Monday, December 21, 2020

Comparing the levels of pro-attitudinal media exposure between partisan groups revealed that liberals’ selective exposure was statistically higher than that of conservatives’ selective exposure

How Do Partisans Consume News on Social Media? A Comparison of Self-Reports With Digital Trace Measures Among Twitter Users. Jieun Shin. Social Media + Society, December 18, 2020.

Abstract: There are growing concerns that social media exacerbates the selective exposure of audience members to content that supports their political views. However, despite the hype, the existing literature does not fully address the extent to which social media users selectively consume like-minded news stories, in part due to different methodologies. In an attempt to move toward a common framework, this study examined the partisan selective exposure of a representative sample of Twitter users by combining survey data with digital trace data. Specifically, the study linked survey responses (n = 558) from Twitter users with their media following and exposure to news via their friends. The study found that selectivity bias was present in all types of data, including self-reported media consumption (survey), media following (Twitter), and indirect exposure to media (Twitter). However, the study found some differences between self-reports and digital measures such that the overlaps in media diets between partisan groups were much larger based on the digital trace data than the self-reported data. In addition, the study observed an asymmetric pattern of selective exposure between conservatives and liberals in the digital trace data, but not in the self-reported data. The implications of these findings are discussed with reference to the contemporary news environment, hostile media effects, and normative assumptions of selective exposure.

Keywords selective exposure, social media, asymmetric politics, news diets, partisanship

This study investigated whether Twitter users selectively consumed ideological news media by linking survey responses from US Twitter users with their behavioral data. First, the study found that an individual’s political ideology was significantly associated with ideological bias in news consumption in all types of data, which included self-reported media consumption on Twitter (survey), media following (digital trace), and indirect exposure to media via friends (digital trace). Conservatives were significantly more likely to use right-wing media sources, whereas liberals were more likely to use left-wing media sources. In fact, of all variables that were included in the three tested models, an individual’s political identity was by far the strongest predictor of ideological media use. A partisan’s preference for congenial media consumption has been extensively shown in previous studies (Garrett, 2009Iyengar & Hahn, 2009Peterson et al., 2019Stroud, 2008). However, this study demonstrated that this pattern holds for various types of media measures when drawing on a representative sample of Twitter users.

However, despite the significant association between political ideology and media diet at the individual level, the distribution of media slants between two partisan groups overlapped much more in the digital trace data than in the self-reported data. The OVL coefficients in the trace data, which included both following and exposure through friends, were almost two times larger than those of the self-reported data. This finding may be due to the possibility that self-reported media consumption is biased in a direction that mirrors the political identity of the individual (Brenner & DeLamater, 2016). On the contrary, actual media following and exposure via friends on Twitter may be influenced by other factors (e.g., media popularity, reputation, and trending topics) that deviate from the partisan motivation of the individual. Such a finding is consistent with previous studies that observed a moderate level of cross-cutting media exposure on social media (Bakshy et al., 2015Eady et al., 2019). Similarly, a line of research using a network approach to audience overlap (Mukerjee et al., 2018Nelson & Webster, 2017) showed a strong common set of media repertoires among individuals across the spectrum.

Focusing on the overall convergence or divergence in media diets between partisans can shed additional light on the selective exposure phenomenon. Traditionally, studies investigating selective exposure (e.g., Iyengar & Hahn, 2009) primarily focused on the directional relationship between partisanship and ideological media choices. That is, Democrats are more likely to select liberal media, whereas Republicans are more likely to select conservative media. However, as Guess (2020) pointed out, “the literature on partisan selective exposure is largely silent on the question of how much of a preference for congenial content is acceptable or desirable” (p. 15). Although there is currently no consensus on this issue, accumulating references over time and across different platforms may be a starting point for more discussion around this topic.

Furthermore, this study observed an asymmetric pattern of selective exposure between conservatives and liberals in actual media consumption. Based on the self-reported data, both groups of partisan respondents similarly indicated their congenial media bias. However, comparing the levels of pro-attitudinal media exposure between partisan groups revealed that liberals’ selective exposure was statistically higher than that of conservatives’ selective exposure. That is, whereas the self-reported data showed a mirroring pattern between partisan groups departing from the neutral point, conservatives’ actual media following and exposure were shifted toward the liberal side of the spectrum. In addition, the study found that for conservatives, although the most influential media outlet was Fox News both in terms of following and indirect exposure, the top 10 most-followed and most-encountered news sources included liberal-leaning outlets such as CNN, the NYT, and the Washington Post. By contrast, the top 10 news sources for liberals did not include any conservative sources, even Fox News.

However, this finding does not necessarily suggest that conservatives have a higher tolerance toward a different point of view. A large body of literature has generally found that conservatives tend to be less tolerant of ideological outgroups (Ganzach & Schul, 2020) and ambiguity than liberals (Jost, 2017). Then, how can we explain this seemingly inconsistent finding? Several possible explanations exist. First, the current media echo-system is characterized by few prominent conservative news sources, with the exception of Fox News (Faris et al., 2017Grossmann & Hopkins, 2016). Previous studies (e.g., Mitchell et al., 2014) have shown that whereas liberals trust a wide array of news sources, such as CNN, MSNBC, NYT, and WP, which are relatively long-standing and mainstream media sources, conservatives name only a single news source (Fox News) as their trusted media outlet. Due to such limited options, conservatives may consume news media that seems to be ideologically inconsistent. Alternatively, the Twitter environment itself may be a contributing factor. As this study and a Pew Research study (Wojcik & Hughes, 2019) have found, more Twitter users seem to be liberals (i.e., Democrats) than conservatives (i.e., Republicans). This imbalance may promote the visibility of liberal-leaning media through user media sharing compared with conservative-leaning media.

The findings of this study have implications for the effects of media on partisans and offer an opportunity to debate whether selective exposure to diverse opinion is normatively positive. Using field experiments, Bail et al. (2018) observed that when social media users are exposed to opposing political views, they become even more extreme in their views. This backfire effect was stronger for Republicans. Such a finding seems to be related to a stronger hostile media effect among Republicans than Democrats (Lin et al., 2016Shin & Thorson, 2017). Similarly, numerous surveys have shown that conservatives place less trust in mainstream news media than liberals (Gallup, 2018Jurkowitz et al., 2020). This stronger hostile media perception among conservatives could potentially result in them resorting to unsubstantiated information sources such as disinformation campaigns (Hjorth, Adler-Nissen, 2019).

Methodologically, this study advances our understanding of selective exposure on social media by linking self-reported estimates of media consumption with digital trace data. Media scholars (Garrett, 2013Prior, 2013) have called for objective measures of selective exposure via tracking data due to biases observed in self-reported responses. For this reason, digital trace data are increasingly being used as an alternative to surveys. However, tracking data alone have drawbacks, such as a lack of accurate demographic information (e.g., even a simple task as to whether the account is a bot or a human). In addition, there are ethical challenges associated with the use of digital trace data such as obtaining consent from the users (Williams et al., 2017). Therefore, a combination of both approaches can make an important contribution to the literature. Consistency or inconsistencies arising from different measures are real opportunities to enhance our understanding of selective exposure, rather than rejecting one form in favor of another (Garrett, 2013).

In this study, some incongruencies between self-reports and digital trace were documented. In particular, conservatives’ shift toward the left in their news consumption in the digital trace data compared with the self-reported data deserves more attention. This suggests a gap between what survey respondents report and what they actually do on social media. Ascertaining a source of the gap could help us better understand ideological selective exposure.

This study has several limitations. First, the study used a predefined set of news outlets to measure the slant in media diets for news following and exposure via friends, whereas respondents were asked to self-report their ideological news consumption using approximate proportions. When answering this survey question, respondents may have considered other outlets that were not included in the predefined set. In particular, a retrospective assessment of ideological media consumption can be susceptible to biased responses. Future research is needed to compare other self-reported measures of media consumption, such as name listing or open-ended survey prompts, to improve the accuracy of the results. In addition, the findings were drawn from a relatively small sample of Twitter users (maximum 558 users in the full sample, 255 users in the overlapping sample) who opted to provide their account information. Future studies are needed to expand the sample size to more accurately assess the demographics and media behaviors of Twitter users.

Despite these limitations, this study contributes to the literature of selective exposure by examining various measures of media consumption among social media users. The findings of this study provide overall support for the principle of selective exposure at the individual level. However, it was also found that the average media diets of the left and the right overlap considerably. This finding offers important implications for current debates about the prevalence of selective exposure on social media. These findings warrant more research on the various factors (e.g., Messing & Westwood, 2014) influencing the news choices of social media users in conjunction with political motivation.

Furthermore, this study provided some evidence of asymmetric media behavior between the left and the right. This suggests that the extent of cross-cutting media exposure could be different between conservatives and liberals. Selective exposure and partisan polarization have traditionally been treated as symmetrical concepts. This asymmetric pattern requires further investigation regarding the causes as well as the consequences. In particular, the consequences of frequently consuming challenging information deserve more attention, including a hostile perception of the media and lack of trust in journalism.

The aim of this study was to see if masculine traits, which are dependent on androgen levels in foetal and pubertal stages of development, are related to the immune quality in healthy men; it seems they are not

Masculinity and immune system efficacy in men. Judyta Nowak-Kornicka,Barbara Borkowska,Bogusław Pawłowski. PLoS One, December 14, 2020.

Abstract: Masculinity-related morphological traits are supposed to be honest indicators of a man's biological quality. While some studies showed that sexually dimorphic traits are related to various aspects of biological condition such as general health, immunity or fertility, still little is known about the relationship between masculine traits and the effectiveness of innate and adaptive immunity in humans. The aim of this study was to see if masculine traits, which are dependent on androgen levels in foetal and pubertal stages of development, are related to the immune quality in healthy men. The immune quality was evaluated for 91 healthy men aged 19–36 years. Immunity measurements included innate and adaptive parameters. General health status, age, testosterone level, BMI, physical activity, and smoking were controlled. The shoulder-to-hip ratio (SHR), 2D:4D digit ratio and hand-grip strength (HGS) were used as markers of masculinization. The regressions showed that when controlling for confounds, masculinity-related traits were in general not related to innate and adaptive immunity. Only a weak association was observed for right 2D:4D ratio and T-lymphocyte counts (but it becomes non-significant after adjustment for multiple comparisons). Our results do not support the premise that masculinity is a cue for immunological quality in men. However, the positive association between right 2D:4D and T lymphocytes might suggest that further studies are needed to verify if androgen stimulation in prenatal development might be related to immunity in adulthood.

The relationship between masculinity traits and controlled factors

Because HGS was associated with such controlled factors as a participant's age, BMI and body height (see section "IV" in S1 File, the correlation between body height and BMI was weak (R = -0.22)), we also conducted the analyses adjusted for these. The separate models were carried out for each immune function. These analyses also revealed that HGS is not related to any of the analysed immune parameters.

According to the evolutionary hypothesis concerning the biological implications of sexually selected traits which are commonly perceived as attractive (good genes hypothesis), and are also involved in intra-sexual competition and costly to produce (handicap hypothesis), we assumed that masculinity in men aged 19–36 might serve as a signal reflecting an individual's biological quality. The aim of this study was to check if body masculinity of healthy men is related to immune function, which is one of the most important fitness-related characteristics of an organism, determining risk of morbidity and mortality in all life stages. In general, we found no association between masculinization markers and either innate or adaptive immune responses, even when controlling for a participant's age, BMI, free-testosterone levels, smoking status or sport activity.

The finding in the current study of no associations between SHR or HGS and any of the studied immune parameters, indicates that these indirect markers of pubertal or current testosterone do not reflect immune functioning. To the best of our knowledge, there is no study linking SHR with any of the immune-associated biomarkers, and there have only been limited studies testing the relationship between muscle mass and immunity [45], with only one study directly testing CD4+ count and muscle functions itself as measured by strength [65]. This was, however, only in patients with an HIV-associated immune injury. Raso et al. (2013) [65] showed that disease-associated decreases in HGS are associated with a lower CD4+ count. There are also several studies only indirectly linking HGS with immunity-related characteristics, showing that inflammation-associated diseases [6667] or autoimmune disorders [68] are related to lower HGS. Our study is the first to demonstrate that a V-shaped upper body, reflected in SHR and muscle function and measured by HGS, is not associated with immunity in healthy men.

Our results investigating the relationship between masculinity, post-vaccination and lymphocyte-proliferation responses are in contrast to the limited human studies testing ICHH in facial masculinity and the strength of antibody or cytokine response after immune stimulation [e.g. 15, 19]. It is worth underlining, however, that in these two studies the authors analysed only facial (and not body) perception and they did not use anthropometry. Furthermore, Rantala et al. (2012) [15] measured immune response against the hepatitis B virus i.e. conservative antigens, whereas we studied immune response to the influenza virus i.e. a fast evolving/mutating antigen. The lack of association between analyzed markers of masculinization and immune reactivity in response to potentially harmful factors may therefore indicate that the immune response can differ depending on the antigen in question. It is also possible that some vaccine-contained antigens and/or in vitro lymphocyte stimulation may be inadequate to reflect general immune quality. Our results also contradict studies that have indirectly measured immunity (e.g. frequency of infection) and its relationship with facial masculinity (rated and/or morphometric) finding that men with more masculine faces (rated and measured) reported a lower frequency of colds and flu [1662]. It is therefore possible that facial dimorphism has more signalling significance than body masculinity (or the traits studied in this paper). On the other hand, Foo et al. (2017a) [63] did not find the relationship between rated facial masculinity and various immune functions measured in saliva. Therefore in the future it will be important for studies to include both facial and body traits related to masculinity in order to address this discrepancy in the literature.

Due to the mixed findings in humans, we should also consider that the immunosuppressive role of androgens (the basis of ICHH) is still controversial. It has been suggested that androgens have immunomodulatory rather than immunosupressive properties [1821] and this was also observed in a group of participants included in this study (see S3 Table in S1 File). It may also be the case that in contrast to experimental or in-vitro studies which, in accordance to ICHH, expect a negative relationship between immunity and masculinity, in correlational studies (such as ours) the lack of associations might also be interpreted in the framework of the ICHH and good genes hypothesis. This is because testosterone-induced immune suppression in highly masculine men may suppress immunity to a level similar to that observed in men with a lower immune quality. Consequently, more masculine males might only be a little healthier than average [69], and there may be no noticeable difference in immune quality between those with high and low-masculinity observed in correlational studies. In other words, if, in accordance with ICHH, only individuals with a well-functioning immune response bear a cost associated with testosterone-derived immunosuppression, we should expect that men with a higher expression of masculine traits only have a marginally better, or perhaps a very similar level, of immune quality as men with a lower masculinization level.

Our results are also consistent with recent reports showing that physically attractive traits such as male body height [64] or components of men’s facial attractiveness [63] are not related to immune effectiveness–at least in Western, well-fed societies. The Immune Priority Hypothesis (IPH) [64] is another explanation proposed to answer why immune quality might not be reflected by sexually dimorphic traits. IPH suggests that a well-functioning body defence is so crucial for long-lived species, like human beings, who are exposed to many ubiquitous pathogens that immunity cannot be traded for the traits that are not directly related to survival (e.g. body height, SHR or HGS). According to IPH, energy resources should be invested in development of costly morphological signals only when the right amount of energy in creating an optimal immune defence is assured. In this instance, masculine traits instead signal a lack of immune related disorders, and an organism’s ability for sparing additional energy for “luxury” sexual dimorphism. This would mean that despite there being no relationship between immune functions themselves and masculine traits, higher masculinization might still provide information about the biological quality of an organism.

The weak positive association between right 2D:4D (which is a better indicator of prenatal androgenisation than left 2D:4D [70] and lymphocyte T count, might suggest that higher prenatal exposure to androgens is related to lymphocyte count in adults. This result can be partially explained by the organizational action of androgens on the immune system. It was shown that exposure to androgens in early life might permanently affect immunity both in primates [71] and rodents [27], whereas gonadectomy in mature animals does not abolish sex-differences in immune response [72]. This does not mean, however, that testosterone level in adults is not related to immunity. There are several experimental and correlational studies showing that testosterone has a negative impact on lymphocyte T count and/or function [1073], and that androgens may increase apoptosis of T cells [74]. It is surprising, however, that our observations concern only the lymphocyte count but not lymphocyte function (the proliferative response). It is also worth noting that our result becomes non-significant after adjusting for multiple comparisons and therefore the obtained relationship between the 2D:4D digit ratio and lymphocyte count should be treated with great caution and further studies are warranted. In general, the lack of associations between masculinity markers and immunity in our study is consistent with the results of a recent meta-analysis that provides no support for immunosuppressive testosterone properties in correlational human studies [18].

There are a few limitations of our study. Since we have studied men from a well-nourished Western population (not a common state in our evolutionary past), one needs to be very cautious with generalizing our results to all ecological conditions humans might have lived in. It is also very likely that a well-nourished urbanized population is not ideal for measuring the masculinity-immune associations due to a relatively low cost associated with immune challenges. Improved living conditions, including hygiene practices, infection prevention (vaccines), and increased access to medications and antimicrobial drugs, have all contributed to the reduction of pathogen exposure and shortening the duration of an infection in these populations. Consequently, the physiological cost associated with the immune system functioning in such a population might be much lower in comparison to a population with a greater pathogen load and a higher risk of infection. Furthermore, the effect size (calculated as a Cohen's f2) showed that the magnitude of associations is small or moderate (see Tables 2 and 3), which is also true for a significant relationship between 2D:4D and T cell (f2 = 0.31). This indicates that in well-nourished western populations the relationship between immune parameters and masculine traits is relatively low. In other words, the results suggest that the difference in immune functioning between men with more and less masculine traits might be too low to have functional immunological consequences.

The final problem to consider is that of the complicated structure of immunity and the interdependencies between immunity and other physiological aspects. It is likely that the measurements of baseline immune functions in men who declared no health problems, had no chronic diseases or ongoing infections and had a normal level of inflammatory markers (both CRP and WBC) are still inadequate for measuring immune quality. It is possible that, to assess an individual's immune quality, the analysis of many immune parameters, activated in response to real/natural pathogen-inducing infection, should be taken into account. The measurement of an immunological response to pathogen stimulation might be more informative than baseline immune parameters (in a "healthy state", without antigen stimulation) or only vaccine-induced antibody production or mitogen-induced proliferation.

A Comprehensive Meta‐analysis of the the most commonly used forensic polygraph test, the Comparison Question Test: It can be accurate, experimental studies are generalizable, and no publication bias was detected

A Comprehensive Meta‐analysis of the Comparison Question Polygraph Test. Charles R. Honts  Steven Thurber  Mark Handler. Applied Cognitive Psychology, December 18 2020.

Abstract: We conducted a meta‐analysis on the most commonly used forensic polygraph test, the Comparison Question Test. We captured as many studies as possible by using broad inclusion criteria. Data and potential moderators were coded from 138 datasets. The meta‐analytic effect size including inconclusive outcomes was 0.69 [0.66, 0.79]. We found significant moderator effects. Notably, level of motivation had a positive linear relationship with our outcome measures. Information Gain analysis of CQT outcomes representing the median accuracy showed a significant information increase over interpersonal deception detection across almost the complete range of base rates. Our results suggest that the CQT can be accurate, that experimental studies are generalizable, and no publication bias was detected. We discussed the limitations of the field research literature and problems within polygraph profession that lower field accuracy. We suggest some possible solutions.

Science Communication Training: Assessment by Audiences Shows Little Effect, no difference from untrained controls

Assessment by Audiences Shows Little Effect of Science Communication Training. Margaret A. Rubega et al. Science Communication, December 17, 2020.

Abstract: As the science community has recognized the vital role of communicating to the public, science communication training has proliferated. The development of rigorous, comparable approaches to assessment of training has not kept pace. We conducted a fully controlled experiment using a semester-long science communication course, and audience assessment of communicator performance. Evaluators scored the communication competence of trainees and their matched, untrained controls, before and after training. Bayesian analysis of the data showed very small gains in communication skills of trainees, and no difference from untrained controls. High variance in scores suggests little agreement on what constitutes “good” communication.

Keywords science communication, graduate training, assessment, evaluation, evidence

As expected by some, information critical of President Trump’s policy decisions produced a backlash causing people to show less concern about the virus’s death toll & rate the president’s performance even more highly

How Bad Is It? Elite Influence and the Perceived Seriousness of the Coronavirus Pandemic. Philip Moniz. Journal of Experimental Political Science, Dec 18 2020.

Abstract: In spite of its immense global impact, Republicans and Democrats disagree on how serious a problem the coronavirus pandemic is. One likely reason is the political elites to whom partisans listen. As a means of shoring up support, President Trump has largely downplayed and but sometimes hyped the severity of the virus’s toll on American lives. Do these messages influence the perceived seriousness of the virus, how the president is evaluated as well as support for and compliance with social distancing guidelines? Results suggest that Republican identifiers had already crystallized their views on the virus’s seriousness, the president’s performance, and social distancing policies and behaviors. Unexpectedly, information critical of President Trump’s policy decisions produced a backlash causing people to show less concern about the virus’s death toll and rate the president’s performance even more highly.