Thursday, June 3, 2021

Young men & women overestimate their future wages; when given realistic future wage information, women properly adjust down, but men adjust even further up

Gender differences in wage expectations. Ana Fernandes, Martin Huber, Giannina Vaccaro. PLoS One, June 2, 2021.

Abstract: Using an own survey on wage expectations among students at two Swiss institutions of higher education, we examine the wage expectations of our respondents along two main lines. First, we investigate the rationality of wage expectations by comparing average expected wages from our sample with those of similar graduates; further, we examine how our respondents revise their expectations when provided information about actual wages. Second, using causal mediation analysis, we test whether the consideration of a rich set of personal and professional controls, inclusive of preferences on family formation and number of children in addition to professional preferences, accounts for the difference in wage expectations across genders. Results suggest that both males and females overestimate their wages compared to actual ones and that males respond in an overconfident manner to information about realized wages. Personal mediators alone cannot explain the indirect effect of gender on wage expectations; however, when combined with professional mediators, this results in a quantitatively large reduction in the unexplained effect of gender on wage expectations. Nonetheless, a non-negligible and statistically significant direct (or unexplained) effect of gender on wage expectations remains in several, but not all specifications.

6 Conclusion

Using novel survey data from students from the Business School of the Bern University of Applied Science (BUAS) and the Faculty of Economic and Social Sciences of the University of Fribourg, this paper advances the literature related to gender differences in wage expectations in two specific ways. First, it determines whether these gender differences are rational by comparing expected wages from our respondents to realized wages from comparable graduates; and, further, by investigating how respondents adjust their wage expectations when information about actual wages is provided. Second, using an inverse probability weighting method in the context of causal mediation, it examines whether the consideration of a rich set of professional and personal controls accounts for the difference in wage expectations across gender.

In line with the literature, we confirm the presence of gender differences in wage expectations in our survey results. The difference between male and female expected wages is about one salary class (CHF500) upon graduation and roughly 1.4 salary classes three years thereafter (roughly 19 and 17% of female average expected wages, respectively). The evidence suggests that both males and females overestimate their wages relative to realized wages from comparable graduates. Further, results from an information intervention—about median wages earned in Switzerland—show that males alone (incorrectly) revise their expected wages upward by about 0.6 of a salary class (CHF300) when forecasting wages three years after graduation. This is possibly the result of over-confidence.

Using mediation analysis (which permits explicating endogeneity issues), we find that the inclusion of a rich set of personal and professional mediators—not commonly included in survey data—greatly reduces the direct, unexplained effect of gender on wage expectations. While personal mediators alone do not contribute to the indirect effect of gender on wage expectations, when added to professional mediators they lead to a reduction of about 30% in the contribution of the direct effect of gender on wage expectations and to a similar increase in the indirect effect (when the decomposition of these effects takes the male as the reference). Further, when professional and personal mediators are jointly considered, the direct, unexplained effect of gender is greatly attenuated, both in size as well as in statistical significance. Nonetheless, a non-negligible and statistically significant direct (or unexplained) effect of gender on wage expectations remains in several, but not all specifications. Our results are stable under different specifications and trimming thresholds.

Higher order cognition is related to baseline pupil size; baseline pupil size is uniquely related to fluid intelligence

The relationship between baseline pupil size and intelligence. Jason S. Tsukahara, Tyler L. Harrison, Randall W. Engle. Cognitive Psychology, Volume 91, December 2016, Pages 109-123.


• Higher order cognition is related to baseline pupil size.

• Baseline pupil size is uniquely related to fluid intelligence.

• Implications for resting-state brain organization and locus coeruleus function.

Abstract: Pupil dilations of the eye are known to correspond to central cognitive processes. However, the relationship between pupil size and individual differences in cognitive ability is not as well studied. A peculiar finding that has cropped up in this research is that those high on cognitive ability have a larger pupil size, even during a passive baseline condition. Yet these findings were incidental and lacked a clear explanation. Therefore, in the present series of studies we systematically investigated whether pupil size during a passive baseline is associated with individual differences in working memory capacity and fluid intelligence. Across three studies we consistently found that baseline pupil size is, in fact, related to cognitive ability. We showed that this relationship could not be explained by differences in mental effort, and that the effect of working memory capacity and fluid intelligence on pupil size persisted even after 23 sessions and taking into account the effect of novelty or familiarity with the environment. We also accounted for potential confounding variables such as; age, ethnicity, and drug substances. Lastly, we found that it is fluid intelligence, more so than working memory capacity, which is related to baseline pupil size. In order to provide an explanation and suggestions for future research, we also consider our findings in the context of the underlying neural mechanisms involved.

Keywords: IntelligencePupil sizeLocus coeruleus

The intensities of felt shame and of various motivations of shame (hiding, lying, destroying evidence, & threatening witnesses) vary in proportion to one another, & to the degree to which audiences devalue the disgraced individual

Are Emotions Natural Kinds After All? Rethinking the Issue of Response Coherence. Daniel Sznycer, Adam Scott Cohen. Evolutionary Psychology, June 1, 2021.

Abstract: The synchronized co-activation of multiple responses—motivational, behavioral, and physiological—has been taken as a defining feature of emotion. Such response coherence has been observed inconsistently however, and this has led some to view emotion programs as lacking biological reality. Yet, response coherence is not always expected or desirable if an emotion program is to carry out its adaptive function. Rather, the hallmark of emotion is the capacity to orchestrate multiple mechanisms adaptively—responses will co-activate in stereotypical fashion or not depending on how the emotion orchestrator interacts with the situation. Nevertheless, might responses cohere in the general case where input variables are specified minimally? Here we focus on shame as a case study. We measure participants’ responses regarding each of 27 socially devalued actions and personal characteristics. We observe internal and external coherence: The intensities of felt shame and of various motivations of shame (hiding, lying, destroying evidence, and threatening witnesses) vary in proportion (i) to one another, and (ii) to the degree to which audiences devalue the disgraced individual—the threat shame defends against. These responses cohere both within and between the United States and India. Further, alternative explanations involving the low-level variable of arousal do not seem to account for these results, suggesting that coherence is imparted by a shame system. These findings indicate that coherence can be observed at multiple levels and raise the possibility that emotion programs orchestrate responses, even in those situations where coherence is low.

Keywords: emotion, valuation, response coherence, adaptationism, culture

We asked if response coherence in shame can be observed in the general case where input variables to the shame system are specified minimally. We observed internal coherence: Five shame responses—felt shame and the motivations to hide, to lie, to destroy evidence, and to threaten a witness—in general covaried with one another in direction and intensity from one event (scenario) to the next. This is in line with the internal coherence that has been documented in some (but not all) of the previous research on response coherence in emotion.

In addition, we observed two novel patterns of response coherence predicted from an adaptationist framework: external coherence and cross-cultural coherence. Regarding external coherence, five shame responses in the individual in general covaried in direction and intensity with the devaluation expressed by audiences from one event to the next. We observed internal and external coherences within the United States and India. And regarding cross-cultural coherence, five shame responses in one country in general covaried in direction and intensity both with the five shame responses and with audience devaluation in the other country from one event to the next. Importantly, the intensity of the motivation to communicate reputationally damaging information to other people—a response that involves arousal—failed to correlate positively, and in fact correlated mostly negatively, with the intensities of audience devaluation and with the five shame responses across events. This is expected if the internal, external, and cross-cultural coherence observed here reflects the operation of a shame orchestrator. But this is not expected if response coherence in emotion stems from low-level affective variables such as arousal. Of course, the alternative evaluated here (communicate event) is but one of a large set of possible alternatives involving arousal. Thus, future research is needed to test against additional alternatives involving arousal, as well as valence and culturally-variable emotion concepts.

Adaptationist thinking suggests that the hallmark of emotion is the capacity to adaptively orchestrate multiple adaptations. And that response coherence is incidental to adaptive orchestration. Evidence on response coherence—whether positive, null, or negative—is therefore not dispositive of whether or not emotion programs are natural kinds. Notwithstanding this critical point, evidence on response coherence can be of value. Data on incidental phenomena are valuable as raw data after all, and anomalies (in affective science, inconsistent observations of response coherence across studies, for instance) can catalyze scientific progress (Kuhn, 1970). The present findings go beyond internal coherence, however. That shame responses can cohere between cultures and also externally, matching in intensity the devaluation expressed by audiences (i.e., matching in intensity the adaptive problem hypothesized to have selected for shame), suggests that shame, and perhaps other emotions (Sznycer & Cohen, 2021Sznycer, Sell, & Dumont, 2021), are functionally specialized adaptations.

An alternative account, one that is consistent with the theory of constructed emotion, is that the cross-cultural coherences observed here were imparted by the English concept of “shame” and not by a shame neurocognitive system. This is plausible, considering that our stimuli were presented in one and the same language (English) both in the United States and in India, because emotion words have meanings that are more similar in language groups that are closer in linguistic space (Jackson et al., 2019). Similarly, the US–India similarities observed here may have stemmed from culturally-specific concepts or schemas with which people interpret their own affect in shame (see Barrett, 2014). These concepts may be similar across industrial societies such as the United States and India even when they are idiosyncratic of industrial societies; and so these concepts may be shared by our American and Indian participants even when these concepts are not universal. However, we note that previous research has shown cross-cultural commonalities in the feeling of shame across 15 small-scale societies with highly diverse subsistence bases (e.g., horticulture, pastoralism, fishing) and speaking highly diverse languages, including: Igbo, Icé-tód, Nepali, Tuvan, and Mongolian (Sznycer, Xygalatas, Agey, et al., 2018). This suggests that the cross-cultural coherences among multiple shame responses that we observed here may have been driven by an evolved shame system. Nevertheless, further inquiry is needed to determine how generalizable the present findings are across different cultures, ecologies, and language-groups.

Further research is also needed to determine whether the patterns of coherence observed here generalize to other discrediting actions and personal characteristics, to the reactive (vs. prospective) operation of shame in response to actual discrediting events, to the various cognitive, behavioral, and physiological responses that shame appears to control (other than the motivations studied here), and to responses measured within-situations and within-individuals (see Mauss et al., 2005Reisenzein, 2000). In addition, further research is necessary to know whether and how patterns of response coherence are modulated by a host of situational variables that are relevant to shame (e.g., co-presence of an audience, characteristics of the audience, actual responses of the audience) but were not studied here.

It is important to reiterate that the kinds of comprehensive tests that are necessary to corroborate or deny the hypothesis of adaptive orchestration (for shame or for other emotions) have, to our knowledge, not been conducted yet. We suspect that mapping emotion decision trees systematically and comprehensively will be challenging. Shame, for instance, is likely to be sensitive to many input variables and to implement many contingencies. Moreover, high-order interactions between input variables are expected. The simple (hypothetical) conditional appease (or blame or threaten) when others have seen your disgraceful action, but not when they haven’t seen you might be conditioned further by additional external and internal variables. For example, when others have seen your disgraceful action, active shame responses might be delivered in general. But there might be exceptions. Active shame responses might not be delivered when you have been seen if the individuals in the audience are few or have low physical formidability or status or if they are known to lack strategic information to grasp the true meaning of the disgraceful action.

The ontological status of emotion—perhaps the primary point of contention in the affective sciences (see, e.g., Adolphs & Anderson, 2018Barrett, 2019Barrett et al., 2019Cowen et al., 2019; in press; Lange et al., 2020Lindquist et al., 2013Mobbs et al., 2019Scarantino, 2015Scherer, 2009)—remains an open question. Nevertheless, the present findings suggest that adaptationism is a promising framework to elucidate emotion.

Protective techniques: Turkana in our sample had a high prevalence of PTSD symptoms, but those with high symptom severity had lower prevalence of depression-like symptoms than American service members

Combat stress in a small-scale society suggests divergent evolutionary roots for posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms. Matthew R. Zefferman and  Sarah Mathew. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, April 13, 2021 118 (15) e2020430118;

Significance: Did PTSD and combat stress evolve as a universal human response to danger? Or are they culturally specific? We addressed this question by interviewing 218 warriors from the Turkana, a non-Western small-scale society, who engage in high-risk lethal cattle raids. We found that symptoms that may have evolved to protect against danger, like flashbacks and startle response, were high in the Turkana and best predicted by combat exposure. However, symptoms that are similar to depression were lower in the Turkana compared to American service members and were better predicted by moral violations. These findings suggest different evolutionary roots for different symptoms which may lead to better diagnosis and treatment.

Abstract: Military personnel in industrialized societies often develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during combat. It is unclear whether combat-related PTSD is a universal evolutionary response to danger or a culture-specific syndrome of industrialized societies. We interviewed 218 Turkana pastoralist warriors in Kenya, who engage in lethal cattle raids, about their combat experiences and PTSD symptoms. Turkana in our sample had a high prevalence of PTSD symptoms, but Turkana with high symptom severity had lower prevalence of depression-like symptoms than American service members with high symptom severity. Symptoms that facilitate responding to danger were better predicted by combat exposure, whereas depressive symptoms were better predicted by exposure to combat-related moral violations. The findings suggest that some PTSD symptoms stem from an evolved response to danger, while depressive PTSD symptoms may be caused by culturally specific moral norm violations.

Keywords: PTSDcombat stressmoral injuryevolutionary medicinecross-cultural psychology


Our findings demonstrate that combat-related PTSD symptoms are not limited to industrialized societies and can occur even in small-scale societies where warriors are venerated and socially embedded in tight-knit communities. In particular, learning-and-reacting symptoms are potentially evolved responses to acute dangers such as those encountered in combat. These symptoms had high prevalence among both American service members and Turkana warriors. Moreover, among the Turkana, combat exposure and combat outcomes were more consistently associated with learning-and-reacting symptom severity than with depressive symptom severity.

Our findings have implications for understanding the roots of moral injury (597172), trauma causedy “perpetrating, failing to prevent, or bearing witness to acts that transgress deeply held moral beliefs and expectations” (ref. 59, p. 695). For example, moral injury can occur when soldiers violate morally held beliefs against killing civilians (73). Moral injury might also be the primary cause of combat stress in drone pilots who, even though they are flying combat missions from a control room far from danger, have a high-definition view of the human suffering caused by their missile strikes (74). Our statistical models suggest a relationship between moral injury and depressive PTSD symptoms in particular. Combat exposure and outcome measures are not as important predictors for depressive symptoms as they are for learning-and-reacting symptoms among the Turkana. Instead, predictors assessing exposure to moral violations as perpetrators or victims and experiencing social sanctions are associated with depressive symptoms. Additionally, having moral concerns for a larger segment of people from the opposing side was more strongly associated with depressive symptoms than with learning-and-reacting symptoms. All of this supports the idea that depressive symptoms may be a response to expected social sanctioning due to moral violations, which is consistent with some evolutionary theories of depression (5657). However, it is also possible that depressive symptoms, whatever their cause, may make instances of moral injury more salient to study participants. Additional experimental, longitudinal, and cross-cultural research may resolve the direction of causality.

Consistent with the association in the Turkana between expected social sanctions and depressive symptoms, Turkana warriors with high symptom severity were less prone than American service members to experience some of the depressive symptoms of PTSD. This could be because the actual or perceived social risks of participating in war are lower for Turkana warriors than for American service members. Turkana warriors are venerated and there is widespread support from their community for going on raids and defending the Turkana from raids. They do not expect to face moral disapproval for participating in combat (43) (although they do face moral disapproval for cowardice and can be blamed for the death of comrades). In fact, those who have killed in combat are often celebrated in Turkana society with many warriors undergoing akiger, a ritual that scars the warrior’s body to mark him as someone who has killed. Warriors with akiger scars are highly regarded by both men and women. Additionally, raid participation is high among Turkana men, so warriors are almost always in the company of other warriors with similar combat experiences. Many women and children too have experienced raids by other groups. As such, combat experiences are a commonly shared and a frequent topic of discussion in Turkana society. There is little to no stigma associated with sharing the details of combat (43).

By contrast, in the United States and other industrialized nation states, support for war and those who participate in war is often far from universal, and killing, even in combat, is rarely celebrated. American soldiers fight in foreign countries away from the civilian population and, upon returning, they may perceive disapproval of their experiences and actions from friends and family. Additionally, most Americans cannot relate to the experiences of those who have participated in combat. Consequently, warfare presents a moral conflict because what is considered a soldier’s duty in combat can violate prevailing moral norms within the soldier’s society. American soldiers may therefore have a heightened awareness of potential social repercussions especially as they integrate back into civilian life. Veterans’ support groups and group therapy replicate some aspects of Turkana society by allowing veterans to share their experiences with each other, but Turkana warriors receive stronger signals of social support and understanding from all members of their communities.

Since most PTSD research has not focused on symptom-specific causes, moral injury research is relatively new, and combat trauma research has not taken a functional evolutionary perspective, there has been little attempt to associate depressive PTSD symptoms with moral injury in the Western context. A better grasp of symptom-specific patterns of PTSD in Western military personnel, as we have done with the Turkana, would be useful to further evaluate the proposed theory, delineate what moral injury manifests as, and assess how it relates to PTSD.

The effect of killing in combat on PTSD is more ambiguous in the Turkana than in American service members. While killing in combat is an important contributor to PTSD in American service members who served in Iraq and Afghanistan (7075), it was not present in the top models of total, learning-and-reacting, or depressive symptom severity in the Turkana. On average, the direction of influence is to reduce learning-and-reacting symptoms but increase depressive symptoms, opening the possibility that it might be a contributor to moral injury even in a population where killing in combat confers prestige. While this was counter to our prediction, it is consistent with some ethnographic observations. The Turkana, as well as neighboring pastoral groups, have culturally specific idioms of distress associated with killing in the war zone, including perceptions of being polluted, beliefs that killing portends future misfortune, and feeling haunted by the enemy’s ghost, which suggest that killing of enemies is a potentially morally hazardous event (76). Among Samburu pastoralists, war zone mercy occurs even in circumstances where killing of the opponent would be normative, indicating that warriors may feel empathy toward their opponents (76) and can thus perceive killing as morally hazardous.

Our results imply that while killing is potentially morally hazardous across cultures, culturally specific institutions mediate its role in causing PTSD, which clarifies why killing is more risky for American service members than for Turkana warriors. First, norms regarding killing of individuals from the opposing side are less restrictive among the Turkana than in nation-state warfare. Unlike in nation-state warfare, the Turkana have a high level of moral autonomy in who they kill in combat, a pattern noted in other pastoral societies (76). Additionally, systems of social support within Turkana society may help alleviate its moral ambiguity. In particular, the Turkana have three postraid rituals that warriors can engage in that are specifically designated for those who have killed enemies in combat (43). In addition to akiger which is optional, akipur is a purification ritual which is viewed as mandatory for anyone who has killed an enemy in combat to protect them from weakening and slowly wasting away. Another ritual, ngitebus, protects a warrior from the ghosts of slain enemy warriors. It is considered optional, but it is almost always performed preventatively in conjunction with akipur. It can also be performed any time after a haunting occurs. For instance, one warrior, due to repeated hauntings, estimated that he underwent ngitebus 11 times over 20 y. These rituals, which require the participation of other community members, could serve as a cue to warriors that the community views their act of killing as morally acceptable. The lack of such rituals pertaining to killing, especially in populations with expansive moral beliefs and restrictive norms of killing in combat, may contribute to the heightened depressive symptoms and moral injury experienced by US military service members.