Saturday, February 6, 2021

Humans tend to share food more generously than money and other objects: Preliminary evidence

Humans tend to share food more generously than money and other objects: Preliminary evidence. Agnieszka Sorokowska  Michalina Marczak  Michał Misiak  Anna Oleszkiewicz  Agnieszka Niemczyk  Monika Wróbel  Piotr Sorokowski. European Journal of Social Psychology, February 5 2021.

Abstract: Food sharing is an especially important component of human cooperation, trust and altruism, and certain characteristics of food as compared to other objects may increase the likelihood of food transfers to other individuals. Consequently, people should exhibit higher generosity when sharing food than when sharing other goods (like money or inedible items). We tested this prediction in a series of natural experiments. In Study 1, we found that people (N = 114) were more likely to buy a bread‐roll for a confederate dressed up as a poor‐looking person than to give money for a bread‐roll or money to this person. In Study 2, 239 participants were more likely to donate food than non‐food items such as hygienic products or school accessories to a social welfare center. Finally, in Study 3, 226 subjects could share perishable, edible items (apples), coupons for apples or inedible items (pens) with fellow students, and there were no significant differences in generosity between these conditions. Overall, our results suggest that humans might exhibit a food sharing preference in certain conditions, especially when they share objects that belong to them and when they have a choice between sharing food‐ and non‐food items. However, further studies are necessary to confirm this notion, explore the characteristics of food that make sharing it particularly probable and to understand potential mechanisms underlying this tendency.

What makes It Difficult to keep an Intimate Relationship: Clinginess was reported as a more common source of relationship strain by women, bad sex was reported as a more common source of relationship strain by men

What makes It Difficult to keep an Intimate Relationship: Evidence From Greece and China. Menelaos Apostolou and Yan Wang. Evolutionary Psychology, January-March 2021: 1–12.

h/t David Schmitt What makes It Difficult to keep an Intimate Relationship: Evidence From Greece and China..."Clinginess was reported as a more common source of relationship strain by women, while bad sex was reported as a more common source of relationship strain by men

Abstract: Keeping an intimate relationship is challenging, and there are many factors causing strain. In the current research, we employed a sample of 1,403 participants from China and Greece who were in an intimate relationship, and we classified 78 difficulties in keeping an intimate relationship in 13 factors. Among the most common ones were clinginess, long work hours, and lack of personal time and space. Clinginess was reported as a more common source of relationship strain by women, while bad sex was reported as a more common source of relationship strain by men. Fading away enthusiasm, bad sex, infidelity and children were reported as more important by older participants, while lack of personal time and space, and character issues were reported as more important by younger participants. The factor structure was similar in the Greek and in the Chinese cultural contexts, but there were also differences. In addition, there were significant interactions between the sample and the sex. For instance, for the non-monogamous factor, men gave higher scores than women in both samples, but the difference was much more pronounced in the Greek sample.

Keywords: singlehood, keeping an intimate relationship, mismatch problem, mating

Our analysis indicated that there were at least 13 factors that caused strain in keeping an intimate relationship. Among the highest rated ones were clinginess, long work hours, and lack of personal time and space. Women rated clinginess higher than men, while men rated bad sex higher than women. Older participants rated fading away enthusiasm, bad sex, infidelity and children higher, and lack of personal time and space and character issues lower than younger participants. Married people tended to give higher scores to several factors, such as fading away enthusiasm, than people in a relationship. The factor structure was similar in the Greek and in the Chinese cultural contexts, but there were also differences. For instance, the “Character issues” factor was rated higher in the Greek sample, while lack of effort was rated higher in the Chinese sample. There were also significant interactions between the sample and the sex. For instance, for the non-monogamous factor, men gave higher scores than women in both samples, but the difference was much more pronounced in the Greek sample.

Our study was designed with the purpose of identifying the most common sources of relationship strain among people who were actually in a relationship. For a factor to be rated highly, it had to be both frequent and strenuous. If a factor was frequent, but caused little strain, participants would probably tend to disagree that it caused them difficulties in keeping their relationship. Similarly, if a factor was a source of considerable strain, but it was rare, most participants would disagree that it caused them strain to their relationship. Nevertheless, if a factor was both frequent and strenuous, many participants would agree that it caused them strain to their relationship. In effect, at the top of our hierarchy were factors that were both common and strenuous.

Our findings indicate that there are no factors which cause difficulties to most people in keeping an intimate relationship, but most people are affected by one or more. More specifically, we can see that all the factors had a mean score below the middle of the scale, and frequencies close to 20%. However, more than 65% of the participants indicated that at least one factor caused them difficulties, and more than one in five indicated that four or more factors caused them difficulties. We also need to say that our data constitute a snapshot of the difficulties that people faced at the time of the study. Accordingly, although about one in three participants indicated that they did not face any of the difficulties examined here, they may had done so in the past, or may do so in the future.

In our theoretical framework, one main source of relationship strain is the adoption of a non-monogamous mating strategy. As indicated by the “Infidelity” factor, the adoption of such a strategy by one partner, if detected, is likely to trigger negative feelings to the other, which would make the continuation of the relationship difficult. As indicated by the “Not monogamous” factor, the adoption of such a strategy makes also being with one partner difficult. These factors however, were located at the bottom of the hierarchy, suggesting that they were not the most common sources of relationship strain. One reason is that, non-monogamous mating strategies are adopted only by a small proportion of the population. Another reason is that, people, when act on such strategies, take precautions not to be detected (see also Buss, 2000), and if they succeed in doing so, their mating strategy may not cause strain to the relationship. In effect, although infidelity is potentially a source of very strong relationship strain, it is relatively rare, and when it occurs, it is likely to go undetected, which could explain why many participants did not indicate that it caused them difficulty in keeping their intimate relationship.

On the other hand, the partner-monitoring mechanisms constitute a much more common source of relationship strain. In particular, the “Clinginess” was reported to be the most common source of difficulties. The “Character issues,” part of which was jealousy, was also reported as a common source of relationship strain. The “Lack of personal time and space” is the consequence of the functioning of the partner-monitoring mechanisms, and was reported as the third more common difficulty. These findings are expected, because these mechanisms have a preemptive function; that is, they protect people from having their partners to act on a non-monogamous mating strategy, and for doing so, they need to be always “on.” To put it differently, they could not have a preemptive function if they are triggered only when the partner is cheating.

Another reason that factors, such as the “Clinginess” and the “Lack of personal time and space,” top the hierarchy of difficulties is the mismatch problem. Mechanisms that give rise to clinginess have been optimized for a context where people were heavily dependent on their partners, so they had higher tolerance in being closely monitored. Similarly, the “Character issues,” the “Not making compromises,” and the “Violence and addictions” are also likely to reflect the mismatch problem, as traits, such as violent disposition and inflexibility, were more likely to be tolerated in the ancestral than in the modern context. Furthermore, since partners are relatively independent from each other, the contemporary environment requires more mating effort in order to keep an intimate relationship. Yet, mechanisms involved in regulating mating effort have evolved in the ancestral context where less of this effort was required, which could explain, why the “Lack of effort” was a common difficulty in keeping an intimate relationship in the contemporary context.

Long work hours was the most common relationship-resources depleting factor, ranking second in the hierarchy of difficulties. This finding probably reflects the reality that job demands in contemporary societies are high, requiring many hours to be devoted to work, which are deducted from the relationship. Children constitute another relationship-resources depleting factor, which was located near the bottom of the hierarchy. This rank is probably due to the fact that our sample was relatively young, so most participants did not have children. We would expect financial difficulties to arise as a separate factor, which was not the case. Similarly, Apostolou and Wang (2020) did not find financial difficulties as a separate factor causing difficulties in keeping an intimate relationship. One possibility is that participants considered financial difficulties to arise from other factors, such as having children, as Apostolou and Wang (2020) have found, or from the character of the partner, as indicated in the current study.

The “Fading away enthusiasm” and the “Bad sex” factors, have most probably multiple explanations. In particular, the adoption of a non-monogamous mating strategy may involve reduction in enthusiasm and sexual satisfaction with the current partner that would motivate people to seek other partners. Furthermore, in the ancestral context where people were heavily dependent on their partners, the levels of enthusiasm and sexual pleasure received from a long-term partner required for keeping an intimate relationship, were most probably lower than in the modern context where people are less dependent on their partners. Thus, mechanisms responsible for generating enthusiasm and for regulating sexual behavior, may not work optimally in the modern environment. In addition, relationship-resources depleting factors, may also be at play here. For instance, working long hours may lead to physical exhaustion, which in turn, would negatively affect the quality of sex.

Our original prediction that men would face more difficulties in keeping their relationship was partially supported. In particular, for the pooled sample, men scored higher than women, but the result was significant only if Bonferroni correction was not applied. On the other hand, our prediction that women would face more difficulties in keeping a relationship arising from the infidelities of their partners was not supported. One possibility is that men are more likely to adopt a cheating mating strategy than women, but they are more efficient in hiding it. Future research could enable a better understanding of the difficulties that infidelity causes in keeping an intimate relationship.

Age was also significant for several factors. The largest effects were for the “Children” and the “Bad sex” factors, with older participants giving higher scores than younger ones. With respect to the former, this effect is predominantly explained by older participants being more likely to have children than younger ones. With respect to the latter, quality and quantity of sexual contact may deteriorate as people spend more time in their relationship, with age acting as a proxy of time spent in it. Another reason is that libido declines as people get older (Travison et al., 2006), which has a negative impact on the quality and quantity of sex they have with their partners.

We also found that married participants tended to give higher scores to a number of factors than people in a relationship. The most likely explanation is that, when they first enter in a relationship, people are overwhelmed by emotions, such as romantic love, which lead them to overlook or tolerate factors that negatively affect the relationship. As years go by, these emotions reside and these factors become more taxing for the relationship. Thus, the more time people spend in a relationship, the higher the strain arising from different factors becomes. Most likely, participants who were married have spent more time in a relationship than participants who were not married, so marital status acted as a proxy of time being in a relationship. Future studies could disentangle marital status from time being in a relationship effects by measuring both variables.

Consistent with our original prediction, the factor structure was similar in the Chinese and in the Greek cultural contexts. There were differences however, between the two cultural settings. In particular, Chinese participants reported the lack of mating effort to be a more common source of relationship strain, than Greek participants. One possible reason is a wider use of dating applications among young people in China, which could lead them to believe that they can easily substitute their current partner, so they do not spend considerable effort in keeping their relationship (Ding, 2020Ya & Zhang, 2020). In addition, Greek participants indicated that character issues were a more common source of relationship strain than Chinese participants have indicated. One explanation is that, the Greek culture is more individualistic than the Chinese one (in Hofstede’s index for individualism Greece scored 35 and China 20 see, so traits, such as being selfish, are more pronounced in the former than in the latter.

Furthermore, there were significant interactions between the sample and the sex. More specifically, the sex difference in the “Not monogamous” factor was less pronounced in the Chinese sample. One likely explanation is that, in the Chinese cultural context, men outnumber women (Liang & Ni, 2018), which turns finding a partner more difficult for them. Such a difficulty may suppress an innate desire for variety in partners, something which is not the case in the Greek context where the sex ratio is balanced. The difference in the sex ratio may also explain why in the pooled sample the sex-difference for the “Not monogamous” factor did not pass the Bonferroni-adjusted significance level. There was a higher number of Chinese than Greek male participants, and if the sex ratio imbalance influenced the former in suppressing their desire for partner variety, then the pooled sex difference would be relatively small. In addition, the sex ratio effect, possibly explains the significant interaction between the sex and the sample for the “Not making compromises” factor. In particular, by being in scarce supply, women in China can be selective, and can afford to make fewer compromises than women in Greece.

One limitation of the present work is that it is far from sufficient for understanding the difficulties that people face in keeping an intimate relationship, and it should thus, be considered as one of the first steps toward this direction. In the same vein, given the complexity of the phenomenon, there are probably more difficulties that people face in keeping an intimate relationship that have been accounted by the present study. For instance, men are expected to earn more than women (Hogue et al., 2010); thus, a situation where a husband earning less than the wife may generate considerable strain to the relationship. Future research needs to identify and account for additional sources of relationship strain.

Moving on, we paid particular attention in developing a theoretical framework that would account for the observed difficulties. Still, this framework may need further development, which could involve incorporating arguments from other schools of thought. Further limitations include that our findings were based on self-report data, and participants may not have had a good understanding or may have been unwilling to be honest about what caused them difficulties in keeping their relationship. In addition, we employed non-probability samples, so our results may not readily generalize to the population. That is, it is possible that the recruited individuals were different from those who opted not to participate in ways that affect the generalizability of the results. Moreover, for the Greek-speaking respondents, the survey link was also forwarded by email to students and colleagues, so there is the possibility that some of those who answered the survey were in a relationship with each other, and thus, their answers were to some degree correlated. We do not think that this limitation had a considerable effect on our findings, because the bulk of the participants were recruited through promoting the link in social media.

Furthermore, our theoretical framework predicted cross-cultural consistency but also variation in the causes of relationship strain. Evidence from more than two different cultures is required for adequately testing these predictions, and future research needs to extend our work by replicating it in different cultural settings. In addition, the current study did not examine how likely each of the identified difficulties would be in leading to the termination of the relationship. Future studies could address this limitation by asking how each of the identified difficulties have actually caused people to terminate an intimate relationship.

In conclusion, we identified thirteen factors causing relationship strain. We have also found that these factors were similar in the Chinese and in the Greek cultural contexts, but there were important differences. Considerable more research is required, however, in order to understand this fascinating and complex phenomenon.

Do Lower Minimum Wages for Young Workers Raise their Employment? Evidence from a Danish Discontinuity

Do Lower Minimum Wages for Young Workers Raise their Employment? Evidence from a Danish Discontinuity. Claus Thustrup Kreiner, Daniel Reck, Peer Ebbesen Skov. Centre for Economic Policy Research, June 4, 2017.

Abstract: This paper estimates the long-run impact of youth minimum wages on youth employment by exploiting a large discontinuity in Danish minimum wage rules at age 18 and using monthly payroll records for the Danish population. We show theoretically how the discontinuity in the minimum wage may be exploited to estimate the casual eect of a change in the minimum wage of youth on their employment. On average, the hourly wage rate jumps up by 40 percent when individuals turn eighteen years old. Employment (extensive margin) falls by 33 percent and total labor input (extensive and intensive margin) decreases by around 45 percent, leaving the aggregate wage payment nearly unchanged. Data on flows into and out of employment show that the drop in employment is driven almost entirely by job loss when individuals turn 18 years old. We estimate that the relevant elasticity for evaluating the eect on youth employment of changes in their minimum wage is about -0.8.

Keywords: Minimum wage policy, employment, regression discontinuity

We observed 584 instances of sociosexual behaviour in chimpanzees in 3 years; all ages and sexes engaged in sociosexual behaviour; most sociosexual behaviour was between adult males

Sociosexual behaviour in wild chimpanzees occurs in variable contexts and is frequent between same-sex partners. Aaron A. Sandel & Rachna B. Reddy. Behaviour, Feb 2 2021,

Rolf Degen's take: Sociosexual behavior, including that between same-sex pairs, is a standard component of chimpanzee behavior

Abstract: Many animals engage in sociosexual behaviour, including that between same-sex pairs. Bonobos (Pan paniscus) are famous for their sociosexual behaviour, but chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) apparently do not engage in sociosexual behaviour frequently. However, sociosexual behaviour in chimpanzees may have been overlooked. We observed 584 instances of sociosexual behaviour in chimpanzees at Ngogo, Kibale National Park, Uganda during three years of study. All ages and sexes engaged in sociosexual behaviour, which included mounting, touching of genitals, and pressing genitals together. Most sociosexual behaviour was between adult males. Sociosexual behaviour was often during tense contexts, such as subgroup reunions and during territorial behaviour. Among males, grooming and dominance rank relationships do not explain patterns of sociosexual behaviour. Although sociosexual behaviour may be less frequent in chimpanzees than in bonobos, and bonobos remain distinct in their genito-genital rubbing, our findings suggest that sociosexual behaviour is a regular part of chimpanzee behaviour.

Keywords: genital contact; Pan troglodytes; mounting; same-sex sexual behaviour

Lay comments: Same-Sex Sexual Behavior in Chimpanzees Challenge Our Gendered Biases About Evolution. Michelle Rodrigues, 2021.

4. Discussion Sociosexual behaviour, including same-sex sexual behaviour, occurred in every sex- and age-class combination among chimpanzees at Ngogo. The most common type of sociosexual behaviour was mounting. Chimpanzees would also reach their hand to touch the rump or genitals of others and on rare occasions touch rumps or engage in genito-genital touching. Sociosexual behaviour occurred in multiple contexts. In nearly all cases for which we recorded the context, the context represented cases of tension, often due to aggression or the threat of aggression, including during food sharing, upon hearing neighbouring groups of chimpanzees, or prior to or after joining another subgroup within the community (Table 2). Sociosexual behaviour was variable among the Ngogo chimpanzees. It appeared to be most common between adult males. This may be due to the cooperative nature of male chimpanzees, and the tension involved during certain activities, such as reunions that involve the reestablishment of dominance relationships. Adolescent and young adult male chimpanzees were the A.A. Sandel, R.B. Reddy / Behaviour (2021) 19 focus of our research, so they may be overrepresented in the sample. Indeed, we have considerably more observation time on them than any other agesex class. However we frequently observed sociosexual behaviour between adult male pairs that were not the focus of our research. Despite our focus on adolescent and adult males, we recorded individuals in all possible age-sex class pairings engage in sociosexual behaviour including between sexually mature adult females (Table 1). Nevertheless, given our sampling procedure, females and infants are likely underrepresented. In fact, we likely underestimated the frequency of sociosexual behaviour in general, as such behaviours often occurred quickly and during somewhat chaotic events, including during aggression or just prior to the chimpanzees running toward a neighbouring group of chimpanzees, making it difficult to record. Some individuals appeared to engage in sociosexual behaviour more than others. Several adult males accounted for a large proportion of sociosexual behaviours. One young adult male, somewhat low-ranking but rising in the male hierarchy (Evans), mounted others 30 times, and only twice was mounted by others. Another adult male, middle-aged and relatively lowranking (Mulligan) was mounted nine times, and never mounted others. In fact, these two males engaged in one of the instances of genito-genital rubbing (Video 1 at 10.6084/m9.figshare.13546526). One of these males, Mulligan, was also involved in an unusual case of mounting in which he presented his rump to another male, and while the other male (Dexter) mounted him, Mulligan crouched down on the ground in a posture resembling that of females during a copulation. Other males that were over-represented in our sample included high-ranking adult males. It is possible that status and personality play a role in the frequency of sociosexual behaviour. High-ranking males may encounter tense situations frequently — competing for mating opportunities, sharing meat, participating in border patrols — instigating sociosexual behaviour as well as other forms of relationship regulation, such as grooming. In addition, some males may be more ‘nervous’ in general, and thus seek out reassurance from others. With regard to the prevalence of sociosexual behaviour in chimpanzees, it is possible that it is more common at Ngogo than other chimpanzee sites. There are more males at Ngogo than any other community that has been studied. At Ngogo, chimpanzees, especially adult males, engage in frequent cooperative behaviour, group hunts, and border patrols (Mitani et al., 2000; Mitani & Watts, 2001; Watts & Mitani, 2001; Mitani, 2009b; Langergraber et al., 2017). Being surrounded on all sides by other chimpanzee communities, they regularly have intergroup encounters. As a result, there may be heightened need for regulating tension. However, we consider it unlikely that Ngogo stands out with regard to the nature and prevalence of sociosexual behaviour as similar behaviours have been described at multiple other sites (van Lawick-Goodall, 1968; Bygott, 1974; Nishida et al., 1999). For example, a study at Gombe found that 50% of all touching between male chimpanzees (N = 194 total touches) involved touching of genitals, and 70% of all touching between female chimpanzees (N = 56 total touches) involved touching genitals (Bygott, 1974). There also appeared to be variation among individuals in the frequency and patterning of sociosexual behaviour, including with some individuals being distinct in their sociosexual behaviour. Bygott (1974, p. 63) noted that “the adult male Faben often presented to other males, and when they held out a hand to him he would bounce his scrotum up and down against their hand. No other male was seen to do this.” Further research is required to test hypotheses for the function of sociosexual behaviour in wild chimpanzees. Our findings suggest that sociosexual behaviour is unlikely related to dominance given that combinations of all age and sex classes engaged in these behaviours. Importantly, in cases of mounting between males, the mounter was not higher ranking; if anything, the mounter tended to be lower ranking than the mountee, although mounters were also frequently higher ranking than the mountee (Figure 5). Sociosexual behaviour may relate to other behaviours, such as affiliative bonds, but grooming was not a strong predictor of sociosexual behaviour (Figure 4). Some pairs that groomed frequently also engaged in sociosexual behaviour more than did other pairs, but sociosexual behaviour also occurred between males who associated less frequently because they occupied different social neighbourhoods within the community. Thus, at least for males, sociosexual behaviour may be a way to reduce tension among pairs who meet infrequently. The function of sociosexual behaviour likely varies by age and sex. For example, we observed infant females rubbing their genitals on others, and this may have been for a pleasurable sensation alone (Vasey & Duckworth, 2006). Further study of sociosexual behaviour is required in chimpanzees, particularly focused on females, and how the function of sociosexual behaviour changes with development, which will in turn inform its possible functions. Although we focused on genital contact, much of the behaviour that we observed resembled what other researchers have A.A. Sandel, R.B. Reddy / Behaviour (2021) 21 considered ‘reassurance’ behaviour (Goodall, 1986; Nishida et al., 1999). Prior studies seem to have lumped sociosexual behaviour within reassurance behaviour, and indeed, they may serve the same function. Future studies should analyse sociosexual behaviour along with other forms of touch, including mouth-to-mouth, hand-to-mouth, hand-to-hand, hand-to-body, and embraces without genital contact. Given that much of sociosexual behaviour across mammals has been linked to cooperation and tension reduction in fission-fusion species, it is no surprise that chimpanzees do it. Indeed, this finding is not new. Some of the earliest studies of chimpanzees reported behaviours involving mounting and genital contact, both in captivity (Crawford, 1942) and the wild (Nishida, 1968; van Lawick-Goodall, 1968; Sugiyama, 1969). However, the ensuing decades have focused on such behaviours in bonobos, framing them as key for tolerance and female power (Hohmann & Fruth, 2000; Hohmann et al., 2009), and this seems to have downplayed its significance in chimpanzee life. For example, Hohmann et al. (2009) considered genital contact to be ‘habitual’ in bonobos, but not in other apes, and Grueter & Stoinski (2016) considered same-sex sexual behaviour “rare or absent among chimpanzees” in their study of such behaviours in wild gorillas. Similarly, sociosexual behaviour is considered “weak or infrequent” in East African chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) compared to hunting, which is “strong or highly frequent,” and infanticide, which is “moderate or frequent” (Gruber & Clay, 2016). In our study, sociosexual behaviour occurred considerably more frequently than did infanticides and was closer to the frequency of hunts, thus we would not consider it as “weak or infrequent”. Although we were not able to calculate a rate of sociosexual behaviour for most of our subjects, sociosexual behaviour was only one third as frequent as mating behaviour. And adolescent and young adult males tended to exhibit sociosexual behaviour approximately once every two months, which is likely an underestimate. It may have been that the study by Gruber and Clay (2016) considered a more limited array of behaviours as sociosexual, which could also account for its apparent absence between young chimpanzees compared to bonobos in an experimental feeding context (Woods & Hare, 2011). When analysing chimpanzee behaviour, scientists seem to classify mounts or genital contact within other functional behaviours, such as gestures or reassurance. We do not dispute that genital contact may serve conciliatory or communicative purposes in chimpanzees, but we also suggest that it deserves attention in studies investigating sociosexual behaviour explicitly. Doing so will allow proper comparisons to bonobos, and may elucidate the evolution and function of sociosexual behaviour in primates more generally. Although we found chimpanzees to engage in a range of sociosexual behaviours, bonobos remain distinct. Bonobos exhibit frequent genito-genital rubbing, especially between adult females (Hohmann & Fruth, 2000), whereas, we recorded only three instances of face-to-face, genito-genital rubbing in chimpanzees, and it was only observed between adult males. However, different species of primates manifest different forms of sociosexual behaviour, such as ‘ritualized’ touching of the penis in some baboons species (Smuts & Watanabe, 1990; Dal Pesco & Fischer, 2018). For chimpanzees, mounting and touching genitals may be their species-typical manifestation of sociosexual behaviour. That behaviours involving gential contact have not been conceptualized as ‘sociosexual’ in chimpanzees may also be due to cultural biases against homosexuality, as has been seen in the literature on other primates (Vasey, 1995). “Never, however, have we seen anything that could be regarded as homosexuality in chimpanzees,” Jane Goodall writes in her 1971 book, In the Shadow of Man. “Admittedly a male may mount another in moments of stress or excitement, clasping the other around the waist, and he may even make thrusting movements of the pelvis, but there is no intromission. It is true, also, that a male may try to calm himself or another male by reaching out to touch or pat the other’s genitals; while we still have much to learn about this type of behaviour, it certainly does not imply homosexuality. He only does this in moments of stress, and he will touch or pat a female on her genitals in exactly the same contexts” (Goodall, 2010, pp. 183–184). We agree that this does not indicate ‘homosexuality’ in the sense of a sexual orientation, but it does potentially represent sexual behaviour broadly defined, including that between members of the same sex. Our findings reveal that sociosexual behaviour is a standard component of chimpanzee behaviour. Although sociosexual behaviour is, no doubt, more salient and frequent in bonobos, especially with their characteristic side-toside genital rubbing, the range and type of sociosexual behaviour is similar in chimpanzees. Thus, there should not be such a distinction made between the two species. In addition, given the evidence of sociosexual behaviour in gorillas and a range of monkey species (e.g., Yamagiwa, 1987; Grueter & Stoinski, 2016), sociosexual behaviour is likely a common trait to haplorrhine primates. In some primate species, sociosexual behaviour has become key to negotiating relationships, as is the case in bonobos, some baboon A.A. Sandel, R.B. Reddy / Behaviour (2021) 23 species, and some populations of spider monkeys. Given its prevalence across taxa, sociosexual behaviour, including between members of the same sex, may be an important component of relationships that arose early on in primate evolution.

There was not a single childcare task that men liked more than women did; findings imply that aims of gender equity across the board may be difficult to achieve & may also work against partners’ individual preferences

Bleske-Rechek, A., & Gunseor, M. M. (2021). Gendered perspectives on sharing the load: Men’s and women’s attitudes toward family roles and household and childcare tasks. Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, Feb 2021.

Abstract: In the United States, women continue to spend more time than men do on household labor and childcare (Parker & Wang, 2013). Although these gender disparities in time use are lamented in the media as inequitable (Miller, 2020; Rao, 2019), differences in men’s and women’s preferences may help explain the disparities. In the current study, emerging adults (N = 323) and middle-aged adults (N = 113) reported (a) the degree to which they like or dislike 58 different household tasks and 40 different childcare tasks; (b) how they would prefer to split up each task with a partner; and (c) their ideal prioritization of work and family. In both samples, male–female differences in enjoyment of household and childcare tasks paralleled male–female differences in task-split preferences. For example, men liked home maintenance and yard care more than women did, and, in turn, leaned more toward wanting primary responsibility for those tasks than women did. Although there were some household tasks that men liked much more than women did and there were some household tasks and childcare tasks that women liked much more than men did (e.g., decorating the home, shopping for the children), there was not a single childcare task that men liked more than women did. Our findings imply that aims of gender equity across the board may be difficult to achieve and may also work against partners’ individual preferences.

Men’s stress expression & their partner's perceived supportiveness are linked to positive effects for men’s well-being & that of the relationship; stress & adherence to masculine norms negatively affect men’s expression of stress

Kapsaridi, A., & Charvoz, L. (2021). Men’s stress expression and perception of partner’s support within the romantic relationships: A systematic review. Psychology of Men & Masculinities, Feb 2021.

Abstract: Although research on men’s stress expression, coping strategies, and attitudes toward support has been accumulated, there is a lack of evaluation of men’s stress expression and perception of their partners’ supportiveness within the context of romantic relationships. This review summarizes findings related to factors that influence men’s expression of stress and the ways in which they perceive the support provided by their romantic partners, as well as the resulting effects on men’s well-being and that of the relationship itself. We searched four electronic databases using terms related to stress expression and perceived supportiveness in couples. Findings meeting inclusion criteria were classified in two conceptual categories: (a) Men’s stress expression to their partner and (b) men’s perception of their partner’s support. Forty-four articles met inclusion criteria. Data were collected on 4,520 men from clinical/subclinical and healthy populations. Findings suggest that (a) men’s stress expression and perceived supportiveness from their partner are linked to positive effects for men’s well-being and that of the relationship; (b) stress and adherence to masculine norms negatively affect men’s expression of stress to their romantic partner; and (c) men’s perception of their romantic partner’s support is negatively affected by stress and positively linked to men’s stress expression. These results suggest that for men, stress expression and perceived supportiveness within the context of the romantic relationship parallel their general attitudes regarding self-disclosure and social support. The prescriptive role of masculine norms is highlighted as an important determinant of men’s behavior toward their romantic partner.

Individual variability in brain development from late childhood to young adulthood: There are sex differences in development changes; & found an association between an individual's brain size & rate of change

Individual variability in structural brain development from late childhood to young adulthood. Kathryn L Mills, Kimberly D Siegmund, Christian K Tamnes, Lia Ferschmann, Marieke G N Bos, Lara M Wierenga, Beatriz Luna, Megan L Herting. bioRxiv Feb 4 2021.

Abstract: A fundamental task in neuroscience is to characterize the brain's developmental course. While replicable group-level models of structural brain development from childhood to adulthood have recently been identified, we have yet to quantify and understand individual differences in structural brain development. The present study examined individual variability and sex differences in changes in brain structure, as assessed by anatomical MRI, across ages 8.0-26.0 years in 269 participants (149 females) with three time points of data (807 scans), drawn from three longitudinal datasets collected in the Netherlands, Norway, and USA. We further investigated the relationship between overall brain size and developmental changes, as well as how females and males differed in change variability across development. There was considerable individual variability in the magnitude of changes observed for all included brain measures. However, distinct developmental patterns of change were observed for total brain and cortical gray matter, cortical thickness, and white matter surface area, with individuals demonstrating either stability or decreases in early adolescence, then almost universal decreases during mid-to-late adolescence, before returning to more variable patterns in early adulthood. White matter volume demonstrated a similar developmental pattern of variability, but with individuals shifting from increases to a majority stabilizing during mid-to-late adolescence. We observed sex differences in these patterns, and also an association between an individual's brain size and their overall rate of change. The present study provides new insight as to the amount of individual variance in changes in structural morphometrics from late childhood to early adulthood in order to obtain a more nuanced picture of brain development. The observed individual- and sex-differences in brain changes also highlight the importance of further studying individual variation in developmental patterns in healthy, at-risk, and clinical populations.

Long-term improvement in neighborhood economic level was associated with lower risk for excessive weight gain and excessive weight loss

Association of Long-Term Trajectories of Neighborhood Socioeconomic Status With Weight Change in Older Adults. Dong Zhang et al. JAMA Netw Open. 2021; 4(2):e2036809. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.36809

Key Points

Question  What is the association between neighborhood socioeconomic status (SES) change and weight change among older adults?

Findings  In this cohort study of 126 179 US adults, long-term improvement in neighborhood SES was associated with lower risk for excessive weight gain and excessive weight loss, while long-term neighborhood SES decline was associated with higher risks for these outcomes. There was a dose-dependent association, with larger changes in risk observed with larger neighborhood changes.

Meaning  This study found that sustained neighborhood changes were associated with significant differences in weight outcomes among older adults.


Importance  Studying long-term changes in neighborhood socioeconomic status (SES) may help to better understand the associations between neighborhood exposure and weight outcomes and provide evidence supporting neighborhood interventions. Little previous research has been done to examine associations between neighborhood SES and weight loss, a risk factor associated with poor health outcomes in the older population.

Objective  To determine whether improvements in neighborhood SES are associated with reduced likelihoods of excessive weight gain and excessive weight loss and whether declines are associated with increased likelihoods of these weight outcomes.

Design, Study, and Participants  This cohort study was conducted using data from the National Institutes of Health-AARP (formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons) Diet and Health study (1995-2006). The analysis included a cohort of 126 179 adults (aged 50-71 years) whose neighborhoods at baseline (1995-1996) were the same as at follow-up (2004-2006). All analyses were performed from December 2018 through December 2020.

Exposures  Living in a neighborhood that experienced 1 of 8 neighborhood SES trajectories defined based on a national neighborhood SES index created using data from the US Census and American Community Survey. The 8 trajectory groups, in which high, or H, indicated rankings at or above the sample median of a specific year and low, or L, indicated rankings below the median, were HHH (ie, high in 1990 to high in 2000 to high in 2010), or stable high; HLL, or early decline; HHL, or late decline; HLH, or transient decline; LLL, or stable low; LHH, or early improvement; LLH, or late improvement; and LHL, or transient improvement.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Excessive weight gain and loss were defined as gaining or losing 10% or more of baseline weight.

Results  Among 126 179 adults, 76 225 (60.4%) were men and the mean (SD) age was 62.1 (5.3) years. Improvements in neighborhood SES were associated with lower likelihoods of excessive weight gain and weight loss over follow-up, while declines in neighborhood SES were associated with higher likelihoods of excessive weight gain and weight loss. Compared with the stable low group, the risk was significantly reduced for excessive weight gain in the early improvement group (odds ratio [OR], 0.87; 95% CI, 0.79-0.95) and for excessive weight loss in the late improvement group (OR, 0.89; 95% CI, 0.80-1.00). Compared with the stable high group, the risk of excessive weight gain was significantly increased for the early decline group (OR, 1.19; 95% CI, 1.08-1.31) and late decline group (OR, 1.13; 95% CI, 1.04-1.24) and for excessive weight loss in the early decline group (OR, 1.15; 95% CI, 1.02-1.28). The increases in likelihood were greater when the improvement or decline in neighborhood SES occurred early in the study period (ie, 1990-2000) and was substantiated throughout the follow-up (ie, the early decline and early improvement groups). Overall, we found a linear association between changes in neighborhood SES and weight outcomes, in which every 5 percentile decline in neighborhood SES was associated with a 1.2% to 2.4% increase in the risk of excessive weight gain or loss (excessive weight gain: OR, 1.01; 95% CI, 1.00-1.02 for women; OR, 1.02; 95% CI, 1.01-1.03 for men; excessive weight loss: OR, 1.02; 95% CI, 1.01-1.03 for women; OR, 1.02; 95% CI, 1.01-1.03 for men; P for- trend < .0001).

Conclusions and Relevance  These findings suggest that changing neighborhood environment was associated with changes in weight status in older adults.


In this large cohort study of older US adults, we found that, consistent with our hypothesis, participants in neighborhoods with declines in SES were at higher risk of excessive weight gain and loss, while those in neighborhoods with improvements in SES were at lower risk of these outcomes. Moreover, our results showed dose-dependent associations, in which larger improvements and declines were associated with larger differences in risk of adverse weight outcomes.

Several previous investigations on changes in neighborhood SES and weight outcomes reported findings similar to ours. In the Dallas Heart Study (DHS), a population-based cohort study in Dallas County, Texas, Powell-Wiley et al6 reported that moving to more disadvantaged neighborhoods was associated with larger weight gain over 7 years of follow up compared with moving to similar or more advantaged neighborhoods. In another DHS study, Leonard et al4 characterized neighborhood SES using property appraisal values and found that a 1-SD improvement in neighborhood conditions was associated with 0.7 kg less weight gain, and the association appeared stronger among nonmovers than movers. Additionally, a longitudinal analysis5 among California mothers found that moving to a census tract with a lower poverty level was associated with a 50% reduction in the odds of obesity. Overall, these findings and ours suggest that improvements in neighborhood conditions were associated with lower obesity, while residents in deteriorating neighborhoods may be at higher risk for obesity and related chronic conditions.

However, not all study results were consistent with ours. An early investigation in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis7 used latent growth curve models to estimate six 20-year trajectory groups (1980-1999) of neighborhood poverty patterns and found that the trajectory showing substantial reductions in poverty (4.1% of study population) was not associated with BMI. In another study, Kimbro et al8 examined the likelihood of obesity in association with within-individual changes in neighborhood conditions and had null findings. Although it is unclear what specific factors may lead to inconsistent results among these studies, all studies, including ours, differed in a number of ways, including population sociodemographic characteristics, geographic regions, measures of neighborhood SES and weight outcomes used, and statistical model characteristics, including controlling of confounders. We need future studies, including original investigations, meta-analyses, and systematic reviews, to clarify the association between changes in neighborhood SES and weight outcomes, identify population and contextual factors that may modulate the associations, and examine methodological issues that may be associated with changes in the results.

A main distinction between our study and the earlier studies was that we treated weight gain and weight loss as separate outcomes. Weight loss is prevalent among older populations; it has been estimated that 15% to 20% of adults aged 65 years or older experienced a 5% or greater reduction in body weight over a relatively short period of time (ie, 6 months to 1 year), often without an intention to lose weight.13 Unintentional weight loss has been associated with social isolation, poor nutrition, and chronic diseases, such as cancer, gastrointestinal problems, and mental disorders.13 The high prevalence and distinct underlying mechanisms of unintentional weight loss suggest that it should be treated as a unique weight outcome in older populations. Neighborhood environment has been associated with risks for cancer and mental disorders25,26 and is a critical factor associated with shaping social interactions, diet, and physical activity behaviors.27 Indeed, we found that neighborhood declines were associated with a higher risk for excessive weight loss. However, our observational study was not designed to establish causality, and we did not examine the underlying mechanisms of the observed associations. Future studies should focus on pinpointing the specific pathways through which neighborhood environment may affect weight loss. It has been estimated that weight loss was associated with a 22% to 39% increase in mortality risk in healthy older adults and those with chronic conditions.12 Thus, our study results suggest that clinicians and public health officials should pay close attention to weight loss among older adults who live in a neighborhood with declining SES. Moreover, as most of the current research efforts, to our knowledge, focus on obesity, weight loss remains an understudied area and more research is needed to identify modifiable risk factors at the individual and neighborhood levels to inform clinical practices and public health interventions.

Our study measured neighborhood SES at 3 time points, which allowed us to distinguish among changes that occurred early, late, or transiently during the 20-year study period. In most cases, we found that improvements or declines that occurred early tended to be associated with larger increases in risk, suggesting that there may be a lag period for the association of weight with changes in neighborhood SES. Furthermore, the results also indicated that it may require sustained neighborhood changes for a significant association with changes in weight distribution among residents to appear, a potentially important consideration when designing programs aimed at improving neighborhood conditions to promote healthy weight status.

Our study has important strengths, including a large sample size, geographically diverse neighborhoods, and a long follow-up period. Neighborhoods tend to be stable over time. Therefore, it requires a large and diverse population to capture the small fraction of neighborhoods with substantial changes. Another strength of this study is its use of national rankings to assess neighborhood SES, instead of relying on sample-specific measures. This strategy may have reduced the impact of events and trends that are highly specific to the study population. For example, a study that included neighborhoods that, as a whole, experienced deteriorating conditions would characterize a stable neighborhood in this study as an improved neighborhood; the same neighborhood would be characterized as a declined neighborhood in a study that included neighborhoods with largely upward changes in SES. As a result, it may be difficult to generalize the findings from 1 study to others or to the entire country, and the use of national rankings in our current study was associated with reductions in this problem.


This study has several limitations. First, our neighborhood assessments were restricted to the 3 time points when the US Census and ACS were conducted (ie, 1990, 2000, and 2010), while weight status was measured from 1995 to 1996 and 2004 to 2006. The difference in the time frame of exposure and outcome measurements may lead to misclassification, as the actual neighborhood changes may have occurred before 1995 or after 2006. In addition, although we restricted our analysis to individuals who reported living in the same area at both baseline and follow-up, we were not able to identify those who moved out of and back into the baseline neighborhood, which may also lead to exposure misclassification. Also, weight status was reported only at baseline and 10 years later, at follow-up, which did not allow us to assess short-term weight fluctuations. Importantly, gaining or losing weight over a short period of time (ie, several months to years) may be associated with a larger change in health outcomes compared with gradual change in weight over years, and more studies are needed to investigate the association between neighborhood environment and short-term weight change. Additionally, participants in our study were predominantly White and had high SES, as measured by college education or higher; therefore, the results may not be generalizable to other racial/ethnic groups and low SES populations, for whom the association between neighborhood SES and weight may differ from that observed among our participants. The relatively high baseline neighborhood SES has limited our ability to assess the potential association between neighborhood improvement and weight change among residents of disadvantaged communities. 

Are women the more empathetic gender? The effects of gender role expectations

Are women the more empathetic gender? The effects of gender role expectations. Charlotte S. Löffler & Tobias Greitemeyer. Current Psychology, Feb 2 2021.

Abstract: The present research aimed to extend the state of knowledge regarding the relationship between self-perceived empathy and traditional gender roles and placed particular focus on the contextual conditions under which gender differences in empathy are present, can be created, or eliminated. Across two studies, women rated themselves higher in empathy than men in all experimental conditions, whereas an objective female superiority in emotion recognition was only evident in one condition. In Study 1 (n = 736), using the term ‘social-analytic capacity’ instead of ‘empathic capacity’ increased gender differences in self-reported empathy and resulted in women performing better in the Eyes-test than men. In a neutral task (verbal intelligence), gender differences (in this case, a male superiority), were only found when participants believed that this task had an association with empathy. In Study 2 (n = 701), gender differences in self-reported empathic capacity, but not in performance in emotion recognition, increased when motivation for empathy was raised. Further, gender-role orientation mediated the association between gender and self-reported empathic capacity, whereas it did not account for the association between gender and emotion recognition. Overall, the present studies provide strong support for the idea that empathy is influenced by contextual factors and can be systematically biased by gender roles and stereotypical beliefs.

General Discussion

The present studies advance our knowledge regarding the relationship between the concept of empathy and traditional gender roles and demonstrates how a slight linguistic variation in one term (Study 1) or a motivational reframing of empathy (Study 2) can effectively create more pronounced gender differences. As previous research has shown, gender differences are most evident when empathy is assessed on self-report scales or when gender role expectations are made salient, but these differences become smaller or completely undetectable when more objective measurements are used (Eisenberg and Lennon 1983; Ickes et al. 2000). In line with these results, women rated themselves as significantly more empathic than men in all four conditions, while a female superiority in emotion recognition was only evident in the condition where empathy was referred to as ‘social-analytic capacity’. On this basis, the present studies lend strong support for the idea that there is a female tendency to report a stronger empathic response rather than an actual difference in male and female ability, as a number of authors have already suggested (e.g., Berman 1980; Eisenberg and Lennon 1983; Hodges et al. 2011; Ickes et al. 2000; Thomas and Maio 2008).

However, the assumption that gender differences in self-reported empathic capacity and performance in emotion recognition would be smaller when participants were not aware of the true nature of the tasks (Hypothesis 1a, Hypothesis 2a) could not be verified, as our experimental setup could not conceal the fact that empathy was measured by using the term ‘social-analytic capacity’. It is conceivable that, in the present case, the term ‘social-analytic’ appeared too sophisticated or even artificial and, as a consequence, had a deterrent effect on some participants, whereas, in the female sample, it apparently raised motivation for empathy. On the other hand, it is also conceivable that the term ‘social’ has a higher emotional connotation than the term ‘analytic’—so it might have overshadowed it. As a result, gender differences in both self-reported empathic capacity and objective emotion recognition were more pronounced when we used the term ‘social-analytic capacity’ compared to the term ‘empathic capacity’. Against this background, it seems reasonable to suppose that the term ‘social-analytic’, which was originally meant to be more neutral and less influenced by stereotypical beliefs than the term ‘empathy’, had the opposite effect and created gender differences in the performance in emotion recognition that were not observable when using the term ‘empathy’.

Regarding our hypothesis that gender differences on a neutral task (verbal intelligence) are more pronounced when participants believe that it is related to empathy (Hypothesis 1c), unexpectedly, we detected a male superiority in verbal intelligence when we evoked the association with empathy. Hence, it seems possible that even a presumed association with empathy might induce differences in the performance of men and women. But remarkably, in this case, men might have had a higher motivation and outperformed women when they were led to believe that a concept, with which they were familiar with, was related with empathy. The fact that verbal intelligence was weakly associated with masculine gender role orientation across the full sample cannot provide an explanation for this effect, because gender differences were only evident in the condition that had received the manipulation.

While in Study 1 we were able to manipulate emotion recognition by using an alternative term for empathy, emotion recognition was not significantly influenced in Study 2 by using external motivators (Hypothesis 2b). This result is contrary to some previous research in the field of empathic accuracy (Klein and Hodges 2001; Thomas and Maio 2008) that demonstrated that appropriate motivators could indeed increase the performance in emotion recognition. However, regarding self-reported empathic capacity, we did demonstrate more pronounced gender-differences in the condition that had received the motivation (Hypothesis 2a). This result suggests that external motivations can indeed manipulate self-reports and lends support for the notion that the context can play a key role in self-perception. But at this point, we have to concede that the stimuli we used to raise motivation for empathy turned out to be weak, as suggested not only by the failed manipulation check, but also the fact that we could only demonstrate a small motivational effect in females.

Apart from this, our research managed to demonstrate that the association between gender and self-reported empathy was fully mediated by gender role orientation (Hypothesis 3a), whereas gender role orientation did not account for the relationship between gender and emotion recognition (Hypothesis 3b). Together with the finding that a female superiority in emotion recognition was detected in only one case when the context had been manipulated successfully, these results provide strong evidence that a female superiority in empathy and related constructs does not reflect the differential ability of men and women and may indeed be a stereotype—a stereotype that causes women to present themselves as empathic, because being caring and interpersonally oriented are part of the traditional feminine role. On the other hand, men may tend to underestimate their full empathic potential in the absence of appropriate external motivators. It is also important to point out that in both studies there was only a moderate correlation between the self-reported empathy measure and the performance in the emotion recognition task. Taken together, the belief to be empathic may not be reflected in actual empathy.

As noted above, an important limitation of the present research is the failed manipulation check in Study 2. Hence, no strong conclusions are warranted how the motivation to appear empathic has an impact on gender differences in empathy. Furthermore, most of the present findings were small in terms of their effect sizes. In fact, analyses of variance did not reveal significant interaction effects (with one exception), but only the more statistically powerful planned comparisons yielded significant effects.

In conclusion, the present studies provide evidence that self-reported empathy and even objective performance in emotion recognition can both be influenced by the contextual setting, and that even a presumed association with the concept of empathy might induce gender differences. In addition, it was demonstrated that there is indeed a female tendency to report stronger empathic responses, while our results did not suggest a major female superiority in emotion recognition. We find it remarkable that at the present time that is characterized by reshaping traditional gender roles and societal structures empathy still appears to be perceived as a typical feminine trait. Therefore, it is questionable to use self-reports of empathy as a measure for actual empathic capacity in research. This is not only suggested by the fact that the association between gender and self-reported empathy was fully mediated by gender role orientation, but also by the weak correlation between self-reported empathy and performance in emotion recognition and that self-reported empathy was shown to be highly dependent on the experimental context. Against this background, some scientific results in this field might have been systematically biased by implicit gender stereotypes and that differences between males and females had been overestimated.

Regarding the present research, a female superiority in emotion recognition was only found in one of our experimental conditions. But even if there is indeed such a small female advantage, as Kirkland et al. (2013) and Warrier et al. (2018) suggested in their meta-analyses, it is important to keep in mind that the concept of gender differences is too narrow to map and explain the huge variety of inter-individual differences that are observable in psychological research and that a female advantage in empathy and related constructs could rather reflect a combination of biological factors, differing experience, socialization, and cultural expectations, which in turn appear to be mediated by some form of motivation (Hodges et al. 2011). The specific interactions between these factors remain to be determined by future studies. Another important question concerns the implementation of alternative instruments for measuring objective empathic responses, such as physiological or unobtrusive observations. Further, it would be of interest to address whether other constructs, that are likewise afflicted by gender stereotypes (e.g., emotionality, dominance, or intuitive processing), are also context-dependent and are influenced by gender role orientation in a similar way. Until then, it is important not to overemphasize these potential differences because, as Hyde (2013) has pointed out, gender similarities are as interesting and as important as gender differences.

Grandiose narcissistic traits are associated with self-enhancement biases; they perceive lower susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 infection

Perceived susceptibility to COVID-19 infection and narcissistic traits. Tina A.G. Venema, Stefan Pfattheicher. Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 175, June 2021, 110696.


• Prevention policies benefit from knowing who feels invulnerable to infection.

• Self-enhancing biases prevent accurate susceptibility perceptions.

• Grandiose narcissistic traits are associated with self-enhancement biases.

• High scores on the NPI-16 predict low perceived susceptibility.

• High scores on the NARQ Admiration subscale predict high perceived susceptibility.

Abstract: People's perceived susceptibility to illnesses plays a key role in determining whether or not to take protective measures. However, self-enhancing biases hinder accurate susceptibility perceptions, leaving some individuals to feel invulnerable in the face of acute health risks. Since such biases are prominent characteristics of individuals with narcissistic personality traits, this article empirically examined whether low perceived susceptibility of infection with COVID-19 is related to subclinical narcissism, as measured with the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI-16) and the Narcissism Admiration and Rivalry Questionnaire (NARQ). We report the findings from a worldwide sample (N = 244), a UK sample before governmental pandemic restrictions (N = 261), a UK sample after restrictions (N = 261) and a pooled data analysis (N = 766). Overall, grandiose narcissism as measured with the NPI-16 predicted lower perceived susceptibility of infection, also after controlling for age and gender, whereas the NARQ Admiration subscale predicted higher perceived susceptibility. The findings are discussed in the light of theoretical and policy implications.

Keywords: Perceived susceptibilityRiskGrandiose narcissismNPI-16NARQCOVID-19

6. General discussion

The aim of the present work was to investigate whether low perceived susceptibility to infection with the coronavirus COVID-19 is related to narcissistic personality traits because the same cognitive biases known to influence perceived susceptibility are commonly found as self-enhancement strategies in narcissistic individuals. Across all studies, we found that higher scores of grandiose narcissism, as measured with the NPI-16, predicted lower perceived susceptibility or risk of infection with COVID-19. One unanticipated finding was that people with higher scores on Admiration (NARC, Back et al., 2013) perceived themselves as more susceptible to infection. Moreover, these studies demonstrate that narcissistic traits are related to perceived susceptibility to infection also after controlling for the effects of age and gender.

In general, people are more likely to display an optimism bias for problems that they believe they can control (Klein & Helweg-Larsen, 2002). The results of the current studies connect this finding to narcissism, as narcissistic individuals are characterized by overconfidence in their skills and knowledge, and therefore have a high sense of control over their surroundings and outcomes (Macenczak, Campbell, Henley, & Campbell, 2016Mathieu & St-Jean, 2013). The idea that more personal control lessens a threat is not per se illogical (e.g., De Neys, 2012); knowing how to navigate in risky situations will lower the chances of a bad outcome. The problem for narcissistic individuals is that their perception of control is not objectively supported by their skills (i.e., they only think they are good; Farwell & Wohlwend-Lloyd, 1998). A systematic overview of the relation between health and narcissism suggested that narcissistic individuals consistently inflate their self-reported health and fitness levels, even though their engagement in behaviours that contribute to good health are equal, or even lower, compared to non-narcissistic individuals (Konrath & Bonadonna, 2014). To illustrate, narcissism predicted both strong self-reported oral health and a low frequency of tooth brushing (once per day or less) in medical students (Dumitrescu, Zetu, Zetu, & Păcurar, 2013). Prevention policy makers are advised to take this invulnerability fallacy into account when designing campaigns to target groups with high prevalence of narcissistic traits — men and young adults.

Surveying a worldwide sample, Dryhurst et al. (2020) found that men consistently reported a lower perceived risk of infection than women, despite the fact that their objective risk of dying of COVID-19 is almost two and a half times higher (Jin et al., 2020). The present work corresponds with this finding, and contributes by showing that the effect of gender on perceived susceptibility disappeared when accounting for grandiose narcissism. This suggests that the factors that cause men to report lower perceived susceptibility are covered by grandiose narcissism measures. A meta-analysis has shown robust evidence that men show stronger narcissistic traits than women (Grijalva et al., 2015), especially the facets exploitation and leadership are more prominent among men than women. Even though the grandiose narcissism measures in the current studies (NPI-16 and the NARQ) do not account for these facets, a gender difference was found across all samples. Age remained a significant predictor of perceived susceptibility when including the narcissism measures, signalling that there are other factors besides overconfidence and self-absorption (Ames et al., 2006) that contribute to lower perceived susceptibility of young adults.

The unexpected finding that high scores on the NARQ Admiration subscale coincide with higher perceived susceptibility corresponds with a recent study with a Polish sample (Nowak et al., 2020). Using a different narcissism measure (the Dark Triad Dirty Dozen scale), the authors found that the Dark Triad traits (that includes narcissism, as well as, psychopathy and Machiavellianism) were related to higher perceived susceptibility to infection with COVID-19 (Nowak et al., 2020). It is possible that becoming infected with COVID-19 has a certain dramatic appeal to individuals with strong needs for admiration; infection would result in a special status in society, and receiving a lot of attention (e.g., Albarracin, 2015). Rivalry traits (but not Admiration) have been shown to be a predictor of ignoring governmental restrictions in relation to the coronavirus (Zajenkowski, Jonason, Leniarska, & Kozakiewicz, 2020). The authors suggested that individuals with strong rivalry scores might view the situation as less risky; however, in the current studies we found no evidence that Rivalry was related to lower perceived susceptibility. Lockdown restrictions possibility threaten the individuals' autonomy, invoking antagonistic tendencies (captured by the NARQ Rivalry subscale), whereas the threat of a non-human virus might not elicit this tendency.

It should be noted that the findings in this article are inconclusive and further research needs to be done to test the relation between perceived susceptibility and grandiose narcissism traits. Next, we want to point to potential suppression effects in the regression analyses (e.g., Lynam, Hoyle, & Newman, 2006). While the NPI-16 and the NARQ Admiration subscale share considerable statistical and conceptual overlap, the current studies contribute to the literature that suggests that it is their distinction after controlling for their overlap that holds unique predictive properties for behaviour and attitudes (Hart, Richardson, Tortoriello, & Breeden, 2019Sedikides, 2020).

In discussing the findings, we also want to acknowledge the limitations of the present research and point to future directions. First, there is no standardized way to measure perceived susceptibility to illnesses in general (Ranby, Aiken, Gerend, & Erchull, 2010), let alone specifically to infection with the coronavirus COVID-19 (e.g., Dryhurst et al., 2020). We took caution to compose our perceived susceptibility measure of an absolute risk estimation and direct comparisons to others close in social distance (i.e., peers of the same age and neighbours) in all studies. In uncertain situations people tend to incorporate information about other people's choices and (health) risks in order derive a better sense of their own perceived risk (Buunk & Gibbons, 2007), which in turn helps them decide whether preventive action is necessary (Klein & Weinstein, 1997). Usually information about others in close social distance is therefore more informative and influential than information about distant others (e.g., Guo, Song, Liu, Xu, & Shen, 2019). Future research should investigate whether the social proximity of “the other” makes a difference for narcissistic individuals in updating their perceived susceptibility or estimated risk. Moreover, perceived susceptibility also seems to impact general risk updates, as new information is less likely to be deemed relevant (e.g., Ahn et al., 2014Jaccard et al., 2005), which might exacerbate the problem. Longitudinal studies could be conducted to investigate the interplay of perceived susceptibility and updated beliefs after exposure to disease related information in individuals with strong narcissistic traits.

We furthermore want to acknowledge that the participants in the current studies were primarily from Western countries, and that the samples were not representative of the entire population in these countries. Moreover, we did not set out to study observable behavioral consequences of narcissists' altered risk perception.4 As such, it might be useful to replicate the findings of the present studies using representative samples, to conduct the studies in other (non-)Western countries, and to include objectively observable behavioral outcomes in the analysis (such as hand disinfection upon entering a building). Furthermore, the observed effect sizes are small. However, in the context of the pandemic also small effect sizes matter, since an individuals' perceived susceptibility does not only bear consequences for this specific individual, but also for the people around them (e.g., Funder & Ozer, 2019). Lastly, we would like to emphasize that perceived susceptibility is not only influenced by biases (e.g., Van Der Pligt, 1998), but also by other factors, such as, awareness of local prevalence rates, and knowledge about effective protection measures, which were not accounted for in the current studies.

The insight from the present work that perceived susceptibility seems to be related to narcissistic personality traits, might help policy makers in effectively targeting individuals who perceive themselves at low risk of infection to COVID-19. While campaigns that invoke empathy for other people have good potential to increase wearing face masks and keeping distance for the population at large (e.g., Pfattheicher, Nockur, Böhm, Sassenrath, & Petersen, 2020), they might be less effective for narcissistic individuals(e.g., Hepper, Hart, & Sedikides, 2014). Instead, policy makers could appeal to aspects that are important to narcissists (e.g., Hill, 2017). Narcissistic individuals have been shown to knowingly take risks because potential rewards or benefits have a stronger appeal to them compared to individuals with lower narcissistic traits (Buelow & Brunell, 2014Foster, Shenesey, & Goff, 2009). Because individuals with grandiose narcissistic traits are known to prefer settings in which there is a higher chance of receiving praise and attention (Grapsas et al., 2020), it might be especially appealing to ignore rules and recommendations about limiting contact with other people. This insight could be translated into adequate policies in this current corona setting, and suggests that initiatives that downplay the potential appealing benefits, such as closing down bars at 10 PM, might be more effective in reaching this target group.