim to be about as morally good as their peers—not especially better, not especially worse. We do not aim to be good, or non-bad, or to act permissibly rather than impermissibly, by fixed moral standards. Rather, we notice the typical behavior of our peers, then calibrate toward so-so. This is a somewhat bad way to be, but it’s not a terribly bad way to be. We are somewhat morally criticizable for having low moral ambitions. Typical arguments defending the moral acceptability of low moral ambitions—the So-What-If-I’m-Not-a-Saint Excuse, the Fairness Objection, the Happy Coincidence Defense, and the claim that you’re already in The-Most-You-Can-Do Sweet Spot—do not survive critical scrutiny.

Part One: The Empirical Thesis

2. Following the Moral Crowd.

Robert B. Cialdini and colloborators went to Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park (Cialdini, Demaine, Sagarin, Barrett, Rhoads, and Winter 2006).  The park had been losing about a ton of petrified wood per month, mostly stolen in small amounts by casual visitors.  Cialdini and collaborators posted four different signs intended to discourage theft, rotating their placement at the heads of different paths.  Two signs were explicit injunctions: (A.) “Please don’t remove petrified wood from the park” (with a picture of a visitor stealing wood, crossed by a red circle and bar) and (B.) “Please leave petrified wood in the park” (with a picture of a visitor admiring and photographing a piece of wood).  Two signs were descriptive: (C.) “Many past visitors have removed the petrified wood from the park, changing the state of the Petrified Forest” (with pictures of three visitors taking wood) and (D.) “The vast majority of past visitors have left the petrified wood in the park, preserving the natural state of the Petrified Forest” (with pictures of three visitors admiring and photographing the petrified wood).  Cialdini and collaborators then noted how much wood the visitors took from the paths headed by the different signs.  Rates of theft were lowest (1.7%) when visitors were explicitly enjoined not to take wood (Condition A).  Rates of theft were highest (8.0%) when visitors were told that many past visitors have removed wood (Condition C).  Being told that many visitors have removed wood might even have increased the rates of theft, which were estimated normally to be 1-4% of visitors (Roggenbuck, Widner, and Stratton 1997).

Part Two: The Normative Thesis

7. The Moral Mediocrity of Being Morally Mediocre.

My normative thesis is that it’s morally mediocre to aim to be morally mediocre.  Or to phrase it in a less tautologous-sounding way: It’s somewhat bad but also somewhat good to try to calibrate yourself so that you behave in ways that are overall morally similar to your peers.

“Mediocre” has a negative connotation in ordinary English.  Not only does it mean somewhere in the ballpark of average or ordinary, but (in contrast with the less loaded word “average”) “mediocre” also implies that the thing in question is somewhat bad.  And yet, the mediocre is not horrible, and being mediocre is compatible with having some redeeming features – with being in some respects good.  Mediocre coffee is good enough for me, most of the time.  Mediocre students mostly pass their classes and get their degrees.  Aiming for moral mediocrity is like aiming to be a moral B-minus student or a donut shop moral drip blend.

The simplest opposing views are that it’s perfectly fine to aim to be about as morally good as your peers and that it is horrible to aim to be about as morally good (or rather, as morally bad) as your peers.

I won’t criticize the latter view at length.  I don’t think many of us regard our peers as morally horrible.  Some people might think that most of humanity is morally horrible, apart from their valued in-group of friends or coreligionists – but then they probably treat that in-group as the peers toward whose behavior they morally calibrate.  Others might think that even their peers, perhaps especially their peers, are morally horrible, on the grounds that there’s something morally horrible about our shared lifestyle, such as its luxuriousness in the face of global poverty.  I will not address such views here.  Still others might just be ordinary curmudgeons who see the worst in people.  This too, is difficult to address directly.  Let me note that people do often lend a helping hand to strangers for no obvious benefit; treat their fellows kindly; share, sacrifice, and maintain deep friendships; and take principled stands against injustice.  Following the moral crowd can be good: When others act with kindness and integrity, that inspires us to do the same.  Attempting to compensate for having acted badly can also be good; the memory of guilt can motivate improvement.  We’re not horrible, only mediocre!

Against the view that it’s perfectly fine to aim to behave about as morally well as your peers, I offer first, your peers.  (I’m assuming that your peers are typically middle- to upper-class members of a mainstream Anglophone culture.  If your peers are Nazi death camp guards or saints in Heaven, the normative assessment might be different.)  They fail to reply to your important emails.  They shirk their duties and neglect their promises.  They are rude and grumpy for no good reason.  They have annoying dogs, loud parties, bad driving habits, and an unjustified sense of entitlement.  They make you wait then concoct some glib excuse.  They form obnoxious opinions on too little information and then vote for horrible things.  More seriously, perhaps, our peers participate in and support institutions and practices that casually ruin people’s lives by denying them reasonable and necessary health care, by cruelly guarding unearned privilege, and by perpetuating exploitative systems.  In all of these small and sometimes large ways, our peers behave badly, and we really ought to try to be better than that.

Second, we are, all of us, shot through with bigotry and bias – bias based on race, sex, disability, beauty, age, class, political opinion, profession, prestige, nationality, and cultural background.  We are not all biased in all respects; but we are all significantly biased in some respects.  The range of biases based on disability in particular is difficult to avoid, since disability is so various and often experienced as saliently annoying to witness or deal with (Corrigan 2014).  Bias toward the conventionally physically beautiful, in matters on which physical beauty ought to have no bearing, is also pervasive and substantial, across a wide range of social measures (Langlois, Kalakanis, Rubenstein, Larson, Hallam, and Smoot 2000).  We ought to aim for better.

Third, even if we aren’t morally horrible for living middle-class lifestyles, history might not judge us so kindly.  Our typical lifestyles harm the environment, by which we collectively contribute to the probable death and immiseration of many millions of future people.  Arguably, also, most of us ought to give much more to charitable causes, local or global, in time or in money, than we do, given our relative privilege and luxury.  And most of us eat meat – which most U.S. ethicists think is morally bad.  We purchase consumer goods from companies we know or ought to know engage in bad practices.  It’s contentious how bad all this is, and my overall argument does not depend essentially on any of the ideas in this paragraph, but if this perspective is even close to correct, every normal middle-class person in our society is morally criticizable for a wide range of actions every day.  (Peter Singer [1972, 1975/2009] is probably the best-known philosophical advocate of this variety of highly morally demanding view.)

It is not, therefore, perfectly fine to aim to be morally mediocre.  I will now consider four lines of reasoning by which you might hope to wiggle out of this somewhat negative conclusion.

8. The So-What-If-I’m-Not-a-Saint Excuse.

People sometimes respond to my moral mediocrity thesis by acknowledging that, yes, they aren’t aiming for sainthood – but that’s not so bad.  Sainthood is such a high standard!  Ordinary people can’t really be blamed for falling short of that.  Philosopher advocates of the So-What-If-I’m-Not-a-Saint Excuse sometimes appeal to Susan Wolf’s (1982) classic argument that it’s reasonable not to want to be morally perfect, with all the sacrifices that moral perfection seems to require.

I’m inclined to agree with Wolf that morality is highly demanding and that when the demands of morality conflict with other deeply held values it’s often reasonable to act immorally (see also Slote 1983; Williams 1985; Foot 2002; Dorsey 2016).  But to use the possibly excessive demands of sainthood as an excuse for being a mediocre member of a blameworthy crowd is to pitch a false dichotomy, as if the only choice were between mediocrity and huge self-sacrifice.  Moral improvement needn’t require crushing yourself.  Most of us could improve quite a bit with no devastating effect on our personalities or life projects.  We could be somewhat more generous with our time, and less grumpy.  We could give more to charity, tweak our lifestyles to better protect the environment, and be a little more reliable in executing our responsibilities.  We could be better neighbors and sons- or daughters-in-law.  We could more vividly speak against injustice.  Of course we could.  None of these things require sainthood or huge sacrifice; and moral improvement doesn’t require that you do all of them.  We could aim for an imperfect-but-excellent A or A-minus, even if we give up on A+.  Among us walk morally admirable non-saints who achieve peer-relative moral excellence without leading bland or miserable lives.  You probably know a few; be more like them.  It is easy to think of ways in which we could act morally better.  We simply prefer not to do these things.

You can self-consciously and reasonably choose moral mediocrity, just like you can self-consciously and reasonably choose to buy mediocre coffee (if the excellent coffee is too expensive) and just like you can self-consciously and reasonably choose to be a mediocre student (“hey, Cs get degrees, I’ve got other priorities!”).  My suggestion is only this: If this speaks to your condition, acknowledge that fact and accept that you are thereby somewhat morally blameworthy.

Males are born slightly in excess of females & many factors have been shown to influence the sex ratio at birth; 9 months after Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day & Valentine's Day there are more males

The effects of Thanksgiving, Christmas and Valentine's Day on the sex ratio at birth in the United States, 2003–2015. Lorna Zammit, Victor Grech. Early Human Development, September 7 2019, 104867.

Introduction: Males are born slightly in excess of females and many factors have been shown to influence M/F, the sex ratio at birth. Seasonality has also been shown to impinge on M/F. This study was carried out in order to ascertain whether Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and Valentine's Day had any influence on M/F in the United States population, nine months later.
Methods: Births by ethnicity, region and sex were obtained from the website of the Centres for Disease Control. Analyses were applied to seasonally adjusted time series and non-seasonally adjusted series. A seasonally adjusted indirect result was calculated for the sex ratio.
Results: This paper studied 53,105,069 live births for 2003–2015 (27,178,968 males, 25,926,101 females). M/F rises exceeding 90th and 95th percentiles were strongest for the seasonally adjusted series for all births in regions: South (CENS-R3), West (CENS-R4) and the time series All-regions_All-race. When comparing unadjusted and seasonally adjusted series, a similar pattern was observed in the regions Northeast and Midwest for American Indian or Alaska Native and Asian or Pacific Islander. A similar pattern was observed for the region Midwest for the ethnic group White.
Discussion: M/F rose above the 90th percentile in all the series and occasionally above the 95th percentile. Increased periconceptual coital rates increases M/F and this study thus lends further credence to the hypothesis that coital rates around the time of conception causally influences the sex ratio of subsequent births nine months later, possibly due to a hormonal mechanism.

Keywords: Sex ratioInfant, newbornBirth rate/*trendsSeasonality