Saturday, February 12, 2022

What does it mean to be (seen as) human? The importance of gender in humanization

Martin, A. E., & Mason, M. F. (2022). What does it mean to be (seen as) human? The importance of gender in humanization. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Feb 2022.

Abstract: What does it mean to be (seen as) human? Ten studies explore this age-old question and show that gender is a critical feature of perceiving humanness, being more central to conceptions of humanness than other social categories (race, age, sexual orientation, religion, disability). Our first six studies induce humanization (i.e., anthropomorphism) and measure social-category ascription. Across different manipulations (e.g., having participants recall experiences, observe moving shapes, imagine nonhuman entities as people, and create a human form), we find that gender is the most strongly ascribed social category and the one that uniquely predicts humanization. To provide further evidence that gender is central to conceptions of personhood, and to examine the consequences of withholding it, we then demonstrate that removing gender from virtual humans (Study 5), human groups (Study 6), alien species (Study 7), and individuals (Study 8) leads them to be seen as less human. The diminished humanness ascribed to nongendered and genderless targets is due, at least in part, to the lack of a gender schema to guide facile and efficient sensemaking. The relative difficulty perceivers had in making sense of nongendered targets predicted diminished humanness ratings. Finally, we demonstrate downstream consequences of stripping a target of gender: Perceivers consider them less relatable and more socially distant (Study 8). These results have theoretical implications for research on gender, (de)humanization, anthropomorphism, and social cognition, more broadly.

We report a previously unidentified difference emotional regulation styles, with conservatives reporting a healthier approach to emotion regulation via cognitive reappraisal strategies; found more negative mood states among political liberals

David L. Dickinson, 2022. "Political ideology predicts mood and emotion regulation. Examining potential pathways to key life outcomes," Working Papers 22-03, Department of Economics, Appalachian State University.

Abstract: Previous research has identified importance differences in key life outcomes between political conservatives and liberals (e.g., happiness, academic success, involvement in crime). Potential mechanisms suggested in the literature have included self-control or personality traits that may systematically differ by political ideology. We preregistered plans to test for “dark” personality trait and self-control differences in political conservatives and liberals, with aims to replicate previously reported findings. We also examined differences in cognitive reflection style and emotion regulation. Three survey waves were obtained from an initial pool of U.S. participants (n=650 initial respondents, n=498 in Wave 2, n=402 in Wave 3) split roughly equally across political conservatives and liberals. We report a consistent null effect of political ideology on selfcontrol, and dark personality traits, in contrast to previous studies. Our data show higher cognitive reflection tendencies among those who are more politically liberal, consistent with past research. However, we report a previously unidentified difference emotional regulation styles, with conservatives reporting a healthier approach to emotion regulation via cognitive reappraisal strategies. Finally, a common mood elicitation in each of the three studies consistently reveals significantly more negative mood states among political liberals. Together, these findings suggest that mood and mood regulation may be a more important mechanism towards understanding preferred outcome differences in conservatives compared to liberals.

Key Words: self-control, political ideology, individual differences, mood regulation, dark personality

Gender Differences in Motives and Emotional Outcomes Following Casual Sex: No predictors (apart from being a man) were found for a positive emotional outcome

Was it Good for You? Gender Differences in Motives and Emotional Outcomes Following Casual Sex. Billie E. McKeen, Ryan C. Anderson & David A. Mitchell. Sexuality & Culture, Feb 11 2022.

Abstract: Casual sex, also referred to as a hookup, has been associated with a range of negative emotional outcomes for women, including regret, anxiety, depression and social stigma. However, it has been argued that it is the nature of the sexual motivation, not gender that influences the emotional outcome. This study was designed to ascertain what motivates people to have casual sex, what emotional outcomes follow casual sex and whether there are gender differences among these variables. Seven hundred and one participants (47% men and 52.8% women) completed a 44-item online survey. Gender differences were found for both sexual motivations and emotional outcomes of casual sex, with women generally having more negative emotional outcomes than men. Additionally, a principal components analysis uncovered four reliable principal motivations underlying engagement in casual sex, and three principal emotional outcomes of casual sex. Predictors of negative emotional outcomes included being motivated to regulate negative emotions and to achieve positive emotions. No predictors (apart from being a man) were found for a positive emotional outcome. While the stigma surrounding female sexual agency is diminishing, results generally support the presence of a sexual double-standard which encourages male promiscuity but dissuades female sexual autonomy.


It was hypothesised that there would be gender differences in motivations and emotional outcomes relating to casual sex. These hypotheses were supported, with overall gender differences for both, and a number of strong gender differences for individual items. Furthermore, when reduced to discrete factors, motivations predicted emotional outcomes.

Gender Differences in Motivations and Outcomes

Although there was an overall gender difference in the motivations for casual sex, it is noteworthy that men and women similarly endorsed statements such as ‘I had a hookup for personal enjoyment/fun’. Such findings support the idea that social stigma surrounding women’s sexual agency is diminishing. There was also a significant overall gender difference in emotional outcomes following casual sex, and differences for 11 of the 13 individual outcome items. Women reported significantly more negative emotional outcomes than men, including loneliness, unhappiness, rejection, regret, general negative feelings, and a perception of negative judgment from others. Conversely, men reported greater sexual satisfaction, happiness, self-confidence, contentment, and mood improvement. Each of these findings is consistent with the general idea that men experience some kind of emotional enhancement from engaging in casual sex, but for women the emotional effect is reductive. While the statistical effect-size of the gender difference here was reasonably small (ηp2 = 0.08), it is worth noting that of the 11 items indicating a gender difference, women reported a greater agreement to 6, while the reverse was true for five, thus the average difference misrepresents the more nuanced story.

Women reported significantly more regret, loneliness, unhappiness, rejection and negative feelings about one’s self in comparison to men following their most recent hookup experience. It is important to note that this finding is consistent with research from an evolutionary perspective, which suggests that women experience more regret than men because short-term sexual relationships are considered less advantageous for women’s reproductive success, and conversely, advantageous for men’s reproductive success (Galperin et al., 2013; Kennair et al., 2018). However, the item that loaded on the same factor as all of these items was ‘concern about being negatively judged by others’ which supports the sexual double standard from a social psychological perspective (Eagly & Wood, 1999).

Within Western culture, women are supposedly empowered and gender equality regulations are in place to enhance equality in opportunities, however, the findings of this investigation suggest that women do not experience casual sex in the same way as men. Women reported more concern about being negatively judged by others after engaging in casual sex than men. There is a risk of social stigma, namely slut shaming leading to social isolation for women, marking them as lower in status and less deserving of respect with the risk of social isolation, poor reputation and negative emotions (Armstrong et al., 2014).

Western culture supports gender equality, and levels of sexual permissiveness are arguably becoming more liberal. Engagement in casual sex is becoming increasingly acceptable, and it is noteworthy that the modest effect sizes in gender differences reported here may suggest that the disparity is decreasing, but the risk of experiencing negative emotional outcomes is still considerably greater for women than it is for men (Armstrong et al., 2014). Men are rarely threatened with social repercussions in the same way that women are, therefore expressing sexual autonomy is arguably less prohibitive for them (Farvid et al., 2017).

While the current study reported considerable gender differences in emotional outcomes, dissimilar findings of a minimal or null effect may be an artefact of methodological inconsistency. Vrangalova (2015) used a sample of young adults enrolled in higher education, however, the current sample was more heterogeneous, and inclusive of adults from more diverse backgrounds with ages ranging from 18 to 82.

Motivations Predicting Emotional Outcomes

The motivation to regulate negative emotions accounted for most of the variance in the data, suggesting that many individuals engage in casual sex in an effort to regulate their negative emotions. This motivation was also predictive of negative emotional outcomes. Having casual sex to manage feelings of loneliness, misery, unhappiness and irritability may lead to negative emotional outcomes, including feelings of regret, rejection, unhappiness, loneliness, negative feelings towards one’s self, and concern about being negatively judged by others. Although, the non-causal nature of the relationship bears mention, it may just be that a negative mindset is associated with both problematic motivations for and outcomes of casual sex.

We did not find a motivation that predicted positive emotional outcomes. It may simply be that a positive emotional outcome following casual sex is too difficult to reliably predict with only a small (unnuanced) set of variables, or that the more likely outcome of casual sex may be the reduction of something negative as opposed to the addition of something positive. However, the motivation, to achieve positive emotions, was found to predict neutral emotional outcomes. This may suggest that having sex for personal gratification, enjoyment, or fun can lead to an unchanged mood and feelings remaining the same.

Strengths, Limitations and Recommendations for Future Research

While the theme of gender differences in attitudes toward casual sex is by no means a new one, we believe that the current study is unique in a number of ways. For one, many studies in this area recruit younger (college-aged) samples. The sample of the current study, recruited via social media, was heterogeneous (and hence more generalizable) in terms of both age and ethnicity. Additionally, few studies have previously attempted to quantify the relationship between emotional motivations for and the emotional outcomes of casual sex.

In the current study participants were asked to refer to their most recent hookup experience but were not asked when this experience occurred. Future studies may wish to quantify this in order to determine whether the passage of time has an impact on emotional outcomes (or perception thereof). It is reasonable to suggest that as time passes since one’s last hookup experience, the strength of the emotions associated with the event may be tempered by temporal distance. Future studies may also benefit from measuring an individual’s sociosexual orientation and general wellbeing as both may be important control variables. For example, an individual that exclusively seeks short-term mating opportunities and/or is psychologically unwell is presumably motivated to engage in sexual behaviour for different reasons than a more stable, relationship oriented person.

The current study clearly defined the term ‘hookup’, based on previous research in the area (Napper et al., 2016; Owen et al., 2011). Defining the term for participants was an important component of the study, to ensure that participants were referring to the same range of sexual behaviours. Research on this phenomenon is methodologically inconsistent and often uses vague definitions for casual sex, such as “use whatever term you use with your friends” (Uecker & Martinez, 2017) and “sexual behavior occurring outside of long-term romantic relationships” (Vrangalova, 2015). However, the frequency with which an individual engaged in casual sex was not measured. Future research may wish to do so as emotions associated with a behaviour (especially highly valent ones) may well be enhanced as the frequency of said behaviour increases.

While the current study compared those who identify as male to those who identify as female, it neglected to gather information regarding transgenderism and gender identities beyond the traditional binary. Doing so was consistent with the weight of previous empirical literature (but see Wilson et al., 2010), however, if for no other reason than scientific rigour, further research into transgender/non-binary populations is needed. Future studies may wish to consider stratifying their sample by gender identity in order to gain a more nuanced understanding of attitudes toward, and emotional outcomes of, casual sex.

Finally, although the sample employed in the current study was ethnically heterogeneous, it was predominantly Caucasian. While this is consistent with the overwhelming majority of previous research, racial discourse in this area is critical to the ongoing discussion surrounding casual sex. Future studies should consider sampling from non-Western areas, or potentially stratisfying their sample by race.

The current study makes a unique and meaningful contribution to the literature in that it established that some (but not all) outcomes of casual sex can be predicted based on understanding an individual’s motivations for engaging in such. Namely, people who engage in sex to regulate negative emotions are likely to experience negative emotional outcomes. It is unclear as to whether this is because causal sex enhances pre-existing negative emotions or is just not an effective method for managing such emotions. It may be that the current study was unable to determine predictors of positive emotional outcomes following casual sex simply because we did not ask the right questions. Future studies in this area may consider conducting qualitative interview research in order to gain a richer and more nuanced understanding of this phenomenon, and potentially insight into attitudes and behaviors associated with favourable emotional outcomes.

The takeaway message of this research is clear: when engaging in anything from a kiss to coital intercourse outside of a committed relationship, ensure your underlying motivation is not to regulate negative emotions.

People foster an illusion of understanding human better than algorithmic decision-making, when in fact, both are black-boxes

Bonezzi, A., Ostinelli, M., & Melzner, J. (2022). The human black-box: The illusion of understanding human better than algorithmic decision-making. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. Feb 1011.

Abstract: As algorithms increasingly replace human decision-makers, concerns have been voiced about the black-box nature of algorithmic decision-making. These concerns raise an apparent paradox. In many cases, human decision-makers are just as much of a black-box as the algorithms that are meant to replace them. Yet, the inscrutability of human decision-making seems to raise fewer concerns. We suggest that one of the reasons for this paradox is that people foster an illusion of understanding human better than algorithmic decision-making, when in fact, both are black-boxes. We further propose that this occurs, at least in part, because people project their own intuitive understanding of a decision-making process more onto other humans than onto algorithms, and as a result, believe that they understand human better than algorithmic decision-making, when in fact, this is merely an illusion.