Saturday, March 26, 2022

Like adults, children aged 4-8 years and 8-14 years also perceived many illusory faces in objects to have a gender and had a strong bias to see them as male rather than female, regardless of their own gender identification

Wardle, Susan G., Louise Ewing, George L. Malcolm, Sanika Paranjape, and Chris I. Baker. 2022. “Children Perceive Illusory Faces in Objects as Male More Often Than Female.” PsyArXiv. March 25. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: Face pareidolia is the experience of seeing illusory faces in inanimate objects. Such illusory faces are frequently perceived to have characteristics along social dimensions such as age, gender and emotional expression, suggesting engagement of our face evaluation system. Recently it was shown that adults have a bias to see illusory faces as male more often than female. While children also experience face pareidolia, it is unknown whether they also perceive gender in illusory faces and if so, whether they also show a male bias. Here we investigated the perception of illusory faces and gender in a sample of 412 children and adults from 4 years to 80 years of age. The face pareidolia stimuli were 160 color photographs of illusory faces spontaneously observed in a variety of objects such as food, vehicles, and household items. Participants of all ages saw illusory faces in most stimuli. Like adults, children aged 4-8 years and 8-14 years also perceived many illusory faces in objects to have a gender and had a strong bias to see them as male rather than female, regardless of their own gender identification. These results provide evidence that the male bias for face pareidolia emerges relatively early in the lifespan, even before the ability to discriminate gender from facial cues alone is fully developed. Further, the existence of a male bias in children suggests that any social context that elicits the cognitive bias to see faces as male has remained relatively consistent across recent generations.

Sexual availability cues were judged most effective flirtation tactic when employed by women in short-term mating contexts, while laughing or giggling at someone's jokes was judged an effective flirtation tactic for both sexes

Perceived Effectiveness of Flirtation Tactics: The Effects of sex, Mating Context and Individual Differences in US and Norwegian Samples. Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair et al. Evolutionary Psychology, March 25, 2022.

Abstract: Flirting involves various signals communicated between individuals. To attract potential mates, men and women exhibit flirtatious behavior to get the attention of, and potentially elicit sexual or romantic interest from, a desired partner. In this first large, preregistered study of judgement of the effectiveness of flirtation tactics based on Sexual Strategies Theory, we considered the effects of flirter’s (actor) sex and mating contexts in addition to rater's (participant) sex across two cultures, Norway and the U.S. Culturally relevant covariates such as sociosexuality, extraversion, mate value, age, and religiosity were examined. Participants from Norway (N = 415, 56% women) and the US (N = 577, 69% women) responded to one of four different randomized questionnaires representing a factorial design considering either short-term versus long-term mating context and either female or male sex of actor. We found that sexual availability cues were judged more effective when employed by women in short-term mating contexts. Friendly contact, such as hugs or kissing on the cheek, was not. Cues to generosity and commitment were judged more effective when employed by men in long-term mating contexts. Humor was rated as more effective when used by men and in long-term contexts, and least effective when used by women in short term contexts. However, laughing or giggling at someone's jokes was an effective flirtation tactic for both sexes. Overall, predictions for culturally relevant covariates were not supported, but cultural differences were found in bodily displays, initial contact, and generosity. These findings dovetail neatly with findings from the self-promotion literature, and further support that flirtation is a universal mate signaling strategy.

Keywords: flirtation, sexual strategies theory, commitment, sexual availability, mate value, extraversion, sociosexuality, religiosity

This large-scale study attempts to measure the perceived efficacy of flirtation tactics across two cultures using Sexual Strategies Theory (SST), and provides valuable insights into flirting based on sex, mating context, and culture. There was consensus across the sexes as to which flirtation tactics are most effective and in which mating context they are most effective. In addition, the most robust SST hypotheses are supported in this study, in both samples as well as the total sample, dovetailing neatly with the findings from the work on other mate acquisition tactics (Bendixen & Kennair, 2015Schmitt & Buss, 1996), most recently in a Greek cultural context (Apostolou, Wang, & Gavriilidou, 2021). It also supports the established research on humor's role in attraction and mate value.

As was predicted (H1), flirtation tactics that included cues to sexual availability such as displaying the body, dressing sexy, and sexualized physical contact were judged as more effective when they are employed by women in a short-term mating context. Less sexual, friendly contact was not. The taxonomy of flirtation tactics has therefore become more finely differentiated with the post hoc analyses in this study, highlighting how different types of contact seeking behavior may be perceived as more or less friendly or sexual. It is important to note that H1 was formulated with more sexually laden physical contact behaviors in mind, and that the more the behaviors were in line with that reasoning the larger the sex difference was and thus the more the prediction was supported.

Additionally (H2–H4), flirtation tactics that included cues to generosity and commitment, like intimate conversation and spending time together, were judged as more effective when they were employed in a long-term mating context, specifically by men. In line with SST, both sex and mating context are relevant for flirtation tactics, especially these most robust predictions based on previous research. Overall, these data thus support work initiated by Schmitt and Buss (1996), creating consistency of findings on the effectiveness of different mate acquisition tactics within specific domains across time and culture.

The prediction that seeking attention and contact through comments, chats, and compliments would be more effective in a short-term context (H5) was not supported. However, these comments and compliments may be perceived, particularly by women, as a form of investment, just as intimate conversations were. Women did find these effective in a long-term context, just as they did intimate conversations. Verbal investment or committed attention, such as light conversations/chats, compliments, random comments, and texts, even if it is not prolonged or intimate, may signal continued (even if small) investment. Hess, Fannin, and Pollom (2007) identified three strategies men and women used for increasing closeness in romantic relationships; openness (willingness to share personal information, to seek out and share time together), attention (attending to and trying to remember the other's messages), and involvement (making the effort to be alone with the other). It is this effect that committed attention has on closeness that may be key to it being perceived as effective in long-term contexts.

The differences in humor (H6) were particularly interesting, even if they were expected. Humor production was rated as more effective when used by men and more effective in long-term contexts, and the least effective when used by women in short-term contexts. However, responding to humor through laughing or giggling (H7) was considered an equally effective flirtation tactic for both men and women. Laughing at someone's jokes, regardless of whom they are, is seen as effective flirting. In addition, there was no support for participant sex differences in perceptions of flirtation tactics (H8). Male participants did not find sexual availability tactics more effective than women.

Individual Differences

Overall, the predictions on individual differences, such as sociosexuality, extraversion, mate value, and religiosity, were not supported (H9–H12). More importantly, for the whole sample, the associations between these four variables and flirtation tactics were very small (see Table 5). Of these variables, sociosexuality showed the greatest effects. Yet, even then, the effect was small and it did not moderate the effects of other predictors. This is in line with Bendixen and Kennair (2015), who found significant associations with SOI and increased perceived effectiveness of sexual availability tactics on the one hand and reduced perceived effectiveness of signaling love and commitment tactics on the other. Further, Howell, Etchells, and Penton-Voak (2012) found that people high in sociosexuality, regardless of sex, perceived potential mates as more flirtatious. One would expect that those high in SOI would rate any number of tactics as more effective for flirting, and yet the strongest association was found in unrestricted participants rating generosity somewhat less effective. One issue here may be context. While Penke and Asendorpf (2008) studied flirting and SOI, they assumed this was with the goal of short-term mating, an assumption specifically acknowledged in a footnote in the study. In this study, flirting behaviors that were rated as more effective in long-term contexts in the sample as a whole were rated (albeit slightly) lower in effectiveness as SOI rose. If high SOI individuals do flirt with the express goal of short-term mating as Penke and Asendorpf (2008) assumed, their ratings would (and do) shift in this direction based on mating context. However, this still does not explain the lack of clear-cut differences in SOI ratings by mating context in the sample. Mating context may not have mattered for SOI ratings since short-term mating may be used to test for long-term mate potential (Schmitt & Buss, 1993). Overall, restricted as well as unrestricted individuals may be flirting to secure long-term mates. However, the individual factors may be primarily relevant for participants when they themselves are in a flirting situation.

Cultural Differences

It is important to note that some cultural differences were found in perceived flirting effectiveness. In particular, the US sample rated bodily displays and initial contact as more effective flirting techniques. The US participants also rated generosity as an effective strategy, but particularly male generosity in long-term mating contexts. While the U.S. and Norway may be expected to be similar, as they are both WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic) samples (Henrich, Heine, & Norenzayan, 2010), they do meaningfully diverge on aspect relevant to the current topic; especially on gender equality, sexual liberalism (sociosexuality) and religiosity as found in this and in a comparable previous study (Bendixen et al., 2017). This may provide an interesting, albeit indirect insight; that some variation persists even in cultures meeting the restrictive criteria of WEIRD samples, and further investigation could identify specific cultural factors (like the items listed above) that trigger similar behavioral patterns in other cultures. However, these current research findings show that this cultural variation is overshadowed by consistent differences based on sex and mating context. Limitations and future research

Despite being a pre-registered study, the factorial design with participants being randomly assigned to one of four conditions, and having previous research to build upon, there are limitations involved in how specific such a plan for research is specified. In the current project we noticed that we should have been more detailed in how we defined specific groups of tactics: the factor analysis thus is post hoc and more specific than the preregistration. However, the preliminary analyses of the Norwegian results panned out in the American data. Thus, we have an internal replication; there were no interactions with nation. The universality and replicability of the current findings needs to be addressed in future studies, preferably employing non-WEIRD samples (Henrich, Heine, & Norenzayan, 2010). The current research included heterosexual participants only, which some might think is also a limitation. However, recent research with United States and Canadian participants indicates that sexual orientation does not predict flirting techniques (Clark, Oswald, & Pedersen, 2021).

Regarding the individual characteristics studied: SOI, mate value, extraversion, and religiosity, it appears that the hypothetical nature of the study plays a key role. Participants appear to be able to discern the effectiveness of a flirtation tactic regardless of their tendency or desire to engage in said tactic. While this seems like an obscure or insignificant observation, this is important for research in sexuality, especially in younger samples; a participant does not have to be actively engaging in a romantic or sexual behavior to recognize its effectiveness. In fact, by framing the study in this way, researchers can remove obstacles that are found in studying performed behaviors. For example, Penke and Asendorpf (2008) found that behaviors in high SOI individuals were limited by their relationship status and their partners’ sexual preferences. Those limitations were removed in this current experimental framework.

There are many diverse possible behaviors that may be included under the heading of flirtation tactics (Wade & Feldman, 2016). While some of these are verbal and others non-verbal, still others may be categorized according to different domains of content, such as generosity or sexual availability, as in this study. While the current work attempted to organize and categorize a varied cache of flirtation tactics, more work on the taxonomy of the many possible different flirtation tactics is warranted, building on the current factor analysis. In addition, the combination of these categories can be explored. Men and women often combine tactic categories to test and increase their effectiveness; men may combine generosity and intimate conversation to indicate multileveled investment, women may combine laughing at jokes and physical touch to indicate interest more effectively. These combinations warrant further study. Such combination might also include the added effect of a factor that seemed fundamental in the Norwegian dataset, but that, alas, was not included in the American study: Smiling and establishing eye contact. These and other more precise future predictions will be informed by better defined groups of tactics.

Social media use is not linked to greater belief in political misinformation

Social Media and Belief in Misinformation in Mexico: A Case of Maximal Panic, Minimal Effects? Sebastián Valenzuela, Carlos Muñiz, Marcelo Santos. The International Journal of Press/Politics, March 24, 2022.

Abstract: Contrary to popular narratives, it is not clear whether using social media for news increases belief in political misinformation. Several of the most methodologically sound studies find small to nonexistent effects. However, extant research is limited by focusing on few platforms (usually Facebook, Twitter or YouTube) and is heavily U.S. centered. This leaves open the possibility that other platforms, such as those that rely on visual communication (e.g., Instagram) or are tailored to strong-tie network communication (e.g., WhatsApp), are more influential. Furthermore, the few studies conducted in other countries suggest that social media use increases political misperceptions. Still, these works use cross-sectional designs, which are ill suited to dealing with omitted variable bias and temporal ordering of processes. Using a two-wave survey fielded in Mexico during the 2021 midterm elections (N = 596), we estimate the relationship between frequency of news exposure on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and WhatsApp, and belief in political misinformation, while controlling for both time-invariant and time-dependent individual differences. In contrast to political discussion, information literacy and digital skills, none of the social platforms analyzed exhibits a significant association with misinformed beliefs. We also tested for possible indirect, moderated, and reciprocal relationships, but none of these analyses yielded a statistically significant result. We conclude that the study is consistent with the “minimal media effects” paradigm, which suggests that efforts to address misinformation need to go beyond social platforms.

Keywords: misinformation, misperceptions, social media, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, YouTube, Mexico, Elections‌, panel survey