Sunday, September 26, 2021

After 2 years, gaming positively impacted intelligence, but socializing had no effect, consistent with cognitive benefits documented; unexpectedly, watching videos also benefited intelligence, contrary to prior research on watching TV

Sauce, Bruno, Magnus Liebherr, Nicholas Judd, and Torkel Klingberg. 2021. “The Impact of Digital Media on Children’s Intelligence While Controlling for Genetic Differences in Cognition and Socioeconomic Background.” PsyArXiv. September 26. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: Digital media defines modern childhood, but its cognitive effects are unclear and hotly debated. We estimated the impact of different types of screen time (watching, socializing, or gaming) on children’s intelligence while controlling for genetic differences in cognition and socioeconomic background. We analyzed 9855 children from the ABCD dataset with measures of intelligence at baseline (ages 9-10) and after two years. At baseline, time watching and socializing were negatively correlated with intelligence, while gaming had no correlation. After two years, gaming positively impacted intelligence, but socializing had no effect. This is consistent with cognitive benefits documented in experimental studies on video gaming. Unexpectedly, watching videos also benefited intelligence, contrary to prior research on the effect of watching TV. Broadly, our results are in line with research on the malleability of cognitive abilities from environmental factors, such as cognitive training and the Flynn effect.

Lower socioeconomic status harms psychological well-being, effect assumed to weaken as nations develop economically; evidence is opposite to this assumption; lower national religiosity explains the burden

National religiosity eases the psychological burden of poverty. Jana B. Berkessel et al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Sep 20 2021.

Abstract: Lower socioeconomic status (SES) harms psychological well-being, an effect responsible for widespread human suffering. This effect has long been assumed to weaken as nations develop economically. Recent evidence, however, has contradicted this fundamental assumption, finding instead that the psychological burden of lower SES is even greater in developed nations than in developing ones. That evidence has elicited consternation because it suggests that economic development is no cure for the psychological burden of lower SES. So, why is that burden greatest in developed nations? Here, we test whether national religiosity can explain this puzzle. National religiosity is particularly low in developed nations. Consequently, developed nations lack religious norms that may ease the burden of lower SES. Drawing on three different data sets of 1,567,204, 1,493,207, and 274,393 people across 156, 85, and 92 nations, we show that low levels of national religiosity can account for the greater burden of lower SES in developed nations. This finding suggests that, as national religiosity continues to decline, lower SES will become increasingly harmful for well-being—a societal change that is socially consequential and demands political attention.

Keywords: socioeconomic status | well-being | religiosity | economic development 

Het women: Masculinized faces were perceived as slightly more attractive, slightly healthier, & much more formidable; pathogen prevalence lowered the preference for masculinized faces while resource scarcity weakly elevated it

Differential Effects of Resource Scarcity and Pathogen Prevalence on Heterosexual Women's Facial Masculinity Preferences. S. Adil Saribay et al. Evolutionary Human Sciences, September 16 2021.

Abstract: The present research focused on how environmental harshness may affect heterosexual women's preferences of potential male mates’ facial characteristics, namely masculinity-femininity. The evidence on this issue is mixed and mostly from Western samples. We aimed to provide causal evidence using a sample of Turkish women and Turkish male faces. A video-based manipulation was developed to heighten environmental harshness perceptions. In the main experiment, participants were primed with either resource scarcity, pathogen prevalence, or neither (control). They then saw masculinized versus feminized versions of the same faces and indicated the face they would prefer for a long-term relationship and separately rated the faces on various dimensions. In general, masculinized faces were perceived as slightly more attractive, slightly healthier, and much more formidable. A multilevel Bayesian model showed that pathogen prevalence lowered the preference for masculinized faces while resource scarcity weakly elevated it. The overall drop of attractiveness ratings in cases of high perceived pathogen prevalence, one of the strongest effects we observed, suggests that during epidemics, formation of new relationships is not a favourable strategy. Implications for evolutionary theories of mate preference are discussed.


It takes just ninety seconds to make women prefer less masculine faces: Video about the epidemic is the key! Petr Tureček

There are several studies which investigated how environmental harshness influences mate choice, in particular whether masculine or feminine faces are perceived as more attractive when the environment is harsh. Their results were inconsistent, probably because environmental harshness is not a monolithic concept: it is rather a set of unfavourable conditions which can, in principle, lead to opposing predictions regarding the preference for masculinity. Perhaps when resources are scarce, masculinity might be preferred, while when pathogens are prevalent, feminine faces could become more appealing because of the hypothesised immunosuppressive effect of testosterone. We used a video-based manipulation to tackle this issue. We recruited about 300 women and showed them videos to highten their awareness of a specific kind of environmental harshness. They viewed either a video about an impending economic crisis or a video about a dangerous bird flu. (The data were collected before the current pandemic.) Participants in the control condition were presented with a neutral video about space (planets and such). After video viewing, we presented our volunteers with photographs of men manipulated to be either 50% more masculine or 50% more feminine. We showed the manipulated photographs side by side and asked volunteers to indicate which of the two looks like a more suitable long-term partner. Then we showed the participants all photographs again, one by one, and asked them to rate their attractiveness, formidability, and health (in a random order). Because we were interested in potential mediating effects, we used an analysis comprised of several multiple regressions. We observed how the video influenced the level of perceived resource scarcity and pathogen prevalence, how these variables influenced the attractiveness, formidability, and healthiness ratings of the masculinised and feminised faces, and how the differences between ratings together with all the other predictors affected the outcome of the forced choice between a masculinised and feminised face. We included the effect of presentation laterality, because it is well known that people often select the face on the right even where the two displayed photographs are identical. Wherever suitable, we also included varying effects of targets, raters, and target-rater interactions. We confirmed our hunch! Masculinised faces were selected more often under the control and resource scarcity conditions, while the pathogen prevalence condition shifted the balance slightly in favour of the feminised face. The effect was small but clearly there! Although the videos did not change the perceived environmental harshness dramatically, the effect did turn out to be partly mediated by perceived pathogen prevalence and resource scarcity. Higher perceived pathogen prevalence indeed predicts a lower likelihood of selecting a masculinised face variant as a more suitable long-term partner, while the opposite holds of perceived resource scarcity. We had a few other notable findings. Masculinised faces are perceived as much more formidable, slightly healthier, and slightly more attractive. Under the condition of pathogen prevalence this difference becomes smaller, which is consistent with the higher preference for feminised faces under that condition. What is also interesting is that overall attractiveness ratings drop if perceived pathogen prevalence is high. This makes sense. During epidemics, when each contact poses a risk, formation of new relationships is just not so attractive: it is not a sensible strategy. Also, people seem very finetuned to assessments of attractiveness. There is a massive consensus between participants on target attractiveness (but not on their formidability and health). Still, there is space for perceived pathogen prevalence to influence attractiveness ratings and thereby also mate choice. When ninety seconds of a bird flu video can conclusively shift the preference of certain facial features, just imagine what the current pandemic is doing to them.

Petr Tureček is a poet who works as an evolutionary biologist (currently for Charles University and at the Center for Theoretical Study, both in Prague) because his poems suck. 

Facial structure and perception of sexual orientation: Research with face models based on photographs of real people

Facial structure and perception of sexual orientation: Research with face models based on photographs of real people. Julio González-Alvarez, Rosa Sos-Peña. International Journal of Psychology, September 25 2021.

Abstract: Some evidence suggests that lay persons are able to perceive sexual orientation from face stimuli above the chance level. A morphometric study of 390 heterosexual and homosexual Canadian people of both sexes reported that facial structure differed depending on the sexual orientation. Gay and heterosexual men differed on three metrics as the most robust multivariate predictors, and lesbian and heterosexual women differed on four metrics. A later study verified the perceptual validity of these multivariate predictors using artificial three-dimensional face models created by manipulating the key parameters. Nevertheless, there is evidence of important processing differences between the perception of real faces and the perception of artificial computer-generated faces. The present study which composed of two experiments tested the robustness of the previous findings and extended the research by experimentally manipulating the facial features in face models created from photographs of real people. Participants of the Experiment 1 achieved an overall accuracy (0.67) significantly above the chance level (0.50) in a binary hetero/homosexual judgement task, with some important differences between male and female judgements. On the other hand, results of the Experiment 2 showed that participants rated the apparent sexual orientation of series of face models created from natural photographs as a continuous linear function of the multivariate predictors. Theoretical implications are discussed.