Friday, July 31, 2020

Does indoctrination of youngsters work? Teaching the ethics of eating meat shows robust decreases of meat consumption

Do ethics classes influence student behavior? Case study: Teaching the ethics of eating meat. Eric Schwitzgebel, Bradford Cokelet, Peter Singer. Cognition, Volume 203, October 2020, 104397.

Abstract: Do university ethics classes influence students' real-world moral choices? We aimed to conduct the first controlled study of the effects of ordinary philosophical ethics classes on real-world moral choices, using non-self-report, non-laboratory behavior as the dependent measure. We assigned 1332 students in four large philosophy classes to either an experimental group on the ethics of eating meat or a control group on the ethics of charitable giving. Students in each group read a philosophy article on their assigned topic and optionally viewed a related video, then met with teaching assistants for 50-minute group discussion sections. They expressed their opinions about meat ethics and charitable giving in a follow-up questionnaire (1032 respondents after exclusions). We obtained 13,642 food purchase receipts from campus restaurants for 495 of the students, before and after the intervention. Purchase of meat products declined in the experimental group (52% of purchases of at least $4.99 contained meat before the intervention, compared to 45% after) but remained the same in the control group (52% both before and after). Ethical opinion also differed, with 43% of students in the experimental group agreeing that eating the meat of factory farmed animals is unethical compared to 29% in the control group. We also attempted to measure food choice using vouchers, but voucher redemption rates were low and no effect was statistically detectable. It remains unclear what aspect of instruction influenced behavior.

Keywords: Consumer choiceEthics instructionExperimental philosophyMoral psychologyMoral reasoningVegetarianism

Check also Chapter 15. The Behavior of Ethicists. Eric Schwitzgebel and Joshua Rust. In A Companion to Experimental Philosophy, edited by Justin Sytsma and Wesley Buckwalter. Aug 17 2017.

Scientists shocked! Rainfall, drought, flooding, and extreme storms modeling is poor, “It could mean we’re not getting future climate projections right.”

Missed wind patterns are throwing off climate forecasts of rain and storms. Paul Voosen. Science Magazine, Jul 29, 2020 , doi:10.1126/science.abe0713

Climate scientists can confidently tie global warming to impacts such as sea-level rise and extreme heat. But ask how rising temperatures will affect rainfall and storms, and the answers get a lot shakier. For a long time, researchers chalked the problem up to natural variability in wind patterns—the inherently unpredictable fluctuations of a chaotic atmosphere.

Now, however, a new analysis has found that the problem is not with the climate, it’s with the massive computer models designed to forecast its behavior. “The climate is much more predictable than we previously thought,” says Doug Smith, a climate scientist at the United Kingdom’s Met Office who led the 39-person effort published this week in Nature. But models don’t capture that predictability, which means they are unlikely to correctly predict the long-term changes that are most influenced by large-scale wind patterns: rainfall, drought, flooding, and extreme storms. “Obviously we need to solve it,” Smith says.

The study, which includes authors from several leading modeling centers, casts doubt on many forecasts of regional climate change, which are crucial for policymaking. It also means efforts to attribute specific weather events to global warming, now much in vogue, are rife with errors. “The whole thing is concerning,” says Isla Simpson, an atmospheric dynamicist and modeler at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, who was not involved in the study. “It could mean we’re not getting future climate projections right.”

The study does not cast doubt on forecasts of overall global warming, which is driven by human emissions of greenhouse gases. And it has a hopeful side: If models could be refined to capture the newfound predictability of winds and rains, they could be a boon for farming, flood management, and much else, says Laura Baker, a meteorologist at the University of Reading who was not involved in the study. “If you have reliable seasonal forecasts, that could make a big difference.”

The study stems from efforts at the Met Office to predict changes in the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), a large-scale wind pattern driven by the air pressure difference between Iceland and the Azores. The pressure difference reverses every few years, shunting the jet stream north or south; a more northerly jet stream drives warm, wet winters in northern Europe while drying out the continent’s south, and vice versa. In previous attempts to project the pattern decades into the future, a single model might yield opposite forecasts in different runs. The uncertainty seemed “huge and irreducible,” Smith says.

At first, the Met Office model did no better. But when the team ran the same model multiple times, with slightly different initial conditions, to forecast the NAO a season or a year into the future, a weak signal appeared in the ensemble average. Although it did not match the strength of the real NAO, it did match the overall pattern of its gyrations. But on individual model runs, the signal was drowning in noise.

The new work uses an ensemble of 169 model runs to find the same weak but predictable NAO pattern persisting for up to a decade. For each year since 1960, the team forecasted the NAO pattern 2 to 9 years in the future. When compared with weather records, the ensemble results showed the same pattern, ultimately explaining four-fifths of the NAO’s behavior. The massive computational effort suggests changes in the NAO are more predictable than models capture by an order of magnitude, Smith says. It also suggests individual models aren’t properly accounting for the ocean or atmospheric forces shaping the NAO.

The missed predictability appears to be universal. “This is being pursued everywhere,” says Yochanan Kushnir, a climate scientist at Columbia University, whose team reported last week in Scientific Reports that rainfall in the Sahel zone is more predictable than models indicate. In forthcoming work, a group led by Benjamin Kirtman, an atmospheric scientist and model developer at the University of Miami, will flag similar missed predictability in wind patterns above many of the world’s oceans.

Kirtman thinks something fundamental is wrong with the models’ code. For the time being, he says, “You’re probably making pretty profound mistakes in your climate change assessment” by relying on regional forecasts. For example, models predicted that the Horn of Africa, which is heavily influenced by Indian Ocean winds, would get wetter with climate change. But since the early 1990s, rains have plummeted and the region has dried.

The missing predictability also undermines so-called event attribution, which attempts to link extreme weather to climate change by using models to predict how sea surface warming is altering wind patterns. The changes in winds, in turn, affect the odds of extreme weather events, like hurricanes or floods. But the new work suggests “the probabilities they derive will probably not be correct,” Smith says.

What’s not clear yet is why climate models get circulation changes so wrong. One leading hypothesis is that the models fail to capture feedbacks into overall wind patterns from individual weather systems, called eddies. “Part of that eddy spectrum may simply be missing,” Smith says. Models do try to approximate the effects of eddies, but at just kilometers across, they are too small to simulate directly. The problem could also reflect poor rendering of the stratosphere, or of interactions between the ocean and atmosphere. “It’s fascinating,” says Jennifer Kay, a climate scientist at the University of Colorado, Boulder. “But there’s also a lot left unanswered.”

While researchers around the globe hunt down the missing predictability, Smith and his colleagues will take advantage of the weak NAO signal they have in hand. The Met Office and its partners announced this month they will produce temperature and precipitation forecasts looking 5 years ahead, and will use the NAO signal to help calibrate regional climate forecasts for Europe and elsewhere.

But until modelers figure out how to confidently forecast changes in the winds, Smith says, “We can’t take the models at face value."

Population studies suggest that increased availability of pornography is associated with reduced sexual aggression at the population level

Pornography and Sexual Aggression: Can Meta-Analysis Find a Link? Christopher J. Ferguson, Richard D. Hartley. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, July 21, 2020.

Abstract: Whether pornography contributes to sexual aggression in real life has been the subject of dozens of studies over multiple decades. Nevertheless, scholars have not come to a consensus about whether effects are real. The current meta-analysis examined experimental, correlational, and population studies of the pornography/sexual aggression link dating back from the 1970s to the current time. Methodological weaknesses were very common in this field of research. Nonetheless, evidence did not suggest that nonviolent pornography was associated with sexual aggression. Evidence was particularly weak for longitudinal studies, suggesting an absence of long-term effects. Violent pornography was weakly correlated with sexual aggression, although the current evidence was unable to distinguish between a selection effect as compared to a socialization effect. Studies that employed more best practices tended to provide less evidence for relationships whereas studies with citation bias, an indication of researcher expectancy effects, tended to have higher effect sizes. Population studies suggested that increased availability of pornography is associated with reduced sexual aggression at the population level. More studies with improved practices and preregistration would be welcome.

Keywords: pornography, sexual aggression, rape, domestic violence

It seems that the tendency to adjust appraisals of ourselves in the past and future in order to maintain a favourable view of ourselves in the present doesn't require episodic memory

Getting Better Without Memory. Julia G Halilova, Donna Rose Addis, R Shayna Rosenbaum. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, nsaa105, July 30 2020.

Abstract: Does the tendency to adjust appraisals of ourselves in the past and future in order to maintain a favourable view of ourselves in the present require episodic memory? A developmental amnesic person with impaired episodic memory (H.C.) was compared with two groups of age-matched controls on tasks assessing the Big Five personality traits and social competence in relation to the past, present, and future. Consistent with previous research, controls believed that their personality had changed more in the past five years than it will change in the next five years (i.e. the end-of-history illusion), and rated their present and future selves as more socially competent than their past selves (i.e. social improvement illusion), although this was moderated by self-esteem. Despite her lifelong episodic memory impairment, H.C. also showed these biases of temporal self-appraisal. Together, these findings do not support the theory that the temporal extension of the self-concept requires the ability to recollect richly detailed memories of the self in the past and future.

Keyword: episodic memory, self-appraisal, developmental amnesia, case study, end-of-history illusion, social improvement illusion

Effectiveness of acting extraverted (both socially and non-socially) as a well-being strategy: Those who engaged in extraverted behavior reported greater levels of positive affect ‘in-the-moment’

van Allen, Zack, Deanna Walker, Tamir Streiner, and John M. Zelenski. 2020. “Enacted Extraversion as a Well-being Enhancing Strategy in Everyday Life.” PsyArXiv. July 30. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: Lab-based experiments and observational data have consistently shown that extraverted behavior is associated with elevated levels of positive affect. This association typically holds regardless of one’s dispositional level of trait extraversion, and individuals who enact extraverted behaviors in laboratory settings do not demonstrate costs associated with acting counter-dispositionally. Inspired by these findings, we sought to test the efficacy of week-long ‘enacted extraversion’ interventions. In three studies, participants engaged in fifteen minutes of assigned behaviors in their daily life for five consecutive days. Studies 1 and 2 compared the effect of adding more introverted or extraverted behavior (or a control task). Study 3 compared the effect of adding social extraverted behavior or non-social extraverted behavior (or a control task). We assessed positive affect and several indicators of well-being during pretest (day 1) and post-test (day 7), as well as ‘in-the-moment’ (days 2-6). Participants who engaged in extraverted behavior reported greater levels of positive affect ‘in-the-moment’ when compared to introverted and control behaviors. We did not observe strong evidence to suggest that this effect was more pronounced for dispositional extraverts. The current research explores the effects of extraverted behavior on other indicators of well-being and examines the effectiveness of acting extraverted (both socially and non-socially) as a well-being strategy.

Women rate feeling bad about themselves in breakup sex, maybe due to women’s sexual regret when participating in a one-time sexual encounter

The psychology of breakup sex: Exploring the motivational factors and affective consequences of post-breakup sexual activity. James B. Moran, T. Joel Wade, Damian R. Murray. Evolutionary Psychology, July 30, 2020.

Abstract: Popular culture has recently publicized a seemingly new postbreakup behavior called breakup sex. While the media expresses the benefits of participating in breakup sex, there is no research to support these claimed benefits. The current research was designed to begin to better understand this postbreakup behavior. In the first study, we examined how past breakup sex experiences made the individuals feel and how people predict they would feel in the future (n = 212). Results suggested that men are more likely than women to have felt better about themselves, while women tend to state they felt better about the relationship after breakup sex. The second study (n = 585) investigated why men and women engage in breakup sex. Results revealed that most breakup sex appears to be motivated by three factors: relationship maintenance, hedonism, and ambivalence. Men tended to support hedonistic and ambivalent reasons for having breakup sex more often than women. The two studies revealed that breakup sex may be differentially motivated (and may have different psychological consequences) for men and women and may not be as beneficial as the media suggests.

Keywords: breakup sex, sexual strategy theory, fiery limbo, postbreakup behavior, ex-sex, gender differences

Study 1: Discussion
Study 1 was conducted to understand how individuals feel when they have engaged in breakup sex and to understand how they might feel about it in the future. The 11 items were further used to assess whether there were gender differences between men and women. Results revealed that men, more than women, reported greater receptivity to breakup sex regardless of the extraneous factors in the relationship (e.g., differences in mate value, who initiated the breakup).

There was no gender difference regarding whether individuals would have breakup sex if they loved their partner. However, unexpectedly, men more than women reported that they would participate in sexual behaviors they normally would not engage in. This engagement in atypical/less frequent sexual behavior may reflect a mate retention tactic since research indicates that men perform oral sex as a benefit-provisioning mate retention tactic (Pham & Shackelford, 2013). Thus, performing sexual behaviors they normally would not do could be an indicator of mate retentive behaviors.

The hypotheses that women would rate feeling bad about themselves was supported. This finding could be due to women’s sexual regret when participating in a one-time sexual encounter (Eshbaugh & Gute, 2008; Galperin et al., 2013). These findings are contrary to the popular media idea that breakup sex is good for both men and women. These results suggest that between men and women, men feel best after breakup sex and would have breakup sex for some different reasons than women would.

Fantasies About Consensual Nonmonogamy Among Persons in Monogamous Relationships: Those who identified as male or non-binary reported more such fantasies than those who identified as female

Fantasies About Consensual Nonmonogamy Among Persons in Monogamous Romantic Relationships. Justin J. Lehmiller. Archives of Sexual Behavior,Jul 29 2020.

Abstract: The present research explored fantasies about consensual nonmonogamous relationships (CNMRs) and the factors that predict such fantasies in a large and diverse online sample (N = 822) of persons currently involved in monogamous relationships. Nearly one-third (32.6%) of participants reported that being in some type of sexually open relationship was part of their favorite sexual fantasy of all time, of whom most (80.0%) said that they want to act on this fantasy in the future. Those who had shared and/or acted on CNMR fantasies previously generally reported positive outcomes (i.e., meeting or exceeding their expectations and improving their relationships). In addition, a majority of participants reported having fantasized about being in a CNMR at least once before, with open relationships being the most popular variety. Those who identified as male or non-binary reported more CNMR fantasies than those who identified as female. CNMR fantasies were also more common among persons who identified as anything other than heterosexual and among older adults. Erotophilia and sociosexual orientation were uniquely and positively associated with CNMR fantasies of all types; however, other individual difference factors (e.g., Big Five personality traits, attachment style) had less consistent associations. Unique predictors of infidelity fantasies differed from CNMR fantasies, suggesting that they are propelled by different psychological factors. Overall, these results suggest that CNMRs are a popular fantasy and desire among persons in monogamous romantic relationships. Clinical implications and implications for sexual fantasy research more broadly are discussed.