Thursday, January 28, 2021

Rolf Degen summarizing... Our memory helps preserve a rosy view, wiping out inconvenient truths about ourselves

Optimistic Amnesia: How Online and Offline Processing Shape Belief Updating and Memory Biases in Immediate and Long-Term Optimism Biases. Ziqing Yao, Xuanyi Lin, Xiaoqing Hu. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, nsab011, January 27 2021.

Rolf Degen's take: Our memory helps preserve a rosy view, wiping out inconvenient truths about ourselves.

Abstract: When people are confronted with feedback that counters their prior beliefs, they preferentially rely on desirable rather than undesirable feedback in belief updating, i.e., an optimism bias. In two pre-registered EEG studies employing an adverse life event probability estimation task, we investigated the neurocognitive processes that support the formation and the change of optimism biases in immediate and 24-hour delayed tests. We found that optimistic belief updating biases not only emerged immediately, but also became significantly larger after 24 hours, suggesting an active role of valence-dependent offline consolidation processes in the change of optimism biases. Participants also showed optimistic memory biases: they were less accurate in remembering undesirable than desirable feedback probabilities, with inferior memories of undesirable feedback associated with lower belief updating in the delayed test. Examining event-related brain potentials (ERPs) revealed that desirability of feedback biased initial encoding: desirable feedback elicited larger P300s than undesirable feedback, with larger P300 amplitudes predicting both higher belief updating and memory accuracies. These results suggest that desirability of feedback could bias both online and offline memory-related processes such as encoding and consolidation, with both processes contributing to the formation and change of optimism biases.

Keywords: optimism bias, belief updating, offline processing, P300, motivated cognition


Encountering feedback that challenges one’s prior beliefs, people preferentially rely on desirable

than undesirable feedback to guide belief updating, i.e., the optimism bias (Dricu et al., 2020;

Sharot & Garrett, 2016; Sharot et al., 2011). Here, we provide novel evidence that optimism

biases are partially driven by shallower encoding and inferior memories of undesirable versus

desirable feedback, i.e., an optimistic amnesia effect. Moreover, we observed that optimistic

updating biases became larger over time, with preferential retention of updating in the desirable

condition and declined updating in the undesirable condition. Desirability of feedback

consistently modulated parietal P300 brain activities that may indicate encoding depth, with

larger P300s for desirable than undesirable probability feedback.

The present research provides the first evidence that optimism biases become larger over

24 hours. This finding is noteworthy because it suggests that the desirability of feedback not only

influences online attention/encoding-related processes but also biases offline consolidation

processes. A closer inspection of our data suggested that over time, belief updating, and

memories of desirable feedback were largely preserved, whereas updating and memories

significantly declined for undesirable feedback. These findings contribute to a growing literature

suggesting that motivation (e.g., valence, reward) could bias offline consolidation processes and

then influence long-term judgments (Payne & Kensinger, 2018; Rasch & Born, 2013; Stickgold

& Walker, 2013).

Our findings that belief updating and memories changed more significantly in the

undesirable but not in the desirable condition provide additional evidence that optimism bias is

primarily driven by insufficient updating when receiving undesirable feedback (Eil & Rao, 2011;

Sharot et al., 2011). Prior research found that self-related undesirable updating was not only

lower than self-related desirable updating but also lower than other-related updating in general

(Kuzmanovic et al., 2016). Moreover, aging participants showed reduced belief updating

following undesirable feedback compared to young adults, leading to larger optimism biases

(Chowdhury et al., 2014). In contrast, patients with major depressive disorder or individuals with

high functioning autism showed enhanced belief updating toward undesirable feedback relative to

healthy controls, leading to smaller optimism biases (Garrett et al., 2014; Korn et al., 2014;

Kuzmanovic et al., 2019). These findings, together with our novel results on delayed belief

updating and memory biases, consistently suggest that insufficient updating in response to

undesirable feedback is a fundamental mechanism that drives immediate and long-term optimism


Tracking ERPs allows us to investigate how the desirability of feedback biases

information processing along millisecond temporal scale. We found that the desirability of

feedback significantly modulated P300, and to a less extent, the LPP, but not the FRN. As one of

the most investigated ERP components, P300 has been associated with a range of cognitive

processes, including context updating, motivational salience, evaluation and categorization,

encoding depth, etc. (Azizian & Polich, 2007; Polich, 2007, 2012). In the present study, enhanced

parietal P300s to desirable versus undesirable feedback suggested that participants preferentially

encoded desirable feedback, which then exerted a greater impact on subsequent belief updating

and memory performance. Regarding the LPP effect, prior research suggested that LPP may

reflect in-depth elaboration of motivationally salient stimuli (Hajcak & Foti, 2020). Indeed,

multilevel analyses with trial-level data showed that enhanced P300 and LPPs to feedback

predicted larger belief updating and more accurate memories of feedback probabilities,

substantiating the putative role of the P300/LPP in encoding and elaboration processes (Kamp et

al., 2015; Otten & Donchin, 2000; Otten & Rugg, 2001; Rigney et al., 2020). These ERPs results

also suggest that differential processing of desirable and undesirable feedback can occur rapidly

after the initial valence processing.

We hypothesized that the frontocentral FRN would encode the desirability of feedback,

with larger FRNs elicited by undesirable versus desirable feedback (Heydari & Holroyd, 2016;

Yeung & Sanfey, 2004). However, the desirability of feedback was not observed to modulate

FRN. The insensitivity of FRN to feedback valence in the belief updating task raises the

possibility that estimation errors and reward prediction errors could reflect distinctive

computational processes of error tracking (Sharot & Garrett, 2016). Specifically, FRNs are

typically observed in reward processing tasks during which feedback conveys monetary gains and

losses (Hajcak et al., 2006; Heydari & Holroyd, 2016; Proudfit, 2015), whereas feedback in our

task indicated numerical discrepancies between estimations of probabilities. Specifically,

participants in the belief updating task needed to calculate the discrepancies between feedback

probabilities and their initial estimations to guide belief updating. Such high-level inferential and

calculation processes might make FRNs insensitive to the desirability of feedback in the present

context. Moreover, FRNs have been suggested to be involved in both error tracking and

behavioral adjustment. For example, in reward tasks, FRNs elicited by undesirable feedback (e.g.,

a loss) could guide behavioral adjustment to avoid losses (Cohen et al., 2007; Holroyd & Coles,

2002; Hu et al., 2015; Walsh & Anderson, 2012). However, in our belief updating task,

participants preferentially used desirable rather than undesirable feedback to guide belief

updating. The FRNs may reflect complex motivational-cognitive processes including both error

tracking (in response to both desirable and undesirable feedback), and the signaling of behavioral

adjustment (i.e., in response to desirable feedback). A mixture of these motivational-cognitive

processes may thus lead to comparable FRNs in both desirable and undesirable conditions.

Regarding the delayed optimism biases, although our results suggest that time delay and

offline processes contributed to the enhancement of optimism biases, it remains unknown

whether sleep or wakefulness may differentially influence belief updating and memory biases. On

the one hand, enhancement of optimism biases may be time-dependent rather than sleepdependent. Alternatively, given that sleep plays an important role in memory consolidation

(Rasch & Born, 2013), sleep-based consolidation may be necessary for optimism biases to

change. Future studies shall directly link sleep, offline consolidation processes, and optimism

biases to test this novel hypothesis. 

We could thus find no link between handedness and depression

Packheiser, Julian, Judith Schmitz, Gesa Berretz, Lena S. Pfeifer, Clara C. Stein, Marietta Papadatou-Pastou, Jutta Peterburs, et al. 2021. “Handedness and Depression: A Meta-analysis Across 87 Studies.” PsyArXiv. January 28. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: Alterations in functional brain lateralization, often indicated by an increased prevalence of left- and/or mixed-handedness, have been demonstrated in several psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders like schizophrenia or autism spectrum disorder. For depression, however, this relationship is largely unclear. While a few studies found evidence that handedness and depression are associated, both the effect size and the direction of this association remain elusive. Here, we collected data from 87 studies totaling 35,501 individuals diagnosed with depression disorders to provide a precise estimate of differences in left-, mixed- and non-right-handedness between depressed and healthy samples. We found no differences in left- (OR = 1.04, p = .384), mixed- (OR = 1.64, p = .060) or non-right-handedness (OR = 1.05, p = .309) between the two groups. We could thus find no link between handedness and depression on the meta-analytical level.

To Avoid More Political Violence, Allow Americans To Escape Each Other's Control - Let people join with the like-minded to reject officials and laws that don’t suit them and to construct systems that do

To Avoid More Political Violence, Allow Americans To Escape Each Other's Control. J D Tuccille. Reason, Jan 19 2021.

Let people join with the like-minded to reject officials and laws that don’t suit them and to construct systems that do.

Excertps, full text and links in the original URL:


We've built toward this point for years. While the Trumpists' storming of the Capitol was an unprecedented rejection of the established procedures for transferring power, it built on trends. From the contested, but peaceful, 2000 election, to the boycotting of Trump's 2016 victory by dozens of Democratic members of Congress as other opponents rioted blocks away, Americans have moved toward belief in the legitimacy of elections only if their side wins. At some point, we were going to see an outright refusal to accept a loss, which is what occurred on January 6.

And there's no reason to expect that people will lose their distaste for political defeat in future political contests.

How could Americans be accepting of electoral losses when many view their opponents as immoral and unpatriotic and see them as enemies of the country—to the point that the major factions are defined by their hatreds? "Democrats and Republicans … have grown more contemptuous of opposing partisans for decades, and at similar rates," notes a November 2020 paper on political sectarianism. "Only recently, however, has this aversion exceeded their affection for copartisans."

To a large extent this is because politics has become combat, with election victors using their control of government agencies to torment losers.

"It is more and more dangerous to lose an election," economist John Cochrane, a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution and an adjunct scholar of the Cato Institute, wrote in September. "The vanishing ability to lose an election and not be crushed is the core reason for increased partisan vitriol and astounding violation of basic norms on both sides of our political divide."

No sane people would consent to a political system that works as a weapon against them; they would try to escape its power. One of the virtues of the original decentralized American republic and its federalism was that if you didn't like the laws and rulers where you lived, you could go elsewhere.

"Foot voting is still underrated as a tool for enhancing political freedom: the ability of the people to choose the political regime under which they wish to live," George Mason University law professor Ilya Somin wrote in a 2012 paper since expanded into a book. "When people are able to choose their governments, political leaders have stronger incentives to adopt policies that benefit the people, or at least avoid harming them. And the people themselves are able to select the policies they prefer."

The "people" Somin references aren't the amorphous masses discussed in Social Studies classes as marching to the polls to jam the alleged will of the winners down the throats of the losers. He means individuals turning their backs on governing systems they dislike and picking those that better suit them.

But, as Chapman University law professor Tom Bell—another advocate of political choice—points out in his 2018 book Your Next Government?, "the United States has in recent decades failed to take states' rights seriously, making federal law supreme even in minutely local matters."

Moving does little good when the laws and "vanishing ability to lose an election and not be crushed" (as Cochrane put it) follow you.

Even reviving federalism would accomplish little when many states have larger populations than the whole country did at its founding and the major political divides run not between states or regions, but between urban and rural areas. Within localities are many people who feel trapped by circumstances in "enemy territory," subject to hostile rulers and laws they despise.

How do we make more palatable a political system that functions as a death match between mutually loathing factions who believe themselves—with reason—to be in peril when their enemies win control?

"If every man has freedom to do all that he wills, provided he infringes not the equal freedom of any other man, then he is free to drop connection with the state—to relinquish its protection and to refuse paying toward its support," Herbert Spencer famously argued in 1851. Fundamentally, Spencer wanted the right to exit that Somin favors, but without the physical migration of foot voting, [...].

But Somin not only favors radical decentralization to minimize the costs of migration, he also discusses arrangements whereby "individual citizens can change government service-providers without a physical move." Bell, too, believes that "for the same reason that nation states should and generally do allow the unhappy residents to emigrate, more consent-rich governing services would doubtless guarantee the freedom of citizen-customers to exit to other legal systems" without moving their locations.

In 2001, Swiss economist Bruno Frey proposed what he called functional, overlapping, competing jurisdictions—basically, governments that people choose among as if picking club memberships.

Frey echoed Belgian economist Paul Emile de Puydt who, in the 1860 article "Panarchy," advocated a system of non-territorial federalism under which people could freely register their support for, or withdrawal from, any political associations that gain sufficient support. "I hope we can all go on living together wherever we are, or elsewhere, if one likes, but without discord, like brothers, each freely holding his opinions and submitting only to a power personally chosen and accepted," de Puydt wrote.

These proposals expand on Spencer's "right to ignore the state" in empowering people to join with the like-minded not just to reject officials and laws that don't suit them, but to construct systems that do.

Their advocates emphasize existing precedents for choice in government. "People choose between governments every time they choose to live in a new city, state, or country," writes Bell. "Businesses and others are often able to choose for themselves which state's law will govern their dealings with each other, even if they do not actually reside in the state in question," points out Somin.

What if Americans could choose governing systems rather than having them jammed down their throats? They could embrace rules as limited or restrictive as they please, programs and policies that suit their tastes, and officials who resist treating election to office as opportunities to punish enemies. [...]

True, American politics has been moving away from allowing exit in recent years, centralizing power so that people can't escape and even attempting to continue taxing those who flee, as California lawmakers propose. [...]

We can have a future of increasing conflict between Americans who hate each other. Or we can make it easier for people to peacefully escape each other's control.

Receptivity to casual sexual requests: The more attractive the requester, the higher the proportion of agreement; heterosexuals were most impacted by the attractiveness of the target

Receptivity to casual sexual requests. John E. Edlund ,Dailyn Q. Clark,Alissa M. Kalmus &Aquene Sausville. The Journal of Social Psychology, Jan 27 2021.

Abstract: Research has long noted that there are differences between men’s and women’s responses to casual sexual requests. In this study, we sought to replicate and extend the Clark and Hatfield paradigm while exploring the influence of requestor attractiveness, sexual orientation, and two individual difference measures: sociosexuality (which is how open to sexuality a person is) and personal mate value (which is how high quality of a mate the person is). We found that attractiveness matters in the likelihood of a request being accepted (the more attractive the requester, the higher the proportion of agreement); sexual orientation matters for the overall proportion of responses agreed to (heterosexuals were most impacted by the attractiveness of the target), and that sociosexuality moderates the likelihood of agreeing to the requests (such that participants with higher sociosexuality scores were more likely to agree to requests).

KEYWORDS: Sexual orientationcasual sexsociosexualitymate value

Secular rituals might play a similar role to religious ones in fostering feelings of social connection and boosting positive affect

Charles SJ, van Mulukom V, Brown JE, Watts F, Dunbar RIM, Farias M (2021) United on Sunday: The effects of secular rituals on social bonding and affect. PLoS ONE 16(1): e0242546.

Rolf Degen's take: "A secular collective Sunday-ritual fostered social bonding and positive affect to the same degree as its Christian equivalent."

Abstract: Religious rituals are associated with health benefits, potentially produced via social bonding. It is unknown whether secular rituals similarly increase social bonding. We conducted a field study with individuals who celebrate secular rituals at Sunday Assemblies and compared them with participants attending Christian rituals. We assessed levels of social bonding and affect before and after the rituals. Results showed the increase in social bonding taking place in secular rituals is comparable to religious rituals. We also found that both sets of rituals increased positive affect and decreased negative affect, and that the change in positive affect predicted the change in social bonding observed. Together these results suggest that secular rituals might play a similar role to religious ones in fostering feelings of social connection and boosting positive affect.


Religious rituals occur in all human societies [77], and they seem to confer various benefits to those who take part [1]. It has been suggested that rituals are evolutionarily adaptive by helping foster social bonds [16]. This hypothesis has received some support from field research on religious rituals [30] and from a large body of research showing social bonds provide health benefits [3941]. It has also been proposed that attending secular rituals, such as Sunday Assembly meetings, may lead to improved wellbeing (e.g. [53]). However, whether the social bonding effect reported from religious rituals is also seen in secular rituals that mimic the behaviours of religious rituals had not been tested before. This study of participants from Sunday Assemblies provides the first evidence that the fostering of social bonds occurs in a secular ritual setting. We compared this to a matched group of individuals from four Christian churches. The results showed that social bonding improvements are of a similar level at both Sunday Assembly and religious ritual settings.

Follow-up analyses found that the increase in social bonding from before to after the Sunday Assemblies was positively predicted by the change in positive affect, as has been found for churches across the UK [30], but not negative affect. These findings are in line with the ‘broaden and build’ hypothesis, which suggests that positive emotions increase the scope of one’s attention to others to allow for the formation of social connections, which themselves lead to improved mental wellbeing [193435]. This hypothesis has also been used to suggest that link between religion and wellbeing stems from changes in positive affect [3435], which in turn leads to protective social benefits, such as social support [36].

Stepwise regression analysis found that neither level of spirituality nor level of religiosity played a significant role in social bonding change, despite both variables having been related to wellbeing in the past [78]. This could be the result of the methodology of previous studies, which have often used attendance of religious services as a measure for religiosity itself [179], which could conflate the effect of ritual attendance with religiosity and/or spirituality. Diener and colleagues [36] have noted that the reported relationship between religiosity and wellbeing is conditional on social support and social structure. This may explain why religiosity did not directly predict social bonding change in either Sunday Assembly or church participants. Price and Launay [53] have specifically suggested that future research should account for the length of time one had been attending Sunday Assembly, to see if this could explain the wellbeing effects they reported. In the stepwise regression model, the length of attendance did not add predictive value for the change in social bonding in the Sunday Assembly participants. If, as Price and Launay [53] suggest, the improved wellbeing stems from social bonding, this may suggest that protective effects of participating in secular ritual could occur quickly. We must note, though, that we likely failed to detect this effect for Sunday Assembly participants because there were a number of people attending the ritual for the first time in the Sunday Assembly population, which was not the case with the Christian church participants, for whom we found that length of attendance predicted strength of social bonding. Future research should attempt to account for the effect of newcomers on social bonding during group rituals.

This work is the first to demonstrate that secular rituals, much like religious rituals, promote feelings of social bonding. However, we acknowledge that there are limitations to this study. Firstly, this study was not pre-registered. Given the changes suggested by those promoting Open Science methodologies since the advent of the replication crisis [8082], the methods and analysis plans could have been registered in advance of conducting the study. Though pre-registration was not done in this case, the full anonymised dataset and the research materials are provided in supplementary materials in accordance with other Open Science practices, and a power analysis was provided to support the sample size used in this study.

Another limitation is that we only conducted research with one type of secular ritual, the Sunday Assembly meetings. Sunday Assembly meetings are not the only secular ritual that mimic religious ritual, with other examples including the Church of Positivism [50]–still active in Brazil–and the Religious Humanism movement in the United States.

One avenue for future research is to conduct studies investigating whether the positive health effects found in those who regularly attend religious rituals can also be seen in those who regularly attend Sunday Assemblies or other similar non-religious rituals that mimic the behaviours of religious rituals, compared to those who do not attend such rituals. Examples of such positive health effects are better immune function and lowering levels of all-cause mortality [36], depression [798384] and suicidality [1]. Here, we have examined the role of ritual on social bonding. However, to better understand the mechanisms underlying the protective factors that have previously been related only to religious participation, future research could compare health outcomes from those who attend secular rituals to those who do not, while taking affect and social bonding into account. We also recommend that, much like in our research, social bonding factors be explicitly measured in future ritual and health research, as this may provide a more comprehensive understanding of the mechanism by which ritual attendance appears to improve wellbeing.

Future research can also look more widely at gatherings of secular groups, which are not intentionally ‘rituals’ but nonetheless may create a sense of connection to something bigger than oneself. A variety of gatherings may function as a form of ‘implicit religion’ [8587], such as sporting events where one feels connected to a team spirit [8889], thus creating social bonds in ways similar to religious rituals. Conducting research in such settings would allow us to better understand the nature and effects of ritual-like social bonding in secular contexts.

Europe & marriage of the unequals: Authors confirm the decline of hypergamy as women gain advantage in education, with only 4 countries out of 27 showing some remnants of a male educational lead

Educational assortative mating and the decline of hypergamy in 27 European countries: An examination of trends through cohorts. Dávid Erát. Demographic Research, Vol 44, pp 157–188. Jan 28 2021, doi 10.4054/DemRes.2021.44.7


Background: Theories of partner selection emphasize the principal role of available partners in the relationship market. As education is a common socioeconomic attribute through which individuals choose a mate, macrostructure theory highlights the importance of the asymmetric change in educational attainment seen in Europe. As women increasingly participate in tertiary education, this restructuring might result in the decline of traditional hypergamous unions.

Objective: We aim to verify previous results confirming the decline of educational hypergamy and the rise of hypogamy, which has been found to be related to women’s growing educational advantage. We also wish to provide a current picture of this process in Europe by looking at the youngest cohort available during the analysis.

Methods: We pooled nine waves of the European Social Survey and examined trends in seven cohorts. Apart from simple percentage differences in education, we reconstructed the indices of female educational advantage (F-index) and the prevalence of hypergamy (H-index), with provided correlation statistics and fitted linear trend lines.

Results: Our results corroborated the findings of previous multi-country analyses. In nearly all selected countries, women were more present in higher education than men, resulting in a uniform increase in the female educational advantage. Parallel to this, hypergamy declined through the cohorts, which correlated with women’s emerging educational lead.

Contribution: Our results verify the findings from previous years, using a newer dataset and detailed cohort perspective, and confirm the decline of hypergamy as women gain advantage in education, with only four countries out of 27 showing some remnants of a male educational lead.

KEYWORDS: assortative mating, education, hypogamy, macrostructure, partner selection, relationship formation, relationship market

People more receptive to bullshit grossly overestimate their ability to detect it and believe they are better able to detect it than others (i.e., “bullshit blind spot”)

A bullshit blind spot? Dunning-Kruger effects in bullshit detection. Shane Littrell and Jonathan Fugelsang. Waterloo Univ., Jan 2021.

Rolf Degen's take: "People least able to detect bullshit believe they are better at it than everyone else."


• People are often confident that they are not easily misled (i.e., they have good “bullshit

detectors”). However, their BS detection confidence may not relate to their actual ability.

• Past work has shown that people who engage in bullshitting more frequently are

metacognitively less able to distinguish bullshit from non-bullshit, suggesting that some

people may be unaware of their susceptibility to misleading information.

• We examined the extent to which a person’s confidence in their BS detection abilities is

related to actual accuracy on a BS detection task as well as how they feel their detection

ability compares to the ability of others.

• We also examined the associations of these variables with bullshitting frequency and


• We followed up in Study 2 by investigating whether one’s bullshit detection ability is

perceived to be an intuitive or reflective process.