Saturday, September 16, 2017

Land plants have regulated their stomatal conductance to allow their intrinsic water use efficiency to increase in nearly constant proportion to the rise in atmospheric [CO2]

Atmospheric evidence for a global secular increase in carbon isotopic discrimination of land photosynthesis. Ralph F. Keeling et al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,

Significance: Climate change and rising CO2 are altering the behavior of land plants in ways that influence how much biomass they produce relative to how much water they need for growth. This study shows that it is possible to detect changes occurring in plants using long-term measurements of the isotopic composition of atmospheric CO2. These measurements imply that plants have globally increased their water use efficiency at the leaf level in proportion to the rise in atmospheric CO2 over the past few decades. While the full implications remain to be explored, the results help to quantify the extent to which the biosphere has become less constrained by water stress globally.

Abstract: A decrease in the 13C/12C ratio of atmospheric CO2 has been documented by direct observations since 1978 and from ice core measurements since the industrial revolution. This decrease, known as the 13C-Suess effect, is driven primarily by the input of fossil fuel-derived CO2 but is also sensitive to land and ocean carbon cycling and uptake. Using updated records, we show that no plausible combination of sources and sinks of CO2 from fossil fuel, land, and oceans can explain the observed 13C-Suess effect unless an increase has occurred in the 13C/12C isotopic discrimination of land photosynthesis. A trend toward greater discrimination under higher CO2 levels is broadly consistent with tree ring studies over the past century, with field and chamber experiments, and with geological records of C3 plants at times of altered atmospheric CO2, but increasing discrimination has not previously been included in studies of long-term atmospheric 13C/12C measurements. We further show that the inferred discrimination increase of 0.014 ± 0.007‰ ppm−1 is largely explained by photorespiratory and mesophyll effects. This result implies that, at the global scale, land plants have regulated their stomatal conductance so as to allow the CO2 partial pressure within stomatal cavities and their intrinsic water use efficiency to increase in nearly constant proportion to the rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration.

A semantic space analysis of how presidential candidates and their supporters represent abstract political concepts differently

Speaking two "Languages" in America: A semantic space analysis of how presidential candidates and their supporters represent abstract political concepts differently. Ping Li, Benjamin Schloss and  Jake Follmer. Behavior Research Methods,

Abstract: In this article we report a computational semantic analysis of the presidential candidates' speeches in the two major political parties in the USA. In Study One, we modeled the political semantic spaces as a function of party, candidate, and time of election, and findings revealed patterns of differences in the semantic representation of key political concepts and the changing landscapes in which the presidential candidates align or misalign with their parties in terms of the representation and organization of politically central concepts. Our models further showed that the 2016 US presidential nominees had distinct conceptual representations from those of previous election years, and these patterns did not necessarily align with their respective political parties' average representation of the key political concepts. In Study Two, structural equation modeling demonstrated that reported political engagement among voters differentially predicted reported likelihoods of voting for Clinton versus Trump in the 2016 presidential election. Study Three indicated that Republicans and Democrats showed distinct, systematic word association patterns for the same concepts/terms, which could be reliably distinguished using machine learning methods. These studies suggest that given an individual's political beliefs, we can make reliable predictions about how they understand words, and given how an individual understands those same words, we can also predict an individual's political beliefs. Our study provides a bridge between semantic space models and abstract representations of political concepts on the one hand, and the representations of political concepts and citizens' voting behavior on the other.

Attitudes toward science seem to become ever more polarized

Attitudes Towards Science. Bastiaan T. Rutjens et al. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology,

Abstract: As science continues to progress, attitudes toward science seem to become ever more polarized. Whereas some put their faith in science, others routinely reject and dismiss scientific evidence. This chapter provides an integration of recent research on how people evaluate science. We organize our chapter along three research topics that are most relevant to this goal: ideology, motivation, and morality. We review the relations of political and religious ideologies to science attitudes, discuss the psychological functions and motivational underpinnings of belief in science, and describe work looking at the role of morality when evaluating science and scientists. In the final part of the chapter, we apply what we know about science evaluations to the current crisis of faith in science and the open science movement. Here, we also take into account the increased accessibility and popularization of science and the (perceived) relations between science and industry.

Keywords: Science; Belief in science; Antiscience; Motivation; Ideology; Religion; Morality; Control; Order; Existential meaning; Popularization of science; Open science

Tax compliance is greater for women than men, but men are more willing to contribute to public goods

The Role of Gender in the Provision of Public Goods through Tax Compliance. David M. Bruner, John D'Attoma, Sven Steinmo. Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics,

•    The results of a large scale laboratory tax compliance experiment conducted in the U.S., the U.K., Sweden, and Italy with nearly 5000 subjects are reported.
•    We find significant evidence of gender differences in tax compliance and the willingness to contribute to public goods.
•    We find robust evidence that tax compliance is greater for women than men.
•    We also find evidence that men are more willing to contribute to public goods.
•    Overall, the compliance effect dominates the free-riding effect for the parameters in the experiment such that women bear a greater burden of the provision of the public good.

Abstract: The existing experimental literature suggests women are more compliant than men when paying taxes but may free ride more when contributing to public goods. It is unclear which effect dominates when paying for public goods through taxation. Experiments conducted in three European countries and the U.S. are used to investigate this issue. The results suggest that women bear a greater burden of the provision of public goods for the parameters in the experiment. The results indicate the gender gap in compliance is due to differences in both the extensive and intensive margins.

Keywords: Individual income tax; Public goods; Gender; Experiments
JEL codes:     H2; H26; C91

My comment: As if it were some kind of compensation, women hide less from taxation and smaller amounts than men, but men are more willing to contribute more if the benefits for all increase.

Friday, September 15, 2017

People believe that future others' preferences and beliefs will change to align with their own

The Belief in a Favorable Future. Todd Rogers, Don Moore and Michael Norton. Psychological Science, Volume 28, issue 9, page(s): 1290-1301,

Abstract: ***People believe that future others' preferences and beliefs will change to align with their own***. People holding a particular view (e.g., support of President Trump) are more likely to believe that future others will share their view than to believe that future others will have an opposing view (e.g., opposition to President Trump). ***Six studies demonstrated this belief in a favorable future (BFF) for political views, scientific beliefs, and entertainment and product preferences***. BFF is greater in magnitude than the tendency to believe that current others share one's views (false-consensus effect), arises across cultures, is distinct from general optimism, is strongest when people perceive their views as being objective rather than subjective, and can affect (but is distinct from) beliefs about favorable future policy changes. A lab experiment involving monetary bets on the future popularity of politicians and a field experiment involving political donations (N = 660,542) demonstrated that BFF can influence people's behavior today.

Authoritarianism and Affective Polarization: A New View on the Origins of Partisan Extremism

Authoritarianism and Affective Polarization: A New View on the Origins of Partisan Extremism. Matthew Luttig. Public Opinion Quarterly, nfx023,

Abstract: What drives affective polarization in American politics? One common argument is that Democrats and Republicans are deeply polarized today because they are psychologically different - motivated by diametrically opposed and clashing worldviews. This paper argues that the same psychological motivation - authoritarianism - is positively related to partisan extremism among both Republicans and Democrats. Across four studies, this paper shows that authoritarianism is associated with strong partisanship and heightened affective polarization among both Republicans and Democrats. Thus, strong Republicans and Democrats are psychologically similar, at least with respect to authoritarianism. As authoritarianism provides an indicator of underlying needs to belong, these findings support a view of mass polarization as nonsubstantive and group-centric, not driven by competing ideological values or clashing psychological worldviews.

Staggering SNAP benefits throughout the month leads to a 32 pct decrease in grocery store theft

SNAP Benefits and Crime: Evidence from Changing Disbursement Schedules. Jillian B. Carr and Analisa Packham. University of Miami, Oxford, OH., Department of Economics
Working Paper # - 2017-01.

Abstract: Government transfer programs infuse a substantial amount of resources into the budgets of millions of low-income families each month. Under some states' aid disbursement schemes, there are extended periods of time within each month in which no recipients receive transfers, generally limiting the amount of resources in communities. In this paper, we study the effects of nutritional aid disbursement on crime, utilizing two main sources of variation: (i) a policy change in Illinois which substantially increased the number of SNAP distribution days, and (ii) an existing Indiana policy that issues SNAP benefits by last name. We find that ***staggering SNAP benefits throughout the month leads to a 32 percent decrease in grocery store theft and reduces monthly cyclicity in grocery store crimes***. Moreover, we find that the relationship between time since SNAP issuance and crime is nonlinear. Findings show that criminal behavior decreases in the second and third weeks following receipt, but increases in the last week of the benefit cycle, potentially due to resource constraints.

My comment: Petty crime is rational most of the time... If you get government money you commit less theft, probably due to the cost (jail time, fines). If you don't get the money it pays to enter into small theft, despite possible consequences.

Obviously, impulsivity is also an issue here. They control better their spending if the money is staggered, but if they get a lump sum every month, theft increases in the last week of that month...

Students who believed that their peers were more socially connected reported lower well-being and belonging

From Misperception to Social Connection: Correlates and Consequences of Overestimating Others’ Social Connectedness. Ashley V. Whillans et al. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin,

Abstract: Two studies document the existence and correlates of a widespread social belief, wherein individuals who have recently moved to a new social environment see their peers as more socially connected than they themselves are. In Study 1, the prevalence of this belief was documented in a large sample of first-year students (N = 1,099). In Study 2, the prevalence of this social belief was replicated in a targeted sample of university students (N = 389). Study 2 also documented both positive and negative implications of this belief. Specifically, at any given time, students who believed that their peers were more socially connected reported lower well-being and belonging. Over time, however, the belief that one’s peers are moderately more socially connected than oneself was associated with more friendship formation.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Backward planning led to greater motivation, higher goal expectancy, less time pressure and better goal-relevant performance

Relative Effects of Forward and Backward Planning on Goal Pursuit. Jooyoung Park, Fang-Chi Lu, and William M. Hedgcock. Psychological Science,

Abstract: Considerable research has shown that planning plays an important role in goal pursuit. But how does the way people plan affect goal pursuit? Research on this question is scarce. In the current research, we examined how planning the steps required for goal attainment in chronological order (i.e., forward planning) and reverse chronological order (i.e., backward planning) influences individuals’ motivation for and perceptions of goal pursuit. Compared with forward planning, backward planning not only led to greater motivation, higher goal expectancy, and less time pressure but also resulted in better goal-relevant performance. We further demonstrated that this motivational effect occurred because backward planning allowed people to think of tasks required to reach their goals more clearly, especially when goals were complex to plan. These findings suggest that the way people plan matters just as much as whether or not they plan.

Wind farms suppressed soil moisture and enhanced water stress

The Observed Impacts of Wind Farms on Local Vegetation Growth in Northern China. Bijian Tang et al.

Abstract: Wind farms (WFs) can affect the local climate, and local climate change may influence underlying vegetation. Some studies have shown that WFs affect certain aspects of the regional climate, such as temperature and rainfall. However, there is still no evidence to demonstrate whether WFs can affect local vegetation growth, a significant part of the overall assessment of WF effects. In this research, based on the moderate-resolution imaging spectroradiometer (MODIS) vegetation index, productivity and other remote-sensing data from 2003 to 2014, the effects of WFs in the Bashang area of Northern China on vegetation growth and productivity in the summer (June–August) were analyzed. The results showed that: (1) WFs had a significant inhibiting effect on vegetation growth, as demonstrated by decreases in the leaf area index (LAI), the enhanced vegetation index (EVI), and the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) of approximately 14.5%, 14.8%, and 8.9%, respectively, in the 2003–2014 summers. There was also an inhibiting effect of 8.9% on summer gross primary production (GPP) and 4.0% on annual net primary production (NPP) coupled with WFs; and (2) the major impact factors might be the changes in temperature and soil moisture: WFs suppressed soil moisture and enhanced water stress in the study area. This research provides significant observational evidence that WFs can inhibit the growth and productivity of the underlying vegetation.

Keywords: wind farm impact; vegetation decrease; satellite observations; GPP; land surface temperature; land use change

My comment: Despite knowing this and many other reasons, we keep supporting wind farms...

Wheat Agriculture Induce Bigger GDP, Which Yields Smaller Family Ties

Wheat Agriculture and Family Ties. James Ang & Per Fredriksson. European Economic Review, Volume 100, November 2017, Pages 236-256,

Abstract: Several recent contributions to the literature have suggested that the strength of family ties is related to various economic and social outcomes. For example, Alesina and Giuliano (2014) highlight that the strength of family ties is strongly correlated with lower GDP and lower quality of institutions. However, the forces shaping family ties remain relatively unexplored in the literature. This paper proposes and tests the hypothesis that the agricultural legacy of a country matters for shaping the strength of its family ties. Using data from the World Values Survey and the European Values Study, the results show that societies with a legacy in cultivating wheat tend to have weaker family ties. Analysis at the sub-national level (US data) and the country level corroborate these findings. The estimations allow for alternative hypotheses which propose that pathogen stress and climatic variation can potentially also give rise to the formation of family ties. The results suggest that the suitability of land for wheat production is the most influential factor in explaining the variation in the strength of family ties across societies and countries.

Extraversion and life satisfaction: A cross-cultural examination of student and nationally representative samples

Kim, H., Schimmack, U., Oishi, S. and Tsutsui, Y. (), Extraversion and life satisfaction: A cross-cultural examination of student and nationally representative samples. Journal of Personality. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/jopy.12339

Method: The current study examined student and nationally representative samples from Canada, US, UK, Germany and Japan (Study 1, N = 1,460; Study 2, N = 5,882; Study 3, N =18,683; Study 4, N = 13,443; Study 5, Japan N = 952 and US N = 891). The relationship between Extraversion and life satisfaction was examined using structural equation modeling by regressing life satisfaction on the Big Five traits.

Results: Extraversion was a unique predictor of life satisfaction in the North American student and nationally representative samples (Study 1, β = .232; Study 2, β = .225; Study 5, β = .217) but the effect size was weaker or absent in other non-North American samples (Germany, UK, and Japan).

Can Superstition Create a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy? School Outcomes of Dragon Children of China

Can Superstition Create a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy? School Outcomes of Dragon Children of China. Naci Mocan and Han Yu. NBER Working Paper, August 2017,

Abstract: In Chinese culture those who are born in the year of the Dragon under the zodiac calendar are believed to be destined for good fortune and greatness, and parents prefer their kids to be born in a Dragon year. Using province level panel data we show that the number of marriages goes up during the two years preceding a Dragon year and that births jump up in a Dragon year. Using three recently collected micro data sets from China we show that those born in a Dragon year are more likely to have a college education, and that they obtain higher scores at the university entrance exam. Similarly, Chinese middle school students have higher test scores if they are born in a Dragon year. We show that these results are not because of family background, student cognitive ability, self-esteem or students’ expectations about their future. We find, however, that the “Dragon” effect on test scores is eliminated when we account for parents’ expectations about their children’s educational and professional success. We find that parents of Dragon children have higher expectations for their children in comparison to other parents, and that they invest more heavily in their children in terms of time and money. Even though neither the Dragon children nor their families are inherently different from other children and families, the belief in the prophecy of success and the ensuing investment become self-fulfilling.

Speaking about the future in the present tense may result in the belief that adverse credit events are more imminent

Languages and Corporate Savings Behavior. Shimin Chen et al. Journal of Corporate Finance, Vol. 46, October 2017, Pages 320-341,

Abstract: Speakers of strong future time reference (FTR) languages (e.g., English) are required to grammatically distinguish between future and present events, while speakers of weak-FTR languages (e.g., Chinese) are not. We hypothesize that speaking about the future in the present tense may result in the belief that adverse credit events are more imminent. Consistent with such a linguistic hypothesis, weak-FTR language firms are found to have higher precautionary cash holdings. We report additional supportive results from changes in the relative importance of different languages in a country’s business domain, evidence from within one country with several distinct languages, and results related to changes following a severe financial crisis. Our evidence introduces a new explanation for heterogeneity in corporate savings behavior, provides insights about belief formation in firms, and adds to research on the effects of languages on economic outcomes.

Marriage Gap in Christians and Muslims

Marriage Gap in Christians and Muslims. Martin Fieder et al. Journal of Biosocial Science,

Summary: For modern Western societies with a regime of monogamy, it has recently been demonstrated that the socioeconomic status of men is positively associated with being or having been married. This study aims to compare marriage patterns (if a person has been married at least once) for cultures with a tradition of monogamy and polygyny. As no worldwide data on polygyny exist, religion was used as a proxy for monogamy (Christians) vs polygyny (Muslims). The analyses were based on 2000–2011 census data from 39 countries worldwide for 52,339,594 men and women, controlling for sex, sex ratio, age, education, migration within the last 5 years and employment. Overall, a higher proportion of Muslims were married compared with Christians, but the difference in the fraction of married men compared with married women at a certain age (the ‘marriage gap’) was much more pronounced in Muslims than in Christians, i.e. compared with Christians, a substantially higher proportion of Muslim women than men were married up to the age of approximately 31 years. As expected for a tradition of polygyny, the results indicate that the socioeconomic threshold for entering marriage is higher for Muslim than Christian men, and Muslim women in particular face a negative effect of socioeconomic status on the probability of ever being married. The large ‘marriage gap’ at a certain age in Muslim societies leads to high numbers of married women and unmarried young men, and may put such polygenic societies under pressure.

Highly educated women tend to partner more often “downwards” with less educated men, rather than remaining single

The Reversed Gender Gap in Education and Assortative Mating in Europe. De Hauw, Yolien, Grow, Andre, and Van Bavel, Jan. European Journal of Population,

Abstract: While in the past men received more education than women, the gender gap in education has turned around: in recent years, more highly educated women than highly educated men are reaching the reproductive ages. Using data from the European Social Survey (rounds 1–6), we investigate the implications of this reversed gender gap for educational assortative mating. We fit multilevel multinomial regression models to predict the proportions of men and women living with a partner of a given level of education, contingent on respondents’ own educational attainment and on the cohort-specific sex ratio among the population with tertiary education at the country level. We find that highly educated women tend to partner more often “downwards” with less educated men, rather than remaining single more often. Medium educated women are found to partner less often “upwards” with highly educated men. For men, there is no evidence that they are more likely to partner with highly educated women. Rather, they are found to be living single more often. In sum, women’s advantage in higher education has affected mating patterns in important ways: while women previously tended to form unions with men who were at least as highly educated as themselves, they now tend to live with men who are at most as highly educated. Along the way, advanced education became a bonus on the mating market for women as well as for men.

In men, education is positively associated with eventual fertility

Education, Other Socioeconomic Characteristics Across the Life Course, and Fertility Among Finnish Men. Jessica Nisén et al. European Journal of Population,

Abstract: The level of education and other adult socioeconomic characteristics of men are known to associate with their fertility, but early-life socioeconomic characteristics may also be related. We studied how men’s adult and early-life socioeconomic characteristics are associated with their eventual fertility and whether the differences therein by educational level are explained or mediated by other socioeconomic characteristics. The data on men born in 1940–1950 (N = 37,082) were derived from the 1950 Finnish census, which is linked to later registers. Standard and sibling fixed-effects Poisson and logistic regression models were used. Education and other characteristics were positively associated with the number of children, largely stemming from a higher likelihood of a first birth among the more socioeconomically advantaged men. The educational gradient in the number of children was not explained by early socioeconomic or other characteristics shared by brothers, but occupational position and income in adulthood mediated approximately half of the association. Parity-specific differences existed: education and many other socioeconomic characteristics predicted the likelihood of a first birth more strongly than that of a second birth, and the mediating role of occupational position and income was also strongest for first births. Relatively small differences were found in the likelihood of a third birth. In men, education is positively associated with eventual fertility after controlling for early socioeconomic and other characteristics shared by brothers. Selective entry into fatherhood based on economic provider potential may contribute considerably to educational differentials in the number of children among men.

Enhancing a men's perception of their own mate value shifts attitude toward casual sex to very interested

Marzoli, D., Havlícek, J. and Roberts, S. C. (2017), Human mating strategies: from past causes to present consequences. WIREs Cognitive Science, e1456. doi:10.1002/wcs.1456

Abstract: In both humans and nonhuman animals, mating strategies represent a set of evolutionary adaptations aimed at promoting individual fitness by means of reproduction with the best possible partners. Given this critical role, mating strategies influence numerous aspects of human life. In particular, between-sex divergence in the intensity of intrasexual competition could account for robust cross-cultural sex differences in psychology and behavior (e.g., personality, psychiatric disorders, social behavior, violence). Several other factors (including individual differences, relationship type and environment) affect—in an evolutionarily consistent manner—variation in mating strategy that individuals pursue (as one example, awareness of one's own attractiveness impinges on mating standards). Here we provide an overview of relevant theoretical frameworks and empirical evidence on variation in mating strategies. Given its multifaceted nature and intense research interest over several decades, this is a challenging task, and we highlight areas where further investigation is warranted in order to achieve a clearer picture and resolve apparent inconsistencies. However, we suggest that addressing outstanding questions using a variety of different methodological approaches, a deeper understanding of the cognitive representations involved in mating strategies is within reach.

The long-term decline in Greenland Ice Sheet reflectivity between 2000 and 2012 might be more significant than previously thought

How robust are in situ observations for validating satellite-derived albedo over the dark zone of the Greenland Ice Sheet? J. C. Ryan et al. Ryan, J. C., A. Hubbard, T. D. Irvine-Fynn, S. H. Doyle, J. M. Cook, M. Stibal, and J. E. Box (2017), How robust are in situ observations for validating satellite-derived albedo over the dark zone of the Greenland Ice Sheet?, Geophys. Res. Lett., 44, 6218–6225, doi:10.1002/2017GL073661.

Abstract: Calibration and validation of satellite-derived ice sheet albedo data require high-quality, in situ measurements commonly acquired by up and down facing pyranometers mounted on automated weather stations (AWS). However, direct comparison between ground and satellite-derived albedo can only be justified when the measured surface is homogeneous at the length-scale of both satellite pixel and in situ footprint. Here we use digital imagery acquired by an unmanned aerial vehicle to evaluate point-to-pixel albedo comparisons across the western, ablating margin of the Greenland Ice Sheet. Our results reveal that in situ measurements overestimate albedo by up to 0.10 at the end of the melt season because the ground footprints of AWS-mounted pyranometers are insufficient to capture the spatial heterogeneity of the ice surface as it progressively ablates and darkens. Statistical analysis of 21 AWS across the entire Greenland Ice Sheet reveals that almost half suffer from this bias, including some AWS located within the wet snow zone.

Plain Language Summary

Ground measurements of reflectivity, such as those made by automated weather stations, are often used to determine the accuracy of satellite measurements. But the footprints of the instruments mounted on automated weather stations are usually much smaller than the pixel of the satellite image, meaning that comparison between the two is only justified when the surface is relatively uniform. We use high resolution imagery collected by a UAV to demonstrate that the surface of the Greenland Ice Sheet is often not uniform at the scale of both the weather station and satellite pixel due to the presence of impurities, surface water and crevasses. This means that a point measurement of reflectivity might not capture the full variability of the surface, resulting in discrepancies when compared to satellite image pixels. Furthermore, weather stations are usually located on safe areas of flat, bare ice or snow, so they usually overestimate reflectivity in comparison to the satellite pixel. We argue that if unrepresentative ground measurements are removed from satellite comparison exercises then the uncertainty in satellite products could be reduced. Hence, the long-term decline in Greenland Ice Sheet reflectivity between 2000 and 2012 might be more significant than previously thought.

Ability to rapidly and accurately compare quantities genetically linked to mathematical & general cognitive skills

Approximate number sense shares etiological overlap with mathematics and general cognitive ability. Sarah L. Lukowski et al. Intelligence,

•    Approximate number sense (ANS) has genetic overlap with mathematics
•    Findings show generalist genetic overlap among ANS, math, and general cognitive ability
•    The pattern of results suggest etiology of ANS acuity functions similar to math, g

Abstract: Approximate number sense (ANS), the ability to rapidly and accurately compare quantities presented non-symbolically, has been proposed as a precursor to mathematics skills. Earlier work reported low heritability of approximate number sense, which was interpreted as evidence that approximate number sense acts as a fitness trait. However, viewing ANS as a fitness trait is discordant with findings suggesting that individual differences in approximate number sense acuity correlate with mathematical performance, a trait with moderate genetic effects. Importantly, the shared etiology of approximate number sense, mathematics, and general cognitive ability has remained unexamined. Thus, the etiology of approximate number sense and its overlap with math and general cognitive ability was assessed in the current study with two independent twin samples (N = 451 pairs). Results suggested that ANS acuity had moderate but significant additive genetic influences. ANS also had overlap with generalist genetic mechanisms accounting for variance and covariance in mathematics and general cognitive ability. Furthermore, ANS may have genetic factors unique to covariance with mathematics beyond overlap with general cognitive ability. Evidence across both samples was consistent with the proposal that the etiology of approximate number sense functions similar to that of mathematics and general cognitive skills.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Political Institutions, Economic Liberty, and the Great Divergence

Political Institutions, Economic Liberty, and the Great Divergence. Gary Cox. Journal of Economic History, September 2017, Pages 724-755,

Abstract: I argue that Europe's political fragmentation interacted with her political innovations — self-governing cities and national parliaments — to facilitate “economic liberty,” which in turn unleashed faster and more inter-connected urban growth. Examining urban growth over the period 600–1800 ce throughout Eurasia, I show that inter-city growth correlations were positive and significant only in Western Europe after 1200 ce. Within Western Europe, I show that growth correlations were greatest in the most fragmented and parliamentary areas, individual cities became significantly more tied to urban growth when their realms became parliamentary, and spillover effects (due to competition between rulers) were significant.

Why Did Drug Cartels Go to War in Mexico? Subnational Party Alternation, the Breakdown of Criminal Protection, and the Onset of Large-Scale Violence

Why Did Drug Cartels Go to War in Mexico? Subnational Party Alternation, the Breakdown of Criminal Protection, and the Onset of Large-Scale Violence. Guillermo Trejo and Sandra Ley. Comparative Political Studies,

Abstract: This article explains why Mexican drug cartels went to war in the 1990s, when the federal government was not pursuing a major antidrug campaign. We argue that political alternation and the rotation of parties in state gubernatorial power undermined the informal networks of protection that had facilitated the cartels’ operations under one-party rule. Without protection, cartels created their own private militias to defend themselves from rival groups and from incoming opposition authorities. After securing their turf, they used these militias to conquer rival territory. Drawing on an original database of intercartel murders, 1995 to 2006, we show that the spread of opposition gubernatorial victories was strongly associated with intercartel violence. Based on in-depth interviews with opposition governors, we show that by simply removing top- and midlevel officials from the state attorney’s office and the judicial police — the institutions where protection was forged — incoming governors unwittingly triggered the outbreak of intercartel wars.

High sex ratios in rural China: declining well-being with age in never-married men

High sex ratios in rural China: declining well-being with age in never-married men. Zhou X, and Hesketh T. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2017 Sep 19;372(1729). pii: 20160324. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2016.0324.

Abstract: In parts of rural China male-biased sex ratios at birth, combined with out-migration of women, have led to highly male-biased adult sex ratios, resulting in large numbers of men being unable to marry, in a culture where marriage and reproduction are an expectation. The aim of this study was to test the hypotheses that older unmarried men are more predisposed to depression, low self-esteem and aggression than both those who are married, and those who are younger and unmarried. Self-completion questionnaires were administered among men aged 20-40 in 48 villages in rural Guizhou province, southwestern China. Tools used included the Beck Depression Inventory, the Rosenberg's Self-esteem Scale and the Bryant-Smith Aggression Questionnaire. Regression models assessed psychological wellbeing while adjusting for socio-demographic variables. Completed questionnaires were obtained from 957 never-married men, 535 married men aged 30-40, 394 partnered men and 382 unpartnered men aged 20-29. After adjusting for socio-demographic variables, never-married men were more predisposed to depression (p < 0.05), aggression (p < 0.01), low self-esteem (p < 0.05) and suicidal tendencies (p < 0.001). All the psychological measures deteriorated with age in never-married men. In contrast, married men remained stable on these dimensions with age. Never-married men are a psychologically highly vulnerable group in a society where marriage is an expectation. Since the highest birth sex-ratio cohorts have not yet reached reproductive age, the social tragedy of these men will last for at least another generation.

Modern Clinical Research on LSD

Modern Clinical Research on LSD. Matthias E Liechti. Neuropsychopharmacology (2017) 42, 2114–2127; doi:10.1038/npp.2017.86

Abstract: All modern clinical studies using the classic hallucinogen lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) in healthy subjects or patients in the last 25 years are reviewed herein. There were five recent studies in healthy participants and one in patients. In a controlled setting, LSD acutely induced bliss, audiovisual synesthesia, altered meaning of perceptions, derealization, depersonalization, and mystical experiences. These subjective effects of LSD were mediated by the 5-HT2A receptor. LSD increased feelings of closeness to others, openness, trust, and suggestibility. LSD impaired the recognition of sad and fearful faces, reduced left amygdala reactivity to fearful faces, and enhanced emotional empathy. LSD increased the emotional response to music and the meaning of music. LSD acutely produced deficits in sensorimotor gating, similar to observations in schizophrenia. LSD had weak autonomic stimulant effects and elevated plasma cortisol, prolactin, and oxytocin levels. Resting-state functional magnetic resonance studies showed that LSD acutely reduced the integrity of functional brain networks and increased connectivity between networks that normally are more dissociated. LSD increased functional thalamocortical connectivity and functional connectivity of the primary visual cortex with other brain areas. The latter effect was correlated with subjective hallucinations. LSD acutely induced global increases in brain entropy that were associated with greater trait openness 14 days later. In patients with anxiety associated with life-threatening disease, anxiety was reduced for 2 months after two doses of LSD. In medical settings, no complications of LSD administration were observed. These data should contribute to further investigations of the therapeutic potential of LSD in psychiatry.

Self-Consciousness or Misattribution Effect in the Induced Hypocrisy Paradigm?

Self-Consciousness or Misattribution Effect in the Induced Hypocrisy Paradigm? Mirror, Mirror on the Wall… Audrey Pelt, and Valérie Fointiat. Psychological Reports,

Abstract: In a forced compliance situation, Scheier and Carver have shown that making high private self-consciousness salient through exposure to a mirror inhibits the arousal of dissonance and the subsequent attitude change. Based on these results, the aim of our study is to examine an alternate theoretical interpretation of the absence of attitude change. From our point of view, the mirror could have the status of a misattribution cue, thus maintaining the arousal. To test this hypothesis within the induced hypocrisy paradigm, participants first completed the private self-consciousness scale. Then they took part in one of the following conditions: (1) no mirror/no hypocrisy, (2) no mirror/hypocrisy, and (3) mirror/hypocrisy. Behavioral change and psychological discomfort were measured. Results indicated that participants in the mirror/hypocrisy condition were the most inclined to change and reported the greatest psychological discomfort. These results revealed that participants experienced dissonance when exposed to the mirror and support the hypothesis of misattribution.

Misattribution of musical arousal increases sexual attraction towards opposite-sex faces in females

Misattribution of musical arousal increases sexual attraction towards opposite-sex faces in females. Manuela M. Marin et al. PLOS One,

Abstract: Several theories about the origins of music have emphasized its biological and social functions, including in courtship. Music may act as a courtship display due to its capacity to vary in complexity and emotional content. Support for music’s reproductive function comes from the recent finding that only women in the fertile phase of the reproductive cycle prefer composers of complex melodies to composers of simple ones as short-term sexual partners, which is also in line with the ovulatory shift hypothesis. However, the precise mechanisms by which music may influence sexual attraction are unknown, specifically how music may interact with visual attractiveness cues and affect perception and behaviour in both genders. Using a crossmodal priming paradigm, we examined whether listening to music influences ratings of facial attractiveness and dating desirability of opposite-sex faces. We also tested whether misattribution of arousal or pleasantness underlies these effects, and explored whether sex differences and menstrual cycle phase may be moderators. Our sample comprised 64 women in the fertile or infertile phase (no hormonal contraception use) and 32 men, carefully matched for mood, relationship status, and musical preferences. Musical primes (25 s) varied in arousal and pleasantness, and targets were photos of faces with neutral expressions (2 s). Group-wise analyses indicated that women, but not men, gave significantly higher ratings of facial attractiveness and dating desirability after having listened to music than in the silent control condition. High-arousing, complex music yielded the largest effects, suggesting that music may affect human courtship behaviour through induced arousal, which calls for further studies on the mechanisms by which music affects sexual attraction in real-life social contexts.

Overhearing the suggestion that the sheriff had caught the guy significantly increased false identifications

Eisen, M. L., Skerrit-Perta, A., Jones, J. M., Owen, J., and Cedré, G. C. (2017) Pre-admonition Suggestion in Live Showups: When Witnesses Learn that the Cops Caught ‘the’ Guy. Appl. Cognit. Psychol., doi: 10.1002/acp.3349

Abstract: Participants (N = 189) witnessed the theft of a computer and were immersed into what they were led to believe was an actual police investigation that culminated in a live showup. After the crime, an officer responded to the scene to take witness statements. Minutes after his arrival, the officer received a radio dispatch that could be heard clearly by the witnesses. The dispatch either stated that the Sherriff had ‘…caught the guy…’ or ‘…detained a suspect who matched the thief's description…’ and instructed the officer to bring the witnesses to identify the suspect. The witnesses then met with two deputies who conducted a live showup with an innocent suspect or the actual culprit. Choosers were more confident than rejecters across all conditions. Also, overhearing the suggestion that the sheriff had caught the guy significantly increased false identifications, and boosted witness confidence in these errors, but did not affect accurate suspect identifications.

A female Viking warrior confirmed by genomics

Hedenstierna-Jonson C, Kjellström A, Zachrisson T, et al. A female Viking warrior confirmed by genomics. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 2017;00:1–8.


Objectives: The objective of this study has been to confirm the sex and the affinity of an individual buried in a well-furnished warrior grave (Bj 581) in the Viking Age town of Birka, Sweden. Previously, based on the material and historical records, the male sex has been associated with the gender of the warrior and such was the case with Bj 581. An earlier osteological classification of the individual as female was considered controversial in a historical and archaeological context. A genomic confirmation of the biological sex of the individual was considered necessary to solve the issue.

Materials and methods: Genome-wide sequence data was generated in order to confirm the biological sex, to support skeletal integrity, and to investigate the genetic relationship of the individual to ancient individuals as well as modern-day groups. Additionally, a strontium isotope analysis was conducted to highlight the mobility of the individual.

Results: The genomic results revealed the lack of a Y-chromosome and thus a female biological sex, and the mtDNA analyses support a single-individual origin of sampled elements. The genetic affinity is close to present-day North Europeans, and within Sweden to the southern and south-central region. Nevertheless, the Sr values are not conclusive as to whether she was of local or nonlocal origin.

Discussion: The identification of a female Viking warrior provides a unique insight into the Viking society, social constructions, and exceptions to the norm in the Viking time-period. The results call for caution against generalizations regarding social orders in past societies.

My comment: This is a first... Until now, female warriors were, we think, archers mounting horses.

Enjoying the Quiet Life: Corporate Decision-Making by Entrenched Managers

Enjoying the Quiet Life: Corporate Decision-Making by Entrenched Managers. Naoshi Ikeda, Kotaro Inoue, and Sho Watanabe. NBER Working Paper No. 23804, doi 10.3386/w23804

Abstract: In this study, we empirically test “quiet life hypothesis,” which predicts that managers who are subject to weak monitoring from the shareholders avoid making difficult decisions such as risky investment and business restructuring with Japanese firm data. We employ cross-shareholder and stable shareholder ownership as the proxy variables of the strength of a manager’s defense against market disciplinary power. We examine the effect of the proxy variables on manager-enacted corporate behaviors and the results indicate that entrenched managers who are insulated from disciplinary power of stock market avoid making difficult decisions such as large investments and business restructures. However, when managers are closely monitored by institutional investors and independent directors, they tend to be active in making difficult decisions. Taken together, our results are consistent with managerial quiet life hypothesis.

My comment: We all try to work less, and we all are risk-averse...

Using Tax Data to Measure Long-Term Trends in U.S. Income Inequality

Using Tax Data to Measure Long-Term Trends in U.S. Income Inequality. Gerald Auten and David Splinter. Draft Paper, Annual Conference, ASSA Annual Meeting, 2017.

Abstract: Previous studies using U.S. tax return data conclude that the top one percent income share
increased substantially since 1960. This study re-estimates the long-term trend in inequality after
accounting for changes in the tax base, income sources missing from individual tax returns and
changes in marriage rates. This more consistent estimate suggests that top one percent income
shares increased by only about a quarter as much as unadjusted shares. Further, accounting for
government transfers suggests that top one percent shares increased a tenth as much. These
results show that unadjusted tax return based measures present a distorted view of inequality
trends, as incomes reported on tax returns are sensitive to changes in tax laws and ignore income
sources outside the individual tax system.

Land-Use Restrictions -- deregulating to 1980 levels would raise labor productivity by about 10 pct, & consumption by about 9 pct

Tarnishing the Golden and Empire States: Land-Use Restrictions and the U.S. Economic Slowdown. Kyle F. Herkenhoff, Lee E. Ohanian, Edward C. Prescott. NBER Working Paper No. 23790,

This paper studies the impact of state-level land-use restrictions on U.S. economic activity, focusing on how these restrictions have depressed macroeconomic activity since 2000. We use a variety of state-level data sources, together with a general equilibrium spatial model of the United States to systematically construct a panel dataset of state-level land-use restrictions between 1950 and 2014. We show that these restrictions have generally tightened over time, particularly in California and New York. We use the model to analyze how these restrictions affect economic activity and the allocation of workers and capital across states. Counterfactual experiments show that deregulating existing urban land from 2014 regulation levels back to 1980 levels would have increased US GDP and productivity roughly to their current trend levels. California, New York, and the Mid-Atlantic region expand the most in these counterfactuals, drawing population out of the South and the Rustbelt. General equilibrium effects, particularly the reallocation of capital across states, accounts for much of these gains.

Knowing this:

"...deregulating [land use in] all of the regions to 1980 levels would raise labor productivity by about 10 percent, and consumption by about 9 percent in the neoclassical economy, and would raise labor productivity by about 16 percent, and consumption by about 11 percent in the economy with the externality."

, we keep shooting ourselves in the foot.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Love Death—A Retrospective and Prospective Follow-Up Mortality Study Over 45 Years

Lange L, Zedler B, Verhoff MA, Parzeller M. Love Death—A Retrospective and Prospective Follow-Up Mortality Study Over 45 Years. The Journal of Sexual Medicine,


Background: Although sexual activity can cause moderate stress, it can cause natural death in individuals with pre-existing illness. The aim of this study was to identify additional pre-existing health problems, sexual practices, and potential circumstances that may trigger fatal events.

Methods: This medicolegal postmortem, retrospective, and prospective study is based on data of autopsies performed at the Institute of Legal Medicine of the University hospital, Goethe-University, Frankfurt/Main, Germany.

Outcomes: Identification of pre-existing health problems, sexual practices, and potential circumstances than could trigger fatal events.

Results: From 1972 to 2016 (45 years) approximately 38,000 medicolegal autopsies were performed, of which 99 cases of natural death were connected to sexual activities (0.26%). Except for eight women, men represented most cases. The women’s mean age was 45 years (median = 45) and the men’s mean age was 57.2 years (median = 57). Causes of death were coronary heart disease (n = 28), myocardial infarction (n = 21) and reinfarction (n = 17), cerebral hemorrhage (n = 12), rupture of aortic aneurysms (n = 8), cardiomyopathy (n = 8), acute heart failure (n = 2), sudden cardiac arrest (n = 1), myocarditis (n = 1), and a combination of post myocardial infarction and cocaine intoxication (n = 1). Most cases showed increased heart weights and body mass indices. Death occurred mainly during the summer and spring and in the home of the deceased. If sexual partners were identified, 34 men died during or after sexual contact with a female prostitute, two cases at least two female prostitutes. Nine men died during or after sexual intercourse with their wife, in seven cases the sexual partner was a mistress, and in four cases the life partner. Five men died during homosexual contacts. Based on the situation 30 men were found in, death occurred during masturbation. Of the women, five died during intercourse with the life partner, two died during intercourse with a lover or friend, and in one case no information was provided.

Clinical Translation: Natural deaths connected with sexual activity appear to be associated with male sex and pre-existing cardiovascular disorders. Most cases recorded occurred with mistresses, prostitutes, or during masturbation. If death occurs, the spouse or life partner might need psychological support.

Strength and Limitations: To our knowledge, the present study contains the largest collection of postmortem data on natural deaths connected with sexual activities. However, the cases presented were of forensic interest; a larger number of undetected cases especially in the marital or stable relationship sector must be assumed.

Conclusion: Patients should be informed about the circumstances that could trigger the “love death.”

Key Words: Sudden Natural Death; Sexual Activity; Autopsy; Myocardial Infarction; Cerebral Hemorrhage; Circumstances of Death

Are Ideas Getting Harder to Find?

Are Ideas Getting Harder to Find? Nicholas Bloom, Charles I. Jones, John Van Reenen, and Michael Webb. NBER Working Paper No. 23782.

In many growth models, economic growth arises from people creating ideas, and the long-run growth rate is the product of two terms: the effective number of researchers and their research productivity. We present a wide range of evidence from various industries, products, and firms showing that research effort is rising substantially while research productivity is declining sharply. A good example is Moore's Law. The number of researchers required today to achieve the famous doubling every two years of the density of computer chips is more than 18 times larger than the number required in the early 1970s. Across a broad range of case studies at various levels of (dis)aggregation, we find that ideas — and in particular the exponential growth they imply — are getting harder and harder to find. Exponential growth results from the large increases in research effort that offset its declining productivity.

When Will Negotiation Agents Be Able to Represent Us? The Challenges and Opportunities for Autonomous Negotiators

When Will Negotiation Agents Be Able to Represent Us? The Challenges and Opportunities for Autonomous Negotiators. Tim Baarslag, Michael Kaisers, Enrico H. Gerding, Catholijn M. Jonker, and Jonathan Gratch. Proceedings of the Twenty-Sixth International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence. AI and autonomy track. Pages 4684-4690.

Abstract: Computers that negotiate on our behalf hold great promise for the future and will even become indispensable in emerging application domains such as the smart grid and the Internet of Things. Much research has thus been expended to create agents that are able to negotiate in an abundance of circumstances. However, up until now, truly autonomous negotiators have rarely been deployed in real-world applications. This paper sizes up current negotiating agents and explores a number of technological, societal and ethical challenges that autonomous negotiation systems have brought about. The questions we address are: in what sense are these systems autonomous, what has been holding back their further proliferation, and is their spread something we should encourage? We relate the automated negotiation research agenda to dimensions of autonomy and distill three major themes that we believe will propel autonomous negotiation forward: accurate representation, long-term perspective, and user trust. We argue these orthogonal research directions need to be aligned and advanced in unison to sustain tangible progress in the field.

The Role of a "Common Is Moral" Heuristic in the Stability and Change of Moral Norms

The Role of a "Common Is Moral" Heuristic in the Stability and Change of Moral Norms. Lindström B, Jangard S, Selbing I, and Olsson A. J Exp Psychol Gen. 2017, Sep 11,

Abstract: Moral norms are fundamental for virtually all social interactions, including cooperation. Moral norms develop and change, but the mechanisms underlying when, and how, such changes occur are not well-described by theories of moral psychology. We tested, and confirmed, the hypothesis that the commonness of an observed behavior consistently influences its moral status, which we refer to as the common is moral (CIM) heuristic. In 9 experiments, we used an experimental model of dynamic social interaction that manipulated the commonness of altruistic and selfish behaviors to examine the change of peoples' moral judgments. We found that both altruistic and selfish behaviors were judged as more moral, and less deserving of punishment, when common than when rare, which could be explained by a classical formal model (social impact theory) of behavioral conformity. Furthermore, judgments of common versus rare behaviors were faster, indicating that they were computationally more efficient. Finally, we used agent-based computer simulations to investigate the endogenous population dynamics predicted to emerge if individuals use the CIM heuristic, and found that the CIM heuristic is sufficient for producing 2 hallmarks of real moral norms; stability and sudden changes. Our results demonstrate that commonness shapes our moral psychology through mechanisms similar to behavioral conformity with wide implications for understanding the stability and change of moral norms.

Our moral balance sheet: Compensating our bad and good deeds

An experimental analysis of moral self-regulation. Erdem Seçilmiş.  Applied Economics Letters,

ABSTRACT: This article examines the validity of the moral self-regulation hypothesis in a laboratory setting. The experiment is comprised of a public good game preceded or followed by a matrix task. The data show that the recall of an immoral action (cheating in the matrix task) motivates the individual to do morally right thing (contributing to group account) and the recall of a moral action (contributing to group account) motivates the individual to act out self-interest (cheating in the matrix task). Both moral licensing and moral cleansing hypotheses are confirmed by the results of the experiment. Additionally, the findings indicate that the subjects who had been given a chance to cheat ‘at first’ allocated more funds to the group account; and the subjects who had been given a chance to voluntarily contribute ‘at first’ cheated more in the matrix task.

KEYWORDS: Moral self-regulation, moral cleansing, moral licensing, public good game, matrix task

Homosexual acts may help impair reproduction by rivals --- for example, a male imitating a female

Male reproductive suppression: not a social affair- Z. Valentina Zizzari, Andrea Jessen, and Joris M. Koene. Current Zoology, Volume 63, Issue 5, 1 October 2017, Pages 573–579,

Abstract: In the animal kingdom there are countless strategies via which males optimize their reproductive success when faced with male–male competition. These male strategies typically fall into two main categories: pre- and post-copulatory competition. Within these 2 categories, a set of behaviors, referred to as reproductive suppression, is known to cause inhibition of reproductive physiology and/or reproductive behavior in an otherwise fertile individual. What becomes evident when considering examples of reproductive suppression is that these strategies conventionally encompass reproductive interference strategies that occur between members of a hierarchical social group. However, mechanisms aimed at impairing a competitor’s reproductive output are also present in non-social animals. Yet, current thinking emphasizes the importance of sociality as the primary driving force of reproductive suppression. Therefore, the question arises as to whether there is an actual difference between reproductive suppression strategies in social animals and equivalent pre-copulatory competition strategies in non-social animals. In this perspective paper we explore a broad taxonomic range of species whose individuals do not repeatedly interact with the same individuals in networks and yet, depress the fitness of rivals. Examples like alteration of male reproductive physiology, female mimicry, rival spermatophore destruction, and cementing the rival’s genital region in non-social animals, highlight that male pre-copulatory reproductive suppression and male pre-copulatory competition overlap. Finally, we highlight that a distinction between male reproductive interference in animals with and without a social hierarchy might obscure important similarities and does not help to elucidate why different proximate mechanisms evolved. We therefore emphasize that male reproductive suppression need not be restricted to social animals.

Keywords: indirect sperm transfer, offensive strategies, male pre-copulatory competition, male reproductive suppression, reproductive strategies

The examples of reproductive interference in Table 1 show that males of non-social animals are able to depress the fitness of a rival, though some behaviors are more harmful than others. For instance, nematodes of the genus Steinernema remove a rival from the reproductive population by killing him (Zenner et al. 2014). Less extreme examples are provided by males of acanthocephalans and some nematodes, whose males have been observed to perform a homosexual rape or place a cement plug on the rivals’ reproductive organ making them incapable of reproducing at least temporarily (Hassanine and Al-Jahdali 2008; Gems and Riddle 2000; Coomans et al. 1988). Although several instances of same-sex sexual behaviour are suspected of being related to male dominance in vertebrates, such behaviours are often attributed to cases of mistaken identity in invertebrates (see review by Bailey and Zuk 2009). Yet, Preston-Mafham (2006) excluded that the homosexual mounting behaviour he observed in the scatophagid fly Hydromyza livens occurred through mistaken identity. Male-male sexual behaviour is a widespread phenomenon that needs certainly a more accurate analysis because there might be species where this represents a strategy to increase male reproductive success, as suggested in the hemipteran Xylocoris maculipennis (Carayon 1974) and in the flour beetle Tribolium castaneum (Levan et al. 2009). Males of X. maculipennis have been reported to traumatically inseminate other males and it has been hypothesized that the injected ejaculate (i.e., seminal fluid plus sperm) mixes up with the ejaculate of the inseminated male (Carayon 1974), although this remains to be demonstrated. So, while it remains unknown whether sperm from both males actually inseminate the female in the latter case, the transferred seminal fluid proteins could also act on the reproductive physiology of the inseminated male, similarly to what was discovered in L. stagnalis (Nakadera et al. 2014). More information is available for T. castaneum. Levan et al. (2009) showed that male homosexual copulatory behaviour may lead to indirect sperm transfer to females through a male intermediary. Although the male’s homosexual partner contributed only 0.5% to each female’s total progeny (Levan et al. 2009), the transfer of a small quantity of non-self sperm might decrease a males’ reproductive success. Alternatively, albeit speculatively, a male might be induced to perform a same-sex encounter by female mimicry of a rival to make the mounting male temporary unable to inseminate a female, which has been described in salamanders (Arnold 1976). In this case the indirect sperm translocation would represent a male counter-adaption. However, this line of thought has not been taken into account and the homosexual copulation was explained by Levan et al. 2009 as a way to discard older sperm, indicating that more work is required to understand this in full.

The Facilitating Effect of Schadenfreude on Creativity

A Route to Insight via Another’s Pain: The Facilitating Effect of Schadenfreude on Creativity. Sara L. Wheeler-Smith, Amir Erez, and Elisabeth Kristin Gilbert. Organizational Behavior,

Abstract: The present research investigates whether experiencing schadenfreude – the malicious pleasure felt at another’s misfortune – enhances creativity. Across four studies (n = 632), we found that incidental schadenfreude enhanced individuals’ performance on insight creativity tasks. These effects are present both when schadenfreude is elicited in situ (Experiments 1, 2, and 3) and when participants recall experiencing schadenfreude (Experiment 4), and across multiple behavioral measures of creativity. In Experiment 3, we found that the facilitating effect of schadenfreude could be partially explained by schadenfreude freeing attentional resources. In Experiment 4, we found that the relationship between schadenfreude and creativity was moderated by trait approach motivation, such that the creativity-facilitating effect of schadenfreude was significantly stronger for those low (versus high) in approach motivation. Theoretical contributions to the literatures on schadenfreude and creativity are discussed.

Are We Jumping to Unfounded Conclusions About the Causes of Sexual Offending?

“I Know Correlation Doesn’t Prove Causation, but . . .”: Are We Jumping to Unfounded Conclusions About the Causes of Sexual Offending? Kevin L. Nunes et al. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment,

Abstract: Identifying causes of sexual offending is the foundation of effective and efficient assessment, intervention, and policy aimed at reducing sexual offending. However, studies vary in methodological rigor and the inferences they support, and there are differences of opinion about the conclusions that can be drawn from ambiguous evidence. To explore how researchers in this area interpret the available empirical evidence, we asked authors of articles published in relevant specialized journals to identify (a) an important factor that may lead to sexual offending, (b) a study providing evidence of a relationship between that factor and sexual offending, and (c) the inferences supported by that study. Many participants seemed to endorse causal interpretations and conclusions that went beyond the methodological rigor of the study they identified. Our findings suggest that some researchers may not be adequately considering methodological issues when making inferences about the causes of sexual offending. Although it is difficult to conduct research in this area and all research designs can provide valuable information, sensitivity to the limits methodology places on inferences is important for the sake of accuracy and integrity, and to stimulate more informative research. We propose that increasing attention to methodology in the research community through better training and standards will advance scientific knowledge about the causes of sexual offending, and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of practice and policy.

Robot Rejection Lowers Self-Esteem

The Bionic Blues: Robot Rejection Lowers Self-Esteem. Kyle Nash et al. Computers in Human Behavior,

•    Examines influence of robot rejection and acceptance on human self-esteem
•    Robot rejection decreased self-esteem, while acceptance had no effect on self-esteem
•    Demonstrates that robot rejection can cause psychological harm

Abstract: Humans can fulfill their social needs with fictional and non-living entities that act as social surrogates. Though recent research demonstrates that social surrogates have beneficial effects on the individual similar to human relations, it is unclear whether surrogates can also cause similar harm to humans through social rejection. After playing a game of connect-4 with a human-sized robot, participants were informed by the robot that it would like to see them again (acceptance), would not like to see them again (rejection), or told nothing regarding a future interaction (control). Data revealed that social rejection from a robot significantly reduced self-esteem relative to receiving no-feedback and social acceptance (the latter two did not differ from each other). However, robot rejection had no impact on negative attitudes and opposition to the use of robots in everyday life. These findings demonstrate that social surrogates have the potential to cause psychological harm.

KEYWORDS: Robots; Self-Esteem; Social Rejection; Social Acceptance; Social Surrogacy

Monday, September 11, 2017

Placebo can enhance creativity

Placebo can enhance creativity. Liron Rozenkrantz, Avraham E. Mayo, Tomer Ilan, Yuval Hart, Lior Noy, and Uri Alon. PLOS One,


Background: The placebo effect is usually studied in clinical settings for decreasing negative symptoms such as pain, depression and anxiety. There is interest in exploring the placebo effect also outside the clinic, for enhancing positive aspects of performance or cognition. Several studies indicate that placebo can enhance cognitive abilities including memory, implicit learning and general knowledge. Here, we ask whether placebo can enhance creativity, an important aspect of human cognition.

Methods: Subjects were randomly assigned to a control group who smelled and rated an odorant (n = 45), and a placebo group who were treated identically but were also told that the odorant increases creativity and reduces inhibitions (n = 45). Subjects completed a recently developed automated test for creativity, the creative foraging game (CFG), and a randomly chosen subset (n = 57) also completed two manual standardized creativity tests, the alternate uses test (AUT) and the Torrance test (TTCT). In all three tests, participants were asked to create as many original solutions and were scored for originality, flexibility and fluency.

Results: The placebo group showed higher originality than the control group both in the CFG ... and in the AUT ..., but not in the Torrance test. The placebo group also found more shapes outside of the standard categories found by a set of 100 CFG players in a previous study, a feature termed out-of-the-boxness...

Conclusions: The findings indicate that placebo can enhance the originality aspect of creativity. This strengthens the view that placebo can be used not only to reduce negative clinical symptoms, but also to enhance positive aspects of cognition. Furthermore, we find that the impact of placebo on creativity can be tested by CFG, which can quantify multiple aspects of creative search without need for manual coding. This approach opens the way to explore the behavioral and neural mechanisms by which placebo might amplify creativity.

What are the psychological mechanisms that allow placebo to increase the originality aspect of creativity? There are at least two possibilities. The first mechanism is based on extensive research by Amabile and Deci and Ryan[25, 33, 34, 51–53], that suggests that creativity is modulated by motivation. Extrinsic motivators were shown to be mostly detrimental to creativity, whereas intrinsic motivation is conductive to and strongly associated with creative abilities[25, 32, 33, 51, 54–56]. A key factor in intrinsic motivation, according to self-determination theory [34, 35], is the belief in one’s competence. For example subjects who practiced encouraging statements (related to self-confidence, releasing anxieties etc.) and omitted self-incapacitating statements showed improved creativity scores[57]. This is in line with the verbal suggestion in our study that the odorant increases creativity, which may have made subjects feel more competent. Additional components of intrinsic motivation, such as social relatedness, may also have been increased by experimenter effects in the present study, by the experimenter’s perceived interest in the effects of the odorant.

A second possible psychological mechanism of placebo, as suggested by Weger et al., is to weaken inhibitory mechanisms that normally impair performance[24]. Creativity was found to increase in several studies that tested conditions with reduced inhibitions, such as alcohol consumption[36–38]. Wieth and Zacks showed that creative problem solving was improved when participants were tested during non-optimal times of day, and suggested that this is due to reduced inhibitory control[39]. Moreover, studies which used non-invasive brain stimulation by means of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) found enhanced creativity, and attributed it to reduced inhibitions and diminished cognitive control[49, 58]. This effect was suggested to be in line with paradoxical functional facilitation theory, which attributes improved performance of damaged nervous system to release from inhibition[59]. Informal notions in improvisation theatre suggest that the inner critic is a source of inhibition that limits creativity[60]. The verbal suggestion made in our study that the odorant increases creativity and reduces inhibitions may thus work through a reduced-inhibition mechanism and/or by increasing belief in one’s competence. Future work can test which of these mechanisms is at play.

Brain indices of disagreement with one’s social values predict EU referendum voting behavior

Brain indices of disagreement with one’s social values predict EU referendum voting behavior. Giulia Galli, Miroslav Sirota, Maurizio Materassi, Francesca Zaninotto, and Philip Terry. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, nsx105,

Abstract: Pre-electoral surveys typically attempt, and sometimes fail, to predict voting behavior on the basis of explicit measures of agreement or disagreement with a candidate or political position. Here, we assessed whether a specific brain signature of disagreement with one’s social values, the event-related potential component N400, could be predictive of voting behavior. We examined this possibility in the context of the EU referendum in the United Kingdom. In the five weeks preceding the referendum, we recorded the N400 while participants with different vote intentions expressed their agreement or disagreement with pro- and against-EU statements. We showed that the N400 responded to statements incongruent with one’s view regarding the EU. Crucially, this effect predicted actual voting behavior in decided as well as undecided voters. The N400 was a better predictor of voting choice than an explicit index of preference based on the behavioral responses. Our findings demonstrate that well-defined patterns of brain activity can forecast future voting behavior.

Keywords: Event-related potentials, N400, voting behaviour, social beliefs

Differences in home advantage between sports

Differences in home advantage between sports. Marshall B. Jones. Psychology of Sport and Exercise,

•    Home advantage is not associated with the number of positions.
•    Home advantage is strongly associated with distance covered by the entire team.
•    Especially so in relation to the number of positions over the course of a game.

"The most compelling evidence that the home effect is minor or nonexistent in individual sports is embedded, oddly enough, in team sports. Many team sports include passages that can be described as “individual efforts.” Free throws in basketball are a good example. When a player attempts a free throw, he or she plays as an individual; teammates and opposing players are sidelined or otherwise idled. In samples from the NBA numbering 95,494 (home) and 90,875 (away) Jones (2013) reported a difference in conversion rates of 0.2%, 75.2% (home) to 75.0% (away), not significant at the .05 level (critical ratio = 0.71, p > .4), despite the enormous sample sizes and despite, too, the efforts of hometown fans behind the backboard to distract the away shooters."

Parents Who Pay to Be Watched - Behaviorally Architecting the Family

Parents Who Pay to Be Watched. Kim Brooks. The Cut, Aug 22 2017,

An educational consultant they’d hired, Myrna Harris, suggested something that at first seemed extreme — a relatively new company known for helping children in crisis that could set up a highly structured, highly regimented environment in a home.
The family architects were the foot soldiers of the company, but the most critical part of the strategy involved the installation of a series of Nest Cams with microphones all around the house.

The company was called Cognition Builders, and Harris explained that they would send people to a family for a period of weeks to observe everyone’s behavior and to figure out how parents could get better control over their kids. The people they sent were called “family architects.” They’d move in with a family for months at a time, immersing themselves in their routines and rituals. The family architects were the foot soldiers in the Cognition Builders team, but the most critical part of the company’s strategy involved the installation of a series of Nest Cams with microphones all around the house, which enabled round-the-clock observation and interaction in real time. At the end of each day, the architects would send the parents extensive emails and texts summarizing what they’d seen, which they’d use to develop a system of rules for the family to implement at home. Over time, the role of the family architects would evolve from observing to enforcing the rules. Through this kind of intensive scrutiny and constant behavioral intervention, they claimed to be able to change a family’s, and a child’s functioning from the ground up.

The idea, I learned by speaking with employees and clients of the company over several months, is that if you want to truly change the way a person parents, you need to be there as they’re parenting, not occasionally but immersively and consistently. “We are a fly on the wall of a family’s home,” the company’s clinical director, Sarah Lopano, explained. “We take a very behavioral approach to everything we do.”

The science behind Cognition Builders “approach” isn’t exactly straightforward. Lopano insists that the core of their program is educational, not therapeutic, and that they tailor their approach to the needs of a particular family and borrow from many different types of intervention. The family architects are young; many have advanced degrees in fields like education, behavior analysis, clinical psychology, or social work, but aren’t necessarily licensed therapists. The “service” they provide comes down to watching you parent, suggesting changes, and making sure you do what they say.

Resource depletion through primate stone technology

Resource depletion through primate stone technology. Lydia V Luncz, Amanda Tan, Michael Haslam, Lars Kulik, Tomos Proffitt, Suchinda Malaivijitnond. amd Michael Gumert. eLife 2017;6:e23647 doi: 10.7554/eLife.23647

Abstract: Tool use has allowed humans to become one of the most successful species. However, tool-assisted foraging has also pushed many of our prey species to extinction or endangerment, a technology-driven process thought to be uniquely human. Here, we demonstrate that tool-assisted foraging on shellfish by long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) in Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, Thailand, reduces prey size and prey abundance, with more pronounced effects where the macaque population size is larger. We compared availability, sizes and maturation stages of shellfish between two adjacent islands inhabited by different-sized macaque populations and demonstrate potential effects on the prey reproductive biology. We provide evidence that once technological macaques reach a large enough group size, they enter a feedback loop – driving shellfish prey size down with attendant changes in the tool sizes used by the monkeys. If this pattern continues, prey populations could be reduced to a point where tool-assisted foraging is no longer beneficial to the macaques, which in return may lessen or extinguish the remarkable foraging technology employed by these primates.

My comment:

Coolness as a trait and its relations to the Big Five, self-esteem, social desirability, and action orientation

Coolness as a trait and its relations to the Big Five, self-esteem, social desirability, and action orientation. Ilan Dar-Nimrod, , Asha Ganesan, and Carolyn MacCann. Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 121, 15 January 2018, Pages 1–6.

•    A substantial variance in self-reported coolness is explained by two factors.
•    Self-assessment of coolness is best derived from 2 factors of assorted traits.
•    Explicit self-esteem adds to the coolness evaluations above these 2 factors.
•    Extraversion is the best Big Five predictor of self-assessment of coolness.

Abstract: As coolness is often associated with status elevation and socially desirable valuation, understanding what entails coolness may prove useful in a myriad of contexts. In this study, we tested the two-factor model of coolness proposed by Dar-Nimrod et al. (2012), where Cachet and Contrarian domains of coolness are comprised of 14 facets (e.g., irony, confidence). Participants (N = 225) completed 120 items representing these 14 facets, as well as measures of the Big Five, action orientation, social desirability, and self-esteem. The findings largely replicated the two-factor structure of Cachet and Contrarian Coolness. Cachet and Contrarian Coolness factors incrementally predicted self-perceptions of coolness above and beyond the Big Five personality dimensions, action orientation, implicit self-esteem, age, and sex in a hierarchical regression. Cachet Coolness was the strongest predictor of coolness self-perceptions, with explicit self-esteem and Contrarian Coolness also significantly predicting self-perceived coolness. Findings suggest that the two factors of coolness capture elements of coolness that are not measured by common personality measures. These findings may have implication for studying the role of coolness in group dynamics and social relations across diverse age and ethnic groups.

Keywords: Coolness; Social desirability; Contrarian; Personality; Big Five; Self-esteem; Rebelliousness

Entrepreneurs' subjective success not related to objective business performance over time

Well-Being, Personal Success and Business Performance Among Entrepreneurs: A Two-Wave Study. Josette Dijkhuizen et al. Journal of Happiness Studies,

Abstract: This two-wave longitudinal study among 121 entrepreneurs in The Netherlands investigated bi-directional relationships between entrepreneurs’ well-being and performance. Results of Smart PLS analyses showed positive well-being at Time 1 (work engagement; life satisfaction; and job satisfaction) predicted subjective entrepreneurial success 2 years later, both as indicated by entrepreneurs’ reports of achieved financial success (including personal income security and wealth, business turn-over, sales and profit growth), as well as perceptions of achieved personal success (personal fulfilment, community impact and employee relations). No relations were found with objective indicators of business performance (profit; turnover; and number of employees) over time. The expected recursive relationship between performance and well-being was only found in the short term; a better objective financial situation immediately preceding the second measurement moment, predicted better well-being at T2. These results are both in line with a well-being–performance (gain) cycle, and the happiness set-point thesis that predicts resilience in the face of events. This paper contributes to the literature by emphasizing the importance of entrepreneurs’ well-being as a key factor in long-term subjective financial and personal entrepreneurial success. The practical implication is that entrepreneurs should maintain and improve their own well-being to achieve positive long term business outcomes.

My comment: Entrepreneurs' subjective success is not related to objective business performance over time.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Epidemiology and prosecution of sexual violence against women in Germany

Epidemiology and prosecution of sexual violence against women in Germany (Epidemiologie und Strafverfolgung sexueller Gewalt gegen Frauen in Deutschland), von Deborah F. Hellmann und Christian Pfeiffer. Monatsschrift für Kriminologie und Strafrechtsreform, 2015, 527 - 542 (Heft 6).,0/

Abstract: Sexual victimizations are associated with severe consequences for the victims. Additionally, there is a risk of secondary victimization as well as consequences thereof, that can (in)directly result from a penal procedure and its outcome among others. According to research by the Criminological Research Institute of Lower Saxony, Germany, the prevalence of sexual violence against women in Germany has almost halved from 1992 to 2011. However, only about one in five cases of sexual violence is made known to law enforcement agencies. Those cases, in turn, that are made known to the authorities are associated with particularly severe consequences. Data from police crime statistics and criminal prosecution statistics on the one hand indicate an increased reporting of cases of sexual violence. On the other hand, those data reveal a decline in the conviction rates in the same time period. Furthermore, according to the criminal prosecution statistics considerable regional differences of conviction rates occurred in a nationwide comparison that need to be explained. In this paper, possible causes for the presented results are described and open questions as well as possible solutions are discussed.

Keywords: Sexual violence against women, prosecution of rape, police crime statistics, criminal prosecution statistic, § 177 StGB

Increased task-related neural responses when infected may reflect a compensatory strategy or a greater social cognitive processing as a function of sickness

Experimental human endotoxemia enhances brain activity during social cognition. Jennifer S. Kullmann, Jan-Sebastian Grigoleit, Oliver T. Wolf, Harald Engler, Reiner Oberbeck, Sigrid Elsenbruch, Michael Forsting, Manfred Schedlowski, and  Elke R. Gizewski. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, Volume 9, Issue 6, June 01 2014, Pages 786–793,

Abstract: Acute peripheral inflammation with corresponding increases in peripheral cytokines affects neuropsychological functions and induces depression-like symptoms. However, possible effects of increased immune responses on social cognition remain unknown. Therefore, this study investigated the effects of experimentally induced acute inflammation on performance and neural responses during a social cognition task assessing Theory of Mind (ToM) ability. In this double-blind randomized crossover functional magnetic resonance imaging study, 18 healthy right-handed male volunteers received an injection of bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS; 0.4 ng/kg) or saline, respectively. Plasma levels of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines as well as mood ratings were analyzed together with brain activation during a validated ToM task (i.e. Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test). LPS administration induced pronounced transient increases in pro- (IL-6, TNF-α) and anti-inflammatory (IL-10, IL-1ra) cytokines as well as decreases in mood. Social cognition performance was not affected by acute inflammation. However, altered neural activity was observed during the ToM task after LPS administration, reflected by increased responses in the fusiform gyrus, temporo-parietal junction, superior temporal gyrus and precuneus. The increased task-related neural responses in the LPS condition may reflect a compensatory strategy or a greater social cognitive processing as a function of sickness.

Keywords: peripheral inflammation, social cognition, fMRI, cytokines, endotoxin

Sunstein: Misconceptions About Nudges

Sunstein, Cass R., Misconceptions About Nudges (September 6, 2017). Available at SSRN:

Abstract: Some people believe that nudges are an insult to human agency; that nudges are based on excessive trust in government; that nudges are covert; that nudges are manipulative; that nudges exploit behavioral biases; that nudges depend on a belief that human beings are irrational; and that nudges work only at the margins and cannot accomplish much. These are misconceptions. Nudges always respect, and often promote, human agency; because nudges insist on preserving freedom of choice, they do not put excessive trust in government; nudges are generally transparent rather than covert or forms of manipulation; many nudges are educative, and even when they are not, they tend to make life simpler and more navigable; and some nudges have quite large impacts.

Keywords: nudges, behavioral economic, default rules, manipulation

Effects of elevated CO2 concentration on growth and photosynthesis of Chinese yam under different temperature regimes

Effects of elevated CO2 concentration on growth and photosynthesis of Chinese yam under different temperature regimes. Nguyen Cong Thinh, Hiroyuki Shimono, Etsushi Kumagai & Michio Kawasaki.  Plant Production Science, Volume 20, 2017 - Issue 2, Pages 227-236,

Abstract: Chinese yam (‘yam’) was grown at different carbon dioxide concentrations ([CO2]), namely, ambient and elevated (ambient + 200 μmol mol−1), under low- and high-temperature regimes in summer and autumn, separately. For comparison, rice was also grown under these conditions. Mean air temperatures in the low- and high-temperatures were respectively 24.1 and 29.1 °C in summer experiment and 20.2 and 24.9 °C in autumn experiment. In summer experiment, yam vine length, leaf area, leaf dry weight (DW), and total DW were significantly higher under elevated [CO2] than ambient [CO2] in both temperature regimes. Additionally, number of leaves, vine DW, and root DW were significantly higher under elevated [CO2] than under ambient [CO2] in the low-temperature regime. In autumn experiment, tuber DW was significantly higher under elevated [CO2] than under ambient [CO2] in the high-temperature regime. These results demonstrate that yam shows positive growth responses to elevated [CO2]. Analysis of variance revealed that significant effect of [CO2] × air temperature interaction on yam total DW was not detected. Elevated-to-ambient [CO2] ratios of all growth parameters in summer experiment were higher in yam than in rice. The results suggest that the contribution of elevated [CO2] is higher in yam than in rice under summer. Yam net photosynthetic rate was significantly higher under elevated [CO2] than under ambient [CO2] in both temperature regimes in summer. Elevated [CO2] significantly affected on the rate in yam but not in rice in both experiments. These findings indicate that photosynthesis responds more readily to elevated [CO2] in yam than in rice.

Keywords: Chinese yam, elevated CO2, nagaimo, photosynthesis, rice

My comment: First of all, this is not news, we already knew this for these and other cultivars. Second, referring to yam in the summer experiment, "number of leaves, vine DW, and root DW were significantly higher" means 38-61 pct for high [CO2], and 40-83pct for higher temperature + higher [CO2] (they interactuate strongly). Third, as to yam in autumn and rice in both summer and autumn, the results are positive but much smaller (7-36 pct). Fourth, not all cultivars of economic interest will grow more with higher temperatures or higher [CO2], but many do. These two, yam and rice, are important cases.

On multi-level thinking and scientific understanding

McIntyre, M. E., 2017: On multi-level thinking and scientific understanding. Adv. Atmos. Sci., 34(10), 1150–1158, doi: 10.1007/s00376-017-6283-3.

ABSTRACT: Professor Duzheng YE’s name has been familiar to me ever since my postdoctoral years at MIT with Professors Jule CHARNEY and Norman PHILLIPS, back in the late 1960s. I had the enormous pleasure of meeting Professor YE personally in 1992 in Beijing. His concern to promote the very best science and to use it well, and his thinking on multi-level orderly human activities, reminds me not only of the communication skills we need as scientists but also of the multi-level nature of science itself. Here I want to say something (a) about what science is; (b) about why multi-level thinking—and takign more than one viewpoint—is so important for scientific as well as for other forms of understanding; and (c) about what is meant, at a deep level, by “scientific understanding” and trying to communicate it, not only with lay persons but also across professional disciplines. I hope that Professor YE would approve.

Key words: communication skills, cross-disciplinary communication, scientific understanding, unconscious assumptions, multiple viewpoints, brain hemispheres, biological evolution

Warm Periods in the 20th Century Not Unprecedented during the Last 2000 Years

Warm Periods in the 20th Century Not Unprecedented during the Last 2000 Years. Chinese Academy of Sciences, Press Release, Aug 08, 2017. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research. Editor: Na CHEN.

great deal of evidence relating to ancient climate variation is preserved in proxy data such as tree rings, lake sediments, ice cores, stalagmites, corals and historical documents, and these sources carry great significance in evaluating the 20th century warming in the context of the last two millennia.
Prof. GE Quansheng and his group from the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, collected a large number of proxies and reconstructed a 2000-year temperature series in China with a 10-year resolution, enabling them to quantitatively reveal the characteristics of temperature change in China over a common era.
"We found four warm epochs, which were AD 1 to AD 200, AD 550 to AD 760, AD 950 to AD 1300, and the 20th century. Cold periods occurred between AD 210 and AD 350, AD 420 and AD 530, AD 780 and AD 940, and AD 1320 and AD 1900. The temperature amplitude between the warmest and coldest decades was 1.3°C," said Prof. GE.
The team found that the most rapid warming in China occurred over AD 1870–2000, at a rate of 0.56 ± 0.42°C (100 yr)−1; however, temperatures recorded in the 20th century may not be unprecedented in the last 2000 years, as reconstruction showed records for the period from 981 to 1100, and again from 1201 to 1270, were comparable to those of the present warm period, but with an uncertainty of ±0.28°C to ±0.42°C at the 95% confidence interval. Since 1000 CE—the period covering the Medieval Climate Anomaly, Little Ice Age, and the present warm period—temperature variations over China have typically been in phase with those of the Northern Hemisphere as a whole.
They also detected some interactions between temperature variation and precipitation change. The ensemble means of dryness/wetness spatial patterns in eastern China across all centennial warm periods illustrate a tripole pattern: dry south of 25°N; wet from 25°–30°N; and dry to the north of 30°N. For all cold periods, the ensemble mean drought/flood spatial patterns showed an east to west distribution, with flooding east of 115°E and drought dominant west of 115°E, with the exception of flooding between approximately110°E and 105°E.
The general characteristics of the impacts of climatic change historically were negative in the cold periods and positive in the warm periods. For example, 25 of the 31 most prosperous periods in imperial China during the past 2000 years occurred during periods of warmth or warming. A cooling trend at the centennial scale and social economic decline run hand-in-hand. The rapid development supported by better resources and a better environment in warm periods could lead to an increase in social vulnerability when the climate turns once more to being relatively colder.
"Throughout China’s history," Prof. GE added, "both rulers and the ruled have adopted strategies and policies to cope with climate change, as permitted by the prevailing geography and circumstances of the time."
2000-year temperature reconstruction in China (Image by GE Quansheng)
(Editor: CHEN Na)

Climate-driven variability in the occurrence of major floods across North America and Europe

G.A. Hodgkins et al., Climate-driven variability in the occurrence of major floods across North America and Europe, Journal of Hydrology, Volume 552, September 2017, Pages 704-717


Concern over the potential impact of anthropogenic climate change on flooding has led to a proliferation of studies examining past flood trends. Many studies have analysed annual-maximum flow trends but few have quantified changes in major (25–100 year return period) floods, i.e. those that have the greatest societal impacts. Existing major-flood studies used a limited number of very large catchments affected to varying degrees by alterations such as reservoirs and urbanisation. In the current study, trends in major-flood occurrence from 1961 to 2010 and from 1931 to 2010 were assessed using a very large dataset (>1200 gauges) of diverse catchments from North America and Europe; only minimally altered catchments were used, to focus on climate-driven changes rather than changes due to catchment alterations. Trend testing of major floods was based on counting the number of exceedances of a given flood threshold within a group of gauges. ***Evidence for significant trends varied between groups of gauges that were defined by catchment size, location, climate, flood threshold and period of record, indicating that generalizations about flood trends across large domains or a diversity of catchment types are ungrounded. Overall, the number of significant trends in major-flood occurrence across North America and Europe was approximately the number expected due to chance alone. Changes over time in the occurrence of major floods were dominated by multidecadal variability rather than by long-term trends.*** There were more than three times as many significant relationships between major-flood occurrence and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation than significant long-term trends. […]

Is procedural memory enhanced in Tourette syndrome?

Is procedural memory enhanced in Tourette syndrome? Evidence from a sequence learning task.     Ádám Takács et al. Cortex,

Abstract: Procedural memory, which is rooted in the basal ganglia, underlies the learning and processing of numerous automatized motor and cognitive skills, including in language. Not surprisingly, disorders with basal ganglia abnormalities have been found to show impairments of procedural memory. However, brain abnormalities could also lead to atypically enhanced function. Tourette syndrome (TS) is a candidate for enhanced procedural memory, given previous findings of enhanced TS processing of grammar, which likely depends on procedural memory. We comprehensively examined procedural learning, from memory formation to retention, in children with TS and typically developing (TD) children, who performed an implicit sequence learning task over two days. The children with TS showed sequence learning advantages on both days, despite a regression of sequence knowledge overnight to the level of the TD children. This is the first demonstration of procedural learning advantages in any disorder. The findings may further our understanding of procedural memory and its enhancement. The evidence presented here, together with previous findings suggesting enhanced grammar processing in TS, underscore the dependence of language on a system that also subserves visuomotor sequencing.

Keywords: basal ganglia; implicit learning; sequence learning; procedural memory; Tourette syndrome