Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Perceiver’s Agreeableness & Extraversion were uniquely associated with liking targets; targets who expressed positive emotions, looked relaxed, were physically attractive, & looked healthy & energetic, were the most liked

Who likes whom? The interaction between perceiver personality and target look. Jan Erik Lönnqvist, Ville-Juhani Ilmarinen, Markku Verkasalo. Journal of Research in Personality, Volume 90, February 2021, 104044. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrp.2020.104044


• We investigated determinants of liking at zero-acquaintance.

• Perceivers (N = 385) viewed portrait photographs of Targets (N = 146)

• Different perceivers were differently influenced by appearance cues.

• Targets who displayed non-Duchenne (fake) smiles were generally rated less favorably.

• Those high in N or C, but not those low in A, especially disliked fake smiles.

Abstract: We investigated determinants of liking at zero-acquaintance, focusing on individual differences in perceivers’ reactions to appearance cues. Perceivers (N = 385) viewed portrait photographs of Targets (N = 146). Perceiver’s Agreeableness and Extraversion were uniquely associated with liking targets. Targets who expressed positive emotions, looked relaxed, were physically attractive, and looked healthy and energetic, were the most liked. There were substantial individual differences in how Perceivers were influenced by appearance cues. For instance, Perceivers generally rated targets who displayed non-Duchenne (fake) smiles less favorably than targets who did not smile or targets who displayed Duchenne (authentic) smiles. However, non-Duchenne smiles elicited especially negative ratings from Perceivers high in Neuroticism or Conscientiousness, but not from Perceivers low in Agreeableness.

Keywords First impressionsZero-acquaintanceAttractivenessSmilingRelationship effects

What Makes Things Funny? An Integrative Review of the Antecedents of Laughter and Amusement

What Makes Things Funny? An Integrative Review of the Antecedents of Laughter and Amusement. Caleb Warren, Adam Barsky, A. Peter McGraw. Personality and Social Psychology Review, December 21, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1177/1088868320961909

Abstract: Despite the broad importance of humor, psychologists do not agree on the basic elements that cause people to experience laughter, amusement, and the perception that something is funny. There are more than 20 distinct psychological theories that propose appraisals that characterize humor appreciation. Most of these theories leverage a subset of five potential antecedents of humor appreciation: surprise, simultaneity, superiority, a violation appraisal, and conditions that facilitate a benign appraisal. We evaluate each antecedent against the existing empirical evidence and find that simultaneity, violation, and benign appraisals all help distinguish humorous from nonhumorous experiences, but surprise and superiority do not. Our review helps organize a disconnected literature, dispel popular but inaccurate ideas, offers a framework for future research, and helps answer three long-standing questions about humor: what conditions predict laughter and amusement, what are the adaptive benefits of humor, and why do different people think vastly different things are humorous?

Keywords humor, laughter, comedy, amusement, emotion, positive psychology

IBM, 3M, PepsiCo Among Leading US Firms That House Chinese Communist Party Units: Leaked Database

IBM, 3M, PepsiCo Among Leading US Firms That House Chinese Communist Party Units: Leaked Database. Eva Fu. Epoch Times, December 22, 2020. https://www.theepochtimes.com/ibm-3m-pepsico-among-leading-us-firms-that-house-chinese-communist-party-units-leaked-database_3628066.html

Hundreds of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members are embedded within the Chinese divisions of major U.S. corporations, from IBM to PepsiCo to 3M, a leaked CCP-member database revealed.

The existence of Party units within foreign companies in China is hardly surprising, given that the regime mandates any organization with at least three CCP members to form a Party branch. But the 1.95 million CCP member list, which includes names, levels of education, ethnicity, and the Party branches they belong to, was to date the biggest revelation on the scale of the CCP’s influence on international companies.

Most of the members in the database are from the country’s southeastern coastal metropolis of Shanghai.

New York-headquartered tech firm IBM has at least two dozen Party units with 808 members in China.

3M, a manufacturer of consumer and health care goods, including N95 respirators and other medical products critical to preventing COVID-19 spread, employs at least 230 CCP members within five Party units.

PepsiCo, the multinational snack and beverage company, has 45 employees listed under the company’s Party branch committee.

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Dow Chemical Company, one of the world’s three largest chemical producers, lists 337 CCP members in four Party committees.

Other notable U.S. firms on the list include Westin Hotel & Resorts owned by Marriott International (23 members); analytics firm Nielsen Holdings (94); leading food company Mars Food (14); and insurance provider MetLife (31).

The U.S. companies and Party branches mentioned are by no means exhaustive. As of 2016, around 75,000 foreign businesses—accounting for over 70 percent of the roughly 106,000 foreign firms in China—have established Party units, according to state-run media People’s Daily.

The development of CCP units picked up pace from 2002, after Beijing’s top leadership “wrote the obligations of nonpublic firms’ Party organizations into the Party charter, providing evidence for the nonpublic firms’ Party organizations to host activities and play their roles,” according to Chinese media reports from 2002.

State media reported that the country currently has nearly 92 million CCP members. While the database represents only a small fraction of the total membership, it’s a key piece of the puzzle for uncovering the regime’s penetration of international companies, said Bill Gertz, national security correspondent for The Washington Times in an interview.

Early this month, the Trump administration imposed travel restrictions on CCP members and their immediate families, reducing the maximum duration of stay for those with B1/B2 visitor visas from 10 years to one month.

The Party Network

Creating more Party units within companies in China has been one of the top priorities for the CCP’s Organization Department, a core Party organ that oversees staffing of government officials nationwide, according to Qi Yu, a former deputy head of the department.

Qi, who currently serves as the Party committee secretary at the Chinese foreign ministry, said at an October 2017 news conference in Beijing that the regime requires corporate Party organizations to “organically integrate Party activities with the firm’s production in order to support companies’ healthy development,” according to People’s Daily.

Most Party organization activities center around patriotic education to ensure employees toe the Party line.

Mars Food’s Shanghai Party branch, for example, marked this year’s traditional Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival by providing products to an event organized by local authorities meant to promote the CCP’s history in the region.

IBM’s Party unit in Zhangjiang Town in Shanghai’s Pudong district was one of 30 foreign firms that participated in local events to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the CCP’s founding in 2011, while members of its Shenzhen branch “actively joined” 2019 activities with the theme “Stay true to the original heart and follow the Party.”

Such activities have met with resistance from staff within some Western firms. The Westin Beijing Financial Street, which opened in 2006, created its Party branch in 2009 with 10 CCP members out of a total staff of 600.

Xu Tao, the hotel’s Party branch secretary, said that he had tried to “incorporate political things into activities accepted by both Chinese and Western employees” to give Westerner staff the impression that “Party branch work are infusing more Chinese elements into the Westin brand and thus make the hotel more locally competitive,” according to a report by state media Xinhua. Xu had organized events to have workers stitch national flags together and to study the “spirit of the Long March,” the CCP army’s retreat in the 1930s.

The “membership in the Chinese Communist Party makes those people devoted not to the nation of China, or to the people of China, but to the political party of the CCP,” said Journalist Gertz. He called such efforts the CCP’s “ideological drive” to “basically take over the world.”

“They [CCP members] see themselves as besieged by the capitalist world, they see themselves as, basically, at ideological war with a non-communist world,” he said on The Epoch Times’ American Thought Leaders program.

“Now the West, the free world, needs to wake up and start fighting back against the Chinese Communist Party.”

3M declined to comment. IBM, PepsiCo, Dow Chemical, Marriott, Nielsen, Mars, and MetLife didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time.

Nicole Hao contributed to this report.

The explosion in happiness studies of the last 20 years did has not improved effect sizes of happiness interventions; the supposed epistemological superiority of positive psychologists has not produced more effective happiness advice

Diminishing Effectiveness of Happiness Interventions: Positive Psychology Stumbles on the Dodo Verdict. Ad Bergsma. Journal of Psychology & Psychotherapy, Sep 6 2020. https://www.longdom.org/abstract/diminishing-effectiveness-of-happiness-interventions-positive-psychology-stumbles-on-the-dodo-verdict-58408.html

Rolf Degen's take: https://twitter.com/DegenRolf/status/1340924363856556033

Abstract: Some positive psychologists claim that quantitative research leads to the most effective interventions for the intentional pursuit of happiness. A similar claim made in psychotherapy research resulted in failure; fifty years of experimental research has not improved psychotherapy outcomes. In this essay it is argued that the explosion in happiness studies of the last twenty years did has not improved effect sizes of happiness interventions. The supposed epistemological superiority of positive psychologists has not produced more effective happiness advice. This should not be taken as an encouragement to throw the baby out with the bathwater. If we follow current reasoning in psychotherapy research, we can conclude that positive psychological research can correct misguided or counterproductive happiness advice, but will not offer definitive answers. The individuals making his their own choices on the basis of a personal life philosophy count. A further conclusion is that happiness interventions should not just be about acquiring skills to correct the affective system in our brains, so that we are able to overcome our negativity bias or hedonic adaptation. Intervention should also be about following our emotional action tendencies; promoting doing to do more of what feels right to us and avoiding what causes pain.

People with psychiatric diagnoses typically recall fewer specific and more general memories than diagnoses-free people

Barry, Tom J., David J. Hallford, and Keisuke Takano. 2020. “Autobiographical Memory Impairments as a Transdiagnostic Feature of Mental Illness: A Meta-analysis of Autobiographical Memory Specificity and Overgenerality Amongst People with Psychiatric Diagnoses.” PsyArXiv. December 21. doi:10.31234/osf.io/ab5cu

Abstract: Decades of research has examined the difficulty that people with psychiatric diagnoses, such as Major Depressive Disorder, Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorders, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, have in recalling specific autobiographical memories from events that lasted less than a day. Instead, they seem to retrieve general events that have occurred many times or which occurred over longer periods of time, termed overgeneral memory. We present the first transdiagnostic meta-analysis of memory specificity/overgenerality, and the first meta-regression of proposed causal mechanisms. A keyword search of Embase, PsycARTICLES and PsycINFO databases yielded 74 studies that compared people with and without psychiatric diagnoses on the retrieval of specific (k = 85) or general memories (k = 56). Multi-level meta-analysis confirmed that people with psychiatric diagnoses typically recall fewer specific (g = -0.864, 95% CI[-1.030, -0.698]) and more general (g = .712, 95% CI[0.524, 0.900]) memories than diagnoses-free people. The size of these effects did not differ between diagnostic groups. There were no consistent moderators; effect sizes were not explained by methodological factors such as cue valence, or demographic variables such as participants’ age. There was also no support for the contribution of underlying processes that are thought to be involved in specific/general memory retrieval (e.g., rumination). Our findings confirm that deficits in autobiographical memory retrieval are a transdiagnostic factor associated with a broad range of psychiatric problems, but future research should explore novel causal mechanisms such as encoding deficits and the social processes involved in memory sharing and rehearsal.

In English there are few words for smell qualities, smell talk is infrequent, and people find it difficult to name odors in the laboratory; however, there are many languages across the globe that have large smell lexicons

Human Olfaction at the Intersection of Language, Culture, and Biology. Asifa Majid. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, December 18 2020. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2020.11.005


*  The human sense of smell is far more acute than previously thought, yet it is still commonly believed that there is no language of smell.

*  In English there are, indeed, few words for smell qualities, smell talk is infrequent, and people find it difficult to name odors in the laboratory. However, the cross-cultural data show a different picture.

*  There are many languages across the globe that have large smell lexicons (smell can even appear in grammar) in which smell talk is also more frequent and naming odors is easy.

*  In different cultural and ecological niches odors play a significant role in everyday life.

*  These differences in smell language can have consequences for how people think about odors.

Abstract: The human sense of smell can accomplish astonishing feats, yet there remains a prevailing belief that olfactory language is deficient. Numerous studies with English speakers support this view: there are few terms for odors, odor talk is infrequent, and naming odors is difficult. However, this is not true across the world. Many languages have sizeable smell lexicons — smell is even grammaticalized. In addition, for some cultures smell talk is more frequent and odor naming easier. This linguistic variation is as yet unexplained but could be the result of ecological, cultural, or genetic factors or a combination thereof. Different ways of talking about smells may shape aspects of olfactory cognition too. Critically, this variation sheds new light on this important sensory modality.

Keywords olfactionlanguageculturecognitionolfactory expertspsycholinguistics

Do Different Ways of Talking About Smell Affect How We Think About Smell?

What, if any, cognitive consequences are there as a result of these diverse smell vocabularies? The realization of differential linguistic coding of olfaction has only recently been taken seriously by the cognitive science community, so studies of the cognitive consequences are nascent (see also Box 3). The studies to date suggest a mixed picture.

Box 3

Hunter-Gatherers and Wine Experts: Everyday versus Institutional Language and Cognition

The fact that some cultures have smell lexicons has been interpreted by some as a type of ‘expertise’ affecting language and thought [28] (Figure I). While lay English speakers show a lack of regard for smell, wine experts, perfumers, and the gourmand have cultivated their noses. So, are the wine experts’ and hunter-gatherers’ smell knowledge equivalent? The answer appears to be no. Although expertise certainly has relevance for understanding the relationship between olfaction and language, there are important differences between everyday cultural knowledge and institutional expertise.

The trajectory of learning is critically different between everyday and expert knowledge: people acquire cultural categories effortlessly in childhood, via language, and with little explicit instruction; experts, by contrast, acquire categories from institutions effortfully, usually later in life through explicit instruction, and knowledge has to be mapped onto language. In addition, I propose three specific properties that differ between everyday and institutional olfactory language and cognition.

Experts Individuate, Cultures Categorize

Everyday categories generalize over exemplars to capture broad similarities. Jahai, for example, distinguishes plʔeŋ smells (characteristic of blood, raw meat, fish, etc.) from cŋɛs smells (e.g., bat dropping, smoke, petrol, etc.) and haʔɛ̃t smells (e.g., shrimp paste, sap of rubber tree, rotten meat, etc.), all of which are simply stinky in English. By contrast, experts are trained to distinguish very closely related entities, for example, distinguishing fake jasmine from the real thing. This is why when experts develop lexicons, they tend to focus on specifying and identifying an exact odor [121,122].

Specialist Knowledge Is Subdomain Specific, but Cultural Knowledge Is Domain General

The hunter-gatherer Jahai name odors with higher consensus than their Western counterparts and apply their basic smell terms to novel odors they have never previously encountered [39]. Wine experts, too, show high consensus when describing the smell of wine [], but this ability does not generalize beyond their domain of expertise: they are no better than laypeople at describing the smell of coffee or naming other everyday odors [123,125]. Similarly, wine experts have better memory [123] and imagery [127] only for odors in their domain of expertise (see also [122]).

Specialist Olfactory Cognition Is Language Independent, but Cultural Cognition Is Language Dependent

There is a strong link between language and memory for odors in everyday cognition: odors named correctly are remembered more accurately [128,129]. However, specialists do not show this relationship between odor naming and odor memory for their domain of expertise and inhibiting the use of language during encoding does not impair odor memory [123]. In sum, the evidence to date suggests that everyday but not specialist olfactory memory relies on language in the moment.

Figure I. Everyday Olfactory Cognition Differs in Key Ways from Olfactory Cognition in Specialist Expert Contexts.

American woman at a wine tasting (left); ritual healing of Seri infant by shaman using desert lavender (right).

Olfactory Language and Emotion

Within a language, the same odor is experienced as pleasant or unpleasant depending on the label it is given [100,101], raising the question of whether cross-cultural differences in naming strategies may likewise affect the perceived pleasantness of an odor. It appears they do not. Jahai and Dutch speakers use different strategies to talk about odors (abstract basic smell terms vs concrete source-based descriptions) and this may therefore lead to differences in the perceived pleasantness of odors, with some accounts predicting that abstract concepts are more valenced whereas others suggest they are more detached from sensory experience. By comparing facial expressions elicited by monomolecular odors while participants were engaged in an odor-naming task, Majid and colleagues found that both groups had the same initial affective responses to odors, regardless of the odor language they used [39]. These results suggest that the pleasantness of an odor is experienced swiftly and universally, whereas odor identification is slower and cross-culturally diverse. Critically, the role of language in odor perception may differ in important ways depending on whether it is recruited during production or comprehension (Box 2).

Olfactory Language and Cross-Modal Associations

Olfactory and visual information are intimately tied, with connectivity analyses showing that integration happens as early as the primary olfactory cortex [102], and when people are asked to associate odors with colors they do so in systematic ways [58,]. This could happen in at least two ways: odor perceptual representations could link directly to color due to statistical co-occurrences in the environment or the association between odors and colors could be mediated by language. According to the language-mediated account of odor–color associations, if people use basic smell words to name abstract odor qualities (e.g., musty) they should show weaker odor–color associations than those who refer to their source (e.g., smells like banana). To test this, one study compared urban-dwelling Thai and hunter-gatherer Maniq (who both have basic smell vocabulary) with urban-dwelling Dutch participants (who overwhelmingly use source-based odor naming) and found that odor–color associations were mediated by language [103]. People had weaker odor–color associations when they used basic smell vocabulary, but when source-based vocabulary was used, color choices more accurately reflected their source. By the time a child is 6 years old, odor–color associations are culture specific, and odor naming plays an important role in their development [104].

Concluding Remarks

Human olfaction serves diverse functions some of which are shared across species. But humans also uniquely use olfaction deliberatively for religious, medicinal, and aesthetic purposes — and language plays a critical role in coordinating these activities. Despite the prevailing view that there is no olfactory language, this review highlights diverse communities worldwide that have basic smell vocabularies and where smell talk is more frequent. Rather than focusing on constrained experimental tasks, olfactory researchers could benefit from considering human olfaction in all of its contexts to study how people across the globe use, manipulate, and talk about odors in their day-to-day contexts (see Outstanding Questions).

Outstanding Questions

Are smell words more likely to lexicalize some odors than others? Is there a predictable order of lexicalization or is each odor vocabulary uniquely fitted to its ecological and cultural niche?

Do languages with basic smell terms also have more smell-associated words? Modality exclusivity norms from English reveal a set of smell-associated words, although these are fewer in number than for the other senses. Studies have confirmed the same trend in several European languages (Dutch [130], Italian [131,132], Russian [133], Serbian [134]) and in Mandarin [135]. Critically, no norms have yet been collected from languages with attested smell vocabularies.

Non-literal metaphorical use of smell language appears in some languages (e.g., Seri [80]) but not others (e.g., Jahai). What smell metaphors are used across languages and how common are they?

Before abandoning the deodorization hypothesis, it is worth considering some complications. Words and meanings change over time: words currently with a smell meaning may not have had that meaning in the past and vice versa. Historical comparison is reliant on text written in a standardized, formal register. Smell may be less frequent there because of taboos surrounding smelliness [136]; conversely, smell may be more evident in slang. Intriguingly, there is a large slang lexicon for the ‘nose’ [137], but no systematic study of smell itself.

Language plays a critical role in odor–color associations but perhaps not in odor–temperature [138] or odor–music [139] associations. Which cross-modal odor associations are mediated by language and culture?

Is the relationship between language and olfaction symmetrical or asymmetrical? Evidence from Western languages suggests it may be symmetrical (Box 2); is the same true for languages with basic smell terms?

Does the trajectory of learning olfactory language differ between children and adults (Box 3)? What conditions give rise to domain-general versus domain-specific olfactory abilities?