Monday, July 17, 2023

People underestimated how often their romantic partner toyed with the idea of breaking up the relationship

When one's partner wants out: Awareness, attachment anxiety and accuracy. Kenneth Tan, Laura V. Machia, Christopher R. Agnew. European Journal of Social Psychology, July 5 2023.

Abstract: Can a person tell whether their romantic partner wants to break up and, if so, how is such accuracy associated with their own attachment anxiety? We examined these questions by proposing and assessing the construct of perceived partner dissolution consideration (PPDC), including its validity. We then assessed the extent to which partners were accurate in their perceptions of each other's dissolution consideration, focusing on the perceiver's attachment anxiety as a potential moderator. Specifically, in two studies involving couples, dyadic analyses of couple data showed that couple members significantly underestimated (negative mean-level bias) partner dissolution consideration and also projected their own dissolution consideration onto their partners. Couple members higher in anxiety were particularly accurate (tracking accuracy) in their assessments of dissolution consideration. Implications for partner perceptions and judgements of dissolution consideration on relationship functioning are considered.

Saturday, July 15, 2023

People cling to ideas they already know at the expense of fresh ideas, regardless of the true quality of the idea

Greul A, Schweisfurth TG, Raasch C (2023) Does familiarity with an idea bias its evaluation? PLoS ONE 18(7): e0286968, Jul 5 2023.

Abstract: Although many organizations strive for radical or disruptive new ideas, many fall short of their goals. We propose that a primary reason for this failure is rooted in the individuals responsible for innovation: while they seek novel ideas, they prefer familiar ones. While prior research shows that individuals are biased against ideas with high objective novelty, it has overlooked the role of subjective novelty, i.e., the extent to which an idea is novel or unfamiliar to an individual idea evaluator. In this paper, we investigate how such subjective familiarity with an idea shapes idea evaluation in innovation. Drawing on research from psychology and marketing on the mere exposure effect, we argue that familiarity with an idea positively affects the evaluation’s outcome. We present two field studies and one laboratory study that support our hypothesis. This study contributes to the understanding of cognitive biases that affect innovation processes.


Idea evaluation is a crucial step in the innovation process. Understanding the factors that systematically influence evaluation outcomes beyond true quality is key to reducing evaluation errors. We found that familiarity (the opposite of subjective novelty) positively affects idea evaluation–individuals assess ideas more positively if they have been exposed to them before.

Our recent study is in line with existing research on the mere exposure effect, a psychological phenomenon where repeated exposure to a stimulus leads to a more positive attitude towards it [20,32]. Like previous researchers, we find that familiarity, achieved through repeated exposure to a stimulus, increases individuals’ positive evaluations. This reinforcement of earlier findings underscores the robustness of the mere exposure effect across different domains.

What our study adds to this body of knowledge is the application of the mere exposure effect to idea evaluation. We found that individuals evaluate ideas more favorably when they have been exposed to them before. This suggests that the mere exposure effect, previously studied in the context of objects, people, and organizations, extends to abstract concepts such as ideas.

Our recent study extends the body of knowledge on biases in the idea evaluation process, particularly focusing on how the familiarity of ideas influences their assessment. We found that individuals assess ideas more positively if they have been exposed to them before. We built on the body of knowledge on biases in the idea evaluation process, which has pointed out that the uncertain nature of the idea evaluation process renders idea evaluation inaccurate. Since the true value of an idea is unknown, evaluators rely on other cues that are available, but that may introduce error and bias into idea evaluation. Existing literature has investigated different factors that represent relevant (and biasing) cues in idea evaluation [15], e.g., characteristics of the idea creator [e.g., 2426], the idea evaluator [e.g., 9,14,24,25,27,28], the idea evaluation context [e.g., 4,9,29,31], and the evaluation target [e.g. 24]. Our paper speaks to this last strand of research and demonstrates that familiarity, the opposite of subjective novelty, positively affects idea evaluation. This suggests that the mere exposure effect is applicable to idea evaluation processes, introducing a new perspective to the existing cues evaluators use.

Implications for research

Our findings inform prior literature in several ways. First, we contribute to the research into idea evaluation in innovation in general [e.g. 2,9,15] by shedding light on familiarity (or its conceptual opposite, subjective novelty) as an independent driver of individuals’ evaluation decisions. Idea familiarity is likely to be ubiquitous in organizational innovation processes, since new ideas evolve over time and are likely to be discussed repeatedly in partly overlapping groups. This makes prior idea exposure a key variable that has to date been largely overlooked in the research.

Second, we add to the body of research that has focused on collective/objective novelty, which describes a relationship between an idea and a collective, such as a firm, a panel, a body of knowledge, or a social system [2,12,13]. Drawing on [10], we have extended the prevailing notion of novelty by highlighting the subjectivity of idea novelty or familiarity [9]. Subjective novelty describes the relationship between an idea and an individual idea evaluator; thus, it differs between individuals.

Third, our findings that more familiar ideas are less likely to be devalued than unfamiliar ideas also bears on literature whereby individuals tend to reject ideas if they feel uncertain in evaluation situations [23]. Following this literature, uncertainty reduction may be a principal mechanism whereby idea familiarity leads to increased liking.

Finally, we suggest that familiarity is an underappreciated mechanism that explains some well-known phenomena. For instance, the not-invented-here syndrome [5,43] may partly be driven by a familiarity effect, since individuals are more likely to be familiar with internal than with external ideas and therefore positively inclined toward the former and biased against the latter. Also, organizational myopia leading to the lack of ability to come up with breakthrough ideas may be partly rooted in the fact that decision-makers favor familiar ideas over unfamiliar ones [44].

Implications for practice

Our study has important implications for practitioners. The bias toward familiar ideas that we have uncovered harms innovation success in organizations as it counteracts the goal to find, select, and implement highly novel ideas. Firms find it hard to overcome this bias, since it is often individual decision-makers who decide about the fate of ideas.

Based on our research, we advise that managers be more aware that they are subject to familiarity bias. It can be counteracted by putting evaluation panels in charge of particularly important decisions and by job rotation as it can offset the biasing effect of individual idea familiarity. Finally, distributed idea evaluation (e.g., internal crowdfunding [25]) is gaining in popularity as a new tool in the decision-making toolbox. It helps to overcome individual level familiarity biases, as long as subjective familiarity with an idea is differently distributed across evaluators: A more diverse group of evaluators is likely to have a broader range of familiarities with different ideas, reducing the overall bias in the decision-making process.

Viewed from a different angle, our findings also add to the toolbox of influence tactics [3], since employees can use sequences of prior exposure with ideas to convince supervisors of their ideas.

Limitations and future research

This study has several limitations, which also open up directions for future research.

First, we did not consider boundary conditions to our findings. Familiarity and subjective novelty may have differential effects depending on other key variables. That is, we would expect that familiarity’s effects may depend on the context (e.g. high vs. low uncertainty), the idea type (e.g. ideas with high vs. low collective novelty), the idea source (e.g. is the ideator inside or outside the firm), and evaluator characteristics (e.g. high vs. low openness to new experiences). Future research could benefit from investigating these contingencies.

Second, we did not measure the de facto mediating process by which idea familiarity leads to higher idea evaluation. We shed light on a number of potential candidates that may drive idea familiarity’s effects on idea evaluation, such as fluency or reduced uncertainty. We encourage researchers to be more explicit about the respective path and to identify under what conditions each path is likely to operate.

Third, we have investigated familiarity’s effects for single exposures only. For repeated exposure, familiarity’s effects may weaken or may even reverse. When we entered the quadratic term of familiarity in our factorial survey study, we found significant decreasing returns for familiarity, but the effect remained positive over the full range of responses. Future research should investigate whether this positive effect turns negative and leads to reduced evaluation for very high exposure levels.

Fourth, the field studies were conducted within a large automotive firm, which might limit the generalizability of the results to other industries and organizations. Future research should replicate the study in different industries and organization types, which will help validate the findings and increase the generalizability of the results.

Friday, July 14, 2023

Combining Human Expertise with Artificial Intelligence: Unless the documented mistakes can be corrected, the optimal solution involves assigning cases either to humans or to AI, but rarely to a human assisted by AI

Combining Human Expertise with Artificial Intelligence: Experimental Evidence from Radiology. Nikhil Agarwal, Alex Moehring, Pranav Rajpurkar & Tobias Salz. NBER Working Paper 31422, Jul 2023.

While Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms have achieved performance levels comparable to human experts on various predictive tasks, human experts can still access valuable contextual information not yet incorporated into AI predictions. Humans assisted by AI predictions could outperform both human-alone or AI-alone. We conduct an experiment with professional radiologists that varies the availability of AI assistance and contextual information to study the effectiveness of human-AI collaboration and to investigate how to optimize it. Our findings reveal that (i) providing AI predictions does not uniformly increase diagnostic quality, and (ii) providing contextual information does increase quality. Radiologists do not fully capitalize on the potential gains from AI assistance because of large deviations from the benchmark Bayesian model with correct belief updating. The observed errors in belief updating can be explained by radiologists’ partially underweighting the AI’s information relative to their own and not accounting for the correlation between their own information and AI predictions. In light of these biases, we design a collaborative system between radiologists and AI. Our results demonstrate that, unless the documented mistakes can be corrected, the optimal solution involves assigning cases either to humans or to AI, but rarely to a human assisted by AI.

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Observations of a wild colony of macaques over three years show same-sex sexual behavior among males is widespread and may be beneficial

Jackson Clive, Ewan Flintham, Vincent Savolainen. Same-sex sociosexual behaviour is widespread and heritable in male rhesus macaques. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 2023; DOI: 10.1038/s41559-023-02111-y

Abstract: Numerous reports have documented the occurrence of same-sex sociosexual behaviour (SSB) across animal species. However, the distribution of the behaviour within a species needs to be studied to test hypotheses describing its evolution and maintenance, in particular whether the behaviour is heritable and can therefore evolve by natural selection. Here we collected detailed observations across 3 yr of social and mounting behaviour of 236 male semi-wild rhesus macaques, which we combined with a pedigree dating back to 1938, to show that SSB is both repeatable (19.35%) and heritable (6.4%). Demographic factors (age and group structure) explained SSB variation only marginally. Furthermore, we found a positive genetic correlation between same-sex mounter and mountee activities, indicating a common basis to different forms of SSB. Finally, we found no evidence of fitness costs to SSB, but show instead that the behaviour mediated coalitionary partnerships that have been linked to improved reproductive success. Together, our results demonstrate that SSB is frequent in rhesus macaques, can evolve, and is not costly, indicating that SSB may be a common feature of primate reproductive ecology.


Popular version: Imperial College London. "Study shows same-sex sexual behavior is widespread and heritable in macaque monkeys." ScienceDaily, July 10 2023.

The team investigated several of these theories with their data, finding that, for this colony of macaques, SSB in males was strongly correlated with 'coalitionary bonds'. This means male pairs that regularly engage in SSB were more likely to back each other up in conflicts, providing them with an advantage in the group.

Heritable behaviours

The researchers also investigated whether SSB led to any fitness cost -- a reduction in the amount of offspring they have. In fact, they found the opposite -- males that engaged in SSB may be more successful in reproducing, potentially due to the benefits provided by more coalitionary bonds.

Why military elites fight in civil wars and on what side: In addition to home state, economic and professional interests were a major influence on West Pointers

Rebel, Remain, or Resign? Military Elites’ Decision-Making at the Onset of the American Civil War. Peter B. White. Journal of Conflict Resolution, June 23, 2023.

Abstract: A critical element in civil wars is military fragmentation. Yet, we have a limited understanding of why military elites fight in civil wars and on what side. In this article I develop a theory of the economic and professional motivations of military elites. I test this theory using the case of West Point graduates in the American Civil War. I argue that in addition to home state, economic and professional interests were a major influence on West Pointers. Graduates with connections to Southern cash crops were less likely to fight for the Union and more likely to fight for the Confederacy. Higher ranking graduates were more likely to fight for both sides, as they were better positioned to compete for promotion. I test this argument using a new dataset of more than 1000 West Point graduates’ wartime allegiances and antebellum careers and find strong evidence in support of my expectations.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

We find that, as Asian students arrive, white student enrollment declines in higher-income suburbs; fears of academic competition may play a role

White Flight from Asian Immigration: Evidence from California Public Schools. Leah Platt Boustan, Christine Cai & Tammy Tseng. NBER Working Paper, Jul 2023.

Asian Americans are the fastest-growing racial group in the US but we know little about how Asian immigration has affected cities, neighborhoods and schools. This paper studies white flight from Asian arrivals in high-socioeconomic-status Californian school districts from 2000-2016 using initial settlement patterns and national immigrant flows to instrument for entry. We find that, as Asian students arrive, white student enrollment declines in higher-income suburbs. These patterns cannot be fully explained by racial animus, housing prices, or correlations with Black/Hispanic arrivals. Parental fears of academic competition may play a role.

Traditional beliefs: Commonly-used, but typically prohibitively expensive rituals, partially correct the beliefs about the risk of theft for sellers who report believing in the ritual’s efficacy, which allows for more inventory and larger sales

On the Importance of African Traditional Religion for Economic Behavior. Lewis Dunia Butinda, Aimable Amani Lameke, Nathan Nunn, Max Posch & Raúl Sánchez de la Sierra. NBER Working Paper 31430, July 2023. DOI 10.3386/w31430

Within the field of economics, despite being widespread, African traditional religions tend to be perceived as unimportant and ignored when studying economic decision-making. This study tests whether this presumption is correct. Using daily data on business decisions and performance of beer sellers in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, we study the importance of traditional religious beliefs for economic behavior and outcomes. Beer sellers perceive the risk of theft in their shops to be higher than it actually is, causing them to hold lower inventories, more frequent stock-outs, and reduced profits. We facilitate randomly-timed access to commonly-used, but typically prohibitively expensive rituals, which reduce the perceived risk of theft. We find that the rituals partially correct the beliefs about the risk of theft for sellers who report believing in the ritual’s efficacy. These sellers purchase more inventory, experience fewer stock-outs, and have larger sales, revenues, and profits. To distinguish the belief in the efficacy of the ritual from other incidental effects of participation, we analyze these outcomes for sellers who do not believe in the ritual. For these individuals, we find none of the observed effects. The findings provide evidence of the importance of African traditional religions, demonstrating that they can influence behavior and outcomes that are important for economic development.


Monday, July 10, 2023

Credit expansions to the non-tradable sector systematically predict growth slowdowns & financial crises; credit expansions to the tradable sector are associated with sustained output & productivity growth without a higher risk of a financial crisis

Credit Allocation and Macroeconomic Fluctuations. Karsten Müller & Emil Verner. NBER Working Paper 31420, Jun 2023. DOI 10.3386/w31420

Abstract: We study the relationship between credit expansions, macroeconomic fluctuations, and financial crises using a novel database on the sectoral distribution of private credit for 117 countries since 1940. We document that, during credit booms, credit flows disproportionately to the non-tradable sector. Credit expansions to the non-tradable sector, in turn, systematically predict subsequent growth slowdowns and financial crises. In contrast, credit expansions to the tradable sector are associated with sustained output and productivity growth without a higher risk of a financial crisis. To understand these patterns, we show that firms in the non-tradable sector tend to be smaller, more reliant on loans secured by real estate, and more likely to default during crises. Our findings are consistent with models in which credit booms to the non-tradable sector are driven by easy financing conditions and amplified by collateral feedbacks, contributing to increased financial fragility and a boom-bust cycle.

Tuesday, July 4, 2023

In the case of the Aztec Empire, high inequality predates the Spanish–Aztec War; the richest 1% earned 41.8% of the total income, while the income share of the poorest 50% was just 23.3%

Income and inequality in the Aztec Empire on the eve of the Spanish conquest. Guido Alfani & Alfonso Carballo. Nature Human Behaviour, June 26 2023.

Abstract: Today, Latin American countries are characterized by relatively high levels of economic inequality. This circumstance has often been considered a long-run consequence of the Spanish conquest and of the highly extractive institutions imposed by the colonizers. Here we show that, in the case of the Aztec Empire, high inequality predates the Spanish conquest, also known as the Spanish–Aztec War. We reach this conclusion by estimating levels of income inequality and of imperial extraction across the empire. We find that the richest 1% earned 41.8% of the total income, while the income share of the poorest 50% was just 23.3%. We also argue that those provinces that had resisted the Aztec expansion suffered from relatively harsh conditions, including higher taxes, in the context of the imperial system—and were the first to rebel, allying themselves with the Spaniards. Existing literature suggests that after the Spanish conquest, the colonial elites inherited pre-existing extractive institutions and added additional layers of social and economic inequality.

Monday, July 3, 2023

People prefer natural medicines more when treating psychological than physical conditions, because they perceive natural drugs to be less likely than synthetic drugs to alter their true selves

Consumers prefer natural medicines more when treating psychological than physical conditions. Tianyi Li, David Gal. Journal of Consumer Psychology, June 24 2023.

Abstract: Consumers generally prefer natural to synthetic drugs; a phenomenon known as the “natural preference”. Through six experiments and one archival study, the current research shows that while consumers have a general preference for natural drugs over synthetic drugs, this preference is stronger when the goal is to treat psychological rather than physical conditions. Process evidence indicates an important mechanism that explains the amplified natural preference for treating psychological conditions: consumers are more concerned about their true selves being altered when treating psychological conditions, and they perceive natural drugs to be less likely than synthetic drugs to affect their true selves. The current research provides novel insights into the natural preference. It also offers policy and managerial implications for marketing natural remedies and pharmacological treatments for mental health conditions.

Self-reported pro-environmental behavior was highly exaggerated, especially by environmentalists

Identifying bias in self-reported pro-environmental behavior. Katharina Koller, Paulina K. Pankowska, Cameron Brick. Current Research in Ecological and Social Psychology, Volume 4, 2023, 100087.

Abstract: Research on pro-environmental behavior (PEB) informs social policies and interventions, so the quality of PEB measurement is critical. Self-reported PEB measures in surveys often contain non-negligible measurement error that can bias estimates and lead to incorrect findings. Given the potential presence of error, we hypothesize that changes to the way self-reported PEB is measured might lead to systematic measurement errors that affect the validity of results. Study 1 (N = 951) showed that priming participants with related scales like environmentalist identity did not substantively change reported behavior (all ds ≤ 0.12). To investigate the possibility of overreporting without priming, Study 2 (N = 385) measured littering prevention behavior using the Unmatched Count Technique. A standard questionnaire format led to much higher reported behavior compared to the more anonymous covert condition, d = 0.53, and this effect appeared driven by participants who reported a stronger environmentalist identity. These results may help to explain some of the observed error in PEB measures. We suggest that researchers could reduce measurement bias with indirect questioning techniques.

Keywords: Pro-environmental behavior; Measurement error; Question-behavior effect; Social identity; Social norms; Social desirability bias

The contribution of work experience and education to human capital accumulation and economic development might be equally important

Jedwab, Remi, Paul Romer, Asif M. Islam, and Roberto Samaniego. 2023. "Human Capital Accumulation at Work: Estimates for the World and Implications for Development." American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, 15 (3): 191-223. DOI: 10.1257/mac.20210002

Abstract: We (i) study wage-experience profiles and obtain measures of returns to potential work experience using data from about 24 million individuals in 1,084 surveys and census samples across 145 countries; (ii) show that workers in developed countries accumulate twice as much human capital at work as those in developing countries; (iii) use a simple accounting framework to find that the contribution of work experience and education to human capital accumulation and economic development might be equally important; and (iv) employ panel regressions to investigate how changes in the returns over time correlate with several factors such as economic recessions, transitions, and human capital stocks.

Sunday, July 2, 2023

Consistent with a plausible cultural mechanism, individuals whose origin place a high value on autonomy hold a comparative advantage in positions characterized by a low degree of routinization; this persists among immigrants' children

Cultural Values and Productivity. Andreas Ek. Journal of Political Economy, Jun 2023.

Abstract: This paper estimates differences in human capital as country-of-origin specific labor productivity terms, in firm production functions, making it immune to wage discrimination concerns.  After accounting for wage and experience, estimated human capital varies by a factor of around 3 between the 90th and 10th percentile.  When I investigate which country-of-origin characteristics correlate most closely with human capital, cultural values are the only robust predictor.  This relationship persists among children of migrants.  Consistent with a plausible cultural mechanism, individuals whose origin place a high value on autonomy hold a comparative advantage in positions characterized by a low degree of routinization.