Saturday, December 31, 2022

Psychology students reported particularly high rates of mental health problems, business students reported the highest rate of drug abuse, while law students reported the highest alcohol misuse

Variations in psychological disorders, suicidality, and help-seeking behaviour among college students from different academic disciplines. Margaret McLafferty,Natasha Brown,John Brady,Jonathon McLaughlin,Rachel McHugh,Caoimhe Ward,Louise McBride,Anthony J. Bjourson,Siobhan M. O’Neill,Colum P. Walsh,Elaine K. Murray. PLoS One, December 30, 2022,


Background: Elevated levels of suicidality, ADHD, mental ill-health and substance disorders are reported among college students globally, yet few receive treatment. Some faculties and courses appear to have more at-risk students than others. The current study aimed to determine if students commencing college in different academic disciplines were at a heightened risk for psychopathology, substance use disorders and suicidal behaviour, and examined variations in help-seeking behaviour.

Materials and methods: The study utilised data collected from 1,829 first-year undergraduate students as part of the Student Psychological Intervention Trial (SPIT) which commenced in September 2019 across four Ulster University campuses in Northern Ireland and an Institute of Technology, in the North-West of Ireland. The SPIT study is part of the World Mental Health International College Student Initiative (WMH-ICS) which uses the WMH-CIDI to identify 12-month and lifetime disorders.

Results: Students from Life and Health Sciences reported the lowest rates of a range of psychological problems in the year prior to commencing college, while participants studying Arts and Humanities displayed the highest levels (e.g. depression 20.6%; social anxiety 38.8%). However, within faculty variations were found. For example, psychology students reported high rates, while nursing students reported low rates. Variations in help seeking behaviour were also revealed, with male students less likely to seek help.

Conclusions: Detecting specific cohorts at risk of psychological disorders and suicidality is challenging. This study revealed that some academic disciplines have more vulnerable students than others, with many reluctant to seek help for their problems. It is important for educators to be aware of such issues and for colleges to provide information and support to students at risk. Tailored interventions and prevention strategies may be beneficial to address the needs of students from different disciplines.


Early analysis of the SPIT data revealed variations in the prevalence of mental health and substance disorders, suicidal behaviour and ADHD among undergraduate students commencing college in NI and the ROI [1012]. The current study added to this research, revealing that prevalence rates varied between faculties and also within faculties, providing important information for educators, with some courses having more students with psychological difficulties than others. Variations in help seeking behaviour were also revealed.

Overall, the study found high prevalence rates of suicidal behaviour and a range of mental health and substance abuse problems, which is of great concern. Suicidal behaviour was particularly high among students in the IT in the ROI. A recent study conducted among third level students in Ireland, found that students attending Institutes of Technology had poorer mental health [38]. Furthermore, the IT has the highest proportion of students from a disadvantaged area, when compared to other higher education institutes in the ROI [39], which may partially explain the elevated prevalence rates revealed in the current study.

When examining students attending college in NI, variations were revealed across the four UU campuses, with very high rates of psychopathology revealed among those attending Campus B. Conversely, students on Campus D reported the lowest rates of mental health problems but had the highest rate for drug abuse, and when comparing students across the NI campuses they also had the highest rate for alcohol abuse. Some geographical locations may have higher levels of mental health problems in the population than others for a number of reasons, for example, they may have elevated levels of deprivation. However, as students are not necessarily from the area the campuses are located in, further analyses were conducted to determine why these variations might occur.

The finding that students on Campus D were the least likely to engage in suicidal behaviour and have the lowest levels of depression or panic disorder, but high rates of substance abuse may be related to the demographic characteristics of students attending the campus, with males making up a large percentage of the student population. This is in line with previous research which reported higher levels of substance problems among male students, while females are more likely to have internalizing problems such as depression [7], as was found in the current study. It should also be noted however, that males may be less likely to admit to having a psychological problem, due to stigma, internalized traditional masculine norms and fears of looking weak [40]. Indeed, studies have found that young males are more prone to underreporting symptoms of mood disorders, and demonstrate higher levels of denial about psychological disorders on self-report surveys [4142].

When considering variations in prevalence rates between faculties, the lowest rates of mental health and substance problems were revealed among students in L&HS. A higher proportion of students in L&HS were 21 or over when compared to students from other faculties. Many students may have completed exams in the year prior to starting college, which may partially account for the elevated 12-month prevalence rates reported among younger students. The highest prevalence rates were found within the faculty of AH&SS, with the exception of alcohol misuse which was highest amongst students from the Business School. This is consistent with findings from another Irish study [32]. It should be noted that the Business School had the highest percentage of younger students in the current study, therefore this finding is particularly concerning, as prolonged, heavy alcohol usage throughout the academic course of study is associated with poorer academic performance, attrition, and increased likelihood of mood disorders [43]. Substance awareness campaigns during secondary education may be beneficial and further information sessions in the college setting would be advantageous.

In relation to treatment seeking, students in L&HS were least likely to have received treatment while those in AH&SS were most likely to have received treatment or felt that they may have needed treatment in the year prior to starting college, which is in line with the reported prevalence rates. Nevertheless, the proportion of students receiving or acknowledging that they may need help is much lower than the prevalence rates of disorders reported. In accordance with prior studies [34], students from CE&BE were least likely to believe that they may have needed help, which may be related to the fact that many males are enrolled on these courses. Indeed, it has been reported that male college students tend to have poorer mental health literacy and are poorer at recognising symptoms of depression, therefore male dominated courses may have lower levels of help-seeking and they may score lower on self-report questionnaires due to poor recognition of symptoms [44]. The most important reason participants in the current study reported for not seeking help was that they wanted to handle it themselves or they talked to friends or family. It is important therefore to encourage help seeking behaviour and provide information on a wide range of services available within the college and community setting.

Further analyses were conducted to uncover at risk subgroups, within the student population. While many students in the faculty of L&HS had low levels of mental health problems, when individual courses were examined, distinct variations were uncovered. For example, psychology students reported elevated rates of panic disorder and social anxiety, which is in line with previous research [20]. Furthermore, these students were most likely to say that they felt that they may have needed treatment which would suggest that while the psychology students had an awareness about their mental health issues, it did not encourage them to seek help. This is in accordance with prior research which reported that taking psychology classes does not appear to predict positive attitudes to seeking mental health care for mental health problems [4546]. One of the reasons provided for not seeking help, by psychology students in the current study, was a fear of it impacting on their academic and future career. These findings would imply that when promoting help-seeking behavior among those in the health profession, especially psychology students, it is important to be mindful of their fears and encourage them to disclose any problems.

Nursing students were least likely to report a range of psychological problems. It should be noted however that mental health nursing students reported higher rates of disorders than those studying general nursing, with the exception of depression, which may have drawn them towards the course, in the first instance. Mental health nursing students were most likely to have received treatment despite lower levels of disorders. This may be related to their knowledge and understanding of the importance of treatment [20]. Engineering students were least likely to have received treatment or felt that they needed treatment, but they also reported low levels of psychological and substance related issues. As this is a male dominated course, the question remains if these findings may be related to a reluctance of males to disclose mental health issues and to seek help for their problems or poor symptom awareness.

Indeed, many students appear to be unwilling to seek help from traditional sources within the college. This maybe be because they are concerned that the information may be shared with academic staff, although if adjustments are made, such as extensions to deadlines, this can be very advantageous. Moreover, stigma, preference for self-management and time commitments can be deterrents. Students on the health professional courses, for example, mental health nurses or psychology students, may be particularly reluctant to divulge that they have a mental health problem for fear that it may impact on their career [46]. It may be useful therefore for colleges to employ the use of more anonymised, self-directed, digital or online interventions [47]. The second phase of the SPIT study involves the trial of an online CBT based guided intervention and the findings may provide a useful alternative to face-to-face sessions, particularly for those who don’t want to seek help from traditional sources.

The study also found that art students, in particular, reported very high rates of a range of mental health problems and suicidal behaviour, which is in accordance with prior research [30]. An interesting finding was that the prevalence rate of bipolar disorder among those studying art was almost twice the average rate reported in the study overall. Indeed, studies have revealed high levels of creativity among those with bi-polar disorder [4849]. Almost a fifth of art students also had clinical levels of depression in the previous 12 months and were most likely to engage in self-harm or have attempted suicide. It is very important therefore that support is offered to this vulnerable cohort within the college setting.

Business students reported the highest rate of drug abuse, while law students reported the highest alcohol misuse rates and suicide ideation and plans but not attempts. Prior studies have suggested that such findings are connected to stressors related to the course [3150]. It must be remembered, however, that this cohort was surveyed shortly after registering at college, before they had engaged on their course. It may be beneficial to conduct further research to help determine factors that may draw students with such problems towards these courses.

Previous authors have theorised that specific traits and environmental influences shape intellectual interests and attract certain individuals to specific courses [51]. Socioeconomic status and problematic early life experiences may have an impact. Widening access to higher education, while being extremely beneficial, can bring additional challenges, with students enrolling from diverse backgrounds. They may be attracted towards certain courses, such as psychology or law, due to negative early life experiences. For example, it has been found that students who study humanities, social work and counselling were more likely to report childhood adversities [5253], which are strongly associated with poor mental health [11]. Additionally, personality is thought to influence degree selection. For example, high levels of neuroticism have been found in law and psychology students [2954]. These factors may not only attract individuals towards specific degrees but also predispose them to poorer mental wellbeing. Further research is therefore warranted to explore these risk factors in greater detail and plans are in place to conduct additional analyses utilising the SPIT data.

As this study identified courses with many at-risk students it may be beneficial to provide targeted support and information to students through their lectures and encourage social interaction with their peers, creating a sense of belonging as they embark on their college life. Discipline specific support may be warranted. For example, students on some courses, such as those involving the arts, may feel isolated and they may benefit from initiatives to increase social interaction. Peer Assisted Study Sessions (PASS) and wellbeing sessions may be beneficial to help support the transition to university life [55]. As these are embedded within courses, such sessions can be tailored to the needs of the students, addressing the individual challenges of that specific course, with first year students being supported by their higher year peers.


While this study identified several important findings, a number of limitations should be considered when interpreting the results. Firstly, the study relies on self-report measures, therefore some students may not have responded accurately or honestly. Secondly, only the 191 students who said that they felt that they may have needed help in the previous year, but were not in treatment, were asked the subsequent question related to reasons why they would not seek help, therefore these findings may not be generalised to the wider population. Furthermore, the current study is cross-sectional in nature, and is based on findings from year one only, when students started college for the first time. It will be very beneficial to monitor these students throughout their time at college, to determine if suicidality, psychopathology and substance abuse prevalence rates vary as they progress through their courses, some of which may be more stressful and academically challenging than others. Finally, it should be noted that a number of courses were not well represented in the study.

To conclude, the study revealed that many students commence college with pre-existing psychological and substance related problems and suicidal behaviour. However, the prevalence rates varied considerably across academic disciplines, with some courses having many at-risk students enrolled. However, many of these students did not seek help for these problems. It is important therefore for educators to be aware of such issues and for colleges to provide information and support to students at risk. Tailored interventions and prevention strategies may be beneficial to address the needs of students from different disciplines. This may be even more important, since the pandemic, when students were working remotely, with some cohorts missing out on practical classes, lab work and placements, with many struggling since the return to face-to face leaning. The findings from this study should appeal to educators and those with an interest in student mental health and wellbeing.

Higher social status benefits women's well-being and relationship quality, until they surpass their male partner

All is nice and well unless she outshines him: Higher social status benefits women's well-being and relationship quality but not if they surpass their male partner. Melissa Vink, Belle Derks, Naomi Ellemers, Tanja van der Lippe. Journal of Social Issues, December 17 2022.

Abstract: In two studies, we find that climbing the societal ladder has positive associations with women's well-being and relationship outcomes but can also have negative consequences when women surpass their male partners in status. In Study 1 (N = 314), we found that women who reported having higher personal status also reported several positive relationship outcomes (e.g., higher relationship quality than women with lower personal status). However, these associations reversed for women who surpassed their partners in social status. In Study 2, a diary study (N = 112), we show how women's implicit endorsement of gender stereotypes qualifies the negative associations of surpassing one's partner in status. Among women with higher status than their partner, traditional women intend to adjust their behavior to fit the gender norm (e.g., thinking about reducing work hours in favor of their time at home), whereas egalitarian women did not, but felt guilty toward their partner. We show how the relationship dynamics of women who have surpassed their partners in social status should be considered when attempting to tackle structural discrimination and advance women's careers.


In two studies, we reveal the contradictory associations women contend with when they reverse traditional status divisions in their relationships. Our data shows that climbing the social ladder has several positive outcomes for women, but this only is the case insofar as their social status does not surpass that of their male partner. Furthermore, the way women respond to their higher status depends on whether they implicitly endorse stereotypical gender beliefs. This research suggests that gender stereotypes prescribing that men should be the breadwinner and women should be the caregiver of their families have their impact on the relationship of women who break with these gendered expectations (Eagly et al., 2000; Heilman, 2001; Prentice & Carranza, 2002).

Replicating earlier findings that higher social status is related to more happy marriages (Bartley et al., 2005; Belle, 1990; Wilcox & Marquardt, 2010), we show in both studies that women who reported high social status also experience more positive outcomes in romantic relationships than women who reported low social status. The main point of the cross-sectional study, however, is that relationship outcomes are not only predicted by women's personal status. Crucially, women's relationship outcomes were also predicted by how their social status compared to their partners’ status, and here the results are generally more negative as their relative status is higher. This pattern was replicated and extended in the diary study in which we showed that women who reported higher status relative to their partner also reported more negative relationship and work-life outcomes during the 8 days of the study.

By providing insight into the underlying dynamics that partly explain negative relationship outcomes for women in a role-reversed relationship, we complement previous work showing that relationships in which the woman earns more than the man are less satisfying than more traditional relationships (Bertrand et al., 2015; Meisenbach, 2009; Pierce et al., 2013; Wilcox & Nock, 2006; Zhang, 2015). Specifically, we show that—in addition to objective income differences—women's perception of the social status division of their own relationship also predicts relationship outcomes. We reveal how these perceptions influence daily experiences and decisions about time allocations and activities in relationships where the woman has higher status relative to her partner.

Both women with traditional and egalitarian gender associations face difficulties

Additionally, we show how women's implicit gender associations (i.e., the degree to which they associated career-related words with men and family-related words with women) related to how women feel and cope when they surpass their partner in social status. Other than anticipated, we did not find that women's implicit gender associations qualify their relationship outcomes. However, we did find that among women who had higher status relative to their partner, those with more traditional implicit gender associations were more likely to consider on a daily basis how they might adjust their behavior to accommodate this (e.g., by sacrificing leisure time and reducing working hours in favor of their family). It is possible that especially women with traditional gender associations feel that they deviate from the traditional norm when they have surpassed their partner in status. These women may be more sensitive to the negative associations of surpassing one's partner in status. This would be in line with the notion of gender deviance neutralization, which maintains that men and women who violate gender norms try to reduce their deviance by showing more traditional behaviors (Bittman et al., 2003; Brines, 1994; Greenstein, 2000). In this case, this might be achieved by these women sacrificing leisure time and time at work to spend more time with their families.

We observed a different pattern for women with more egalitarian associations. When they had higher status relative to their partner, these women did not think about adjusting their behavior. However, they did report feeling guilty toward their partner on a daily basis. Women with egalitarian gender associations might realize that surpassing their partner in status is not in line with current gender norms in society. People feel guilt when they evaluate their moral transgression as a violation of an important norm and having hurt another person (Haidt, 2003; Ortony et al., 1988; Tangney & Dearing, 2002). Feeling guilt toward their partner might motivate women to change their behavior and recognize that their partner's relationship expectations and standards differ from their own (Baumeister et al., 1995). Repeated and uncontrollable feelings of guilt are associated with lower well-being (Ferguson et al., 2000) and psychological distress (e.g., anxiety; Jones & Kugler, 1993). Consequently, women's feelings of guilt toward their partner might eventually cause them to adjust their behavior somehow to bring it more in line with current gender norms. However, this might also imply that if gender norms are more egalitarian (e.g., because friends have similar role-reversed status divisions within their relationships), these women feel less or no guilt (Haidt, 2003). Future research might investigate how norms relate to long-term consequences of guilt experienced by women with egalitarian gender associations and who have surpassed their male partner in status.


A first limitation of our studies is that we only investigated women's perceptions of the status division in their relationship as well as how it impacts their relationship outcomes and well-being. Future research can expand these associations by applying a dyadic approach and see how women's outcomes are affected by their partner's perceptions of the relative status division within their relationship. Furthermore, this line of research could also investigate whether these associations are similar for men in role-reversed relationships. In our own work, we find first evidence that heterosexual couples highly agree upon the status division within their relationship and that both the man's and the woman's relationship quality suffers when they report being in a role-reversed relationship (Vink et al., in press).

A second limitation is that we chose to use the Implicit Association Task to measure a person's endorsement of gender stereotypes because explicit measures of gender stereotypes are susceptible to social desirability, and the IAT has been found to outperform these explicit gender stereotype measures in predicting actual behavior (Greenwald et al., 2009). It is important to be mindful of the recent critiques on using the IAT to measure a person's implicit gender stereotypes (Hahn & Gawronski, 2019; Gawronski & Bodenhausen, 2006; Gawronski et al., 2017). These critiques are related to women's potential awareness of their scores, susceptibility to situational factors, and stability over time. Irrespective of these critiques, our results indicate that the extent to which women associate work with men and family with women predicts how women themselves feel and cope when they surpass their partner in social status 8 days after filling out the IAT.

A third limitation is that both of our samples included women with mostly higher educational degrees. As such, it remains to be seen whether our results are generalizable to women with lower educational degrees. Lower educated individuals are more likely to endorse social conservative ideologies that favor maintaining the current status quo (e.g., the existing gender hierarchy; Jost et al., 2003). For this reason, it could be that lower educated women who have surpassed their partner in status report even more negative relationship outcomes compared to higher educated women. On the other hand, lower educated women are more often the breadwinner of the family because of temporary economic reasons (e.g., the man being unemployed) than higher educated women (Drago et al., 2005). When women work out of financial necessity, both men and women may find it easier to justify women's breadwinning role (Heckert et al., 1998; Orbuch & Custer, 1995). Future research could examine whether lower educated individuals indeed report more negative relationship outcomes when they are in a role-reversed relationship. Furthermore, it could assess whether their relationship outcomes are qualified by the fact that the woman works out of economic necessity or not.


This research adds another layer to our understanding of why gender inequality persists (see e.g., Ellemers, 2018). Women are stigmatized when they are successful in the workplace (Heilman & Okimoto, 2007; Rudman et al., 2012), but growing evidence shows how women who become more successful than their partner are also stigmatized (Hettinger et al., 2014; MacInnis & Buliga, 2019Vink et al., in press). Moreover, we show that successful women experience negative relationship outcomes when they surpass their partner in status. These relational dynamics offer an additional perspective on the other considerations that may prevent women from pursuing professional and societal success.

More specifically, women with higher status than their partners walk a tightrope for breaking with traditional gender norms. Women with traditional gender beliefs and who thus feel that their relative status in the relationship is conflicting with their gender role try to adjust their behavior but still report lower relationship quality and well-being. On the other hand, women with egalitarian gender beliefs and who thus feel that their role is in line with their own attitudes feel guilty toward their partner. Though the process of women with traditional and egalitarian gender associations is different, either way, these women are worse off compared to women who have not surpassed their partner in status.

Consequently, and in order to increase women's labor market participation and their chances of career success, systematic and structural change is needed rather than (well-intended) interventions aimed at individual women or couples (Barker et al., 2010). Our results suggest that social policies aiming to promote women's employment and career success must not only focus on individual women but also on what support they need from the organization in their careers, and what support is required in order to ensure that no problems arise on the home front. Policies that target individual women and the support they need at work may unintentionally assume that the male employees have the “most important” or “most successful” career in the family. In contrast, men also need support in combining their own careers with that of their partners. In fact, men who violate traditional gender norms are still stigmatized, and there have been few changes in that regard in the past decades (Croft et al., 2015). To illustrate, fathers who decide to work fewer hours to take care of their families are seen as “weak” and experience worse work outcomes than mothers who also choose to work fewer hours (Rudman & Mescher, 2013). For policies to be successful, they should also tackle the stereotype that men should be breadwinners and prioritize their careers. By placing the focus primarily on female employees and not on male employees, organizations are actually also perpetuating the stigma that a relationship with a more successful woman is “abnormal” and therefore stigmatizing.

In order to break this stigma, policymakers who address gender equality should be mindful of the broader relational contexts in which the targets of their policies operate. This focus is in line with the argument presented by Doyle and Barreto (2023), who emphasize the role of the social and relational context in which individuals operate as a crucial factor in understanding and tackling stigma. Policymakers can do this by applying a more relational focus when designing and implementing new social policies within the government and organizations. For example, policies that aim to facilitate career advancement for women might be complemented with policies that support homemaking roles for fathers (e.g., extending paid parental leave) to help them move away from the male breadwinner model (Cooke, 2006). Furthermore, HR professionals and managers in organizations can facilitate role-reversed couples by, for instance, by considering the careers of employees’ partners during performance reviews and by stepping away from the expectation that a good employee is someone who prioritizes their work 24/7 (Petriglieri, 2018). Indeed, team leaders that facilitate the combination of work-life issues succeed in preventing stress and conflict among male and female employees, resulting in increased well-being, health, and work performance (Van Steenbergen, 2007). Through this relational approach toward careers, employers can become more aware of how the careers of their employees’ partners also affect the choices and behaviors of individual employees.

Suggestions for future research

This research shows how women's social status can have negative consequences for their relationship outcomes once they surpass their male partner in status, and how women intent to behave in line with traditional gender roles. Future research can unravel the specific mechanisms that cause these associations. Some studies show how others outside the relationship stigmatize men and women in role-reversed relationships (Hettinger et al., 2014; MacInnis & Buliga, 2019Vink et al., in press). However, more research is needed to examine how the negative social evaluations of others relate to the experiences of women and men in role-reversed relationships. To illustrate, future research can investigate whether it is mainly men's loss in status that causes stigmatization in heterosexual relationships or whether women's relative increase in status also predicts stigmatization (see Link & Phelan, 2001 for how stigmatization is associated with status loss). Also, a more elaborate investigation of how stigma is related to couples’ experiences may show that role-reversed couples experience less support and social acceptance than traditional couples, which is also related to negative outcomes in the interpersonal context (less flourishing and increased distress; Debrosse et al., 2022). Also, Park et al. (2022) show how lower socioeconomic status is often devaluated in higher education contexts. Consequently, the lower status of men with successful female partners may be even more salient in the couples’ contexts, making stigmatization even more likely to occur for these men. As experiences with stigma are associated with decreased relational closeness and impaired relationship satisfaction (Frost & LeBlanc, 2023), future research can investigate whether couples in role-reversed relationships experience decreased relational closeness toward each other compared to traditional couples.

Friday, December 30, 2022

GPT-3 displayed a surprisingly strong capacity for abstract pattern induction, matching or even surpassing human capabilities in most settings; large language models have acquired an emergent ability to find zero-shot solutions to a broad range of analogy problems

Emergent Analogical Reasoning in Large Language Models. Taylor Webb, Keith J. Holyoak, Hongjing Lu. Dec 19 2022.

Abstract: The recent advent of large language models - large neural networks trained on a simple predictive objective over a massive corpus of natural language - has reinvigorated debate over whether human cognitive capacities might emerge in such generic models given sufficient training data. Of particular interest is the ability of these models to reason about novel problems zero-shot, without any direct training on those problems. In human cognition, this capacity is closely tied to an ability to reason by analogy. Here, we performed a direct comparison between human reasoners and a large language model (GPT-3) on a range of analogical tasks, including a novel text-based matrix reasoning task closely modeled on Raven's Progressive Matrices. We found that GPT-3 displayed a surprisingly strong capacity for abstract pattern induction, matching or even surpassing human capabilities in most settings. Our results indicate that large language models such as GPT-3 have acquired an emergent ability to find zero-shot solutions to a broad range of analogy problems.


GPT-3 “has been forced to develop mechanisms similar to those thought to underlie human analogical reasoning — despite not being explicitly trained to do so […] through a radically different route than that taken by biological intelligence.”

Use time of social media and streaming services was associated with reduced sexist attitudes

Can hedonic technology use drive sexism in youth? Reconsidering the cultivation and objectification perspectives. Ofir Turel. Behaviour & Information Technology, Dec 29 2022.

 Abstract: The information systems (IS) literature has examined sexism and gender inequality issues primarily in the context of the IS workforce. I suggest that we should extend this perspective by emphasising the role of technologies in promoting sexist attitudes in youth. A review of the literature suggests that hedonic technologies, such as videogames, video streaming and social media sites, have been often portrayed as delivering sexist content, and through cultivation, producing sexist attitudes and behaviours. Here, I build on cultivation, objectification, and ambivalent sexism theories, and hypothesise that (1) such effects exist in teenage users of videogames, video streaming services and social media, and that (2) such effects are more pronounced in males. Findings based on two secondary, large nationally representative datasets (n1 = 3,300, n2 = 3,946) of high school seniors do not, for the most part, support the hypotheses. The persistent non-significant and sometimes opposite to expectation findings are very informative, because they demonstrate that the overall role of modern hedonic technologies in driving sexism in teenagers may be limited or even positive, despite claims in popular media and findings of prior lab-based research. This is because the use time of videogames was only weakly associated with sexist attitudes and use time of social media and streaming services was associated with reduced sexist attitudes. The findings make first strides toward understanding the topic of IS content delivery and sexism and pave the way for more IS research on this important topic.

Keywords: Hedonic technologiessexismcultivation theorygender-based differencesvideogamessocial media

People with social anxiety disorder fear not only negative but also positive evaluation by others, because they are afraid that it will turn against them

A mixed methods investigation of reasons underlying fear of positive evaluation. Gillian A. Wilson, Bailee L. Malivoire, Stephanie E. Cassin, Martin M. Antony. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, December 15 2022.

Abstract: Fear of negative evaluation (FNE) is a hallmark feature of social anxiety disorder (SAD). There is also evidence that people with SAD fear receiving positive evaluation and that fear of positive evaluation (FPE) is distinct from FNE. However, researchers have speculated that concerns related to negative evaluation may actually underlie FPE. This study sought to advance our understanding of FPE by employing both quantitative and qualitative methods to assess the reasons underlying participants' endorsement of FPE on the Fear of Positive Evaluation Scale and the extent to which these reasons reflect FNE versus FPE in a sample of individuals with SAD (n = 47) and a nonclinical comparison group (n = 49). Results indicated that responses to the FPES items primarily reflected an underlying FNE. Consistent with contemporary cognitive–behavioural theories of SAD, fear of proximal or eventual negative judgement emerged as the most common reason for participants' responses on the FPES. However, participants reported other reasons that did not reflect FNE, such as fear of hurting people's feelings and uncertainty associated with positive evaluation. All of the reasons underlying participants' ratings on the FPES were reported by both the SAD group and the nonclinical comparison group; however, individuals with SAD endorsed each of the reasons to a greater extent. These findings suggest that the FPES does not exclusively assess FPE as intended; however, the emergence and endorsement of reasons other than FNE suggest that FPE exists as a distinct construct.

Are Progressives in Denial About Progress? Yes, but So Is Almost Everyone Else

Are Progressives in Denial About Progress? Yes, but So Is Almost Everyone Else. Gregory Mitchell and Philip E. Tetlock. Clinical Psychological Science, December 22, 2022.

Abstract: Scott Lilienfeld warned that psychology’s ideological uniformity would lead to premature closure on sensitive topics. He encouraged psychologists to question politically convenient results and did so himself in numerous areas. We follow Lilienfeld’s example and examine the empirical foundation beneath claims that positive illusions about societal change sustain inequalities by inducing apathy and opposition to reform. Drawing on data from a large-scale survey, we find almost the opposite: a pervasive tendency, across ideological and demographic categories, to see things as getting worse than they really are. These results cast doubt on functionalist claims that people mobilize beliefs about societal trends to support political positions and suggest a simpler explanation: Most laypeople do not organize information in ways that provide reliable monitoring of social change over time, which makes their views on progress susceptible to memory distortions and high-profile current events and political rhetoric.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Greedy people generate more household income (not personal one), have more sexual partners, fewer long-term relationships, and less offspring (partly due to the relationaships, partly because of greed), and are less satisfied with life

Greed: What Is It Good for? Karlijn Hoyer et al. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, December 28, 2022.

Abstract: What is greed good for? Greed is ubiquitous, suggesting that it must have some benefits, but it is also often condemned. In a representative sample of the Dutch population (N = 2,367, 51.3% female, Mage = 54.06, SD = 17.90), we examined two questions. First, inspired by Eriksson et al., we studied whether greedy people generate more personal and household income (economic outcomes), have more sexual partners, longer relationships, and more offspring (evolutionary outcomes), and are more satisfied in life (psychological outcomes). We found that greedy individuals had higher economic outcomes, mixed evolutionary outcomes, and lower psychological outcomes. Second, we compared greed and self-interest. We found that they differed in terms of economic outcomes, and partly in terms of evolutionary outcomes, but that they were similar in terms of psychological outcomes. This research provides insights into what greed is and does. Directions for further research are discussed.


What is greed good for? In a representative sample of the Dutch population, we studied relationships between greed and a number of economic, evolutionary, and psychological life outcomes, similar to the approach that Eriksson et al. (2020) recently used to test the possible benefits of self-interest. We examined whether individual differences in dispositional greed (assessed by the Dispositional Greed Scale of Seuntjens, Zeelenberg, Van de Ven, & Breugelmans, 2015) are related to personal and household income (economic outcomes), to number of biological children, sexual partners, and duration of romantic relationships (evolutionary outcomes), and to life satisfaction (psychological outcomes). For comparison, we performed similar analyses for self-interest (assessed via both the Prosocial Motivation scale of Eriksson et al., 2020, and the SVO-slider of Murphy et al., 2011). What did we find?
With the exception of personal income, which we will come back to later, all (preregistered) hypothesized relations with greed were found to be significant: being higher in dispositional greed correlated with having a higher household income and having had more sexual partners, and with having fewer children, shorter lasting romantic relationships and having lower well-being. Importantly, these patterns are different from those of self-interest, where fewer significant relationships were found and where, with the SVO measure, there was a negative correlation with household income and a positive correlation with length of romantic relationships. Greed and self-interest (measured as Prosocial Motivation) where similar in their negative relation with the number of children. The general picture that emerges is that dispositional greed may be good for the purposes of acquisition, but that in a contemporary Western society, in this case, the Netherlands, it confers few other benefits. This largely negative view of greed aligns well with the general condemnation of greed as a sin and with the undesirability of being called a greedy person. However, at closer scrutiny, the results may hint at a more nuanced picture.
To start with economic outcomes, the data show a mixed picture: greedier people did not have a higher personal income than less greedy people, but they did report a higher household income. As was discussed in the introduction, findings on dispositional greed and personal income in previous studies have been mixed (Seuntjens et al., 2016Seuntjens, Zeelenberg, Van de Ven, & Breugelmans, 2015Van Muijen & Melse, 2015Zeelenberg et al., 2020). Interesting in this regard is that in their study among 120.000 Dutch employees, Van Muijen and Melse did report positive relationships for specific occupations, such as sales managers, where greedy individuals earned substantially more than their less-greedy coworkers. This could suggest that the economic benefits of greed are dependent on the specific situation people find themselves in. Unfortunately, our data do not include information on participants’ occupations or the specific branches they were working in. We believe further differentiation along different occupations to be an interesting avenue for future research.
Personal income can come from various sources, such as employment, social benefits, and pensions. Interestingly, exploratory analysis revealed that, among the (self)employed, there was a slight positive relationship between greed and personal income suggesting that greed may indeed be beneficial for personal income in specific situations (i.e., employment). Over all sources of personal income together, however, our data showed a net null effect of personal income (though in the SEM there was a positive correlation).
The positive relationship between greed and household income could go different ways. It might be that greedy individuals contribute to higher household income by, for example, stimulating their partners to work harder, or that greedy individuals select partners that are economically better off, or it could be that there is a third variable, such as greedy individuals taking care of fewer children which contributes to household income because both partners can work more. Context effects may also be important in this regard. Recently, evidence has been found that growing up in more wealthy circumstances is associated with higher greed at a later age (Hoyer, Zeelenberg, & Breugelmans, 2021Liu, Sun, & Tsydypov, 2019). Thus, it might be that the opportunities that the environment presents breeds higher greed which in turn creates a later preference for environments that are more conducive to greed. Of course, such mechanisms are mere conjecture at the time, but we feel that the question as to when (rather than whether) greed is related to more income is worthy of further attention. It is also interesting that we did not find a relation between self-interest and personal income, while SVO self-interest showed a negative relation with household income, suggesting that there is something specific to greed in this regard.
With regard to evolutionary outcomes, the data suggest that greedy people are more likely to follow an r-strategy (MacArthur & Wilson, 1967), having more sexual partners (though in the SEM this relation was not significant) but less long-lasting relationships. In contemporary societies, this may lead to having fewer children, as is evident in our data. However, like the economic outcomes, this effect may be dependent on context. In other social or historical circumstances, an r-strategy may actually lead to having increased reproductive opportunities by having more sexual partners, and as a possible consequence, more genetically diverse offspring. From a more psychological perspective, there may also be other reasons why greedy people have fewer children. It could be a deliberate choice but also the result of unsuccessful relational bonding. Interestingly, an exploratory analysis revealed that greedy individuals more often reported having a partner, r(2,367) = .05, p = .016, but these relationships did not seem to last. In either case, the data suggest that greed transcends mere material goods and acquisitions in that it is related to different ways in which people approach relationships as well. Indeed, this was also suggested by Hoyer (2022), who found that, among other things, greedy individuals objectify their friends more and feel less close to them.
With regard to psychological outcome, the data are quite clear and very much in line with previous research (Krekels & Pandelaere, 2015Li et al., 2021Masui et al., 2018Seuntjens, Zeelenberg, Van de Ven, & Breugelmans, 2015Zeelenberg et al., 2020); higher dispositional greed was related to a lower satisfaction-with-life. This could be an intrinsic property of greed: the constant dissatisfaction of never having enough and the endless pursuit of more which are core characteristics of greed may by necessity imply lower life satisfaction in general. The relationship could also be more indirect, with greedy people being less satisfied with life due to the fact that, for example, their relationships are shorter lasting or their families are smaller. Having good social relationships is crucial to well-being (e.g., Amati et al., 2018), even more so than having a good income (Powdthavee, 2008).
A secondary goal of this study was to compare greed with self-interest. The reasons for including this comparison were two-fold. First, self-interest and greed are clearly related constructs, both theoretically and empirically. Second, the design of our study was inspired by the study of Eriksson et al. (2020). For a complete comparison, we not only used the Prosocial Motivation Scale that was used by Eriksson et al. to measure self-interest, but also the more commonly used SVO-slider (Murphy et al., 2011). Both measures gave slightly different results.
When comparing the bivariate correlational results, it is notable that greed and self-interest share many of the negative relationships, although self-interest shows overall fewer significant relationships. One salient difference is the relationship with household income, which is positively related to greed but negatively to self-interest. A second difference is the relationship with duration of the longest romantic relationship. Greed was related to shorter romantic relationships, while for self-interest the effects depended on the scale: self-interest as measured by Prosocial Motivation was negatively correlated with relationship length, but self-interest as measured by SVO was positively correlated. This makes the interpretation of the results in relation to greed complicated. A third difference is that greed was positively related to the number of sexual partners whereas there was no significant relationship with self-interest. Thus, being greedy appears to be somewhat more advantageous than being self-interested, both economically and evolutionarily.
Because greed and self-interest were correlated, we also looked at partial correlations. Here, unique effects of greed and self-interest remain, albeit only for the SVO measure. When it comes to greedy and self-interested individuals having fewer children, partial correlations suggests that this effect may better be explained by greed than by self-interest. The same holds for the negative correlation with relationship length of the prosocial motivation measure. The positive correlation of the SVO measure with relationship length remained significant after controlling for greed. Also, the negative correlation with life satisfaction remained significant for both greed and SVO-self-interest, suggesting that being greedy and being self-interested makes you unhappy in their own way.
Taken together, these results clearly show the usefulness of distinguishing between greed and self-interest when it comes to studying economic, evolutionary, and psychological outcomes. All in all, greed appears to have positive and negative relationships with life outcomes, whereas self-interest tends to be negative across the board for the outcomes that we examined.
To account for measurement error, we used SEM to further explore the relationship between greed and self-interest as latent variables and the economic, evolutionary, and psychological outcomes as manifest indicators. The results changed somewhat, indicating that we should interpret the results with caution. The most notable changes are the following. Using SEM, we found a negative relationship between greed and personal income. For household income, SEM revealed a positive relationship with self-interest (measured as prosocial motivation), and the negative relationship with self-interest (measured as SVO) disappeared. The positive correlation between greed and the number of sexual partners disappeared (p = .077) in SEM.
Like any study using correlational, cross-sectional panel data, there are limitations to this study. Ideally, a future, longitudinal study should investigate the underlying mechanism of differences in greed in socioeconomic success over the years. The results obtained for income already suggest that there might be differences over the course of people’s lives. Furthermore, future research could investigate why the greedy have lowered evolutionary outcomes by examining the mating practices of the greedy. Finally, future research should investigate why greedier individuals feel less satisfied with life, in order to design interventions to increase their mental well-being and reduce possible severe side effects such as depression.
A second limitation that would warrant more research is the observation of a relatively strong correlation between greed and age in our data. When we explored the effect of age as a control variable many relationships between greed (as well as self-interest) and life outcomes were no longer significant. Given the limited literature on such effects, it is hard to provide a strong interpretation as to what this means. Both Liu, Sun, and Tsydypov (2019) and Hoyer, Zeelenberg, and Breugelmans (2021) speculated that a relationship between age and greed might be curvilinear, following an inverted U-shape. This would mean that greed reaches a maximum in early adulthood. In favor of such a relationship are findings of a positive correlation between greed and age with adolescent samples (Liu, Sun, & Tsydypov, 2019Seuntjens et al., 2016), and findings of negative relationships with adult samples (Liu, Sun, Ding, et al., 2019Seuntjens, Zeelenberg, Van de Ven, & Breugelmans, 2015). With regard to self-interest and age, we found somewhat mixed evidence: Age correlated positively with self-interest measured with SVO but negatively with self-interest measured with Prosocial Motivation. The literature seems to be more in line with the latter, suggesting that people become more prosocial later in life (e.g., Matsumoto et al., 2016). Van Lange et al. (1997) refer to this phenomenon as the prosocial-growth hypothesis. It would appear to be worthwhile to further investigate the relationships among greed, self-interest and age, especially from a developmental, longitudinal perspective.
In this research, we used two existing measures of self-interest: the inverse of prosocial motivation (Eriksson et al., 2020) and SVO (Murphy et al., 2011). Both measures correlated, but not highly, and correlations with the different life outcomes differed somewhat between measures. This raises questions about the convergent validity of both self-interest measures. Eriksson et al. analyzed a large number of existing data sets, so in their search for indicators of self-interest, they were bound by what was available. The prosocial motivation scale was used in Study 1, but in other studies, they employed different indexes. In retrospect, we believe that the operationalization as self-interest as the inverse of prosocial motivation might be criticized from a psychological perspective. In organizational research, people have argued for treating self-interested and other-interested orientations as distinct dispositions (e.g., Meglino & Korsgaard, 2004). Research of Gerbasi and Prentice (2013) shows that indeed self-interest and other-interest were moderately positively correlated, rather than negatively correlated. For this reason, we included the SVO measure of Murphy et al. (2011), which is based on decomposed games, as a more traditional measure of a continuum between prosociality and self-interest. This measure is closer to how self-interest is usually assessed in psychological research. However, because our study was not designed to distinguish between different indicators of self-interest, we refrain from speculating on the difference between the two measures in too much detail. Most important for this article is that the patterns of both self-interest measures were distinct from that of greed.
A question that could be asked is to what extent the relationships we found for greed are unique to this construct or whether they could be explained by other constructs. Previous research by Seuntjens, Zeelenberg, Van de Ven, and Breugelmans (2015) revealed four constructs that most strongly correlate with greed: in decreasing order materialism, envy, maximization, and self-interest. The latter construct was the comparison standard in this article but could the other constructs explain the effects of greed? We believe that this is not plausible. First, in a multistudy prototype analysis, Seuntjens, Zeelenberg, Breugelmans, and Van de Ven (2015) found that although these constructs were mentioned, they did not belong to the core of features of greed. It is this core that is assessed by the DGS that we used in this study. In addition, Seuntjens, Zeelenberg, Van de Ven, and Breugelmans (2015) extensively mapped the nomological network of the DGS and the other constructs. Greed emerged as being clearly distinct. Furthermore, there are theoretical reasons why the other constructs cannot explain the full pattern that we found for greed. For example, the research by Crusius and Lange (2021) suggests that greed predicts envy, and not the other way around. Likewise, while materialism might well be related to income, the relationship with number of children, relationships and number of sexual partners is not at all evident. Finally, maximization might be related to more sexual encounters but should rather relate to having more rather than fewer children. Thus, we are somewhat confident that the patterns we found for greed are unique to greed in comparison to related constructs.
Another question that might arise is whether certain conditions that might be unique to a particular country or culture has a significant effect on the outcome variables in our study. Although we do not have direct evidence for cross-cultural equivalence, we have quite a bit of evidence for the cross-cultural validity and invariance of structural relations for the Dispositional Greed Scale from Seuntjens, Zeelenberg, Van de Ven, and Breugelmans (2015). This scale has been applied in (and validated for use in) various countries from different continents. Furthermore, many effects of greed are structurally the same between these samples, for instance positive associations between the greed and envy, psychological entitlement, materialism, and impulsive buying behavior, and negatively associations between greed and self-control, self-esteem, and life satisfaction. As a further case in point, recent evidence for the luxury hypothesis (that growing up wealthy is related to higher levels of adult greed) as found in a Chinese sample (Liu, Sun, & Tsydypov, 2019) has been replicated in Dutch and American samples (Hoyer, Zeelenberg, & Breugelmans, 2021). Of course, none of this is direct evidence for cultural invariance, and we cannot exclude that there are global conditions that would lead to different relations. However, given the extant evidence, we believe that we can be reasonably confident that our findings are not limited to the Netherlands as a country or a culture.
Let us return to the question that motivated the current research, is there anything good about greed? Despite the clear condemnation of greed in philosophical, religious, and popular writings, our results show that greed is (somewhat) beneficial for economic outcomes (supporting claims put forward by some economists). However, our results also show that greed is mixed for evolutionary outcomes and unfavorable for psychological outcomes. A secondary goal of this study was to disentangle the relationship between greed and self-interest. On the basis of the current findings, we can say that greed and self-interest differ in their relation to economic outcomes and are mostly similar in their relation to evolutionary outcomes (with greed being somewhat more advantageous) and well-being. In short, greed may be good for income but bad for happiness.