Saturday, October 8, 2022

Market-integrated participants display universalism in moral decision-making, & non-market participants make more moral decisions towards co-villagers

Market Participation and Moral Decision-Making: Experimental Evidence from Greenland. Gustav Agneman, Esther Chevrot-Bianco. The Economic Journal, ueac069, September 23 2022.

Abstract: The relationship between market participation and moral values is the object of a long-lasting debate in economics, yet field evidence is mainly based on cross-cultural studies. We conduct rule-breaking experiments in 13 villages across Greenland (N=543), where stark contrasts in market participation within villages allow us to examine the relationship between market participation and moral decision-making holding village-level factors constant. First, we document a robust positive association between market participation and moral behaviour towards anonymous others. Second, market-integrated participants display universalism in moral decision-making, whereas non-market participants make more moral decisions towards co-villagers. A battery of robustness tests confirms that the behavioural differences between market and non-market participants are not driven by socioeconomic variables, childhood background, cultural identities, kinship structure, global connectedness, and exposure to religious and political institutions.

JEL C91 - Laboratory, Individual BehaviorD01 - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying PrinciplesD62 - Externalities

Do Children Cause the Cognitive Stimulation They Receive? Modelling the Direction of Causality

Oginni, Olakunle, and Sophie von Stumm. 2022. “Do Children Cause the Cognitive Stimulation They Receive? Modelling the Direction of Causality.” PsyArXiv. October 8.


We tested the directionality of associations between children’s early-life cognitive development and the cognitive stimulation that they received from their parents. Our sample included up to 15,314 children from the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS), who were born between 1994 and 1996 and assessed at age 3 and 4 years on cognitive development and cognitive stimulation, including singing rhymes, reading books, and playing games.

Across a series of genetically informative models, we found consistent, bidirectional causal influences from cognitive development at age 3 to cognitive stimulation at age 4, and from cognitive stimulation at age 3 to cognitive development at age 4. The prospective causal paths in both directions accounted for a third and up to half of the constructs’ phenotypic correlations. Our findings emphasize the active role that children play in constructing their learning experiences, and challenge the idea that children are passive recipients of environmental inputs.


Twin studies can be used to strengthen causal inferences for observed associations between two constructs by controlling for their shared genetic and environmental influences (McAdams et al., 2021). Specifically, twin studies can address whether associations between a putatively environmental exposure and developmental differences in a phenotype remain significant after accounting for the confounding effects of shared etiology (i.e., common causes; McAdams et al., 2021). Recent years have seen an explosion of novel modelling approaches that extend the classical twin design, which enable causal inferences but are yet to be systematically applied in psychological research (Eberli et al., 2019; McAdams et al., 2021). Here, we fitted direction-of-causality (DoC) models (Heath, 1993), Mendelian Randomization (MR) extensions of the DoC model (Minic─â et al., 2018), and cross-lagged twin models (Burt et al., 2005) to investigate if children’s cognitive stimulation causes their cognitive development or vice versa at age 3 and 4 years.

We found prospective causal associations between children’s cognitive development and their cognitive stimulation that were bidirectional. Thus, contemporaneous mechanisms drive the causal influences between cognitive ability and stimulation: Children benefit from experiencing cognitively stimulating environments, and at the same time their cognitive development evokes the cognitive stimulation that their parents provide. Our findings align with a growing body of evidence documenting that children are not passive recipients of environmental inputs but select, modify, and create experiences that are correlated with their genetic proclivities (Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 2006; Wertz et al., 2019).

The prospective, bidirectional causal influences between cognitive development and cognitive stimulation were significant, accounting for between a third to nearly half of their phenotypic correlations across time. Thus, a substantial proportion of the phenotypic associations between cognitive development and cognitive stimulation can be attributed to bidirectional causal effects, while shared etiology or common causes – in particular, the shared environment – accounted for the remainder of the correlations. Finding that common causes and bidirectional causal effects jointly explain the associations between cognitive development and cognitive stimulation is key for developing realistic expectations for the magnitude of the effects that early-life interventions can possibly achieve (von Stumm, 2022).

We also showed that children’s differences in cognitive development and stimulation are largely due to shared environmental influences (56%-74%), followed by additive genetic influences (24%-40%). A similar pattern emerged for the etiologies of the associations between cognitive development and stimulation, which were again mainly due to shared environmental (76%-83%) and then additive genetic influences (16%-20%). Non-shared environmental influences on cognitive development and cognitive stimulation were negligible. While this study is to our knowledge the first to estimate the heritability of cognitive stimulation and its association with cognitive development, our findings confirm that all traits are heritable, including putatively environmental measures that are genetically influenced (Krapohl et al., 2017; Plomin, 1995; Polderman et al., 2015).


Notwithstanding this study’s many strengths, including the analysis of twin and genomic data, large sample sizes, and repeated assessments of the core constructs using state-of-the-art methods, it is not without limitations. First, cognitive stimulation was assessed using seven parent-reported items, but a multi-informant approach (i.e., naturalistic home observations) with a greater number of observed variables would have improved the measures’ validity. Second, data on cognitive stimulation were only collected at the twins ages 3 and 4 years, which made it impossible to test for meaningful changes in the direction of causality over the longer course of childhood. Third, the association between the PGS for years spent in education (Lee et al., 2018) and cognitive development was small, which is indicative of weak instrument biases that can lead to overestimation of causal effects (Burgess & Thompson, 2011). In addition, cognitive development and cognitive stimulation did not have a sufficiently differentiated genetic architecture to meet the assumptions of DoC models (Health, 1993; van Bergen et al., 2018). As a result, our preregistered analysis strategy was not viable, and we fitted cross-lagged twin models instead that require longitudinal data.

On average, people tend to overstate the improvement in their well-being over time and to understate their past happiness

Feeling Good Is Feeling Better. Alberto Prati and Claudia Senik. Psychological Science, Oct 7 2022.

Abstract: Can people remember their past happiness? We analyzed data from four longitudinal surveys from the United States, France, the United Kingdom, and Germany spanning from the 1970s until the present, in which more than 60,000 adults were asked questions about their current and past life satisfaction. We uncovered systematic biases in recalled happiness: On average, people tended to overstate the improvement in their well-being over time and to understate their past happiness. But this aggregate figure hides a deep asymmetry: Whereas happy people recall the evolution of their life to be better than it was, unhappy ones tend to exaggerate their life’s negative evolution. It thus seems that feeling happy today implies feeling better than yesterday. This recall structure has implications for motivated memory and learning and could explain why happy people are more optimistic, perceive risks to be lower, and are more open to new experiences.

The Equality Paradox: Gender Equality Intensifies Male Advantages in Adolescent Subjective Well-Being

The Equality Paradox: Gender Equality Intensifies Male Advantages in Adolescent Subjective Well-Being. Jiesi Guo et al. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, October 7, 2022.

Abstract: Individuals’ subjective well-being (SWB) is an important marker of development and social progress. As psychological health issues often begin during adolescence, understanding the factors that enhance SWB among adolescents is critical to devising preventive interventions. However, little is known about how institutional contexts contribute to adolescent SWB. Using Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2015 and 2018 data from 78 countries (N = 941,475), we find that gender gaps in adolescents’ SWB (life satisfaction, positive and negative affect) are larger in more gender-equal countries. Results paradoxically indicated that gender equality enhances boys’ but not girls’ SWB, suggesting that greater gender equality may facilitate social comparisons across genders. This may lead to an increased awareness of discrimination against females and consequently lower girls’ SWB, diluting the overall benefits of gender equality. These findings underscore the need for researchers and policy-makers to better understand macro-level factors, beyond objective gender equality, that support girls’ SWB.

Social salience of self-control (tight) vs-self-indulgence (loose) orientations, English books, XX century: The trend of self-control displays a steady increase throughout, self-indulgence increases from the late 70s-early 80s

The self-control vs. self-indulgence dilemma: A culturomic analysis of 20th century trends. Alberto Acerbi, Pier Luigi Sacco. Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics, October 6 2022, 101946.


• We study the long-term dynamics of self-control vs. self-indulgence

• We adopt a culturomic approach analyzing the Google Books English corpus

• Self-indulgence shows a trend reversal around the 80s

• The analysis clearly tracks the onset of the consumerist revolution

• Our results are robust to choice of high-frequency words

Abstract: Within the conceptual framework of the Tightness-Looseness paradigm, we study the dynamics of the social salience of self-control (tight) vs-self-indulgence (loose) orientations across the 20th century on the basis of the English Google Books corpus, by means of the construction of specific lexica of which we track their relative frequency. We find that whereas the trend of self-control displays a steady increase throughout, that of self-indulgence is U-shaped, so that following a decline along the most part of the century, starting from the late 70s-early 80s we observe a reversal of the trend that signals an increasing salience of self-indulgence. Such result seems to reflect the consumerist turn that has characterized the post-industrial cycle from the 80s onwards. The coexistence of growing trends for mutually antagonizing orientations calls for further analysis of their social interplay. We also perform a parallel analysis on semantically related lexica that confirm the robustness of our findings.

Keywords: Self-controlself-indulgenceTightness-Loosenessculturomicsconsumerism

JEL: B52C89Z13