Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Women who support far-right parties in Europe do not fit the stereotype

Individual- and party-level determinants of far-right support among women in Western Europe. Trevor J. Allen and Sara Wallace Goodman. European Political Science Review, Volume 13 , Issue 2 , May 2021 , pp. 135 - 150. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1755773920000405

Abstract: Support for Western Europe’s far-right is majority-male. However, given the sweeping success of the party family, literature on this ‘gender gap’ belies support given to the radical right by millions of women. We examine differences between men and women’s support for far-right parties, focusing on workplace experience, positions on economic and cultural issues, and features of far-right parties themselves. We find that the received scholarship on blue-collar support for far-right populists is a largely male phenomenon, and women in routine nonmanual (i.e. service, sales, and clerical) work are more likely than those in blue-collar work to support the far-right. Moreover, while men who support the far-right tend to be conservative on other moral issues, certain liberal positions predict far-right support among women, at both the voter and party level. Our analysis suggests that gender differences may obscure the socio-structural and attitudinal bases of support for far-right parties and have broader implications for comparative political behavior and gender and politics.


This analysis is an early scholarly step toward elucidating the complex relationship between voting behavior, gender, and far-right populism. We have suggested that the sometimes murky picture of far-right party voters is actually due to an incomplete treatment of gender. As our analysis shows, multiple characteristics predicting far-right support differ between men and women. Where there is a consistent relationship between blue-collar work and far-right support among men, most of the women who support far-right parties are employed in routine nonmanual (service, sales, and clerical) work.

Moreover, while anti-immigrant attitudes are correlated with far-right support among both men and women, other forms of social conservatism – operationalized here as attitudes toward gay equality – only predict support among men. Strikingly, tolerance toward gays and lesbians predicts greater far-right support among women. This, coupled with the finding that negative mentions of traditional morality (i.e. support for divorce, abortion, and secularism) in far-right party platforms predict support among women but not men, suggests some far-right parties’ cultural progressivism – often but not exclusively paired with castigation of Islam as anti-modern and an anathema to European values – might attract women to the far-right (Akkerman, 2015; Campbell and Erzeel, 2018). Indeed, this might suggest the strategy by which some far-right parties have rhetorically defended liberal values in the first place. Future research might clarify this interaction with analyses of campaign data, or voter studies at the national level where larger samples for particular parties and candidates are available.

These findings unsettle dominant narratives about support for far-right parties. Existing work paints a picture of culturally, morally conservative men in certain occupations expressing support for radical right parties based on perceptions of declining status – implying a fixed group of male voters (perhaps, ‘working-class authoritarians’) available to right-wing populists. But the correlates of female support are different. Blue-collar work and cultural conservatism seem to only predict far-right support among men. For women, a picture emerges of someone engaged in routine nonmanual work – service, sales, or clerical occupations – for whom cultural progressivism on issues outside of immigration might resonate.

How do we reconcile this voter profile, between nativism and individual progressivism? It suggests the prevalence of a type of progressive chauvinism: ‘equality and tolerance for me, not for thee’. Far-right parties, for example, the Danish People’s Party, have gained a lot of traction in support by advocating policies scholars have described as welfare chauvinism, wherein individuals support broad social safety nets so long as they exclude immigrants from accessing entitlements (Careja et al.2016). This is a strategy adopted by the far-right that successfully diffuses to mainstream parties (Schumacher and Van Kersbergen, 2016). That far-right parties simultaneously offer what we term progressive chauvinism may broaden their base, attracting a new type of (female) supporter just as the social democratic parties of the left experienced historically unprecedented declines. Further research in this area might examine far-right policy framing, issue linkages and ownership within party systems, and voter mobilization. By examining the socio-structural roots of the party family, and taking seriously the large number of female supporters who have heretofore largely been overlooked in analyses of far-right support, we have identified several important predictors of female far-right support distinct from their male compatriots. As far-right parties gain in popularity, it is essential that comparative approaches to voting behavior push beyond simplistic narratives of far-right supporters as simply jackbooted radicals or ‘angry young men’. The results suggest that men and women have different profiles and motivations for supporting the far-right, and that the way gender has been encoded in research on the far-right may have obscured important features of the party family. A more nuanced view of far-right supporters – and party positioning to expand their base – reveals distinct, gendered dimensions.

Taller respondents (proxy for formidability) are likelier to approve of police officers hitting male citizens in several circumstances, as well as corporal criminal-justice punishment in the form of the death penalty

Physical formidability and acceptance of police violence. R. Urbatsch. Evolution and Human Behavior, April 6 2021. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2021.03.008

Abstract: Individuals whose threats of force are more effective, such as those with greater bodily formidability, have advantages when the social environment condones violence. This benefit shapes incentives regarding norms and preferences allowing aggressive behavior. More physically imposing people may, in particular, be likelier to approve of police use of violent tactics, one recent social flashpoint concerning attitudes to physical aggression. Archival data concerning more than 1600 respondents to the 2014 and 2018 iterations of the United States' General Social Survey confirm this hypothesis, with taller respondents (as the proxy for formidability) likelier to approve of police officers hitting male citizens in several circumstances, as well as corporal criminal-justice punishment in the form of the death penalty. Black respondents show less relationship between physical size and condoning of violent policing.

Keywords: ViolenceFormidabilityHeightLaw enforcementOpinionUnited States

Physical Strength Partly Explains Sex Differences in Trait Anxiety in Young Americans

Physical Strength Partly Explains Sex Differences in Trait Anxiety in Young Americans. Nicholas Kerry, Damian R. Murray. Psychological Science, April 2, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797620971298

Abstract: Among the most consistent sex differences to emerge from personality research is that women score higher than men on the Big Five personality trait Neuroticism. However, there are few functionally coherent explanations for this sex difference. The current studies tested whether this sex difference is due, in part, to variation in physical capital. Two preregistered studies (total N = 878 U.S. students) found that sex differences in the anxiety facet of Neuroticism were mediated by variation in physical strength and self-perceived formidability. Study 1 (N = 374) did not find a predicted mediation effect for overall Neuroticism but found a mediation effect for anxiety (the facet of Neuroticism most strongly associated with grip strength). Study 2 (N = 504) predicted and replicated this mediation effect. Further, sex differences in anxiety were serially mediated by grip strength and self-perceived formidability. These findings add to a nascent literature suggesting that differences in physical attributes may partially explain sex differences in personality.

Keywords: anxiety, Neuroticism, personality, sex differences, physical strength, formidability, open data, open materials, preregistered

In two studies, grip strength negatively predicted anxiety, and sex differences in anxiety were serially mediated by grip strength and self-perceived formidability. These findings suggest that some sex-based variation in personality may be partly attributable to variation in physical attributes.

These results suggest the testable hypothesis that other psychological and behavioral sex differences could be partly explained by differences in physical attributes. For example, there is evidence that social dominance and aggression—both of which tend to be higher in men—also covary intrasexually with physical strength (Farrington, 1989Gallup et al., 2007Price et al., 2011). Future research might investigate whether these and other psychological sex differences can be partly explained by differences in strength or stature.

Important limitations of this work should be noted. First, within-sex associations between strength and anxiety were small and somewhat inconsistent, and sex still accounted for some variance in anxiety beyond that explained by physical strength. Imperfect measurement of the key variables may have contributed to the small effects observed (see the Supplemental Material). Another possible explanation for the small within-sex effects is that the measures of strength and formidability employed here acted as a proxy for another variable, such as health or attractiveness (which both covary with grip strength; see Gallup & Fink, 2018). Although we cannot rule out this explanation, analyses reported in the Supplemental Material found relationships to be robust when controlling for several potential confounds, including body mass index, age, and a measure of self-perceived attractiveness. Similarly, though, these effects could be explained by a common underlying physiological factor, such as developmental testosterone levels (testosterone levels correlate negatively with anxiety in both sexes; see McHenry et al., 2014). Finally, a key limitation relating to the causal interpretation of these findings is that the mediational models presented here use cross-sectional data and cannot alone demonstrate causality. Thus, although the data here are consistent with the hypothesis that lower physical strength leads to higher anxiety, we cannot rule out alternative causal explanations.

Further, several additional questions remain unanswered. Is the association between strength and anxiety best explained by developmental calibration (i.e., people adapting behaviors to their strengths and weaknesses), genetic pleiotropy (i.e., genes associated with physical formidability also being associated with lower dispositional anxiety; see Lukaszewski & Roney, 2011), or facultative epigenetic processes whereby methylation of genes associated with strength also has consequences for anxiety? And, importantly, will these relationships generalize to other cultures, and would effects be larger for cultures and populations in which formidability is a more functional part of social life? Although these and other questions must be addressed in future research, the studies presented here support the hypothesis that sex differences in anxiety can be partly explained by differences in physical strength and self-perceived formidability. These findings suggest that further work on sex differences in personality may benefit from an increased focus on the role of physical attributes.

Some navigation abilities decline in midlife and differ by sex, but others (path integration) do not decline

Age-Related Changes in Spatial Navigation Are Evident by Midlife and Differ by Sex. Shuying Yu et al. Psychological Science, April 5, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797620979185

Abstract: Accumulating evidence suggests that distinct aspects of successful navigation—path integration, spatial-knowledge acquisition, and navigation strategies—change with advanced age. Yet few studies have established whether navigation deficits emerge early in the aging process (prior to age 65) or whether early age-related deficits vary by sex. Here, we probed healthy young adults (ages 18–28) and midlife adults (ages 43–61) on three essential aspects of navigation. We found, first, that path-integration ability shows negligible effects of sex or age. Second, robust sex differences in spatial-knowledge acquisition are observed not only in young adulthood but also, although with diminished effect, at midlife. Third, by midlife, men and women show decreased ability to acquire spatial knowledge and increased reliance on taking habitual paths. Together, our findings indicate that age-related changes in navigation ability and strategy are evident as early as midlife and that path-integration ability is spared, to some extent, in the transition from youth to middle age.

Keywords: cognitive aging, virtual reality, path integration, wayfinding

Check also Gender differences in spatial navigation: Characterizing wayfinding behaviors. Ascher K. Munion et al. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, August 20 2019. https://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2019/08/gender-differences-in-spatial.html

And: A meta-analysis of sex differences in human navigation skills. Alina Nazareth et al. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, July 3 2019. https://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2019/07/a-meta-analysis-of-sex-differences-in.html

The present study tested the effects of age and sex on three core aspects of spatial navigation in young and midlife adults: path integration, spatial-knowledge acquisition, and navigational strategy. Building on previous chronological-aging studies (Driscoll et al., 2005Zhong & Moffat, 2016), we found that some age-related differences in spatial navigation are evident by midlife. Although path-integration ability was largely preserved with age in the loop-closure task, pronounced age-related differences were observed in the ability to acquire spatial knowledge in the maze-learning task and in the selection of a navigational strategy in the dual-solution paradigm. No major sex difference was observed for path integration, but sex differences were found for acquiring spatial knowledge and navigation strategy. Overall, sex differences present in young adults tended to be reduced with age.

Previous findings indicate poor path integration in adults 65 years or older (Adamo et al., 2012Coughlan, Coutrot, et al., 2018Harris & Wolbers, 2012), but we saw no such change in midlife adults, suggesting that age-related changes arise later in the aging process. In previous studies, older adults had access to a single cue (vision or proprioception), whereas our task provided participants with multiple cues. Future studies should examine whether reduced performance is evident in midlife when performance is constrained to a single cue. Although there was a sex difference in degrees traveled, with women tending to overshoot and men tending to undershoot, this difference did not affect the overall position error. The tendency to overshoot could be a cautionary measure by women to ensure they reach the start (e.g., Gagnon et al., 2016). In sum, we found little evidence for sex or aging effects in path integration.

Sex differences were evident in measures of spatial-knowledge acquisition from both unrestricted free exploration (maze-learning task) and route-based learning (dual-solution paradigm). In the maze-learning task, midlife adults did not explore as much as younger adults. After accounting for differing numbers of exploration moves, we found that sex differences remained robust in young adults and diminished in midlife adults. Floor effects were present in the maze-learning task for midlife adults, making sex differences less detectible. It is possible that age-related changes in the brain hinder the ability for midlife adults to create a comprehensive cognitive map, which in turn makes sex differences in performance harder to detect. In the dual-solution paradigm, wayfinding success indicates how well participants learned the environment from a route. Despite equal exposure to the route, midlife adults were less successful than younger adults, consistent with previous studies on learning from routes (Harris & Wolbers, 2014Wiener et al., 2013Zhong & Moffat, 2016). Together, these findings suggest that spatial learning is impaired as early as midlife. These data are consistent with findings from an earlier study demonstrating age-related performance decrements in a virtual Morris water-maze task by midlife (Driscoll et al., 2005).

Navigation strategies in the dual-solution paradigm indicated that young men took more shortcuts than young women, a finding that echoes previous results by Boone et al. (20182019). Our study provides the first evidence that age-related differences in navigation strategies are evident by midlife, with midlife adults using fewer shortcuts than younger adults. This result is consistent with reports that older adults use more habitual routes when navigating (Harris et al., 2012Lester et al., 2017Wiener et al., 2013) and suggests that strategies have already shifted by midlife. In addition, we found that the sex difference observed in young adults did not persist in midlife adults. Further, the heat maps indicated that although young men were more likely to take shortcuts through the middle of the maze, all other groups relied on the learned route to navigate within the maze. Thus, the major change with age was a reduction of place-based strategies in men.

Several limitations should be considered when interpreting these findings. First, it is possible that older adults have less experience with using computer gaming controls (such as those used in the dual-solution paradigm) compared with younger adults, and this could contribute to navigation inefficiency in the desktop virtual environments. However, age-related differences also existed for the maze-learning task, which requires the use of only a single button press at each intersection. This indicates that poorer performance for midlife adults is unlikely to be due to computer experience alone and is likely to be related to age-related changes in participants’ brains that deterred successful acquisition of spatial information from the environment. A direct assessment of participants’ gaming experience and experience in virtual environments was not acquired, so this issue cannot be fully resolved.

Second, the midlife period is characterized by significant neuroendocrine changes in women. Our sample included midlife women, spanning the spectrum from late premenopausal to early postmenopausal. Although the study was not powered to assess performance by reproductive stage or endocrine status in the current sample, this will be a major focus of our future research. Further, young adult women were tested independently of menstrual-cycle stage. Given accumulating evidence that menstrual-cycle stage and sex-hormone concentrations impact spatial cognition (Courvoisier et al., 2013Hussain et al., 2016) and aspects of navigation (Korol et al., 2004), future studies should clarify the extent to which these relationships hold across measures of path integration, wayfinding, and navigation strategy.

Finally, the largest age effects were observed in men, with a steep decline in wayfinding success (maze-learning task) and a shift toward taking habitual routes (dual-solution paradigm). It is possible that these unexpected effects have a neuroendocrine basis. Testosterone production in men begins to diminish when they are in their early 30s and gradually declines throughout the adult life span (Feldman et al., 2002). Testosterone loss influences cognitive and brain function in aging men, including visual and verbal memory and spatial cognition (Moffat, 2005). Driscoll and colleagues (2005) found that the male spatial advantage in a virtual Morris water-maze task is related to circulating testosterone. Thus, the role of testosterone should be considered as a factor in future studies of navigation and aging.

In sum, we examined signatures of early aging in three navigational tasks, opening up new avenues for understanding healthy aging. The differing patterns of age and sex across our three navigational tasks suggest that different aspects of navigation could tap into separate brain systems. Although path integration has typically been used as an early marker for dementia (Coughlan, Laczó, et al., 2018Kunz et al., 2015), our findings suggest that spatial-knowledge acquisition and strategy use are more sensitive to the earliest stages of the aging process. Understanding the trajectories of healthy aging—and how they differ for men and women—will help pave the way for developing behavioral and neural markers for dementia.

Incidence of suicide decreased among Swedish men aged 50–59 after July 2013 when patent rights to sildenafil (i.e., Viagra) ceased, prices fell, and its use increased dramatically

Sildenafil and suicide in Sweden. Ralph Catalano, Sidra Goldman-Mellor, Tim A. Bruckner & Terry Hartig. European Journal of Epidemiology, Apr 1 2021. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10654-021-00738-4

Abstract: Much theory asserts that sexual intimacy sustains mental health. Experimental tests of such theory remain rare and have not provided compelling evidence because ethical, practical, and cultural constraints bias samples and results. An epidemiologic approach would, therefore, seem indicated given the rigor the discipline brings to quasi-experimental research. For reasons that remain unclear, however, epidemiologist have largely ignored such theory despite the plausibility of the processes implicated, which engender, for example, happiness, feelings of belonging and self-worth, and protection against depression. We use an intent-to-treat design, implemented via interrupted time-series methods, to test the hypothesis that the monthly incidence of suicide, a societally important distal measure of mental health in a population, decreased among Swedish men aged 50–59 after July 2013 when patent rights to sildenafil (i.e., Viagra) ceased, prices fell, and its use increased dramatically. The test uses 102 pre, and 18 post, price-drop months. 65 fewer suicides than expected occurred among men aged 50–59 over test months following the lowering of sildenafil prices. Our findings could not arise from shared trends or seasonality, biased samples, or reverse causation. Our results would appear by chance fewer than once in 10,000 experiments. Our findings align with theory indicating that sexual intimacy reinforces mental health. Using suicide as our distal measure of mental health further implies that public health programming intended to address the drivers of self-destructive behavior should reduce barriers to intimacy in the middle-aged populations.


Our findings support the intuition and theory that sexual intimacy involving male erection protects against suicide among older men. Our methods ensure that this association could not arise from shared trends or seasonality, biased samples, or reverse causation. We further note that our finding would appear by chance fewer than once in 10 000 experiments (i.e., point estimate of − 4.66 with a standard error of 0.94) and that they align with theory indicating that sexual intimacy reinforces mental health.

Only replication can determine whether the association we found in Sweden describes other societies in which changes in patent rights affected the availability of sildenafil. We, however, know of no reason to suspect that the association would appear only in this cohort of Swedish men.

Although using suicide as an outcome connects our theory to an objective and important phenomenon, it likely leads to an underestimate of the association between low-priced sildenafil and mental health because suicide remains an extreme manifestation of diminished well-being. We could not, moreover, test for any unintended adverse health consequences (e.g., changes in sexually transmitted diseases).

Our methods do not estimate the efficacy of sildenafil in reducing an individual’s suicide risk. We assume that the rapid increase in the use of sildenafil among Swedish men in late 2013 arose in large part due to the availability of low-priced generic sildenafil. We, however, could not access monthly information on price, volume of prescriptions, or age of patients receiving these prescriptions. An important extension of our study would involve such data as well as longitudinal information on men’s mental health and likely mediating processes before and after July 2013. Such data would allow individual-level tests of whether and how the novel use of sildenafil improved mental health among men in their 50′s.

We speculate that the difference between expected and observed suicides declined below statistically detectable levels, although did not disappear, in 2015 for at least two reasons. The first assumes that lowering the price of sildenafil in 2013 likely reduced erectile dysfunction among men regardless of age. When men younger than 50 in 2013 eventually aged past 50, the sequelae of erectile dysfunction, including an increased risk of suicide, appeared lower among them than among men 50 to 59 when the price of sildenafil dropped.

Second, counterfactuals in tests that, like ours, use autocorrelation to arrive at expected values eventually “adjust” for interruptions with persistent effects. The effects, in other words, become statistically expected. Our test, for example, found autocorrelation such that an unexpected value at month t influences expectations for month t + 6. Our counterfactuals for 2015, therefore, reflected not only the pre-generic price months but also the lower-than-expected values observed in 2013 and 2014. We note, however, that the alternative approach of using forecasts in 2013 and 2014 to estimate expected values farther in the future would provide no more certainty than our approach because detection intervals in such models expand relatively quickly.

We did not hypothesize a detectable decline in suicide among women aged 50 to 59 because underlying causal processes, such as the etiology of depression [33], may differ between women and men. The failure to find an association, however, requires comment if for no other reason than sexual intimacy also relates to the mental health of women [78]. Although the comparatively low incidence of suicide among women makes detecting differences over time less certain, we note that the null finding could arise from differences between men and women in the purpose and meaning of male erection as a component of intimacy at this stage of life [7]. For example, having and maintaining an erection may contribute directly to a man’s confidence and self-esteem [5], while insofar as this contributes to such self-perceptions among a female partner it would do so indirectly, as through a sense of desirability [34], with the respective effects possibly changing differentially with age across the genders [35]. The present data, however, do not enable us to do more than speculate on such possibilities. We can only acknowledge the complexity of the individual and contextual determinants of suicide rates and the need for further attention to the role that sexual intimacy plays in suicide, as encouraged by our strong epidemiologic findings.

Our results appear consistent with the general argument that many people enjoy sexual intimacy as a fundamental component of relationships that confer wellbeing and good mental health. Means to overcome erectile dysfunction could, therefore, promote restoration of a relational resource diminished by an inability to share desired forms of intimacy. These means likely include not only pharmaceutical treatment, but also individual or couple’s counselling, behavioral therapy [36], or even public policies (e.g., vacation legislation) that allow people more time for sexual intimacy. Insofar as salutary relationships remain important not only for the partners but also for the people around them and for the organizations to which they contribute, interventions such as greater access to sildenafil likely produce benefits to society.

We attribute positive outcomes more (e.g., economic growth) and negative outcomes less (like rising inequality) to our own political party than to an opposing party

It’s their fault: Partisan attribution bias and its association with voting intentions. Ethan Zell, Christopher A. Stockus, Michael J. Bernstein. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, April 1, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1177/1368430221990084

Abstract: This research examined how people explain major outcomes of political consequence (e.g., economic growth, rising inequality). We argue that people attribute positive outcomes more and negative outcomes less to their own political party than to an opposing party. We conducted two studies, one before the 2016 U.S. presidential election (N = 244) and another before the 2020 election (N = 249 registered voters), that examined attributions across a wide array of outcomes. As predicted, a robust partisan attribution bias emerged in both studies. Although the bias was largely equivalent among Democrats and Republicans, it was magnified among those with more extreme political ideology. Further, the bias predicted unique variance in voting intentions and significantly mediated the link between political ideology and voting. In sum, these data suggest that partisan allegiances systemically bias attributions in a group-favoring direction. We discuss implications of these findings for emerging research on political social cognition.

Keywords: attribution, bias, motivation, politics, voting