Friday, February 26, 2021

Results indicate that although high self-control is associated with a wide range of socially desirable traits, choice of social partners does not depend or depends only to a small degree on the partner's high self-control

The Upsides and Downsides of High Self-Control: Evidence for Effects of Similarity and Situation Dependency. Lukas Röseler, Jacqueline Ebert, Astrid Schütz, Roy Baumeister. Europe's Journal of Psychology, Vol 17(1). Feb 26 2021.

Abstract: High trait self-control is generally depicted as favorable. We investigated whether this holds for social perception. Using vignettes, we tested whether a person with high self-control is 1) preferred as a partner for all or only certain social situations, 2) perceived as less likeable than a person with low self-control, 3) liked more if the person is female and the behavior thus fits the sex-stereotype, and 4) perceived differently from a person with low self-control with respect to a wide range of adjectives used to describe personality. Competing theories are presented for each area. Results indicate that although high self-control is associated with a wide range of socially desirable traits, choice of partners 1) depends on the type of situation in which the interaction will occur, 2) depends on the similarity between the respondent and the partner, 3) does not depend on a stereotype match, and 4) does not depend or depends only to a small degree on the partner's high self-control. The perception of individuals with high self-control is thus variable and situationally contingent, and more than a single theory is needed to explain it.


A broad and high-powered vignette study provided detailed evidence for a wide range of effects of a person's self-control on social perception. Contrary to the view that high self-control is always better than low self-control (positivity hypothesis of self-control), we found that the type of person that is preferred 1) depends on the type of situation one is confronted with, 2) depends on similarity, and 3) does not depend on gender stereotypes. In terms of duty situations (e.g., getting advice for a decision), people with high self-control were the preferred partners, whereas in socializing situations (e.g., going for a walk, attending a party, having a nice conversation), people with low self-control were the preferred partners. Also contradicting the positivity hypothesis of self-control, we found that how much people liked people with low or high self-control depended on their own self-control. More specifically, people with high self-control preferred other people with high self-control, and people with low self-control preferred other people with low self-control, a trend that is consistent with similarity being a major factor for determining attraction in nonromantic contexts.

There was an apparent contradiction of the main effect of self-control: When the task was to choose a partner for socializing and duty situations, participants preferred partners with high self-control overall (high vignette self-control). However, when we asked for how much participants liked the vignettes and participants' self-control was controlled for, low vignette self-control received higher liking scores overall. Note that choosing somebody in a situation differs from liking somebody and that the overall mean effect across all 10 situations depended on these situations and could easily be different for other situations. For example, the duty situations might have been more diagnostic than the sociality situations, but at the same time, they might occur less often and thus weigh less.

Although there is evidence for stereotypical male behavior being less self-controlled than female behavior, and there are theoretical grounds for predicting that a stereotype match would be positively associated with how much a person likes another person, we found no such effect: Whether men or women were presented as high or low in self-control had no differential effect on liking.

We found that the similarity effect and the situation effect occurred simultaneously and independently and dominated the main effect of vignette self-control (positivity hypothesis) by far. That is, the choice of a partner depends on the situation that the partner is needed for (situation hypothesis), the resemblance between the partner and the person who is choosing the partner (complementarity hypothesis), but not or only to a very small degree on the self-control of the partner being high (positivity hypothesis). Future research should consider these aspects of social perception in relation to self-control. We did find an advantage of people with high self-control over people with low self-control when people look for partners in duty situations. Despite this corroboration of the positivity hypothesis, other factors such as similarity and the situation seem more important. This is surprising given that the definition of self-control includes aspects of social desirability. In other words, whether one likes somebody who is socially desirable (i.e., has high self-control) also depends on the perceiver's self-control. And whether one wants to work with somebody who is socially desirable depends on the situation. Ironically, in what we termed socializing situations (e.g., going on vacation together or partying), vignette characters with low self-control (i.e., a socially undesirable trait) were preferred over vignette characters with high self-control.

Finally, and more in line with the positivity hypothesis of self-control, an exploratory approach revealed that people with high self-control are associated with a wide range of other socially desirable traits, such as being assured, unassuming, and agreeable. Some of the results are seemingly contradictory: Although some factors theoretically correlate negatively (e.g., assured-dominant and gregarious-extraverted), differences between high and low self-controlled vignettes are not in the same direction with these factors. This could be due to patterns that are different in that population, possibly due to trans situational variability, than in a standard population. That is, people very high and low in self-control or the perceptions about these people could show other patterns of correlations between the dimensions that differ from those in a standard population.


In our outline of the social perception of people with high self-control, we considered different kinds of situations, individual differences in the participants, sex stereotypes, and a wide range of traits. However, several factors merit further investigation.

First, we used vignettes only. Our setting was thus highly artificial, and the large effect sizes were probably due to the extreme manipulations. If actual people with less extreme differences were used, we would expect smaller effects.

Second, our study may have been affected by demand characteristics. It was evident that we were interested in perceptions that were based on the vignettes and on stereotypes. Even though people are not defenseless against demand characteristics () judgments in everyday life may differ from findings in an experiment. The ratings of the vignettes might be subject to demand characteristics whereas spontaneous responses might not. Although tasks such as the Implicit Association Test () have been criticized heavily (e.g., ), they allow for an assessment of such spontaneous reports () and can thus be helpful to avoid the problem of demand characteristics.

Third, our sample and vignettes targeted 20- to 30-year-old German people. Academic and social goals may vary across the lifespan and cultures, moderate the importance of duty and socializing situations, and thus affect their weight in choosing interaction partners and evaluating others. Even what is socially desirable might depend on these factors. For example, an interesting approach could be the longitudinal perspective on romantic relationships with respect to self-control. At the beginning of a romantic relationship, partners might exercise much more self-control in order to convince their partner of sustaining the rather fragile relationship than after a few months or years.

Although we identified situation type, similarity, and self-control as three parallel effects, with the last one being the weakest in our study, we cannot generalize their significance to contexts outside the laboratory. Generalization to other cultures where different traits are considered socially desirable may not be possible either. Replications, especially in non-Western cultures, are needed. Due to the artificial setting and different manipulations and measures (i.e., manipulation of vignette self-control but no manipulation of respondent self-control), the effect sizes might be skewed.

Most think about themselves, remember about themselves, & feel about themselves in positive rather than in negative ways; when we think negatively about ourselves, we tend to minimize the negativity

Chapter Five - On the utility of the self in social perception: An Egocentric Tactician Model. Constantine Sedikides, Mark D. Alicke, John J. Skowronski. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, Volume 63, 2021, Pages 247-298,

Abstract: This chapter describes the Egocentric Tactician Model. The model purports to account for the influence of the self on social thought. Such thought refers to the social world and those who inhabit it (i.e., characterizing or construing another's actions, predicting others’ preferences or behaviors, evaluating what is normative or right). The model posits that the influence of the self on social thought is contingent on both the content of the self-concept and the motives that work to maintain or increase the positivity of the self-concept. Two primary motives are self-enhancement and self-protection. The model further asserts that during social thought these motives affect, and are affected by, various cognitive processes and structures. Different chapter sections demonstrate that the Egocentric Tactician Model is empirically grounded, has a broad explanatory scope, is generative, and differs from other models in describing how the self affects social thought.

Keywords: SelfSocial perceptionSelf-motivesSelf-enhancementSelf-protection

Humans differ from chimpanzees more because of delayed maturity and lower adult mortality than from differences in juvenile mortality or fertility

Davison RJ, Gurven MD (2021) Human uniqueness? Life history diversity among small-scale societies and chimpanzees. PLoS ONE 16(2): e0239170, Feb 22 2021.


Background: Humans life histories have been described as “slow”, patterned by slow growth, delayed maturity, and long life span. While it is known that human life history diverged from that of a recent common chimpanzee-human ancestor some ~4–8 mya, it is unclear how selection pressures led to these distinct traits. To provide insight, we compare wild chimpanzees and human subsistence societies in order to identify the age-specific vital rates that best explain fitness variation, selection pressures and species divergence.

Methods: We employ Life Table Response Experiments to quantify vital rate contributions to population growth rate differences. Although widespread in ecology, these methods have not been applied to human populations or to inform differences between humans and chimpanzees. We also estimate correlations between vital rate elasticities and life history traits to investigate differences in selection pressures and test several predictions based on life history theory.

Results: Chimpanzees’ earlier maturity and higher adult mortality drive species differences in population growth, whereas infant mortality and fertility variation explain differences between human populations. Human fitness is decoupled from longevity by postreproductive survival, while chimpanzees forfeit higher potential lifetime fertility due to adult mortality attrition. Infant survival is often lower among humans, but lost fitness is recouped via short birth spacing and high peak fertility, thereby reducing selection on infant survival. Lastly, longevity and delayed maturity reduce selection on child survival, but among humans, recruitment selection is unexpectedly highest in longer-lived populations, which are also faster-growing due to high fertility.

Conclusion: Humans differ from chimpanzees more because of delayed maturity and lower adult mortality than from differences in juvenile mortality or fertility. In both species, high child mortality reflects bet-hedging costs of quality/quantity tradeoffs borne by offspring, with high and variable child mortality likely regulating human population growth over evolutionary history. Positive correlations between survival and fertility among human subsistence populations leads to selection pressures in human subsistence societies that differ from those in modern populations undergoing demographic transition.

Grafting new functions (e.g., reading) onto older brain structures can improve even the skills (e.g., object recognition) for which the old infrastructure had originally evolved

Does Neuronal Recycling Result in Destructive Competition? The Influence of Learning to Read on the Recognition of Faces. Jeroen van Paridon et al. Psychological Science, February 25, 2021.

Abstract: Written language, a human cultural invention, is far too recent a development for dedicated neural infrastructure to have evolved in its service. Newly acquired cultural skills, such as reading, thus recycle evolutionarily older circuits that originally evolved for different, but similar, functions (e.g., visual object recognition). The destructive-competition hypothesis predicts that this neuronal recycling has detrimental behavioral effects on the cognitive functions for which a cortical network originally evolved. In a study with 97 literate, low-literate, and illiterate participants from the same socioeconomic background, we found that even after adjusting for cognitive ability and test-taking familiarity, learning to read was associated with an increase, rather than a decrease, in object-recognition abilities. These results are incompatible with the claim that neuronal recycling results in destructive competition and are consistent with the possibility that learning to read instead fine-tunes general object-recognition mechanisms, a hypothesis that needs further neuroscientific investigation.

Keywords: reading, face perception, literacy, neuroimaging, open data, open materials

Our findings are incompatible with destructive competition and consistent with neuroimaging evidence (Hervais-Adelman et al., 2019) that learning to read may fine-tune object-recognition mechanisms, namely, that reading acquisition results in increased sensitivity to visual stimuli in addition to reading-related enhanced attentional and oculomotor capacities (Kastner et al., 2004Skeide et al., 2017).

Importantly, the comparatively better object-recognition abilities of literates than illiterates appear to be directly related to reading acquisition. Such abilities are very unlikely to be a secondary effect of literacy, such as increased verbal working memory (Demoulin & Kolinsky, 2016Smalle et al., 2019), general cognitive ability, or familiarity with test taking, because in the present study we regressed out common variance associated with these traits. To more directly assess causality, we recommend further investigation of the results from the present large-scale cross-sectional study with a longitudinal design (cf. Goswami, 2015Huettig, Lachmann, et al., 2018). The positive relationship between reading ability and object-recognition memory in the present study casts serious doubts on the viability of the destructive-competition hypothesis. Whereas this hypothesis views the brain as a system with finite processing resources for which different functions are competing, the present findings raise the intriguing possibility that the brain, remarkably, is able to support new abilities in such a way that related older abilities can be enhanced rather than impaired. Further behavioral and neuroscientific research could explore this possibility in more detail, for instance, examining whether literates’ better object-recognition abilities are related to shared (neural) processing between face and word reading, as both skills require sophisticated foveal processing.

From 2016... This paper argues that panhuman cognitive tendencies explain, in part, the spread and recurrence of ideas about what provides evidence of reincarnation

The Cognitive Foundations of Reincarnation. Claire White. Method & Theory in the Study of Religion, Volume 28, Issue 3, Pages: 264–286. Aug 4 2016.

Abstract: Anthropological records and psychological studies demonstrate the recurrence of ideas about how to determine the identity of reincarnated persons. These ideas are often incoherent with corresponding theological dogma about the process of reincarnation. Specifically, even though reincarnation is represented as a process of change, people often seek out and interpret particular similarities between the deceased and reincarnated agent as evidence that the two are one and the same person. This paper argues that panhuman cognitive tendencies explain, in part, the spread and recurrence of ideas about what provides evidence of reincarnation: specifically, representations of reincarnated agents are informed and constrained by everyday cognitive intuitions that govern representations of continued identity for intentional agents generally. The paper concludes that these constraints go some way towards explaining the recurrent features of reincarnation concepts and behaviors cross-culturally. 

Keywords: Reincarnation; Personal identity; Cognitive science of religion; Theological incorrectness.

III. General Discussion
This paper is underpinned by the following key question: why do people across the world judge particular types of physical and psychological similarities between the deceased and reincarnated agents as evidence of continued identity? This observation is especially perplexing because the continuity of these features explicitly contradicts the concept of reincarnation as entailing a bodily (and often psychological) change. The findings presented here, from trends observed in the anthropological record – including a quantifiable analysis of the existing reports in North America, a series of controlled studies with U.S. and Jain participants with different beliefs about the afterlife and a survey with western participants who believe they have lived before, suggests a role for the mundane processes of social cognition in explaining the cross-culturally recurrent features of reincarnation beliefs and associated practices. Namely, that despite representing reincarnation as a process of physical change and, in some instances, also subscribing to a view of the self in a process of constant psychological change, people everywhere represent reincarnated agents as retaining distinctive physical features and assuming an underlying psychological stability through the retention of episodic autobiographical memory. These processes are governed by intuitive expectations for agents everywhere, and in the face of explicit doctrine they do not simply “shut off”, but rather, facilitate and constrain so-called “religious” practices in predictable ways. In line with other research in the cognitive science of religion, there are thus cognitive, or natural, foundations to religious concepts. To be clear, the argument advanced here is not that such cognitive processes, in isolation, explain the recurrence of the use of these signs in reincarnation without reference to the sociohistorical processes that also give rise to, and facilitate them. Rather, the claim is that accounting for these representational biases contributes towards a better understanding, and ultimately, explanation, of the transmissive success of reincarnation concepts. Thus, acknowledging the role of the human mind can strengthen existing explanations of reincarnation that hinge upon other psychological or social processes. Take, for instance, the explanation of such practices in the anthropological record previously discussed, that they serve a purpose for the bereaved to have their deceased kin reincarnate to their clan or lineage (Obeyesekere 2002). It may be the case that, for example, these low-level cognitive constraints for human agents previously outlined (i.e., representational content biases), when combined with the strong motivation to identify kin, spread rapidly, especially when such ideas are reinforced by leading religious authorities or they have important consequences for the organization of society (e.g., see Gervais et al. 2011; Nichols 2004). Future programs of research should consider how cognition interacts with culture to produce the similarity, and differences, of reincarnation concepts and associated behaviors cross-culturally. The current research project has taken the first step towards identifying what some of the basic cognitive features in this ultimate explanatory story would be. 

The evidence from human intervention studies supports the use of low-calorie sweeteners in weight management

The effects of low-calorie sweeteners on energy intake and body weight: a systematic review and meta-analyses of sustained intervention studies. Peter J. Rogers & Katherine M. Appleton. International Journal of Obesity volume 45, pages464–478, Nov 9 2020.

Abstract: Previous meta-analyses of intervention studies have come to different conclusions about effects of consumption of low-calorie sweeteners (LCS) on body weight. The present review included 60 articles reporting 88 parallel-groups and cross-over studies ≥1 week in duration that reported either body weight (BW), BMI and/or energy intake (EI) outcomes. Studies were analysed according to whether they compared (1) LCS with sugar, (2) LCS with water or nothing, or (3) LCS capsules with placebo capsules. Results showed an effect in favour of LCS vs sugar for BW (29 parallel-groups studies, 2267 participants: BW change, −1.06 kg, 95% CI −1.50 to −0.62, I2 = 51%), BMI and EI. Effect on BW change increased with ‘dose’ of sugar replaced by LCS, whereas there were no differences in study outcome as a function of duration of the intervention or participant blinding. Overall, results showed no difference in effects of LCS vs water/nothing for BW (11 parallel-groups studies, 1068 participants: BW change, 0.10 kg, 95% CI −0.87 to 1.07, I2 = 82%), BMI and EI; and inconsistent effects for LCS consumed in capsules (BW change: −0.28 kg, 95% CI −0.80 to 0.25, I2 = 0%; BMI change: 0.20 kg/m2, 95% CI 0.04 to 0.36, I2 = 0%). Occurrence of adverse events was not affected by the consumption of LCS. The studies available did not permit robust analysis of effects by LCS type. In summary, outcomes were not clearly affected when the treatments differed in sweetness, nor when LCS were consumed in capsules without tasting; however, when treatments differed in energy value (LCS vs sugar), there were consistent effects in favour of LCS. The evidence from human intervention studies supports the use of LCS in weight management, constrained primarily by the amount of added sugar that LCS can displace in the diet.

Unattractive (vs. attractive) individuals were judged to be more likely to engage in purity violations compared to harm violations; the observed effect was driven by the upper half of the attractiveness spectrum

Klebl, Christoph. 2021. “Physical Attractiveness Biases Judgments Pertaining to the Moral Domain of Purity.” PsyArXiv. February 26. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: Research on the Beauty-is-Good stereotype shows that unattractive people are perceived to have worse moral character than attractive individuals. Yet research has not explored what kinds of moral character judgments are particularly biased by attractiveness. In this work, we tested whether attractiveness particularly biases moral character judgments pertaining to the moral domain of purity, beyond a more general halo effect. Two pre-registered studies found that unattractive (vs. attractive) individuals were judged to be more likely to engage in purity violations compared to harm violations and that this was not due to differences in perceived wrongness of the violations (Studies 1 and 3). We also found that the observed effect was driven by the upper half of the attractiveness spectrum (Studies 2 and 3). The findings shed light on how physical attractiveness influences moral character attributions, suggesting that physical attractiveness particularly biases character judgments pertaining to the moral domain of purity.