Monday, November 25, 2019

Participants remembered their emotional responses more accurately than they predicted them. But, strikingly, they perceived their predictions to be more accurate than their memories.

Predicted and remembered emotion: tomorrow’s vividness trumps yesterday’s accuracy. Linda J. Levine et al. Memory, Nov 23 2019.

ABSTRACT: People rely on predicted and remembered emotion to guide important decisions. But how much can they trust their mental representations of emotion to be accurate, and how much do they trust them? In this investigation, participants (N = 957) reported their predicted, experienced, and remembered emotional response to the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. They also reported how accurate and vivid they perceived their predictions and memories to be, and the importance of the election. Participants remembered their emotional responses more accurately than they predicted them. But, strikingly, they perceived their predictions to be more accurate than their memories. This perception was explained by the greater importance and vividness of anticipated versus remembered experience. We also assessed whether individuals with Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory for personal and public events (N = 33) showed superior ability to predict or remember their emotional responses to events. They did not and, even for this group, predicting emotion was a more intense experience than remembering emotion. These findings reveal asymmetries in the phenomenological experience of predicting and remembering emotion. The vividness of predicted emotion serves as a powerful subjective signal of accuracy even when predictions turn out to be wrong.

KEYWORDS: Emotion, prediction, memory, phenomenology, Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory


Similarities found between predicted and remembered emotion

Emotion predictions and memories were similar in two
notable ways. First, participants both predicted and
remembered the intensity of their feelings about Trump’s
election fairly accurately. Past research has also shown
high accuracy when people predict or remember the intensity
of their feelings about events (e.g., Doré et al., 2016;
Kaplan et al., 2016; Lench et al., 2019; Levine et al., 2012).
Far less accuracy is found when people predict or remember
their general emotional experience, a judgment that
encompasses multiple features of emotion including intensity,
duration, and mood (e.g., Wilson et al., 2000). Second,
participants’ perceptions of the accuracy of their predictions
and memories were strongly related to their vividness
but weakly related to their actual accuracy. The phenomenological
cues of vividness and fluency can render people
poor judges of how much they have learned and will
later remember (Benjamin et al., 1998; Kruger & Dunning,
1999). We found that vividness was not a particularly
reliable guide to the actual accuracy of predicted and
remembered emotion.

Remembered emotion is more trustworthy, predicted emotion is more trusted

Predicted and remembered emotion also differed in important
ways. Participants remembered their emotional
response to Trump’s victory more accurately than they predicted
it. They also perceived their memories to be more
detailed than their predictions. Bringing to mind past
experiences and imagining future ones both involve
drawing from a complex body of knowledge (Conway &
Loveday, 2015). However, imagining future experiences
requires more cognitive acrobatics, including extracting
details from past experiences and flexibly recombining
them into a novel experience (Schacter et al., 2012; Schacter
& Addis, 2007). To simulate how they would feel in the
future if Trump won the election, participants had to piece
together episodic memories of related past experiences
and draw on semantic knowledge and appraisals. In contrast,
episodic detail about their actual emotional response
to Trump’s victory was available to participants after the
election. This likely explains why participants remembered
their emotional experience more accurately than they predicted
it. Despite the greater accuracy of memory than prediction,
the main group of participants perceived their
predictions to be more accurate. They also perceived
their predictions to be more vivid than their memories,
even adjusting for the extremity of emotion predicted
and remembered. Specifically, compared to remembering
their feelings, participants perceived the experience of predicting
their feelings to be more intense, accompanied by a
greater sense of experiencing the event, and easier to bring
to mind.

Why did participants perceive predicted emotion to be
more accurate than remembered emotion when the
reverse was the case? Emotions likely evolved to motivate
action (Miloyan & Suddendorf, 2015). Future events can be
acted on and changed but past events cannot, so people
accommodate to them (Frederick & Loewenstein, 1999;
Wilson & Gilbert, 2008). This inherent asymmetry endows
the future with greater importance than the past (Van
Boven & Caruso, 2015). Extending this view, we proposed
that the greater importance of future emotional experiences
makes predictions particularly vivid, rendering
people vulnerable to misjudging their accuracy. Consistent
with this proposal, participants viewed the outcome of the
2016 presidential election as more important when it was a
future possibility than a past certainty. Greater importance
was associated with perceiving representations of emotion
to be more accurate. Analyses of indirect effects further
showed that the association between greater importance
and perceived accuracy was fully explained by participants’
more vivid phenomenological experience when predicting
than remembering emotion. These findings suggest that
viewing an event as more important before it occurs
than afterwards imbues predicted emotion with greater
vividness than remembered emotion, which in turn is
linked to perceiving emotion predictions to be more accurate
than memories.
Researchers often use the term “vividness” to refer to
the clarity and detail of visual imagery when people
remember past experiences or imagine future ones (e.g.,
D’Argembeau & Van der Linden, 2004; Rubin & Kozin,
1984). Retrospection is typically associated with greater
visual clarity and detail than prospection (e.g., Cole & Berntsen,
2016). However, phenomenological properties other
than detailed imagery contribute to the vividness of
mental representations (Habermas & Diel, 2013; Kensinger,
Addis, & Atapattu, 2011; Van Boven & Ashworth, 2007). For
example, a person’s memory of their recent drive to the
grocery store might be clear and detailed but lackluster.
A person’s memory of their recent near miss on the
freeway might lack clarity and detail but be vivid. Core features
of an experience can come to mind with ease, as if
they were happening in the moment, and accompanied
by intense emotion, even if a representation is not
especially detailed (Kensinger et al., 2011). In the current
investigation, these properties of ease, experiencing, and
intensity, rather than detail, characterised anticipated
emotion more than remembered emotion.

Factors associated with the accuracy of emotion predictions and memories

We also examined two factors that we expected to be
associated with greater accuracy in representations of
emotion. Past research shows that, as episodic memory
for emotion fades, people rely on their current semantic
appraisals of the emotion-eliciting event (e.g., “How good
or bad is this event for my goals?”) to reconstruct how
they must have felt. The more people’s appraisals change
over time, the less accurately they remember how they
felt (e.g., Kaplan et al., 2016; Levine, 1997; Robinson &
Clore, 2002). In the current investigation, greater stability
in participants’ appraisals of whether Trump’s election
was good for the country was associated with greater
accuracy in their memory for how they had felt. Extending
past research, greater stability in appraisals was also associated
with greater accuracy in predicting emotion. These
findings suggest that people draw on their semantic
appraisals of events both to remember how they felt in
the past and to simulate how they will feel in the future.
We also examined whether people with detailed and
accurate episodic memories of autobiographical experiences
were better than others at remembering or predicting
emotional responses to experiences. Individuals with
Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory perform similarly
to controls on many standard cognitive tests (e.g.,
mental imagery, attention; LePort et al., 2017). They also
show similar susceptibility to memory bias when presented
with misleading post-event information (Patihis et al.,
2013). Thus, these individuals do not appear to encode personal
or public events in a unique way but they retain representations
of the events they experienced in greater
detail and for far longer than controls, suggesting unusually
efficient memory consolidation and retrieval
(LePort et al., 2012, 2016, 2017). Emotion is an important
part of autobiographical experience but memory for
emotion had never been tested in this group.
We found that participants with HSAM did not differ
from other participants in the accuracy with which they
predicted or remembered emotion. They also did not
differ from others in the perceived accuracy of emotion
predictions or memories, though they did perceive their
memories to be more detailed. Like the main group, participants
with HSAM found predicting emotion to be a more
intense experience than remembering emotion. Taken
together, these findings highlight differences between
remembering the “what”, “where”, and “when” of events
(Tulving, 2002), which individuals with HSAM do with extraordinary
accuracy and detail, and predicting or remembering
feelings about events. These findings again highlight
the important contribution of semantic appraisals to representation
of emotion. The consistency of semantic
appraisals (e.g., how good or bad is this outcome for my
goals) was associated with greater accuracy in representations
of emotion; having superior episodic memory for
events that may evoke emotion was not. The exceptional
abilities of individuals with HSAM do not appear to
extend to this type of semantic knowledge about the self.
Researchers have speculated that experiencing events
with heightened emotional intensity may be one mechanism
underlying the ability of individuals with HSAM to
retain details of autobiographical and public events
(McGaugh, 2017). However, HSAM participants did not
experience more intense emotion in response to the election
compared to the main group of participants at any
time point. These individuals also remember neutral information
more accurately than controls, such as conversations
about their day during a lab session the previous
week (LePort et al., 2017). Thus, heightened emotional
arousal is not likely to be a primary mechanism underlying
this group’s superior memory for autobiographical events.
In summary, superior memory for personal and public
events did not confer superior ability to predict or remember
emotion. These findings refine our understanding of
the abilities and limitations of a unique group, and
suggest that emotional intensity is not the mechanism
underlying their abilities. The findings also point to important
differences between remembering episodic details of
autobiographical events versus emotions, and underscore
the compelling nature of anticipated emotion.

Later Life Sex Differences in Factors in Choosing a Long-Term Partner, Sexual Behaviors and Attitudes, and Sexual Fantasies

Later Life Sex Differences in Sexual Psychology and Behavior. Gavin Vance, Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford. [in press, Personality and Individual Differences, November 2019].

Abstract: Several sex differences in sexual psychology and behavior have been documented across cultures and across historical periods. These differences have been investigated almost exclusively inyoung adult samples, however. Using data secured from an older adult sample of retirement center residents in Southeast Florida, USA(n= 186, M= 67.00years), we assessed the replicability of several sex differences in sexual psychology and behavior in later life. Results replicate the sex differences identified in younger adult samples, including: (1) older men more than older women report interest in a greater number of sexual partners;(2) older men require less time before consenting to sex than do older women;(3)older men more than older women prioritize attractiveness in a prospective romantic partner, whereas older women more than older men prioritize good financial prospects; and (4) older men report a higher frequency of sexual arousal and sexual fantasies than do older women. Discussion addresses limitations of the current research and directions for future research addressing later life sex differences in sexual psychology and behavior.

Keywords: older adults; later life; sexual psychology; sexual behavior; sex differences; sexual fantasies


The results of the current study provide a compelling argument for the persistence of several sex
differences in sexual psychology and behavior among older adults, replicating the results of parallel research
on young adults. Older men desire a greater number of sexual partners than do older women, require less
time before consenting to sex, and fantasize about more sexual partners, indicating that sex differences in
sexual psychology and behavior identified in young adulthood persist into later life.

Factors in Choosing a Long-Term Partner

Older men report a preference for attractive long-term partners, as well as good housekeepers,
whereas older women report a preference for prospective partners with access to resources. Younger men
also prefer attractive long-term partners more than do younger women, indicating that attractiveness in a
long-term partner remains important for men into later life. Older women more than older men, in contrast,
report preferences for financial prospects, emotional stability, and ambition in a prospective long-term
partner. These findings are consistent with sex differences documented in younger adults; however, unlike
younger women, older women placed greater importance than did older men on emotional stability in a long term
partner (Buss et al., 2001). These results suggest that emotional stability in a long-term partner becomes
more important to women as they age, or less important to men as they age. This could be because older
women, relative to younger women, associate emotional stability more closely with earning potential or
because older women perceive emotional stability as indicative of a partner’s ability to provide adequate care
for them in their old age.

Sexual Behaviors and Attitudes

Older men are more likely than older women to report sex with someone other than their committed
romantic partner at some point in their lives, but were just as likely as older women to report that they had
been unfaithful to their current romantic partner. Because participants were asked about behaviors in the past,
it is perhaps not surprising that older men’s reported frequencies of infidelity and lifetime sexual partners are
similar to reports by younger men (Blumstein & Schwartz, 1983; Buss, 1989; Wiederman, 1997).
Consistent with sex differences identified in younger adults, older men desired more sexual partners
than did older women for every future time interval from 6 months to the remainder of their lives (Buss,
1989). Although nearly all (95.5%) of the older men reported that they were currently in a romantic
relationship, they also reported a desire for more sexual partners than did older women, only 63.7% of whom
reported that they were currently in a romantic relationship. Regardless of age or relationship status, men
desire a greater number of sexual partners than do women.

Relative to older women, older men report a greater likelihood of consenting to sex with a desirable
person after knowing that person for time periods ranging from one second to three months. Replicating sex
differences documented in younger adults, older men appear to be less interested in spending time getting to
know a prospective sexual partner than are older women (Buss, 1989). Given that older men desire more
sexual partners than do older women, it follows that they are more eager than older women to have sex with
a person they have known for a relatively short period of time.

Sexual Fantasies

Asking participants about their sexual fantasies provided further insight into the sexual desires of
older people, in addition to affording an opportunity to investigate whether these desires differ between older
men and older women in ways paralleling sex differences identified in younger adults. Older men, relative to
older women, report a greater frequency of sexual arousal and sexual fantasy, more imagined sexual partners
during their fantasies, and place greater importance on the facial and genital features of their imagined
partners. From these survey items, we documented not only that older men engage in certain sexual
behaviors more frequently than do older women, but also that the sexes differ markedly in reported sexual
arousal and desire. These results are notable because they indicate that, even if older adults are inaccurate in
their estimates of lifetime sexual partners, older men currently desire more sexual partners than do older
women. These sex differences in sexual fantasy replicate those documented in younger adults (Ellis &
Symons, 1990).

Microgravity and Cosmic Radiations During Space Exploration as a Window Into Neurodegeneration on Earth

Microgravity and Cosmic Radiations During Space Exploration as a Window Into Neurodegeneration on Earth. Giulia Sprugnoli, Yvonne D. Cagle, Emiliano Santarnecchi. JAMA Neurol. November 25, 2019. doi:

Astronauts involved in long-duration spaceflight missions are exposed to specific risk factors known to induce profound changes of brain structure and function whose potential long-lasting effects are still under investigation.1 These changes range from sleep alterations, modifications of brain morphometry, vision impairment, mood shifts, and loss of appetite as well as cognitive deficits, including decrements in attention and executive functions.2 Among the substantial list of stressors, the effects of microgravity and galactic cosmic radiations constitute the most relevant ones and are at the core of current and future NASA efforts to identify effective countermeasures. Interestingly, while reduced gravity force seems responsible for cephalad fluid shift that potentially affects protein clearance mechanisms, cosmic radiations seem to promote the accumulation of amyloid-β in mouse models, induce neuroinflammation, and further alter hippocampal-related cognition.2 Considering available evidence, a pattern of spaceflight-induced accelerated brain aging seems to emerge in addition to established aging-like effects on cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems (ie, carotid intima-media thickness increments, inflammatory response, bone loss, muscle atrophy, and DNA telomere modifications, as documented in the recent 1-year long NASA Twin Study1). While this raises important issues about astronauts’ health, it can also constitute a window into the neurophysiopathology of neurodegenerative processes in humans, which could potentially benefit life on Earth.

The Effect of Microgravity
Microgravity determines a conspicuous fluid shift from the lower to upper body (approximately 2 L, mostly on the venous compartment) because of the loss of hydrostatic gradient pressure, normally attracting fluid toward lower limbs.3 On the other hand, the effect of slightly elevated levels of carbon dioxide in the International Space Station is currently under investigation regarding the theoretical potential for arteriolar vasodilatation induction, similarly to what is typically observed after acute high-level carbon dioxide exposure on Earth.3 The loss of hydrostatic gradient seems to cause an imbalance of intracranial pressure (ICP) diurnal variation, now considered the most likely mechanism behind spaceflight-associated neuro-ocular syndrome (SANS3). In particular, nonpathological partial elevation in ICP during long-term missions (comparable with the nocturnal increase of ICP on Earth) could be transmitted to the subarachnoid space enveloping the optic nerve, consequently causing a pattern characterized by, for example, optic disc edema, hyperopic shifts, globe flattening, cotton-wool spots, and choroidal folds that is experienced by 40% of astronauts after long-term spaceflight.1 Data collected in the recently released NASA Twins study support this pathophysiological model, showing distension and increased pressure in the internal jugular veins as well as SANS signs,1 even though many potential additional factors should be considered, such as the role of reduced central venous pressure.3

Interestingly, venous congestion could also impair cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) outflow, which under normal conditions drains into the dural sinuses via the arachnoid granulations. If the CSF outflow is altered, it is reasonable to postulate that protein clearance might be negatively affected, leading to an accumulation of waste products in the brain, such as amyloid-β and tau protein.4 Moreover, the modification of brain structures experienced after a long-term space mission could also compress venous as well as lymphatic vessels responsible for CSF drainage. In this regard, Roberts and colleagues5 have showed how the subarachnoid space at the vertex of the head and in posterior brain regions is reduced in healthy nonastronaut participants undergoing a spaceflight analog-based experiment (ie, head-down tilt), a phenomenon also partially observed in astronauts after long-duration missions. Such “brain shift” could reduce CSF drainage at the level of arachnoid granulation (ie, vertex) into the meningeal lymphatic vessels. This also aligns with a proposed theory stating that the alteration of the CSF circulatory system may represent a potential substrate of Alzheimer disease (AD) and normal-pressure hydrocephalus (NPH) depending on the prevalent impaired mechanism being CSF production or reabsorption, respectively.4 Accordingly, the coexistence of AD and NPH has been repeatedly demonstrated, suggesting an association between the 2 disorders, even though the evidence is still limited. Interestingly, brain morphology alterations reported in astronauts closely resemble those of NPH (eg, ventriculomegaly, a narrowing of the vertex sulci, and a dilatation of the Sylvian fissures); however, they lack the classic clinical presentation (eg, gait apraxia and urinary incontinence). As recently suggested by Roberts and Petersen,6 hydrocephalus associated with long-term spaceflight (HALS) is likely to represent a peculiar syndrome caused by microgravity in which brain maladaptive mechanisms are to some extent similar to those observed on Earth. Presumably there is no single agent factor responsible for HALS, but rather a multifactorial pathogenesis with structural and functional changes leading up to a synergistic effect. Investigating HALS and SANS syndromes can help elucidate the complex association between exposure to space-related stressors, CSF dynamics, fluid shift, AD, and NPH, with possible insights for space exploration and clinical research on neurodegeneration.

Role of Cosmic Radiation
Within the same framework, cosmic radiation might also play a substantial role. Mice studies involving exposition to space-equivalent radiation (56Fe) doses demonstrate an increase of amyloid-β and fibrillary proteins that is paralleled by impaired cognition and behavior.2 Interestingly, the brain regions most sensitive to cosmic radiation in mice studies are the (1) hippocampus (associated with impairments in episodic and short-term memory as well as recognition and spatial learning) and (2) the prefrontal cortex, which is associated with the alteration of executive functions.2 Microscopically, these regions exhibit immature spine and a reduction of dendritic complexity/density, which are positively associated with the grade of memory impairments and persist for up to 1 year after irradiation. These cellular modifications are similar to those presented by neurodegenerative diseases within the dementia spectrum, with epigenetic studies showing how modifying DNA methylation status can lead to the impairment of memory and learning. Evidence of DNA methylations was also reported in the aforementioned Nasa Twin study1; however, its association with cognitive deficits has not been tested yet. Moreover, alterations of sleep patterns and sleep quality, typically experienced by astronauts during long-duration missions, can increase the accumulation of waste proteins in the brain, considering that perivascular and nonperivascular protein clearance is prominent during sleep. Additionally, anxiety and depression symptoms have been found in irradiated rodents along with a cognitive flexibility deficit, closely resembling symptoms reported by astronauts during sustained exposure to isolated confined environments. However, microgravity seems to indirectly affect the hippocampus as well, inducing oxidative stress mediated by glucocorticoid receptors and decreasing the quantity of β-synuclein responsible for the prevention of α-synuclein aggregation (increased in microgravity studies2). Importantly, although microgravity and cosmic radiation are discussed separately in this article, their association with brain physiology is likely due to a complex synergistic effect. For instance, microgravity-induced fluid shift could affect the dynamics of CSF production (eg, at the level of the choroid plexus) as well as reabsorption (eg, from arachnoid granulations), therefore affecting protein clearance in the context of an already increased level of circulating proteins in the parenchyma due to exposure to cosmic radiations. This, as well as many other potential interactions, should be mapped and addressed as part of a comprehensive multidisciplinary model including neuroimaging, electrophysiology, biological, and clinical data.

All this evidence suggests the opportunity to investigate brain adaptation to long-term spaceflight as a model of aging, possibly informing novel diagnostic markers and countermeasures with relevance for space exploration and patients on Earth. At the same time, recent pathophysiological models of AD and other dementias could be leveraged to adapt countermeasures currently being tested in patients. For instance, gamma aminobutyric acid—ergic dysfunction and inhibitory interneurons’ pathology are getting attention as a core element of Alzheimer pathophysiology, leading to cascade effects, including the deficit of high-frequency brain oscillatory activity, altered brain plasticity and excitation/inhibition balance, the accumulation of amyloid-β/tau proteins, and cognitive deficits. Novel noninvasive promising therapies are currently under investigation (eg, multisensory and transcranial electrical stimulation7) and could constitute a countermeasure to “accelerated aging” during spaceflight as well as on return to Earth.

As scientists and astronauts navigating the field of space-related aging research, we recognize the need for increasing integration between NASA efforts and academic research. Dedicated conferences and other opportunities for a guided exchange of knowledge could be promoted across federal and academic institutions (eg, the National Institute on Aging), possibly leading to access to facilities for high-complexity experiments (eg, irradiation chambers), novel analogs to mimic the association of microgravity with fluid shift and ICP in-vivo, and an overall simplification of data-sharing procedures. A synergistic effort between clinicians, scientists, and aerospace institutions is needed to ensure this unique opportunity for advancing science and benefitting patients and astronauts will not be missed.

References, etc., at the DOI above.

Merit Ptah, The Non-Existent “First Woman Physician”: Crafting of a Feminist History with an Ancient Egyptian Setting

Merit Ptah, “The First Woman Physician”: Crafting of a Feminist History with an Ancient Egyptian Setting. Jakub M Kwiecinski. Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, jrz058, November 22 2019.

Abstract: Merit Ptah is widely described as “the first woman physician and scientist” on the Internet and in popular history books. This essay explores the origins of this figure, showing that Merit Ptah came into being in the 1930s when Kate Campbell Hurd-Mead misinterpreted a report about an authentic ancient Egyptian healer. Merit Ptah gradually became a prominent figure in popular historical accounts during second-wave of feminism, and, in the twenty-first century she appeared in Wikipedia and subsequently spread throughout the Internet as a female (sometimes black African) founding figure. The history of Merit Ptah reveals powerful mechanisms of knowledge creation in the network of amateur historians, independently from the scholarly community. The case of Merit Ptah also pinpoints factors enabling the spread of erroneous historical accounts: the absence of professional audience, the development of echo chambers due to an obscured chain of knowledge transmission, the wide reach of the Internet, the coherence with existing preconceptions, the emotional charge of heritage, and even – in the case of ancient Egypt – the tendency to perceive certain pasts through a legendary lens. At the same time, the story of Merit Ptah reveals how important role models have been for women entering science and medicine.


The history of Merit Ptah provides no insight into ancient Egypt, but it could be a starting point for reflection on modern history-making practices. There is no single reason why an invented character, mentioned in a book nearly a century ago, has become a widespread piece of historic trivia. Instead, there is a tangle of explanations. Some of these are specific to the case of Merit Ptah, such as the peculiar popular perception of her ancient Egyptian setting. Others are generalizable for all kinds of amateur historymaking, popular memory, or even for mass-media news: the obscure chain of transmission, the spread outside the expert circles, the conformity to preexisting biases, and the association with emotionally-charged partisan issues. These facilitating factors – and some serendipity – turned the imaginary Merit Ptah into one of the few widely recognizable medical women of antiquity, obscuring her historically attested Egyptian colleagues.

Sometimes it is possible to separate different kinds of the past: the remembered (found in a popular memory), the recovered (a “history” reconstructed by scholars), or the invented (a past designed for a particular purpose).108 However, as the case of Merit Ptah illustrates, these kinds are intertwined more often than not. Invented and retold for a feminist purpose, her story was nevertheless created as a part of a recovery endeavor, and it eventually entered the collective memory. By collapsing the distinctions between different kinds of historical practice, and by straddling the divide between history and popular memory, the case of Merit Ptah demonstrates that “history is not the prerogative of the historian, nor even (...) a historian’s invention. It is, rather, a social form of knowledge.”109 Merit Ptah became famous not despite, but thanks to the amateur environment in which her story was curated. Developed by the interested parties in response to contemporary needs, her history fulfilled the demand for meaningful and usable past.

Merit Ptah’s story is a warning about over-reliance on secondary sources, and about misleading character of historical information in the Internet – including even seemingly well-sourced Wikipedia articles. At the same time, this story points to the way popular history authors can become influential creators of historical knowledge. It also showcases the power of Wikipedia and the Internet to spread this knowledge.

So is Merit Ptah “real”? From a strictly historical standpoint, she is not. No woman of this name was attested as a healer in ancient Egypt, and the entire story of Merit Ptah began in 1930s as a mistaken case of an authentic ancient Egyptian women healer, Peseshet. Yet throughout the nearly 100 years of her literary existence, Merit Ptah left a permanent mark on the world. Her namesake – the Venusian crater – is a lasting extraterrestrial geographical feature. At the same time, on planet Earth, Merit Ptah appears in the most diverse places, from computer games and superhero TV shows, through children’s adventure books, to names of medical social cooperatives and cancer-fighting societies.110 She inspired women to pursue careers in medicine and science. Her history, from the Hurd-Mead’s works to Internet blogs, tracks the evolution of the popular historiography of women’s achievements. She engaged with us in a way that most of past actors never did. Thus, while Merit Ptah is not an authentic ancient Egyptian character and not a good symbolic founding figure, she is a real symbol of the collective effort to write women back into history. She is a genuine hero of the modern feminist struggle.

Impeachment Non-Bombshells Endanger Democrats in 2020. Aaron Maté

Impeachment Non-Bombshells Endanger Democrats in 2020. Aaron Maté. The Nation, Nov 22 2019.

Unmerited hype about Gordon Sondland’s testimony has overshadowed the potential damage that the impeachment saga poses for the presidential election.

[full text, lots of references at the link above]

Two weeks of public hearings in the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump closed with widespread talk of a new “bombshell” that had sealed the case, and with it the fate of Trump’s presidency. But rather than producing a Watergate-like moment, the Ukrainegate testimony was far more akin to its predecessor, Russiagate, and accordingly, far more likely to produce the same disappointing result.

The basis for the excitement was the testimony of Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union. Sondland is one of the few witnesses to have actually spoken to Trump, and the only known US official said to have relayed to Ukrainian counterparts that money to purchase US weapons—known as “military aid” or “security sector assistance”—was conditioned on Kiev’s commitment to open investigations.

The consensus interpretation of Sondland’s testimony is that he confirmed that such a scheme transpired. Indeed, in his opening statement, Sondland asserted that there was a “quid pro quo” and that “everyone was in the loop.” Widely overlooked is that Sondland was not referring to the military funding. Instead, Sondland said that Rudy Giuliani told US officials and Ukrainians that a Ukrainian commitment to open investigations were “prerequisites” for a White House meeting and phone call sought by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. But leveraging a White House meeting or phone call is not the “quid” at the heart of the impeachment inquiry: leveraging military funding is. And on that front, Sondland’s testimony did not advance the Democrats’ case.

When questioning began, Sondland made clear that Trump never told him that the military funding was contingent on investigations. In fact, he said that Trump never mentioned that military funding at all. The idea that it was conditioned on the investigations did not come from Trump, but, as Sondland explained, from his own interpretation “in the absence of any credible explanation” for why the money had been frozen.

Asked by Representative Adam Schiff whether “the military assistance was also being withheld pending Zelensky announcing these investigations,” Sondland replied: “That was my presumption. My personal presumption based on the facts at the time. Nothing was moving.” He then told Democratic counsel Daniel Goldman the same thing: “President Trump never told me directly that the aid was conditioned on the meetings. The only thing we got directly from [Rudy] Guiliani was that the Burisma and 2016 elections were conditioned on the White House meeting. The aid was my own personal, you know, guess.” And yet again: “Nobody told me directly that the aid was tied to anything. I was presuming it was.”

Sondland repeated the same message again and again, including in this exchange with Republican Representative Mike Turner:

Rep Mike Turner No one on this planet told you that President Trump was tying aid to investigations. Yes or no?

Ambass Sondland Yes.

Rep Mike Turner So, you really have no testimony today that ties President Trump to a scheme to withhold aid from Ukraine in exchange for these investigations?

Ambass Sondland Other than my own presumption.

Because he was only operating off of his “own presumption,” Sondland also revealed that a critical conversation with a Ukrainian official, Andriy Yermak, was far less explosive than initially believed. Two US officials—Bill Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine, and Tim Morrison, a National Security Council aide—had testified that Sondland had linked the military funding to the investigations in a conversation with Yermak in Warsaw on September 1. This was a critical claim, as it potentially showed the first—and to this date, the only—explicit communication of such a linkage to the Ukrainian side.

But Sondland disclosed that he told Yermak exactly what he told Congress: that in the absence of an explanation for why the military aid had been frozen, he shared with his Ukrainian counterpart—in “a very, very brief pull-aside conversation”—that he merely presumed the freeze was tied to Ukraine’s willingness to announce an investigation:

And I don’t know if I came over to Yermak or he came over to me, but he said, “What’s going on here?” And I said, “I don’t know. It might all be tied together now, I have no idea.” I was presuming that it was, but it was a very short conversation.…
That was my presumption, my personal presumption based on the facts at the time, nothing was moving.

Sondland reiterated the point under questioning from Goldman, saying that he even told Yermak that: “I didn’t know exactly why” the freeze had been made, but that the investigations “could be a reason.”

Sondland’s presumption may well have been correct. The freeze on the military funding coincided with efforts by Trump officials to pressure the Ukrainian government to open investigations into alleged Ukrainian meddling in 2016 and Burisma, the Ukrainian firm where Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, obtained a lucrative board seat. But as I’ve written previously, a plausible presumption is not the same as evidence for a provable, impeachment-worthy case. And Sondland showed Congress that he only has the former. If he has no actual evidence that the military funding was linked to investigations (as he admitted in his testimony), then what he “presumed” and “believed” is just as useful for the purposes of an impeachment case as what anyone else presumed or believed. Another key US official, Kurt Volker, testified that he saw no such linkage at the time, and that he never conveyed such a connection to Ukraine (Volker has, however, revised his testimony to reflect that he now understands that an investigation of Biden was sought). And given that Sondland is the only known Trump official thought to have communicated the military funding precondition to the Ukrainian side, then he is in fact providing evidence that when such linkage, the basis for the impeachment case, was communicated to the Ukrainians, it was not at Trump’s behest.

If the evidence presented by the Democrats’ star witness is in fact only his “personal presumption” on the core issue, then Democrats face a major evidentiary hole. To date, no one else has filled it.

The impeachment hearings leave us with a gap between the evidence presented and the maximalist, “bombshell” interpretations drawn from it. That’s nothing new. The same dynamic drove Russiagate for nearly three years until it collapsed. And just like Russiagate, a major driver of Ukrainegate is an underlying hawkish posture toward Russia. It is abundantly clear that witness after witness disagreed with Trump’s decision to briefly freeze the military funding, and firmly believes that the United States should arm Ukraine in its conflict with Russian-backed forces in the Donbass region.

What is not at all clear is why anyone beyond Beltway war hawks should be enrolled in their Cold War designs. Schiff, the impeachment leader, declared that Ukrainians fighting Russian-backed forces are “fighting our fight too, to defend our country against Russian aggression.” In reality, Ukrainians are fighting a war that the United States helped start by backing the overthrow of a democratically elected Ukrainian government in 2014. President Barack Obama, who bears some responsibility for that war, tried to scale it back by rejecting intense Beltway pressure to send the military funding now at the heart of the impeachment inquiry. Among those national security state voices whose pleas Obama rebuffed was Bill Taylor, the Democrats’ opening witness.

If Democrats weren’t so invested in championing military spending that President Obama once resisted, they might see other phone calls beyond the July 25 Trump-Zelensky conversation to take issue with. In closed-door testimony, Pentagon official Laura Cooper revealed that concern about the frozen military funding arose after the defense department heard complaints from the funding’s prime beneficiaries: weapons manufacturers. After mid-August, Cooper said, “various folks in the Department started to get phone calls from industry”—the military industry that wanted its weapons purchased. “All of these US firms that were implementing [the weapons sales to Ukraine]—they were getting concerned,” Cooper added. So was the US Chamber of Commerce, which called her as well.

In a different time, a liberal opposition movement might be raising concerns of its own about war-profiteering phone calls; or the merits of fueling a war on the borders of the world’s other top nuclear power; or doing so in a way that arms and empowers far-right forces incorporated within the Ukrainian military. Instead, Democrats have been enlisted to champion that proxy war and the coffers of the military firms that profit from it.

The domestic consequences are no less important. As Democrats and media outlets devote endless hours to venerating a procession of hawkish bureaucrats and parsing their every word, issues that materially affect the lives of average voters are going—just as they were in the Russiagate era—largely ignored.

And for all of the speculation about a Trump presidency in peril and Republicans jumping ship, some signs point in a different direction. “As a political matter, the longer this goes, it is a real opportunity for Republicans to paint Democrats as unconcerned about the issues voters care more about,” a Republican strategist told The New York Times. Eyeing that chance, Republicans are discussing a strategy that would prolong a Senate impeachment trial as long as possible so as to overshadow the Democratic primary—“potentially keeping six contenders in Washington until the eve of the Iowa caucuses or longer,” The Washington Post notes.

Two of those contenders include the leading progressive candidates, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Couple the prospect of slowing their momentum with an impeachment process that to date has failed to substantiate its core allegation, and it is hard not to wonder if Democrats are staging a Russiagate sequel in more ways than one: “bombshells” that fizzle out, dangerous Cold War chauvinism emboldened, and Trump handed another gift for the fast-approaching 2020 campaign.

Aaron Maté is a frequent contributor to The Nation and the host of the new show Pushback, airing on The Grayzone.

We argue against a “post-truth” interpretation, whereby people deliberately share false content because it furthers their political agenda

Pennycook, Gordon, Ziv Epstein, Mohsen Mosleh, Antonio A. Arechar, Dean Eckles, and David G. Rand. 2019. “Understanding and Reducing the Spread of Misinformation Online.” PsyArXiv. November 13. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: The spread of false and misleading news on social media is of great societal concern. Why do people share such content, and what can be done about it? In a first survey experiment (N=1,015), we demonstrate a dissociation between accuracy judgments and sharing intentions: even though true headlines are rated as much more accurate than false headlines, headline veracity has little impact on sharing. We argue against a “post-truth” interpretation, whereby people deliberately share false content because it furthers their political agenda. Instead, we propose that the problem is simply distraction: most people do not want to spread misinformation, but are distracted from accuracy by other salient motives when choosing what to share. Indeed, when directly asked, most participants say it is important to only share accurate news. Accordingly, across three survey experiments (total N=2775) and an experiment on Twitter in which we messaged N=5,482 users who had previously shared news from misleading websites, we find that subtly inducing people to think about the concept of accuracy decreases their sharing of false and misleading news relative to accurate news. Together, these results challenge the popular post-truth narrative. Instead, they suggest that many people are capable of detecting low-quality news content, but nonetheless share such content online because social media is not conducive to thinking analytically about truth and accuracy. Furthermore, our results translate directly into a scalable anti-misinformation intervention that is easily implementable by social media platforms.

Given the greater complexity of the experimental design and tweet data, there are numerous reasonable ways to analyze the data. For simplicity, we focus on an analysis in which both primary tweets and retweets are analyzed, data is excluded from one day on which a technical issue led to randomization failure, and the simplest admissible model structure is used (wave fixed effects, p-values calculated in the standard fashion using linear regression with robust standard errors clustered on user); and then assess robustness to varying the specification.
Consistent with our survey experiments, we find clear evidence that the accuracy message made users more discerning in their subsequent sharing decisions. Relative to baseline, the accuracy message increased the average quality of the news sources shared, t(5481)=2.61, p=0.009, and the total quality of shared sources summed over all posts, t(5481)=2.68, p=0.007, by 1.9% and 3.5% respectively. Furthermore, the treatment roughly doubled the level of sharing discernment (0.05 more mainstream than misinformation links shared per user-day pre-treatment; 0.10 more mainstream than misinformation links shared per user-day post-treatment; interaction between post-treatment dummy and link type, t(5481)=2.75, p=0.006). Conversely, we found no significant treatment effect on the number of posts without links to any of the 60 rated news sites, t(5481)=.31, p=0.76, which is consistent with the specificity of the treatment.
This pattern of results is not unique to one particular set of analytic choices. Figure 3C shows the distribution of p-values observed in 96 different analyses assessing the treatment effect on average quality, summed quality, or discernment under a variety of analytic choices. Of these analyses, 80.2% indicate a significant positive treatment effect (and none of 32 analyses of posts without links to a rated site find a significant treatment effect). For statistical details, see SI.
Finally, we examine the data at the level of the domain (Figure 3D). We see that the treatment effect is driven by increasing the fraction of rated-site posts with links to mainstream new sites with strong editorial standards such as the New York Times, and decreasing the fraction of rated-site posts that linked to relatively untrustworthy hyperpartisan sites such as the Daily Caller. Indeed, a domain-level pairwise correlation between fact-checker rating and change in sharing due to the intervention shows a very strong positive relationship (domains weighted by number of pre-treatment posts; r=0.70). In sum, our accuracy message successfully induced Twitter users who regularly shared misinformation to increase the quality of the news they shared.
Together, these studies shed new light on why people share misinformation, and introduce a new class of interventions aimed at reducing its spread. Our results suggest that, at least for many people, the misinformation problem is not driven by a basic inability to tell which content is inaccurate, or a desire to purposefully share inaccurate content. Instead, our findings implicate inattention on the part of people who are able to determine the accuracy of content (if they put their mind to it) and who are motivated to avoid sharing inaccurate content (if they realize it is inaccurate). It seems as though people are often distracted from considering the content’s accuracy by other motives when deciding what to share on social media – and therefore, drawing attention to the concept of accuracy can nudge people toward reducing their sharing of misinformation.
These findings have important implications for theories of partisan bias, political psychology, and motivated reasoning. First, at a general level, the dissociation we observed between accuracy judgments and sharing intentions suggests that just because someone shares a piece of news on social media does not necessarily mean that they believe it – and thus, that the widespread sharing of false or misleading partisan content should not necessarily be taken as an indication of the widespread adoption of false beliefs or explicit agreement with hyperpartisan narratives. Furthermore, our results sound a rather optimistic note in an arena which is typically much more pessimistic: rather than partisan bias blinding our participants to the veracity of claims (Kahan, 2017; Kahan et al., 2017), or making them knowing disseminators of ideologically-confirming misinformation (Hochschild & Einstein, 2016; McIntyre, 2018; Petersen et al., 2018), our results suggest that many people mistakenly choose to share misinformation because they were merely distracted from considering the content’s accuracy.
Identifying which particular motives are most active when on social media – and thus are most important for distracting people from accuracy – is an important direction for future work. Another issue for future work is more precisely identifying people’s state of belief when not reflecting on accuracy: Is it that people hold no particular belief one way or the other, or that they tend to assume content is true by default (31)? Although our results do not differentiate between these possibilities, prior work suggesting that intuitive processes support belief in false headlines (10, 32) lends some credence to the latter possibility. Similarly, future work should investigate why most people think it is important to only share accuracy content (33) – differentiating, for example, between an internalized desire for accuracy versus reputation-based concerns. Finally, future work should examine how these results generalize across different subsets of the American population, and – even more importantly – cross-culturally, given that misinformation is a major problem in areas of the world that have very different cultures and histories from the United States.
From an applied perspective, our results highlight an often overlooked avenue by which social media fosters the spread of misinformation. Rather than (or in addition to) the phenomenon of echo chambers and filter-bubbles (34, 35), social media platforms may actually discourage people from reflecting on accuracy (36). These platforms are designed to encourage users to rapidly scroll and spontaneously engage with feeds of content, and mix serious news content with emotionally engaging content where accuracy is not a relevant feature (e.g., photos of babies, videos of cats knocking objects off tables for no good reason). Social media platforms also provide immediate quantified social feedback (e.g., number of likes, shares, etc.) on users’ posts and are a space which users come to relax rather than engage in critical thinking. These factors imply that social media platforms may, by design, tilt users away from considering accuracy when making sharing decisions.
But this need not be the case. Our treatment translates easily into interventions that social media platforms could employ to increase users' focus on accuracy. For example, platforms could periodically ask users to rate the accuracy of randomly selected headlines (e.g. “to help inform algorithms”) – thus reminding them about accuracy in a subtle way that should avoid reactance. The platforms also have the resources to optimize the presentation and details of the messaging, likely leading to effect sizes much larger than what we observed here in the proof-of-concept offered by Study 5. This optimization should include investigations of which messaging and sample headlines lead to the largest effects for which subgroups, how the effect decays over time (our stepped-wedge design did not provide sufficient statistical power to look beyond a 24 hour window), how to minimize adaptation to repeated exposure to the intervention (e.g. by regularly changing the form and content of the messages), and whether adding a normative component to our primarily cognitive intervention can increase its effectiveness. Approaches such as the one we propose could potentially increase the quality of news circulating online without relying on a centralized institution to certify truth and censor falsehood.

Stress-tested banks have sharply reduced home equity loans to small businesses; & counties with a higher exposure to those banks have seen a decline in patent applications by young firms, as well as a fall in labour productivity

Unintended side effects: stress tests, entrepreneurship, and innovation. Sebastian Doerr. BIS Working Papers, No 823, November 22 2019.

Regulators have introduced stress tests for the largest banks with the aim of ensuring that they hold enough capital to withstand another crisis. Stress tests have effectively reduced systemic risk and improved risk management and capital planning at individual institutions. However, policymakers and academics worry about the potential negative effects on credit and the real economy. This paper investigates how regulatory stress tests may have affected entrepreneurship in the United States.

Contributing to the literature that highlights some negative consequences of stress tests on credit supply to small businesses, this paper presents new evidence on the real effects of financial regulation. Regulatory stress tests for the largest banks might have an unintended side effect by curtailing credit to young businesses, which are especially dependent on external financing. The contraction in lending has the potential to stymie entrepreneurship and innovation. This novel channel, through which stress tests dampen economic dynamism, could help to explain the persistent decline in entrepreneurship since the crisis.

Stress-tested banks have sharply reduced home equity loans to small businesses, an important source of financing for entrepreneurs. The resulting contraction in loan supply has affected the real economy. By exploiting geographical variation in county exposure to stress-tested banks, the paper shows that counties with a higher exposure have experienced a relative decline in employment at young firms during the recovery, especially in industries that rely more on home equity financing.

Additional findings also suggest that counties with a higher exposure to stress-tested banks have seen a decline in patent applications by young firms, as well as a fall in labour productivity. The latter finding reflects the disproportionate contribution of young firms to innovation and growth. While the results do not imply that stress tests have reduced overall welfare, they highlight a possible trade-off between financial stability and economic dynamism.

Abstract: Post-crisis stress tests have helped to enhance financial stability and to reduce banks' risk-taking. In order to quantify their overall impact, regulators have turned to evaluating the effects of stress tests on financing and the real economy. Using the U.S. as a laboratory, this paper shows that stress tests have had potentially unintended side effects on entrepreneurship and innovation at young firms. Banks subject to stress tests have strongly cut small business loans secured by home equity, an important source of financing for entrepreneurs. Lower credit supply has led to a relative decline in entrepreneurship during the recovery in counties with higher exposure to stress tested banks. The decline has been steeper in sectors with a higher share of young firms using home equity financing, i.e. where the reduction in credit hit hardest. Counties with higher exposure have also seen a decline in patent applications by young firms. I provide suggestive evidence that the decline in credit has negatively affected labor productivity, reflecting young firms' disproportionate contribution to growth. My results do not imply that stress tests reduce welfare, but highlight a possible trade-off between financial stability and economic dynamism. The effects of stress tests on entrepreneurship should be taken into account when evaluating their effectiveness.

JEL codes: G20, G21, L26
Keywords: stress tests, small business lending, entrepreneurship, innovation, productivity slowdown

Infidelity: Men indicated significantly higher jealousy to sexual as opposed to emotional messages with the reverse pattern evident in women; women & men differed in jealousy when her sister & his brother were involved

Infidelity-Revealing Snapchat Messages Arouse Different Levels of Jealousy Depending on Sex, Type of Message and Identity of the Opposite Sex Rival. Michael J. Dunn, Kayleigh Ward. Evolutionary Psychological Science, August 13 2019.

Abstract: Research highlighting sex-differentiated jealousy resulting from imagined scenarios has now been reaffirmed when the infidelity-revealing message is discovered on a social media platform. Participants in the current study were presented with both sexually and emotionally charged infidelity-revealing scenarios featuring a same-sex sibling, a friend and a stranger in the format of a ‘Snapchat’ message. Men indicated significantly higher jealousy to sexual as opposed to emotional messages with the reverse pattern evident in women. Sex differences were also evident in the extent of jealousy elicited by ‘third-party’ identity. Women were significantly more jealous when the imagined infidelity occurred between their sister compared to both a best friend and a stranger with males showing significantly lower jealousy directed towards their brother compared to a stranger. These findings are supportive not only of a parental investment (PI) interpretation of sex differences in jealousy but also an interpretation consistent with aspects of inclusive fitness theory.

Keywords: Infidelity Snapchat Evolutionary psychology Jealousy type Sex differences Genetic relatedness


The central thrust of the current research was to (1) establish if sex differences existing in jealousy manifestation upon the discovery of infidelity-revealing social media (Snapchat) messages are reflective of those found in the offline world and (2) to explore the extent to which feelings of jealousy elicited by imagined infidelity discovered whilst snooping on a partner’s Snapchat account differ depending on the identity of the third party. Broad support for the evolutionary psychological perspective was found as women reported more jealousy to emotional than sexual infidelity and higher emotional jealousy overall in comparison to males, whereas males reported higher jealousy to sexual as opposed to emotional partner infidelity. No differences were recorded however between men and women with regard to jealousy elicited by sexual infidelity. The identity of the ‘other-person’ was also shown to have a considerable bearing on reported jealousy and, once again, intriguing sex differences were evident. Women experienced significantly higher jealousy when the same-sex rival was a sibling than when the rival was either a best friend or a stranger. Conversely, men reported significantly lower imagined infidelity-elicited jealousy directed towards their own brother than imagined infidelity-elicited jealousy occurring between their partner and a same-sex stranger.
Firstly, the current study augments a growing body of research showing modest yet consistent sex differences in jealousy manifestation resulting from the discovery of infidelity online with women showing more pronounced emotional jealousy than sexual jealousy, and men more pronounced sexual jealousy than emotional jealousy (Dunn and Billett ; Dunn and McLean ; Groothof et al. ; Guadagno and Sagarin ; Hudson et al. ; Muise et al. ). These findings are supportive of sex differences consistently reported in offline jealousy-evoking scenarios (Archer ; Cann et al. ; Cramer et al. ; Fernandez et al. ; Harris ; Harris and Christenfeld ; Pietrzak et al. ; Schützwohl ; Schützwohl and Koch ). The findings also challenge the criticism that sex differences in jealousy are only evident using a forced-choice paradigm. Just as in the case of Bendixen et al. (), sex differences in the current study were found using continuous measures. In utilising Snapchat, this study has revealed that sex differences in jealousy manifestation in response to partner infidelity discovery are not restricted to text messages (Dunn and McLean ) or Facebook (Dunn and Billett ). One hypothesis, however, ‘males will be significantly more jealous over the sexual messages than females’, was not supported. A plausible explanation for this is that society may have become more sexualised over recent years (Gill ) and females have become more promiscuously inclined (Thornhill and Gangestad ) and more likely to engage in infidelity (Brand et al. ). Possibly, the enhanced opportunity to engage in online infidelity has resulted in both sexes becoming extra-vigilant of sexual betrayal. In a similar vein, Klettke et al. () published a systematic literature review revealing no differences in the prevalence of sexting behaviour between men and women.
One unexpected finding relates to the fact that women were shown to be more jealous by the thought of infidelity occurring between their partner and their sister than between their partner and both their best friend or with a stranger. Biegler and Kennair () found that when asked to list the relevance of traits either for their own or their sisters’ idealised long-term partner even though they agreed on the majority of traits, differences were reported. Participants emphasised the importance of genetic fitness for their own idealised partners compared to what they thought would be good for their sister’s idealised partner, e.g. that their sister’s potential partners would prioritise extended family members. Consequently, there would be more direct rivalry between sisters for access to the best genetic mates during ovulation and these evolved mechanisms of heightened jealousy have filtered down to the modern technological world. In summary, the current study found that female relatives appear to possess more actual and genetic conflict than male relatives (Biegler and Kennair ) with sisters perhaps being more emotionally invested in each other than brothers (Fletcher et al. ).
One finding of particular prominence and significance in the current study is the fact that men were more tolerant of the distressing thought of infidelity revealed by a Snapchat message between their partner and their own brother than they were between their partner and a same-sex stranger. This is in direct contradiction of previous research findings showing that when invited to imagine partners having cheated, participants evidenced significantly higher distress when the partner infidelity was with a relative compared to a non-relative (Fisher et al. ). Kostic and Yadon () have argued that such higher distress may be explained by the fact that this is related to greater feelings of closeness with genetically related relatives. The current study differed in one prominent way from these earlier studies in that the jealousy-evoking scenarios were contextualised within a social media platform. The mitigation of jealousy by genetic relatedness in this case could be explained once again by adopting an evolutionary interpretation. Evolutionary psychology, like all scientific movements is guided by and owes enormous gratitude to the formulation and inception of key seminal theories. Hamilton’s (, ) inclusive fitness theory is one such theory. Not only did the theory solve the seemingly imponderable mystery of the existence of altruism in nature, it also allowed researchers to construct and test intricate hypotheses relating to a range of social behaviours. One key postulate is that individuals should show greater selfish restraint, and behave altruistically, when interacting with closer genetic relatives including those who are not directly related, e.g. sibling’s offspring (Hamilton , ). In support of the theory, countless studies have shown that in a social context as genetic relatedness diminishes so does the degree of altruism directed from the donor to the recipient (Essock-Vitale and McGuire ; Burnstein et al. ; Korchmaros and Kenny ) with genetic relatedness being a strong predictor of subjective closeness (Stewart-Williams ). Apparent concerns for inclusive fitness costs pertaining to infidelity have been shown in a study where participants, regardless of their own sex, expressed most distress by a brother’s partner’s sexual infidelity and a sister’s partner’s emotional infidelity (Michalski et al. ). In summary, the current study illustrates that Hamilton’s inclusive fitness theory is still relevant today in the technological era of ‘Snapchat’ at least with regard to explaining male jealousy attenuation to partner/sibling infidelity. After all, extra-pair copulation between a man’s partner and a brother may still result nevertheless in genetically related offspring enhancing that man’s inclusive fitness.
Before concluding, it is worthwhile pointing out potential weaknesses in the methodology of the study. Since the incorporation of scenario methods into research pertaining to infidelity and jealousy, and in an attempt to address challenges to the evolutionary position presented by authors such as DeSteno and Salovey (), researchers have repeatedly attempted to present sexual and emotional infidelity scenarios as being mutually exclusive (Buss et al. ). When constructing infidelity-revealing messages in a social media context, it is difficult for example to create an emotional infidelity scenario without at least hinting at the potential for future sexual liaison and vice versa. In addition to emphasising message ‘ecological validity’, future studies need to further disambiguate the two by for example making it clear that sexual infidelity is restricted to sexual cheating alone without any emotional involvement. For example, current research in our laboratory uses wording contained within a message such as ‘we both know our affair will only ever be sexual’ or ‘no-strings attached’ sexual fun.
In conclusion and in support of previous findings, it is argued that manifestly different jealousy inclinations in both sexes evolved as they were advantageous during the time of our EEA to help solve adaptive problems differentially pertinent to each sex (Geher and Miller ; Hart ). Moreover, the current study has provided evidence that sex differences in jealousy extend farther than purely inclinations towards jealousy type; there may also be sex differences in the extent to which third-party identity evokes jealousy. Miscellaneous adaptations pertaining to jealousy appear impervious to change in the current technological age. With a current pandemic in social media–mediated, jealousy-elicited infidelity, research utilising fictitious, jealousy-evoking scenarios may help shed light on, and hopefully mitigate, societal and personal problems associated with this phenomenon.

Evolved antisuicide defenses may account for many otherwise puzzling aspects of humans, like susceptibility to depression, addictions, self-harm, & certain other symptoms, posited to be protective responses to suicidogenic pain

Adaptation to the Suicidal Niche. C. A. Soper. Evolutionary Psychological Science, December 2019, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp 454–471.

Abstract: Primarily a precis of the book The Evolution of Suicide (Soper 2018), this article argues that behaviorally modern humans are specifically adapted to survive in what the author calls the “suicidal niche,” an ecological arena characterized by the endemic fitness threat of deliberate self-killing. A “pain-and-brain” model of suicide’s evolution is proposed, which explains suicide as a noxious by-product of two adaptations combined: the aversiveness of pain, which demands that the organism act to end or escape it, and the cognitive sophistication of the mature human brain, which offers self-killing as an effective means to satisfy that demand for escape. These “pain” and “brain” primary adaptations are posited to be both sufficient conditions for suicide and universal among mature humans, which suggests that the fitness threat of suicide would have posed a predictable and severe adaptive problem in the evolution of our species. Adaptive solutions, which emerged to address the problem, are hypothesized to be psychological and sometimes culturally informed mechanisms that either dull the “pain” motivation for suicide or deny the “brain” means to conceive and enact suicide—or, most likely, a combination of the two strategies. Evolved antisuicide defenses may account for many otherwise puzzling aspects of human behavior and psychology, including susceptibilities to depression, addictions, self-harm, and certain other common psychiatric symptoms, which the author posits to be protective, autonomic responses to suicidogenic pain. The precision of human adaptation to the suicidal niche makes it unlikely that deliberate self-killings can, even in principle, be predicted with useful accuracy at the individual level.

Keywords: Suicide Suicidology Evolution Evolutionary psychology Human evolution Suicidal niche Depression Addiction Mental disorder Positive psychology Fender Keeper Cognitive floor

Check also Evolutionary Psychology and Suicidology. John F. Gunn III, Pablo Malo, and C. A. Soper. SAGE Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology, Vol 3, Part 7, Chapter 69.

Men perceived sexual advances as less negative than women, especially when the advances arise from a (physically) attractive actor; & the higher the sociosexual orientation, the less harmful the sexual advances are perceived

Oppression or Opportunity? Sexual Strategies and the Perception of Sexual Advances. Lisa Klümper, Sascha Schwarz. Evolutionary Psychological Science, November 25 2019.

Abstract: From an evolutionary perspective, the perception and interpretation of sexual advances depend on sex-specific mechanisms, individual differences in the perceivers’ mating strategies, and the actor’s attractiveness. In two studies (N = 1516), participants evaluated hypothetical situations of sexual advances from a coworker varying in attractiveness (study 1) and physical appearance or status (study 2). In both studies, men perceived sexual advances as less negative than women, especially when the advances arise from a (physically) attractive actor. Furthermore, the higher the sociosexual orientation of the participants, the less harmful these sexual advances are perceived. Finally, the same behavior from an attractive or physically attractive actor is perceived as less harmful than from an unattractive actor. Results are discussed from an evolutionary perspective on the perception of sexual advances.

Keywords: Sex differences Mating strategies Sociosexual orientation Sexual advances Attractiveness

Narcissistic admiration is adaptive for speech performance & predicts higher self & observer-rated speech performance & lower anxiety; narcissistic rivalry is associated with greater anxiety

The effect of narcissistic admiration and rivalry on speaking performance. Harry Manley, Nuttha Paisarnsrisomsuk, Ross Roberts. Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 154, 1 February 2020, 109624.

•    Narcissistic admiration predicts better self and observer-rated speech quality.
•    Narcissistic admiration is associated with lower state anxiety.
•    Narcissistic rivalry is unrelated to speech performance.
•    Narcissistic rivalry predicts higher state anxiety.

Objective: A narcissistic individual can seek to maintain his/her grandiose self-view through different processes associated with assertive self-enhancement (narcissistic admiration) or antagonistic self-protection (narcissistic rivalry). Here, we examine how admiration and rivalry affect anxiety and performance in a speaking task. Because the behaviours associated with narcissistic rivalry are motivated by ego threat, we further examined the moderating effect of self-affirmation, a process designed to reduce ego threat, on performance.

Method: We assigned 90 Thai students to a self-affirmation or control group and asked them to deliver a short speech. We assessed speech performance through self-report and observer ratings, and state anxiety using self-report.

Results: Narcissistic admiration was adaptive for speech performance and predicted higher self and observer-rated speech performance and lower anxiety. In contrast, narcissistic rivalry was associated with greater anxiety but was unrelated to speech performance. Self-affirmation moderated the effect of narcissistic rivalry on self-rated speech performance but in an unexpected direction such that rivalry was negatively related to speech performance following self-affirmation.

Conclusion: These results add to the developing literature on the behavioural correlates of narcissistic admiration and rivalry, with admiration reflecting the more socially adaptive component of grandiose narcissism.