Sunday, January 26, 2020

When Deliberation Produces Persuasion rather than Polarization: Measuring and modeling Small Group Dynamics in a Field Experiment

When Deliberation Produces Persuasion rather than Polarization: Measuring and modeling Small Group Dynamics in a Field Experiment. Kevin Esterling, Archon Fung & Taeku Lee. British Journal of Political Science, Dec 2019,

Abstract: This article proposes a new statistical method to measure persuasion within small groups, and applies this approach to a large-scale randomized deliberative experiment. The authors define the construct of ‘persuasion’ as a change in the systematic component of an individual's preference, separate from measurement error, that results from exposure to interpersonal interaction. Their method separately measures persuasion in a latent (left-right) preference space and in a topic-specific preference space. The model's functional form accommodates tests of substantive hypotheses found in the small-group literature. The article illustrates the measurement method by examining changes in study participants' views on US fiscal policy resulting from the composition of the small discussion groups to which they were randomly assigned. The results are inconsistent with the ‘law of small-group polarization’, the typical result found in small-group research; instead, the authors observe patterns of latent and policy-specific persuasion consistent with the aspirations of deliberation.

Interactive effects of tactile warmth & ambient temperature on the search for social affiliation: In colder ambient environments we report greater loneliness, & pursue both physical warmth & social affiliation

Interactive effects of tactile warmth and ambient temperature on the search for social affiliation. Adam Fay & Jon Maner. Social Psychology, Jan 2020.

Abstract: Laboratory studies have linked variability in temperature to the psychology of social affiliation. In colder ambient environments, for example, people report greater loneliness, and they pursue both physical warmth and social affiliation (i.e., social warmth). Here, a field experiment tested whether tactile warmth eliminates the effect of colder ambient temperatures on desires for social affiliation. Consistent with previous research, people expressed greater intentions to affiliate on colder days. However, tactile warmth eliminated this effect. On colder (but not warmer) days exposure to a tactile warmth manipulation eliminated heightened desires for social affiliation. Findings suggest that seemingly subtle changes in temperature can have important implications for the psychology of social affiliation, and such findings apply to real-world contexts outside the laboratory.

Preferences for conflict & cooperation are systematically different for men & women; the increasing enfranchisement of women, not merely the rise of democracy, is the cause of the democratic peace

The Suffragist Peace. Joslyn N. Barnhart, Allan Dafoe, Elizabeth N. Saunders, Robert F. Trager. , February 21, 2018.

Abstract: Preferences for conflict and cooperation are systematically different for men and women.
At each stage of the escalatory ladder, women prefer more peaceful options. They are less
apt to approve of the use of force and the striking of hard bargains internationally, and
more apt to approve of substantial concessions to preserve peace. They impose higher
audience costs because they are more approving of leaders who simply remain out of
conflicts, but they are also more willing to see their leaders back down than engage in
wars. Unlike men, most women impose audience costs primarily because a leader behaved
aggressively in making a threat, not because the leader endangered the states bargaining
reputation through behaving inconsistently. Many of these differences, and possibly all,
span time periods and national boundaries. Women have been increasingly incorporated
into political decision-making over the last century through suffragist movements, raising
the question of whether these changes have had effects on the conflict behavior of nations
consistent with their large effects in other areas, such as the size and competencies of
governments. We find that the evidence is consistent with the view that the increasing
enfranchisement of women, not merely the rise of democracy itself, is the cause of the
democratic peace.


The results above provide evidence that the divergent preferences of the sexes translate into a
pacifying effect when women’s influence on national politics grows. The magnitude of this correlation
is substantial, on par with the largest effects uncovered in the empirical literature on international
relations. There remains much to understand about these political processes, however. The results
presented above are consistent with greater female influence directly through voting, but perhaps
also consistent with influence exercised through other societal channels whose existence correlates
with female franchise. Another alternative explanation for our findings may be that suffrage is
confounded with liberal institutions and attitudes. While this possibility cannot be fully ruled out,
we have illustrated the shortcomings of the liberal institutions argument in a variety of ways. The
concerns of some scholars about the democratic peace may nevertheless apply to the argument we
make here. To address these, we have shown that our findings are robust to a variety of specifications.
We look forward to further investigation in these areas.
At the individual level, the evidence of a gender gap in so many existing survey experiments
suggests that scholars should explore how men and women respond to different frames or primes.
Such evidence would help illuminate how politicians might frame arguments for war or even choose
to use force in different contexts depending on the constraint of women’s more pacific preferences,
or the necessity of expending political capital to overcome those constraints. The exploration of
heterogeneous treatment effects is beyond the scope of this paper but a logical avenue for future
The links in the aggregation chain from the individual level to national policy and international
interactions are also ripe for further exploration. There are potentially many paths from female
suffrage to women’s preferences influencing national policy and international outcomes. Some might
be direct, for example if interest groups are able to exert direct pressure on politicians; some might
be more indirect, for instance if institutional and electoral incentives in some countries make women
a particularly important voting bloc. In the latter case, politicians may anticipate the reactions
of female voters, either by consciously considering women’s lower baseline preference for war or by
treating it as one of part of a package of preferences. At the level of strategic interaction between
states, process tracing might illuminate whether leaders in one state actively consider the extension
of suffrage in adversary states when engaged in a crisis. More fine-grained analysis of how leaders
seek to accommodate women’s preferences in the wars they do fight could also follow, including an
examination of other dependent variables such as war duration, casualties, or military strategy.
Yet another avenue for future research concerns the potentially differing effects of female enfranchisement and female political leadership. While this study focuses on the former, others have
examined the latter, and some evidence exists that female leaders are more willing to participate
in international conflicts (Dube and Harish 2017). Given the on average individual level differences
between the sexes, this may be considered surprising. Future research should probe the extent to
which this tension is explained by one of two factors. The first is whether female political leaders
are systematically different from female population averages in ways that relate to political decisions
to engage in conflict (Fukuyama 1998, 32). The second is the extent to which female leaders, who
have often been a gender minority among their peers, have been influenced by incentives to mimic or
even exceed the aggressive norms of male peers (Goldstein 2003, 124-5. Doing otherwise might have
been interpreted as a form of “weakness” in the conduct of foreign affairs.33 In effect, as Ehrenreich
(1999) point out, the “tough” international actions of Indira Gandhi and Margaret Thatcher may
have been a form of “male posturing.”34
As the field of international relations has returned to studying individuals and their preferences
over foreign policy and international issues, the long-understood gender gap has been glossed over,
if acknowledged at all. Yet this persistent feature of individual preferences over war and peace
changes the composition of the electorate in states that give women the vote. This article represents
an important step in establishing the link, across space and time, between the gender gap at the
individual level and peace at the international level. Democracy gives the public a voice, but the
public is not homogeneous. This article suggests that women’s preferences exert a significant and
independent effect on state behavior in war, conditional on the existence of political institutions
that allow women’s voices to be heard. Early suffragist movements, including those that successfully
expanded suffrage following the First World War, were closely linked to peace movements (Goldstein
2003, 322-31). They hoped to make world politics more pacific by giving women greater say in
political affairs via the vote; their hopes were fulfilled.

Altruistic behaviors relieve physical pain

Altruistic behaviors relieve physical pain. Yilu Wang et al. PNAS January 14, 2020 117 (2) 950-958.

Significance: For centuries, scientists have pondered why people would incur personal costs to help others and the implications for the performers themselves. While most previous studies have suggested that those who perform altruistic actions receive direct or indirect benefits that could compensate for their cost in the future, we offer another take on how this could be understood. We examine how altruistic behaviors may influence the performers’ instant sensation in unpleasant situations, such as physical pain. We find consistent behavioral and neural evidence that in physically threatening situations acting altruistically can relieve painful feelings in human performers. These findings shed light on the psychological and biological mechanisms underlying human prosocial behavior and provide practical insights into pain management.

Abstract: Engaging in altruistic behaviors is costly, but it contributes to the health and well-being of the performer of such behaviors. The present research offers a take on how this paradox can be understood. Across 2 pilot studies and 3 experiments, we showed a pain-relieving effect of performing altruistic behaviors. Acting altruistically relieved not only acutely induced physical pain among healthy adults but also chronic pain among cancer patients. Using functional MRI, we found that after individuals performed altruistic actions brain activity in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and bilateral insula in response to a painful shock was significantly reduced. This reduced pain-induced activation in the right insula was mediated by the neural activity in the ventral medial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC), while the activation of the VMPFC was positively correlated with the performer’s experienced meaningfulness from his or her altruistic behavior. Our findings suggest that incurring personal costs to help others may buffer the performers from unpleasant conditions.

Keywords: altruistic behaviorphysical painmeaningfulnessfunctional MRI

Check also Most research has found that people exhibit altruism towards attractive people, suggesting altruistic behavior is driven by mate choice motivation:
The role of prosocial behaviors in mate choice: A critical review of the literature. Manpal Singh Bhogal, Daniel Farrelly, Niall Galbraith. Current Psychology, May 27 2019.

Supporters of the Republican Party have become much more skeptical of the science of climate change since the 1990s, maybe as a backlash to out-group cues from Democratic elites

Merkley, Eric, and Dominik Stecula. 2020. “Party Cues in the News: Democratic Elites, Republican Backlash and the Dynamics of Climate Skepticism.”  British Journal of Political Science. Preprint January 25. doi:10.31219/

Abstract: Supporters of the Republican Party have become much more skeptical of the science of climate change since the 1990s. We argue that backlash to out-group cues from Democratic elites played an important role in this process. We construct aggregate measures of climate skepticism from nearly 200 public opinion polls at the quarterly level from 2001 to 2014 and at the annual level from 1986 to 2014. We also build time series measures of possible contributors to climate skepticism using an automated media content analysis. Our analyses provide evidence that cues from party elites – especially from Democrats – are associated with aggregate dynamics in climate change skepticism including among supporters of the Republican Party. We then conduct a party cue survey experiment on a sample of 3,000 Americans through Amazon Mechanical Turk to provide more evidence of causality. Together, these results draw attention to the importance of out-group cue-taking and suggest we should see climate change skepticism through the lens of elite-led opinion formation.

Climate scientists, politicians, and political scientists alike have been perplexed that a sizable portion of the American public rejects climate science, particularly among Republican Party supporters. Some have pointed to the role of organized climate denialists and the prevalence of ‘false balance’ in news coverage, others have highlighted the importance of ideology and media framing. Taking a back seat until recently has been the role of party elites. All of these factors could very well influence climate attitudes in the isolation of a survey experiment, but this does not mean they are meaningful drivers of the dynamics of American climate skepticism. We believe scholars need to also examine over time dynamics in the news media environment to examine this question, which has been neglected thus far in research. This paper situates climate change polarization in the larger literature on citizen cue-taking, opinion formation and persuasion. We argue that out-group cues from Democratic elites caused attitudinal backlash among Republican voters, reflected in their growing embrace of climate skepticism. The role of out-group cues in repelling partisan citizens has been less prominent in literature largely focused on persuasion by in-group elites (Cohen 2003; Kam 2005; Mondak 1993), though the importance of out-group elites have recently come to scholarly attention in the United States (Goren et al. 2009; Nicholson 2012). Our study provides more evidence of the central importance of out-group cues on a pressing and important national issue by marshaling a unique combination of text analysis, time series modeling, and experiments. We find that the most consistent factor that predicts aggregate patterns of climate skepticism in the public, and among Republican supporters specifically, are cues from Democratic party elites. We find that Democratic elite cues lead rather than follow public opinion on this topic (H1) and that they are contemporaneously correlated with public opinion even after controlling for other factors scholars have deemed important in shaping attitudes towards climate change (H2). These findings are supported by our survey experiment. We find that polarizing party cues from Democratic (and Republican) elites increase climate skepticism among Republican Party supporters (H3). We found this to be the case with thin treatments and after decades of partisan polarization has already occurred. We did not find a consistently similar effect among Democratic Party supporters, though we must sound a word of caution on this latter point. It is possible these results were hampered by a ceiling effect – Democratic supporters are already very supportive of the climate change consensus, so it is possible our treatments could not move the needle any further. The backlash exhibited by Republican respondents to Democratic elite cues rivals the persuasive
power of in-group cues from Republican elites in our sample, but it also appears to be attenuated by consensus cues signaling agreement between Democratic and Republican elites on climate science and the need for mitigation. In short, we show that the story behind climate change polarization is similar to other political issues of the day: members of the public were exposed to a large volume of partisan messages on climate change as the issue grew in salience – in this case primarily from Democratic elites – and formed their opinions accordingly. This work joins an emerging literature on the role of the media and elite cues in climate change polarization (Carmichael and Brulle 2017; Guber 2013; Merkley and Stecula 2018; Tesler 2017), work showing the persuasive influence of out-group party cues (Berinsky 2009; Bischof and Wagner 2019; Feddersen and Adams 2018; Goren et al. 2009; Nicholson 2012). There are a number of important implications from these findings. First, party elites who strongly identify with the scientific consensus on climate change or other issues must weigh the costs and benefits of aggressively communicating their stance in the mass media. The rising prevalence of party elites in news coverage of climate change was inevitable at some level because of the need for large-scale policy action, but this finding has implications for other scientific issues, such as the safety of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and vaccines. Efforts to bring these issues into the realm of elite conflict will almost surely lead to polarization as an unanticipated consequence. Second, emphases on ideology and motivated cognition, while important to understanding why persuading Republicans and conservatives about the perils of climate change is a tough task at present, is perhaps of more limited utility in helping us explain how we got to this point in the first place. Republican supporters were not always so skeptical of climate change. They listened to, and formed opinions based on, signals from trusted opinion leaders within their communities. By viewing the roots of climate change skepticism primarily in deep-seated ideological and value constructs, we minimize the degree to which elites can shape those constructs. It also means that these elites can turn the tide by taking climate change out of the realm of hyper-partisan conflict. Although our experiment did not find a de-polarizing effect of a consensus cue treatment, a stronger treatment featuring highly respected Republican officials may have more success. Lastly, and relatedly, the potentially prominent role of party elites in the formation of public attitudes on climate change suggests scholars should invest less time and resources in identifying messaging strategies to mobilize support for the climate consensus, and more on understanding the motivations and behavior of party elites. Finding ways to mobilize an elite consensus across partisan
lines is perhaps the most promising strategy to bring public opinion alongside the scientific consensus on climate change.

It Happened to a Friend of a Friend: Inaccurate Source Reporting in Rumor Diffusion

Altay, Sacha, Nicolas Claidière, and Hugo Mercier. 2020. “It Happened to a Friend of a Friend: Inaccurate Source Reporting in Rumor Diffusion.” PsyArXiv. January 25. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: Culturally successful rumors are commonly attributed to a credible friend of a friend, but little is known about how this sourcing can boost rumors’ propagation. In four online experiments (N = 2024) we found that attribution to a credible friend of a friend increased a rumor’s perceived plausibility, and participants’ willingness to share it. Moreover, the credible friend of a friend attribution remained stable across multiple transmissions, instead of the number of friends mentioned increasing with each transmission. The main alternative was to only mention a friend (without credibility attribution). Even though this latter alternative dominated linear transmission chains, introducing a degree of redundancy allows the credible friend of a friend to persist or dominate. We suggest that the preference for attributing rumors to a credible friend of a friend reflects reputation management considerations.

Many of our smiles in everyday life are only posed and signify something very different from joy and happiness

Emotional expressions in human and non-human great apes. Mariska E. Kret et al. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, January 25 2020,

• Emotional expressions are frequently used in all great ape species.
• Compared to apes, humans have evolved communicative faces where all the expressive parts are emphasized.
• Also in great apes species-specific facial characteristics have evolved to enhance communication.
• Smiles have been ritualized to a greater extent in humans than in apes, laughter is similar and seen in comparable contexts.
• Great apes do have voluntary control over some expressions.

Abstract: Humans and great apes are highly social species, and encounter conspecifics throughout their daily lives. During social interactions, they exchange information about their emotional states via expressions through different modalities including the face, body and voice. In this regard, their capacity to express emotions, intentionally or unintentionally, is crucial for them to successfully navigate their social worlds and to bond with group members. Darwin (1872) stressed similarities in how humans and other animals express their emotions, particularly with the great apes. Here, we show that emotional expressions have many conserved, yet also a number of divergent features. Some theorists consider emotional expressions as direct expressions of internal states, implying that they are involuntary, cannot be controlled and are inherently honest. Others see them as more intentional and/ or as indicators of the actor’s future behavior. After reviewing the human and ape literature, we establish an integrative, evolutionary perspective and provide evidence showing that these different viewpoints are not mutually exclusive. Recent insights indicate that, in both apes and humans, some emotional expressions can be controlled or regulated voluntarily, including in the presence of audiences, suggesting modulation by cognitive processes. However, even non-intentional expressions such as pupil dilation can nevertheless inform others and influence future behavior. In sum, while showing deep evolutionary homologies across closely related species, emotional expressions show relevant species variation.

Keywords: emotional expressionsgreat apescomparative psychologycognitive controlevolution

Political leanings are the strongest predictors of climate change beliefs, particularly among the more knowledgeable

Climate Change: A Partisan and Polarized Issue in the United States. Risa Palm, Toby Bolsen. Climate Change and Sea Level Rise in South Florida pp 15-40, January 2 2020.

Abstract: Climate change has become a politically polarized issue within the past 30 years, as interest groups and certain political leaders sought to dispute the growing scientific consensus about its causes and impacts. This chapter synthesizes a large body of survey, experimental and methodological literature that places the empirical study of South Florida in context. Past survey research has shown conclusively that party identification and ideology are the strongest predictors of climate change beliefs of Americans. Other predictors that are less consistent include demographic characteristics, cultural worldviews and personal experience. Survey and laboratory research has been directed at understanding the processes involved in accepting or denying messages about climate change. Among the findings are that strategically framed messages can shift opinion, that a belief in scientific consensus about climate change may increase acceptance of its reality, that prior beliefs, group identities and cultural worldviews moderate the acceptance of climate change information through motivated reasoning, and that best practices involve describing climate change as a personal risk, using social group norms to convince skeptics, and emphasizing social consensus on the issue. Prior research suggests that a message about environmental risk that is local and specific will be relatively more effective, particularly when the immediate threat is already visible.

Keywords: Motivated reasoning Framing Partisanship Public opinion Consensus Polarization Risk communication