Monday, February 28, 2022

From 2021... Self-domestication/selective migration hypothesis: Cultural differences along the individualism–collectivism dimension are driven by the out-migration of individualists from collectivist core regions of states to peripheral frontier areas

From 2021... The origins of cultural divergence: evidence from Vietnam. Hoang-Anh Ho, Peter Martinsson & Ola Olsson. Journal of Economic Growth volume 27, pages45–89. Aug 20 2021.

Abstract: Cultural norms diverge substantially across societies, often within the same country. We propose and investigate a self-domestication/selective migration hypothesis, proposing that cultural differences along the individualism–collectivism dimension are driven by the out-migration of individualistic people from collectivist core regions of states to peripheral frontier areas, and that such patterns of historical migration are reflected even in the current distribution of cultural norms. Gaining independence in 939 CE after about a thousand years of Chinese colonization, historical Vietnam emerged in the region that is now north Vietnam with a collectivist social organization. From the eleventh to the eighteenth centuries, historical Vietnam gradually expanded its territory southward to the Mekong River Delta through repeated waves of conquest and migration. Using a nationwide household survey, a population census, and a lab-in-the-field experiment, we demonstrate that areas annexed earlier to historical Vietnam are currently more prone to collectivist norms, and that these cultural norms are embodied in individual beliefs. Relying on many historical accounts, together with various robustness checks, we argue that the southward out-migration of individualistic people during the eight centuries of the territorial expansion is an important driver, among many others, of these cultural differences.


The individualism–collectivism dimension has been found to be a powerful predictor of economic and democratic development in a large sample of countries (Gorodnichenko & Roland, 201120152017). Thus, why some societies have become more collectivistic or individualistic than others is a crucial question in understanding long-run comparative development. In the present paper, we propose and investigate the selective migration hypothesis, stating that cultural differences along the individualism–collectivism dimension are driven by the out-migration of individualistic people from collectivist societies to settle down in frontier areas, and that such patterns of historical migration are reflected even in the current distribution of cultural norms. We use the territorial expansion of historical Vietnam from the eleventh to the eighteenth centuries as an ideal setting to empirically examine this hypothesis. During this period, historical Vietnam gradually expanded its territory southward along the coast from the Red River Delta to the Mekong River Delta through various waves of conquest and migration to form the country as it is today.

Our empirical analysis focuses on the ability to solve collective action problems, which is the main feature of collectivism in related economic models, by using data on voluntary contributions to public goods, which is the most typical collective action in daily living in Vietnam. Using a household survey, we find that areas annexed earlier to historical Vietnam currently have higher levels of voluntary labor contribution to public goods production. Using a population census, we also find that households in districts that were annexed earlier have a higher percentage of households with grandchildren living in them and a lower prevalence of divorced households, which are two other standard measures of individualism–collectivism traits. Conducting a public goods experiment with high school students, we find that subjects from areas annexed earlier to historical Vietnam contribute substantially more to the public good compared to subjects from areas annexed later, and that the result is mainly driven by the belief about the contributions of other subjects. Relying on various Vietnamese historical accounts, together with various robustness checks, we show that the southward out-migration of individualistic people during eight centuries of territorial expansion of historical Vietnam is an important driver behind these cultural differences.

Despite our efforts, we recognize, however, that in the current study, it is empirically challenging to completely isolate the effects of selective migration from a crowding-in of collectivist norms by a strong state or the pre-existence of individualist norms in the periphery. We leave it for future research on other areas, with access to more detailed data on historical migration patterns and attitudes, to potentially shed further light on the relative contributions of each of these interrelated mechanisms.

We believe that the present paper makes a contribution by offering an extended conceptual framework and an empirical strategy combining survey and experimental evidence for understanding long-run cultural divergence. First and foremost, the migration patterns in the distant past played a crucial role in explaining cultural differences across modern societies. As time goes on, similar processes may continue to enhance cultural differences across societies. These cultural differences may, in turn, have important implications for future levels of comparative development.

Overall, women appear to accomplish their sexual goals in digital dating arenas more than men do given a surplus of male demand

Is Dating Behavior in Digital Contexts Driven by Evolutionary Programs? A Selective Review. Jorge Ponseti, Katharina Diehl and Aglaja Valentina Stirn. Front. Psychol., February 28 2022.

Abstract: In recent years, millions of citizens all over the world have used digital dating services. It remains unknown to what extent human sexuality will be changed by this. Based on an evolutionary psychological perspective, we assume that sexual selection shaped behavioural tendencies in men and women that are designed to increase the reproductive fitness. These tendencies are referred to as sexual strategies. Males and females sexual strategies differ according to sex-dimorphic reproductive investments. We assume that this inheritance will affect human sexuality also in a digital future. To evaluate this assumption, we conducted a selective review of studies on digital dating services. Based on sexual selection theory, we derived a number of hypotheses regarding how men and women will use digital dating services typically and how the use of digital dating services might affect sexual wellbeing. Out of an initial data set of 2,568 records, we finally reviewed a set of 13 studies. These studies provided support for the notion that men and women act in the digital dating area according to sex-typical strategies. However, sometimes the circumstances of digital dating affect communication flow, e.g., in that men are even more active in establishing contacts than they are in real world conditions. Overall, women appear to accomplish their sexual goals in digital dating arenas more than men do given a surplus of male demand. Our results suggest that future human sexuality will be impacted by an interaction of both: sex-dimorphic ancient sexual strategies and new technologies.


This selective review evaluated a total of 13 cross-sectional studies on digital dating services. Evolutionary psychological reasoning and some hypotheses, which we drew from this, drove our analysis. Taken together, our selective review supports the notion that human sexuality is not going to change fundamentally on account of the rising popularity of digital dating services. The hypotheses that led our review covered four broader topics: (a) female mating preferences, (b) male mating preferences, (c) interactions between male and female mating preferences and finally, and (d) sexual wellbeing. The reviewed studies provided supporting evidence particular to hypotheses regarding mating preferences (a–c), which were derived from evolutionary psychological reasoning. Our hypotheses regarding sexual wellbeing received only partial support.

Female Mating Preferences

Some of the reviewed studies provided findings that are in accord with evolutionary psychological reasoning. These studies report that women in the digital mating market appreciate men of higher education and of white colour. Both attributes are associated with higher socio-economic status in many countries. High-status men in turn look for younger women, as one study reported. This indicates that high-status men in digital mating markets are aware of female mating preferences. Both findings (preference for high-status males and pursuit of younger women by high-status men) have previously been found in non-digital mating markets (Buss, 1989bGrammer, 1992Buss and Shackelford, 2008Iredale et al., 2008Vohs et al., 2014Ponseti et al., 2018). One of the reviewed studies concluded that men try to look taller and more powerful as they orient their selfies more often from below (Sedgewick et al., 2017). In fact, women prefer males who are physically more powerful and taller (particularly in a short-term mating context). Again, this has been found already in the non-digital mating market before (Frederick and Haselton, 2007). Obviously, men act according to female preferences for physical dominance and display as much as possible of this trait. This in turn is sexually rewarded: physically powerful men report more sexual partners than less powerful men do (Frederick and Haselton, 2007).

We assume that female mating preferences (like male mating preferences as well) are shaped by sexual selection and modulated by culture and actual conditions of the mating marked (in terms of demand and supply). The findings discussed so far indicate that humans act according to female mating preferences in (sometimes anonymous) digital dating arenas more or less similar to real-world encounters.

Male Mating Preferences

According to sexual selection theory, males have more fitness benefits from having numerous sexual partners than females do. Therefore, males are predicted to pursue more sexual partners than females. In humans, this is particularly evident when looking at gender differences regarding interest in short-term sex (Clark and Hatfield, 1989Voracek et al., 2005Gueguen, 2011). This has been found outside the digital market area previously and appears to be true in the digital dating market in the same manner (Harris and Aboujaoude, 2016Martins et al., 2016). Male fitness benefits from high numbers of sex partners and from having young sex partners given that the reproductive capacity of a young female is higher than that of an older female. Therefore, men appreciate youthfulness in their female partners much more than vice versa (Buss, 2008, S. 114). Again, what has been found in real-word mating with respect to male mating preferences is mirrored in the digital mating market (Bruch and Newman, 2018).

Interaction of Male and Female Sexual Strategies

A striking gender difference was reported by the study of Bruch and Newman in that 80% of first messages were sent by men (Bruch and Newman, 2018). Given that in the study of Bruch and Newman the numbers of male and female participants were roughly similar, the reported difference cannot be due to a limited female supply. It rather suggests that males are much more active, if not impatient, in establishing contacts. This male over-activity might be the result of both, (i) the possibility to anonymously interact with several women at the same time (driven by the strategy to find as many mates as possible and the lack of social control) and (ii) the lack of concealed signals from women that help men to focus on those mates with prospect of success. Male over-activity in turn puts females in a more comfortable position, allowing them to define the rules of the game more according to their own needs. One possible consequence of this is that women are more self-centred in their profiles and communication (Davis and Fingerman, 2016). A pattern that is pronounced in high attractive women. These women respond even less to male requests than less attractive women (Bruch and Newman, 2018). These findings are in accord with sexual selection theory predicting the higher investing sex to be choosier and the lower investing sex to be more competitive in its efforts to sexually access the higher investing sex. We predicted the respective findings for the digital mating arena because similar observations have been made in real-world scenarios previously – and, of course, because of our overall hypothesis that important variances in human mating strategies have been shaped in ancient times. However, interactions between male and female mating strategies are complicated and require a closer look, even though the data of our selective review on this was scarce. In real-word scenarios, the supply of males is an importance factor that modulates the female inclination to engage in short-term sex. If there are fewer males than females in a given mating market, females tend to be more willing to engage in short-term sex; “sex becomes cheap” (Barber, 2000Schmitt, 2005Xing et al., 2016). Conversely, “sex becomes expensive” when there is more male demand. Possibly, the observed self-centredness of women in digital dating markets is caused by the dynamic between supply and demand. As noted above, a surplus of male demand can be experienced in a mating market even if absolute numbers of males and females are equal simply because one sex is more impatient in its efforts to establish contacts.

However, it is not self-evident that a surplus of male demand in the digital (as well as in the real-world) market is only driven by male’s (ancient) strategy to find as quickly as possible as many mates as possible. In a seminal review, Baumeister and Twenge (2002) showed convincing evidence that women work together to restrict male’s sexual access to females (in order to get as much as possible in exchange for sex). One strategy is to hide, respectively, to obscure a female’s own sexual interest. Women are influenced by other women (mothers, sisters, girlfriends, etc.) which makes them feel uncomfortable when openly showing their own sexual needs. This cultural force, in addition to adaptations shaped by sexual selection and the specific conditions of anonymous digital dating, might be one further reason why 80% of first messages were sent by men.

Effects of Digital Dating Services on Sexual Wellbeing

Contrary to our expectations, we found no studies that reported high numbers of persons being victims of sexual deception (as described above). However, we found no study that investigated this topic from an evolutionary psychology viewpoint directly. Taken together, the reviewed studies provided mixed information about whether using digital dating services might lead to increased sexual wellbeing or not. In Tinder users, feelings of loneliness or low self-esteem were found quite often (Rochat et al., 2019); others reported a willingness to engage in infidelity or unprotected sex, particularly in male users of some other data bases (Harris and Aboujaoude, 2016); however, Tsai et al. (2019) found no evidence for this in their systematic review. Moreover, a systematic comparison of couples who have met online vs. offline based on a large representative sample reported no difference regarding the quality of the relationship. That is, differences concerning sexual wellbeing between the online and offline dating world might not be as big as they were sometimes assumed, maybe with the exception that some individuals with specific problems might be attracted by particular dating services. We propose that the specific interactions between personality characteristics and characteristics of certain dating services that may lead to problems of sexual wellbeing should be investigated in future research. It is possible that the benefits of digital dating services are underestimated as well. It was found that online couples are not better off than offline couples. However, it is possible that many people are in a stable relationship or experience sexual intimacy thanks to the use of digital dating.

General Limitations

The findings of this selective review are limited by the fact that the studies included in our review were not designed to test evolutionary psychological hypotheses. This has led to a type of methodological cherry-picking in the sense that we just looked at the reviewed studies for evidence that seemed to match with (or contradict) our expectations. One problem with this approach is that the samples of the reviewed studies were of quite different origins. Some studies were based on representative samples of the general population, whereas others focussed on particular individuals, e.g., Tinder users or individuals in committed relationships. Moreover, our review covers different types of dating services; some of them offer opportunities for short-term dating, whereas others focus on long-term dating. These aspects also influence the operational sex ratio. There is ample evidence in evolutionary psychology that people experience different sexual preferences and apply different strategies depending on whether they are looking for a short-term mate or a long-term mate and depending on whether there is a surplus of males or females in a given mating arena. This leads to some limitation in the reported findings given that our hypotheses were found to be proved sometimes in one sample type but not in another sample, and vice versa. In most cases this was influenced by the fact that not all studies we reviewed provided information regarding all our hypotheses.

Factors that contribute to the maintenance or decline of relationship satisfaction

Factors that contribute to the maintenance or decline of relationship satisfaction. Francesca Righetti, Ruddy Faure, Giulia Zoppolat, Andrea Meltzer & James McNulty. Nature Reviews Psychology, Feb 21 2022.

Abstract: The quality of romantic relationships influences physical and mental health. However, maintaining happy and healthy relationships is challenging; relationship satisfaction declines over time, and relationship dissolution is frequent. This raises the question of which factors contribute to the maintenance versus decline of relationship satisfaction. In this Review, we examine the key factors that have been linked to relationship satisfaction in both cross-sectional and longitudinal studies. Specifically, we describe how self-reported perceptions (subjective perceptions of the self, the partner or the relationship), implicit evaluations (automatic evaluations of one’s partner assessed indirectly) and objective indexes (demographics, life events, communication patterns and biological indexes) relate to relationship satisfaction. This synthesis suggests that self-reported perceptions are not always the most reliable predictors of longitudinal changes in relationship satisfaction. Thus, to uncover why some relationships flourish and others struggle over time, future research should not solely focus on self-reported perceptions, but also on implicit evaluations, demographics, life events, communication patterns and biological factors, and their combination.

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Depression and suicidality as evolved credible signals of need in social conflicts

Depression and suicidality as evolved credible signals of need in social conflicts. Michael R. Gaffney et al. Evolution and Human Behavior, February 25 2022.

Abstract: Mental health professionals generally view major depression and suicidality as pathological responses to stress that elicit aversive responses from others. An alternative hypothesis grounded in evolutionary theory contends that depression and suicidality are honest signals of need in response to adversity that can increase support from reluctant others when there are conflicts of interest. To test this hypothesis, we examined responses to emotional signals in a preregistered experimental vignette study involving claims of substantial need in the presence of conflicts of interest and private information about the signaler's true level of need. In a sample of 1240 participants recruited from Amazon Mechanical Turk, costlier signals like depression and suicidality increased perceptions of need, reduced perceptions of manipulativeness, and increased likelihood of support compared to simple verbal requests and crying without further symptoms. The effect of signaling on likelihood of support was largely mediated by the effect of signaling on participants' belief that the signaler was genuinely in need. Our results support the hypothesis that depression and suicidality, apparent human universals, are credible signals of need that elicit more support than verbal requests, sad expressions, and crying when there are conflicts of interest.

Keywords: DepressionSuicideEvolutionary medicineCostly signalingMental health

4. Discussion

As predicted, in vignettes involving conflicts of interest and private information about the need for help, costly signals of need increased participants' belief in the victim's claims and their likelihood of helping her, with the increase in belief and the likelihood of helping increasing monotonically with signal cost. As predicted, the increase in likelihood of helping was largely mediated by the increase in belief in the victim's claims. In an exploratory analysis, costlier signals also decreased perceptions that the victim was manipulative. These results provide evidence that, contrary to the influential “interpersonal” view that depressive behaviors are socially dysfunctional (reviewed in Hames et al., 2013), they in fact outperform verbal requests, sad expressions, and crying in providing benefits to victims when there are conflicts of interest.

Signal effects were largest in the “brother-in-law” and “romantic partner” vignettes, both of which involved claims of assault against participants' imagined daughters, and smaller in the “basketball coach” and the “thwarted marriage” vignettes. The smaller effect in the “basketball coach” vignette might have been because in the role of athletic director, participants did not value their relationship with the star player as much as we anticipated (e.g., due to lack of relatedness), or how participants weighted the costs of suspending the coach vs. punishing a potentially innocent person (for discussion of suicidal signaling to kin vs. nonkin, see Syme & Hagen, 2018). The US vignettes also had different degrees of evidence against the victim beyond just denial by the accused, ranging from strong evidence in the basketball coach vignette (a negative police report) to moderate evidence in the romantic partner vignette (no physical injuries) to weak evidence in the brother-in-law vignette (nothing beyond denial by the brother-in-law), raising the possibility that credible signals are more effective when negative evidence is lacking (Dylan Tweed, personal communication).

The small signal effect in the “thwarted marriage” vignette, which involved the Indian sample, could indicate that our results do not generalize across cultures, undermining our adaptationist hypothesis. It could also reflect our poor understanding of contemporary Indian culture regarding dowry (the effect was larger in older participants). Baseline belief in the older daughter, and likelihood of helping her, was relatively high at baseline (58%) compared to victims in the other vignettes. Private information and conflict therefore probably played a smaller role and thus costly signals were less necessary. We observed a similar pattern in our pilot study, in which baseline belief in the victim's need was high, and costly signals had smaller effects than they did in the current study. Additionally, supporting the older daughter came at the cost of one's younger daughter, which may also help explain the relatively small signal effects. A final consideration is that data from the Indian sample appeared to be of lower quality, limiting our confidence in any of these interpretations (see the Limitations section for more information).

In the “brother-in-law” and “romantic partner” scenarios, Crying had little effect on the magnitude of pro-victim responses relative to Verbal request, suggesting it was not costly enough to serve as a reliable signal in times of substantial conflicts of interests. In contrast, both Depression conditions increased support, albeit to similar degrees. One potential reason for the similar effects of the Depression conditions is the increase in costs from Mild depression to Depression was small (e.g., grades dropping from As to Bs in Mild depression vs. Cs in Depression). Such small changes may be less impactful in vignettes than in real-life, where the effects of signaling may increase in severity as they persist over time.

The effect of Suicide attempt on T2 Belief was similar to the Depression conditions across vignettes, but it resulted in greater T2 Action. One interpretation is that although some participants did not believe the victim's story, her signal nevertheless convinced them that she needed help. For example, maybe the brother-in-law did not assault her, but the presence of his family in her home was causing genuine distress. Support for this interpretation comes from our mediation analyses, which showed that the likelihood of help was largely, but not entirely, mediated by signal's effect on belief in need.

There were minor associations of age and sex with T2 Belief and T2 Action in the US participants, with both being higher among females and younger individuals. The US vignettes all involved assaults against young women, which might have been more salient to female and younger participants. In the Indian sample, T2 Belief and T2 Action were somewhat lower among those with more education and among females, respectively. Costlier signals, suicidality in particular, had a larger effect among older individuals, perhaps because older individuals were more likely to have children of marriageable age, like the victim in the vignette.

Contrary to our adaptationist hypothesis, and supporting the mainstream view that depression is a psychopathology, participants' perceptions that the victim was mentally ill increased with signal cost. However, there have been extensive media campaigns to convince the public that depression is a mental illness with the laudable goal of reducing stigma (Corrigan, 2012Rüsch, Angermeyer, & Corrigan, 2005). Even so, in the Depression conditions across vignettes, no more than 25% of participants thought the victim was mentally ill, and in the Suicide attempt condition the proportion of participants perceiving mental illness exceeded 50% only in the basketball coach vignette. Although perceived mental illness was associated with somewhat lower T2 Belief and T2 Action, this effect was mainly evident in the Verbal request and Crying conditions.

Finally, after the T3 evidence that the victim was telling the truth, likelihood of helping by the US participants increased to near ceiling, an effect that helped validate our vignettes. Among Indian participants, in contrast, participants only slightly increased their likelihood of helping from their T2 level. One interpretation of the latter is that Indian participants tended to believe the older daughter anyway, so their decision to help was not changed by additional information.

4.1. Limitations

This study has less ecological validity than real-world observations of depressed individuals interacting with their social partners, which might have biased results in a pro-signaler direction if the lack of real costs of helping made support feel less costly or if there was a social desirability bias toward helping (Grimm, 2010). It may have also biased participants against helping if they could not fully imagine the characters in the story as kin or interdependent partners, and the survey's short duration may have weakened the strength of the costlier signals as bargaining tools.

Our design did not include vignettes with male signalers. For this reason, we have no data on the possibility of sex differences in the effectiveness of the signaling strategies examined. Although not predicted theoretically, such differences are possible if the costs of signaling vary between the sexes due to differential access to alternative bargaining strategies (Hagen & Rosenström, 2016) or if one sex tends to suffer greater negative reputational effects when displaying the emotions and behaviors in the vignettes. It is also possible the costliness of the situations presented in the vignettes differ by sex. This study therefore most clearly demonstrated the effectiveness of costly signals of need by females, leaving open the question of the effectiveness of costly signals of need by males.

Compared to the US sample, far more Indian participants failed our attention checks, which is consistent with botting, unfamiliarity with English, or low-effort responses (Kennedy et al., 2020). If this high failure rate indicates lower-quality responses among those who passed the attention checks, the weak signal effect in the thwarted marriage vignette may simply be due to greater noise rather than differences in the scenario or the effectiveness of the signals compared to those in the US. Another concern relevant to all vignettes is that our decision to anchor the T1 sliders at 0 may have resulted in participants being more likely to report extreme values.

Finally, we adopted game theory models of bargaining with incomplete information as our theoretical framework, but there are many other models of credible signaling (e.g., Számadó, 2011), including for need (Számadó, Czégel, & Zachar, 2019) and suicidality (Rosenthal, 1993). If depression and suicidality involve signaling, they might be better explained by a different model.

Facial width (not width relative to height) may be a key to facial sex differences (appears linked in men to other possibly sexually-selected traits)

Caton, Neil R., and Barnaby Dixson. 2022. “Beyond Facial Width-to-height Ratios: Bizygomatic Width Is Highly Sexually Dimorphic When Adjusting for Allometry.” PsyArXiv. February 21. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: A large literature implicates male facial width-to-height ratio (bizygomatic width divided by facial height) as a secondary sexual trait linked to numerous physical and psychological outcomes. However, this research is based entirely on the premise that bizygomatic width is sexually dimorphic, which recent research has called this into question. Unfortunately, statisticians for the last 125 years have noted that ratio measurements engender spurious correlations and biased effect-size estimates. In the current study, we find that bizygomatic width is highly sexually dimorphic (equivalent d = 1.39). Further, after adjusting for 92 allometric measurements, including multiple facial height and other craniofacial measurements, bizygomatic width exhibited pronounced male-biased sexual dimorphism (equivalent d = 1.01) in a sample of 6,068 men and women born across the globe (Europe, Asia, Oceania, North, Central, and South America). In contrast, fWHR measurements demonstrated a statistical pattern consistent with the age-old argument that ratio measurements engender spurious correlations and biased effect-size estimates. Thus, when avoiding ratios and adjusting for allometry in craniofacial measures, we found strong support for a key premise in the human evolutionary and behavioral sciences that bizygomatic width exhibits male-biased sexual dimorphism.

Explanations of misfortune: Themes include intervention of superhuman agents (gods, ancestors), witchcraft, karma; seen in evolutionary context, members are required to offer support, willing to offer such support to maintain reputation as cooperators

Why we blame victims, accuse witches, invent taboos and invoke spirits: A model of strategic responses to misfortune. Pascal Boyer. Forthcoming, 2021, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute.

Abstract. Explanations of misfortune are the object of much cultural discourse in most human societies. Recurrent themes include the intervention of superhuman agents (gods, ancestors, etc.), witchcraft, karma, and the violation of specific rules or “taboos”. In modern large-scale societies, people often respond by blaming the victims of, e.g., accidents and assault. These responses may seem both disparate and puzzling, in the sense that the proposed accounts of untoward events provide no valuable information about their causes or the best way to prevent them. However, these responses make sense if we see them in an evolutionary context, where accidents, assault and illness were common occurrences, the only palliative being social support to victims. This would create a context in which all members of a group may be a) required to offer support, b) willing to offer such support to maintain a reputation as cooperators, and c) desirous to limit that support because of its cost. In this context, recurrent explanations of misfortune would constitute strategic attempts to create and broadcast a specific description of the situation that concentrates responsibility and potential costs on a few individuals. This strategic model accounts for otherwise puzzling features of explanations based on mystical harm (ancestors, witchcraft, etc.), as well as the tendency to denigrate victims, and offers new predictions about those cultural phenomena. 

Across 47 societies (statistically controlling for wealth), a societal emphasis on socializing children for religious faith attenuates links of personal religiosity with happiness, trust of strangers, and trust of known others

Societal Emphasis on Religious Faith as a Cultural Context for Shaping the Social-Psychological Relationships Between Personal Religiosity and Well-Being. Liman Man Wai Li, Xiaobin Lou, Michael Harris Bond. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, February 22, 2022.

Abstract: How does a society’s religious context affect the relationships between personal religiosity and well-being? To explore this question, we used two measures of personal religiosity, the absolute importance of religion, and the importance of religion relative to the importance of six life domains, viz., family, friends, work, politics, leisure, and religion. To test the generalizability of relationships between these two measures of personal religiosity and well-being, we tested them across representative samples of 66,992 persons from 47 societies varying in their emphasis on socializing children for religious faith. Pan-societally, personal religiosity predicted many of the five well-being measures including satisfaction with life, happiness, subjective health, trust of strangers, and trust of known others, but in opposite directions depending on whether the absolute or the relative importance of personal religiosity was used. Controlling for wealth, a societal emphasis on socializing children for religious faith moderated the links of personal religiosity with happiness, trust of strangers, and trust of known others, but most evidence revealed that a societal emphasis on religious faith attenuated the strength of these linkages. We argue that measuring an individual’s religiosity in the context of their daily living yields a more realistic view of religion’s role in personal life and social living and suggest that there are both personal and social costs for investing strongly in religion relative to other domains of daily life. Societal religious context must also be assessed to provide a more nuanced understanding of personal religiosity and its associated correlates.

Keywords: personal religiosity, subjective well-being, trust, societal priorities for socializing children

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Endogenous androgens show a moderate association with a better sexual function in women; however, the role of psychological, relational and other hormonal factors should not be overlooked

Maseroli E and Vignozzi L. Are Endogenous Androgens Linked to Female Sexual Function? A Systemic Review and Meta-Analysis. J Sex Med 2021;XX:XXX–XXX.


Background: The benefits of treatment with testosterone (T) in women with loss of desire suggest that low androgens may distinguish women with sexual dysfunction (SD) from others; however, evidence on this point is lacking.

Aim: To answer the question: is there an association between endogenous levels of androgens and sexual function in women?

Methods: An extensive search was performed in MEDLINE, Embase and PsycInfo. Four separate meta-analyses were conducted for total T, free T, Free Androgen Index (FAI), and Dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate (DHEAS). Cohort, cross-sectional, and prospective studies were included.

Outcomes: The main outcome was the association between endogenous androgens and sexual desire. Global sexual function was considered as a secondary outcome. The effect measure was expressed as standardized mean difference (SMD).

Results: The meta-analysis on total T included 34 studies involving 3,268 women, mean age 36.5 years. In 11 studies, a significant association was found between sexual desire, measured by validated psychometric instruments, and total T (SMD = 0.59 [0.29;0.88], P < 0.0001), with a moderate effect. The association with global sexual function (n = 12 studies) was also significant (SMD = 0.44 [0.21;0.67], P <0.0001). Overall, total T was associated with a better sexual function (SMD = 0.55 [0.28;0.82)], P < 0.0001), with similar results obtained when poor quality studies were removed. Age showed a negative relationship with the overall outcome. No differences were found when stratifying the studies according to menopausal status, type of menopause, age at menopause, use of hormonal replacement therapy, relationship status, method for T measurement, phase of the menstrual cycle or use of hormonal contraception. The meta-analysis of T derivatives (free T and FAI) also showed a significant, moderate association with sexual desire. In contrast, DHEAS seems not to exert any significant influence on desire, whilst showing a positive association with global sexual function.

Clinical Implications: Endogenous androgens show a moderate association with a better sexual function in women; however, the role of psychological, relational and other hormonal factors should not be overlooked.

Strengths & Limitations: This represents the first attempt at meta-analyzing data available on the topic. A significant publication bias was found for total T.

Conclusion: There appears to be a moderate association between total T and sexual desire/global sexual function, which is confirmed, although weak, in studies employing liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS). Similar results on desire were obtained for free T and FAI. DHEAS only showed a positive association with global sexual function. More research is needed.

Key Words: TestosteroneHSDDDHEASAndrogensFemale Sexual Dysfunction

In anthropomorphic terms we could say that the female rat invites the male to copulate, i.e. she expresses her consent to having sex, and the male can accept or not accept that invitation by pursuing or not pursuing the female

Sexual incentive motivation, sexual behavior, and general arousal: Do rats and humans tell the same story? Anders Ågmo, Ellen Laan. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, February 26 2022, 104595.


• Sexual motivation is activated by external stimuli called sexual incentives

• Exposure to sexual incentives leads also to enhanced general arousal

• General arousal enhances activity in the sexual central motive state

• Activity in the sexual central motive state requires the presence of gonadal hormones

• The determinants of interindividual differences in sexual motivation are unclear

Abstract: Sexual incentive stimuli activate sexual motivation and heighten the level of general arousal. The sexual motive may induce the individual to approach the incentive, and eventually to initiate sexual acts. Both approach and the ensuing copulatory interaction further enhance general arousal. We present data from rodents and humans in support of these assertions. We then suggest that orgasm is experienced when the combined level of excitation surpasses a threshold. In order to analyze the neurobiological bases of sexual motivation, we employ the concept of a central motive state. We then discuss the mechanisms involved in the long- and short-term control of that state as well as those mediating the momentaneous actions of sexual incentive stimuli. This leads to an analysis of the neurobiology behind the interindividual differences in responsivity of the sexual central motive state. Knowledge is still fragmentary, and many contradictory observations have been made. Nevertheless, we conclude that the basic mechanisms of sexual motivation and the role of general arousal are similar in rodents and humans.

Keywords: Sexual motivationgeneral arousalcentral motive stategonadal hormonespituitary hormoneshypothalamic hormonestransmittersdopamineorgasmgenital arousal

5.3. Viscerosomatic responses and general arousal

Visceral responses, mainly genital blood flow, to sexual stimuli have been the subject of much research. It is possible that these responses are associated with enhanced general arousal. This could easily be shown by calculating correlations between the magnitude of the genital response (erection and vaginal lubrication) and typical indicators of general arousal such as blood pressure, heart rate, respiration frequency or the galvanic skin response. Although all these variables have been recorded in the same individuals in many studies (e.g. Suschinsky and Lalumière, 2012), reports of correlations are exceptional. In fact, there is only one study in which correlations between the genital response and heart rate and the galvanic skin response were calculated (Laan et al., 1995). Contrary to what could be expected, both vaginal pulse amplitude and vaginal blood volume during exposure to a pornographic movie segment were unrelated to heart rate and the skin response. This observation suggest that the intensity of genital arousal is not a main determinant of general arousal in women. The possible relationship between the intensity of the viscerosomatic response of erection and the level of general arousal has not been studied.

Whereas the effects of genital responses on general arousal is unclear, there are many observations regarding the inverse relationship, i.e. the effects of general arousal on genital responses. In fact, there is a reasonable amount of data available from studies that have employed objective measures of genital responses to explicit sexual stimuli after manipulations of the level of general arousal. In an elegant experiment by Cindy Meston (Meston, 2000) women were shown a sexual stimulus (pornographic movie segment) either when rested or after intense physical exercise. It is well known that exercise increases general arousal. The vaginal response to the movie segment was enhanced in the women having engaged in physical exercise, i.e. women with enhanced general arousal. Similar effects were found after treatment with ephedrine, an agonist at postsynaptic adrenergic α and β receptors (Meston and Heiman, 1998). Stimulation of these receptors enhances activity in the sympathetic nervous system, another arousal-producing event. Anxiety has also been found to increase the vaginal response to sexual stimuli (Hoon et al., 1977Palace and Gorzalka, 1990), and anxiety is thought to enhance arousal (Ramsey, 1943). Studies in men have also shown that enhanced general arousal, because of conditioned fear, leads to enhanced penile response to a sexually relevant stimulus (Barlow et al., 1983). Likewise, an emotionally arousing, non-sexual video fragment enhances the penile response to an ensuing pornographic video segment (Wolchik et al., 1980). Since enhanced response to a constant stimulus must be due to increased motivation, it can tentatively be concluded that increasing general arousal stimulates the activity of the sexual central motive state, hence sexual motivation, in men and women.

Although there are many studies supporting the conclusion above, it must be mentioned that an extensive review of the effects of anxiety on sexual responses found that the relationship may be more complicated (e.g. Bradford and Meston, 2006). Several studies have failed to find any effect at all of anxiety on genital responses (e.g. Elliott & O'Donohue, 1997Sipski et al., 2004) while others have reported decreased response (Masters & Johnson, 1970). Consequently, it is premature to make any firm affirmation concerning the influence of general arousal on genital responses in men and women.

Pupil dilation is a non-sexual response to many kinds of stimuli (reviewed in Einhäuser, 2017). When recorded during exposure to a sexual stimulus, it might be considered a visceral response to this stimulus. If young men and women are stressed and concurrently exposed to pictures with erotic content, the pupil dilation are larger than in the absence of stress, and the stress effect is larger for erotic pictures than for neutral pictures (Finke et al., 2018). The stress-induction procedure was found to increase blood pressure and heart rate, showing that general arousal indeed was enhanced. This study suggests that general arousal not only enhances sexual visceral responses to sexual stimuli, but also non-sexual visceral responses to such stimuli. We propose that this action is mediated by the sexual central motive state, and that the heightened pupillary response is indicative of facilitated cognitive processing of sexual stimuli.

The role of general arousal for the viscerosomatic responses in rodents is poorly known. Only one study has evaluated the consequences of enhanced general arousal for penile erection. Rats were subjected to an anxiety-inducing procedure, and erections stimulated by apomorphine were quantified. The anxiety procedure enhanced heart rate and mean arterial pressure, confirming increased arousal. The number of erections observed in these animals was reduced compared to controls (Brien et al., 2002). Even if these data are not conclusive, they suggest that there might be a negative relationship between increased general arousal and erection. Nevertheless, it is probably prudent to abstain from any conclusion until more data have become available.

A curious illustration of a possible relationship between general arousal and sexual responses is found in the association between yawning and penile erection in male rats. Prolonged observation has revealed that erection and yawning often coincides (Holmgren et al., 1985). A major function of yawning is to enhance general arousal in environments providing little stimulation (Baenninger, 1997), such as a rat’s home cage. The momentarily enhanced arousal leads to a genital response, suggesting activation of the central motive state. Whether the association between yawning and sexual activation also is present in humans is not known. Regardless of this, there are probably other, equally likely, explanations for the temporal coincidence of yawning and erection.

We know of no data concerning vaginal responses and general arousal in rodents. In the absence of more experimental evidence in favor of effects of general arousal on genital responses in males and females we propose that rats are different from humans in the way that variations in general arousal have variable effects on genital responses to sexual incentives.

There is an indirect way in which general arousal could affect human genital responses. The level of arousal is known to be a determinant of the efficiency of cognitive processing, in the way that moderate arousal facilitates processing whereas very low or very high arousal have deleterious effects (e.g. Lambourne and Tomporowski, 2010). The importance of cognitive processes for genital responses in men and women has been well established (Tavares et al., 2020). Interference with cognitive processing of sexual stimuli leads to reduced genital response. For example, while women were watching a pornographic movie, they were asked to perform tasks of increasing difficulty. The lowest level of difficulty were no task, and the highest level was a requirement to classify pairs of digits according to complex rules, and verbalize the result aloud (Salemink and van Lankveld, 2006). The classification rules were complex indeed: together the digits form a number; odd numbers under 50 are classified as A; even numbers under 50 are classified as B; odd numbers over 50 are classified as B; even numbers over 50 are classified as A (Salemink and van Lankveld, 2006, p. 182). The more difficult the task, the larger the reduction of the genital response. Similar data have been reported from a male sample (van Lankveld & van den Hout, 2004). Manipulations facilitating attention to sexual stimuli enhanced responses in men and women (Both et al., 2011Farkas et al., 1979). Perhaps the somewhat variable effects of arousal-enhancing procedures on human genital responses can be explained by their unintended, equally variable, effects on cognitive processing.

5.4. Transition from approach to copulation

In humans, the transition involves a conscious decision about whether to proceed with sexual activities or not to proceed. Decision-making is known to enhance general arousal (Johnson, 1963) as manifested in increased heart rate and galvanic skin response. Likewise, pupil dilation, an exquisite indicator of general arousal (Bradley et al., 2008) occurs during the decision process (de Gee et al. (2014) and references therein). It seems likely that the decision to pass from sexual approach behaviors to sexual activity leads to enhanced general arousal as other decisions do. The same should be the case for the contrary decision, not to proceed with sex. Even though the cognitive processes underlying the decision to engage in sexual activities are poorly known, some informed speculation is possible.

It seems that most humans will not initiate partnered sex without explicit or implicit consent from the partner. In fact, in Western societies, and probably in many others, sexual approaches and ensuing sexual activities are socially acceptable only between consenting individuals. Predictions about obtaining consent for sexual interaction are probably an important part of the initial transition from approach to further sexual activity. However important such predictions may be at early stages of sexual approach, these predictions must be confirmed before manifest sexual activities start. Thus, the approaching individual needs to determine whether the approached individual is consenting to sexual activity or not. There seems to have existed conflicting views on how consent or lack thereof is communicated to a potential partner. It now appears that the consenting individual uses direct or indirect verbal expressions as well as direct and indirect non-verbal cues to communicate consent (reviewed in Fenner, 2017). These strategies are also used in pornographic movies (Willis et al., 2020), which may be important since, for many young people, such movies have become the main source of sex education.

Men and women communicate consent in similar ways, and both sexes understand their partner’s communication equally well (Hickman and Muehlenhard, 1999), even in casual encounters (Beres, 2010). The fact that men accused of rape or sexual harassment frequently argue that they misunderstood the message from the non-consenting party can be considered a kind of unfounded self-justification (Maruna and Mann, 2006).

Provided consent is obtained, direct physical interaction between the approaching and approached individuals will usually ensue. This will further enhance general arousal (see below). The contrary outcome, the potential partner’s refusal of consent, may also lead to enhanced arousal, perhaps because of frustration. Even the act of refusing further interaction may lead to enhanced arousal. There is some indirect evidence for this (Chen et al., 2014Zhou et al., 2009). Thus, whatever the outcome, the transition process probably enhances general arousal, and consequently contributes to the activity in the central motive state. Possible consequences are that the rejected individual persists in approach behaviors even if the partner has declined, or that these behaviors become directed towards another individual. There is, however, no direct evidence for any of these alternatives. Enhanced arousal in the rejecting individual will probably reinforce some central motive state different from the sexual.

In rodents, the search for consent before initiating copulation does not seem to be of major concern. One reason for this may be that rodents are not sexually attracted to other individuals unless these others show unequivocal signs of being ready for copulation. We have carefully analyzed the sexual interactions between male and female rats in a seminatural environment, and we have found that sexually experienced males rarely approach a non-receptive female (Chu and Ågmo, 2015aChu and Ågmo, 2015bLe Moëne et al., 2020a). An example is shown in Fig. 3. Furthermore, a male almost never mount a female not showing paracopulatory behavior (Bergheim et al., 2015). Thus, the execution of copulatory acts on part of the male depends on the female’s behavior. Likewise, males need almost always to pursue the female before they come into position for executing a mount. In anthropomorphic terms we could say that the female rat invites the male to copulate, i.e. she expresses her consent to having sex, and the male can accept or not accept that invitation by pursuing or not pursuing the female. It appears, then, that sexual interactions among rats are limited to consensual sexual activities. This is not true in standard observation procedures, in which the experimenter subjects the rats to forced sexual interaction, but it is true in ecologically valid procedures, like the seminatural environment. In any case, whereas the transition from approach to copulation in humans is based on a conscious decision, there is no reason to believe that something similar occurs in rats. There, the transition appears to be an automatic process. Thus, there is no arousal-enhancing decision making involved.


7. Sexual and general arousal are intrinsically associated

In the preceding overview, we have tried to ascertain the potential role of several compounds in the long- and short-term control of sexual motivation, i.e. the activity of the sexual central motive state. Furthermore, we have described how these compounds may be affected by general arousal. One purpose was to find out whether there is a bidirectional relationship between actions on sexual motivation and actions on general arousal. Table 2 summarizes the results of this analysis. It appears that there is not any necessary coincidence between release caused by general arousal and effects on the central motive state neither in rodents nor in humans. Since data concerning the effects of altered general arousal on release of many of the compounds listed in Table 2 are lacking, this is a tentative conclusion. It may also be observed that the compounds known to be released during sex are also released by enhanced general arousal. This is not surprising, since sex enhances general arousal.

We have presented abundant evidence showing that whenever sexual responses are activated, general arousal is also increased. We have also shown that some compounds released during the exposure to sexual incentives simultaneously enhance sexual and general arousal. This coincidence is not surprising. In rats and humans, copulatory behavior involves substantial physical activity, in the form of coordinated activity in skeletal muscles. The level of general arousal is an important determinant of that activity. At the same time, copulation requires a series of specific genital responses. The main genital response in males is erection, in the human an entirely vascular response. In the rat, vascular erection is reinforced by contraction of the striated penile muscles. Furthermore, in the rat, activity in these muscles is necessary for achieving vaginal penetration, and they will also contribute to the expulsion of semen at ejaculation in rats and men. During the first phase of ejaculation, seminal emission, smooth muscles in the epididymis and vas deferens will propel spermatozoa into the urethra while other smooth muscle cells will expel the contents of the seminal vesicle and the prostate. These contents will form the bulk of the ejaculate. In females, the main genital responses are clitoral engorgement and vaginal lubrication. Interestingly, there is some evidence suggesting that these sexual responses may be activated outside of sexual contexts by extreme levels of general arousal (Sachs, 2007Sachs, 2008). What we could call “effective sexual motivation”, or momentaneous activity level in the sexual central motive state, is always a combination of sexual and general arousal, as we try to illustrate in Fig. 1. We have found no evidence for any difference between humans and rodents in this respect.

8. Are the differences between rats and humans more than trivial?

Another purpose with the description of the hormonal and transmitter responses to sexual stimuli or sexual activities or changes in the level of general arousal was to compare rodents and humans. Similarities would strengthen the popular notion that rodents can be used to predict effects of drugs on human sexual functions (Ågmo, 2014Ågmo et al., 2004Le Moëne and Ågmo, 2019). Important dissimilarities would question that notion. The summaries presented in Table 1Table 2 clearly suggest a strong similarity between rodents and humans. The neurochemical control of the sexual central motive state seems to have been highly conserved among mammals, and it should, consequently, be possible to make reliable predictions from one mammalian species to another.