Friday, February 18, 2022

MicroRNAs are deeply linked to the emergence of the complex octopus brain and the cognitive success of this group

MicroRNAs are deeply linked to the emergence of the complex octopus brain. Grygoriy Zolotarov et al. bioRxiv Feb 16 2022.

Abstract: Soft-bodied cephalopods such as the octopus are exceptionally intelligent invertebrates with a highly complex nervous system that evolved independently from vertebrates. Because of elevated RNA editing in their nervous tissues, we hypothesized that RNA regulation may play a major role in the cognitive success of this group. We thus profiled mRNAs and small RNAs in 18 tissues of the common octopus. We show that the major RNA innovation of soft-bodied cephalopods is a massive expansion of the miRNA gene repertoire. These novel miRNAs were primarily expressed in neuronal tissues, during development, and had conserved and thus likely functional target sites. The only comparable miRNA expansions happened, strikingly, in vertebrates. Thus, we propose that miRNAs are intimately linked to the evolution of complex animal brains.

Victimless Bodily Pleasures (like gluttony, laziness, drinking, or masturbation) Are Moralized Because They Are Perceived as Reducing Self-control and Cooperativeness and as facilitating antisocial behaviors

Fitouchi, Léo, Jean-Baptiste André, Nicolas Baumard, and Daniel Nettle. 2022. “Harmless Bodily Pleasures Are Moralized Because They Are Perceived as Reducing Self-control and Cooperativeness.” PsyArXiv. February 18. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: Why do some people moralize overindulgence in inherently victimless bodily pleasures, such as gluttony, masturbation, drinking, or laziness, when these behaviors appear devoid of any harmful consequences to other people? We test the hypothesis that these moral judgements stem from perceptions that overindulgence alters people’s self-control, thus making them more likely to cheat in cooperative interactions. In an online experiment on 400 American adults, participants judged that a target who was caused to increase his indulgence in bodily pleasures would reduce his self-control and disposition to cooperate. Participants judged, by contrast, that sustained restraint from bodily pleasures over several months would improve a target’s self-control and disposition to cooperate. The effect of indulgence (vs. restraint) on perceived change in cooperativeness was fully mediated by perceived change in self-control. This supports the idea that bodily pleasures are perceived as increasing people’s propensity to cheat because they are perceived as reducing their self-control, which is perceived necessary for cooperative behavior. Finally, the more people perceived indulgence as reducing self-control and cooperativeness, the more they regarded indulgence in victimless bodily pleasures as morally wrong (e.g., masturbation, gluttony, harmless drinking and laziness). These results provide preliminary support for the Moral disciplining theory of puritanism, according to which, although inherently harmless, bodily pleasures are condemned as indirectly facilitating antisocial behaviors through their perceived effect on self-control.

21 countries: Antipathy towards the unvaccinated is larger in countries that suffered fewer COVID-19 deaths and that have higher social trust; found no evidence that unvaccinated respondents display antipathy towards vaccinated people

Bor, Alexander, Frederik J. Jørgensen, and Michael Bang Petersen. 2022. “Prejudice Against the Vaccinated and the Unvaccinated During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Global Conjoint Experiment.” PsyArXiv. February 18. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: Despite early hope that vaccines may end the COVID-19 pandemic, large unvaccinated minorities persist even in countries with high vaccine access. Consequently, public debates and protests have been intensifying over the issue of vaccination. Here, we ask whether people's status as either vaccinated or unvaccinated has come to reflect a socio-political cleavage that spills over even to interactions between people in everyday life. Using a standard measure of exclusionary reactions in family relationships, we quantify the antipathy between vaccinated and unvaccinated citizens in 21 countries (10,740 respondents), representative of 58\% of the world's population. Using conjoint experimental data, we demonstrate that vaccinated people have high antipathy towards the unvaccinated, 2.5 times more than towards a traditional target: immigrants from the Middle East. This antipathy reflects, in part, stereotypic inferences that unvaccinated individuals are untrustworthy and unintelligent, making the antipathy resemble prejudice towards other deviant groups. Antipathy towards the unvaccinated is larger in countries that suffered fewer COVID-19 deaths and that have higher social trust. In contrast, we find no evidence that unvaccinated respondents display antipathy towards vaccinated people, although they are equally prejudiced against immigrants. While previous research recommends framing vaccination as a moral obligation in order to increase uptake, our research documents the costs of this strategy. Whether understandable or not, the antipathy faced by the unvaccinated may exacerbate marginalization and mistrust, which are core causes of their initial vaccine hesitancy, and further entrench the conflict. The novel socio-political cleavage we document may thus be an indication that societies worldwide will leave the pandemic more divided than they entered it.

Our study provides the first evidence that facial masculinity in men is an honest signal of men’s aggressive capacity and intent within same-sex contests

Caton, Neil R., Amy Zhao, David M. G. Lewis, and Barnaby Dixson. 2022. “Facial Masculinity Predicts Men’s Actual and Perceived Aggressiveness.” PsyArXiv. February 18. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: Status obtained via dominance is a phylogenetically ancient feature of human social systems. Yet empirical evidence that men’s secondary sexual traits reliably predict success in intra-sexual contests has been hard to demonstrate. The present work provides the first test of whether masculine craniofacial structures in men predicts aggressiveness in contest competition and whether people accurately assess such aggressiveness from masculine facial cues. After placing 32,447 facial landmarks on the facial stimuli of 457 male fighters, multivariate geometric morphometric analyses extracted 142 distinct facial metrics and revealed that men with better developed masculine facial traits (e.g., large jaw, large browridge, deep-set eyes) attempted more strikes and successfully struck their opponents, including targeting the face. When rating the facial stimuli of these male fighters, participants (N = 500) used men’s masculine facial traits to accurately predict these same components of aggressiveness, including targeting the face. These findings remained robust after accounting for the fighter’s age, total fights, weight division, height, fight duration, and their opponent’s striking frequency. Our findings provide the first evidence that humans accurately forecast men’s agonistic behavior from variation in facial morphology, suggesting perceptual systems have evolved to perceive physical formidability among contemporaries and competitors.