Tuesday, July 6, 2021

The Reasons People Think About Staying and Leaving Their Romantic Relationships: A Mixed-Method Analysis

The Reasons People Think About Staying and Leaving Their Romantic Relationships: A Mixed-Method Analysis. Laura V. Machia, Brian G. Ogolsky. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, November 5, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167220966903

Abstract: Across three studies (total N = 993) with diverse methodologies (i.e., experimental studies, longitudinal in vivo sampling), we found that there are distinct reasons why individuals believe their romantic relationship will become, or did become, less committed, and reasons why individuals believe their relationships will become, or became, more committed. Whereas the strongest endorsed reasons to stay (e.g., satisfaction) are the same as the strongest endorsed reasons to leave (e.g., dissatisfaction), there are many constructs that are more strongly endorsed as either leave reasons (e.g., quality of alternatives) or stay reasons (e.g., love). These reasons are important glimpses into the process that occurs when someone is deciding whether to stay or leave a relationship, and results empirically confirm a core tenet of Interdependence Theory that until now has been only theoretical (i.e., some outcomes contribute more motivation to staying in the current relationship, whereas others contribute more motivation to leaving).

Keywords: romantic relationships, relationship breakup, decision-making, commitment, Interdependence Theory

Are High-Interest Loans Predatory? It is often argued that people might take on too much high-cost debt because they are present focused and/or overoptimistic about how soon they will repay

Are High-Interest Loans Predatory? Theory and Evidence from Payday Lending. Hunt Allcott, Joshua J. Kim, Dmitry Taubinsky & Jonathan Zinman. NBER Working Paper 28799. May 2021. DOI 10.3386/w28799

Abstract: It is often argued that people might take on too much high-cost debt because they are present focused and/or overoptimistic about how soon they will repay. We measure borrowers' present focus and overoptimism using an experiment with a large payday lender. Although the most inexperienced quartile of borrowers underestimate their likelihood of future borrowing, the more experienced three quartiles predict correctly on average. This finding contrasts sharply with priors we elicited from 103 payday lending and behavioral economics experts, who believed that the average borrower would be highly overoptimistic about getting out of debt. Borrowers are willing to pay a significant premium for an experimental incentive to avoid future borrowing, which we show implies that they perceive themselves to be time inconsistent. We use borrowers' predicted behavior and valuation of the experimental incentive to estimate a model of present focus and naivete. We then use the model to study common payday lending regulations. In our model, banning payday loans reduces welfare relative to existing regulation, while limits on repeat borrowing might increase welfare by inducing faster repayment that is more consistent with long-run preferences.


Critics argue that payday loans are predatory, trapping consumers in cycles of repeated high interest borrowing. A typical payday loan incurs $15 interest per $100 borrowed over two weeks, implying an annual percentage rate (APR) of 391 percent, and more than 80 percent of payday loans nationwide in 2011-2012 were reborrowed within 30 days (CFPB 2016). As a result of these concerns, 18 states now effectively ban payday lending (CFA 2019), and in 2017, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) finalized a set of nationwide regulations. The CFPB’s then director argued that \the CFPB’s new rule puts a stop to the payday debt traps that have plagued communities across the country. Too often, borrowers who need quick cash end up trapped in loans they can’t afford" (CFPB 2017).

Proponents argue that payday loans serve a critical need: people are willing to pay high interest rates because they very much need credit. For example, Knight (2017) wrote that the CFPB regulation \will significantly reduce consumers’ access to credit at the exact moments they need it most." Under new leadership, the CFPB rescinded part of its 2017 regulation on the grounds that it would reduce credit access.

At the core of this debate is the question of whether borrowers act in their own best interest. If borrowers successfully maximize their utility, then restricting choice reduces welfare. However, if borrowers have self-control problems ("present focus," in the language of Ericson and Laibson 2019), then they may borrow more to finance present consumption than they would like to in the long run. Furthermore, if borrowers are "naive" about their present focus, overoptimistic about their future financial situation, or for some other reason do not anticipate their high likelihood of repeat borrowing, they could underestimate the costs of repaying a loan. In this case, restricting credit access might make borrowers better off.


We find that on average, people almost fully anticipate their high likelihood of repeat borrowing. The average borrower perceives a 70 percent probability of borrowing in the next eight weeks without the incentive, slightly lower than the Control group’s actual borrowing probability of 74 percent. Experience seems to matter. People who had taken out three or fewer loans from the Lender in the six months before the survey—approximately the bottom experience quartile in our sample—underestimate their future borrowing probability by 20 percentage points. By contrast, more experienced borrowers predict correctly on average

Police department in Washington State where neck restraints were 230 times over the previous eight years: Restraints yielded a lower rate of injury to subjects but a higher rate of injury to officers, & resulted in no subject fatalities

Use of vascular neck restraints in law enforcement: A case-study of Spokane, WA. Matthew J. Hickman, Robert M. Scales, Jared N. Strote &John L. Worrall. Police Practice and Research, Jul 5 2021. https://doi.org/10.1080/15614263.2021.1948849

Abstract: The high-profile deaths of Eric Garner and George Floyd have led to legislative actions banning the use of neck restraints by law enforcement officers. The debates behind these policy changes are important, but they are also entirely lacking in any data on the actual use of neck restraints. We write neither to defend nor condemn the use of neck restraints by law enforcement; rather, we seek to provide information to assist with data-driven decision-making about the technique. We present data from a police department in Washington State where, prior to the May 2021 statewide ban on use of neck restraints, officers had used them quite regularly: 230 times over the previous eight years. Results indicate that neck restraints were typically used when dealing with subjects who were physically non-compliant or actively resisting police were associated with use of other physical tactics (rather than weapons), yielded a lower rate of injury to subjects but a higher rate of injury to officers, and resulted in no subject fatalities.

Keywords: Police use of forcevascular neck restraintvnrlnrchokehold

Attractive individuals had a greater sense of power than their less attractive counterparts and thus exhibited a more effective nonverbal presence, which led to higher managerial ratings of their hirability

Is beauty more than skin deep? Attractiveness, power, and nonverbal presence in evaluations of hirability. Min-Hsuan Tu, Elisabeth K. Gilbert, Joyce E. Bono. Personnel Psychology, June 30 2021, https://doi.org/10.1111/peps.12469

Abstract: It turns out that being good-looking really does pay off: decades of research have shown that attractive individuals are more likely to get ahead in their careers. Although prior research has suggested that bias on the part of evaluators is the source of attractive individuals’ favorable career outcomes, there is also evidence that these individuals may be socialized to behave and perceive themselves differently from others in ways that contribute to their success. Building on socialization research and studies on nonverbal power cues, we examined nonverbal communication in individuals with varying degrees of physical attractiveness. In two experimental studies with data from 300 video interview pitches, we found that attractive individuals had a greater sense of power than their less attractive counterparts and thus exhibited a more effective nonverbal presence, which led to higher managerial ratings of their hirability. However, we also identified a potential means for leveling this gap. Adopting a powerful posture was found to be especially beneficial for individuals rated low in attractiveness, enabling them to achieve the same level of effective nonverbal presence as their highly attractive counterparts naturally displayed. Our research sheds new light on the source of attractive individuals’ success and suggests a possible remedy for individuals who lack an appearance advantage.

Bankers already told us this repeatedly, & we scorned them: Contrary to conventional wisdom, higher capital requirements can create adverse incentives; sometimes it may be optimal to impose lower capital requirements

Limits of stress-test based bank regulation. Tirupam Goel and Isha Agarwal. BIS Working Papers No 953, July 6 2021. https://www.bis.org/publ/work953.htm

Abstract: Supervisory risk assessment tools, such as stress-tests, provide complementary information about bank-specific risk exposures. Recent empirical evidence, however, underscores the potential inaccuracies inherent in such assessments. We develop a model to investigate the regulatory implications of these inaccuracies. In the absence of such tools, the regulator sets the same requirement across banks. Risk assessment tools provide a noisy signal about banks' types, and enable bank specific capital surcharges, which can improve welfare. Yet, a noisy assessment can distort banks' ex ante incentives and lead to riskier banks. The optimal surcharge is zero when assessment accuracy is below a certain threshold, and increases with accuracy otherwise.


Focus: How should supervisory risk assessments, such as stress tests, inform bank regulation when such assessments provide imprecise signals? What trade-offs do regulators face when redesigning assessments to improve accuracy? Does the disclosure of assessment results improve the effectiveness of capital requirements? We develop a theoretical framework to investigate these questions. A key element of our framework is the impact of assessment accuracy on the future behaviour of banks. This, in turn, is crucial for the design of risk assessments and for subsequent decision-making about capital requirements.

Contribution: This paper strives to fill an apparent gap in the literature. Despite empirical evidence of noisy risk assessments, there is a lack of studies on what this noise implies for the effectiveness of capital requirements. We examine how capital regulation based on potentially inaccurate assessments affects banks' incentives to improve their risk profile, and derive the attendant optimal regulation. Our framework is robust and tractable. This also allows us to study trade-offs faced by regulators when making assessments more accurate and in disclosing results to investors. Moreover, we examine trade-offs involved in choosing optimal capital requirements when bank failure is socially costly.

Findings: Contrary to conventional wisdom, we show that higher capital requirements can create adverse incentives. This can lead to more risky banks when information frictions are present. As such, capital requirements must be less sensitive to assessment results when accuracy is lower. Where the regulator can enhance some aspects of accuracy only by worsening others, it may be optimal to impose lower capital requirements. We find that while disclosure of assessment outcomes can improve market discipline in general, when assessments are less accurate they can amplify risk-taking by banks. This further limits the effectiveness of capital requirements based on assessments. Regulatory trade-offs are aggravated when bank failures are more costly.

Keywords: capital regulation; stress-tests; information asymmetry; adverse incentives; disclosure policy; Covid-19.

JEL classification: G21, G28, C61

All kinds of visual stimuli that could induce an aesthetic experience in the viewer activate the same brain regions, regardless of cultural backgrounds

Neural representations of visual aesthetic experience (VAE): a meta-analysis. Xiyu Feng, Jing Gan, Xiaoqi Huang & Siyang Luo. Culture and Brain, Jul 6 2021. https://rd.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40167-021-00102-z

Abstract: The present study intended to investigate the generic nature of visual aesthetic experience. Researchers have not agreed upon what constitutes visual aesthetic experience, and the present study proposed that visual aesthetic experience is comprised of at least two components: enhanced visual processing and positive emotional and reward experience. We applied a general activation likelihood estimation meta-analysis to 42 functional magnetic resonance imaging experiments described in 37 published studies. The general activation likelihood estimation revealed activation in the left orbitofrontal cortices and bilateral anterior cingulate cortex, which was thought to be related to emotional and reward processes, and activation in the right fusiform gyrus. In addition, a conjunction analysis of passive viewing tasks and tasks with explicit instructions showed activation in the anterior cingulate cortex/orbitofrontal cortex, and contrast analysis revealed stronger activation in the anterior cingulate cortex/orbitofrontal cortex during the passive viewing task without explicit instructions to make aesthetic evaluations, suggesting that stronger emotional experiences occur under such conditions. A conjunction analysis of groups with different cultural backgrounds showed activation in the ventral anterior cingulate cortex/orbitofrontal cortex, suggesting that there are universal cultural components of visual aesthetic experience. Together, our findings complement the existing literature by including all kinds of visual stimuli that could induce an aesthetic experience in the viewer and contributes to our understanding of aesthetics by showing that it involves enhanced visual sensation and positive emotional and reward experience.

Why Do Depressed People Often Have Inaccurate Beliefs?

Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Depression From an Evolutionary Perspective. Steven D. Hollon, Paul W. Andrews and J. Anderson Thomson Jr. Front. Psychiatry, July 5 2021. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2021.667592

Abstract: Evolutionary medicine attempts to solve a problem with which traditional medicine has struggled historically; how do we distinguish between diseased states and “healthy” responses to disease states? Fever and diarrhea represent classic examples of evolved adaptations that increase the likelihood of survival in response to the presence of pathogens in the body. Whereas, the severe mental disorders like psychotic mania or the schizophrenias may involve true “disease” states best treated pharmacologically, most non-psychotic “disorders” that revolve around negative affects like depression or anxiety are likely adaptations that evolved to serve a function that increased inclusive fitness in our ancestral past. What this likely means is that the proximal mechanisms underlying the non-psychotic “disorders” are “species typical” and neither diseases nor disorders. Rather, they are coordinated “whole body” responses that prepare the individual to respond in a maximally functional fashion to the variety of different challenges that our ancestors faced. A case can be made that depression evolved to facilitate a deliberate cognitive style (rumination) in response to complex (often social) problems. What this further suggests is that those interventions that best facilitate the functions that those adaptations evolved to serve (such as rumination) are likely to be preferred over those like medications that simply anesthetize the distress. We consider the mechanisms that evolved to generate depression and the processes utilized in cognitive behavior therapy to facilitate those functions from an adaptationist evolutionary perspective.

Question 9: Why Do Depressed People Often Have Inaccurate Beliefs?

The ARH posits that depression is an adaptation that evolved to facilitate solving complex (often social) problems by virtue of motivating a switch from quick heuristic-driven Type 1 thinking into a more energy-expensive but carefully deliberative Type 2 thinking (rumination) (16). Cognitive theory suggests that depression is in large part a consequence of inaccurate beliefs and maladaptive information processing and that rumination is, at best, a symptom of depression and at worst a maintaining cause. If depression evolved because it motivates efforts to solve complex (often social) problems and rumination (careful deliberation) is the means by which it achieves that goal, how is it that the beliefs that people hold when depressed seem to be incorrect (at least to their therapist). We think that there are several possible resolutions to this conundrum.

Intraspecific Competition Occurs in All Species

First, maladaptive mistakes and failures are an integral part of the human condition. Within every species, individuals compete for scarce resources that are important for survival and reproduction (e.g., food, territories, mates). As a result of that competition, it is inevitable that there are winners and losers. Human beings compete for these resources through situationally dependent cognition and behavior (95). For humans, the social world is incredibly complex and constantly in flux, such that the best strategy often changes from one situation to another. As a result, humans have evolved the cognitive capacity to develop mental models of human nature in order to predict how best to behave and what to expect from others in response. Due to differences in genes and experience, some people will develop mental models that work relatively well, while others will develop mental models that work more poorly. In other words, we do not need to invoke the concept of a mental disorder to understand why people develop inaccurate beliefs about their social world. It is simply a necessary consequence of the fact that humans compete to develop better mental models of human nature, and some people are less successful than others in this competition.

But this perspective also suggests that natural selection might have favored the evolution of psychological mechanisms that adjust mental models when they fail to function properly. Mental models are not necessarily “maladaptive” just because they are inaccurate; they are maladaptive if they lead to losses or failures to achieve the resources that make reproduction possible (e.g., mates, food, status, social support). Thus, we argue that the reason why depression is often associated with failures and losses in important domains (e.g., romantic relationships) is because these events suggest that one's mental models of the social world are not working well and need to be revised through the employment of careful methodical Type 2 thinking.

Evolutionary Mismatch

Second, it is possible that what is going on reflects nothing more than evolutionary mismatch. Evolved adaptations are traits that exist now because they were shaped by selective pressures that operated in the past (96). Modern environments may deviate substantially from ancestral ones. If so, then what was adaptive in the past may not be adaptive in the present. Most people crave foods that taste sweet. That was adaptive in our evolutionary past when the primary source of simple carbohydrates were fruits that were also rich in vitamins but serves us less well with the advent of processed sugars that lead to obesity and tooth decay. Similarly, starvation was a recurring risk in our ancestral past leading to a preference for the kinds of high caloric foods that raise the risk for metabolic syndrome for those members of the species who have access to an ample supply of meats and starches. From an evolutionary perspective, people have evolved to pay undue attention to how they are treated by close relatives (those who share your genes) and especially by their parents. If your parents do not love or invest in you, that does not bode well for your future. Most recurrence-prone patients have stable (albeit latent) self-images at the core of their depressotypic schemas that they are flawed in some fashion (usually unlovable or incompetent) that predate adolescence. In many instances these beliefs stemmed from the belief (accurate or otherwise) that their parents did not value them and in our ancestral past that could prove to be highly problematic. It likely still is true that being valued by one's parents helps one survive one's childhood, but it is less likely that retaining those negative beliefs about oneself into adolescence helps one navigate complex social relationships as adults. Moreover, the “nuclear family” is a rather modern invention. Children raised in hunter-gatherer societies were usually surrounded by “allo (other) mothers” who contribute the care and nurturing of the child. “Parental investment” in our ancestral past was more a matter of “tribal investment” than it is today.

Adaptive Search Strategies Are Imperfect

Natural selection causes a species to incrementally increase its fitness, but it does so without foresight or purpose, and it does not guarantee perfection. As Tooby and Cosmides opined “there is no such thing as an adaptation that can maximize fitness under all possible circumstances” (96). The human eye is a good example. It is one of 40 different kinds of “eyes” that evolved in the animal kingdom to process electromagnetic radiation and it functions to let organisms “see” objects at a distance. The human eye contains a “blind spot” at the back of the retina where the optic nerve exits on its way to the brain. No “intelligent designer” would have “designed” an eye that functioned in that fashion (there is nothing adaptive about having a “blind spot” in the back of one's eye and not all species have one) but natural selection does not double back on itself. If a feature represents an improvement over what came before then it tends to be selected regardless of whether some other solution might have worked better. Search-based optimization techniques are useful and often find a superior solution but that does not guarantee that the optimal solution will be found.

The ARH suggests only that people who are depressed will use a slow deliberate “Type 2” processing style to search for a solution to their problems, not that they will always succeed when they do so. It is quite possible that some will get “stuck” for a period of time at a suboptimal solution. Based on clinical (and personal) experience we suspect that it can be quite useful to carefully examine one's own role when things go wrong since that is the easiest thing to correct in the future, but ascribing blame in the form of a stable trait (unlovable or incompetent) is more likely to keep one “stuck” than focusing on the behaviors that one did (or did not) engage in. Traits are simply harder to correct than actions (20). Clinical experience also suggests that those trait ascriptions are more “conditional” than stable and thus still amenable to change. As previously described, much of what gets done in CBT is focused around getting patients to consider alternative explanations for their problems and to examine the existing evidence for each and to run behavioral experiments to test between those competing beliefs. For example, in the case of the sculptor, it was breaking big tasks down into their component parts and doing them one at a time (graded task assignment) that helped him past his tendency to get so overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task that he did not get started. In effect, gathering evidence and running behavioral experiments allows one to correct misguided assumptions and beliefs (it was not that he was “incompetent” just that he chose the wrong behavioral strategy), and thus correct the residue of unfortunate prior experiences (his belief in his own “incompetence” came from being forced to compete with a younger brother for his father's attention and frequently losing out to a sibling who was more outgoing and more facile). What he learned as a young adolescent was not out-of-line with the competition that he faced and the “failures” he experienced; it just was not all that relevant to the challenges he faced as an adult. That said, depression is needed to motivate one to search for the solution to a problem and without that search there is no solution (21).

Normal Anxiety Can Disrupt Rumination

Getting “unstuck” from a suboptimal solution may involve doing something different than what one has done in the past and for many people that can involve the perception of risk and its attendant affect anxiety. Anxiety often co-occurs with depression [two-thirds of the patients who met criteria for MDD in the DeRubeis and colleagues in the 2005 Penn-Vandy study also met criteria for one or more anxiety “disorder” (69)] but its effect on cognition is different (42).

Whereas, depression leads the individual to ask, “where did I go wrong” and to carefully weigh paths forward, anxiety tends to promote a “better-safe-than-sorry” approach that is often an adaptive response to an imminently dangerous situation (2442). Expressing a romantic interest in someone opens one to the risk of rejection and pursing a goal in an achievement domain leaves one at risk for failure, but neither takes one out of the gene pool. Choosing not to act on either does nothing to further the propagation of one's genes.

Earlier we described a teacher who thought that a prior sexual assault as an adolescent undercut her value as a prospective mate and relied on dissimulations and manipulations as compensatory strategies (lying about her past and manipulating romantic partners to get what she wanted) to generate a series of troubled and transitory relationships when in fact it was these interpersonal “safety behaviors” that sabotaged the relationships she formed (20). It was not until she took the chance of leveling with a new romantic partner about what had happened to her in the past (something that took great courage on her part) that she learned that he was not the least concerned about what that meant about her (other than he was sorry that she had been assaulted) and that she could drop the safety behaviors (the lies and manipulations) and simply ask for what she wanted from him in the relationship. Fifteen years she had been stuck on a suboptimal peak because of the anxiety that the thought of full disclosure caused her. The process of climbing down off that suboptimal peak was fraught with a sense of dread that took several months in therapy (and a conversation with a girlfriend and an anonymous survey of “eligible” males) to overcome but the outcome was quite gratifying to her, and she got better (and more comfortable) engaging in self-revelation (as needed) across a series of increasingly satisfying relationships.

Large Fitness Consequences Can Favor Seemingly Unproductive Cognitions

There is nothing so universally depressogenic as the loss of a child. It is not uncommon for parents who have lost a child to ruminate intensely over what they might have done to prevent the child's death even when it seems clear to others (including the therapist) that there was nothing else they could have done. That being said, understanding the causes of a negative event (even one that has already occurred) can be useful in preventing similar negative events in the future (1697).

In our ancestral past, women had an average of about six children over their lifetimes of whom several died (98). Effort spent on understanding the causes of one child's death might help prevent the death of another (99100). Watching parents engage in self-recriminating rumination might seem cruel, but the fitness costs are so great that natural selection would have favored the expenditure of a great deal of cognitive effort even if it only had a miniscule chance of increasing the odds of survival for the other children. We focused on the loss of a child in this example, but the same principle extends to any situation in which the fitness consequences are great.

As Dawkins describes in his 1976 treatise “The Selfish Gene,” we are but “survival machines” engineered by natural selection to propagate our gene lines at all times even if at our own affective expense (101). An evolutionary perspective would suggest that there is little point in trying to convince grieving parents not to engage in a causal analysis in such a situation (or other patients from grieving in the aftermath of a romantic breakup or the loss of a job) but rather to point out that the brain is designed to explore the possible causes of negative life events on the off chance that such events can be prevented in the future. To ruminate in response to loss or failure is an eminently “species-typical” (human) thing to do. The optimal response in CBT is to label it as an attempt to solve a problem (or prevent a future one) and to help the process along.

Inclusive Fitness Theory

As previously noted, one of the most important insights in evolutionary biology over the last century is that organisms are not designed by natural selection to maximize their own survival or even their own reproductive success but rather to maximize the reproductive success of their gene line (102). This is what Dawkins meant when he labeled us as nothing more than “survival machines” (101). Individuals not only propagate their gene lines through their own reproductive efforts (direct fitness) but also via propagating the reproductive success of their biological relatives (indirect fitness). The sum of direct and indirect fitness is called inclusive fitness (103), and it is this sum that best predicts of what kinds of behaviors organisms engage in because that is what is actually maximized by natural selection (102).

The essence of the idea was captured by the iconic quip by the evolutionary geneticist J. B. S. Haldane who was reported to have said that he would not sacrifice his life for his brother, but he would do so for two brothers or eight cousins (104). This phenomenon is easiest to see in the lives of social insects. Only a small percentage of the individuals actually reproduce (the queen and one or more of the male drones) while the vast majority labor to ensure the propagation of a gene line comprised solely of their biological siblings. This concept is crucial in explaining many important biological events including multicellularity, apoptosis and other forms of programmed cell death, as well as the evolution of social systems characterized by family groups and parenting behavior in humans. Where it intersects especially with clinical concerns has to do with self-sacrifice. No one would question a parent's willingness to sacrifice his or her life for the life of his or her child, but not all would see the same genetic mechanism “baked in” to the suicidal ruminations of a person who is concerned about being a burden to biological relatives.

In not-so-distant times amongst peoples who lived on the edge starvation in northern climes (like the Inuit north of the Arctic circle), it would be considered “de rigueur” for post-reproductive elders to walk out into the snow and not come back if the winters were too long and their grandchildren faced starvation as a consequence (105). Such “altruistic” notions might seem misguided in situations in which starvation is not imminent (suicide is the “gift that keeps on giving” to the survivors) but the psychological mechanism would have been selected for in our ancestral past in a manner wholly in keeping with the concept of inclusive fitness.

Many people who die by suicide believe that their families would be better off without them (106). Most patients entertain at least “passive” suicidal ideation, and over half of all people who die by suicide have a history of depression. Self-sacrificial impulses would be favored by natural selection among those individuals who see themselves as defective or impaired and those with a history of childhood abuse (self-esteem is often based on parent's behavior). People with a history of failed relationships also are at risk even during the reproductive years (107109).

If some of our readers have a visceral response to the use of the word “adaptive” to describe suicide and other forms of self-destructive behavior, this is an indication that the evolutionary perspective is novel and non-intuitive. Clinicians need to understand the naturalistic fallacyAn ‘is' is not an ‘ought.' Cancer ‘is' a collection of cells that are pursuing their inclusive fitness. It is hardly an “ought,” but intervention ‘is' nevertheless warranted. Moreover, we should not let moral repugnance bias the scientific study of human behavior. Prolicide (killing one's offspring), the killing of conspecifics, and sexual coercion are common throughout the animal kingdom, and humans are no different. We strongly advocate for clinical intervention in situations in which people are engaging in self-destructive behavior as part of the pursuit of indirect fitness interests. We also think that it is likely to help the patient to identify the evolutionary origins of seemingly maladaptive behaviors, such as rumination and suicide. Not all evolved adaptations need to be implemented if they are not consistent with the patient's current interests (most reproductively capable adults practice birth control from time-to-time). Making treatment more efficacious will require differentiating psychological phenomena that result from some malfunction in the brain from those mechanisms that evolved to maximize inclusive fitness. Any effective and efficient treatment must fit an accurate model of human nature and depression.

Brain-computer interface for generating personally attractive images

Brain-computer interface for generating personally attractive images. Michiel M Spapé et al. IEEE Transactions on Affective Computing PP(99):1-1. February 2021. DOI: 10.1109/TAFFC.2021.3059043

Abstract: While we instantaneously recognize a face as attractive, it is much harder to explain what exactly defines personal attraction. This suggests that attraction depends on implicit processing of complex, culturally and individually defined features. Generative adversarial neural networks (GANs), which learn to mimic complex data distributions, can potentially model subjective preferences unconstrained by pre-defined model parameterization. Here, we present generative brain-computer interfaces (GBCI), coupling GANs with brain-computer interfaces. GBCI first presents a selection of images and captures personalized attractiveness reactions toward the images via electroencephalography. These reactions are then used to control a GAN model, finding a representation that matches the features constituting an attractive image for an individual. We conducted an experiment (N=30) to validate GBCI using a face-generating GAN and producing images that are hypothesized to be individually attractive. In double-blind evaluation of the GBCI-produced images against matched controls, we found GBCI yielded highly accurate results. Thus, the use of EEG responses to control a GAN presents a valid tool for interactive information-generation. Furthermore, the GBCI-derived images visually replicated known effects from social neuroscience, suggesting that the individually responsive, generative nature of GBCI provides a powerful, new tool in mapping individual differences and visualizing cognitive-affective processing.

Genetic factors associated with early smoking, early sexual debut and teenage pregnancy are (to some extent) shared; signals are driven by genetics of reproductive biology & externalising; key genes related to FSHB, infertility, spermatid differentiation

Identification of 371 genetic variants for age at first sex and birth linked to externalising behaviour. Melinda C. Mills, Felix C. Tropf, David M. Brazel, Natalie van Zuydam, Ahmad Vaez, eQTLGen Consortium, BIOS Consortium, Human Reproductive Behaviour Consortium, Tune H. Pers, Harold Snieder, John R. B. Perry, Ken K. Ong, Marcel den Hoed, Nicola Barban & Felix R. Day. Nature Human Behaviour, Jul 1 2021. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41562-021-01135-3

Abstract: Age at first sexual intercourse and age at first birth have implications for health and evolutionary fitness. In this genome-wide association study (age at first sexual intercourse, N = 387,338; age at first birth, N = 542,901), we identify 371 single-nucleotide polymorphisms, 11 sex-specific, with a 5–6% polygenic score prediction. Heritability of age at first birth shifted from 9% [CI = 4–14%] for women born in 1940 to 22% [CI = 19–25%] for those born in 1965. Signals are driven by the genetics of reproductive biology and externalising behaviour, with key genes related to follicle stimulating hormone (FSHB), implantation (ESR1), infertility and spermatid differentiation. Our findings suggest that polycystic ovarian syndrome may lead to later age at first birth, linking with infertility. Late age at first birth is associated with parental longevity and reduced incidence of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Higher childhood socioeconomic circumstances and those in the highest polygenic score decile (90%+) experience markedly later reproductive onset. Results are relevant for improving teenage and late-life health, understanding longevity and guiding experimentation into mechanisms of infertility.

We don’t talk to our children enough about pursuing sex to fulfill carnal needs that delight & captivate us in the moment — I never want my children to worry that exploring any aspect of consensual sex or touch is too taboo

Yes, kink belongs at Pride. And I want my kids to see it. Lauren Rowello. The Washington Post, June 29, 2021.

Children need to know that they can make their own ways in the world

Our family often took the train into Philadelphia, but as we rode across the bridge to attend the city’s Pride parade five years ago, my wife’s leg bounced with a nervous jitter. She squeezed my hand, worried that she might run into a colleague or be harassed by a stranger. My wife is trans, and wasn’t out at the time, so she typically only expressed her authenticity in the privacy of our home. That morning she wore a green skirt and light makeup, brushing her hair all to one side. Even though we’d attended Pride marches and protests in previous years, that day was our first celebrating openly as a family.

When our children grew tired of marching, we plopped onto a nearby curb. Just as we got settled, our elementary-schooler pointed in the direction of oncoming floats, raising an eyebrow at a bare-chested man in dark sunglasses whose black suspenders clipped into a leather thong. The man paused to be spanked playfully by a partner with a flog. “What are they doing?” my curious kid asked as our toddler cheered them on. The pair was the first of a few dozen kinksters who danced down the street, laughing together as they twirled their whips and batons, some leading companions by leashes. At the time, my children were too young to understand the nuance of the situation, but I told them the truth: That these folks were members of our community celebrating who they are and what they like to do.

The kink community has participated in Pride since its inception — risking their jobs and safety to be authentically themselves in public. Still, every year as Pride Month approaches, a debate erupts about whether kink belongs at Pride at all. Those hoping to oust kinksters often cite the presence of children as their top concern. That was pointedly the case this year when Twitter users argued that kink at Pride is a highly sexualized experience that children should be shielded from. Thousands of users supported these posts, claiming that kink at Pride crosses a line because minors also attend events. I agree that Pride should be a welcoming space for children and teens, but policing how others show up doesn’t protect or uplift young people. Instead, homogenizing self-expression at Pride will do more harm to our children than good. When my own children caught glimpses of kink culture, they got to see that the queer community encompasses so many more nontraditional ways of being, living, and loving.

As much as I want them to spend time in queer spaces so they can be with families like their own, I also want them to know that they shouldn’t limit their understanding of what relationships or expression look like to whatever’s most familiar. I want them to see that they can make their own ways in the world — and know that they’ll be supported and celebrated by their community. If we want our children to learn and grow from their experiences at Pride, we should hope that they’ll encounter kink when they attend. How else can they learn about the scope and vitality of queer life?

Anti-kink advocates tend to manipulate language about safety and privacy by asserting that attendees are nonconsensually exposed to overt displays of sexuality. The most outrageous claim is that innocent bystanders are forced to participate in kink simply by sharing space with the kink community, as if the presence of kink at Pride is a perverse exhibition that kinksters pursue for their own gratification. But kinksters at Pride are not engaged in sex acts — and we cannot confuse their self-expression with obscenity. Co-opting the language of sexual autonomy only serves to bury that truth and muddies the seriousness of other conversations about consent. If this all sounds familiar, it’s because anti-kink rhetoric echoes the same socialized disgust people have projected onto other queer people when they claim that our love is not appropriate for public spaces. It’s a sentiment that tolerates queerness only if it stays within parameters — offering the kind of acceptance that comes with a catch. The middle-aged, White men who I grew up with said they were “fine” with gay people as long as they wouldn’t be subjected to PDA — as long as all signs of queer love could be outwardly erased. Queer people’s freedom to be themselves is, according to this logic, contingent on non-queer people’s freedom from exposure to it.

The arguable difference here is that many of the latest objections are coming from self-identified queer people, but that shouldn’t necessarily be surprising. Respectability politics demand that queer people assimilate as much as possible into cis- and heteronormativity, hewing to mainstream cultural standards. Members of the queer community have internalized those norms to the point that we judge ourselves by them, and then criticize and ostracize others if they don’t uphold them, too. This is the same oppressive message that prevented my wife from transitioning for 30 years, and the same message that still keeps marginalized children from coming to terms with their own experiences with desire and embodiment.

Children who witness kink culture are reassured that alternative experiences of sexuality and expression are valid — no matter who they become as they mature, helping them recognize that their personal experiences aren’t bad or wrong, and that they aren’t alone in their experiences. I can’t think of a more relevant or important reminder for youth, who often struggle with feelings of isolation and confusion as they discover more about themselves and wrestle with concerns about whether they’re normal enough. Including kink in Pride opens space for families to have necessary and powerful conversations with young people about health, safety, consent, and — most uniquely — pleasure. Kink visibility is a reminder that any person can and should shamelessly explore what brings joy and excitement. We don’t talk to our children enough about pursuing sex to fulfill carnal needs that delight and captivate us in the moment. Sharing the language of kink culture with young people provides them with valuable information about safe sex practices — such as the importance of establishing boundaries, safe words and signals, affirming the importance of planning and research and the need to seek and give enthusiastic consent. I never want my children to worry that exploring any aspect of consensual sex or touch is too taboo.

If we’re afraid to talk about kink with our children, we prioritize the status quo — sanitizing and censoring their access to information about appropriate and normal self-expression. These are the very attitudes that made Pride necessary — and life-affirming — for so many of us in the first place, and we have no business imposing them on the next generation. Kink embodies the freedom that Pride stands for, reminding attendees to unapologetically take up space as an act of resistance and celebration — refusing to bend to social pressure that asks us to be presentable. That’s a value I want my children to learn. Affirming the kink community helps our children to love themselves and others with courage and resilience. If my wife and I had seen such fierce and determined role models as young people, we might have learned to be ourselves much sooner. We didn’t have that chance, but my children have that community in Pride, and I want to keep it that way.

We were not able to identify a significant association between radicalization, terrorism, and psychiatric disorders; but some research suggests high rates of psychiatric disorders in subgroups of radicalized people & lone-actor terrorists

Are radicalization and terrorism associated with psychiatric disorders? A systematic review. Margot Trimbur et al. Journal of Psychiatric Research, July 5 2021. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychires.2021.07.002


Background: The risk factors for radicalization and terrorism represent a key research issue. While numerous data on the sociological, political, and criminological profiles of radicalized people and terrorists are available, knowledge about psychiatric disorders among these populations remains scarce and contradictory.

Method: We conducted a systematic review of the literature regarding psychiatric disorders among both radicalized and terrorist populations.

Results: We screened 2,856 records and included a total of 25 articles to generate a complete overview. The vast majority of studies were of poor methodological quality. We assessed three population groups: people at risk of radicalization, radicalized populations, and terrorist populations. The results showed important variations in the prevalence rates of psychiatric disorders depending on the study population and methodology. People at risk of radicalization have been reported to have depressive disorders, but contradictory findings exist. Psychiatric disorders range from 6% to 41% in the radicalized population and from 3.4% to 48.5% among terrorists. Among terrorists, psychiatric disorders are more frequent for lone-actor terrorists than for those in groups.

Conclusion: We were not able to identify a significant association between radicalization, terrorism, and psychiatric disorders in our systematic review. However, some research suggests high rates of psychiatric disorders in subgroups of radicalized people and lone-actor terrorists. Further studies using standardized psychiatric assessment methods are urgently needed.

Keywords: terrorismForensic psychiatryMental disordersViolenceRadicalization