Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Self-enhancement, the motive to view oneself in positive light: Not only are heritable its manifestations at the subjective & intermediate level, but also are the objective level & its relation with psychological well-being

On the Etiology of Self-Enhancement and Its Association With Psychological Well-Being. Yu L. L. Luo, Constantine Sedikides, Huajian Cai. Social Psychological and Personality Science, September 30, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1177/1948550619877410

Abstract: Self-enhancement, the motive to view oneself in positive light, and its manifestations have received wide attention in behavioral sciences. The self-enhancement manifestations vary on a continuum from a subjective level (agentic narcissism, communal narcissism, narcissistic grandiosity) through an intermediate level (better-than-average judgments) to an objective level (overclaiming one’s knowledge). Prior research has established the heritability of self-enhancement manifestations at the subjective and intermediate levels. The present twin study demonstrated that (1) the objective level of self-enhancement manifestation is also heritable; (2) a common core, which is moderately heritable, underlies the three levels of self-enhancement manifestations; (3) the relation between self-enhancement (manifested at all three levels) and psychological well-being is partly heritable; and (4) environmental influences, either shared by or unique to family members, are evident through (1), (2), and (3). The findings deepen understanding of the etiology of individual differences in self-enhancement and their links to psychological well-being.

Keywords: self-enhancement, behavioral genetics, narcissism, narcissistic grandiosity, better-than-average effect, overclaiming task

The existence of female orgasm is intriguing: On the one hand, female orgasm is not necessary for female reproductive success, & on the other hand, this neuro-endocrine reflex is too complex to be an evolutionary accident

An experimental test of the ovulatory homolog model of female orgasm. Mihaela Pavlicev, Andreja Moset Zupan, Amanda Barry, Savannah Walters, Kristin M. Milano, Harvey J. Kliman, and G√ľnter P. Wagner. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,  September 30, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1910295116

Significance: The existence of female orgasm is intriguing for 2 reasons: On the one hand, female orgasm is not necessary for female reproductive success, and on the other hand, this neuro-endocrine reflex is too complex to be an evolutionary accident. This led to many proposed evolutionary explanations, most of which have little empirical support. We previously proposed that female orgasm uses a mechanism that originated for inducing ovulation during copulation: A mechanism that still exists in many animals but lost its role in others. Here we provide experimental evidence, strengthening the likelihood that female orgasm evolved from copulation-induced ovulation. This finding helps interpreting otherwise difficult to explain aspects of female sexuality, such as the low rate of female orgasm during intercourse.

Abstract: The ovulatory homolog model of female orgasm posits that the neuro-endocrine mechanisms underlying female orgasm evolved from and are homologous to the mechanisms mediating copulation-induced ovulation in some mammals. This model predicts that pharmacological agents that affect human orgasm, such as fluoxetine, should also affect ovulation in animals with copulation-induced ovulation, such as rabbits. We tested this prediction by treating rabbits with daily doses of fluoxetine for 2 wk and found that fluoxetine treatment reduces the number of ovulations postcopulation by 30%. In a second experiment we tested whether this result was mediated by an effect on the brain or via peripheral serotonin functions. We treated animals with fluoxetine and induced ovulation with a single injection of human chorionic gonadotropin. In this experiment ovulation rate was nominally reduced by only 8%, which is statistically not significant. We conclude that the effect of fluoxetine on copulation-induced ovulation rate supports the ovulatory homolog model of female orgasm, suggesting that female orgasm has very deep evolutionary roots among the early eutherian mammals.

Keywords: fluoxetineinduced ovulationprocess homologyanorgasmiafemale sexuality

From 2016... Not only bilateral trade but global trade openness also significantly promotes peace

From 2016... Does Trade Integration Contribute to Peace? Jong‐Wha Lee, Ju Hyun Pyun. Review of Development Economics, January 28 2016. https://doi.org/10.1111/rode.12222

Abstract: We investigate the effect of trade integration on interstate military conflict. Our empirical analysis, based on a large panel data set of 243,225 country‐pair observations from 1950 to 2000, confirms that an increase in bilateral trade interdependence significantly promotes peace. It also suggests that the peace‐promotion effect of bilateral trade integration is significantly higher for contiguous countries that are likely to experience more conflict. More importantly, we find that not only bilateral trade but global trade openness also significantly promotes peace. It shows, however, that an increase in global trade openness reduces the probability of interstate conflict more for countries far apart from each other than it does for countries sharing borders. The main finding of the peace‐promotion effect of bilateral and global trade integration holds robust when controlling for the simultaneous determination of trade and peace.

Patients with Lesions to Left Prefrontal Cortex Have Less Entrenched Beliefs and Are More Skeptical Reasoners

Patients with Lesions to Left Prefrontal Cortex (BA 9 and BA 10) Have Less Entrenched Beliefs and Are More Skeptical Reasoners. Vinod Goel, Miriam Marling, Vanessa Raymont, Frank Krueger and Jordan Grafman. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. Volume 31, Issue 11, November 2019, p.1674-1688. https://doi.org/10.1162/jocn_a_01441

Abstract: The effect of prior beliefs on reasoning and decision-making is a robust, poorly understood phenomenon, exhibiting considerable individual variation. Neuroimaging studies widely show the involvement of the left pFC in reasoning involving beliefs. However, little patient data exist to speak to the necessity and role of the left pFC in belief-based inference. To address this shortcoming, we tested 102 patients with unilateral focal penetrating traumatic brain injuries and 49 matched controls. Participants provided plausibility ratings (plausible/implausible) to simple inductive arguments and (separately) strength of believability ratings of the conclusion to those same arguments. A voxel-based lesion symptom mapping analysis identified 10 patients, all with lesions to the left pFC (BA 9 and BA 10) as rating significantly fewer arguments with highly believable conclusions as “plausible,” compared with all other patients. Subsequent analyses, incorporating the right hemisphere homologue of these patients (n = 12) and normal controls (n = 24), revealed patients with lesions to left pFC found fewer arguments plausible in the high believable than either of these groups, and there was no difference in the behavioral scores of the right pFC patients and normal controls. Further analysis, utilizing the belief ratings as the dependent measure, revealed a Group × Belief Rating interaction, with left pFC patients having less intense beliefs about the conclusions of moderately believable and highly believable arguments. We interpreted these results to indicate that lesions to left pFC (BA 9, BA 10) increase incredulity and make these patients more skeptical reasoners. The former can partially, but not fully, explain the latter. The other relevant factor may be that unilateral left pFC lesions disrupt hemispheric equilibrium and allow for an increased inhibitory role of the right pFC. We speculate that individual differences in belief bias in reasoning in the normal population may be a function of individual differences in the left and right pFC interactional dynamics.

The anterior cingulate cortex is an important cognitive control area for both sexually arousing and disgust stimuli; the activation of the thalamus may indicate a general automatic response towards sexual disgust

Long, Xipeng and Tian, Fangfang and Zhou, Yushan and Cheng, Bochao and Yi, Siqi and Jia, Zhiyun, The Neural Correlates of Sexual Arousal and Sexual Disgust (September 23, 2019). SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3458493

Background: Humans exhibit category-specific networks of activity when viewing sexual stimuli. The differences and relationships between stimulus-related brain activation for sexual arousal and sexual disgust are still unclear. This study aimed to identify brain regions that were mostly associated with sexual stimuli.

Methods: A systematic search was performed to identify fMRI studies that reported brain activity during sexual stimuli. The activation foci were subjected to meta-analysis using the activation likelihood estimation (ALE) method. Subsequently, meta-analytic connectivity modelling (MACM) was used to create a model for the core brain network involved in responses to sexual stimuli. The functional properties of the network were assessed using behavioural domain (BD) metadata in the BrainMap database.

Findings: An ALE meta-analysis of a total of 368 subjects showed that sexual stimuli are related to the extensive activation of the occipital-temporal-limbic system and less extensive activation of the basal ganglia. Sexual arousal activated mainly the anterior cingulate cortex and right fusiform gyrus, while sexual disgust activated the limbic system, occipital gyrus, and thalamus. MACM analysis showed a network of the core brain areas involved in response to sexual stimuli, and behavioural domain analysis indicated that these areas have both common and discrete functional properties.

Interpretation: Our findings suggested that the anterior cingulate cortex is an important cognitive control area for both sexually arousing and disgust stimuli. The activation of the thalamus may indicate a general automatic response towards sexual disgust. These results revealed consistent coactivation maps across experiments and behaviours for convergent areas.

Keywords: sexual arousal; sexual orientation; activation likelihood estimation; meta-analytic connectivity modelling; fMRI; behavioural domain

Liberals express compassion toward less structured & more encompassing entities (friends, world), whereas conservatives express compassion toward more well-defined & less encompassing entities (family, nation)

Ideological differences in the expanse of the moral circle. Adam Waytz, Ravi Iyer, Liane Young, Jonathan Haidt & Jesse Graham. Nature Communications, volume 10, Article number: 4389 (2019). https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-12227-0

Abstract: Do clashes between ideologies reflect policy differences or something more fundamental? The present research suggests they reflect core psychological differences such that liberals express compassion toward less structured and more encompassing entities (i.e., universalism), whereas conservatives express compassion toward more well-defined and less encompassing entities (i.e., parochialism). Here we report seven studies illustrating universalist versus parochial differences in compassion. Studies 1a-1c show that liberals, relative to conservatives, express greater moral concern toward friends relative to family, and the world relative to the nation. Studies 2a-2b demonstrate these universalist versus parochial preferences extend toward simple shapes depicted as proxies for loose versus tight social circles. Using stimuli devoid of political relevance demonstrates that the universalist-parochialist distinction does not simply reflect differing policy preferences. Studies 3a-3b indicate these universalist versus parochial tendencies extend to humans versus nonhumans more generally, demonstrating the breadth of these psychological differences.


In 2006, then Democratic Senator Barack Obama bemoaned the country’s “empathy deficit,” telling college graduates, “I hope you choose to broaden, and not contract, your ambit of concern.” In 2012, Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney said, “President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family.”

The distinction between Obama and Romney captures the distinct worldviews of American political liberals and conservatives, respectively. Romney prioritized the family unit, whereas Obama highlighted the planet broadly. This difference in parochialism versus universalism became exacerbated during the 2016 presidential election, with one article noting, “Trump vs. Hillary Is Nationalism vs. Globalism, 20161,” contrasting the more parochial Republican candidate with the more universalist Democratic candidate. Others have characterized the Trump administration’s policy decisions as battles between nationalists (typified by parochialism) and globalists (typified by universalism)2.

These differential tendencies toward parochialism and universalism on the political right and left, respectively, extend beyond the United States as well. For example, leading French right-wing politician, Marie Le Pen declared in 2016, “The gap is not between the Left and the Right, but between globalists and patriots. The globalists are acting for the dilution of France and its people in a huge worldwide magma. The patriots hope that the nation constitutes the most protective space for the French3.” Across Western Europe, ideological battles between the left and right have centered on this tension between universalism and parochialism.

Universalism refers to moral regard directed toward more socially distant and structurally looser targets, relative to socially closer and structurally tighter targets. Parochialism refers to moral regard directed toward socially closer and structurally tighter targets, relative to socially more distant and structurally looser targets. Universalist moral circles and parochial moral circles in this context are concentric, with one encompassing the other. These circles refer to groups of targets toward which one expends moral regard, and reflect the concept of moral circles popularized by Singer4 (see also Burke5). They are akin to the idea of moral communities that comprise one’s in groups (discussed by Deutsch et al.6,7), in which entities can be included or excluded as worthy of moral regard, as well as to concentric circles of identity defined by self-categorization theory (whereby one’s self-concept can include increasingly distant social groups depending on one’s level of abstraction)8. While “parochial” sometimes has a negative connotation, we do not imply any such evaluation here and simply use it to describe maintaining a tight (versus loose) moral circle.

Previous research supports this universalist–parochial distinction between liberals and conservatives9. For instance, conservatives, relative to liberals, express greater need for closure, order, and structure10,11,12. Personality research shows social liberals consistently score higher on openness, whereas social conservatives score higher on conscientiousness13. Taken together, existing work suggests that political conservatism reflects a greater tendency to seek structure, to avoid ambiguity, changes to the status quo, and novelty. By this account, political liberalism represents greater comfort with lack of structure, new experiences, and novel information.

Given ideological differences in open versus closed styles of information processing, moral concern might follow a similar pattern. In prioritizing closure, order, and stability, conservatives should express concern toward smaller, more well-defined, and less permeable social circles (relative to broader ones). In prioritizing openness, tolerance for ambiguity, and desire for change, liberals should express concern toward larger, less well-defined, and more permeable social circles (relative to smaller ones).

Beyond low-level cognitive and motivational differences, one additional line of work supports the ideological distinction between parochial–universalist differences in compassion. This line of research stems from Moral Foundations Theory (MFT)14,15,16, which characterizes liberals and conservatives as diverging along two classes of intuitive moral values. Liberals care about harm and fairness (individualizing values), whereas conservatives care more about loyalty, authority, and sanctity (binding values). This research again suggests a differing focus such that liberals tend to express compassion toward individuals broadly construed, whereas conservatives emphasize compassion toward their immediate social groups. Supporting this idea, separate work indeed found that endorsement of individualizing values is positively correlated with moral expansiveness (moral consideration for entities, including plants and animals, beyond one’s immediate in group) whereas endorsement of binding values is negatively correlated with moral expansiveness17.

The present research provides empirical evidence for these differing ideological patterns of compassion and extends these patterns to stimuli across a range of measures. This work also shows these broader ideological differences are rooted in perceptual differences. These differences appear to stem also from a broader historical trend that has accelerated in recent decades as most countries have become wealthier and safer. Christian Welzel, a lead researcher for the World Values Survey, has described how reduced “existential threats” change values:
Fading existential pressures open people’s minds, making them prioritize freedom over security, autonomy over authority, diversity over uniformity, and creativity over discipline… the existentially relieved state of mind is the source of tolerance and solidarity beyond one’s in group18.
Our research is consistent with Welzel’s characterization of the general shift from “survival values” that increase dependence on close others, to “emancipative values” that downplay local ties—and loyalties—and lead people to look farther afield for social relationships.

These studies aim to connect Singer’s4 idea of the moral circle to empirical political psychology. Beyond demonstrating a universalist–parochial distinction between liberals and conservatives, this research examines whether this distinction reflects mere political preferences, or something deeper. Universalism may reflect favorability toward policies that promote open borders (and encourage immigration) and that promote diplomacy toward ostensibly hostile nations. Such policies represent extending moral regard beyond one’s immediate group (e.g., the nation) and to the world more broadly. Similarly, parochialism may reflect favorability toward stricter immigration policies and defense spending to protect one’s nation—these policies represent prioritizing the well-being of one’s own nation at the potential expense of others. On the other hand, if the universalist–parochial distinction reflects a worldview beyond policy interests, then it should reflect evaluations of stimuli completely devoid of social or political relevance, for example abstract, animate shapes. Thus, we tested whether liberals and conservatives would display universalist and parochialist tendencies, respectively, in terms basic perceptual preferences. Finally, we examined whether this universalist–parochialist difference would map on to moral concern for humans exclusively versus a broader conception of the moral universe that includes nonhumans as well. Importantly, this work uses both measures developed for this work that explicitly capture the expanse of one’s moral circle as well as established measures that assess moral consideration for specific targets, to provide convergent evidence across studies.

Studies 1a–1c examine universalist versus parochial differences in the domains of friends versus family (friends typically constitute a larger, broader and more diffuse group than family) and the world versus the nation (the world encompasses one’s nation). Studies 2a–2b show this universalist–parochial distinction maps on to abstract entities (animated shapes) distinguished only by low-level perceptual properties. Studies 3a–3b demonstrate that this universalist–parochial distinction maps on to moral concern for humans exclusively compared with a social world that includes nonhumans. Across studies, we predicted that liberalism versus conservatism would be associated with universalism relative to parochialism, even in the context of preference for shapes devoid of social relevance and humans versus nonhumans.

We often judge that old objects or objects used by admired celebrities are worth less when cleaned, possible because cleaning removes valued historical traces, and by changing objects from their historic state

The glow of grime: Why cleaning an old object can wash away its value. Merrick Levene   Daisy Z. Hu   Ori Friedman. Judgment and Decision Making, Vol. 14, No. 5, September 2019, pp. 565-572. http://journal.sjdm.org/18/181204/jdm181204.html

Abstract: For connoisseurs of antiques and antiquities, cleaning old objects can reduce their value. In five experiments (total N = 1,019), we show that lay people also often judge that old objects are worth less when cleaned, and we test two explanations for why cleaning can reduce object value. In Experiment 1, participants judged that cleaning an old object would reduce its value, but judged that cleaning would not reduce the value of an object made from a rare material. In Experiments 2 and 3 we described the nature, age and origin of the traces that cleaning would remove. Now participants judged that cleaning old historical traces would reduce the object’s value, but cleaning recently acquired traces would not. In Experiment 4, participants judged that the current value of an old object is reduced even when it was cleaned in ancient times. However, participants in Experiment 5 valued objects cleaned in ancient times as much as uncleaned ones, while judging that objects cleaned recently are worth less. Together, our findings suggest that cleaning objects may reduce value by removing valued historical traces, and by changing objects from their historic state. We also outline potential implications for previous studies showing that cleaning reduces the value of objects used by admired celebrities.

Keywords: object value, old objects, cleaning, psychological essentialism