Saturday, October 10, 2020

The Case Against Economic Values in the Brain

Hayden, Benjamin, and Yael Niv. 2020. “The Case Against Economic Values in the Brain.” PsyArXiv. October 5. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: Much of traditional neuroeconomics proceeds from the hypothesis that value is reified in the brain, that is, that there are neurons or brain regions whose responses serve the discrete purpose of encoding value. This hypothesis is supported by the finding that the activity of many neurons and brain regions covaries with subjective value as estimated in specific tasks. Here we consider an alternative: that value is not represented in the brain. This idea is motivated by close consideration of the economic concept of value, which places important epistemic constraints on our ability to identify its neural basis. It is also motivated by the behavioral economics literature, especially work on heuristics. Finally, it is buoyed by recent neural and behavioral findings regarding how animals and humans learn to choose between options. In light of our hypothesis, we critically reevaluate putative neural evidence for the representation of value, and explore an alternative: that brains directly learn action policies. We delineate how this alternative can provide a robust account of behavior that concords with existing empirical data.

Malaysian Muslims dating in non-private urban spaces (which should not be described along the lines of a colonial, Western liberal, analytically useless private–public dichotomy): Space is constructed in reaction to omnipresent Allah's gaze; the importance of an intimate relationship between a believer and Allah should never be underestimated

De-colonizing public spaces in Malaysia: dating in Kuala Lumpur. Krzysztof Nawratek, Asma Mehan. cultural geographies, February 28, 2020.

Abstract: This article discusses places and practices of young heterosexual Malaysian Muslims dating in non-private urban spaces. It is based on research conducted in Kuala Lumpur in two consecutive summers 2016 and 2017. Malaysian law (Khalwat law) does not allow for two unrelated people (where at least one of them is Muslim) of opposite sexes to be within ‘suspicious proximity’ of one another in public. This law significantly influences behaviors and activities in urban spaces in KL. In addition to the legal framework, the beliefs of Malaysian Muslims significantly influence the way they perceive space and how they behave in the city. The article discusses the empirical theme, beginning with the participants’ narratives of their engagement with the dominant sexual and gender order in non-private spaces of KL. Utilizing questionnaires, interviews and observations, this article draws upon a qualitative research project and questions the analytical usefulness of the notion of public space (as a Western construct) in the context of an Islamic, post-colonial, tropical, global city.

Keywords: dating, de-colonizing, Islam, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, public space

The question that underpins our investigation of non-private urban space in an Islamic context is the question of how useful the western concept of public space in KL really is. Public space, understood as an empty space (void), providing free and inclusive access, where unplanned encounters can happen and where individuals can express themselves, simply do not exist in KL. This does not mean, however, that there is only a homogeneous magma of privatized, controlled space. To the contrary, what is visible is not always audible, and spaces and activities often have several meanings, as with dating itself – a ‘hidden activity’ obscured by shopping or eating.

Understanding of cultural and religious differences is essential in the analysis of city dwellers’ usage of space in a Malaysian context. In the context of our research, public space in KL should be considered as a malleable construct of ‘visibility’, awareness, and confrontation of differences. We believe that the findings of this research allow us to question the analytical and theoretical usefulness of the (western) notion of public space. There is a need to employ a different language and different set of references to analyze spaces in KL (and potentially other non-Western cities), and this article is intended to take few initial steps into that still unknown territory.

The aim of this article goes beyond just the question of public space in an Islamic city, because there are multiple factors that strongly influence the usage of spaces in the city such as the tropical climate, the colonial past, the historically predominant presence of the Chinese community in KL (and also other religious groups), and finally the forces of global capitalism eroding any idea of public ownership (or absence of the idea of public ownership whatsoever). Because of these different forces that influence the shape of space in KL, Islam is only one of many factors that need to be considered when asking the question of the appropriateness of the term ‘public space’. However, Islamic thought also gives us a chance to discuss possibilities of a different, non-Western (non-Christian, liberal, post-Enlightenment) discourse on urban spaces, especially on a dichotomy of public–private. We would argue that in the context of KL, Islamic thought may be the starting point (taken in the further research together with Hindu and Buddhist thought) in any attempt to decolonize discourse on urban theory and practice. This article focused on dating practices among young Muslims and we predominantly use Islamic thought as the tool to dismantle Western discourse of public spaces. The presence of Christians, Hindu, Buddhists, and followers of other religions influence the way in which spaces in KL are used – further research is needed to analyze these different religious influences in detail.

The purpose of this article is to open the discussion and sketch possible lines of future research, rather than to formulate definitive conclusions, however, we believe that findings of our research contribute to new, decolonized theoretical and practical approaches to urban spaces in KL. Urban space in KL should not be described along the lines of a private–public dichotomy. In this city, space is constructed in reaction to the perceived gaze of the omnipresent Allah. This gaze is mediated externally (by society) and internally (as a set of rules based on personal faith), but the importance of an intimate relationship between a believer and Allah should never be underestimated. We argue that there is no emptiness in KL. Space is constructed as an extension and/or mutation of personal, intimate space, put in the context of other personal spaces under the gaze of the all-seeing Allah.

Social and commercial spaces seem to ‘shield’ users (by changing their status from male/female into consumers) against the oppressive gaze of the judgmental society and only the home, personal and intimate space seems to protect (allow) human freedom. However, a simple reversal of the western liberal model to place the oppression (control) outside and the freedom inside the house (private space) seems wrong. Family relationships are also hierarchical and regulated by both religion and convention. It seems that space in KL is fundamentally constructed, with the dominant principle of controlling (and self-controlling) gaze penetrating this space. The ‘unnatural’ (artificial/constructed) essence of space (built environment ‘covering’ natural land) and visibility seem the most important aspects while discussing space in KL. Therefore, the conventional, Western liberal notion of public space does not seem to be analytically useful in KL, and we would suggest considering urban space as a kind of series of granular social spaces in which moments and spheres of intimacy are built as temporary situations (expanded, mutating, interacting privacy) rather than permanent installations. When we define spaces in KL as constructed and ‘artificial’, we mean they are multi-coded and they have layers of different meanings. The efficient usage of non-private spaces is based on an ability to construct and manipulate these meanings. It is constantly reconstructed as a coexistence of personal spaces. It is never empty.


Krater district, Matera, Apulia (source is Urban Structures for the Future. Justus Dahinden. Pall Mall Press, Apr 1972):

A previous study presented preliminary evidence for suicide-related "subliminal messages" on Instagram, defined as very brief presentations of suicide-related content; this paper confirms reports

Investigating Suicide-Related Subliminal Messages on Instagram: A Frame-by-Frame Analysis of Video Posts. Florian Arendt, Antonia Markiewitz, and Sebastian Scherr. Crisis, October 9, 2020.

Rolf Degen's take:


Background: Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among 15–29-year-olds and Instagram is one of the most popular and fastest-growing social media platforms among this age group. A previous study presented preliminary evidence for suicide-related "subliminal messages" on Instagram, defined as very brief presentations of suicide-related content in video posts that users have no conscious awareness of.

Aim: A systematic quantitative study was pending.

Method: We conducted a quantitative content analysis of 100 Instagram video posts. A frame-by-frame coding procedure allowed for an assessment of whether suicide-related content was depicted in very brief segments, even when this content could not be consciously recognized when watched at regular speed.

Results: Analysis indicates that a substantial amount of suicide-related content is presented in very brief shots. We identified 67 very brief shots that appeared in 21 video posts. Of interest, 13 of these video posts presented more than one very brief suicide-related shot.

Limitation: The subjective threshold of conscious awareness differs inter-individually. This complicates the operationalization of subliminal messages.

Conclusion: Subliminal messages are ethically highly problematic. There is a need for a greater awareness of possible suicide-related subliminal messages on Instagram.

Keywords: subliminal messages, social media, Instagram, youth, suicide

The market premium for natural scientists unattractiveness conforms not only to the common stereotype of the natural scientist but also to a belief that the more unattractive of them engage in higher quality work

“Beauty” premium for social scientists but “unattractiveness” premium for natural scientists in the public speaking market. Weilong Bi, Ho Fai Chan & Benno Torgler. Humanities and Social Sciences Communications volume 7, Article number: 118. Oct 7 2020.

Abstract: In the face of scientists’ increasing engagement in public discourse, we examine whether facial attractiveness affects their market value (i.e., audience willingness to pay). For a sample of scientists who participate in public speaking, we find that facial attractiveness is uncorrelated with internal academic achievements (as measured by publications and citations) and is only weakly but positively linked to attention outside of academia. Notably, we find that the effect of facial attractiveness on external influence is only robust to measures where speakers’ physical appearance is likely to be most apparent to the public, such as invitations to give TED talks or Google web page counts while the effect on the number of book publications or book awards is not significant. Our results also suggest that these relationships do not differ across scientists’ fields of research. However, we find that in terms of speaking fees, social scientists benefit substantially from being more attractive, whereas unattractiveness is a comparative advantage for natural scientists. A similar divergence in the direction of the relationship between speaking fee and facial attractiveness is also evident for nonacademic speakers from different fields: whereas those from a natural science (job) background gain from unattractiveness, those with a social science history benefit from a beauty premium. This market premium for unattractiveness conforms not only to the common stereotype of the natural scientist but also to a belief that the more unattractive of these researchers engage in higher quality work. Overall, the findings indicate that facial appearance is important in the public perception of academics and, to some extent, their dissemination of knowledge.


Our results on the benefit of facial unattractiveness for natural scientists are consistent with the finding of a previous PNAS study indicating that less attractive researchers are judged to be better scientists (Gheorghiu et al., 2017). In this study, we complement previous evidence on individual judgments by focusing on speaking fees as a proxy for the willingness to pay for a scientist’s public engagement in the marketplace (Chan et al., 2014a2014b). Given that our sample consists of individuals who are active public speakers and thus judged by the public speaking portals as sufficiently attractive for a public speaking engagement, our identification of an unattractiveness premium for natural scientists is particularly interesting and the >20 percent effect for a one-unit increase in facial attractiveness (on a 10-point scale) is quite substantial. This result holds even for nonacademic speakers with a natural science background. Hence, although we do not explicitly explore stereotypes, our findings confirm the public and media stereotype of a “nerdy” or “geeky” natural scientist. Indeed, a Discover article referencing (Gheorghiu et al., 2017)’s research even notes an “ugly Einstein” effect that reflects a deeper phenomenon, a “cultural Cartesian dualism” implying that an individual can either be strong/have a beautiful body or have a brilliant mind, but not bothFootnote5. Our analysis, however, demonstrates that the reverse is true for social scientists: not only are they less affected by the unattractiveness stereotype, they may actually benefit from a beauty premium.

Why then, do we observe such “beauty” and “ugly” premiums regarding speaking fees across fields? One plausible explanation could be that facial beauty is correlated with citation-based productivity. That is, although job performance in the academic environment (e.g., research output) is clearly identifiable and thus less subject to beauty-based discrimination, facial appearance may affect publication performance if reviewers or editors know the scholar or are able to match name and image online (Dilger et al., 2015). On the other hand, the very probability of publishing—and thus of being cited—may increase due to the tendency for attractive researchers to be accepted into better graduate schools, to have access to better PhD supervisors, to be hired into higher ranked and more prestigious universities, and to have a wider social and professional network (Fidrmuc and Paphawasit, 2018). Despite the correlational nature of our findings, such difference is less likely to be explained by speakers’ (perceived) quality as an academic, as demonstrated by the null relationship between facial attractiveness and scholarly productivity or achievements in terms of publication and citation metrics among academic speakers. In other words, it is unlikely that less (more) attractive natural (social) scientists could capitalize on external prominence due to their academic success, while also controlling for scientist’s societal reputation. Interestingly, we did not find that such stereotypical bias affects scientists’ ability to generate social interest. Instead, our results indicate that facial attractiveness, regardless of their field of study, is positively correlated with measures of external influence where speakers’ physical appearance is likely to be most apparent, for example, TED talk invitations or mentions on Google web page counts. In contrast, we did not find any significant effect of facial attractiveness on external engagement, such as publishing books or its recognition in terms of nonfiction book awards. This finding corresponds, to some extent, with previous literature in which the positive effect of physical attractiveness on the perception of teaching quality or effectiveness is found to be more salient in an environment with higher physical exposure or interaction (e.g., Hamermesh and Parker, 2005; Babin et al., 2019).

There are several limitations to this study. First, while prior research has found a weak, positive, but statistically significant relationship between the Anaface attractiveness scores and human attractiveness ratings (Babin et al., 2019), we were unable to provide our own validation due to research budget constraints. Follow-up studies should consider using an independent sample to examine the robustness of the statistical relationship between human ratings and algorithm-based measures of facial attractiveness. In addition, the perception of facial attractiveness is likely to vary depending on the sample of evaluators employed. As such, one should carefully choose a sample of evaluators that represent the population of the target audience depending on the purpose of the study (e.g., high-school students, average citizens, or corporate audience). Despite the established correlations (see Supplementary Information) between the Anaface proxy and geometry-based attractiveness measures such as facial symmetry, neoclassical canons, and golden ratio, the cross-cultural validity of the latter two are problematic (Chen and Zhang, 2014; Heidekrueger et al., 2017) as they are Eurocentric constructions based on Greco-Roman and Western ideals (Bashour, 2006; Thomas and Dixon, 2016). Therefore, these measures are potentially less relevant for studies examining perceived facial attractiveness of non-Western cultures compared to facial averageness or symmetry that are biologically relevant measures of attractiveness. Such problematic proxies might be justifiable for the current context (which relied heavily on data from Western scholars), but future studies could explore the differences between those proxies by exploring a speaker pool from a non-Western culture. Lastly, there is a debate in the literature regarding the usefulness of simple citation-based metrics (such as total citation counts and h-index) as indicators of academic performance or research quality. Due to the increasing pressure to perform, such measures are potentially subject to manipulations (e.g., see the excellent discussion in Fire and Guestrin, 2019). However, these measures may also capture public perception of academic quality or achievement. We have therefore demonstrated robustness of the null relationship between facial attractiveness and scholarly achievements by using metrics that are less prone to manipulation such as variants of the h-index, which accounts for the effect of co-authors, age of the publication, and citation patterns.

It would therefore be interesting to explore other possible channels through which facial attractiveness affects the ability to thrive in the speaking market, apart from a taste-based discrimination (stereotypes) explanation. For example, whether social and natural scientists also differ in characteristics such as sociability or social intelligence and how these traits are linked to attractiveness. It may also be worth investigating whether perceived dialectic differences in natural and social sciences (Lewontin and Levins, 1998) contribute to our understanding of beauty premium differences, particularly when oral communication skills and confidence were shown as a contributor towards beauty premium in experimental labor market setting (Mobius and Rosenblat, 2006). Such insight is important given the often tenuous status of social sciences, and their perception as less solidly scientific than the natural sciences (Ecklund et al., 2018), which often forces social scientists to struggle for respect. This is despite the fact that social scientists are more actively engaged with the media, reflecting journalists’ and audiences’ selective interest in their type of research (Peters, 2013). Aspects such as perceived organizational, professional, or cultural conditions, and disciplinary socialization may also matter (Becher and Trowler, 2001), so investigating these could offer valuable insights into how appearances affect scientists’ perceived scientific communication skills, their public images, and/or the popularization of science in general.

In general, our results also add to the literature on the role played by facial attractiveness in scientific achievements by investigating the relationship using a sample of academics from different fields. Particularly, by examining a wide range of scientific productivity metrics, we find no significant effect, which is consistent across academic fields. This null relationship between facial attractiveness and citation-based performance supports the findings of Dilger et al. (2015) using Business Research scientists but differs from Fidrmuc and Paphawasit (2018), where the authors found a substantial and significant positive effect among economic scholars. Nevertheless, this difference could stem from our sample selection of academics, who may have been more established at the time they chose to engage in public speaking actively. Therefore, further research using a representative sample of scientists across fields is required in order to reach a more conclusive relationship between physical attractiveness and scientific achievements between academic disciplines.

Use caution when applying behavioural science to policy

Use caution when applying behavioural science to policy. Hans IJzerman, Neil A. Lewis Jr., Andrew K. Przybylski, Netta Weinstein, Lisa DeBruine, Stuart J. Ritchie, Simine Vazire, Patrick S. Forscher, Richard D. Morey, James D. Ivory & Farid Anvari. Nature Human Behaviour, Oct 9 2020.

Abstract: Social and behavioural scientists have attempted to speak to the COVID-19 crisis. But is behavioural research on COVID-19 suitable for making policy decisions? We offer a taxonomy that lets our science advance in ‘evidence readiness levels’ to be suitable for policy. We caution practitioners to take extreme care translating our findings to applications.

Researchers in the social and behavioural sciences periodically debate whether their research should be used to address pressing issues in society. To provide a few examples, in the 1940s psychologists discussed using research to address problems related to intergroup relations, problems brought to the fore by the Holocaust and other acts of rampant prejudice. In the 1990s, psychologists debated whether their research should inform legal decision-making. In the 2010s, psychologists argued for advising branches of government as economists often do. And now, in 2020, psychologists and other social and behavioural scientists are arguing that our research should inform the response to the new coronavirus disease (henceforth COVID-19)1,2.

We are a team mostly consisting of empirical psychologists who conduct research on basic, applied and meta-scientific processes. We believe that scientists should apply their creativity, efforts and talents to serve our society, especially during crises. However, the way that social and behavioural science research is often conducted makes it difficult to know whether our efforts will do more good than harm. We will provide some examples from the field of social-personality psychology, where most of us were trained, to illustrate our concerns. This focus is not meant to imply that our field alone suffers from the issues we will discuss. Instead, a growing meta-science literature suggests that many other social and behavioural disciplines have encountered dynamics similar to those faced by our field.

What are those dynamics? First, study participants, mainly students, are drawn from populations that are in Western (mostly US), educated, industrialized, rich and democratic (WEIRD) societies3. Second, even with this narrow slice of population, the effects in published papers are not estimated with precision, sometimes barely ruling out trivially small effects under ostensibly controlled conditions. Third, many studies use a narrow range of stimuli and do not test for stimulus generalisability4. Fourth, many studies examine effects on measures, such as self-report scales, that are infrequently validated or linked to behaviour, much less to policy-relevant outcomes5. Fifth, independently replicated findings, even under ideal circumstances, are rare. Finally, our studies often fail to account for deeper cultural, historical, political and structural factors that play important moderating roles during the process of translation from basic findings to application. Together, these issues produce empirical insights that are more heterogeneous than might be apparent from a scan of the published literature.

Confident applications of social and behavioural science findings, then, require first and foremost an assessment of the evidence quality and weighing heterogeneity and the trade-offs and opportunity costs that follow. We must identify reliable findings that can be applied, have been investigated in the nations for which the application is intended and are derived from investigations using diverse stimuli. But the assessment of how ‘ready’ the intervention is must be included when persuading decision-makers to apply social and behavioural science evidence, particularly in crisis situations when lives are at stake and resources are limited. Not doing so can have disastrous consequences.

Here we propose one approach for assessing the quality of evidence before application and dissemination. Specifically, we draw inspiration from the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)’s ‘technology readiness levels’ (TRL6), a benchmarking system for systematically evaluating the quality of scientific evidence and which has been used by the European Commission to judge how ready scientific applications beyond space flight are for operational environments. TRLs rank a technology’s readiness for application from 1 to 9 (see Fig. 1). At TRL1, basic principles have been reliably observed, reported and translated to a formal model. In TRL2, basic principles have been developed and tested in an application area. It is not until TRL4, when a prototype is developed, that tests are run in various environments that are as representative of the eventual application area(s) as possible. Later, at TRL6, the system is tested in a ‘real’ environment (like ground-to-space). At the very highest level (TRL9), the system has been ‘flight-proven’ through successful mission operations. These TRLs provide a useful framework to jumpstart conversations about how to assess the readiness of social and behavioural science evidence for application and dissemination.

Fig 1

Introducing evidence readiness levels

The desire to “directly inform policy and individual and collective behaviour in response to the pandemic” (p. 461)1 overlooks existing evidence frameworks and the challenges we identify, illustrating that a simple taxonomy is necessary to have at hand during crises. As a very preliminary step to this end we propose a social and behavioural science variant of TRLs, evidence readiness levels (ERLs; Fig. 2).

Fig 2

There are several frameworks for assessing evidence quality across different scientific fields. The one that comes closest to what we envision is the Society for Prevention’s standards for prevention interventions7, as they incorporate standards for efficacy dissemination and feedback loops from crisis to theory. However, none of the existing frameworks capture the meta-scientific insights generated in our field in the last decade.

Our ERLs do not map perfectly onto NASA’s TRLs, and we should not expect them to; there are many differences between behavioural and rocket science. In the social and behavioural sciences we think this process should start with defining problem(s) in collaboration with the stakeholders most likely to implement the interventions (ERL1). These concepts can then be further developed in consultation with people in the target settings to gather preliminary information about how settings or context might alter processes (ERL2). From there, researchers can conduct systematic reviews and other meta-syntheses to select evidence that could potentially be applied (ERL3). These systematic reviews require a number of bias-detection techniques. It is well-known that the behavioural sciences suffer from publication bias and other practices that compromise the integrity of research evidence. Some findings may be reliable, but the onus is on us to identify which are and which are not and which generalize or don’t. Yet, these systematic reviews must still be done with an awareness that the currently available statistical techniques do not completely correct for bias and that the resultant findings are at most at ERL3.

Following this, one can gather information about stimulus and measurement validity and equivalence for application in the target setting (ERL4). Next, researchers—in consultation with local experts—should consider the potential benefits and harms associated with applying potential solutions (ERL5) and generate estimates of effects in a pilot sample (ERL6). With preliminary effects in hand, the team can then begin to test for heterogeneity in low-stakes (ERL7) and higher-stakes (ERL8) samples and settings, which would build the confidence necessary to apply the findings in the real target setting or crisis situation (ERL9).

Even at ERL9, evidence evaluation continues; applications of social and behavioural work, particularly in a crisis, should be iterative, so high-quality evidence is fed back to evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention and to develop critical and flexible improvements. Feedback should be grounded in collaboration between basic and applied researchers, as well as with stakeholders, to ensure that the resulting evidence is relevant and actionable. Failure to continually re-evaluate interventions in light of new data could lead to unnecessary harm, where even the best evidence was inadequate to predict the intervention’s real-world effects.

A benchmarking system such as the ERL requires us to think carefully about the nature of our research that can be applied credibly and guides where research investments should be made. For example, we can better recognise that our goal of gathering reliable insights (ERL3) provides a necessary foundation for further collective efforts that scaffold towards scalable and generalizable interventions (ERL7). Engaging community experts, identifying relevant theories, and collecting extensive observations are key to framing challenges and working with interdisciplinary teams to address them (ERL1). Behavioural scientists from different cultures then discuss how interventions may need to differ in nature across context and cultures. The multidisciplinary and multi-stakeholder nature of ERLs requires us to fundamentally rethink how we produce, and communicate confidence in, application-ready findings.

The current crisis provides a chance for social and behavioural scientists to question how we understand and communicate the value of our scientific models in terms of ERLs. It also requires us to communicate those ERLs to policy-makers so that they know whether we are making educated guesses (ERL3 or below) or can be confident about the application of our findings because we have tested and replicated them in representative environments (ERL7). When providing policy advice on the basis of scientific evidence, it is important to understand and be able to explain whether and how recommendations would impact affected individuals under a range of circumstances that are highly relevant to the crisis in question (ERL7).

Even if findings are at ERL3 after assessing evidence quality of primary studies, we have little way of knowing how much positive, or unintended negative, consequences an intervention might have when applied to a new situation. We are concerned to see social and behavioural scientists making confident claims about the utility of scientific findings for solving COVID-19 problems without regard for whether those findings are based on the kind of scientific methods that would move them up the ERL ladder1. The absence of recognised benchmarking systems makes this challenging. While it is tempting to instead qualify uncertainty by using non-committal language about the possible utility of existing findings (for example, ‘may’, ‘could’), this approach is fundamentally flawed because public conversations generally ignore these rhetorical caveats8. Scientists should actively communicate uncertainty, particularly when speaking to crises. Communicating that their ERL is only at 3 or 4 would empower policy-makers by providing clear understanding of how to weight our advice in terms of their options. Reaching a higher ERL is extremely complicated and will require radical changes in the way we conduct research, not only in response to crises.

How social and behavioural scientists can advance their ERLs

The field of genetics started in a position similar to the position that many behavioural sciences find themselves in now, with small, independently collected samples that produced unreliable findings. Attempts to identify candidate genes for many constructs of interest kept stalling at TRL1/ERL4. In one prominent example, 52 patients provided genetic material for an analysis of the relationship between the 5-HTT gene and major depression9, a finding that spurred enormous interest in the biological mechanisms underlying depression. Unfortunately, as with the current situation in psychology, these early results were contradicted by failed replication studies10.

Technological advances in genotyping unlocked different approaches for geneticists. Instead of working in isolated teams, geneticists pooled resources via consortium studies and thereby accelerated scientific progress and quality. Their recent studies (with samples that sometimes exceed 1,000,000) dwarf previous candidate gene studies in terms of sample size11. To accomplish this, geneticists devoted considerable time to developing research workflows, data harmonization systems and processes that increased the accuracy of their measurements. The new methodologies are not without flaws: for example, there is substantial scope for expanding the representativeness of study cohorts. But the progress that consortium research in genetics has made in a short time is impressive.

In recent years we have observed similar progress in the psychological sciences going from single, small-sample studies to large-scale replications12,13 and novel studies14 to the building of the prerequisite infrastructure to facilitate team science. One example is the Psychological Science Accelerator (PSA), a large standing network with experts facilitating study selection, data management, ethics and translation15. While the PSA is making important progress, problems surrounding measurement validity, sample generalizability and organizational diversity (40% of its leadership is from North America), which affect the network’s ability to accurately interpret findings, still present material challenges to the applicability of their projects. Therefore, the PSA will require substantial improvement and investment before it can generate practical ERL7-level evidence and further develop our proposed framework.

The COVID-19 crisis underscores the critical need to bring the social and behavioural sciences in line with other mature sciences. Diverse consortia of researchers with expertise in philosophy, ethics, statistics and data and code management are needed to produce the kind of research required to better understand people the world over. Realising this mature, inclusive and efficient model necessitates a shift in the knowledge production and evaluation models that guide the social and behavioural sciences.

Be cautious when applying social and behavioural science to policy

On balance, we hold the view that the social and behavioural sciences have the potential to help us better understand our world. However, we are less sanguine about whether many areas of social and behavioural sciences are mature enough to provide such understanding, particularly when considering life-and-death issues like a pandemic. We believe that, rather than appealing to policy-makers to recognise our value, we should focus on earning the credibility that legitimates a seat at the policy table. The ERL taxonomy is a sample roadmap for achieving this level of maturity as a science and for accurately and honestly communicating our current state of evidence. Collaborations among large and diverse teams with local knowledge and multidisciplinary expertise can help us move up the evidence ladder. Equally important, studies in the behavioural sciences must be designed to move up this ladder incrementally. Designing an ERL6 study that is built on a shaky ERL1 foundation will be of little use. Moving up requires investment, thought and, most important of all, epistemic humility. Without a systematic and iterative research framework, we believe that behavioural scientists should carefully consider whether well-intentioned advice may do more harm than good.

Do People Agree on How Positive Emotions Are Expressed? A Survey of Four Emotions and Five Modalities Across 11 Cultures

Manokara, Kunalan, Mirna Đurić, Agneta Fischer, and Disa Sauter. 2020. “Do People Agree on How Positive Emotions Are Expressed? A Survey of Four Emotions and Five Modalities Across 11 Cultures.” OSF Preprints. October 5. doi:10.31219/

Abstract: While much is known about how negative emotions are expressed in different modalities, our understanding of the nonverbal expressions of positive emotions remains limited. In the present research, we draw upon disparate lines of theoretical and empirical work on positive emotions, and systematically examine which channels are thought to be used for expressing four positive emotions: feeling moved, gratitude, interest, and triumph. Employing the intersubjective approach, an established tool in cross-cultural psychology, we first examined how the four positive emotions were reported to be expressed in a U.S.A. community sample (Study 1: n = 1015). We next confirmed the cross-cultural generalizability of our findings by surveying respondents from ten countries that diverged on cultural values (Study 2: n = 1834). Feeling moved was thought to be signaled with facial expressions, gratitude with the use of words, interest with words, face and voice, and triumph with body posture, vocal cues, facial expressions, and words. These findings provide cross-culturally consistent findings of differential expressions across positive emotions. Notably, positive emotions were mostly thought to be expressed via modalities that go beyond the face. In addition, we hope that the intersubjective approach will constitute a useful tool for researchers studying nonverbal expressions.

An evolutionary lens can help to make sense of reliable sex & individual differences that impact appearance enhancement, as well as the context-dependent nature of putative adaptations that function to increase physical attractiveness

An Evolutionary Perspective on Appearance Enhancement Behavior. Adam C. Davis & Steven Arnocky. Archives of Sexual Behavior, Oct 6 2020.

Abstract: Researchers have highlighted numerous sociocultural factors that have been shown to underpin human appearance enhancement practices, including the influence of peers, family, the media, and sexual objectification. Fewer scholars have approached appearance enhancement from an evolutionary perspective or considered how sociocultural factors interact with evolved psychology to produce appearance enhancement behavior. Following others, we argue that evidence from the field of evolutionary psychology can complement existing sociocultural models by yielding unique insight into the historical and cross-cultural ubiquity of competition over aspects of physical appearance to embody what is desired by potential mates. An evolutionary lens can help to make sense of reliable sex and individual differences that impact appearance enhancement, as well as the context-dependent nature of putative adaptations that function to increase physical attractiveness. In the current review, appearance enhancement is described as a self-promotion strategy used to enhance reproductive success by rendering oneself more attractive than rivals to mates, thereby increasing one’s mate value. The varied ways in which humans enhance their appearance are described, as well as the divergent tactics used by women and men to augment their appearance, which correspond to the preferences of opposite-sex mates in a heterosexual context. Evolutionarily relevant individual differences and contextual factors that vary predictably with appearance enhancement behavior are also discussed. The complementarity of sociocultural and evolutionary perspectives is emphasized and recommended avenues for future interdisciplinary research are provided for scholars interested in studying appearance enhancement behavior.