Saturday, March 13, 2021

From 2020... For men, who are expected to spend less time considering relationships, spending more time on those relationships might indicate more attention to the details of making relationships work

From 2020... Personality in Its Natural Habitat’ Revisited: A Pooled, Multi-sample Examination of the Relationships Between the Big Five Personality Traits and Daily Behaviour and Language Use. Allison M Tackman et al. European Journal of Personality, 34: 753–776 (2020).

Abstract: Past research using the Electronically Activated Recorder (EAR), an observational ambulatory assessment method for the real-world measurement of daily behaviour, has identified several behavioural manifestations of the Big Five domains in a small college sample (N = 96). With the use of a larger and more diverse sample of pooled data from N = 462 participants from a total of four community samples who wore the EAR from 2 to 6 days, the primary purpose of the present study was to obtain more precise and generalizable effect estimates of the Big Five–behaviour relationships and to re-examine the degree to which these relationships are gender specific. In an extension of the original article, the secondary purpose of the present study was to examine if the Big Five–behaviour relationships differed across two facets of each Big Five domain. Overall, while several of the behavioural manifestations of the Big Five were generally consistent with the trait definitions (replicating some findings from the original article), we found little evidence of gender differences (not replicating a basic finding from the original article). Unique to the present study, the Big Five–behaviour relationships were not always comparable across the two facets of each Big Five domain.

Key words: personality expression; naturalistic observation; Electronically Activated Recorder; behaviour; language

Demonstrating mirror self recognition at group level in Equus caballus

If horses had toes: demonstrating mirror self recognition at group level in Equus caballus. Paolo Baragli, Chiara Scopa, Veronica Maglieri & Elisabetta Palagi. Animal Cognition, Mar 13 2021.

Rolf Degen's take: "Our results suggest the presence of mirror self-recognition in horses"

Abstract: Mirror self-recognition (MSR), investigated in primates and recently in non-primate species, is considered a measure of self-awareness. Nowadays, the only reliable test for investigating MSR potential skills consists in the untrained response to a visual body mark detected using a reflective surface. Here, we report the first evidence of MSR at group level in horses, by facing the weaknesses of methodology present in a previous pilot study. Fourteen horses were used in a 4-phases mirror test (covered mirror, open mirror, invisible mark, visible colored mark). After engaging in a series of contingency behaviors (looking behind the mirror, peek-a-boo, head and tongue movements), our horses used the mirror surface to guide their movements towards their colored cheeks, thus showing that they can recognize themselves in a mirror. The analysis at the group level, which ‘marks’ a turning point in the analytical technique of MSR exploration in non-primate species, showed that horses spent a longer time in scratching their faces when marked with the visible mark compared to the non-visible mark. This finding indicates that horses did not see the non-visible mark and that they did not touch their own face guided by the tactile sensation, suggesting the presence of MSR in horses. Although a heated debate on the binary versus gradualist model in the MSR interpretation exists, recent empirical pieces of evidence, including ours, indicate that MSR is not an all-or-nothing phenomenon that appeared once in phylogeny and that a convergent evolution mechanism can be at the basis of its presence in phylogenetically distant taxa.


Here, we report the first evidence of mirror self-recognition at the group level in a non-primate species. Furthermore, using a larger sample size and applying a more accurate experimental procedure, the present study replicates a previous pilot study on mirror self-recognition in horses (Baragli et al. 2017).

Our horses used the mirror surface to guide their movements towards their faces previously marked, thus showing that they are able to recognize themselves in a mirror. They followed a sequence of behavioral steps towards the mirror before being marked. This is a fundamental criterion to be fulfilled before undergoing the mark test, as suggested by de Waal (2019), Gallup et al. (2002) and Gallup and Anderson (2019) in their reviews focused on the methodological issues. These steps are indicative of the cognitive processes leading animals to understand that the image reflected in the mirror is the image of self (Plotnik et al. 2006).

Firstly, we found that in presence of the reflective surface the behavior of the horses clearly differed when compared to the condition in which the surface was covered. Both selective attention and exploratory activity increased when the mirror was open, indicating the emergence of the violation of the expectancy phenomenon (Seyfarth et al. 2005; Poulin-Dubois et al. 2009; Kondo et al. 2012). Through the violation of expectancy paradigm, it has been demonstrated that horses are able to associate multiple sensory cues to recognize conspecifics and people (cross-modal recognition, Proops et al. 2009; Proops and McComb 2012). While the image in the mirror satisfied the visual criterion (there is a horse in the mirror sensu Lorenz 1974), the tactile and olfactory information did not match with the visual one (it is not a horse sensu Lorenz 1974) thus producing an incongruent set of information.

The information gathered by the selective attention and exploratory activities increased the horse’s motivation in engaging in contingency behaviors to solve such incongruency (Seyfarth et al. 2005). The so-called contingency behaviors include highly repetitive non-stereotyped or unusual movements only when animals are in front of the reflective surface, probably to verify if the movements of the image in the mirror match their own movements. When in front of the mirror, magpies moved their head or body back and forth (Prior et al. 2008), elephants displayed repetitive, non-stereotypic trunk and body movements (Plotnik et al. 2006), jackdows and crows showed “peek-a boo” movements during which the bird moved out and back in sight of the mirror (Soler et al. 2014; Vanhooland et al. 2019) and chimpanzees manipulated their lips and tongues while glancing into the mirror (Povinelli et al. 1993). Our horses engaged in contingency behaviors similar to those reported for other species such as head movements, peek-a-boo, and tongue protrusion almost exclusively in presence of the reflective surface (Table 3). It is possible that by slightly moving their head horses managed to avoid the blind spot characterizing their frontal view (Lansade et al. 2020) thus head movements could help verify whether the movements of the reflective image corresponds to their movements (Online Resource 6). One of the most indicative contingency behaviors reported in the literature is looking behind the mirror that is enacted to verify the possible presence of a conspecific behind the reflective surface (Pica pica, Prior et al. 2008Equus caballus, Baragli et al. 2017Loxodonta africana, Plotnik et al. 2006Pan troglodytes, Gallup 1970; Povinelli et al. 1993) (Online Resource 5). Our horses showed a high inter-individual variability in performing contingency behaviors in front of the reflective surface. We suggest that the strategy employed to test the mirror function varies among subjects that engaged in one or two contingency behaviors to solve the violation of expectancy (Table 3). This means that when studying MSR we should take into account for this variability by also checking a posteriori what animals do to test their own image reflected in the mirror (unusual, repetitive non-stereotyped behaviors), thus leaving open the ethogram fixed a priori.

After solving the violation of expectancy by engaging in contingency behaviors, animals gather the necessary information to potentially pass the mark test. In this study, due to the anatomical features limiting the degree of freedom of horses to reach specific areas of their face, we considered scratching the face (Face-SCR) as an attempt to remove the mark which was placed on both cheeks (bilateral marking) (Online Resource 1 and 9–12). The analysis at a group level showed that horses spent a longer time in scratching their face when marked with the colored mark compared to the sham mark (S vs M conditions). This finding indicates that horses did not see the sham mark and that it was not the tactile sensation that induced the animal to touch its own face. The increased level of Face-SCR during the M condition suggests that by using the reflective surface the animals were able to visually perceive the colored spot on their face. The standardization of the procedure preceding the application of the mark, such as grooming on the whole body and identical shapes of the sham and colored stamps, guarantees that the use of the transparent mark worked as an effective control condition. An additional control in supporting the hypothesis that horses are able to perceive the colored spot on their face resides in the comparable levels of time spent in scratching directed to the rest of the body (Body-SCR). In the M condition, scratching appears to be highly directional towards a specific target: the colored face (Online Resource 16).

One of the novelties of the present study relies on the analysis at a group level, which ‘marks’ a turning point in the analytical technique of MSR exploration. It has been suggested that the individual variability in the MSR tests can reflect the low motivation of animals to remove the colored mark. The low motivation to react to the mark can introduce a strong individual bias in the accurate measurement of self-recognition abilities (Bard et al. 2006; Heschl and Burkart 2006). In our case, for example, four horses that did not scratch their faces in the S condition did it in the M condition but not for sufficient time to apply an individual test (expected frequencies < 5.0 s; see Table 4). The behavioral motivation of removing something from one’s own body, and to respond to the colored mark, is considered a hotspot in the discussion about the validity of the mark test for demonstrating MSR. In this perspective, the analysis at the population level provides the opportunity to employ larger samples also including the subjects showing low levels of motivation. Such individual motivation can also be affected by a series of species-specific features (e.g., anatomical difference in properly reaching the marked area, visual perception of specific colors, visual acuity, predominant sensory modality different from vision), including personality and cognitive style. Therefore, the sensory and cognitive systems, as well as the motivation to behaviorally respond to the mark, are substantial preconditions to keep in mind when we decide to test animals’ self-recognition abilities.

In conclusion, despite the strong inter-individual variability, our results suggest the presence of MSR in horses. Although the heated debate on the binary versus gradualist model in the MSR interpretation (de Waal 2019; Gallup and Anderson 2019; Brandl 2016), recent empirical pieces of evidence, including ours on horses, indicate that MSR is not an all-or-nothing phenomenon suddenly emerged in the phylogeny, but it has probably been favored by natural selection to adaptively respond to social and cognitive challenges an animal has to cope with. 

Rolf Degen summarizing... Everybody thinks they are doing a better job at following public health recommendations to contain COVID-19 than "other people"

Social Comparisons for Following Health Recommendations and Their Relation to Worry and Intentions During COVID-19. Jason P Rose, Keith A. Edmonds. European Journal of Health Psychology, February 2021. DOI: 10.1027/2512-8442/a000080

Rolf Degen's take:


Background: During uncertain threatening situations, people make social comparisons that influence self-evaluations, inform decisions, and guide behavior. In 2019, an emerging infectious disease (COVID-19) became a pandemic and resulted in unparalleled public health recommendations (e.g., social distancing, wear masks in public).

Aims: The current research examined people’s beliefs about how their own compliance to recommendations compared to others and explored the unique associations between social comparisons, worry, risk perceptions, and intentions for health-protective action.

Method: An adult sample of US residents (N = 452) completed an online, cross-sectional survey about their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Results: First, participants reported better-than-average compliance beliefs. Second, comparative beliefs were positively (and uniquely) associated with intentions for future compliance-related behaviors and general risk-reduction behaviors (e.g., information seeking) – particularly for participants who viewed COVID-19 as threatening. Finally, the relation between comparative beliefs and intentions was indirect through worry (but not risk), though alternative models also achieved support.

Limitations: Our findings are limited by our use of a cross-sectional design, methodological choices, and our lack of behavioral measures.

Conclusions: Overall, results demonstrate that people are attentive to their comparative levels of compliance behaviors during an infectious disease pandemic. Results are discussed in terms of their theoretical implications and the relevance of social comparisons for self-protective action during a pandemic.

Perceived Abilities And Specially Handsomeness Outperform Objective Intelligence Test Performance in Predicting Mate Appeal in Speed Dating

Hofer, Gabriela, Roman Burkart, Laura Langmann, and Aljoscha Neubauer. 2021. “What You See Is What You Want to Get: Perceived Abilities Outperform Objective Test Performance in Predicting Mate Appeal in Speed Dating.” PsyArXiv. March 12. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: Are intelligent, creative, and emotionally competent people more desirable? Evolution-based theories and cross-cultural studies on the ideal partner suggest that they are, with some differences between the sexes and between short-term (ST) and long-term (LT) relationships. However, research that went beyond hypothetical partners and that used psychometric ability tests instead of relying on subjective ability perceptions is sparse. We aimed to assess whether people’s verbal, numerical, and spatial intelligence, creativity, and intra- and interpersonal emotional competence could predict their ST and LT mate appeal. 87 women and 88 men completed psychometric ability measures and participated in heterosexual speed dating. There, they met up to 14 members of the opposite sex and reported their interest in having an ST and LT relationship with each partner as well as their subjective perceptions of the partner’s abilities. External raters assessed the participants’ physical attractiveness. While perceived abilities could broadly predict mate appeal, only one measured ability – women’s creativity – showed a significant association to mate appeal. Notably, effects of perceived and measured abilities were substantially reduced after controlling for physical attractiveness. These results suggest that the investigated abilities – and particularly intelligence – play a lesser role in initial attraction than proposed in the past.

A Model of the Cosmos in the ancient Greek Antikythera Mechanism

A Model of the Cosmos in the ancient Greek Antikythera Mechanism. Tony Freeth, David Higgon, Aris Dacanalis, Lindsay MacDonald, Myrto Georgakopoulou & Adam Wojcik. Scientific Reports volume 11, Article number: 5821 (2021).

Abstract: The Antikythera Mechanism, an ancient Greek astronomical calculator, has challenged researchers since its discovery in 1901. Now split into 82 fragments, only a third of the original survives, including 30 corroded bronze gearwheels. Microfocus X-ray Computed Tomography (X-ray CT) in 2005 decoded the structure of the rear of the machine but the front remained largely unresolved. X-ray CT also revealed inscriptions describing the motions of the Sun, Moon and all five planets known in antiquity and how they were displayed at the front as an ancient Greek Cosmos. Inscriptions specifying complex planetary periods forced new thinking on the mechanization of this Cosmos, but no previous reconstruction has come close to matching the data. Our discoveries lead to a new model, satisfying and explaining the evidence. Solving this complex 3D puzzle reveals a creation of genius—combining cycles from Babylonian astronomy, mathematics from Plato’s Academy and ancient Greek astronomical theories.


Figure 7, Supplementary Figs. S24, S25, Supplementary Videos S1S3 visualize our new model: the culmination of a substantial cross-disciplinary effort to elucidate the front of the Antikythera Mechanism. Previous research unlocked the ingenuity of the Back Dials, here we show the richness of the Cosmos at the front. The main structural features of our model are prescribed by the physical evidence, the prime factors of the restored planetary period relations and the ring description in the BCI. Hypothetical features greatly enhance and justify the Cosmos display: a Dragon Hand thematically linking the Front and Back Dials; and an Index Letter Scheme for the synodic events of the planets.

Because of the loss of evidence, we cannot claim that our model is a replica of the original, but our solution to this convoluted 3D puzzle draws powerful support from the logic of our model and its exact match to the surviving evidence. The Antikythera Mechanism was a computational instrument for mathematical astronomy, incorporating cycles from Babylonian astronomy and the Greek flair for geometry. It calculated the ecliptic longitudes of the Moon7, Sun3 and planets1,2,3,9,11; the phase of the Moon10; the Age of the Moon10; the synodic phases of the planets; the excluded days of the Metonic Calendar8; eclipses7,8,23—possibilities, times, characteristics, years and seasons; the heliacal risings and settings of prominent stars and constellations1,2,7,25; and the Olympiad cycle8—an ancient Greek astronomical compendium of staggering ambition. It is the first known device that mechanized the predictions of scientific theories and it could have automated many of the calculations needed for its own design (Supplementary Discussion S6)—the first steps to the mechanization of mathematics and science. Our work reveals the Antikythera Mechanism as a beautiful conception, translated by superb engineering into a device of genius. It challenges all our preconceptions about the technological capabilities of the ancient Greeks. 

Participants read hypothetical wrongdoings, recalled unethical events, reported daily transgressions, and learned of novel immoral behavior committed by close others

Forbes, Rachel C., and Jennifer E. Stellar. 2021. “When the Ones We Love Misbehave: Exploring Moral Processes Within Intimate Bonds.” PsyArXiv. March 12. Final DOI: 10.1037/pspa0000272

Abstract: How do we react when our romantic partners, friends, or family members behave unethically? When close others misbehave, it generates a powerful conflict between observers’ moral values and their cherished relationships. Previous research has almost exclusively studied moral perception in a social vacuum by investigating responses to the transgressions of strangers; therefore, little is known about how these responses unfold in the context of intimate bonds. Here we systematically examine the impact of having a close relationship with a transgressor on perceptions of that transgressor, the relationship, and the self. We predicted less negative emotional and evaluative responses to transgressors and smaller consequences for the relationship, yet more negative emotional and evaluative responses to the self when close others, compared to strangers or acquaintances, transgress. Participants read hypothetical wrongdoings (Study 1), recalled unethical events (Study 2), reported daily transgressions (Study 3; pre-registered), and learned of novel immoral behavior (Study 4) committed by close others or comparison groups. Participants reported less other-critical emotions, more lenient moral evaluations, a reduced desire to punish/criticize, and a smaller impact on the relationship (compared to acquaintances) when close others versus strangers or acquaintances transgressed. Simultaneously, participants reported more self-conscious emotions and showed some evidence of harsher moral self-evaluations when close others transgressed. Underlying mechanisms of this process were examined. Our findings demonstrate the deep ambivalence in reacting to close others’ unethical behaviors, revealing a surprising irony—in protecting close others, the self may bear some of the burden of their misbehavior.


Interactions including voice (phone, video chat, and voice chat) created stronger social bonds and no increase in awkwardness, compared with interactions including text (e-mail, text chat)

Kumar, A., & Epley, N. (2021). It’s surprisingly nice to hear you: Misunderstanding the impact of communication media can lead to suboptimal choices of how to connect with others. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 150(3), 595–607.

Abstract: Positive social connections improve wellbeing. Technology increasingly affords a wide variety of media that people can use to connect with others, but not all media strengthen social connection equally. Optimizing wellbeing, therefore, requires choosing how to connect with others wisely. We predicted that people’s preferences for communication media would be at least partly guided by the expected costs and benefits of the interaction—specifically, how awkward or uncomfortable the interaction would be and how connected they would feel to their partner—but that people’s expectations would consistently undervalue the overall benefit of more intimate voice-based interactions. We tested this hypothesis by asking participants in a field experiment to reconnect with an old friend either over the phone or e-mail, and by asking laboratory participants to “chat” with a stranger over video, voice, or text-based media. Results indicated that interactions including voice (phone, video chat, and voice chat) created stronger social bonds and no increase in awkwardness, compared with interactions including text (e-mail, text chat), but miscalibrated expectations about awkwardness or connection could lead to suboptimal preferences for text-based media. Misunderstanding the consequences of using different communication media could create preferences for media that do not maximize either one’s own or others’ wellbeing.