Monday, February 15, 2021

241 million observations from 3.3 million women across 109 countries: The menstrual cycle had the greatest magnitude for most of the measured dimensions of mood, behaviour and vital signs

Daily, weekly, seasonal and menstrual cycles in women’s mood, behaviour and vital signs. Emma Pierson, Tim Althoff, Daniel Thomas, Paula Hillard & Jure Leskovec. Nature Human Behaviour, Feb 1 2021.

Abstract: Dimensions of human mood, behaviour and vital signs cycle over multiple timescales. However, it remains unclear which dimensions are most cyclical, and how daily, weekly, seasonal and menstrual cycles compare in magnitude. The menstrual cycle remains particularly understudied because, not being synchronized across the population, it will be averaged out unless menstrual cycles can be aligned before analysis. Here, we analyse 241 million observations from 3.3 million women across 109 countries, tracking 15 dimensions of mood, behaviour and vital signs using a women’s health mobile app. Out of the daily, weekly, seasonal and menstrual cycles, the menstrual cycle had the greatest magnitude for most of the measured dimensions of mood, behaviour and vital signs. Mood, vital signs and sexual behaviour vary most substantially over the course of the menstrual cycle, while sleep and exercise behaviour remain more constant. Menstrual cycle effects are directionally consistent across countries.

Perceived negative effects of social media are stronger for others than for oneself; & the beneficial effects of social media platforms are perceived to be stronger for the self than for society

Antecedents of support for social media content moderation and platform regulation: the role of presumed effects on self and others. Martin J. Riedl, Kelsey N. Whipple & Ryan Wallace. Information, Communication & Society, Jan 26 2021.

Abstract: This study examines support for regulation of and by platforms and provides insights into public perceptions of platform governance. While much of the public discourse surrounding platforms evolves at a policy level between think tanks, journalists, academics and political actors, little attention is paid to how people think about regulation of and by platforms. Through a representative survey study of US internet users (N = 1,022), we explore antecedents of support for social media content moderation by platforms, as well as for regulation of social media platforms by the government. We connect these findings to presumed effects on self (PME1) and others (PME3), concepts that lie at the core of third-person effect (TPE) and influence of presumed influence (IPI) scholarship. We identify third-person perceptions for social media content: Perceived negative effects are stronger for others than for oneself. A first-person perception operates on the platform level: The beneficial effects of social media platforms are perceived to be stronger for the self than for society. At the behavioral level, we identify age, education, opposition to censorship, and perceived negative effects of social media content on others (PME3) as significant predictors of support for content moderation. Concerning support for regulation of platforms by the government, we find significant effects of opposition to censorship, perceived intentional censorship, frequency of social media use, and trust in platforms. We argue that stakeholders involved in platform governance must take more seriously the attitudes of their constituents.

KEYWORDS: Content moderationsocial mediaplatform regulationthird-person effectsurveyfree speech

Voice attractiveness also conveys important psycho-socio-biological information that have a significant effect on the speaker’s mating and reproductive success

Vocal Preferences in Humans: A Systematic Review. Melissa Barkat-Defradas, Michel Raymond, Alexandre Suire. Chapter in Voice Attractiveness pp 55-80, October 11 2020.

Abstract: Surprisingly, the study of human voice evolution has long been conducted without any reference to its biological function. Yet, following Darwin’s original concept, John Ohala was the first linguist to assume the functional role of sexual selection to explain vocal dimorphism in humans. Nevertheless, it is only at the very beginning of the millennial [millenium?] that the study of voice attractiveness developed, revealing that beyond its linguistic role, voice also conveys important psycho-socio-biological information that have a significant effect on the speaker’s mating and reproductive success. In this review article, our aim is to synthesize 20 years of research dedicated to the study of vocal preferences and to present the evolutionary benefits associated with such preferences.

Keywords: Vocal preferences Perception Language evolution Sexual selection Evolutionary biology Acoustics Voice Fundamental frequency Formant dispersion Voice attractiveness 

Chimpanzees both revealed a substantially higher frequency of general mirror-related behaviors & engaged in significantly more and longer behaviors indicating self recognition when provided with small mirrors

Small mirrors do the trick: A simple, but effective method to study mirror self-recognition in chimpanzees. Kathrin S. Kopp et al. Accepted for publication in Animal Behavior and Cognition (October 17 2020).

Abstract: Mirror self-recognition (MSR) is considered an indicator of self-awareness. Standardized mirror tests reveal compelling evidence for MSR in a few non-human species, including all great apes. However, substantial inter-individual variation of MSR within species resulted in an ongoing methodological controversy, questioning the appropriateness of standard MSR tests for cross-species comparisons. Especially lack of motivation is discussed as one possible cause for false negative results. Here, we compare the spontaneous behavioral response of 47 zoo-housed chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) to (i) standard body-sized, stationary mirrors and (ii) small, portable hand mirrors. We predicted that the monopolizability and maneuverability of small mirrors increase the chances of identifying MSR across a larger proportion of individuals. Chimpanzees both revealed a substantially higher frequency of general mirror-related behaviors and engaged in significantly more and longer behaviors specifically indicating MSR when provided with small mirrors compared to a large mirror. Handheld mirrors provide a more sensitive measure for MSR within and likely between primate species than the traditional large mirrors, nd thereby are a potentially valuable tool for studying self-awareness across species.

Keywords: MSR, comparative cognitive research, primates, self-awareness, mirror test, cognition

In the current study, we compared the traditional MSR test setup using a stationary, body-sized
mirror with an alternative setup using several portable, small hand mirrors. Corroborating our predictions,
chimpanzees interacted more with the small mirrors than with the large mirror, reflected by a higher
proportion of time spent with mirror-related behaviors and self-exploration. We found 12.8% more
individuals engaging in SE with the small mirrors than with the large mirrors in the short period of only
two hours for each condition. Taken together, our results support the hypothesis that this method
provides a more sensitive measure to detect MSR ability in chimpanzees and potentially other species
capable of maneuvering a mirror than the traditional approach. Including small, portable mirrors in
standardized comparative MSR tests will likely help to verify and potentially re-assess variation in MSR
previously found across and within species (de Veer & van den Bos, 1999; Gallup Jr. & Anderson, 2019).
As predicted in (P1) and corroborating early scarce descriptions of the behavior of capuchins and
chimpanzees (Anderson & Roeder, 1989; Köhler, 1926), our study revealed a substantially higher tendency
of chimpanzees to interact with maneuverable hand mirrors compared to a stationary body-sized mirror.
Being provided with unfamiliar, portable objects increases exploration and manipulation behavior in
captive primates(Paquette & Prescott, 1988; Westergaard & Fragaszy, 1985). Carrying a mirror away from
other chimpanzees to a place of their choice might facilitate intense mirror exploration with limited social
distraction. This opportunity might be reduced with a large, stationary mirror either because dominant
individuals can potentially monopolize it or because it is harder to position one’s body to observe difficultto-see body parts in a large mirror than to maneuver the handheld mirror to observe stationary body
parts. Related to the former, one might argue that the difference found was a result of having less
opportunity to get access to the large stationary mirror, especially for bigger social groups, than to one of
several small mirrors. However, our observations do not support this explanation. While small mirrors
were frequently picked up, carried around and explored, the area in front of the large mirror remained 
completely unoccupied on average 73% of the test time across groups. This suggests that the observed
difference is much more likely to be due to a greater interest in portable and maneuverable reflective
objects compared to a large stationary reflective surface, rather than to limited access to the large mirror
because of monopolization by particular individuals. Additionally, stationary mirrors force individuals to
spend time in a predefined area to engage with them, something not all individuals are keen to do. Mobile
mirrors allow for taking them to preferred spots and engaging with them at one’s own pace.
Furthermore, the different size of the two mirror types in relation to the body size of a chimpanzee
might have had an influence on their MRB. Unlike large mirrors, small mirrors do not reflect the whole
body, thus, the social stimulus properties of mirror-images (Anderson & Roeder, 1989) should be less
strong and therefore, less likely to trigger aggressive or fearful responses, which might constrain mirrorrelated interactions including SE (de Veer & van den Bos, 1999). Our finding that aggressive responses
were directed only towards large mirrors, predominantly by adult males, supports this interpretation. This
is importantto consider when examining MSR abilities in species with aggressive tendencies towards rivals
or potential mates.
In accordance with our prediction (P2), we observed more individuals engaging in SE and for a
greater proportion of time with the hand mirrors compared to the large mirrors. The chimpanzees were
exploring and interacting more frequently and extensively with the small mirrors compared to the large
ones. The small mirrors were directly accessible and could actively be manipulated and moved relative to
one’s own body. In doing so, chimpanzees had potentially more and varying opportunities to investigate
the reflective properties of the small mirrors and to detect contingencies between their own or other’s
movements and the reflection compared to large mirrors (Gallup Jr., 1994; Reiss & Morrison, 2017). This
in turn might have resulted in more spontaneous SE in the Small mirrorsthan in the Large mirror condition,
an indicator of MSR in great apes (Anderson & Gallup Jr., 2015; Gallup Jr., 1970, p. 1970; Lethmate &
Dücker, 1973; Povinelli et al., 1993). The objective of our study, however, was not to assess MSR abilities 
in chimpanzees, which has been done elsewhere (e.g., de Veer et al., 2003; Gallup Jr., 1970; Lin et al.,
1992; Mahovetz et al., 2016; Povinelli et al., 1993). Hence, we did not include control conditions to
determine MSR abilities, such as presenting mirror sized object without a reflective surface. Our aim was
to compare the effects of the Large mirror condition and the Small mirror condition on mirror-related
behaviors and thereby their suitability for MSR studies particularly in primates.
In that respect, we suggest that maneuverable hand mirrors offer a better tool to identify
spontaneous SE. When chimpanzees used the small mirrors for SE, they did not only touch otherwise not
or barely visible body parts (the classic criterion for SE), but held the mirror, moved and adjusted its
position, presumably to see the target body part. These directed mirror movements in combination with
manual exploration or actively opening of the mouth while looking at the reflection and following the
mirror with the gaze, are less ambiguous criteria to distinguish SE from not-mirror-guided self-directed
behavior (Heyes, 1994). Furthermore, the maneuverable small mirrors themselves had a highly reflective
and a non-reflective side. This offered a possibility to control whether self-directed behavior was mirrorguided or not by analyzing instances of self-directed behavior while looking at one side or the other.
Given the short period of total mirror exposure in our study compared to other studies (e.g.,
Povinelli et al., 1993), it is notable that we observed spontaneous SE in 42.6% of the chimpanzees (with
four immatures too young to show SE included in sample). However, we would not claim that we
demonstrated compelling evidence for MSR in all these individuals, especially because some of them
engaged in SE only once or twice and we did not include explicit control conditions. The point we want to
make here is that those individuals that showed SE only once and especially with a small mirror are likely
to demonstrate compelling evidence for MSR when studied with hand mirrors for a longer period of time.
Our results revealed an increased interest in the mirrors in the second compared to the first
condition, i.e., in the Small mirrors condition compared to the Large mirror condition, but a drop of 
interest in interacting with a mirror in the second session compared to the first session within conditions.
These findings are in line with our expectations and previous reports of novelty effects, resulting in higher
interest in interacting with novel objects and decreasing interest in the mirror over time in chimpanzees
and other primates (Anderson & Roeder, 1989; Gallup Jr., 1994; Povinelli et al., 1993). In contrast, they
do not suggest a substantial impact of a possible familiarity effect. We therefore argue that the greater
number of individuals demonstrating SE and the higher proportion of time spent with SE in the Small
mirrors condition compared to the Large mirror condition is more likely due to the substantially higher
amount of interactions with the mirror – and thereby increased opportunity to learn about the mirror –
than due to familiarity with the reflection accumulated during the presentation of the large mirror.
However, future studies on MSR abilities need to consider these potential influences and include
appropriate control measures.
Finally, there are practical advantages of using small hand mirrors. The method is easy to apply in
both simple mirror tests and the mark test (Gallup Jr., 1970). It is applicable in a social setting in the usual
enclosure and offers enrichment opportunities (Cronin et al., 2017). It is suitable for tests in various
primate species and potentially in other species capable of maneuvering a small mirror, as the size and
weight of the mirrors can be adapted to species-specific characteristics.
However, we are aware that the method proposed here is not generally applicable across
different taxa, because being able to hold and maneuver the mirror – either by hand, trunk or other means
– is a predisposition, which is not or not easily fulfilled in many species of interest, e.g., in marine
mammals, canines, ungulates without a trunk or birds (Vonk, 2020). While acknowledging this limitation,
we suggest that the proposed method has the potential to inform comparative research and to draw more
representative data of the capacity to recognize oneself in the mirror than large-mirror setups, not only
in chimpanzees, but across the primate order and potentially other species able to maneuver a hand 
mirror. Adequate cross-species methods are needed to aid our understanding of the evolutionary origins
of human self-awareness.

From 2017... From paranoid readings to post-capitalist futures: Move away from a capitalocentric understanding of online pornography towards a 'diverse economies' approach

From 2017... The diverse economies of online pornography: From paranoid readings to post-capitalist futures. Eleanor Wilkinson. Sexualities, Feb 8 2017.

Abstract: Anti-pornography campaigners have frequently claimed that porn studies need to take the economics of pornography seriously, yet often this amounts to little more than the idea that pornography is a capitalist product. This article brings together J.K Gibson-Graham’s work on post capitalism and Eve Sedgwick’s notion of ‘paranoid’ and ‘reparative’ reading in order to think about the performative effects of the narratives we use to talk about the pornography industry. It proposes a move away from a capitalocentric understanding of online pornography towards a ‘diverse economies’ approach: one that demonstrates the multitude of ways in which pornography exists outside of the rubric of capitalism. This helps to avoid the affective state of paranoia and helplessness that narratives of the all-powerful global porn industry so often create, whilst also allowing for a more nuanced understanding of the legal regulation of pornography. The article concludes with some thoughts as to how a diverse economies approach might better enable us to assess recent attempts to regulate online pornography within Britain, noting attempts at regulation may have an adverse effect on not-for-profit, amateur, or peer-to-peer pornography, whilst benefiting mainstream corporate pornography producers.

Keywords: Capitalism, censorship, economics, feminism, internet

Reparative readings and regulation

In order to think through what a more reparative reading of pornography might look like I turn to the work of J.K Gibson-Graham (1995, 1996, 2002, 2006). Like Sedgwick, Gibson-Graham helps us to think seriously about the performativity of knowledge; the stories we tell, how we envision power, and where we see resistance. What Gibson-Graham provide is a framework for a ‘post-capitalist’ politics – one that takes our research beyond a paranoid critique of global capitalism, towards a more reparative affirmation of non-capitalist, anti-capitalist, or not quite capitalist alternatives. A post-capitalist politics moves beyond a paranoid reading (one that simply highlights how powerful global capitalism is) to instead explore different types of non-capitalist economies. Gibson-Graham seek to generate a non-capitalocentric understanding of the economy by making non-capitalist activities both ‘visible and viable in the economic terrain’ (2002: 36). However, they ask us to do much more than simply acknowledge economic diversity. Rather, they propose a reevaluation of the ways in which global capitalism is so often positioned as unquestionably more powerful than non-capitalist alternatives. They challenge the stories in circulation about the relentless power of global capitalism, and contest the commonly held notion ‘that the force of globalization [is] inevitably more powerful than progressive, grassroots, local interventions’ (Gibson-Graham, 2002: 25). Thus a post-capitalist approach to pornography would aim to see the global pornography industry as a ‘hegemonic formation rather than as a fixed capitalist totality’ (Gibson-Graham, 1995: 275). Our political goal is therefore to destabilize the presumptions about the all-encompassing power of corporate global pornography. If the global power of porn is constructed and reproduced discursively, then we can see that an attempt to reassert porn as always capitalistic/always exploitative is deeply problematic. Gibson-Graham’s work helps to highlight how a capitalocentric approach to online pornography inadvertently helps to reinforce the power of the global the porn industry. Likewise, a capitalocentric approach will inevitably fail to recognize the non-capitalist economic exchanges that exist, and thrive, within cyberspace: for example, DIY amateur pornography, free pornography, pirated pornography, not-for-profit pornography, charity pornography, eco-pornography, ethical pornography and pornography cooperatives (Bell, 2010; Jacobs, 2007). Gibson-Graham’s work demonstrates how these marginalized economic alternatives to capitalist pornography production should never be dismissed as irrelevant or somehow separate from the ‘critical macro-level approach’ that scholars such as Dines (2011) are calling for. We hence need to challenge the idea that all online pornography is simply at the mercy of a (so-called) global pornography industry. That is, to envision these economic alternatives as potential sites of resistance, a place from which the apparent hegemony of the global commercial pornography industry can be challenged.

So what would it mean to begin to take seriously forms of pornography production and consumption that run counter to, or directly challenge, capitalist power? A diverse economies approach helps avoid the affective state of helplessness that the narratives of the all-powerful global porn industry so often create. Gibson-Graham argues that a diverse economies approach provides a kind of ‘performative ontological reframing’ that allows us to build upon and develop new spaces of resistance. By speaking of economic diversity we can ‘cultivate an unconscious in which dreams, fantasies, and desires for noncapitalist forms of economic organization might take shape and circulate’ (Gibson-Graham, 2002: 44). Thus a capitalocentric approach to pornography is deeply pessimistic and fails to see the multitude of ways in which people are creating alternative sexual scripts that do not necessarily always serve in the interests of patriarchy or capital (Jacobs, 2007; Jacobs et al., 2007). A diverse economies approach allows us to challenge narratives about the seemingly never-ending profitability of the porn industry. Such a framework opens up space for us to consider the ways in which non-capitalist, anticapitalist and only-slightly capitalist pornography may be having significantly detrimental impacts on the profits of pornography producers who operate within the commercial mainstream. Hence any attempt to reduce our understanding of pornography down to solely a capitalist product will fail to understand this complex varied economic landscape, and the pleasures (and dangers)13 that this might offer.

One other final area where a diverse economies approach could provide a useful framework for the study of pornography, is around issues of regulation and censorship. If we were to see all pornography as a uniform capitalist product, we risk making unhelpful generalizations that portray all pornography as a danger that should be curtailed because it always involves exploitative capitalist patriarchal relations. A diverse economies approach would allow us to challenge such logic and enable us to examine whether certain forms of regulation are intended to have a more adverse effect on specific forms of pornography (e.g. not-for-profit or pirated peer-to-peer pornography). By paying attention to the diverse economies of online pornography we could explore whether some mainstream pornography producers might in fact support certain forms of government regulation (see Stardust, 2014; Wilkinson, 2011). Thus a diverse economies approach to 10 Sexualities 0(0) pornography allows us to examine whether regulation may at times work in the interests of capital and the mainstream porn industry, not against (Maddison, 2004, 2010).

This type of perspective can be explored with reference to attempts to regulate online pornography in England and Wales via measures such as the ‘Dangerous Pictures Act’ (Section 63 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008) which made it illegal to possess certain forms of ’extreme’ pornography. There has also been stricter regulations around video-on-demand material via an amendment to the 2003 Communications Act (Audiovisual Media Services Regulations, 2014), which made this material subject to obscenity law. The Digital Economy Bill (2016–2017) is currently passing through Parliament, and seeks to ban material that wouldn’t be available on commercial DVD. Effectively is about making sure that all online material is now subject to British obscenity law, thus making it illegal to distribute images of certain pornographic acts online (see Attwood and Smith, 2010; P Johnson 2010; Petley, 2014). Anti-pornography campaigners have tended to support these measures, as they are seen to be sending out a strong message about the increasingly easy access to ‘extreme’ online pornography.

The economic implications of these laws have yet to be given sufficient scrutiny, with debates about their implementation tending to fall back into the tired dichotomy of pleasure versus danger (Wilkinson, 2011). Arguments in support of these new legal frameworks failed to examine exactly what kind of material was going to be captured under these laws. What has subsequently ensued is that mainstream commercial pornography has been largely exempt from these regulations, given there are a number of steps large-scale commercial producers can take to make sure their material is still legal to distribute and consume. For example, in 2008, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) introduced a new scheme that would enable webmasters to get online audiovisual material officially classified.14 However, this online digital classification system is an expensive solution15, and therefore will only be an option for larger-scale profit-driven producers. Strictly Broadband, one of the UKs largest adult Video-on-Demand sites, was the first to sign up to the BBFC online R18 classification system. The managing director of Strictly Broadband outlines some of the reasons his company joined this new scheme:

We welcome the clarification that the new scheme will bring to the business, which will allow the further development of a strong and legal British adult entertainment industry, and give British consumers the ability to decide whether they are buying legal material or not.16

The BBFC scheme assures viewers that the material they are watching falls within the boundaries of British law. This will have potential economic benefits for mainstream British porn producers and distributors, as it may create a new market of online consumers who are seeking reassurance that their online porn-consumption is legal to view. Stricter regulations around the legalities of online pornography Wilkinson may also channel people back from ‘pirate’ or ‘amateur’ to mainstream sites, with the former becoming seen as potentially illegal not just in terms of the means of exchange (i.e. copyright) but also the type of content. Furthermore, the 2014 Video-On-Demand regulation continued to benefit mainstream British producers, as small-scale and amateur producers in the UK were no longer allowed to contravene obscenity law. Britain already has some of the strictest obscenity laws in Europe, and therefore these new laws can be seen to offer a degree of protection for corporate British producers, from competition faced from the online influx of extreme material produced online in both Britain and abroad (see Maddison, 2004). Hence laws and controls that we think might be sending out a strong ‘anti-pornography’ moral message might in fact be supporting the economic power of a select few mainstream pornography businesses. Yet, if we were to see pornography as solely a capitalist entity then we would miss these crucial complexities.

Analyzing a global sample of 4 million authors and 26 million scientific papers: The top 1% most-cited scientists have increased their cumulative citation shares from 14 to 21% between 2000 and 2015

Global citation inequality is on the rise. Mathias Wullum Nielsen and Jens Peter Andersen. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, February 16, 2021 118 (7) e2012208118;

Significance: By analyzing a global sample of 4 million authors and 26 million scientific papers, this study finds that the top 1% most-cited scientists have increased their cumulative citation shares from 14 to 21% between 2000 and 2015 and that the Gini coefficient for citation imbalance has risen from 0.65 to 0.70. The growing citation concentration should be understood in the context of diverging trends in publication and collaboration activities for the top 1% compared to the “ordinary scientist.” Our study raises intriguing questions about how rising inequalities will shape the evolution of science.

Abstract: Citations are important building blocks for status and success in science. We used a linked dataset of more than 4 million authors and 26 million scientific papers to quantify trends in cumulative citation inequality and concentration at the author level. Our analysis, which spans 15 y and 118 scientific disciplines, suggests that a small stratum of elite scientists accrues increasing citation shares and that citation inequality is on the rise across the natural sciences, medical sciences, and agricultural sciences. The rise in citation concentration has coincided with a general inclination toward more collaboration. While increasing collaboration and full-count publication rates go hand in hand for the top 1% most cited, ordinary scientists are engaging in more and larger collaborations over time, but publishing slightly less. Moreover, fractionalized publication rates are generally on the decline, but the top 1% most cited have seen larger increases in coauthored papers and smaller relative decreases in fractional-count publication rates than scientists in the lower percentiles of the citation distribution. Taken together, these trends have enabled the top 1% to extend its share of fractional- and full-count publications and citations. Further analysis shows that top-cited scientists increasingly reside in high-ranking universities in western Europe and Australasia, while the United States has seen a slight decline in elite concentration. Our findings align with recent evidence suggesting intensified international competition and widening author-level disparities in science.

Keywords: scientific elitescitationsinequalitysciencesociology of science

Respondents interviewed in the months preceding election day report significantly lower levels of life satisfaction; once voting has taken place, aggregate well-being immediately returns to its regular average

Changes in Well-Being Around Elections. Nicolas Schreiner. WWZ, Working Paper 2021/03, January 21, 2021.

Abstract: Elections constitute the essential element of democracy, yet surprisingly little is known about their immediate consequences for individual well-being. Cross-country empirical evidence is particularly absent for the campaign period leading up to elections. While elections as a process allow citizens to contribute to democratic quality, they are also intrinsically conflictual and require voters to exert effort to make informed decisions. To measure the aggregate changes in well-being along the entirety of the electoral process, I use survey data from before and after 148 national elections in 24 European countries between 1989 and 2019. Respondents interviewed in the months preceding election day report significantly lower levels of life satisfaction than their compatriots asked the same calendar week but in years without elections. Once voting has taken place, aggregate well-being immediately returns to its regular average. Exploratory analyses suggest that partisan conflict and social pressures regarding democratic participation may play a role in explaining the reduction in life satisfaction before elections.

JEL classifications: D72, D91, I31

Keywords: elections, well-being, life satisfaction, election campaigns, electoral systems, political polarization, eurobarometer

6 Conclusion

This chapter contributes to the study of well-being and elections by providing the first systematic cross-country and long-term evidence for a link between the two. The absence of research on satisfaction in the public during election campaigns so far seems to be a particularly striking void in the study of democracy. As public involvement and interest in politics arguably peak during this period, it would appear vital to know how the populace is affected thereby. My empirical analysis shows that the apex of the campaign season is, in fact, the single span of time around elections during which aggregate well-being systematically and significantly changes. During the final month(s) before election day, average life satisfaction is substantially lower than it would otherwise be. These negative effects do not persist after voting takes place, however. Thus, elections appear to reduce aggregate well-being before the day of the vote without producing similarly systematic short-term gains afterward. These findings should also be taken into consideration in future research regarding the consequences of elections, as the time span before election day likely represents an unsuitable control period to compare outcomes after the election against. Global dissatisfaction with democracy is at or near historic highs (Foa et al., 2020). Hence, now more than ever, it would be vital to understand the mechanisms for why the electoral process seems to regularly herald a season of public unhappiness instead of being a time of civic celebration. Based on some very preliminary exploratory analyses, social conflict and polarization could prove to be promising starting points in this regard. Designing electoral institutions that curtail the formation of stark political cleavages and affective polarization, such as greater proportionality in legislative allocation, could thus potentially play a role in halting or even reversing the aforementioned trends. Furthermore, institutions that influence the costs of voting and political information (including surrounding social norms), may offer fruitful opportunities for research into the causes of lower well-being during election campaigns. However, given the suggestive evidence so far, it does not appear that voters become unhappy because they are overwhelmed by the complexity of the choices they face in elections. To this point, based on the existing research on the effects of direct democracy on civic engagement (see, e.g., Benz and Stutzer, 2004), it would also be interesting to study whether my findings for representative elections translate to ballot measures. Yet, even if it turns out that the negative consequences of election campaigns are unavoidable, this would not speak against elections as a mechanism for societal decision-making. Rather, the short-term reduction in life satisfaction during the months immediately preceding an election may be understood as the investment costs required for reaping the long-term profits of democracy in terms of well-being.