Tuesday, June 28, 2022

The replication supports the claim that it is possible to plant a false memory of a childhood event

Murphy, Gillian, Caroline Dawson, Lisa Ballantyne, Liz Barrett, Conor Cowman, Christopher Fitzsimons, Charlotte Huston, et al. 2022. “Lost in the Mall Again: A Preregistered Direct Replication of Loftus & Pickrell (1995).” PsyArXiv. June 28. doi:10.31234/osf.io/nh3zq

Abstract: The seminal Lost in the Mall study (Loftus & Pickrell, 1995) has been enormously influential in psychology and is still cited in many legal cases. The current study directly replicated this paper, addressing key methodological weaknesses including increasing the sample size and preregistering detailed analysis plans. Participants (N = 123) completed a survey and two interviews where they discussed real and fabricated childhood events, based on information provided by an older relative. We replicated the findings of the original study, with 35% of participants reporting a false memory for getting lost in a mall as a child (compared to 25% in the original study). However, using a novel self-report measure, just 14% of participants declared that they remembered the fake event occurring, with a further 52% stating that they believed the fake event had occurred. The replication supports the claim that it is possible to plant a false memory of a childhood event.

Participants for whom religion was “not at all important” in their lives had a tenfold risk of developing Parkinson's disease (vs. very important); plus there was a dose–response relationship between decreasing religiosity & more PD risk

Religiosity and Risk of Parkinson’s Disease in England and the USA. Abidemi I. Otaiku. Journal of Religion and Health, Jun 28 2022. https://rd.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10943-022-01603-8

Abstract: Parkinson’s disease (PD) is associated with low religiosity cross-sectionally. Whether low religiosity might be associated with an increased risk for developing PD is unknown. This study investigated whether low religiosity in adulthood is associated with increased risk for developing PD. A population-based prospective cohort study was conducted. Participants from the English Longitudinal Study of Aging and the Midlife in the United States study who were free from PD at baseline (2004–2011) and completed questionnaires on self-reported religiosity, were included in a pooled analysis. Incident PD was based on self-report. Multivariable logistic regression was used to estimate odds ratios (OR) for developing PD according to baseline religiosity, with adjustment for sociodemographic characteristics, health and lifestyle factors and engagement in religious practices. Among 9,796 participants in the pooled dataset, 74 (0.8%) cases of incident PD were identified during a median follow-up of 8.1 years. In the fully adjusted model, compared with participants who considered religion very important in their lives at baseline, it was found that participants who considered religion “not at all important” in their lives had a tenfold risk of developing PD during follow-up (OR, 9.99; 95% CI 3.28–30.36). Moreover, there was a dose–response relationship between decreasing religiosity and increasing PD risk (P < 0.001 for trend). These associations were similar when adjusting for religious upbringing and when cases occurring within the first two years of follow-up were excluded from the analysis. The association was somewhat attenuated when religious practices were removed from the model as covariates, though it remained statistically significant (OR for “not at all important” vs. “very important”, 2.26; 95% CI 1.03–4.95) (P < 0.029 for trend). This longitudinal study provides evidence for the first time that low religiosity in adulthood may be a strong risk factor for developing PD.


Using prospective data from two population-based cohort studies in England and the USA, the current study shows for the first time that low religiosity in adulthood may be associated with an increased risk for developing PD, accounting for a wide range of potential confounders.

The findings of this longitudinal study are consistent with previous cross-sectional studies, which showed a robust association between PD and low religiosity (Boussac et al., 2021; Butler et al., 2010; Butler et al., 2011; Giaquinto et al., 2011; Kéri & Kelemen, 2016; McNamara et al., 2006; Pham et al., 2021), case-reports showing improvement of parkinsonism after intense religious experiences (Moreno & de Yebenes, 2009) and theoretical work, that has offered biologically plausible mechanisms by which religiosity could confer neuroprotection in PD (Yulug et al., 2015). The results are also in keeping with a recent neuroimaging study (Ferguson et al., 2022), which showed that brain lesions causing parkinsonism, intersect brain regions associated with religiosity.

It is noteworthy that participants who considered spirituality very important in their lives but not religion, had a higher risk for developing PD than participants who considered religion very important, and also participants who considered neither spirituality nor religion very important. This finding is consistent with an earlier study, which showed that individuals with PD, though less likely to have religious beliefs than matched controls, are on the other hand more likely than controls to have spiritual beliefs (Giaquinto et al., 2011). As such, this study corroborates previous research which suggests that individuals who have a spiritual understanding of life in the absence of a religious framework, may be more vulnerable to developing neuropsychiatric disorders (King et al., 2013; Vitorino et al., 2018).

These results are also in agreement with previous studies, which found higher religiosity to be associated with lower risk of developing a wide range of physical (Ahrenfeldt et al., 20172019; Li et al., 2016), mental (Edlund et al., 2010; Miller et al., 2012; Opsahl et al., 2019) and cognitive disorders (Lin et al., 2015). However, the magnitude of the association found in this study is considerably higher than for any physical health condition previously reported, and therefore requires explanation. A recent study identified that individuals with high self-reported intrinsic religiosity may have significantly higher levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) than individuals with low self-reported intrinsic religiosity (Mosqueiro et al., 2019). Given that BDNF has been shown to enhance the survival of dopaminergic neurons in animal models of PD (Palasz et al., 2020) and BDNF levels are significantly reduced in patients diagnosed with PD (Jiang et al., 2019), it is plausible that differences in BDNF levels among healthy adults with different levels of religiosity, could partially explain the dose–response relationship with PD risk observed in this study. In addition, there is accumulating evidence that dopaminergic pathways play a central role in mediating religious experience (Previc, 2006; van Elk & Aleman., 2017). A recent SPECT study found significant changes in dopamine transporter binding in the basal ganglia after attendance at a one-week Christian retreat (Newberg et al., 2018). Earlier studies showed increased dopamine release in the ventral striatum during certain forms of meditation (Kjaer, et al., 2002) and increased blood flow to the caudate nucleus during silent religious prayer (Schjødt et al., 2008). These studies suggest that habitual engagement in religious activities could modify dopamine levels in brain regions linked to PD pathology. Therefore, given strong preclinical evidence that enhancing dopamine neurotransmission with dopamine agonists confers neuroprotection in PD (Schapira & Olanow, 2003); it is plausible that individuals with higher religiosity, also have higher midbrain dopamine levels, and consequently have more protection against developing PD.

It is important to note however, that these results do not necessarily imply that religious participation should now be promoted by public health agencies as a preventative measure for PD; given that people’s religious beliefs and commitments are highly personal, and are not usually arrived at based on health concerns. Moreover, further studies are still required to confirm the exact biological mechanisms linking lower religiosity and PD.

Also, seemingly in contrast to the present findings, previous studies have repeatedly shown that clergy and religious workers—who are presumably high in religiosity—have a higher risk for developing PD compared to adults in the general population (Park et al., 2005; Schulte et al., 1996; Tanner et al., 2009). Although, this association is attenuated when the total number of years having worked in a religious occupation is adjusted for (Tanner et al., 2009). The most parsimonious explanation for this observation, would be that the increased risk for PD is confined to individuals with a religious occupation who subsequently experience a decline in religiosity. However, this suggestion is speculative and future studies will be required to confirm this hypothesis.

In addition, future studies are warranted to determine which aspects of religiosity are most associated with the risk of PD, especially given the striking change in the estimates when religious practices (particularly religious service attendance) were included as covariates in this analysis. On the surface, this would seem to imply that religious practices were harmful, i.e., participants with higher religiosity had a lower risk of developing PD despite engaging in more frequent religious practices. However, this would contradict the previously mentioned literature which seems to suggest that religious practices might be protective. Alternatively, it is possible that participants who engaged in more frequent religious practices, but considered religion relatively unimportant in their daily lives, may have exhibited low intrinsic religiosity—but high extrinsic religiosity. If so, it may be the case that having high extrinsic religiosity in the presence of low intrinsic religiosity, is an even stronger risk factor for developing PD than having consistently low religiosity (i.e., low intrinsic and extrinsic religiosity). Accordingly, adjusting for religious practices might have made the association more apparent—by isolating the effects of intrinsic religiosity on PD. Intriguingly, this theory may be in line with a recent cross-sectional study, which showed that newly diagnosed people with PD had lower intrinsic religiosity than age-and sex- matched healthy controls, despite the two groups being similar for frequency of religious practices (Kéri & Kelemen, 2016). Thus, if this theory is confirmed to be true, this might further explain why some clergy and religious workers are at higher risk of developing PD.

Strengths and Limitations

This study has several strengths, including the prospective design, long follow-up period, use of two large and well-documented population-representative cohorts, inclusion of a wide range of potential confounders, measurement of religiosity at two different time periods in two different continents and employment of a variety of sensitivity analyses. Furthermore, the participants were not selected on the basis of religiosity or PD diagnosis. Several limitations also warrant discussion. Following previous published studies (Kamel et al., 2007; Leng et al., 20182020) this study relied on self-reporting to determine incident PD and therefore may have missed or misclassified some cases. Second, the small number of cases within each level of religiosity led to wide confidence intervals. It is also difficult to fully exclude the possibility of reverse causality, as low religiosity might be an early sign of undiagnosed PD, rather than a risk factor for developing PD (given that PD often has a long latency from motor symptom onset to diagnosis) (Breen et al., 2013). However, the long follow-up period coupled with the findings from the 2-year time lag analysis, suggest that low religiosity preceded the development of clinical PD. This would also be consistent with a recent longitudinal study, which showed that PD does not cause religiosity to decline (Redfern et al., 2020). Moreover, the analysis using 10-year changes in religiosity showed that becoming more religious over time reduced the subsequent risk of developing PD, which implies that low religiosity may cause PD. Previous studies have shown that PD patients with symptoms beginning on the left-side of their body, are less religious on average than PD patients whose symptoms begin on their right-side (Butler et al., 2011; Giaquinto et al., 2011). As information on PD characteristics were not available in this study, it was not possible to confirm whether individuals with low religiosity were more likely to develop left-onset PD. Finally, the findings from this study might not be generalizable to predominantly non-Christian populations (Lin et al., 2015).

If I Could Do It, So Can They: Among the Rich, Those With Humbler Origins are Less Sensitive to the Difficulties of the Poor

If I Could Do It, So Can They: Among the Rich, Those With Humbler Origins are Less Sensitive to the Difficulties of the Poor. Hyunjin J. Koo, Paul K. Piff, Azim F. Shariff. Social Psychological and Personality Science, June 27, 2022. https://doi.org/10.1177/19485506221098921

Abstract: Americans venerate rags-to-riches stories. Here we show that people view those who became rich more positively than those born rich and expect the Became Rich to be more sympathetic toward social welfare (Studies 1a and b). However, we also find that these intuitions are misguided. Surveys of wealthy individuals (Studies 2a and b) reveal that, compared with the Born Rich, the Became Rich perceive improving one’s socioeconomic conditions as less difficult, which, in turn, predicts less empathy for the poor, less perceived sacrifices by the poor, more internal attributions for poverty, and less support for redistribution. Corroborating this, imagining having experienced upward mobility (vs. beginning and staying at the top) causes people to view such mobility as less difficult, reducing empathy and support for those failing to move up (Study 3). These findings suggest that becoming rich may shift views about the poor in ways that run counter to common intuitions and cultural assumptions.

Keywords: rich, social mobility, socioeconomic status, attitudes toward the poor, redistribution

Across five preregistered studies, we found that people expect the Became Rich to hold more sympathetic attitudes toward the poor than the Born Rich (Studies 1a and b). However, our subsequent studies showed these intuitions to be misguided. In reality, the Became Rich thought it less difficult to improve one’s socioeconomic conditions than the Born Rich, views that were negatively linked to redistribution support and various sympathetic attitudes toward the poor (Studies 2a and b). Corroborating this, those induced to feel that they had moved up within an organization (vs. having a stationary high position) thought it less difficult to improve one’s position in the company, which in turn predicted reduced sympathetic attitudes toward others struggling to move up (Study 3). Contrary to lay expectations, people who have successfully achieved upward social mobility may, in fact, be less sensitive to the plight of the poor than those born into privilege.

The current study has several limitations that call for future investigation. First, we cannot definitively draw the conclusion that it is the experience of upward mobility itself that causes shifts in perceptions of difficulty. Although Study 3 is supportive of the possibility, experiencing upward mobility in the workplace may not be the same as experiencing upward mobility in real life—the latter may involve longer time periods and multiple pathways (e.g., own effort, personal connections, luck, and marriage). It will be important to more directly test our findings in future studies by using, for instance, longitudinal approaches to confirm the effect of experienced upward mobility on attitudes toward social welfare. Second, although we targeted rich individuals in the United States, online survey samples do not typically include multimillionaires and billionaires. Revisiting our findings among the super wealthy would be an important next step, given the sociopolitical influence they wield. Third, our methods included information-sparse descriptions of our targets, but in reality, people are identified with specific races and genders (Hester & Gray, 2020). Our results may vary as a function of whether the race or gender, alongside class, of the target is made salient as well as the demographics of the perceivers (Craig & Richeson, 2014). Finally, there could be factors—beyond perceived hard work—that may influence how people view wealthy individuals. For instance, positive perceptions of wealthy targets may be attenuated when wealth is perceived as less deserved, for example via means perceived to be due to luck or unethicality.

The current study has certain methodological limitations. For example, we used several single-item self-report measures to capture our core constructs, and it will be important to extend our findings using more multifaceted and behavioral measures (e.g., Piff, Wiwad et al., 2020). Furthermore, it is important to note that our samples were exclusively made up of Americans. Given the uniquely powerful place that mobility plays in the ethos of the American Dream (Kluegel & Smith, 2017), there is reason to believe that the effects found in our studies may be weaker in other countries. Future studies can explore how universal or culturally contingent our effects are.

Our findings can contribute to the literature in several ways. Prior work finds that social mobility beliefs influence various political and economic attitudes (e.g., redistribution and economic inequality; Alesina et al., 2018Shariff et al., 2016). However, little is known about how individuals’ own social mobility experience can impact their worldviews (Gugushvili, 2016b)—a question made all the more imperative, given the prevalence of social mobility in many modern societies (World Economic Forum, 2020). Here we show that in the United States, for those who are rich, having experienced upward mobility can lead to viewing upward mobility as less difficult, which in turn, shapes attitudes toward those struggling in society. Future studies should extend these results by exploring how other types of mobility experiences (e.g., downward, no mobility) influence people’s beliefs about the social realm.

Previous research has shown a disconnect between people’s perceptions and socioeconomic realities (e.g., the level of income inequality and chances for upward social mobility; Davidai & Gilovich, 2015Norton & Ariely, 2011). Here we show that people may also view individuals who have become rich as more sympathetic than they actually are. It will be important to explore the social and political ramifications of these misperceptions. For example, are the Became Rich viewed as being more charitable, favored more for political office, or forgiven more for their transgressions?

Finally, there is emerging literature on how SES shapes beliefs, attitudes, and emotions (Piff et al., 2018), and how people view various SES groups in society (Fiske et al., 2002Wu et al., 2018). However, much of this work conceptualizes SES as relatively static over the life course. Our work contributes to a growing call in the field to conceptualize SES as dynamic and changing (see Côté et al., 2021). Movements up or down the socioeconomic hierarchy shape attitudes in ways that simple assessments of current class will miss. Ultimately, people’s social views are not only shaped by their current class position but also by the confluence of life forces that led them there.

People hold the belief that the world is growing morally worse, and that this belief is consistent across generational, political, and religious lines

West, Bryan, and David Pizarro. 2022. “Belief in Persistent Moral Decline.” PsyArXiv. June 27. doi:10.31234/osf.io/9swjb

Abstract: Across four studies (3 experimental, total n = 199; 1 archival, n = 186,000) we provide evidence that people hold the belief that the world is growing morally worse, and that this belief is consistent across generational, political, and religious lines. When asked directly about which aspects of society are getting better and which are getting worse, people are more likely to list the moral (compared to non-moral) aspects as getting worse (Studies 1-2). When provided with a list of items that are either moral or non-moral, people are more likely to report that moral (compared to non-moral) items are worsening (Study 3). Finally, when asked the question “What is the most important problem facing America today?” participants in a nationally representative survey (Heffington et al., 2019), disproportionately listed problems that fall within the moral domain (Study 4).