Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Data show that while the food and beverage service sector as a whole grew by 17.7%, the bar sector decreased by 10.5%; the food and beverage service industry declined in 28 of 30 municipalities under study

Mattson, Greggor. 2021. “The Decline of Bars and Drinking Establishments, 2006-2016.” SocArXiv. February 2. doi:10.31235/osf.io/jrpnd

Abstract: The growth of the food and beverage service industry in the 2010s obscured the decline of one of its sectors: bars and drinking establishments with limited food offerings. This research note presents 2006-2016 data from the U.S. Census Bureau County Business Patterns, a time period that captures industry peaks on either side of the Great Recession of 2008. Data show that while the food and beverage service sector as a whole grew by 17.7%, the bar sector decreased by 10.5%. City-level data from the 30-largest municipalities show much internal variation in both sectors, but the bar sector’s share of the food and beverage service industry declined in 28 of 30 municipalities under study. Restaurant industry growth in this decade ranged from 5.0% to 48.4%, while bar sector change ranged from -37.7% to an increase of 56.5%. The implications of this changing industry mix and its municipal variation are discussed for future research into the changing food and drink service industry, its role in urban revitalization, strategies for public health and safety, and the likely acceleration of these trends due to COVID-19.

Observers can gaze upon an image, process enough of that image to identify it, but completely fail to notice drastic changes to the periphery of that image

Cohen, M. A., Ostrand, C., Frontero, N., & Pham, P.-N. (2021). Characterizing a snapshot of perceptual experience. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. Jan 2021. https://doi.org/10.1037/xge0000864

Abstract: What can we perceive in a single glance of the visual world? Although this question appears rather simple, answering it has been remarkably difficult and controversial. Traditionally, researchers have tried to infer the nature of perceptual experience by examining how many objects and what types of objects are not fully encoded within a scene (e.g., failing to notice a bowl disappearing/changing). Here, we took a different approach and asked how much we could alter an entire scene before observers noticed those global alterations. Surprisingly, we found that observers could fixate on a scene for hundreds of milliseconds yet routinely fail to notice drastic changes to that scene (e.g., scrambling the periphery so no object can be identified, putting the center of 1 scene on the background of another scene). In addition, we also found that as observers allocate more attention to their periphery, their ability to notice these changes to a scene increases. Together, these results show that although a single snapshot of perceptual experience can be remarkably impoverished, it is also not a fixed constant and is likely to be continuously changing from moment to moment depending on attention.


Observers can gaze upon an image, process enough of that image to identify it, but completely fail to notice drastic changes to the periphery of that image

Awe may lead to uncertainty & ambivalence regarding one’s attitudes, a form of epistemological humility, & that this in turn may promote reduced dogmatism and increased perceptions of social cohesion

Stancato, D. M., & Keltner, D. (2021). Awe, ideological conviction, and perceptions of ideological opponents. Emotion, 21(1), 61–72, Jan 2021. https://doi.org/10.1037/emo0000665

Abstract: Awe is an emotional response to perceptually vast stimuli that transcend current frames of reference. Guided by prior work documenting that awe promotes humility, increases perceptions of uncertainty, and diminishes personal concerns, across 3 studies (N = 776) we tested the hypothesis that awe results in reduced conviction about one’s ideological attitudes. In Study 1, participants induced to experience awe, relative to those feeling amusement or in a neutral control condition, expressed less conviction regarding their attitudes toward capital punishment. In 2 subsequent studies, we showed that experiencing awe decreased perceptions of ideological polarization in the U.S. vis-à-vis racial bias in the criminal justice system (Study 2) and reduced desired social distance from those with different viewpoints regarding immigration (Study 3)—effects that were partially mediated by reduced conviction. These findings indicate that awe may lead to uncertainty and ambivalence regarding one’s attitudes, a form of epistemological humility, and that this in turn may promote reduced dogmatism and increased perceptions of social cohesion.

Psychopathic people were generally interested in having one-night stands, seemingly without concern for the personality traits of the other person involved

Negative traits, positive assortment: Revisiting the Dark Triad and a preference for similar others. Cameron S. Kay. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, February 2, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1177/0265407521989820

Abstract: Across two studies (N TOTAL = 933), a person’s willingness to engage in a relationship with those scoring high in each of the Dark Triad traits (i.e., Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy) was examined as a function of their own levels of the Dark Triad traits and the relationship type in question (i.e., a one-night stand, a dating relationship, or a marriage). There were three notable findings. First, those scoring high in Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy were more willing to engage in a relationship with a person who was also high in Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy, respectively. Second, as the commitment level of the relationship increased, so did a narcissistic individual’s willingness to engage in a relationship with a fellow narcissist. Third, psychopathic people were generally interested in having one-night stands, seemingly without concern for the personality traits of the other person involved. Results are discussed in relation to assortative mating.

Keywords Dark Triad, long-term relationships, Machiavellianism, narcissism, personality, positive assortment, psychopathy, short-term relationships

Auditory Agnosia With Anosognosia

Auditory Agnosia With Anosognosia. Maja Klarendić et al. Cortex, February 2 2021. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cortex.2020.12.025

Abstract: A 66-year-old female medical doctor suffered two consecutive cardioembolic strokes, initially affecting the right frontal lobe and the right insula, followed by a lesion in the left temporal lobe. The patient presented with distinctive phenomenology of general auditory agnosia with anosognosia for the deficit. She did not understand verbal commands and her answers to oral questions were fluent but unrelated to the topic. However, she was able to correctly answer written questions, name objects, and fluently describe their purpose, which is characteristic for verbal auditory agnosia. She was also unable to recognise environmental sounds or to recognise and repeat any melody. This inability is suggestive of environmental sound agnosia and amusia, respectively. Surprisingly, she was not aware of the problems, not asking any questions regarding her symptoms, and avoiding discussing her inability to understand spoken language, which is indicative of anosognosia. The deficits in our patient evolved from generalized AA with distinct pattern of recovery. The verbal auditory agnosia was the first to resolve, followed by environmental sound agnosia. Amusia persisted the longest. The patient was clinically assessed from the first day of symptom onset and the evolution of symptoms was video documented. We give a detailed account of the patient’s behaviour and provide results of audiological and neuropsychological evaluations. We discuss the anatomy of auditory agnosia and anosognosia relevant to the case. This case study may serve to better understand auditory agnosia in clinical settings. It is important to distinguish AA from Wernicke’s aphasia, because use of written language may enable normal communication.

Keywords: auditory agnosiaanosognosiaverbal auditory agnosiaenvironmental sound agnosiaamusia

Fluoride in Drinking Water: We estimate a zero effect on cognitive ability in contrast to several recent debated epidemiological studies

The Effects of Fluoride in Drinking Water. Linuz Aggeborn and Mattias Öhman. Journal of Political Economy, Jan 2021. https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/full/10.1086/711915

Abstract: Water fluoridation is a common but debated public policy. In this paper, we use Swedish registry data to study the causal effects of fluoride in drinking water. We exploit exogenous variation in natural fluoride stemming from variation in geological characteristics at water sources to identify its effects. First, we reconfirm the long-established positive effect of fluoride on dental health. Second, we estimate a zero effect on cognitive ability in contrast to several recent debated epidemiological studies. Third, fluoride is furthermore found to increase labor income. This effect is foremost driven by individuals from a lower socioeconomic background.

VI.  Discussion and Conclusion

Let us now return to our findings on cognitive ability. We claim that we find no effect of fluoride on cognitive ability, but is the estimated effect effectively zero? Let us monetize the estimates by relating them to earlier published findings on the predicted power of cognitive ability. We then choose column 5 in Table 4, where fixed effects and covariates are included. Our point estimate is 0.0028, with fixed effects and covariates included, for an increase of 0.1 milligrams/liter of fluoride on cognitive ability.

Lindqvist and Vestman (2011) estimate the return of cognitive ability on wages using Swedish registry data. Let us do a back-of-the-envelope calculation. Their results in Table 1 indicate that a 1 standard deviation increase in cognitive ability yields an approximately 10.4% increase in wages. We multiply their return to cognitive ability with our results for the effect of fluoride on cognitive ability. The estimated effect of an increase of 1 milligram/liter of fluoride translates to an 0.29% increase in wages.19 In conclusion, the close to zero and insignificant result that we estimate for the effect of fluoride on cognitive ability translates to a small impact on wages.

Another way to evaluate a zero result is to look at earlier studies that have found statistically significant results and compare the precision of the estimates. Our study includes more than 80,000 individuals when we do not include covariates or fixed effects and about 47,000 individuals with covariates and fixed effects. This may be compared with Green et al. (2019), which included around 600 observations, and the reviewed studies in Choi et al. (2012), where the number of observations was less than 1,000 for the largest study. Our confidence intervals are tighter than the 95% confidence intervals in all earlier studies.20

The remaining question is why our results deviate from previous studies, such as Green et al. (2019), that have considered similar fluoride levels.21 The main objection against Green et al. (2019) is that the choice of fluoridating water is an endogenous policy variable. Individuals do not exogenously live in fluoridated areas, making it likely that there are selection problems present. It is also noteworthy that Green et al. (2019) find a negative association only for boys and not for girls. However, we should note that Green et al. (2019) have access to urine data with actual fluoride measures within the body and several background variables that we do not have access to and that they also measured IQ at a younger age than we do.

Our results are policy relevant for developed countries with water fluoridation, given that water authorities seldom consider fluoridation above 1.5 milligrams/liter. How do our results relate to developing countries in terms of external validity? We have no reason to expect that the effect of fluoride on cognitive ability is dependent on the institutional setting. Fluoride is a chemical substance, and its effect on cognitive development should not be specific to Sweden. Choi et al. (2012) consider studies from China and Iran with fluoride levels similar to ours but also studies with higher levels, and they concluded an overall negative association. Although the mass of fluoride is within the range of 0–1.5 milligrams/liter in our data, we have some observations above the 1.5 milligrams/liter threshold set by the World Health Organization. The share of observations in this upper limit is still large in comparison to the studies reviewed in Choi et al. (2012). Figure A4 and table A7 focus on these high-level treatment effects and display no evidence of a negative effect of fluoride up to at least 3 milligrams/liter. These results should be interpreted with caution given that it is a selected sample, but it covers many of the papers in Choi et al. (2012) in terms of range. Given that our results deviate from studies reviewed in Choi et al. (2012), we believe that many of the studies capture other simultaneous hazardous treatments.

Our paper is about not only cognitive ability but also the effect of fluoride on dental health and income. Regarding dental health, we believe that our results are generalizable. Fluoride does improve dental health, and our natural experiment confirms this well-established finding in a long-term setting. However, we should remember that we measure dental health indirectly through the dental health care system in Sweden, with a large supply of dental care. The outcome where we expect to have the least external validity is our income measure, where the mechanism channels previously discussed are dependent on the institutional setting. It is interesting to note that our estimates on income, derived from rich and detailed population-wide data, are in line with Glied and Neidell (2010), who used American data.

Our findings add to the literature on the effects of fluoride on cognitive ability, but we have also broadened the understanding of the effects of fluoride by studying dental health (the first-stage relationship) and income (the long-term outcome). On the basis of the results, fluoride exposure through drinking water seems to be a good mean of improving dental health without negative effects on cognitive development for the fluoride levels considered in this study.

No Evidence That Hormonal Oral Contraceptives Affect Chemosensory Perception

No Evidence That Hormonal Contraceptives Affect Chemosensory Perception. Martin Schaefer at al. i-Perception, February 1, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1177/2041669520983339

Rolf Degen's take: Contrary to previous assumptions, oral contraceptives do not affect women's smell or taste perception

Abstract: The use of oral contraceptives (OC) in the form of a hormonal pill has been widespread for decades. Despite its popularity and long-time use, there is still much ambiguity and anecdotal reports about a range of potential side effects. Here, we addressed the potential effect of OC use on chemosensory perception. Previous research has almost exclusively focused on olfaction, but we expanded this to the trigeminal system and the sense of taste. We used Bayesian statistics to compare the olfactory, trigeminal, and taste detection abilities between a group of 34 normal cycling women and a group of 26 women using OC. Our results indicated that odor, trigeminal, and taste thresholds were not affected by the use of OC. Moreover, neither odor perception, nor taste perception was affected; all with Bayes factors consistently favoring the null hypothesis. The only exception to these results was odor identification where Bayes factors indicated inconclusive evidence. We conclude that effects of OC use on chemosensory perception are unlikely, and if present, likely are of no to little behavioral relevance.

Keywords: oral contraceptives, chemosensory perception, Bayesian, olfaction, trigeminal, taste, the pill

Previous research investigating the effect OC on olfactory sensitivity has been inconclusive. Odor sensitivity has previously been shown to be both positively and negatively affected by pill use, positively and negatively affected by duration of pill intake, and potential differences seem to have been odor-dependent (Derntl et al., 2013Kollndorfer et al., 2016Lundström et al., 2006Renfro & Hoffmann, 2013). Here, we revisited the question of whether OC use affects olfactory performance as well as assessed potential effects of OC use on trigeminal and taste perception. Our results indicate that OC use does not impact chemosensory perception. In fact, we considered a wide range of priors, and the null hypothesis (H0) was consistently favored over the alternative hypothesis (H1). Importantly, as trigeminal thresholds were not affected by OC, the mixed results from earlier research likely do not depend on differences in odor trigeminality of the odors used. Also, the only measure that indicated a potential effect of OC in our data was not a sensory function, but a measure that can be considered as more cognitive (cued odor identification). Notably, women have been shown to outperform men in odor identification—an effect not thought to be mediated by differences in olfaction but rather in general language abilities (Larsson, 1997, 2002; Larsson et al., 20052014). A recent meta-analysis on the effect of OC on cognition further demonstrated that there is little evidence that OC impacts cognitive functions with consistent evidence only demonstrated for verbal memory (Warren et al., 2014). These findings indicate that any potential effect of OC on odor identification may be due to an impact on language functions and not olfactory function per se.

The current study has, however, weaknesses including a rather small sample size of participants in each group (OC users and nonusers), thus making it difficult to reach definite conclusions due to low statistical power. Post hoc power calculations revealed that we had 0.47 power to detect a medium effect size (0.5 d) at alpha level .05 (Faul et al., 2007). Another limitation is that the type, and dosage, of the hormonal contents of the used OC varied, and we could not control the duration of OC intake. Both the dosage of the ethinyl estradiol content, and the duration of OC use, have been suggested to alter how OC usage impacts olfactory sensitivity (Derntl et al., 2013Kollndorfer et al., 2016). Future research should take this into account and also test a wider range of odorants, tastants, and trigeminal compounds. We tried to minimize the limitation in number of stimuli by including ecological relevant stimuli (food and non-food-associated odors) as well as use different chemical compositions (monomolecular odors and mixtures). Despite these short comings, we argue that our findings are strengthened by the following points. Earlier studies have only used frequentist statistics and were not able to test the strength of the H0 in instances when no differences were found (Dienes, 2014). Moreover, previous studies have found an effect of OC use on olfactory sensitivity when assessing very specific outcomes (e.g., the sensitivity for a specific odor, the influence of hormone dosage of the OC content, the duration of pill intake, which menstrual phase the women in the control group were in, etc.), with no general or broader effects consistently shown.

In summary, we conclude that an effect of OC use on chemosensory perception is unlikely and, if present, presumably of a small effect size with negligible ecological relevance. This should come as good news to OC users as based on these results there is no need to be concerned about altered chemosensory perception.