Monday, September 16, 2019

Optimal ultra-short copulation duration in a sexually cannibalistic spider in which females want to be half-virgin

Optimal ultra-short copulation duration in a sexually cannibalistic spider. Braulio A. Assis, Matthias W. Foellmer. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, September 2019, 73:117. August 3 2019. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00265-019-2733-5

Abstract: Sexual conflict has been shown to shape many behaviors in the reproductive context, such as the duration of copulation, across a broad taxonomic range. In spiders, copulation duration is one of the most variable reproductive traits, ranging from seconds to hours. Some species in the araneid genus Argiope exhibit very short copulations of a few seconds per pedipalp insertion. This has been hypothesized to be the result of cannibalistic females imposing selection on males to escape the attack by reducing insertion duration to a minimum. However, copulation duration is positively correlated with the number of sperm transferred and fertilization success in many species. Thus, given the tradeoff between sperm transfer and the risk of being cannibalized, males may optimize the duration of copulation to maximize lifetime reproductive success. Here we test whether males in the orb-weaver Argiope aurantia, which exhibits the shortest copulation in any spider and rivals the honey bee for shortest copulation reported for any arthropod with internal genital coupling, are optimizing the insertion duration of the first pedipalp to maximize the number of sperm transferred and eggs fertilized. We analyzed total sperm transferred to the female, and male fertilization success as a function of the first insertion’s duration, using data collected in previous staged-mating experiments and determined optimal copulations of 3–4 s, which is close to the averages of the source populations. Thus, we present evidence for sexual cannibalism as a driver of the extremely short copulations in A. aurantia.

Significance statement: Females and males often conflict over mating frequency. In spiders, both sexes have paired reproductive organs and can remain half virgin if only one of the two possible copulations are completed. In the orb-weaver Argiope aurantia, males place mating plugs and females almost always immediately attack males in copula, probably to prevent them from achieving both copulations and to be able to upgrade to a second mate. We find an optimal duration of 3–4 s for males to terminate copulation, which reduces the risk of being killed, while at the same time maximizing sperm transfer and fertilization success because copulation duration is positively related to the number of sperm transferred and allows males to achieve the second copulation. The optimal duration detected here is very close to average copulation durations in nature. Hence, we document the adaptive value of the shortest copulation known for any spider.

Keywords: Sexual cannibalism Copulation duration Sexual conflict Araneae Sexual size dimorphism Mating plug


Once considered a uniquely human memory phenomenon, the creation of false memories in lower animals can be seen; & evidence of “implanted” misinformation has also been obtained

False memory in nonhuman animals. Paula M. Millin and David C. Riccio. Learning & Memory, 2019. 26: 1-6. http://www.learnmem.org/cgi/doi/10.1101/lm.050054.119

Abstract: This paper examines recent evidence from behavioral and neuroscience research with nonhuman animals that suggests the intriguing possibility that they, like their human counterparts, are vulnerable to creating false memories. Once considered a uniquely human memory phenomenon, the creation of false memories in lower animals can be seen especially readily in studies involving memory for source, or contextual attributes. Furthermore, evidence of “implanted” misinformation has also been obtained. Here, we review that research and consider its relevance to our empirical understanding of false memories, as well as speculate about its potential clinical implications for trauma memory.

Antisocial behaviour was consistently rated as less genetically influenced than prosocial behaviour; asymmetry may stem from people’s motivating desire to hold wrongdoers responsible for their actions

Asymmetrical genetic attributions for prosocial versus antisocial behaviour. Matthew S. Lebowitz, Kathryn Tabb & Paul S. Appelbaum. Nature Human Behaviour, volume 3, pages 940–949 (2019), July 29 2019. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41562-019-0651-1

Abstract: Genetic explanations of human behaviour are increasingly common. While genetic attributions for behaviour are often considered relevant for assessing blameworthiness, it has not yet been established whether judgements about blameworthiness can themselves impact genetic attributions. Across six studies, participants read about individuals engaging in prosocial or antisocial behaviour, and rated the extent to which they believed that genetics played a role in causing the behaviour. Antisocial behaviour was consistently rated as less genetically influenced than prosocial behaviour. This was true regardless of whether genetic explanations were explicitly provided or refuted. Mediation analyses suggested that this asymmetry may stem from people’s motivating desire to hold wrongdoers responsible for their actions. These findings suggest that those who seek to study or make use of genetic explanations’ influence on evaluations of, for example, antisocial behaviour should consider whether such explanations are accepted in the first place, given the possibility of motivated causal reasoning.

“It’s All in Your Head”—A counterproductive way to interact with patients

“It’s All in Your Head”—Medicine’s Silent Epidemic. Matthew J. Burke. JAMA Neurol., online September 16, 2019. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2019.3043

Full text, references, in DOI above. Excerpts:

It’s all in your head” is a phrase sometimes said by physicians to patients presenting with symptoms unexplained by medical disease. As a neurologist specializing in neuropsychiatry, nothing bothers me more than overhearing medical colleagues proclaim this one-liner at the bedside or snicker about these patients during rounds. Unbeknownst to them, I also hear my patients’ version of being on the other end of this phrase and find myself constantly trying to repair the damage that these words can cause. Whether physicians like to admit it or not, medically unexplained symptoms encompass a vast terrain of clinical practice. In neurology, these symptoms fall under functional neurological disorder, but every specialty has their own variants and favored terminologies (eg, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia). The inadequate management of this segment of medicine represents a silent epidemic that is slowly eroding patient-physician relationships, perpetuating unnecessary disability, and straining health care resources.

The irony of “it’s all in your head” is that although this phrase is often used inappropriately and dismissively, it is technically correct. The problem does indeed lie within the head. More specifically, it lies within the brain and its complex networks that we are just beginning to understand. Over the past 10 years, neuroimaging research studies have consistently identified brain abnormalities in patients with medically unexplained symptoms—yes, biologically based changes in the activity and connections of brain regions, such as the amygdala, prefrontal cortex, temporal-parietal junction, and other structures.1 These brain circuit abnormalities provide physiological explanations for once mysterious links between regions implicated in emotional processing and the generation of “physical” symptoms (eg, pain, fatigue, weakness). Jean-Martin Charcot, MD, a famous 19th century French neurologist and early pioneer of this field, reportedly insisted that a “functional lesion” would be found when microscopes were sufficiently powerful.2 Well, our microscopes are getting better, and we are now starting to see evidence of the predicted functional or software disruptions in the brain. We still do not fully understand what causes these software problems; however, recent research suggests a multifactorial etiology, including genetic predisposition, environmental risk factors (eg, childhood adverse events), and psychological stressors.3

Despite the growing scientific literature, there has been minimal shift in physician attitudes toward these patients. Physicians seem quite comfortable with the idea of structural brain lesions causing psychological symptoms, such as a frontal lobe stroke causing depression or a temporal lobe tumor causing delusions. However, the reverse causality of psychological factors (borne of the same substrates—neurotransmitters, neurons, and synaptic connections) leading to neurological or systemic symptoms is often hastily dismissed and remains highly stigmatized. Thus, many physicians either simply ignore these kinds of symptoms or wrongfully assume that patients are malingering.
Based on such attitudes, a typical physician-patient interaction may proceed as follows: (1) the physician provides a rundown of normal investigations, (2) the patient is told they have no known medical diagnoses, (3) a brief awkward exchange occurs, and (4) little further explanation, guidance, resources, or facilitation of an appropriate referral process is given. Even if the infamous phrase is not explicitly stated, this sequence leaves the patient to infer for themselves that it must be all in their head. Unfortunately, they do not perceive this as, “I have a real dysfunction of networks in my brain,” but instead understandably conclude that, “they think I’m crazy” or “faking it.”4 Sometimes, patients may hear the distant utterance of, “Maybe you should see a psychiatrist,” as they exit the office door, but in this context, such advice is rarely productive.

Many of these patients can be so offended by this encounter that they quickly seek multiple second opinions and subsequent rounds of pricey and unnecessary investigations. Depending on the jurisdiction and medical record system, the original physician may be completely unaware of these additional rounds of care. Mounting negative and invalidating clinical interactions can become a source of distress and cause medical trauma. At this point, patients often either fall through the cracks or stumble on a fringe medical specialist or alternative medicine practitioner who may offer the “physical” diagnosis they’ve been yearning for. This could include a growing list of unsubstantiated metabolic deficiencies, infectious disorders, or autoimmune hypersensitivities. Anecdotally, the most common current example seems to be the diagnosis of chronic Lyme disease by unvalidated assays.5 Let me be clear that many of these practitioners are well intentioned and can offer holistic approaches that medicine could learn a lot from. However, there appears to be a subset that take advantage of these patients’ desire for a “physical” diagnosis […].

For the patient, receiving such a concrete, “organic” diagnosis often quells mounting anxiety, which in itself could be partially therapeutic. However, now wedded to their given diagnosis with no knowledge of their actual software problem, patients do not see a need to address underlying factors that may be contributing to their disorder nor do they receive the multidisciplinary care that they may so badly need. The saddest part of this epidemic is that if addressed early, these symptoms may be reversible; however, with delays to proper diagnosis and management, prognosis worsens considerably.6

So how can we prevent or interrupt this concerning trend? Often, the first step to addressing a problem in medicine is providing data to prove that the problem exists. This is where the challenge begins and what makes this a silent epidemic. The magnitude of this crisis is difficult to demonstrate because these patients largely elude the billing codes used for case ascertainment in large population-based studies. This is because of a combination of gaps in current billing and diagnostic codes (country specific) and because of the fact that codes are not being used appropriately by many physicians. The latter may happen for multiple reasons, […].

Despite a few isolated efforts to estimate prevalence7 and health care costs,8 the evidence base needed to sway research granting organizations, government policy makers, and health care and insurance systems has been largely elusive. I am optimistic that it is only a matter of time until the scope of this crisis is fully appreciated. I see firsthand the high patient volumes and health care resource utilization that currently escape record keeping. I raise these concerns to my colleagues, who wholeheartedly agree, but the conversation ends there and the silence continues. I am hopeful […].

To address the epidemic itself, we desperately need more clinicians and researchers dedicated to interrogating the complex interfaces of mind, brain, and health. […]. To prevent the cycles described previously, physicians need to be incentivized to take the time necessary to optimize the initial patient encounter. This includes delivering and explaining the diagnosis in a transparent and supportive context,9 providing patient-friendly resources (eg, https://www.neurosymptoms.org/), and referring appropriately for interdisciplinary management (eg, physical therapy, occupational therapy, psychotherapy). New educational and training initiatives across medical and allied health professions will be critical for enabling a successful transition.

Sexting Images: Men who assumed that the pictures were distributed non-consensually spent more time looking at the body of the depicted person

(Don’t) Look at Me! How the Assumed Consensual or Non-Consensual Distribution Affects Perception and Evaluation of Sexting Images. Arne Dekker et al. J. Clin. Med. 2019, 8(5), 706; https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm8050706

Abstract: The non-consensual sharing of an intimate image is a serious breach of a person’s right to privacy and can lead to severe psychosocial consequences. However, little research has been conducted on the reasons for consuming intimate pictures that have been shared non-consensually. This study aims to investigate how the supposed consensual or non-consensual distribution of sexting images affects the perception and evaluation of these images. Participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups. The same intimate images were shown to all participants. However, one group assumed that the photos were shared voluntarily, whereas the other group were told that the photos were distributed non-consensually. While the participants completed several tasks such as rating the sexual attractiveness of the depicted person, their eye-movements were being tracked. The results from this study show that viewing behavior and the evaluation of sexting images are influenced by the supposed way of distribution. In line with objectification theory men who assumed that the pictures were distributed non-consensually spent more time looking at the body of the depicted person. This so-called ‘objectifying gaze’ was also more pronounced in participants with higher tendencies to accept myths about sexual aggression or general tendencies to objectify others. In conclusion, these results suggest that prevention campaigns promoting ‘sexting abstinence’ and thus attributing responsibility for non-consensual distribution of such images to the depicted persons are insufficient. Rather, it is necessary to emphasize the illegitimacy of the non-consensual distribution of sexting images, especially among male consumers of the material.

Keywords: eye tracking; non-consensual image sharing; intimate images; objectification; objectifying gaze; rape myth acceptance; sexting


From 2017... Low rates of pornography consumption have no impact on sexual satisfaction and adverse effects initiate only after consumption reaches a certain frequency

From 2017... Is the Relationship Between Pornography Consumption Frequency and Lower Sexual Satisfaction Curvilinear? Results From England and Germany. Paul J. Wright, Nicola J. Steffen & Chyng Sun. The Journal of Sex Research, Volume 56, 2019 - Issue 1, Pages 9-15, Jul 28 2017. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2017.1347912 

Abstract: Several studies using different methods have found that pornography consumption is associated with lower sexual satisfaction. The language used by media-effects scholars in discussions of this association implies an expectation that lowered satisfaction is primarily due to frequent—but not infrequent—consumption. Actual analyses, however, have assumed linearity. Linear analyses presuppose that for each increase in the frequency of pornography consumption there is a correspondingly equivalent decrease in sexual satisfaction. The present brief report explored the possibility that the association is curvilinear. Survey data from two studies of heterosexual adults, one conducted in England and the other in Germany, were employed. Results were parallel in each country and were not moderated by gender. Quadratic analysis indicated a curvilinear relationship, in the form of a predominantly negative, concave downward curve. Simple slope analyses suggested that when the frequency of consumption reaches once a month, sexual satisfaction begins to decrease, and that the magnitude of the decrease becomes larger with each increase in the frequency of consumption. The observational nature of the data employed precludes any causal inferences. However, if an effects perspective was adopted, these results would suggest that low rates of pornography consumption have no impact on sexual satisfaction and that adverse effects initiate only after consumption reaches a certain frequency.

Unifying the detrimental and beneficial effects of social network site use on self-esteem: a systematic literature review

Unifying the detrimental and beneficial effects of social network site use on self-esteem: a systematic literature review. Hannes-Vincent Krause, Katharina Baum, Annika Baumann & Hanna Krasnova. Media Psychology, Aug 27 2019. https://doi.org/10.1080/15213269.2019.1656646

Full Article Figures & data References Citations in the link above

ABSTRACT: Previous research offers equivocal results regarding the effect of social networking site use on individuals’ self-esteem. We conduct a systematic literature review to examine the existing literature and develop a theoretical framework in order to classify the results. The framework proposes that self-esteem is affected by three distinct processes that incorporate self-evaluative information: social comparison processes, social feedback processing, and self-reflective processes. Due to particularities of the social networking site environment, the accessibility and quality of self-evaluative information is altered, which leads to online-specific effects on users’ self-esteem. Results of the reviewed studies suggest that when a social networking site is used to compare oneself with others, it mostly results in decreases in users’ self-esteem. On the other hand, receiving positive social feedback from others or using these platforms to reflect on one’s own self is mainly associated with benefits for users’ self-esteem. Nevertheless, inter-individual differences and the specific activities performed by users on these platforms should be considered when predicting individual effects.

Introduction

Social networking sites (SNSs) have become a central part of today’s life. As of April 2019, Facebook, the most popular SNS, had 2.3 billion users worldwide, while Instagram and Twitter count 1.0 and 0.3 billion users, respectively (Statista, 2019 Statista. (2019, May 28). Most popular social networks worldwide as of April 2019, ranked by number of active users (in millions). Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/statistics/272014/global-social-networks-ranked-by-number-of-users/). SNSs allow members to interact with others in a virtual field through messages and shared identity information (Chen, Fan, Liu, Zhou, & Xie, 2016 Chen, W., Fan, C.-Y., Liu, Q.-X., Zhou, Z.-K., & Xie, X.-C. (2016). Passive social network site use and subjective well-being: A moderated mediation model. Computers in Human Behavior, 64, 507–514. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2016.04.038  ). Motivated by the popularity of these platforms worldwide, the effects of SNS use on users’ well-being have been researched (e.g., Burke & Kraut, 2016 Burke, M., & Kraut, R. E. (2016). The relationship between Facebook use and well-being depends on communication type and tie strength. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 21(4), 265–281. doi:10.1111/jcc4.12162  ; Kross et al., 2013 Kross, E., Verduyn, P., Demiralp, E., Park, J., Lee, D. S., Lin, N., … Ybarra, O. (2013). Facebook use predicts declines in subjective well-being in young adults. PloS One, 8(8), e69841. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069841 ; Valkenburg, Peter, & Schouten, 2006 Valkenburg, P. M., Peter, J., & Schouten, A. P. (2006). Friend networking sites and their relationship to adolescents’ well-being and social self-esteem. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 9(5), 584–590. doi:10.1089/cpb.2006.9.584 ) and reviewed (e.g., Huang, 2017 Huang, C. (2017). Time spent on social network sites and psychological well-being: A meta-analysis. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 20(6), 346–354. doi:10.1089/cyber.2016.0758 ) extensively.

Within this literature, self-esteem, as an important predictor of well-being (Diener & Diener, 1995 Diener, E., & Diener, M. (1995). Cross-cultural correlates of life satisfaction and self-esteem. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 68(4), 653–663. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.68.4.653 ), has been a topic of interest either on its own (e.g., Gonzales & Hancock, 2011 Gonzales, A. L., & Hancock, J. T. (2011). Mirror, mirror on my Facebook wall: Effects of exposure to Facebook on self-esteem. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 14(1–2), 79–83. doi:10.1089/cyber.2009.0411 ; Vogel, Rose, Roberts, & Eckles, 2014 Vogel, E. A., Rose, J. P., Roberts, L. R., & Eckles, K. (2014). Social comparison, social media, and self-esteem. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 3(4), 206–222. doi:10.1037/ppm0000047) or as a mediator in the relationship between SNS use and well-being (Chen et al., 2016 Chen, W., Fan, C.-Y., Liu, Q.-X., Zhou, Z.-K., & Xie, X.-C. (2016). Passive social network site use and subjective well-being: A moderated mediation model. Computers in Human Behavior, 64, 507–514. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2016.04.038  ). Defined as an individual’s subjective value judgment of the self (Rosenberg, 1965 Rosenberg, M. (1965). Society and the adolescent self-image. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.), self-esteem has important implications for various life outcomes, such as health (e.g., Sowislo & Orth, 2013 Sowislo, J. F., & Orth, U. (2013). Does low self-esteem predict depression and anxiety? A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Psychological Bulletin, 139(1), 213–240. doi:10.1037/a0028931 ), relationship satisfaction (Shackelford, 2001 Shackelford, T. K. (2001). Self-esteem in marriage. Personality and Individual Differences, 30(3), 371–390. doi:10.1016/S0191-8869(00)00023-4  ), and job performance (Judge & Bono, 2001 Judge, T. A., & Bono, J. E. (2001). Relationship of core self-evaluations traits–self-esteem, generalized self-efficacy, locus of control, and emotional stability–with job satisfaction and job performance: A meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 86(1), 80–92. ). Dynamic in nature, self-esteem can be seen as a barometer of individual successes and failures, as well as acceptance and rejection by others (Baldwin & Sinclair, 1996 Baldwin, M. W., & Sinclair, L. (1996). Self-esteem and “If … Then” contingencies of interpersonal acceptance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71(6), 1130–1141. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.71.6.1130 ). We denote this dynamic tracking and evaluation process by the term “self-esteem updating”. Information about the self, collected both through interactions with the social environment and introspection, serve as a basis for self-esteem updating. This self-evaluative information, processed through individual self-esteem updating, therefore defines the level of a person’s self-esteem.

As communication and interaction with other individuals via SNSs play an ever-growing role in peoples’ day-to-day lives, the question arises whether these dynamics lead to particular outcomes of self-esteem updating. Indeed, existing empirical research suggests that SNS use is associated with alterations in self-esteem. For example, some studies report a positive association between SNS use and self-esteem (e.g., Gonzales & Hancock, 2011 Gonzales, A. L., & Hancock, J. T. (2011). Mirror, mirror on my Facebook wall: Effects of exposure to Facebook on self-esteem. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 14(1–2), 79–83. doi:10.1089/cyber.2009.0411 ; Valkenburg et al., 2006 Valkenburg, P. M., Peter, J., & Schouten, A. P. (2006). Friend networking sites and their relationship to adolescents’ well-being and social self-esteem. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 9(5), 584–590. doi:10.1089/cpb.2006.9.584 ), while others find negative (e.g., Vogel et al., 2014 Vogel, E. A., Rose, J. P., Roberts, L. R., & Eckles, K. (2014). Social comparison, social media, and self-esteem. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 3(4), 206–222. doi:10.1037/ppm0000047) or insignificant (Muench, Hayes, Kuerbis, & Shao, 2015 Muench, F., Hayes, M., Kuerbis, A., & Shao, S. (2015). The independent relationship between trouble controlling Facebook use, time spent on the site and distress. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 4(3), 163–169. doi:10.1556/2006.4.2015.013 ) relationships. This ambiguous pattern of results resembles extant research in the area of SNS use and general well-being. Some authors in this field suggest to distinguish different SNS activities (for an overview see Huang, 2017 Huang, C. (2017). Time spent on social network sites and psychological well-being: A meta-analysis. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 20(6), 346–354. doi:10.1089/cyber.2016.0758 ), such as social connection promoting vs. non-promoting activities (Clark, Algoe, & Green, 2018 Clark, J. L., Algoe, S. B., & Green, M. C. (2018). Social network sites and well-being: the role of social connection. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 27(1), 32–37. doi:10.1177/0963721417730833  ) or active and passive use patterns (e.g., Verduyn, Ybarra, R├ęsibois, Jonides, & Kross, 2017 Verduyn, P., Ybarra, O., R├ęsibois, M., Jonides, J., & Kross, E. (2017). Do social network sites enhance or undermine subjective well-being? A critical review. Social Issues and Policy Review, 11(1), 274–302. doi:10.1111/sipr.2017.11.issue-1  ) to analyze the beneficial or harmful effects of SNS use on well-being. However, it remains to be seen if these approaches can be transferred to the concept of self-esteem. Scientific results in the field of SNS use and self-esteem still remain scattered and ambiguous (Liu & Baumeister, 2016 Liu, D., & Baumeister, R. F. (2016). Social networking online and personality of self-worth: A meta-analysis. Journal of Research in Personality, 64, 79–89. doi:10.1016/j.jrp.2016.06.024  ), and so far no theory has been established that integrates both social and internal processes to explain these diverging findings.

To close this research gap, we conduct a systematic literature review to make sense of the growing body of research in this area (e.g., Levy & Ellis, 2006 Levy, Y., & Ellis, T. (2006). A systems approach to conduct an effective literature review in support of information systems research. Informing Science, 9, 181–212. doi:10.28945/479; Webster & Watson, 2002 Webster, J., & Watson, R. T. (2002). Analyzing the past to prepare for the future: Writing a literature review. MIS Quarterly, 26(2), xiii–xxiii. ). In doing so, we contribute to the existing literature as follows: first, by reviewing the most common self-esteem theories, we propose that self-esteem updating is mainly driven by three processes: (1) social comparison, (2) social feedback processing, and (3) self-reflection. These three processes incorporate self-evaluative information gathered from an individual’s social environment or by introspection based on information about the self. Based on our framework, we can explain the equivocal results, unifying the positive and negative findings. Moreover, we are able to depict knowledge gaps and give recommendations for future research. Second, we contribute to the growing body of research which studies the implications of information technology use for individuals’ well-being (e.g., Burke & Kraut, 2016 Burke, M., & Kraut, R. E. (2016). The relationship between Facebook use and well-being depends on communication type and tie strength. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 21(4), 265–281. doi:10.1111/jcc4.12162  ; Krasnova, Widjaja, Buxmann, Wenninger, & Benbasat, 2015 Krasnova, H., Widjaja, T., Buxmann, P., Wenninger, H., & Benbasat, I. (2015). Research note—why following friends can hurt you: An exploratory investigation of the effects of envy on social networking sites among college-age users. Information Systems Research, 26(3), 585–605. doi:10.1287/isre.2015.0588  ; Kross et al., 2013 Kross, E., Verduyn, P., Demiralp, E., Park, J., Lee, D. S., Lin, N., … Ybarra, O. (2013). Facebook use predicts declines in subjective well-being in young adults. PloS One, 8(8), e69841. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069841 ). Specifically, we discuss the role of SNSs as a source of self-evaluative information, driving the association between their use and self-esteem. Third, and on a more global level, our review is in line with the initiative of an Internet-based information and communication technologies (ICT)-enabled “Bright Society” that aims at protecting society from potential risks of technology use (Fedorowicz et al., 2015 Fedorowicz, J., Agarwal, R., Lee, G., Lee, J. K., Watson, R., & Zhang, P. (2015). The AIS grand vision project: What, why, and how. Presented at the Americas Conference on Information Systems (AMCIS), Puerto Rico. ; Lee, 2015 Lee, J. K. (2015). Guest editorial: research framework for AIS grand vision of the bright ICT initiative. MIS Quarterly, 39(2), iii–xii. ). Indeed, while the use of SNSs has been increasingly associated with “dark sides” (Lee, 2016 Lee, J. K. (2016). Invited Commentary—Reflections on ICT-enabled Bright Society Research. Information Systems Research, 27(1), 1–5. doi:10.1287/isre.2016.0627), our study provides evidence that certain types of SNS use are beneficial for users’ self-esteem and should therefore be encouraged.

The paper is structured as follows: first, we provide an overview of theories of self-esteem and derive our theory-driven framework on self-esteem updating. In the next step, we discuss SNSs’ potential meaning as a source of self-evaluative information by explaining how their functionalities can determine both the quality and the access to self-evaluative information relevant for self-esteem. This helps us to frame self-esteem updating in the SNS environment in relation to existing SNS functionalities. Based on this, we propose the directionality of the effect of each process on self-esteem updating in the SNS environment. Consequently, we aim to test our propositions based on findings collected through a literature review on the topic of self-esteem and SNS use. After explaining the applied methodology, we continue with the presentation of the results of our review. We show that all three processes have been investigated to a varying extent by research: while processes related to (1) social comparison mainly result in adverse effects on self-esteem, (2) social feedback processing, and (3) self-reflective processes have the potential to increase the self-esteem of an individual. However, there is evidence that personality traits moderate the effect between SNS use and self-esteem, which might explain prevalent contradictory findings. Based on these insights, we discuss our results in the final chapter and provide concluding remarks.

Background and theoretical framework

In this section, we first define the concept of self-esteem and present our general theory-driven framework on self-esteem updating. We then link our framework with existing functionalities on SNSs to highlight the particularities prevalent in the online context, which affect the processes of our framework.

Self-esteem

Dynamic in nature, the concept of self-esteem refers to a subjective value judgment about one’s self (Baldwin & Sinclair, 1996 Baldwin, M. W., & Sinclair, L. (1996). Self-esteem and “If … Then” contingencies of interpersonal acceptance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71(6), 1130–1141. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.71.6.1130 ; Rosenberg, 1965 Rosenberg, M. (1965). Society and the adolescent self-image. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.). While low self-esteem has been linked to a number of risks for mental health (e.g., Sowislo & Orth, 2013 Sowislo, J. F., & Orth, U. (2013). Does low self-esteem predict depression and anxiety? A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Psychological Bulletin, 139(1), 213–240. doi:10.1037/a0028931 ), high self-esteem has been shown to have a protective role, helping people to cope with potential risks, such as negative feedback, setbacks, or other sorts of failures (Dumont & Provost, 1999 Dumont, M., & Provost, M. A. (1999). Resilience in adolescents: Protective role of social support, coping strategies, self-esteem, and social activities on experience of stress and depression. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 28(3), 343–363. doi:10.1023/A:1021637011732  ). Due to the importance of self-esteem as a resource to cope with day-to-day challenges, people have the basic need to maintain and enhance their self-esteem. This need can be fulfilled through continuous processing of information from their social environment (Greenberg, Pyszczynski, & Solomon, 1986 Greenberg, J., Pyszczynski, T., & Solomon, S. (1986). The causes and consequences of a need for self-esteem: A terror management theory. In R. F. Baumeister (Ed.), Public self and private self (pp. 189–212). New York, NY: Springer-Verlag.). Referred to as self-esteem updating, the formation of self-esteem can therefore be seen as an ongoing dynamic process. Information that is used for this process is called self-evaluative information (e.g., Wayment & Taylor, 1995 Wayment, H. A., & Taylor, S. E. (1995). Self-evaluation processes: Motives, information use, and self-esteem. Journal of Personality, 63(4), 729–757. doi:10.1111/jopy.1995.63.issue-4 ).

Several theories describe how and which kind of self-evaluative information is processed and ultimately influences individual self-esteem (e.g., Bem, 1967 Bem, D. J. (1967). Self-perception: An alternative interpretation of cognitive dissonance phenomena. Psychological Review, 74(3), 183–200. doi:10.1037/h0024835 ; Festinger, 1954 Festinger, L. (1954). A theory of social comparison processes. Human Relations, 7(2), 117–140. doi:10.1177/001872675400700202  ; Leary, 1999 Leary, M. R. (1999). Making sense of self-esteem. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 8(1), 32–35. doi:10.1111/1467-8721.00008  ). In order to systematically understand the process of self-esteem updating, we review the most common self-esteem theories to our knowledge and group them according to the overall type of self-evaluative information they incorporate (for an overview see Appendix A). By doing so, we are able to identify three routes that individuals might follow when processing information relevant to their self-esteem. Figure 1 illustrates our proposed model of self-esteem updating. It reflects three key processes that take place in the course of self-esteem updating: (1) social comparison processes, (2) social feedback processing, and (3) self-reflective processes.

Figure 1. Proposed model of self-esteem updating.

The first identified process refers to (1) social comparisons. This process is based on comparisons of information related to the self and information provided by other individuals. Social comparison theory (Festinger, 1954 Festinger, L. (1954). A theory of social comparison processes. Human Relations, 7(2), 117–140. doi:10.1177/001872675400700202  ) proposes that people have an ongoing basic need to evaluate themselves in relation to others in order to get an appropriate assessment of their abilities and qualities. However, individuals do not compare themselves to anybody in their social surroundings. Social comparisons mainly take place if the target of social comparison is not too different from the self and the object of social comparison is of relevance to the subject (Festinger, 1954 Festinger, L. (1954). A theory of social comparison processes. Human Relations, 7(2), 117–140. doi:10.1177/001872675400700202  ). Depending on their directionality, social comparison processes could lead to different outcomes in terms of self-esteem. For example, diminished self-esteem can be observed when individuals compare themselves to others who are better off (upward comparison). At the same time, comparing oneself to others who have lower skills or qualifications (downward comparison) is often associated with an increase in self-esteem (e.g., Morse & Gergen, 1970 Morse, S., & Gergen, K. J. (1970). Social comparison, self-consistency, and the concept of self. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 16(1), 148–156. doi:10.1037/h0029862 ; Thornton & Moore, 1993 Thornton, B., & Moore, S. (1993). Physical attractiveness contrast effect: Implications for self-esteem and evaluations of the social self. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 19(4), 474–480. doi:10.1177/0146167293194012  ).

The second process that determines self-esteem is (2) social feedback processing. This process incorporates self-evaluative information that stems from direct interaction with other individuals and may signal either social acceptance or rejection. Individuals highly thrive for reactions from their social environment in order to appropriately estimate the degree to which they are accepted and liked by others which can be seen as one way to satisfy individuals’ need of social belonging (Baumeister & Leary, 1995 Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117(3), 497–529. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.117.3.497 ). Sociometer Theory (Leary, 1999 Leary, M. R. (1999). Making sense of self-esteem. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 8(1), 32–35. doi:10.1111/1467-8721.00008  ) suggests that self-esteem is a barometer reflecting the social acceptance and the social rejection by others. Indeed, receiving negative feedback or any sign of social rejection from others can be seen as a massive threat to self-esteem and has been linked to several negative outcomes to individuals’ well-being, such as negative affect, anxiety, and depression (Baumeister & Leary, 1995 Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117(3), 497–529. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.117.3.497 ; Leary, 1990 Leary, M. R. (1990). Responses to social exclusion: Social anxiety, jealousy, loneliness, depression, and low self-esteem. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 9(2), 221–229. doi:10.1521/jscp.1990.9.2.221  ). On the other hand, receiving positive feedback or any sign of social acceptance benefits the evaluation of the self (Leary, 1999 Leary, M. R. (1999). Making sense of self-esteem. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 8(1), 32–35. doi:10.1111/1467-8721.00008  ).

The third identified process that influences self-esteem is (3) self-reflection. While interaction with the social environment is a critical determinant of individual self-esteem; self-esteem can also be derived from more internal aspects. Several theories aim at explaining how the reflection on these facets of the self may influence individual processes of self-esteem updating. For example, the reflection on past behavior (self-perception theory, Bem, 1967 Bem, D. J. (1967). Self-perception: An alternative interpretation of cognitive dissonance phenomena. Psychological Review, 74(3), 183–200. doi:10.1037/h0024835 ), personal standards (control theory of self-regulation, Carver & Scheier, 1981 Carver, C. S., & Scheier, M. F. (1981). The self-attention-induced feedback loop and social facilitation. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 17(6), 545–568. doi:10.1016/0022-1031(81)90039-1  ), images of how people would like to see themselves (self-discrepancy theory, Higgins, 1987 Higgins, E. T. (1987). Self-discrepancy: a theory relating self and affect. Psychological Review, 94(3), 319. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.94.3.319 ), important values, or other positive aspects of the self (self-affirmation theory, Steele, 1988 Steele, C. M. (1988). The psychology of self-affirmation: Sustaining the integrity of the self. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 21, pp.261–302). New York, NY: Academic Press.) can serve as a basis for self-evaluation and therefore impact individual self-esteem. Research in the field of self-affirmation (Steele, 1988 Steele, C. M. (1988). The psychology of self-affirmation: Sustaining the integrity of the self. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 21, pp.261–302). New York, NY: Academic Press.) has shown that when people think about positive facets of their selves they can experience boosts in self-esteem (Koole, Smeets, Van Knippenberg, & Dijksterhuis, 1999 Koole, S. L., Smeets, K., Van Knippenberg, A., & Dijksterhuis, A. (1999). The cessation of rumination through self-affirmation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77(1), 111–125. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.77.1.111  ). Activities with such self-affirming qualities in the offline context are, for instance, writing about one’s most important values or reading self-affirming messages (McQueen & Klein, 2006 McQueen, A., & Klein, W. M. P. (2006). Experimental manipulations of self-affirmation: A systematic review. Self and Identity, 5(4), 289–354. doi:10.1080/15298860600805325). Importantly, (3) self-reflective processes are not solely based on information about the self in isolation, but can also incorporate information about the self, gained in the course of interaction with others. In this context, it is important to distinguish (3) self-reflective processes from (2) social feedback processing, as described above. While instances of interpersonal interaction can be reflected on multiple times within the process of self-reflection, processing of social feedback focuses on a single episode of social interaction (e.g., getting complimented by an acquaintance).

Taken together, (1) social comparison, (2) social feedback processing, and (3) self-reflection incorporate self-evaluative information, and therefore influence self-esteem updating in everyday-life.

Our framework on self-esteem updating is grounded in a general perspective in the offline environment. However, as the three processes mainly take place in interactions between individuals, we assume that they also take place in the context of SNSs. Indeed, SNSs are largely based on social interactions, which justify the application of our framework in the online context. Since the SNS environment exhibits specific particularities, certain dynamics of communication and interaction on these platforms and the thus resulting self-evaluative information might uniquely contribute to the three processes of self-esteem updating. In the following section, we will exemplify this assumption in greater detail.

Self-evaluative information in the SNS environment

Due to its dynamic character, individual self-esteem is the result of a constant integration of self-evaluative information as part of three basic processes described above. SNSs can be seen as a rich source of such self-evaluative information. Indeed, SNS platforms allow users to easily share personal information and updates, get in contact with others, and interact with them. As a result, users are motivated to disclose a large amount of personal information, and, in turn, are constantly exposed to an abundance of information about others on the network. Against this background, we presume that the same processes of self-esteem updating mentioned above take place in the context of SNSs. Figure 2 illustrates the presumed operation of the three self-evaluative processes in the context of SNSs.

Figure 2. Processes of self-esteem updating in the context of SNSs.

For example, the information provided by other users in the SNS environment (e.g., in the form of photos, status updates, and profile descriptions) can be used for (1) social comparison processes. Users can compare relevant aspects of their selves with the information provided by others and can thus draw conclusions about their own positioning (Krasnova et al., 2015 Krasnova, H., Widjaja, T., Buxmann, P., Wenninger, H., & Benbasat, I. (2015). Research note—why following friends can hurt you: An exploratory investigation of the effects of envy on social networking sites among college-age users. Information Systems Research, 26(3), 585–605. doi:10.1287/isre.2015.0588  ). Users further have the opportunity to interact with each other (e.g., in the form of conversations, giving and receiving likes, and commenting on each other’s content). Information stemming from these interactions may be perceived as signals of social acceptance or rejection, thereby initiating (2) social feedback processing (Wenninger, Krasnova, & Buxmann, 2019 Wenninger, H., Krasnova, H., & Buxmann, P. (2019). Understanding the role of social networking sites in the subjective well-being of users: a diary study. European Journal of Information Systems, 28(2), 126–148. doi:10.1080/0960085X.2018.1496883). Finally, by disclosing a myriad of information about their selves on the platforms (e.g., by providing detailed profile descriptions and sharing meaningful moments of their lives in the form of photos, videos, and status updates), (3) self-reflective processes are likely to be activated. Specifically, by reflecting on their self-provided information or on former interactions with others on a SNS, users can draw conclusions about how to see and evaluate themselves (Gonzales & Hancock, 2011 Gonzales, A. L., & Hancock, J. T. (2011). Mirror, mirror on my Facebook wall: Effects of exposure to Facebook on self-esteem. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 14(1–2), 79–83. doi:10.1089/cyber.2009.0411 ).

As an exemplary illustration of these processes, imagine an SNS user who is very active in sports. On the one hand, processing information provided by others (e.g., a picture of an acquaintance showing her winning a marathon) could lead this user to the following (1) social comparison process outcome: “I am less athletic than my acquaintance”. On the other hand, when this user gets immediate feedback in form of likes after posting her workout picture, a possible outcome of (2) social feedback processing could be “Others value that I am active”. Further, browsing her own profile that incorporates photos of her own marathon experience, the same user might conclude: “I think that I am very athletic”; this would be an outcome of a (3) self-reflective process. While self-esteem might decrease in the first case, it potentially increases in the latter two.

Importantly, while social encounters may contribute to changes in individual self-esteem online and offline, we propose that there are specific particularities of the SNS environment. These particularities are reflected in the quality and accessibility of self-evaluative information, and may therefore uniquely affect the three processes of self-esteem updating and their final outcome. Table 1 gives an overview of the particularities of self-evaluative information in the SNSs environment, lists respective enabling SNS features, and empirical evidence.

Table 1. Particularities of self-evaluative information on SNSs.
CSVDisplay Table

Specifically, the main particularities of self-evaluative information incorporated in (1) social comparison processes are the following: While social comparisons frequently happen in the offline domain as well, users of SNSs have a comparably larger and more accessible pool of subjects to compare with (Smith, 2014 Smith, A. (2014, February 3). What people like and dislike about Facebook. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/02/03/what-people-like-dislike-about-facebook/). Users can access comparison triggering information easily with information on others’ news, status updates, photos, and links always within reach. Furthermore, SNS algorithms selectively present personalized content to users that raise the frequency of seeing information in subjectively relevant comparison domains (Bucher, 2012 Bucher, T. (2012). Want to be on the top? Algorithmic power and the threat of invisibility on Facebook. New Media & Society, 14(7), 1164–1180. doi:10.1177/1461444812440159  ). This increases the likelihood of comparisons with others (Tesser, 1988 Tesser, A. (1988). Toward a self-evaluation maintenance model of social behaviorIn Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 21, pp. 181–227). New York, NY: Academic Press. Retrieved from http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0065260108602270). In addition, comparisons in the SNS environment are mostly upward (Vogel et al., 2014 Vogel, E. A., Rose, J. P., Roberts, L. R., & Eckles, K. (2014). Social comparison, social media, and self-esteem. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 3(4), 206–222. doi:10.1037/ppm0000047). This can be explained by users presenting enhanced versions of themselves, facilitated through asynchronous communication, content selection, and content editing on SNSs (Ellison, Heino, & Gibbs, 2006 Ellison, N., Heino, R., & Gibbs, J. (2006). Managing impressions online: Self-presentation processes in the online dating environment. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 11(2), 415–441. doi:10.1111/jcmc.2006.11.issue-2  ; Toma, Hancock, & Ellison, 2008 Toma, C. L., Hancock, J. T., & Ellison, N. B. (2008). Separating fact from fiction: An examination of deceptive self-presentation in online dating profiles. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34(8), 1023–1036. doi:10.1177/0146167208320061 ). As users mostly use SNS passively (Verduyn et al., 2015 Verduyn, P., Lee, D. S., Park, J., Shablack, H., Orvell, A., Bayer, J., … Kross, E. (2015). Passive Facebook usage undermines affective well-being: Experimental and longitudinal evidence. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 144(2), 480–488. doi:10.1037/xge0000057 ), the risk of engaging in social comparison is especially high. Other users’ profile pages on SNSs enable passive browsing through large amounts of stored data, thereby yielding frequent grounds for social comparisons. In consideration of these particularities of self-evaluative information on SNSs, we propose that the outcome of (1) social comparison processes on users’ self-esteem is mainly negative.

With regards to (2) social feedback processing, both the tonality and frequency of social feedback on SNSs may cause particular outcomes of users’ self-esteem: Similar to most offline social interactions, feedback from others and the tone of general interactions is mostly positive11. Although negative feedback in forms of cyberbullying, hate speech or gossiping is a phenomenon that is present on SNSs (e.g., Smith et al., 2008 Smith, P. K., Mahdavi, J., Carvalho, M., Fisher, S., Russell, S., & Tippett, N. (2008). Cyberbullying: its nature and impact in secondary school pupils. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 49(4), 376–385. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7610.2007.01846.x ), research suggests that it is rare compared to feedback with positive tonality (Lenhart et al., 2011 Lenhart, A., Madden, M., Smith, A., Purcell, K., Zickuhr, K., & Rainie, L. (2011). Teens, Kindness and Cruelty on Social Network Sites: How American Teens Navigate the New World of” Digital Citizenship”. Pew Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved from http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2011/Teens-and-socialmedia.aspx).
(Barasch & Berger, 2014 Barasch, A., & Berger, J. (2014). Broadcasting and narrowcasting: How audience size affects what people share. Journal of Marketing Research, 51(3), 286–299. doi:10.1509/jmr.13.0238  ; Oh, Ozkaya, & LaRose, 2014 Oh, H. J., Ozkaya, E., & LaRose, R. (2014). How does online social networking enhance life satisfaction? The relationships among online supportive interaction, affect, perceived social support, sense of community, and life satisfaction. Computers in Human Behavior, 30, 69–78.  ). However, low effort functionalities such as the “Like-Button” encourage users to feedback on each other not only more easily and frequently but also in a reciprocal way (Burke, Marlow, & Lento, 2010 Burke, M., Marlow, C., & Lento, T. (2010). Social network activity and social well-being. Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 1909–1912). Atlanta, GA, USA. ; Wenninger et al., 2019 Wenninger, H., Krasnova, H., & Buxmann, P. (2019). Understanding the role of social networking sites in the subjective well-being of users: a diary study. European Journal of Information Systems, 28(2), 126–148. doi:10.1080/0960085X.2018.1496883). Additionally, SNSs inherent feedback promoting features such as birthday wishes or friendship reminders prompt users to signal their social appreciation to others. Given these peculiarities, we suggest that (2) social feedback processing mainly leads to positive effects on users’ self-esteem.

Processes of (3) self-reflection in the SNS environment are mainly characterized in terms of two aspects that uniquely contribute to self-esteem. Firstly, self-provided information on SNSs is mainly positive, as SNSs allow their users to carefully select and edit the information disclosed on their own profiles and remove unflattering content shared by others (Ellison et al., 2006 Ellison, N., Heino, R., & Gibbs, J. (2006). Managing impressions online: Self-presentation processes in the online dating environment. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 11(2), 415–441. doi:10.1111/jcmc.2006.11.issue-2  ; Hum et al., 2011 Hum, N. J., Chamberlin, P. E., Hambright, B. L., Portwood, A. C., Schat, A. C., & Bevan, J. L. (2011). A picture is worth a thousand words: A content analysis of Facebook profile photographs. Computers in Human Behavior, 27(5), 1828–1833. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2011.04.003  ). Secondly, the availability of information used for self-reflective processes is facilitated as it is saved and stored permanently on SNSs. Therefore, users can easily reflect upon both self-presentational information in the form of their presented self-image, as well as their interaction with others. SNS functionalities that enable browsing one’s own profile site and revisiting former interactions with and reactions from others thus foster (3) self-reflective processes by making people aware of positive facets of their self and their relationships (Nabi, Prestin, & So, 2013 Nabi, R. L., Prestin, A., & So, J. (2013). Facebook friends with (Health) benefits? Exploring social network site use and perceptions of social support, stress, and well-being. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 16(10), 721–727. doi:10.1089/cyber.2012.0521 ). Hence, we assume that due to these enabling features of SNSs, (3) self-reflective processes mainly lead to increases in users’ self-esteem.

Taken together, we assume that the above-mentioned functionalities of SNSs determine the accessibility and quality of available self-evaluative information, which thus results in detrimental effects for self-esteem in case of (1) social comparison processes and in more favorable self-esteem outcomes in cases of (2) social feedback processing, and (3) self-reflective processes. In order to support these propositions and to summarize existing literature, we conducted a systematic literature review in the area of SNS use and self-esteem. We present details of our applied methodology and its results in the following section.

Found readiness potentials before arbitrary decisions, but—critically—not before deliberate ones, supporting interpretation of readiness potentials as byproducts of accumulation of random fluctuations in arbitrary decisions

Neural precursors of deliberate and arbitrary decisions in the study of voluntary action. U. Maoz, G. Yaffe, C. Koch, L. Mudrik. bioRxiv, July 15, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1101/097626

Abstract: The readiness potential (RP)—a key ERP correlate of upcoming action—is known to precede subjects’ reports of their decision to move. Some view this as evidence against a causal role for consciousness in human decision-making and thus against free-will. Yet those studies focused on arbitrary decisions—purposeless, unreasoned, and without consequences. It remains unknown to what degree the RP generalizes to deliberate, more ecological decisions. We directly compared deliberate and arbitrary decision-making during a $1000-donation task to non-profit organizations. While we found the expected RPs for arbitrary decisions, they were strikingly absent for deliberate ones. Our results and drift-diffusion model are congruent with the RP representing accumulation of noisy, random fluctuations that drive arbitrary—but not deliberate—decisions. They further point to different neural mechanisms underlying deliberate and arbitrary decisions, challenging the generalizability of studies that argue for no causal role for consciousness in decision-making to real-life decisions.

Significance Statement: The extent of human free will has been debated for millennia. Previous studies demonstrated that neural precursors of action—especially the readiness potential—precede subjects’ reports of deciding to move. Some viewed this as evidence against free-will. However, these experiments focused on arbitrary decisions—e.g., randomly raising the left or right hand. We directly compared deliberate (actual $1000 donations to NPOs) and arbitrary decisions, and found readiness potentials before arbitrary decisions, but—critically—not before deliberate decisions. This supports the interpretation of readiness potentials as byproducts of accumulation of random fluctuations in arbitrary but not deliberate decisions and points to different neural mechanisms underlying deliberate and arbitrary choice. Hence, it challenges the generalizability of previous results from arbitrary to deliberate decisions.

Conservative and Republican women and men are thus less likely to report more severe forms of Sexual Harassment and Assault, which may explain differences in beliefs on these issues

Political Differences in American Reports of Sexual Harassment and Assault. Rupa Jose, James H. Fowler, Anita Raj. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, March 22, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260519835003

Abstract: Political ideology has been linked to beliefs regarding sexual harassment and assault (SH&A). Using data from the January 2018 Stop Street Sexual Harassment online poll (N = 2,009), this study examined associations of political identity and political ideology with self-reported experiences of being the victim of SH&A. SH&A experiences were coded into four mutually exclusive groups: none, non-physically aggressive harassment, physically aggressive harassment, or sexual assault. Sex-stratified logistic regression models assessed associations of interest, adjusting for participant demographics. Among women, more conservative political ideology was negatively associated with reports of sexual assault, odds ratio (OR) = 0.85, 95% confidence interval (CI) = [0.74, 0.98]. Among males, more conservative political ideology was negatively associated with reports of physically aggressive sexual harassment (OR = 0.85, 95% CI = [0.73, 0.98]), and greater Republican affiliation was negatively associated with reports of sexual assault (OR = 0.82, 95% CI = [0.68, 0.99]). Conservative and Republican women and men are thus less likely to report more severe forms of SH&A, which may explain differences in beliefs on these issues. Research is needed to determine if political differences are due to reporting biases or differential vulnerabilities.

Keywords: political party, political orientation, gender, sexual harassment, sexual violence

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Discussion
Our results indicate that Republicans and conservatives are generally less likely to report having experienced more severe forms of sexual harassment, but more likely to report non-physically aggressive forms of harassment compared with persons with different political identities or ideologies, adjusting for relevant controls. These findings parallel poll data on reported sexual harassment by political party, where Republicans are less likely to endorse general sexual harassment compared with Democrats or Independents (Graf, 2018; Quinnipiac University, 2017). However, distinct from poll data, our results showed that political identity and ideology had differential relationships with sexual harassment or assault depending on the type experienced (i.e., non-physically aggressive harassment, physically aggressive harassment, and sexual assault) and respondent gender. Results indicated that Republicans were more likely to report non-physically aggressive harassment if female and less likely to report physically aggressive harassment if male; all Republicans irrespective of gender were less likely to report sexual assault (vs. Democrats or Independents). Conservatives were likewise less likely to report sexual assault if female and less likely to report physically aggressive harassment if male (vs. liberals or moderates). To determine the political driver of harassment or assault  reporting, both political identity and ideology were included in the same model. Political ideology explained the reduced reporting of female sexual assault and male physically aggressive harassment, and political identity explained the reduced reporting of male sexual assault.

Our findings suggest that political identity and ideology, though related, are not the same. Political identity in fact had a unique effect on female nonphysically aggressive harassment and male sexual assault. In addition, with the exception of female non-physically aggressive harassment, Republican identity and politically conservative ideals were associated with a decreased chance of reporting sexual harassment and or assault. A few explanations exist as to why this might be the case. One possibility is that there may be bias in reports of experiences of harassment or assault due to the social desirability of fitting in with the perceived social views of fellow partisans (Streb, Burrell, Frederick, & Genovese, 2008). The desire to conform, be obedient, loyal, follow with tradition, and have ties to people who hold similar beliefs is more characteristic of political conservatives than liberals (Jost, van der Linden, Panagopoulos, & Hardin, 2018). This deep-set “tribe” mentality could result in conservatives or Republicans underreporting sexual violence, as acknowledgment could be disruptive to their world views and relationships. A second possibility is that political membership and ideology differences may translate to differences in awareness of more ubiquitous forms of sexual harassment (e.g., derogatory name calling) and or differences in reporting acceptance or stigma. Polling data suggest that Democrats are more willing to enforce punitive policies toward perpetrators of sexual harassment, advocate for female victims, and reflect on their own behavior toward women following recent stories about sexual harassment when compared to Republicans (Dann, 2017; Graf, 2018; Kurtzleben, 2017). To the extent that these attitudes reflect that of the larger political base, Democrats may be more comfortable in their reporting of sexual victimization compared to Republicans due to feelings of perceived group support. A third possibility is that liberals and Democrats are in fact more vulnerable to sexual harassment and assault. In a meta-analytic review, political conservatism was found to be negatively associated with openness to experience and tolerance for uncertainty but positively associated with a need for order, structure, and closure (Jost, Glaser, Kruglanski, & Sulloway, 2003). Risk perception research also finds that conservatives and Republicans are less risk-accepting than liberals and Democrats (Kam & Simas, 2010). This suggests that the environments that liberals and conservatives navigate day-to-day, and how they do so, can be different in their risk for unwanted sexual advances and contact. More research is needed to understand how political identity and political ideology influence how men and women behave socially and perceive member disclosure of sexual harassment and or assault.

Responses in the aftermath of sexual harassment or assault also indicate political differences, with Republicans less likely to change their route or routine compared with non-Republicans (irrespective of gender). Republican men also are more likely to stop a hobby or group activity but less likely to end a relationship or seek medical help compared with non-Republican men. These differences suggest that Republicans, especially Republican men, are less likely to make changes to their everyday lives or personal lives in the aftermath of abuse. In fact, except for their tendency to withdraw from extracurricular obligations, Republican men appear to carry on with “life as usual.” The lack of reported change for victimized Republican men may be a consequence of the type or reduced severity of victimization experienced, biased reporting due to self-enhancement tendencies (Wojcik, Hovasapian, Graham, Motyl, & Ditto, 2015), the types of responses assessed, or true differences in preferred behavioral practices following sexual harassment or assault. Future research is needed to better ascertain the robustness and causal mechanisms underlying these findings. Also, in light of the modern political landscape, these results suggest that more effort should be made by current leaders to include men and women, Republicans and Democrats, and liberals and conservatives in discussions about sexual harassment and violence legislation. Hearing from those at a heightened risk for sexual victimization can result in more effective and inclusive solutions to the national problem of sexual
harassment and assault (Paxton, Kunovich, & Hughes, 2007). Consistent with prior studies, we found that females, persons with a disability, and ethnic minorities (Hispanics) are more likely to report physically aggressive harassment and or sexual assault than their respective counterparts (Graf, 2018; Kearl, 2014, 2018; Martin et al., 2006; Rospenda et al., 2009). Age was found to have a curvilinear effect on female reports of sexual assault and male reports of physically aggressive harassment such that reporting increased into middle age and then declined. Non-linear age trends in tolerance for sexual harassment have been reported with young women being less tolerant than older women of sexual harassment (Ford & Donis, 1996). Age effects in reported sexual victimization may be linked to age-related differences in tolerance for sexual harassment.

Limitations exist due to the structure and specificity of our data. The cross-sectional nature of our data prohibited us from examining how political differences influenced reports of harassment or assault over time and vice versa. Political identity and ideology are not fixed attributes and can change in response to experiences of sexual victimization. Longitudinal data are required to determine the casual pathway between political identity or ideology and sexual harassment or assault. We also did not have any information regarding the severity or frequency of the reported harassment or assault. Our categorization of sexual harassment into harassment (not physically aggressive), physically aggressive harassment, and sexual assault nevertheless does provide meaningful groupings for analyses; an improvement to standard practices and a means to promote definitional clarity and loosely approximate severity. For behavioral reactions or responses assessed in relation to a “sexually harassing or abusive experience,” details regarding the incident itself remain unknown (e.g., harassment/abuse type and recency). We were thus unable to examine differences in reactions by harassment type and or generational effects. All data were self-report and therefore subject to participant reporting bias or memory inaccuracies. Data collection also occurred at two time points 4 days apart and did not include a lifetime exposure to violence measure. It is recommended that surveys on sexual harassment and assault be administered at a single time point and inquire about personal trauma history to improve methodological rigor and better adjust for differences in reporting and reactions to sexual victimization.

Sexual harassment and assault have become a core issue in contemporary society. Fueled by the 2017 #MeToo social media campaign, public discourse surrounding issues of harassment and assault are increasingly common and political. Based on our findings, we note that party differences do in fact arise when considering reporting and responses to sexual harassment and or assault. On average, Republicans and conservatives are less likely to endorse harassment or assault, especially sexual assault, and also less likely to change their behavior, apart from relinquishing hobbies, activities, or group participation, compared with their respective counterparts. These differences are expected to affect bipartisan support for anti-harassment legislation; necessitating the need for future research on sexual harassment to include participant political information. Research efforts should also aim to explore how and why these differences arise as there are no obvious explanations for the noted discrepancy in victimization. Understanding the gap between political groups regarding sexual harassment experiences and responses may help promote a dialogue on the issue and foster national consensus that sexual harassment and assault is not to be tolerated.