Thursday, July 1, 2021

Prominent economists have supposed that the private production of full-bodied gold or silver coins is inefficient: due to information asymmetry, private coins will be chronically low-quality or underweight; not so!

The private mint in economics: evidence from the American gold rushes. Lawrence H. White. The Economic History Review, June 23 2021.

Abstract: Prominent economists have supposed that the private production of full-bodied gold or silver coins is inefficient: due to information asymmetry, private coins will be chronically low-quality or underweight. An examination of private mints during gold rushes in the US in the years 1830–63, drawing on contemporary accounts and numismatic literature, finds otherwise. While some private gold mints produced underweight coins, from incompetence or fraudulent intent, such mints did not last long. Informed by newspapers about the findings of assays, money-users systematically abandoned substandard coins in favour of full-weight coins. Only competent and honest mints survived.

Check also These ancient weights helped create Europe’s first free market more than 3000 years ago. Andrew Curry. Science Magazine, Jun 28 2021.

Dark triad personality traits of Machiavellianism & psychopathy are strongly associated with anti-natalist views; depression is found to be standing independently in a relationship with anti-natalist views

Philipp Schönegger (2021): What’s up with anti-natalists? An observational study on the relationship between dark triad personality traits and anti-natalist views, Philosophical Psychology, Jul 1 2021.

Abstract: In the past decade, research on the dark triad of personality (Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy) has demonstrated a strong relationship to a number of socially aversive moral judgments such as sacrificial utilitarian decisions in moral dilemmas. This study widens the scope of this research program and investigates the association between dark triad personality traits and anti-natalist views, i.e., views holding that procreation is morally wrong. The results of this study indicate that the dark triad personality traits of Machiavellianism and psychopathy are strongly associated with anti-natalist views. Further, depression is found to be both standing independently in a relationship with anti-natalist views as well as functioning as a mediator in the relationships between Machiavellianism/psychopathy and anti-natalist views. This pattern was replicated in a follow-up study. These findings add to the literature on dark triad personality traits and their relationship to moral judgments, suggesting that personality and mood play a substantive part in variation in anti-natalist  views in a lay population.

4. Discussion

This study aimed at empirically investigating a potential relationship of dark triad personality traits and views concerning the ethics of procreation, specifically anti-natalism. The data allow for the broad conclusion that there exists a strong relationship between endorsement of anti-natalist views and dark triad personality traits, especially for Machiavellianism (r = .490) and psychopathy (r = .621), less so for narcissism. Moreover, the follow-up study allowed for a replication of this general result, further strengthening the evidentiary basis for these findings. Further, the presence of a mediating role of depression in the relationships between Machiavellianism/psychopathy and anti-natalist views sheds further light on the findings while also making further plausible the claim that narcissism does not play a substantive role in this association. We take these findings to suggest a picture in which lay anti-natalist views stand in a significant relationship to dark triad personality traits and depressive mood.

Concerning the null hypotheses outlined earlier, for the main study, Null Hypothesis 1 and 2 could be rejected soundly (cf. Table 2Table 3), as dark triad personality traits and depression were found to be standing in a remarkably strong positive relationship with agreement with anti-natalism while playing a mediating role in the main relationships. Null Hypothesis 3 could not be rejected (cf. Table 3), as both self-regarding and other-regarding risk-aversion did not stand in a relationship to either the anti-natalist aggregate measure or any individual items and also played no mediating role.

Overall, these findings present evidence that variation in lay agreement with anti-natalist views that procreation is morally wrong is, at least in part, explained by individual differences in personality and depressive mood. One main finding is that Machiavellianism and psychopathy stand in a strong relationship that is robust even in the follow-up, further strengthening the evidentiary basis for this claim. Narcissism’s relationship, however, both does not replicate in the follow-up and is not mediated by depressive scores, further indicating that narcissism falls outside the realm of explanatory capabilities of the picture proposed here and may be best explained by a different set of hypotheses and factors. This suggests that the picture is one of a ‘dark dyad’, i.e., of Machiavellianism and psychopathy, that explains a good deal of variation in anti-natalist views in a lay population respectively. This is consistent with a set of recent findings that suggest more generally that narcissism and the ‘dark dyad’ (i.e. Machiavellianism and psychopathy) are indeed two distinct constructs (Rogoza & Cieciuch, 2020).

The fact that narcissism only shows a weak or non-existent relationship suggests that the relevant personality features of Machiavellianism and psychopathy, for example, their tendency to low empathy and cynicism toward common-sense morality as well as reduced ability to feel pleasure (Treadway & Zald, 2011), are most closely associated with anti-natalist views and must thus play a part in the explanation as opposed to any factettes of narcissism. On this line of thinking, depression fits into this picture by drawing on depressive individuals’ devaluation of life and bleak outlook on the future. In other words, the results here suggest that those scoring high on Machiavellianism and psychopathy as well as depression (which mediates the main relationship), are more likely to feel negatively about life, common moral standards, and others more generally. That is, one is more likely to agree with the anti-natalist arguments that procreation is a moral wrong because of one’s own propensity to disvalue life, be it present or future.,24,25

As such, the role of depression is also crucial to understanding the present data. This is because the higher one scores on the depression scale, the more likely one might be to regard one’s own life as not worth living, possibly extending this sentiment and overgeneralizing to the claim that lives generally are not worth living and that bringing new lives into existence is a moral wrong because of this. Generally, however, there are two types of explanations about how the impact of depression might intersect with views about anti-natalism. First, one may refer to depressive realism, i.e., the claim that depressed individuals better perceive reality (Moore & Fresco, 2012) and are thus better equipped to judge the anti-natalist arguments. Conversely, one might also think that depressed individuals’ thinking inhabits certain flaws, making them liable to underestimate the goodness and value of life. This would be consistent with a rationalization explanation: One’s affect directly influences what one believes about the world, e.g., about the value of a life. The present data do not allow for a disambiguation between the depressive realist interpretation from the rationalization claim and further research is needed to shed light on this specific question.

The follow-up replication study aimed at testing whether the same pattern of results could be replicated and whether the pandemic overall influenced views on anti-natalism. Null Hypothesis 4 could not be rejected, as the follow-up found that there was no significantly higher or lower aggregate agreement with anti-natalist arguments and statements. Both on aggregate measures and on the majority of individual measures, participants reported insignificantly different agreement. Only on the topic of Misanthropic Anti-Natalism did participants show a change, however their agreement with this formulation of anti-natalism was reduced (contra the expected directionality of an increase). Specifically, they reported lower agreement with the claim that because humans cause such a substantial amount of harm to other humans, animals, and the environment, that it is wrong to procreate.

The data from the follow-up study also showed that the relationship between narcissism and anti-natalism weakened significantly, from a small to moderate effect in the main study, r = .293, p < .001, to virtually no relationship at all, r = −.001, p = .994. The relationships for Machiavellianism and psychopathy remained at moderate to strong levels. As such, this follow-up study shows that the results that Machiavellianism and psychopathy stand in a strong relationship to anti-natalism are robust. It also ought to diminish our certainty in the claim that narcissism is part of the picture in such a way that, given these data, one ought to be highly skeptical as to whether narcissism plays any role in any relationship to anti-natalism at all, which is in line with those arguing for the dark dyad and narcissism being distinct constructs (Rogoza & Cieciuch, 2020).

Overall, these findings strengthen the claim that at least some dark triad personality traits stand in remarkably strong relationships to anti-natalist views. Some potential reasons for this change in results from the main sstudy to the follow-up is non-random attrition, in that the follow-up sample was not a random draw from the initial sample. Irrespective of the actual reason, we take this follow-up to increase the evidentiary status of the findings that Machiavellianism and psychopathy strand in a strong relationship to anti-natalist views. Recall also that narcissism already showed the weakest association, and taken together with the follow-up, one might want to explicitly exclude it from any full picture going forward. Further, given that depression played an important mediating the main relationships, the fact that the follow-up did not find an effect for narcissism is further compatible with previous research that found that comorbidities of depression and dark triad traits are typically only found with regard to Machiavellianism and psychopathy, not narcissism (Gómez-Leal et al., 2019) and again suggests that the picture is one of the dark dyad being associated with anti-natalist views. As such, the data gathered in the follow-up make the overall picture more consistent with previous findings and may thus increase the plausibility of the findings.

The main interpretative challenge of the data gathered in this paper relevant to philosophical theorizing and broad understanding of the public discourse on the topic is this: Does the observed relationship between dark triad personality traits/depression and anti-natalism give us reason to reduce or increase our credence in anti-natalism? For one, one might think that higher psychopathy scores and the presence of (mild) depression might give one reason to doubt the judgments about anti-natalism made by the lay population. After all, is it rational to rely on the judgments of individuals whose personality profile differs substantially from the norm and who are more depressed than the mean person? Specifically, the Machiavellian (but also the psychopathic) personality trait is often associated with emotional detachment in those who also suffer from depression (Demenescu et al., 2010) as well as an inability to feel pleasure in some contexts (Gómez-Leal et al., 2019, p. 10; Cairncross et al., 2013). This would give one reason to believe that the lay evaluation of the quality-of-life argument central to Benatar’s formulation of anti-natalism (2006) might be subject to individual variation if these come with emotional detachment and the inability to feel pleasure. After all, emotional attachment and the ability to feel pleasure are central to our evaluation of life as good and as such tie directly into Benatar’s quality of life argument.26

Conversely, one might also think that depression and its hypothesized more realistic outlook on life and the disregard for common-sense morality present in dark triad personality traits might lead to the reverse conclusion, i.e., that because of the presence of this relationship, one ought to have higher credence in the truth of anti-natalism.27 However, the evidence that depression does indeed lead to a more realistic outlook on life is relatively restricted in methodological scope28 and generally shows relatively small effect sizes (Moore & Fresco, 2012, p. 505).29 Moreover, there is the additional challenge of evaluating a realist effect on purely evaluative topics such as anti-natalism. Given that no objective baseline can be established here (under plausible assumptions), we claim that one ought not be overly confident in the line of depressive realist argumentation with regard to anti-natalism and depressive mood.

For the purposes of this paper, we will not decisively argue one way or another. This is because the data presented here are the first in this line of research and can only explain a part of the picture. Further, arguing either way presupposes assuming a number of propositions that we are not prepared or able to make in a paper with this scope, eg., whether anti-natalist views are the type of views that depressed individuals or those high on dark triad personality traits are especially well or especially poorly equipped to judge. However, given the data obtained and the background literature referred to above, one might be more inclined to favor the former interpretative claim, i.e., that those high on dark triad personality traits and depression are less well-equipped to judge the truth of arguments about anti-natalism. In order to confidently answer those questions as well as further interpretative challenges, e.g., concerning the role of empathy in this relationship, however, more research has to be conducted. Specifically, further research should include a general expansion of the present data base on the psychosocial correlates of anti-natalist views, as well as a scientific analysis of expert populations such as professional philosophers. However, the data present here may be taken as indicative of moral reasoning in public discourse on anti-natalism as it does explain variations in lay views on anti-natalism.

Overall, we take the main philosophical value of these studies to be that they add to the literature on the relationship between personality traits and moral judgments as well as philosophical intuitions more broadly. It has been a goal of experimental philosophy generally to establish an empirically informed picture of folk morality, and the present data directly add to this project. In the same way that, for example, research on the role of culture, demographics, and reflection on lay philosophical judgments generally has contributed to the philosophical enterprise of identifying some of the sources and mechanisms which may drive certain judgments, this may also hold for questions relating to anti-natalism. We draw the tentative conclusions that the data present here, coupled with additional novel studies on additional populations, might go some way to provide a philosophically interesting picture of anti-natalist views that can then lead to an increase or reduction of our credence in anti-natalism. As outlined before, we believe that due to the high importance of figuring out whether anti-natalism is true or not, continuing this research (either by conducting further studies or by expanding the arguments relating to what we ought to draw from the data collected) is incredibly important under the possibility of humanity’s long potential future and the resultant significant moral risk.

4.1 Limitations

This study relied exclusively on an online sample of US residents drawn from MTurk. As such, cross-cultural conclusions should not be drawn lightly and any associations found here may be the artifact of cultural-linguistic circumstances. Moreover, the consistently strong intercorrelations between anti-natalism and dark dyad personality traits might also point toward the fact that both scales measure a similar underlying factor, such as a disaffirmation of life. However, this is both a potential problem and a possible upside. On the one hand, this might mean that the finding does not properly represent the relationship between two independent concepts, but rather measures closeness of related concepts. On the other hand, though, because anti-natalist views have not yet been associated with dark triad traits, even if this was true, the findings presented here would still represent novel empirical insight into the study of personality and folk moral judgment and may directly lead to further research projects.

The main limitation of the follow-up is nonrandom attrition. As this follow-up study was conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems plausible that the follow-up sample was not a sample randomly drawn from the previous population, but rather that the attrition rate might be connected to the experiences during the pandemic. For example, those hardest hit by the pandemic might not have had the time and energy to participate in an online study. As such, the results of the follow-up concerning the impact of the pandemic ought to be taken into account with a certain level of caution, though the purely replicatory function of the follow-up may be immune from this limitation to a certain degree. Further, because the follow-up was not planned at the time of the first study, no individual identifiers were collected that would have enabled proper within-subject analyses between the main study and the follow-up, further weakening the evidentiary status of the follow-up.

Results revealed an age-related difference in altruism, with older adults showing greater altruism than younger adults; demographic moderators (income, education, sex distribution) did not significantly moderate this effect

Sparrow, E. P., Swirsky, L. T., Kudus, F., & Spaniol, J. (2021). Aging and altruism: A meta-analysis. Psychology and Aging, 36(1), 49–56. Jun 2021.

Abstract: Life span theories postulate that altruistic tendencies increase in adult development, but the mechanisms and moderators of age-related differences in altruism are poorly understood. In particular, it is unclear to what extent age differences in altruism reflect age differences in altruistic motivation, in resources such as education and income, or in socially desirable responding. This meta-analysis combined 16 studies assessing altruism in younger and older adults (N = 1,581). As expected, results revealed an age-related difference in altruism (Mg = 0.61, p < .001), with older adults showing greater altruism than younger adults. Demographic moderators (income, education, sex distribution) did not significantly moderate this effect, nor did aspects of the study methodology that may drive socially desirable responding. However, the age effect was moderated by the average age of the older sample, such that studies with young-old samples showed a larger age effect than studies with old-old samples. These findings are consistent with the theoretical prediction of age-related increases in altruistic motivation, but they also suggest a role for resources (e.g., physical, cognitive, social) that may decline in advanced old age.

There is a significant positive association between religiosity & disgust sensitivity, which suggests that sensitivity to disgust could have distinct spiritual purity & moral self-regulatory response value for religious individuals

‘Look not at what is contrary to propriety’: A meta-analytic exploration of the association between religiosity and sensitivity to disgust. Zhaoliang Yu, Persefoni Bali, Myron Tsikandilakis, Eddie M. W. Tong. British Journal of Social Psychology, July 1 2021.

Abstract: Previous research has suggested that disgust sensitivity contributes to moral self-regulation. The relationship between religiosity and disgust sensitivity is frequently explored as a moderator of moral-regulating ideologies, such as conservative and traditional ideologies. However, religiosity is suggested to differ from these in moral attitudes against social dominance and racial prejudice. Psychological theories, such as the societal moral intuition and the evolved hazard-perception models, have proposed that there could be reasons to support a distinct relationship between religiosity and disgust sensitivity. These reasons relate to the intuitive pursuit of spiritual purity and the non-secular transcendental emotional-reward value of moral behaviour for religious individuals. In the present manuscript, we conducted the first dedicated meta-analytic review between religiosity and disgust sensitivity. We analysed a summary of forty-seven experimental outcomes, including 48,971 participants. Our analysis revealed a significant positive association (r = .25) between religiosity and disgust sensitivity. This outcome suggests that sensitivity to disgust could have distinct spiritual purity and moral self-regulatory response value for religious individuals.


Summary of findings

The present study aimed to provide an evaluation of the relationship between religiosity and disgust sensitivity. The current meta-analytic summary showed that there is a positive correlation between religiosity and disgust sensitivity. The overall association between religiosity and sensitivity to disgust was positive (r = .253) and significant (p < .001) after controlling for heterogeneity, publication bias, parametricity, and adjusting for the effect of moderators, such as gender, sample type (student vs. general), and age (Borenstein et al., 2017; see Figure 2). The present analytic summary also revealed that gender strongly moderated positive associations between religiosity and trait-level sensitivity to disgust subtypes, including pathogen disgust (r = .127; p < .001) and sexual disgust (r = .262; p < .001; see, Schumm et al., 2013).

General discussion

Religiosity has been defined as an affiliation with a system of morals and often ritualistic practices that include the belief in the existence and a moral code associated with a transcendental entity, or entities (Fincher & Thornhill, 2012). Sensitivity to disgust has been approached as the belief or self-report that an event, cue, or elicitor will be experienced as aversive to a subject using questionnaire and self-report measures (Rozin & Haidt, 2013; Tybur et al., 2013). As mentioned in the introduction, theoretical models, such as the societal moral intuition and the EH-PS models, suggest that disgust sensitivity could relate to religiosity as part of a system of beliefs that contribute to moral cognition, emotions, and behaviours. This relationship is suggested to be distinct from the association of secular forms of morality and sensitivity to disgust in the sense that religiosity involves key conceptual differences to secular morality, such as the notions of supernatural invigilation and proportionality (Shariff, 2015).

In the current study, we showed that religiosity positively correlates with sensitivity to disgust. This finding cannot be interpreted to imply causality, such as whether sensitivity to disgust is a predictive marker for religious belief, or vice versa (Beit-Hallahmi, 2014). Instead, it offers the first meta-analytic dedicated findings that religiosity and sensitivity to disgust are, indeed, correlated (Terrizzi et al., 2013). As regards the proposed differences in the evolutionary trajectories between religious and secular factors, that could underlie the reported association, it is worth inquiring whether the relationship between sensitivity to disgust and religiosity can translate to high, or higher, compared to non-religious individuals, physiological reactions in response to disgust-related elicitors (Kapogiannis et al., 2009). The major consideration in this instance is that the result of such an empirical exploration will help to clarify whether the association between religiosity and sensitivity to disgust reflects a theoretical belief framework dissociated from behavioural (see, for example, Argyle, 2006; Beit-Hallahmi & Argyle, 1997; Nelkin, 2000) and physiological responsivity to stimulus exposure, or an actual physiological module for the avoidance of inferred/indirect threat (Henry, 2016).

This is a very critical distinction. The psychological models that have been associated with religiosity and sensitivity to disgust can be interpreted to suggest that physiological responses will occur when religious individuals are presented with emotional elicitors. The EH-PS model places sensitivity to disgust in relation to religiosity in continuity to an avoidance system related to indirect threat to fitness. Therefore, both disgust-related emotional elicitors and immoral emotional elicitors should stimulate physiological responses for religious individuals that reflect these avoidance mechanisms (Baumard & Boyer, 2013). Conversely, the societal intuitional model has been used to suggest that physiological responses to elicitors related to disgust sensitivity in religious individuals will not only be automatic and involuntary (Boyer & Liénard, 2006) but additionally possibly subject to pre-conscious or subliminal processing, given that their evolutionary origins are linked with intuitional processes (Shariff, 2015).

If these conditions are not met, and if, indeed, sensitivity to disgust does not translate to distinct physiological reactions in religious individuals, the arguments that have been proposed to address this association could be reduced to reflect belief systems without palpable physiological correlates (see Shariff, 2015). Along the same lines, the concepts of supernatural invigilation and proportionality suggest that to some extend religious individuals could be subject to deontic, prescriptive, and inviolate moral laws (Shariff, 2015). The expected outcome of this experiential belief to the morality of a transcendental entity – or entities – should be a sense of reduced moral self-authorship (see Dijksterhuis, Preston, Wegner, & Aarts, 2008) as well as a reduced sense of moral self-righteousness and authoritarianism (Haidt, 2012). If subsequent experimental efforts to provide evidence for these effects are not successful, the sceptical scholar could readily attribute the currently reported significant association to the strict and prescriptive laws that are often part of the participation in religious-related ritualistic practices (Barrett, 2000). The association could also be attributed to other moderating factors, such as secular sociosexual attitudes and beliefs (Weeden, Cohen, & Kenrick, 2008) and addressed as a means for ingroup socialization among morally compatible individuals (Shariff, Willard, Andersen, & Norenzayan, 2016).

As regards our additional findings, we showed that age was not a significant moderator for the association between religiosity and sensitivity to disgust (but see also Dienes, 2014). Several studies have proposed that sensitivity to disgust is higher in younger religious and non-religious adults due to inexperience and inhibitory mechanisms related to experiencing unwanted loss of control and uncertainty (Quigley, Sherman, & Sherman, 1997). Several studies have also suggested that disgust sensitivity can be higher in older/senior religious and non-religious adults possibly due to increased concerns for one’s physical and emotional well-being (Oaten, Stevenson, & Case, 2009). Our findings suggest instead that the association of religiosity and sensitivity to disgust is an enduring and not a transient or age-specific effect and that it can manifest throughout an individual’s lifespan (Zelenski & Larsen, 2000).

In the most surprising and possibly one of the most important additional findings of our analyses, we showed that gender and sample type had a weak effect-size significance trend influence on the correlation between religiosity and overall sensitivity to disgust. Gender was a significant moderator for the association between religiosity and subtypes of sensitivity to disgust. This finding suggests that gender plays an important role in the association between sensitivity to disgust and religiosity, particularly for sexual and pathogen/contamination-related cues. This could mean that, although religious individuals, independently of gender, have beliefs related to disgust sensitivity, sexual and pathogen/contamination sensitivity to disgust and religiosity are not reliably associated when we remove the effect of the responses of female participants. The meta-analysis matrix adds to this a novel finding. Gender moderated these associations as an interactive function of the effect of female participation in religiosity, although intriguingly female participation did not impact sensitivity to disgust subtypes (see Figure 4). Being female did not directly influence sensitivity to sexual and pathogen/contamination cues as previous studies proposed (Tybur et al., 2013), it increased the level of religiosity of an individual and moderated by association responses to disgust sensitivity subtypes and the interaction between religiosity and sensitivity to disgust. This is a most unexpected, promising, and novel finding that should be further explored by subsequent research.

Looking at the greater picture, in the present manuscript we explored one possible emotional and response attitude, and/or correlate – namely, sensitivity to disgust – that could influence religiosity. This can be the first step for further exploring whether shame, guilt, regret, self-reproach, and – most understatedly in previous psychological research (see, Fatima, Sharif, & Khalid, 2018) – positive-valence emotional states, such as awe, kindness, generosity, and calmness, could underlie and contribute to religious emotional experience and beliefs (Sharma & Singh, 2019). An important contribution of the current outcomes is that we provided evidence that this line of research can offer insightful results, theoretical advances, and further directions for experimental research. These can include the exploration of belief-system response attitudes and emotional correlates of religiosity and their possible distinctive functions within religiosity as possibly non-secular moral and experiential phenomena. The current manuscript could and should (Shariff, 2015) set an experimental and meta-analytic precedence towards the exploration of religiosity and belief-system response attitudes and emotional sensitivity as pathways to understanding religiosity further and in relation to human attitudes and experiences.


In the current meta-analyses, the included studies employed questionnaire assessments for assessing the relationship between religiosity and sensitivity to disgust. Future experimental research could benefit from using psychophysiological assessments for exploring this relationship. This implementation will enable us to explore whether the current significant results reflect belief-system values, such as self-report responses, and/or psychophysiological emotional experiences for sensitivity to disgust (see, Tsikandilakis et al., 2021). The current meta-analyses included several different religiosity and disgust sensitivity questionnaire assessments. We must note that an important issue in meta-analytic research is whether the achieved meta-analytic power originates from sufficiently statistically powered studies (see, Amrhein, Trafimow, & Greenland, 2019). This is an important component of meta-analytic research that has, nevertheless, decreased impact in the current meta-analytic research due to the corrected-weighted statistical analyses (see Hedges & Schauer, 2019) of forty-seven experimental outcomes, including 48,971 participants (see also, Borenstein et al., 2017). It is very critical to mention as conclusive remarks that the vast majority of the included outcomes used samples, for which participants’ socioeconomic status and political beliefs were not measured. These variables could not be, therefore, included as moderators in the analyses. Exploring their influence should be a priority for experimental replications of the current findings. In addition, the pool of existing empirical studies did not also provide sufficient data to enable the examination across specific religious backgrounds or countries of origin. Further correspondence with the authors of the included studies did not result in sufficient information to perform a per religion analysis or the inclusion of religious affiliation as a categorical moderator in the meta-analysis. Further experimental research could benefit from exploring the effect that different religious affiliations confer on the association between religiosity and sensitivity to disgust. 

"This is quite a blow to the idea that elites or a central authority" were running the weights & measures used in ancient markets. Why is this "fascinating"? Expected, better said.

These ancient weights helped create Europe’s first free market more than 3000 years ago. Andrew Curry. Science Magazine, Jun 28 2021.

Merchants of the Bronze Age faced the same problem as merchants from London to Lisbon today: how to know you’re getting what you pay for in a transaction. It usually takes a ruling authority, like a king, pharaoh, or perhaps the European Union, to establish standard weights, which amount to a unit of value in the age before coins and bills.

A new study suggests merchants in Bronze Age Europe were an exception: Through informal networks, Mesopotamian merchants established a standardized system of weights that later spread across Europe, enabling trade across the continent. The advance effectively formed the first known common Eurasian market more than 3000 years ago.

“This is quite a blow to the idea that elites or a central authority is running the show,” says Leiden University archaeologist Maikel Kuijpers, who was not involved with the work. “The [researchers] make a really good case.”

Standard weights—used by merchants to trade goods of equivalent value—were invented in Egypt or Mesopotamia 5000 years ago. By 3000 years ago, they had spread across Europe, where some graves included pouches or boxes containing bone balance beams, tweezers for picking up scraps of gold or silver, and stone weights.

For more than 100 years, historians have assumed that weight standards were handed down from on high, first created by a king or religious authority to collect taxes or tribute, then later adopted by merchants. The first artifacts to clearly be weights, for example, were found in the highly stratified civilizations of ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt. But Bronze Age Europe boasted few such states when weights proliferated.

To find out whether standardization without centralization was possible, Georg August University of Göttingen archaeologists Lorenz Rahmstorf and Nicola Ialongo spent nearly 10 years visiting museum collections and weighing stones and other objects they thought might have been used for commerce. They analyzed weights from previously excavated sites spanning nearly 3000 years in Europe, Anatolia, and Mesopotamia.

To their surprise, more than 2000 such objects crafted over the course of 2000 years and an area spanning nearly 5000 kilometers weighed nearly the same amount—between 8 and 10.5 grams from Great Britain to Mesopotamia. Over the time spans involved, the consistency was remarkable, they report today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “It is like we were still using the Roman systems of measurement [today], with just some minor variations,” Ialongo says.

In Mesopotamia, that unit was referred to as a shekel. “Weight systems in Europe were only slightly different from weight systems in Anatolia, which were only slightly different than in Mesopotamia,” Ialongo says.

The researchers suggest that in all these areas it was merchants who kept the weights standard, because it was in their interest to do so. Each time traders met, the archaeologists write, they would bring out their own scales and weights and compare them—or introduce them to new traders. With enough time and contacts, a standard system emerged—laying the groundwork for the equivalent of an integrated market from Great Britain to Babylon. “The weight units were regulated by the market,” Ialongo says.

To test its model, the team came up with a unique experiment. Using replica Bronze Age bone balance scales, co-author and Göttingen archaeologist Raphael Hermann carved 100 weights out of stone. Each new weight was modeled randomly from the weights already produced: Weight two was based on weight one, but weight three could be modeled on either weight one or weight two, weight 10 could be modeled from any of the previous nine, and so on.

Human error, combined with the slight imprecision of the ancient balance, led to deviations up to 25 grams from the original 153-gram weight. But the drift tended to stay within 5%, still within a range that would have been acceptable in an ancient marketplace, Rahmstorf says. In a system where all the weights were copied from a central standard under palace supervision, the deviations would have been much smaller. [ARE YOU SURE?!?!?!?!?!?!?! There are well-known modern failures to have high-quality, small-error monetary & weight standards.]

When the researchers plotted their own weights on a graph, the pattern matched the distribution of the ancient samples they had found.

The research helps explain how far-flung Bronze Age societies traded across long distances, says Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz archaeologist Christopher Pare, who was not involved in the research. “Complex systems are perpetuated by convention and exchange, rather than a central authority. … It’s fascinating.”


Philosophers and scientists disagree profoundly about whether determinism (all events in the universe are completely caused by prior events) is true and whether it applies to human behavior

Forthcoming. Baumeister, R. F., Clark, C. J., & Lau, S. (2022). Determinism. In V. Glavineau (Ed.), The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Possibility. London, UK: Palgrave. (Jun 2021)

Abstract: Determinism is the theory that all events in the universe are completely caused by prior events, such that every occurrence was inevitable from the start of the universe, ranging from the intricate blast of every supernova, to the precise path each leaf travels as it flutters to the ground, to the very words we are writing in this encyclopedia entry. It is a brilliant, elegant, controversial, and challenging theory. Philosophers and scientists disagree profoundly about whether determinism is true and whether it applies to human behavior.

The impact of cannabis use on male sexual function: A 10-year, single-center experience shows no reduction

The impact of cannabis use on male sexual function: A 10-year, single-center experience. Benjamin Shiff et al. Canadian Urological Association Journal, vol 15, no 12, Dec 2021.


Introduction: Despite increasing consumption rates in much of the world, the impact of cannabis use on various components of male sexual function remain poorly established. The purpose of this study was to further evaluate the relationship between cannabis use and reproductive and sexual function using a large patient cohort from a single academic andrology clinic.

Methods: This is a historical cohort study from a single academic center andrology clinic. Patients from 2008–2017 were included. Intake questionnaires provided baseline demographic information, as well as data regarding substance use and various sexual function parameters. Subjects were categorized as cannabis users or non-users. Cannabis users and non-users were compared using descriptive statistics and Chi-squared tests, and regression analyses were performed to test for association.

Results: A total of 7809 males were included in the study; 993 (12.7%) were cannabis users and 6816 (87.3%) were non-users. Cannabis users had a higher mean Sexual Health Inventory for Men (SHIM) score (21.94.4 vs. 21.24.8, p<0.001) and mean serum total testosterone (13.412.0 nmol/L vs. 12.611.8 nmol/L, p=0.04) than non-users, although they also had a higher rate of positive Androgen Deficiency in the Aging Male (ADAM) scores (52% vs. 46%, p<0.001). Cannabis users also reported higher sexual frequency compared to non-users (8.8 events/month vs. 7.8 events/month, p<0.05). On multivariate analysis, cannabis use was not associated with SHIM score or serum testosterone concentration. Cannabis use was associated with positive ADAM scores.

Conclusions: Cannabis use was not associated with clinically significant deleterious effects on male sexual parameters in this cohort.

Keywords: Sexual behaviour, Cannabis, Testosterone, Erectile dysfunction

We find a significant, sharp, & timely decline of insurgent violence in the initial phase, when the enemy reduces violence strategically to facilitate the foreign military withdrawal to capitalize on the reduced foreign presence afterward

Security Transitions. Thiemo Fetzer, Pedro C. L. Souza, Oliver Vanden Eynde, and Austin L. Wright. American Economic Review. Jul 2021, Vol. 111, No. 7: Pages 2275-2308.

Abstract: How do foreign powers disengage from a conflict? We study this issue by examining the recent, large-scale security transition from international troops to local forces in the ongoing civil conflict in Afghanistan. We construct a new dataset that combines information on this transition process with declassified conflict outcomes and previously unreleased quarterly survey data of residents’ perceptions of local security. Our empirical design leverages the staggered roll-out of the transition, and employs a novel instrumental variables approach to estimate the impact. We find a significant, sharp, and timely decline of insurgent violence in the initial phase: the security transfer to Afghan forces. We find that this is followed by a significant surge in violence in the second phase: the actual physical withdrawal of foreign troops. We argue that this pattern is consistent with a signaling model, in which the insurgents reduce violence strategically to facilitate the foreign military withdrawal to capitalize on the reduced foreign military presence afterward. Our findings clarify the destabilizing consequences of withdrawal in one of the costliest conflicts in modern history, and yield potentially actionable insights for designing future security transitions. 

JEL D74, F51, F52, O17

Changes in marital satisfaction: Both spouses’ self-reports of neuroticism, attachment anxiety, and attachment avoidance are predictors of change

How both partners’ individual differences, stress, and behavior predict change in relationship satisfaction: Extending the VSA model. James K. McNulty, Andrea L. Meltzer,  Lisa A. Neff, and  Benjamin R. Karney.  July 6, 2021 118 (27) e2101402118;

Significance: Understanding the factors that explain declines in marital satisfaction is one of the most pressing challenges for relationship science. Yet, several lines of recent research relying on singular theoretical models have questioned our ability to do so. The current research pooled data from 10 independent longitudinal studies of married couples to test a theoretical model that integrates multiple perspectives spanning numerous disciplines. Findings support and extend this model to indicate that both partners’ interpersonal behaviors interact with both partners’ experiences with stress over time to mediate the implications of both partners’ enduring qualities for changes in marital satisfaction. Accordingly, understanding one source of influence on relationships requires acknowledging the independent and interactive effects of the other sources of influence.

Abstract: We pooled data from 10 longitudinal studies of 1,104 married couples to test the Vulnerability-Stress-Adaptation (VSA) model of change in relationship satisfaction. Studies contained both spouses’ self-reports of neuroticism, attachment anxiety, and attachment avoidance; observational measures of engagement and opposition during problem-solving discussions at baseline; and repeated reports of both spouses’ stress and marital satisfaction over several years. Consistent with the VSA model, all three individual and partner qualities predicted changes in marital satisfaction that were mediated by observations of behavior and moderated by both partners’ experiences with stress. In contrast to the VSA model, however, rather than accentuating the association between individual differences and behavior, both partners’ stress moderated the strength, and even direction, of the association between behavior and changes in marital satisfaction over time. Taken together, these findings indicate that 1) qualities of both couple members shape their behavioral exchanges, 2) these behaviors explain how individuals and their partners’ enduring qualities predict relationship satisfaction, and 3) stress experienced by both couple members strongly determines how enduring qualities and behavior predict changes in relationship satisfaction over time. The complex interplay among both partners’ enduring qualities, stress, and behavior helps explain why studies may fail to document direct main effects of own and partner enduring qualities and behavior on changes in relationship satisfaction over time.

Keywords: marriagestressinterpersonal communicationpersonalityattachment security

Check also People can know how their relationship partners make them feel, but, because they often desire to see their relationship partners in a positive light, they may avoid accessing these feelings

Hicks, L. L., McNulty, J. K., Faure, R., Meltzer, A. L., Righetti, F., & Hofmann, W. (2021). Do people realize how their partners make them feel? Relationship enhancement motives and stress determine the link between implicitly assessed partner attitudes and relationship satisfaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 120(2), 335–369.