Sunday, March 27, 2022

A decade ago, now-seminal work showed that children are strikingly unskilled at simple tool innovation; since then, a surge of research has replicated these findings across diverse cultures

After a decade of tool innovation, what comes next? Bruce S. Rawlings. Child Development Perspectives, March 24 2022.

Abstract: A decade ago, now-seminal work showed that children are strikingly unskilled at simple tool innovation. Since then, a surge of research has replicated these findings across diverse cultures, which has stimulated evocative yet unanswered questions. Humans are celebrated among the animal kingdom for our proclivity to create and use tools and have the most complex and diverse technology on earth. Our capacity for tool use has altered our ecological environments irrevocably. How can we achieve so much, yet tool innovation be such a difficult and late-developing skill for children? In this article, I briefly summarize what we know about the development of tool innovation, then discuss five outstanding questions in the field. With a focus on different empirical and theoretical perspectives, I argue that addressing these questions is crucial for understanding fully the ontogeny of one of humans’ most notable skills.


In its 2020 Workplace Learning Report, LinkedIn, the global employment company, surveyed professionals in 18 countries, finding that creativity was employees’ most desired soft skill (LinkedIn, 2020). Surveys such as these highlight the increasing demand for innovative and creative skills as valuable economic resources and have motivated global research and educational initiatives exploring whether these skills can be taught in formal education settings (Qian et al., 2019). The impact of formal education on creativity and innovation remains a debated topic. Some argue that the focus of most educational institutions on norm following, rote learning, and standardized teaching and assessments inhibits creative and innovative expression (Goens & Streifer, 2013). Others contend that the experiences afforded by schools, such as wider social interaction, collaboration, and exposure to novel information, promote these skills (Sahlberg, 2009).

To my knowledge, no study has directly assessed the impact of formal education on innovation. However, indirect evidence suggests that exposure to and the quality of formal education may be influential. In one study, 8- to 18-year-olds from the Tsimane population of Amazonian Bolivia who attended high-quality schools outperformed children of the same age and region who went to low-quality schools on abstract reasoning and problem-solving tasks; also, the performance of the children who went to high-quality schools improved significantly more over time (Davis et al., 2021). In developmental studies and research with adults, richer and more diverse social experiences (which attending school presumably promotes) facilitate innovation (Baer et al., 2015; Rawlings, 2018). However, proponents of informal education correctly highlight the cognitive and social benefits of learning outside of school contexts (Sefton-Green, 2012), including how such learning relates to divergent thinking (Dahlman et al., 2013).

These findings are indirect observations, and it is difficult to draw strong conclusions about the relation between formal education and innovation without direct assessments. Given the importance of innovation as a major skill of the 21st century, whether schools can foster the next generation of innovative minds is a topic of global interest. Researchers should examine if and how school curricula, attendance, and academic achievement shape innovation. Even within formal educational settings, approaches to education vary, and work is needed to examine whether specific educational philosophies or activities (e.g., engaging in innovative problem solving, peer collaboration) promote innovation, and whether others (e.g., rote learning, standardized assessments) hinder it. Many schools promote convergent problem solving, focusing on single, correct solutions (e.g., in mathematical problem solving); how does this affect tool innovation? Does informal education shape innovation and if so, how? The globalization of formal education provides a unique and time-sensitive opportunity to document the impact of formal and informal education on the next generation of innovators.


Humans’ proclivity to make and use tools is one of our most distinguished skills, allowing us to survive and prosper in diverse and harsh environments. Particularly puzzling, then, is that tool innovation is such a difficult and late-developing skill. Although the field has made significant progress over the past decade, many outstanding questions remain, and using theoretically derived empirical research to answer them will allow us to make significant strides in our understanding of the development of tool innovation. However, doing so will require rigorous planning, and addressing each question posed here presents unique challenges.

Understanding why tool innovation is so difficult for children calls for disentangling the contributions of cognitive, social, and environmental factors through carefully designed experiments. It also requires introspection about the definitions and methods we currently use to assess tool innovation. Conducting cross-cultural work requires striking a balance between control and generalizability across populations, versus implementing culturally appropriate tool innovation measures, to draw fair comparative conclusions.

This is a difficult endeavor that can only be tackled by extensive piloting alongside collaboration with local researchers and community members. Understanding the trajectory of tool innovation abilities beyond childhood necessitates designing tasks and paradigms that ostensibly capture the same skills and processes in children, adolescents, and adults—a feat the field has yet to achieve. Studying how tool innovation transfers across domains will involve establishing a variety of appropriate measures of innovation and creativity, ideally with longitudinal data to document consistency over time. Finally, examining the association between formal education and innovative skills requires collating measures of school quality and educational philosophy, which vary meaningfully across samples as well as within and across nations. If these challenges are overcome, the field will move forward in a way not before seen. 

Professors are generally not seen as highly narcissistic, though they are viewed as more narcissistic than elementary school teachers

Perceptions of narcissism in college professors. Harry M. Wallace, Alejandro Carrillo & Jack Kelley. The Journal of Social Psychology, Mar 20 2022.

Abstract: We conducted three studies to examine perceptions of grandiose narcissism in college professors. Narcissism might appear incompatible with the profession if professors are viewed fundamentally as helpers or as introverted bookworms. Then again, people might expect professors to display big egos congruent with the prestige of their profession and their privileged public platforms. Our research indicates that professors are generally not seen as highly narcissistic according to the criteria of the Narcissistic Personality Inventory and the Narcissistic Admiration and Rivalry Questionnaire, though they are viewed as more narcissistic than elementary school teachers. More professor narcissism was expected at colleges that prioritize scholarly productivity over teaching excellence. Male professors were viewed as more narcissistic, but only for narcissism dimensions associated with interpersonal hostility and for judgments of whether professors are “narcissistic.” We discuss possible implications for narcissistic professors’ ability to exploit the gap between academic ideals and reward system realities.

Keywords: Narcissismprofessorteachingacademiastereotype

While 'misery loves company' is indeed borne out among certain populations within the sample, we find stronger and more widespread support for the opposite phenomenon, suggesting rather that ‘happiness hates company’

Does misery love company? An experimental investigation. Katherine Farrow, Gilles Grolleau, Lisette Ibanez. Oxford Economic Papers, Volume 74, Issue 2, April 2022, Pages 523–540,

Abstract: The conventional wisdom summarized in the adage ‘misery loves company’ suggests that suffering can be made easier to bear if it is also shared by others. Given increasing interest in subjective well-being and happiness as constituents of national wealth and priorities in policy-making and organizational management, we empirically investigate the validity of this phenomenon in order to explore whether it may be possible to mitigate decreases in subjective well-being simply by leveraging social comparison. We implement an experimental survey designed to gauge the suitability of this strategy on a representative sample of approximately 2,000 US residents. Our results indicate that, while this hypothesis is indeed borne out among certain populations within the sample, we find stronger and more widespread support for the opposite phenomenon, suggesting rather that ‘happiness hates company’. These novel findings can inform policy interventions aiming to enhance well-being and point to promising avenues for further work.

JEL C90 - GeneralD03 - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying PrinciplesD60 - GeneralI31 - General Welfare

People with gender disphoria, particularly male-to-female, want to have children more than cisgenders

Fertility Desire and Motivation Among Individuals with Gender Dysphoria: A Comparative Study. Emre Durcan et al. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, Mar 25 2022.

Abstract: Despite receiving Gender-Affirming Hormone Therapy or Gender-Affirming Surgery, which may adversely impact their fertility, people with Gender Dysphoria (GD) may desire to form families. In this study, we aimed to quantitatively display fertility desire from the perspective of these individuals, despite all the legal challenges they face. The single center, cross-sectional comparative study included individuals with GD and cisgender volunteers. A Sociodemographic Data Form, the Fertility Desire Data Form, the Childbearing Motivations Scale and the Fertility Desire Scale were used. Of the 414 participants, 171 were individuals with GD (110 FtM; 61 MtF) and 243 were cisgender volunteers (142 cis-males; 101 cis-females). While 22% of the people with GD stated that they had regrets about not undergoing fertility preservation, 16% stated that they would like this process if it were legal. People with GD, particularly MtF, want to have children more than cisgenders. Moreover, people with MtF exhibited less negative motivations toward becoming parents, despite having reservations regarding the socioeconomic aspect of parenthood. Our findings indicate that fertility desire in people with GD is not less in comparison to cisgender people. Healthcare professionals should not forget to offer fertility preservation options as part of clinical practice before Gender-Affirming Therapy.

We stick to our romantic relationships even when we discover "dealbreakers" in a partner that presumably make the person unsuitable as a mate

Dealbreakers, or dealbenders? Capturing the cumulative effects of partner information on mate choice. Samantha Joel, Nicolyn Charlot. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Volume 101, July 2022, 104328.

Abstract: Entering and establishing a long-term relationship is typically a gradual process, as dating partners acquire information about each other over weeks or months. In contrast, existing mate selection paradigms (e.g., lab experiments, speed-dating) typically examine single brief encounters with real or potential mates. In the current research, we used a Choose Your Own Adventure design to examine how potential dealbreakers operate within the context of a broader relationship dynamic. In two studies, a combined total of 1585 participants read a story about a new dating relationship. At each of 17 junctures in the story, participants chose whether to continue dating or end the relationship. Potential dealbreakers were independently manipulated to be present or absent at each juncture, for a total of up to 17 negative pieces of information about the partner. Study 2 was a preregistered replication and extension of Study 1. On average, participants did not reject the hypothetical partner until several potential dealbreakers had been presented (M = 4.20 in Study 1, M = 3.68 in Study 2). Participants' self-reported dealbreakers consistently aligned with their in-story decisions. Even so, participants tended to encounter at least two of their own personal dealbreakers before choosing to reject (Study 2). Together, these studies highlight the sequential, iterative nature of partner evaluations, and illustrate a novel, accessible method for testing models of early relationship development.

Keywords: Romantic relationshipsMate choiceDealbreakersFledgling relationshipsRelationship developmentCompatibility