Wednesday, December 29, 2021

The Political Impact of Immigration: An increase in high-skilled immigrants decreases the share of Republican votes, while an inflow of low-skilled immigrants increases it

Mayda, Anna Maria, Giovanni Peri, and Walter Steingress. 2022. "The Political Impact of Immigration: Evidence from the United States." American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 14 (1): 358-89. DOI: 10.1257/app.20190081

Abstract: This paper studies the impact of immigration to the United States on the vote share for the Republican Party using county-level data from 1990 to 2016. Our main contribution is to show that an increase in high-skilled immigrants decreases the share of Republican votes, while an inflow of low-skilled immigrants increases it. These effects are mainly due to the indirect impact on existing citizens' votes, and this is independent of the origin country and race of immigrants. We find that the political effect of immigration is heterogeneous across counties and depends on their skill level, public spending, and noneconomic characteristics.

Teaching children that the world is a bad place predicts less success, less job and life satisfaction, worse health, dramatically less flourishing, more negative emotion, more depression, and increased suicide attempts

Parents think—incorrectly—that teaching their children that the world is a bad place is likely best for them. Jeremy D. W. Clifton & Peter Meindl. The Journal of Positive Psychology, Dec 27 2021.

Abstract: Primal world beliefs (‘primals’) are beliefs about the world’s basic character, such as the world is dangerous. This article investigates probabilistic assumptions about the value of negative primals (e.g., seeing the world as dangerous keeps me safe). We first show such assumptions are common. For example, among 185 parents, 53% preferred dangerous world beliefs for their children. We then searched for evidence consistent with these intuitions in 3 national samples and 3 local samples of undergraduates, immigrants (African and Korean), and professionals (car salespeople, lawyers, and cops;), examining correlations between primals and eight life outcomes within 48 occupations (total N=4,535) . As predicted, regardless of occupation, more negative primals were almost never associated with better outcomes. Instead, they predicted less success, less job and life satisfaction, worse health, dramatically less flourishing, more negative emotion, more depression, and increased suicide attempts. We discuss why assumptions about the value of negative primals are nevertheless widespread and implications for future research.

Keywords: Primal world beliefssuccessjob satisfactionhealthnegative emotionsdepressionsuicidelife satisfactionwellbeing

We feel that we perceive events in the environment as they unfold in real-time, but this mode of perception is impossible to implement due to biological constraints such as neural transmission delays; predictive mechanisms compensate these constraints

Perception in real-time: predicting the present, reconstructing the past. Hinze Hogendoorn. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, December 29 2021.


*  We feel that we perceive our environment in real-time, despite the constraints imposed by neural transmission delays.

*  Due to these constraints, the intuitive view of perception in real-time is impossible to implement.

*  I propose a new way of thinking about real-time perception, in which perceptual mechanisms represent a timeline, rather than a single timepoint.

*  In this proposal, predictive mechanisms predict ahead to compensate for neural delays, and work in tandem with postdictive mechanisms that revise the timeline as additional sensory information becomes available.

*  Building on recent theoretical, computational, psychophysical, and functional neuroimaging evidence, this conceptualisation of real-time perception for the first time provides an integrated explanation for how we can experience the present.

Abstract: We feel that we perceive events in the environment as they unfold in real-time. However, this intuitive view of perception is impossible to implement in the nervous system due to biological constraints such as neural transmission delays. I propose a new way of thinking about real-time perception: at any given moment, instead of representing a single timepoint, perceptual mechanisms represent an entire timeline. On this timeline, predictive mechanisms predict ahead to compensate for delays in incoming sensory input, and reconstruction mechanisms retroactively revise perception when those predictions do not come true. This proposal integrates and extends previous work to address a crucial gap in our understanding of a fundamental aspect of our everyday life: the experience of perceiving the present.

Keywords: perceptiontimepredictionreal-timeneural delays

Individuals who are more receptive to opposing views do not change their minds more frequently than those who wear blinkers

Receptiveness to Opposing Views: Conceptualization and Integrative Review. Julia A. Minson, Frances S. Chen. Personality and Social Psychology Review, December 29, 2021.

Abstract: The present article reviews a growing body of research on receptiveness to opposing views—the willingness to access, consider, and evaluate contradictory opinions in a relatively impartial manner. First, we describe the construct of receptiveness and consider how it can be measured and studied at the individual level. Next, we extend our theorizing to the interpersonal level, arguing that receptiveness in the course of any given interaction is mutually constituted by the dispositional tendencies and observable behaviors of the parties involved. We advance the argument that receptiveness should be conceptualized and studied as an interpersonal construct that emerges dynamically over the course of an interaction and is powerfully influenced by counterpart behavior. This interpersonal conceptualization of receptiveness has important implications for intervention design and raises a suite of novel research questions.

Keywords: conflict resolution, individual differences, interpersonal processes, social cognition

A version dated 2018: Minson, Julia and Chen, Frances and Tinsley, Catherine H., Why Won't You Listen to Me? Measuring Receptiveness to Opposing Views (July 24, 2018). HKS Working Paper No. RWP18-028, SSRN:

The nervous system is a product of evolution, that is, it was constructed through a long series of modifications, within the strong constraints of heredity, and continuously subjected to intense selection pressures

Neuroscience needs evolution. Paul Cisek and Benjamin Y. Hayden. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, December 27 2021.

Abstract: The nervous system is a product of evolution. That is, it was constructed through a long series of modifications, within the strong constraints of heredity, and continuously subjected to intense selection pressures. As a result, the organization and functions of the brain are shaped by its history. We believe that this fact, underappreciated in contemporary systems neuroscience, offers an invaluable aid for helping us resolve the brain's mysteries. Indeed, we think that the consideration of evolutionary history ought to take its place alongside other intellectual tools used to understand the brain, such as behavioural experiments, studies of anatomical structure and functional characterization based on recordings of neural activity. In this introduction, we argue for the importance of evolution by highlighting specific examples of ways that evolutionary theory can enhance neuroscience. The rest of the theme issue elaborates this point, emphasizing the conservative nature of neural evolution, the important consequences of specific transitions that occurred in our history, and the ways in which considerations of evolution can shed light on issues ranging from specific mechanisms to fundamental principles of brain organization.

4. The importance of major transitions in our evolutionary past

Evolution may occur slowly, but it can have a great effect. Across generations, it can produce large alterations with corresponding adaptations. In addition to papers that emphasize the conservative nature of evolution, our issue includes work that describes several major transitions that took place along the human lineage and made us what we are today. One significant example is the transition from an aquatic to a terrestrial environment. Malcolm MacIver & Barbara Finlay [44] discuss what this meant for sensory systems, especially vision. Due to the properties of light diffraction in water versus air, upon getting out on land our ancestors encountered a visual world that expanded dramatically, by a factor of a million in terms of sensed volume [45]. This offered a vast expansion of opportunities for navigation, as well as decision-making and planning. But there were also new challenges, such as the need for multi-joint limbs and the circuitry to control their movement and posture. All of this produced a great deal of neural expansion and diversification, leading to specific innovations that we find in extant animals, including ourselves.

Other implications of the water to land transition are discussed by Lucia Jacobs, whose paper proposes how air-breathing set the stage for hippocampal evolution in terrestrial tetrapods [46]. Her olfactory navigation hypothesis [47] suggests that olfaction is not just about odour identification, but fundamentally about using odours for spatial navigation. When our ancestors emerged onto land, olfactory sampling became linked with respiration, and Jacobs proposes that this can explain hippocampal theta rhythms, how they could be used to keep track of distance and ultimately for scaffolding mammalian memory.

Another dramatic transition started with the mammalian retreat into nocturnal life and then, about 200 million years later, a return to diurnal life in some primate species. This is described in a paper by Jon Kaas, Hui-Xin Qi and Iwona Stepniewska, which focuses on the corresponding changes to the visual system [48]. In particular, unlike other mammals, primates evolved good vision even when still nocturnal. This was made possible by their large, frontally facing eyes, as well as by a shift in the balance of visual projections to the neocortex, reducing the pathway through the superior colliculus and expanding the more direct retino-geniculo-striate pathway. This was followed by an expansion of the dorsal stream of visual processing into a wide variety of action-specific domains in parietal and premotor regions.

The paper by Paul Cisek summarizes many of these transitions, following along our lineage from chordate filter feeders to mobile aquatic vertebrates, terrestrial tetrapods, nocturnal mammals and diurnal primates [49]. Instead of framing the associated neural innovations as the superposition of new circuits at increasing levels of a hierarchy, with primate cognition at the top, he describes them as the progressive elongation of a general feedback control circuit that gradually subdivided into finer and finer control systems. That is, the highest level of the control hierarchy is the most ancient ‘hypothalamic’ regulation of behavioural state, within which new subdivisions such as abstract planning appeared as adaptations that extended control further into the world and toward more abstract interactions. The resulting architecture, he suggests, retains an ancestral organization into parallel control systems dedicated to guiding particular species-typical actions. Selection between these systems is governed by the basal ganglia, while a selection of specific actions within the chosen system occurs through a competition within each specific cortical map.

Giovanni Pezzulo, Thomas Parr and Karl Friston echo some of these points, emphasizing feedback control as the fundamental organization of the nervous system, but extend it with predictive processing [50]. In particular, they emphasize that predictive processing is by no means a recent evolutionary innovation, but rather a basic principle of vertebrate neural organization that was elaborated from allostatic control to multiple sensorimotor loops that extend in terms of both spatial hierarchy and temporal scales. In this view, cognitive abilities are not added as a new system on top of an old sensorimotor controller, but rather emerge as an extension that specializes part of it toward increasingly abstract and long-term control.

A different but compatible perspective is offered by David Leopold and Bruno Averbeck, who discuss how the vertebrate brain trains itself, a process they refer to as ‘self-tuition’ [51]. They propose that hypothalamic systems modulate telencephalic systems to bias them toward learning the types of information needed for basic functions such as feeding, seeking mates and escaping from threats, as well as orienting and navigating around the world. The complexity of the primate brain, they propose, reflects the complexity of such interactions.

A still more general theoretical treatment of similar issues is offered by Stuart Wilson and Tony Prescott, who define a mathematical framework for how layered control architectures operating at different temporal scales can coordinate to produce complex behaviour [52]. Importantly, while it is widely acknowledged that slower processes can provide the constraints on faster ones, these authors show how the inverse can also be true. The result is a control architecture without a strict hierarchy, but where different levels mutually constrain each other.

There is a larger range of attractive female body types shown in porn than there is in other media genres, such as advertising and fashion and women’s magazines

The Content of Contemporary, Mainstream Pornography: A Literature Review of Content Analytic Studies. Dan J. Miller & Kerry Anne McBain. American Journal of Sexuality Education, Dec 27 2021.

Abstract: This paper provides a narrative review of recent studies (2005–2020) into the content of contemporary, mainstream pornography. Sex acts, such as vaginal sex, fellatio, and external ejaculation are ubiquitous within mainstream pornography. Cunnilingus, solo masturbation, or masturbation of a partner are all also relatively common. Condom use is infrequently depicted. While extreme sexual violence (e.g., rape) is rare, acts which some would consider to be violent (e.g., spanking) are common. Women in pornography typically enthusiastically engage in all sexual requests. Findings around the degradation of women are mixed. On some measures, men in pornography are more agentic than women; on other measures, the reverse is true.

Keywords: Pornographysexually explicit materialcontent analysisviolenceobjectification

New study finds backfire effect: The more shame experienced for sex the more the drive to engage in sex acts that are distressing; therapies that support "shame" models are likely increasing the problem behaviors, keeping patients locked paying therapists

Associations between Fluctuating Shame, Self-Esteem, and Sexual Desire: Comparing Frequent Porn Users and a General Population Sample. Piet van Tuijl, Peter Verboon, Jacques J. D. M. van Lankveld. Sexes 2022, 3(1), 1-19; Dec 22 2021.

Abstract: In the present study, we explore the proposed cyclic models for problematic hypersexuality (PH) that involve shame, self-esteem, and sexual desire. These cyclic models are characterized by temporal associations but have not been investigated previously with intensive longitudinal designs. In this study, we collected up to 70 measurements per participant within a period of seven consecutive days, which allowed us to investigate associations between fluctuations of shame, self-esteem, and sexual desire. Participants were divided in four subgroups: (1) women (n = 87); (2) men (n = 46) from a general population convenience sample; (3) men watching porn >2 times per week, showing non-problematic hypersexuality (NH; n = 10); and (4) men watching porn >2 times per week, experiencing PH (n = 11). Multilevel analyses, including cross-level interactions, were used to investigate between-group differences in intraindividual processes. Results showed that prior increases in shame forecasted higher current sexual desire for men with PH, but not for the other groups, suggesting that men with PH use sexual desire to downregulate dysphoric feelings of shame. Differences between groups in associations between self-esteem and sexual desire were also found. Based on our results, we propose the Split Pleasure/Shame model, which represents emotion dysregulation in PH, and juxtapose this with the pleasurable experience of sex by non-PH groups. Further intensive longitudinal research is necessary to test this model and, more generally, to investigate the fluctuating nature of sexual desire. 

Keywords: sexual desire; shame; self-esteem; split pleasure/shame model; problematic hypersexuality

Cultural values data from textual online sources using word embedding models: Some online values are highly correlated with the corresponding offline values, especially religion-related ones

Measuring International Online Human Values with Word Embeddings. Gabriel Magno, Virgilio Almeida. ACM Transactions on the Web, Vol. 16, No. 2. May 2022 Article No.: 9pp 1–38, online Dec 22 2021.

Abstract: As the Internet grows in number of users and in the diversity of services, it becomes more influential on peoples lives. It has the potential of constructing or modifying the opinion, the mental perception, and the values of individuals. What is being created and published online is a reflection of people’s values and beliefs. As a global platform, the Internet is a great source of information for researching the online culture of many different countries. In this work we develop a methodology for measuring data from textual online sources using word embedding models, to create a country-based online human values index that captures cultural traits and values worldwide. Our methodology is applied with a dataset of 1.7 billion tweets, and then we identify their location among 59 countries. We create a list of 22 Online Values Inquiries (OVI), each one capturing different questions from the World Values Survey, related to several values such as religion, science, and abortion. We observe that our methodology is indeed capable of capturing human values online for different counties and different topics. We also show that some online values are highly correlated (up to c = 0.69, p < 0.05) with the corresponding offline values, especially religion-related ones. Our method is generic, and we believe it is useful for social sciences specialists, such as demographers and sociologists, that can use their domain knowledge and expertise to create their own Online Values Inquiries, allowing them to analyze human values in the online environment.