Sunday, October 31, 2021

Reminder from 2010... Genetically, hunter-gatherer peoples of southern Africa, the oldest known lineage of modern human, seem to be, on average, more different from each other than a European and an Asian

Complete Khoisan and Bantu genomes from southern Africa. Stephan C. Schuster et al. Nature volume 463, pages943–947. Feb 18 2010.

Abstract: The genetic structure of the indigenous hunter-gatherer peoples of southern Africa, the oldest known lineage of modern human, is important for understanding human diversity. Studies based on mitochondrial1 and small sets of nuclear markers2 have shown that these hunter-gatherers, known as Khoisan, San, or Bushmen, are genetically divergent from other humans1,3. However, until now, fully sequenced human genomes have been limited to recently diverged populations4,5,6,7,8. Here we present the complete genome sequences of an indigenous hunter-gatherer from the Kalahari Desert and a Bantu from southern Africa, as well as protein-coding regions from an additional three hunter-gatherers from disparate regions of the Kalahari. We characterize the extent of whole-genome and exome diversity among the five men, reporting 1.3 million novel DNA differences genome-wide, including 13,146 novel amino acid variants. In terms of nucleotide substitutions, the Bushmen seem to be, on average, more different from each other than, for example, a European and an Asian. Observed genomic differences between the hunter-gatherers and others may help to pinpoint genetic adaptations to an agricultural lifestyle. Adding the described variants to current databases will facilitate inclusion of southern Africans in medical research efforts, particularly when family and medical histories can be correlated with genome-wide data.

Our review of recent studies finds a small-but-consistent gap in men & women's beliefs about their health risks related to the present pandemic; these risk beliefs are crucial determinants of whether individuals take protective measures

Gender differences in perceived risk of COVID-19. Andrew Lewis, Raymond Duch. Social Science Quarterly, October 29 2021.


Objective: We examine gender-based differences in perceived risks related to COVID-19.

Methods: We analyze published findings from COVID-related research on beliefs and attitudes about the health risks posed by the pandemic. We also design and administer a pair of online survey experiments (n = 502) to test if and how responsive men's attitudes are to information about male-specific risks.

Results: Across 16 studies, men consistently express lower perceived risk of contracting COVID-19 and less concern about the potential health consequences if they were to catch it. Our experimental results are mixed: Results for one information treatment indicate that men report greater relative risk of adverse outcomes. Men in one of the risk information treatments express less concern for their health if they were to contract the disease. Risk perceptions are positively correlated with self-reported propensity toward protective behaviors.

Conclusion: Our review of recent studies finds a small-but-consistent gap in men and women's beliefs about their health risks related to the present pandemic. These risk beliefs are crucial determinants of whether individuals take protective measures. Our experimental results suggest that informing men of male-specific risks associated with COVID-19 can reduce their risk perceptions 


A central concern of public health officials world-wide has been to communicate to the general public the risks associated with the COVID-19 virus. It is widely accepted, and our evidence confirms, that risk beliefs are correlated with behavior.

In order to effectively convince the general public about the risks associated with the COVID-19, public health authorities require a sound understanding of current beliefs about the virus and of the effective communication strategies they should adopt. This research note provides two important insights in this regard. First, we address the notion that there is a gender gap in COVID-19 risk perceptions. We conduct an extensive meta-analysis of recent research on COVID—19 risk perceptions. This analysis indicates that men generally have lower estimates, than women, of their COVID-related risks; and men tend to be more tolerant than women of those risks.

We conjecture that some of this gender gap difference can be narrowed by exposing men to information regarding the health dangers of COVID-19. The survey experiment is designed to test this proposition. A second contribution implements survey experiments designed to identify the effect of information treatments on men's beliefs about the risks of the COVID-19 virus. First, presentation matters; we observer stronger treatment effects for Experiment 2 that presents the risk information in a graphic format. In fact, none of the treatment effects are significant in Experiment 1 when we have subjects read a short discussion of the risks of COVID-19. Second, how messages are framed and communicated matters—in fact, information frames can have perverse outcomes. Our Experiment 2 treatment simply highlights men's increased risks of adverse outcomes from COVID-19—but the framing has the perverse effect of reducing self-reported concern about the disease.

There is no evidence in our two experiments to suggest that providing information about the risks associated with the COVID-19 will cause men to increase their risk assessments associated with the disease—in fact they might have the opposite effect. This highlights the importance of carefully crafting information campaigns designed to change risk perceptions. Future work could focus, for example, on framing this risk information in ways that are amenable to “identity-protective cognition,” such that men are less likely to view the treatment as a threat to their own self-perception. As Kahan (2007) writes, “it is not enough that the information be true; it must be framed in a manner that bears an acceptable social meaning.”

Newly self-employed people are overly optimistic about their future life satisfaction; this overoptimism also holds for successful entrepreneurs who remain in business

Are Newly Self-Employed Overly Optimistic About Their Future Well-Being? Reto Odermatt, Nattavudh Powdthavee, Alois Stutzer. Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics, October 31 2021, 101779.


• We study if newly self-employed people accurately predict their future well-being

• We use individual panel data to compare expected and the realized life satisfaction

• Newly self-employed people are too optimistic about their future life satisfaction

• The overoptimism also holds for successful entrepreneurs who remain in business

• We discuss reasons for the misprediction such as underestimating heavy workload

Abstract: The formation of expectations is considered a fundamental aspect of the decision process when people reason about entering self-employment. We evaluate the accuracy of newly self-employed individuals’ predictions of their overall future well-being. Based on individual panel data for Germany, we find that they, on average, are overly optimistic when we compare their predictions right after the status change with their actual life satisfaction five years later. This finding is robust to controlling for any time invariant personality traits like individual optimism. And it also holds for those self-employed individuals who successfully remain in business for at least five years. A possible reason for the biased prediction might be that they underestimate the heavy workload reflected in higher working hours than desired, as well as the decline in leisure satisfaction after the status change.

Keywords: Self-employmentoveroptimismlife satisfactionprojection biaspredicted well-being

JEL D83 D91 J20 I31

6. Concluding remarks

The formation of expectations is a fundamental part of the process when people decide about becoming self-employed. Our evaluation of the expectations and experiences of people who become self-employed in Germany allowed us to examine empirically some of the popular beliefs about the (well-being) consequences of self-employment. We made use of the large German Socio-Economic Panel including information about people's work environment, work conditions as well as their evaluation of their satisfaction with various aspects of their work and private life. Importantly, we studied people's predictions of how satisfied they expect to be five years in the future and compare these predictions with the actual realizations five years later.

We showed that, irrespective of their stable optimistic personality traits, people who enter self-employment tend to be overly optimistic about how satisfied they will be with their lives in the future. This overoptimism is prevalent even for the successful self-employed who manage to remain self-employed for at least five years, which suggests that overoptimism is not caused entirely by people mispredicting their own probability of success in the business.9 Rather, it is more likely to be caused by people putting too much weight on the positive work engagement and too little weight on the amount of workload when making a forecast about what their life would be like as a self-employed, which is consistent with findings in the affective forecasting literature (Wilson and Gilbert, 20032013). This is reflected in the evidence that self-employed people report lower leisure satisfaction and an increase in the number of hours worked that go beyond the desired level of working hours in the years after the transition. However, one promise of becoming self-employed seems to come true, namely that these people, on average, report an increase in autonomy in their occupational actions.

There are several limitations to drawing general welfare implications from our findings. First, although our results suggest that some people might only have entered self-employment due to overoptimism, the current empirical framework simply does not allow us to test such a hypothesis directly. Second, even if unrealistic expectations tend to be observed generally with the decision to become self-employed, people who take that leap but do not succeed may still gain valuable experiences from doing so. For example, first time failure might lead to a higher success rate when they run a self-employed activity for a second time. They may also become more satisfied when they return to paid employment as they might value a secure income and regular working hours more after the experience. Third, the observed overoptimism might reflect motivated beliefs (Bénabou and Tirole 2016) for which accuracy might not be the only objective as beliefs also serve an important purpose of motivating people so that they persevere with putting in effort to achieve goals. This instrumental aspect emphasizing the enhancement of self-efficacy is complemented by other motives as people might want to share beliefs in accordance with their peer group or their self-image. Fourth, the individual perspective also neglects welfare effects at the societal level. Successful as well as failed self-employment might contribute to the development of new products and services creating positive spillovers in society.

In future research, we need to better understand how the beliefs about the value of self-employed activities are formed and to what degree they influence people's decision to enter self-employment. In particular, it would be interesting to understand how the beliefs are related to the treatment of “successful” and “failed” business owners in society. This is an issue of entrepreneurial and self-employment culture but also the choice of legal institutions. A more complete understanding of how different institutional environments relate to actual as well as expected outcomes of latent and actual self-employed individuals will contribute productively to the policy discourse on self-employment and entrepreneurship.

Our findings challenge the notion that merely thinking about a romantic partner's success or failure has a substantial impact on implicit self-esteem; 78pct effect is smaller than in Ratliff and Oishi (2013)

Implicit self-esteem following a romantic partner's success: Three replications and a meta-analysis. Heather-Christina C. Hawkins, Tara L. Lesick, Ethan Zell. Personal Relationships, October 24 2021.

Abstract: Few studies have examined how social comparisons with one's romantic partner influence self-esteem. Ratliff and Oishi (2013) found that writing about a romantic partner's success versus failure lowered men's implicit self-esteem (i.e., automatic associations between the concepts self/other and good/bad). We conducted three replications of this research (two preregistered). In each replication, the effect of writing about a romantic partner's success was not statistically significant. Furthermore, a meta-analysis of our three replication studies yielded a small overall effect (d = 0.13) that was 78% smaller than the overall effect obtained by Ratliff and Oishi (2013). Our findings challenge the notion that merely thinking about a romantic partner's success or failure has a substantial impact on implicit self-esteem. Exploratory analyses, however, suggest that this effect may occur for men who are low in relationship satisfaction.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Why Are Relatively Poor People Not More Supportive of Redistribution? Evidence from a Randomized Survey Experiment across Ten Countries

Why Are Relatively Poor People Not More Supportive of Redistribution? Evidence from a Randomized Survey Experiment across Ten Countries. Christopher Hoy, Franziska Mager. American Economic Journal: Economic Policy. Nov 2021, Vol. 13, No. 4: Pages 299-328.

Abstract: We test a key assumption underlying seminal theories about preferences for redistribution, which is that relatively poor people should be the most in favor of redistribution. We conduct a randomized survey experiment with over 30,000 participants across 10 countries, half of whom are informed of their position in the national income distribution. Contrary to prevailing wisdom, people who are told they are relatively poorer than they thought are less concerned about inequality and are not more supportive of redistribution. This finding is consistent with people using their own living standard as a “benchmark” for what they consider acceptable for others.

JEL D12, D31, H23, I31, I32

Check also As economic inequality grows, more people stand to benefit from wealth redistribution; yet in many countries, increasing inequality has not produced growing support for redistribution:

Cognitive Barriers to Reducing Income Inequality. Joshua Conrad Jackson, Keith Payne. Social Psychological and Personality Science, June 26, 2020.

And Women’s demand for redistribution is higher; the gender difference appears only when the source of inequality is based on relative abilities, but not when it is based on luck; men are more overconfident on their abilities:

Overconfidence and gender gaps in redistributive preferences: Cross-Country experimental evidence. Thomas Buser et al. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Volume 178, October 2020, Pages 267-286.

And Due to patriotic indoctrination, the Chinese self-sacrifice for national interest and demand less redistribution:

Why is welfare provision unpopular in China? Alex C. H. Chang. Democratization, Jul 22 2020.

Regional psychological differences are robust and can reliably be studied across countries and spatial levels; ignoring the methodological challenges of spatial data can have serious consequences for research

Are Regional Differences in Psychological Characteristics and Their Correlates Robust? Applying Spatial-Analysis Techniques to Examine Regional Variation in Personality. Tobias Ebert et al. Perspectives on Psychological Science, October 26, 2021.

Abstract: There is growing evidence that psychological characteristics are spatially clustered across geographic regions and that regionally aggregated psychological characteristics are related to important outcomes. However, much of the evidence comes from research that relied on methods that are theoretically ill-suited for working with spatial data. The validity and generalizability of this work are thus unclear. Here we address two main challenges of working with spatial data (i.e., modifiable areal unit problem and spatial dependencies) and evaluate data-analysis techniques designed to tackle those challenges. To illustrate these issues, we investigate the robustness of regional Big Five personality differences and their correlates within the United States (Study 1; N = 3,387,303) and Germany (Study 2; N = 110,029). First, we display regional personality differences using a spatial smoothing approach. Second, we account for the modifiable areal unit problem by examining the correlates of regional personality scores across multiple spatial levels. Third, we account for spatial dependencies using spatial regression models. Our results suggest that regional psychological differences are robust and can reliably be studied across countries and spatial levels. The results also show that ignoring the methodological challenges of spatial data can have serious consequences for research concerned with regional psychological differences.

Keywords: geographical psychology, spatial analysis, MAUP, spatial autocorrelation, personality

Virtual Reality Erotica: Exploring General Presence, Sexual Presence, Sexual Arousal, and Sexual Desire in Women

Virtual Reality Erotica: Exploring General Presence, Sexual Presence, Sexual Arousal, and Sexual Desire in Women. Sonia Milani, Faith Jabs, Natalie B. Brown, Bozena Zdaniuk, Alan Kingstone & Lori A. Brotto. Archives of Sexual Behavior, Oct 25 2021.

Abstract: Virtual reality (VR) media using a three-dimensional (3D) camera facilitates an immersive experience compared to traditional two-dimensional (2D) formats. In this novel study, we used high quality, women-centered erotica and examined whether stimulus modality (VR vs. 2D) and point of view (POV: first-person vs. third-person) impacted women’s feelings of sexual presence (activation of sexual response induced by the perception of being present), sexual arousal, and sexual desire (dyadic and solitary). We also investigated the effects of stimulus modality on feelings of general presence (a sense of “being there”). Results from 38 women indicated that with medium to large effects, general presence, sexual presence, and sexual arousal were significantly higher for VR videos relative to 2D videos. Sexual presence was higher for first-person POV depending on the order of film exposure. A general trend toward increasing dyadic sexual desire over the course of the study was observed. No significant differences were observed for solitary sexual desire. These findings support the adaptability of VR media to sex research and show that it can induce feelings of sexual presence and presence more generally. That sexual arousal was positively impacted by VR erotica may have implications for addressing the limitations that accompany other stimulus modalities used to elicit sexual responses in women.

Compared to heterosexual women, gay men appeared to prefer higher muscularity in potential romantic partners, which was also associated with increased drive for thinness & muscularity and increased eating pathology

Appearance-Related Partner Preferences and Body Image in a German Sample of Homosexual and Heterosexual Women and Men. Martin Cordes, Silja Vocks & Andrea S. Hartmann. Archives of Sexual Behavior, Oct 28 2021.

Abstract: There is evidence that gender as well as sexual orientation can affect body image. In particular, heterosexual women and homosexual men seem to be more vulnerable to a negative body image compared to homosexual women and heterosexual men. One reason for this may be derived from the fact that heterosexual women and homosexual men try to attract male romantic partners: As men place more importance on physical attractiveness than do women, the pressure to fulfill the sociocultural beauty ideal is thus increased. The present online study investigated differences in appearance-related partner preferences and their associations with measures of body image and eating pathology in homosexual and heterosexual women and men. The non-representative sample consisted of 893 participants (n = 201 lesbian women, n = 192 gay men, n = 349 heterosexual women, and n = 151 heterosexual men), who completed silhouette measures assessing their perception and expectations regarding body fat and muscularity of their own body and the body of a potential romantic partner, as well as questionnaires on drive for thinness, drive for muscularity, and eating pathology. Overall, few differences in appearance-related partner preferences emerged between the four groups. However, compared to heterosexual women, homosexual men appeared to prefer higher muscularity in potential romantic partners, which was also associated with increased drive for thinness and muscularity and increased eating pathology. The present findings indicate that, irrespective of sexual orientation, women and men tend to share similar standards regarding their own and a potential partner’s physical appearance, potentially suggesting an increased hegemony of heteronormative beauty ideals in women and men in general.


The main aim of the present online study was to investigate differences in appearance-related partner preferences between homosexual and heterosexual women and men and their associations with body image and eating pathology. The partner preferences were examined from two complementary perspectives, incorporating one’s own appearance-related ideals of the body of a potential romantic partner and the expectations of one’s own appearance in order to attract a potential romantic partner. Both aspects of partner preferences were measured using a newly designed silhouette measure that differentiates between the body fat and muscularity dimension. Based on previous research, it was assumed that appearance-related partner preferences would be more crucial for heterosexual women and homosexual men, as both groups try to attract male romantic partners, and men appear to place more importance on physical appearance than do women (e.g., Legenbauer et al., 2009).

With regard to the self-reported body image and eating pathology, the present findings revealed a rather gender-specific pattern, with women displaying a higher drive for thinness and men scoring higher on drive for muscularity. This is in line with the existing literature on general gender differences in body image (e.g., Karazsia et al., 2017; Kelley et al., 2010). In the same vein, both female groups reported more eating pathology than did heterosexual men, but did not differ among each other (see Yean et al., 2013) or from gay men. In accordance with previous findings (e.g., Peplau et al., 2009), gay men in the present sample reported a higher drive for thinness than did heterosexual men, and thus appeared to be slightly more vulnerable to a negative body image, whereas a lesbian orientation did not appear to have a protective effect on body image, as homosexual women did not differ from heterosexual women.

In support of the first hypothesis, no differences in perceptual body image in terms of the estimation of one’s own actual and ideal body were found between gay and heterosexual men, which mirrors the findings of Fussner and Smith (2015). However, contrary to our expectation, lesbian women’s own ideal body was not more corpulent (i.e., with more body fat) compared to that of heterosexual women. Even though this non-significant finding was due to alpha correction, the size of the effect was extremely small and therefore negligible. However, the finding does fit with data from qualitative research revealing that lesbian women also experience considerable sociocultural pressure to meet the thin body ideal (Smith et al., 2019). One reason for this may be found in the observable trend of increased acceptance of homosexuality in Western societies and media (e.g., Twenge et al., 2015), which may in turn also lead to increased acceptance of heteronormative beauty ideals within sexual minorities (Ahmad, & Bhugra, 2010; Smith et al., 2019).

The correlation analysis also revealed that only higher estimations of one's actual body fat, and not lower estimations of one’s actual muscularity, were consistently associated with at least increased drive for thinness and eating pathology across all groups. As there were no differences in BMI within the two female and the two male groups, this finding indicates that, irrespective of sex and sexual orientation, feeling fat seems to be more negative for one’s body image than feeling not muscular enough (see Cordes et al., 2016). This seems to be especially true for younger participants of the present study, as the correlation analysis showed that across all subgroups, a younger age was related to lower body fat estimations with respect to one’s ideal body.

Regarding the hypotheses concerning the differences in the appearance-related partner preferences between homosexual and heterosexual women and men, there was little evidence to support our assumptions. In accordance with our hypothesis, gay men preferred a more muscular build in their potential male partners compared to heterosexual women in their potential male partners, which underpins the relevance of physical attractiveness for homosexual men’s partner choices (see Legenbauer et al., 2009; Murnen et al., 2015). In line with this, the correlation data revealed that only for the group of gay men was preference for a more muscular build in a partner associated with increased drive for thinness, drive for muscularity, and eating pathology. Whether high demands on the physical appearance of a potential romantic partner negatively influence one's own body image, or whether the opposite is the case, cannot be answered by the present findings. However, it seems quite conceivable that gay men who place high demands on the muscularity of a potential romantic partner may be attracted to gay men who have similar demands on their partner’s appearance. This could open up a vicious circle of mutually reinforcing partner pressure that may lead to increased internalization of the mesomorphic body ideal (e.g., Tylka & Andorka, 2012) as well as to increased self-objectification (e.g., Engeln-Maddox et al., 2011).

However, contrary to our expectations, gay and heterosexual men did not differ in terms of the body they believe they should have in order to attract potential romantic partners. This may reflect the increasing relevance of physical appearance and body image for men in general (e.g., Fiske et al., 2014): particularly in times when the representation of one's own body and the social comparisons with others via social media is becoming increasingly ubiquitous (e.g., Fardouly & Vartanian, 2016). Moreover, the present finding also fits with findings by Pope et al. (2000), who reported that men tend to overestimate the degree of muscularity that women supposedly find attractive. This may also explain why, in the present study, heterosexual men’s expectations of how they should look in order to attract a potential romantic partner resemble the expectations of gay men, even though women place less importance on the physical appearance of their partners than do men (Legenbauer et al., 2009).

Furthermore, also contrary to our expectations, lesbian women did not choose silhouettes of a potential female romantic partner with more body fat compared to the silhouettes chosen by heterosexual men. Moreover, lesbian women displayed expectations regarding how they should look in order to attract a potential romantic partner that were comparable to the expectations of heterosexual women. However, these non-significant results were due to alpha correction. Again, the present findings may reflect the above-mentioned increased adoption of heteronormative standards of beauty within the lesbian community (Smith et al., 2019). Beyond this, the present findings are also in line with a qualitative study in lesbian and bisexual women by Huxley et al. (2011), who concluded that same-sex relationships did not serve as a protective factor for women’s body image per se, but have the potential to do so if past experiences of appearance pressure in relationships were more positive than negative. However, with respect to correlation data in the present study, it is striking that the total number of significant correlations between the four partner preferences items and the measures of body image and eating pathology was the smallest in lesbian women compared to all other groups, which may indicate a lower relevance of appearance-related partner preferences for lesbian women’s body image.

This assumption is further supported by the current finding, in line with our hypothesis, that lesbian women reported higher body-related beauty ideals with regard to body fat and muscularity for themselves than for a potential romantic partner, which could be interpreted as some sort of appearance-related double standard (Voges et al., 2019). This double standard may indicate that lesbian women: while adopting socio-cultural or heteronormative beauty ideals for themselves: are less likely to apply those ideals to their partners, at least compared to homosexual men, which may culminate in less body image-related partner pressure (see Huxley et al., 2015). In contrast, gay men apply the same beauty ideal standards to themselves as they do to a potential romantic partner.

Several limitations of the present study should be mentioned. First, the groups differed slightly in age, with homosexual men being older than both female groups, and heterosexual men being older than heterosexual women. As the literature shows that body image in men varies across different age groups, with younger men reporting a greater desire for a lean and muscular body than older men (e.g., McNeil & Firman, 2014), it is conceivable that the differences found in the present study between homosexual men and heterosexual women regarding the ideal body of a potential romantic partner might have been even more pronounced if the gay men in the present study had been somewhat younger. This assumption is further supported by the correlation analysis, which revealed that only for gay men was age negatively correlated with the muscularity dimension of the BIMTM variable partner ideal: Younger gay men preferred a more muscular partner. Second, in the same vein, the groups also differed in their educational level, with homosexual participants reporting fewer years of education compared to heterosexual participants. Again, only for gay men was a lower educational level associated with higher body fat estimations of one’s actual and ideal body. Thus, it is possible that the lower educational level in gay men may have affected the comparison with heterosexual men. Third, especially in comparison to lesbian women, heterosexual women in the present sample were more likely to be in a committed relationship. Although the investigation of partner preferences referred to a potential romantic partner, it cannot be completely ruled out that the results of the present study were affected by the mental representation of one's own current partner, whose physical appearance does not necessarily have to match the physical partner ideal. However, a restriction to non-partnered participants would have lowered the generalizability of the study, which is already limited as the present findings were obtained from a non-representative sample. Fourth, the sample size of the present study was too small to detect possibly existing small differences. Therefore, it is quite conceivable that some of the results that fell prey to alpha adjustment would have remained if the sample size had been larger. Finally, future research in this field may also benefit from investigating partner preferences in women and men with a bisexual orientation in order to test whether appearance-related partner preferences vary as a function of one’s own gender and the gender of a female and male partner, respectively.

Backlash against mask refusal—Anti-mask discourse consistently occupied a marginal role in the public sphere, while backlash against mask refusal came to prominence & did not decline even as mask wearing behaviors normalized & partly depolarized

Scoville, Caleb, Andrew McCumber, Razvan Amironesei, and June Jeon. 2021. “The Politicization of Face Masks in the American Public Sphere During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” SocArXiv. October 29. doi:10.31235/

Abstract: This research shows how face masks became politicized during the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. While differences in mask wearing behaviors between liberals and conservatives declined over the course of the pandemic, masks remained controversial in the American public sphere. We argue that political divisions over masks cannot be understood by looking to partisan differences in mask wearing behaviors alone. Instead, we show how the mask became a political symbol enrolled into larger patterns of affective polarization, defined by animosity toward the opposing party. This study relies primarily on a combination of qualitative coding and computational text analysis of a large corpus of opinion articles published during the first 10 months of 2020 (n = 7,970). It also relies on supplemental analyses of social media data (from Twitter), the transcripts of major news networks, and longitudinal survey data. We show that backlash against mask refusal—rather than mask refusal itself—was the primary way that masks took on political significance in the American public sphere. Anti-mask discourse consistently occupied a marginal role in the public sphere, while backlash against mask refusal came to prominence and did not decline even as mask wearing behaviors normalized and partly depolarized. We argue that the mask refusal backlash discourse appealed primarily to liberals and show that it was particularly resonant with national political discourses. Beyond the case, this research demonstrates how to use media data to understand how a new set of issues and objects becomes integrated into broader patterns of political polarization.

Friday, October 29, 2021

The Light vs. Dark Triad of Personality: Contrasting Two Very Different Profiles of Human Nature

The Light vs. Dark Triad of Personality: Contrasting Two Very Different Profiles of Human Nature. Scott Barry Kaufman, David Bryce Yaden, Elizabeth Hyde and Eli Tsukayama. Front. Psychol., March 12 2019.

Abstract: While there is a growing literature on “dark traits” (i.e., socially aversive traits), there has been a lack of integration with the burgeoning research literature on positive traits and fulfilling and growth-oriented outcomes in life. To help move the field toward greater integration, we contrasted the nomological network of the Dark Triad (a well-studied cluster of socially aversive traits) with the nomological network of the Light Triad, measured by the 12-item Light Triad Scale (LTS). The LTS is a first draft measure of a loving and beneficent orientation toward others (“everyday saints”) that consists of three facets: Kantianism (treating people as ends unto themselves), Humanism (valuing the dignity and worth of each individual), and Faith in Humanity (believing in the fundamental goodness of humans). Across four demographically diverse samples (N = 1,518), the LTS demonstrated excellent reliability and validity, predicting life satisfaction and a wide range of growth-oriented and self-transcendent outcomes above and beyond existing measures of personality. In contrast, the Dark Triad was negatively associated with life satisfaction and growth-oriented outcomes, and showed stronger linkages to selfish, exploitative, aggressive, and socially aversive outcomes. This exploratory study of the contrasting nomological networks of the Light vs. Dark Triad provides several ways forward for more principled and data driven approaches to explore both the malevolent and beneficent sides of human nature.


Across four studies including a wide range of positive and negative outcomes, the Light Triad Scale (LTS) was found to be a reliable and valid measure of a loving and beneficent orientation toward others. While the Light Triad contrasts with the callous and manipulative orientation of the Dark Triad, the Light Triad was not merely the inverse of the Dark Triad. It appears that at least in terms of personality, the absence of darkness does not necessarily indicate the presence of light. As with the literature on positive and negative emotions (Diener and Emmons, 1984Watson et al., 1988), there appears to be some degree of independence between the Light and Dark Triad, leaving room for people to have a mix of both light and dark traits.

With that said, the Light Triad diverged from the Dark Triad across numerous outcomes drawn from both the Dark Triad and well-being literatures and tended to show stronger outcomes with self-transcendent and growth-fostering outcomes relative to the Dark Triad. Below, we’ll go into greater detail on the contrasting nomological networks of the Light vs. Dark Triad, thereby painting overall portraits of these two very different profiles of human nature.

Portraits of the Light vs. Dark Triad

First, we replicated a number of findings in the Dark Triad literature and extended these findings to the Light Triad. For example, it has been found that Dark Triad traits are correlated with greater childhood unpredictability (Jonason et al., 20132016), aggression (Pailing et al., 2014Dinic and Wertag, 2018Knight et al., 2018Paulhus et al., 2018), utilitarian moral judgment (Djeriouat and Tremoliere, 2014), selfishness, power, money, and sociosexuality (Jonason et al., 2008Jonason and Buss, 2012Lee et al., 2013Kajonius et al., 2015Jonason and Ferrell, 2016Balakrishna et al., 2017), and immature defense styles (Richardson and Boag, 2016). We replicated these findings and also found that the Light Triad is significantly correlated with the inverse of these outcomes.

Second, by also investigating a number of growth-fostering and well-being-related outcomes, we could see an overall pattern of findings that paints two very different portraits of humanity. We found that the Dark Triad was positively correlated with being younger, being male, being motivated by power, sex, achievement, and affiliation, having self-enhancement values, immature defense styles, conspicuous consumption, selfishness, and creative work and religious immortality as routes to death transcendence. The Dark Triad was negatively correlated with life satisfaction, conscientiousness, agreeableness, self-transcendent values, compassion, empathy, a quiet ego, a belief that humans are good, and a belief that one’s own self is good.

The Dark Triad was not associated with exclusively adverse and transgressive psychosocial outcomes, however, and some of the correlates of the dark triad may be considered adaptive, at least in limited contexts or “dark niches” (Paulhus, 2014). One example is our replication of the well-known link between the Dark Triad and short-term instrumental sociosexuality (Jonason et al., 2008). Researchers have suggested that the Dark Triad may have evolved precisely because of the reproductive benefits it conferred on our distant ancestors (particularly men) with these Dark Triad characteristics (Jonason et al., 2008). Regardless of the veracity of this evolutionary argument, depending on one’s goals, and the compatibility of those goals with one’s desired sexual partners, high sociosexuality is not necessarily an aversive psychosocial outcome.

The Dark Triad also showed positive correlations with a variety of variables that could facilitate one’s more agentic-related goals. For instance, the Dark Triad was positively correlated with utilitarian moral judgment and the VIA strengths of creativity, bravery, and leadership, as well as assertiveness, in addition to motives for power, achievement, and self-enhancement. Also, an unexpected correlation between the Dark Triad and curiosity was found, which was localized primarily to the embracing and deprivation forms of curiosity.

Interestingly, after controlling for Agreeableness and HEXACO Honesty-Humility, the Dark Triad demonstrated positive associations with various growth-oriented outcomes (e.g., empathy, compassion, quiet ego, and spiritual experience) that were negatively related to the Dark Triad before these antagonistic traits were partialed out. These findings suggest that the callous and manipulative core of the Dark Triad does not do these individuals many favors. It’s likely that the variance that is leftover once the malevolence-related variance of the Dark Triad is removed is associated with agentic extraversion, which may provide a protective factor for those scoring higher on the Dark Triad. This is in line with recent research on narcissism that explicitly separates the antagonistic and agentic extraversion facets of narcissism in predicting well-being (e.g., Kaufman et al., 2018).

In stark contrast, the overall picture provided by the pattern of correlations with the Light Triad was quite different than the Dark Triad. The Light Triad was associated with being older, being female, less childhood unpredictability, as well as higher levels of religiosity, spirituality, life satisfaction, acceptance of others, belief that others are good, belief that one’s self is good, compassion, empathy, openness to experience, conscientiousness, positive enthusiasm, having a quiet ego, and a belief that one can live on through nature and biosociality (having children) after one’s personal death. It is notable that the correlation between the belief that others are good and the Light Triad remained significant even after controlling for Big Five Agreeableness, suggesting that— as initially expected— this belief may be a particularly unique aspect of the Light Triad. Also note that we found a strong correlation between “Humans are Good” and the belief that “I am Good” (r = 0.51, p < 0.001, n = 194). This correlation might be worthy of further investigation in future studies.

Individuals scoring higher on the LTS also reported more satisfaction with their relationships, competence, and autonomy, and they also reported higher levels of secure attachment style and eros in their relationships. In general, the light triad was related to being primarily motivated by intimacy and self-transcendent values. Many character strengths correlated with the Light Triad, including curiosity, perspective, zest, love, kindness, teamwork, forgiveness, and gratitude. Note that the flavor of curiosity associated with Light Triad (primarily stretching) differed from the flavor of curiosity associated with the Dark Triad (primarily embracing and deprivation). Mature defense styles were also associated with the Light Triad, as were optimistic beliefs about the self, the world, and one’s future, as measured by the Beck’s cognitive triad. Individuals scoring higher on the LTS also reported higher self-esteem, authenticity, and a stronger sense of self.

In general, the Light Triad does not appear to be associated with any obvious downsides, with a few possible exceptions depending on the context. The Light Triad was not associated with assertiveness, and was negatively correlated with the motives for achievement and self-enhancement (even though the Light Triad was positively related to productivity and competence). In terms of character strengths, unlike the Dark Triad, the Light Triad was uncorrelated with bravery or assertiveness. Such characteristics may be important for reaching one’s more challenging goals and fully self-actualizing. Additionally, in line with our predictions, the Light Triad was related to greater interpersonal guilt— including survivor, separation, and omnipotence forms of guilt. While it may be adaptive to experience these forms of interpersonal guilt for facilitating relationships and repairing damage in a relationship, these forms of guilt may limit one’s ambitions for fear of succeeding while others remain less successful.

The Light Triad was also correlated with greater “reaction formation,” which consisted of the following items: “If someone mugged me and stole my money, I’d rather he be helped than punished” and “I often find myself being very nice to people who by all rights I should be angry at.” While having such “loving-kindness” even for one’s enemies is conducive to one’s own well-being (see Salzberg, 2017), these attitudes, coupled with greater interpersonal guilt, could make those scoring higher on the Light Triad potentially more open to exploitation and emotional manipulation from those scoring higher on the Dark Triad. Indeed, we believe further investigation of the social interactions between extreme light vs. dark triad scorers would be an interesting future line of research.

Nevertheless, taking all of these patterns together, the Light Triad appears correlated with a greater quality of life overall than the Dark Triad across numerous dimensions of well-being and growth. Again, we’d like to emphasize that no one is all Light or Dark Triad, and we each differ in our balance of these traits. Nevertheless, it should also be noted that the average light-dark balance showed a substantial skew toward the light side of personality, and extreme malevolence was rare in the samples we studied. Indeed, research has shown that, in general, people tend to view the ‘true’ self in others as both good and moral (Strohminger et al., 2017). Anne Frank may have been on to something in her quote at the beginning of this paper.


This study was limited in a number of ways. First, in the same tradition of the literature on the Dark Triad, the Light Triad was measured through self-report. While we do not see this as problematic in establishing a new construct, we would like to see more unobtrusive and behavioral measures of both the Light Triad and Dark Triad. For this reason, we included a dictator game that involved the distribution of real money, but more behavioral tasks would provide stronger evidence for the validity of these constructs.

Second, all participants were recruited from paid online survey platforms. While research has shown that the data collected from the platforms we used are generally representative (Buhrmester et al., 2011Peer et al., 2017), we think a fuller confirmation of the validity of both the Light Triad and Dark Triad would benefit from the investigation of more ecologically valid samples, such as criminals and “saints.” Additionally, further research is required to assess the generalizability of the findings to a wider range of cultures (e.g., non-English speaking countries), as well as races and ethnicities.

Third, construct redundancy is an issue. The same researchers who are not interested in the extra predictive validity of the Dark Triad over and above the inverse Agreeableness and the HEXACO Honesty-Humility facet will likely not be interested in the Light Triad. On the other hand, those conducting more granular research on the Dark Triad may be interested in the differences described in this paper. Additionally, those interested in well-being and positive mental processes more generally may be interested in the Light Triad. This study took the debate about whether the Dark Triad provides additional explanatory power seriously, controlling for these traits in various analyses. We found that many of the stronger first-order correlations with the Light Triad remained significant, though at a much smaller effect size, demonstrating the added predictive validity offered by the Light Triad. Also notably, Honesty-Humility was more strongly correlated with the inverse of the Dark Triad than with the Light Triad, while the Light Triad was more strongly correlated with Agreeableness than with Honesty-Humility, suggesting further divergence between these two constructs.

Future Directions

There are several future directions for research on the Light Triad. Most pressingly, further studies should replicate our findings demonstrating that the Light Triad Scale (LTS) provides useful information over and above the inverse of existing measures of the Dark Triad, Big Five Agreeableness, and the HEXACO Honesty-Humility facet.

Second, as noted above, further research on this topic might benefit from a greater focus on behavioral outcomes, demonstrating that these measures predict differences in behavior between predominantly Light Triad individuals as opposed to predominantly Dark Triad individuals. We believe that the workplace might be a particularly interesting context to explore the effects of Dark Triad and Light Triad individuals on teams, and their relative effects on levels of satisfaction and performance.

Third, research could be done on the occupations and life outcomes associated with the Light vs. Dark triad. Some research has found that individuals with Dark Triad traits are often skilled at climbing organizational hierarchies and negatively impact those around them (Mathieu et al., 2014). What kinds of occupations are most attractive to Light Triad individuals?

Fourth, there is also the question of intervention. Is it possible to enhance Light Triad characteristics? In the current investigation, we found a strong link between the Light Triad and the four main characteristics of a quiet ego: perspective-taking, inclusive identity, detached awareness, and growth-mindedness. Researchers are developing exercises to enhance these characteristics (e.g., Wayment and Bauer, 2017), and it’s an interesting question whether such interventions would also have an effect on Light Triad scores. We also found some evidence that experiences of unity, or self-transcendent experiences (STEs; Yaden et al., 2017a), are positively (though less strongly) correlated with the Light Triad. This raises the possibility that certain kinds of experiences could potentially influence these personality traits. While this is unknown, we believe this would be an exciting area of further study.

Fifth, there is the question of framing. In general, research on this topic ought to be a largely a descriptive endeavor. While we have attempted to be balanced in the foregoing discussion, there is little doubt that we believe that Light Triad individuals are more enjoyable to be around and likely exert a more positive net effect on the world. We acknowledge, however, that it is not our place to moralize these two sub-clinical, interpersonal orientations. Future research should bear this descriptive imperative in mind, and researchers may prefer alternative frameworks to describe the nomological network of these two interpersonal orientations. One alternative framework that is popular within the Dark Triad literature is life history strategy, which employs more neutral labels such as “fast” vs. “slow,” rather than our framing of “adverse” vs. “growth-oriented” (e.g., Jonason et al., 2012b). Therefore, we acknowledge that the overall patterns of results could be interpreted within multiple frameworks in psychology.

Sixth, while the focus of this paper was on the suite of traits that comprise the dark vs. light triad, future research is needed on the differential prediction of the three facets of the LTS: Kantianism, Humanism, and Faith in Humanity. Until such validation and/or further scale development is done, we recommend that researchers focus on the total score of the LTS, as the current studies showed that overall, the LTS is a brief, reliable, and valid measure of an important core of positive traits.

Nevertheless, the current version of the LTS included in these investigations should be viewed as a first-draft, and further studies on a wider range of cultures and over longer stretches of time will have to be conducted to improve the generalizability, reliability, stability, and validity of the Light Triad. Also, while the brevity of the LTS has its advantages, it might not be sufficient to explore the breadth of the Light Triad facets that we discovered. In future work, it might be helpful to go back to a larger pool of items and construct a longer measure.

Finally, just as the scope of dark traits has recently increased beyond the boundaries of the Dark Triad (see Moshagen et al., 2018Paulhus et al., 2018), the scope of the Light Triad may have to eventually be broadened to include further facets of the positive personality. Since our method of constructing the Light Triad Scale (LTS) was based on a consideration of the conceptual contrast to the Dark Triad, we acknowledge that there could be additional aspects of human beneficence that are not captured by the LTS. Ultimately, a combination of top-down and bottom-approaches will be useful to derive the full breadth of facets that comprise the light personality or the “light character” (Cloninger and Zohar, 2011Meindl et al., 2015Garcia and Rosenberg, 2016).

While informing other empirical approaches to studying the moral character, we hope our conceptualization of the Light Triad can also inform a number of philosophical discussions of virtuous character and moral behavior (for a psychology-friendly review of this expansive philosophical literature, see Miller, 2013), as well as more specific philosophical discussions of certain drawbacks to such a temperament, as in Wolf’s (1982) notion of “moral saints” and Schwitzgebel’s (2014) distinction between “jerks” and “sweethearts.”