Thursday, October 20, 2022

The young, those with low information literacy, and those with high trust in government tend to hold mistaken beliefs, even without exposure to misinformation; already misinformed, eventual exposure to fake news does little to influence them

Not who you think? Exposure and vulnerability to misinformation. Nicolas M Anspach, Taylor N Carlson. New Media & Society, October 19, 2022.

Abstract: Is exposure to false information necessary for misbelief? In this article, we consider the possibility that certain individuals hold misinformed beliefs without encountering misinformation, thus questioning for whom exposure to “fake news” is most deleterious. Using a pre-registered experiment on a diverse sample of 1079 US respondents, we find that the young, those with low information literacy, and those with high trust in government tend to hold mistaken beliefs, even without exposure to misinformation. Because these groups are already misinformed, eventual exposure to fake news does little to influence their misperceptions. Instead, misinformation exposure affects the elderly, those with high information literacy, and those with low trust in mainstream media the most. These results suggest that research focused on correcting misperceptions should avoid studying how certain characteristics correlate with misbelief only in misinformation’s presence.

Student loans & the Income-Driven Repayment plan: Unfortunately, all the negative effects of the IDR proposal arise because of its generosity—the fact that nearly all borrowers will be asked to repay only a fraction of borrowed amounts

Biden's Income-Driven Repayment plan would turn student loans into untargeted grants. Adam Looney. Brookings Institution, September 15, 2022.

There are several dimensions in which it is likely to have significant, unanticipated, negative effects.

* Increased borrowing. In 2016, undergraduate students borrowed $48 billion in federal student loans. But students were eligible to borrow an additional $105 billion that year and chose not to. Graduate students borrowed about $34 billion, but left $79 billion in unused eligibility on the table. Perhaps they didn’t borrow because their parents paid out of pocket or because they chose to save money by living at home—they still were eligible for federal loans. When those students are offered a substantial discount by paying with a federal loan, they will borrow billions more each year. (For more details, see below.)

* It subsidizes low-quality, low-value, low-earning programs and guts existing accountability policies. Because the IDR subsidy is based primarily on post-college earnings, programs that leave students without a degree or that don’t lead to a good job will get a larger subsidy. Students at good schools and high-return programs will be asked to repay their loans nearly in full. Want a free ride to college? You can have one, but only if you study cosmetology, liberal arts, or drama, preferably at a for-profit school. Want to be a nurse, an engineer, or major in computer science or math? You’ll have to pay full price (especially at the best programs in each field). This is a problem because most student outcomes—both bad and good—are highly predictable based on the quality, value, completion rate, and post-graduation earnings of the program attended. IDR can work if designed well, but this IDR imposed on the current U.S. system of higher education means programs and institutions with the worst outcomes and highest debts will accrue the largest subsidies.

* At the same time, the IDR proposal exempts failing programs from existing accountability policies like the Cohort Default Rate rules, which prohibit institutions from participating in federal grant and loan programs if too many of their students default on their loans. Under the proposal, certain students will be auto-enrolled in IDR, which can allow them to cease making payments without defaulting. It would be great to have a system in which default was not an option, but in today’s system, this eliminates the last remaining policy with any teeth that keeps predatory schools out of the loan program.

* High potential for abuse. A large share of student debt is not used to pay tuition, but is given to students in cash for rent, food, and other expenses. At public colleges and for-profits, living expenses represent more than half the estimated cost of attendance (which sets the upper limit on how much students can borrow). At many large for-profit schools (not known to leave money on the table), between 30% to 75% of student loans are returned to students in cash. (Indeed, I think this is a key reason anyone goes to these schools.)

* While students certainly need to pay rent and buy food while in school, under the administration proposal a student can borrow significant amounts for “living expenses,” deposit the check in a bank account, and not pay it all back. Gaming the system like this wasn’t possible when students were asked, on average, to repay loans in full, and it’s not a problem in systems where loans are used exclusively for tuition. But that’s not the system we have. Some people will use loans like an ATM, which will be costly for taxpayers and is certainly not the intended use of the loans.

* Who benefits is arbitrary, unequal, and unfair. As I’ve written in the past, a large share of student debt is owed by well-educated, white, financially successful students from upper-class families, which means that broad debt relief policies are regressive and preserve gaps between more and less advantaged groups instead of closing them. Compared to other federal spending programs intended to reduce poverty or benefit children, broad debt relief programs are more costly and benefit more advantaged Americans.

* Almost all undergraduate and graduate students will be eligible for reduced payments and eventual forgiveness under the proposal, which makes it effectively untargeted. Moreover, the amounts borrowers save (and eventually have forgiven) are based largely on the amounts students borrow, which means the benefits are uncapped and disproportionately flow to borrowers with the largest loans, who are more likely to be graduate students and students who attended more expensive programs. This makes it quite different, for example, from Biden’s recently announced debt relief plan, which focused relief on Pell Grant recipients, capped forgiveness at $20,000, and excluded high-income borrowers from participating.

* Likewise, while the IDR plan will reduce the amounts students ultimately pay for their education, it shouldn’t be confused with a policy to reduce or eliminate tuition and fees at public colleges like we do for public K-12 education. That’s because this IDR plan will cover a much larger range of costs: tuition and fees at for-profit and nonprofit schools, tuition and fees for graduate and professional school, and living expenses for college and graduate students. At many graduate programs, for example, a single graduate student living alone will be able to borrow more than $20,000 per year just for living expenses and never pay it back. For perspective, that is about double what a low-income single mother with two children can expect to get from the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and food stamps combined. (The EITC maximum benefit is $6,164, and the average food stamp benefit for a family of three is $520 per month.)

* College tuition for low-income and most middle-income families is already largely covered by other federal, state and private aid; why is the government making it a priority spend more to cover the cost of expensive colleges, graduate programs, and living expenses for upper-middle-class families instead of on policies that serve the truly disadvantaged?

* Tuition inflation. A common objection to unrestricted tuition subsidies is that it will cause institutions to raise tuition. There’s good evidence for this at for-profit schools. High-price law schools have designed schemes to take advantage of generous debt forgiveness plans called Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAPs), plans under which universities and students effectively shift the cost of tuition to taxpayers by exploiting debt forgiveness programs. It’s plausible that some institutions will change prices to take advantage of the program.

* At the graduate level, it’s clear that many students will never pay their loans at existing tuition levels, and thus will be indifferent if those programs raise tuition. Given the caps that apply to undergraduate loans (which limit the amounts undergraduates can borrow to between $5,500 and $12,500 per year), there is little room for schools to increase revenue by increasing the amount that existing borrowers borrow. Instead, my belief is that increases in undergraduate financial aid increase college costs primarily by increasing the number of (lower-quality) programs and the students who enroll in them. My fear, with regards to overall college costs, is that institutions will have an incentive to create valueless programs and aggressively recruit students into those programs with promises they will be free under an IDR plan.

* Budget cost. While there are huge uncertainties about how many borrowers will enroll in the program and the behavioral responses, it’s plausible that the new IDR proposal will cost as much (or more) as the existing Pell Grant program over the next decade while being much, much worse than the Pell Grant program—for all the incentives described above, plus it isn’t targeted, as Pell is, at lower-income households.

Unfortunately, all the negative effects of the IDR proposal arise because of its generosity—the fact that nearly all borrowers will be asked to repay only a fraction of borrowed amounts.

Originality in online dating profile texts made the owner appear more intelligent, attractive, and worth a try

Originality in online dating profile texts: How does perceived originality affect impression formation and what makes a text original? Tess van der Zanden ,Alexander P. Schouten,Maria B. J. Mos,Emiel J. Krahmer. PLOS One, October 19, 2022.

Abstract: This paper investigates origins and consequences of perceived profile text originality. The first goal was to examine whether the perceived originality of authentic online dating profile texts affects online daters’ perceptions of attractiveness, and whether perceptions of (less) desired partner personality traits mediate this effect. Results showed the positive impact of perceived profile text originality on impression formation: text originality positively affects perceptions of intelligence and sense of humor, which improve impressions of attractiveness and boost dating intention. The second goal was to explore what profile text features increase perceptions of profile text originality. Results revealed profile texts which were stylistically original (e.g., include metaphors) and contained more and concrete self-disclosure statements were considered more original, explaining almost half of the variance in originality scores. Taken together, our results suggest that perceived originality in profile texts is manifested in both meaning and form, and is a balancing act between novelty and appropriateness.

General discussion

As far as we are aware, this is the first study that has focused on perceived originality in online dating profiles. In the perception study, we first investigated the effects of perceived profile text originality on impression formation. This was done by presenting actual users of web-based dating sites with dating profiles which they evaluated on the profile’s originality and the profile owner’s personality and attractiveness. Next, we conducted a content analysis to explore what characteristics in a dating profile text increase perceptions of profile text originality.

Results of the perception study show that higher scores on perceived intelligence and sense of humor mediate the positive relationship between perceived profile text originality and impressions of attractiveness and dating intention (H1 and H2). This positive correlation of perceived originality, intelligence, sense of humor, and attractiveness accords with correlations found in prior studies [2628]. Contrary to the expectations in H3, we found that higher originality scores lead to lower rather than higher oddness scores. In line with our expectation, profile owners scoring higher on perceived oddness scored lower on attractiveness and dating intention.

The perception study data showed thus that, overall, perceptions of profile text originality positively affect impressions of the profile owner’s personality and attractiveness, but the content analysis provides insights into what profile text characteristics could increase these text originality perceptions. Our results reveal that primarily stylistic and self-disclosure features predicted higher text originality scores. It seems that profiles that were perceived as more original were more likely to contain fixed and novel metaphors (stylistic features), and more and concrete self-disclosures (self-disclosure features). Finally, profiles deemed original were less likely to be (fully) written from a self-perspective (perspective-taking feature).

Implications and directions for future research

This study yields several implications for theory and future studies on (the effects of) originality. First, our study reveals that a general consensus exists among the online dating site users of this study about what profile texts are original and not. Moreover, the participants showed high agreement on the owners of which profiles were considered odd, and these profiles scored low on originality. Consistent with the two-dimensional concept of creativity [12], this finding suggests that, without being instructed to do so, online daters apply novelty and appropriateness criteria to assess a profile’s originality; only profiles that are both novel and appropriate are considered original, profiles that are just novel are not. This raises the question where to draw the line between profiles that are novel but not appropriate, profiles that are appropriate but not novel, and profiles that are both novel and appropriate. A future study could investigate this by asking participants to evaluate the perceived novelty and appropriateness of a large set of texts instead of the text’s overall perceived originality.

Second, the results of the perception study show that online daters use profile originality as a cue to form impressions about profile owners. More specifically, it seems that a profile’s originality primarily leads to positive impressions, both with regard to perceptions about the profile owner’s personality (higher scores on intelligence and sense of humor), and the profile owner’s attractiveness and participants’ dating intentions. This positive effect of originality on impression formation is further corroborated by the finding that perceived originality did not lead to higher scores on perceptions of the less desired trait oddness. Originality may thus be seen as a positive characteristic of a dating profile, which accords with previous interview studies in which online daters expressed negative attitudes towards dating profiles lacking originality [16,17]. However, as the participants of the present study were older adults who are members of dating platforms on which the textual component on a dating profile plays a prominent role, these results need to be corroborated among younger samples as younger adults are often more inclined to use dating applications with more picture-based dating profiles. It would be interesting to investigate how different dating demographics define and appreciate originality in dating profile texts.

Third, the results of the exploratory content analysis suggest that originality is a multifaceted construct in online dating: perceptions of text originality are affected by choices of form (stylistic features) as well as meaning (self-disclosure statements). This suggests that in addition to a multidimensional construct (i.e., novel and appropriate), originality is manifested through both meaning and form characteristics in dating profiles. Future research should examine how the criteria of novelty and appropriateness on the one hand, and meaning and form on the other hand, relate to each other. For example, stylistic features may be form characteristics that can boost a profile’s novelty, while self-disclosure features may be meaning characteristics that are added to satisfy appropriateness criteria. The latter assumption builds upon an earlier study that suggested that online daters reveal personal information to conform with contextual expectations [24].

Our findings may well extend to other text genres, such as job application letters or consumer-to-consumer advertisements. There, text originality may also be a balancing act between novelty and appropriateness. Moreover, it is also likely that in these and other texts, originality is not only defined by form, but also by certain meaning characteristics that are specific to the context. For example, a consumer-to-consumer advertisement should not only be original in form, but should perhaps also always contain specific product information in order to be perceived as original. Whether these assumptions hold in other contexts though, is up for future studies.

Fourth, this study has shown that it is possible to assess perceived text originality from authentic profile texts based on content analytical features. Our methodological approach offers opportunities for other research aiming to investigate what constitutes originality in texts and how perceived originality affects evaluations. With the features coded in this study, we were able to explain nearly half of the variation in perceived profile text originality scores, and particularly the manually-coded features were important in this. A next challenge would be to examine whether automated measures of the manual-coded features of this study that seemed to indicate perceived text originality, could be developed using natural language processing (NLP) techniques, such as feature extraction and language modeling.

The use of authentic online dating profile texts is thus one of the study’s strengths. At the same time, ethical issues can and should be taken into consideration when using authentic texts. When conducting this study, we had obtained ethical approval of our local REDC, and we made every effort to ensure that sentences and phrases used in our stimuli could not be traced back to the original writers. Nevertheless, a debate has emerged in social sciences recently (e.g., [72]): can people’s online texts be used for scientific analyses, even when these texts are publicly available, if the writers of those texts are not aware of this? There is no simple answer to this, and much depends on the specific online platform and the exact purpose of the study. This is an important consideration for future studies looking into communicative practices in online communicative settings, ranging from BTL reader comments on news sites to online dating.

Bringing Attention to the Eyes Increases First Impressions of Warmth and Competence

More Than Meets the Eyes: Bringing Attention to the Eyes Increases First Impressions of Warmth and Competence. Morgan D. Stosic, Shelby Helwig and Mollie A. Ruben. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, October 19, 2022.

Abstract: The present research examined how face masks alter first impressions of warmth and competence for different racial groups. Participants were randomly assigned to view photographs of White, Black, and Asian targets with or without masks. Across four separate studies (total N = 1,012), masked targets were rated significantly higher in warmth and competence compared with unmasked targets, regardless of their race. However, Asian targets benefited the least from being seen masked compared with Black or White targets. Studies 3 and 4 demonstrate how the positive effect of masks is likely due to these clothing garments re-directing attention toward the eyes of the wearer. Participants viewing faces cropped to the eyes (Study 3), or instructed to gaze into the eyes of faces (Study 4), rated these targets similarly to masked targets, and higher than unmasked targets. Neither political affiliation, belief in mask effectiveness, nor explicit racial prejudice moderated any hypothesized effects.