Friday, August 13, 2021

Rolf Degen summarizing... Even inaccurate gossip can discipline people to behave prosocially, by fueling worries about reputation

Direct and Indirect Reciprocity among Individuals and Groups. Angelo Romano, Ali Seyhun Saral, Junhui Wu. Current Opinion in Psychology, August 13 2021.

• Behavioral experiments support the predictive power of direct and indirect reciprocity.

• Reciprocity helps explain the effects of group membership, gossip, and third-party punishment on prosocial behavior.

• Group membership serves as a heuristic for expected partner’s prosocial behavior and anticipated future interactions.

• Gossip promotes prosocial behavior via an increased concern for reputation and expected partner’s prosocial behavior.

• Costly third-party punishment serves to deter potential defectors and maintain a positive reputation.

Abstract: Direct and indirect reciprocity are two fundamental mechanisms that promote prosocial behavior within groups and across societies. Here, we review recent work that illustrates how a (direct and indirect) reciprocity framework can illuminate our understanding of several factors related to prosocial behavior—namely group membership, gossip, and third-party punishment. We propose that each of these factors can promote prosocial behavior via proximate psychological mechanisms related to direct and indirect reciprocity: reputational concern, expectations, and anticipation of future interaction. Finally, we discuss the implications of adopting such a framework and highlight a number of avenues for future research.

Keywords: Direct reciprocityIndirect reciprocityCooperationProsocial behaviorReview

4. Third-party punishment

Another factor promoting prosocial behavior in social interactions is third-party punishment (Figure 1B). While second-party punishment can be considered a clear instance of negative reciprocity under the anticipation of future interaction [37], third-party punishment represents a more interesting case as the importance for a direct and indirect reciprocity framework may not be clear at first glance. In fact, prominent studies have found that uninterested third parties often punish defectors by incurring a personal cost, and this in turn promotes prosocial behavior among defectors [38]. Thus, third-party punishment can also be conceptualized as a form of prosocial behavior that promotes prosocial behavior in others. However, whether third-party punishment is always prosocial in nature is still debated [39]. Theoretical accounts in line with a reciprocity framework hypothesize that third-party punishment is used as (a) a tool to manage reputation even in one-shot interactions (e.g., to signal trustworthiness to potential future partners) [40,41], and (b) a way to avoid the mistreatment by the defector whom the third party may encounter in the future [19].

Recent research supports the potential role of psychological mechanisms related to a reciprocity framework in explaining why people engage in third-party punishment. For example, previous research found robust evidence that participants who witness a distant stranger being insulted by another person only punish the insulter when observed by other bystanders and when they are concerned about their reputation [42]. By contrast, in anonymous situations people intervene less when a stranger is insulted, compared to a friend or a close other [42]. Moreover, in support of a reciprocity framework, recent research found that people report more moral outrage in response to defection when they cannot signal their trustworthiness through direct prosociality, again suggesting that third-party punishment can be used as a tool to upregulate the punisher’s own reputation [40]. In line with this, across 24 studies, researchers found that the opportunity to gain reputational and partner choice benefits explain why third-parties may prefer compensation over punishment [43]. Reciprocal interactions also seem to be important in the evolution of parochial third-party punishment (i.e., the tendency to punish more harshly outgroup members, compared to ingroup members) [44]. A recent longitudinal study documenting punishment responses to norm violations in daily life also suggests that people upregulate their punishment in situations where their reputation is at stake [45].

Conservative ideologies have been suggested to correlate with elevated sensitivity to threat, but we do not support such association; rather, elevated anxiety may increase concerns about social inequality & the environment

Clinical symptoms of anxiety disorders as predictors of political attitudes: A prospective cohort study. Vilja Helminen, Marko Elovainio, Markus Jokela. International Journal of Psychology, August 13 2021.

Abstract: Conservative political ideologies have been suggested to correlate with elevated sensitivity to threat. However, it is unclear whether the associations between threat sensitivity and political attitudes can be observed with clinical measures of mental health. We examined how anxiety disorders predicted attitudes on several political issues. Participants were 7253 individuals from the 1958 British Birth Cohort study. Symptoms of generalised anxiety disorder, phobia and panic were assessed in a clinical interview at age 44, and opinions about political issues were self-reported by the participants 6 years later. Anxiety symptoms were associated with higher concerns about economic inequality, preservation of the environment, distrust in politics and lower work ethic. No associations were observed with racist or authoritarian attitudes, or support for traditional family values. We also assessed how political attitudes at ages 33 and 42 predicted anxiety disorder symptoms at age 44, revealing a possible bidirectional association between concern for economic inequality and anxiety disorder symptoms. These findings do not support an association between conservative political attitudes and elevated threat sensitivity. Rather, elevated anxiety may increase concerns about social inequality and the environment.


We examined whether clinically assessed anxiety disorders (generalised anxiety disorder, phobia and panic disorder) were longitudinally related to political attitudes and vice versa. Higher scores on anxiety symptoms were associated with higher concerns about economic inequality, distrust in politics, environmental concern, as well as lower work ethic. These associations were observed particularly with symptoms of generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) and phobia, whereas symptoms of panic disorder did not have independent associations with political attitudes. Most of these associations were small in magnitude (B < 0.20). Higher concern about inequality assessed years before the clinical interview also predicted higher likelihood of GAD and phobia symptoms, suggesting a possible bidirectional association.

The findings suggest that the previously reported associations between threat sensitivity and political ideology (e.g., Jost et al., 2003; Onraet et al., 2013) may not generalise to clinical measures of anxiety disorders or may be limited to only some political and cultural contexts. In fact, the current associations between anxiety disorders and political attitudes were opposite to the hypothesis of conservatism and heightened threat sensitivity, because concerns about inequality and the environment tend to be associated with liberal and left-wing political ideology (e.g., Cheng et al., 2012; Poortinga et al., 2011), and these attitudes were associated with higher scores on anxiety disorders. Lower work ethic and distrust in politics were also associated with anxiety disorders. Lower work ethic would probably be related to more liberal than conservative attitudes, whereas distrust in politics is more ambiguous—insofar as it reflects a distrust towards governmental decision making, it might represent more conservative than liberal attitudes on the conservative–liberal axis.

Based on the theory of motivated cognition (Jost et al., 2003), we would have expected the anxiety symptoms to predict more racist attitudes, more authoritarian leanings and more support for traditional family values, but these attitudes were not associated with anxiety disorder symptoms. Our results are in contrast to the study by Hatemi et al. (2013) in which clinically assessed social phobia was associated with more negative out-group attitudes. Our lack of specific measure of social phobia, or differences in the measurement of racism and out-group attitudes, might explain the differing results. However, our findings are in line with the few studies that have concluded that anxiety might not lead to more conservative political attitudes (e.g., Huddy et al., 2005; Ray & Najman, 1987). At least two recent studies (Bakker et al., 2020; Osmundsen et al., 2019) also found no support for the link between conservatism and threat reactivity using psychophysiological measures, which casts further doubt on the motivated social cognition explanation of conservatism.

It is also worth noting that there is evidence indicating that the association between threat sensitivity and political orientation is a far more complex phenomenon than the theory of motivated cognition suggests. A recent cross-cultural study by Brandt et al. (2021) found that the way feelings of threat affect political orientation might depend on the type of threat and content of political beliefs under study, and there also seems to be significant variation between countries in how these associations manifest. In our study, the political attitudes at age 50 were measured in 2008–2009 when economic issues were very salient in the wake of the global financial crisis and economic recession in Great Britain. This might have amplified the relevance of perceived economic inequality and would be in line with the findings of Brandt et al. (2021) that economic threats are generally associated with more left-leaning attitudes in the economic domain.

Most notably, in the recent study by Brandt et al. (2021), the associations between different types of threats and different political beliefs were not consistent between countries, with the threat being associated with more right-wing beliefs in some countries and more left-wing beliefs in others. Especially in this light, our findings might indeed reflect a phenomenon constrained to a specific country, period of time, or political context, rather than more generalisable associations between threat sensitivity and political attitudes. This makes our sample the most pressing limitation of our study, as it included only a specific birth cohort from Great Britain.

Regarding study limitations, the CIS-R queried the participants about their anxiety symptoms experienced in the past week, which might have weighted the assessment of anxiety symptoms towards short-term symptoms and not long-term dispositions. However, many measures of mental health that assess symptoms in past weeks or months show considerable rank-order stability between individuals (e.g., GHQ), so clinical measures do not measure only transient psychological states but also more persistent trait-like dispositions. Fourth, the observational study design does not allow us to make causal conclusions. Indeed, our findings suggest that the associations between anxiety disorders and political attitudes may be bidirectional, and at least one previous study (Hatemi et al., 2013) found evidence of a genetic correlation. Thus, it is yet unclear whether anxiety disorders cause differences in political attitudes, or whether they represent the result of common causes.

Together the current findings do not provide evidence to support the theory of motivated social cognition (Jost et al., 2003; Jost et al., 2007) according to which more conservative attitudes would reflect heightened threat sensitivity. Clinically assessed symptoms of anxiety disorders were not associated with conservative political attitudes in the British cohort under examination. Rather, they were either unrelated to beliefs that correlate with conservative vs. liberal ideology (e.g., racist and authoritarian attitudes and traditional family values) or they predicted more liberal or left-leaning attitudes of concerns over economic inequality and preserving the environment, as well as lower work ethic and higher distrust in politics.

Our analysis emphasises the need for multiple clinical and non-clinical measures of threat sensitivity, and more detailed measures of political attitudes than the conservative–liberal axis, to better evaluate the psychological underpinnings of political attitudes and ideologies. Although the association between threat and political orientation has been examined in a significant number of studies, there are multiple aspects that have not been given enough attention. As there is recent evidence that the association depends on the type of threat as well as the type of political beliefs (Brandt et al., 2021), future studies could examine if there are differences in how susceptible individuals are to different types of threat, and how this in turn might affect their political leanings. As previously mentioned, there is also evidence suggesting that the way feelings of threat affect political orientation differs significantly across countries. As the majority of the previous studies regarding the association between threat and political orientation have been conducted in the United States or western Europe, little is yet known about how the cultural and political context might affect this phenomenon. Some studies have identified factors such as ideological constraint, the economic conditions and the ideological status quo as important determinants of how threat is associated with political orientation (e.g., Malka et al., 2014), but at least one large cross-cultural study failed to find significant support for any consistent effects of country characteristics (Brandt et al., 2021). This highlights the urgent need for both, studies using more diverse cross-cultural samples, as well as a larger and more diverse body of research examining this phenomenon in more detail while taking into account the specific political and cultural settings.

The 10 pct most active tweeters (based upon lifetime tweets) generate 81pct of all tweets

Using Administrative Records and Survey Data to Construct Samples of Tweeters and Tweets. Adam G Hughes, Stefan D McCabe, William R Hobbs, Emma Remy, Sono Shah, David M J Lazer. Public Opinion Quarterly, nfab020, August 5 2021.

Abstract: Social media data can provide new insights into political phenomena, but users do not always represent people, posts and accounts are not typically linked to demographic variables for use as statistical controls or in subgroup comparisons, and activities on social media can be difficult to interpret. For data scientists, adding demographic variables and comparisons to closed-ended survey responses have the potential to improve interpretations of inferences drawn from social media—for example, through comparisons of online expressions and survey responses, and by assessing associations with offline outcomes like voting. For survey methodologists, adding social media data to surveys allows for rich behavioral measurements, including comparisons of public expressions with attitudes elicited in a structured survey. Here, we evaluate two popular forms of linkages—administrative and survey—focusing on two questions: How does the method of creating a sample of Twitter users affect its behavioral and demographic profile? What are the relative advantages of each of these methods? Our analyses illustrate where and to what extent the sample based on administrative data diverges in demographic and partisan composition from surveyed Twitter users who report being registered to vote. Despite demographic differences, each linkage method results in behaviorally similar samples, especially in activity levels; however, conventionally sized surveys are likely to lack the statistical power to study subgroups and heterogeneity (e.g., comparing conversations of Democrats and Republicans) within even highly salient political topics. We conclude by developing general recommendations for researchers looking to study social media by linking accounts with external benchmark data sources.