Thursday, March 23, 2023

Experimental evidence that core intertemporal choice anomalies—like extreme short-run impatience, structural estimates of present bias, hyperbolicity & transitivity violations—are driven by complexity rather than time or risk preferences

Complexity and Time. Benjamin Enke, Thomas Graeber & Ryan Oprea. NBER Working Paper 31047. Mar 2023. DOI 10.3386/w31047

Abstract: We provide experimental evidence that core intertemporal choice anomalies -- including extreme short-run impatience, structural estimates of present bias, hyperbolicity and transitivity violations -- are driven by complexity rather than time or risk preferences. First, all anomalies also arise in structurally similar atemporal decision problems involving valuation of iteratively discounted (but immediately paid) rewards. These computational errors are strongly predictive of intertemporal decisions. Second, intertemporal choice anomalies are highly correlated with indices of complexity responses including cognitive uncertainty and choice inconsistency. We show that model misspecification resulting from ignoring behavioral responses to complexity severely inflates structural estimates of present bias.

Female participants who interacted with a female chatbot gave the lowest ratings for goodwill and likeability among all groups

Gender identity and influence in human-machine Communication:A mixed-methods exploration. Weizi Liu, Mike Yao. Computers in Human Behavior, March 20 2023, 107750.

Abstract: The advancement of conversational technologies stimulates new research agenda on the patterns, norms, and social impacts of human-machine communication (HMC) as a novel process. Conversational agents (CAs), a prevalent example of machines that communicate with users directly, are usually depicted as females in assisting roles. This study intends to explore empirical evidence of how “gendered” technologies might influence HMC and potentially reinforce gender stereotyping in human-human communication. We applied a mixed-methods approach to explore users' gender-related responses and evaluations in the interaction with CAs. First, we observed unrestricted interactions between 36 human participants and Amazon Alexa in a laboratory and qualitatively analyzed the transcripts to detect gendered communication cues. We then conducted a 2 × 3 (participant gender: female vs. male; CA gender: female vs. male vs. neutral) online experiment where 250 participants interacted with a customized chatbot created by the researcher. Results showed participants’ different emotions/tones, engagement, (non)accommodation, as well as credibility, attraction, and likeability evaluations between human-CA gender pairs.

Expressions of Pain, Pleasure, and Fear Are Consistently Rated Due to Chance

“Eye can’t see the difference”: Facial Expressions of Pain, Pleasure, and Fear Are Consistently Rated Due to Chance. Silvia Boschetti, Hermann Prossinger, Tomáš Hladký, Kamila Machová, Jakub Binter. Human Ethology, Volume 37, 046-072,  Nov 26, 2022.

Abstract: Our research consisted of two studies focusing on the probability of humans being able to perceive the difference between faces expressing pain versus pleasure. As controls, we included: smile, neutral facial expression, and expression of fear. The first study was conducted online and used a large sample (n = 902) of respondents. The second study was conducted in a laboratory setting and involved a stress induction procedure. For both, the task was to categorize whether the facial expression was rated positive, neutral or negative. Stimuli were faces extracted from freely downloadable online videos. Each rating participant (rater) was presented with five facial expressions (stimuli) of five females and of five males. All raters were presented with the stimuli twice so as to evaluate the consistency of the ratings. Beforehand, we tested for stimuli differences using specialized software and found decisive differences. Using a Bayesian statistical approach, we could test for consistencies and due-to-chance probabilities. The results support the prediction that the results are not repeatable but are solely due to chance, decreasing the communication value of the expressions of pain and pleasure. The expression of fear was also rated due to chance, but neither neutral nor smile. Stress induction did have an impact  on the perception of pleasure.

Keywords: perception, emotion, facial expression, visual stimuli, BDSM, pain and pleasure, Dirichlet distribution, Bayesian statistical approach, Cold Pressor Task

Rolf Degen summarizing... There is a fine line between neuroticism and high sensitivity, and the self-diagnosis of high sensitivity brings considerable redemption

On the feeling of being different–an interview study with people who define themselves as highly sensitive. Marcus Roth ,Danièle A. Gubler,Tobias Janelt,Banous Kolioutsis,Stefan J. Troche. PLoS March 17, 2023.

Abstract: The construct of “sensory processing sensitivity” has become an extremely popular concept outside the scientific literature under the term “high sensitivity” (HS), reflected in a variety of self-help guides and media reports. Therefore, the present study aimed to investigate this phenomenon by examining in-depth individuals who consider the label HS essential to their self-definition. In semi-structured interviews, 38 individuals described their understanding of HS and its perceived manifestations and impact on their lives (among other topics). Subsequently, the data were content-analytically evaluated, i.e., categorized and quantified. One key finding was that HS individuals feel relief following self-attribution or self-diagnosis. Moreover, this self-attribution replaced the feeling of being somehow different from the others, which almost all interviewees mentioned, with positive attributes. The main negative features of HS mentioned were feeling overwhelmed by sensory and emotional stimuli. The results are discussed with regard to the significance of the label HS for this group on the one hand, and with regard to alternative approaches for future research on the other hand.


As described in the introduction, the construct known variously as sensory processing sensitivity (SPS) or high sensitivity (HS) has gained enormous importance in everyday psychology, going far beyond the construct’s scientific foundation. As the abundance of popular scientific literature and self-help guides shows, many people identify with and feel that they fall under the category of SPS. Therefore, the present study sought to find out how these people define HS, what manifestations they perceive, and what impact HS has on their lives. For this purpose, we conducted interviews with individuals who strongly define themselves as highly sensitive. Of course, it can be assumed that the definition of HSP and the self-perception of individuals is strongly influenced by social media and popular scientific works. Therefore, it is not surprising that the definitional elements we found are very much reflective of the popular scientific literature [see e.g., 73240].

Summarizing the interview statements, the following picture emerges: People see the main characteristic of HS as increased and more intensive perception of emotional and sensory stimuli as well as longer processing of these stimuli. In addition, many subjects describe that they have stronger emotional empathy and are better able to recognize the perspectives of others. This is seen as positive by many, whereas the resulting feeling of exhaustibility and overstimulation is evaluated as negative by most. These data correspond with previous empirical findings that showed that HS is associated with global symptom load [1819], stress, [4142], and anxiety [43]. Overall, as stated also in the scientific literature cited above, the feeling of being overwhelmed is essential to defining HS [e.g., 517].

Despite these sometimes stressful experiences, almost all of the participants interviewed reported predominantly positive feelings when they first heard about HS. For many, this amounted to an attestation of “being normal”. Many saw themselves as part of a larger community and no longer as outsiders. The feeling of being somehow different from others, which almost all interviewees mentioned, was replaced with positive attributes. Thus, identification with HS can be described as "liberation" from the feeling of being deficient for most participants in this study. Correspondingly, a majority reported greater self-acceptance, especially since many explicitly described HS as a special ability. One participant summarized this connection in a particularly impressive way: “So, if you have always this stamp on your forehead that you are different, then it is very nice to hear that there is a cause for it–that it is not a disorder, but actually a special ability.”

At this point, we would like to make a first attempt to relate this pattern of results to the lack of separability between HS and neuroticism [e.g., 61831]: Neuroticism is commonly evaluated negatively, as seen when individuals are asked to report their personality traits under “faking good” instructions [e.g., 4445]. This is likely reinforced by terms such as "emotional lability". Here, only the negative side of high neuroticism is considered, while positive features related to increased emotionality are not included—neither in the description of this personality trait nor in the items measuring it. In contrast to traits like “neurotic” or “introverted”, the term “highly sensitive” appears to be positively connotated. Furthermore, this term not only describes deficits, but also includes strengths of high neuroticism. In this way, the concept of HS might be a (quite desirable) way to free neuroticism from its purely deficit-based characterization. As shown by our results, HS people described suffering as a result of the pathologization of their emotionality and therefore experienced the label “highly sensitive” as liberating. In principle, a neutral label for a basic personality trait seems necessary. However, the problem with HS could be that the same mistake, namely judgmental labelling, is now made in the reverse direction: HS is posited as a positive trait by the flower metaphor [12946], for example, according to which people are divided into “dandelions” (i.e. low sensitivity), “tulips” (medium sensitivity), and “orchids” (i.e. high sensitivity). Here, it seems useful to find a middle ground in terminology–something between “disturbed neurotics” and “the elected few of the human race”(to put it in rather pointed terms).

Interestingly, a recent study was able to demonstrate links between SPS and both vulnerable and grandiose narcissism [47].

In addition to highlighting people’s need to receive a neutral or positive description of their personality in order to be able to accept themselves, the present study can also advance scientific research. Of course, it remains possible that SPS actually exists as a trait but has so far been insufficiently conceptualized and measured. As mentioned above, it is currently difficult to distinguish HS from neuroticism, introversion and openness. Undoubtedly, one reason for this is the HSPS, which contains a large number of items measuring neuroticism, extraversion, and openness. However, this should not be surprising given how the HSPS items were generated. To extract the basic characteristics of HS people, Aron and Aron [5] asked students from university psychology classes to interview “‘highly sensitive people’—that is, those who are ‘either highly introverted (for example, preferring the company of one or two people) or easily overwhelmed by stimulation (such as noisy places or evocative or shocking entertainment)”. When manifestations of introversion and neuroticism are used as inclusion criteria, it is not surprising that items measuring introversion and neuroticism emerge as a result. It is possible that the “wrong people” were interviewed through this procedure. In contrast, the present study takes a more neutral approach and could serve as a start point for the development of an alternative scale with items that do not measure neuroticism and introversion, but refer primarily to what is specific to HSP.

Nevertheless, the biased sample characteristics can be viewed as limitations of the present study: The vast majority of participants were female and highly educated. These tendencies may not be uncommon in psychological studies, but were especially strong in the current study. However, this is not really surprising due to the recruitment procedure. Furthermore, although N = 38 is considerable for a qualitative sample, this sample size lacks representativeness and therefore must be viewed critically when it comes to generalizability. However, the consistent pattern of our results allows us to assume that the present study’s findings do allow a certain degree of generalization. Of course, such a generalization can only be valid for the German cultural area. Since this is the first study that explores people who define themselves as highly sensitive, information on cultural differences is unfortunately not available. However, the specific ways in which HS manifests “as a blessing and a burden” [47] in different cultures should be an interesting question for future research.