Sunday, October 20, 2019

Men’s Bodily Attractiveness: Women’s preferences provided only partial support for our hypotheses that women will prefer muscles that most reliably differentiate between potential mates to be larger

Men’s Bodily Attractiveness: Muscles as Fitness Indicators. Patrick K. Durkee et al. Evolutionary Psychology, Volume 17 issue 2, June 5, 2019.

Abstract: Bodily attractiveness is an important component of mate value. Musculature—a crucial component of men’s bodily attractiveness—provides women with probabilistic information regarding a potential mate’s quality. Overall musculature is comprised of several muscle groups, each of which varies in information value; different muscles should be weighted differently by attractiveness-assessment adaptations as a result. In the current study, women and men (N = 1,742) reported size preferences for 14 major muscle groups. Women’s reported preferences provided only partial support for our hypotheses that women will prefer muscles that most reliably differentiate between potential mates to be larger; men tended to prefer larger upper-body muscles. We discuss possible interpretations of these mixed findings. Ultimately, our findings suggest that attractiveness-assessment adaptations are sensitive to the information contained within specific muscle groups and they highlight the potential for additional research on the nuances of bodily attractiveness assessment.

Keywords muscles, attractiveness assessment, evolved preferences, mate value

On average it takes a 30% increase in GDP to raise happiness by the amount that a year of war causes it to fall

Historical analysis of national subjective wellbeing using millions of digitized books. Thomas T. Hills, Eugenio Proto, Daniel Sgroi & Chanuki Illushka Seresinhe. Nature Human Behaviour, October 14 2019.

Abstract: In addition to improving quality of life, higher subjective wellbeing leads to fewer health problems and higher productivity, making subjective wellbeing a focal issue among researchers and governments. However, it is difficult to estimate how happy people were during previous centuries. Here we show that a method based on the quantitative analysis of natural language published over the past 200 years captures reliable patterns in historical subjective wellbeing. Using sentiment analysis on the basis of psychological valence norms, we compute a national valence index for the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany and Italy, indicating relative happiness in response to national and international wars and in comparison to historical trends in longevity and gross domestic product. We validate our method using Eurobarometer survey data from the 1970s and demonstrate robustness using words with stable historical meanings, diverse corpora (newspapers, magazines and books) and additional word norms. By providing a window on quantitative historical psychology, this approach could inform policy and economic history.

There are several ungated versions, among them one in 2015 (!):

Analyses of data from a pilot experiment (n = 54) and a pre-registered experiment (n = 171) provides no evidence that mindfulness meditation increases political tolerance

Petersen, Michael Bang, and Panagiotis Mitkidis. 2019. “A Sober Second Thought? A Pre-registered Experiment on the Effects of Mindfulness Meditation on Political Tolerance.” PsyArXiv. October 20. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: Mindfulness meditation is increasingly promoted as a tool to foster more inclusive and tolerant societies and, accordingly, meditation practice has been adopted in a number of public institutions including schools and legislatures. Here, we provide the first empirical test of the effects of mindfulness meditation on political and societal attitudes by examining whether completion in a 15-minute mindfulness meditation increases tolerance towards disliked groups relative to relevant control conditions. Analyses of data from a pilot experiment (N = 54) and a pre-registered experiment (N = 171) provides no evidence that mindfulness meditation increases political tolerance. Furthermore, exploratory analyses show that individual differences in trait mindfulness is not associated with differences in tolerance. These results suggest that there is reason to pause recommending mindfulness meditation as a way to achieve democratically desirable outcomes or, at least, that short-term meditation is not sufficient to generate these.

Check also ‘I Do Not Exist’: Pathologies of Self Among Western Buddhists. Judith Pickering. Journal of Religion and Health, June 2019, Volume 58, Issue 3, pp 748–769.

Mindfulness not related to behavioral & speech markers of emotional positivity (or less negativity), interpersonally better connected (quality or quantity), or prosocial orientation (more affectionate, less gossipy or complaining)Dispositional mindfulness in daily life:
Deanna M. Kaplan, L. Raison, Anne Milek, Allison M. Tackman, Thaddeus W. W. Pace, Matthias R. Mehl. PLOS,

There is reason to pause recommending mindfulness meditation as a way to achieve democratically desirable outcomes like tolerance for disliked groups

Disgust Proneness and Personal Space in Children

Disgust Proneness and Personal Space in Children. Anne Schienle, Daniela Schwab. Evolutionary Psychology, September 18, 2019.

Abstract: Individuals vary in their personal space (PS) size as reflected by the preferred distance to another person during social interactions. A previous study with adults showed that pathogen-relevant disgust proneness (DP) predicted PS magnitude. The present study investigated whether this association between DP and PS already exists in 8- to 12-year-old children (144 girls, 101 boys). The children answered a disgust questionnaire with the two trait dimensions “core disgust (contact with spoiled food and poor hygiene) and “death-relevant disgust” (imagined contact with dead and dying organisms). PS magnitude was assessed with a paper–pencil measure (drawing a PS bubble; Experiment 1) or with the stop-distance task (preferred distance to an approaching woman or man; Experiment 2). In both experiments, only death-related disgust predicted PS magnitude and only if the approaching person was male. The current study questions the relevance of pathogen-related disgust in children for regulating interpersonal distance.

Keywords personal space, disgust proneness, children

Over the course of human evolution, physical proximity to others has often been associated with an increased vulnerability to interpersonal violence and infectious disease (Neuberg & Schaller, 2016). Even today, most people would not consider it wise to spend too much time in close proximity to people that are displaying overtly aggressive behavior or recognizable symptoms of illness, as the first characteristic implies an increased risk for physical harm, whereas the second a transmission of pathogens. Both types of these threats elicit specific emotions fear and disgust, which in turn facilitate certain behavioral strategies, such as escape and active avoidance/rejection (Cottrell & Neuberg, 2005).
These behaviors regulate interpersonal distance or “personal space” (PS). PS is defined as the region immediately surrounding our bodies. It can be conceptualized as an imaginary safety zone that should not be invaded by others (Hayduk, 1978). This zone has a variable magnitude, which is influenced by several characteristics of the approaching person as well of the person who is approached. For instance, biological sex moderates PS size. Women typically choose a greater distance to a male stranger relative to a female they have never met before. From a bio-evolutionary perspective, this response tendency seems to be adaptive because men are more physically aggressive than women and were historically more likely to participate in violent conflicts (Neuberg & Schaller, 2016).
Emotional states are also associated with PS size. We allow a smaller distance when we are happy and when someone is approaching us with a friendly face (Gessaroli, Santelli, di Pellegrino, & Frassinetti, 2013). On the other hand, facial expressions of anger lead to increased arousal and withdrawal even in very young children (4–24 months old; e.g., LoBue, Buss, Taber-Thomas, & Pérez-Edgar, 2017). There is also disgust-based interpersonal distancing. We try to maintain a greater distance to people who provoke feelings of disgust (e.g., because of signs of illness). Blacker and LoBou (2016) showed that children aged 6–7 years chose a greater distance to a confederate who was described as being sick. The best predictor of avoidance was the child’s knowledge about illness transmission and possible outcomes.
Finally, certain personality traits are associated with PS preferences. PS tends to be larger among anxious and introverted individuals (e.g., Pedersen, 1973; Sambo & Iannetti, 2013). Park (2015) conducted the first study on the association between the personality trait disgust proneness (DP) and PS size. He showed that individual differences in pathogen-relevant DP predicted PS magnitude independent of trait anxiety and introversion in a sample of adults. DP is the temporally stable tendency of an individual to experience disgust across different situations (Schienle & Rohrmann, 2011).
Disgust researchers generally agree that DP is a multidimensional construct (e.g., Olatunji et al., 2009; Tybur, Lieberman, & Griskevicius, 2009; Tybur, Lieberman, Kurzban, & DeScioli, 2013). For example, Olatunji et al. (2009) conducted a large cross-cultural study to evaluate the factor structure of DP in eight countries. The authors identified three central dimensions labeled “core disgust” (e.g., “You are about to drink a glass of milk when you smell that it is spoiled”), “contamination disgust” (e.g., “I probably would not go to my favorite restaurant if I found out that the cook had a cold”), and “animal-reminder disgust” (e.g., “It would bother me tremendously to touch a dead body”). With partial overlap, Tybur, Lieberman, and Griskevicius (2009) and Tybur, Lieberman, Kurzban, and DeScioli (2013) described three DP domains with the functions of pathogen avoidance and functional decision-making in the domains of mate choice and morality.
These examples demonstrate that very consistently a disgust factor related to contamination risk could be identified. This factor is part of a disease-avoidance mechanism that motivates specific behaviors (e.g., grooming, cleaning, avoidance, distancing) aiming at reducing the risk of pathogen transmission (e.g., Tybur et al. 2009). A similar disgust dimension has also been identified in children. Schienle and Rohrmann (2011) constructed a DP measure for children. Two interrelated disgust factors were identified: core disgust and “death-related disgust.” The latter factor corresponds to the factor animal-reminder disgust as described by Olatunji et al. (2009) for adults.
The present investigation analyzed whether DP (core disgust; death-related disgust) is associated with PS size in children. Two different PS tasks were employed. In Experiment 1, 110 children were asked to draw a PS bubble around a silhouette representing their own person in order to describe the preferred interpersonal distance to a woman and a man. In the second experiment with 135 children, the stop-distance task (Kennedy, Gläscher, Tyszka, & Adolphs, 2009) was conducted. A female and a male adult slowly approached the children, who were instructed that the confederate would walk toward them until they said stop.

Male Vocal Quality and Its Relation to Females’ Preferences

Male Vocal Quality and Its Relation to Females’ Preferences. Alexandre Suire, Michel Raymond, Melissa Barkat-Defradas. Evolutionary Psychology, September 30, 2019.

Abstract: In both correlational and experimental settings, studies on women’s vocal preferences have reported negative relationships between perceived attractiveness and men’s vocal pitch, emphasizing the idea of an adaptive preference. However, such consensus on vocal attractiveness has been mostly conducted with native English speakers, but a few evidence suggest that it may be culture-dependent. Moreover, other overlooked acoustic components of vocal quality, such as intonation, perceived breathiness and roughness, may influence vocal attractiveness. In this context, the present study aims to contribute to the literature by investigating vocal attractiveness in an underrepresented language (i.e., French) as well as shedding light on its relationship with understudied acoustic components of vocal quality. More specifically, we investigated the relationships between attractiveness ratings as assessed by female raters and male voice pitch, its variation, the formants’ dispersion and position, and the harmonics-to-noise and jitter ratios. Results show that women were significantly more attracted to lower vocal pitch and higher intonation patterns. However, they did not show any directional preferences for all the other acoustic features. We discuss our results in light of the adaptive functions of vocal preferences in a mate choice context.

Keywords attractiveness, fundamental frequency, formants, intonation, breathiness, roughness, mate choice

Check also Human vocal behavior within competitive and courtship contexts and its relation to mating success. Alexandre Suire, Michel Raymond, Melissa Barkat-Defradas. Evolution and Human Behavior, Men displaying faster articulation rate and louder voices reported significantly more sexual partners

Politically Motivated Causal Evaluations of Economic Performance: Despite being shown identical data, participants differed in their judgments of the graphs along party lines

Politically Motivated Causal Evaluations of Economic Performance. Zachary A. Caddick  Benjamin M. Rottman. Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh.

Abstract: The current study seeks to extend research on motivated reasoning by examining how prior beliefs influence the interpretation of objective graphs displaying quantitative information. The day before the 2018 midterm election, conservatives and liberals made judgments about four economic indicators displaying real-world data of the US economy. Half of the participants were placed in an 'alien cover story' condition where prior beliefs were reduced under the guise of evaluating a fictional society. The other half of participants in the 'authentic condition' were aware they were being shown real-world data. Despite being shown identical data, participants in the Authentic condition differed in their judgments of the graphs along party lines. The participants in the Alien condition interpreted the data similarly, regardless of politics. There was no evidence of a „backfire‟ effect, and there was some evidence of belief updating when shown objective data.

Keywords: motivated reasoning; politics; biases; reasoning; decision-making


Previous research has shown that individuals often reason differently about information depending on whether it is congruent with their prior beliefs. Individuals tend to more easily accept information that is congruent with prior beliefs and desires and discount information that is incongruent with prior beliefs and desires. This process is known as motivated reasoning. In the current research, we studied the influence of political attitudes on how people interpret time series graphs of the economy. This research is at the intersection of two fields: causal reasoning about time series data, and motivated reasoning.

Motivated Reasoning and Causal Reasoning: Similarities and Differences

The fields of motivated reasoning and causal reasoning have long been intimately connected in certain ways, yet also distant in other ways. The current research aims to advance both of these fields, and to advance research on the intersection of the two.

In one aspect, these two fields have studied similar questions about the role of prior beliefs and desires on the acceptance or rejection of new information. On the causal reasoning side, there has been considerable research into how people incorporate new information with prior causal beliefs (e.g., Alloy & Tabachnik, 1984). Furthermore, many of the particular topics that have been studied in the field of motivated reasoning have had to do with causal or at least predictive relations. For example, in a seminal work on motivated reasoning, Kunda (1987) found that people tend to believe that other people who have attributes similar to themselves are less likely to get divorced than people with dissimilar attributes. Note how in this study, the attribute is as a potential cause or predictor of the effect (divorce). Other research on motivated reasoning that is less directly related to causation still often studies acceptance of causalscientific explanations, for example, about global warming (Campbell & Kay, 2014).

On the other hand, there are also important differences between these fields. First, causal learning has traditionally been focused on the rational (Bayesian) updating of beliefs given new information, whereas motivated reasoning has focused on affective reasons for failing to update beliefs. A second difference, more relevant to the current research, is that most research on causal reasoning has focused on the inferential process - how a learner infers a cause-effect relationship from a set of data. In contrast, research on motivated reasoning does not involve inference. Instead, participants are typically presented with a fact or a set of facts, and the question is whether participants accept or reject the facts (e.g., Ranney & Clark, 2016).

One recent study on motivated reasoning has investigated inference from data, similar to causal reasoning research. Kahan, Peters, Dawson, and Slovic (2017) presented participants with quantitative information in 2x2 contingency tables about the number of cities that did or did not ban handguns in public and whether there was an increase or decrease in crime, and participants were asked to infer the relation between gun bans and crime. Despite being presented with quantitative data, participants were more likely to make correct inferences when the data supported their prior attitudes about guns. The current research is in a similar vein–it investigates the role of political attitudes on inferences about economic trends.

Persuasive Effects of Presidential Campaign Advertising: Effects are sometimes distinguishable from zero, but are always quite modest

Persuasive Effects of Presidential Campaign Advertising: Results of 53 Real-time Experiments in 2016. Alexander Coppock, Seth J. Hill and Lynn Vavreck. Prepared for presentation at the 2019 meeting of the American Political Science Association, Washington, D.C., August 23, 2019.

Abstract: In this letter, we report the results of 53randomizedadvertising experiments conducted over 29 weeks on 34,000 people during the US 2016 Presidential election. Our treatments were drawn in real time from advertisements on air each week. The ads vary on many dimensions: election type (primary or general), tone (attack or promotional), sponsor (candidates or Super PACS), context (timing), and content (topics). We manipulate which ads respondents see, when they see them, whether they see more than one ad, which ad they see first, and whether they see competing, reinforcing, or no additional information. Owing to the large size of our study, the meta-analytic estimates of the average treatment effects on favorability and vote choice are sometimes distinguishable from zero, but are always quite modest, even accounting for variation across advertisements and contexts.

Check also Le Pennec, Caroline, and Vincent Pons. "Vote Choice Formation and the Minimal Effects of TV Debates: Evidence from 61 Elections in 9 OECD Countries." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 20-031, September 2019.

And Testing popular news discourse on the “echo chamber” effect: Does political polarisation occur among those relying on social media as their primary politics news source? Nguyen, A. and Vu, H.T. First Monday, 24 (5), 6. Jun 4 2019.

And Right-Wing Populism, Social Media and Echo Chambers in Western Democracies. Shelley Boulianne, Karolina Koc-Michalska, Bruce Bimber. New Media & Society, presented, in review. Sep 2019.

And Kalla, Joshua and Broockman, David E., The Minimal Persuasive Effects of Campaign Contact in General Elections: Evidence from 49 Field Experiments (September 25, 2017). Forthcoming, American Political Science Review; Stanford University Graduate School of Business Research Paper No. 17-65. American Political Science Review.

TV debates small effect in voters, evidence from 61 elections in 9 OECD countries: Changes in individual vote choices mostly result from changes in beliefs on competing candidates

Le Pennec, Caroline, and Vincent Pons. "Vote Choice Formation and the Minimal Effects of TV Debates: Evidence from 61 Elections in 9 OECD Countries." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 20-031, September 2019.

Abstract: We use 200,000 observations from repeated survey data in 61 elections and 9 OECD countries since 1952 to study the formation of vote choices and policy preferences in the electoral season and assess how TV debates contribute to this process. We find that the share of voters who state a pre-election vote intention corresponding to their final vote choice increases by 15 percentage points in the two months preceding the election. Changes in individual vote choices mostly result from changes in beliefs on competing candidates, and they generate aggregate shifts in predicted vote shares. Instead, policy preferences remain remarkably stable over time. We use an event study to estimate the impact of TV debates, campaigns’ most salient events, and find that they do not significantly affect either individual vote choice and preference formation nor aggregate vote shares. This suggests that information continuously received by voters exerts more influence on their behavior.

These results suggest that even if voters sometimes seem relatively uninformed, their vote choices actually aggregate a lot of information, beyond just debates, and that other sources are more impactful. A possible interpretation is that voters discard candidates’ debate statements because they rationally expect them to be more biased than information coming from nonpartisan sources, or that they only pay attention to statements aligned with their existing beliefs. But existing evidence shows that some forms of partisan communication do persuade voters. An alternative interpretation is that the particular medium through which debates are broadcasted is the issue: it is difficult for candidates to change people’s minds, and this does not happen on TV or the radio. This interpretation is consistent with the fact that campaign advertisements diffused through these channels fail to affect individual vote choices (Spenkuch and Toniatti, 2018), differently from more personalized contacts such as phone calls, door-to-door visits, or townhall meetings (e.g., Arceneaux, 2007; Fujiwara and Wantchekon, 2013; Pons, 2018).


Our results also have implications for the regulation of campaigns. Since the first presidential TV debate in the U.S., in 1960, there has been a continuous and ongoing effort to diffuse this innovation to countries which have not adopted it yet (see for instance the work done by the Commission on Presidential Debates or the National Democratic Institute), and to improve debates’ format and the fairness with which they treat all competitors, including third-party candidates, where they have become a tradition(e.g., McKinney and Carlin, 2004). Our results suggest that some of this energy may be better spent in studying and reforming campaign regulations to ensure that all campaigns have equal direct access to voters; and in monitoring the most personal and tailored forms of partisan communication, on the field and in social media, toimprovethequality of information available to voters and increase the chance that their final choice corresponds to their actual preferences. This may require granting administrative bodies responsible for organizing and supervising elections more resources, while better controlling those available to candidates.

Check also Testing popular news discourse on the “echo chamber” effect: Does political polarisation occur among those relying on social media as their primary politics news source? Nguyen, A. and Vu, H.T. First Monday, 24 (5), 6. Jun 4 2019.

And Right-Wing Populism, Social Media and Echo Chambers in Western Democracies. Shelley Boulianne, Karolina Koc-Michalska, Bruce Bimber. New Media & Society, presented, in review. Sep 2019.

Defining pleasant touch stimuli: Using a soft material and stroking at a velocity of 3 cm/s with light force is generally considered as particularly pleasant

Defining pleasant touch stimuli: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Pankaj Taneja et al. Psychological Research, October 19 2019.

Abstract: Pleasantness is generally overlooked when investigating tactile functions. Addition of a pleasant stimulus could allow for a more complete characterisation of somatosensory function. The aims of this review were to systematically assess the methodologies used to elicit a pleasant sensation, measured via psychophysical techniques, and to perform a meta-analysis to measure the effect of brush stroking velocity on touch pleasantness. Eighteen studies were included in the systematic review, with five studies included in the meta-analysis. The review found that factors such as texture, velocity, force, and the duration of continuous stroking influence tactile evoked pleasantness. Specifically, using a soft material and stroking at a velocity of 3 cm/s with light force is generally considered as particularly pleasant. The meta-analysis showed that a brush stroking velocity of 30 cm/s was rated as less pleasant than 3 cm/s, on the forearm. The present study collates the factors that are most likely to provide a stimulus to elicit a pleasant sensation. The results should be important for studies requiring a well-defined pleasant stimulus including neurosensory assessment protocols, allowing for a more complete multimodality assessment of somatosensory function.