Sunday, August 22, 2021

Physical pain, gender, & economic trends in 146 nations: Pain falls in a boom and rises in a downturn; pain is high when unemployment is high; increases in pain in recessions are borne predominantly by women

Physical pain, gender, and economic trends in 146 nations. Lucía Macchia, Andrew J. Oswald. Social Science & Medicine, August 21 2021, 114332.


• The study is the first to study physical pain as a function of economic trends.

• It uses Gallup data from 146 countries.

• Pain falls in a boom and rises in a downturn.

• Pain is high when unemployment is high.

• Increases in pain in recessions are borne predominantly by women.


Rationale: Physical pain is one of the most severe of human experiences. It is thus one of the most important to understand.

Objective: This paper reports the first cross-country study of the links between physical pain and the state of the economy. A key issue examined is how the level of pain in a society is influenced by the unemployment rate.

Methods: The study uses pooled cross-sectional Gallup data from 146 countries (total N > 1,350,000). It estimates fixed-effects regression equations that control for personal characteristics.

Results: More than a quarter of the world's citizens are in physical pain. Physical pain is lower in a boom and greater in an economic downturn. Estimated effect sizes are substantial. Remarkably, increases in pain are borne almost exclusively by women and found principally in rich nations. These findings have paradoxical aspects. The counter-cyclicality of physical pain is not what would be predicted by conventional economic analysis: during an expansion, people typically work harder and longer, and accidents and injuries increase. Nor are the study results due to unemployed citizens experiencing more pain (although they do). Instead, the study's findings are consistent with an important hypothesis proposed recently, using different kinds of evidence, by brain and behavioural-science researchers (e.g., Wiech and Tracey, 2009). The hypothesis is that economic worry can create physical pain.

Conclusions: This study provides the first cross-country evidence that the level of physical pain in a nation depends on the state of the economy. Pain is high when the unemployment rate is high. That is not because of greater pain among people who lose their jobs — it extends far beyond that into wider society. The increase in physical pain in a downturn is experienced disproportionately by women.

Keywords: Physical painUnemploymentState of the economyGender

We show general tracking accuracy in detecting a partner’s sexual rejection, but also overestimate the degree & occurrence of this rejection; the overestimation bias was associated with lower daily relationship & sexual satisfaction

Perceptual Accuracy for Sexual Rejection in Romantic Relationships. Kiersten Dobson, James Kim & Emily A. Impett. Archives of Sexual Behavior, Aug 19 2021.

Abstract: In the current research, we investigated perceptual accuracy in romantic partners’ detection of sexual rejection. In two daily diary studies of predominantly cisgender heterosexual couples, we examined patterns of accuracy and bias concerning both the degree of sexual disinterest (Study 1; N = 98 couples) and occurrence of sexual rejection (Study 2; N = 115 couples), as well as how these perceptions were associated with satisfaction. Using a multi-method approach to capture both continuous and categorical operationalizations of sexual rejection (Study 1: truth and bias; Study 2: quasi-signal detection), we found that people were both accurate and biased in their perceptions of partner rejection. Across studies, results showed that people demonstrated general tracking accuracy in detecting a partner’s sexual rejection, but they also overestimated the degree and occurrence of this rejection. Additionally, this overestimation bias was associated with lower daily relationship and sexual satisfaction. Overall, our findings highlight the importance of dyadic perceptions of sexual rejection in shaping daily relationship and sexual functioning.

There are about 2.5 million cooks and chefs in the USA; one in four reports experiencing physical violence in the workplace—roughly 632,500 victims; bullying and harassment are romanticized in food media

The Normalization of Violence in Commercial Kitchens Through Food Media. Ellen T. Meiser, Penn Pantumsinchai. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, April 16, 2021.

Abstract: The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there are 2.53 million cooks and chefs in the United States. Of those, one in four reports experiencing physical violence in the workplace—roughly 632,500 victims. While shocking, this figure fails to account for the psychological and sexual violence that also plagues commercial kitchens. Workplace harassment and bullying is not limited to the United States and has been documented in Scottish, English, Scandinavian, French, Malaysian, Korean, and Australian kitchens. Why is violence so prevalent in kitchens, and how has it become a behavioral norm? Using data from 50 in-depth interviews with kitchen workers and analysis of food media, this article shows that while kitchen workplace violence can be attributed to typical causes, such as occupational stress, there is an overlooked source: the normalization of violence through food media. By exploring television shows, like “Hell’s Kitchen,” and chef memoirs, like Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, readers will see how bullying and harassment are romanticized in these mediums, glorified as a product of kitchen subculture, and consequently normalized in the kitchen.

Keywords: violence, culinary industry, harassment, workplace bullying, media, idioculture

Sex differences in language competence of 4-year-old children: Female advantages are mediated by phonological short-term memory

Sex differences in language competence of 4-year-old children: Female advantages are mediated by phonological short-term memory. Benjamin P. Lange, Eugen Zaretsky. Applied Psycholinguistics, August 16 2021.

Abstract: For some time now, psycholinguistic research has involved the study of sex differences in language development. Overall, girls seem to have an early advantage over boys, mainly in regard to vocabulary, which appears to decrease and, eventually, vanish with age. While there are numerous studies on sex differences in the acquisition of vocabulary as well as grammar, early sex differences in phonological short-term memory (PSTM) have been mostly neglected, or if research was conducted, it resulted in null findings, for the most part. In the present study, we examined sex differences in language competence (in a wide array of linguistic domains) of German children 4 years of age. Several tests were administered to assess articulation, vocabulary, grammar, speech comprehension, and, most importantly, PSTM (by means of the repetition of non-words and sentences). Girls performed better than boys in all domains, although some effect sizes were small. Most importantly, we found evidence for a female advantage in PSTM performance. Furthermore, mediation analyses revealed that the obtained sex differences in articulation, vocabulary, grammar, and comprehension were partially or fully mediated by (sex differences in) PSTM.

Life gets miserable with age, but those with higher life satisfaction & in better health tend to live longer, & , among survivors, individuals with higher life satisfaction are more likely to remain in the survey, masking the decline

The age profile of life satisfaction after age 65 in the U.S. Péter Hudomiet, Michael D. Hurd, Susann Rohwedder. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Volume 189, September 2021, Pages 431-442.


• Older people express higher life satisfaction, the “Paradox of well-being.”

• But in longitudinal data life satisfaction declines with age after 65.

• Resolution of paradox: individuals with high life satisfaction stay in study longer.

• Population life satisfaction higher at older ages due to mortality & other selection.

• Life satisfaction of individuals declines due to health and widowing.

Abstract: Although income and wealth are frequently used as indicators of well-being, they are increasingly augmented with subjective measures such as life satisfaction to capture broader dimensions of the well-being of individuals. Based on large surveys of individuals, life satisfaction in cross-section often is found to increase with age beyond retirement into advanced old age. It may seem puzzling that average life satisfaction does not decline at older ages because older individuals are more likely to experience chronic or acute health conditions, or the loss of a spouse. Accordingly, this empirical pattern has been called the “paradox of well-being.” We examine the age profile of life satisfaction of the U.S. population age 65 or older in the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), and find that in cross-section it increases between age 65 and 71 and is flat thereafter; but based on the longitudinal dimension of the HRS, life satisfaction significantly declines with age and the rate of decline accelerates with age. We reconcile the cross-section and longitudinal measurements by showing that both differential mortality and differential non-response bias the cross-sectional age profile upward: individuals with higher life satisfaction and in better health tend to live longer, and, among survivors, individuals with higher life satisfaction are more likely to remain in the survey, masking the decline in life satisfaction experienced by individuals as they age. We conclude that the optimistic view about increasing life satisfaction at older ages based on cross-sectional data is not warranted.

Keywords: Subjective well-beingDifferential mortalityDifferential non-responseHealthWidowing

Rejection in a date sends waves in brain areas that overlap with the physical pain matrix

Neural correlates of acceptance and rejection in online speed dating: An electroencephalography study. Xukai Zhang, M. J. W. van der Molen, Susannah C. S. A. Otieno, Zongling He, Paavo H. T. Leppänen & Hong Li. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, Aug 20 2021.

Abstract: Pursuing dating relationships is important for many people’s well-being, because it helps them fulfill the need for stable social relationships. However, the neural underpinnings of decision-making processes during the pursuit of dating interactions are unclear. In the present study, we used a novel online speed dating paradigm where participants (undergraduate students, N = 25, aged 18–25 years, 52% female) received direct information about acceptance or rejection of their various speed dates. We recorded EEG measurements during speed dating feedback anticipation and feedback processing stages to examine the stimulus preceding negativity (SPN) and feedback-related brain activity (Reward Positivity, RewP, and theta oscillatory power). The results indicated that the SPN was larger when participants anticipated interest versus disinterest from their speed dates. A larger RewP was observed when participants received interest from their speed dates. Theta power was increased when participants received rejection from their speed dates. This theta response could be source-localized to brain areas that overlap with the physical pain matrix (anterior cingulate cortex, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, and the supplementary motor area). This study demonstrates that decision-making processes—as evident in a speed date experiment—are characterized by distinct neurophysiological responses during anticipating an evaluation and processing thereof. Our results corroborate the involvement of the SPN in reward anticipation, RewP in reward processing and mid-frontal theta power in processing of negative social-evaluative feedback. These findings contribute to a better understanding of the neurocognitive mechanisms implicated in decision-making processes when pursuing dating relationships.

Low autonomic arousal (low resting heart rate) is a risk factor for reoffending

Oskarsson S, Kuja-Halkola R, Latvala A, Andersson A, Garcia-Argibay M, Bertoldi BM, et al. (2021) Low autonomic arousal as a risk factor for reoffending: A population-based study. PLoS ONE 16(8): e0256250.


Background  Low resting heart rate (RHR) and low systolic blood pressure (SBP) are associated with criminal behavior. However, knowledge is lacking about their predictive value for reoffending.

Aim  We aimed to examine associations of RHR and SBP with reoffending in a large population-based sample.

Methods  We conducted a cohort study of all convicted male conscripts born in Sweden 1958–1990 (N = 407,533). We obtained data by linking Swedish population-based registers. Predictor variables were RHR and SBP, measured at conscription which was mandatory until 2010 for men at age 18. The outcome variable was reoffending, defined as criminal convictions (any crime, violent crime and non-violent crime), obtained from the National Crime Register. We used survival analyses to test for associations of RHR and SBP with reoffending, adjusting for pertinent covariates such as socioeconomic status, height, weight and physical energy capacity.

Results  In fully adjusted Cox regression models, men with lower RHR (≤60 bpm) had higher risk of reoffending (any crime: HR = 1.17, 95% CI: 1.14, 1.19, violent crime: HR = 1.23, 95% CI: 1.17, 1.29, non-violent crime: HR = 1.16, 95% CI: 1.14, 1.19), compared to men with higher RHR (≥ 82 bpm). Men with lower SBP (≤80 mmHg) had higher risk of reoffending (any crime: HR = 1.19, 95% CI: 1.17, 1.21, violent crime: HR = 1.16, 95% CI: 1.12, 1.20, non-violent crime: HR = 1.20, 95% CI: 1.18, 1.22), compared to men with higher SBP (≥138 mmHg).

Conclusions  Low autonomic arousal is associated with increased risk of reoffending. RHR and SBP should be investigated further as potential predictors for reoffending as they each may have predictive value in risk assessment protocols.


In a sample of 407,533 convicted male conscripts in Sweden born between 1958 and 1990, we found that lower RHR and lower SBP at age 18 were associated with an increased risk of reoffending. These results replicate findings from previous work conducted on risk factors for criminal behavior [59], and extend these findings in important ways. Specifically, our findings replicate prior work demonstrating that individual differences in autonomic arousal, measured as RHR and SBP, are associated with criminal behavior [59]. However, earlier work has not considered the prior criminal histories of study participants. Our study focused on men with a history of criminal convictions and showed that these indicators of autonomic arousal predicted subsequent reoffending. This finding is important because it provides evidence that variations in autonomic arousal are associated not only with the likelihood of offending [59], but also with the persistence and repetitiveness of offending.

Our findings suggest that low RHR and low SBP should be further investigated and considered as potential predictors to be included in risk assessment protocols. All estimates in the present study remained statistically significant, with some in fact strengthened, after adjusting for pertinent covariates, indicating that RHR and SBP contribute uniquely to prediction of reoffending. Individuals with low RHR who engage in criminal behavior may not benefit from traditional treatment programs to the extent they are, according to theoretical accounts based on low fear [4] and stimulation-seeking propensities [416], less able to learn from their experiences. In particular, low fear of punishment may reduce the effectiveness of conditioning. As evidence for this, youth with disruptive behavior disorders have been found to profit less from behavioral treatment if they also exhibit low RHR [30]. From this perspective, individuals who engage in criminal behavior who also have low RHR may require tailored interventions targeting their under-aroused autonomic nervous system to prevent them from reoffending. Low RHR and low SBP may have limited importance in themselves as predictors of reoffending, but together with more established predictors (e.g., history of criminal behavior, employment, psychiatric disorder) [2], they could add importantly to the identification of individuals at high risk for reoffending who could be prioritized for intervention programs. We encourage future research aimed at incorporating autonomic arousal measures into models for predicting reoffending.

It is well-known that criminal behavior runs in families [23], and that measures of autonomic arousal are heritable [31]. In addition, findings from recent research provide evidence that the association between low RHR and criminal behavior is substantially attributable to genetic influences [9]. This evidence suggests that autonomic arousal as indexed by low RHR and SBP levels may be one of the biological factors underlying transmission of criminal behavior from one generation to the next [8]. Taken together, our findings provide further impetus for considering autonomic arousal variations in etiologic models of reoffending.

The results from the present study are novel, as only one previous small-scale study has tested for an association between low RHR and reoffending [10]. In contrast to our results, this study did not find an association between low RHR and reoffending, potentially due to lack of statistical power. However, this study did find that weak heart rate reactivity and an elevated heart rate variability within a stressor task predicted a higher likelihood of reoffending during follow up. The current study is therefore the first to demonstrate an increased risk of reoffending in a large-scale population-based sample of men with prior conviction histories. Our finding of an increased risk for reoffending among previously convicted men with low SBP is also novel, as no study has examined this association before. Future research should replicate these findings in different settings and populations.

The findings of the present study should be considered in the light of some limitations. RHR and SBP were measured concurrently using an arm-cuff monitor, after subjects had rested for 5 to 10 minutes [21]. This procedure differs from the conventional laboratory method of measuring cardiac activity from skin-surface electrodes attached to the limbs or torso, which may yield cleaner data [32]. However, use of an arm-cuff is the most prevalent method for obtaining these measures clinically, and is standard practice in clinical settings in Sweden [21]. Further, no other information pertaining to the collection of RHR and SBP data was available in the Swedish Military Conscription Register. Therefore, factors such as time of recording and room temperature that may influence cardiovascular measurements could not be controlled for. It also warrants mention that valid RHR data were missing for 43% of the overall registry sample. However, sensitivity analysis including only men with valid RHR and SBP data yielded comparable estimates. This is in line with a prior study examining low RHR in relation to criminal behavior, which showed that excluding the portion of the sample who lacked RHR data did not affect the observed associations [5].

A further limitation is that our study included only men, so it remains to be seen whether our findings generalize to women. Although previous research has shown that low autonomic arousal is associated with criminal behavior for both men and women [7], we cannot draw the same conclusion with respect to reoffending. It is also important to bear in mind that our study focused on men with official convictions only, who may not be representative of all men who have engaged in criminal acts within Sweden.

In conclusion, our findings demonstrate evidence for associations for two distinct indices of autonomic arousal, RHR and SBP, with risk of reoffending, even after adjusting for possible extraneous confounds. These findings indicate that low RHR and low SBP should be further examined as predictors of reoffending, as they may help to improve identification of individuals at risk for repeated criminal justice involvement. Further evidence for the predictive value of autonomic arousal measures would support their inclusion in risk assessment protocols, as a basis for targeting case management and intervention efforts.