Wednesday, November 27, 2019

From 2017... Opiate of the Masses? Inequality, Religion, and Political Ideology in the U.S.

Schnabel, Landon. 2017. “Opiate of the Masses? Inequality, Religion, and Political Ideology in the United States.” SocArXiv. July 18. doi:10.31235/

Abstract: This study considers the assertion that religion is the opiate of the masses. Using a special module of the General Social Survey, I first demonstrate that religion functions as a compensatory resource for structurally-disadvantaged groups—women, racial minorities, those with lower incomes, and, to a lesser extent, sexual minorities. I then demonstrate that religion—operating as both palliative resource and values-shaping schema—suppresses what would otherwise be larger group differences in political ideology. This study provides empirical support for the general “opiate” claim that religion is the “sigh of the oppressed creature” and suppressor of emancipatory political values. I expand and refine the theory, however, showing religion provides (1) compensatory resources for lack of social, and not just economic, status, and (2) traditional-values-oriented schemas that impact social attitudes more than economic attitudes.

Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.
                     -Karl Marx (1970 [1843])

Whenever a candidate or policy that advantages the few while disadvantaging the many wins an election, pundits assume people voted against their own self-interests and then wonder why. For example, after the 2016 U.S. presidential election many wondered why women did not vote more consistently for the first woman nominated by a major party. Status and positionality theories of politics excel at predicting why structurally-disadvantaged groups often support and vote for progressive candidates and policies, but these theories break down in the not infrequent cases when disadvantaged groups are not liberal. For example, as I will show, men are more supportive of a woman’s right to choose abortion than are women. Are disadvantaged groups simply irrational, or is there a missing piece or overlapping identity that, when added to positionality theories of politics, explains otherwise unexpected attitudes and voting behavior?

Marx, Du Bois, Weber, and other classical social theorists said religion appeals to the disenfranchised and helps them through suffering. But, according to these theorists, negatives accompany the positives, with religion legitimating subordination and/or distracting people from the root causes of their suffering. Marx’s “opiate of the masses” argument would predict that religion constrains revolution by suppressing political engagement. Yet, in the contemporary United States and many other countries, the most intensely religious people are often the most politically engaged, having an outsized impact on politics (Bolzendahl, Schnabel, and Sagi 2019). Although religion does not seem to make people apolitical, it is still possible that religion legitimates the status quo. Applying and synthesizing several theoretical traditions—including structuration (Giddens 1984; Sewell 1992), system justification (Jost and Hunyady 2002), compensatory control (Kay et al. 2009), and related cultural and social psychological approaches to the study of religion (Edgell 2012; Hoffmann and Bartkowski 2008; Willer 2009)—I explore, expand upon, and refine the classic “opiate” argument.

In the process of exploring the “opiate” argument, this study answers, at least in part, two broader social scientific questions: (1) Why are some groups consistently more religious than others? (2) Why do attitudes toward certain social issues, such as abortion and same-sex relationships, seem to contradict the positionality principle of disadvantage promoting progressive values? I conclude that, as Marx and others have argued, religion can legitimate inequality. But I propose a new mechanism: Rather than suggesting that religions make people less political, less agentic, or more irrational, I argue that religions shape political ideology in accordance with the deeply-held identities, interests, and values of agentic people with multiple overlapping identities seeking meaning and wellbeing in the face of uncertainty and injustice. By acting as a compensatory resource that disproportionately provides comfort and strength to the disadvantaged and a schema that disproportionately shapes their political ideology according to traditional religious values, contemporary American religion—and Christianity in particular—suppresses what would otherwise be larger group differences in political ideology.

Religious affiliation and marital satisfaction: commonalities among Christians, Muslims, and atheists

Religious affiliation and marital satisfaction: commonalities among Christians, Muslims, and atheists. Piotr Sorokowski1, Marta Kowal1 and  Agnieszka Sorokowska. Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02798.

ORIGINAL RESEARCH ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon

Abstract: Scientists have long been interested in the relationship between religion and numerous aspects of people’s lives, such as marriage. This is because religion may differently influence one’s level of happiness. Some studies have suggested that Christians have greater marital satisfaction, while others have found evidence that Muslims are more satisfied. Additionally, less-religious people have shown the least marital satisfaction. In the present study, we examined marital satisfaction among both sexes, and among Muslims, Christians, and atheists, using a large, cross-cultural sample from the dataset in Sorokowski et al. (2017). Our results show that men have higher marital satisfaction ratings than women, and that levels of satisfaction do not differ notably among Muslims, Christians, and atheists. We discuss our findings in the context of previous research on the association between marriage and religion.

Keywords: Religious affiliation, marital satisfaction, Christians, Muslims, Atheists


The present study’s primary goal was to examine the association between religious affiliation and marital satisfaction, and the results showed that there was no relationship between the former and level of the latter—Christians and Muslims were found to be similarly satisfied with their marriages, as were atheists. Nevertheless, the present analysis provided support for a link between marital satisfaction and age (younger people showed higher marital happiness), material status (higher material status, higher marital satisfaction), or sex (men were happier in their marriages than women).
Previous findings have indicated Abrahamic religions (e.g., Christianity, Islam) share many similarities (Agius and Chircop, 1998; Zarean and Barzegar, 2016) and promote formation of traditional family ties, such as marriage rather than cohabitation, and marital rather than non-marital births (Dollahite and Lambert, 2007; Zarean and Barzegar, 2016). However, these religions have some substantive differences in beliefs and practices. For example, polygyny is not accepted in Christianity, whereas it is widely accepted in Islam, and such a family model may negatively influence marital life (Al-Krenawi and Graham, 2006). Despite the discrepancies between those two religions, the present study found no differences between them as far as marital satisfaction, and this included people from different parts of the world.
Moreover, since the New York City terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Islam has been central in many debates, discussions, and publications (Alghafli et al., 2014). Discussion on Islam frequently concerns familial issues, perceived by the Western media mostly in a negative light. Problematic issues include, for instance, gender roles and the treatment of women (McDonald, 2006; Ridouani, 2011; Ennaji, 2016). Studies, however, do not support this unfavorable view of females’ situations: religious Muslims show increased marital satisfaction (Abdel-Khalek, 2006, 2010; Asamarai et al., 2008; Ahmadi and Hossein-Abadi, 2009; Zaheri et al., 2016, but see also Abu-Rayya, 2007).
The present study’s results provide evidence that Christians and Muslims do not differ in their level of marital satisfaction. People from various countries identifying themselves as belonging to one of these two religions had similar level of marital happiness, which is consistent with previous findings. For instance, Dabone (2012) compared marital satisfaction among Muslim and Christian spouses, and found relative dissatisfaction, while the religious affiliation did not affect the satisfaction.
As scarce data exist on marital satisfaction among atheists, the present study’s second aim was to investigate whether atheists have similar marital satisfaction to marriages as do religious adherents. Considering positive correlations found between religiosity and marital satisfaction (Marks, 2005), atheists may be expected to have significantly lower levels of both variables. A major drawback of previous related research is its predominant focus on comparisons between more-religious and less-religious people (Fincham et al., 2011), excluding the relatively large group that atheists represent. Additionally, most studies have been conducted in the United States, where atheists are often negatively stereotyped (Zuckerman, 2009). The present study results provide evidence that atheists are neither more nor less satisfied with their marriages than religious adherents, which suggests religion may not influence marital satisfaction.
There are a few possible explanations for observed similar marital satisfaction ratings across people of different religions. Overall, married couples constitute a lower percentage of people in a relationship (Nock, 1995). Those who decide to get married may be particularly committed or well-suited to partnership, regardless of their religious affiliation. Entering a serious relationship, such as marriage, requires strong enthusiasm toward the partner (Wang and Chang, 2002) and, thus, results in higher ratings of subjectively perceived relationship satisfaction. Another possible explanation may be that people generally consider marriage a long-lasting relationship (Silliman and Schumm, 2004; Willoughby and Dworkin, 2009), and when they decide to get married, they rationalize and “cognitively close” their choice (Webster and Kruglanski, 1994). Participants in the study population may have felt they had to be satisfied with their relationship, as they had invested so much energy into its development. Had they reported being unsatisfied, feeling an internal conflict may have surfaced (e.g., “Why am I even with him/her if it makes me unhappy?”). The need to explain the dissonance of staying in an unsuccessful relationship would be negatively perceived, and could yield unpleasant emotions, especially in Western, individualistic cultures, which value the pursuit of personal happiness at all costs (Gilovich et al., 2015). Such emotion could also occur in Eastern, collectivistic cultures, which emphasize the importance of being unselfish, grateful, and appreciative of one’s partner (Kagawa-Fox, 2010).
In general, participants were relatively satisfied with their marriages. Nonetheless, men’s marital satisfaction differed from women’s (independent of religious affiliation). Over 40 years ago, Bernard (1975) presented a provocative and controversial thesis asserting marriage is better for men than for women, and his statement has raised heated discussions. Most of the research has provided evidence for to support Bernard’s (1975) that thesis (Fowers, 1991; Schumm et al., 1998), and this is also true in non-Western cultures (Shek and Tsang, 1993; Asamarai et al., 2008). However, there was also one study which yielded unclear findings (McNulty et al., 2008). Results of the present study – which is based on the analysis of a large, cross-cultural sample, confirm the differences among men’s and women’s marital satisfaction: husbands did indeed have higher marital satisfaction than wives. Nevertheless, the size effect of these sex differences was extremely small (Eta < 0.01).
In conclusion, despite a large body of research on marital satisfaction (Bradbury et al., 2000; Twenge et al., 2003; Hilpert et al., 2016), most studies have rarely controlled for participants’ religion. Even when they have done so, they have not explored the differences between people of various religious affiliations (Sullivan, 2001; Williams and Lawler, 2003; Olson et al., 2016). Future research should therefore focus on people of different (1) religions (especially less-prevalent ones); and (2) cultures (as most studies up to date have been conducted on Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic populations (Henrich et al., 2010), and should take into consideration other factors that may influence marital satisfaction among people of different religious affiliations (e.g., number of children, education, country’s development), as this would provide further understanding on the interaction between religion and marital happiness, as well as culture.

Perceptions of married life among single never‐married, single ever‐married, & married adults: Conceptualizations of marriage may be changing to be less positive or less discrepant from conceptualizations of single life

Perceptions of married life among single never‐married, single ever‐married, and married adults. Amanda N. Gesselman et al. Personal Relationships, November 26 2019.

Abstract: With the increasing prevalence of single adults in the United States, perceptions of marriage as the relationship “gold standard” may be diminishing. In this study (N = 6,576), we explored perceptions of married life in three subgroups of participants: Those who have never married, ever married, and currently married. Across subgroups, most did not perceive married life more positively than single life in external/tangible domains (e.g., more friends), but did in emotional experiences and frame of mind (e.g., contentment). These findings suggest conceptualizations of marriage may be changing to be less positive or less discrepant from conceptualizations of single life. However, these findings also suggest that people continue to view marital relationships as a positive source of emotional experience and support.


In the present study, we explored how American adults of varying relationship statuses perceive married
life compared to single life across eight social domains. In our analyses, we examined perceptions
of single life versus married life in the sample overall, by specific relationship status (i.e., never
married, currently married, separated/divorced, widowed), and conducted two targeted comparisons
of (a) never married versus ever married participants and (b) currently married versus previously
married participants. Across our analyses, single life was perceived to positively exceed married life
in terms of friendships and social life, sexual behavior, working hard to stay in shape, and careermindedness.
Conversely, married life was perceived to include more feelings of contentment,
confidence, and security, which are factors globally important to happiness and satisfaction with interpersonal
relationships (e.g., Feeney & Collins, 2015; Mikulincer & Shaver, 2013; Murray, Holmes, &
Griffin, 2000). These findings demonstrate in a large national sample that in some domains single life
is perceived more positively, and in other domains married life is perceived more positively, highlighting
the reality of multiple determinations in people's romantic and sexual lives. These findings also
demonstrate the utility of assessing multiple social life domains when examining differences and
similarities across relationship statuses (e.g., Ta et al., 2017), pointing to unique aspects of social and
interpersonal lives that people perceive and experience more positively or negatively.
In testing perceptual differences between never married and ever married participant subgroups,
we found a “knowing from experience” effect: Compared to those singles who had never been married,
participants who had ever been married perceived single life (vs. married life) to include more
sex, more interesting social lives, and being in better shape to a greater extent. Similarly, compared
to those who had ever been married, participants who had never been married perceived married life
to include more feelings of contentment than in single life to a greater extent. Last, while previously
married and currently married participants held the same perceptions, those singles who had previously
been married had more emphasized differences in their perceptions of single versus married
life just as in the prior comparison tests. When compared to currently married participants, those who
had previously been married felt to a greater extent that single life included having more interesting
social lives, being in better shape, and being more career-minded, but also felt to a greater extent that
married life includes more feelings of contentment, confidence, and security than single life. These
findings demonstrate an important nuance largely missing in previous research examining married
and single life, that in addition to current relationship status, previous experiences of having ever
been married may uniquely characterize perceptions and attitudes toward married life, potentially
dampening the effects found in prior large-scale studies that have either not examined prior marriages
as a separate subgroup of participants or have incidentally biased studies of married and single life
by removing previously married individuals from their samples.
Although marriage is often seen as the optimal arrangement, our findings did not show more positive
perceptions of married life across all domains. In our overall pattern of results, we found that in
several more concrete or observable aspects, participants across all relationship statuses perceived
single life more favorably than married life. It was only when considering emotional experiences and
frame of mind that married life was consistently rated more positively across groups. This finding of
marital relationships as a positive source of emotional experience and support is consistent with
social perception findings demonstrating that people believe those who are married are generally
happier and more fulfilled than singles (DePaulo & Morris, 2006), although research does not support
such differences when measured directly (e.g., Greitemeyer, 2009). These findings may also be
indicative of a shift in what Americans hope to garner from marriage, as proposed by Finkel et al.
(2014), with particular emphasis now on higher level needs that contribute to one's own psychological
well-being. Finkel et al. (2014) proposed that this more recent emphasis on contemporary marriage
fulfilling both lower- and higher-level needs may also explain why research has demonstrated
that links between marital quality and psychological well-being have become stronger over time
(Proulx, Helms, & Buehler, 2007). These patterns may be further compounded by the more tangible
advantages—including resources and financial benefits with government recognition—that come
with marriage in the United States. Such resources would likely increase one's feelings of contentment
and security, as well as confidence in one's ability to be successful, because of the relative
increases with combined family resources and social capital as well as partner social support.
Many of our findings showing positive perceptions of single life mirror observed differences
found in prior research. For instance, while there were no differences by subgroup, participants perceived
singles to have more friends and a more interesting social life. This is supported by multiple
studies. In a study of 25,000 American adults, researchers found single people to have more and
higher quality friendships than married people, regardless of gender or of parental status (Gillespie,
Lever, Frederick, & Royce, 2015). Similarly, in a large nationally representative study using data
from both the General Social Survey and the National Survey of Families and Households, Sarkasian
and Gerstel (2016) found that single people had more frequent contact with their friends, family, and
neighbors, and were more likely to both provide and receive help and support from these people in
their social networks. Singles have also been found to engage in more long-term caretaking of loved
ones and friends (Henz, 2006), and to be more socially integrated into their communities
(Klinenberg, 2012). Conversely, as proposed by the dyadic withdrawal hypothesis (Johnson &
Leslie, 1982), married and partnered people tend to engage in social withdrawal with those beyond
the partnership, linked with insularity and decay of one's social network, further magnifying these
patterns across relationship statuses.
Our participants perceived singles to work harder to stay in shape than married individuals. This
was indeed documented in a study of exercise frequency. While controlling for the effects of age, single
men and women were found to engage in more physically active hobbies, activities, and sports
than married men and women over a 2-week period—with single women exercising over an hour
more than married women, and single men exercising over 3 hr more than married men in the measurement
period (Nomaguchi & Bianchi, 2004). Considering these differences on a yearly basis, this
means that single men and women may be physically active for approximately 30–80 hr more than
married men and women, potentially leading to greater heart health, lowered anxiety and depression,
and longevity.
Additionally, our participants perceived single life to be characterized by more sexual behavior
than married life. Although recent media reports have purported that Americans are now having
less sex than ever before (e.g., Julian, 2018), some research has shown that this varies by relationship
status. In an examination of nationally representative data from the General Social Survey
gathered between 1989 and 2014, researchers showed that American adults had sex approximately
nine times less per year in the early 2010s when compared to the late 1990s (Twenge, Sherman, &
Wells, 2015). These declines in sexual frequency were consistent across gender, race, geographical
region, education level, and employment, and were also present in married/partnered individuals.
Unpartnered individuals, however, remained steady in their sexual frequency. This is
especially interesting given that unpartnered people have typically been shown to have sex less
often than those in relationships (Laumann, Gagnon, Michael, & Michaels, 1994). Thus, while on
average singles engage in less regular sexual activity than partnered people—likely impacted by
the investments needed to find and court each new sexual partner—the category of singles seems
to not be experiencing the same demographic declines in sexual frequency that have been
observed in samples of partnered people. This further suggests that any larger national patterns of
declining sexual frequency are not being driven by the rising proportion of singles in the adult

Women who are more satisfied with their bodies & appearance are more comfortable undressing in front of a partner, having sex with the lights on, trying new sexual activities; initiate sex more often, report more orgasms

A review of research linking body image and sexual well-being. Meghan M. Gillen, Charlotte H. Markey. Body Image, Volume 31, December 2019, Pages 294-301.

•    We reviewed research on body image and sexual well-being.
•    The review focused on Dr. Thomas Cash’s contributions to this area.
•    Most research suggests a positive link between body image and sexual well-being.
•    We suggest research on new populations using new methods and on positive body image.

Abstract: The link between body image and sexual well-being is intuitive and increasingly supported by psychological research: individuals, particularly women, with greater body satisfaction and body appreciation tend to report more positive sexual experiences. Although both perceptions of one’s body and one’s sexual life are central to most adults’ experiences, this area of research has remained somewhat understudied. In this review, we discuss the findings that are available and suggest directions for future research and applied implications of this work. We highlight Thomas Cash’s contributions to this area of study, given his significant contributions to moving our understanding of body image and sexual well-being forward.

4.1. Body image and sexual experience

Sexual experience has been measured in a number of ways,such as relationship status (i.e., in a romantic relationship or not), ever engaging in sexual intercourse and oral sex, and frequency of sexual activities. Most of this research has been conducted among young adults, given that they are just beginning to navigate sexual experiences and romantic relationships. Studies suggest that individuals who are in romantic relationships have less body image self-consciousness during sexual intimacy (Sanchez & Kiefer, 2007; Steer & Tiggemann, 2008;Wiederman, 2000) and less difficulty achieving orgasm (Sanchez& Kiefer, 2007) as compared to those who are not in romantic relationships. Among college students, ever engaging in sexualintercourse is associated with higher body satisfaction, higher appearance evaluation, lower body dissatisfaction, lower bodyimage self-consciousness, and higher orientation toward appear-ance (Gillen, Lefkowitz, & Shearer, 2006; Merianos, King, &Vidourek, 2013; Wiederman, 2000). Interestingly, however, in one study (Wiederman & Hurst, 1998), college women who had ever had sexual intercourse reported similar body image as those who had never had sexual intercourse, yet experimenters rated women with no sexual intercourse experience as less attractive. Body image and oral sex experience have been found to be associated with each other. In one study, only receiving (rather than giving) oral sex was associated with higher self-perceptions of bodily attractiveness among college women (Wiederman & Hurst, 1998). Also among college women, ever engaging in oral sex is associated with lower body image self-consciousness (Wiederman, 2000). Body image is also associated with frequency of sexual experiences. Women who have higher body satisfaction report greater frequency of sex (Ackard,Kearney-Cooke, & Peterson, 2000), and women with higher body image self-consciousness during sexual intimacy have less variable and frequent heterosexual sexual experience (Wiederman, 2000).In sum, individuals who are in a romantic relationship, have ever had sexual intercourse and oral sex, and who have more frequent and variable sexual experiences tend to have more positive body attitudes and less self-consciousness during sexual intimacy.

Because the studies reviewed here are correlational, the directionality of these associations are not clear. For example, being in a romantic relationship with a supportive romantic partner who offers frequent compliments about one’s body can enhance body image (Markey & Markey, 2006). It is also feasible that individuals who have more positive body image have more confidence to seek out more romantic and sexual experiences. These relations maybe cyclical; the more confident individuals feel about their bod-ies, the more likely they are to seek out sexual experiences. Then,the more sexual experiences they have, the better they feel about their bodies. Although it is likely that the direction of effect runs both ways, longitudinal and experimental research is needed to help determine directionality.

4.2. Body image and sexual functioning
Sexual functioning encompasses factors such as desire, arousal,orgasm, satisfaction, and pain (Rosen et al., 2000). Much of this liter-ature has focused on women, perhaps because they are more likelythan men to engage in appearance-based spectatoring, or being dis-tracted during sex with thoughts of how one’s body appears to apartner (Wiederman, 2012). Some research shows no significant associations between various measures of body image and sexualfunctioning among women, perhaps because women’s body image concerns have become so widespread that they do not meaningfully relate to women’s sexual experiences (Davison & McCabe, 2005; Milhausen, Buchholz, Opperman, & Benson, 2015). It may also be that context-specific measures of body image in sexual situations are better predictors of sexual functioning than more general mea-sures of body image (Wiederman, 2012; Yamamiya et al., 2006).Yet, most research shows that body image is related to various domains of sexual functioning (for a review, see Woertman & Brink,2012). In general, women with higher body and appearance satis-faction also appear to be more comfortable and satisfied in sexual contexts. Specifically, women who are more satisfied with their bodies and appearance are more comfortable undressing in front of a partner, having sex with the lights on, and trying new sexual activities; they also initiate sex more often, report more orgasms during sex, and have higher solitary and partnered sexual desire (Ackard et al., 2000; Dosch, Ghisletta, & Van der Linden, 2015).

Similar associations have been found for other body image con-structs. For example, among women, higher body esteem and fewer distracting appearance-based thoughts during sexual activity are associated with higher sexual satisfaction (Pujols et al., 2010), and higher situational body image dysphoria is associated with lower sexual assertiveness, lower sexual esteem, higher sexual anxiety,and more sexual problems (Weaver & Byers, 2006).Consistent with objectification theory, some work in this area has focused on objectification-related constructs and their linkswith sexual well-being. For instance, body surveillance is signif-icantly associated with lower sexual self-esteem, lower sexual self-competence, and lower sexual satisfaction among collegewomen (Calogero & Thompson, 2009a,2009b). Similarly, body shame is associated with lower sexual self-esteem, lower sex-ual satisfaction, and more self-consciousness during partnered sexual activity among college women (Calogero & Thompson, 2009a, 2009b; Steer & Tiggemann, 2008). Among adults, body shame is associated with lower sexual pleasure and more sexual problems (associations were also mediated by self-consciousness during sexual activity with a partner; Sanchez & Kiefer, 2007).
Although less often studied, appearance anxiety is also significantly associated with higher self-consciousness during sexual activity with a partner and decreased sexual functioning among college women (Steer & Tiggemann, 2008; Tiggemann & Williams, 2011).In one study, appearance anxiety in sexual situations also significantly mediated relations between body surveillance and sexual well-being (Vencill et al., 2015). That is, increased body surveillance related to increased appearance anxiety in sexual situations,which in turn related to decreased sexual well-being.Recent research has focused on associations between posi-tive body image and sexual functioning, in line with the call for more work on positive body image (Gillen et al., 2018; Smolak & Cash, 2011). This research has focused on body appreciation, a widely studied facet of positive body image. In samples of women,body appreciation was significantly associated with higher arousal (Brink, Smeets, Hessen, & Woertman, 2016; Satinsky et al., 2012), higher sexual desire (Brink et al., 2016), more frequent orgasms,and higher sexual satisfaction (Satinsky et al., 2012). Body appreciation also appears to be related to attitudes toward sexual practices.Among women and men, body appreciation is associated with higher sexual liberalism and more positive attitudes toward unconventional sexual practices (Swami, Weis, Barron, & Furnham, 2017).In sum, body image tends to be significantly associated with various dimensions of sexual functioning, although there are some exceptions. Most of this research focuses on women, with the limited research on men supporting similar conclusions (e.g., Sanchez& Kiefer, 2007). The reported associations are especially strong for contextual measures of body image (measures that capture body image in certain situations), and have been found for both negative and positive aspects of body image.

4.3. Body image and risky sexual behavior and attitudes
Researchers have also investigated associations between body image and risky sexual behavior and attitudes. Risky sexual behav-ior includes behaviors such as having casual sex, sex without protection, and having multiple partners. Risky sexual attitudes includes low condom use self-efficacy (i.e., low confidence in using condoms), perceiving more barriers to condom use, and endorsing the sexual double standard (i.e., that it is acceptable for men to have more sexual freedom than women). In terms of risky sexual behaviors, one study of college students reported no significant differences between students with low and high body satisfaction on a range of sexual risk behaviors (Merianoset al., 2013). However, several other studies indicate significant associations between body image and risky sexual behavior, particularly among young women. For young women, poor body image appears to be related to increased risk for engaging in risky sexual behavior. For example, among sexually active women, those who have higher body shame, higher body dissatisfaction, and perceive themselves as overweight report more unprotected sex (Hollander,2010; Littleton, Breitkopf, & Berenson, 2005; Wingood, DiClemente, Harrington, & Davies, 2002). Women with higher body shame also report multiple sex partners in the past year, and women with higher body surveillance report being more likely to mix substance use and sex (Littleton et al., 2005). So, it can be surmised that women who are less satisfied with their physical selves are less confident in approaching sexual encounters and less willing to demand condom use or other contraceptive use. Just as negative body image appears to make women vulnerable to engaging in risky sexual behavior, positive body image seems to be a protective factor. Among sexually active women, more positive body image(i.e., body appreciation) is associated with greater use of barrier and non-barrier contraceptive methods (Gillen et al., 2006; Ramseyer Winter, Ruhr, Pevehouse, & Pilgrim, 2018) and more engagement in a variety of preventive sexual health behaviors (Ramseyer Winter,2017). Body satisfaction may even predict protective sex behavior at a later time point. For instance, among adolescent girls, Schooler (2013) found that body satisfaction in 8th grade predicted consistent condom use in 12th grade (with the exception of girls who had sex before 10th grade). For men, there are less data, yet findings point to a pattern of associations among body image and risky sexual behavior.Two studies to our knowledge have been conducted on this topicamong college men. Schooler and Ward (2006) found no significant association between body comfort and risky sexual behavior.Yet, in another study (Gillen et al., 2006), men who evaluated their appearance in a more positive way had more lifetime sex partners, more unprotected sex, and believed that condoms were less efficacious than their peers who evaluated their appearance more negatively. Also, men who were more oriented toward their appearance had more lifetime sex partners. This may be indicative of a constellation of personality qualities consistent with superficiality. It could also be that positive body image gives men a boost of confidence in sexual situations where they may already feel power through embodiment of the male sexual role (Gillen et al.,2006). Data on sexual attitudes generally suggest that poorer body image is related to risky sexual attitudes. Regarding attitudes toward condoms, a meta-analysis of studies on men and women demonstrated that individuals with higher body dissatisfaction have less condom use self-efficacy (Blashill & Safren, 2015); further, male and female college students with less positive views of their appearance perceive more barriers to condom use. It maybe that individuals who do not feel particularly positive about their bodies also feel a low sense of efficacy in their intimate lives. Demanding condom use of partners may be inconsistent with what they believe they deserve from a sexual partner. Body image is also related to attitudes toward men’s and women’s rolesin sexual situations. College men and women who are more oriented toward their appearance more strongly endorse the sexual double standard, the idea that men should have more sexual free-dom than women (Crawford & Popp, 2003; Gillen et al., 2006). Individuals who are more concerned with their appearance may invest more in achieving cultural standards of beauty. Because they endorse these gendered appearance standards, they may also believe more in the sexual double standard, which argues for gender-specific attitudes and behavior with regard to sex (Gillenet al., 2006).In sum, for sexually active women, there is a clear association between poor body image and risky sexual behavior. Recent research also suggests that measures of positive body image are linked to less sexual risk for women. For men, there are less data on these associations and therefore a strong conclusion cannot be drawn. One study suggests that these associations may work in the opposite direction, in that favorable appearance evaluations might actually increase sexual risk for men (Gillen et al., 2006). More studies are needed, however, to support this idea. There is less research on body image and sexual attitudes, but studies generally suggest that poor body image is associated with more risky sexual attitudes.

4.4. Body image and communication about sex
The literature on body image and communication about sex suggests that individuals with a more favorable body image are more comfortable communicating with a partner about sexual issues.These associations have been found for both men and women. For example, among women, those with higher body esteem and body appreciation communicate more easily with a partner about sex(Pujols et al., 2010; Ramseyer Winter, Gillen et al., 2018). Similarly,research examining adolescent girls demonstrates that those with higher body dissatisfaction were more likely to fear their partners leaving them if they brought up condom use and perceive less control in their relationships (Wingood et al., 2002). Research on boys and young men is consistent with this work on girls and women.College men who reported greater comfort with their bodies (e.g.,facial hair) were more sexually assertive and had higher safer sex self-efficacy (Schooler & Ward, 2006). Similar associations were found among adolescent boys. Across findings from both qualitative and quantitative work, boys with higher body satisfaction had greater clarity about their personal sexual needs and values,and felt more comfortable communicating these ideas to a partner (Schooler, Impett, Hirschman, & Bonem, 2008). Body image mayeven be protective for communication about the sensitive topic of HIV. College students with more positive views of their appearance were more likely to have ever asked a partner’s HIV status and to have asked a partner to get tested for HIV (Gillen & Markey, 2014).In sum, both boys/men and girls/women who have more positive and less negative body image tend to be more comfortable discussing sexual topics with a partner. This comfort includes discussing HIV status, a sensitive topic that may be difficult to approach with a partner.

4.5. Perceptions of breasts and genitals and sexual well-being
Given that breasts and genitals are likely to be visible in sex-ual situations, it is important to consider how perceptions of theseparts of the body relate to sexual well-being. Few studies, however,have considered this, especially individuals’ perceptions of theirbreasts. Increased breast size is associated with increased percep-tions of sexual attractiveness, although medium and large breastsizes (versus small and very small breasts) do not differ significantlyin perceptions of sexual attractiveness (Dixson, Duncan, & Dixson, 2015). Little is known, however, about how women’s breast satis-faction is related to their sexual well-being. In one study (Didie & Sarwer, 2003), women who were pursuing breast augmentation were compared to similar women who were not candidates for this procedure. Women who were candidates for breast augmentation reported higher dissatisfaction with their breasts, but also higher sexual functioning, including greater sexual drive and arousal, as compared to women who were not candidates. This may indicate that women who are interested in increasing their breast size are more interested in sex and more interested in being sexually appealing to partners or potential partners.There is more research on genital self-image, which suggests that these perceptions are important for sexual well-being (Wiederman, 2012), including feelings of sexual attractiveness(Amos & McCabe, 2016). Women’s genital dissatisfaction (e.g.,with the appearance of the vulva) is associated with lower sexual esteem, lower sexual satisfaction, lower sexual functioning, more pain during sexual intercourse, and higher sexual distress (Amos & McCabe, 2016; Pazmany, Bergeron, Van Oudenhove, Verhaeghe, & Enzlin, 2013; Schick, Calabrese, Rima, & Zucker, 2010). Further,women with higher genital self-consciousness, a related construct, have lower sexual esteem and lower sexual satisfaction (Amos &McCabe, 2016; Schick et al., 2010). Among men, results are similar. Men with higher genital satisfaction (e.g., length of penis) and lower genital self-consciousness have higher sexual esteem (Amos & McCabe, 2016). In another study of young men, higher genital satisfaction was related to less sexual anxiety, which was inturn related to less erectile dysfunction (Wilcox, Redmond, & Davis,2015). Some research has also focused on men’s attitudes toward their circumcision status. Men who are happier with their circumcision status (i.e., circumcised or not) reported better global body image, better sexual context-specific body image, greater satisfaction with their genitals, and higher sexual functioning (Bossio &Pukall, 2018).

In sum, there is still more work to be done on the associations between breast and genital perceptions and sexual well-being.There is too little research on breast perceptions and sexual-well-being to draw conclusions. Research on genital self-image suggests that it is significantly related to sexual well-being for both men and women. Individuals who have more positive perceptions of their genitals tend to have higher sexual well-being.

Is Empathy the Default Response to Suffering? A Meta-Analytic Evaluation of Perspective Taking’s Effect on Empathic Concern

Is Empathy the Default Response to Suffering? A Meta-Analytic Evaluation of Perspective Taking’s Effect on Empathic Concern. William H. B. McAuliffe et al. Personality and Social Psychology Review, November 27, 2019.

Abstract: We conducted a series of meta-analytic tests on experiments in which participants read perspective-taking instructions—that is, written instructions to imagine a distressed persons’ point of view (“imagine-self” and “imagine-other” instructions), or to inhibit such actions (“remain-objective” instructions)—and afterwards reported how much empathic concern they experienced upon learning about the distressed person. If people spontaneously empathize with others, then participants who receive remain-objective instructions should report less empathic concern than do participants in a “no-instructions” control condition; if people can deliberately increase how much empathic concern they experience, then imagine-self and imagine-other instructions should increase empathic concern relative to not receiving any instructions. Random-effects models revealed that remain-objective instructions reduced empathic concern, but “imagine” instructions did not significantly increase it. The results were robust to most corrections for bias. Our conclusions were not qualified by the study characteristics we examined, but most relevant moderators have not yet been thoroughly studied.

Keywords: empathy, perspective taking, altruism, meta-analysis, publication bias


Perspective taking, the act of imagining the thoughts and feelings of others, is a common precursor to prosocial behav-ior (Batson, 2011). Researchers have also found that per-spective taking causes empathic concern (an emotion that is congruent with and elicited by perceived suffering), which reflects altruistic motivation (i.e., a non+instrumental desire to improve the welfare of another person). But do people as a matter of course experience empathic concern for needy others they observe?

Here, we present a series of meta-analyses designed to address three questions: (a) Do people spontaneously empathize with those in distress? If so, then (b) could they experience even more empathic concern if they deliberately engaged in perspective taking? Finally, (c) do moderators—such as the identity of the victim or the medium by which participants learn about the victim’s need—affect the extent to which people spontaneously empathize or successfully increase empathic concern via deliberate effort?1 To assess to what extent our answers to these questions depend on specific assumptions about how publication bias affects the primary literature, we compared the results from nine different esti-mators, each of which depend on either a different model of how publication bias works or how to best correct for it.Extant theorizing is divided on whether people will experi-ence empathic concern in response to distressed others in the normal course of experience. On one hand, much research suggests that people avoid empathic concern by default, at least when helping requires a considerable sacrifice (Cameron & Payne, 2011; Zaki, 2014). This tendency might explain why numerous tragedies—especially those involving large numbers of people occurring far away—routinely fail to sus-tain bystanders’ emotional attention (Loewenstein & Small, 2007; Slovic, Västfjäll, Erlandsson, & Gregory, 2017). On the other hand, empathizing may come more naturally in situations where the perceived costs of helping do not overwhelm how much observers value victims. For example, the experiments that established the relationship between empathic concern and altruistic motivation typically had participants learn about just one victim who is a fellow in-group member (Batson, 2011). Another set of experiments found that participants reported the same other-oriented thoughts and feelings upon deliberately trying to take the perspective of a single victim as when they just responded naturally. Thoughts that distracted from focusing on a victim’s needs, such as thinking about her appearance rather than her plight, did not occur naturally. Rather, they were common only when participants deliberately attempted to not consider how the victim felt about her plight (Davis et al., 2004). Notably, participants who tried to emotionally distance themselves from the victim still reported strong other-oriented emotions, suggesting that they found it difficult to respond with apathy.Even if people sometimes do spontaneously empathize with victims, it is nevertheless possible that they have untapped potential for how much empathic concern they could experience. For instance, multiple research groups have found that compassion training—which involves deliberately cultivating concern for others—increases helping of distressed groups relative to control trainings (Leiberg, Klimecki, & Singer, 2011; Weng et al., 2013). Given that neither research group intentionally recruited participants who were particularly low in trait empathic concern, the efficacy of compassion training implies that normally empathic people could, with effort, experience more empathic concern than they do by default.

From 2017... Remembering Past Lives: The Cognitive Foundations of why People Believe that They have Lived Before

Remembering Past Lives: The Cognitive Foundations of why People Believe that They have Lived Before. Claire White. IAPR Conference, Jun 2017.

Abstract: This research concerns the question of why people think they have lived before and, in particular, the role of memory in supporting this conviction. Although popular representations of reincarnation assume that the veracity of past-life memories are evidenced by distinctive and verifiable details contained in the memory our results, based on of a series of semi-structured interviews with over 200 Western spiritual seekers, suggests otherwise. People reasoned that memory plays a fundamental role in past-life beliefs because of the sense of personal identity (i.e. that the event happened to them) contained in episodic memory. Contrary to popular portrayals, people were not at all concerned or motivated with fact checking the details of recounted episodes. Rather, they expressed the powerfulness of the experiential process of evoking a memory they did not, otherwise, know they had, how it moved them, and gave them insight into the self that was, they believed, hidden from sight until now. We conclude that past-life convictions are underpinned by the common sense association between memory ownership and personal identity in line with cognitive accounts of religion.

Keywords: past life, episodic memory, new age, spiritual seekers, personal identity, experimental philosophy

Hormones in speed-dating: The role of testosterone and cortisol in attraction

Hormones in speed-dating: The role of testosterone and cortisol in attraction. Leander van der Meij et al. Hormones and Behavior, Volume 116, November 2019, 104555.

•    Testosterone and cortisol levels are probably related to romantic attraction.
•    We conducted a study with a romantic speed-dating condition and control condition.
•    We found strong anticipatory hormonal responses.
•    In women, but not in men, testosterone levels increased during speed-dating.
•    Cortisol was related more to the attraction of a romantic partner than testosterone.

Abstract: There is evidence that testosterone and cortisol levels are related to the attraction of a romantic partner; testosterone levels relate to a wide range of sexual behaviors and cortisol is a crucial component in the response to stress. To investigate this, we conducted a speed-dating study among heterosexual singles. We measured salivary testosterone and cortisol changes in men and women (n = 79) when they participated in a romantic condition (meeting opposite-sex others, i.e., potential romantic partners), as well as a control condition (meeting same-sex others, i.e., potential friends). Over the course of the romantic speed-dating event, results showed that women's but not men's testosterone levels increased and cortisol levels decreased for both men and women. These findings indicate that men's testosterone and cortisol levels were elevated in anticipation of the event, whereas for women, this appears to only be the case for cortisol. Concerning the relationship between attraction and hormonal change, four important findings can be distinguished. First, men were more popular when they arrived at the romantic speed-dating event with elevated cortisol levels. Second, in both men and women, a larger change in cortisol levels during romantic speed-dating was related to more selectivity. Third, testosterone alone was unrelated to any romantic speed-dating outcome (selectivity or popularity). However, fourth, women who arrived at the romantic speed-dating event with higher testosterone levels were more selective when their anticipatory cortisol response was low. Overall, our findings suggest that changes in the hormone cortisol may be stronger associated with the attraction of a romantic partner than testosterone.

4. Discussion

4.1. Testosterone change

Our findings showed that testosterone levels increased in women
during romantic speed-dating and decreased in women during the
control condition. Although these changes were small-medium effect
sizes, they are in line with theoretical models predicting that high
testosterone levels relate to more mate acquisition (Archer, 2006;
Roney, 2016; Zilioli and Bird, 2017) and more competitive behavior
(van Anders et al., 2011). However, surprisingly, in men, testosterone
levels did not change during romantic speed-dating and remained high
throughout the event. This is not in line with some previous research, as
numerous studies have shown that men experience an increase in testosterone
levels when talking to a potential mate in a waiting room
situation (Roney et al., 2010, 2007, 2003; van der Meij et al., 2008),
although one other study also showed that testosterone levels did not
change during romantic speed-dating (Lefevre et al., 2013). A speculative
explanation for these divergent findings is that romantic speeddating
is a much more arousing social context than a waiting room
situation. Unlike a waiting room situation, romantic speed-dating is an
unambiguous dating context where individuals scan each other as potential
mates. While the waiting room situation is unlikely to trigger
prior expectations because participants do not know that they will be
waiting together, participants of a romantic speed-dating do know that
they will be evaluated as a potential romantic partner.
Thus, it could be that, in contrast to women's testosterone levels,
men's testosterone levels did not increase further due to negative
feedback from already high testosterone levels on the hypothalamuspituitary-
gonadal (HPG) axis. This may also have held true for the
control condition, as testosterone levels were similar in this condition.
In both conditions, men may have experienced greater amounts of social
evaluative stress than women, as they were being evaluated on
either suitability as a romantic partner or were checking the competition
in the control condition. This finding is in line with other recent
studies showing that testosterone levels increase in men during stress
tasks with a social evaluative component (Bedgood et al., 2014;
Lennartsson et al., 2012; Phan et al., 2017; Turan et al., 2015), although
some older studies found no change in testosterone levels after psychosocial
stress (Gerra et al., 2000; Heinz et al., 2003; Schoofs and
Wolf, 2011) and one other study showed a decrease (Schulz et al.,
1996). This increase in testosterone levels may be part of an adaptive
response that assists an individual to cope with social challenges
(Salvador, 2005; Salvador and Costa, 2009). Indeed, previous research
has shown that the more men experienced a testosterone increase the
more they affiliated with women (van der Meij et al., 2012).

4.2. Testosterone and attraction

An important finding is that testosterone levels were unrelated to
popularity and selectivity in both men and women. This null finding for
men may be related to the previously discussed elevated hormonal levels.
Male testosterone levels may have been too elevated for most
participants even before the romantic speed-dating began, which reduced
variance in testosterone levels such that we were unable to detect
a relationship with their behavior (either in selectivity or popularity).
However, it is important to note that we may have lacked the power to
detect smaller effect sizes, since men and women have different testosterone
levels, and thus we had to analyze their testosterone data
separately. In men, we did find an indication that a larger anticipatory
testosterone response was related to less selectivity, although this effect
was statistically not significant. Future studies with larger sample sizes
may untangle if heightened testosterone levels during romantic speeddating
makes the relationship between attraction and testosterone undetectable
in men.
For women, there was also no relationship between attraction and
testosterone levels. This null finding is more difficult to explain, as
testosterone levels in women did increase during romantic speeddating.
Additionally, previous research shows that, in a lab setting, an
increase in testosterone levels was related to more sexual arousal in
women (Tuiten et al., 2000), which suggests that increased testosterone
levels could decrease selectivity. A speculative explanation for this null
finding in women is that temporal changes in their testosterone levels
had less of an effect on their behavior in an ecologically valid environment
such as romantic speed-dating. Perhaps women more rationally
deliberated the pros and cons of a potential romantic partner
and were not so much affected by their own bodily and psychological
state. Also interesting was that female popularity was unaffected by
their testosterone levels. A possible explanation here could be that that
men's selectivity is not so much influenced by female behavior during
these speed dates. Men may largely determine beforehand if they will
say yes to a date based on physical appearance. For example, in one
particular study, BMI predicted 25% of female popularity alone
(Kurzban and Weeden, 2005). Another explanation could be that variance
in female popularity was limited and this reduced the power to
detect an effect of anticipatory testosterone. Indeed, men said yes to
72% of their dates whereas women said yes to 48% of their dates.

4.3. Cortisol change

Results showed that both men and women arrived at both the romantic
speed-dating and control condition with elevated cortisol levels
and that during the course of both conditions their cortisol levels decreased.
Furthermore, this decrease was a very large effect size in the
control condition and less so in the romantic speed-dating condition
(small-medium effect size). Also, cortisol levels were higher at the end
of romantic speed-dating than at the end of the control condition.
Together these findings indicate that participants perceived the romantic
speed-dating as more challenging and stressful than friendship
dating. This implies that being judged as a potential romantic partner is
more stressful, and requires more impression management than when
being judged as a potential friend. Furthermore, results showed that
cortisol levels decreased during the course of romantic speed-dating
and control condition. These results contrast with other studies showing
that a brief social contact with a potential romantic partner produces an
increase in cortisol levels in heterosexual men (Roney et al., 2010,
2007), although another study showed that cortisol levels only increased
when in such encounters men perceived their potential partner
as attractive (van der Meij et al., 2010).
There are two speculative explanations for these different results.
First, our speed-dating study took over an hour to complete, thus cortisol
levels may have started decreasing towards more normal values
due to negative feedback from high cortisol levels on the hypothalamuspituitary-
adrenal (HPA) axis. Second, unlike these other studies, our
participants probably arrived with relatively high cortisol levels in
anticipation of the event. Thus, after having experienced several speed
dates they may have habituated. Adding to this, social affiliation may
have reduced anxiety through the release of oxytocin (for a review see
Heinrichs et al., 2009). Indeed, previous research has shown that oxytocin
administration reduces cortisol secretion during social evaluative
stress (Heinrichs et al., 2003).

4.4. Cortisol and attraction

There are two interesting findings concerning cortisol and attraction.
First, only in men, cortisol release in anticipation of romantic
speed-dating was related to more popularity. This effect was substantial
as women said “yes” to 34% of their dates when men experienced a
small anticipatory cortisol response, whereas they said “yes” to 65% of
their dates when men experienced a high anticipatory cortisol response.
A possible explanation is that men who arrived with these high levels
were more interested in dating women. Consequently, they may have
put more energy into making positive impressions during the speeddates.
Additionally, they may have had more energy at their disposal
since cortisol secretion increases local cerebral glucose utilization and
cardiovascular tone (Sapolsky et al., 2000). However, it is important to
note that a causal effect of cortisol on mate attraction could not be
established in the current study. Other third variables, such as a high
speed-dating motivation, may have produced more mate attraction
behaviors as well as a rise in cortisol levels in anticipation of the event.
Why women with elevated cortisol levels were not more popular may
have to do with the small variance in female popularity. Similar to the
function of testosterone, the function of these elevated cortisol levels in
men may help them cope with social challenges (Salvador, 2005;
Salvador and Costa, 2009). Furthermore, it could also reflect an effort
to affiliate, as it has been shown that, in men, increased cortisol secretions
during social evaluative stress predicted their feelings of closeness
to a stranger in a subsequent interaction (Berger et al., 2016).
Thus, our finding lends support for a “tend and befriend response” in
men during stressful times (Geary and Flinn, 2002). Finally, this finding
is in line with the Physiology of Romantic Pair Bond Initiation and
Maintenance Model, as this model posits that HPA-axis activation in
mating contexts is necessary to improve evaluations by potential mates
(Mercado and Hibel, 2017).
Second, contrary to our hypothesis, in both men and women, a
larger cortisol change during romantic speed-dating was related to
more selectivity (controlling for baseline and cortisol change in the
control condition), although this effect was small to medium. A speculative
explanation is that romantic speed-dating was not a positive
experience for all participants. Those men and women that experienced
an increase in cortisol levels may have been worried that they would
end up with no or very few matches. This would be in line with the
stress literature as cortisol release is more prominent in social situations
that are uncontrollable and pose a social-evaluative threat (for a review
see Dickerson and Kemeny, 2004). Romantic speed-dating has both
these elements: participants can only guess whether their interaction
partner likes them (low control) and they are being evaluated as a
potential partner at each date (high social-evaluative threat). In such a
scenario, two different effects can be argued. The most rational strategy
would be to say “yes” to many dates (low selectivity), to increase the
chances of a match. However, our data shows the opposite: a larger
cortisol change was related to more selectivity. This shows that a different
process may have been occuring. Perhaps those participants who
experienced a larger increase in cortisol levels during speed-dating
were more preoccupied with impression management and found it,
therefore, more difficult to connect with their dates. As a result, they
could have subjectively experienced fewer matches and said “yes” to
fewer dates.

4.5. Testosterone×Cortisol

Our results showed overall weak support for the dual-hormone
hypothesis (Mehta and Josephs, 2010) in a mating context. The most
direct prediction from this hypothesis would be that popularity in romantic
speed-dating was related to the interaction between testosterone
and cortisol levels, yet we did not find evidence for this. These null
findings could mean that the dual-hormone hypothesis is limited to
social contexts in which social status can be gained more openly, for
example in competition with others (Zilioli and Watson, 2012) or in
leadership positions (Sherman et al., 2016). A potential alternative
explanation for these null findings is that saying yes or no to other dates
may depend on unique conversation dynamics for which we could not
control. Perhaps this reduced our power to detect the interaction between
both hormones. Indeed, many of the studies showing support for
the dual-hormone hypothesis use laboratory tasks (Mehta et al., 2015)
in which it is far easier to control for confounding variables.
Nonetheless, we did find support for one of our mutually exclusive
predictions based on the dual-hormone hypothesis. Only in women, a
higher anticipatory testosterone response was related to more selectivity
when their anticipatory cortisol response was low. Women
with this hormone profile may not have been motivated to gain social
status by going for more matches (thus by being less selective). Instead,
these women may have been motivated to gain social status by appearing
exclusive. This finding would also be in line with the sexual
double standard (Sagebin Bordini and Sperb, 2013). Women feel they
are being valued more highly as a partner when they are restrictive in
their sexual contacts, whereas for men this is less of a concern.

43% of workers refuse to spend 10 min working on tasks associated with other castes, even when offered ten times their daily wage; identity may be an important constraint on labor supply, contributing to misallocation of talent

Does Identity Affect Labor Supply? Suanna Oh. Nov 2019.

Abstract: Does identity—one's concept of self—influence economic behavior in the labor market? I investigate this question in rural India, focusing on the effect of caste identity on labor supply. In a field experiment, casual laborers belonging to different castes choose whether to take up various real job offers. All offers involve working on a default manufacturing task and an additional task. The additional task changes across offers, is performed in private, and differs in its association with specific castes. Workers' average take-up rate of offers is 23 percentage points lower if offers involve working on tasks that are associated with castes other than their own. This gap increases to 47 pp if the castes associated with the relevant offers rank lower than workers' own in the caste hierarchy. Responses to job offers are invariant to whether or not workers' choices are publicized, suggesting that the role of identity itself—rather than social image—is paramount. Using a supplementary experiment, I show that 43% of workers refuse to spend ten minutes working on tasks associated with other castes, even when offered ten times their daily wage. This paper's findings indicate that identity may be an important constraint on labor supply, contributing to misallocation of talent in the economy.

B.5 Vignette questions related to caste sensitivity

The following questions were used during the follow-up survey to determine caste sensitivity. Participants answered on a 5-point-scale indicating their approval or disapproval.

1. Sameer Jena went to Khorda recently to find work. There he met Sarveshwara Barik, who has been a barber in the area for 10 years. Sarveshwara has been looking for someone to take over the work and offered Sameer the job. Do you think it is acceptable for Sameer to become a barber even though he is from a higher caste?

2. Tukuna Naika is from the Hadi caste. He is currently looking for work in villages around him. Recently a contractor offered him work in his catering business, where Tukuna will be required to serve food to guests at functions. Do you feel it is acceptable for Tukuna to perform this task?

3. Shantilatha Sahoo is currently in the last year of college. She goes to college with a friend Nilakanth Sethi. They have been friends ever since childhood and Shantilatha likes Nilakanth very much. She wants to marry him but her village finds this relationship unacceptable as Shantilatha is from a higher caste and Nilakanth is from a lower caste. Do you think it is acceptable for a higher caste woman to marry a lower caste man?

4. Gagan Dalai has not been finding enough work in his village recently. He is very worried for his family. A contractor had recently come to the village and offered him 7 days’ work in another village. The contractor offered him Rs.350/day for cleaning sewage tanks. Gagan refused the job as it is lower caste work. Do you think Gagan did the right thing?

5. Kartik Behera and Tuna Naika are both agricultural laborers. They work together for the same landlord and in the evenings they come back to the village together. Once, when they were returning to the village, Tuna offered some home-made sweets to Kartik. A senior village member saw this and reprimanded Kartik for eating the sweets because Tuna Naika is of a lower caste. Do you think it’s wrong for a higher caste person to accept home-cooked food from a lower caste person?

6. Bindusagar Behera and Rabi Naika have been friends since childhood. Whenever Rabi went to meet Bindusagar, he was not allowed to enter Bindusagar’s house. They would talk outside Bindusagar’s house. Now Bindusagar is getting married and he has invited Rabi to be a part of the marriage festivities. During the wedding, Rabi sits separately to eat (according to his caste). Do you think these village norms are acceptable as Rabi is from a lower caste?

7. Nerua Naika has recently finished secondary school and is looking for a job. He lives near Ramesh Maharana who is a carpenter. Ramesh offers to train Nerua in carpentry so that he can work with him. Do you think Nerua should try to work as a carpenter although he is from a lower caste?

An Empirical Study of Child Abandonment and Abduction in China: With the gradual relaxation of the one-child policy after 2002, both child abandonment and child abduction have dropped significantly

Bao, Xiaojia and Galiani, Sebastian and Li, Kai and Long, Cheryl Xiaoning, Where Have All the Children Gone? An Empirical Study of Child Abandonment and Abduction in China (November 16, 2019). SSRN:

Abstract: In the past 40 years, a large number of children have been abandoned by their families or have been abducted in China. We argue that the implementation of the one-child policy has significantly increased both child abandonment and child abduction and that, furthermore, the cultural preference for sons in China has shaped unique gender-based patterns whereby a majority of the children who are abandoned are girls and a majority of the children who are abducted are boys. We provide empirical evidence for the following findings: (1) Stricter one-child policy implementation leads to more child abandonment locally and more child abduction in neighboring regions; (2) A stronger son-preference bias in a given region intensifies both the local effects and spatial spillover effects of the region's one-child policy on child abandonment and abduction; and (3) With the gradual relaxation of the one-child policy after 2002, both child abandonment and child abduction have dropped significantly. This paper is the first to provide empirical evidence on the unintended consequences of the one-child policy in terms of child trafficking in China.

Keywords: One-child policy, Child abandonment, Child abduction, Son-preference bias.
JEL Classification: J13, K42.

An alternative hypothesis for the evolution of same-sex sexual behaviour in animals

An alternative hypothesis for the evolution of same-sex sexual behaviour in animals. Julia D. Monk, Erin Giglio, Ambika Kamath, Max R. Lambert & Caitlin E. McDonough. Nature Ecology & Evolution volume 3, pages 1622–1631(2019), Nov 18 2019.

Abstract: Same-sex sexual behaviour (SSB) has been recorded in over 1,500 animal species with a widespread distribution across most major clades. Evolutionary biologists have long sought to uncover the adaptive origins of ‘homosexual behaviour’ in an attempt to resolve this apparent Darwinian paradox: how has SSB repeatedly evolved and persisted despite its presumed fitness costs? This question implicitly assumes that ‘heterosexual’ or exclusive different-sex sexual behaviour (DSB) is the baseline condition for animals, from which SSB has evolved. We question the idea that SSB necessarily presents an evolutionary conundrum, and suggest that the literature includes unchecked assumptions regarding the costs, benefits and origins of SSB. Instead, we offer an alternative null hypothesis for the evolutionary origin of SSB that, through a subtle shift in perspective, moves away from the expectation that the origin and maintenance of SSB is a problem in need of a solution. We argue that the frequently implicit assumption of DSB as ancestral has not been rigorously examined, and instead hypothesize an ancestral condition of indiscriminate sexual behaviours directed towards all sexes. By shifting the lens through which we study animal sexual behaviour, we can more fruitfully examine the evolutionary history of diverse sexual strategies.

Reactions to and Forgiveness of Infidelity: Exploring Severity, Length of Relationship, Sex, and Previous Experience Effects

Reactions to and Forgiveness of Infidelity: Exploring Severity, Length of Relationship, Sex, and Previous Experience Effects. Menelaos Apostolou, Anna Aristidou, Christina Eraclide. Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology, November 26 2019.

Objectives: Infidelity, actual or suspected, can trigger strong emotional reactions, such as jealousy, which could lead to the dissolution of the relationship. These reactions were predicted to vary with the severity of the infidelity, with the sex of the participant, with previous experience with unfaithful partners, and with the length of the relationship.

Method: We employed a sample of 447 Greek-speaking participants who were asked to indicate their reactions in different scenarios of infidelity.

Results: We found that more severe acts of infidelity were associated with higher emotional upset and jealousy and lower probability of forgiveness. Moreover, women indicated stronger emotional upset and jealousy than men, but they were more likely to forgive their partners. Furthermore, participants indicated more emotional upset and jealousy if they were in a long-term than in an early-stage relationship. Finally, participants who were older and who had experienced infidelity from their previous partners were more likely to forgive their partners’ infidelity than participants who were younger and who did not have such experience.

Conclusions: Our results indicated that several factors determined the severityof the reactions to infidelity.

Keywords: Infidelity Cheating Forgiveness Mating Jealousy

Our findings indicated that more severe acts of infidelity were associated with higher
emotional upset and jealousy and lower probability of forgiveness. Moreover, women
indicated stronger emotional upset and jealousy than men, but higher willingness to
forgive their partners. In addition, participants indicated more emotional upset and
jealousy in a long-length than in a short-length relationship scenario. Participants who
were older and who had experienced infidelity from their previous partners were more
likely to forgive their partners’ infidelity than participants who were younger and who
did not have such past experience.
As it was originally predicted, people’s negative reactions were contingent on the
severity of the act of infidelity. Acts which involved prolonged emotional and sexual
infidelity, such as having an emotional and sexual extra-pair relationship, were associated
with the most upset and jealousy, and were the least likely to be forgiven. On the
other hand, acts that did not involve emotional infidelity and were less likely to lead to
sexual infidelity, such as visiting a strip club, were associated with lower upset and
jealousy, and were more likely to be forgiven. Nevertheless, participants gave very
similar scores for the scenarios of their partner having feelings for or sexual contact
with another individual, and with the scenarios of their partner having an emotional or
sexual relationship with another individual. We expected the latter scenarios to trigger
more negative responses than the former ones as they indicated more involvement.
Future research needs to investigate why participants did not differentiate between the
two scenarios. Moreover, our findings indicated that sexual infidelity was associated
with more negative reactions and a lower probability of being forgiven than emotional
infidelity. One reason is that sexual infidelity may lead to pregnancy and, thus,
potentially have more severe negative consequences than emotional infidelity.
Our findings suggest that individuals can more easily get away if they employ sex
services, such as prostitution or a strip club or have a one-night stand, than if they
engage in romantic and sexual relationships with extra-pair partners. If people are
aware of this effect, they may employ specific manipulation tactics in order to increase
the probability of being forgiven. For instance, if they are caught having an extra-pair
affair, they may attempt to present it as a one-night stand, in order to reduce their
partners’ negative reactions and increase the probability of being forgiven. We also
need to note that the means we found for each act were associated with large standard
deviations. Therefore, considerable differences are expected in the reactions to each act.
For instance, a one-night stand may be easily forgiven by some people, but could result
to severe negative reactions by others.
Part of the variation in responses is explained by sex, with women indicating more
severe reactions to infidelity. Furthermore, the predicted sex difference was not found;
that is, men did not become more upset by the sexual infidelity of their partners than
women. One possible explanation is that specific cultural factors result in women
exhibiting considerable more negative reactions to infidelity than men, which masks
this sex difference. Moreover, even if women were more upset and more jealous than
men about their partners’ infidelity, they were also more likely to forgive them. One
possible reason why is that women are more emotionally involved in a relationship that
men, which in turn, makes them more likely to forgive their partners. Future research
needs to investigate further the reasons behind this sex difference.
It needs to be said that DeSteno and Salovey (1996) have argued that sex differences
in jealousy may not be the result of evolved psychological adaptations and they simply
reflect the conditional probability that one type of infidelity implies the other type. In
particular, some individuals may not perceive emotional and sexual infidelity as
independent events. For example, if a man has sex with a woman, what is probability
he is in love with her—vs. if a woman has sex with a man, what is the probability she is
in love with him. These two probabilities may be very different. In order to address this
concern, Buss et al. (1999) completely separated the two types of infidelity so that one
type does not imply the existence of the other.
Moving on, in early-stage relationships, people have not yet made considerable
commitment, so the infidelity of their partners has less severe consequences than the
infidelity of their partners in a long-term relationship and, as a consequence, their
reactions were less severe. However, in contrast to our original prediction, the seriousness
of the relationship did not appear to predict the probability of forgiveness, as
people were equally likely to forgive their partners in both an early-stage and a longterm
relationship. One possible reason is that, in both cases, people assess whether their
partners have the potential to remain in a committed relationship. Furthermore, having
partners who were unfaithful in the past did not predict upset and jealousy, but
predicted the probability of forgiveness. People who had unfaithful partners in the past
were more likely to forgive their current partners than people who did not have such
experience, with the effect size indicating that this difference was considerable.
As discussed in the introduction, one possible reason is that people who had
unfaithful partners in the past may be more likely than those who did not to consider
that infidelity is common, expecting in effect their partners to be unfaithful and being,
thus, more likely to forgive them. Yet, if this was the correct explanation, then these
participants would also be less upset and jealous than the rest, which was not the case.
Another possibility is that some people have traits which make them more likely to
forgive infidelity than others. Their partners could detect this high propensity for
forgiveness, and may thus, be more likely to be unfaithful as they know that they will
be forgiven. If this was the case, past experiences did not make people more forgiving
of infidelity, but people who were more forgiving of infidelity were also more likely to
have partners who were unfaithful. Future research needs to investigate this effect
further. Age had also a substantial effect on forgiveness, with older individuals being
more likely to forgive their unfaithful partners than younger individuals. One possible
explanation is that older individuals may have fewer options in attracting partners,
which makes them more reluctant to terminate their current relationship.
The present research had a number of limitations. To begin with, it was based on selfreport
data, and participants may respond differently when they are actually confronted with
the infidelity of their partners than the way they have indicated here. In addition, our research
was based on a non-probability sample, so our findings may not apply to the general
population.Moreover, as discussed above, specific cultural variablesmay affect participants’
reactions to infidelity, so our results may not readily apply to other cultural contexts. Thus,
cross-cultural replication is necessary in order to understand how cultural factors could
potentially affect reactions to infidelity. Also, infidelity may be associated with several
negative emotions (e.g., sadness, anger, despair). In order to keep our survey at a reasonable
length, we did not examine each possible emotional reaction, and future research needs to do
so. Moreover, we have measured the effect of infidelity of one’s partner, but, as discussed
above, this variable can be confounded by other factors such as one’s own infidelity. For
instance, participants who were unfaithful may have been more likely than participants who
were faithful to have partners who were also unfaithful.
In addition, the current study gave to participants’ scenarios of varying relationship
duration. These scenarios were hypothetical, so participants may have failed to provide
accurate answers. Future studies may address this limitation by measuring how long
participants had been in a relationship. Furthermore, the current study did not measure
hormonal birth control usage among women. Prior research shows that women who
were using hormonal birth control responded differently to questions regarding jealousy
and infidelity than women who were not using hormonal birth control (Cobey et al.
2011; Geary et al. 2001; Wade and Fowler 2006; Welling et al. 2012). Similarly,
women’s ovulatory status can affect women’s jealousy responses (Cobey et al. 2012),
but it was not measured in the present research. Last but not least, in our research, we
included several acts of infidelity of varying severity; however, additional acts could be
included, such as cheating with an ex-partner and with a same-sex individual.
In conclusion, infidelity is a common phenomenon and the current study has
provided evidence from the Greek cultural context that upset, jealousy, and the
probability of forgiveness are contingent on the severity of an act of infidelity. Sex
differences, age, length of the relationship, and experience with unfaithful partner
effects were also found, but more research is necessary in order to better understand
reactions to and forgiveness of infidelity.

Predicting educational achievement from genomic measures and socioeconomic status

Predicting educational achievement from genomic measures and socioeconomic status. Sophie von Stumm et al. Developmental Science, November 23 2019.

Abstract: The two best predictors of children’s educational achievement available from birth are parents’ socioeconomic status (SES) and, recently, children’s inherited DNA differences that can be aggregated in genome‐wide polygenic scores (GPS). Here we chart for the first time the developmental interplay between these two predictors of educational achievement at ages 7, 11, 14 and 16 in a sample of almost 5,000 UK school children. We show that the prediction of educational achievement from both GPS and SES increases steadily throughout the school years. Using latent growth curve models, we find that GPS and SES not only predict educational achievement in the first grade but they also account for systematic changes in achievement across the school years. At the end of compulsory education at age 16, GPS and SES respectively predict 14% and 23% of the variance of educational achievement. Analyses of the extremes of GPS and SES highlight their influence and interplay: In children who have high GPS and come from high SES families, 77% go to university, whereas 21% of children with low GPS and from low SES backgrounds attend university. We find that the associations of GPS and SES with educational achievement are primarily additive, suggesting that their joint influence is particularly dramatic for children at the extreme ends of the distribution.


Our major finding is that SES and inherited DNA differences aggregated in GPS are powerful
predictors of educational achievement, accounting together for 27% of children's differences in
achievement across the course of compulsory schooling. The influence of GPS and SES is
particularly dramatic at the extremes of the distribution. We suggested, for example, that
GPS partially compensates for the disadvantages of children from low-SES families, increasing
their chances of going to university from 21% to 47%. This raises the possibility of doing more to
help this group reach its full potential. Nonetheless, the substantial overlap between the
distributions of scores within the lowest and highest deciles for GPS and SES indicates the limits
of prediction at the level of individual students.

The potential application of predictive capacity of the kind demonstrated here will require
complex decision-making. The basis for those decisions goes beyond purely scientific criteria to
issues of ethics and social values. Papers like the present one provide an essential empirical
grounding for discussion. It is our hope that our results and others like them can serve to open
doors for individual children, not close them, by stimulating the development and provision of
personalized environments that can appropriately enhance, supplement, and remediate
educational achievement.