Friday, December 16, 2022

Humans stand alone in nature in their ability to form lasting, peaceful and productive relationships with conspecifics from foreign groups

The Evolution of Peace. Luke Glowacki. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, December 16 2022.

Abstract: While some species have affiliative and even cooperative interactions between individuals of different social groups, humans are alone in having durable, positive-sum, interdependent relationships across unrelated social groups. Our capacity to have harmonious relationships that cross group boundaries is an important aspect of our species’ success, allowing for the exchange of ideas, materials, and ultimately enabling cumulative cultural evolution. Knowledge about the conditions required for peaceful intergroup relationships is critical for understanding the success of our species and building a more peaceful world. How do humans create harmonious relationships across group boundaries and when did this capacity emerge in the human lineage? Answering these questions involves considering the costs and benefits of intergroup cooperation and aggression, for oneself, one's group, and one's neighbor. Taking a game theoretical perspective provides new insights into the difficulties of removing the threat of war and reveals an ironic logic to peace—the factors that enable peace also facilitate the increased scale and destructiveness of conflict. In what follows, I explore the conditions required for peace, why they are so difficult to achieve, and when we expect peace to have emerged in the human lineage. I argue that intergroup cooperation was an important component of human relationships and a selective force in our species history in the past 300 thousand years. But the preconditions for peace only emerged in the past 100 thousand years and likely coexisted with intermittent intergroup violence which would have also been an important and selective force in our species’ history.

How musicality changes moral consideration: People judge musical entities as more wrong to harm

How musicality changes moral consideration: People judge musical entities as more wrong to harm. Tanushree Agrawal, Joshua Rottman, and Adena Schachner. Psychology of Music, June 4, 2022, Volume 51, Issue 1.

Abstract: A growing literature shows that music increases prosocial behavior. Why does this occur? We propose a novel hypothesis, informed by moral psychology: evidence of others’ musicality may promote prosociality by leading us to judge musical individuals as having enhanced moral standing. This effect may be largely indirect, by increasing perceptions of how intelligent and emotionally sensitive musical individuals are. If so, simply knowing about others’ musicality should affect moral evaluations, such as wrongness to harm. Across four experiments (total N = 550), we found supportive evidence. Information that an animal or person had the capacity and motivation to engage with music led participants to judge these entities as more wrong to harm than matched neutral or non-musical counterparts. Similarly, knowing that a person was not musical made people judge them as less wrong to harm than neutral or musical counterparts. As predicted, musicality was positively associated with perceptions of capacities for emotionality and intelligence, and these broader factors partially mediated the relationship between musicality and wrongness to harm. These effects were not influenced by participants’ own musicality. Thus, non-moral attributes like musicality can impact moral consideration, carrying implications for social behavior and for interventions to promote prosociality.

General discussion

Across four experiments, we found that simply knowing that certain entities are capable of engaging with music leads participants to judge them as being more wrong to harm. When musicality was experimentally manipulated, participants judged it to be more painful for them to harm musical rather than control animal individuals (Exp. 1) and members of a musical versus control animal species (Exps. 2–4). This effect extended to judgments about humans. Participants judged it to be more painful for them to harm a highly musical individual, over a neutral baseline or control individual; and less painful to harm an individual with low musicality, below a neutral baseline (Exps. 2–4).
A major question in music psychology is why music promotes prosocial behavior, and when it can be expected to do so. Existing theoretical frameworks across both music psychology and moral psychology predict that first-person engagement with music should increase prosociality, through personally listening, playing, or dancing to music (e.g., Clarke et al., 2015). We find that third-person observations, even written evidence of others’ musicality, affect evaluations about wrongness to harm. These findings broaden the range of contexts in which music may be expected to impact social and moral behaviors.
Our findings further provide an explanation of why musicality shifts moral decisions: musicality provides broader evidence of inner mental life, including the capacity for emotional experience and intelligence (Exp. 4). Inferences about experience and intelligence act as mediators, linking evidence of musicality to increased wrongness to harm. Our data also speak against two alternative accounts. We find no evidence that similarity attraction explains these effects (Reis, 2007). Participants’ own level of musicality did not predict their tendencies to choose musical entities as more wrong to harm. Our data also cannot be parsimoniously explained by the idea that participants simply choose the more unusual, unique or surprising character as more wrong to harm. Non-musical people are relatively rare (Stewart, 2014), yet we find they are judged least wrong to harm among human characters (Exps. 3 and 4).
These findings suggest that beliefs in animal musicality may aid animal conservation efforts. Anecdotally, the movement to save the whales is believed to have gained momentum from whalesong research, with scientists taking evidence of musicality as evidence of wrongness to harm (e.g., biologist Roger Payne: “Do you make cat food out of composer-poets? I think that’s a crime”; May, 2014). This sentiment was echoed by laypeople and taken up as a banner issue by Greenpeace (May, 2014). The current findings provide a framework for explaining this phenomenon in terms of moral psychology.
Within the human population, people differ in their levels of musicality, with some people congenitally lacking the ability to perceive music (congenital amusia; Ayotte et al., 2002) or the ability to enjoy music (musical anhedonia; Loui et al., 2017Mas-Herrero et al., 2014). In contrast, other clinical conditions like Williams syndrome are linked with high musicality (Levitin et al., 2004Ng et al., 2013). Our findings suggest that people may judge it less wrong to harm individuals with amusia or musical anhedonia, and may be particularly compassionate toward individuals with conditions like Williams. Understanding these biases has the potential to inform our understanding of attitudes toward members of these clinical populations.
Is musicality unique in its impact on social and moral judgments? We do not expect musicality to be the only behavior that provides evidence of others’ mental and emotional abilities, or moral worth. However, we theorize that musicality is one of a small set of behaviors that provide this evidence easily, quickly, and convincingly. In ongoing work, we are testing the hypothesis that behaviors that demonstrate others’ ability to value activities or experiences for their own intrinsic worth (such as aesthetic judgments, e.g., appreciation of beauty in art, poetry, or nature; Fayn et al., 2015McCrae & Sutin, 2009) provide particularly strong evidence of others’ emotional sensitivity, and thus their wrongness to harm. We contrast this with behaviors that are instrumental or extrinsically motivated (e.g., reaching a certain object or location), which we hypothesize may provide weaker evidence of emotional sensitivity. Aesthetic and moral judgments may be more deeply related than previously believed. Recent neuroimaging work shows similar neural activity and representations of aesthetic and moral judgments, suggesting similar cognitive processes in these domains (Heinzelmann et al., 2020Tsukiura & Cabeza, 2011Watson, 2013). We are testing our broader hypothesis regarding the role of aesthetic appreciation and intrinsic versus instrumental value in ongoing work.

The implications of human musicality for social attitudes are also likely to be more complex than is evident from the present studies. For example, the extent to which musicality is seen as a sign of intelligence may differ based on the genre of music (e.g., pop vs classical); or the extent to which the music is seen as sophisticated (e.g., Loomba, 2015). In the current experiments, we intentionally designed our vignettes to remain vague regarding the characters’ preferred genre of music and the mode of their engagement with music. Future work may explore the impact of various forms of engagement with different types of music on intergroup attitudes and related social judgments. Overall, we find that reasoning about others’ musicality is deeply interwoven with moral thought, providing a framework for understanding why music and dance, seemingly amoral aesthetic behaviors, have consequences for social and moral behaviors. 

Japan: Lack of sexual interest is a risk factor for all-cause mortality in men

Sakurada K, Konta T, Murakami N, Kosugi N, Saito T, Watanabe M, et al. (2022) Association between lack of sexual interest and all-cause mortality in a Japanese general population: The Yamagata prospective observational study. PLoS ONE 17(12): e0277967, Dec 14 2022.

Background: Sexual interest is essential for maintaining positive sexual relationships and sexual function, which have recently been recognized as important indicators of good health and quality of life. Here, we prospectively investigated associations between sexual interest and mortality in a community-based population.

Methods: This study enrolled 20,969 subjects (8,558 males and 12,411 females) aged ≥ 40 years who participated in annual health check-ups in Yamagata Prefecture. Sexual interest was assessed by a self-report questionnaire. Associations between sexual interest and increased all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease mortality, and cancer mortality were investigated by Cox proportional hazards modeling.

Results: During follow-up (median: 7.1 years), 503 subjects died; 67 deaths were due to cardiovascular disease, and 162 were due to cancer. Kaplan-Meier analysis showed that all-cause mortality and cancer mortality were significantly elevated among men who lacked sexual interest (log-rank P<0.0001, P<0.05). Cox proportional hazards model analysis with adjustment for age, hypertension, diabetes, dyslipidemia, smoking, alcohol drinking status, BMI, education, marital status, frequency of laughter, and psychological distress showed that the risk of all-cause mortality was significantly higher among men who lacked sexual interest than men who had sexual interest (hazard ratio [HR] 1.69; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.17–2.44).

Conclusion: Lack of sexual interest is suggested to be a risk factor for all-cause mortality in Japanese males over 40 years old. This finding has implications for the importance of sexual interest in increasing longevity in this population.


Although sexual activity and sexual satisfaction are considered of benefit to psychological health and wellbeing in older groups, the association between sexual interest and longevity has not been investigated. This study is the first to prospectively examine associations between sexual interest and all-cause mortality, and cardiovascular and cancer mortality in a community-based population.

In our sample of people aged 40 years or more, 8.3% of males and 16.1% of females indicated a lack of sexual interest. Similar results were reported by Lindau et al. in two cross-sectional population-based surveys of aging conducted in the US [4]. Baseline characteristics indicated that a lack of sexual interest was associated with greater age, higher prevalence of past alcohol drinking, diabetes, low frequency of laughter, psychological distress, and lower education levels in male subjects. In female subjects, baseline characteristics showed that a lack of sexual interest was associated with greater age, higher prevalence of abstinence from alcohol, low frequency of laughter, psychological distress, divorce or widowhood, and lower education levels. For both sexes, negative psychological variables, including psychological distress and low frequency of laughter, were associated with decreased sexual interest.

Interestingly, our study suggests that lack of sexual interest is associated with all-cause mortality in males, even after adjustment for age, diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, smoking, alcohol intake, BMI, education, marital status, frequency of laughter, and psychological distress. Based on our results, we suggest that lack of sexual interest itself contributes to an increased risk of all-cause mortality, independent of established risk factors in men over 40 years old. However, it is possible that some important confounding factors were not identified or adjusted.

Although to our knowledge the mechanisms underlying the main gender difference result have yet to be clarified, men with ‘ikigai’ were at lower risk of cardiovascular mortality than men without ‘ikigai,’ subsequent to age and multivariate adjustment. Uzuki et al. found that lack of social support was associated with risk of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular mortality, and these associations were stronger in males than females [22]. Previous studies have shown that risk-reduction effects of positive psychological factors on all-cause mortality and incidence of stroke differed according to gender [11, 17, 18]. Ikeda et al. reported that in Japan men who were divorced or widowed were at higher risk of mortality than married men, whereas no similar trend was observed in women [23]. Based on these results, we speculate that maintaining sexual interest may be related to positive psychological well-being and ‘ikigai’ especially among men.

Precisely how a lack of sexual interest impacts on health and longevity remains unknown, although several possibilities can be considered. Male lack of interest may be related with unhealthy lifestyles. In this study, men who reported a lack of sexual interest included more current smokers and cases of diabetes. Furthermore, if we assume that sexual interest is related to positive psychological factors, the absence of interest may affect a range of inflammatory, neuroendocrine, and immune responses. Positive affect is related with reduced neuroendocrine, inflammatory, and cardiovascular activities [24]. Chronic psychological stress has shown an association with suppressed immune response and increased susceptibility to malignancy and infection [25]. Further study is required to clarify the mechanisms which underlie the preventive effects of sexual interest on mortality.

The strengths of this study are its prospective design and substantial sample size. In addition, adjustment was done using a number of well-known risk factors, including age, diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, smoking status, alcohol intake, psychological distress, and medical history of depression. However, several limitations of the study should be noted. First, although we conducted multivariate analyses with adjustment for various potential confounding factors, some unidentified confounding factors may have remained. Moreover, we did not adjust for other medically relevant elements known to affect sexual function and longevity, such as neurological conditions, depression, and medications, because such information was not obtained in the baseline survey. Also, only a small number of depressed patients were included in this study. Second, we did not consider how the social regulation of sexuality differs among cultures. Similar research should be extended to other countries. Third, our question about lack of sexual interest focused on interest in the opposite sex; we did not control for sexual orientation. Sasayama et al. reported that the prevalence of homoromantic attraction was 1.0% for females and 1.5% for males [26]. Based on these figures, the potential number of individuals in the present study with sexual interest in the same sex was estimated to be approximately 200 people. We therefore consider it unlikely that this number would have influenced our overall results. We suggest that future research should include lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQs) adults. Fourth, this study collected data on subjects who were at least 40 years old. Future research might also look more closely at the onset of decreasing interest in sex; for example, whether these results concern only men who had recently lost interest, or whether they extend to men who had little interest even when they were much younger. Fifth, all subjects participated in community-based annual health checks, and so they might have been more health-conscious and more socially active than the general population. In other words, some degree of selection bias might characterize our study sample.

Notwithstanding these limitations, the findings of this study support that idea that maintaining sexual interest has positive effects on longevity, especially in males. The Canadian government, through public health promotion materials, has begun to endorse sexual activity as one element of an “aging well” agenda [27]. In Japan, there is more prejudice about sex among the elderly than in the Western world. We hope our findings will help promote public health through advocating sexuality in Japan.