Thursday, January 21, 2021

Moral condemnation of recreational drug use seems related to a genetic trait in order to make more difficult a sexual strategy of being more into casual sex vs being more into a committed relationship

Karinen, Annika, Laura Wesseldijk, Patrick Jern, and Joshua M. Tybur. 2021. “Sex, Drugs, and Genes: Illuminating the Moral Condemnation of Recreational Drugs.” PsyArXiv. January 21. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: Over the past decade, evolutionary psychologists have proposed that many moral stances function to promote self-interests, and behavioral geneticists have demonstrated that many moral stances have genetic bases. We integrate these perspectives by examining how moral condemnation of recreational drug use relates to sexual strategy (i.e., being more versus less open to sex outside of a committed relationship) in a sample of Finnish twins and siblings (N = 8,118). Twin modeling suggested that genetic factors accounted for 53%, 46%, and 41% of the variance in drug condemnation, sociosexuality, and sexual disgust sensitivity, respectively. Further, approximately 75% of the phenotypic covariance between drug condemnation and sexual strategy was accounted for by genes, and there was substantial overlap in the genetic effects underlying both drug condemnation and sexual strategy (rg = .41). Results suggest that some moral sentiments are calibrated to promote strategic sexual interests, which arise partially via genetic factors.

Self-esteem's importance is higher in women (vs men); and there are cultural differences, it is higher in Euro-Canadians (vs Asian-Canadians)

Naïve beliefs about self-esteem's importance. Thomas I.Vaughan-Johnston, Jill A.Jacobson. Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 173, April 2021, 110635.


• Beliefs about self-esteem's importance are measured via SEI scale.

• SEI shows stability across weeks to months.

• SEI is higher in women (vs men); Euro-Canadians (vs Asian-Canadians).

• SEI relates to more contingent self-worth and extrinsic motivation.

• SEI related to sensitivity to social acceptance vs rejection.

Abstract: The importance of having high self-esteem is frequently debated in academic and public domains, and believing that high self-esteem causes good outcomes has recently been introduced as an impactful individual difference variable. For example, naïve theories about self-esteem's causal influence (e.g., believing that high self-esteem protects one's health) is related to an increased pursuit of self-enhancement. However, several critical qualities of the self-esteem importance scale (Vaughan-Johnson & Jacobson, 2020) remain unexamined, and we explore these questions across four main and two supplementary studies (total N = 1997). Self-esteem importance beliefs were stable across time and distinct from other self and motivational constructs. Consistent with expectations derived from prior research and theory, we found cultural (European-Canadian vs. Asian-Canadian) and gender differences on self-esteem importance. Finally, we demonstrate that high scorers on the self-esteem importance scale anticipate heightened responses to rejection vs. acceptance scenarios. Thus, self-esteem importance beliefs are chronologically stable, are relatively independent from past self-related variables, reflect known group differences from past research, and are linked with an amplified sensitivity to social threat versus reward. These findings support key theoretical claims made about the self-esteem importance construct, and suggest likely unintended consequences of promoting self-esteem's consequentiality.

Keywords: Self-esteemImportanceNaïve theoriesSelf-enhancement

Religiosity is associated with a more feminine intelligence profile: Evidence from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth, 1979

Religiosity is associated with a more feminine intelligence profile: Evidence from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth, 1979. Edward Dutton, Gerhard Meisenberg. Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 173, April 2021, 110640.

Abstract: Many studies have found a small negative correlation between religiousness and intelligence measured by IQ tests, and many others have found that females are more religious than males. Still other studies have demonstrated that the IQ profile of females is different from that of males, with females tending to be higher than males in some abilities and lower in others. This raises the intriguing question of whether religiousness may be correlated with a more stereotypically female intelligence profile. We tested whether this was the case using the NLSY 79 (N = 12,686). The NLSY shows that religiousness, using the proxy of regular church attendance, is not only higher among females but is also associated with a female profile of abilities even among males (r = 0.92). We argue that this is potentially consistent with evidence that Autism Spectrum Disorder is negatively associated with religiosity.

Keywords: ReligionIntelligenceAutism spectrum disorderMale brainGender

Individuals avoid asking sensitive questions due to concerns about others’ discomfort and about impression management, overestimating the interpersonal costs of asking such questions (a forecasting error)

The (better than expected) consequences of asking sensitive questions. Einav Hart, Eric M. Van Epps, Maurice E. Schweitzer. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Volume 162, January 2021, Pages 136-154.

Ungated iteration, from 2019: Hart, Einav and VanEpps, Eric and Schweitzer, Maurice E., I Didn’t Want to Offend You: The Cost of Avoiding Sensitive Questions (June 24, 2019). SSRN.


• Individuals avoid asking sensitive questions in both face-to-face and computer-mediated conversations.

• Individuals avoid asking sensitive questions due to concerns about others’ discomfort and about impression management.

• Askers significantly overestimate the interpersonal costs of asking sensitive questions.

• Reticence to asking sensitive questions reflects conversational forecasting errors.

Abstract: Within a conversation, individuals balance competing objectives, such as the motive to gather information and the motive to create a favorable impression. Across five experimental studies (N = 1427), we show that individuals avoid asking sensitive questions because they believe that asking sensitive questions will make their conversational partners uncomfortable and cause them to form negative perceptions. We introduce the Communication Motives and Expectations Model and we demonstrate that the aversion to asking sensitive questions is often misguided. Question askers systematically overestimate the impression management and interpersonal costs of asking sensitive questions. In conversations with friends and with strangers and in both face-to-face and computer-mediated conversations, respondents formed similarly favorable impressions of conversational partners who asked sensitive questions (e.g., “How much is your salary?”) as they did of conversational partners who asked non-sensitive questions (e.g., “How do you get to work?”). We assert that individuals make a potentially costly mistake when they avoid asking sensitive questions, as they overestimate the interpersonal costs of asking sensitive questions.

Keywords: ConversationQuestionsStrategic information exchangesImpression managementCommunication Motives and Expectations Model

Placed in the correct configuration relative to a metal fork, a metal knife appears transparent, with some observers experiencing a bistable percept in which transparency alternates with reflective appearance

The Fork-and-Knife Illusion. Blaise Balas, Benjamin Balas. Perception, January 20, 2021.

Abstract: We describe a transparency illusion that can be observed with an ordinary metal knife and fork. Placed in the correct configuration relative to the fork, the metal knife appears transparent, with some observers experiencing a bistable percept in which transparency alternates with reflective appearance. The effect is related to other illusory percepts that follow from careful placement of mirrored surfaces, but to our knowledge, it is unique in that the key feature of the illusion is how the mirrored surface (in this case, the knife) is perceived rather than how a mirror induces altered perception of other objects and surfaces. We describe conditions that do and do not affect the strength of the illusion and point out its connections to previously reported phenomena.

Keywords: visual illusions, transparency, material perception


Trade in sex is legal in Denmark, but a majority of respondents hold negative attitudes towards it, women finding transactional sex less acceptable than men do

Predicting Attitudes Towards Transactional Sex: The Interactive Relationship Between Gender and Attitudes on Sexual Behaviour. Michael A. Hansen & Isabelle Johansson. Sexuality Research and Social Policy, Jan 20 2021.


Introduction: This article explores explanations for attitudes towards the acceptability of transactional sex. The sparse research investigating attitudes towards transactional sex uncovers a link between gender equality, or feminism, and a lack of support for the trade in sex. However, there are no research agendas that attempt to explain variance in attitudes towards transactional sex where support for gender equality is widespread throughout a population.

Methods: We estimate regression models utilizing the 2017 Danish Values Survey (Den Danske Værdiundersøgelse) in order to predict views on the acceptability of transactional sex.

Results: While the trade in sex is legal in Denmark, we find that a majority of respondents hold negative attitudes towards transactional sex, which conveys a lack of congruence between public opinion and policy. Further, gender is a powerful predictor of attitudes towards transactional sex, with women finding it less acceptable. In addition, the analysis uncovers that general attitudes towards sexual behaviour are the largest predictor of views on the acceptability of transactional sex. That being said, we find that men’s views on the acceptability of transactional sex are more of a function of their general attitudes towards sexual behaviour than they are for women.

Conclusions: The findings indicate that, unlike men, women appear to differentiate between their attitudes towards general sexual behaviour and their views on sexual behaviour that they may associate with negative societal implications.


In this study, we asked which are the influential factors on individual level attitudes towards the acceptability of transactional sex. At the beginning of this article, we argued that a better understanding of people’s attitudes towards the trade in sex is needed because the existing literature is limited. Another reason we pointed to for further research into this topic is that sex workers may face serious hardships as a result of negativity towards transactional sex. Moreover, we argued that a focus on individual level attitudes could assist in broadening the current debate regarding policies and how to best approach the sex trade and its related issues. Questions concerning policy are undoubtedly important ones, but so are questions about what shapes people’s attitudes towards transactional sex. By understanding what predicts individual level attitudes towards transactional sex, policy-makers and other key actors may be better equipped to address sex trade-related issues.

A nationally representative survey from Denmark inquiring about views on prostitution provided us with the possibility to explore attitudes in a country where it is legal to engage in transactional sex. Since the Danish population is quite ideologically homogenous (Holtug 2012), the case of Denmark made it possible to move beyond some of the explanations that scholars have provided when looking at divergent attitudes towards transactional sex, namely gender equality and traditional values. As our analysis demonstrates, there is a lack of variance in Denmark when exploring these explanations for differences in attitudes towards transactional sex. That being said, we were able to build on the findings of previous studies regarding gender (the one socio-demographic factor following a clear pattern in the literature) to look more closely at how gender interacts with attitudes towards general sexual behaviour. The results from Denmark indicate that diverging attitudes towards transactional sex may persist even when an increasing share of the population holds liberal attitudes and commits to gender equality. Other countries witnessing similar ideologically developments may want to consider this observation.

The findings that we present suggest that the majority of Danes (54%) hold negative attitudes towards the trade in sex. There is thus a lack of congruency between public opinion and policy in Denmark where it is legal to sell and pay for sexual services. Since negativity towards the sex trade may have adverse effects on sex workers’ lives, this incongruence is food for thought for anyone engaging in sex trade-related policy debates. That being said, in comparison with other Scandinavian countries, a larger proportion of Danes hold tolerant attitudes towards prostitution (EVS/WVS 2020). A useful next step would be to study the topic in a comparative context to see if further incongruences between public opinion and policy exist across Scandinavia.

We find that gender is the most important socio-demographic predictor of attitudes towards prostitution, with women finding it less acceptable than men. The most powerful attitudinal predictor is attitudes towards general sexual conduct. The interaction between gender and attitudes towards sexual behaviour is notable. On average, men who view non-committal sex as completely acceptable are twice as likely as their female counterparts to view prostitution as completely acceptable. The reason why women tend to hold more negative attitudes towards transactional may be because women are more prone to relate prostitution to negative societal implications, like the perpetuation of traditional gender roles and unequal power relations between men and women (Basow and Campanile 1990; Bernardo Ródenas 2001; Valor-Segura et al. 2011). Such associations may also explain why women are more likely to distinguish their attitudes towards general sexual behaviour from their attitudes towards transactional sex. Along the same line, the reason why men tend to be more positive towards transactional sex than women may be explained by the absence of negative associations ascribed to the trade in sex vis-à-vis men’s position in society. The fact that the sex trade largely caters to men may also play a role in accounting for this gender gap in attitudes.

While our findings contribute to gender theorizing, it would be fruitful to pursue further research into the gendered dynamics at play in determining individual level attitudes towards transactional sex in order to grasp their full make-up. One suggestion moving forward would be to pay close attention to how such attitudes interact with gender and attitudes towards other societal issues both nationally and cross-nationally, as attitudes towards transactional sex are likely to differ between countries. A second suggestion for future research into attitudes towards transactional sex is to include more nuanced survey questions in order to capture the complexity of the issue. A third suggestion is for qualitative studies to continue to deepen our understanding of the links between diversity of experiences, opinions and attitudes towards transactional sex, including those of people who do not conform to binary identity categories. 

We find that all analyzed dietary indices have a heritable component, suggesting that there is a genetic predisposition regulating what you eat

Genetic and Environmental Influences of Dietary Indices in a UK Female Twin Cohort. Olatz Mompeo et al. Twin Research and Human Genetics, January 18 2021.

Abstract: A healthy diet is associated with the improvement or maintenance of health parameters, and several indices have been proposed to assess diet quality comprehensively. Twin studies have found that some specific foods, nutrients and food patterns have a heritable component; however, the heritability of overall dietary intake has not yet been estimated. Here, we compute heritability estimates of the nine most common dietary indices utilized in nutritional epidemiology. We analyzed 2590 female twins from TwinsUK (653 monozygotic [MZ] and 642 dizygotic [DZ] pairs) who completed a 131-item food frequency questionnaire (FFQ). Heritability estimates were computed using structural equation models (SEM) adjusting for body mass index (BMI), smoking status, Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD), physical activity, menopausal status, energy and alcohol intake. The AE model was the best-fitting model for most of the analyzed dietary scores (seven out of nine), with heritability estimates ranging from 10.1% (95% CI [.02, .18]) for the Dietary Reference Values (DRV) to 42.7% (95% CI [.36, .49]) for the Alternative Healthy Eating Index (A-HEI). The ACE model was the best-fitting model for the Healthy Diet Indicator (HDI) and Healthy Eating Index 2010 (HEI-2010) with heritability estimates of 5.4% (95% CI [−.17, .28]) and 25.4% (95% CI [.05, .46]), respectively. Here, we find that all analyzed dietary indices have a heritable component, suggesting that there is a genetic predisposition regulating what you eat. Future studies should explore genes underlying dietary indices to further understand the genetic disposition toward diet-related health parameters.

Keywords: Dietary index heritability twin study and food preference

Rolf Degen summarizing... Across countries, men tend to exhibit lower total fertility rates than women

Male–Female Fertility Differentials Across 17 High-Income Countries: Insights From A New Data Resource. Christian Dudel & Sebastian Klüsener. European Journal of Population, Jan 20 2021.

Rolf Degen's take:

Abstract: Obtaining cross-country comparative perspectives on male fertility has long been difficult, as male fertility is usually less well registered than female fertility. Recent methodological advancements in imputing missing paternal ages at childbirth enable us to provide a new database on male fertility. This new resource covers more than 330 million live births and is based on a consistent and well-tested set of methods. These methods allow us to handle missing information on the paternal age, which is missing for roughly 10% of births. The data resource is made available in the Human Fertility Collection and allows for the first time a comparative perspective on male fertility in high-income countries using high-quality birth register data. We analyze trends in male–female fertility quantum and tempo differentials across 17 high-income countries, dating as back as far as the late 1960s for some countries, and with data available for the majority of countries from the 1980s onward. Using descriptive and counterfactual analysis methods, we find substantial variation both across countries and over time. Related to the quantum we demonstrate that disparities between male and female period fertility rates are driven to a large degree by the interplay of parental age and cohort size differences. For parental age differences at childbirth, we observe a development toward smaller disparities, except in Eastern Europe. This observation fits with expectations based on gender theories. However, variation across countries also seems to be driven by factors other than gender equality.

Conclusions and Perspectives

Based on a new, extensive database on male fertility in 17 high-income countries, we explore trends in the differences in the quantum and timing of male and female fertility. We find that, first, the level of male fertility relative to the level of female fertility can vary considerably across countries and over time. Male fertility, as measured by the total fertility rate (TFR), can be both higher and lower than female fertility; although in recent years it has generally been lower rather than higher. This observation is consistent with the results of Schoumaker (2019) based on survey and census data, and our further analysis for a subset of six countries shows that it also holds for cohort fertility rates (CFRs).

Our counterfactual calculations provide evidence for the claim that temporal fluctuations in the ratio between male and female TFR are often driven by age differences between partners and differences in postponement behavior, and our analysis of CFRs also supports this conclusion. Our second main finding is that age differences between fathers and mothers stayed constant or decreased in most of the countries in our study, except in the Eastern European countries and eastern Germany. While this general tendency is in line with expectations based on gender theories, the differences that currently exist across countries seem to be affected by more factors than just differences in gender equality levels.

While our findings indicate that male fertility has generally been lower than female fertility in recent years, this trend does not seem to hold globally. Schoumaker (20172019) showed that in contexts in which polygyny is practiced and populations are rapidly growing, male fertility levels can sometimes be twice as high as female fertility levels. His results suggest that this pattern is driven to a large extent by age differences between couples. This finding is in line with the results of our counterfactual analysis, which indicate that extreme cases tend to disappear when the fathers are assigned to the same cohort as the mothers, and that large gender differentials in fertility levels are often driven by differences in fertility timing. At the other extreme, the lowest TFR ratio reported in the literature is for England and Wales in 1973, at around 0.89 (Schoen 1985). The value we have found for eastern Germany, 0.84, is below this level, and might indicate that eastern German males have been experiencing what Schoen (1985) called a “birth squeeze”: i.e., in eastern Germany, the unequal number of men and women in the reproductive age range is having an impact on the fertility of men. Generally, the variation in TFR ratios we observe across countries and over time is not negligible. Country groups with cultural and/or political similarities seem to have more similar trend patterns. This finding requires further investigation.

The mean age differences between men and women we have detected in our data are close to the orders of magnitude found in other studies (e.g., Kolk 2015). They are, however, lower than the high values observed in some African countries, where mean differences of more than 10 years have been estimated (Schoumaker 2017). Nevertheless, the variation across countries and over time in our 17 high-income countries is substantial. This heterogeneity of age differences is somewhat puzzling. In particular, our findings suggest that while European countries that score high on the gender equality index have smaller age differences, Japan does not seem to fit this picture. Even though Japan scores low on gender inequality indices (World Economic Forum 2017), the age differences among parents in this country are the lowest we have found in our study. This finding requires further investigation. Another factor that might be important is the cross-country variation in the share of migrants and the parental age differences that prevail in their countries of origin. We are, however, unable to study this potential factor, given that for most of the countries and years in our sample, we are unable to separate births by nationality or migration background status. We thus leave the exploration of this question to future research.

Looking at gender differences in fertility postponement, we find that gender differences tend to decrease over time, except in Eastern Europe, where age differences have been increasing. In Eastern Europe, this process has been accompanied by a process of societal restoration (Fodor and Balogh 2010). We also find that in some countries (e.g., Finland and France), the mean age difference has been stable over the period for which we have data. Our comparison of countries suggests that the Danish case, described by Nordfalk et al. (2015), is among those with rather large gender differences in fertility postponement. More research is needed to explain this variation across countries.

It is difficult to assess to what degree the observed patterns reflect gender differences in fertility preferences with respect to both the quantum and the timing of fertility. Surveys in low-income countries designed to assess the ideal number of children tend to report that the ideal number is usually much higher than the number of children actually born (Esteve et al. 2020). Longitudinal research has also shown that individuals tend to adapt their family size ideals to the number of children they were able to have (e.g., Kuhnt et al. 2017). This implies that the ideal number of children is not only a reflection of people’s preferences, but is also moderated by triggers and constraints that affect their fertility biographies. For Europe, data from the Eurobarometer survey 2011 indicate that in most countries, men tend to report lower ideal family sizes than women (Testa 2012). These results are generally consistent with our findings, which show that men have lower fertility than women. In addition, our TFR estimates for 2011 are highly correlated across countries with the Eurobarometer results on ideal family size for both men and women (> 0.9). However, the Eurobarometer results also show that in most countries, the gaps between the ideal and the actual number of children are larger for men than for women (Testa 2012). This observation could be interpreted as providing support for the view that men might be less able than women to realize their fertility desires, which could, in turn, be a result of the sex ratio imbalances.

Regarding preferences on the timing of births, the Eurobarometer survey data show that across member states of the European Union (EU25), both the ideal age to become parent and the latest age at which a person should have children are higher for men than for women (Testa 2006). The ideal age to become a parent is on average around 2 years higher for men than it is for women (Testa 2006), with women setting the ideal age for men higher (about 27.5 years) than men themselves (around 27 years). For the latest age at which a person should have children, the gaps between women and men are even larger. Both women and men set the age deadline for women on average at around 41 years, while both men and women set the age deadline for men at around 46 years (Testa 2006). Billari et al. (2011) used data from the European Social Survey and found slightly higher mean numbers both for women (41.7 years) and men (47.3 years), with some variance across countries. These survey results are generally in line with the gaps we identified. They are also in line with our finding that fertility decreases for men as well after age 45, even though many men are biologically able to have children at ages above 45.

The main outcomes we study in this paper—the TFR and the mean age at childbirth—are not the only measures of the quantum and the tempo of fertility. For instance, the proportion of childless individuals and the age at first birth have also received considerable interest in the literature. While this research has mostly focused on women, a small number of studies have also included men (Paavilainen et al. 2016). However, one of the limitations of the register data we employ is that we cannot use them to calculate the number of childless individuals. In addition, analyses by parity, such as by first birth, are only possible for women, if at all, as none of the birth registers records the parity of the father. Moreover, the mean parental age difference is not the only measure of the extent to which the paternal and the maternal age differ (e.g., Kolk 2015). However, using other measures, such as the variance or the standard deviation of the age difference, requires information on the joint age distribution of mothers and fathers, which cannot be derived from the ASFRs we provide as part of the HFC.

The new database we created to study male fertility is not limited to the questions we have investigated in this paper. It can, for example, be used in macro-level investigations of associations between male fertility levels and important economic and social indicators, including gender equality measures. There are many influential publications that have studied these relationships among women (e.g., Brewster and Rindfuss 2000; Myrskylä et al. 2009), and comparing the outcomes for female fertility with the results for male fertility might provide important insights. Such analyses will likely further improve our understanding of the role of gender in current fertility trends. The database can also be used in comparative analyses of trends in the paternal age at childbirth. Advanced paternal age is an important predictor of health outcomes of children, and has been attracting increasing attention in recent years (e.g., Khandwala et al. 2017). Thus, the database offers many promising avenues for future research, and we invite other researchers to make use of this new data resource available as part of the Human Fertility Collection (2019).