Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Darwin suggested that in many cases female preferences for elaborately ornamented males derived from a female’s taste for the beautiful, the notion that females were attracted to sexual beauty for its own sake

Darwin, sexual selection, and the brain. Michael J. Ryan. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, February 23, 2021 118 (8) e2008194118; https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2008194118

Abstract: One hundred fifty years ago Darwin published The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, in which he presented his theory of sexual selection with its emphasis on sexual beauty. However, it was not until 50 y ago that there was a renewed interest in Darwin’s theory in general, and specifically the potency of mate choice. Darwin suggested that in many cases female preferences for elaborately ornamented males derived from a female’s taste for the beautiful, the notion that females were attracted to sexual beauty for its own sake. Initially, female mate choice attracted the interest of behavioral ecologists focusing on the fitness advantages accrued through mate choice. Subsequent studies focused on sensory ecology and signal design, often showing how sensory end organs influenced the types of traits females found attractive. Eventually, investigations of neural circuits, neurogenetics, and neurochemistry uncovered a more complete scaffolding underlying sexual attraction. More recently, research inspired by human studies in psychophysics, behavioral economics, and neuroaesthetics have provided some notion of its higher-order mechanisms. In this paper, I review progress in our understanding of Darwin’s conjecture of “a taste for the beautiful” by considering research from these diverse fields that have conspired to provide unparalleled insight into the chooser’s mate choices.

Keywords: sexual selectionmate choiceneuroscience

36% of participants found some beauty in the perfume experience; 45% of participants found some beauty in candy taste

Diessner, R., Genthôs, R., Arthur, K., Adkins, B., & Pohling, R. (2021). Olfactory and gustatory beauty: Aesthetic emotions and trait appreciation of beauty. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 15(1), 38–50; Feb 2021. https://doi.org/10.1037/aca0000262

Abstract: Philosophers of aesthetics universally agree that visual and auditory stimuli may be considered beautiful. Divergently, controversy greets the question “Can olfactory or gustatory experiences be conceptualized as beautiful?” In Study 1 participants inhaled Joy® perfume applied to a cotton pad for 30 s and immediately completed the AESTHEMOS (Schindler et al., 2017), a scale measuring aesthetic emotions. Results indicated stronger prototypical (feeling of beauty and liking, fascination, being moved, and awe), pleasing (joy, humor, vitality, energy, and relaxation), and epistemic (surprise, interest, intellectual challenge, and insight) aesthetic emotions, and fewer negative aesthetic emotions (feeling of ugliness, boredom, confusion, anger, uneasiness, and sadness), were elicited by the perfume compared with a no-scent control condition. Results showed 36% of participants found some beauty in the perfume experience. Study 2 showed significantly higher prototypical and pleasing aesthetic emotions, and less negative aesthetic emotions were stimulated by a Werther’s caramel candy compared with a control condition (an unflavored sugar cube); and 45% of participants found some beauty in the taste. In both studies the findings were unrelated to participants’ levels of trait appreciation of beauty, as measured by the Engagement with Beauty Scale—Revised (EBS-R; Diessner, Pohling, Stacy, & Güsewell, 2018). In Study 3 we found that when the EBS-R predicted the response to an artwork, it did not predict gustatory beauty; and when the EBS-R predicted olfactory beauty, it did not predict the beauty of an artwork. Thus, the general trait of appreciating beauty, as measured by the EBS-R, may not extend to olfactory or gustatory beauty. The results are discussed in the context of philosophical approaches and empirical aesthetic research. 

Advisors robustly display overconfidence as a self-promotion tactic—even when it is punished by others

Van Zant, A. B. (2021). Strategically overconfident (to a fault): How self-promotion motivates advisor confidence. Journal of Applied Psychology, Feb 2021. https://doi.org/10.1037/apl0000879

Abstract: Unlike judgments made in private, advice contexts invoke strategic social concerns that might increase overconfidence in advice. Many scholars have assumed that overconfident advice emerges as an adaptive response to advice seekers’ preference for confident advice and failure to punish overconfidence. However, another possibility is that advisors robustly display overconfidence as a self-promotion tactic—even when it is punished by others. Across four experiments and a survey of advice professionals, the current research finds support for this account. First, it shows that advisors express more overconfidence than private decision-makers. This pattern held even after advice recipients punished advisors for their overconfidence. Second, it identifies the underlying motivations of advisors’ overconfidence. Advisors’ overconfidence was not driven by self-deception or a sincere desire to be helpful. Instead, it reflected strategic self-promotion. Relative to the overconfidence revealed by their private beliefs, advisors purposely increased their overconfidence while broadcasting judgments when (a) it was salient that others would assess their competence and (b) looking competent served their self-interest.

Girls’ depressive symptoms increased, self-esteem decreased, at a significantly greater rate than boys’ symptoms; the peak point of differentiation of these variables is at around age 13

Gittins CB, Hunt C (2020) Self-criticism and self-esteem in early adolescence: Do they predict depression? PLoS ONE 15(12): e0244182; Dec 18 2020. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0244182

Abstract: Beck’s theory suggests that forming negative self-cognitions is a key early step in the development of depression. However, others have suggested the reverse, arguing that depression leads to development of negative self-beliefs. As such, there is debate about whether these cognitions are precursors to, or alternatively are caused by, depression. Although Beck’s theory is supported in older adolescents, it has not been clearly seen in younger adolescents. This study aimed to assess the relation between two major self-cognitions (self-esteem and self-criticism) and depressive symptoms in early adolescence. Two-hundred and forty-three Australian adolescents (mean age = 12.08, 52% female) completed measures of self-esteem, self-criticism and depressive symptoms at baseline, then approximately 12- and 24-months later. Growth-curve modelling was used to assess changes in the variables. Cross-lagged analysis assessed whether either of the self-cognition variables predicted depressive symptoms, or if depressive symptoms predicted self-cognitions. Results indicated that self-criticism and depressive symptoms increased over the time period, while self-esteem decreased, and these changes were all related. Self-esteem predicted depressive symptoms from Time 2 to Time 3, while depressive symptoms predicted self-esteem from Time 1 to Time 2. Self-criticism did not predict depressive symptoms, nor did depressive symptoms predict self-criticism. These links appeared largely independent of gender. Self-esteem and depressive symptoms during the early adolescent period thus appear to have a somewhat reciprocal relation, while self-criticism does not appear to predict the development of depression. As such, while low self-esteem does appear to have an important role of in the development of depression in this age group, it is not strictly predictive, nor is this effect seen across all negative self-cognitions.


Both depressive symptoms and self-criticism significantly increased from ages 12 to 14, while self-esteem significantly decreased, as demonstrated by growth curve analysis. These changes were also significantly associated with each other. Furthermore, initially depressive symptoms predicted reduction in self-esteem, but later, lower self-esteem levels predicted increased depressive symptoms, shown through cross-lagged analysis. Self-criticism did not significantly predict either depressive symptoms or self-esteem, although self-esteem did predict reduced self-criticism from ages 13 to 14. This pattern remained unchanged when controlling for gender.

These findings ultimately support the possibility of a reciprocal-causality model in this population. Although pathways from self-esteem to depressive symptoms and the reverse for both time-lapses were not seen, there was nevertheless a sense of reciprocity seen across the two-year period. Thus, depressed mood appears to influence how adolescents evaluate their own worth, and negative beliefs about the self as a whole appears to increase the likelihood of developing depressed mood, at least for this age group.

The findings did not suggest an indirect relation in which one self-cognition predicted the other, which subsequently predicted depressive symptoms. There was evidence, in support of Katz and Nelson’s [40] assertion, that reduced self-esteem predicted subsequent self-criticism, demonstrated here from Time 2 to Time 3. However, there is no suggestion in the current data that self-criticism predicts later depressive symptoms. Further, even when self-esteem was removed from the model, self-criticism did not predict depressive symptoms. As such, based on these data, it is unlikely that there is any significant direct predictive relation between self-criticism and symptoms of depression.

The evidence for some reciprocity between self-esteem and depressive symptoms rather than vulnerability may reflect the age of the current sample. Much of the research which has supported the vulnerability model over the scar model has been on older adolescents (15 years) and adults [2627]. Shahar and Henrich [31] supported the scar model but only in a young adolescent sample, aged 12 to 13. Similarly, Burwell and Shirk [32], in a sample with a mean age of 13.6, demonstrated reciprocity between self-esteem and depressive symptoms. Shahar and Henrich [31] argued that, in line with developmental theory [1516], self-beliefs are more changeable during this period, thus they are more susceptible to influence from factors such as depressed mood.

These results suggest a refinement of Beck’s [12] theory that all types of negative beliefs about the self generally create vulnerability to depression. At least for early adolescents, self-esteem appears to be more important than self-criticism in the development of depression. Although changes in self-criticism and depressive symptoms appear associated, these variables do not specifically predict each other. Our findings are in line with previous research, which has failed to demonstrate prospective links between self-criticism alone and depression [35373842].

These findings may speak to the conceptual differences between the two self-cognition constructs. Self-esteem is considered a general attitude towards the self as a holistic object [8]. In contrast, self-criticism is a general approach to the self as a whole, but is contingent upon self-perceived failure [9]. While Beck [2] specified that negative life events are necessary in combination with negative self-cognitions to increase risk for depression, this may be more true for self-criticism–a thinking style that may lay dormant unless activated by a negative event–than for self-esteem–a more ongoing sense of self rather than response to events. There is some empirical evidence to suggest that high self-criticism alone is not enough to confer increased vulnerability to depression and that negative life events are also necessary. Abela and Taylor [38] found that while self-criticism alone did not predict depression scores, a significant interaction effect between self-criticism, self-esteem and negative life events was present, such that when participants with higher levels of self-criticism and lower levels of self-esteem experienced a negative life event, this combination significantly predicted depressive symptoms.

Gender effects

These analyses also demonstrated some support for our expectation of higher levels of negative self-cognitions and depressive symptoms for girls compared to boys, with some significant gender differences seen. Notably, girls’ depressive symptoms increased, and self-esteem decreased, at a significantly greater rate than boys’ symptoms. At the start of the test period (age 12), boys and girls demonstrated similar levels of self-esteem and of depressive symptoms. However, at 13 years, controlling for initial levels of the variables, girls’ self-esteem was significantly lower, and depressive symptoms significantly higher, than boys’ symptoms. At 14 years, controlling for autoregressive effects, there was no significant difference in depressive symptoms or self-esteem levels for girls and boys, suggesting the possibility that the peak point of differentiation of these variables is at around age 13. As such, these findings provide some support for the prediction that negative symptoms and cognitions would be higher in girls than boys

However, some other aspects of the findings provide minimal support for gender differences. When overall models were examined, the major relations demonstrated between the three variables remained unchanged when gender was added. In the growth curve model, the changes in the variables remained significantly related. Similarly, in the cross-lagged model, Time 1 depressive symptoms continued to predict Time 2 self-esteem and Time 2 self-esteem continued to predict Time 3 depression scores, while self-criticism continued not to predict depressive symptoms or self-esteem. Taken together, our findings suggest some evidence for higher levels of depressive symptoms, and higher rate of increase of these symptoms, in girls. However, no evidence of difference in the overall pattern of relations between self-esteem, self-criticism and depression for girls compared to boys was demonstrated.

Clinical implications

The current study examined relations between self-cognitions and depressive symptoms in a sample of healthy adolescents. Nevertheless, the finding that low self-esteem, but not high self-criticism, conveys direct risk for depressive symptoms may have important implications for the treatment of adolescents with, or at risk of, depression. It supports targeting self-esteem in interventions that aim to prevent depression, but also suggests that self-criticism should not necessarily be a specific focus. Further, the evidence of a reciprocal relation between self-esteem and depressive symptoms may have ramifications for depression treatment. Clinicians such as Greenberger and Padesky [63] have recommended focusing on ‘hot’ cognitions–those that are the most emotionally salient to the client–when conducting cognitive therapy. These findings suggest that, in addition to this approach, it may also be particularly important to ensure cognitions relating to negative self-esteem are also addressed, regardless of whether they are especially emotive to the client, as part of relapse prevention.

Strengths and limitations

These results should be interpreted in light of the following limitations. The observational nature of these data limits the causal assumptions that can be drawn from this research. Although cross-lagged models are designed to address this issue by controlling for autoregressive effects, nevertheless causal relations cannot be definitively determined. Furthermore, although depressive symptoms were measured, it is unclear whether these results would generalise to clinically diagnosed depression. Other factors that have been found to influence relations between self-cognitions and depression, such as negative events [38], were not included in the current research. While this enabled focus on the primary variables of interest, this is an area of research which would further elaborate on these relations.

All participants were the same grade, and most were the same age at each time point. However, age was not measured in months which would have provided more variation, and therefore the analysis may have been improved by controlling age in months. Nevertheless, given that the age range would have remained limited, this is unlikely to have had a major effect. Cross-lagged modelling is an analytical approach that is widely used and well accepted in the field (e.g. [6465]). In recent years, some researchers have argued that it does not take into account the possibility of stable between-person differences in the variables, and therefore runs the risk of amalgamating between-person effects with within-person effects [6667]. As such, this is a potential limitation of the study, which may lead to an over-estimate of the effects, and should be considered when interpreting these findings. Nevertheless, the general pattern of findings is likely to be unchanged with an alternative cross-lagged analytical approach.

This research also has a number of strengths. It is one of few studies to examine self-criticism and self-esteem together in relation to depressive symptoms and, as such, is one of the first studies to uncover the links between these three constructs. Furthermore, by using both growth curve and cross-lagged approaches, we were able to address two related but separate issues: whether the change in these variables is related and whether they predict each other. By using three data-points rather than two, we were able to examine the repeated relations and thus develop a more comprehensive understanding of these connections.

Emotions on which females scored universally higher were care & sadness; emotions that showed variability based on geography were fear & play; gender differences increased when moving from 'East' to 'West'

Gender effects in personality: a cross-cultural affective neuroscience perspective. F. G. Özkarar-Gradwohl & O. H. Turnbull. Culture and Brain, Feb 19 2021. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40167-021-00099-5

Abstract: Despite enormous progress in understanding the neuroscientific elements that underpin the basic emotions, far less attention has been paid to individual differences. The Affective Neuroscience Personality Scales (ANPS) aim to measure these universally-shared subcortical affective systems on which personality is built: CARE, PLAY, SEEK, SADNESS, FEAR and ANGER. Gender differences have been reported in several previous ANPS studies, but no systematic review of these findings has yet been conducted. The present study reviewed ANPS gender effects in 15 countries: (from West to East) Canada, U.S.A., Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Norway, Poland, Serbia, Turkey, Russia, China, Hong Kong, and Japan. The total sample size was N = 6500, composed of 38% males and 62% females. The mean age for the total sample was 26 years. The results showed that gender differences on the ANPS were variable, for different classes of basic emotions. These categories included emotions on which females scored universally higher (CARE and SADNESS); emotions that showed variability based on geography (FEAR and PLAY); and emotions that showed virtually no gender effect (SEEKING and ANGER). These findings can be interpreted in the light of biological universals, geographical variation caused by genetics, and cultural variation in emotion expression and regulation. The results were broadly consistent with gender effects reported in the Big Five personality literature, including a trend of gender differences increasing when moving from 'East' to 'West'. The paper reviews a range of suggestions for future research, including cultural data, genomic data and/or culture-gene interactions.

Facial attractiveness and face recognition are positively and linearly related; contrary to prediction, females don't outperform males in face recognition

Facial attractiveness, social status, and face recognition. Thomas E. Malloy, Carissa DiPietro, Brandon DeSimone, Christine Curley, Sathiarith Chau & Casey Silva. Visual Cognition, Feb 17 2021. https://doi.org/10.1080/13506285.2021.1884630

Abstract: Research on facial attractiveness and face recognition has produced contradictory results that we believe are rooted in methodological limitations. Three experiments evaluated the hypothesis that facial attractiveness and face recognition are positively and linearly related. We also expected that social status would moderate the attractiveness effect. Attractive faces were recognized with very high accuracy compared to less attractive faces. We specified two estimates of facial distinctiveness (generalized and idiosyncratic) and demonstrated that the attractiveness effect on face recognition was not due to distinctiveness. This solves the long-standing problem that because facial attractiveness and distinctiveness are naturally confounded, construct validity is compromised. There was no support for the prediction, based on meta-analysis, that females would outperform males in face recognition. The attractiveness effect was so strong that gender effects were precluded. Methodological prescriptions to enhance internal, construct, and statistical conclusion validity in face recognition paradigms are presented.

KEYWORDS: Facial attractivenessface recognitionsocial statusfacial distinctiveness

The perception of one’s partner’s higher agreeableness/commitment predicted one’s higher perceived relationship power; effect is stronger in women

Lindová, Jitka; Habešová, Tereza; Klapilová, Kateřina; Havlíček, Jan. 2021. "Commitment, Dominance, and Mate Value: Power Bases in Long-Term Heterosexual Couples" Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 18, no. 4: 1914; Feb 16 2021. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18041914

h/t David Schmitt on Twitter: ""the perception of one’s partner’s higher agreeableness/commitment predicted one’s higher perceived relationship power

Abstract: We assessed the relative contribution of economic, personal, and affective power bases to perceived relationship power. Based on evolutionary studies, we predicted that personality dominance and mate value should represent alternative personal power bases. Our sample was comprised of 84 Czech heterosexual couples. We measured the economic power base using self-report scales assessing education, income and work status. Personal power bases were assessed using self-report measures of personality dominance (International Personality Item Pool Dominance and Assertiveness subscale from NEO Personality Inventory-Revised Extraversion scale), and partner-report measures of mate value (Trait-Specific Dependence Inventory, factors 2–6). The first factor of Trait-Specific Dependence Inventory, which measures agreeableness/commitment was used to assess the affective power base. Our results show that perceived relationship power is associated with a perception of partner’s high agreeableness/commitment. Moreover, women’s personality dominance and mate value are also linked with perceived relationship power, which supports our evolutionary prediction of dominance and mate value working as power bases for women. The stronger effect of women’s than men’s power bases may be due to gender differences in investment into relationships and/or due to transition to more equal relationships currently sought by women in the Czech Republic.

Keywords: power bases; dominance; mate value; commitment; relationship power

Fast life history strategy males express highest levels of rule breaking & slow LHS males lowest; no differences in rule breaking between slow & fast LHS females; differences could be explained by role of males in rearing

Life History Theory: Evolutionary mechanisms and gender role on risk-taking behaviors in young adults. Javier Salas-Rodríguez, Luis Gómez-Jacinto, María Isabel Hombrados-Mendieta. Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 175, June 2021, 110752. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2021.110752

Abstract: Evolutionary psychology considers the human mind to be composed of multiple specific mechanisms with specific adaptive purposes. This evolutionary approach is in line with the domain-specific view of risk-taking behaviors. Based on the theoretical framework of Life History Theory, the present study analyzes the moderating effect of gender and the mediating effect of evolutionary domain-specific risks in young adult Spaniards (432 participants). K-factor, measured through the Mini-K, was used as an indicator of life history strategy (LHS). Evolutionary domain-specific risks were measured through the Evolutionary Domain-Specific Risk Scale and risk-taking behaviors through the Risky Behavior Questionnaire. Results showed an interaction effect between gender and LHS for rule breaking. Evolutionary domain-specific risks had a mediation effect between LHS and risk-taking behaviors, mainly through mate attraction. These results highlight the different effects of LHS on risk-taking behaviors based on gender and the impact of evolutionary mechanisms. It is, therefore, necessary to consider an evolutionary approach on intervention programs aimed at reducing risk-taking behaviors in young adults.

Keywords: Life History TheoryRisk-taking behaviorEvolutionary domain-specific riskGender differencesYoung adults

Computational and neurocognitive approaches to the political brain: key insights and future avenues for political neuroscience

Computational and neurocognitive approaches to the political brain: key insights and future avenues for political neuroscience. Leor Zmigrod and Manos Tsakiris. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, February 22 2021. https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2020.0130

Abstract: Although the study of political behaviour has been traditionally restricted to the social sciences, new advances in political neuroscience and computational cognitive science highlight that the biological sciences can offer crucial insights into the roots of ideological thought and action. Echoing the dazzling diversity of human ideologies, this theme issue seeks to reflect the multiplicity of theoretical and methodological approaches to understanding the nature of the political brain. Cutting-edge research along three thematic strands is presented, including (i) computational approaches that zoom in on fine-grained mechanisms underlying political behaviour, (ii) neurocognitive perspectives that harness neuroimaging and psychophysiological techniques to study ideological processes, and (iii) behavioural studies and policy-minded analyses of such understandings across cultures and across ideological domains. Synthesizing these findings together, the issue elucidates core questions regarding the nature of uncertainty in political cognition, the mechanisms of social influence and the cognitive structure of ideological beliefs. This offers key directions for future biologically grounded research as well as a guiding map for citizens, psychologists and policymakers traversing the uneven landscape of modern polarization, misinformation, intolerance and dogmatism.

1. Unravelling the roots of ideological behaviour

The inherent challenge—and exciting promise—of political psychology and neuroscience is the task of investigating an endlessly intricate organ (the brain) in wildly diverse social contexts (the arena of ideologies). These complexities naturally compound each other, rendering a robust psychological science of ideologies and political behaviour both challenging and crucial. The rapid spread of misinformation propagated by digital media as well as pronounced tribalistic polarization within and between national entities has provoked a global sense that our understanding of the origins of voting behaviour and ideological worldviews is dangerously insufficient. While the study of political attitudes and behaviour has been traditionally confined to the social sciences, new advances in political neuroscience and computational cognitive science highlight that the biological sciences may offer crucial insights about political and ideological behaviour. Ideological behaviour can be defined as behaviour that is epistemically dogmatic and interpersonally intolerant towards non-adherents or non-members [1]. In other words, a person thinking or behaving ‘ideologically' is rigidly adhering to a doctrine, resisting credible evidence when forming opinions, and selectively antagonistic to individuals who do not follow their ideological group or cause. Ideological behaviour can therefore occur in the realm of politics, religion, gender, race, class, social media or any other area of life where social conditions are described and accordingly actions are narrowly prescribed, resulting in ingroups and outgroups.

Yet what prompts an individual to behave ideologically? What neurocognitive processes are underway when a person evaluates socio-political information and comes to dogmatic conclusions? Why do some people fall into the traps of polarization more easily than others? These are some of the pertinent questions that a science of the political brain aims to elucidate and critically evaluate.

Until recently, social psychology was fairly limited in the methods available to study such processes rigorously. Measurement approaches were overwhelmingly based on self-report questionnaires, which are susceptible to self-knowledge and social desirability biases and which struggle to tap into unconscious processes and dispositions. Methods were restricted to laboratory-based studies, encompassing participants from limited university student populations that were frequently neither representative nor diverse. Nonetheless, over the last decade, and the past 5 years in particular, the methodology has advanced beyond recognition. Behavioural and cognitive measures can now be administered online, allowing for genuine interdisciplinarity between political research questions and cognitive methods that quantify implicit psychological processes and traits. These effective online paradigms possess the added value of increasing the accessibility and diversity of participant populations and enabling more reliable cross-cultural comparisons. Moreover, the advent of neuroscience has opened up the field towards studying the neural systems that underpin political cognition, resulting in both new insights and dangerous pitfalls [2,3]. Computational modelling approaches are also now sliding into political psychology [4], facilitating more precise calculation of cognitive parameters as well as more imaginative and complex simulations of how mental processes interact with social dynamics. Political psychology and neuroscience have therefore never been better placed to address the nuances of the political brain. At a time of substantial ideological turmoil and division, the field has also perhaps never been more pertinent.

Yet—as any good philosopher of science will observe—improved methodologies have a limited impact without inventive and thoughtful theoretical approaches that can take the field forward and build knowledge across disciplines. It is this marriage between cutting-edge methods and original, well-reasoned hypotheses that this special issue wishes to highlight. This collection of state-of-the-art research in political neuroscience, psychology and political science seeks to illustrate that a robust science of political behaviour is possible and productive, illuminating critical insights about the nature of ideology, the human brain and the societies we live in.

We have chosen to highlight three strands of research: (i) computational approaches that zoom in on fine-grained mechanisms underlying political behaviour, (ii) neurocognitive perspectives that harness neuroimaging and psychophysiological techniques to study ideological processes, and (iii) behavioural studies and policy repercussions of such understandings across cultures and across ideological domains. Evaluating these interdisciplinary approaches together unearths common themes that can inform present theory as well as guide future research efforts. These will be synthesized and summarized below. Above all, we hope that the empirical findings and theoretical implications presented in this theme issue will inspire researchers, policy makers and scholars from a range of disciplines to tackle the intricacies of studying brains in their political environments with rigour, innovation and hope.

2. Computational approaches

Computational perspectives on the nature of ideological behaviour typically take two primary forms: computational simulations of hypothetical behavioural dynamics or computational modelling of human behaviour on cognitive tasks. The papers in this collection reflect both types of computational approaches and result in striking overlaps and complementary findings.

Kashima et al. [5] explore how computational models of social influence in networks relate to ideological discourse. Using a computational model of communication, the authors identify four subtypes of potential ideological agents according to their level of cognitive bias and motivational ego-involvement when interpreting and storing information in memory. This maps on to the doctrinal and relational components of ideological thinking posited by Zmigrod [1]. The results demonstrate that certain kinds of ideological minds are more likely to polarize in particular ways and that even non-ideological agents can polarize if they communicate exclusively with polarized agents. Hence, the computational modelling employed by Kashima et al. [5] illustrates the subtle ways in which cognitive dispositions can interact with political contexts to shape the course of polarization. As they conclude, micro-psychological and macro-historical processes modulate each other in profound ways.

In another demonstration of the interaction between psychological mechanisms and interpersonal dynamics, De Dreu et al. [6] review the literature on how agents in political conflict can be modelled through a game theory framework informed by neurobiological insights. Synthesizing formal models with the literature on the neurocognitive roots of attack and defence strategies, the authors argue that the likelihood of status quo revision can be predicted by understanding a host of psychological processes, including the nature of selfish and non-selfish motivations, information-processing capacity to compute cost-benefit trade-offs and metacognitive beliefs.

Metacognition is dissected further by Rollwage & Fleming [7], who use simulation-based modelling to demonstrate that metacognitive insight modulates the adaptiveness of confirmation bias. Agents with accurate metacognitive skills can in fact benefit from biased information processing, suggesting that confirmation bias itself may only be deleterious for individuals who also have a metacognitive impairment. Metacognitive ability may thus be a useful locus for interventions aiming to reduce dogmatism and belief polarization.

To elucidate the cognitive basis of dogmatic and ideological thinking, Zmigrod et al. [8] conducted a large-scale data-driven investigation. By administering 37 cognitive tasks and 22 personality surveys, and studying the links to 16 ideological attitudes, Zmigrod and colleagues [8] examined how psychological dispositions sculpt individuals' ideological worldviews. Through computational drift-diffusion and Bayesian modelling, the researchers found that individuals' ideologies mirrored their cognitive decision-making strategies. Dogmatism was characterized by impaired evidence accumulation in perceptual decision-making tasks as well as impulsive personality, revealing that dogmatism may emerge owing to general tendencies to make impulsive decisions based on imperfectly processed evidence. Furthermore, the findings illuminate the cognitive and personality roots of political conservatism, nationalism, authoritarianism, system justification, social dominance orientation and extremist attitudes. It is therefore a key resource for scientists of ideology interested in the psychological individual differences that give rise to ideological thought and action.

The underpinnings of political behaviour are further explicated by Lau's [9] review of the literature on social categorization as latent structure learning. The paper argues that in order to understand political phenomena, scientists must adopt high-level conceptualizations of social categorization. Lau's research on how the brain probabilistically infers and tracks latent groups demonstrates that individuals' assessments of the contours of their group identities rely not only on how similar they are to the targets, but on a whole host of contextual factors. The manner in which individuals understand their ingroups and outgroups is thus more complex than previously imagined and can shed light on political polarization in various parliamentary structures—as well as its antidotes.

We examined participant & target predictors of dating behavior in a swiping task; target attractiveness & race were the largest predictors of decisions; individual personality traits were not important to make decisions

Modeling dating decisions in a mock swiping paradigm: An examination of participant and target characteristics. William J. Chopik, David J. Johnson. Journal of Research in Personality, Available online 20 February 2021, 104076. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrp.2021.104076


• We examined participant and target predictors of dating behavior in a swiping task.

• Target attractiveness and target race were the largest predictors of decisions.

• Individual difference characteristics were poor predictors.

• The relative influence of predictors in mobile-based dating apps are discussed.

Abstract: New online dating platforms, such as Tinder, are dramatically changing the context in which people seek romantic relationships. In these platforms, users select partners they are willing to start a conversation with by “swiping” on them. These platforms provide exciting possibilities for applying new methods to test how user (e.g., demographic, personality) and target/partner (e.g., attractiveness, race) factors predict attraction. Across four laboratory studies (total N = 2,679), target physical attractiveness and target race were the largest predictors of decisions in this hypothetical dating context, whereas user individual difference traits were poor predictors. The current studies provide substantive information about the factors that predict romantic attraction in the context of mobile-based dating applications.

Keywords: Tinderdating decisionsindividual differencesmating behaviorraceattraction