Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Violent offenders show reduced attention orienting to the eyes while viewing faces; although offenders & controls show comparable emotion recognition performance, reduced eye gaze is lined to lower recognition for fearful faces

Attention orienting to the eyes in violent female and male offenders: An eye-tracking study. Nina A. Gehrer et al. Biological Psychology, June 12 2021, 108136.


• Violent offenders show reduced attention orienting to the eyes while viewing faces.

• Impairments occur for female as well as male incarcerated offenders.

• Particularly early attention shifts are affected.

• Offenders and controls show comparable emotion recognition performance.

• Reduced eye gaze is related to lower recognition accuracy for fearful faces.

Abstract: Attention to the eyes and eye contact form an important basis for the development of empathy and social competences including prosocial behavior. Thus, impairments in attention to the eyes of an interaction partner might play a role in the etiology of antisocial behavior and violence. For the first time, the present study extends investigations of eye gaze to a large sample (N = 173) including not only male but also female violent offenders and a control group. We assessed viewing patterns during the categorization of emotional faces via eye tracking. Our results indicate a reduced frequency of initial attention shifts to the eyes in female and male offenders compared to controls, while there were no general group differences in overall attention to the eye region (i.e., relative dwell time). Thus, we conclude that violent offenders might be able to compensate for deficits in spontaneous attention orienting during later stages of information processing.

Keywords: female offendersviolent offenderseye gazeattention to the eyeseye tracking

From the first author's PhD thesis:


This study is the first to investigate the association between psychopathic personality traits 

and eye contact during live social interaction. For this purpose, we assessed a group of 

incarcerated offenders who had been convicted of serious crimes (e.g., first-degree murder, 

child molestation, rape, etc.) and had validated psychopathy scores. Eye movements were 

recorded during a semi-structured face-to-face interaction with a mobile eye-tracking headset 

and analyzed using a newly developed automated method for the definition of AOIs (i.e., 

face, eyes and philtrum). Consistent with our hypotheses, higher scores of affective 

psychopathy in particular (but not interpersonal, lifestyle, or antisocial facets of psychopathy) 

were found to significantly predict reduced eye contact in combination with increased 

attention to the lower parts of the face, i.e. the philtrum. Therefore, affective psychopathic 

traits were associated with a different focus within the face, while general attention to the face 

was unrelated to these traits.

Our findings are in line with previous studies that linked reduced eye gaze to high CU (callous unemotional) traits, a precursor of affective psychopathy, in children (Billeci et al., 2019; Dadds et al.,  2008; Dadds et al., 2006; but see also Martin-Key et al., 2018). A few studies replicated this  association between CU traits and eye contact assessed by observer ratings during live parentchild interactions (Dadds et al., 2014; Dadds et al., 2011). In offender samples, however,  reduced attention to the eyes of facial stimuli was only documented in laboratory settings with  existing evidence pointing to an association with interpersonal features of psychopathy  (Dargis et al., 2018). Our study extends previous research in several important ways. For one,  our study is the first to document an association between reduced eye contact and the affective  facet of psychopathy (i.e., impaired empathy, an incapacity of feeling guilt or remorse, and  shallow affect) in incarcerated offenders. Second, we show for the first time that these deficits  generalize to naturalistic settings such as live social interaction and therefore exhibit  behavioral relevance. Taken together, this suggests that impairments in attention to socially  salient features previously documented in children and adolescents with high CU traits  (Dadds et al., 2008; Dadds et al., 2011) presumably persist through life. Therefore, assumed  detrimental effects on the development of social cognition and social competence may play a role in the development and the maintenance of psychopathic personality traits (Bedford et al., 2015; Dadds et al., 2014; Dadds et al., 2011; Vaughan Van Hecke et al., 2007). Similar mechanisms have been posited for social deficits in other psychological or neurological disorders, e.g., autism spectrum disorder or amygdala lesion (Auyeung et al., 2015; Freeth & Bugembe, 2019; Hanley et al., 2015; Hanley et al., 2014; Moriuchi, Klin, & Jones, 2017; Spezio, Huang, Castelli, & Adolphs, 2007; Yoder, Stone, Walden, & Malesa, 2009). Future research is needed in order to understand the mechanisms behind impaired attention processes and their association with these psychopathologies in order to further the understanding of etiology, to improve diagnostic specificity, and to develop new intervention and prevention  strategies. 

This study contains notable strengths as well as a number of limitations. Besides its 

ecological validity, our approach is bolstered by the use of a newly developed method to 

automate AOI labelling in video frames (Duchowski et al., 2019). This is a significant 

improvement of the eye-tracking state-of-the-art (e.g., during social interaction) which, to 

date, has relied on manual frame-by-frame labeling of facial AOIs (Hessels, Benjamins, 

Cornelissen, & Hooge, 2018). The approach presented in this paper offers greater objectivity 

and efficiency of the analysis. Furthermore, psychopathic traits were measured via PCL-R 

scores as assessed by independent experts and we took into account effects of possible 

confounding variables identified by recent research, i.e., age and activity as well as eye 

contact expressed by the experimenter (Gillespie et al., 2017; Hessels et al., 2019; Murphy & 

Isaacowitz, 2010; Rogers et al., 2018). The effects of these variables documented in our study 

fit well with previous findings, e.g., reduced attention to the face when talking compared to 

listening during live interaction (Hessels et al., 2019) or reduced attention to the eyes with 

greater age (Gillespie et al., 2017; Murphy & Isaacowitz, 2010). A clear limitation of our 

study is that we are not able to draw conclusions regarding female psychopaths since gender 

has been linked to scan patterns of faces (Hall, Hutton, & Morgan, 2010; Sullivan, Campbell, 

Hutton, & Ruffman, 2017). Furthermore, future studies need to investigate whether our results 

extend to less structured interaction settings and across different interaction partners. 

However, based on previous findings showing the stability of viewing patterns across 

different interaction partners, the present findings can be expected to generalize despite 

variation of interactional situations (Rogers et al., 2018). 

 In sum, we conclude that early impairments in attention to the eyes of an interaction 

partner are presumably stable over one’s lifespan and affect socialization processes including 

the development of empathy during childhood. Recently, not only psychopathic traits but also

other mental disorders such as autism have been associated with similar attentional deficits. 

Therefore, these impairments may represent a general risk factor for the development of 

psychological disorders characterized by social problems. The underlying mechanisms might 

involve deficient amygdala or ventromedial prefrontal cortex functioning (Spezio et al., 2007; 

Wolf, Philippi, Motzkin, Baskaya, & Koenigs, 2014) but need to be further clarified. It will be 

important to develop effective intervention and prevention strategies that improve visual 

attention and eye contact of children at risk. To date, evidence for lasting changes in eye gaze 

through social attention bias modification training (Alvares et al., 2019; Schönenberg et al., 

2014) or parent training programs (Dadds, English, Wimalaweera, Schollar-Root, & Hawes, 

2019) is still elusive. Thus, these promising approaches and further opportunities that target 

impaired eye contact need to be further investigated and enhanced.

Are conservatives more charitable than liberals in the U.S.? A meta-analysis of political ideology and charitable giving

Are conservatives more charitable than liberals in the U.S.? A meta-analysis of political ideology and charitable giving. Yongzheng Yang, Peixu Liu. Social Science Research, June 16 2021, 102598.

Abstract: Political ideology not only influences political activities, but also apolitical fields such as charitable giving. However, empirical studies regarding political ideology and charitable giving have yielded mixed results. To find out the effect size and explain the variation in effect sizes, we deploy a meta-analysis to estimate the average effect size and examine the potential moderators from four perspectives. Following scientific data collection and coding procedures, we identify 421 effect sizes from 31 empirical studies. Our meta-analysis results suggest that political conservatives are significantly more charitable than liberals at an overall level, but the relationship between political ideology and charitable giving varies under different scenarios. Furthermore, meta-regression results indicate that the measure of charitable giving, the type of charitable giving, and controlling for religiosity can account for the variation in effect sizes.

Keywords: Charitable givingPolitical ideologyUnited StatesMeta-analysis

Check also Cai, Meina and Caskey, Greg and Cowen, Nick and Murtazashvili, Ilia and Murtazashvili, Jennifer Brick and Salahodjaev, Raufhon, Individualism, Economic Freedom, and Charitable Giving (May 28, 2021). SSRN:

The secret life of predictive brains: what’s spontaneous activity for?

The secret life of predictive brains: what’s spontaneous activity for? Giovanni Pezzulo, Marco Zorzi, Maurizio Corbetta. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, June 16 2021.


. Spontaneous brain dynamics are manifestations of top-down dynamics of generative models detached from action–perception cycles.

. Generative models constantly produce top-down dynamics, but we call them expectations and attention during task engagement and spontaneous activity at rest.

. Spontaneous brain dynamics during resting periods optimize generative models for future interactions by maximizing the entropy of explanations in the absence of specific data and reducing model complexity.

. Low-frequency brain fluctuations during spontaneous activity reflect transitions between generic priors consisting of low-dimensional representations and connectivity patterns of the most frequent behavioral states.

. High-frequency fluctuations during spontaneous activity in the hippocampus and other regions may support generative replay and model learning.

Abstract: Brains at rest generate dynamical activity that is highly structured in space and time. We suggest that spontaneous activity, as in rest or dreaming, underlies top-down dynamics of generative models. During active tasks, generative models provide top-down predictive signals for perception, cognition, and action. When the brain is at rest and stimuli are weak or absent, top-down dynamics optimize the generative models for future interactions by maximizing the entropy of explanations and minimizing model complexity. Spontaneous fluctuations of correlated activity within and across brain regions may reflect transitions between ‘generic priors’ of the generative model: low dimensional latent variables and connectivity patterns of the most common perceptual, motor, cognitive, and interoceptive states. Even at rest, brains are proactive and predictive.

Keywords: spontaneous activitygenerative modelsresting statepredictive brains

During offline periods, there are fewer stimuli to 'explain away' and this may favor the formation of generic priors. Generic priors may correspond to information-compressed, low-dimensional states that summarize a large amount of information, abstracting away from specific stimuli.

Sexual activity while driving: 40.5% of media reports shows serious incidents that involved a crash and 21.7% had fatalities

Sexual activity while driving: A content analysis of media reports. Oscar Oviedo-Trespalacios, James G. Phillips. Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour, Volume 80, July 2021, Pages 141-149.


• Sexual activity while driving is distracted driving.

• Content analysis was applied to 106 cases of sexual activity while driving.

• Sexual activities reported include masturbating, oral sex, and intercourse.

• Sexual activity while driving was associated with speeding and lane departures.

Abstract: Sexual activity while driving fits the definition of distracted driving because it involves the diversion of attention away from the driving task. However, this risky driving behaviour has received little attention compared to other distracted driving activities. To address the lack of research on sexual activity while driving, the internet was searched from April to June 2020 for media reports in which sexual activities occurred within the cabin of a moving vehicle, taking specific note of: gender, the presence of others, time of day, use of substances, the nature of the circumstances surrounding the incident, and whether crashes had occurred. A total of 106 unique and verified cases were identified from 2004 to 2020. The reports involved 76 male (71.7%) and 30 female drivers (28.3%), and there were 43 (40.5%) serious incidents that involved a crash and 23 fatalities (21.7%). In 17 (16.0%) incidents their vehicle hit another car, and a pedestrian or cyclist was hit in 3 (2.8%) incidents. The risk of a serious incident was higher during oral sex or intercourse than solitary activities (i.e. masturbation). A total of 63 (59.5%) mild incidents (without crashes or fatalities) were identified, in which reports included accounts by witnesses or police regarding sexual activity while driving. Given the potential seriousness of incidents, this topic deserves further research to better understand the prevalence and safety implications of sexual activity while driving.

Keywords: Sexual healthRisky driving behavioursExhibitionismDistracted drivingRoad safetyRisky sexual behavioursRoad TraumaDriver behaviour

Negative content was both better transmitted in transmission chain experiments and shared more than its neutral counterpart; threat-related information was successful in transmission chain experiments but not when sharing

Acerbi, Alberto. 2021. “From Storytelling to Facebook. Content Biases When Retelling or Sharing a Story.” OSF Preprints. June 11. doi:10.31219/

Abstract: Cultural evolution researchers use transmission chain experiments to investigate which content is more likely to survive when transmitted from one individual to another. These experiments resemble oral storytelling, where individuals need to understand, memorise, and reproduce the content. However, prominent contemporary forms of cultural transmission—think an online sharing— only involve the willingness to transmit the content. Here I present two fully preregistered online experiments that explicitly investigated the differences between these two modalities of transmission. The first experiment (N=1080) examined whether negative content, information eliciting disgust, and threat-related information were better transmitted than their neutral counterpart in a traditional transmission chain set-up. The second experiment (N=1200), used the same material, but participants were asked whether they would share or not the content in two conditions: in a large anonymous social network, or with their friends, in their favourite social network. Negative content was both better transmitted in transmission chain experiments and shared more than its neutral counterpart. Threat-related information was successful in transmission chain experiments but not when sharing, and, finally, information eliciting disgust was not advantaged in either. Overall, the results present a composite picture, suggesting that the interactions between the specific content and the medium of transmission are important and, possibly, that content biases are stronger when memorisation and reproduction are involved in the transmission—like in oral transmission—than when they are not—like in online sharing.

The influence of prior knowledge on the formation of detailed and durable memories

The influence of prior knowledge on the formation of detailed and durable memories. B. Bellana et al. Journal of Memory and Language, Volume 121, December 2021, 104264.


• Prior knowledge is an important determinant of memory detail.

• Prior knowledge benefits memory for extrinsic context (extra-item details).

• Prior knowledge subtly impairs memory for intrinsic context (intra-item details).

• Prior knowledge benefits memory formation even when encoding is incidental.

Abstract: Prior knowledge often improves recognition, but its relationship to the retrieval of memory detail is unclear. Resource-based accounts of recognition suggest that familiar stimuli are more efficiently encoded into memory, thus freeing attentional resources to encode additional details from a study episode. However, schema-based theories would predict that activating prior knowledge can lead to the formation of more generalized representations in memory. Across a series of four experiments, we examined the relationship between prior knowledge and memory for extrinsic context (i.e., extra-item details from the surrounding study episode) and intrinsic context (i.e., memory for the precise intra-item features of the studied target itself). Familiar stimuli (famous faces and popular foods/beverages) were associated with better memory for extrinsic context, operationalized as Remember responses and objective source memory accuracy. Self-reported degree of prior knowledge associated with a given image was also predictive of this effect. Prior knowledge improved recognition memory during a surprise delayed recognition test, even under conditions in which study was unintentional, supporting the idea of efficient encoding. Critically, in a paradigm in which recognition required the correct rejection of highly perceptually similar lures, prior knowledge was associated with more false alarms. Our results suggest that stimuli associated with prior knowledge are indeed efficiently encoded into memory, freeing more attentional resources to encode extrinsic context. This benefit, however, may come at the cost of memory precision for the item itself. By examining extrinsic and intrinsic context separately, we demonstrate that resource and schema-based theories provide complementary accounts of how prior knowledge influences memory detail.

Keywords: KnowledgeLearningMemoryEpisodicSemanticsSchema

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Psychological research: Guidance for systematically evaluating whether an observed effect size is practically relevant is needed to justify claims about practical relevance; that is, there is no such mechanism as of now

Anvari, Farid, Rogier Kievit, Daniel Lakens, Andrew K. Przybylski, Leonid Tiokhin, Brenton M. Wiernik, and Amy Orben. 2021. “Evaluating the Practical Relevance of Observed Effect Sizes in Psychological Research.” PsyArXiv. June 15. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: Psychological researchers currently lack guidance for how to evaluate the practical relevance of observed effect sizes, i.e. whether a finding will have impact when translated to a different context of application. Although psychologists have recently highlighted theoretical justifications for why small effect sizes might be practically relevant, such justifications are simplistic and fail to provide the information necessary for evaluation and falsification. Claims about whether an observed effect size is practically relevant need to consider both the mechanisms amplifying and counteracting practical relevance, as well as the assumptions underlying each mechanism at play. To provide guidance for systematically evaluating whether an observed effect size is practically relevant, we present examples of widely applicable mechanisms and the key assumptions needed for justifying whether an observed effect size can be expected to generalize to different contexts. Routine use of these mechanisms to justify claims about practical relevance has the potential to make researchers’ claims about generalizability substantially more transparent. This transparency can help move psychological science towards a more rigorous assessment of when psychological findings can be applied in the world.

Pay transparency leads to lower average wages when pays is not fixed in pay classes: Employers credibly refuse to pay high wages to any one worker to avoid costly renegotiations with others under transparency

Equilibrium Effects of Pay Transparency. Zoe B. Cullen & Bobak Pakzad-Hurson. NBER Working Paper 28903, Jun 2021. DOI 10.3386/w28903

Abstract: The public discourse around pay transparency has focused on the direct effect: how workers seek to rectify newly-disclosed pay inequities through renegotiations. The question of how wage-setting and hiring practices of the firm respond in equilibrium has received less attention. To study these outcomes, we build a model of bargaining under incomplete information and test our predictions in the context of the U.S. private sector. Our model predicts that transparency reduces the individual bargaining power of workers, leading to lower average wages. A key insight is that employers credibly refuse to pay high wages to any one worker to avoid costly renegotiations with others under transparency. In situations where workers do not have individual bargaining power, such as under a collective bargaining agreement or in markets with posted wages, greater transparency has a muted impact on average wages. We test these predictions by evaluating the roll-out of U.S. state legislation protecting the right of workers to inquire about the salaries of their coworkers. Consistent with our prediction, the laws lead wages to decline by approximately 2% overall, but declines are progressively smaller in occupations with higher unionization rates. Our model provides a unified framework to analyze a wide range of transparency policies, and reconciles effects of transparency mandates documented in a variety of countries and contexts.

Free women at work in the USA since 1860: Rather than a steep rise from a very low level in the female labor force participation rate, it has in fact always been high & fairly stable over time (too many unreported family workers)

Women at Work in the United States Since 1860: An Analysis of Unreported Family Workers. Barry R.Chiswick, RaeAnn Halenda Robinson. Explorations in Economic History, June 8 2021, 101406.

Abstract: Estimated labor force participation rates among free women in the pre-Civil War period were exceedingly low. This is due, in part, to cultural or societal expectations of the role of women and the lack of thorough enumeration by Census takers. This paper develops an augmented labor force participation rate for free women in 1860 and compares it with the augmented rate for 1920 and today. Our methodology identifies women who are likely providing informal and unenumerated labor for market production in support of a family business, that is, unreported family workers. These individuals are not coded in the original data as formally working, but are likely to be engaged in the labor force on the basis of the self-employment of other relatives in their household. Unreported family workers are classified into four categories: farm, merchant, craft, and boardinghouse keepers. Using microdata, the inclusion of these workers more than triples the free female labor force participation rate in the 1860 Census from 16 percent to 57 percent, more than doubles the participation rate in the 1920 Census from 24 percent to 50 percent, and has a trivial effect on the currently measured rate of 56 percent (2015-2019 American Community Survey). This suggests that rather than a steep rise from a very low level in the female labor force participation rate since 1860, it has in fact always been high and fairly stable over time. In contrast, the effect of including unreported family workers in the male augmented labor force participation rate is relatively small.

Keywords: WomenLabor Force ParticipationUnreported Family WorkersOccupational StatusUnpaid WorkersSelf-Employment1860 Census1920 CensusAmerican Community Survey

JEL N31 J16 J21 J82

In the workplace: A snitcher is seen as more moral, more hirable, and as having higher leadership potential; snitching on friends makes one appear disloyal and a bad potential friend

Berry, Zachariah, Ike Silver, and Alex Shaw. 2021. “Moral Paragons, but Crummy Friends: The Case of Snitching.” PsyArXiv. June 15. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: Loyalty to one’s co-workers and friends is an important moral value that benefits and strengthens employee relationships. Yet, an employee’s loyalty-based obligations may be tested when they witness a friend engage in wrongdoing that could negatively impact their organization. Across five pre-registered studies (N = 1,089), we examine how relationship-based loyalty obligations impact how people evaluate an employee who decides to snitch or not snitch after witnessing another employee’s transgressions. We consistently find that a witness who snitches (vs. doesn’t snitch) is seen as more moral, more hirable, and as having higher leadership potential (Studies 1-4b) and that this effect is insensitive to relationship-based loyalty obligations (i.e., whether the transgressor and witness are friends; Studies 2 and 3). We also demonstrate that snitches are not seen as more moral when snitching on non-moral transgressions (Study 3) and that the benefits of snitching for perceived moral character are moderated if the witness somehow benefits from turning in the wrongdoer, suggesting that their behavior is selfishly motivated (Study 4a–4b). Of course, snitching is not costless: in all of our studies, snitching on friends makes one appear disloyal and a bad potential friend. These results highlight important instances where fulfilling loyalty-obligations is not a part of what it means to be a moral person. We discuss implications for loyalty, moral psychology, and whistleblowing, as well as the practical implications for organizations.

From 2018... Neutral, impartial, dispassionate researchers ask: How did IQ become an important means of naturalizing economic and racial inequality and supporting neoliberal visions of a fully privatized, free market society?

From 2018... Neoliberalism and IQ: Naturalizing economic and racial inequality. Andrew S. Winston. Theory & Psychology, October 9, 2018.

Abstract: How did IQ become an important means of naturalizing economic and racial inequality and supporting neoliberal visions of a fully privatized, free market society? I show how post-WWII neoliberals and libertarians could employ ideas of “innate intelligence” to promote the reduction of government funding of social programs. For extreme libertarian economist Murray Rothbard, inequality among individuals and ethnicities was self-evident from human history and the a priori examination of the “natural order,” but IQ data could also be employed in the fight against “egalitarianism.” Any attempt to interfere in this “natural order,” such as civil rights legislation, was viewed as inherently evil. For libertarian Charles Murray and more mainstream neoliberals such as Milton Friedman, empirical research on intelligence was an effective means of influencing public perception and policy on welfare, affirmative action, and immigration. I discuss recent work on “national intelligence” in relation to neoliberal projects and enduring fears regarding reproduction and family.

Keywords: inequality, IQ, libertarian, neoliberalism, racism

Monday, June 14, 2021

Positive Outcomes of Wellbeing

Positive Outcomes of Wellbeing. M. Joseph Sirgy. The Psychology of Quality of Life pp 59-78, June 10 2021.

Abstract: This chapter discusses outcomes related to hedonic wellbeing, life satisfaction, and Eudaimonia. These outcomes include good health, high levels of achievement and work, good social relationships, prosocial engagement, trust, optimism, future happiness. The chapter also highlights research on how much happiness is optimal, how happiness is adaptive in life, and how it serves to buffer illbeing.

Keywords: Hedonic wellbeing Life satisfaction Eudaimonia Subjective wellbeing Happiness Positive mental health Health Achievement and work Social relationships Prosocial behavior Trust Optimism Future happiness Optimal happiness Adaptive Illbeing 

From the 2012 edition:

4 How Much Happiness Is Optimal?

Friedman, Schwartz, and Haaga (2002) investigated the effects of being too happy. They compared those who are very happy and those who are moderately happy in relation to dysfunction across a variety of measures of subjective, physiological, and behavioral adjustment. The results showed no significant differences between those who are too happy and the moderately happy in terms of hypomanic symptoms, defensive self-deception, or aggressive behavior when challenged. Suldo and Huebner (2006) posed the question: Is extremely high life satisfaction during adolescence advantageous? They conducted a study to capture the relationship between life satisfaction and adaptive/maladaptive functioning of adolescents. Life satisfaction was captured using several measures of subjective well-being. They then divided the sample in three groups: very high (top 10%), average (middle 25%), and very low (lowest 10%). The high satisfaction group scored higher on all indicators of adaptive psychological functioning and lowest scores on emotional and behavioral problems Oishi, Diener, and Lucas (2009) predicted that a moderate level of happiness is best for life outcomes that require self-improvement motivation and analytical skills (e.g., academic achievement, job performance, and wealth accumulation). Some degree of dissatisfaction of their current state of affairs would motivate people to do better, thereby achieve more positive life outcomes. A certain amount of dissatisfaction is needed to motivate people to do better on academic tasks and their jobs. Otherwise, the motivation may be absent if they are too happy. A high level of happiness may lead to complacency. Using the same logic, they also predicted that moderate levels of happiness should lead to higher levels of political participation than high levels of happiness. People have to be somewhat dissatis fi ed with the current political situation to be motivated to take corrective action. Similarly, mod-erate happiness leads to a high degree of volunteer work, more so than high levels of happiness. In contrast, they predicted that very happy people are more likely to stay married than the moderately happy. The moderately happy people may be motivated to try other partners (i.e., engage in extramarital affairs during marriage or divorce for the purpose of coupling with others). Similarly, they predicted that situations less than ideal may call for moderate happiness. In other words, the moderately happy is more likely to change circumstances than are less than ideal. The very happy are likely to be complacent. To test these predictions, the authors used data from the World Values Survey (administered in 1981, 1990, 1995, and 2000) involving a sample of 118,519 respondents from 96 countries and regions around the globe. The predictions concerning income, education, and political participation were supported. The highest levels of income, education, and political participa-tions were most evident in people reporting moderate-to-high than very high levels of life satisfaction. Similarly, the hypothesis concerning marriage and close relationships was also supported. The highest proportion of respondents in a stable intimate relationship was observed among respondents with very high life satisfaction scores. However, contrary to their prediction, the highest levels of volunteerism were observed among the very satisfied respondents. The same set of hypotheses was retested using a sample of college students in which happiness was captured through a positive/negative affect measure. The same pattern of results was evident. That is, the happiest students tended to score high on social domain measures (gregarious, close friends, self-confidence, energy, and time dating) but did not always score high on achievement/conscientiousness measures (grade point average, missed class, event balance, and conscientiousness). The moderately happy scored high on achievement/conscientiousness measures but less so on the social domain measures. The authors then turned their attention to testing their hypothesis regarding achievement and income using two longitudinal surveys (Diener et al., 2002 and the Australian Youth Data). With respect to the Diener et al.’s data, respondents’ cheer-fulness was measured in 1976 and their reported income in 1995. Those who expressed moderate-to-high levels of cheerfulness reported the highest levels of income. This pattern provides additional support that when it comes to achievement-related tasks, those who are moderately happy do better than those who are very happy. With respect to the Australian Youth Data, respondents that reported life satisfaction scores in 1979 were matched with their income, educational level, and length of marital relationship scores in 1994. Again, the same pattern was evident. Those who expressed moderate level of happiness in 1979 reported the highest income and educational level in 1994. In contrast, those who expressed high levels of happiness in 1979 reported the highest degree of marriage tenure. The income/happiness relationship was also replicated using two large-scale longitudinal survey studies: the German Socio-Economic Panel Study and the British Household Panel Study. The authors conclude:

Thus, the optimal mindset for an intimate relationship might be to see the most positive aspects of the partner and relationship, whereas the optimal mindset for income, education, and political participation might be to consider the empty part of the glass as well as the fullness of it (Oishi, et al., 2009 , p. 19).

5  Happiness Is Adaptive


Diener and Oishi ( 2011 ) also provided much evidence that indicates two key points: (1) the majority of people are moderately happy, and (2) happier people tend to have an evolutionary advantage in terms of longevity, fecundity, more resources, and better health and healthier children (which translates into an advantage to sur-vival and reproductive fitness). For supportive evidence, the reader should consult the following broad reviews and meta-analyses studies: Diener and Chan (2011) , Howell, Kern, and Lyubomirsky (2007), Lyubomirsky et al. (2005), and Pressman and Cohen (2005). If so, the same authors (Diener and Oishi) pose the question “why happiness is not more widespread?” One would expect that because of its evolutionary advan-tage that happiest people should be in the majority, but this is not the case. The authors answer this question by arguing that moderate levels of happiness seem to be more adaptive than either very high or low levels of happiness. Very high and very low levels of happiness are detrimental to health. There is sufficient evidence to suggest that it is harmful (healthwise and in relation to daily functioning) to feel intensely happy much of the time (e.g., Gruber, Mauss, & Tamir, 2011 ; McCarron, Gunnell, Harrison, Okasha, & Davey Smith, 2003; Ritz & Steptoe, 2000). Furthermore, negative emotions have an adaptive function. Schwarz ( 2002 ) reviews evidence that shows how negative affect can be adaptive. Negative affect motivates people to focus more narrowly and critically analyze information, which in turn leads to effective problem solution. Negative affect motivates people to make changes to better their lives. Grinde (2002) argues that people are genetically disposed to be in a positive mood. That is, the default evolutionary option is to be in a good mood. Evolution dictates that the individual who is happy is more likely to engage in more procreation acts and life-supporting functions, compared to those who are less happy (perhaps depressed). Happiness also plays a role in good health. Those who are happy live longer lives because they experience lower stress, and stress is associated with morbidity. Feelings of happiness are directly related to need satisfaction, and of course, gratification of personal needs is positively associated with survival, prosperity, and procreation. Happy people are optimistic, and optimism has a strong survival value.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

We view sustainability as a requirement that welfare should not be expected to decline over time; it depends on the production technology available to society

Sustainability in a Risky World. John Y. Campbell & Ian Martin. NBER Working Paper 28899, June 2021. DOI 10.3386/w28899

Abstract: We view sustainability as a requirement that welfare should not be expected to decline over time. We impose this requirement as a prior constraint on the consumption-savings-investment problem, and study its implications for saving, risky investment, and the social discount rate. The constraint does not distort portfolio choice, but it imposes an upper bound on the sustainable time preference rate and on the sustainable consumption-wealth ratio, which we show must lie between the riskless rate and the expected return on optimally invested wealth.

6 Conclusion

In this paper we have argued, in the spirit of Koopmans (1960, 1967), that the implication of an

ethical criterion—sustainability—for social discounting and consumption decisions depends on the

production technology available to society. Specifically, in a risky world with a binding sustainability

20constraint, the sustainable social rate of time preference and consumption-wealth ratio, which equal

one another, are not equal to either the riskless interest rate or the risky return on invested wealth,

but lie in between these two. In the special case where invested wealth has only Brownian risk and

no jump risk, the sustainable social rate of time preference is the equal-weighted average of the

riskless interest rate and the risky return.

We have made this point in the context of an extremely simple model with iid returns in which the

parameters governing the distribution of returns are known. We have therefore ignored parameter

uncertainty, a phenomenon emphasized by Weitzman (2001). We have also ignored the possibility

that returns may not be iid, because expected returns or risks change over time. Models with non-iid

returns in general imply time-varying consumption growth and a term structure of discount rates.

When consumption growth is persistent, this term structure is generally downward-sloping for safe

investments and upward-sloping for risky ones as in the long-run risk model of Bansal and Yaron

(2004). Gollier (2002) emphasizes the potential importance of a downward-sloping term structure

of discount rates for social discounting. Our iid model has discount rates that are invariant to the

horizon of an investment.

Although we have emphasized the sustainable social rate of time preference in this paper, we

conclude by noting that this is not the same as the appropriate social discount rate that should

be applied to an investment project. That discount rate depends on the project’s risk. For a

riskless project, the appropriate discount rate is the riskless interest rate, which is lower than the

sustainable social rate of time preference in a risky world; and for a project that has the same

risk as society’s invested wealth, the appropriate discount rate is the expected risky return, which

is higher than the sustainable social rate of time preference. Some previous discussions of social

discounting have obscured these distinctions by ignoring the risk that society faces. Our analysis is

deliberately simple in order to achieve clarity about these issues.

A 10% increase in robots per 1000 workers is associated with an approximately 10% reduction in the share of low-skilled individuals reporting poor health due in part by a reallocation of physical tasks

Does the rise of robotic technology make people healthier? Christian Gunadi, Hanbyul Ryu. Health Economics, May 27 2021.

Abstract: Technological advancements bring changes to our life, altering our behaviors as well as our role in the economy. In this paper, we examine the potential effect of the rise of robotic technology on health. Using the variation in the initial distribution of industrial employment in US cities and the difference in robot adoption across industries over time to predict robot exposure at the local labor market, we find evidence that higher penetration of industrial robots in the local economy is positively related to the health of the low-skilled population. A 10% increase in robots per 1000 workers is associated with an approximately 10% reduction in the share of low-skilled individuals reporting poor health. Further analysis suggests that the reallocation of tasks partly explains this finding. A 10% increase in robots per 1000 workers is associated with an approximately 1.5% reduction in physical tasks supplied by low-skilled workers.

Maintaining Multi-partner Relationships: Evolution, Sexual Ethics, and Consensual Non-monogamy

Mogilski, Justin, David L. Rodrigues, Justin J. Lehmiller, and Rhonda N. Balzarini. 2021. “Maintaining Multi-partner Relationships: Evolution, Sexual Ethics, and Consensual Non-monogamy.” PsyArXiv. June 8. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: Humans maintain romantic relationships for sexual gratification, childcare assistance, intimate friendship, and a host of other interpersonal benefits. In monogamous relationships (i.e., exclusive courtship between two people) individuals agree that certain benefits of the relationship (i.e., sexual contact, material resources, emotional support) may only be shared within the pair-bond. That is, each partner is expected to maintain the relationship by provisioning sufficient benefits to satisfy the needs and desires of their partner. By comparison, consensual non-monogamy (CNM) is a collection of relationship practices and structures whereby partners agree that it is permissible to have sexual contact or form intimate attachments with other people to satisfy these interpersonal needs and desires. In this chapter, we review literature examining who pursues CNM, how people who practice CNM derive and maintain satisfaction within their relationship(s), and when and how these relationships persist. We consider the role of CNM relationship maintenance practices, personality features that predispose people to CNM, and psychological and social barriers (e.g., jealousy, interpersonal conflict, sexual health anxiety, condemnation) that prevent people from pursuing or maintaining CNM. Throughout, we consider how CNM compares to infidelity as an alternative strategy for pursuing multiple, concurrent romantic or sexual relationships. We close by discussing current directions in the scientific study of CNM and highlight which gaps in the literature are most pressing to address.

Check also The Implications of Sociosexuality for Marital Satisfaction and Dissolution. Juliana E. French, Emma E. Altgelt, Andrea L. Meltzer. Psychological Science, September 4, 2019.

Cebu, Philippines: Fathers' childcare highly facultative, likely contingent on local socioecological predictors

Fathers' care in context: ‘facultative,’ flexible fathers respond to work demands and child age, but not to alloparental help, in Cebu, Philippines. Stacy Rosenbaum et al. Evolution and Human Behavior, June 12 2021.

Abstract: Current evolutionary theory conceptualizes fathers' childcare as highly facultative and likely contingent on a variety of local socioecological predictors. Much of the evolutionarily-motivated work on the predictors of paternal care has focused on smaller-scale societies, while similar, potentially complementary research in larger-scale societies has focused on theoretical frameworks from (e.g.) economics and developmental psychology. Due to the different emphases, relatively few studies have incorporated information on variables known to predict paternal care in one context with those known to predict it in the other. Here, we assess whether paternal care conforms to predictions derived from the facultative fathering hypothesis and life history theory in Cebu, the Philippines. We evaluated which of 6 variables—hours worked outside the home, age and number of children, number of other caregivers, family residence pattern, and fathers' educational attainment—predicted the number of hours fathers reported spending on 12 common caregiving tasks. Consistent with the basic premise of facultative fathering, men who worked more spent less time on childcare. Additionally, the time fathers spent on different types of caregiving reflected changes in demand as children age. However, alloparental care appears to be a complement to, rather than a substitute for, paternal care in this context, in contrast to the predictions of the facultative fathering hypothesis. We also found that men with more education reported spending more time on childcare, consistent with a caregiving strategy that emphasizes heavy investment in embodied capital across generations. Our data illustrate the context-specific nature of ‘facultative’ caregiving in humans, and highlight the importance of considering locally-relevant predictors when testing predictions derived from evolutionary theory.

Keywords: Parental carePaternal careMaternal careAllocareAllomaternal careCooperative breeding

Psychopathy as extreme B5/FFM traits: Psycho-meanness = exploitation of others & poor attachment; psycho-disinhibition = greater negative affect & poor behavioral constraint; psycho-boldness = reduced negative affect & greater narcissism

A Comparison of Two Five-Factor Model Operationalizations of the Triarchic Model of Psychopathy in a Clinical Sample. Jared R. Ruchensky et al. Assessment, June 6, 2021.

Abstract: Structural models of personality traits, particularly the five-factor model (FFM), continue to inform ongoing debates regarding what personality attributes and trait domains are central to psychopathy. A growing body of literature has linked the constructs of the triarchic model of psychopathy (boldness, meanness, disinhibition) to the FFM. Recently, researchers developed both item and regression-based measures of the triarchic model of psychopathy using the NEO Personality Inventory–Revised—a popular measure of the FFM. The current study examines the correlates of these two FFM-derived operationalizations of the triarchic model using data from the Collaborative Longitudinal Personality Disorders Study. The two approaches had strong convergent validity coefficients and similar patterns of criterion-related validity coefficients. Meanness related to greater personality pathology characterized by exploitation of others and poor attachment, whereas disinhibition related to indicators of greater negative affect and poor behavioral constraint. Boldness related to reduced negative affect and greater narcissistic personality traits. Although the item and regression-based approaches showed similar patterns of associations with criterion-variables, the item-based approach has some practical and psychometric advantages over the regression-based approach given strong correlations between the meanness and disinhibition scores from the regression approach.

Keywords: psychopathy, five-factor model, personality, personality disorders, triarchic model

From 2019... Online dating markets: Sex ratio varies widely between submarkets, with younger submarkets having more men & fewer women than older ones; minority women are younger than the average in older submarkets

From 2019... Structure of Online Dating Markets in U.S. Cities. Elizabeth E. Bruch and M. E. J. Newman. Sociological Science, April 2, 2019. 10.15195/v6.a9

Abstract: We study the structure of heterosexual dating markets in the United States through an analysis of the interactions of several million users of a large online dating website, applying recently developed network analysis methods to the pattern of messages exchanged among users. Our analysis shows that the strongest driver of romantic interaction at the national level is simple geographic proximity, but at the local level, other demographic factors come into play. We find that dating markets in each city are partitioned into submarkets along lines of age and ethnicity. Sex ratio varies widely between submarkets, with younger submarkets having more men and fewer women than older ones. There is also a noticeable tendency for minorities, especially women, to be younger than the average in older submarkets, and our analysis reveals how this kind of racial stratification arises through the messaging decisions of both men and women. Our study illustrates how network techniques applied to online interactions can reveal the aggregate effects of individual behavior on social structure.

Check also Men's revealed preference for their mates' ages. Kitae Sohn. Evolution and Human Behavior, Volume 38, Issue 1, January 2017, Pages 58-62.


The experience of mate selection is frequently described, both in popular discourse and the scientific literature, in the language of markets: An individual’s goal is to secure the best possible mate for themselves in the face of competition from others. However, we know little about the structure of these romantic markets in part for lack of appropriately detailed data. The advent and vigorous growth of the online dating industry in the last two decades provides a new source of data about courtship interactions on an unprecedented scale. In this study, we have provided a first look at how network analysis techniques can reveal the structure of U.S. dating markets as evidenced by interactions on a popular dating website. Across the United States as a whole, we find that geography is the defining feature of national dating markets. Within cities, submarkets are defined by age as well as other demographic factors—most notably, race. We find that submarket structure is shaped by both first-messaging patterns and replies. Threequarters of all reciprocated messages fall within submarkets, and only one-quarter fall between individuals in different submarkets. A larger fraction, about 43 percent, of all first messages are between different submarkets, which indicates that people do attempt to contact partners outside of their submarkets, but those attempts are often unsuccessful. Overall, our results reveal the aggregate implications of individuals’ mate choices and suggest that metropolitan areas are best characterized as a collection of geographically integrated but demographically distinct submarkets. More generally, our study illustrates how state-of-the-art network science techniques can be applied to rich data from online interactions or administrative records to reveal subtle features of social structure. In recent years, the growing availability of search data from online sources has led to interest in how individuals’ choices reveal submarkets in other social domains (Piazzesi, Schneider, and Stroebel 2015; Rae 2015). As we have shown in the dating context, market outcomes reflect the choices made by actors on both sides (e.g., men and women in heterosexual dating markets, workers and firms in job markets). Our approach could straightforwardly be extended to look at structural features of housing or job markets, and we view this as a fruitful direction for future work. 

Statements without discernible meaning that consists of modern, abstract words, created to impress & not to inform, were attributed to famous philosophers & physicists (Nietzsche, Plato, Hawking, Einstein) or uncredible authors (Johnny Depp, Bruce Willis, Mel Gibson, Brad Pitt)

The effect of source credibility on bullshit receptivity. Sandra Ilić, Kaja Damnjanović. Applied Cognitive Psychology, June 3 2021.

Summary: Pseudo-profound bullshit pertains to grammatically and syntactically correct but meaningless sentences, that, due to syntactical correctness appear as made to communicate something and research shows that people deem them profound. However, the effect of differing source credibility on bullshit profoundness evaluations has, to our knowledge, not yet been tested. We presented participants with pseudo-profound bullshit alone and with authors of different credibility. In order to partly replicate and extend on the findings regarding mechanisms of receptivity and sensitivity to bullshit we collected profoundness evaluations for mundane statements and proverbs, and different measures of analytic thinking. Ascribing credible authors leads to an increase while ascribing uncredible authors leads to a decrease in profoundness evaluations. Cognitive reflection protects against the tendency to evaluate any type of statement as profound and drives better differentiation between pseudo- and conventionally truly profound, while positive views about actively open-minded thinking enable stronger effects of credible authorship.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Effects of Increased Weights of Alternative Fuel Trucks on Pavement and Bridges: Long-haul electric trucks with a range of 300 miles are expected to be 5,328 pounds heavier than fossil-fuel versions in 2030, in 2050 they will be 1000 pounds less

Effects of Increased Weights of Alternative Fuel Trucks on Pavement and Bridges. Harvey, John, Saboori, ArashMiller, Marshall, Kim, Changmo, Jaller, Miguel, Lea, JonKendall, Alissa, Saboori, Ashkan. Univ of California Institute of Transportation Studies, report no. 2020/19, Nov 2020.

Abstract: California’s truck fleet composition is shifting to include more natural gas vehicles (NGVs), electric vehicles (EVs), and fuel cell vehicles (FCVs), and it will shift more quickly to meet state greenhouse gas (GHG) emission goals. These alternative fuel trucks (AFTs) may introduce heavier axle loads, which may increase pavement damage and GHG emissions from work to maintain pavements. This project aimed to provide conceptual-level estimates of the effects of vehicle fleet changes on road and bridge infrastructure. Three AFT implementation scenarios were analyzed using typical Calif. state and local pavement structures, and a federal study’s results were used to assess the effects on bridges. This study found that more NGV, EV, and FC trucks are expected among short-haul and medium-duty vehicles than among long-haul vehicles, for which range issues arise with EVs and FCs. But the estimates predicted that by 2050, alternative fuels would power 25–70% of long-haul and 40–95% of short-haul and medium-duty trucks. AFT implementation is expected to be focused in the 11 counties with the greatest freight traffic—primarily urban counties along major freight corridors. Results from the implementation scenarios suggest that introducing heavier AFTs will only result in minimal additional pavement damage, with its extent dependent on the pavement structure and AFT implementation scenario. Although allowing weight increases of up to 2,000 lbs. is unlikely to cause major issues on more modern bridges, the effects of truck concentrations at those new limits on inadequate bridges needs more careful evaluation. The study’s most aggressive market penetration scenario yielded an approximate net reduction in annual well-to-wheel truck propulsion emissions of 1,200–2,700 kT per year of CO2 -e by 2030, and 6,300–34,000 kT by 2050 versus current truck technologies. Negligible effects on GHG emissions from pavement maintenance and rehabilitation resulted from AFT implementation.

1 lb is almost .5 kg

Long-haul electric trucks with a range of 300 miles are expected to be 5,328 pounds heavier than fossil-fuel versions in 2030. Short-haul and medium-duty box delivery electric trucks are expected to weigh 1,400 extra pounds. Batteries are heavy because the chemicals and materials in battery cells are densely packed and have a good amount of mass. Based on average market penetration, the batteries on electric trucks in 2030 could collectively equal 59.3 million pounds. Future technology is expected to reduce that weight by almost 1,000 pounds by 2050. Also, adding tires and axles to the largest trucks could spread the load more evenly to reduce stress on roads and bridges.

4.3 Cost to Strengthen and Replace Bridges Due to a 2,000-Pound Truck Weight Increase

The MAP-21 study provided an estimate of $0.4 billion for the one-time costs to strengthen and replace bridges due to a 5axle, 88,000 lb. truck (Scenario 1 of the CTSWLS) across all states. The following is a top-down first-order calculation that translates that national-level cost to California alone.

• The MAP-21 study assumed that bridges with a rating factor (either flexure or shear) less than 1.0 will require rehabilitation.
• For this current study, it was assumed that the bridges in the structurally deficient category are those that had rating factors less than 1.0.
• California has 6.2 percent of all the bridges in the US that are structurally deficient and 3.9 percent of all the structurally deficient NHS bridges. It was assumed for this study that 4.5 percent of the bridges are structurally deficient. Bridges on the NHS system are longer and more costly to rehabilitate than non-NHS bridges.
• It was also assumed for this study that the 82,000-lb. GVW limit produces half (allowing for some illegal trucks over the 82,000-lb. limit) as many ratings less than 1.0 than the 88,000-lb. truck scenario (a conservative estimate).
• The estimated cost is then: 4.5% × 0.5 × $400 million = $9 million in 2011 dollars.
• This cost estimate does not include any increases in annual maintenance costs due to the heavier trucks.

Pride, shame, envy, admiration, respect, contempt, anger, fear—and status hierarchies

Durkee, Patrick. 2021. “Emotions and Status Hierarchies.” OSF Preprints. May 23. doi:10.31219/

Abstract: Emotions define and are defined by status hierarchies. This chapter examines human emotions in relation to hierarchy navigation. Because emotional adaptations evolve in response to selective pressures, I first present evidence supporting the ubiquity of hierarchies and the fitness-relevance of status in the ancestral past. Next, I provide a sketch of the recurrent adaptive challenges likely posed by life within hierarchically organized groups to circumscribe the hierarchy-navigation tasks emotional adaptations are expected to address. I then highlight several emotions—pride, shame, envy, admiration, respect, contempt, anger, and fear—that appear to facilitate hierarchy navigation, review the evidence for their functional design, and explore ways in which relative differences in status may modulate recurring emotional experiences. Finally, I discuss how understanding the interplay between emotions and hierarchy navigation can inform our understanding of broad individual differences.

Check also Psychological foundations of human status allocation. Patrick K. Durkee, Aaron W. Lukaszewski, and David M. Buss. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, August 18, 2020.

When cumulative culture functionally overlaps with genes, genetic effects become masked, unmasked, or even reversed, & the causal effects of an identified gene become confounded with features of the cultural environment

Cultural Evolution of Genetic Heritability. Ryutaro Uchiyama, Rachel Spicer and Michael Muthukrishna. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, May 21 2021.

Abstract: Behavioral genetics and cultural evolution have both revolutionized our understanding of human behavior—largely independent of each other. Here we reconcile these two fields under a dual inheritance framework, offering a more nuanced understanding of the interaction between genes and culture. Going beyond typical analyses of gene–environment interactions, we describe the cultural dynamics that shape these interactions by shaping the environment and population structure. A cultural evolutionary approach can explain, for example, how factors such as rates of innovation and diffusion, density of cultural sub-groups, and tolerance for behavioral diversity impact heritability estimates, thus yielding predictions for different social contexts. Moreover, when cumulative culture functionally overlaps with genes, genetic effects become masked, unmasked, or even reversed, and the causal effects of an identified gene become confounded with features of the cultural environment. The manner of confounding is specific to a particular society at a particular time, but a WEIRD (Western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic) sampling problem obscures this boundedness. Cultural evolutionary dynamics are typically missing from models of gene-to-phenotype causality, hindering generalizability of genetic effects across societies and across time. We lay out a reconciled framework and use it to predict the ways in which heritability should differ between societies, between socioeconomic levels and other groupings within some societies but not others, and over the life course. An integrated cultural evolutionary behavioral genetic approach cuts through the nature–nurture debate and helps resolve controversies in topics such as IQ.


From the 2020 version:

The question, “Which SNPs  are associated with skin cancer?” is similarly culturally dependent. In societies where sunscreen use is common, we expect genes that govern skin pigmentation to be less predictive of skin cancer compared to societies where it is not.

A gene can be beneficial in one environment but not in another. For example, we have known for a long time that increasing nutrition (Lynn 1990; Stoch et al. 1982), improving schooling (Ceci 1991; Davis 2014; Ritchie and Tucker-Drob 2018), and removing parasites (Wieringa et al. 2011) have positive effects on general intelligence. None of this is surprising, but it means that in a society where parasite infection is kept under control, we would not notice that parasite status correlates with intelligence, due to a lack of sufficient variation in parasite load. For the same reason, a correlation between lead exposure and IQ (Needleman and Gatsonis 1990; Wasserman et al. 1997) will not be revealed in a society where lead is not a problem. The same principle applies to genes: genes that provide protection against malnutrition, parasites, or pollution would only be positively associated with intelligence in environments where these insults occur. In environments where these challenges have been overcome, the same genes would not be associated with intelligence, and can even be deleterious. For example, being a carrier (heterozygous) for abnormal hemoglobin via sickle cell trait (Elguero et al. 2015) or thalassemia (Mockenhaupt et al. 2004) protects against malaria and is thus beneficial in an environment with the Plasmodium falciparum parasite. Because malaria is known to have a negative impact on cognitive development (Holding and Snow 2001), we would expect the gene for abnormal hemoglobin to be positively associated with intelligence in environments with a high risk of malaria. As the risk of malaria decreases heterozygosity will be neutral or deleterious, but this too depends on environmental factors such as diet. Similarly, alleles that protect against parasite infection (Carter 2013) or lead poisoning (Onalaja and Claudio 2000) will be predictive of IQ only if the environmental risk factors are present in sufficient quantities. In an environment with arsenic contamination, variants in AS3MT associated with more efficient arsenic metabolism (Schlebusch et al. 2015) may be predictive of intelligence (Wang et al. 2007).

Spontaneous face touching: Count and duration increase with arousal, emotional or cognitive load; active prevention of face touching to reduce infections requires mental effort

Stop touching your face! A systematic review of triggers, characteristics, regulatory functions and neuro-physiology of facial self touch. Jente L. Spille et al. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, June 11 2021.


• Spontaneous face touching is associated with cortical regulatory processes.

• Self touch count and duration increase with arousal, emotional or cognitive load.

• Active prevention of face touching to reduce infections requires mental effort.

• Association of face touch with trigeminal communicating rami is discussed.

• Fundamental mechanisms and functions of spontaneous face touches remain unknown.

Abstract: Spontaneous face touching (sFST) is an ubiquitous behavior that occurs in people of all ages and all sexes, up to 800 times a day. Despite their high frequency, they have rarely been considered as an independent phenomenon. Recently, sFST have sparked scientific interest since they contribute to self-infection with pathogens. This raises questions about trigger mechanisms and functions of sFST and whether they can be prevented. This systematic comprehensive review compiles relevant evidence on these issues. Facial self-touches seem to increase in frequency and duration in socially, emotionally as well as cognitively challenging situations. They have been associated with attention focus, working memory processes and emotion regulating functions as well as the development and maintenance of a sense of self and body. The dominance of face touch over other body parts is discussed in light of the proximity of hand-face cortical representations and the peculiarities of facial innervations. The results show that underlying psychological and neuro-physiological mechanisms of sFST are still poorly understood and that various basic questions remain unanswered.

Keywords: nonverbal communicationinfection transmissionemotion regulationworking memoryattention focustic disordertrigeminal nervesensory attenuation

Deterministic Attributions of Behavior: Biological explanations had more influence than social explanations on ratings of others’ responsibility, capacity for change, and sentencing considerations

Deterministic Attributions of Behavior: Brain versus Genes. Kevin R. Peters, Alena Kalinina, Nastassja M. Downer & Amy Van Elswyk. Neuroethics, Jun 11 2021.

Abstract: This research examined the influence of social-, genetic-, and brain-based explanations on attributions of others’ behaviors. Participants were university students in Studies 1 (N = 140), 2 (N = 142), and 3 (N = 260). Participants read a vignette about an individual who possessed several undesirable behaviors and answered related questions. The first two studies had within-subjects designs. Participants in Study 1 were provided with social-, genetic-, and brain-based explanations for the individual’s behavior. The order of the genetic- and brain-based explanations was reversed in Study 2. Study 3 used the same materials, but had a between-subjects design where participants were assigned to one of three groups that differed in their explanation: social, genetic, or brain. Participants also completed measures of social desirability and free will beliefs in all three studies. Consistently, biological explanations had more influence than social explanations on ratings of others’ responsibility, capacity for change, and sentencing considerations. There was inconsistent evidence across the three studies, however, that brain-based explanations had more influence than genetic-based explanations. Interestingly, Free will scores were associated with aspects of the individual’s behavior in the social condition but not in the biological conditions. Additional social cognition research is needed to determine whether brain-based explanations are just one specific instantiation of biological explanations or whether they are unique in this regard when it comes to the attributions we make about others’ behaviors.

Disease and Disapproval: COVID-19 Concern is Related to Greater Moral Condemnation

Disease and Disapproval: COVID-19 Concern is Related to Greater Moral Condemnation. Robert K. Henderson, Simone Schnall. Evolutionary Psychology, June 10, 2021.

Abstract: Prior research has indicated that disease threat and disgust are associated with harsher moral condemnation. We investigated the role of a specific, highly salient health concern, namely the spread of the coronavirus, and associated COVID-19 disease, on moral disapproval. We hypothesized that individuals who report greater subjective worry about COVID-19 would be more sensitive to moral transgressions. Across three studies (N = 913), conducted March-May 2020 as the pandemic started to unfold in the United States, we found that individuals who were worried about contracting the infectious disease made harsher moral judgments than those who were relatively less worried. This effect was not restricted to transgressions involving purity, but extended to transgressions involving harm, fairness, authority, and loyalty, and remained when controlling for political orientation. Furthermore, for Studies 1 and 2 the effect also was robust when taking into account the contamination subscale of the Disgust Scale–Revised. These findings add to the growing literature that concrete threats to health can play a role in abstract moral considerations, supporting the notion that judgments of wrongdoing are not based on rational thought alone.

Keywords: morality, disgust, pathogen avoidance, behavioral immune system, moral judgment, emotion, harm, COVID-19, coronavirus, moral foundations theory

This research tested the role of situational concerns about an infectious disease on judgments of wrongdoing. Across three studies we consistently found that people who were worried about COVID-19 condemned moral wrongdoers more harshly than those who were less worried. This finding adds to emerging work on the role of disease threat on moral judgment. In Studies 1 and 2 controlling for individual differences in contamination disgust left the effect of coronavirus worry and moral judgment intact. In contrast, in Study 3, we found that this relationship was no longer significant after accounting for contamination disgust, indicating that fear of contamination was responsible for the effect. We interpret this finding to be the result of a generally heightened concern about the virus at the time. Indeed, contamination disgust has been described as bearing a “striking similarity” to disease avoidance (Olatunji et al., 2009). An intriguing possibility is, therefore, that variables that are typically considered to reflect stable individual differences, such as disgust sensitivity, may change as a function of coronavirus concerns that became relatively universal across the world. Indeed, recent theorizing has suggested that topics within the field of of psychology, and the scientific approaches to study them, may change in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic (Rosenfeld et al., in press). Given the current findings, apart from contamination and disease concerns, other relevant traits such as neuroticism or conscientiousness may also have changed over the course of the pandemic as a function of constantly having been engaged in disease-prevention behavior to alleviate related worries. Future research would be needed to explore this possibility.

Our findings align with a growing body of research demonstrating that individual differences in the propensity to experience disgust are linked to moral considerations (Chapman & Anderson, 2014Karinen & Chapman, 2019Liuzza et al., 2019Murray et al., 2019Robinson et al., 2019Wagemans et al., 2018). Furthermore, the results are consistent with recent work showing a positive association between germ aversion and moral condemnation across the moral foundations (Murray et al., 2019). Our findings contribute to this line of research by demonstrating that subjective worry about a real-world contagious disease is associated with harsher moral judgments, and, moreover, that this relationship held even after accounting for differences in political orientation. Thus, converging evidence supports Haidt’s (2001) suggestion that morality is shaped by various emotions and intuitions, of which concerns about health and safety are prominent.

There are limitations within these findings. Though we obtained large samples with consistent results across all three studies, we used a single item to measure “worry,” which may have reduced sensitivity in capturing participants’ level of concern about COVID-19. Another qualification to these results is the difference in the relationships between the trait-like measures of COVID-19 worry and moral judgments, and the effects of the experimental manipulation in Study 1. That is, although dispositional worry about contracting the illness was consistently related to moral condemnation, experimentally manipulating the salience of COVID-19 had no effect on moral judgment, relative to a neutral condition. One possibility for why is by the time of Study 1 on March 17, news about COVID-19 was already highly salient, and thus the experimental manipulation did not have the intended effect. The dispositional association, however, might be explained by a generalized overreaction to potential harm. It is possible that those who are prone to chronic worry about contracting an infectious illness are also more sensitive to moral violations in disease-relevant domains as well as other moral infractions. That is, fear of disease may overlap with an overgeneralized reaction of increased sensitivity to potential harm, including moral wrongdoers who commit not only purity violations, but other unfavorable acts as well. Indeed, worried participants produced harsher judgments than less worried participants, and there was no moderating effect of moral foundation. This is consistent with previous research, indicating that disease threat concerns are associated with conformity to moral proscriptions that are not specific to disease (e.g., Murray et al., 2011Tybur et al., 2016Wu & Chang, 2012). Lack of moderation by foundation type is likewise consistent with error management, such that the more costly error is to be under-vigilant about moral violations that are not disease relevant than to be over-vigilant solely for disease-relevant violations (Haselton et al., 2015Murray et al., 2019). Further research is needed to more carefully explore these dispositional versus experimental differences.

Additionally, we did not test whether other variables, such as personality, might have played a role in our results. Disease avoidance has been associated with both neuroticism and conscientiousness (Oosterhoff et al., 2018), while openness, conscientiousness, and agreeableness have been associated with sensitivity to moral violations (Hirsh et al., 2010Smillie et al., 2020). Thus, considering the overlap between disease avoidance, moral judgments, and conscientiousness, this personality trait may account for some of the variance between worry about a highly salient communicable disease and assessments of moral wrongdoing.

Our research raises the possibility that during a period of widespread concern about infectious disease, people may become more judgmental overall. In other words, people’s actions and intentions might be under more scrutiny, and when ambiguous, may be interpreted uncharitably, potentially resulting in misunderstandings, or interpersonal conflicts. Indeed, in the early days of the unfolding COVID-19 crisis, there were media accounts of mistrust in public officials, the press, and health organizations. The current findings suggest that we may see further instances of uncharitable evaluations as people are especially concerned for their physical health. Thus, the ongoing pandemic presented an ecologically relevant way of examining the role of disease prevalence on an issue of critical applied importance.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Libet experiment dominant in debates about conscious causation and free will; evidence base remarkably thin and high uncertainty for central time difference; some findings of the experiment seem more fragile than anticipated

A meta-analysis of Libet-style experiments. Moritz Nicolai, Braun Janet, Wessler Malte Friese. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, June 10 2021.


• Libet experiment dominant in debates about conscious causation and free will.

• Meta-analytical evidence has been lacking.

• Results of present meta-analysis largely consistent with original Libet experiment.

• Evidence base remarkably thin and high uncertainty for central time difference.

• Some findings of the Libet experiment seem more fragile than anticipated.

Abstract: In the seminal Libet experiment (Libet et al., 1983), unconscious brain activity preceded the self-reported, conscious intention to move. This was repeatedly interpreted as challenging the view that (conscious) mental states cause behavior and, prominently, as challenging the existence of free will. Extensive discussions in philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, and jurisprudence followed, but further empirical findings were heterogeneous. However, a quantitative review of the literature summarizing the evidence of Libet-style experiments is lacking. The present meta-analysis fills this gap. The results revealed a temporal pattern that is largely consistent with the one found by Libet and colleagues. Remarkably, there were only k = 6 studies for the time difference between unconscious brain activity and the conscious intention to move — the most crucial time difference regarding implications about conscious causation and free will. Additionally, there was a high degree of uncertainty associated with this meta-analytic effect. We conclude that some of Libet et al.’s findings appear more fragile than anticipated in light of the substantial scientific work that built on them.

Keywords: Libet studyVolitionIntentional actionReadiness potentialMeta-analysisFree willW-timeM-time

Thursday, June 10, 2021

In contrast to previous research that used surveys, we found little evidence that mask wearers have strong preferences for caring for others and equality for all; it is more about social identity

Powdthavee N, Riyanto YE, Wong ECL, Yeo JXW, Chan QY (2021) When face masks signal social identity: Explaining the deep face-mask divide during the COVID-19 pandemic. PLoS ONE 16(6): e0253195, Jun 10 2021.

Abstract: With the COVID-19 pandemic still raging and the vaccination program still rolling out, there continues to be an immediate need for public health officials to better understand the mechanisms behind the deep and perpetual divide over face masks in America. Using a random sample of Americans (N = 615), following a pre-registered experimental design and analysis plan, we first demonstrated that mask wearers were not innately more cooperative as individuals than non-mask wearers in the Prisoners’ Dilemma (PD) game when information about their own and the other person’s mask usage was not salient. However, we found strong evidence of in-group favouritism among both mask and non-mask wearers when information about the other partner’s mask usage was known. Non-mask wearers were 23 percentage points less likely to cooperate than mask wearers when facing a mask-wearing partner, and 26 percentage points more likely to cooperate than mask wearers when facing a non-mask-wearing partner. Our analysis suggests social identity effects as the primary reason behind people’s decision whether to wear face masks during the pandemic.


In this paper, we conducted a pre-registered, online incentivized lab experiment using a high-powered sample of Americans to test whether people generally use others’ face mask usage as a signal of social identity instead of innate willingness to cooperate during the COVID-19 pandemic. In contrast to previous research that used surveys to demonstrate that mask wearers have strong preferences for caring for others and equality for all [9], we found little evidence that mask wearers behaved more cooperatively than non-mask wearers in the PD game compared to non-mask wearers when information about their own and the other person’s mask usage is not salient. However, more consistent with social identity theory, we found strong evidence of in-group versus out-group bias based on mask usage during the pandemic. Non-mask wearers were 23 percentage points (p = 0.001) less likely to cooperate than mask wearers when facing a mask-wearing partner, and 26 percentage points (p<0.001) more likely to cooperate than mask wearers when facing a non-mask wearing partner. These findings are surprising, considering that there is little evidence that mask wearers were generally more cooperative than non-mask wearers in the scenario where the information about mask usage was not known to the participants.

Our results are notably different from recent studies that found zero social identity effects associated with COVID-19 vaccination. Kohn et al. [34] demonstrated that vaccinators and non-vaccinators generally treat vaccinators better in prosocial activities and, in a follow-up study by Weisel [35], that there is little evidence of the politicization of vaccination in people’s prosocial behaviours even when, like face masks, there are more Democrats than Republicans who are pro-vaccine. One possible explanation for this is that, unlike face masks, vaccination and vaccination intentions are not readily visible to both in-group and out-group members. Hence, despite evidence of political partisanship based on vaccination against COVID-19 shown in Weisel [35], without visibility of one’s vaccination status to others, it would be less likely that vaccination is going to be affected by politicization when compared to wearing face masks in America [1014].

Moreover, not only have we demonstrated that face masks signal strong social identity, we have also uncovered evidence of an in-group bias based on face masks that is completely orthogonal to one’s political identity and remains unexplained in our regression model. Despite the politicization of face masks being the likely root cause of the social identity effects, our experimental evidence seems to suggest that people may have evolved over time to assign face mask usage as a minimal condition required for favouring in-group members and discriminating against out-group members.

Our results, which provide new insights into the extent and the mechanisms behind the deep divide over face masks in America, have important public health implications. With the more infectious strains, e.g., the UK (B.1.1.7) and South African (B.1.351) variants, taking over and vaccination programs still rolling in America, public messages designed to curb the transmission rate by increasing awareness about face mask effectiveness in protecting themselves and others in the community from COVID-19 [36] are unlikely to change non-mask wearers’ world views and behaviours towards mask usage as doing so would signal disloyalty to their held political identity. A better public health strategy might focus less on the details of the messages and more on the ‘messenger’ or the information source. Studies in behavioural economics have shown how messengers who are authority figures, share similar characteristics with and are likable to the target individuals, tend to be more successful in getting their messages across and, in turn, change individuals’ choices and behaviours [3738]. Given that part of the social-identity effects is explained by political identity, non-mask wearers might be more willing to listen to a message about face mask’s effectiveness from an authoritative figure in the Republican party or non-political figures who share similar characteristics or are generally well-liked by non-mask wearers. This could include, for example, family doctors of non-mask wearers and mask-wearing friends who share the same political affiliation as non-mask wearers. Future research could explore what type of messenger works best at reducing the social identity effects of face masks and, in-so-doing increase the mask usage rate in the United States and elsewhere around the world.

Finally, our findings, when viewed in conjunction with Korn et al. [34] and Wiesel [35], suggest that political partisanship based on health measures are more likely to lead to actual polarization in the take-up rate when the health measures in question are visible and salient to the individual and others in the community. Given the recent political discussions on vaccine passports [3940] and getting those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 to wear a sticker visible to others [41], our results suggest that such efforts might lead to the unintended politicization of vaccinations, which would inevitably undermine the large-scale vaccination efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Like all studies in social sciences, our study is not without limitations. One concern is the external validity of our findings. While it has been shown that people can easily identify PD games and play according to the game theory in the lab [42], it is possible that the same individuals may behave differently when facing a similar social dilemma in the real-world. It also remains to be seen whether our results can be generalised to other types of health measures such as vaccine passports and social distancing—scenarios where the stakes are large and interactions are repeated across countries and stages of the pandemic. Nonetheless, we have no reason to believe that the results depend on other characteristics of the subjects, materials, or context that are not already accounted for in the current study.