Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Research on therapists’ cultural competence, therapy process in cross-cultural dyads, & cross-cultural differences in gender and sexual orientation

A Knowledge Synthesis of Cross-Cultural Psychotherapy Research: A Critical Review. Eunjung Lee, Andrea Greenblatt, Ran Hu. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, July 7, 2021.

Abstract: This article presents a current knowledge synthesis of empirical studies on cross-cultural psychotherapy since 1980. Guided by a critical review framework, our search in seven relevant databases generated 80 studies published in English. Main themes are organized into (1) therapists’ cultural competence (n = 46); (2) therapy process in cross-cultural dyads (n = 22); and (3) cross-cultural differences in gender, sexual orientation, or social class (n = 12). Compared to previous reviews on cross-cultural psychotherapy, the findings of this review highlight a broad range of methodological rigor in both quantitative and qualitative studies. Most studies examined actual therapy participants rather than participants in analog studies, thus emulating more therapy-near experiences in cross-cultural psychotherapy research. Also, several studies explored cross-cultural compositions beyond racial and ethnic majority therapist-minority client dyads, and included therapists of color as the participants, exploring reverse power dynamics in therapy and giving voices to foreign-born therapists. The therapy process research provides rich and full descriptions around the dynamic and interactional therapy process in cross-cultural dyads, which can be used to foster cultural sensitivities among therapists in their practice and training. We discuss the limitations of the studies included in the review and its implications for psychotherapy practice, training, and future research.

Keywords: cross-cultural competence, cross-cultural psychotherapy process, cultural matching, culturally adapted psychotherapy, multicultural counseling competencies, racial microaggression

A critical review does not demonstrate the systematicity of other literature reviews (e.g., a systematic review), thus does not require a formal quality assessment of included studies. Its findings are interpretive and open for “further evaluation, not an endpoint in itself” (Grant & Booth, 2009, p. 97). The current critical review thus provides a renewed understanding of cross-cultural psychotherapy, with the hope that this interpretation yields further inquiries. The current review has several notable contributions to cross-cultural psychotherapy: (1) highlighting the current state of empirical research on cross-cultural psychotherapy using a variety of methods and published in the past 40 years (1980-2019); (2) identifying various cultural compositions of client-therapist dyads that have been studied; (3) giving analytical attention to therapy process factors and micro-analysis of cross-cultural communications, which may sensitize therapists in their interactions with diverse clients in everyday practice; and (4) broadening the construct of culture by raising attention to additional dimensions of culture, such as gender, sexual orientation, or social class, in addition to race and ethnicity.

Overall, research on cultural competence was the most dominant theme identified within the included studies. All studies on cultural competence exclusively focused on racial and ethnic minority clients when examining the impact of therapy approaches. There has been a criticism about how culturally competent therapy (i.e., exclusively focuses on racial and ethnic minority clients and positions therapists in a blank screen) further otherizes racial and ethnic minority clients and reifies Euro-centric notions of psychotherapy (Lee, 2010). In our review, most of the studies attempted to clarify details of demographic information with some variations in its detail except five studies (Cohen, 2016Goren, 1992Millard, 2017Shiner et al., 2017Ziguras et al., 2003). Although the focus of these studies is on gender, sexual orientation, or class, it also raises some concerns around how culture is conceptualized: understanding gender role in therapy dyads should not be separated from each therapy participant’s cultural values and contexts. Some studies discussed racial and ethnic descriptions of their clients while exploring studies on gender and low income (Wintersteen et al., 2005Evans et al., 1984Okun et al., 2017). However, other than using diversity as descriptors of participants, there is little examination of how diversity factors interact with one another and their impact on cross-cultural encounters.

For therapists’ demographic information, some studies expanded on descriptors including the level of clinical training, years of practice experience, exposure to multicultural training, and experiences of working with culturally diverse clients. Paying attention to these therapist factors is promising given the psychotherapy research finding that the therapist factor explains variances in outcomes even in a manualized treatment (Beutler et al., 2016). Also, it highlights that therapist factors are more nuanced than their race, ethnicity, and gender in cross-cultural psychotherapy. Furthermore, all studies exploring therapist factors, such as therapist bias, perceptions, and White identity in cross-cultural or intra-cultural dyads, found that therapists’ responses to clients differ depending on the client’s ethnic identity (i.e., White versus people of color), highlighting the impacts of the therapists’ preconceived notions/biases/White identity on therapeutic relationship building and treatment outcomes (Burkard et al., 19992003Ridley, 1986Zane et al., 1994). These studies certainly contribute to current psychotherapy research by de-centering focus solely on racial and ethnic minority clients and re-centering what therapists contribute to cross-cultural encounters in therapy.

Most studies in our review reported minimal information related to the actual implementation of clinical interventions. While 56 studies (70%) mentioned a particular therapy model, most did not provide information such as the total number of sessions, therapists’ therapeutic orientation, and therapy and contents. Only eight studies (Crisante & Ng, 2003Dansereau et al., 1996Li & Kim, 2004Miranda et al., 2003Moran & Bunn, 2019Lee & Horvath, 2014Lee, Tsang, Bogo, Wilson, et al., 2018bNaeem et al., 2010) provided somewhat detailed therapy descriptions, mainly culturally adaptive or micro-therapy process studies. There are always content variations when applying any therapy model in any therapy dyad composition. If racially matched dyads have better or worse therapy outcomes compared to their counterparts, it would be critical to see under what therapeutic conditions this outcome is valid. Overall, we found a lack of information on the therapy itself, despite the main inquiry being on (cross-cultural) therapy. We wonder if empirical research in cross-cultural psychotherapy may assume the therapy intervention is static while exclusively focusing on demographic cultural differences that exist in therapy dyads. Cultural adaptation is not monolithic but highly multifaceted and contextual. To inform therapists in practice, it would be critical to explicitly document the nature of therapy in future studies.

Recent reviews highlighted the importance of exploring the therapy process in cross-cultural dyads (Worthington et al., 2007; Tao et al., 2018). In our review, we observed increased research on the theme of therapy process in cross-cultural dyads. Specifically, of the 22 studies focused on different therapy process factors in cross-cultural dyads, the majority (71.4%, n = 15) were published after 2010. Untangling complexities among various process factors in cross-cultural dyads, these studies focus on multiple cultural differences that exist between clients and therapists. Some studies focused on process dynamics of White therapists and racial and ethnic minority clients (Burkard et al., 2006; Change & Berk, 2009; Lee & Bhuyan, 2013Lee & Horvath, 20132014), whereas some explored dynamics of the reverse dyads between therapists of color and White clients (Bayne & Branco, 2018Okun et al., 2017). Others consider both clients and therapists coming from various cultural diversities (Foster, 2014Knox et al., 2003Lee, Tsang, Bogo, Johnstone, et al., 2018a).

In terms of cultural differences residing within therapy dyads, 12.5% of the reviewed studies (n = 10) focused on exploring a process of broaching cultural differences, and others exploring a process of bridging cultural differences. Findings indicated that efforts to bridge, particularly on the part of the therapist, distinguished successful therapy dyads from unsuccessful therapy dyads (e.g., Bayne & Branco, 2017). This demonstrates the critical need to incorporate bridging behaviors into the therapy encounter. In terms of broaching, most studies indicated that not all therapists choose to discuss issues of culture and race with their clients, with several studies noting the negative impacts of racial microaggressions on therapy alliance and outcomes (Foster et al., 2014; Constantine, 2007) yet still little broaching of this experience in therapy (Owen et al., 2014). Further research is needed to examine barriers to broaching within the clinical dyad.

Paying attention to micro-details of cross-cultural encounters in therapy, eight studies of therapy process research utilized audio- and/or video-taped actual therapy sessions (Okun et al., 2017Lee & Bhuyan, 2013Lee, Tsang, Bogo, Johnstone, et al., 2018aLee, Tsang, Bogo, Wilson, 2018bLee et al., 2019Lee & Horvath, 20132014Su, 2012). Their findings further demonstrated dynamic processes of cross-cultural interactions. Specifically, these subset studies used naturalistic methods to examine minute-by-minute negotiations within the dyads, allowing for a practical understanding of how culture is negotiated and discussed in cross-cultural clinical encounters that may not be apparent in other forms of research. Instead of focusing on nominal values of race and ethnicity as the parameters of studying cross-cultural competence, these studies pay attention to how differences and similarities are negotiated through a dance of therapy process, which is dynamic, interactive and context-dependent. Using discourse analysis and conversation analysis in process-oriented psychotherapy research may be both methodologically innovative and practically meaningful as these research approaches unveil the complex dynamics of cross-cultural processes.

Our critical review also showed that sexual orientation and class issues were under-conceptualized in studies examining cultural differences in therapy dyads. We found that clients of culturally dominant groups (e.g., heterosexual upper-middle-class men) were rarely perceived as cultural; culture in therapy is positioned as solely linked to the marginalized groups of clients (Moleiro et al., 2018). Despite the importance of clinicians’ self-reflection and capacity to discuss these differences and potential clinical ruptures (Goettsche, 2015), process-oriented psychotherapy research in cross-cultural encounters found that therapists do not often intentionally start conversations with clients about cultural issues (Lee & Horvath, 20132014). For instance, Cohen (2016) found that it is not clinicians but largely clients who initiate conversations about social class and that clinicians typically discuss only the clients’ social class not their own.

Implications for Cross-Cultural Psychotherapy Practice, Training, and Future Research

This review has several implications for practice, training, and research. First, therapists’ self-awareness and critical reflection of their own biases and cultural positions have long been recognized as critical aspects in cross-cultural psychotherapy (Sue et al., 1992). This review revealed that these important tasks of critical reflection are challenging, especially when therapists’ Whiteness and biases are not addressed. Further, not addressing these issues may have detrimental effects on clients, the therapy process, and client outcomes. It is thus critical to continue studying how therapists may engage in critical reflection regularly and identifying approaches that help therapists to mitigate sociocultural biases in their cross-cultural practice.

Second, cultural presentations are subtle and implicitly conveyed, and so it is difficult to illustrate naturally occurring nuanced cultural dynamics and train therapists how to discuss them with clients toward alliance building and achieving therapy goals. Findings from therapy process research provide rich discussion around the complexities of clinical process in cross-cultural dyads. These research examples may work as practice materials to re-script cultural misunderstandings toward repairing alliances in cross-cultural practice and can be used for examples in training therapists, thus closely linking research into practice and education.

Lastly, given the complexities of multiple diversities, clinical dynamics and power are shifting constantly within cross-cultural therapy dyads. With further empirical research on various sources of similarities and differences perceived and experienced by both therapists and clients, we may have more confidence in psychotherapy research being truly cross-cultural.

Male Allies at Work: Gender-Equality Supportive Men Reduce Negative Underrepresentation Effects Among Women

Male Allies at Work: Gender-Equality Supportive Men Reduce Negative Underrepresentation Effects Among Women. Charlotte E. Moser, Nyla R. Branscombe. Social Psychological and Personality Science, August 9, 2021.

Abstract: Does commitment to allyship from a dominant group member cue identity-safety for women in male-dominated environments? We examine this question by assessing women’s perceptions of workplaces that included the presence (vs. absence) of a male ally (Studies 1–3) or a female ally (Study 3), and determine the impact of Black versus White allies for Black and White women. Across three studies (N = 1,032) and an integrative data analysis, we demonstrate that an equality-supportive male ally reduces anticipated isolation and workplace hostility and increases anticipated support, respect, and gender-equality norms for women in general populations (Studies 1 and 2) and women in science, technology, and math (Study 3). These results represent a possible strategy to help retain women in male-dominated fields.

Keywords: allyship, gender, intergroup relations, STEM, underrepresentation

In men, higher wages predicted a higher proportion of being married, whereas in women higher wages were associated with a lower proportion of being married

Contemporary selection pressures in modern societies? Which factors best explain variance in human reproduction and mating? Martin Fieder, Susanne Huber. Evolution and Human Behavior, August 11 2021.

Abstract: Phenotypic traits in humans are under selection pressure and are still evolving, but the relative importance of these traits remains to be investigated. We therefore analyzed jointly phenotypic traits associated with number of children and having ever been married. This provides insights into the relative contribution of each trait and indicates the potential selection pressure induced by a specific trait relative to others. To shed light on potential selection on the genome level, all analyses include a multivariate polygenic risk score of general cognitive ability. We used the data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS), a dataset consisting of 4991 men and 5326 women almost all whites, educated at least at A-level. The focus was on the association between age, education level, wages, religious intensity, fathers' age at child's birth, ratings of facial attractiveness, number of siblings of the respondent, as well as the polygenic risk score of general cognitive ability on the following dependent variables: i) number of children, ii) ever being married, and iii) age at first birth. For each factor we additionally examined the relative contribution to the overall variance explained of the dependent variable. Having been married and, thus, mate selection, is the most important determinant for the number of children for both men and women. Wages explain most of the total variance for “ever married”, yet in different directions for men and women, as is also the case for the association between wages and number of children. In both women and men, education explains most of the variance in age at first birth, and the effect is postponing. Furthermore, although the phenotype education is negatively associated with the number of children in both sexes, this holds true for the polygenic risk score for cognitive ability only in men. In addition, in men, the polygenic risk score for cognitive ability also has a positive effect on reproduction due to its positive interaction with wages. Anyhow, with the exception of having ever been married, all other variables explain only a small proportion of the variation in fertility outcomes. Although our results are consistent with the hypothesis that there is selection pressure for rather recently arising traits as education and income, on the basis of our results we are not able to draw any final conclusion on selection.

Keywords: Variance mating and reproductionIncomePolygenic risk scoreReligiousnessEducationSelection

Attributions to God were greater for positive events than for negative events, but attributions to Satan were greater for negative events than for positive events, especially among more religious participants

Krull, D. S. (2021). On nudges from the unseen: Attributions to God and Satan for major historical events. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, Aug 2021.

Abstract: Previous research on supernatural attributions has primarily investigated judgments about stressful events and judgments about everyday behavior. Two studies investigated attributions to God and attributions to Satan for major historical events. Attributions to God were greater for positive events than for negative events, but attributions to Satan were greater for negative events than for positive events, especially among more religious participants. However, attributions to God were greater for negative events than attributions to Satan were for positive events. Attributions to God were also greater than attributions to Satan overall and this tendency was better predicted by belief in God’s greater power (β = 0.39) than by greater belief in God (β = 0.01). Participants believed God has greater control than Satan (d = .81).

Intimate partner violence: Early experiences with parental effort predict men's adoption of a sequence of cognitive and behavioral traits that lead to antagonistic thoughts and behaviors towards intimate female partners

A Cascade Model of Socio-Developmental Events Leading to Men’s Perpetration of Violence against Female Romantic Partners. Farnaz Kaighobadi, Aurelio José Figueredo, Todd K. Shackelford, and David F. Bjorklund. In press, Evolutionary Psychology, August 2021.

Abstract: Conceptually driven by life history theory, the current study investigated a hypothesized hierarchy of behaviors leading to men’s perpetration of violence in intimate relationships. Using a series of hierarchical regressions, we tested a causal cascade model on data provided by 114 men in a committed romantic relationship. The results supported the hypothesized hierarchy of sociodevelopmental events: (1) Men’s childhood experiences with their parents’ parental effort predicted men’s life history strategies; (2) men’s life history strategies predicted men’s behavioral self-regulation; (3) men’s self-regulation predicted men’s perceptions of partner infidelity risk; (4) perceptions of infidelity risk predicted men’s frequency of engagement in nonviolent mate retention behaviors; (5) men’s mate retention behaviors predicted men’s frequency of partner-directed violence. The overall cascade model explained 36% of variance in men’s partner-directed violence.

Keywords: life history theory, self-regulation, partner infidelity risk, mate retention behaviors, intimate partner violence

Previous research investigating the predictors of intimate partner violence (IPV) has broadly proceeded from one of two theoretical perspectives. The standard social science perspective has focused on the roles of the proximate environment and socialization on the development of antagonistic behaviors in intimate relationships, as expressed in feminist theory, social learning theory, and ecological theories (see Ali & Naylor, 2013, for review). An evolutionary psychological perspective has focused on the ultimate or evolutionary predictors of such behaviors, providing evidence that men’s violence against their female partners may be a manifestation of sexual jealousy evolved in response to the adaptive problem of paternity uncertainty (Buss & Duntley, 2011; Kaighobadi, Shackelford, & Goetz, 2009; Shackelford, Goetz, Guta, & Schmitt, 2005; Wilson & Daly, 1993).

In response to these two independent and sometimes contrary perspectives, life history (LH) theory was introduced to provide a framework that synthesizes proximate with evolutionary predictors of IPV to build a comprehensive model of men’s violence against intimate partners (see Figueredo, Gladden, & Beck, 2010, for a review). Figueredo and colleagues (2017) situated intimate partner violence within the more general context of interpersonal aggression towards both male and female targets by both male and female perpetrators. A structural equation model with cross-sample equality constraints showed complete configural invariance and a marginally acceptable degree of parametric invariance across five cross-cultural samples. This model specified LH strategy as the sole exogenous factor that, through various indirect effects, predicted about 75% of the variance in interpersonal aggression. Based on these results, it is a straightforward prediction that men’s violence against their female partners should be influenced by their LH strategy. The aim of the current study is to advance evolutionary psychological theories of IPV by integrating LH theory into a developmental cascade model of events that lead to men’s violence against their female partners.

Evolutionary Psychological Theories of Intimate Partner Violence

Evolutionary psychology addresses the design and function of evolved psychological mechanisms or adaptations. Evolutionary psychologists may be especially interested in understanding the function of behaviors that are costly to both the actor and recipient, but prevalent nevertheless, such as violence, in general, and IPV, in particular.

Previous evolutionary psychological research has established strong associations between male sexual jealousy, non-violent male mate retention behaviors (Buss & Shackelford, 1997), and men’s violence against female partners (Buss, 2000; Daly & Wilson, 1988; Kaighobadi, Starratt, Shackelford, & Popp, 2008). These researchers hypothesized that male sexual jealousy evolved in response to the adaptive problems of female sexual infidelity and subsequent cuckoldry, or unwitting investment in genetically unrelated offspring (Kaighobadi, Shackelford, & Goetz, 2009; Thornhill & Thornhill, 1992; Wilson & Daly, 1992). The reproductive costs of cuckoldry, including loss of time, energy, resources, and alternative mating opportunities, are potentially so great that men are hypothesized to have evolved psychological mechanisms that function to motivate anti-cuckoldry tactics. Mate retention behaviors are one such class of anti-cuckoldry tactics. These behaviors vary in the costs inflicted upon partners, ranging from subtle manipulation to outright physical violence (Buss & Shackelford, 1997). Female^Bdirected violence is a more severe class of anti-cuckoldry tactics that functions to keep a partner invested in the current relationship and to prevent her from sexual infidelity (see Kaighobadi et al., 2009, for review). Thornhill and Thornhill (1992) hypothesized that forced sex in the context of an intimate relationship may be an anti-cuckoldry tactic designed over human evolutionary history in response to the specific problem of sperm competition. Sperm competition occurs when the sperm of two or more males simultaneously compete for fertilization of a female’s ovum or ova (Parker, 1970). According to this hypothesis, by forcing their partners to have sex, men who are suspicious of their partner’s infidelity introduce their own sperm into their partner’s reproductive tract and thereby decrease the risk of cuckoldry (Thornhill & Thornhill, 1992).

Whereas much evolutionary psychological research has addressed ultimate causes of IPV and sexual coercion, other research has been dedicated to understanding individual differences or proximate correlates of men’s perpetration of IPV. Previous research has identified links between men’s partner^Bdirected violence and men’s personality traits, including antisocial tendencies (Dutton, 1994; Dutton & Starzomski, 1993), self-centeredness (Dean & Malamuth, 1997), lack of emotional regulation (McNulty & Hellmuth, 2008), and impulsivity (Stuart & Holtzworth-Munroe, 2005). LH theories have integrated both ultimate and proximate predictors of IPV into a single, overarching framework (see Figueredo et al., 2017, for review).

Larg scale study, 11 European countries: The Unexpected Decline in Feelings of Depression among Adults Ages 50 and Older in 11 European Countries amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Unexpected Decline in Feelings of Depression among Adults Ages 50 and Older in 11 European Countries amid the COVID-19 Pandemic. Zachary Van Winkle, Emanuele Ferragina, Ettore Recchi. Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World, August 10, 2021.

Abstract: Findings on the mental health impact of the first wave of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in Europe are mixed and lack a comparative and longitudinal perspective. The authors used the Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe and fixed-effects regressions to estimate within-individual change in the probability to report feelings of depression between 2005 and 2017 and directly following the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in 11 European countries for adults ages 50 and older. The authors found an unprecedented decline in feelings of depression between 2017 and 2020 in all countries that was larger than any previous observed change. The probability to report feelings of depression decreased by 14.5 percentage points on average, ranging from 7 to 19 percentage points in Spain and Switzerland, respectively. Moreover, there were no systematic within-country differences by socioeconomic characteristics, chronic health conditions, virus exposure, or change in activities. These findings challenge conventional wisdom about the mental health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Keywords: COVID-19, mental health, comparative, longitudinal

The first wave of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic forced most European countries to implement wide-reaching restrictions on private and public life. Scholars immediately voiced their concern, suggesting that heightened economic insecurity and social isolation stemming from nonpharmaceutical interventions could lead to a sharp increase in mental health issues (Holmes et al. 2020). Research on the relationship between the COVID-19 pandemic and numerous aspects of mental health, such as psychological distress, feelings of depression and anxiety, and general subjective well-being, has grown rapidly. By the end of 2020, systematic reviews counted more than 2,000 studies in the field (Aknin et al. 2021Prati and Mancini 2021). The plethora of research results has shown that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on subjective well-being is more complex than originally expected.

The majority of studies assume that the pandemic and governments’ containment measures have a negative effect on mental health (e.g., Fiorillo and Gorwood 2020). For example, government-imposed lockdowns as well as quarantine, social distancing, and self-isolation measures reduced social interactions and increased loneliness, both of which are associated with depression (Killgore et al. 2020). Moreover, concerns about one’s own health or the health of loved ones as well as a feeling of uncertainty about the current situation and the future may engender fear and increase feelings of depression. Those feelings of fear and uncertainty may be reinforced by the rapid spread of disinformation, especially on internet platforms. Both of these arguments linking the pandemic to decreased mental health—reduced social interactions and feelings of worry and uncertainty—may be heightened among older adults ages 50 and older.1 Older adults are more likely than younger or middle-aged adults to become severely ill and be hospitalized following a COVID-19 infection. Therefore, it is likely that older adults did not increase their social interactions after lockdowns were lifted and that the elderly are more concerned about health issues.

In contrast, some studies have argued that the pandemic is associated with increased subjective well-being and mental health, which has been coined the “eye of the hurricane” paradox (Recchi et al. 2020). Perceptions of subjective well-being and mental health may be relative or positional. Individuals comparing themselves with those suffering the most during the pandemic may declare higher levels of well-being than they would have otherwise. In addition, numerous studies have documented astounding resilience and prosocial behavior in the aftermath of natural disasters and other dramatic events, resulting in psychological gains from adversity (Mancini 2019Quarantelli 1985Uchida, Takahashi, and Kawahara 2014). Older adults may also be more likely to experience gains in mental health following the pandemic. For example, retired adults were protected from labor market and income uncertainty, which may lead them to perceive a higher degree of well-being relative to adults still active in the labor market.

In this study, we concentrate on adults ages 50 and older, who are medically more vulnerable to COVID-19 than younger segments of the population. Within the group of older adults, there are subgroups that may be more or less vulnerable to the mental health consequences of the pandemic. For example, older adults become increasingly susceptible to the virus with age. Those without a partner, because of never partnering, divorce, or widowhood, may be at an especially heightened risk of social isolation. Older adults who have not yet entered retirement may be put under stress by employment and income uncertainty. Finally, those who either tested positive for COVID-19 or know someone who tested positive may suffer under the effects of social stigma associated with proximity to infection.

In addition to subgroup variation among older adults, there are likely cross-national differences across European countries. Not only were there large country differences in the timing and incidence of COVID-19 during the first wave, but countries also differed in terms of the strictness of measures taken to limit the spread of the virus (Aidukaite et al. 2021Béland et al. 2021Cantillon, Seeleib-Kaiser, and Veen 2021Greve et al. 2021Moreira et al. 2021). For example, the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic was especially pronounced in Italy, Spain, and France. In contrast, countries in Central Europe and Eastern Europe, such as Germany and Poland, were left relatively untouched by the first wave. Therefore, if the pandemic does affect mental health negatively, then the association would be expected to be strongest in countries such as Italy and Spain compared with countries such as Germany and Poland. In addition, prepandemic differences in national labor market and social policy institutions increased the ability of certain countries to limit the economic impact of the pandemic for both individuals and society (e.g., Esping-Andersen 1990Ferragina and Seeleib-Kaiser 2011Ferragina, Seeleib-Kaiser, and Tomlinson 2013).

The use of cross-sectional and nonharmonized data sources limits the ability of researchers to assess whether cross-national differences are substantive or a methodological artifact. Sources of methodological differences include the measurement of mental health, target population, survey design, and analytical approach. For example, the foci and measurement instruments of studies range from anxiety, sadness, and depression to inclinations to self-harm, insomnia, and suicide. Most of these are measured through ad hoc questionnaire items or established psychological scales. The target populations of these studies vary across both contexts and selected groups, such as specific occupational or age groups, to local communities and nationally representative samples. The results of numerous studies are based on cross-sectional surveys, most of which rely on convenience and unsystematic sampling (Prati and Mancini 2021). Repeated cross-sectional surveys have enabled researchers to compare the prevalence of mental health issues in pre- and postpandemic periods found in different samples. Other cross-sectional surveys fielded during the pandemic have asked respondents to assess the impact of the COVID-19 on their own mental health. However, the latter cross-sectional approach likely exacerbates the impact of the pandemic because of social desirability bias and lack of a prepandemic baseline estimate of mental health.

Repeated cross-sectional designs have their merits in estimating change in population health across time (Yee and Niemeier 1996). For example, repeated sampling accounts for population change (e.g., compositional differences in the target population). However, longitudinal studies, despite problems with panel attrition and target population definition, are needed to assess within-individual change across time. This is especially important if compositional change masks changes in the underlying population. Some studies have adopted longitudinal designs, taking as a starting point the early months of the pandemic (Fancourt, Steptoe, and Bu 2021Varga et al. 2021). Varga et al. (2021), for example, tracked respondents’ self-assessed COVID-19-related anxiety in four European countries (the United Kingdom, Denmark, the Netherlands, and France) and found large similarities and a common trend of slight decline in anxiety from March to July 2020. However, an accurate estimate of how the pandemic influenced subjective well-being should ideally cover a longer longitudinal window of observation and include comparable information from the same respondents before and during the pandemic.2

A few studies have used longitudinal data sources based on representative samples from single countries. The results of these studies indicate considerable within- and cross-national heterogeneity. In the United Kingdom, an increase in psychological distress from 2017 to April 2020 and a substantial decrease from April to June 2020 were found (Niedzwiedz et al. 2021). Yet the level of distress remains above prepandemic levels (Daly, Sutin, and Robinson forthcoming). Another study showed that anxiety rose in comparison with prepandemic levels, but not depression (Kwong et al. 2020). Still another showed that young respondents drove the overall increase in depression levels in the United Kingdom (Pierce et al. 2020). Evidence from the Netherlands shows stability in anxiety and depression in the overall population (van der Velden et al. 2020) and among a subsample of individuals diagnosed with depression prior to the pandemic (Pan et al. 2021). A Swedish panel study did not reveal significant changes in indicators of well-being and even demonstrated an increase in self-rated health (Kivi, Hansson, and Bjälkebring 2021). Similarly, a longitudinal study in France found evidence for a rise in average levels of subjective well-being compared with the period from 2017 to 2019 (Recchi et al. 2020). In sum, a lack of comparability among studies hinders substantive insight on how cross-national differences in the exposure and government response might translate into country variation in the relationship between the COVID-19 pandemic and mental health.

We contribute to this debate, providing a unique longitudinal and comparative assessment of the pandemic impact on subjective feelings of depression—one of the most studied outcomes to assess people’s mental health—in a segment of the population that has a higher risk for severe infection and social isolation. Using seven waves of the Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) and individual fixed-effects regression models, we investigate within-individual changes in feelings of depression across 15 years and 11 countries on a sample of older adults.

Our approach has at least four advantages compared with previous literature in the field. First, our long observation period allows us to assess the amount of change in depression levels at seven points in time before the pandemic (2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, and 2017) and in the months directly following the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe (May to August 2020). Second, we are able to use a comparable measure of mental health to investigate the existence of common or dissimilar trends in depression levels across 11 European countries (Sweden, Denmark, Germany, France, Belgium, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, the Czech Republic, and Poland). The countries in our study differ both in terms of prepandemic economic performance and institutional arrangements but also in their exposure and response to the pandemic. Third, we provide a stress-test measurement of depression trends with a focus on an epidemiologically vulnerable population. Specifically, our target population of men and women ages 50 and older compose a segment of the population in which we would expect to find a growth in feelings of depression due to the pandemic. Fourth, we are able to assess heterogeneity in pandemic’s effect on mental health across a wide array of socioeconomic characteristics as well as individuals’ exposure to the virus, their vulnerability, and the impact of the pandemic on their everyday lives.

In crows... These behavioral and neuronal data suggests that the conception of the empty set as a cognitive precursor of a zero-like number concept is not an exclusive property of the cerebral cortex of primates

Behavioral and Neuronal Representation of Numerosity Zero in the Crow. Maximilian E. Kirschhock, Helen M. Ditz and Andreas Nieder. Journal of Neuroscience, June 2 2021, 41 (22) 4889-4896; DOI:

Abstract: Different species of animals can discriminate numerosity, the countable number of objects in a set. The representations of countable numerosities have been deciphered down to the level of single neurons. However, despite its importance for human number theory, a special numerical quantity, the empty set (numerosity zero), has remained largely unexplored. We explored the behavioral and neuronal representation of the empty set in carrion crows. Crows were trained to discriminate small numerosities including the empty set. Performance data showed a numerical distance effect for the empty set in one crow, suggesting that the empty set and countable numerosities are represented along the crows' “mental number line.” Single-cell recordings in the endbrain region nidopallium caudolaterale (NCL) showed a considerable proportion of NCL neurons tuned to the preferred numerosity zero. As evidenced by neuronal distance and size effects, NCL neurons integrated the empty set in the neural number line. A subsequent neuronal population analysis using a statistical classifier approach showed that the neuronal numerical representations were predictive of the crows' success in the task. These behavioral and neuronal data suggests that the conception of the empty set as a cognitive precursor of a zero-like number concept is not an exclusive property of the cerebral cortex of primates. Zero as a quantitative category cannot only be implemented in the layered neocortex of primates, but also in the anatomically distinct endbrain circuitries of birds that evolved based on convergent evolution.

SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT The conception of “nothing” as number “zero” is celebrated as one of the greatest achievements in mathematics. To explore whether precursors of zero-like concepts can be found in vertebrates with a cerebrum that anatomically differs starkly from our primate brain, we investigated this in carrion crows. We show that crows can grasp the empty set as a null numerical quantity that is mentally represented next to number one. Moreover, we show that single neurons in an associative avian cerebral region specifically respond to the empty set and show the same physiological characteristics as for countable quantities. This suggests that zero as a quantitative category can also be implemented in the anatomically distinct endbrain circuitries of birds that evolved based on convergent evolution.

Keywords: corvid songbirdsingle-neuron recordingsnidopallium caudolateralenumbersempty set

Popular version: Animals Can Count and Use Zero. How Far Does Their Number Sense Go? Jordana Cepelewicz. Quanta Magazine, Aug 9 2021.