Saturday, February 20, 2021

Disagree? You must be a bot! How beliefs shape Twitter profile perceptions

Wischnewski, M., Bernemann, R., Ngo, T., & Krämer, N. (forthcoming). Disagree? You must be a bot! How beliefs shape Twitter profile perceptions. In Proceedings of Yokohama’21: ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Yokohama ’21). ACM, New York. doi:10.1145/3411764.3445109

Abstract: In this paper, we investigate the human ability to distinguish political social bots from humans on Twitter. Following motivated reasoning theory from social and cognitive psychology, our central hypothesis is that especially those accounts which are opinion-incongruent are perceived as social bot accounts when the account is ambiguous about its nature. We also hypothesize that credibility ratings mediate this relationship. We asked N = 151 participants to evaluate 24 Twitter accounts and decide whether the accounts were humans or social bots. Findings support our motivated reasoning hypothesis for a sub-group of Twitter users (those who are more familiar with Twitter): Accounts that are opinion-incongruent are evaluated as relatively more bot-like than accounts that are opinion-congruent. Moreover, it does not matter whether the account is clearly social bot or human or ambiguous about its nature. This was mediated by perceived credibility in the sense that congruent profiles were evaluated to be more credible resulting in lower perceptions as bots.

Is male sexual overperception of mating interest a bias for men to perceive interest, or something else entirely?; study says probably it’s something else

On hits and being hit on: error management theory, signal detection theory, and the male sexual overperception bias. Jordann L. Brandner, Jadyn Pohlman, Gary L. Brase. Evolution and Human Behavior, February 18 2021.

Abstract: Although Error Management Theory (EMT) can explain male sexual overperception, more advanced Signal Detection Theory (SDT) analyses can identify sensitivity and bias separately. An SDT analysis of perceptions of relatively clear interest/disinterest signals (Study 1) found that sensitivity to sexual interest/disinterest signals drove participants' perceptions, rather than an overall bias to perceive sexual interest. Cues of interest were generally underperceived, while sensitivity and accuracy were uniformly high. EMT analysis also found overall sexual interest underperception, but with men slightly overperceiving interest relative to women. These discrepant results were due to EMT using difference scores, which obscure baseline perceptions for men and women. Individual differences in life history strategy, mating strategy, and mate value did not affect sensitivity or bias. Study 2 largely replicated these results using more ambivalent scenarios, except EMT analyses found men's misperception to be significantly larger than women's, despite being closer to pre-rated communication levels. These results show that sexual communication may be more nuanced than previously thought, and that an SDT analysis is more appropriate for such data.

Keywords: Sexual overperception biasError management theorySignal detection theoryHuman sex differencesIndividual differences

4. General discussion

Signal Detection Theory analyses show that sensitivity to the differences between signals of sexual interest and disinterest drove participants' perceptions of sexual interest, rather than an overall bias to perceive sexual interest. Men and women did not significantly differ in sensitivity, which was high, even when including more ambivalent combinations of behaviors in Study 2. Generally, cues of sexual interest were underperceived, with sex-based effects varying. In Study 1, women had a significantly more liberal bias than men, whereas in Study 2, there was no significant effect of sex on bias. Other individual differences, such as life history strategy, mating strategy, and mate value did not generally affect sensitivity or bias. Error Management Theory analyses also found an overall underperception of sexual interest, but with men showing higher misperception scores than women. Further examination found that EMT usage of difference scores did not accurately reflect the average levels of perception between men and women due to overall underperception. This results in negative difference scores which were exacerbated in Study 1 by different baselines for men and women. Baselines were adjusted in Study 2 to be more equal, however, issues with interpretation of the results persisted again due to negative difference scores. EMT analyses lead to the conclusion that men's misperception scores were greater than women's, even as men's perceptions were closer to true levels of interest communicated.

4.1. Theoretical and practical implications

Although the “male sexual overperception effect” was not found, there are numerous implications of these results which indicate that sexual communication is actually more nuanced than previously thought. SDT analysis is a valuable methodology for better exploring the male sexual overperception effect and other biases explained through EMT. EMT analyses of the evolutionary costs and benefits of a decision outcome can be integrated with SDT to evaluate optimal decisions under uncertainty from an evolutionary standpoint. This integration is particularly important, as SDT analyses provide measures of both bias and sensitivity, which is more informative than typical EMT analyses which only provide a measure of bias. The separation of bias (tendency to respond in one particular way) from sensitivity (how distinct signals and noise are from each other) allows for a better understanding of the psychological mechanisms underlying a behavior. For instance, the present findings indicate that sexual interest perceptions were significantly driven by sensitivity, rather than bias, suggesting that evolutionary optimality in sexual communication may be attained through the ability to separate signals of sexual interest from signals of sexual disinterest. Moreover, this high level of separation more closely matched the patterns of high participant accuracy than did the EMT analyses, which found general underperception of interest, with men perceiving more interest than women. Notably, the EMT analysis has no measure of overall accuracy or cue discriminability, leading to conclusions of men perceiving more interest. This contrasts with the more accurate SDT conclusions of high discrimination of interest from disinterest, resulting in high accuracy when perceiving sexual communication.

Additionally, the standardized measures of sensitivity and bias provided by SDT are an improvement from the non-standardized measure of bias from EMT. Measures of c and d’ are comparable to other research using SDT, whereas EMT measures of bias are only comparable to other measures of bias on the same scales. Although EMT measures of bias could potentially be standardized, such as through a z-score calculation, they would still be problematic due to known issues with difference scores in terms of information lost from the original data (Cronbach & Furby, 1970), particularly in relationship research (Griffin, Murray, & Gonzalez, 1999). A single difference score can come from a variety of situations that could be driven by a main effect in one of the variables or by one of the variables having different variance than the other. For EMT in particular, the use of difference scores leads to analyses that can only assess bias and neglect sensitivity. Because bias and sensitivity interact as people strive to make optimal judgments, this can lead to incomplete understandings of behavior.

As an example of this issue in using difference scores, it turns out that the women's vignettes in Study 1 communicated more sexual interest than men's vignettes and after these baselines were subtracted from average perceptions, women showed a larger absolute difference between perception and truth despite men and women having similar average levels of perceived interest. Moreover, because this difference was negative, men's misperception scores were greater (i.e., closer to zero) resulting in misperception scores that indicated that men perceived more interest than women, despite having a lower average perception of interest than women. While this difference in baseline scores could be accounted for through SDT's use of multilevel modeling, EMT analyses can only account for this through manipulation of stimuli. Study 2 manipulated the stimuli to address this difference, but issues with interpretation due to negative misperception scores persisted. Additionally, EMT analyses typically aggregate across trials and within sex, losing valuable information and statistical power, whereas SDT analyses can use a within-subjects multilevel approach that can account for individual and stimuli variation through inclusion of individuals and stimuli in the random effects structure (Wright & London, 2009).

In the particular context of the male sexual overperception effect, the assessment as to if men are overperceiving female sexual interest will depend on how overperception is operationalized. Is overperception simply men perceiving more sexual interest than women? Or is overperception perceiving more sexual interest than is communicated? Currently in this line of research, overperception is operationalized most commonly as men perceiving more sexual interest than women perceive. Overperception is typically tested as a sex difference in average misperception scores, which are often calculated as the difference between expressed interest and perceived interest (e.g., Perilloux et al., 2012). However, this analysis does not necessarily indicate if men are overperceiving, just that they have larger misperception scores than women. The issue of this operationalization was demonstrated in these studies. EMT's use of difference scores to operationalize misperception is flawed, so having “higher” misperception when underperceiving would be a good thing, as it would mean more accuracy, however EMT does not have the ability to address this, as it assumes misperception is always overperception and thus higher misperception values indicate poorer responding.

When using SDT methods however, researchers have more control over how overperception is operationalized. Researchers can compare a participant's perceptions to numerous baselines: members of the participant's sex (e.g., does this man perceive more sexual interest than other men say is communicated?), members of the target's sex (e.g., does this man perceive more sexual interest than women say is communicated?) or members of both sexes (e.g., does this man perceive more sexual interest than both men and women together say is communicated?). These baselines can be established during stimuli development and validation, similar to how it is approached in this study (see Supplemental Materials for details), which used members of the target sex as the baseline. Since sexual communication is often cross-sex communication, sex-specific behaviors and sex-specific ratings of behaviors are necessary for proper operationalization of sexual perception. This can get complicated, short of being able to peer into participants' souls for their absolute truth. Luckily, the estimations of baseline truth described above and in the supplementary materials can suffice for research and analysis purposes.

Lastly, SDT analyses also allow for more precise exploration of the effects of individual differences. Whereas previous EMT research has correlated individuals' personality measures with their average difference scores (e.g., Perilloux et al., 2012) or used regression to predict average difference scores using personality measures (e.g., Howell et al., 2012Kohl & Robertson, 2014), SDT analysis can examine the effect of individual differences on sensitivity and/or bias, depending on the hypothesis. Although correlation and regression are valid tools, applying them on the average difference scores used by EMT can be problematic due to the issues noted above.

4.2. Limitations

It is important to note that the present research used vignettes as a proxy for communication. While the use of descriptions of actions rather than real actions is common for research in male sexual overperception (e.g., Abbey & Harnish, 1995DeSouza et al., 1992Edmondson & Conger, 1995Fisher & Walters, 2003Haselton & Buss, 2000Kowalski, 1993), it nevertheless could have affected the results and conclusions of this study. Prior research has indicated that different formats of presentation can affect perceptions of sexual interest, with formats including less information showing more overperception (Edmondson & Conger, 1995). This could indicate that more realistic stimuli could result in even more underperception of sexual interest, as the vignettes used here simplify an interaction to three behaviors. Another possible issue with these vignettes is that they were created using an act-nomination frequency approach (Buss & Craik, 1983). This resulted in some behaviors which included a certain degree of interpretation implicitly included in the descriptions (e.g., giving a “nasty look”). These potential issues with vignettes could be addressed in future studies by creation of video stimuli which include information about whether or not participants were truly attracted to each other, and thus covertly signaling sexual interest.

Like all studies on male sexual overperception, these studies rely on indirect measures of sexual interest. No truly objective measures of sexual intent exist, resulting in methods that rely on self-report and 3rd-party observers. Self-ratings may understate true intent, especially for women, as concealment of sexual interest and disinterest can be advantageous for gathering additional information about potential mates (Trivers, 1972). Conversely, same sex 3rd-party observers might overstate a woman's sexual interest, either as a misperception or as a tactic of intrasexual competition. These present studies used an iterated act-frequency nomination and evaluation approach for developing stimuli that describe typical sexual interest and disinterest behaviors, and hopefully this reduced any influences of self-concealment and 3rd-party competition. Future research in this area, though, should examine the differences between self and 3rd-party evaluations of interest, as well as include evaluations of interest from others who are close to the individual and may know them better, such as close family or friends.

This research does not directly address other theories regarding male sexual overperception, such as the general oversexualization hypothesis (Abbey, 1982Abbey, 1991), the media hypothesis (Abbey, 1991), or the default-model hypothesis (Shotland & Craig, 1988). The revealed structure and outcomes from the SDT analysis, however, are more consistent with EMT than with any of those alternative theories. Further study designs could employ SDT analyses of variables that would contrast at least some of these competing hypotheses. The current research does provide evidence against the general insensitivity hypothesis (Farris, Viken, & Treat, 2010Farris et al., 2008aFarris et al., 2008b) as sensitivity to cues of sexual interest was very high and drove responses, contrary to this hypothesis which proposes sensitivity to these cues is low.

These studies also do not address is if male sexual overperception is a biased cognitive mechanism or a biased behavioral outcome. Much discussion of the male sexual overperception effect in recent years has been about whether men truly believe women are more sexually interested in them, or if they just behave as if women are sexually interested in them (e.g., McKay & Efferson, 2010Murray, Murphy, von Hippel, Trivers, & Haselton, 2017Perilloux & Kurzban, 2015Perilloux & Kurzban, 2017). These studies found no effect of bias on responses and instead found that sensitivity was driving responses, and thus it may be a case of neither biased cognitions nor biased actions, but instead sensitivity to cues. Moreover, if an effect of bias had been found, these studies would not be able to examine if the bias was caused by a belief pattern or a behavioral pattern. Future studies should consider including measures of confidence in the belief that a woman is communicating sexual interest to help clarify this issue.

These studies demonstrate that the use of difference scores in prior research may have overestimated the actual prevalence of the male sexual overperception effect. This opens up an interesting topic of when and under what situations male sexual overperception may (or may not) appear. For instance, a version of this argument could note that data collection for Study 1 occurred during the fall/winter of 2018, closely following the confirmation hearings of Brett Kavanaugh and Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford's testimony as well as the #MeToo movement. These events may have influenced participants to underestimate sexual interest in a precautionary manner. However, Study 2 occurred during the summer and fall of 2020, well past the immediate effects of these contexts and yet the same results were found. Is it possible that the societal effects of these events are both persistent and outweigh more ultimate evolutionary bias adjustments? Reanalyzing previous research (which have datasets that include repeated measures and thus are amenable to SDT analysis methods) or other research across time and varying cultures may help to partially address this question.

Treating the weekend like a vacation can increase happiness, and exploratory analyses show support for the underlying role of increased attention to the present moment

Happiness From Treating the Weekend Like a Vacation. Colin West, Cassie Mogilner, Sanford E. DeVoe.  Social Psychological and Personality Science, June 15, 2020.

Abstract: Americans are time-poor. They work long hours and leave paid vacation days unused. An analysis of over 200,000 U.S. workers reveals that not prioritizing vacation is linked to lower happiness. Many people, however, do not feel they can take vacation due to financial and temporal constraints. How might people enjoy the emotional benefits of vacation without taking additional time off or spending additional money? Three preregistered experiments tested the effect of simply treating the weekend “like a vacation” (vs. “like a regular weekend”) on subsequent happiness—measured as more positive affect, less negative affect, and greater satisfaction when back at work on Monday. Although unable to definitively rule out the role of demand characteristics, the study results suggest that treating the weekend like a vacation can increase happiness, and exploratory analyses show support for the underlying role of increased attention to the present moment.

Keywords: happiness, subjective well-being, vacation, time, attention to the present, mindfulness

Intelligence contributes 48–90 times more than grit to educational success and 13 times more to job-market success

In a Representative Sample Grit Has a Negligible Effect on Educational and Economic Success Compared to Intelligence. Chen Zisman, Yoav Ganzach. Social Psychological and Personality Science, July 14, 2020.

Abstract: We compare the relative contribution of grit and intelligence to educational and job-market success in a representative sample of the American population. We find that, in terms of ΔR 2, intelligence contributes 48–90 times more than grit to educational success and 13 times more to job-market success. Conscientiousness also contributes to success more than grit but only twice as much. We show that the reason our results differ from those of previous studies which showed that grit has a stronger effect on success is that these previous studies used nonrepresentative samples that were range restricted on intelligence. Our findings suggest that although grit has some effect on success, it is negligible compared to intelligence and perhaps also to other traditional predictors of success.

Keywords: intelligence, achievement, grit, educational success

Although people can selectively endorse moral principles about freedom of speech depending on their political agenda, many seek to conceal this bias from others, and perhaps also themselves

Motivated moral judgments about freedom of speech are constrained by a need to maintain consistency. Nikolai Haahjem Eftedal, Lotte Thomsen. Cognition, Volume 211, June 2021, 104623.

Abstract: Speech is a critical means of negotiating political, adaptive interests in human society. Prior research on motivated political cognition has found that support for freedom of speech depends on whether one agrees with its ideological content. However, it remains unclear if people (A) openly hold that some speech should be more free than other speech; or (B) want to feel as if speech content does not affect their judgments. Here, we find support for (B) over (A), using social dominance orientation and political alignment to predict support for speech. Study 1 demonstrates that if people have previously judged restrictions of speech which they oppose, they are less harsh in condemning restrictions of speech which they support, and vice versa. Studies 2 and 3 find that when participants judge two versions of the same scenario, with only the ideological direction of speech being reversed, their answers are strongly affected by the ordering of conditions: While the first judgment is made in accordance with one's political attitudes, the second opposing judgment is made so as to remain consistent with the first. Studies 4 and 5 find that people broadly support the principle of giving both sides of contested issues equal speech rights, also when this is stated abstractly, detached from any specific scenario. In Study 6 we explore the boundaries of our findings, and find that the need to be consistent weakens substantially for speech that is widely seen as too extreme. Together, these results suggest that although people can selectively endorse moral principles depending on their political agenda, many seek to conceal this bias from others, and perhaps also themselves.

Keywords: Motivated reasoningMoral judgmentFreedom of speechSelf-deceptionSocial dominancePolitical ideology

Users do not universally interpret high numbers of “likes” for messages congruent to their own attitudes as valid evidence for the public agreeing with them, especially if their interest in a topic is high

Luzsa, R., & Mayr, S. (2021). False consensus in the echo chamber: Exposure to favorably biased social media news feeds leads to increased perception of public support for own opinions. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 15(1), Article 3.

Abstract: Studies suggest that users of online social networking sites can tend to preferably connect with like-minded others, leading to “Echo Chambers” in which attitudinally congruent information circulates. However, little is known about how exposure to artifacts of Echo Chambers, such as biased attitudinally congruent online news feeds, affects individuals’ perceptions and behavior. This study experimentally tested if exposure to attitudinally congruent online news feeds affects individuals' False Consensus Effect, that is, how strongly individuals perceive public opinions as favorably biased and in support of their own opinions. It was predicted that the extent of the False Consensus Effect is influenced by the level of agreement individuals encounter in online news feeds, with high agreement leading to a higher estimate of public support for their own opinions than low agreement. Two online experiments (n1 = 331 and n2 = 207) exposed participants to nine news feeds, each containing four messages. Two factors were manipulated: Agreement expressed in message texts (all but one [Exp.1] / all [Exp.2] messages were congruent or incongruent to participants' attitudes) and endorsement of congruent messages by other users (congruent messages displayed higher or lower numbers of “likes” than incongruent messages). Additionally, based on Elaboration Likelihood Theory, interest in a topic was considered as a moderating variable. Both studies confirmed that participants infer public support for their own attitudes from the degree of agreement they encounter in online messages, yet are skeptical of the validity of “likes”, especially if their interest in a topic is high.

Keywords: Echo chambers; social networking; false consensus; selective exposure


While online users appear not to suspect biases in agreement expressed in message texts, they appear critical of endorsement indicated by the numbers of “likes”: They do not universally interpret high numbers of “likes” for messages congruent to their own attitudes as valid evidence for the public agreeing with them, especially if their interest in a topic is high. Instead, they lower their estimate of public agreement. Thus, users appear to be wary of biases in numbers of “likes” and should be somewhat resistant towards attempts to influence their perception of public opinion via manipulated number of likes.

Deception is perceived to be ethical, and individuals want to be deceived, when deception is perceived to prevent unnecessary harm

Levine, Emma. 2021. “Community Standards of Deception: Deception Is Perceived to Be Ethical When It Prevents Unnecessary Harm.” PsyArXiv. February 19. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: We frequently claim that lying is wrong, despite modeling that it is often right. The present research sheds light on this tension by unearthing systematic cases in which people believe lying is ethical in everyday communication and by proposing and testing a theory to explain these cases. Using both inductive and experimental approaches, I find that deception is perceived to be ethical, and individuals want to be deceived, when deception is perceived to prevent unnecessary harm. I identify eight implicit rules – pertaining to the targets of deception and the topic and timing of a conversation – that clarify systematic circumstances in which deception is perceived to prevent unnecessary harm, and I document the causal effect of each implicit rule on the endorsement of deception. I also explore how perceptions of unnecessary harm influence communicators’ use of deception in everyday life, above and beyond other moral concerns. This research provides insight into when and why people value honesty and paves the way for future research on when and why people embrace deception.

Cleansing effects (one can wash one's hands to recover innocence): Its size has been inflated by dubious research practices

Ross, R., Van Aert, R., Van den Akker, O., & Van Elk, M. (2021). The role of meta-analysis and preregistration in assessing the evidence for cleansing effects. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 44, E19. doi:10.1017/S0140525X20000606

Abstract: Lee and Schwarz interpret meta-analytic research and replication studies as providing evidence for the robustness of cleansing effects. We argue that the currently available evidence is unconvincing because (a) publication bias and the opportunistic use of researcher degrees of freedom appear to have inflated meta-analytic effect size estimates, and (b) preregistered replications failed to find any evidence of cleansing effects.

Free text: PsyArXiv Preprints | The role of meta-analysis and preregistration in assessing the evidence for cleansing effects

More Questions About Multiple Passions: Who Has Them, How Many Do People Have, and the Relationship Between Polyamorous Passion and Well-being

More Questions About Multiple Passions: Who Has Them, How Many Do People Have, and the Relationship Between Polyamorous Passion and Well-being. Benjamin Schellenberg & Daniel Bailis. Journal of Happiness Studies, Feb 19 2021.

Abstract: People are often passionate toward multiple activities in their lives. However, more has been learned about passion toward any single activity than about passion toward multiple activities. Relying on the dualistic model of passion (Vallerand in The psychology of passion: a dualistic model, Oxford University Press, New York, 2015), this research addressed the antecedents and consequences of polyamorous passion. In three pre-registered studies (total N = 1322) and one mini meta-analysis, we found that (a) people tend to report being passionate for between 2 and 4 activities; (b) harmonious passion becomes a less potent predictor of well-being as it is directed toward less-favored activities; (c) harmonious passion does not contribute to the prediction of well-being beyond a second-favorite activity; and (d) openness to experience is a personality trait that is positively associated with the number of passionate activities that people have in their lives. These results contribute to our understanding of who has multiple passions, how many passionate activities people tend to have, and the relationship between polyamorous passion and well-being.

General Discussion

Research relying on the dualistic model of passion has revealed a great deal about the antecedents and consequences of feeling passion toward a single activity (Vallerand 2015). But it is common for people to feel passionate about multiple activities, and little is known about people who have multiple passions in life. The aim of this research was to contribute to this emerging area by focusing on four specific questions about polyamorous passion. In general, our findings add to our understanding of how many passionate activities people have in their lives, the effect of having multiple passions on well-being, and who becomes polyamorously passionate. How many passionate activities do people have?  We addressed this question (Question 1) in all four studies and found that people typically have between 2 and 4 passionate activities in their lives. The number of reported passions was closer to 2 when the number of passionate activities was classified based on passion criteria scores, and closer to 4 when the number of passionate activities was freely reported. These results lead to two conclusions. First, most people are polyamorously passionate; it is more common to be passionate for multiple activities than it is to be passionate about one or no activity. People therefore appear to be very capable of engaging in multiple activities that they enjoy, find valuable and meaningful, devote a great deal of time, energy, and resources, and incorporate into their identities (Vallerand 2015). Second, people typically limit the number of passionate activities they pursue to only a few. There could be many factors that restrict the number of passionate activities people pursue, including limited time and energy that people are able to devote to different activities. The overall message from these findings is that people are unquestionably passionate, and this passion is most often directed toward more than one activity. What is the effect of having multiple passions on well-being? We addressed this question in two ways. In Study 1 we tested whether the relationship between HP and well-being depended on whether HP was directed toward a favorite or fourthfavorite activity (Question 2), and in Studies 2 and 3 we tested if HP for less favored activities predicted well-being beyond what could be predicted by HP for more favored activities (Question 3). In general, the results support the dualistic model by showing that well-being is positively associated with HP, not OP (Vallerand, 2012). But the results contribute to our knowledge about passion by showing that, when directed toward a second-favorite activity, HP contributed to variance in well-being beyond HP for a favorite activity. Having high levels of HP toward two activities may allow people to have two domains in which they can have experiences that contribute to greater well-being, including greater positive affect (Rousseau and Vallerand 2008), flow (Carpentier et al. 2011), and psychological need satisfaction (Verner-Filion et al. 2017). However, the results also showed that HP becomes less predictive of well-being as it is directed toward activities that are less favored. In fact, consistent across Studies 2 and 3, levels of HP did not significantly contribute to the prediction of well-being beyond a second-favorite activity. There must certainly be a limit on the extent to which engaging in passionate activities can enhance well-being (Lyubomirsky et al. 2005), and this research suggests that this benefit is limited to two passionate activities, provided that they are pursued with high HP. Beyond two activities, the benefits of HP for well-being reaches a point of diminishing returns. Perhaps most importantly, the findings also suggest that many adults, especially those higher in openness to experience, consider a greater number of activities to be passions in their lives than they can actually derive increased well-being from, even if those activities are pursued with high HP. We recognize that people may be passionate for numerous activities for good reasons that lie beyond personal well-being, and we would not take the present findings to imply that these people should reduce the number of passions they are trying to pursue. However, we do take the findings to reflect an underlying psychological reality that even in the best-case scenario of consistently high HP, the benefits for well-being do not extend equally and indefinitely to all of the activities one might pursue as passions. Most of these benefits derive from one’s favorite and second-favorite activity. Who has multiple passions?  To address this final question (Question 4), we began by exploring if the big five personality traits were related to passion quantity. The results of all four studies and a mini meta-analysis found consistent evidence in support of a small-to-medium-sized positive association between openness to experience and number of passionate activities. There are many potential reasons why openness predicts a greater number of passionate activities. People with high levels of openness may engage in more or more varied activities (Ihle et al. 2015), thus increasing chances that multiple activities will develop into passionate activities. People with high levels of openness may also find novel activities or experiences more interesting and pleasurable (Fayn et al. 2015), which could facilitate feelings of passion toward them. Testing these and other potential reasons for why openness is linked with a greater number of passionate activities is an important area for future research. Limitations and Future Directions This research is limited by its reliance on self-report assessments and its cross-sectional design. Additional research is needed to replicate these effects using other types of assessments (e.g., interviews, other-reports) or designs (e.g., experimental, longitudinal). There is also evidence that participants recruited on crowdsourcing websites such as Prolific may differ from the general population in several characteristics (see Huff and Tingley 2015). Although a more representative sample was recruited in Study 3, research going forward should focus on other types of samples to address the questions posed in this research. We should also note that the results with HP in Studies 2 and 3 were based on a short, 3-item assessment of HP. Short scales were administered to reduce participant burden and, although others have successfully taken this approach (e.g., Trepanier et al. 2014), our findings should be replicated with the full measure of HP. 

Our view is that this research is another step toward gaining a better understanding of the antecedents and consequences of polyamorous passion. But research in this area is still taking its first steps. Although there is still a great deal to learn, we would like to suggest two routes that additional research can take. A first route is to focus on how passion for multiple activities develops over the life course. For instance, does the number of passionate activities people pursue remain stable, or does this number fluctuate throughout life? Do people go through some periods when they have many passionate activities, and other periods when they have none? It should also be emphasized that all participants in this research, and in the studies reported by Schellenberg and Bailis (2015), were adults, meaning that little is known about how passion for multiple activities develops and changes from childhood to adolescence to adulthood. A second route is to focus on extremes. On one extreme are those who are not passionate for any activity in their lives. Vallerand (2015) reports that between 15% and 25% of people are not passionate for any activity in their lives. The results from this research support these figures. On the other extreme are those who are passionate for many activities. Why do some have passion for many activities in their lives, and others do not have passion for any? Little is known about nonpassionate people (Vallerand 2015), and even less is known about those who are superpolyamorously passionate

Like all salamanders, newts can re-grow a lost limb or amputated tail. This regenerative ability… is a superpower we are eager to steal, a piece of real animal magic

Torching for Newts. Anita Roy. Dark Mountain Project, Feb 10 2021.

A century ago there were a million ponds in Britain, home to the mighty great crested newt. Now with increasing building work and a hostile government, amphibian life is being squeezed out of its territories. But not entirely. As their first migrations from land to water begin next month, Anita Roy goes into the Somerset night to discover the tiny dragons that live in the liminal spaces of our land and imaginations.

Anita Roy is a writer and editor based in Wellington, Somerset. She is the co-editor of Gifts of Gravity and Light: A Nature Almanac for the 21st century (July 2021) and author of A Year in Kingcombe.


Hannah handed me a torch. It was a serious piece of kit, with a battery-pack the size of a toaster slung on a broad black strap across my shoulder. I strafed the undergrowth enthusiastically until she suggested mildly that I might like to conserve the power until we actually got where we were going. I quickly switched it off, partly to hide my blushes.

I was the only rookie accompanying four ecologists to check for newts in the ponds on the edge of town. Seven years ago, a new housing estate was being built here and the developers had had to create several new ponds in order to relocate a small population of great crested newts. The ecologists I was with – Hannah, Polly, Mark and Paul – had overseen the whole operation and our mission tonight was to check how the newts were faring in their newbuilds. 

We left behind the sodium glow of streetlights, and headed down the slope into the tall grass. The last vestiges of daylight showed as a streak of rose madder beneath clouds as rich as plums. Darkness pooled in dips and ditches and our pupils dilated to drink in what little light lingered. Tattered shadows flitted overhead: bats. 


The pond was one of three that had been created to ‘mitigate’ the effects of the housing estate. Polly – who forged along ahead of me, battery-pack knocking against her hip – was one of the original team who had supervised the gathering up and resettlement of newts before the bulldozers arrived. 

Pond number two was more established and seemed richer with wildlife possibilities. The rushes were fatter and lay in dense beds around the water’s edge. A few passes of the torch through the sepia water and – bingo: newts. ‘Lots of them,’ said Polly. ‘Good.’

These were smooth and palmate newts, the commonest of the UK’s three native species. Slim little creatures, as long as your little finger, they slipped through the water in tiny Chinese brushstrokes, with an elegant economy of movement. With their vertical fish-tails and four legs, they seem not quite fully formed – like adult frogs who have been unable to shake off their tadpoley youth, or an illustration from a children’s encyclopaedia on evolution: your Middle Devonian great-great-great-great-to-the-power-x grandmother, dragging herself out of the primaeval soup and onto the newly formed land. 


Amphibians are well-named: from the Greek ‘amphi’ meaning both, and ‘bios’, life. They live a double life, moving between aquatic and terrestrial realms. Half in the water and half out, creatures of the twilight world between day and night, living on the outskirts of town and the margins of countryside, newts seem most at home in liminal spaces. 

Like all salamanders, newts can re-grow a lost limb or amputated tail. This regenerative ability has long fascinated humans. It is a superpower we are eager to steal, a piece of real animal magic. The mad scientist eager to exploit the process for their own gains is a familiar figure in popular culture. In the 2012 Amazing Spider-Man movie, Rhys Ifans plays Dr Curt Connors, a scientist obsessed with regenerating his own amputated arm using a serum extracted from lizards. Inevitably, the experiment goes horribly wrong, as the mild-mannered doctor morphs into an evil monster, Lizardman, and goes on the rampage. The eponymous hybrid man-fish of the 1954 horror film Creature from the Black Lagoon also proved hard to kill, recovering/regenerating from each bullet-riddled denouement to rise again in sequel after sequel. The creature is reincarnated in Guillermo del Toro’s Shape of Water in 2017. As in the original movie, it has been captured from deep in the Amazon where it was worshipped as a god and brought to the lab, where it is known only as ‘the Asset’: biological raw material for humans to mine and extract knowledge from, at no matter what cost to the beast.

In 1994, Dr Goro Eguchi of the Shokei Educational Institution, Japan, and Panagiotis Tsonis at the University of Dayton, Ohio, decided to investigate this apparently magical ability for real. In the lab, they cut open the  eye of a live Japanese fire-bellied newt (Cynops pyrrhogaster) and removed the lens to see if it would regenerate. It did, perfectly. And not from residual lens tissue but from epithelial cells in the iris. So they did it again. And again. Over the course of sixteen years, they cut out the newt’s eye no fewer than eighteen times. And each time, the poor newt grew it back, fresh, complete, in fully working order. The eye of a newt half its age.

Dr Tsonis is quoted in one article as pointing out the ‘good news’ from this study: once we fully understand it, he says, ‘age will not be a problem’ in terms of, for example, wound repair. After all, he says, ‘old people need regeneration, not young ones.’

Perhaps it is no wonder that ‘eye of newt’ is an essential ingredient for the most famous magic potion in history: the hell-broth Macbeth’s witches boil up in order to reveal the future. It is no surprise that the future foretold involves hubris, nemesis and murder most foul. 


Full text at the link above.