Friday, December 4, 2020

Patients with smell loss with subjective flavor perception might be experiencing unconscious memory recall from previously experienced cross‐modal sensory interactions

Retronasal olfactory function in patients with smell loss but subjectively normal flavor perception. David Tianxiang Liu et al. The Laryngoscope, 130:1629–1633, 2020.


Objectives: The human sense of smell constitutes the main part of flavor perception. Typically, patients with loss of olfactory function complain of diminished perception during eating and drinking. However, some patients with smell loss still report normal enjoyment of foods. The aim of the present study was to compare orthonasal and retronasal olfactory function in patients with non‐sinonasal smell loss and subjectively normal flavor perception.

Methods: Nineteen patients (mean age [range] 52.0 [8–83 years]) with self‐reported olfactory impairment but subjective normal flavor perception were included. Olfactory performance was assessed using the Sniffin’ Sticks (TDI) for orthonasal and the Candy Smell Test (CST) for retronasal function. Visual analogue scales were used for self‐assessment of odor (SOP), taste (STP), and flavor perception (SFP), ranging from 0 (no perception) to 10 (excellent perception).

Results: Mean (SD) SFP was 8.0 (1.8). Mean (SD) orthonasal TDI‐score of all patients was 14.4 (5.3, range 6–25.3) with 11 patients classified as anosmic and eight as hyposmic. Mean/SD retronasal CST‐score was 8.8 (2.7, range 3–13) within the range of anosmia/hyposmia. No correlation was found between SFP and the CST (P = .62).

Conclusion: The present results showed that despite claiming normal flavor perception, our patients were ortho‐ and retronasally dysosmic using standard tests for olfactory function. Although other explanations could be possible, we suggest that this subjective flavor perception might be due to unconscious memory recall from previously experienced cross‐modal sensory interactions.


An estimated 25% of all people over 50 years of age experience olfactory impairment.562122 A survey from Vennemann et al. on the prevalence of olfactory dysfunctions in the general population showed impairments in almost 18% of the general population with 3.6% classified as functionally anosmic.6 The olfactory system plays the leading role in human multisensory flavor perception,2324 therefore it is expected that a loss of olfactory function leads to altered perception of flavors, which is also confirmed in larger series of patients.25 However, some patients report smell loss but simultaneously state normal to excellent flavor perception. Published26 and unpublished data of our group demonstrate a relatively low percentage of patients with severe olfactory dysfunction but normal subjective flavor perception at the same time (between 3.7% for VAS = 10 and 28% for VAS ≥4).

As the major finding of our study, retronasal olfactory performance as measured by an established retronasal smell test did not confirm normal flavor perception in the investigated subjects. All patients yielded scores within the range of hyposmia/anosmia with ortho‐ and retronasal tests, demonstrating striking discrepancies between subjective and measured flavor identification abilities. In contrast, orthonasal smell test results correlated significantly with self‐assessed olfactory abilities. Our findings are in accordance with current scientific publications stating a moderate but significant correlation between self‐assessment of smell perception and measured olfactory acuity in patients with olfactory dysfunction and confirm a trend that self‐assessment of olfactory function becomes more accurate with decreasing performance.71427 However, it has to be kept in mind, that on an individual patient's level, olfactory performance can only be assessed by means of validated smell tests.28

Regarding gustatory function, the question could arise of whether gustatory function in patients with smell loss and subjectively normal flavor perception is increased, compared to patients with smell loss and concordant loss of flavor perception. This was not found to be the case in our patients, as the majority of achieved TST scores projected in the medium to lower percentile range of normogeusia compared with normative data,16 which is also in accordance with a previously published study showing no significant influence of smell loss on gustatory function.29 As previously described, normosmic patients tend to rely on their odor imagery abilities for self‐assessment of olfactory function7 although this ability seems to decrease with the duration of olfactory loss.3031 A tendency of these patients to rely more on gustatory, textural, auditory (during mastication), and visual information of foods could be a reason for the lack of correlation between self‐assessment and test results of retronasal olfactory function.32 Our findings show that relying exclusively on subjective reports on flavor perception in patients with olfactory dysfunction can be misleading and additional testing of retronasal olfactory function can provide more information for the management regarding hazardous events (eg, ingestion of spoiled food).33

Why does the loss of retronasal olfactory function go unnoticed in some patients? Although we cannot give answers to this question based on our results, some thoughts might be relevant for further research. In our patients subjectively normal flavor perception during food intake was not mediated by intact retronasal olfactory function. In another investigation retronasal olfactory event‐related potentials could be recorded from some patients with unimpaired flavor perception which were ortho‐ and retronasally tested to be dysosmic by means of psychophysical tests.14 However, this might not be clinically relevant, since olfactory event‐related potentials can also be present in patients with functional anosmia, for whom residual olfactory function is not useful in everyday life.171834

Part of the contribution of retronasal smell stimuli to overall flavor perception seems to be mediated by memory recall. Therefore unconscious memory recall of “flavor templates” from previously experienced cross‐modal sensory interactions (eg, somatosensory–olfactory interactions) may be an explanation for normal flavor perception in orthonasally anosmic patients with noncongenital causes.303536 All three patients in our study with congenital smell loss yielded scores within the range of anosmia in ortho‐ and retronasal tests presuming “flavor” is an individual concept, consisting of interaction of all other sensory modalities (for example vision, taste, sound, and somatosensory) independently from olfactory perception. Long‐term olfactory recognition memory, which plays a vital role in food preference and food habits, happens unconsciously and incidentally through repeated presentation of individual components together, as is the case with food and beverages.37-39 A further mentionable point is that the development of our multisensory flavor perception probably already starts in the mother's womb39 and continues into adulthood. The frequent presentation and co‐occurrence of olfactory stimuli with other sensory stimuli, eg, of gustatory and olfactory quality, consequently allow qualities of one sensory system to evoke qualities in another.40 Further studies using functional imaging methods, for example, are needed for more clarity regarding different brain activities with variability of self‐assessment of different sensory modalities.

Finally, as shown in a recent publication, olfactory changes are not as strongly perceived as visual changes. While olfactory changes were only detected with an accuracy of 61%, visual changes were detected with an accuracy of over 97%. Only 24% of the participants were able to detect olfactory changes reliably above chance. Notably, these subjects also rated their personal interest in olfaction and its use in daily life as most important.41 Regarding our subgroup of patients with smell loss and no subjective change in flavor perception, it might be speculated that these patients rely more on visual, gustatory, and trigeminal cues during eating and drinking leading to an unawareness of a decreased retronasal odor identification ability.

Neoliberal economics, planetary health, and the COVID-19 pandemic: a Marxist ecofeminist analysis

Neoliberal economics, planetary health, and the COVID-19 pandemic: a Marxist ecofeminist analysis. Simon Mair. The Lancet, December, 2020.

Abstract: Planetary health sees neoliberal capitalism as a key mediator of socioecological crises, a position that is echoed in much COVID-19 commentary. In this Personal View, I set out an economic theory that emphasises some of the ways in which neoliberal capitalism's conceptualisation of value has mediated responses to COVID-19. Using the intersection of ecological, feminist, and Marxist economics, I develop an analysis of neoliberal capitalism as a specific historical form of the economy. I identify the accumulation of exchange value as a central tendency of neoliberal capitalism and argue that this tendency creates barriers to the production of other forms of value. I then analyse the implications of this tendency in the context of responses to COVID-19. I argue that resources and labour flow to the production of exchange value, at the expense of production of other value forms. Consequently, the global capitalist economy has unprecedented productive capacity but uses little of this capacity to create the conditions that improve and maintain people's health. To be more resilient to coming crises, academics, policy makers, and activists should do theoretical work that enables global economies to recognise multiple forms of value and political work that embeds these theories in societal institutions.

Key messages

  • The economy is the system by which a society takes in resources and uses them to produce and distribute goods and services.
  • Neoliberal capitalism is a particular structuring of the economy that prioritises exchange value above other types of value.
  • Prioritising exchange value has led neoliberal capitalism to develop unprecedented productive capacity.
  • Neoliberal capitalism primarily uses its productive capacity to produce more exchange value. This process undermines other value forms, including health.
  • Effective responses to COVID-19 prioritise health and life and undermine exchange value.
  • To be better prepared for future pandemics and other crises, global society should build economies that can recognise multiple forms of value.

While men's orgasm consistency is linearly associated with relational and sexual satisfaction, for women, with each unit increase in orgasm consistency, the increase in those satisfactions became progressively smaller

Leavitt CE, Leonhardt ND, Busby DM, et al. When Is Enough Enough? Orgasm's Curvilinear Association With Relational and Sexual Satisfaction. J Sex Med Dec 4 2020.


Background: Curvilinearity has been found for sexual frequency, but research has not examined whether curvilinear associations exist for other aspects of sexual relationships like orgasm consistency.

Aim: We examined whether there is curvilinearity and the nature of that curvilinearity between orgasm consistency and sexual and relational satisfaction for men and women.

Methods: With pooled samples of 1,619 and 1,695 men and women from Amazon's Mechanical Turk, we examined the differences of orgasm consistency values and both sexual satisfaction and relationship satisfaction through analysis of variance. We then tested for curvilinearity between orgasm consistency and sexual and relational satisfaction with regression analyses.

Outcomes: For men we found no evidence of a curvilinear relationship, but for women we found a curvilinear relationship between orgasm consistency values and both sexual satisfaction and relationship satisfaction.

Results: Across tests, the overall picture suggests that there is no curvilinear association for men, but there is for women. For women, with each unit increase in orgasm consistency, the increase in sexual satisfaction and relationship satisfaction became progressively smaller. Past the 61-80% threshold for orgasm consistency, there was little gain in sexual satisfaction and no gain in relational satisfaction.

Clinical Translation: Physicians, therapists, and educators can reorient women's orgasm expectations by explaining that having regular orgasms—not necessarily always—is associated with satisfaction in their relationship and sexual experience.

Strengths & Limitations: Converging large samples and data analytic techniques evinced the curvilinear association between orgasm consistency and both relational and sexual satisfaction for women. However, this study is cross-sectional and correlational, which limits the conclusions we can draw from it.

Conclusion: While men's orgasm consistency is linearly associated with relational and sexual satisfaction, more consistent orgasms seem to be associated with women's sexual and relational satisfaction, to a point.

Key Words: OrgasmSexual SatisfactionRelational Satisfaction

Short-term mating was unrelated or even negatively related to reproductive success; conversely, long-term mating was positively associated with reproductive success

Međedović, Janko M. 2020. “Reproductive Ecology of Short and Long-term Mating: Implications for Sexual Selection and Life History Theory.” PsyArXiv. December 4. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: Mating patterns are crucial for understanding selection regimes in current populations and highly implicative for sexual selection and life history theory. However, empirical data on the relations between mating and fitness-related outcomes in contemporary humans are lacking. In the present research we examined the sexual selection on mating (with an emphasis on Bateman’s third parameter – the association between mating and reproductive success) and life history dynamics of mating by examining the relations between mating patterns and a comprehensive set of variables which determine human reproductive ecology. We conducted two studies (Study 1: N=398, Mage=31.03; Study 2: N=996, Mage=40.81, the sample was representative for participants’ sex, age, region, and settlement size). The findings from these studies were mutually congruent and complementary. In general, the data suggested that short-term mating was unrelated or even negatively related to reproductive success. Conversely, long-term mating was positively associated with reproductive success and there were indices that the beneficial role of long-term mating is more pronounced in males, which is in accordance with Bateman’s third principle. Observed age of first reproduction fully mediated the link between long-term mating and number of children but only in male participants. There were no clear indications of the position of the mating patterns in human life history trajectories; however, the obtained data suggested that long-term mating has some characteristics of fast life history dynamics. Findings are implicative for sexual selection and life history theory in humans.

LGBs show higher in levels of political interest, turnout & other forms of political participation in Western Europe over & above what can be determined by socio-economic determinants of political participation

Political engagement and turnout among same-sex couples in Western Europe. Stuart J. Turnbull-Dugarte, Joshua Townsley. Research & Politics, December 3, 2020.

Rolf Degen's take:

Abstract: This paper presents and addresses a simple, yet overlooked, research question: is there a sexuality gap in political engagement and participation between sexual minority individuals and the heterosexual majority in Western Europe? To answer this question, we employ a recently applied method of identifying lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) individuals using data on the gender composition of cohabiting partner households from the European Social Survey. Relying on a total sample of more than 110,000 individuals across 12 different countries with an identified sample of 1542 LGB individuals, we test the divergence in political interest and political participation, both electoral and non-electoral, between LGB and non-LGB individuals. The results of our empirical analyses conform with our expectations. Theorising that LGBs, as a marginalised social stratum, are incentivised to participate and ‘vote like their rights depended on it’, we find empirical evidence of a significant and positive ‘sexuality gap’ in levels of political interest, turnout and other forms of political participation in Western Europe over and above what can be determined by socio-economic determinants of political participation.

Keywords Political interest, elections, participation, engagement, sexuality, LGBT+

A core feature of political behaviour that has hitherto not been considered within the electorates of Europe is whether or not one’s sexuality is likely to affect the propensity of an individual to be engaged in politics to participate in the democratic process. Our analyses show that, on average and across Western Europe, LGB citizens (those in a same-sex relationship) are significantly more likely to be active participants in democratic politics than comparable heterosexuals (those in opposite sex relationships). There is, therefore, an independent ‘sexuality gap’ in political behaviour that cannot be explained by traditional socio-economic determinants of participation.

We acknowledge the potential limitations of the analysis. Firstly, given that the measurement strategy relies on individuals being in a relationship, the extent to which the effects can be generalised across those who are and are not currently in a relationship is unclear (Kühne et al., 2019). Secondly, we are not able to distinguish between those who are bisexual and those who are gay or lesbian. Although Schnabel (2018) argues that this within-group asymmetry is likely minimal, we acknowledge the potential heterogeneity between these distinctive subgroups (Swank, 2018Worthen, 2020). Ultimately, given the strategy applied, we are unable to differentiate between LGs and Bs. Notwithstanding these limitations, however, establishing that sexuality increases both political interest and the propensity of individuals to participate in national elections creates vast avenues for additional research. Given the infancy of scholarship concerning the individual-level behaviour of this particular minority group, most notably in Europe, assessing whether and how the assumptions regarding minority group behaviour travel across groups that are structured by sexuality provides for an interesting subfield within the discipline yet to be fully explored.

Bystanders help immediately when they are alone but help later & are less likely to help when part of a larger group; those in need of help are helped earlier & are more likely to be helped in larger groups because it is easier to find an altruistic guy

The volunteer’s dilemma explains the bystander effect. Pol Campos-Mercade. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, December 3 2020.

Abstract: The bystander effect is the phenomenon that people are less likely to help others when they are in a group than when they are alone. The theoretical literature typically explains the bystander effect with the volunteer’s dilemma: if providing help is equivalent to creating a public good, then bystanders could be less likely to help in groups because they free ride on the other bystanders. This paper uses a dynamic game to experimentally test such strategic interactions as an explanation for the bystander effect. In line with the predictions of the volunteer’s dilemma, I find that bystanders help immediately when they are alone but help later and are less likely to help if they are part of a larger group. In contrast to the model’s predictions, subjects in need of help are helped earlier and are more likely to be helped in larger groups. This finding can be accounted for in an extended model that includes both altruistic and selfish bystanders. The paper concludes that the volunteer’s dilemma is a sensible way to model situations in which someone is in need of help, but it highlights the need to take heterogeneous social preferences into account.

Keywords: Volunteer’s dilemmaBystander effectHelping behaviorGroup sizeAltruism

Empathy and Schadenfreude in Human–robot Teams

de Jong, Dorina, Ruud Hortensius, Te-Yi Hsieh, and Emily S. Cross. 2020. “Empathy and Schadenfreude in Human–robot Teams.” PsyArXiv. December 3. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: Intergroup dynamics shape the ways in which we interact with other people. We feel more empathy towards ingroup members compared to outgroup members, and can even feel pleasure when an outgroup member experiences misfortune, known as schadenfreude. Here, we test the extent to which these intergroup biases emerge during interactions with robots. We measured trial-by-trial fluctuations in emotional reactivity to the outcome of a competitive reaction time game to assess both empathy and schadenfreude in arbitrary human-human and human-robot teams. Across four experiments (total n = 361), we observed a consistent empathy and schadenfreude bias driven by team membership. People felt more empathy towards ingroup members than outgroup members and more schadenfreude towards outgroup members. The existence of an intergroup bias did not depend on the nature of the agent: the same effects were observed for human-human and human–robot teams. People reported similar levels of empathy and schadenfreude towards a human and robot player. The human likeness of the robot did not consistently influence this intergroup bias, however, similar empathy and schadenfreude biases were observed for both humanoid and mechanical robots. For all teams, this bias was influenced by the level of team identification; individuals who identified more with their team showed stronger intergroup empathy and schadenfreude bias. Together, we show that similar intergroup dynamics that shape our interactions with people can also shape interactions with robots. Our results highlight the importance of taking intergroup biases into account when examining social dynamics of human-robot interactions.