Tuesday, January 31, 2023

A growing literature points to children’s influence on parents’ behavior, including parental investments in children; this study finds an earlier predictor of investment, offspring genotype

Child-Driven Parenting: Differential Early Childhood Investment by Offspring Genotype. Asta Breinholt, Dalton Conley. Social Forces, soac155, January 18 2023. https://doi.org/10.1093/sf/soac155

Abstract: A growing literature points to children’s influence on parents’ behavior, including parental investments in children. Further, previous research has shown differential parental response by socioeconomic status to children’s birth weight, cognitive ability, and school outcomes—all early life predictors of later socioeconomic success. This study considers an even earlier, more exogenous predictor of parental investments: offspring genotype. Specifically, we analyze (1) whether children’s genetic propensity toward educational success affects parenting during early childhood and (2) whether parenting in response to children’s genetic propensity toward educational success is socially stratified. Using data from the Avon Longitudinal Survey of Parents and Children (N = 6,247), we construct polygenic indexes (PGIs) for educational attainment (EA) and regress cognitively stimulating parenting behavior during early childhood on these PGIs. We apply Mendelian imputation to construct the missing parental genotype. This approach allows us to control for both parents’ PGIs for EA and thereby achieve a natural experiment: Conditional on parental genotype, the offspring genotype is randomly assigned. In this way, we eliminate the possibility that child’s genotype may be proxying unmeasured parent characteristics. Results differ by parenting behavior: (1) parents’ singing to the child is not affected by the child’s EA PGI, (2) parents play more with children with higher EA PGIs, and (3) non-college-educated parents read more to children with higher education PGIs, while college-educated parents respond less to children’s EA PGI.

Compared to those who have had a COVID-19 infection, those who have not yet experienced infection anticipate they will experience greater negative emotion, and this may have implications for preventive behaviors

Getting COVID-19: Anticipated negative emotions are worse than experienced negative emotions. Amanda J.Dillard, Brian P.Meier. Social Science & Medicine, Volume 320, March 2023, 115723. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2023.115723


Anticipated and recalled negative emotions for COVID-19 infection were compared.

People who have never had COVID may overestimate their negative emotion for infection.

More negative emotion, particularly when anticipated, relates to vaccination and intentions.


Objective: When people think about negative events that may occur in the future, they tend to overestimate their emotional reactions, and these “affective forecasts” can influence their present behavior (Wilson and Gilbert, 2003). The present research examined affective forecasting for COVID-19 infection including the associations between emotions and preventive intentions and behavior.

Methods: In two studies, we compared individuals’ anticipated emotions and recalled emotions for COVID-19 infection. Study 1 asked college students (N = 219) and Study 2 asked general adults (N = 401) to either predict their emotions in response to a future COVID-19 infection or to recall their emotions associated with a previous infection.

Results: In both studies, reliable differences in negative emotions emerged. Those who were predicting their feelings associated with a future infection anticipated more negative emotion than those who were recalling their feelings associated with a past infection reported. Greater negative emotion in both studies was significantly associated with being more likely to have been vaccinated as well as higher intentions to get the booster vaccine.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that compared to those who have had a COVID-19 infection, those who have not yet experienced infection anticipate they will experience greater negative emotion, and this may have implications for preventive behaviors. In general, these findings suggest that people may have an impact bias for COVID-19 infection.

Keywords: COVID-19Affective forecasting theoryAnticipated emotionVaccine behaviorBehavior intentions

9. General discussion

In two studies with college students and general adults, we compared affective forecasts to affective experiences of a COVID-19 infection. In both studies, when individuals thought about the prospect of contracting COVID-19, they anticipated more regret, guilt, anger, and fear than individuals who had the virus recalled experiencing. Higher negative emotion was meaningful in that it was related to greater likelihood of having been vaccinated as well as higher intentions to get the booster.

Although similar differences in anticipated versus recalled negative emotions were observed in both the college students and general adults, the negative emotions were overall higher in the latter group. In the sample of general adults, perceived severity of COVID-19 also significantly differed among those anticipating versus recalling infection, a finding which was not observed in the college students. Together, these findings may suggest that relative to college students, the general adults felt more threatened by COVID-19. On one hand, this notion of greater perceived threat among an older sample is reasonable given that age is a risk factor for more severe disease. On the other hand, the anticipation of greater negative emotion among the older sample does not fit with recent studies finding that older individuals, compared to younger, are faring better emotionally during the pandemic (including some of the same emotions we tested; Carstensen et al., 2020Knepple Carney, Graf, Hudson and Wilson, 2021) or that older adults are more optimistic about COVID-19 (Bruine de Bruin, 2021). However, this distinction may relate to emotions about how one would fare with COVID-19 infection (as measured in our research) versus how one is coping emotionally with the pandemic. In fact, although several studies have examined people's emotions during the pandemic, none that we know of have examined people's anticipated or recalled emotional reactions to contracting COVID-19.

Our findings are in line with affective forecasting theory, and the specific error known as the impact bias. The impact bias occurs when people overestimate the intensity and duration of their future emotions (Gilbert and Wilson, 2007; for a review, see Wilson and Gilbert, 2003). Early research on the impact bias showed it for outcomes such as breaking up with a romantic partner or failing to get a job promotion, but it has since been found for many diverse events and outcomes (Dunn et al., 2003Finkenauer et al., 2007Gilbert et al., 1998Hoerger, 2012Hoerger et al., 2009Kermer et al., 2006Sieff et al., 1999Van Dijk, 2009). Researchers have argued that the impact bias likely underpins many health decisions, but relatively few studies have tested the bias and its behavioral implications (Halpern and Arnold, 2008Rhodes and Strain, 2008). Given our findings that anticipated emotions were more intense than recalled experienced emotions, our data are suggestive of an impact bias for COVID-19 infection. These data are among the first to apply affective forecasting ideas to this unusually novel and severe virus.

Although our research is an important first step in highlighting the potential of an impact bias for COVID-19, our studies do not provide definitive evidence. This is because we assessed recalled emotions which may differ from actual experienced emotions. For example, it could be that participants who were recalling their emotions from a past infection experienced just as much negative emotion as those who were anticipating an infection, but they remember the emotions as less intense. This idea would be supported by research suggesting that recalled emotions are susceptible to various cognitive biases and processes (for a review see Levine and Safer, 2002). For example, one's expectations about how they should have felt, one's coping or adaptation since the event, and even personality factors may influence recalled emotions (Hoerger et al., 2009Ottenstein and Lischetzke, 2020Wilson et al., 2003). Arguably, some of these factors could influence one's anticipated emotions too. However, a future study that uses a within-subjects, longitudinal design, assessing the same individuals before, during and after they experience COVID-19, can provide definitive evidence of an impact bias (see more discussion of this idea in the Limitations section).

One question raised by our findings is, would it benefit people to learn that individuals who contract a virus like COVID-19 may experience less negative emotion than others predict? On one hand, reducing negative emotion in those who have never experienced infection could have the undesired effect of discouraging preventive behavior like getting vaccinated. Indeed, our data would support this notion. On the other hand, many people have experienced high distress due to the pandemic (Belen, 2022Shafran et al., 2013). While emotions associated with infection may play only a small role in this distress, learning that these emotions may be overestimated (and that people may do better than they anticipate) could be helpful information. Related to this, one strategy to reduce negative emotions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic is to encourage mindfulness (Dillard and Meier, 2021Emanuel et al., 2010). Mindfulness is about focusing one's attention on the ongoing, present moment (Brown and Ryan, 2003). People who practice mindfulness may be less inclined to think about future outcomes, or anticipate strong negative emotions associated with these outcomes.

The question above relates to a broad dilemma, faced by researchers in psychology, medicine and other fields, about using emotions to promote health behaviors. That is, to what extent is it acceptable to use, or to increase, people's existing negative emotions to motivate health behaviors? For example, to encourage women to get mammograms, is it appropriate to use interventions to increase their fear (or other negative emotions), or to not correct their existing strong negative emotions about breast cancer? Although some women may hold stronger negative emotions than warranted (e.g., they may be of lower-than-average risk), correcting them could have the unfortunate consequence of reducing their likelihood of getting screened. The answer to this dilemma may well depend on factors such as context (e.g., whether there is a ‘right’ preventive action that is appropriate for most people) or emotion threshold (e.g., when is a negative emotion too much, leading to additional distress, and when is it just enough to motivate behavior). In general, more research should be devoted to determining the conditions relating to this dilemma and affective forecasting is a ripe context for investigating them.

In both studies, we found that individuals who anticipated or recalled greater negative emotion associated with COVID-19 infection were more likely to have been vaccinated and they also reported higher intentions to get the booster. Although our data were correlational, they fit with the broad literature that show emotions, including anticipated ones, can be a powerful influence on heath behaviors (e.g., see Williams and Evans, 2014 for a review), including vaccine behavior (Brewer et al., 2016Chapman and Coups, 2006Wilson et al., 2003). Our findings also fit with recent research finding that emotions like fear and regret are positively associated with COVID-19 vaccination and other preventive behaviors (Coifman et al., 2021Reuken et al., 2020Wolff, 2021). More research is needed on associations between different types of emotions and health behaviors. For example, are experienced emotions as important as recalled or anticipated emotions in motivating health behavior? And does accuracy of recalled or anticipated emotions matter in this context? Testing associations between these emotions and health behavior may be difficult as the emotions likely share overlap especially for health threats people are familiar with and have prior experience.

It is important to consider the timing of this research which occurred during Fall 2021. In a recent large-scale longitudinal investigation, researchers examined both American and Chinese adults’ emotions and behavior over the course of the pandemic (Li et al., 2021). They found that negative emotions like fear, anxiety, and worry were heightened in the beginning of the pandemic, but later, during phases of ongoing risk, returned to baseline levels. Their research also showed that while emotions were predictive of preventive behaviors like wearing a mask early in the pandemic, they were not predictive later. In the present research, we observed meaningful differences between anticipated and recalled emotions associated with COVID-19 infection, and both were associated with vaccine behavior. Thus, although emotional reactions have apparently lessened, our findings may speak to the power of affective forecasting and its implications for present behavior.

10. Limitations

This research is not without limitations. Most importantly, both studies used a between-subjects design in which participants were not randomly assigned yet were asked different questions depending on their experience with COVID-19 infection. Although we believe their negative emotion differences related to affective forecasting errors, the differences may have been due to other factors. For example, people who have contracted COVID-19 and people who have not may differ in various ways. Notably, we did not find differences for demographics like age or gender, or various psychosocial variables that were measured in the surveys (see supplementary material for details). Given that an experimental design would be impossible as one cannot randomly assign people to have a COVID-19 infection or not, future studies might incorporate additional baseline measures (e.g., COVID exposure, self-protective behaviors) when assessing these groups. A second related limitation is that although our method of comparing anticipated to recalled emotions is an approach that has been used to test affective forecasting errors (e.g., Dillard et al., 2021Gilbert et al., 1998Sieff et al., 1999), the preferred method is to use a within-subjects, longitudinal design (e.g., Smith et al., 2008Wilson et al., 2003Wilson et al., 2000). For example, people would be measured before and after a COVID-19 infection occurs, and their anticipated and experienced emotions can be directly compared. Of course, this design presents logistical challenges such as the difficulty in assessing people as they are experiencing an infection or having to follow people until an infection occurs (not knowing if it will occur). Following people over time may also allow researchers to examine prospective, actual behavior as opposed to the present studies’ approach which examined retroactive vaccine behavior and booster intentions. Although intentions may be a reliable predictor of behavior (Webb and Sheeran, 2006), finding associations between negative emotion and actual behavior would provide more direct support for the notion that the impact bias has behavioral implications. This may be particularly relevant if COVID vaccines become a yearly recommendation.

Finally, another limitation relates to the biases inherent in recalled emotions. First, individuals who were recalling their infection could have experienced it days, weeks, or even months before being in the study. Length of time since an outcome occurred can bias one's memory for the emotions they experienced during the outcome – in the direction of over or underestimating emotions (Wilson et al., 2003). However, others have found that people are relatively accurate in recalling past emotional experiences, especially in the short-term (Hoerger, 2012). At the time of our study, COVID-19 diagnosis was a new, recent phenomenon, having been around for a little over one year, and all participants' infections would have fallen in that same time frame. Nonetheless to resolve this issue, future studies might assess another group of individuals – those who are currently experiencing COVID-19 infection. However, as mentioned above, this assessment presents logistical challenges.

Monday, January 30, 2023

Almost everything we have been told about misinformation is misinformation... and moral panic

Misinformation on Misinformation: Conceptual and Methodological Challenges. Sacha Altay, Manon Berriche, Alberto Acerbi. Social Media + Society, January 28, 2023. https://doi.org/10.1177/20563051221150412

Abstract: Alarmist narratives about online misinformation continue to gain traction despite evidence that its prevalence and impact are overstated. Drawing on research examining the use of big data in social science and reception studies, we identify six misconceptions about misinformation and highlight the conceptual and methodological challenges they raise. The first set of misconceptions concerns the prevalence and circulation of misinformation. First, scientists focus on social media because it is methodologically convenient, but misinformation is not just a social media problem. Second, the internet is not rife with misinformation or news, but with memes and entertaining content. Third, falsehoods do not spread faster than the truth; how we define (mis)information influences our results and their practical implications. The second set of misconceptions concerns the impact and the reception of misinformation. Fourth, people do not believe everything they see on the internet: the sheer volume of engagement should not be conflated with belief. Fifth, people are more likely to be uninformed than misinformed; surveys overestimate misperceptions and say little about the causal influence of misinformation. Sixth, the influence of misinformation on people’s behavior is overblown as misinformation often “preaches to the choir.” To appropriately understand and fight misinformation, future research needs to address these challenges.


A Large Number of People are Misinformed

Headlines about the ubiquity of misbeliefs are rampant in the media and are most often based on surveys. But how well do surveys measure misbeliefs? Luskin and colleagues (2018) analyzed the design of 180 media surveys with closed-ended questions measuring belief in misinformation. They found that more than 90% of these surveys lacked an explicit “Don’t know” or “Not sure” option and used formulations encouraging guessing such as “As far as you know . . .,” or “Would you say that . . .” Often, participants answer these questions by guessing the correct answer and report holding beliefs that they did not hold before the survey (Graham, 2021). Not providing, or not encouraging “Don’t know” answers is known to increase guessing even more (Luskin & Bullock, 2011). Guessing would not be a major issue if it only added noise to the data. To find out, Luskin and colleagues (2018) tested the impact of not providing “Don’t know” answers and encouraging guessing on the prevalence of misbeliefs. They found that it overestimates the proportion of incorrect answers by nine percentage points (25 to 16), and, when considering only people who report being confident in holding a misperception, it overestimates incorrect answers by 20 percentage points (25 to 5). In short, survey items measuring misinformation overestimate the extent to which people are misinformed, eclipsing the share of those who are simply uninformed.
In the same vein, conspiratorial beliefs are notoriously difficult to measure and surveys tend to exaggerate their prevalence (Clifford et al., 2019). For instance, participants in survey experiments display a preference for positive response options (yes vs no, or agree vs disagree) which inflates agreement with statements, including conspiracy theories, by up to 50% (Hill & Roberts, 2021Krosnick, 2018). Moreover, the absence of “Don’t know” options, together with the impossibility to express one’s preference for conventional explanations in comparison to conspiratorial explanations, greatly overestimate the prevalence of conspiratorial beliefs (Clifford et al., 2019). These methodological problems contributed to unsupported alarmist narratives about the prevalence of conspiracy theories, such as Qanon going mainstream (Uscinski et al., 2022a).
Moreover, the misperceptions that surveys measure are skewed toward politically controversial and polarizing misperceptions, which are not representative of the misperceptions that people actually hold (Nyhan, 2020). This could contribute to fueling affective polarization by emphasizing differences between groups instead of similarities and inflate the prevalence of misbeliefs. When misperceptions become group markers, participants use them to signal group membership—whether they truly believe the misperceptions or not (Bullock et al., 2013). Responses to factual questions in survey experiments are known to be vulnerable to “partisan cheerleading” (Bullock et al., 2013Prior et al., 2015), in which, instead of stating their true beliefs, participants give politically congenial responses. Quite famously, a large share of Americans believed that Donald Trump’s inauguration in 2017 was more crowded than Barack Obama’s in 2009, despite being presented with visual evidence to the contrary. Partisanship does not directly influence people’s perceptions: misperceptions about the size of the crowds were largely driven by expressive responding and guessing. Respondents who supported President Trump “intentionally provide misinformation” to reaffirm their partisan identity (Schaffner & Luks, 2018, p. 136). The extent to which expressive responding contributes to the overestimation of other political misbeliefs is debated (Nyhan, 2020), but it is probably significant.
Solutions have been proposed to overcome these flaws and measure misbeliefs more accurately, such as including confidence-in-knowledge measures (Graham, 2020) and considering only participants who firmly and confidently say they believe misinformation items as misinformed (Luskin et al., 2018). Yet, even when people report confidently holding misbeliefs, these misbeliefs are highly unstable across time, much more so than beliefs (Graham, 2021). For instance, the responses of people saying they are 100% certain that climate change is not occurring have the same measurement properties as responses of people saying they are 100% certain the continents are not moving or that the sun goes around the Earth (Graham, 2021). A participant’s response at time T does not predict their answer at time T + 1. In other words, flipping a coin would give a similar response pattern.
So far, we have seen that even well-designed surveys overestimate the prevalence of misbeliefs. A further issue is that surveys unreliably measure exposure to misinformation and the occurrence of rare events such as fake news exposure. People report being exposed to a substantial amount of misinformation and recall having been exposed to particular fake headlines (Allcott & Gentzkow, 2017). To estimate the reliability of these measures, Allcott and Gentzkow (2017) showed participants the 14 most popular fake news during the American election campaign, together with 14 made-up “placebo fake news.” 15% of participants declared having been exposed to one of the 14 “real fake news,” but 14% also declared having been exposed to one of the 14 “fake news placebos.”
During the pandemic, many people supposedly engaged in extremely dangerous hygiene practices to fight COVID-19 because of misinformation encountered on social media, such as drinking diluted bleach (Islam et al., 2020). This led to headlines such as “COVID-19 disinformation killed thousands of people, according to a study” (Paris Match Belgique, 2020). Yet, the study is silent regarding causality, and cannot be taken as evidence that misinformation had a causal impact on people’s behavior (France info, 2020). For instance, 39% of Americans reported having engaged in at least one cleaning practice not recommended by the CDC, 4% of Americans reported drinking or gargling a household disinfectant, while another 4% reported drinking or gargling diluted bleach (Gharpure et al., 2020). These percentages should not be taken at face value. A replication of the survey found that these worrying responses are entirely attributable to problematic respondents who also reported “recently having had a fatal heart attack” or “eating concrete for its iron content” at a rate similar to that of ingesting household cleaners (Litman et al., 2020; reminiscent of the “lizardman’s constant” by Alexander, 2013). The authors conclude that “Once inattentive, mischievous, and careless respondents are taken out of the analytic sample we find no evidence that people ingest cleansers to prevent Covid-19 infection” (Alexander, 2013, p. 1). This is not to say that COVID-19 misinformation had no harmful effects (such as creating confusion or eroding trust in reliable information), but rather that surveys using self-reported measures of rare and dangerous behaviors should be interpreted with caution.

Misinformation Has a Strong Influence on People’s Behavior

Sometimes, people believe what they see on the internet and engagement metrics do translate into belief. Yet, even when misinformation is believed, it does not necessarily mean that it changed anyone’s mind or behavior. First, people largely consume politically congenial misinformation (Guess et al., 20192021). That is, they consume misinformation they already agree with, or are predisposed to accept. Congenial misinformation “preaches to the choir” and is unlikely to have drastic effects beyond reinforcing previously held beliefs. Second, even when misinformation changes people’s minds and leads to the formation of new (mis)beliefs, it is not clear if these (mis)beliefs ever translate into behaviors. Attitudes are only weak predictors of behaviors. This problem is well known in public policies as the value-action gap (Kollmuss & Agyeman, 2002). Most notoriously, people report being increasingly concerned about the environment without adjusting their behaviors accordingly (Landry et al., 2018).
Common misbeliefs, such as conspiracy theories, are likely to be cognitively held in such a way that limits their influence on behaviors (Mercier, 2020Mercier & Altay, 2022). For instance, the behavioral consequences that follow from common misbeliefs are often at odds with what we would expect from people actually believing them. As Jonathan Kay (2011, p. 185) noted, “one of the great ironies of the Truth movement is that its activists typically hold their meetings in large, unsecured locations such as college auditoriums—even as they insist that government agents will stop at nothing to protect their conspiracy for world domination from discovery.” Often, these misbeliefs are likely to be post hoc rationalizations of pre-existing attitudes, such as distrust of institutions.
In the real world, it is difficult to measure how much attitude change misinformation causes, and it is a daunting task to assess its impact on people’s behavior. Surveys relying on correlational data tell us little about causation. For example, belief in conspiracy theories is associated with many costly behaviors, such as COVID-19 vaccine refusal (Uscinski et al., 2022b). Does this mean that vaccine hesitancy is caused by conspiracy theories? No, it could be that both vaccine hesitancy and belief in conspiracy theories are caused by other factors, such as low trust in institutions (Mercier & Altay, 2022Uscinski et al., 2022b). A few ingenious studies allowed some causal inferences to be drawn. For instance, Kim and Kim (2019) used a longitudinal survey to capture people’s beliefs and behaviors both before and after the diffusion of the “Obama is a Muslim” rumor. They found that after the rumor spread, more people were likely to believe that Obama was a Muslim. Yet, this effect was “driven almost entirely by those predisposed to dislike Obama” (p. 307), and the diffusion of the rumor had no measurable effect on people’s intention to vote for Obama. This should not come as a surprise, considering that even political campaigns and political advertising only have weak and indirect effects on voters (Kalla & Broockman, 2018). As David Karpf (2019) writes “Generating social media interactions is easy; mobilizing activists and persuading voters is hard.”
The idea that exposure to misinformation (or information) has a strong and direct influence on people’s attitudes and behaviors comes from a misleading analogy of social influence according to which ideas infect human minds like viruses infect human bodies. Americans did not vote for Trump in 2016 because they were brainwashed. There is no such thing as “brainwashing” (Mercier, 2020). Information is not passed from brain to brain like a virus is passed from body to body. When humans communicate, they constantly reinterpret the messages they receive, and modify the ones they send (Claidière et al., 2014). The same tweet will create very different mental representations in each brain that reads it, and the public representations people leave behind them, in the form of digital traces, are only an imperfect proxy of their private mental representations. The virus metaphor, all too popular during the COVID-19 pandemic—think of the “infodemic” epithet—is misleading (Simon & Camargo, 2021). It is reminiscent of outdated models of communication (e.g., “hypodermic needle model”) assuming that audiences were passive and easily swayed by pretty much everything they heard or read (Lasswell, 1927). As Anderson (2021) notes “we might see the role of Facebook and other social media platforms as returning us to a pre-Katz and Lazarsfeld era, with fears that Facebook is “radicalizing the world” and that Russian bots are injecting disinformation directly in the bloodstream of the polity.” These premises are at odds with what we know about human psychology and clash with decades of data from communication studies.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Government financial assistance during COVID-19: Lending to small businesses (PPP) significantly increased households’ interest in crypto assets, particularly among new, retail investors

Bertomeu, Jeremy and Martin, Xiumin and Zhang, Sheryl, Uncle Sam’s Stimulus and Crypto Boom. SSRN, January 9, 2023. http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4320431

Abstract: This study examines the impact of government financial assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic on the demand for crypto assets and the effect of crypto interest on the stated goals of stimulus programs. Government lending to small businesses (PPP) significantly increased households’ interest in crypto assets. Using a Bartik instrumental variable for PPP distribution, we find that a one standard deviation increase in PPP disbursement is associated with an increase in crypto-related Google searches. A 100% percent increase in PPP disbursements is also accompanied by a 2% increased number of new wallets, 10% higher trading volume, 23% higher miners’ revenue, and a shift from large to small addresses, suggesting that government assistance increases the demand for cryptos, particularly among new, retail investors. We further find that about 5-14% of PPP loans are diverted to crypto assets, rendering PPP less effective in maintaining employment. Our results are stronger for MSAs with a less educated population, supporting a house money explanation.

Keywords: Pay Check Protection, Crypto, Stimulus Program

JEL Classification: D82, D83, G10, G5, G24, G3, K0

More Than Half of Statistically Significant Research Findings in the Environmental Sciences are Actually Not; the median power of p-value tests is between 6% to 12%, which is the lowest yet identified for any discipline

More Than Half of Statistically Significant Research Findings in the Environmental Sciences are Actually Not. Teshome Deressa, David Stern, Jaco Vangronsveld, Jan Minx, Sebastien Lizin, Robert Malina, Stephan Bruns. EcoEvoRxiv, Jan 2023. https://doi.org/10.32942/X24G6Z

Abstract: Researchers have incentives to search for and selectively report findings that appear to be statistically significant and/or conform to prior beliefs. Such selective reporting practices, including p-hacking and publication bias, can lead to a distorted set of results being published, potentially undermining the process of knowledge accumulation and evidence-based decision making. We take stock of the state of empirical research in the environmental sciences using 67,947 statistical tests obtained from 547 meta-analyses. We find that 59% of the p-values that were reported as significant are not actually expected to be statistically significant. The median power of these tests is between 6% to 12%, which is the lowest yet identified for any discipline. Only 8% of tests are adequately powered with statistical power of 80% or more. Exploratory regressions suggest that increased statistical power and the use of experimental research designs reduce the extent of selective reporting. Differences between subfields can be mostly explained by methodological differences. To improve the environmental sciences evidence base, researchers should pay more attention to statistical power, but incentives for selective reporting may remain even with adequate statistical power. Ultimately, a paradigm shift towards open science is needed to ensure the reliability of published empirical research.

Do Political Elites Have Accurate Perceptions of Social Conditions? "Contrary to my expectations, I find that politicians tend to overestimate how many of those they govern are struggling financially"

Do Political Elites Have Accurate Perceptions of Social Conditions? Adam Thal. British Journal of Political Science, January 19 2023. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-political-science/article/abs/do-political-elites-have-accurate-perceptions-of-social-conditions/06DFAD98A8E9D9B7A4685BD0D9A53028

Abstract: Politicians often oppose economic policies benefiting low-income Americans. However, the mechanisms behind this political inequality are unclear. I ask whether politicians oppose these policies, in part, because they underestimate how many of those they govern are struggling financially. I test this theory with an original survey of 1,265 state legislative candidates. Contrary to my expectations, I find that politicians tend to overestimate how many of those they govern are struggling financially. At the same time, there are some instances in which politicians—and Republicans in particular—do underestimate the level of financial hardship among those they govern. In an experiment, I randomly assign politicians to have their misperceptions corrected. The results suggest that politicians' policy preferences would be similar even if they had a more accurate understanding of reality. Overall, the findings suggest that politicians may frequently misperceive the state of reality in which those they govern live.

The percentage of Americans who reported using Twitter dropped from 32.4% to 29.5% after Elon Musk took over the company; the decline was driven by Democrats

Schulman, Jonathan, Hong Qu, David Lazer, Roy Perlis, Katherine Ognyanova, Matthew Baum, Samantha Cadenasso, et al. 2023. “The COVID States Project #97: Twitter, Social Media, and Elon Musk.” OSF Preprints. January 27. doi:10.31219/osf.io/knsd6


Key Takeaways

1. Comparing our October 2022 survey conducted immediately before Elon Musk purchased Twitter to our December 2022-January 2023 survey, the percentage of Americans who reported using Twitter dropped from 32.4% to 29.5%. This decline was driven by Democrats, 38% of whom reported using Twitter in our survey before Musk took over the company, which dropped to 33% after.

2. 53% of Republicans trust Elon Musk to do what is right either somewhat or a lot, compared to just 24% of Democrats.

3. Democrats were 15% more likely than Republicans to trust Twitter to do what is right before Musk purchased the site, but trust among Republicans and Democrats converged to equal levels following Musk’s takeover, with 34% of both parties trusting Twitter to do what is right.

4. Republicans perceived a significant decrease in bias against conservatives on Twitter and an increase in neutrality after Musk took over, while Democrats saw a significant increase in bias against liberals and a decrease in neutrality since Musk bought Twitter.

5. Respondents regardless of party viewed other social media platforms as more neutral than Twitter.

Participants with elevated traits of psychopathy, narcissism and sadism showed a greater preference for meeting people offline; & dislike deceptive dating practices and often perceive themselves to be victimised in online & offline settings

Dating in the dark: A qualitative examination of dating experiences in dark tetrad personalities. Richelle Mayshak et al. Computers in Human Behavior, January 27 2023, 107680. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2023.107680

Abstract: Dark Tetrad (D4) traits have been shown to influence both perpetration and victimisation of dating related anti-social behaviours. To inform prevention and intervention measures against these behaviours, it is important to understand how persons with elevated D4 traits search for partners and what aspects of dating they appraise as positive versus negative. This study aims to qualitatively explore the role of personality in dating experience; specifically, preference for dating platform and perceived dating outcomes in those with elevated D4 traits. In total, 480 adults from Australia, (288 women, 186 men, and 6 non-binary) aged 18–18 – 70 years (M = 29.51, SD = 12.82), took part in an online qualitative and quantitative survey. Participants with elevated traits of psychopathy, narcissism and sadism showed a greater preference for meeting people offline. Applying template analysis, we generated three themes for positive experiences: finding a new partner, connecting with others, material and personal benefits. For negative experiences, we identified four themes: not being able to find a partner, misrepresentation, online and in-person victimisation, difficulties with navigating close relationships. Whilst persons with elevated D4 traits value connecting with others, they dislike deceptive dating practices and often perceive themselves to be victimised in online and offline settings. Future studies should investigate whether dating experiences differ across individuals who score within elevated versus lower range on D4 traits.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Rolf Degen summarizing... Another established social psychological finding, the presumed tendency for individuals to judge deviant ingroup members more harshly than similar behaving outgroup members, steadfastly refuses to be replicated

Group Membership and Deviance Punishment - Are Deviant Ingroup Members Actually Judged more Negatively than Outgroup Ones? Eric Bonetto et al. Meta-Psychology, Vol. 7 (2023), Jan 2023. https://doi.org/10.15626/MP.2021.2764

Abstract: Deviance Punishment is an important issue for social-psychological research. Group members tend to punish deviance through rejection, ostracism and – more commonly – negative judgments. Subjective Group Dynamics proposes to account for social judgement patterns of deviant and conformist individuals. Relying on a group identity management perspective, one of the model’s core predictions is that the judgment of a deviant target depends on group membership. More specifically, the model predicts that deviant ingroup members should be judged more negatively than outgroup ones. Although this effect has been repeatedly observed over the past decades, there is a current lack of sufficiently powered studies in the literature. For the first time, we conducted tests of Subjective Group Dynamics in France and the US to investigate whether ingroup deviants were judged more harshly than outgroup ones. Across six experiments and an internal mini meta-analysis, we observed no substantial difference in judgment between ingroup and outgroup deviant targets, d = -0.01, 95% CI[-0.07, 0.06]. The findings’ implications for deviance management research are discussed.

Keywords: Deviance, Punishment, Subjective Group Dynamics, Replication

We develop a deep learning model to detect emotions embedded in press conferences after the Federal Open Market Committee meetings and examine the influence of the detected emotions on financial markets

The Voice of Monetary Policy. Yuriy Gorodnichenko, Tho Pham, and Oleksandr Talavera. American Economic Review, Feb 2023, Vol. 113, No. 2: Pages 548-584. https://pubs.aeaweb.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1257/aer.20220129

Abstract: We develop a deep learning model to detect emotions embedded in press conferences after the Federal Open Market Committee meetings and examine the influence of the detected emotions on financial markets. We find that, after controlling for the Federal Reserve’s actions and the sentiment in policy texts, a positive tone in the voices of Federal Reserve chairs leads to significant increases in share prices. Other financial variables also respond to vocal cues from the chairs. Hence, how policy messages are communicated can move the financial market. Our results provide implications for improving the effectiveness of central bank communications.

JEL D83, E31, E44, E52, E58, F31, G14

Young men rated their own IQ significantly higher than women of the same age, while at an older age women rated their intelligence higher than men

Are sex differences in self-estimated intelligence an elusive phenomenon? Exploring the role of working memory, creativity, and other psychological correlates in young and older adults. Vaitsa Giannouli. Brain and Behavior, January 26 2023. https://doi.org/10.1002/brb3.2857


Background: Although there is research examining the demographic predictors of self-estimated intelligence (SEI) in young adults, so far SEI in old age is little investigated. This study aims to examine the influence of additional variables such as self-estimated emotional intelligence (SEEQ), physical attractiveness, health, general optimism, religiousness, and working memory (WM) on SEI both in young and older adults.

Methods: A total of 159 young (90 women, Mage = 28.77, SD = 8.83) and 152 older adults (93 women, Mage = 71.92, SD = 6.84) completed a measure of SEI as well as questions regarding the abovementioned variables. Given that WM is considered a very strong predictor of intelligence, neuropsychological assessment included the measurement of WM and phonologically cued semantic retrieval–verbal storage and processing in WM, as assessed by the Digit Span Forward and Verbal Fluency Task. The visual storage in WM was assessed with a variation of the Visual Patterns Test, and the visual storage and processing in WM with the Corsi blocks task (backward). Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS-X) was also administered as a possible influence on cognitive performance and SEI.

Results: Young males rated their intelligence quotient (IQ) and emotional quotient (EQ) higher than young females. This was not confirmed for older adults, for which surprisingly the reversed pattern was found. Older women reported higher IQ and EQ than older men. Correlations showed for all participants that the higher they rated their IQ, the higher their ratings of EQ, physical attractiveness, health, and religiousness. No significant correlations between objective tests regarding WM and SEI were found, supporting SEI overestimations. Age, sex, physical attractiveness, and SEEQ were significant predictors of SEI.

Discussion: For the first time, a reverse sex difference across age groups in SEI is found. Implications for individuals and healthcare professionals involved in assessment are suggested.


Although so far findings support that males of all ages tend to estimate their general intelligence about 5–15 IQ points higher than do females, usually around 1 SD above the norm (Furnham, 2017; Furnham & Grover, 2020), this is not the case for this Greek sample of older adults. Males had higher SEI only for the group of young adults, while the reverse was found for older adults as in this group females reported higher SEI. In addition to that, EI followed the same pattern of self-estimations for the interaction of sex and age groups. The view of an “MHFN bias” was not fully confirmed as men in the present study awarded themselves significantly higher estimates for overall and EI, only when they belonged to the group of young adults (Furnham et al., 1999). This sex and age interaction could be explained by affect differences as measured by negative PANAS, which was higher for older men.

Thus, age seems to be of utmost importance when SEI is examined. So far, older adults are not represented in relevant research as convenience samples are usually used (Cherubini & Gasperini, 2017). According to the current findings, the age dimension plays a vital role for SEI and SEEQ in persons aged 65 years or over, so although it has been neglected in relevant literature, future research attempts should consider it as an equally important variable as sex. Although it is difficult to disentangle what may be historical cohort effects (e.g., lack of available access to education) from what might be a biopsychosocial effect of cognitive aging and the understandable downward estimation of one's intelligence, this study points to a new question that needs to be elucidated in future research: Are the findings due to cross-cultural differences, is it a historical cohort effect related to access to education (better and longer educated younger adults), or do the frequently observed sex differences in SEI not generalize to older populations?

When objective cognitive tests of WM are used (such as the Visual Patterns Test), it is interesting that SEI does not correlate with them, something that is an unexpected finding, given that higher objective performance should support estimates of higher IQ. A real strength of this study is that it is backed up by neuropsychological measurements. Thus, for the first time we are able to rule out the presence of neurological impairment in the study or that SEI is an accurate reflection of the difficulties the participants encountered in the neuropsychological battery. Although direct cognitive performance was assessed (as indicated by the four neuropsychological tests), the objective psychometrically measured cognitive ability does not shape self-perceptions such as SEI, a finding that is also reported in Greek older adults with mild cognitive impairments and healthy Greek older adults (Fragkiadaki et al., 2016; Giannouli & Tsolaki, 2022b).

Another point that needs to be taken into consideration is physical attractiveness, which differentiates age and sex groups, as it is highest for old females, followed by young males, young females, and old males. Physical attractiveness has a high correlation with SEI. Also, physical attractiveness may act as a proxy for general self-esteem, and it has been supported that self-esteem is a strong component of the SEI (Reilly et al., 2022). Another point that is remarkable is that there was no correlation between SEI and optimism, a finding that allows us to support that the participants just do not have an optimistic bias toward overestimation. This is in contrast with studies supporting a relationship between optimistic bias, narcissism, and subjectively assessed intelligence (Zajenkowski & Gignac, 2018).

As in a previous study (Furnham & Grover, 2020), demographic variables (sex, age, education), self-ratings (attractiveness, EQ, and health), and non/antiscientific beliefs (regarding religion that has been found to be of utmost importance for Greek older adults; Giannouli & Giannoulis, 2021a, 2021b; Giannoulis & Giannouli, 2020b) were included. Furthermore, as this is the first time that such variables are simultaneously examined in Greece in an extended sample of individuals with varying demographic characteristics, it is worth mentioning the interaction effects for all these self-ratings, as the effect of the sex factor depends on the other factor, which in our case is the age group for SEI, SEEQ, physical attractiveness, and health ratings.

Although high levels of religiousness in Greece are reported in prior research for the old age group (Van Herreweghe & Van Lancker, 2019), both younger and older adults of both sexes in this sample had moderate levels of self-reported religiousness, possibly due to the COVID-19 crisis-imposed restrictions that changed relevant religious behaviors, such as church attendance and public worship (Giannoulis & Giannouli, 2021). Findings revealed that perceived religiousness positively correlated with SEI, SEEQ, and health ratings, but no direct relationship to optimism has been found in contrast to assumed links. The fact that perceived religiousness may not play a role in motivating positive attitudes, including optimism, could be due to the severe health and financial conditions in Greece at the time of assessment of the participants.

This study was not only a replication study, as creativity was also assessed taking the form of attitudes and values. Another novelty of this study was the neuropsychological assessment of WM. For SEI, four were the significant predictors, namely, age (older), sex (male), physical attractiveness, and SEEQ, while no other variables were found to be significant. Among them, self-estimated creativity negatively correlates with SEI only for the group of younger adults, something that could be explained by a different perception of these two psychological constructs (intelligence, creativity) as unrelated and distinct (Furnham et al., 2008).

This may have important implications for psychiatric and neuropsychological assessment as women may show overconfidence in their cognitive abilities, and this may drive them to show less willingness to get assessed based on the higher SEI that older women report or to report distorted data for themselves and their cognitive self-image, but also there might be implications for the everyday living of community-dwelling older women and men, especially in shared environments by both sexes. Although there was a hypothesis that objective WM test performance (concerning visual and verbal aspects of WM) would correlate with SEI, this was not the case. Another interesting neuropsychological finding that should be mentioned here is that although sex is expected to influence verbal capacity performance (e.g., Verbal Fluency Task), sex did not differentiate women and men regarding their phonemic fluency, something that reaffirms that in the Greek population sex contributes only to total word production on the semantic task and that sex differences in specific categories may reflect and be explained by sociocultural factors (Kosmidis et al., 2004).

A point that could be considered as a limitation of this study is that “objective” (i.e., psychometric) intelligence was not directly tested due to the fact that a lengthy testing session is not appropriate for older adults, but also the administration of all of the supplemental subtests to young adults has been criticized for having long administration times and causing fatigue (Greene, 2000), and due to copyright–proprietary issues for the only IQ test in use in Greece (current version of WAIS). However, by including a neuropsychological battery such as verbal fluency and Corsi blocks, we can rule out these results being driven by perceived or actual neuropsychological impairment as a result of aging.

Another limitation is the debate regarding WM and the appropriateness of the included measures (digit forward, visual patterns, and backward Corsi block), which could be better classified as measuring something other than WM, and be more indicative of STM than WM (Shao et al., 2014), while verbal fluency measures are supported to be primarily linked to executive functions (Amunts et al., 2020). A third limitation of this research may be the fact that given that the questions on the 0–100 scale for the self-estimations were presented the one after the other, many participants may have responded automatically with the same or similar reports, without making conscious estimations. Additionally, all participants were Greek Orthodox Christians, so the role of religiousness should be examined through the prism of one single religion. Another point is the fact that overall SEI was measured, and not multiple intelligences following Gardner's theory, while prior test experience was homogeneously present for all participants and could not be included in the analyses as a possible influence (Furnham et al., 2009). Of course, neuropsychological test scores revealed age differences, something that is generally expected in neuropsychological research regardless of the examined cognitive function (Lezak et al., 2012), given that normal ageing degrades the information processed, thus impairing cognitive processing (Schneider & Pichora-Fuller, 2000).

Future research should extend the current findings with the simultaneous examination of personality factors, apart from the state affect factors. Additionally, creativity could be examined in a more detailed way, as the Creative Attitudes and Values may not reflect the “actual” creativity but the attitudes and values that shape involvement in creative behaviors and activities. One more point is that sex should not be confused with gender, which refers to the socially constructed characteristics of women and men, and not to the biological sex, and thus two these two concepts should be examined and inserted into the analyses, separately (Reilly et al., 2022).

Friday, January 27, 2023

Online shopping enhances the long-term subjective well-being of consumers by increasing their proportion of hedonic consumption; high consumer income can weaken this effect; effect is stronger for rural consumers

Click it, and increase hedonic consumption ratio: How does online shopping improve the long-term subjective well-being of consumers? Jiangzhe Wang, Xingping Jia. Journal of Consumer Behaviour, January 18 2023. https://doi.org/10.1002/cb.2086

Abstract: In the past few decades, consumers across the globe have become heavily reliant on e-commerce to purchase almost everything, from essential goods to hedonic goods. The prevalence of online shopping has significantly improved the consumption process and, by meeting consumers' needs, likely affects their long-term subjective well-being (SWB). Using individual-level data from the 2018 China Family Panel Studies, this study shows that online shopping enhances the long-term SWB of consumers by increasing their proportion of hedonic consumption. Consumer income can moderate the effect of online shopping on the long-term SWB of consumers, such that high consumer income can weaken this effect. In addition, the effect of online shopping on long-term SWB is stronger for rural consumers than for urban consumers. The authors close with a discussion of the implications of this study's findings for academics and policy makers.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

In 2002 the most sexually active top 20 % of American heterosexual men had 12 lifetime sex partners while the top 5 % had 38; in 2012, the top 20 % reported 15 lifetime sex partners & the top 5 % of men reported 50

Sexual loneliness – a neglected public health problem? Joona Räsänen. Bioethics, January 20 2023. https://doi.org/10.1111/bioe.13134

A study published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) found that between 2000–2002 and 2016–2018, the proportion of 18 to 24-year-old individuals who reported having had no sexual activity in the past year increased among men (but not among women).1

In another recent study, similar results were reported: American men belonging to the youngest birth cohort who entered adulthood were more likely to be sexually inactive than their Millennial counterparts at the same ages just a few years prior.2

While the number of young men who report having no sexual experiences is increasing, there are also men who have more sex partners than ever before.

The National Survey of Family Growth data shows that in 2002 the most sexually active top 20 % of American heterosexual men had 12 lifetime sex partners while the top 5 % had 38 partners.3 Ten years later, in 2012, the most sexually active top 20 % now reported 15 lifetime sex partners and the top 5 % of men reported 50 lifetime sex partners. There was no change in the median number of sex partners.

The distribution of the number of sex partners among American heterosexual men was skewed already, but in just ten years, the distribution of sex partners among men became even more skewed. During the same time, there was no such change in the number of sex partners for heterosexual women.

Sex is concentrated within a small, yet sexually active, group of people. In one study, it was reported that the 5 % of the population with the highest number of vaginal sex acts (penile-vaginal-intercourse) accounted for more vaginal sex acts than the bottom 50 % of the population with the lowest number of vaginal sex acts. 4

Using the Gini index, it is found that the distribution of the number of sex partners both for men and women throughout their lifespan is as unequal as the distribution of wealth among the most unequal countries in the world (South Africa Gini 0.63 in 2014 and Namibia Gini 0.59 in 2015). The number of female sex partners is more unequally distributed among single men (Gini 0.60) than the number of male sex partners is among single women (Gini 0.58) although both male and female sex partners are highly concentrated among people.5

While sex is not like money or wealth in every aspect, the lack of access to sexual experiences can be seen as a concern for distributive justice6 and a problem for public health since an active sex life is beneficial for people’s health and well-being. There are numerous studies that show the link between active sex life and our mental and physical health.7 On the other hand, people experience negative emotional effects when being without access to sexual and romantic partners. Sexual loneliness decreases self-esteem and positive mood in both men and women. Especially for men, sexual loneliness might cause anger and aggression, which can manifest violently.

Lack of sex and relationship is related to many societal problems, and loneliness and lack of intimacy predispose men to violent behaviour. Misogyny is prevalent in places where competition for women is tough and men struggle to find a partner. Sex offenders, serial killers, terrorists and mass murderers have, likewise, often given sexual frustration as a reason for their actions. Lately, the U.S. Secret Service's National Threat Assessment Center released a report, stating that there is a growing terrorism threat from men who call themselves “involuntary celibates.”8

However, it is not only people in the U.S. that should be worried about the risk of such violence. Sexual loneliness among young men is increasing in many countries. For instance, in my native Finland, the number of men who have trouble finding a sex partner doubled from 1992 to 2015, and the number of young men who have not had intercourse has increased. 9 Yet, at the same time, Finnish men want more sex than they did before. 10

While bioethicists, clinicians and public health experts have recently gained interest in loneliness and its relation to our well-being 11– especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when people were forced to stay at home12– sexual loneliness is still a neglected topic in bioethics and related fields.

One possible aid for sexual loneliness might come from online dating apps such as Tinder. In theory, online dating could provide an efficient way to find a partner. However, online dating divides people heavily into winners and losers – perhaps even more so than traditional dating. While women can get attention from thousands of men online in just a few hours, men are lucky if anyone is interested in them.13 Because online dating apps are visual, rejections can be especially hurtful. It is no surprise that being unsuccessful on Tinder is associated with an increase in sadness and anxiety.14

Technology does not provide a solution to loneliness, in general,15 and will unlikely solve sexual loneliness either. Sexual loneliness has nevertheless become a pressing public health problem that needs serious bioethical analysis and thoughtful solutions. These bioethical analyses could include (but perhaps should not be limited to) critical evaluations of claims made by opposing ideological camps. For instance, consider the following claim, raised by Jordan Peterson: societies should alleviate sexual loneliness by enforcing socially-promoted and culturally-inculcated monogamy.16

Philosophical bioethicists could make valuable contributions to the discussion by analyzing claims like the one above and evaluating whether they are logically consistent and conceptually coherent with the agent’s other commitments. 17 The results could remain conditional: “If you want this-and-this, you ought (not) to do that-and-that.” However, since these conditional claims would stand or fall based on group preferences, attitudes, background assumptions and ideologies, disagreement on what to do would surely remain.