Saturday, September 21, 2019

Punish or Protect? How Close Relationships Shape Responses to Moral Violations

Punish or Protect? How Close Relationships Shape Responses to Moral Violations. Aaron C. Weidman et al. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, September 19, 2019.

Abstract: People have fundamental tendencies to punish immoral actors and treat close others altruistically. What happens when these tendencies collide—do people punish or protect close others who behave immorally? Across 10 studies (N = 2,847), we show that people consistently anticipate protecting close others who commit moral infractions, particularly highly severe acts of theft and sexual harassment. This tendency emerged regardless of gender, political orientation, moral foundations, and disgust sensitivity and was driven by concerns about self-interest, loyalty, and harm. We further find that people justify this tendency by planning to discipline close others on their own. We also identify a psychological mechanism that mitigates the tendency to protect close others who have committed severe (but not mild) moral infractions: self-distancing. These findings highlight the role that relational closeness plays in shaping people’s responses to moral violations, underscoring the need to consider relational closeness in future moral psychology work.

Keywords: moral psychology, close relationships, loyalty, harm, self-distancing

Classroom Size and the Prevalence of Bullying and Victimization: Smaller classrooms sees more bullying

Classroom Size and the Prevalence of Bullying and Victimization: Testing Three Explanations for the Negative Association. Claire F. Garandeau, Takuya Yanagida, Marjolijn M. Vermande, Dagmar Strohmeier and Christina Salmivalli. Front. Psychol., September 20 2019.

Abstract: Classroom size - i.e., the number of students in the class - is a feature of the classroom environment often found to be negatively related to bullying or victimization. This study examines three possible explanations for this negative association: (a) it is due to measurement effects and therefore only found for peer-reports (Hypothesis 1), (b) bullying perpetrators are more popular and have more friends in smaller classrooms (Hypothesis 2), (c) targets of bullying are more popular and have more friends in larger classrooms (Hypothesis 3). Multilevel regression analyses were conducted on a sample from Austria (1,451 students; Mage = 12.31; 77 classes) and a sample from the Netherlands (1,460 students; Mage = 11.06; 59 classes). Results showed that classroom size was negatively associated with peer-reported bullying and victimization in both samples, and with self-reported bullying and victimization in the Dutch sample only, suggesting partial support for Hypothesis 1. Students high in bullying were found to be more popular in smaller than in larger classrooms in the Austrian sample. The negative link between victimization and popularity was found to be stronger in smaller classrooms than in larger classrooms in the Dutch sample. However, classroom size was not found to moderate links between bullying or victimization and friendship in either sample. Hypotheses 2 and 3 were supported, but only for popularity and in a single sample. Further research is needed to better understand the higher prevalence of bullying found in smaller classrooms in many studies.

The prevalence of bullying and victimization in classrooms is not merely the result of individual characteristics of the bullying perpetrators and their targets but is influenced by features of the classroom environment (Saarento et al., 2015). These contextual characteristics include the anti-bullying attitudes and behaviors of peer bystanders (Salmivalli et al., 2011) and of teachers (Veenstra et al., 2014; Oldenburg et al., 2015), as well as aspects of the peer social network, such as the degree of status hierarchy in the classroom (Garandeau et al., 2014). Classroom size - i.e., the number of students in the class - is a structural feature that has often been investigated in relation to academic achievement (see Finn et al., 2003), with smaller classrooms often found to be beneficial for academic performance (Hoxby, 2000; Shin and Raudenbush, 2011) and even earnings later in life (Fredriksson et al., 2013). Intuitively, we would expect the same advantageous effects of small classrooms on bullying. Smaller classrooms should logically protect against bullying thanks to higher adult/child ratios, allowing a more effective monitoring of children’s negative behaviors by school personnel.
Classroom size has been investigated in many studies on victimization and bullying, often as a control variable rather than a main predictor of interest. Surprisingly, very few studies found evidence of a protective effect of smaller classroom networks on bullying or victimization (Whitney and Smith, 1993; Khoury-Kassabri et al., 2004). The large majority of studies examining the link between classroom size and bullying or victimization found them to be either negatively associated (e.g., Vervoort et al., 2010) or unrelated (e.g., Thornberg et al., 2017). However, the reason why bullying and victimization would be more prevalent in smaller classrooms remains unclear.
The present study aims to test for three possible explanations for this negative association: First, the negative association may not reflect an actual social phenomenon but result from a measurement effect, related to the way peer-reported scores are computed. In this case, the prevalence-size link should be negative for peer-reported, but not for self-reported bullying and victimization (Hypothesis 1). Second, it is possible that bullying perpetrators enjoy higher status and are more socially connected in smaller classrooms, which in turn facilitates their bullying behavior. Engaging in bullying may be associated with higher perceived popularity and more friendships in smaller than in larger classrooms (Hypothesis 2). Third, victims may have less social support and fewer opportunities for friendships in smaller classrooms, which in turn could contribute to the maintenance of their victimization. Being victimized may be associated with lower perceived popularity and fewer friendships in smaller than in larger classrooms (Hypothesis 3). These hypotheses will be tested with large samples from two countries, using both self-reports and peer-reports of bullying and victimization.

How Should We Measure City Size? Theory and Evidence Within and Across Rich and Poor Countries

How Should We Measure City Size? Theory and Evidence Within and Across Rich and Poor Countries. Remi Jedwab, Prakash Loungani, and Anthony Yezer. IMF Working Papers, WP/19/203. Sep 2019.

Abstract: It is obvious that holding city population constant, differences in cities across the world are enormous. Urban giants in poor countries are not large using measures such as land area, interior space or value of output. These differences are easily reconciled mathematically as population is the product of land area, structure space per unit land (i.e., heights), and population per unit interior space (i.e., crowding). The first two are far larger in the cities of developed countries while the latter is larger for the cities of developing countries. In order to study sources of diversity among cities with similar population, we construct a version of the standard urban model (SUM) that yields the prediction that the elasticity of city size with respect to income could be similar within both developing countries and developed countries. However, differences in income and urban technology can explain the physical differences between the cities of developed countries and developing countries. Second, using a variety of newly merged data sets, the predictions of the SUM for similarities and differences of cities in developed and developing countries are tested. The findings suggest that population is a sufficient statistic to characterize city differences among cities within the same country, not across countries.

JEL Classification Numbers: R13; R14; R31; R41; R42; O18; O2; O33

We cannot know these things with certainty, but it seems nonhuman primates don't understand themselves to be playing roles with intentional coordination or division of labor

The role of roles in uniquely human cognition and sociality. Michael Tomasello. Journal of the Theory of Social Behavior, August 16 2019.

Abstract: To understand themselves as playing a social role, individuals must understand themselves to be contributing to a cooperative endeavor. Psychologically, the form of cooperation required is a specific type that only humans may possess, namely, one in which individuals form a joint or collective agency to pursue a common end. This begins ontogenetically not with the societal level but rather with more local collaboration between individuals. Participating in collaborative endeavors of this type leads young children, cognitively, to think in terms of different perspectives on a joint focus of attention ‐ including ultimately an objective perspective ‐ and to organize their experience in terms of a relational‐thematic‐narrative dimension. Socially, such participation leads young children to an understanding of self‐other equivalence with mutual respect among collaborative partners and, ultimately, to a normative (i.e. moral) stance toward “we” in the community within which one is forming a moral role or identity. The dual‐level structure of shared endeavors/realities with individual roles/perspectives is responsible for many aspects of the human species' most distinctive psychology.

2.1 Social roles in great apes and early humans?

Humans' nearest primate relatives, chimpanzees and bonobos, live in complex social groups. From an external (functionalist) perspective it is of course possible to speak of the various roles individuals are playing in the group. But does this notion have any meaning for them? Does it make sense, from their point of view, to say that the dominant male chimpanzee is playing the role of peacemaker in the group?
While we cannot know these things with certainty, the proposal here is that neither chimpanzees nor bonobos (nor any other nonhuman primates) understand themselves to be playing roles in anything. Although many, perhaps most, of their social interactions are competitive (even if bonobos are less aggressive), they also cooperate in some ways, and so the notion of role is at least potentially applicable. As a frequently occurring example, if one chimpanzee begins fighting with another, it often happens that the friends of each of the combatants join into the fray on the side of their friend. It is unlikely that they see themselves as playing roles in this coalition. More likely, each individual is participating for her own individual goal, sometimes helping the other in that context. But they are basically just fighting side by side, without intentional coordination or division of labor toward a common goal. As another example, when chimpanzee or bonobo pairs are engaged in mutual grooming, we could say from the outside that one is in the groomer role and one is the groomee role. But again this interpretation may be totally our own; they may just be searching for fleas and enjoying being cleaned, respectively. And, for whatever it is worth, both agonistic coalitions and grooming are social interactions that are performed by all kinds of other species of mammals and even birds.
By far the most plausible candidate for an understanding of social roles in nonhuman primates is chimpanzee group hunting. What happens prototypically is that a small party of male chimpanzees spies a red colobus monkey somewhat separated from its group, which they then proceed to surround and capture. Normally, one individual begins the chase and others scramble to the monkey's possible escape routes. Boesch (2005) has claimed that there are roles involved here: the chaser, the blocker, and the ambusher, for instance. Other fieldworkers have not described the hunts in such terms, noting that during the process (which can last anywhere from a few minutes to half an hour) individuals seem to switch from chasing to blocking and to ambushing from minute to minute (Mitani, personal communication). In the end, one individual actually captures the monkey, and he obtains the most and best meat. But because he cannot dominate the carcass on his own, all participants (and many bystanders) usually get some meat (depending on their dominance and the vigor with which they harass the captor; Gilby, 2006). Tomasello, Carpenter, Call, Behne, and Moll (2005) thus propose a “lean” reading of this activity, based on the hypothesis that the participants do not have a joint goal of capturing the monkey together – and thus there are no individual roles toward that end. Instead, each individual is attempting to capture the monkey on its own (since captors get the most meat), and they take into account the behavior, and perhaps intentions, of the other chimpanzees as these affect their chances of capture. In general, it is not clear that the process is fundamentally different from the group hunting of other social mammals, such as lions and wolves and hyenas, either socially or cognitively. Experimental support for this interpretation will be presented below.
The evolutionary hypothesis is that at some point in human evolution, early humans began collaborating with one another in some new ways involving shared goals and individual roles. The cognitive and motivational structuring of such collaborative activities is best described by philosophers of action such as Bratman (2014), Searle (2010), and Gilbert (2014), in terms of human skills and motivations of shared intentionality. The basic idea is that humans are able to form with others a shared agent ‘we’, which then can have various kinds of we‐intentions. In Bratman's formulation, for example, two individuals engage in what he calls a shared cooperative activity when they each have the goal that they do something together and they both know together in common conceptual ground that they have this shared goal. This generates roles, that is, what “we” expect each of “you” and “me” to do in order for us to reach our shared goal. Gilbert (2014) highlights the normative dimension of such roles. When two participants make a joint commitment to cooperate, for example, each pledges to the other that she will play her role faithfully until they have reached their shared goal. If either of them shirks her role they will together, as a shared agent, chastise her – a kind of collaborative self‐regulation of the shared agency. This special form of cooperative organization scales up to much larger social structures and institutions such as governments or universities, in which there are cooperative goals and well‐defined roles that individuals must play to maintain the institution's cooperative functioning.
Tomasello (2014, 2016) provides a speculative evolutionary account of how humans came to engage with one another in acts of shared intentionality. There were two steps. The first step came with early humans (i.e., beginning with the genus Homo some 2 million years ago to approximately.4 million years ago). Due to a change in their feeding ecology ‐ perhaps due to more intense competition from other species for their normal foods ‐ early humans were forced to collaborate with one another to obtain new kinds of resources not available to their competitors (e.g., large game and also plant resources requiring multiple individuals for harvesting). In these early collaborative activities, early human individuals understood their interdependence ‐ that each needed the other ‐ and this led them to structure their collaborative activities via skills and motivations of joint intentionality: the formation of a joint agency to pursue joint goals via individual roles. As partners were collaborating toward a joint goal, they were jointly attending to things relevant to their joint goal – with each retaining her own individual perspective (and monitoring the other's perspective) at the same time. Such joint attention means not only that individuals are attending to the same situation, but each knows that each is also attending to their partner's attention to the relevant situation, etc.: there is recursive perspective‐taking. When individuals experienced things in joint attention those experiences entered their common ground as joint experience or knowledge, so that in the future they both knew that they both knew certain things.
The second step came with modern humans (i.e., beginning with Homo sapiens sapiens some 200,000 years ago). Due to increasing group sizes and competition with other groups, humans began organizing themselves into distinctive cultures. In this context, a cultural group may be thought of as one big collaborative activity aimed at group survival, as all individuals in the group were dependent on one another for many necessities, including group defense. To coordinate with others, including in‐group strangers, it was necessary to conform to the cultural practices established for just such coordination. Knowledge of these cultural practices was not just in the personal common ground of two individuals who had interacted in the appropriate circumstances previously, as with early humans, but rather such knowledge was in the cultural common ground of the group: each individual knew that all other members of the group knew these things and knew that they knew them as well even if they had never before met. Making such cultural practices formal and explicit in the public space turned them into full‐blown cultural institutions, with well‐defined roles (from professional roles to the most basic role of simply being a group member in good standing) that must be played for their maintenance. The new cognitive skills and motivations underlying the shift to truly cultural lifeways were thus not between individuals but between the individual and the group – involving a kind of collective agency ‐ and so may be referred to as collective intentionality.
The proposal is thus that the notion of social role, as understood by participants in a social or cultural interaction, came into existence in human evolution with the emergence of shared intentionality, as the psychological infrastructure for engaging in especially rich forms of collaborative, even cultural, activities. The notion of social role is thus indissociable, psychologically speaking, from cooperation. The evolutionary precursor to the notion of a societal role, as typically conceived by sociologists and social psychologists, is thus the notion of an individual role in a small‐scale collaborative activity; societal roles in larger‐scale cultural institutions build on this psychological foundation.

A million loyalty card transactions: Disconnect between predicting pro-environmental attitudes (against plastic bags) & a specific ecological behaviour measured objectively in the real world

Lavelle-Hill, Rosa E., Gavin Smith, Peter Bibby, David Clarke, and James Goulding. 2019. “Psychological and Demographic Predictors of Plastic Bag Consumption in Transaction Data.” PsyArXiv. September 20. doi:10.31234/
Abstract: Despite the success of plastic bag charges in the UK, there are still around a billion single-use plastic bags bought each year in England alone, and the government have made plans to increase the levy from 5 to 10 pence. Previous research has identified motivations for bringing personal bags to the supermarket, but little is known about the individuals who are continuing to frequently purchase single-use plastic bags after the levy. In this study, we harnessed over a million loyalty card transaction records from a high-street health and beauty retailer linked to 12,968 questionnaire responses measuring demographics, shopping motivations, and individual differences. We utilised an exploratory machine learning approach to expose the demographic and psychological predictors of frequent plastic bag consumption. In the transaction data we identified 2,326 frequent single-use plastic bag buyers, which we matched randomly to infrequent buyers to create the balanced sub-sample we used for modelling (N=4,652). Frequent bag buyers spent more money in store, were younger, more likely to be male, less frugal, open to new experiences, and displeased with their appearance compared with infrequent bag buyers. Statistical regional differences also occurred. Interestingly, environmental concerns did not predict plastic bag consumption, highlighting the disconnect between predicting pro-environmental attitudes and a specific ecological behaviour measured objectively in the real world.