Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Congenital amusia (tone deafness) is a lifelong musical disorder that affects 4% of the population (single estimate based on a single test from 1980); it is more 1.5pct of pop. and is highly heritable

Peretz, Isabelle, and Dominique T. Vuvan. 2020. “Prevalence of Congenital Amusia.” PsyArXiv. February 12. doi:10.1038/ejhg.2017.15

Abstract: Congenital amusia (commonly known as tone deafness) is a lifelong musical disorder that affects 4% of the population according to a single estimate based on a single test from 1980. Here we present the first large-based measure of prevalence with a sample of 20 000 participants, which does not rely on self-referral. On the basis of three objective tests and a questionnaire, we show that (a) the prevalence of congenital amusia is only 1.5%, with slightly more females than males, unlike other developmental disorders where males often predominate; (b) self-disclosure is a reliable index of congenital amusia, which suggests that congenital amusia is hereditary, with 46% first-degree relatives similarly affected; (c) the deficit is not attenuated by musical training and (d) it emerges in relative isolation from other cognitive disorder, except for spatial orientation problems. Hence, we suggest that congenital amusia is likely to result from genetic variations that affect musical abilities specifically.

Domestic cats spontaneously discriminate between the number and size of potential prey in a way that can be interpreted as adaptive for a lone-hunting, obligate carnivore, and show complex levels of risk–reward analysis

Revisiting more or less: influence of numerosity and size on potential prey choice in the domestic cat. Jimena Chacha, Péter Szenczi, Daniel González, Sandra Martínez-Byer, Robyn Hudson & Oxána Bánszegi . Animal Cognition, Feb 12 2020.

Abstract: Quantity discrimination is of adaptive relevance in a wide range of contexts and across a wide range of species. Trained domestic cats can discriminate between different numbers of dots, and we have shown that they also spontaneously choose between different numbers and sizes of food balls. In the present study we performed two experiments with 24 adult cats to investigate spontaneous quantity discrimination in the more naturalistic context of potential predation. In Experiment 1 we presented each cat with the simultaneous choice between a different number of live prey (1 white mouse vs. 3 white mice), and in Experiment 2 with the simultaneous choice between live prey of different size (1 white mouse vs. 1 white rat). We repeated each experiment six times across 6 weeks, testing half the cats first in Experiment 1 and then in Experiment 2, and the other half in the reverse order. In Experiment 1 the cats more often chose the larger number of small prey (3 mice), and in Experiment 2, more often the small size prey (a mouse). They also showed repeatable individual differences in the choices which they made and in the performance of associated predation-like behaviours. We conclude that domestic cats spontaneously discriminate between the number and size of potential prey in a way that can be interpreted as adaptive for a lone-hunting, obligate carnivore, and show complex levels of risk–reward analysis.

Non-reproducible: Evidence that social network index is associated with gray matter volume from a data-driven investigation

No strong evidence that social network index is associated with gray matter volume from a data-driven investigation. Chujun Lin et al. Cortex, February 12 2020.

Abstract: Recent studies in adult humans have reported correlations between individual differences in people’s Social Network Index (SNI) and gray matter volume (GMV) across multiple regions of the brain. However, the cortical and subcortical loci identified are inconsistent across studies. These discrepancies might arise because different regions of interest were hypothesized and tested in different studies without controlling for multiple comparisons, and/or from insufficiently large sample sizes to fully protect against statistically unreliable findings. Here we took a data-driven approach in a pre-registered study to comprehensively investigate the relationship between SNI and GMV in every cortical and subcortical region, using three predictive modeling frameworks. We also included psychological predictors such as cognitive and emotional intelligence, personality, and mood. In a sample of healthy adults (n = 92), neither multivariate frameworks (e.g., ridge regression with cross-validation) nor univariate frameworks (e.g., univariate linear regression with cross-validation) showed a significant association between SNI and any GMV or psychological feature after multiple comparison corrections (all R-squared values ≤ 0.1). These results emphasize the importance of large sample sizes and hypothesis-driven studies to derive statistically reliable conclusions, and suggest that future meta-analyses will be needed to more accurately estimate the true effect sizes in this field.

Racial slurs “reclaimed” by the targeted group convey affiliation rather than derogation; authors found that the intergroup use of reappropriated slurs was perceived quite positively by both White and Black individuals

Perceptions of Racial Slurs Used by Black Individuals Toward White Individuals: Derogation or Affiliation? Conor J. O’Dea, Donald A. Saucier. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, February 11, 2020.

Abstract: Research suggests that racial slurs may be “reclaimed” by the targeted group to convey affiliation rather than derogation. Although it is most common in intragroup uses (e.g., “nigga” by a Black individual toward another Black individual), intergroup examples of slur reappropriation (e.g., “nigga” by a Black individual toward a White individual) are also common. However, majority and minority group members’ perceptions of intergroup slur reappropriation remain untested. We examined White (Study 1) and Black (Study 2) individuals’ perceptions of the reappropriated terms, “nigga” and “nigger” compared with a control term chosen to be a non-race-related, neutral term (“buddy”), a nonracial derogative term (“asshole”) and a White racial slur (“cracker”) used by a Black individual toward a White individual. We found that the intergroup use of reappropriated slurs was perceived quite positively by both White and Black individuals. Our findings have important implications for research on intergroup relations and the reappropriation of slurs.

Keywords: racial slurs, common in-group identity, social dominance theory, affiliation, derogation

Calling into question that contagious yawning is a signal of empathy: No evidence of familiarity, gender or prosociality biases in dogs

Contagious yawning is not a signal of empathy: no evidence of familiarity, gender or prosociality biases in dogs. Patrick Neilands et al. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Volume 287, Issue 1920, February 5 2020.

Abstract: Contagious yawning has been suggested to be a potential signal of empathy in non-human animals. However, few studies have been able to robustly test this claim. Here, we ran a Bayesian multilevel reanalysis of six studies of contagious yawning in dogs. This provided robust support for claims that contagious yawning is present in dogs, but found no evidence that dogs display either a familiarity or gender bias in contagious yawning, two predictions made by the contagious yawning–empathy hypothesis. Furthermore, in an experiment testing the prosociality bias, a novel prediction of the contagious yawning–empathy hypothesis, dogs did not yawn more in response to a prosocial demonstrator than to an antisocial demonstrator. As such, these strands of evidence suggest that contagious yawning, although present in dogs, is not mediated by empathetic mechanisms. This calls into question claims that contagious yawning is a signal of empathy in mammals.

4. Discussion

By combining the data from six different studies, the resulting dataset is the largest used to date to examine the presence of contagious yawning in a non-human mammal. This allowed us to draw conclusions about the presence and absence of contagious yawning and the signatures predicted by the contagious yawning–empathy hypothesis with a greater level of certainty than by relying on individual studies alone. Our reanalysis shows that dogs do exhibit contagious yawning, showing higher probabilities and rates of yawning for yawning demonstrators compared to control demonstrators. This provides robust support for the claims that contagious yawning is present in dogs [35,4951]. In order to test whether this contagious yawning is related to mechanisms underpinning empathy, we examined this dataset for evidence of the familiarity bias and gender bias. However, dogs in our reanalysis showed no evidence of either of these biases. Similarly, when we ran a novel experiment to look for a prosociality bias, we found that the dogs in our experiment were no more likely to yawn for prosocial demonstrators than antisocial demonstrators. Dogs, therefore, show no evidence for any of the familiarity, gender, or prosociality biases predicted by the contagious yawning–empathy hypothesis. This suggests that contagious yawning in dogs is not mediated by an empathy-related perception–action mechanism [5254]. The presence of contagious yawning in non-human animals, therefore, cannot be assumed to be evidence for a perception–action mechanism shared between humans and other mammals, as has been previously proposed [1,35,41,58]. That is not to say that some non-human animals do not necessarily experience some form of empathy but that contagious yawning cannot be taken as a diagnostic signal for the presence of these empathetic processes. Furthermore, these results, alongside the arguments put forward by Massen & Gallup in their recent review [37], bring into question the validity of the contagious yawning–empathy hypothesis more broadly.
It is important to acknowledge several caveats to our conclusions. Firstly, in both our reanalysis and experiment, the subjects were primarily responding to interspecific yawns from human demonstrators. While it is possible that dogs would respond differently to conspecific and interspecific yawning, there are several reasons to believe that this is not the case. Research in other species such as chimpanzees suggests that they respond similarly to conspecific and interspecific yawns [41], and, in our reanalysis, controlling for demonstrator type did not improve model fit. Nevertheless, more rigorous comparisons between how dogs respond to conspecific and interspecific yawning would be a useful future line of research. Secondly, it is important to note that the familiarity, gender, and prosociality biases are indirect measures of empathy [37]. As such, care needs to be taken in interpreting these biases and there remains substantial debate over how to do so. For example, it has been argued that both the tendency for children with ASD to be less prone to contagious yawning [83] and the familiarity bias [37,84,85] can be explained in terms of differences in attending to yawners rather than differences in empathetic response. Similarly, the gender bias reported in humans [29] is not straightforward to interpret and there is debate over whether it simply reflects a false positive in the literature [33,34]. By contrast, proponents of the contagious yawning–empathy hypothesis argue that the familiarity bias continues to be found even when controlling for differences in subjects' attention [40,41] and that the negative results for the gender bias in previous studies reflects methodological issues with prior experiments [34]. Furthermore, although alternative hypotheses such as the attentional hypothesis could explain the presence of a single bias such as the familiarity bias, only the contagious yawning–empathy hypothesis predicts the presence of all three biases. As such, testing for all three biases represents a powerful test of the contagious yawning–empathy hypothesis. Finally, searching for a novel signature, the prosociality bias, required a novel experimental methodology where dogs were exposed to a prosocial experimenter that interacted with them and an antisocial experimenter that ignored them. Previous work which used a similar methodology demonstrated that dogs do show a preference for the prosocial demonstrator [73], and so if the contagious yawning–empathy hypothesis is correct, dogs should have reacted with increased yawning to the prosocial demonstrator. However, further work would be useful in confirming the presence or absence of the prosociality bias in dogs and other species such as humans.
Research into contagious yawning has been dominated by the contagious yawning–empathy debate [37]. However, contagious yawning is an interesting phenomenon in its own right as its evolutionary roots and ultimate function remain a mystery [20]. Contagious yawning in animals may be the result of stress [54,57], an affiliation strategy [67], a means of communication [61], or a mechanism to improve collective vigilance within groups [37,68,69] rather than being related to empathy via a perception–action mechanism. Future research into contagious yawning should include a greater focus on testing between these and other hypotheses. For example, the affiliation hypothesis might predict that contagious yawning should be seen more frequently during reconciliation periods after conflict while the collective vigilance hypothesis posits that contagious yawning should increase in response to external disturbances [37,86]. However, it is important to note that these theories are not necessarily mutually exclusive [87] and that factors such as stress appear to influence yawning propensity in complex ways [88,89]. Additionally, an important next step is to consider evidence of contagious yawning outside of mammals. While there has been some work looking at contagious yawning in budgerigars [86,90] and tortoises [91], research has otherwise been sparse outside of the mammalian class.
Future research would benefit from systematically testing contagious yawning across multiple species. One barrier to such projects is that studying a range of different species often requires different experimental set-ups to make such testing feasible. There is a concern that such a range of methodological approaches may make cross-species and cross-study comparisons difficult, if not impossible [35,66]. However, our finding that the effect of treatment on yawning probabilities and rates remains stable when controlling for various aspects of study design suggests that the presence of contagious yawning is relatively robust to differences in experimental design. As such, while it is important to use broadly similar designs (for instance, comparing animals’ yawning rates when exposed to either a yawning demonstrator or control demonstrator), there could be considerable flexibility in other aspects of study design. For example, our results suggest that animals' yawning probabilities and rates to either live demonstrators or recorded demonstrators are comparable. Therefore, our findings suggest that more ambitious cross-species work can be carried out with confidence in the validity of the subsequent comparisons.
To conclude, our results provide robust support for the hypothesis that contagious yawning is found in dogs, the first non-human species of mammal where it has been clearly shown outside of chimpanzees. However, we found no evidence that dogs yawn more in response to either familiar human yawners compared to unfamiliar human yawners, or to prosocial human yawners compared to antisocial human yawners. Additionally, we found no evidence that female dogs were more likely to yawn in response to a yawning demonstrator than male dogs. As such, these findings cast doubt on the widespread assertion that contagious yawning is mediated by the same perception–action mechanism as empathy [1,6,35,41,58]. Instead, they support recent claims that there is no link between contagious yawning and empathetic processes [37,67] and underline the importance of developing more direct measures of empathy in non-human animals [37,92]. However, while our results suggest that researchers cannot rely on contagious yawning as a diagnostic signal of empathy, our additional findings that the effect of contagious yawning appears to be robust to variations in experimental methods suggest that cross-species comparisons may be a powerful way to disentangle the evolutionary roots of this behaviour.

Of what they thought were 4 important predictors of subjective well-being (marriage, employment, prosociality, & life meaning), marriage showed only very small effects, & employment had larger effects that peaked around age 50 years

Subjective Well-Being Around the World: Trends and Predictors Across the Life Span. Andrew T. Jebb. Psychological Science, February 11, 2020.

Abstract: Using representative cross-sections from 166 nations (more than 1.7 million respondents), we examined differences in three measures of subjective well-being over the life span. Globally, and in the individual regions of the world, we found only very small differences in life satisfaction and negative affect. By contrast, decreases in positive affect were larger. We then examined four important predictors of subjective well-being and how their associations changed: marriage, employment, prosociality, and life meaning. These predictors were typically associated with higher subjective well-being over the life span in every world region. Marriage showed only very small associations for the three outcomes, whereas employment had larger effects that peaked around age 50 years. Prosociality had practically significant associations only with positive affect, and life meaning had strong, consistent associations with all subjective-well-being measures across regions and ages. These findings enhance our understanding of subjective-well-being patterns and what matters for subjective well-being across the life span.

Keywords: subjective well-being, cross-cultural, aging, life meaning, prosocial behavior

You may be more original than you think: Predictable biases in self-assessment of originality

You may be more original than you think: Predictable biases in self-assessment of originality. Yael Sidi et al. Acta Psychologica, Volume 203, February 2020, 103002.

•    Self-judgments of originality are sensitive to the serial order effect.
•    Originality judgments reveal under-estimation robustly and resiliently.
•    People discriminate well between more and less original ideas.
•    There is a double dissociation between actual originality and originality judgments.

Abstract: How accurate are individuals in judging the originality of their own ideas? Most metacognitive research has focused on well-defined tasks, such as learning, memory, and problem solving, providing limited insight into ill-defined tasks. The present study introduces a novel metacognitive self-judgment of originality, defined as assessments of the uniqueness of an idea in a given context. In three experiments, we examined the reliability, potential biases, and factors affecting originality judgments. Using an ideation task, designed to assess the ability to generate multiple divergent ideas, we show that people accurately acknowledge the serial order effect—judging later ideas as more original than earlier ideas. However, they systematically underestimate their ideas' originality. We employed a manipulation for affecting actual originality level, which did not affect originality judgments, and another one designed to affect originality judgments, which did not affect actual originality performance. This double dissociation between judgments and performance calls for future research to expose additional factors underlying originality judgments.

Contrary to common views, use of social media and online portals fosters more visits to news sites and a greater variety of news sites visited

How social network sites and other online intermediaries increase exposure to news. Michael Scharkow, Frank Mangold, Sebastian Stier, and Johannes Breuer. PNAS February 11, 2020 117 (6) 2761-2763; January 27, 2020.

Abstract: Research has prominently assumed that social media and web portals that aggregate news restrict the diversity of content that users are exposed to by tailoring news diets toward the users’ preferences. In our empirical test of this argument, we apply a random-effects within–between model to two large representative datasets of individual web browsing histories. This approach allows us to better encapsulate the effects of social media and other intermediaries on news exposure. We find strong evidence that intermediaries foster more varied online news diets. The results call into question fears about the vanishing potential for incidental news exposure in digital media environments.

Keywords: news exposureonline media useweb tracking data

People can come across news and other internet offerings in a variety of ways, for example, by visiting their favorite websites, using search engines, or following recommendations from contacts on social media (1). These routes do not necessarily lead people to the same venues. While traditionally considered as an important ingredient of well-functioning democratic societies, getting news as a byproduct of other media-related activities has been assumed to wane in the online sphere. Intermediaries like social networking sites (SNS) and search engines are regarded with particular suspicion, often criticized for fostering news avoidance and selective exposure (2). This assumption has been, perhaps most prominently, ingrained in the “filter bubble” thesis, positing that search and recommendation algorithms bias news diets toward users’ preferences and, thus, decrease content diversity (3). On the other hand, incidental news exposure (INE) due to other online activities has received much scholarly attention for several decades (4). Contrary to widely held assumptions, recent INE research found that SNS users have more rather than less diverse news diets than nonusers. For example, one study showed that SNS users consumed almost twice the number of news outlets in the previous week as did nonusers (2). Similar results emerged regarding the use of web aggregators (portals) and search engines, although people may use search engines in a more goal-driven fashion compared to SNS (1).

In previous studies, SNS-based news exposure was typically measured by asking respondents whether they are (unintentionally) exposed to news via social media. Like many survey studies, this approach naturally suffers from the limited accuracy and reliability of self-reports (5). More specifically, recent work has criticized self-report measures for being biased toward active news choices and routine use (6) and being particularly inaccurate when people access news via intermediaries (7). To alleviate these limitations, some studies have used log data to estimate the quantity and quality of online news exposure, for example, in terms of exposure to cross-cutting news (8, 9). However, these studies have focused only on single social media platforms instead of different intermediary routes to news. Other recent studies (1, 10) have traced direct and indirect pathways to online news using browser logs, but have not distinguished nonregular—and therefore possibly incidental—news exposure from regular, typically more intentional or routinized forms of news consumption online. In other words, the question whether visiting SNS more often (than usual) actually leads to more varied news exposure (than usual) essentially remains unanswered. This problem concerns almost all studies on the use and effects of online media, and has received considerable attention in recent communication research (11). We argue that positive within-person effects of visiting intermediary sites on online news exposure are a necessary (although not sufficient, since even nonregular visits could be intentional) precondition for INE, and, therefore, testing for such effects is a useful endeavor. We address this question using a statistical model that distinguishes between stable between-person differences and within-person effects, that is, the random-effects within–between (REWB) model (12). Investigating within-person effects has additional value by safeguarding causal inferences against bias due to (previously) unmeasured person-level confounders. We apply the REWB model to two large, representative tracking datasets of individual-level browsing behavior in Germany, collected independently in 2012 and 2018. This allows us not only to compare within- and between-person effects but also to analyze possible changes in the effects of SNS (Facebook, Twitter) and intermediaries (Google, web portals) over recent years. Specifically, we investigate their effects on the amount and variety of online news exposure. Using this approach enables us to replicate and extend two recent survey studies (2, 13) that looked at the effects of SNS, web portals, and search engines on 1) overall online news exposure and 2) the diversity of people’s online news diets.

We used large-scale observational data to avoid the limited reliability and validity of self-reports on news exposure. Leveraging the potential of such data with the REWB model, our study provides strong evidence that getting more and more-diverse news as a consequence of other media-related activities is a common phenomenon in the online sphere. The findings contradict widely held concerns that social media and web portals specifically contribute to news avoidance and restrict the diversity of news diets. Note that we followed previous studies and measured the variety of news diets by counting the number of outlets visited. Given the overall low frequency of news visits, intermediaries add diversity to the news diets of the large majority of participants with a small news repertoire (2). While we cannot say that outlet variety always equals viewpoint variety, prior research has shown that using a larger number of online news sources typically translates into more-diverse overall news exposure (15). In contrast to previous studies (9, 10), we cannot quantify diversity in terms of cross-cutting exposure, but note that previous studies have shown little evidence for strong partisan alignments of news audiences in Germany (16) on the outlet level, so that variety would have to be measured on the level of individual news items, which requires URL-level tracking and content analysis data. In addition, future combinations of web tracking with experience sampling surveys are needed to disentangle in what instances nonregular news use is entirely nonintentional and how the respective contents specifically affect the diversity in news diets.