Thursday, September 8, 2022

People consistently rated the presence of a health problem as less strongly genetically determined than its absence

Asymmetrical genetic attributions for the presence and absence of health problems. Matthew S. Lebowitz, Kathryn Tabb, Paul S. Appelbaum. Psychology & Health, Sep 6 2022.

Objective: Recent research has suggested that people more readily make genetic attributions for positively valenced or desirable traits than for negatively valenced or undesirable traits—an asymmetry that may be mediated by perceptions that positive characteristics are more ‘natural’ than negative ones. This research sought to examine whether a similar asymmetry in genetic attributions would emerge between positive and negative health outcomes.

Design: Across seven experiments, participants were randomly assigned to read a short vignette describing an individual experiencing a health problem (e.g. hypertension) or a corresponding healthy state (e.g. normal blood pressure).

Main Outcome Measures: All participants provided ratings of naturalness and genetic attributions for the outcome described in their assigned vignette.

Results: For diagnoses other than addictive disorders, participants rated the presence of a diagnosis as less genetically caused than its absence; for addictive disorders, the presence of a diagnosis was rated as more genetically caused than its absence. Participants consistently rated the presence of a health problem as less natural than its absence.

Conclusion: Even within a single domain of health, people ascribe differing degrees of ‘naturalness’ and genetic causation to positive versus negative health outcomes, which could impact their preferences for treatment and prevention strategies.

Keywords: Geneticssocial cognitionhealth beliefspsychological essentialismcausal attributionmotivated reasoning

Around the globe, parenthood is accompanied by more conservative worldviews, and experimentally inducing a parental mindset boosts conservative thinking

Experimental and cross-cultural evidence that parenthood and parental care motives increase social conservatism. Nicholas Kerry et al. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. September 7 2022.

Abstract: Differences in attitudes on social issues such as abortion, immigration and sex are hugely divisive, and understanding their origins is among the most important tasks facing human behavioural sciences. Despite the clear psychological importance of parenthood and the motivation to provide care for children, researchers have only recently begun investigating their influence on social and political attitudes. Because socially conservative values ostensibly prioritize safety, stability and family values, we hypothesized that being more invested in parental care might make socially conservative policies more appealing. Studies 1 (preregistered; n = 376) and 2 (n = 1924) find novel evidence of conditional experimental effects of a parenthood prime, such that people who engaged strongly with a childcare manipulation showed an increase in social conservatism. Studies 3 (n = 2610, novel data from 10 countries) and 4 (n = 426 444, World Values Survey data) find evidence that both parenthood and parental care motivation are associated with increased social conservatism around the globe. Further, most of the positive association globally between age and social conservatism is accounted for by parenthood. These findings support the hypothesis that parenthood and parental care motivation increase social conservatism.

4. Discussion

Results from four studies, using multiple methodologies, measures and samples convergently suggest that parenting motives—assessed both objectively as parenthood status and subjectively as parental care motivation—fundamentally influence social conservatism. Studies 1 (n = 376) and 2 (n = 1871) provided evidence that experimentally inducing a parental mindset leads to increased social conservatism in participants who engaged more with the manipulation. Study 3 (n = 2610) found robust associations between parental care motivation and social conservatism across 10 countries. Consistent with our theoretical framework, the relationships in Studies 1–3 were largely specific to social—not economic—conservatism. Finally, Study 4 (n = 426 444) found evidence that parents, and especially parents of multiple children, have more traditional and more socially conservative views in dozens of countries around the world.

Studies 3 and 4 provide an important insight into age-related increases in social conservatism. Across seven waves of WVS data and in a combined novel sample from 10 countries, the relationship between age and social conservatism appears to be largely a consequence of parents (especially parents of multiple children) scoring higher on social conservatism and, on average, being older. Thus, it appears that parenthood, not age (or the wisdom that comes with it), drives the putative age-conservatism relationship.

The cross-cultural evidence presented in Studies 3 and 4 was correlational, such that we cannot confidently conclude that parenthood itself causes social conservatism. However, the experimental work on US participants, combined with the non-independence of parenthood and age-related increases in social conservatism in the multinational samples of Studies 3 and 4, suggests a provisional hypothesis that some people become more socially conservative as they age because of motivational changes induced by parenthood. While it is not possible to directly test causality by randomly assigning people to become parents, future cross-cultural work using experimental and longitudinal methods should aim to provide further attempts to falsify this hypothesis.

The moderated experimental effects in Studies 1–2, while consistent with a causal explanation, could also plausibly be explained by non-random allocation. An alternative explanation for these moderated effects could be that people high in parental care motivation—who were also higher in social conservatism—responded more strongly to the parenting (versus control-) manipulations, while those lower in parental care motivation—who were less conservative—responded more strongly to the control manipulations. However, this alternative hypothesis would predict a moderated effect of condition (by emotional engagement) on parental care motivation regardless of whether it was measured before or after the manipulation. On the contrary, Study 1 (where the PCAT was administered before the manipulation) found a moderated effect on social conservatism but no moderated effect on parental care motivation. Meanwhile, Study 2 (where both measures were administered after the manipulation), found a moderated effect on parental care motivation, which was larger than the effect on social conservatism and also fully mediated this latter effect (see electronic supplementary material).

Another potential limitation is that the findings relating to parental care motivation in Studies 1–3 were based on self-report data, which allows the possibility that phenomena such as social desirability could, in theory, explain the correlations between parenting motives and social conservatism. However, social desirability seems unlikely to account for the relationship: parental care motivation has been shown to correlate positively with social desirability, while in many countries—including the USA and South Korea, two of the countries in which the relationship between parental care motivation and social conservatism was strongest—socially desirable answering is negatively associated with conservatism (e.g. [3336]). Thus, controlling for social desirability would be unlikely to decrease the strength of the relationship between parental care motivation and social conservatism.

In Study 4, the relationship between parenthood status and conservative attitudes was widespread but not universal, suggesting the possibility of sociocultural moderators. Further, the present study did not include samples from pre-industrial societies (e.g. hunter–gatherers or horticulturalists). Cultures like these might offer important insights into boundary conditions for the relationship between parenting motives and social conservatism, and also into the reasons for its existence. For example, if biological parenthood itself leads to increases in parental care motivation and social conservatism, this would predict a difference in these variables between parents and non-parents in cultures where childcare is shared relatively evenly within a community (e.g. the Efe culture of the Democratic Republic of Congo [37,38]). However, if engaging in childcare is more important, this would predict similar relationships in non-parents who engage in extensive childcare. Similarly, at an individual level, research on parents of adoptive versus biological children could provide insight into the relative influence of biological versus behavioural parenting.

Future research may also address more precisely how changes in parental care motivation and ideological beliefs correspond to different life stages, such as parenthood, grandparenthood and menopause. For example, are times when fertility or short-term mating opportunities are low—but when childcare is pertinent—associated with more conservative attitudes? Consistent with this theoretical rationale, some preliminary work has found that number of grandchildren is positively associated with some aspects of social conservatism (specifically gender-related issues and conformity) even when controlling for age and number of children [39]. More focused future research should seek to establish whether having multiple young family members is sufficient to change political beliefs, or whether engaging (or investing) in childcare is a necessary component.

If our central hypothesis—that parental care motives lead to more socially conservative attitudes—is correct, this could provide important insights into the long-term impacts of policies and technologies that directly influence birthrates (e.g. abortion restrictions, China's ‘one child policy’, birth control). Similarly, given that birthrates are declining in most of the world—but increasing sharply in some regions [40]—the current findings could have profound implications for the political landscape of the future. Specifically, our findings would suggest that global increases in childlessness could potentially contribute to a process of liberalization on social issues. Consequently, integrating these findings into existing models of political attitudes may contribute to more accurate models of population-level shifts in ideology.