Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Prospective personality-outcome associations, even over decades, were quite robust—across studies, personality characteristics, outcomes, moderators, and covariates; personality characteristics are robustly associated of life outcomes

Beck, E. D., & Jackson, J. J. (2022). A mega-analysis of personality prediction: Robustness and boundary conditions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 122(3), 523–553. Feb 2022. https://doi.org/10.1037/pspp0000386

Abstract: Decades of studies identify personality traits as prospectively associated with life outcomes. However, previous investigations of personality characteristic-outcome associations have not taken a principled approach to covariate use or other sampling strategies to ensure the robustness of personality-outcome associations. The result is that it is unclear (a) whether personality characteristics are associated with important outcomes after accounting for a range of background variables, (b) for whom and when personality-outcome associations hold, and (c) that background variables are most important to account for. The present study examines the robustness and boundary conditions of personality-outcome associations using prospective Big Five associations with 14 health, social, education/work, and societal outcomes across eight different person- and study-level moderators using individual participant data from 171,395 individuals across 10 longitudinal panel studies in a mega-analytic framework. Robustness and boundary conditions were systematically tested using two approaches: propensity score matching and specification curve analysis. Three findings emerged: First, personality characteristics remain robustly associated with later life outcomes. Second, the effects generalize, as there are few moderators of personality-outcome associations. Third, robustness was differential across covariate choice in nearly half of the tested models, with the inclusion or exclusion of some of these flipping the direction of association. In summary, personality characteristics are robustly associated with later life outcomes with few moderated associations. However, researchers still need to be careful in their choices of covariates. We discuss how these findings can inform studies of personality-outcome associations, as well as recommendations for covariate inclusion.

Teaching About Sex and Gender in Neuroscience: More Than Meets the "XY"

Casto, Kathleen V., Elizabeth Leininger, and Taralyn Tan. 2022. “Teaching About Sex and Gender in Neuroscience: More Than Meets the "XY".” PsyArXiv. February 10. psyarxiv.com/qc492

Abstract: Offering courses on the neuroscience of sex and gender can help support an inclusive curriculum in neuroscience. At the same time, developing and teaching such courses can be daunting to even the most enthusiastic educators, given the subject’s complexities, nuances, and the difficult conversations that it invites. The authors of this article have all developed and taught such courses from different perspectives. Our aim is to provide educators with an overview of important conceptual topics as well as a comprehensive, but non-exhaustive, guide to resources for teaching about sex/gender in neuroscience based on our collective experience teaching courses on the topic. After defining vital terminology and briefly reviewing the biology of sex and sex determination, we describe some common topics within the field and contrast our current nuanced understandings from outdated misconceptions in the field. We review how (mis)representation of the neuroscience of sex/gender serves as a case study for how scientific results are communicated and disseminated. We consider how contextualization of sex/gender neuroscience research within a broader historical and societal framework can give students a wider perspective on the enterprise of science. Finally, we conclude with a brief discussion on how to choose learning goals for your course and implementation notes.

Does Democracy Make Taller Men? Cross-Country European Evidence

Does Democracy Make Taller Men? Cross-Country European Evidence. Alberto Batinti, Joan Costa-Font. Economics & Human Biology, February 15 2022, 101117. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ehb.2022.101117


• Study whether a democracy improves a measure of individual wellbeing; human heights.

• Drawing on individual-level datasets, we test the hypothesis using a battery of eight different measures of democracy and derived averages

• We document that democracy - or its quality during early childhood - shows a strong and positive conditional correlation with male, but not female, adult stature.

• Preferred estimates suggest that being born in a democracy increases average male stature from a minimum of 1.33 to a maximum of 2.4 cm.

• An additional contribution when democracy increases furtherly during adolescent years, and when we adopt measures of existing democratic capital before birth and at the end of height plasticity in early adulthood.

• We also find that democracy is associated with a reduction in inequality of heights distribution.

• We find period-heterogeneity in our results, with early democratizations being more effective on heights than later ones. Results are robust to the inclusion/exclusion of countries exposed to communism.

Abstract: We study whether a democracy improves a measure of individual wellbeing; human heights. Drawing on individual-level datasets, we test the hypothesis using a battery of eight different measures of democracy and derived averages, and include models accounting for several confounders, regional and cohort fixed effects. We document that democracy - or its quality during early childhood - shows a strong and positive conditional correlation with male, but not female, adult stature. Our preferred estimates suggest that being born in a democracy increases average male stature from a minimum of 1.33 to a maximum of 2.4 cm. We also show a positive association when democracy increases from childhood to adolescence, and when we adopt measures of existing democratic capital before birth, and at the end of height plasticity in early adulthood. We also find that democracy is associated with a reduction in inequality of heights distribution. We finally find evidence of period-heterogeneity, namely, early democratizations are associated with taller people more than later ones. Results are robust to the inclusion of countries exposed to communism.

JEL I18 P2

Keywords: democracywellbeinghuman heightswaves of democratisationcommunismEuropesurvey data

Sexual Behaviors Reported by a US Survey vs. Depictions of Sex in Male–Female Pornography: Kissing, male orgasm, female orgasm, and condom use were significantly less prevalent in the videos videos than in real experience

Porn Sex versus Real Sex: Sexual Behaviors Reported by a U.S. Probability Survey Compared to Depictions of Sex in Mainstream Internet-Based Male–Female Pornography. Niki Fritz, Vinny Malic, Tsung-chieh Fu, Bryant Paul, Yanyan Zhou, Brian Dodge, J. Dennis Fortenberry & Debby Herbenick. Archives of Sexual Behavior, Feb 14 2022. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10508-021-02175-6

Abstract: Using data from a 2014 U.S. nationally representative probability survey and a 2014 content analysis of 2562 male–female videos from two popular pornographic websites, this study aimed to: (1) compare the prevalence of survey respondents’ event-level sexual behaviors with those depicted in mainstream pornography online videos; (2) compare event-level condom use with condom use prevalence in pornographic videos; (3) compare event-level orgasm with prevalence of orgasms in pornographic videos; and (4) assess whether respondents’ partnered use of pornography was associated with the sexual behaviors in which they report engaging. We found that kissing, male orgasm, female orgasm, and condom use were significantly less prevalent in the pornographic videos than in survey respondents’ most recent sexual experiences. Conversely, penile–anal intercourse and fellatio were significantly more prevalent in the pornographic videos than in participants’ reports of their most recent sexual experience. There were no significant differences between the prevalence of cunnilingus or sex toy use represented in the videos as compared to survey respondents’ reports. Finally, we found that individuals who reported partnered pornography use during their most recent sexual experience were more likely to report having engaged in oral sex, penile–anal intercourse, and sex toy use and were also more likely to report female orgasm during their most recent sexual experience.


This study’s results suggest notable differences between the sexual behaviors portrayed in free mainstream male–female pornographic videos and the sexual behaviors reported at participants’ most recent sexual event in a recent US nationally representative survey, the 2014 NSSHB. In general, the sex depicted in pornography appears to be less focused on intimacy or affection, more focused on male sexual pleasure (but not necessarily orgasm) including more often depicting penile–anal intercourse and fellatio, and less often depicting kissing, condom use, and female orgasm. This divergence between real life sex and sex depicted in mainstream pornography may reflect the fact that mainstream pornography has mostly been created for men, and often by men, and for the specific role of a perceived and rather limited male fantasy (Jensen, 2007). Much of mainstream pornography continues to be made within the narrow confines of what is sometimes described as male fantasy, thus persistently recreating a relatively narrow range of pornographic sexual scripts that diverge from the sexual realities of most Americans. This is perhaps not surprising given that a common motivation of pornography use is fantasy (and facilitation of masturbation and ejaculation) and men are more often consumers of pornography. However, it may be concerning that the fantasy of pornography is reinforced for men, while there are few avenues for other more realistic sexual scripts given the lack of quality sex education (Rabbitte & Enriquez, 2018).

Although many sexuality education programs remain focused on abstinence-only education (SIECUS, 2021), these findings provide an empirical base for both comprehensive sexual education and pornography literacy educational programs. While these programs have often assumed differences between porn and real-life sexual behaviors, the present study provides empirical data to contextualize both pornographic videos as well as those described by survey participants. For example, this study found a sizable gap between how often kissing is shown in male–female pornographic videos (25% of the time) compared to 2014 NSSHB respondents’ event-level sexual repertoires (88% of the time). It is not clear why kissing is uncommonly depicted in pornography. After all, kissing is a common way of initiating sexual activities (Byers & Heinlein, 1989; Clarke, 2006; O’Sullivan & Byers, 1992). Kissing during sex is also one of the highest rated behaviors in terms of appeal, with about 86.0% of both women and men in a 2015 US nationally representative study rating it as very or somewhat appealing (Herbenick et al., 2017). Kissing has been associated with sexual satisfaction, relationship satisfaction, emotional intimacy, sexual pleasure, and arousal, as well as postcoital affection (Herbenick et al., 2019; Hughes & Kruger, 2011; Kruger & Hughes, 2010; Muise et al., 2014). That said, kissing is not universally included in partnered sexual behaviors in the USA and, when absent, a common reason (especially for younger people) has been that kissing would have felt too intimate of a behavior with a particular partner (Herbenick et al., 2019). Thus, the dearth of kissing in male–female pornographic videos may be an intentional marker of non-relational or less intimate sex. Alternatively, the lack of kissing may reflect stereotypes about men (who more often view pornography) as not being interested in kissing, intimacy, or romance, thereby underestimating how appealing most men (like most women) find kissing. Pornography literacy programs might utilize these findings as part of class discussions about gendered myths and stereotypes about preferences for kissing and other affectionate behaviors.

Another important area of discrepancy is pornographic depictions of oral sex in and of themselves, as well as compared with respondents’ reports. Specifically, we found that fellatio was depicted in the videos more than twice as often as cunnilingus. This is consistent with earlier research demonstrating that sexual behaviors that prioritize male sexual pleasure (such as fellatio) are more often shown in pornography compared to sexual behaviors (such as cunnilingus) that focus on female sexual pleasure (Bridges et al., 2010). In fact, in this study, occurrences of fellatio were as prevalent as depictions of penile–vaginal intercourse (66% vs. 65%, respectively). While fellatio tends to be reported more often than cunnilingus among adolescents and young adults, this gender gap appears smaller among middle age cohorts (Herbenick et al., 2010; Woods et al., 2016), and consistent with our findings. Notably, both male and female orgasm were depicted less often in pornography in comparison with survey participants’ reports, though male orgasm was still depicted in pornography scenes three times as often as female orgasm (36% vs. 12% scenes, respectively). The most likely explanation for the low prevalence of orgasms included in scenes—even in contrast to older pornographic images from DVDs or videotapes—is that contemporary Internet-based pornographic scenes tend to be cut into much shorter scenes taken from longer videos. Yet, findings are generally consistent with prior content analyses of pornography (Klaassen & Peter, 2015) as well as past population-level studies of sexual behavior that have found male orgasm to be more prevalent than female orgasm in male–female partnered sex (Herbenick et al., 2010). These findings may be useful for clinicians to use in support of clients who are working to understand how to create more equitable and reciprocal sexual partnerships; they may also be useful for sexuality educators in addressing gendered experiences of sex in and outside of pornographic imagery.

Although depicted less frequently than kissing or oral sex, penile–anal intercourse occurred in almost 1 in 5 pornographic scenes, which is significantly higher than the 4% of survey participants who reported penile–anal intercourse in their most recent sexual encounter. An examination of research on anal sex behaviors demonstrates that while many US adults (about 40%) have engaged in anal sex ever in their lives, far fewer engage in it with much frequency or even rate it as appealing—that is, at least among those identifying as heterosexual or reporting other-sex partners (Herbenick et al., 20102017; McBride & Fortenberry, 2010). Clinicians and educators (particularly those who integrate media literacy into their teaching) might find these data support discussions about what people perceive as “common” or even nearly ubiquitous behaviors and why. Although beyond the scope of this paper, it is important to note that pornography literacy programs should be sexually inclusive and discuss the social norms surrounding penile–anal intercourse for men who have sex with men, for whom anal sex is more commonly and more frequently reported in US probability surveys (Dodge et al., 2016). Our study findings collectively support inquiry into how people learn about sex, including which sexual behaviors are rare or common or may be anticipated by potential sexual partners, especially in a culture that drastically limits school-based sexuality education.

Regarding condom use, we found that only 3% of video scenes showed a condom being used, consistent with prior research about condom use in heterosexual films (Grudzen et al., 2009). Yet, more than six times as many survey participants reported having used a condom during their most recent intercourse event. As for why condom use is so rarely depicted in pornographic videos, some producers have expressed concern that showing condom application or use would not be liked by the largely male viewership (e.g., might be a turn-off). However, a study of 213 undergraduate men found substantial support for condoms being used in pornography (Kraus & Rosenberg, 2016), suggesting ways for producers of pornography to provide content their viewers indicate wanting to see. This is important given recent increases in STIs in the USA, including evidence of the novel coronavirus-19 in feces and conflicting evidence of its presence in semen (Li et al., 2020; Machado et al., 2021; Nouri-Vaskeh & Alizadeh, 2020; Song et al., 2020). In contrast, a recent study of gay male pornography found that while 34% of scenes depicted unprotected penile–anal sex, 36% of scenes depicted penile–anal sex with a condom (Downing et al., 2014), suggesting a different standard, cultural norm, and safe sex script within heterosexual versus gay pornography.

Dyadic Pornography Use

Examining how partnered pornography consumption may be associated with sexual behaviors, this study found that individuals who consumed pornography with their partner before or during sex reported engaging in significantly more fellatio and penile–anal intercourse, two sexual behaviors more frequently depicted in pornography compared to real life. This finding is in line with Wright’s (2011) model of sexual socialization; partners who watch pornography together may experience more script–situation correspondence and thus may be more likely to follow scripts in pornography. Particularly considering penile–anal intercourse, one quarter of survey respondents who consumed pornography together with their partner also reported engaging in anal sex with that partner. Given that this sexual behavior is infrequently enacted between women and men, perhaps couples who consume pornography together are more familiar with seeing anal sex, which is depicted in about one in five pornographic scenes. Alternatively, couples who have a broader sexual repertoire (one that more often includes anal sex) may also be more likely to watch pornography with a partner. It is also unknown to what extent the anal intercourse, for example, was fully wanted or enjoyed by both partners. It is possible that some portion of these anal sex events occurred as a result of gendered power imbalances, pressure or coercion, which is frequently noted in research on women’s experiences with penile–anal intercourse (Fahs et al., 2015; Hess et al., 2013; Kaestle, 2009; Rogala & Tydén, 2003). Subsequent research might examine to what extent partnered viewing of pornography and anal sex (as well as other kinds of sex) are associated due to perceived pressure as compared to reasons such as curiosity, desire, and/or pleasure.

Regarding the findings on partnered pornography use, however, some findings did not completely align with theoretical predictions. For example, individuals who reported partnered pornography use were also more likely to report both cunnilingus and female orgasm. While cunnilingus was portrayed less frequently than fellatio in pornographic scenes, it was depicted in similar rates to survey participants’ reports. Yet for individuals who consumed pornography with their partner, almost 50% reported engaging in cunnilingus. Perhaps related, more individuals who watched pornography with their partner also reported female orgasm (87% vs. 64%). Research does suggest that, for women, cunnilingus is related to orgasm (Andrejek & Fetner, 2019). Instead of simply mimicking depicted behaviors, couples may be engaging in a wider variety of sexual behaviors, which has been associated with greater likelihood of orgasm (Herbenick et al., 2010). As Weinberg et al. (2010) found, pornography may normalize previously unknown sexual behaviors such as cunnilingus or empower couples to explore other behaviors. From the female partner’s perspective, one study found that women who consumed pornography were more easily aroused during partnered sex compared to those who did not view pornography (McNabney et al., 2020). Indeed, viewing pornography with a partner may allow women the opportunity to share their own desires and possibly expand their sexual repertoire to include sexual behaviors focused on clitoral or vulvar stimulation. While pornography depictions do appear to favor male pleasure, it appears that individuals’ partnered use of pornography is also associated with sexual behaviors commonly associated with female sexual pleasure and orgasm.

Notably, there was no difference reported in kissing between those who reported dyadic pornography use and those who did not. This suggests that couples’ pornography use may not lead to a less intimate experience even though kissing is rarely included in pornographic videos. While prior research suggests pornography consumption by individuals is associated with lower levels of couples’ sexual and relationship satisfaction, our research suggests that co-viewing pornography may be a part of, or even facilitate, couples’ sexual exploration and female pleasure. It may be that co-viewing pornography allows couples to talk about sexual desires or negotiate sex in a way that separate viewing of pornography does not. Subsequent research might examine how sexual partners initiate co-viewing, how they feel about it, and the extent to which they feel it contributes to their experiences of sexual pleasure, thus addressing an important gap in research (McKee et al., 2021).

Strengths and Limitations

The present study is marked by several strength and limitations. A significant strength of this research is the sampling. This study used a content analysis of randomly sampled male–female pornographic videos from two popular tube sites and analyzed data from a US nationally representative probability survey to examine male–female partnered sexual behaviors in the general population. Data collection occurred close in time with the videos sampled in Fall 2013 and Spring 2014 and the survey administered in Fall/Winter 2014. The sheer number of videos sampled (2562) makes the present content analysis one of the largest conducted to date. However, the pornography sample came from only two websites which, while highly trafficked, may have yielded different behavioral data than if other websites had been sampled. Additionally, the online videos are generally shorter than full length pornographic DVDs, and thus, caution should be exercised in comparing this study’s findings to earlier research that used full-length scenes from DVDs or videotapes for the level of analysis.

Regarding the US probability survey, it was (like most US nationally representative surveys) limited to non-institutionalized individuals who were able to read and respond to questions in the English language. The size of certain subsample groups, such as individuals reporting dyadic pornography together, was relatively low. Any conclusions drawn from analysis of such data must acknowledge the lack of statistical power involved when undertaking certain comparisons. The present analysis is also limited to male–female videos and male–female partnered sex; subsequent work might examine similar research questions with different gender compositions (including male–male, female–female, transgender individuals, group sex, etc.) for video content analyses as well as adults’ survey responses.