Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Data from German TwinLife Study: More than 30% of individuals’ perceived income justice can be attributed to genes, the rest is driven by idiosyncratic environmental effects; found no evidence of influence of upbringing

What determines perceived income justice? Evidence from the German TwinLife study. Michael Neugart, Selen Yildirim. Economics & Human Biology, November 20 2019, 100826. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ehb.2019.100826

•    Individuals’ perceived income justice is important for labor market outcomes.
•    Data from German TwinLife Study is analyzed within classical twin design.
•    More than 30% of individuals’ perceived income justice can be attributed to genes.
•    Rest is driven by idiosyncratic environmental effects.
•    No strong indications for gene–environment interactions are found.

Abstract: Whether individuals perceive their income as being fair has far-reaching consequences in the labor market and beyond. Yet we know little about the determinants of variation in perceived income justice across individuals. In this paper, we ask to what extent differences in genes are related to variation in individuals’ perceived income justice, and whether there is a gene–environment component. Analyzing data from the German TwinLife study, we find that more than 30% of individuals’ perceived income justice can be attributed to genes. The rest is mostly related to an idiosyncratic environment.

4.4 Extensions

Parents' (un)equal treatment:

A common critique of twin studies is that they usually
cannot take into account unequal treatment of identical twins and fraternal twins by the
parents (see, e.g., Joseph, 2002). If parents treat MZ twins more similarly than they treat
DZ twins, the estimate of the heritability component (A) may be upward biased. Samples
of twins who were reared apart provide a basis to study the relevance of the unequal
treatment critique as one, in this case, does not have to rely on the equal environment
assumption. Bouchard Jr (1998), for example, analyzes measures of personality in such a
setting and nds that twins who were reared apart produce estimates similar to a sample
of twins who were reared together. While we cannot draw on information of twins reared
apart, we attempt to remedy concerns in relation to the equal environment assumption
by making use of a large set of questions to the parents in the TwinLife study on how
they have been treating their children.

In total we have 13 questions that relate to the parenting style. For example, one such
question to the twin is on how many times the father or mother ... shows you that s/he
likes you. We use this information to compare the parenting styles of fathers and mothers
who either have MZ or DZ twins. In only three out of the 13 answers to the questions on
the parenting style we nd signi cant di erences in how the father and mother have been
treating MZ and DZ twins, respectively. These results are reported in detail in Table 6
in Appendix. Furthermore, we conduct an analysis in which we restrict the sample to the
twin pairs who responded to the parenting style question with the same answers or the
di erence between answers is less than 2. We, then, re-run the variance decomposition on
the sample of twins who report a more equal treatment of parents. Again, we opted for
delegating a rather large table reporting on the results of this exercise to the Appendix.
Overall, we get very similar estimates on the heritability component for the reduced
sample that perhaps is closer to the equal treatment assumption. We interpret this as
evidence in support of an un-biased estimate of the heritability component when we do
the variance decomposition on the full sample.

Assortative mating:

In Section 3 we explained that the behavioral genetic model assumes
the absence of assortative mating. Positive assortative mating, a correlation of the
genes of the spouses, would bias the estimates of heritability downwards, see Falconer
(1984, pp. 231) and our more detailed explanation in the Appendix. The TwinLife data
allows us to check whether such a bias is likely in our case as information of perceived
income justice as also available for the twin's parents (N=145). Based on the parents'
answers to this question, we nd that there is actually positive assortative mating between
our twins' parents. While Pearson's correlation coe cient is 0.1979, which is usually interpreted
as small, the p-value is 0.0171. Thus, it could be the case that actual heritability
is slightly higher for perceived income justice than our estimates suggest.
E ects of being close to each other: Finally, we discuss whether social interactions
between the twins play a role for the estimated relative sizes of the components explaining
the variance in perceived income justice. A large literature on social comparisons
suggests that individuals' behavior and well-being is related to their peers or reference
groups (Persson, 1995; Clark and Oswald, 1998; Ireland, 2001; Corneo, 2002; Goerke and
Pannenberg, 2015; Goerke and Neugart, 2017; Aronsson and Johansson-Stenman, 2018).
It is conceivable that also perceived income justice is a function of social comparisons, and
that the tendency to compare with the twin brother or sister di ers among MZ and DZ
twins. In particular, if identical twins had more contact than fraternal twins and contact
intensity ampli ed social comparisons, heritability could be overestimated.
The TwinLife data provides a measure on self-reported closeness of the twins. We use
it to learn more on the importance of closeness of twins for the results derived so far. To
this end, we restrict the sample to observations where both twins give the same answer on
how close they feel to the other twin. Table 4 (Panel A) shows summary statistics on the
closeness of twins. There are statistically signi cant di erences in how close identical and
fraternal twins feel to be to each other. For the identical twins the fraction of twins who
report being close to each other is 94.09% and for the fraternal twins we have a fraction of
86.75%. These fractions are statistically di erent from each other at a signi cance level
below 0.1%, underscoring the importance of the following analysis in which we re-estimate
the "ACE"-model splitting the sample into close and not close twins.

The heritability component estimated for the sub-sample of close twins becomes 32.5%,
see Panel B, as compared to the previously estimated 32.8%. For the not close twins we
get an increase in the heritability component. The explained variance is almost 50% now.
However, we have only a small number of twins who report that they are not so close
and, consequently, the estimate is rather imprecise. The observation, however, that we
get a genetic e ect of the same magnitude as in our baseline estimates when we restrict
our sample to twins who feel close to each other, irrespective of whether they are MZ or
DZ twins, suggests that the estimated genetic component is rather not biased by more
closely interacting twins.

Impression management & self-deceptive enhancement as facets of a socially desirable response bias is related to self-reported empathic responses; reducing opportunity for IM lowers those responses

“Let Me Show You How Nice I Am”: Impression Management as Bias in Empathic Responses. Claudia Sassenrath. Social Psychological and Personality Science, November 19 2019. https://doi.org/10.1177/1948550619884566

Abstract: Past research showed that empathic responses are confounded with social desirability. The present research aims at illuminating this confound. In a first step, it is examined how a measure typically implemented to screen, for response, biases based on social desirability (i.e., the Balanced Inventory of Desirable Responding) relate to classical measures of interindividual differences in empathic responses (i.e., the Interpersonal Reactivity Index). Moreover, it is investigated what happens to empathic responses under conditions of reduced opportunity to behave socially desirable. Results of two correlational studies indicate that impression management (IM) as well as self-deceptive enhancement as facets of a socially desirable response bias is related to self-reported empathic responses. Results of an additional experiment show that introducing conditions reducing opportunity for IM lowers empathic responses toward a person in need. Implications for research on self-reported empathy and empathy-induced prosocial behavior are discussed.

Keywords: empathy, social desirability, impression management

General Discussion

The present research indicates that self-reported empathic responses are confounded by social desirability. Specifically, correlational findings provided by Studies 1a and 1b yield that the IRI as one of the most influential self-report measures applied in psychological empathy-research shows substantial associations with the two components of social desirability, SDE and IM. As already outlined above, SDE refers to individuals’ unconscious bias of claiming positive qualities for themselves thus leading to an overly positive self-image (cf. Uziel, 2010). Accordingly, it is plausible that SDE relates to selfreported empathic responses considering that being empathic may boost individuals’ self-esteem. Nevertheless, the main focus of the present research is on IM as component of social desirability since it reflects individuals’ conscious effort to present an overly positive picture to others, thus leading to distortions in self-reports because they decide to lie about certain behavior. Here, experimental evidence provided by Study 2 demonstrates that less empathic feelings regarding a needy target person are reported when individuals believe that they are connected to an apparatus seemingly assessing their true opinions and attitudes. Hence, whereas the correlational findings provided by Studies 1a and 1b do not allow for causal inferences, results from Study 2 show that introducing conditions that reduces the opportunity for managing impressions also reduces empathic responses in a common empathy inductionparadigm. In other words, correlational findings from Studies 1a and 1b and results from the experimental Study 2 provide a coherent picture in that they indicate that IM contributes to empathic responses. Nonetheless, it is for future research to place SDE under scrutiny and determine which of the two components (IM or SDE) plays a greater role in empathic responses.

Comparably, the present research does not provide definite answers with regard to interpretational ambiguities related to the conceptualization of the IM subscale of the BIDR. As mentioned above, recent literature indicates that IM scales do not measure a certain response style based on IM but measure trait-like interpersonal self-control (cf. Mu¨ller & Moshagen, 2019; Uziel, 2010; Zettler et al., 2015). From this perspective, correlational findings of Studies 1a and 1b indicate that interpersonal self-control is related to measures of interindividual differences in empathic responses. Hence, responding empathically seems to be related to being able to control oneself in interpersonal situations. In any case, the observed associations are noteworthy because they suggest that the applied measures share substantial variance. This indicates that whenever we use the IRI as measure of interindividual differences in empathy, we also measure something different (e.g., individuals’ ability to control themselves in social contexts; cf. Uziel, 2010). This has implications for predicting how empathic individuals (identified by high scores in the IRI) may act in situations calling for prosocial behavior, for instance. When adopting the view that the IM subscale primarily measures interpersonal self-control, empathic individuals might show prosocial behavior only if their self-regulatory capacity allows them to do so. When perceiving the IM subscale as primary measure of IM, this also has implications for predicting how empathic individuals may act in these situations. As Study 2 indicates, under conditions of reduced opportunity to manage impressions, individuals show less empathic responses.

Another issue that should be addresses when interpreting findings provided by Study 2 relates to the empathyinduction procedure. Specifically, the empathy-induction procedure applied in this study complies with common procedures of past research (e.g., Batson et al., 1989; Batson et al., 1991; Batson, Chang, Orr, & Rowland, 2002; Cialdini et al., 1997; Cialdini et al., 1987; Pfattheicher et al., 2016; Sassenrath et al., 2017; Sassenrath, Wagner, Keller & Sassenberg, 2018). Recent findings, however, indicate that the instructions usually implemented within this procedure cause differences in empathic feelings, because individuals downregulate their empathic feelings the low-empathy condition and not because their empathic feelings are increased in the high-empathy condition (McAuliffe, Forster, Philippe, & McCullough, 2018).

Although these findings bear significance, particularly regarding the question of adequate control conditions in experimental empathy-paradigms, they do not account for differences found between the different reporting conditions in Study 2. Specifically, across the two different empathy conditions, individuals report less empathic feelings under bogus-pipeline compared to private-reporting conditions. This main effect is not qualified by the empathy manipulation (i.e., no interaction between the two factors occurred), indicating that the processes elicited by the different experimental manipulations work independently from each other.  Notably, across all three studies, the OCQ, although originally introduced as a criterion-related measure self-favoring distortions in self-reports (Paulhus, 2011), did not show reliable associations with self-reported empathic responses nor with the BIDR. This may appear surprising. However, when taking a closer look at literature using the OCQ, it becomes clear that evidence regarding the measures’ potential of controlling for self-presentation biases is at least mixed. Regarding the assessment of distortions in self-reports, some findings indicate that overclaiming is positively associated with social desirability (e.g., Bensch et al., 2019; Paulhus et al., 2003; Tracy et al., 2009). The present research, in contrast, contributes to other findings questioning the use of the OCQ as measure to control for self-presentation biases. Specifically, it seems that overclaiming is unrelated to honest behavior in cheating paradigms or a dictator game (e.g., Mu¨ller & Moshagen, 2019). Instead, overclaiming appears to be related to the hindsight bias (Mu¨ller & Moshagen, 2018).

Another possible limitation of the present research may be that it only relied on self-report regarding empathic responses instead of including measures from other sources such as proxy reports or actual behavioral measures. However, the aim of the present research was to take a first step in systematically decomposing different facets and motivations in empathic responses. To that effect, classical measures used to assess social desirability and empathic responses were administered.  Moreover, an empathy-induction paradigm that mainly assesses empathic feelings and helping behavior using selfreport (see Batson & Shaw, 1991, for an overview, and, Nook, Ong, Morelli, Mitchell, & Zaki, 2016, for an exception) was used, and differing reporting conditions were included to see how this affects results typically observed in this paradigm.

Put differently, the main contribution of the present article is to demonstrate how a measure typically implemented to screen for socially desirable responding (i.e., the BIDR) relates to classical measures of interindividual differences in empathy responses (i.e., the IRI) and how these associations can be interpreted with regard to different motivational facets of empathic responses. Moreover, the present article illustrates what happens to self-reported empathic responses when including experimental conditions fostering honest responding (i.e., a bogus-pipeline condition). Thereby, the present research raises awareness regarding distorting biases in psychological empathy research and, furthermore, may contribute to an enhanced understanding of the motivational forces involved in empathy-induced prosocial behavior (cf. Batson & Shaw, 1991; Cialdini, 1991).

Chimpanzees evidence enjoyment, playfulness & strong social engagement when being imitated; it is unlikely their poor performance is due to lack of shared intentionality & social motivation

The social side of imitation in human evolution and development: Shared intentionality and imitation games in chimpanzees and 6-month old infants. Gabriela-Alina Sauciuc, Tomas Persson, Elainie Alenkaer Madsen. Proceedings of the 13th SWECOG Conference, Oct 2019. http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1156189/FULLTEXT01.pdf

Imitation is generally acknowledged as a key mechanism of social learning, foundational to the emergence of human culture. By enabling quick and high-fidelity copying of others’ actions, imitation mediates the crossgenerational transfer of knowledge and skills (e.g. Nielsen, 2009). Besides this ‘learning’ (or ‘cognitive’) function, imitation accomplishes also important social-communicative functions, by facilitating social interaction and promoting prosociality (e.g. Duffy & Chartrand 2015; Eckerman, Davis, & Didow, 1989; Užgiris, Benson et al., 1989). The social function of imitation is understudied in the field of comparative psychology, or even claimed to be absent in nonhuman primates. This claim, however, is grounded on how nonhuman apes (henceforth ‘apes’) perform in imitation learning experiments compared to human children. More specifically, chimpanzees exhibit lower levels of joint attention and gaze at the experimenter’s face (Carpenter & Tomasello, 1995). Moreover, children - but not chimpanzees - exhibit ‘over-imitation’, i.e. they show a propensity for faithfully copying demonstrated actions, even when these actions are irrelevant for achieving a demonstrated outcome. Such differences, it has been argued, derive from the fact that, in imitation contexts, children are motivated by a need to belong, to engage socially and to promote shared experiences (Carpenter & Call 2009; Nielsen 2009). In turn, these differences in social motivation are taken to account for the profound differences that exist between human and nonhuman primate cultures (Over & Carpenter 2012).

Based on evidence from social, developmental and comparative psychology, we have recently proposed a broader definition of the social-communicative function of imitation (Persson, Sauciuc, & Madsen, 2017), that encompasses reactive and non-intentional phenomena (e.g. nonconscious mimicry, imitation-induced prosociality), as well as proactive and arguably intentional phenomena, such as social conformism or the communicative imitation documented in preverbal toddlers (e.g. Eckerman, Davis, & Didow, 1989; Eckerman & Stein, 1990). All these phenomena have been documented in nonhuman primates: nonconscious mimicry in the form of postural congruence (Jazrawi, 2000), facial mimicry (Scopa & Palagi, 2016), interactional synchrony (Yu and Tomonaga, 2016) and contagious yawning (Madsen, Persson, et al., 2013), imitation-induced prosociality expressed by increased levels of attention, proximity and object exchange after exposure to being imitated (e.g. Paukner, Suomi et al., 2009), social conformism in the form of a preference for a group-adopted procedure even when it went against a prefered or more efficient one (Hopper, Schapiro, et al., 2011), and communicative imitation in the form of familiar-action imitation used to engage or maintain interaction (Persson, Sauciuc, & Madsen, 2017).

In this presentation, we address the presence of shared intentionality in imitative contexts with evidence from four experimental studies that our team has conducted with 6-month old infants (Sauciuc, Madsen, et al., in prep), as well as with enculturated (Sauciuc, Persson, & Madsen, in prep) and non-enculturated (Madsen, Sauciuc, & Persson, in prep a, b) chimpanzees of various ages (infants, juveniles, adults). Common to all these studies is that the participants have been exposed to an imitation condition in which the experimenter imitated all their actions, as well as to a number of control conditions that varied in agreement with the specific aims of each study. In Sauciuc, Madsen et al. (in prep), to establish if 6-month old infants discriminate being imitated from contingent responding, and to examine likely mechanisms that mediate this process, infants interacted with an experimenter who (i) imitated all infant’s action ipsilaterally; (ii) imitated all infant’s actions contralaterally; (iii) imitated with a still-face, i.e. imitated bodily but not facial actions; or (iv) responded with the infant’s actions contingently but with different actions. In Madsen, Sauciuc, & Persson (in prep a), to track the ontogenetic course of imitation recognition in chimpanzees, we replicated Haun and Call’s (2008) study on imitation recognition in adult apes and exposed infant and juvenile chimpanzees to four types of interaction in which the experimenter either (i) imitated all chimpanzee’s actions; (ii) responded to the chimpanzee’s actions with temporally contingent but different actions; (iii) produced actions that were not related to the chimpanzee’s actions; (iv) sat still. In Sauciuc, Persson, & Madsen (in prep) four additional control conditions were administered in order to ascertain that behavioural indicators of shared intentionality (e.g. imitation games, laughter) could not be attributed to alternative factors known to increase playfulness in chimpanzees, including non-play species-specific behaviours, species-specific play forms (chase) or facial expressions that accompany play. Finally, in Madsen, Sauciuc, & Persson (in prep b), chimpanzees were exposed to bouts of (i) imitation, (ii) non-imitative play and (iii) no action in order to investigate the effects of imitation and non-imitative play on subsequent intentional imitation of non-instrumental actions and nonconscious mimicry (such as contagious yawning).

To examine the presence of shared intentionality in the studied populations, we focused on the presence of testing behaviours and imitation games, as well as on the presence of smiling and laughter during such responses. ‘Testing behaviours’ are generally acknowledged as an indication of explicit imitation recognition, i.e. that the imitated individual is aware of the imitator’s intention to copy his/her behaviours (Whiten & Suddendorf, 2001). They may take the form of ‘behavioural repetitions’ (the imitated individual repeatedly reproduces a previously imitated action), ‘testing sequences’ (the imitated individual produces rapidly a series of different actions) or ‘testing poses’ (the imitated individual suddenly freeze in a posture). Such ‘testing behaviours’ are generally regarded as a mean by which the imitated individual actively tests the contingent correspondence between own actions and those of the imitator. The presence of testing behaviours is thus considered to be an indication that the imitated individual is aware of this action correspondence, as well as of the impact that his/her actions has on the behaviour of the imitator (e.g. Bates & Byrne, 2010;). Testing behaviours have been documented in human infants as early as 9-months of age (Agnetta & Rochat, 2004) and in apes (e.g. Haun & Call, 2008), but not in monkeys. Unlike human infants, however, apes do not seem to exhibit shared intentionality in such imitative contexts, i.e. they do not show signs of enjoyment and playfulness (laughter, imitation games) when being systematically imitated (Nielsen, 2009). Contrary to this view, our studies bring evidence that both enculturated and non-enculturated chimpanzees show enjoyment and playfulness when being imitated. Indeed, laughter and imitation games were present in both young and adult chimpanzees, in both enculturated and non-enculturated populations. We have also found that human infants produced testing behaviours as early as 6 months of age, and that they engaged in imitation games accompanied by smiling regardless of whether the experimenter imitated them ipsilaterally, contralaterally or with a still-face. In all the studied populations, testing behaviours were primarily expressed by behavioural repetitions, but testing sequences accompanied by smiling / laughter and careful monitoring of the experimenter’s actions were also present.

We conclude that the social side of imitation in its proactive form emerges early in human development, and has ancient evolutionary roots, i.e. it was likely present in the common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees. Since both enculturated and non-enculturated chimpanzees evidenced enjoyment, playfulness and strong social engagement when being imitated, it is unlikely that lack of shared intentionality and social motivation accounts for chimpanzees’ poorer performance in imitation learning tasks when compared to human children.

Colored apparel and its potential influence on heterosexual attraction

Colored apparel and its potential influence on heterosexual attraction. Chelsea Sullivan  Algy Kazlauciunas  James T. Guthrie. Color Research &Application, November 18 2019. https://doi.org/10.1002/col.22458

Abstract: The objective of this study is to determine if men would follow the “red effect” when choosing colors for women to wear on a date, and also to determine if the colors that men would wear when going on a date would be the same as the colors that females (their date) would wish them to wear. A set of psychophysical data was generated from this experiment, where participants were asked to rank a set of 10 colored samples based on preference for each question asked. There were three different sets of colored samples. The set of colored samples given to the participant depended on the question. A total of five questions were asked. Scaling analysis was done on the data to organize a set of items according to preferences providing values, an interval scale (Z values), that correspond to the relative perceptual differences among the stimuli. The Z values were graphed to show the general preference of colors for women to wear, and the preference of colors for men to wear. A Spearman's rank‐order correlation coefficient (SRCC) was calculated comparing each individual's rank order with the mean rank order for that specific question. An average Spearman's rank order was calculated for each question and each gender in order to determine the variability in answers. Scaling results indicate that men follow the “red effect,” but women preferred to wear other colors such as turquoise, blue, or yellow depending on the outfit. Males and females agreed that no matter the colored bottoms (denim or black), blue was the preferred color top for men to wear. SRCC results showed a lot of variability between individual answers and the mean answer indicating that participants' rankings did not necessarily agree with general color preferences presented in the scaling analysis. While scaling analysis might suggest certain color preferences such as men following the “red effect” and women preferring to wear blue, the poor correlation found using SRCC between the individual answers and the mean rank orders suggests that color preferences for each individual are inherently unique.

Experimentally Induced Hunger Unexpectedly Reduces Harshness of Suggested Punishments

Gluttons for Punishment? Experimentally Induced Hunger Unexpectedly Reduces Harshness of Suggested Punishments. Nicholas Kerry, Riley N. Loria, Damian R. Murray. Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology, November 19 2019. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40750-019-00121-4

Objectives: Although many societies endorse objectivity in moral judgment and punishment, humans are frequently influenced by deep-rooted biases, such that superficially irrelevant factors can influence moral judgment and decision making. Hunger is a fundamental source of motivation and is known to redirect behavior in other domains. The present research aims to test whether hunger influences moral judgments and punishments.

Method: We first report results from four pilot studies (n = 1354) which, taken together, imply a positive relationship between self-reported hunger and harsher moral judgment. The main preregistered study then examined the effect of experimentally induced hunger on judicial sentencing and moral judgments. Hunger was manipulated by asking 246 undergraduates to not eat for at least four hours before the study. Participants in the Satiated condition received a snack before taking questionnaires, while those in the Hungry condition were given the same snack after responding to the questionnaires.

Results: Contrary to our pre-registered predictions, participants in the Hungry condition recommended significantly more lenient punishments, while the manipulation had no effect on moral judgment.

Conclusions: Overall, the results suggest caution regarding previous findings indicating that hungry people punish more, and offer tentative evidence of the opposite effect under some conditions. We discuss possible reasons for the apparent inconsistencies between studies.

Keywords: Hunger Punishment Moral judgment Egalitarianism Decision making

Avoid News: Towards a Healthy News Diet. By Rolf Dobelli

Avoid News: Towards a Healthy News Diet. Rolf Dobelli. 2010. https://www.gwern.net/docs/culture/2010-dobelli.pdf

"This article is the antidote to news. It is long, and you probably won’t be able to skim it. Thanks to heavy news consumption, many people have lost the reading habit and struggle to absorb more than four pages straight. This article will show you how to get out of this trap –if you are not already too deeply in it."

No 1 – News misleads us systematically

No 2 – News is irrelevant

No 3 – News limits understanding

No 4 – News is toxic to your body

No 5 – News massively increases cognitive errors

No 6 – News inhibits thinking

No 7 – News changes the structure of your brain

No 8 – News is costly

No 9 – News sunders the relationship between reputation and achievement

No 10 – News is produced by journalists

Good professional journalists take time with their stories, authenticate their facts and try to think things through. But like any profession, journalism has some (my note: most???) incompetent, unfair practitioners who don’t have the time–or the capacity–for deep analysis. You might not be able to tell the difference between a polished professional report and a rushed, glib, paid-by-the-piece article by a writer with an ax to grind. It all looks like news. My estimate: fewer than 10% of the news stories are original. Lessthan 1% are truly investigative. And only once every 50 years do journalists uncover a Watergate. [my note: I advise the author to re-examine mentioning Watergate, as per nos. 1, 10, 12, as a minimum]

No 11 – Reported facts are sometimes wrong, forecasts always <<< very, very frequently, but not always... that's why we keep reading the news and forecasts

No 12 – News is manipulative

No 13 – News makes us passive

No 14 – News gives us the illusion of caring

No 15 – News kills creativity

My comments: This is so so wrong in so many counts that I do not know where to start. And, despite this, it is also useful showing a need to avoid news generally. Could we say most, not all? Could we say it is best to avoid uncritical examination of the news? Or that maybe the general press is the one to avoid, but some subgroup, maybe the big economic press, is not to be avoided entirely? Or that local news is to be forgotten completely? Or that newspapers in countries where there is more informality or more people is more exaggerated talking, or the press is more economical with truth, are to be ignored?

Could it be that all press in Asia (except the London Times and maybe some Japanese newspapers), all of Africa (to know about Africa, check the London Times and the BBC) and all below the Rio Grande could very well be sent to oblivion, and just two newspapers could survive in the US (the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal)?

Conceptualizing News Avoidance: Towards a Shared Understanding of Different Causes

Conceptualizing News Avoidance: Towards a Shared Understanding of Different Causes and Potential Solutions. Morten Skovsgaard & Kim Andersen. Journalism Studies, Nov 11 2019. https://doi.org/10.1080/1461670X.2019.1686410

ABSTRACT: News avoidance is considered an increasing problem for the news industry and democracy at large. As news companies lose consumers, democracy loses the informed foundation for an engaged citizenry. Meanwhile, research on news avoidance is hampered by the lack of a common understanding of the phenomenon. In this conceptual study, we first review and discuss extant conceptualizations and operationalisations of news avoidance. Second, we present a model distinguishing two types of news avoidance—intentional and unintentional—depending on the underlying causes leading people to tune out. Third, we argue that different solutions apply to the two types of news avoidance. To engage intentional news avoiders, the news selection and news presentation must to be changed. To engage unintentional news avoiders, the opportunity structures provided in the media system must be more favourable towards inadvertent news exposure.

KEYWORDS: News avoidance, news consumption, media trust, news overload, media preferences, opportunity structures, inadvertent audiences


The presented model with intentional and unintentional news avoidance, their causes and potential solutions developed in this article offers a vantage point for future research on news avoidance. It serves as a foundation for more conceptual rigour when addressing questions concerning news avoidance, and it highlights a number of research agendas connected to news avoidance, which deserve further attention. For example, conditions for and effects of constructive journalism, journalistic credibility, slow journalism, and opportunity structures for inadvertent news exposure.

Even though the model invites systematic thinking about news avoidance, it also raises questions that are important to consider. First, the model cannot capture the full complexity of news avoidance and its causes and solutions. Any useful model must reduce reality, highlight patterns, and give a systematic overview over a broader phenomenon. Thus, a specific individual’s news avoidance might not fit cleanly into the boxes of the model as it can have several different causes that might not be easily disentangled. The two types of news avoidance should therefore be understood as ideal types that aid conceptual and systematic thinking about the concept. For instance, there is a fine line between intentional news avoidance due to news overload, where the individual actively averts the news, and unintentional news avoidance based on a plethora of content on display that leads an individual to opt for entertainment rather than news. In this situation, we need to know the exact constellation of preferences to determine whether the news avoidance is intentional or unintentional. This can be difficult because people are not always able to clearly express their preferences, and preferences are not clean and stable constructs (e.g., Swart, Peters, and Broersma 2017). The potential volatility of preferences stresses that news avoidance can also be a dynamic as well as a stable behaviour. Factors such as upbringing, socialization, education, existing political knowledge, and interest are known to affect an individual’s level of news exposure, and they can indirectly cause news avoidance through their impact on preferences. These structural factors add a rather stable layer to preferences and potentially constitute a “habitual” news avoidance that is the hardest to reverse because it would demand a broad societal effort. Other factors that impact preferences, however, are less stable, such as the individual’s mood,utility of the content, and the gratifications pursued (Webster 2014). These factors can lead to “situational” or periodic news avoidance that will more easily be affected by changes in selection and presentation of news.

The distinction between “habitual” and “situational” feeds into the normative question whether we should worry about news avoidance in the first place. While news exposure has a positive impact on political knowledge and engagement (e.g., Aalberg and Curran 2012; Norris 2000), some types of news have been shown to make people more cynical and pessimistic (e.g., Boukes and Vliegenthart 2017; Cappella and Jamieson 1997). Thus, news avoidance can have both negative and positive implications. However, changing the selection and presentation of news to reduce news avoidance, for instance, by selecting less negative news or by presenting solutions to the reported problems, may also reduce some of the negative effects generated by news exposure.

The extent to which news avoidance is a democratic problem cannot be determined by empirical studies of the effects of news alone. It also depends on the conception of democracy. In participatory or deliberative conceptions of democracy, on the one hand, citizens must be knowledgeable and must consistently be mobilized. Avoiding news will lead to less mobilization and less knowledge, and in these conceptions of democracy news avoidance is an obvious problem. On the other hand, in a competitive democracy, citizens should be mobilized to vote at regular competitive elections where they must have enough information to choose between different politicians (Strömbäck2005). The implication is that periodic or situational news avoidance might not be a huge problem if the individual is ready to “jump back in” during election time, during reporting on political misconduct, or in the case of other significant news (e.g., Strömbäck2017; Toff and Nielsen2018). This is what Schudson (1998) labelled the monitorial citizens. Habitual news avoidance, however, would still present a problem because habitual news avoiders would be unlikely to possess the information and knowledge needed to assess the political alternatives in an election.The negative democratic effects of news avoidance can also be alleviated if people manage to stay informed in other ways. We defined news as novel information about relatively recent affairs of public interest or importance provided by journalists.

In today’s media environment, however, political information is also prominent in other genres, such as satire, talk shows, and fictional political dramas (Holbert 2005). It is possible that people to a certain extent can update themselves via these genres without being exposed to news, but evidence is mixed (e.g., Baek and Wojcieszak 2009; Becker and Bode 2018),and the effects seem to depend on a positive motivation for news in the first place (Feldman 2013).

Nevertheless, these findings highlight that it is important to take into account how people process, make sense of, and engage with the information they encounter, be it news or other content that potentially carries political information (Swart, Peters, and Broersma 2017). Some news avoiders tend to rely on a “news find me” approach (Gil deZúñiga, Weeks, and Ardèvol-Abreu 2017; Toff and Nielsen2018). That is, if an issue covered by the news media is significant enough, it will find a way to them becauset hey rely on people in their network to keep them informed (e.g., Andersen and Hopmann2018; Druckman, Levendusky, and McLain2018). Obviously, this two-step flow demands that the people passing information on follow the news rather closely in the first place, and that the receivers are able to process and put into context the information that is encountered this way.

The questions raised above illustrate that news avoidance is a complex concept in need of systematic conceptualization and empirical study. The model developed and presented in this article provides a framework for thinking systematically about news avoidance, its causes, and its potential solutions, and the discussion highlights some of the important questions that empirical studies based on the model can help answer.

Conservatives have been previously reported to have better self-rated health compared to liberals; those voting for right-wing populist parties report worse health compared to conservatives

Right-wing populism and self-rated health in Europe: a multilevel analysis. Insa Backhaus, S Kino, G La Torre, I Kawachi. European Journal of Public Health, Volume 29, Issue Supplement_4, November 2019, ckz185.269, https://doi.org/10.1093/eurpub/ckz185.269

Background: Individuals who hew to a conservative political ideology have been previously reported to have better self-rated health compared to liberals. No studies have examined whether the correlation between right-wing ideology and health also holds for populism, a brand of politics that is gaining momentum throughout the world. We tested whether the association still holds for right-wing populists.

Methods: We analysed data from 24617 respondents nested within 18 European countries included in the 2016 European Social Survey. Multilevel analyses were conducted to assess the relationship between political ideology and self-rated health, adjusting for other individual covariates (happiness and social capital) and country-level characteristics (democracy type).

Results: Individuals who voted for right-wing populist parties were 43% more likely to report fair/poor health compared to traditional conservatives (OR = 1.43, 95% confidence interval 1.23 to 1.67). The association was attenuated after controlling for individual-level variables, including happiness and access to social capital (OR = 1.21, confidence interval 1.03 to 1.42). Higher levels of social capital (informal networks, OR = 0.40, 95% confidence interval 0.29 to 0.56; trust, OR = 0.82, 95% confidence interval 0.74 to 0.92) and happiness (OR = 0.18, 95% confidence interval 0.15 to 0.22) were protectively correlated with fair/poor self-rated health.

Conclusions: Individuals voting for right-wing populist parties report worse health compared to conservatives. It remains unclear whether ideology is just a marker for health-related practices, or whether the values and beliefs associated with a particular brand of ideology leads to worse health.

Key messages
.    There is a significant association between voting for right-wing populist parties and self-rated poor health.

.    Social capital was protectively correlated with self-rated health calling for renewed attention on the effects of social capital on political ideology and health.

Topic: democracy happiness politics social survey momentum attenuation multilevel analysis social capital

Surprise... Female macaques compete for ‘power’ and ‘commitment’ in their male partners

Female macaques compete for ‘power’ and ‘commitment’ in their male partners. Christine B. Haunhorst et al. Evolution and Human Behavior, November 18 2019. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2019.11.001

Abstract: The formation of male-female social bonds and the resulting competition among females for male partners is a core element of human societies. While female competition for a male partner outside the mating context is well studied in humans, evidence from non-human primates is scarce, and its evolutionary roots remain to be explored. We studied two multi male – multi female groups of wild Assamese macaques (Macaca assamensis), a species where females gain benefits from selectively affiliating with particular males. Using a behavioral data set collected over several years, we tested whether females competed over access to male social partners, whether success in competition was driven by female dominance rank, and which male traits were most attractive for females. We found assortative bonding by dominance rank between females and males, which together with females initiating and maintaining contact suggests direct female competition over males. Two male traits independently predicted male attractiveness to females: (1) current dominance rank, a measure of “power” or a male's ability to provide access to resources, and (2) prior male affiliation with immatures, a measure of a male's potential paternal proclivity or “commitment” to infant care. Both traits have been consistently identified as drivers of female partner choice in humans. Our study adds to the evidence that female competition for valuable male partners is not unique to humans, suggesting deep evolutionary origins of women's mate choice tendencies for ‘power’ and ‘commitment’.

From the author's 2016 PhD Thesis (Evolutionary origin of the human pair-bond –the adaptive significance of male-female relationships in wild Assamese macaques (Macaca assamensis), Thailand), https://ediss.uni-goettingen.de/bitstream/handle/11858/00-1735-0000-0023-3EBC-9/Dissertation_HaunhorstCB.pdf


In the following, I will combine hypotheses on the evolution of the human pair-bond and concealed ovulation to create a scenario how permanent pair-bonds may evolve or have evolved in Assamese macaques or humans, respectively. I will start with the assumption that in humans concealed ovulation evolved (or rather reliable sexual signals got lost) before the pair-bond evolved (Strassmann, 1981), like in Assamese macaques for reasons not debated here (but see Fürtbauer 2011for an elaborated theory). I will develop a theory how pair-bonds may evolve directly from multimale-multifemale groups with promiscuous mating system. Traits already featured by Assamese macaques (as introduced previously; Figure D3) will serve as baseline, and changes in ecological conditions as catalysts for evolutionary progression.

In Assamese macaques, the current social organization, social structure, and mating system (multimale-multifemale groups, promiscuous, social bonds between all sexes) may serve both sexes best in terms of maximizing reproductive output. The existence of dry and rainy season and the resulting seasonality in food availability favors seasonal breeding in females to time birth and lactation to highest food availability (van Schaik and van Noordwijk, 1985; Heesen et al., 2013). Given the hypothetical scenario that (for example due to climate change) seasonality may be less pronounced and food availability more or less spread evenly across the entire year, females may lose their strictly seasonal ovulation patterns (Fairbanks and McGuire, 1984). Though macaques may be less flexible to shift seasonal ovulation patterns than other primate species (Silk et al., 1981), Assamese macaques already feature prolonged sexual receptivity across four months during mating season (Fürtbauer et al., 2011a). Additionally, females may conceive later, and at the same time more often, when changed conditions favor reproduction. For instance, in 2013 infants were born between February and August, indicating a prolonged mating season, and though unexpected, the female with latest parturition gave birth again only 10 months later (personal observation; Ostner and Schülke, unpubl. data). Aseasonal food availability may also result in less clumped food patches and females ́ need to disperse further for foraging, leading to lowered male herding potential (Lukas and Clutton-Brock, 2013).

[Figure D3: Model for the evolution of pair-bonds in Assamese macaques. The current status of social structure and mating system in Assamese macaques at the top line, with its positive (+) or negative (-) influence on other traits, leading to pair-bonds. Details about necessary changes to lead to permanent pair-bonds can be found in the text.]

Female Assamese macaques would still feature concealed ovulation, resulting in lowered male-male competition for mating (Andelman, 1987; Marlowe and Berbesque, 2012), followed by a decreasing dominance skew in mate guarding ability of males. In turn, operational sex ratio may become more male-biased, because females spread receptive phases throughout the year leading to only a few fertile females at the same time, while the number of males would be constant. Male biased operational sex-ratio is supposed to be a prerequisite for the formation of stable pair-bonds (Quinlan and Quinlan, 2007). In human societies that are classified as monogamous, or serial monogamous, operational sex ratio is usually rather male-biased, while for polygynous populations the opposite holds true (Coxworth et al., 2015). On the other hand, a male biased operational sex-ratio leads again to enhanced male mating competition (Kvarnemo and Ahnesjö, 1996). The intensity of male competition should favor males successfully defending an existent bond, rather than searching for a new mate (Parker, 1974; Quinlan and Quinlan, 2007), particularly when concealed ovulation complicates finding mates at the time of ovulation. Males may then increase their chances for paternity by extending mate guarding for longer periods in which a female may be fertile (Palombit, 1999), leading to an enhanced certainty of paternity. In Assamese macaques, association patterns in the mating season already predict male paternity success with that female across all male dominance ranks (Ostner et al., 2013). At the current state dominant males still have priority of access to fertile females. If male monopolization potential is further lowered, all males may adopt strategies of prolonged associations over longer times to increase paternity success. Males should defend ratherlong-term mating relationships when facing costs by abandoning that relationship to search for another mate (Quinlan and Quinlan, 2007; Kokko and Jennions, 2008). Time may not be the restrictive condition, given that group-living is still enforced, because it holds benefits in terms of lowered predation risk and intergroup competition (Isbell, 1994; Sterck et al., 1997). However, if most females in a group are already taken by another male finding a new mate may be more complicated, resulting in unavoidable fighting risk. Additionally, in almost even operational sex ratios, female choice of partners may further lower male access to mates. Hence, in this scenario male access to multiple fertile females would be very low and abandoning an existent relationship may result in the female being fertilized by another male, while the former partner may not find a new mate.Aseasonal breeding may be followed by the females ́ needs to rely on increased male provisioning to overcome food scarcity in times of highenergy demands (i.e. birth and lactation) (Marlowe, 2003). In Assamese macaques, males do not provision females actively, but males may invest, or at least they do provide tolerance, into the female gaining more energy. This would lead to female partner choice based on traits other than dominance rank, but rather the male's willingness to provide paternal care (Strassmann, 1981; Geary, 2000). Given that males (if only accessing one fertile female) can only increase reproductive success, if the mother is in the physical condition to produce viable offspring, males should provide increased investment for the female during gestation and lactation. During lactation, the male may contribute the most to enhance his reproductive success by providing paternal care for the offspring he most likely sired (Clutton-Brock, 1988). Paternity confusion would then be lower than in a strictly promiscuous mating system, as males may havebetter knowledge of the female's mating history. This would be followed by an increase in male infanticide because most males can be certain of not being the sire of most of the infants. Hence, the male's investment in offspring protection would be mandatory to fend off potentially infanticidal males. Reappearing risk of infanticide may again lead to even tighter bonding between male and female during the highest risk of infanticide (van Schaik and Dunbar, 1990). Male care for female and offspring may also result in shortened interbirth intervals in females (cf. van Schaik and Dunbar 1990). When females reach fertility faster because of male help, the male may increase his own reproductive success further by staying with the same female, finally resulting in a permanent pair-bond.In humans now, strong male bonds may enable large societies consisting of multiple family groups (Chapais, 2013). In Assamese macaques, social bonds between adultmales are stable over several years (Kalbitz et al., 2016)and predictive of male-male coalitions (Schülke et al., 2010). Strong male bonds may increase successful defense of territories and hence overall female reproductive output through higher access to food resources (Boesch and Boesch-Achermann, 2000; Aureliet al., 2006). Additionally, for males within-group competition is lowered (Ostner and Schülke, 2014), and successful protection against incoming infanticidal males enhanced (van Schaik, 1996).

Predictability of the outcome of future interactions with the partner is important for the formation of permanent pair-bonds (Weinrich, 1977). In non-human primates emotional bookkeeping may allow long-term reciprocation between two individuals and create an environment of trust with for both individuals predictable interactions without advanced cognitive abilities (Schino and Aureli, 2010b, 2010c). The already established opposite-sex social bond in Assamese macaques may function as mediator to permanent pair-bonding, by means of predictability of future interactions with the partner. Male care, in terms of agonistic support and feeding tolerance, for females (and offspring) already exists in this species, although permanent pair-bonds are not presently existent. Male bonding is very pronounced in Assamese macaques, which would simplify the transition to rather male-bonded societies. So far, ecological conditions may favor the established social as well as mating system in Assamese macaques, but the traits required to switch social structure and mating system towards a permanently pair-bonded one are already existent.

Humans are the only species that build societies of multiple males and females living together, but with reproductive units that are entirely or primarily monogamous (Chapais, 2013). Considering that humans may also be the most successful extant species on earth, it is surprising that not more species adopted this system –in case that there is a connection. The permanent pair-bond, generated or followed by paternal care and male provisioning, builds the baseline for the development of large brains with increased cognitive abilities (Kaplan et al., 2000). Concealed ovulation in turn may have played a major role in the evolution of pair-bonds (Strassmann, 1981). The loss of this very distinctive and costly (Nunn, 1999)sexual signal in females may therefore have enforced pair-bonding in humans under certain ecologicalconditions. Both, synchrony in breeding and concealed ovulation lower male monopolization potential. Aseasonal breeding species with reliable indicators for ovulation fail to lower male mating competition and monopolization potential, making pair-bonding unattractive for males that can still enhance reproductive success by accessing several receptive females at a time. Seasonal breeding with concealed ovulation favors prolonged mate guarding activity by males only for the breeding season. Exclusively in aseasonal breeding species with concealed ovulation females would be able to prolong mate guarding, binding a particular male as potential sire to herself and resulting in paternal care, as suggested for humans (Hawkes, 2004).