Thursday, September 10, 2020

When there is no alternative, boredom increases sadistic behavior across the board, even among individuals low in dispositional sadism

Pfattheicher, Stefan, Ljiljana B. Lazarevic, Erin C. Westgate, and Simon Schindler. 2020. “On the Relation of Boredom and Sadistic Aggression.” PsyArXiv. September 9. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: What gives rise to sadism? While sadistic behavior (i.e., harming others for pleasure) is well-documented, past empirical research is nearly silent regarding the psychological factors behind it. We help close this gap by suggesting that boredom plays a crucial role in the emergence of sadistic tendencies. Across nine diverse studies, we provide correlational and experimental evidence for a link between boredom and sadism. We demonstrate that sadistic tendencies are more pronounced among people who report chronic proneness to boredom in everyday life (Studies 1A-1F, N = 1780). We then document that this relationship generalizes across a variety of important societal contexts, including online trolling; sadism in the military; sadistic behavior among parents; and sadistic fantasies (Studies 2-5, N = 1740). Finally, we manipulate boredom experimentally and show that inducing boredom increases sadistic behavior (i.e., killing worms; destroying other participants’ pay; Studies 6-9, N = 4097). However, alternatives matter: When several behavioral alternatives are available, boredom only motivates sadistic behavior among individuals with high dispositional sadism (Study 7). Conversely, when there is no alternative, boredom increases sadistic behavior across the board, even among individuals low in dispositional sadism (Studies 8 & 9). We further show that excitement and novelty seeking mediate the effects of boredom, and that boredom not only promotes sadistic (proactive) aggression, but reactive aggression as well (Study 9). Overall, the present work contributes to a better understanding of sadism and highlights the destructive potential of boredom. We discuss implications for basic research on sadism and boredom, as well as applied implications for society at large.

Check also Psychopathy subfactors distinctively predispose to dispositional and state-level of sadistic pleasure. Jill Lobbestael, Martijn van Teffelen, Roy F. Baumeister. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, Feb 2019.

Development of sex differences in the human brain: Systematic sex difference in brain structure ocurred already during childhood, and subsequent increase of this difference during adolescence was large

Development of sex differences in the human brain. Florian Kurth , Christian Gaser & Eileen Luders. Cognitive Neuroscience, Sep 8 2020.

ABSTRACT: Sex differences in brain anatomy have been described from early childhood through late adulthood, but without any clear consensus among studies. Here, we applied a machine learning approach to estimate ‘Brain Sex’ using a continuous (rather than binary) classifier in 162 boys and 185 girls aged between 5 and 18 years. Changes in the estimated sex differences over time at different age groups were subsequently calculated using a sliding window approach. We hypothesized that males and females would differ in brain structure already during childhood, but that these differences will become even more pronounced with increasing age, particularly during adolescence. Overall, the classifier achieved a good performance, with an accuracy of 80.4% and an AUC of 0.897 across all age groups. Assessing changes in the estimated sex with age revealed a growing difference between the sexes with increasing age. That is, the very large effect size of d = 1.2 which was already evident during childhood increased even further from age 11 onward, and eventually reached an effect size of d = 1.6 at age 17. Altogether these findings suggest a systematic sex difference in brain structure already during childhood, and a subsequent increase of this difference during adolescence.

KEYWORDS: Adolescence, brain, childhood, development, machine learning, puberty, relevance vector, sex

High Replicability of Newly-discovered Social-behavioral Findings Is Achievable; past failures to replicate may be attributable to departures from optimal procedures

Protzko, John, Jon Krosnick, Leif D. Nelson, Brian A. Nosek, Jordan Axt, Matthew Berent, Nick Buttrick, et al. 2020. “High Replicability of Newly-discovered Social-behavioral Findings Is Achievable.” PsyArXiv. September 10. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: Failures to replicate evidence of new discoveries have forced scientists to ask whether this unreliability is due to suboptimal implementation of optimal methods or whether presumptively optimal methods are not, in fact, optimal. This paper reports an investigation by four coordinated laboratories of the prospective replicability of 16 novel experimental findings using current optimal practices: high statistical power, preregistration, and complete methodological transparency. In contrast to past systematic replication efforts that reported replication rates averaging 50%, replication attempts here produced the expected effects with significance testing (p<.05) in 86% of attempts, slightly exceeding maximum expected replicability based on observed effect size and sample size. When one lab attempted to replicate an effect discovered by another lab, the effect size in the replications was 97% that of the original study. This high replication rate justifies confidence in rigor enhancing methods and suggests that past failures to replicate may be attributable to departures from optimal procedures.

Single, childless women in psychology programs (other than clinical psychology) are 8.7% more likely than single, childless men to obtain a tenure-track job within six years of receiving their doctorate; men in the field are twice as likely to self-cite

The Future of Women in Psychological Science. June Gruber et al. Perspectives On Psychological Science, Sep 2020.

There has been extensive discussion about gender gaps in representation and career advancement in the sciences. However, psychological science itself has yet to be the focus of discussion or systematic review, despite our field’s investment in questions of equity, status, well-being, gender bias, and gender disparities. In the present article, we consider 10 topics relevant for women’s career advancement in psychological science. We focus on issues that have been the subject of empirical study, discuss relevant evidence within and outside of psychological science, and draw on established psychological theory and social-science research to begin to chart a path forward. We hope that better understanding of these issues within the field will shed light on areas of existing gender gaps in the discipline and areas where positive change has happened, and spark conversation within our field about how to create lasting change to mitigate remaining gender differences in psychological science.

Keywords: women, gender, gender roles, bias, psychology, science

Popular version: First gender parity review of psychological science shows some successes amid persistent problems. Colleen Sharkey. September 09, 2020.

Conservatives tended to show a greater interest in preserving their youthfulness, & had more resistant attitudes toward aging; & exhibited higher preferences for anti-aging benefits, compared to liberals & moderates

The Relationship between Political Ideology and the Pursuit of Staying Forever Young. Ga-Eun (Grace) Oh. Journal of Population Ageing (2020). Sep 5 2020.

Abstract: In an era defined by an aging population, the desire to look younger is so great, that the anti-aging industry is expected to grow by hundreds of billions of dollars within only a few years’ time. This research aims to investigate how the increasing interest to look younger is related to political ideology. We propose that accepting the ideal beauty of youthful bodies and pursuing physical youthfulness would be more prevalent among conservatives. We build this upon previous research showing that political conservatism is related to the acceptance of norms and values, as well as having strict boundaries for social perceptions and sensitivity to threat and losses. We conducted a pilot study which revealed that the queries related to anti-aging were more popular in states where political conservatism was higher in the US. Moreover, a survey among American participants revealed that conservatives tended to show a greater interest in preserving their youthfulness, and that they had more resistant attitudes toward aging. Moreover, they exhibited higher preferences for anti-aging benefits, compared to liberals and moderates. These findings contribute to extant literature on political psychology, body ideal, and ageism by demonstrating the relationship between political ideology and the pursuit of youthfulness, which is a neglected but critical dimension of the beauty ideal.

145 countries: subjective well-being is minimum, or nadir, in midlife around age 50

Is happiness U-shaped everywhere? Age and subjective well-being in 145 countries. David G. Blanchflower. Journal of Population Economics (2020). Sep 9 2020.

Abstract: A large empirical literature has debated the existence of a U-shaped happiness-age curve. This paper re-examines the relationship between various measures of well-being and age in 145 countries, including 109 developing countries, controlling for education and marital and labor force status, among others, on samples of individuals under the age of 70. The U-shape of the curve is forcefully confirmed, with an age minimum, or nadir, in midlife around age 50 in separate analyses for developing and advanced countries as well as for the continent of Africa. The happiness curve seems to be everywhere. While panel data are largely unavailable for this issue, and the findings using such data largely confirm the cross-section results, the paper discusses insights on why cohort effects do not drive the findings. I find the age of the minima has risen over time in Europe and the USA.


No ifs, no buts, well-being is U-shaped in age. The average age at which the U-shaped minimized across the 477 country-level estimates reported here is 48.3. It is in rich and poor countries.
I found evidence of the nadir in happiness in one hundred and forty-five countries, including one hundred and nine developing and thirty-six developed. I found it in Europe, Asia, North and South America, Australasia, and Africa. I identified it in all but six of the fifty-one European countries.Footnote26 I have a well-being U-shape for every one of the thirty-five member countries of the OECD.Footnote27 I have it for 138/193 member countries of the United Nations.
I found the well-being U-shape in English-speaking countries and non-English-speaking countries. A U-shape is revealed in countries ranked highly in the CIA World Factbook for countries with both high and low life expectancy at birth.Footnote28 I found it in twelve countries ranked in the top twenty for life expectancy of 82 or more.Footnote29 I also found a U-shape in ten countries in the bottom twenty for life expectancy of 223 countries in the world according to the CIA.Footnote30 The curve’s trajectory holds true in countries where the median wage is high and where it is not and where people tend to live longer and where they don’t.
I found additional evidence from an array of attitudinal questions that were worded slightly differently. Evidence of a U-shape was found across European countries in questions relating to an individual’s finances as well as to the state of the economy and democracy and how public services work. In Africa, I used a question that development scholars had used relating to living standards and found a U-shape for thirty African countries. This suggests the U-curve in age may have much broader applicability than just in well-being data. Given the robustness of these findings, it remains a puzzle why so many psychologists continue to suggest that well-being is unrelated to age.
People are struggling. In the USA, deaths of despair are most likely to occur in the middle-aged years, and the patterns are robustly associated with unhappiness and stress. Across countries, chronic depression and suicide rates peak in midlife. Those in middle age in the years since 2008 were most vulnerable to a once-in-a-generation financial shock especially if they were poor and with low levels of education. In the USA, the employment rate in 2020 was below that in 2008. In the UK, real wages were below pre-recession levels at the onset of the COVID-19 crash in March 2020. The financial crisis did not suddenly create frailty in downtrodden communities but simply exposed underlying problems with deep roots in the long decades before. It seems it is normal to have a midlife dip in well-being, but for many, especially those with the least skills, with little social support and few if any savings, that was too much to bear when a giant downturn came along in 2008.
The finding of a zenith in well-being in midlife likely adds important support to the notion that being in one’s forties and fifties exacerbates vulnerability to disadvantages and shocks.Footnote31 That is people with disabilities, less education, broken families, lost jobs, and so on are likely also to get hit hardest by the effects of aging. Some might face downward spirals as age and life circumstances interact. Many will not be getting the social/emotional support they need, because midlife is the worst time to present vulnerability. They will be dealing with shame and isolation, in addition to the first-order effects of whatever they are coping with in normal times at a midlife low is tough. It is made much harder when combined with a deep downturn especially when the speed of recovery and the length of lockdown is uncertain.
Interdisciplinary research is clearly needed into how to stem the worst manifestations of the midlife nadir in well-being, such as depression, lack of sleep, suicide, and higher tendency to drug and alcohol abuse. The fact that the happiness zenith occurs in developed and developing countries and it has even been found in great apes (Weiss et al. 2012) suggests there may be something deeply engrained perhaps in the genes.
The pandemic is global. Vulnerable individuals and communities around the world will be devastated by the shock, because of both job and income loss but also from bereavement. The prime aged with low levels of happiness already are especially at risk.
The happiness curve is found in 145 countries. No myth.

Caffeine Increases the Reinforcing Efficacy of Alcohol, an Effect that is Independent of Dopamine D2 Receptor Function

Caffeine Increases the Reinforcing Efficacy of Alcohol, an Effect that is Independent of Dopamine D2 Receptor Function. Sarah E Holstein, Gillian A. Barkell, Megan R. Young. bioRxiv, Sep 8 2020.

Abstract: The rising popularity of alcohol mixed with energy drinks (AmEDs) has become a significant public health concern, with AmED users reporting higher levels of alcohol intake than non-AmED users. One mechanism proposed to explain heightened levels of alcohol intake in AmED users is that the high levels of caffeine found in energy drinks may increase the reinforcing properties of alcohol, an effect which may be dependent on interactions between adenosine signaling pathways and the dopamine D2 receptor. Therefore, the purpose of the current study was to confirm whether caffeine increases the reinforcing efficacy of alcohol using both fixed ratio (FR) and progressive ratio (PR) designs, and to investigate a potential role of the dopamine D2 receptor in caffeine's reinforcement-enhancing effects. Male Long Evans rats were trained to self-administer a sweetened alcohol or sucrose solution on an FR2 schedule of reinforcement. Pretreatment with caffeine (5-10 mg/kg) significantly increased operant responding for the sweetened alcohol reinforcer, but not sucrose. PR tests of motivation for alcohol or sucrose likewise confirmed a caffeine-dependent increase in motivation for a sweetened alcohol solution, but not sucrose. However, the D2 receptor antagonist eticlopride did not block the reinforcement-enhancing effects of caffeine using either an FR or PR schedule of reinforcement. Taken together, these results support the hypothesis that caffeine increases the reinforcing efficacy of alcohol, which may explain caffeine-induced increases in alcohol intake. However, the reinforcement-enhancing effects of caffeine appear to be independent of D2 receptor function.