Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Investigating Google's suicide-prevention efforts in celebrity suicides: Celebrities who die by suicide can elicit relatively strong copycat effects, but Google never displayed preventive information in celebrity-suicide-related searches

Investigating Google's suicide-prevention efforts in celebrity suicides using agent-based testing: A cross-national study in four European countries. Florian Arendt, Mario Haim, Sebastian Scherr. Social Science & Medicine, February 5 2020, 112692.

•    Celebrities who die by suicide can elicit relatively strong copycat effects.
•    Internet search engines may play an increasingly important role for suicide prevention.
•    Google's suicide-prevention result (SPR) presents preventive information.
•    Yet Google never displayed SPRs in celebrity-suicide-related searches.
•    Higher SPR display rates may contribute to saving the lives of vulnerable users.

Rationale Google can act as a “gatekeeper” for individuals who seek suicide-related information online (e.g., “how to kill oneself”). The search engine displays a “suicide-prevention result” (SPR) at the very top of some suicide-related search results. This SPR comes as an info box and contains supposedly helpful crisis help information such as references to a telephone counseling service.

Objective It remains unknown, however, how Google has implemented the SPR in the especially dangerous context of celebrity suicide for which imitational copycat suicides in vulnerable individuals are most likely.

Method Relying on agent-based testing, a computational social science method, we emulated a total of 137,937 Google searches in April 2019, using both general suicide-related and specific celebrity suicide-related search terms. Given the recently discovered language-based differences in SPR display rates, we held the language constant and focused on German-speaking populations in four European countries.

Results The SPR was never shown in searches for celebrities who died by suicide in all four countries. Furthermore, analyses indicated a digital divide in access to suicide-prevention information with moderately high SPR display rates in Germany and Switzerland, yet with no display in Austria and Belgium.

Conclusion Higher SPR display rates could support global suicide-prevention efforts at virtually no cost by providing preventive information to vulnerable users precisely at the moment when it is apparently needed.

Dissatisfaction with breast size affects 70.7 % of women sampled: linked to greater Neuroticism, lower Conscientiousness, lower Western media exposure, greater local media exposure, lower financial security, & younger age

The Breast Size Satisfaction Survey (BSSS): Breast size dissatisfaction and its antecedents and outcomes in women from 40 nations. Viren Swami et al. Body Image, Volume 32, March 2020, Pages 199-217.

•    Majority of women sampled (70.7 %) were dissatisfied with their breast size.
•    A number of significant antecedents and outcomes of breast size dissatisfaction were identified.
•    Relationships with antecedents and outcomes were stable across 40 nations.

Abstract: The Breast Size Satisfaction Survey (BSSS) was established to assess women’s breast size dissatisfaction and breasted experiences from a cross-national perspective. A total of 18,541 women were recruited from 61 research sites across 40 nations and completed measures of current-ideal breast size discrepancy, as well as measures of theorised antecedents (personality, Western and local media exposure, and proxies of socioeconomic status) and outcomes (weight and appearance dissatisfaction, breast awareness, and psychological well-being). In the total dataset, 47.5 % of women wanted larger breasts than they currently had, 23.2 % wanted smaller breasts, and 29.3 % were satisfied with their current breast size. There were significant cross-national differences in mean ideal breast size and absolute breast size dissatisfaction, but effect sizes were small (η2 = .02–.03). The results of multilevel modelling showed that greater Neuroticism, lower Conscientiousness, lower Western media exposure, greater local media exposure, lower financial security, and younger age were associated with greater breast size dissatisfaction across nations. In addition, greater absolute breast size dissatisfaction was associated with greater weight and appearance dissatisfaction, poorer breast awareness, and poorer psychological well-being across nations. These results indicate that breast size dissatisfaction is a global public health concern linked to women’s psychological and physical well-being.

4. Discussion

Women’s breasts – particularly breast size – play an important role in shaping body and appearance anxieties (e.g., Lee, 1997; Millsted & Frith, 2003; Swami, Cavelti et al., 2015), yet comparatively little research has considered these issues from a cross-national perspective. Even less research has examined antecedents and outcomes of breast size dissatisfaction across nations, which is important because it is unclear to what extent women’s breasted experiences in WEIRD nations can be generalised to women in other cultural and national contexts. The BSSS was set up to address these gaps in the literature: through analyses of our data from 18,541 women in 40 nations, we are able to draw a number of important conclusions about cross-national differences and similarities in breast size ideals and dissatisfaction, as well as antecedents and outcomes of breast size dissatisfaction in diverse national contexts. Below, we provide a summary of the main findings of the BSSS before considering implications of our work.

4.1. Breast size ideals and dissatisfaction across nations

The BSSS dataset suggests that breast size ideals were relatively homogeneous across nations. Although there was a significant cross-national difference in ideal breast size, the effect size of the difference was small and suggestive of only minor cross-national variation. In fact, ideal breast size ratings were relatively homogeneous, with mean values falling between figures 6 through 8 in the BSRS. This is consistent with the suggestion that, despite historical differences across nations, breast size ideals have become largely homogenous in nations sampled in the BSSS. Just as there now appears to be a near-global idealisation of thinness in sites of high socioeconomic status (Swami, 2015; Swami, Frederick et al., 2010), the BSSS data indicate a similar homogenisation of breast size ideals in women. This finding is important because it suggests that the objectification of medium-to-large breasts is now a global phenomenon, including in parts of the world that may have historically de-emphasised breast aesthetics (Miller, 2003, 2006). It should also be noted that, partially consistent with our hypothesis, greater rurality (but not financial security) was associated with the idealisation of larger breasts, although effect sizes were weak and likely a reflection of sampling issues – a concern we return to below.
Importantly, mean ideal breast size ratings were higher than mean current breast size ratings in the vast majority that we sampled, although the magnitude of the difference varied. In the total dataset, just under a majority of women (i.e., 47.5 %) that were sampled indicated a preference for larger breasts than they currently had, while just under a quarter (i.e., 23.2 %) desired smaller breasts and under a third (i.e., 29.3 %) reported no discrepancy between their ideal and current breast sizes. This is consistent with existing research in WEIRD nations suggesting that a majority (Swami, Cavelti et al., 2015) or close to a majority of women (Lombardo et al., 2019; Swami & Furnham, 2018) wanted larger breasts than they currently had. Nevertheless, it should be noted that there was some cross-national variation in (absolute) breast size dissatisfaction ratings, with a small effect size. Of note, larger breast size dissatisfaction in some nations (particularly the United Kingdom, Egypt, China, Japan, and Brazil) appeared to be primarily driven by smaller current breast size; that is, while ideal breast size was largely homogeneous across nations, greater breast size dissatisfaction was found in nations where women reported smaller mean current breast sizes.

4.2. Antecedents of breast size dissatisfaction

4.2.1. Socioeconomic status

In the BSSS, we also examined a number of potential antecedents of breast size dissatisfaction, but our results were inconsistent with our hypotheses. That is, we hypothesised that greater financial security and urbanicity (i.e., proxies for higher socioeconomic status), respectively, would be associated with greater breast size dissatisfaction. However, our results suggested that urbanicity was not significantly associated with breast size dissatisfaction (except in women who desired larger breasts than they currently had), whereas lower rather than higher financial security was associated with greater breast size dissatisfaction. One possibility here is that, unlike body dissatisfaction (Swami, Frederick et al., 2010), increasing financial security affords women greater opportunities to negotiate breasted experiences by, for instance, de-emphasising the importance of breast size, de-coupling the breasts from an aesthetic gaze, or (re-)defining breast size ideals in a manner that is healthier in terms of one’s body image. Conversely, the pressure to view the breasts in purely aesthetic terms or to internalise a male gaze of breasts as providers of gratification for men may be heightened for women who are less financially secure, precisely because their financial insecurity affords fewer opportunities to negotiate breasted experiences. That is, among financially insecure women, there may be greater pressure to treat the breasts as assets that play performative roles, such as in terms of attracting potential partners or to attain material benefits (see Edmonds, 2010).
Of course, it should be noted that the weak relationships between proxies of socioeconomic status and breast size dissatisfaction likely reflect the fact that participants in the BSSS were all recruited from largely urbanised sites. That is, we did not include samples from explicitly rural research sites, which means there was limited within-nation variation in actual socioeconomic status to warrant a fuller test of our hypotheses. It may also reflect the fact that both urbanicity and perceived financial security are imprecise indices of socioeconomic status (Braveman et al., 2005). The most direct way of examining this issue in further research would be to sample participants from the same nation but from sites varying in socioeconomic status (e.g., Swami & Tovée, 2005b, 2005b). Although such studies have previously examined breast size ideals within a single nation (Swami & Tovée, 2013a), it is noteworthy that no previous study has extended this to include examinations of breast size dissatisfaction. Doing so would provide a fuller understanding of the relationships between socioeconomic status and breast size dissatisfaction and also help clarify some of our explanations above.

4.2.2. Personality

Consistent with our hypothesis, we found that higher Neuroticism was significantly associated with greater breast size dissatisfaction. This corroborates previous work indicating that Neuroticism is associated with more negative body image generally (for a review, see Allen & Walter, 2016) and may reflect the fact that individuals who score highly on this trait are more likely to experience negative emotional states and become dissatisfied more easily. In addition, individuals who score highly on Neuroticism may also be more sensitive to appearance evaluation and rejection, which heightens breast size dissatisfaction. There is also some evidence that women scoring higher on Neuroticism are more likely to misperceive their body size as larger than they actually are (Hartmann & Siegrist, 2015; Sutin & Terracciano, 2016), and it might be suggested that these individuals are also more likely to misperceive their current breast size.
Beyond Neuroticism, our results also indicated that lower Conscientiousness was significantly associated with greater breast size dissatisfaction. Although this result was unexpected, one recent review concluded that there was a negative relationship between Conscientiousness and negative body image, but only in studies classified as having low risk of bias (Allen & Walter, 2016; see also Allen, Vella, Swann, & Laborde, 2018). Examining associations between facets of Conscientiousness and breast size dissatisfaction may help scholars to better understand this relationship. For example, there is evidence that lower scores on some Conscientiousness facets – primarily low self-control (i.e., greater impulsivity, spontaneity, and carelessness) – are associated with greater body preoccupation (Ellickson-Larew, Naragon-Larew, & Watson, 2013). Facet-level analyses may also be useful in terms of other personality dimensions (Roberts & Good, 2010), as it may help to more accurately determine personality traits that shape breast size dissatisfaction.

4.2.3. Media exposure

In contrast to our hypothesis, we found that exposure to Western media was negatively, rather than positively, associated with greater breast size dissatisfaction. This finding stands in marked contrast to the extant literature indicating that exposure to Western media is associated with more negative body image (e.g., Swami, Frederick et al., 2010; Swami, Mada, & Tovée, 2012). Interpreting the present finding is complicated by the fact that we were working with the total BSSS dataset, which may obscure the meaning, importance, and impact of Western media in specific national and cultural contexts (Anderson-Fye, 2004; Becker, 2004; Swami, 2020). It should also be noted that these analyses are limited by the focus on media exposure per se, rather than perceived pressure from, and the internalisation of, breast size ideals that are communicated through Western media. In addition, there were likely ceiling effects in mean Western media exposure across nations (a reflection of the fact that all research sites were largely urbanised), as well as limited variation in breast size dissatisfaction scores that any predictor could account for.
In contrast to the effects of exposure to Western media, our results indicated that greater exposure to local media was significantly and positively associated with breast size dissatisfaction. Indeed, the strength of the relationship between local media exposure and breast size dissatisfaction was stronger than that of Western media exposure. Thus, it would seem that local media play an important role in engendering breast size dissatisfaction, possibly through the communication of breast size narratives that are “tailored” for local populations (Swami, 2020). A good example of such local transmission is Latin American telenovelas, which idealise larger breast sizes though in ways that are often specific to local socio-political and gendered narratives (Edmonds, 2010; Smith, 2017). More generally, it has been reported that local (Asian) media play a more important role than Western media in predicting appearance concerns in Chinese women (Jackson, Jiang, & Chen, 2016). The BSSS results fit this broader perspective and suggests that local media may play a crucial role in communicating narratives about ideal breast size, which in turn pressure women to attain culturally-sanctioned ideals.

4.2.4. Age

The results of our analyses also indicated that age was inversely related to breast size dissatisfaction. Previous studies have neglected to explore associations between breast size dissatisfaction and participant age, whereas the broader literature examining associations between negative body and age have returned equivocal results, with large-sample studies indicating a positive relationship (Frederick et al., 2008; Swami, Frederick et al., 2010; Swami, Tran, Stieger, Voracek, & The Team, 2015), a negative relationship (Frederick et al., 2016), or no significant association (Runfola et al., 2013). In terms of breast size dissatisfaction specifically, it is possible that breast objectification pressures decline with age (see Tiggemann & Lynch, 2001), such that older women experience less pressure to attain breast size ideals or develop embodiment practices that challenge constraining appearance ideals (Piran, 2016). Older age may also be associated with lifespan experiences, such as the transition to motherhood and breastfeeding, that help focus women’s attention on breast functionality (e.g., a maternal view of breasts that emphasises nurturing; Chang, Chao, & Kenney, 2006; Earle, 2003) and reduces preoccupation with the sexual uses of breasts (Bojorquez-Chapela, Unikel, Mendoza, & de Lachica, 2013; Harrison, Obeid, Haslett, McLean, & Clarkin, 2019; Lombardo et al., 2019), though it should also be noted that midlife breast changes may also impact sexual satisfaction (Thomas, Hamm, Borrero, Hess, & Thurston, 2019).

4.3. Outcomes of breast size dissatisfaction

4.3.1. Body image and psychological well-being

As hypothesised, greater breast size dissatisfaction was significantly and positively associated with both weight and appearance dissatisfaction. This is consistent with previous work showing that greater breast size dissatisfaction is significantly associated with higher scores on a range of indices of negative body image (Forbes & Frederick, 2008; Frederick et al., 2008; Junqueira et al., 2019; Swami & Furnham, 2018). The most straightforward interpretation of the present finding is that breast size dissatisfaction is an important facet of global negative body image (Swami, Tran et al., 2015). Importantly, the BSSS data also indicated that greater breast size dissatisfaction was significantly associated with lower self-esteem and subjective happiness. The former finding corroborates previous research showing that breast size dissatisfaction is associated with lower self-esteem (Koff & Benavage, 1998; Swami, Tran et al., 2015). Taken together, the present results suggest that breast size dissatisfaction may have substantive and detrimental links to both global body image and psychological well-being.

4.3.2. Breast awareness

Partially consistent with our hypothesis and previous research with British women (Swami & Furnham, 2018), analysis of the BSSS dataset indicated that greater breast size dissatisfaction was associated with poorer breast awareness, as indexed through lower breast self-examination frequency and lower confidence in detecting breast change, though not greater estimated delay in seeking professional help upon discovering breast change. These effects appeared to be primarily driven by participants who desired larger breasts than they currently had, whereas associations in participants who desired smaller breasts were not significant. These findings nevertheless remain important: breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related mortality in women worldwide (Torre, Siegel, Ward, & Jemal, 2016) and poor survival rates are reliably associated with poorer breast awareness (for a review, see Richards, Westcombe, Love, Littlejohns, & Ramirez, 1999). Conversely, more positive breast awareness is associated with improved efficacy in breast cancer detection (Harmer, 2011; Mant, 1991; World Health Organization, 2017) and early diagnosis (Gadgil et al., 2017), but our results suggest that breast size dissatisfaction may act as a barrier to optimal breast awareness. As discussed by Swami and Furnham (2018), breast size dissatisfaction may result in avoidance behaviours and cognitions (i.e., avoiding or distrusting one’s breasts) that reduce breast awareness, particularly if one’s breasts trigger feelings of anxiety, shame, and embarrassment. Importantly, our results indicated that the negative association between breast size dissatisfaction and self-examination frequency and confidence in detecting breast change, respectively, was stable across nations sampled in the BSSS, which requires urgent public health intervention.

4.4. Implications

The results of the BSSS suggest a relatively homogenised idealisation of medium-to-large breasts, in tandem with similar levels of breast size dissatisfaction across all sites that were sampled. Indeed, over two-thirds of women sampled in the BSSS reported some form of breast size dissatisfaction, with most of these women indicating that they wanted larger breasts than they currently had. Just as a thin ideal for women’s bodily attractiveness is now dominant across many nations (Swami, 2015; Swami, Frederick et al., 2010), our results point to the homogenisation of breast size ideals, which in turn may shape women’s breasted experiences. Perhaps most importantly, greater breast size dissatisfaction was robustly associated with poorer psychological well-being and lower breast awareness. Based on these results, one conclusion we might draw is that breast size dissatisfaction represents a global public health, with important consequences for the psychological and physical well-being of women in many places.
Most immediately, we urge greater scholarly attention to issues related to breast size dissatisfaction and, concomitantly, the development of targeted interventions aimed at reducing breast size dissatisfaction. Various techniques – such as cognitive restructuring, changing negative body language, and size-estimate exercises – have been shown to successfully promote healthier body image (for a meta-analysis, see Alleva, Sheeran, Webb, Martijn, & Miles, 2015), but it will be important to determine the extent to which such methods are efficacious at reducing breast size dissatisfaction specifically. Of course, it is possible that reducing breast size dissatisfaction will require more tailored interventions. Such a tailored approach might involve interventionist and therapeutic techniques designed to reduce self-objectification of one’s breasts and effective negotiations of sociocultural contexts that value idealised feminine embodiment (see Roberts & Waters, 2004; Tylka & Augustus-Horvath, 2011). In addition, interventions that promote greater appreciation of the functional value of women’s breasts (e.g., their role in nurturing and sustenance) may be vital to shift attention away from unrealistic and unattainable beauty ideals, though this should not come at the expense of women’s own needs (Piran, 2016; Schmied & Lupton, 2001). Such interventions may be particularly valuable if they also promote better breast awareness, which could empower women to take a more active role in breast cancer practices (Anastasi & Lusher, 2019). Importantly, whatever intervention methods are developed will need to be sensitive to national contexts and meet the informational, healthcare, and corporeal needs of women.

Depolarizing American voters: Democrats and Republicans are equally susceptible to false attitude feedback

Depolarizing American voters: Democrats and Republicans are equally susceptible to false attitude feedback. Thomas Strandberg et al. PLOS, February 5, 2020.

Abstract: American politics is becoming increasingly polarized, which biases decision-making and reduces open-minded debate. In two experiments, we demonstrate that despite this polarization, a simple manipulation can make people express and endorse less polarized views about competing political candidates. In Study 1, we approached 136 participants at the first 2016 presidential debate and on the streets of New York City. Participants completed a survey evaluating Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on various personality traits; 72% gave responses favoring a single candidate. We then covertly manipulated their surveys so that the majority of their responses became moderate instead. Participants only noticed and corrected a few of these manipulations. When asked to explain their responses, 94% accepted the manipulated responses as their own and rationalized this neutral position accordingly, even though they reported more polarized views moments earlier. In Study 2, we replicated the experiment online with a more politically diverse sample of 498 participants. Both Clinton and Trump supporters showed nearly identical rates of acceptance and rationalization of their manipulated-to-neutral positions. These studies demonstrate how false feedback can powerfully shape the expression of political views. More generally, our findings reveal the potential for open-minded discussion even in a fundamentally divided political climate.


There is an ongoing quest to create a less polarized and more open-minded political climate in the United States [2, 2325]. We believe this to be an important effort for several reasons. Studies show that polarization can bias information processing and decision making in detrimental ways [56, 48]. As a result, it often leads to fear, anger, and animosity towards the opposition [1, 910]. Polarization is also associated with dogmatic intolerance, which in turn increases the propensity to behave antisocially and to deny free speech [49]. Furthermore, polarization erodes central parts of civic society, such as trust in the government and media [50]. However, for a depolarization movement to be effective, we need to advance our theories on political attitude change and better understand the mechanisms underlying depolarization.
To contribute to this effort, we tested the choice blindness paradigm [26] with American voters just before the 2016 American general election. Our aim was to investigate whether participants could become less polarized in their political views. Study 1 was conducted during the week of the first presidential debate; Study 2 was conducted online with a larger and more representative sample. Participants responded to a survey comparing Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on various leadership traits. In both studies, the participants in our sample were clearly polarized when entering the study. Participants that favored either of the candidates had on average only 2 to 3 “open-minded” responses out of 12, defined by a response in the middle 30% of the visual analog scales. Participants then received false feedback about their responses: we nearly doubled the number of items that participants had in the open-minded category. Only a few of these manipulations were detected and corrected, which resulted in an overall score that made it appear as if the participants were more open-minded in their views towards the candidates. When asked to explain their score, the great majority of the participants accepted and justified their apparent open-mindedness, even though they had reported more polarized views moments earlier.

Supporters of Clinton and Trump are similarly susceptible to false feedback

In Experiment 2, both Clinton and Trump supporters behaved similarly on the experimental measures: they had similar correction rates to the choice blindness manipulations and justified their open-minded score to similar degrees. This is the first study we are aware of that demonstrates that liberals and conservatives are equally susceptible to false feedback about their own attitudes. Given previous findings that acceptance and justification of false survey feedback can lead to lasting changes in political attitudes [30], we see the lack of difference between Trump supporters and Clinton supporters as contributing to the ongoing research on the psychology of ideology. So far, this line of research indicates that liberals and conservatives are different in some aspects, such as personality [33], values [3536], and thinking styles [3839]. However, they are both similarly susceptible to cognitive biases [4243]. Our findings show that choice blindness applies equally to conservatives and liberals. More generally, choice blindness offers a useful tool to test how liberals and conservatives reason—or rationalize—when presented with false information.

Choice blindness as a method to study depolarization

The current study was not intended as a practical method to influence voters but rather as a novel investigation of experimental depolarization in the political domain. We find that giving people false feedback can be an effective way to, at least momentarily, make them perceive themselves as more open towards competing candidates. This shows that even deeply held beliefs depend on situational factors and can be flexible under certain circumstances. From a theoretical perspective, we believe that participants interpret their own behavior—in this case their survey responses—and infer the reasons behind these responses [5154]. Choice blindness could therefore be useful to study the depolarization of extreme views. For example, we could measure how susceptibility to choice blindness and confabulation are affected by the direction of the manipulation, such as going from polarized to moderate, or vice versa. This could help us understand whether being moderate or undecided is a distinct pole of its own. If so, we could explore whether these moderate views are more or less susceptible to false information. Here, the framing of moderate views may play an important role. In our studies, participants received positive false feedback about their survey responses. Instead of suggesting to people that they are open-minded, we might have found different results if participants had been told that they were “wishy-washy”, “flip-flopping”, “uncertain”, “centrist”, or even “moderate”. Future work could examine how participants behave when they are given false negative or more neutral feedback as well.
The effectiveness of choice blindness in the political domain distinguishes it from many other forms of persuasion, such as perspective-taking [5556]. In a recent study, Catapano and colleagues [57] found that such methods are less effective for deep-seated attitudes, such as those relating to politics. In fact, imagining the perspectives of out-group members can even backfire and hinder subsequent attitude change. This could partially be explained by the fact that in those paradigms, participants are fully aware that the perspective they consider is not their own and that the arguments they express are hypothetical. In choice blindness experiments, however, participants often believe that the response they are asked to explain reflects their own true attitude.

Limitations and future studies

In Experiment 1, only 12% of all manipulations were corrected, but in Experiment 2, 41% of them were. The reasons behind this difference are difficult to isolate given the variation in design between the two studies (such as the number of manipulations, the instructions for revisiting their responses, and verbal versus written explanations). One potential explanation is the plausibility of the manipulation. In Experiment 1, the manipulations were performed using a magic trick, which is extremely improbable in the context of a typical political opinion survey. Likely none of the participants had ever filled out a pen-and-paper survey that changed seconds later. Thus, if the participants lack perfect access to their own attitudes (or if political attitudes are not stored for us to access; [5859]), then the manipulated survey responses ought to function as a prime source of evidence about their own attitudes [5152]. The (presumably non-conscious) inference may look something like: “I wrote these responses, so either they must be my true attitudes, or else I made several large errors”. So, if people see themselves as competent at answering a simple questionnaire, making a series of large errors would seem less plausible. In contrast, in Experiment 2, even though we attempted to replicate the general procedure of the original trick, participants were faced with a far less magical procedure. People are familiar with malfunctioning computer programs and websites, and thus our participants would have had little difficulty in concluding that there may have simply been a software error when saving their responses that needs correcting.
Another explanation might be the difference between verbally explaining versus silently revising the manipulations. While participants in Experiment 2 were also confronted with the manipulations, they did not have to engage in the mental task of having to recall or generate arguments for them. On the face of it, one might expect this additional reasoning process to generate more corrections, presumably by helping participants think more deeply about the issue and discovering that they do not agree with the manipulated position. However, if deliberation serves not as attitudinal fact-checking but as a way for participants to further commit to and defend their own ostensible attitudes, the reasoning process might lead to fewer corrections [5354]. A third explanation could be simply that Experiment 2 was conducted closer to the election compared to Experiment 1, and that a larger proportion of the participants in Experiment 2 had firmly decided who they would vote for. Finally, it could also have been that the cover story in Experiment 2—telling participants to check their responses in case they had been affected by presentation order—may have primed participants be more attentive and to search for inconsistencies.
Prior to the current study, choice blindness had only been used to study what might be called “repolarization”—for example by shifting people from agreeing to disagreeing with a statement. Here, for the first time, we show that it is possible to use the same methodology to depolarize people, by making them adopt the idea that they are more “open-minded”.
In future studies, we could also explore more global attitude shifts. In the two experiments presented here, the manipulations did not influence the candidate competency/favorability ratings. Had this been found, it would have been a unique case of attitude generalization where manipulation on some character judgments would bleed over and affect another more general trait. Perhaps political competency is judged somewhat independently of the specific traits in our survey.

Obesity: Limited trend data covering recent decades support significant growth of BMI ≥40 population since the 1980s

Rising prevalence of BMI ≥40 kg/m2: A high‐demand epidemic needing better documentation. Kath Williamson, Amy Nimegeer, Michael Lean. Obesity Reviews, February 4 2020,

Summary: Whilst previously rare, some surveys indicate substantial increases in the population with body mass index (BMI) ≥40 kg/m2 since the 1980s. Clinicians report emerging care challenges for this population, often with high resource demands. Accurate prevalence data, gathered using reliable methods, are needed to inform health care practice, planning, and research. We searched digitally for English language sources with measured prevalence data on adult BMI ≥40 collected since 2010. The search strategy included sources identified from recent work by NCD‐RisC (2017), grey sources, a literature search to find current sources, and digital snowball searching. Eighteen countries, across five continents, reported BMI ≥40 prevalence data in surveys since 2010: 12% of eligible national surveys examined. Prevalence of BMI ≥40 ranged from 1.3% (Spain) to 7.7% (USA) for all adults, 0.7% (Serbia) to 5.6% (USA) for men, and 1.8% (Poland) to 9.7% (USA) for women. Limited trend data covering recent decades support significant growth of BMI ≥40 population. Methodological limitations include small samples and data collection methods likely to exclude people with very high BMIs. BMI ≥40 data are not routinely reported in international surveys. Lack of data impairs surveillance of population trends, understanding of causation, and societal provision for individuals living with higher weights.

4.3 Strengths and limitations

This review has concentrated on robustly measured data to establish the international prevalence rates for BMI ≥40. Whilst the rationale for exclusion of self‐report data is sound, in that it commonly underestimates BMI, the exclusion also acts as a limitation, for example, by excluding EHIS data, which covers many European countries. The sample sizes possible with measured data are reduced by the need for resources to make measurements, and there is potential bias against including very heavy individuals whose mobility is impaired. In some cases, the upper limit of scales excluded the heaviest individuals. These limitations would tend to underestimate the true prevalence of the highest BMI categories, not overestimate.
Applying a lower threshold of BMI ≥35 would have broadened the available data, whilst potentially weakening the focus on the highest BMI category, where costs and clinical complexity is greatest. Some studies report the lower threshold of BMI ≥35 particularly those examining Asian populations where different BMI cut‐offs relating to overweight and obesity are often applied.98
Limiting the review to the English language prevented examination of some original data sources, which could only be located in their native language, for example, Spanish for Chile and Mexico. It was not possible to locate English versions of these, and resources did not allow for translation. The OECD reports these original sources in English in its database, but only at BMI thresholds of 25.0 to 29.9 and BMI ≥30, with prevalence for Chile and Mexico the highest in the world, above even those of the United States.99 Thus, they are likely to have significant BMI ≥40 prevalence. Additionally, whilst the search processes were broad, encompassing a variety of sources and used systematic methods, they were not exhaustive, as might be expected from a formal systematic literature review or meta‐analysis. We believe that they represent a reliable summary of the current evidence base on BMI ≥40, as it is available to decision makers. Some individual sources have not been included, notably those from non‐English publications, but they are unlikely to alter the very consistent conclusions.

An Excess of Positive Results in Psychology: The large gap betwwen standard reports and registered reports suggests that authors underreport negative results to an extent that threatens cumulative science

Scheel, Anne M., Mitchell Schijen, and Daniel Lakens. 2020. “An Excess of Positive Results: Comparing the Standard Psychology Literature with Registered Reports.” PsyArXiv. February 5. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: When studies with positive results that support the tested hypotheses have a higher probability of being published than studies with negative results, the literature will give a distorted view of the evidence for scientific claims. Psychological scientists have been concerned about the degree of distortion in their literature due to publication bias and inflated Type-1 error rates. Registered Reports were developed with the goal to minimise such biases: In this new publication format, peer review and the decision to publish take place before the study results are known. We compared the results in the full population of published Registered Reports in Psychology (N = 71 as of November 2018) with a random sample of hypothesis-testing studies from the standard literature (N = 152) by searching 633 journals for the phrase ‘test* the hypothes*’ (replicating a method by Fanelli, 2010). Analysing the first hypothesis reported in each paper, we found 96% positive results in standard reports, but only 44% positive results in Registered Reports. The difference remained nearly as large when direct replications were excluded from the analysis (96% vs 50% positive results). This large gap suggests that psychologists underreport negative results to an extent that threatens cumulative science. Although our study did not directly test the effectiveness of Registered Reports at reducing bias, these results show that the introduction of Registered Reports has led to a much larger proportion of negative results appearing in the published literature compared to standard reports.

Check also Researchers frequently make inappropriate requests to statisticians: Removing/altering data to support the hypothesis; interpreting the findings on the basis of expectation, not results; not reporting the presence of key missing data; & ignoring violations of assumptions
Researcher Requests for Inappropriate Analysis and Reporting: A U.S. Survey of Consulting Biostatisticians. Min Qi Wang, Alice F. Yan, Ralph V. Katz. Annals of Internal Medicine,
And How to crack pre-registration: There are methods for camouflaging a registered study as successful
How to crack pre-registration: Toward transparent and open science. Yuki Yamada. Front. Psychol. Sep 2018.
And Questionable Research Practices prevalence in ecology: cherry picking statistically significant results 64%, p hacking 42%, and hypothesising after the results are known (HARKing) 51%. Such practices have been directly implicated in the low rates of reproducible results
Questionable research practices in ecology and evolution. Hannah Fraser et al. PLOS One, Jul 2018.
And The scientific practices of experimental psychologists have improved dramatically:
Psychology's Renaissance. Leif D. Nelson, Joseph P. Simmons, and Uri Simonsohn. Annual Review of Psychology, forthcoming.

From 2015... Increasingly rational choice theory is viewed as a normative theory of rationality: what economic agents ought to do in order to be rational

Hands, D. Wade, Normative Rational Choice Theory: Past, Present, and Future (March 2015). SSRN:

Abstract: The economics profession has traditionally viewed rational choice theory as a positive scientific theory. Normative economics was associated exclusively with ethics and should be kept strictly separate from positive scientific economics. This paper argues that the profession is changing in this regard. Increasingly rational choice theory is viewed as a normative theory of rationality: what economic agents ought to do in order to be rational. It is argued that the change initiated from within a community of critics – experimental psychologists – but it has now become widely accepted within many areas of economics. The paper explains this change and examines some of the possible causes and consequences of this development.

Keywords: rational choice theory, expected utility theory, demand theory, methodology, normative economics
JEL Classification: B2, B4

… psychological theories of intuitive thinking cannot match the elegance
and precision of formal normative models of belief and choice, but this is
just another way of saying that rational models are psychologically
unrealistic. (Daniel Kahneman, 2003, p. 1449)

0. Introduction
A specter is haunting microeconomics: the specter of normativity. Rational choice is the core theory of modern microeconomics and as such economists have traditionally considered it – in both its risky (expected utility) and risk-free (ordinal utility) instantiations – to be a positive scientific theory. In fact, for the majority of mainstream economists since the 1940s, rational choice was not only a positive-scientific theory, it was also a very powerful and successful scientific theory (at least when compared to the available alternatives from nonmainstream economics and/or the other social sciences). Although it was common to admit that real agents might not possess stable well-ordered preferences and/or to be able to complete the necessary computations in the way the theory asserts, such methodological foibles were considered relatively minor and did not undermine the economics profession's general support of rational choice theory. The consensus was that rational choice was a powerful theory that provided empirically supported and practically reliable predictions of, and explanations for, the behavior of economic agents: both individuals and more aggregate agents such as households, firms, and nations.

Of course while the majority of economists supported rational choice theory, there were also critics who strongly denied that it "provided empirically supported and practically reliable predictions of, and explanations for, the behavior of economic agents." Although such critics came in many different varieties and political-economic positions – from those inspired by Institutionalism or Marxism, to various Austrian positions – for the most part they also viewed rational choice theory as a positive scientific theory; they just thought it was not a very good scientific theory and that better alternatives were available. They argued either that rational choice theory did not accurately characterize (even approximately) the decision-making processes of real economic agents, or that it failed to accurately predict the observable behavior of such agents, or both; but for both the critics as well as the defenders within economics, rational choice theory was an attempt to provide a positive scientific theory of economic behavior.

This paper will argue that the economics profession has changed in this regard. Although the transformation is far from complete, the tendency during the last few years has been for economists to increasingly view rational choice theory (hereafter RCT) as a normative rather than a positive theory about the behavior of economic agents. The relevant normativity involves rationality, not morality – what one ought to do in order to be rational, not what one ought to do in order to be moral, good, etc. – but it is a normative interpretation and thus constitutes a radical departure from the way that RCT has traditionally been perceived among economists. It will be argued that this change initiated from within a community of critics – contemporary behavioral economics and associated work in experimental psychology – but it has increasingly spread to the wider community of economists. Although this interpretation of RCT is relatively new among economists, it has a long history in experimental psychology, decision theory, and various branches of philosophy. The paper discusses the history of the normative interpretation, the recent change within economics, and examines some of the possible causes and consequences of this development.

5. Conclusion
The purpose of this paper has been to explain the normative turn in recent experimental and behavioral economics, to suggest that it is beginning to be accepted more widely among economists, and to raise some questions about the causes and consequences of this change. Section two discussed the various arguments that philosophers have offered for the normativity of RCT – a theory of what one ought to do in order to be rational – and used the Friedman-Savage work on EUT during the 1950s as an example of the differences between the way that economists and philosophers have viewed RCT. Section two also made the case that economists have traditionally equated the normative exclusively with the ethically normative. Section three examined the results of the experimental and behavioral economics literature of the last few decades with a particular emphasis on the influence of experimental psychology. The many empirical anomalies of RCT were discussed and it was argued that the recently emerging heuristics-and-biases tradition in economics – like many philosophers, but unlike most economists (at least traditionally) – tend to view RCT as a normative theory of rationality. The case was also made in section three that economists seem to be changing their view of RCT in the direction of philosophers and those in the psychological tradition; this may be the case for economists more generally, but it is clearly the case for experimental and behavioral economists, even those who are not necessarily sympathetic to ideas from experimental psychology. The tendency for economists to view RCT as a normative theory of rationality and to separate the normative from the ethical was called the normative turn. The last section examined four of the many possible questions/concerns raised by the normative turn. The introduction of these four topics was intended to raise questions and further discussion on these various issues, not to defend a particular position regarding either the causes or the consequences of the normative turn. There seems to be little doubt about the presence of the normative interpretation of RCT within experimentally-based areas of economics and if the change is becoming more widespread, as it was suggested here, the impact will be quite significant. It is too early to tell what all this might eventually mean, but this paper has been an attempt to make the reader aware of the change and to draw attention to some of the possible consequences.

The effect of U.S. aid on growth is positive, but military and food iad have no effect; the effect is smaller for countries that are well endowed with natural resources, less ethnically polarized, and more aligned with the U.S.

Help or hindrance? U.S. aid on growth. Myongjin Kim & Leilei Shen. Applied Economics Letters, Jan 27 2020.

ABSTRACT: We distinguish between U.S. aid and non-U.S. aid and study the effects on growth in recipient countries. Our analysis exploits time variation in aid due to changes in the supply of U.S. aid and cross-sectional variation in a country’s tendency to receive any U.S. aid. We find that U.S. aid has a positive effect on growth. In particular, U.S. economic aid has a positive effect on growth while U.S. military and food aid have no effect on growth. There is also no evidence of U.S. aid crowding out aid from other countries. The effect of U.S. aid on growth is smaller for countries that are well endowed with natural resources, less ethnically polarized, and more aligned with the U.S.

KEYWORDS: U.S. aid, growth

From the 2017 version:
4 Results

We begin our analysis by rst reporting the OLS estimates of equation (2), which are presented
in columns 1 to 4 in Table 2. Columns 1 to 4 report estimates of correlation between U.S. aid
and annual real GDP per capita growth. The correlation between total U.S. aid and growth is
close to zero and statistically insigni cant. U.S. economic aid is pro-cyclical and only marginally
signi cant at 10%. U.S. food aid is counter-cyclical and signi cant at 1%. Column (5) reports the
correlation between non-U.S. aid and growth and it is close to zero and insigni cant.
Columns 6 to 9 report 2SLS estimates of equation (2). According to the estimates using the full
set of controls reported in column 6, a one percentage point increase in U.S. aid increases GDP
per capita growth by 0.19 standard deviation, or 1.7 percentage points on average. This e ect is
statistically signi cant at ve percent level. Column 7-9 suggest that the e ect of U.S. economic
aid is also positive on growth, however, U.S. military aid and food aid have no signi cant impact
on growth. Column 10 suggests that the e ect of non-U.S. aid is negative but it is statistically
insigni cant.
To assess the plausibility of the positive e ect U.S. aid on growth, it is useful to compare the
magnitude to estimates from other studies. The recent study by Arndt and Jones (2015) suggests
that one percentage point increase in all aid received is expected to boost real GDP per capita
growth rate by 0.30 percentage points in the long run. The comparison shows that the e ect of
U.S. aid on growth in our context is bigger than the e ect of total aid received on growth. Thus,
it is important to distinguish sources of aid by donor countries and types of aid when studying the
e ffects of aid on growth.
We interpret our estimates as showing that U.S. aid increases growth in recipient countries, an
alternative explanation is that U.S. aid crowds out other types of aid. For example, donor countries
may respond to an increase in U.S. aid by reducing their own aid provisions. If these other forms
of aid reduce growth, then U.S. aid crowd-out can explain why U.S. aid increases growth. It is
also possible that an increase in U.S. aid could actually cause total aid received by a country to
decline. We examine the e ect of U.S. aid on non-U.S. aid received by a country and report the
estimates in Table 3. The estimates show that U.S. aid does not crowd out aid from other donor
countries. U.S. military and food aid have no e ect on the provision of aid from non-U.S. donor
countries, and U.S. economic aid has a positive e ffect.
We also consider the influences of other factors that may contribute to growth. We nd the
e ects of U.S. aid on growth are not heterogeneous across the following factors: income, political
institutions, ethnic diversity, alignment with the U.S., and natural resource dependence.

Skin colour, prostitution, Mexico: A one standard deviation increase in darkness reduces an escort’s price by approximately 10 pct

The higher price of whiter skin: an analysis of escort services. Raymundo M. Campos-Vazquez. Applied Economics Letters, Feb 4 2020.

Abstract: How much are people willing to pay extra for sexual services with a white woman instead of one with darker skin? Skin colour assessed from photographs of women on escort websites in Mexico was compared with price information to answer this question. Women with darker skin were found to be underrepresented, consistent with self-selection into other occupations with an expectation of higher wages. Lighter-skinned escorts also charge more than darker women. Controlling for estimated age and physical measures like weight, hair colour, and body type, a one standard deviation increase in darkness reduces an escort’s price by approximately 10 percent.

Keywords: Wage differentials, skin colour, prostitution, Mexico
JEL Classification: C80, J16, J30, J70, O54


The demand for sexual services affects the relative returns for specific traits and the self-selection patterns into that labor market. Using a sample of women from internet escort services, this paper finds two key results. First, white and dark brown skin colors are underrepresented in this market as compared with the national population and the escort sample is whiter than the population of Mexican women. Second, there is a penalty for darker skin color in the hourly price women charge: approximately 10 percent for an increase in skin color of one standard deviation. Weight, skin color, and bust size have the largest effect on the price charged. In order to measure attractiveness, future studies focusing on the sexual services market need to account for at least these three variables.

American elections & perceptions of electoral integrity: Citizens’ electoral mistrust is due to conspiratorial beliefs & populist values, irrespective of partisan identification, partisan strength, or affiliation with the losing side

The paranoid style of American elections: explaining perceptions of electoral integrity in an age of populism. Pippa Norris, Holly Ann Garnett & Max Grömping. Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties, Volume 30, 2020 - Issue 1, Pages 105-125. Jan 2020.

ABSTRACT: Polls report that, contrary to the evidence, one quarter of Americans believe that millions of illegal votes were cast in the 2016 elections. What explains these types of beliefs? This article tests the predictors of public evaluations of electoral integrity in the 2016 American Presidential election, as measured by judgements about the fairness of the voting processes in the 2016 American National Election Study. We demonstrate that conspiratorial beliefs and populist values contribute towards citizens’ electoral mistrust. The results suggest that the paranoid style of American politics is alive and well in contemporary US elections.

Political polarization in climate change views increases with higher education & income; higher education particularly strengthens the conservative white male (CWM) effect; individualism mediates the ideological divide

Does socioeconomic status moderate the political divide on climate change? The roles of education, income, and individualism. Matthew T. Ballew et al. Global Environmental Change, Volume 60, January 2020, 102024.

•    Political polarization in climate change views increases with higher education and income.
•    Higher education particularly strengthens the conservative white male (CWM) effect.
•    Individualism mediates the ideological divide in climate change views.
•    Individualism mediates the CWM effect only for those with higher education.

Abstract: Previous research documents that U.S. conservatives, and conservative white males in particular, tend to dismiss the threat of climate change more than others in the U.S. public. Other research indicates that higher education and income can each exacerbate the dismissive tendencies of the political Right. Bridging these lines of research, the present study examines the extent to which higher education and/or income moderate the ideological divide and the “conservative white male effect” on several climate change opinions, and whether these effects are mediated by an individualistic worldview (e.g., valuing individual liberty and limited government). Using nationally representative survey data of U.S. adults from 2008 to 2017 (N = 20,024), we find that across all beliefs, risk perceptions, and policy preferences examined, the ideological divide strengthens with both higher education and higher income. However, educational attainment plays a stronger role than income in polarizing the views of conservative white males. Further analyses support the hypothesis that differences in individualism partially explain the increased political polarization among more educated and higher-income adults, as well as greater dismissiveness among conservative white males relative to other demographic groups. These results highlight key moderators of opinion polarization, as well as ideological differences among conservatives, that are often overlooked in public discourse about climate change. Implications for climate change education and communication across demographic groups are considered.

4. Discussion
In a large, nationally representative dataset of the U.S. public (2008–2017; N = =20,024), we find that the ideological divide in climate change opinion in the U.S. is exacerbated by higher educational attainment and higher income, thus supporting previous research (e.g., Bohr, 2014; Drummond and Fischhoff, 2017; Ehret et al., 2017; Hamilton, 2011). Further, expanding on research on the “conservative white male effect” (e.g., McCright and Dunlap, 2011b), we find that education plays a stronger and more consistent role than income in bolstering the views of conservative white males—a subgroup of the U.S. population that has been found to be particularly dismissive of climate change and resistant to mitigation policy. Although education seems to positively predict global warming views (e.g., belief that it is happening, is human-caused, etc.) among the U.S. public generally, moderation tests reveal that educational attainment may, conversely, strengthen conservative white males’ dismissive tendencies and opposition to climate policy. Higher education is consistently associated with increased polarization between conservative white males and other Americans across several global warming beliefs, risk perceptions, and policy preferences (e.g., support for CO2 regulation). Although higher income is associated with increased polarization between conservative white males and other Americans on some measures (e.g., policy support), the patterns for income were not as consistent as those for education.

Among conservatives and the conservative white male subgroup, our analyses suggest that those with more education (some college or more) are significantly less likely than those with less education (high school or less) to view global warming as human-caused, to worry about global warming, to perceive it as a risk (in some cases), and to support some climate change mitigation policies. For example, compared to those who are less educated, more educated conservative white males are less worried about global warming (23%% vs. 30% of those with less education), less likely to perceive it as a personal risk (12% vs. 21%), and less supportive of regulating greenhouse gas (CO2) emissions (46% vs. 55%). Further, among conservative white males, compared to differences in views by income, differences by educational attainment are found across a wider range of opinion metrics: education is negatively associated with expressed beliefs and risk perceptions (and to a stronger degree, as indicated by comparisons of effect sizes) for conservative white males than for conservatives in general. While income was significantly negatively associated with some pro-climate views for conservatives in general, these relationships were generally non-significant for conservative white males. Together, these results suggest that, compared to income, educational attainment may play a stronger and more robust role in widening the ideological divide, particularly between conservative white males and other adults in the U.S.

In addition, as hypothesized, education and income significantly moderate ideological differences in individualism. For conservatives and conservative white males, there is a positive relationship between both education and income and endorsing an individualistic worldview; yet, the relationship is negative for other U.S. adults. Further, the results of the moderated mediation analyses suggest that differences in individualism explain, in part, how higher educational attainment and income exacerbate the ideological divide in climate change opinion. For conservative white males in particular, however, education again seems to be a stronger predictor of individualism than income, which, in turn, partially explains how higher educational attainment enhances opinion polarization between conservative white males and other demographic groups. In fact, conditional indirect effect analyses show that individualism significantly mediates differences between conservative white males and other Americans only for those with average or higher education. These results suggest that educational attainment may bolster tendencies of conservative white males to value individualism, and thus strengthen ideologically based opinions about climate change.

Together, the results of this study align with several theoretical accounts, including identity protective cognition (Kahan et al., 2007), ideological consistency and elite cues (e.g., Ehret et al., 2017), and models of the self across socioeconomic status contexts (e.g., Stephens et al., 2014). Because exposure to climate science typically increases alongside higher education (Bohr, 2014), and higher education also leads to increased exposure to the norms of one's political ingroup (Ehret et al., 2016), conservatives and conservative white males, in particular, may be more aware of and motivated to defend ideological positions associated with their worldviews (e.g., individualism) when confronted with information about climate change and climate-related policies (e.g., regulating CO2 emissions). Our findings also support current theoretical accounts of the conservative white male effect which posit a process of reinforcing one's worldview to protect against opposing knowledge and information (McCright and Dunlap, 2011b,2013). Our data suggest a strengthened individualistic worldview may be one way in which higher educational attainment may influence conservative white males’ climate change opinions in ways that diverge from other U.S. adults. Alternatively, lower socioeconomic status (particularly education) may limit ideological polarization by attenuating individualistic resistance to government intervention.

Importantly, individualism, as conceptualized and operationalized here, as well as in previous research (e.g., Peters and Slovic, 1996; Smith and Leiserowitz, 2014), has clear connections to libertarian values reflecting a focus on individual liberty and limited government involvement (Iyer et al., 2012). As discussed by Iyer and colleagues, the visibility of, and interest in, libertarian values increased in 2008 with the presidential campaign of Texas Congressman Ron Paul and the rise of the Tea Party in 2009. Resistance to government intervention also appears to be common oppositional rhetoric among the political Right (at least among politicians and interest groups) when it comes to U.S. policymaking (e.g., Campbell and Kay, 2014). These values are distinct from other elements of conservatism, such as traditionalism (respect for traditions, institutions, and authority; see Iyer et al., 2012). Because we find that increased individualism partially explains the increased ideological divide associated with higher education and income, it is plausible that conservatives who are higher in socioeconomic status—particularly educated conservative white males—also more strongly identify with libertarianism or hold stronger libertarian values compared to other members of the U.S. public. Future work might further examine ideological differences among conservatives to better understand both pro- and anti-climate positions within the political Right, and the extent to which social and political libertarianism might explain these differences.

5. Limitations and future directions
Future research might further investigate additional processes and disentangle theoretical accounts that explain how social class influences political polarization in climate change opinion. Other mechanisms may well play a role in driving opinion polarization. For instance, Ehret and colleagues (2017) found that as liberals and conservatives become more educated, they also show more interest in government and public affairs, and media and political messengers (i.e., elite cues) communicating these interests, which partially explains divergence in environmental support. Similarly, elite cues may also play a role in reinforcing ideologies and worldviews (for instance, libertarian views that the government should not get involved in people's lives). Another possibility is that greater interdependence observed among lower-SES individuals (e.g., Eom et al., 2018; Stephens et al., 2014) may dampen effects of ideological polarization by reducing libertarian-driven resistance to climate policies. Future research might examine this possibility. Because mitigating climate change is paramount to the future of humanity and other species (IPCC, 2018), it is important to understand the processes by which certain groups become dismissive of climate change and resistant to climate policy, and what factors might limit dismissiveness and opposition.

In addition, income and education are only two of many potential socioeconomic indicators and, thus, further research is needed to understand whether the current results generalize to other dimensions of social class, such as occupational status or subjective assessments (i.e., perceived ranking relative to others; Kraus et al., 2009). Future research might extend our understanding of the relationship between social class and the ideological divide in climate change opinion, for instance, by incorporating subjective aspects of social class (e.g., perceived class rank; Kraus et al., 2009) and the extent to which they influence polarization relative to objective indicators.

Importantly, this study aggregates cross-sectional surveys and, thus, provides only correlational evidence of the role of socioeconomic status and individualism in shaping climate change opinion polarization. Although experimental manipulation of such variables may be difficult or impractical, longitudinal research may provide some additional insights. For example, future studies might track individuals across the political spectrum over the course of their education, or changes in socioeconomic status (e.g., changes in income, employment status), to better understand what factors predict change in climate attitudes, beliefs, and policy preferences over time. Moreover, future work in this area might also help uncover ways to counteract the effect that higher educational attainment may have among the political Right.

6. Implications
The current study has implications for how to foster pro-climate opinion and action, and for identifying subgroups in the U.S. who may be more receptive to climate change education and communication campaigns than others. For example, communicating the scientific consensus is an effective gateway to fostering pro-climate views among the political Right (van der Linden et al., 2015) and people can learn about the scientific consensus through discussion with friends and family (Goldberg et al., 2019). Education initiatives might highlight the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change to combat dismissive tendencies. Also, because misinformation (e.g., the notion that there is scientific uncertainty about climate change) is disseminated through certain media outlets, an “inoculation” strategy may further help to counteract dismissiveness (van der Linden et al., 2017; see also Cook et al., 2017). That is, when individuals are preemptively told that some groups intentionally work to promote doubt on the scientific facts of climate change, it helps build resistance against misinformation. Education initiatives might consider inoculation techniques to help neutralize the negative effects of misinformation on public understanding of climate change.

Further, public discourse focusing on the politicization of climate change and the general ideological divide (e.g., the Right vs. Left) may be exaggerating partisan differences and overlooking distinct sources of opposition (see Van Boven et al., 2018). As we show here, there is clear heterogeneity among conservatives. Conservative white males higher in socioeconomic status (particularly in education) seem to be among the primary oppositional demographic groups, and our findings suggest that this may be due, in part, to heightened individualism among this group. Conversely, conservatives lower in socioeconomic status (including conservative white males) express less opposition and individualism, suggesting they represent an overlooked demographic group that could help bridge political divides on climate change, particularly when it comes to mitigation policy (Pearson et al., 2017). Communications with the public might be sensitive to this distinction. For instance, conservatives higher in socioeconomic status might be more receptive to individual- or libertarian-framed messages (e.g., emphasizing free-market solutions that reinforce notions of individual autonomy; Campbell and Kay, 2014), whereas those lower in socioeconomic status might be more open to government intervention and community-driven action plans.

Although public understanding of climate change has increased over the last five years in the U.S. (Leiserowitz et al., 2018) and there is evidence that understanding is on the rise among the political Right (Leiserowitz et al., 2019), political polarization on the issue remains stark. Tailoring climate change education and communication for different audiences within the U.S. public may help narrow the partisan divide on climate change and foster greater consensus in pro-climate views.

Funding: This project was supported by the 11th Hour Project, the Energy Foundation, the Grantham Foundation, and the MacArthur Foundation.

Why did the countries which first benefitted from access to the New World - Castile and Portugal - decline relative to their followers, especially England and the Netherlands?

Comparative European Institutions and the Little Divergence, 1385-1800. António Henriques, Nuno Palma. EHES Working Paper, No. 171, November 2019.

Abstract: Why did the countries which first benefitted from access to the New World - Castile and Portugal - decline relative to their followers, especially England and the Netherlands? The dominant narrative is that worse initial institutions at the time of the opening of Atlantic trade explain Iberian divergence. In this paper, we build a new dataset which allows for a comparison of institutional quality over time. We consider the frequency and nature of parliamentary meetings, the frequency and intensity of extraordinary taxation and coin debasement, and real interest spreads for public debt. We find no evidence that the political institutions of Iberia were worse until at least the English Civil War.

JEL Codes: N13, N23, O10, P14, P16
Keywords: Atlantic Traders, New Institutional Economics, The Little Divergence

4. Conclusion

Iberia's economic divergence was not a consequence of inferior initial institutions. At
least prior to the civil wars of the mid seventeenth century, England did not have more
constraints on executive power or an environment more protective of property rights than
Spain or Portugal. Unlike what is argued by authors such as Tilly (1994), Acemoglu et al.
(2005) and Hough and Grier (2015), Iberian political institutions were not structurally
worse than England. At some point England did have better institutions, but that point
occured considerably later than 1500. Accordingly, explanations for the little divergence
among Atlantic traders which rely on variation in the quality of \initial institutions" (in
particular, constraints on executive power by 1500 or earlier), such as that by Acemoglu
et al. (2005), cannot be correct.42
While 1500 is too early for any significant di erence in institutional quality to be
noticeable, 1688 is too late. With regards to England, the measures that we present in this
paper confirm the views of scholars who argue that the emphasis of North and Weingast
(1989) and others on the Glorious Revolution is overdone and instead emphasize earlier
progress (e.g. O'Brien, 1988, 2002, 2012; Jha, 2015; Murrell, 2017). By 1688 England
was already driving ahead both in terms of checks on executive power and state capacity.
At the same time, Iberian institutions experienced a considerable deterioration over the
late seventeenth century: the Cortes eventually stopped meeting, the monarchs resorted
to monetary manipulations and public debt was issued less frequently and became less
Our findings also discredit the modern incarnation of the "Black Legend" (La Leyenda
Negra), the notion that the divergent economic trajectories within Europe and the two
Americas can be explained by an institutional path-dependence going back as far as
the sixteenth century or earlier. As argued, when Atlantic trade developed, Portugal
and Spain could not be dismissed as "highly absolutist" or extractive empires, let alone
regarded as endowed with inferior institutions. The right of non-European municipalities
to take part in the Cortes is a reminder of how these empires were built under an executive
power that had to negotiate instead of simply imposing.
In this paper we have shown that the little divergence in European institutions and
incomes does not lie with the deus ex machina of initial institutions going back to the
medieval period. An implication is that they must instead be found in events taking place
during the early modern period. Another implication is that the lackluster economic performance
of the Iberian empires and their successor independent states in Latin America
was not the result of an institutional path-dependence defined circa 1500.