Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Does Attractiveness Lead to or Follow From Occupational Success? Findings From German Associational Football

Does Attractiveness Lead to or Follow From Occupational Success? Findings From German Associational Football. Henk Erik Meier, Michael Mutz. SAGE Open, January 29, 2020.

Abstract: Prior research has provided evidence that attractiveness is associated with work-related advantages. It is less clear, however, whether attractiveness is an antecedent or a consequence of professional success. To answer this question, associational football in Germany is used as an exemplifying case. Portrait pictures of German football players were retrieved, one picture from a very early career stage and one from a very late one. Attractiveness of these portraits was assessed by the “truth of consensus” method. Panel regression models are applied to analyze changes in attractiveness and relate these changes to professional success. Findings show that success as a footballer cannot be predicted with attractiveness at early career stages. Instead, the increase of attractiveness over time is more pronounced among very successful players. It is thus concluded that successful individuals are not more attractive in the very beginning, but improve their appearance throughout their careers.

Keywords: attractiveness, beauty, appearance, professional success, football

The role of physical attractiveness for job-related interactions and outcomes is intensely debated. Previous research has pointed to the existence of a beauty premium in the labor market, but scholars have recently emphasized that the causal mechanisms behind this beauty effect are not completely understood. The objective of this study was to provide some clues on the direction of the dependency, whether attractiveness leads to or follows from success. The first notion that attractiveness fosters professional success in associational football was clearly rejected (H1). At the same time, it was shown that more successful football players markedly improve their physical appearance over time, lending support to the second idea that attractiveness follows from success (H2). Hence, it can be concluded from the findings that attractiveness is less an antecedent, but more a consequence of success. Hence, beauty is not a stable characteristic of a football player, but something modified by “beauty work.”
Large cross-sectional studies on football in Germany had shown that attractiveness and success are correlated (Rosar et al., 2010, 2013, 2017). In the interpretation of this association, it was claimed that coaches may give attractive footballers an advantage in fielding decisions which may help attractive players to become successful. In particular, the interpretation that coaches favor more attractive players was put forward by Rosar and colleagues (2017). However, bearing in mind that football is one of the few professional domains where attractiveness has particularly no relevance as a productivity factor, this interpretation comes as a surprise. Our results lend more support to the notion that players who are fielded more often (and are thus more often in the public spotlight) invest more into their beauty. Although this needs to be tested in future research more explicitly (including measures for grooming), the findings presented here suggest that the beauty premium in sport is probably more accurately interpreted as a by-product of beauty work and not as a form of discrimination against less attractive players.
If this line of reasoning is correct, it is still unclear what motivates this beauty work: On one hand, professional athletes are offered huge financial rewards for attractiveness and popularity, because these qualities are valued by media and the sport industry. For an athlete, beauty work can thus be a form of strategic investment to reach a broader public beyond the narrow scope of regular football fans and, in doing so, increase his endorser qualities. David Beckham or Cristiano Ronaldo may be considered textbook examples of this strategy (Coad, 2005). In forms of sponsorship and marketing deals, beauty work may thus pay-off for athletes and lead to higher revenues. However, Hamermesh et al. (2002) have also contested the idea that additional earnings due to investments in physical appearance recover costs (e.g., for clothing and cosmetics). However, this study was not conducted in the realm of professional sport and may thus not hold true in this particular context. On the other hand, beauty work must not necessarily represent an investment strategy, but may simply be a form of “conspicuous consumption” (Veblen, 1899/2007). Conspicuous consumption refers to the acquisition of luxury goods, including expensive clothing, to publicly demonstrate wealth and a high social status. Hence, in this line of interpretation, the “returns” of beauty work do not tend to a monetary but to a symbolic level, aiming at distinction and prestige. Moreover, it was also claimed that showy spending increases sex appeal among men (Sundie et al., 2011). Hence, beauty work among high-class football players, who stand in the limelight of a huge TV audience each weekend, may simply represent a form of impression management to showcase oneself in a positive way and generate symbolic capital.
This finding comes with strong implications for future research on the role of physical attractiveness in professional sport: Future research has to go beyond correlational analysis and needs to employ longitudinal research designs to be able to discriminate between different mechanisms at stake. Simple correlational analysis does not suffice for making conclusive inferences on the impact of attractiveness on football players’ careers. Moreover, as the current study leaves unclear why successful football players improve their physical appearance, future research should address beauty work and its financial and symbolic returns.
One limitation of this study is that it measured beauty solely based on facial attractiveness. According to Hakim (2010), beauty, sexual attractiveness, physical fitness, liveliness, charm, and style are distinctive features that can make a person attractive for others. Although some of these characteristics are hard to measure as they are not assessable with pictures (e.g., charm) or change quickly (e.g., style), it should be kept in mind that this study (as with many previous studies) reduces beauty to facial attractiveness while ignoring other (body) characteristics. Moreover, as an alternative to the “truth of consensus”-rating method, scholars have suggested a software-based approach, analyzing facial geometry, for instance, horizontal symmetry, ratio of nose to ear length or ratio of face width to face height (Hoegele et al., 2015). This is a promising approach so that future studies would do well to integrate rater-based as well as software-based methods for assessing facial attractiveness. Finally, this study solely focused on male athletes so that it remains uncertain whether these findings would also hold for female athletes. Previous studies on attractiveness and occupational success found stronger effects for women compared with men (Jæger, 2011). Similar findings were reported for female professional tennis players, whose popularity is much more driven by their attractiveness compared with male players (Konjer et al., 2019). However, in view of the fact that women’s football is less professionalized and commercialized as a sport in Germany (e.g., with regard to media coverage, salary levels, or endorsement deals), the incentives to invest into beauty and appearance may not be as high as in men’s football. Hence, replications of this study in women’s football, in other fields of professional sport, and in different domains of the entertainment industry would be helpful to assess whether the findings presented here are generalizable or an expression of peculiarities of European associational men’s football.

It has been commonly believed that information in short-term memory (STM) is maintained in persistent delay-period spiking activity; experiments have revealed that information in STM can be maintained in neural passive states

Reevaluating the Role of Persistent Neural Activity in Short-Term Memory. Nicolas Y. Masse, Matthew C. Rosen, David J. Freedman. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, January 29 2020.

.    It has been commonly believed that information in short-term memory (STM) is maintained in persistent delay-period spiking activity.
.    Recent experiments have begun to question this assumption, as the strength of persistent activity appears greater for tasks that require active manipulation of the memoranda, as opposed to tasks that require only passive maintenance.
.    New experiments have revealed that information in STM can be maintained in neural ‘hidden’ states, such as short-term synaptic plasticity.
.    Machine-learning-based recurrent neural networks have been successfully trained to solve a diversity of working memory tasks and can be leveraged to understand putative neural substrates of STM.

Abstract: A traditional view of short-term working memory (STM) is that task-relevant information is maintained ‘online’ in persistent spiking activity. However, recent experimental and modeling studies have begun to question this long-held belief. In this review, we discuss new evidence demonstrating that information can be ‘silently’ maintained via short-term synaptic plasticity (STSP) without the need for persistent activity. We discuss how the neural mechanisms underlying STM are inextricably linked with the cognitive demands of the task, such that the passive maintenance and the active manipulation of information are subserved differently in the brain. Together, these recent findings point towards a more nuanced view of STM in which multiple substrates work in concert to support our ability to temporarily maintain and manipulate information.

The Origin of Our Modern Concept of Depression—The History of Melancholia From 1780-1880: A Review

The Origin of Our Modern Concept of Depression—The History of Melancholia From 1780-1880: A Review. Kenneth S. Kendler. JAMA Psychiatry, January 29, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2019.4709

Abstract: The modern concept of depression arose from earlier diagnostic formulations of melancholia over the hundred years from the 1780s to the 1880s. In this historical sketch, this evolution is traced from the writings of 12 authors outlining the central roles played by the concepts of faculty psychology and understandability. Five of the authors, writing from 1780 through the 1830s, including Cullen, Pinel, and Esquirol, defined melancholia as a disorder of intellect or judgment, a “partial insanity” often, but not always, associated with sadness. Two texts from the 1850s by Guislain, and Bucknill and Tuke were at the transition between paradigms. Both emphasized a neglected disorder—melancholia without delusions—arguing that it reflected a primary disorder of mood—not of intellect. In the final phase in the 1860s to 1880s, 5 authors (Griesinger, Sankey, Maudsley, Krafft-Ebing, and Kraepelin) all confronted the problem of the cause of delusional melancholia. Each author concluded that melancholia was a primary mood disorder and argued that the delusions emerged understandably from the abnormal mood. In this 100-year period, the explanation of delusional melancholia in faculty psychology terms reversed itself from an intellect to mood to a mood to intellect model. The great nosologists of the 19th century are often seen as creating our psychiatric disorders using a simple inductive process, clustering the symptoms, signs, and later the course of the patients. This history suggests 2 complexities to this narrative. First, in addition to bottom-up clinical studies, these nosologists were working top-down from theories of faculty psychology proposed by 18th century philosophers. Second, for patient groups experiencing disorders of multiple faculties, the nosologists used judgments about understandability to assign primary causal roles. This historical model suggests that the pathway from patient observation to the nosologic categories—the conceptual birth of our diagnostic categories—has been more complex than is often realized.


Before the rise of modern psychiatry in the late 18th century, the concept of melancholia differed substantially from our modern view of depression,1-6 which did not emerge until the late 19th century.1,2,7,8 By examining key texts published from 1780 to 1880, I document the nature and timing of this shift through 3 phases. Two theories play important roles in this story: faculty psychology9-13 and understandability.13-16 Faculty psychology is defined as

The theory, in vogue particularly during the second half of the eighteenth and first half of the nineteenth centuries, that the mind is divided up into separate inherent powers or “faculties.”17(p253)

I focus on 2 of these inborn faculties, one predominant at the initiation of this story (intellect, understanding, or judgment), and the other whose rising influence I track across the 19th century: mood, affect, or moral (ie, psychological) sentiment.

Given the frequency of patients apparently experiencing disorders both of intellect and mood, the theory of faculty psychology posed a problem. To give a proper diagnosis, clinicians needed to distinguish between 3 hypotheses about such patients. Did they have 2 independent disorders, a primary disorder of intellect with a secondary mood disorder or a primary disorder of mood with a secondary disorder of intellect?13 A dominant approach to this problem, later popularized by Karl Jaspers,14,15 was that with careful observation and empathy, the clinician could discriminate between these hypotheses, for example, determining if a delusion (a disorder of intellect) could arise understandably from a disordered mood.

Phase 1: 1780-1830
In the first historical phase, all major authors emphasized that melancholia was primarily a disorder of intellect, often—but not always—accompanied by sadness.

I begin with the medical nosology of William Cullen (1710-1790), a physician and leading figure in the Scottish enlightenment. In his highly influential 1780 nosology,18,19 melancholia was placed within the class of neuroses (nervous disorders), and the order of vésanie (mental diseases/insanity) characterized as “a disorder of the functions of the judging faculty of the mind, without fever or sleepiness.”19 Melancholia was defined as “partial insanity without dyspepsia,” with the phrase “without dyspepsia” included to distinguish it from hypochondriasis. By partial insanity, Cullen meant that the delusions were limited to a single subject, leaving the affected individual with intact areas of intellectual functioning.

Phillipe Pinel (1745-1826),20,21 a major reformer and one of the founders of modern psychiatry, provided the following definition of melancholia in 1801:

Delirium (ie, delusions) exclusively upon one subject … free exercise in other respects of all the faculties of the understanding: in some cases, equanimity of disposition, or a state of unruffled satisfaction: in others, habitual depression and anxiety, and frequently a moroseness of character … and sometimes to an invincible disgust with life.21(p149)Like Cullen,18,19 Pinel’s definition emphasized intellectual dysfunction (eg, partial insanity), but he added a range of associated mood states. Some of the states reflect depression but another described emotional equanimity.

In his 1804 treatise on madness and suicide,”22 the English physician William Rowley (1742-1806) gave a succinct definition of melancholia that agrees in essential points with his predecessors, with the disordered intellect here termed “alienation of the mind”:
Madness, or insanity, is an alienation of the mind, without fever. It is distinguished into two species; melancholy, or mania…. The former is known by sullenness, taciturnity, meditation, dreadful apprehensions, and despair.22(p1)Rowley differs from his predecessors in associating melancholia only with the moods of sadness and anxiety.

In his 1817 monograph on melancholia,23 Maurice Roubaud-Luce’s description of melancholia resembled that of his French predecessor, Pinel,20,21 including its possible association with elevated mood states:

Melancholy is characterized by an exclusive and chronic delirium focused on a single object, or on a particular series of objects, with a free exercise of intellectual faculties on everything that is foreign to these objects. This condition is often accompanied by a deeply concentrated sadness, a state of dejection and stupor, and an ardent love of solitude. Sometimes also it excites, for no apparent reason, immoderate joy…. 23(p1)

Jean Esquirol (1772-1840), Pinel’s student and successor as leader of French psychiatry, coined the term lypemania as a synonym for melancholia.24,25 Like Rowley, in his 1838 textbook, he removed the association with mania-like partial insanities:

We consider it well defined, by saying that melancholy … or lypemania, is a cerebral malady, characterized by partial, chronic delirium, without fever, and sustained by a passion of a sad, debilitating or oppressive character.25(p203)

Phase 2: 1850-1860
In phase 2, the dominant view of melancholia as a primary disorder of intellect came under challenge.

Joseph Guislain (1789-1860), a Belgian alienist and director of the psychiatric hospital at Ghent, took a first step toward the modern view of depression. He described, in his 1852 text,26 6 elementary forms of mental maladies, one of which was mélancolie, defined as “mental pain—augmentation of sentiments of sadness.26(p94) He then described the relatively novel category of nondelusional melancholia, calling it

exclusively an exaggeration of affective feelings; it is a pathological emotion, a sadness, a grief, an anxiety, a fear, a fright, and nothing more. It is not a state which appreciably weakens conceptual faculties.26(p112)He continues:

The description that the [prior] authors gave us of this disease [melancholy] leaves something to be desired; almost all spoke of delusional melancholy, and none, to my knowledge, describes melancholy in its state of greatest simplicity: there are melancholies without delusions … without noticeable disturbance of intelligence or ideas. Melancholy without delusion is the simplest form under which the suffering mode can occur; it is a state of sadness, dejection … without notable aberration of imagination, judgement or intelligence … a despair dominates him; he is absorbed into this painful feeling.26(p186)

In their influential 1858 textbook, John Bucknill (1817-1897) and Daniel Tuke (1827-1895) took a further step away from the view of melancholia as primarily a disorder of intellect. In the section on melancholia, written by Tuke, he begins with the quotation above from Esquirol25 to which he adds a critical comment (italics added):

“We consider it well-defined,” he observes “by saying that melancholia or lypemania, is cerebral malady, characterized by partial chronic delirium, without fever, and sustained by a passion of a sad, debilitating, or oppressive character.” A definition sufficiently accurate, if we except the “chronic delirium,” disorder of the intellect not being, as we shall presently see, an essential part of the disorder.27(p152)

Tuke argues that delusions have been incorrectly understood as the primary melancholic symptom. Following Guislain,26 Tuke operationalizes this change by defining a simple form of melancholia in which “there is here no disorder of the intellect, strictly speaking; no delusion or hallucination.27(p158) Bucknill and Tuke are then more explicit about their new conceptualization of melancholia: “it can be shown that the disorder at present under consideration, may coexist with a sound condition of the purely intellectual part of our mental constitution.27(p159)

Tuke provides his rationale for this conceptual shift in his earlier chapter on classification. After reviewing prior nosologic systems, he writes of the importance of faculty psychology in psychiatric nosology: “The writer thinks there is much to be said in favor of the attempt to classify the various forms of insanity, according to the mental functions affected.”27(p95) He then quotes his coauthor, “Dr Bucknill observes that insanity may be either intellectual, emotional, or volitional.”27(p95) We cannot, he argues, base our nosology on the “physiology of the organ of the mind,” because we do not know it. But, he continues, “in the absence of this knowledge it would seem reasonable to adapt them to the affected function.”27(p95) We could then, he concludes, “speak of disorders of the intellect, sentiment, etc. instead of basing our classification exclusively on prominent symptoms.”27(p95) He formalizes the conclusion:

In bringing the phenomena of diseased mind into relation with such classification, we should endeavor to refer every form of disease to that class or group of the mental faculties which the disease necessarily, though not exclusively, involves in its course.27(p98)In his ideal nosology, idiocy, dementia, and monomania, which commonly manifests delusions and hallucinations, are disorders of the intellect while melancholia is considered a disorder of “moral sentiment,” that is, mood.

Phase 3: 1860-1883
Phase 3 continues the shift from the view that melancholia was predominantly a disorder of intellect to one of mood. But these authors also confronted the problem of delusional melancholia. If it too is primarily a disorder of mood, how can the emergence of delusions be explained? Their response to this question will incorporate the concept of understandability.

The first professor of psychiatry in Germany and a strong advocate for a brain-based psychiatry, Wilhelm Griesinger (1817-1868), early in his 1861 textbook,28,29 adopts a faculty psychological approach to psychiatric nosology in his chapter entitled “The Elementary Disorders in Mental Disease”:

In those cerebral affections which come under consideration as mental diseases, there are, as in all others, only three essentially distinct groups…. Thus, according to this threefold division, we have to consider successively each of the three leading groups of elementary disturbances—intellectual insanity, emotional insanity, and insanity of movement.29(p60)

Although like Guislain26 before him, Griesinger viewed melancholia as typically forming the first stage of a unitary psychosis: both of their descriptions are of relevance. Griesinger begins, “The fundamental affection in all these forms of disease consists in the morbid influence of a painful depressing negative affection—in a mentally painful state.”29(p209) That is, he clearly emphasized the affective nature of the disorder. He elaborates:

In many cases, after a period of longer or shorter duration, a state of vague mental and bodily discomfort … a state of mental pain becomes always more dominant and persistent…. This is the essential mental disorder in melancholia, and, so far as the patient himself is concerned, the mental pain consists in a profound feeling of ill-being, of inability to do anything, of suppression of the physical powers, of depression and sadness…. The patient can no longer rejoice in anything, not even the most pleasing.29(p223)

Earlier in the book, Griesinger sought to explain how disordered mood can produce delusions.

As to their contents, two leading differences are particularly to be observed in insane conceptions [one of which is] … somber, sad, and painful thoughts …. [which arise] from depressed states of the disposition, and gloomy ill-boding hallucinations, as language of abuse and mockery which the patient is always hearing, diabolical grimaces which he sees, etc. The false ideas and conclusions, which are attempts at explanation and vindications of the actual disposition in its effects, are spontaneously developed in the diseased mind according to the law of causality…. At first the delirious conceptions are fleeting … gradually, by continued repetition, they gain more body and form, repel opposing ideas … then they become constituent parts [of the “I”] … and the patient cannot divest himself of them.29(p71)

Early in his 1866 text, William Sankey (1813-1889), an asylum director and lecturer at University College London, outlined morbid psychiatric conditions of the intellect, emotions, and volition. He turned to discussing the development of melancholia:

The alterations in degree are such as an increase of grief, a depression of spirits going on to melancholy…. Such description of abnormal acts of mind belong to the emotions, and occur in the earlier stages, the later or more permanent alterations of kind may be manifested in the (a) intellect, (b) the disposition, (c) the manner, (d) temper, (e) habits, and (f) character of the individual.30(p25)

Therefore, primary alterations in emotions can lead to a range of developments in melancholia, including alterations in intellectual functioning including “in power of judgment, apprehension, imagination, argumentation, memory, or they may entertain distinct illusion [hallucination] or delusion.”30(p25) He captures this point in a case history of melancholia which he summarizes:

The progress of this case was therefore—simple depression, abstraction, forgetfulness, neglect of duties… religious fears, and morbid apprehensions and delusions… You see how closely nearly all these symptoms are connected with the emotions. Fear, apprehension, and dread are among the commonest phenomena.30(p30)

Early in his section on the varieties of insanity from his 1867 textbook,31 Henry Maudsley (1835-1918) adopted a faculty psychological orientation:

On a general survey of the symptoms of these varieties it is at once apparent that they fall into two well-marked groups one of these embracing all those cases in which the mode of feeling or the affective life is chiefly or solely perverted—in which the whole habit or manner of feeling, the mode of affection of the individual by events, is entirely changed; the other, those cases in which ideational or intellectual derangement predominates.31(p301)He then outlines how the effects of the mood disorder spread through other faculties:
Consequently, when there is perversion of the affective life, there will be morbid feeling and morbid action; the patient's whole manner of feeling, the mode of his affection by events, is unnatural, and the springs of his action are disordered; and the intellect is unable to check or control the morbid manifestations.31(p302)He later continues:

The different forms of affective insanity have not been properly recognised and exactly studied because they did not fall under the time-honoured divisions and the real manner of commencement of intellectual insanity in a disturbance of the affective life has frequently been overlooked.31(p321)

Maudsley then attacks the earlier views of melancholia—that the intellectual dysfunctions were primary and the mood disorder secondary (italics added):

It is necessary to guard against the mistake of supposing the delusion to be the cause of the passion, whether painful or gay …. Suddenly, it may be, an idea springs up in his mind that he is lost forever, or that he must commit suicide, or that he has committed murder and is about to be hanged; the vast and formless feeling of profound misery has taken form as a concrete idea —in other words, has become condensed into a definite delusion, this now being the expression of it. The delusion is not the cause of the feeling of misery, but is engendered of it, it is precipitated, as it were in a mind saturated with the feeling of inexpressible woe.31(p328)

Richard von Krafft-Ebing (1840-1902), among the most important late 19th century German-speaking neuropsychiatrists,32,33 wrote in his influential 1874 monograph on melancholia, “The basic phenomenon in melancholic insanity is simply mental depression, psychic pain in its elementary manifestation.”34(p1) By analogy with a peripheral neuralgia, melancholia transforms normal psychological experiences into anguish and sorrow. Affected individuals have repeated “painful distortions” of their experiences, “all his relations to the external world are different … he is unfeeling, homeless ... with unbearable despair.”34(p5)

In his section on melancholy with delusions and hallucinations, Krafft-Ebing writes
Let us look at the sources of these [symptoms]. Initially it is the altered sense of self of the patient, the consciousness of deep abasement … the fractured strength and ability to work, which require an explanation and, with advancing disturbance of consciousness, does not find this in the subjective aspect of the illness, but in the delusional changes of relationship to the external world, from which we are after all used to receiving the impulses for our feelings, ideas and ambitions. This formation of delusions is supported significantly by the deep disturbance of the perception of the world.34(p32)He then gives examples of how delusions of poverty, persecution, and impending punishment can emerge “in a psychological manner … from elementary disturbances of mood”34(p34):

Thus, deep depression of the sense of self, and the consciousness of mental impotence and physical inability to work, lead to the delusion of no longer being able to earn enough, of being impoverished, of starvation.34(p33)

Mental dysesthesia thus causes hostile apperception of the external world, as presumed suspicious glances, scornful gestures, abusive speeches from the environment join, leading to persecutory delusions…. Precordial anxiety and expectations of humiliation lead to the delusion that an actual danger is threatening [where] … a prior harmless action which is not even a crime … is formed into an actual crime.34(p34)

Emil Kraepelin’s views of melancholia, unencumbered by his later development of the category of manic-depressive illness, can be found in the first edition of his textbook published in 1883. He saw this syndrome as arising from “psychological anguish” when “the feelings of dissatisfaction, anxiety and general misery gains such strength that it constantly dominates the mood.”35(p190) He describes the emergence of depressive delusions:

… in milder cases … there is insight into his own illness. As a rule, however, critical ability becomes overwhelmed by powerful mood fluctuations, and the pathological change is transferred to the external world. It does not merely seem to be so dismal and bleak, but really is so. A further progression … can then give rise to formal delusions and a systematic distortion of external experiences.35(p191)

The writings of Krafft-Ebing32,33 and Kraepelin35 reflect a culmination in the development of the modern concept of depression, an illness resulting primarily from a disorder of mood, which can manifest delusions that do not reflect an independent disorder of judgment or intellect but rather a rise, in an understandable manner, from the affective disturbance. We see a clear continuity from these authors to DSM-III36 in the signs and symptoms of what we now call major depression.7,8

In this historical sketch, which could not examine all relevant authors or provide helpful background materials, I document that, during the rise of modern psychiatry in the late 18th and early 19th century, the concept of melancholia was closely wedded to earlier views that it was fundamentally a disorder of intellect—a partial insanity—often, but not always, accompanied by sadness. This concept was seen, with modest variation, in writings from 1780 through the 1830s from both England (Cullen18,19 and Rowley22) and France (Pinel,20,21 Roubaud-Luce,23 and Esquirol24).

In this narrative, the first movement away from this paradigm was by Guislain,26 writing just after the mid-19th century, who defined elementary melancholia as a disorder of mood and then focused on the neglected but illustrative category of nondelusional melancholia. Such patients demonstrated no abnormalities of intellect or judgment. This form of melancholia was, he suggested, a disorder primarily of mood.

In 1858, 2 British authors, Bucknill and Tuke,27 went further, declaring explicitly, in the language of faculty psychology, that a disorder of the intellect was not an essential part of melancholia. However, this assertion left a key problem. How could the common occurrence of melancholia with delusions be explained if melancholia was primarily a disorder of mood?

Our final 5 authors—Griesinger,28 Sankey,30 Maudsley,31 Krafft-Ebing,32,34 and Kraepelin35—each accepted the primacy of mood in the cause of melancholia and addressed the problem of the origin of melancholic delusions. Griesinger argued that “the false ideas …are attempts at explanation.”29(p71) Sankey noted “how closely nearly all these [psychotic] symptoms are connected with the emotions.”30(p30) Maudsley stated, “The vast and formless feeling of profound misery has taken form as a concrete [delusional] idea…. The delusion is not the cause of the feeling of misery but is engendered of it.”31(p328) Krafft-Ebing presented a compelling explanation of the psychological origin of melancholic delusions including the nature of “delusional changes of relationship to the external world”34(p32) and sketched how melancholic symptoms could lead, understandably, to delusions of poverty, persecution, or punishment. Kraepelin described how “critical ability becomes overwhelmed by powerful mood fluctuations.”35(p191)

This review provides the historical context for our modern concept of mood-congruent psychotic features, which was first introduced in the research diagnostic criteria as “typical depressive delusions such as delusions of guilt, sin, poverty, nihilism, or self-deprecation,”37(p16) and then incorporated with modest changes in DSM-III36 and all subsequent DSM editions. Echoing the writings of authors reviewed herein, this list reflects delusions whose content can be understandably derived from the primary mood disturbance in major depression.

These historical observations have important implications for how we understand the nature of our psychiatric categories. A prominent narrative is that the great psychiatric nosologists of the 19th century acted as simple inductivists, seeing large numbers of patients with psychiatric disorders and, based initially on symptoms and signs and later also on course of illness, then sorting them into diagnostic categories. This inquiry suggests a more complex process.

First, as illustrated herein and described elsewhere,13,38,39 across Europe during the 19th century, systems of faculty psychology, innate functions of the human mind, were propounded by a range of philosophers, including Kant, Reid, and Stewart.10,38 These faculties provided influential a priori categories for psychiatric nosologists. As articulated explicitly by Tuke, absent a knowledge of pathophysiology, diagnostic categories should at least be based on the “affected function” (eg, “disorders of the intellect, sentiment, etc”27(p95)) rather than exclusively on symptoms.

Second, given the adoption of faculty psychology, nosologists had to confront the problem of the classification of patients apparently experiencing disorders of 2 faculties, such as individuals with delusional melancholia. Did these patients have 2 disorders or only 1 and, if so, which one? The creation of our modern concept of depression arose from an argument about the primacy of disordered intellect vs disordered mood in explaining the cause of delusional melancholia. The early model, consistent with the then dominant intellectualist view of insanity,40,41 assumed that disordered judgment was the essence of melancholia, which was first and foremost a disorder of intellect. Over the 19th century, this opinion was reversed. By the 1870s, it became widely accepted that melancholia was primarily a mood disorder. The argument that fueled that major diagnostic change appealed to understandability—that clinicians could empathically grasp how disordered mood could lead to particular kinds of delusions.

Rather than naive inductivism, a more realistic model for the development of psychiatric nosology in the 19th century would reflect a mixture of bottom-up and top-down processes. Psychiatric neuroscientists and geneticists working today are not studying the biological substrate of illnesses in patients classified from raw clinical experience. Rather, our diagnostic categories reflect clinical observations translated through mentalistic constructs from philosophers who divided the major functions of the human mind into faculties. An obvious question then is whether these faculties have a coherent biological substrate. In an 1857 essay, Henry Monro expressed concerns exactly on this point: Can we relate the metaphysical structure of mental faculties to brain structures? He wrote

Physiology points further than to the general truth that brain as a whole is the instrument of the mind as a whole, and gives us good reason to believe that the great faculties, the emotions, the sensations, and the intelligence, have distinguishable ganglia, sensoria, or spheres of action.42(p196)

The success of our efforts at understanding the biologic characteristics of major psychiatric disorders might therefore depend, in part, on how successfully the faculty psychology of 18th century philosophers reflected brain structure and function. Furthermore, our nosologic categories are influenced by empathy-based insights into the nature of psychological causation. When can a delusion be understood to derive from disordered mood rather than from a primary disorder of intellect? The degree to which these empathy-based mentalistic processes translate into a discernable neurobiology is not well known.

This history suggests that the path from patient observation to our nosologic categories and from there, hopefully, to a detectable pathophysiologic nature is more complex than is commonly realized.

Online perspective-taking experiments have demonstrated great potential in reducing prejudice towards disadvantaged groups, but had no meaningful causal effect on social welfare attitudes

Bor, Alexander, and Gábor Simonovits. 2020. “Empathy, Deservingness, and Preferences for Welfare Assistance: A Large-scale Online Perspective-taking Experiment.” PsyArXiv. January 29. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: Online perspective-taking experiments have demonstrated great potential in reducing prejudice towards disadvantaged groups such as refugees or the Roma. These studies trigger the psychological process of empathy and evoke feelings of compassion. Meanwhile, a growing literature argues that compassion towards the poor is an important predictor of support for social welfare. This paper bridges these two literatures and predicts that perspective-taking with the poor could increase support for welfare assistance. This hypothesis is tested with a pre-registered experiment conducted on a large and diverse online sample of US citizens (N=3,431). Our results suggest that participants engaged with the perspective-taking exercise, wrote eloquent, often emotional essays. Nevertheless, perspective-taking had no meaningful causal effect on social welfare attitudes; we can confidently rule out effects exceeding 2 points on a 100 points scale. These results cast serious doubt on perspective-taking as a viable online tool to create compassion towards the poor.


In this paper, we have tested whether perspective-taking is a viable tool for increasing support for welfare redistribution. Relying on an original, carefully designed, well-powered, and pre-registered survey experiment elded to a representative sample of US citizens, we found that it is not. Similarly to successful interventions, we tested the impact of a particular stimulus, describing the experiences of a single target and emphasizing a particular set of challenges that poor people in the US face (unemployment, health problems, housing problems, single parenthood).
Thus, our conclusions about the possible e ectiveness of perspective-taking intervention are necessarily limited: We have no way of knowing if large or even small changes in the stimulus used here could have led to a more e ective intervention.
This leads to the question of the extent to which these null ndings advance our understanding of either the class of interventions or the substantive target attitude that we study.
This issue should be understood in the broader context of how the published experimental literature characterizes the e ect of a di erent class of interventions. There is ample evidence that published research over-represents successful interventions compared to the universe of social science experiments (Franco, Malhotra and Simonovits 2014; 2016). For a more complete understanding of how a given class of interventions – such as perspective-taking – works, one also needs to consider unsuccessful examples.
That said, it is also important to emphasize why we think that our null results are surprising. First, our experimental design relied on a heavy dose of deservingness cues, which, according to previous research, has a large and sometimes long-lasting e ect on support for redistribution. We expected the perspective taking exercise to amplify the e ects of these deservingness cues but found that it nulliffed it.
Second, our findings are surprising considering a growing line of research employing perspective taking to reduce prejudice against various groups from refugees to transgender individuals.
Our results suggest that prejudice against the poor and attitudes towards government help for the poor may be more di cult to shape than attitudes towards these other marginalized groups.
Third, our experimental design likely constitutes a liberal test of our hypothesis. Besides relying heavily on deservingness cues, we measure the dependent variable with a composite index of ten items after a distractor task lasting a few minutes. For this reason, the experiment should be able to pick up even small, fleeting effects. Finally, it is noteworthy that the analysis of the essays reveals that participants have been very attentive and engaged in the exercise. We have no reason to believe that if we had conducted our experiment in the lab, we would see different results.
At the same time, the literature also o ers some explanations for our failure to bring about attitude change using our perspective-taking intervention. On the one hand, our treatment might have proven too weak in the sense that even though subjects felt empathy towards the individual depicted in the vignette, these emotions did not spill over to people in need in general, perhaps because subjects viewed the vignette as an \exception" to some deeply held stereotypes about poor people.
On the other hand, intense exposure to a story about a person in need might have led to emotional reactions moving counter to our hypothesized e ect. For instance, as argued by Sands (2017) exposure to poverty might have provoked anxiety in subjects about their own relative status, suppressing their support for policies helping others. Similarly, as pointed out by Simas, Clifford and Kirkland (2020), heightened empathy might exacerbate in-group bias, leading to hostile attitudes towards members of an out-group.

What We Owe to Family: Agents who helped a stranger were judged as more morally good & trustworthy than those who helped kin, but agents who helped a stranger instead of kin were judged as less morally good & trustworthy

What We Owe to Family: The Impact of Special Obligations on Moral Judgment. Ryan M. McManus, Max Kleiman-Weiner, Liane Young. Psychological Science, January 28, 2020.

Abstract: Although people often recognize the moral value of impartial behavior (i.e., not favoring specific individuals), it is unclear when, if ever, people recognize the moral value of partiality. The current studies investigated whether information about special obligations to specific individuals, particularly kin, is integrated into moral judgments. In Studies 1 and 2, agents who helped a stranger were judged as more morally good and trustworthy than those who helped kin, but agents who helped a stranger, instead of kin were judged as less morally good and trustworthy than those who did the opposite. In Studies 3 and 4, agents who simply neglected a stranger were judged as less morally bad and untrustworthy than those who neglected kin. Study 4 also demonstrated that the violation (vs. fulfillment) of perceived obligations underlaid all judgment patterns. Study 5 demonstrated boundary conditions: When occupying roles requiring impartiality, agents who helped a stranger instead of kin were judged as more morally good and trustworthy than agents who did the opposite. These findings illuminate the importance of obligations in structuring moral judgment.

Keywords: morality, obligation, prosocial behavior, impartiality, open data, open materials, preregistered

Male bowerbirds add berries to their bowers to increase attractiveness to choosy mates; when berries are added artificially, increased intrasexual aggression in the form of bower destructions by neighbouring rivals occur

From 2002... Bower decorations attract females but provoke other male spotted bowerbirds: bower owners resolve this trade-off. Joah Robert Madden. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Volume 269, Issue 1498, July 7 2002.

Abstract: Elaborate secondary sexual traits offset the costs that they impose on their bearer by facilitating reproductive benefits, through increased success in intrasexual contests or increased attractiveness to choosy mates. Some traits enhance both strategies. Conversely, I show that spotted bowerbirds Chlamydera maculata may face a trade–off. The trait that best predicts their mating success, numbers of Solanum berries exhibited on a bower, also provokes increased intrasexual aggression in the form of bower destructions by neighbouring bower owners, which reduce the quality of the male's bower. At natural berry numbers, levels of mating success in the population are skewed, but levels of destruction do not vary with berry number. When berry numbers are artificially exaggerated, increased levels of destructions occur, but mating success does not increase. When offered excess berries, either to add to the bower or artificially placed on the bower, bower owners preferred to use numbers of berries related to the number that they displayed naturally. This decision is made without direct experience of the attendant changes in destruction or mating success. This indicates that bower owners may assess their own social standing in relation to their neighbours and modulate their display accordingly.

Germ theory, long before it led to medical treatments, drove down mortality rates by revolutionizing sanitation and hygiene

Draining the swamp. Jason Crawford. The Roots of Progress, Jan 28.

Excerpts (the original link has references & lots of charts... interesting throughout):

And the surprising thing I found is that infectious disease mortality rates have been declining steadily since long before vaccines or antibiotics.

I was surprised to learn that sanitation efforts began as early as the 1700s—and that these efforts were based on data collection and analysis, long before a full scientific theory of infection had been worked out. James Riley, in “Insects and the European Mortality Decline”, writes:3
In the later decades of the seventeenth and early decades of the eighteenth century, a number of internationally renowned physicians … formulated specific measures of intervention. Relying on Hippocratic tradition, specifically, on its suggestion that endemic and epidemic diseases are caused by forces in the environment, and influenced by Renaissance efforts at urban sanitation, these physicians proposed to discover the meteorological and topographical forces that might be blamed for the onset of epidemics. Toward this end, they and their followers embarked on a vast campaign to assemble qualitative and quantitative data about epidemics, climate and weather, geographical and topographical signs, and other features of the habitat. Their aim was to find conjunctures or correlations in the data, occasions when epidemics occurred after the same complex of environmental forces. Early signs of such a complex would offer warnings and allow the adoption of measures of prevention and avoidance. This body of medical theory failed to produce a coherent list of correlations, but it did provide a specific body of measures of avoidance and prevention.

In particular, they proposed (each bullet quoted from the article):

. to drain swamps, bogs, moats, and other sites of standing water
. to introduce hydraulic devices that would circulate water in canals and cisterns
. to flush refuse from areas of human habitation
. to ventilate living quarters and meeting places and to burn sulfur sticks or apply other insecticidal measures in houses, hospitals, prisons, meeting halls, and ships
. to inter corpses outside the city
. and by other measures, including refuse burial, to detach humankind from organic waste

These reforms were implemented starting in the 1740s, some by local and central governments, others by “humanitarians acting on private initiative”.

What broad changes were actually implemented, and is it plausible that they had a significant impact?
To have had a significant effect on insect numbers, the measures proposed by the environmentalists [the physicians advocating environmental cleanup] would have had to have been broadly applied across western Europe. Two measures, lavation and drainage, are particularly important in insect control, and we can focus on examples of their application. Lavation combines programs taking three forms: flushing filth from urban sites, collecting and disposing of refuse, and introducing devices to agitate or circulate standing water. By these means, which would cleanse streets, industrial sites, and buildings, and transform standing water in canals and cisterns into moving water, the environmentalists argued, the city might be made as healthy as the countryside. One model for these proposals was the naturally washed site of the town of Chester, England, where rain periodically flushed refuse into a subterranean drainage network cleansed by tidal action. The objective of the environmentalists was to introduce the same action by hydraulic engineering. Another model was the program followed in Hamburg to collect and dispose of refuse outside the city each day. A third was the improvement of streets by paving and widening, and of urban drainage networks by constructing or expanding sewage systems. Measures of one or another variety were adopted in many British cities and towns in the Improvement Acts of the 1760s and thereafter, and observers, such as William White in York, attributed declines in mortality specifically to them. In Paris, the drainage system was improved in 1740, and later in the century, other measures, including the emptying of cesspits and the installation of sewers, followed. In the Austrian Empire, Johann Peter Frank directed a broad campaign of medical policing, which included projects for refuse collection and disposal.

These efforts affected not only diseases such as malaria, where insects are the primary vector of infection, but also others such as dysentery in which insects (especially flies and cockroaches) can distribute the disease throughout the environment, e.g., from waste to food. Pest control thus provides the best explanation I’ve found for reductions in the mortality rate from the mid-1700s to early 1800s.

Cutler & Miller estimate10 that

the introduction of water filtration and chlorination systems led to major reductions in mortality, explaining nearly half of the overall reduction in mortality between 1900 and 1936. Our results also suggest that clean water was responsible for three-quarters of the decline in infant mortality and nearly two-thirds of the decline in child mortality. The magnitude of these effects is striking. Clean water also appears to have led to the near eradication of typhoid fever, a waterborne scourge of the 19th and early 20th Centuries.

Finally, the germ theory led to public health efforts to educate the populace on good general hygiene. A policy brief by Samuel Preston says:9
Enlightened public health officials were quick to recognize how the germ theory should guide their practice. Furthermore, by the time of the first White House Conference on Infant Mortality, held in 1909, they realized that rapid advances in longevity required that public officials go beyond their normal domain of public works and attempt to change the personal health practices of individuals. The germ theory provided a number of powerful weapons for doing so. These included boiling bottles and milk, washing hands, protecting food from flies, isolating sick children, and ventilating rooms. Public health officials launched massive campaigns to encourage these practices. In New York City, milk depots were established with the ostensible purpose of distributing milk to indigent mothers but with the real purpose, according to the director, of instructing mothers in hygienic practices. The New York City Department of Health produced one of the nation’s first motion pictures, entitled The Fly Pest. At the national level, the new Children’s Bureau adopted a primary focus on child health. Its pamphlet called Infant Care became the largest selling volume in the history of the Government Printing Office, with some 12 million copies sold by 1940. By the 1920s, the bureau was receiving and answering over 100,000 letters a year from parents seeking child care advice.

Thus the germ theory, long before it led to medical treatments, drove down mortality rates by revolutionizing sanitation and hygiene.