Tuesday, March 2, 2021

People avoid at all costs comparing themselves with others who are morally better off than they are

Fleischmann, A., Lammers, J., Diel, K., Hofmann, W., & Galinsky, A. D. (2021). More threatening and more diagnostic: How moral comparisons differ from social comparisons. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Mar 2021. https://doi.org/10.1037/pspi0000361

Rolf Degen's take: https://twitter.com/DegenRolf/status/1366772389279842304

Abstract: The current research tests how comparisons in the moral domain differ from other social comparisons in three ways. First, an initial experience-sampling study shows that people compare downward more strongly in the moral domain than in most other domains (Study 1, N = 454), because people like to feel moral and present themselves as moral. Second, the classic threat principle of social comparison holds that people choose downward comparisons to improve their well-being after a threat to their self-esteem. We propose that in the moral domain the threat principle is intensified because morality is a uniquely important and central comparison domain. Across seven experiments (Experiments 2a and 2b, 3a–3c, 4a and 4b), we find that people search for downward comparisons much more than in other domains. This effect is so strong that people are willing to forgo money and incur time costs to avoid upward moral comparisons when threatened. Third, another classic principle of social comparison holds that people only consider comparisons that are diagnostic (i.e., close or similar) and therefore self-relevant, while dismissing extreme or dissimilar comparisons as irrelevant. We propose that this diagnosticity principle is attenuated because morality is a binding code that applies equally to all humans. Across four experiments (Experiments 5a and 5b, 6a and 6b), we find that even the most extreme and dissimilar moral (but not other) comparisons are deemed relevant and potentially threatening. Together, these twelve studies (total N = 5,543) demonstrate how moral comparisons are a ubiquitous but fundamentally distinct form of social comparison with altered basic principles.

Among young women, drinking less alcohol, & in men declines in drinking frequency, an increase in computer gaming, & the growing percentage who coreside with their parents, all contribute to the decline in casual sex

Why Are Fewer Young Adults Having Casual Sex? Scott J. South, Lei Lei.  Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World, March 1, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1177/2378023121996854

Abstract: Fewer young adults are engaging in casual sexual intercourse now than in the past, but the reasons for this decline are unknown. The authors use data from the 2007 through 2017 waves of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics Transition into Adulthood Supplement to quantify some of the proximate sources of the decline in the likelihood that unpartnered young adults ages 18 to 23 have recently had sexual intercourse. Among young women, the decline in the frequency of drinking alcohol explains about one quarter of the drop in the propensity to have casual sex. Among young men, declines in drinking frequency, an increase in computer gaming, and the growing percentage who coreside with their parents all contribute significantly to the decline in casual sex. The authors find no evidence that trends in young adults’ economic circumstances, internet use, or television watching explain the recent decline in casual sexual activity.

Keywords: casual sex, young adults, emerging adulthood

Adolescents and young adults are increasingly less likely to have sexual intercourse outside of a romantic relationship, but the causes of this decline in casual sex have not been rigorously evaluated. We use data from the PSID-TAS to quantify the sources of the decrease in young adult casual sexual activity between 2007 and 2017. We find that about one quarter of the drop in young women’s propensity to have casual sex is attributable to a decline in their frequency of drinking alcohol. Of the various sources of the decline in sexual activity considered in this analysis, the decline in alcohol consumption is the only factor that explains a significant portion of the decline in young women’s probability of engaging in casual sex.

A somewhat different story emerges for young men. As with young women, a decline in the frequency of drinking alcohol is an important source of young men’s diminished likelihood of having casual sex. But unlike for young women, among young men increases in the frequency of playing computer games and in the tendency to reside in the parental home also play important roles. Although both young women and young men play computer games more frequently now than in the past, gaming inhibits only young men’s casual sex behavior. The factors hypothesized to explain the decline in casual sexual intercourse explain a greater portion of the decline in young men’s than in young women’s propensity to engage in casual sex.

We find no evidence that some other transformations in the lives of emerging young adults can explain the decline in their casual sexual activity. Trends in young adults’ financial insecurity, including their student debt load, do not appear to underlie their change in casual sexual activity. Nor does an increase in time spent watching television. And among young women the increase in the use of the Internet appears to actually suppress what would otherwise have been a larger drop in the propensity to engage in sex with someone who is not a romantic partner.

We acknowledge that our findings raise questions as to what factors are driving changes in these proximate sources of the decline in young adult casual sexual activity. Further research is needed to identify the causes of trends in young adult alcohol consumption, computer gaming, and parental coresidence. Although changes in each behavior may have unique determinants, it is possible that some hard-to-quantify change in the young adult cultural zeitgeist is driving changes in these proximate determinants of casual sexual activity, as well as trends in casual sex. Growing individualism and reduced sociability might lead to less partying (and hence less drinking), more computer gaming, and less autonomous living, while also diminishing the desire for sexual intercourse—at least the type of casual encounters captured in this analysis. Causation could also run in the reverse direction if a diminished desire for casual sex leads youth to party, and drink, less frequently and to play more computer games, perhaps all the while living in the proverbial parents’ basement. Quantifying these potentially distal sources of change in young adults’ causal sexual activity is likely to be difficult, so qualitative studies may have much to offer here.

Future research might also profit by redressing some of the limitations of this analysis. The small sample size makes it difficult to detect significant associations or subgroup differences. Our measure of casual sexual activity is rather crude and could both undercount and overcount the nonromantic sexual encounters considered to be casual sex. The measure is also insensitive to heterogeneity in the types of these encounters. Trends in, and determinants of, one-time sex with strangers might differ substantially from sexual encounters between friends or former romantic partners and from encounters that one or both participants hope will lead to a more serious romantic relationship. College “hookups” might be a unique subtype of casual sexual encounters driven by a distinct set of factors (Allison 2016England and Ronen 2015).

We note as well that our analysis leaves unexplained a substantial portion of the decline in young adults’ casual sexual behavior, particularly among young women. Trends in the hypothesized mediating factors included in this analysis explain more than half of the decline in young men’s odds of engaging in casual sex but account for only about one quarter of the decline in young women’s probability of having a nonromantic sexual encounter. Further research is needed to identify additional causes of the decline in casual sexual activity among young adults. Perhaps the intensifying concern with interpersonal sexual violence and sexual coercion as exemplified in the #MeToo movement has begun inhibiting presumably voluntary casual sexual encounters between young women and men. The impact of this and other broad cultural shifts will also likely be difficult to measure but may well require consideration in order to develop a comprehensive assessment of the decline in young adults’ casual sexual activity.

Over 14,000 individuals from 45 countries were asked whether they embraced, stroked, kissed, or hugged their partner, friends, and youngest child during the week preceding the study

Affective Interpersonal Touch in Close Relationships: A Cross-Cultural Perspective. Agnieszka Sorokowska et al. Pers Soc Psychol Bull, Feb 22 2021, doi: 10.1177/0146167220988373

Abstract: Interpersonal touch behavior differs across cultures, yet no study to date has systematically tested for cultural variation in affective touch, nor examined the factors that might account for this variability. Here, over 14,000 individuals from 45 countries were asked whether they embraced, stroked, kissed, or hugged their partner, friends, and youngest child during the week preceding the study. We then examined a range of hypothesized individual-level factors (sex, age, parasitic history, conservatism, religiosity, and preferred interpersonal distance) and cultural-level factors (regional temperature, parasite stress, regional conservatism, collectivism, and religiosity) in predicting these affective-touching behaviors. Our results indicate that affective touch was most prevalent in relationships with partners and children, and its diversity was relatively higher in warmer, less conservative, and religious countries, and among younger, female, and liberal people. This research allows for a broad and integrated view of the bases of cross-cultural variability in affective touch.

Keywords: affective touch; cross-cultural psychology; interpersonal behaviors; touch behaviors.

From 2010... A central feature of patriarchy has been the construction of ‘moral’ ideologies that inhibit women from exploiting their erotic capital to achieve benefits; women have more erotic capital because they work harder at it

From 2010... Erotic Capital. Catherine Hakim. European Sociological Review, Volume 26, Issue 5, October 2010, Pages 499–518, https://doi.org/10.1093/esr/jcq014

Abstract: We present a new theory of erotic capital as a fourth personal asset, an important addition to economic, cultural, and social capital. Erotic capital has six, or possibly seven, distinct elements, one of which has been characterized as ‘emotional labour’. Erotic capital is increasingly important in the sexualized culture of affluent modern societies. Erotic capital is not only a major asset in mating and marriage markets, but can also be important in labour markets, the media, politics, advertising, sports, the arts, and in everyday social interaction. Women generally have more erotic capital than men because they work harder at it. Given the large imbalance between men and women in sexual interest over the life course, women are well placed to exploit their erotic capital. A central feature of patriarchy has been the construction of ‘moral’ ideologies that inhibit women from exploiting their erotic capital to achieve economic and social benefits. Feminist theory has been unable to extricate itself from this patriarchal perspective and reinforces ‘moral’ prohibitions on women's sexual, social, and economic activities and women’s exploitation of their erotic capital.

Denial of Erotic Capital

The Male Bias in Perspectives

Why has erotic capital been overlooked by social scientists? This failure of Bourdieu and other researchers is testimony to the continuing dominance of male perspectives in sociology and economics, even in the 21st century. Bourdieu's failure is all the more remarkable because he analysed relationships between men and women, and was sensitive to the competition for control and power in relationships (Bourdieu, 1998). However, like many others, Bourdieu was only interested in the three class-related and inheritable assets that are convertible into each other. Erotic capital is distinctive in not being controlled by social class and status,21 and has a subversive character.

Erotic capital has been overlooked because it is held mostly by women, and the social sciences have generally overlooked or disregarded women in their focus on male activities, values and interests. The patriarchal bias in the social sciences reflects the male hegemony in society as a whole. Men have taken steps to prevent women exploiting their one major advantage over men, starting with the idea that erotic capital is worthless.22 Women who parade their beauty or sexuality are belittled as stupid, lacking in intellect, and other 'meaningful' social attributes. The Christian religion has been particularly vigorous in deprecating and disdaining everything to do with sex and sexuality as base and impure, shameful, belonging to a lower aspect of humanity. Laws are devised to prevent women from exploiting their erotic capital. For example, female dancers in Britain are debased by classifying lapdancing clubs as ‘sexual encounter’ venues, later amended to the marginally less stigmatizing ‘sexual entertainment’ venues in the new Crime and Policing law debated in Parliament in 2009. They are prohibited from charging commercial fees for surrogate pregnancies, a job that is exclusively and peculiarly female. If men could produce babies, it seems likely that it would be one of the highest paid occupations, but men use ‘moral’ arguments to ensure that women are not allowed to exploit any advantage.

The most powerful and effective weapon deployed by men to curtail women's use of erotic capital is the disdain and contempt heaped on female sex workers. Sex surveys in Europe show that few people regard commercial sex jobs as an occupation just like any other. Women working in the commercial sex industry are regarded as victims, drug addicts, losers, incompetents, or as people you would not wish to meet socially (Shrage, 1994, pp. 88). The patriarchal nature of these stereotypes is exposed by quite different attitudes to male prostitutes: attitudes here are ambivalent, conflicted, and unsure (Malo de Molina, 1992, pp. 203). Commercial sex is often classified as a criminal activity so that it is forced underground, as in the USA, and women working in the industry are harassed by the police and criminal justice system. Even in countries where selling sex is legal, such as Britain, Finland, or Kenya, everything connected with the work is stigmatized and criminalized, with the same effect.

Male control of female erotic capital is primarily ideological. The ‘moral’ opprobrium that enfolds the commercial sale of sexual performance and sexual services extends to all contexts where there is any exchange of erotic capital for money or status. Occupations, such as stripper or lapdancer, are stigmatized as lewd, salacious, sleazy, meretricious, and prurient (Frank, 2002). An attractive young woman who seeks to marry a wealthy man is branded a ‘gold-digger’, criticized for ‘taking advantage of’ men unfairly and immorally. The underlying logic is that men should get what they want from women for free, especially sex. Surprisingly, feminists have supported this ideology instead of seeking to challenge and overturn it. Even the participants in beauty contests are criticized by women.23

The patriarchal ‘morality’ that denies the economic value of erotic capital operates in a similar way to downplay the economic value of other personal services and care work. England and Folbre (1999: pp. 46) point out that the principle that money cannot buy love has the unintended and perverse consequence of justifying low pay for personal service and care work, a conclusion reiterated by Zelizer (2005, pp. 302).

The Failure of Feminist Theory

Why have women, and feminists more particularly, failed to identify and valorize erotic capital? In essence, because feminist theory has proven unable to shed the patriarchal perspective, reinforcing it while ostensibly challenging it. Strictly speaking, this position is a feature of radical Anglo-Saxon feminism more specifically, but the international prominence of the English language (and of the USA) makes this the dominant feminist perspective today.24

Feminist theory erects a false dichotomy: either a woman is valued for her human capital (her brains, education, work experience, and dedication to her career) or she is valued for her erotic capital (her beauty, elegant figure, dress style, sexuality, grace, and charm). Women with brains and beauty are not allowed to use both—to ‘walk on two legs’ as Chairman Mao put it.

Any scholar who argues that women have unique skills or special assets of any kind is instantly outlawed by being branded an ‘essentialist’. In principle, biological essentialism refers to an outdated theory that there are important and unalterable biological differences between men and women, which assign them to separate life courses. At present, it is often used to refer to the evolutionary psychology thesis that men focus on the sexual selection of the best women with whom to breed, while women invest heavily in their offspring. Put crudely, ‘sexuality for men and reproduction for women' are treated as the root cause of all social and economic differences between men and women. In practice, the ‘essentialist’ label has become an easy term of abuse among feminists, being applied to any theory or idea regarded as unacceptable or unwelcome (Campbell, 2002). This has the advantage of avoiding the need to address the research evidence for inconvenient ideas and theories. This approach is displayed in books that seek to summarize current feminist debates on sex/gender, in the process demonstrating that these discussions are so ideological, and so divorced from empirical research, that they have become theological debates (Browne, 2007).

A key failure of feminist scholarship is the way it has maintained the male hegemony in theory, although it has been more innovative and fruitful in empirical research. Feminists insist that women's position in society should depend exclusively on their economic and social capital. Cultural capital (where women can have the edge over men) is rarely pulled into the picture. It follows that women should invest in educational qualifications and employment careers in preference to developing their erotic capital and investing in marriage careers. The European Commission has adopted feminist ideology wholesale, and insists that ‘gender equality’ is to be measured exclusively by employment rates, occupational segregation, access to the top jobs, personal incomes, and the pay gap,25 treating women without paid jobs as ‘unequal’ to men.

Female social scientists repeatedly dismiss the idea that physical attractiveness and sexuality are power assets for women vis-à-vis men. For example, Lipman-Blumen (1984, pp. 89–90) lists this as just one in a series of 'control myths' adopted by men to justify the status quo; she claims that male vested interests necessarily bias any argument offered by men, even if they are social scientists. Feminist theory has so far failed to explain why men with high incomes and status regularly choose trophy (second) wives and arm-candy mistresses, while women who have achieved career success and high incomes generally prefer to marry alpha males rather than seeking toyboys and impecunious men who would make good househusbands and fathers (Hakim, 2000, pp. 153, 201).

Sylvia Walby (1990, pp. 79) admits in passing that the power to create children is one of women's few power bases, but she never states what the others might be. Mary Evans admits that Anglo-Saxon feminism is profoundly uncomfortable with sexuality, and frames it in a relentlessly negative perspective (Evans, 2003, pp. 99; see also Walby, 1990, pp. 110). Feminists argue that there is no real distinction between marriage and prostitution; that (hetero)sexuality is central to women's subordination by men; that patriarchal men seek to establish what Carole Pateman (1988, pp. 194, 205) calls ‘male sex-right’—male control of men's sexual access to women. Marriage and prostitution are portrayed as forms of slavery (Pateman, 1988, pp. 230; Wittig, 1992). Sexuality is the setting for every kind of male violence against women, overlooking women's use of sexuality to control men—a very one-sided perspective.26 Feminist theory and debate also display ambivalence about the idea of sex and gender, which is presented as a patriarchal cultural imposition, with no link to the human body and motherhood (Wittig, 1992; Browne, 2007). With heterosexuality (and motherhood) presented as the root cause of women’s oppression, feminist solutions include celibacy, autoeroticism, lesbianism, and androgyny (Coppock et al.1995). Paradoxically, these solutions reduce the supply of female sexuality to men, and thus raise the value of erotic capital among heterosexual women.

Feminist discourse comes in many colours and flavours, and is constantly changing, but the common theme is that women are the victims of male oppression and patriarchy, so that heterosexuality becomes suspect, a case of sleeping with the enemy, and the deployment of erotic capital becomes an act of treason. Post-feminism seems at first to avoid this perspective. Post-feminism is a mixed bag of literature, by novelists and journalists as well as social scientists (Coppock et al.1995; Whelehan, 1995). There is no single theme or thesis, although men are less likely to be treated as the source of all women’s problems. However post-feminism is unable to escape from the puritan Anglo-Saxon asceticism and its unwavering antipathy towards beauty and sexuality. Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth, a diatribe against the rising value and importance of beauty and sexual attractiveness, is reinforced by feminists (Jeffreys, 2005). Lookism encapsulates the puritan Anglo-Saxon antipathy to beauty and sexuality, arguing that taking any account of someone’s appearance should be outlawed, effectively making the valorization of erotic capital unlawful (Chancer, 1998, pp. 82–172).

One stream of feminist theory presents men as violent sexual predators who exploit women. Another theoretical stream dismantles the concepts of sex and gender, so there are no fixed ‘opposites’ for mutual attraction anyway. A third theme treats beauty and pleasure as dangerous traps. Between these three themes, ideas of exuberant sexuality and women’s erotic power over men are squeezed out of existence. Feminist perspectives are so infused with patriarchal ideology that they seem unable to perceive heterosexuality as a source of pleasure and entertainment, and of women’s power over men.

Far from evaluating new evidence dispassionately & infallibly, individual scientists often cling stubbornly to prior findings; loss-of-confidence sentiments are common but rarely become part of the public record

Putting the Self in Self-Correction: Findings From the Loss-of-Confidence Project. Julia M. Rohrer et al. Perspectives on Psychological Science, March 1, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691620964106

Abstract: Science is often perceived to be a self-correcting enterprise. In principle, the assessment of scientific claims is supposed to proceed in a cumulative fashion, with the reigning theories of the day progressively approximating truth more accurately over time. In practice, however, cumulative self-correction tends to proceed less efficiently than one might naively suppose. Far from evaluating new evidence dispassionately and infallibly, individual scientists often cling stubbornly to prior findings. Here we explore the dynamics of scientific self-correction at an individual rather than collective level. In 13 written statements, researchers from diverse branches of psychology share why and how they have lost confidence in one of their own published findings. We qualitatively characterize these disclosures and explore their implications. A cross-disciplinary survey suggests that such loss-of-confidence sentiments are surprisingly common among members of the broader scientific population yet rarely become part of the public record. We argue that removing barriers to self-correction at the individual level is imperative if the scientific community as a whole is to achieve the ideal of efficient self-correction.

Keywords: self-correction, knowledge accumulation, metascience, scientific falsification, incentive structure, scientific errors

The Loss-of-Confidence Project raises a number of questions about how one should interpret individual self-corrections.

First, on a substantive level, how should one think about published empirical studies in cases in which the authors have explicitly expressed a loss of confidence in the results? One intuitive view is that authors have no privileged authority over “their” findings, and thus such statements should have no material impact on a reader’s evaluation. On the other hand, even if authors lack any privileged authority over findings they initially reported, they clearly often have privileged access to relevant information. This is particularly salient for the p-hacking disclosures reported in the loss-of-confidence statements. Absent explicit statements of this kind, readers would most likely not be able to definitively identify the stated problems in the original report. In such cases, we think it is appropriate for readers to update their evaluations of the reported results to accommodate the new information.

Even in cases in which a disclosure contributes no new methodological information, one might argue that the mere act of self-correction should be accorded a certain weight. Authors have presumably given greater thought to and are more aware of their own study’s potential problems and implications than a casual reader. The original authors may also be particularly biased to evaluate their own studies favorably—so if they have nonetheless lost confidence, this might heuristically suggest that the evidence against the original finding is particularly compelling.

Second, on a metalevel, how should one think about the reception one’s project received? On the one hand, one could argue that the response was about as positive as could reasonably be expected. Given the unconventional nature of the project and the potentially high perceived cost of public self-correction, the project organizers (J. M. Rohrer, C. F. Chabris, T. Yarkoni) were initially unsure whether the project would receive any submissions. From this perspective, even the 13 submissions we ultimately received could be considered a clear success and a testament to the current introspective and self-critical climate in psychology.

On the other hand, the survey responses we received suggest that the kinds of errors disclosed in the statements are not rare. Approximately 12% of the 316 survey respondents reported losing confidence in at least one of their articles for reasons that matched our stringent submission criteria (i.e., because of mistakes that the respondent took personal responsibility for), and nearly half acknowledged a loss of confidence more generally.

This suggests that potentially hundreds, if not thousands, of researchers could have submitted loss-of-confidence statements but did not do so. There are many plausible reasons for this, including not having heard of the project. However, we think that at least partially, the small number of submitted statements points to a gap between researchers’ ideals and their actual behavior—that is, public self-correction is desirable in the abstract but difficult in practice.

Fostering a culture of self-correction

As has been seen, researchers report a variety of reasons for both their losses of confidence and their hesitation to publicly disclose a change in thinking. However, we suggest that there is a broader underlying factor: In the current research environment, self-correction, or even just critical reconsideration of one’s past work, is often disincentivized professionally. The opportunity costs of a self-correction are high; time spent on correcting past mistakes and missteps is time that cannot be spent on new research efforts, and the resulting self-correction is less likely to be judged a genuine scientific contribution. Moreover, researchers may worry about self-correction potentially backfiring. Corrections that focus on specific elements from an earlier study might be perceived as undermining the value of the study as a whole, including parts that are in fact unaffected by the error. Researchers might also fear that a self-correction that exposes flaws in their work will damage their reputation and perhaps even undermine the credibility of their research record as a whole.

To tackle these obstacles to self-correction, changes to the research culture are necessary. Scientists make errors (and this statement is certainly not limited to psychological researchers; see e.g., Eisenman et al., 2014García-Berthou & Alcaraz, 2004Salter et al., 2014Westra et al., 2011), and rectifying these errors is a genuine scientific contribution—whether it is done by a third party or the original authors. Scientific societies could consider whether they want to more formally acknowledge efforts by authors to correct their own work. Confronted with researchers who publicly admit to errors, other researchers should keep in mind that willingness to admit error is not a reliable indicator of propensity to commit errors—after all, errors are frequent throughout the scientific record. On the contrary, given the potential (or perceived) costs of individual self-corrections, public admission of error could be taken as a credible signal that the issuer values the correctness of the scientific record. However, ultimately, given the ubiquity of mistakes, we believe that individual self-corrections should become a routine part of science rather than an extraordinary occurrence.

Different media for self-correction

Unfortunately, good intentions are not enough. Even when researchers are committed to public self-correction, it is often far from obvious how to proceed. Sometimes, self-correction is hindered by the inertia of journals and publishers. For example, a recent study suggested that many medical journals published correction letters only after a significant delay, if at all (Goldacre et al., 2019), and authors who tried to retract or correct their own articles after publication have encountered delays and reluctance from journals (e.g., Grens, 2015). Even without such obstacles, there is presently no standardized protocol describing what steps should be taken when a loss of confidence has occurred.

Among the participants of the Loss-of-Confidence Project, Fisher et al. (2015) decided to retract their article after they became aware of their misspecified model. But researchers may often be reluctant to initiate a retraction given that retractions occur most commonly as a result of scientific misconduct (Fang et al., 2012) and are therefore often associated in the public imagination with cases of deliberate fraud. To prevent this unwelcome conflation and encourage more frequent disclosure of errors, journals could introduce a new label for retractions initiated by the original authors (e.g., “Authorial Expression of Concern” or “voluntary withdrawal”; see Alberts et al., 2015). Furthermore, an option for authorial amendments beyond simple corrections (up to and including formal versioning of published articles) could be helpful.

Thus, it is not at all clear that widespread adoption of retractions would be an effective, fair, or appropriate approach. Willén (2018) argued that retraction of articles in which questionable research practices (QRPs) were employed could deter researchers from being honest about their past actions. Furthermore, retracting articles because of QRPs known to be widespread (e.g., John et al., 2012) could have the unintended side effect that some researchers might naively conclude that a lack of a retraction implies a lack of QRPs. Hence, Willén suggested that all articles should be supplemented by transparent retroactive disclosure statements. In this manner, the historical research record remains intact because information would be added rather than removed.

Preprint servers (e.g., PsyArXiv.com) and other online repositories already enable authors to easily disclose additional information to supplement their published articles or express their doubts. However, such information also needs to be discoverable. Established databases such as PubMed could add links to any relevant additional information provided by the authors. Curate Science (curatescience.org), a new online platform dedicated to increasing the transparency of science, is currently implementing retroactive statements that could allow researchers to disclose additional information (e.g., additional outcome measures or experimental manipulations not reported in the original article) in a straightforward, structured manner.

Another, more radical step would be to move scientific publication entirely online and make articles dynamic rather than static such that they can be updated on the basis of new evidence (with the previous version being archived) without any need for retraction (Nosek & Bar-Anan, 2012). For example, the Living Reviews journal series in physics by Springer Nature allows authors to update review articles to incorporate new developments.

The right course of action once one has decided to self-correct will necessarily depend on the specifics of the situation, such as the reason for the loss of confidence, publication norms that can vary between research fields and evolve over time, and the position that the finding takes within the wider research. For example, a simple but consequential computational error may warrant a full retraction, whereas a more complex confound may warrant a more extensive commentary. In research fields in which the published record is perceived as more definitive, a retraction may be more appropriate than in research fields in which published findings have a more tentative status. In addition, an error in an article that plays a rather minor role in the context of the wider research may be sufficiently addressed in a corrigendum, whereas an error in a highly cited study may require a more visible medium for the self-correction to reach all relevant actors.

That said, we think that both the scientific community and the broader public would profit if additional details about the study, or the author’s reassessment of it, were always made public and always closely linked to the original article—ideally in databases and search results as well as the publisher’s website and archival copies. A cautionary tale illustrates the need for such a system: In January 2018, a major German national weekly newspaper published an article (Kara, 2018a) that uncritically cited the findings of Silberzahn and Uhlmann (2013). Once the journalist had been alerted that these findings had been corrected in Silberzahn et al. (2014), she wrote a correction to her newspaper article that was published within less than a month of the previous article (Kara, 2018b), demonstrating swift journalistic self-correction and making a strong point that any postpublication update to a scientific article should be made clearly visible to all readers of the original article.

All of these measures could help to transform the cultural norms of the scientific community, bringing it closer to the ideal of self-correction. Naturally, it is hard to predict which ones will prove particularly fruitful, and changing the norms of any community is a nontrivial endeavor. However, it might be encouraging to recall that over the past few years, scientific practices in psychology have already changed dramatically (Nelson et al., 2018). Hence, a shift toward a culture of self-correction may not be completely unrealistic, and psychology, with its increasing focus on openness, may even serve as a role model for other fields of research to transform their practices.

Finally, it is quite possible that fears about negative reputational consequences are exaggerated. It is unclear whether and to what extent self-retractions actually damage researchers’ reputations (Bishop, 2018). Recent acts of self-correction such as those by Carney (2016), which inspired our efforts in this project, Silberzahn and Uhlmann (Silberzahn et al., 2014), Inzlicht (2016)Willén (2018), and Gervais (2017) have received positive reactions from within the psychological community. They remind us that science can advance at a faster pace than one funeral at a time.

Low-to-Moderate Alcohol Intake Associated with Lower Risk of Incidental Depressive Symptoms: A Pooled Analysis of Three Intercontinental Cohort Studies

Low-to-Moderate Alcohol Intake Associated with Lower Risk of Incidental Depressive Symptoms: A Pooled Analysis of Three Intercontinental Cohort Studies. Lirong Liang et al. Journal of Affective Disorders, February 26 2021. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2021.02.050


Background: The existing findings of the longitudinal impact of low-to-moderate drinking on symptomatic depression were controversial, as results ranged from finding no association to finding both a protective and adverse association.

Methods: The present study examined the association between low-to-moderate alcohol consumption and incident depressive symptoms by pooled analysis of three European, American and Chinese representative samples of middle-aged and older adults.

Results: A total of 29,506 participants (55.5% female) were included. During 278,782 person-years of follow-up, we found that subjects with low-to-moderate drinking had a significantly lower incidence of depressive symptoms compared to never-drinking subjects, with pooled hazard ratios of 0.87 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.79–0.96) for men and 0.87 (95% CI: 0.80–0.95) for women, whereas heavy drinkers failed to show significantly higher risk of depressive symptoms. Furthermore, a J-shaped relation between alcohol consumption and incident depressive symptoms was identified in Chinese men, US men, and UK men and women.

Limitations: The classification of depressive symptoms based on the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale may not be completely comparable to diagnosis from a clinical setting.

Conclusions: Low-to-moderate alcohol consumption was significantly associated with a lower risk of depressive symptoms on a long-term basis compared to never drinking. Our results support the threshold of moderate drinking in current US guidelines. However, caution should be exercised in engaging in guideline-concordant drinking habits, for even moderate drinkers are at risk of developing heavy drinking habits and experiencing future alcohol-related problems.

Keywords: alcohol consumptionlow-to-moderate drinkingdepressive symptomscohort studies

Representations of violence are not intrinsically senseless & can even aspire to beauty; violent media are able to represent, by way of implication, deeper truths about the nature of the universe & our human interrelationships

Beautiful Violence: Polemos, Responsibility, and Tragic Wisdom. Jeffrey Ventola. Academia Letters, Feb 2021. https://www.academia.edu/45093421


I will argue in this paper that representations of violence are not intrinsically senseless and can even aspire to beauty. They may evince more or less responsible portrayals of conflict. As I will justify and valuate representations of violence I wish to define my scope to avoid misinterpretation. I believe that violent media are able to represent, by way of implication, deeper truths about the nature of the universe and our human interrelationships. This applies most relevantly to visual, fictional, narrative media such as television and films. I believe what these representations can uncover, when properly deployed, is Heraclitus’s Polemos. While typically translated as “war”, Claudia Baracchi warns against such a strict interpretation. She convincingly argues that Polemos and Logos itself are very closely bound. Polemos is then the conflict necessarily implied by our existence and not “the human exercise of warfare”(Baracchi 268).

In order to demonstrate an aesthetic connection between this interpretation of Polemos and violent media, I will reference Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy as he argues that tragedy and indeed all art is produced from a kind of conflict that is, at once always changing and part of a larger unity. I argue that due to their structural similarities art can demonstrate or imply Polemos, revealing an aspect of Logos that may typically be beyond our comprehension. Due to its inclination to entertain as well as philosophize, many forms of media typically represent conflict through violence. I do not believe this is necessarily bad. There can even be artistic and pragmatic effects from viewing responsibly constructed violent imagery.

A Lineage of 400,000 English Individuals 1750-2020 shows Genetics Determines most Social Outcomes

For Whom the Bell Curve Tolls: A Lineage of 400,000 English Individuals 1750-2020 shows Genetics Determines most Social Outcomes. Gregory Clark, March 1, 2021. faculty.econ.ucdavis.edu/faculty/gclark/ClarkGlasgow2021.pdf

Abstract: Economics, Sociology, and Anthropology are dominated by the belief that social outcomes depend mainly on parental investment and community socialization. Using a lineage of 402,000 English people 1750-2020 we test whether such mechanisms better predict outcomes than a simple additive genetics model. The genetics model predicts better in all cases except for the transmission of wealth. The high persistence of status over multiple generations, however, would require in a genetic mechanism strong genetic assortative in mating. This has been until recently believed impossible. There is however, also strong evidence consistent with just such sorting, all the way from 1837 to 2020. Thus the outcomes here are actually the product of an interesting genetics-culture combination.

Terror Management Theory: The predictive power of this theory just isn't holding up to scrutiny

Are We Really Terrorized By Thoughts of Death? Morbid curiosity and challenges to Terror Management Theory. Coltan Scrivner. Psychology Today, Mar 1 2021. https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/morbid-minds/202103/are-we-really-terrorized-thoughts-death

*  Terror Management Theory attempts to explain human behavior on the premise that awareness of our mortality causes paralyzing terror. 

*  However, morbid curiosity may show that we generally do not experience such terror at the thought of death.

*  Also, the future of Terror Management Theory looks bleak, as researchers are unable to replicate traditional findings.

My own assessment of the literature suggests that the future of Terror Management Theory looks bleak. As inabilities to replicate traditional findings continue to be published, the foundations upon which Terror Management Theory are built are beginning to crumble. The predictive power of this theory just isn't holding up to scrutiny.

"If I Could Turn Back Time": A majority of both males (66.95%) and females (54.00%) reporting they would not want to change anything about their first coital experience

"If I Could Turn Back Time": Female and Male Reflections on Their Initial Experience of Coitus. Israel M. Schwartz & Edward Coffield. Sexuality & Culture, Mar 1 2021. https://rd.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12119-021-09826-9

Rolf Degen's take: Most young people would not change any aspects of their first coitus if they could travel back in time. However, many women would have liked to have someone else with them

Abstract: Using a mixed methods approach this study compared young people’s reflections on their initial experience of coitus, exploring similarities and differences from a gender perspective, with regard to a reported desire to change, or not change, any aspect of the event. The sample population was comprised of 318 university students in the northeastern region of the United States (women n = 200, men n = 118). Thematic analysis was used to evaluate the open-ended question, “If you could go back in time to your first sexual intercourse, would you want to change anything? If so, what would you change and why?” Responses were subsequently transformed into quantitative measures for additional analyses. T-tests or chi-square tests were conducted to evaluate gender differences. Notable findings included a majority of both males (66.95%) and females (54.00%) reporting they would not want to change anything about their first coital experience. Among respondents who reported a desired change the three primary desired change themes were partner (15.72%), age (8.18%), and location (5.03%), although the percentages differed by gender. Qualitative responses to the most frequently reported desired change categories are presented to contextualize the quantitative data. The novelty of understanding what young people would change about their first sexual intercourse provides important contextual information to the research on the feelings experienced at first coitus.