Tuesday, November 7, 2017

No positive correlation between formality of clothing and mental abstraction

Cognitive consequences of formal clothing: the effects of clothing versus thinking of clothing. Axel M. Burger & Herbert Bless. Comprehensive Results in Social Psychology, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/23743603.2017.1396185

ABSTRACT: This research aimed at testing whether the association of formality of clothing with mental abstraction found in prior research depends on whether individuals are (made) aware of the formality of their clothing prior to measuring mental abstraction. In two preregistered studies participants estimated the formality of their clothing and performed an action identification task (Study 1) or categorization task (Study 2) as measures of mental abstraction. In addition, we varied the order of assessing formality of clothing and mental abstraction to manipulate the accessibility of formality of clothing before completing the mental abstraction tasks. When assessing formality of clothing prior to mental abstraction we did not obtain a reliable correlation so that the assumed decrease of this relation in the reversed order condition could not be tested. When pooling the data of both experimental conditions, the results of Study 1 support the hypothesis that formality of clothing is positively correlated with mental abstraction and are compatible with the hypothesis of a causal mechanism where formality of clothing influences mental abstraction through changes in subjective social status and power. Study 2 did not yield evidence for a positive correlation between formality of clothing and mental abstraction.

KEYWORDS: Clothing, construal level, mental abstraction, accessibility

How Much Does Education Improve Intelligence? For an additional year of education, 1 to 5 IQ points

Ritchie, Stuart J, and Elliot M Tucker-Drob. 2017. “How Much Does Education Improve Intelligence? A Meta-analysis”. PsyArXiv. November 8. psyarxiv.com/kymhp

Abstract: Intelligence test scores and educational duration are positively correlated. This correlation can be interpreted in two ways: students with greater propensity for intelligence go on to complete more education, or a longer education increases intelligence. We meta-analysed three categories of quasi-experimental studies of educational effects on intelligence: those estimating education-intelligence associations after controlling for earlier intelligence, those using compulsory schooling policy changes as instrumental variables, and those using regression-discontinuity designs on school-entry age cutoffs. Across 142 effect sizes from 42 datasets involving over 600,000 participants, we found consistent evidence for beneficial effects of education on cognitive abilities, of approximately 1 to 5 IQ points for an additional year of education. Moderator analyses indicated that the effects persisted across the lifespan, and were present on all broad categories of cognitive ability studied. Education appears to be the most consistent, robust, and durable method yet to be identified for raising intelligence.

Evolutionarily (mal)adaptive behaviors and phenomena in humans: a review on fertility decline and an integrated model

Demographic studies enhance the understanding of evolutionarily (mal)adaptive behaviors and phenomena in humans: a review on fertility decline and an integrated model. Morita, M. Popul Ecol (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10144-017-0597-y

Abstract: Recently, statistical analyses of demographic datasets have come to play an important role for studies into the evolution of human life history. In the first part of this paper, I highlight fertility decline, an evolutionarily paradoxical phenomenon in terms of fitness maximization. Then, I conduct a literature review regarding the effects of socioeconomic status on the number of offspring, especially in modern developed, (post-)industrial, and low-fertility societies. Although a non-positive relationship between them has often been recognized as a general feature of fertility decline, there actually exists a great deal of variation. Based on the review, I discuss the association between socioeconomic success and reproductive success, and tackle an evolutionary question as to why people seek higher socioeconomic success that would not directly lead to higher reproductive success. It has been suggested that, in modern competitive environments, parents should set a higher value on their investment in children, and aim to have a smaller number of high-quality children. Also, parents would maintain higher socioeconomic status for themselves so as to provide high-levels of investment in their children. In the second part, I broadly consider seemingly evolutionarily (mal)adaptive outcomes besides fertility decline, including child abuse, menopause, and suicide. The integration of the major three approaches to human behavioral and psychological research (behavioral ecology, evolutionary psychology, and cultural evolution) could lead to a deeper understanding. I provide a model for the integrated approach. Rich empirical evidence accumulated in demographic studies, especially longitudinal and cross-cultural resources, can assist to develop a theoretical framework.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Smartphone use undermines enjoyment of face-to-face social interactions

Smartphone use undermines enjoyment of face-to-face social interactions. Ryan Dwyer, Kostadin Kushlev, Elizabeth Dunn. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2017.10.007

•    We examine whether phone use impacts the benefits derived from social interactions.
•    We test the effect using a field experiment and experience sampling.
•    Phone use leads to distraction, which undermines benefits of social interaction.

Abstract: Using a field experiment and experience sampling, we found the first evidence that phone use may undermine the enjoyment people derive from real world social interactions. In Study 1, we recruited over 300 community members and students to share a meal at a restaurant with friends or family. Participants were randomly assigned to keep their phones on the table or to put their phones away during the meal. When phones were present (vs. absent), participants felt more distracted, which reduced how much they enjoyed spending time with their friends/family. We found consistent results using experience sampling in Study 2; during in-person interactions, participants felt more distracted and reported lower enjoyment if they used their phones than if they did not. This research suggests that despite their ability to connect us to others across the globe, phones may undermine the benefits we derive from interacting with those across the table.

Keywords: Mobile phones; Technology; Distraction; Social interaction; Well-being

Check also Connecting Alone: Smartphone Use, Quality of Social Interactions and Well-being. Valentina Rotondi, Luca Stanca, and Miriam Tomasuolo. Journal of Economic Psychology, http://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/10/time-spent-with-friends-is-worth-less.html

Infants Distinguish Between Two Events Based on Their Relative Likelihood

Kayhan, E., Gredebäck, G. and Lindskog, M. (2017), Infants Distinguish Between Two Events Based on Their Relative Likelihood. Child Dev. doi:10.1111/cdev.12970

Abstract: Likelihood estimations are crucial for dealing with the uncertainty of life. Here, infants' sensitivity to the difference in likelihood between two events was investigated. Infants aged 6, 12, and 18 months (N = 75) were shown animated movies of a machine simultaneously drawing likely and unlikely samples from a box filled with different colored balls. In different trials, the difference in likelihood between the two samples was manipulated. The infants' looking patterns varied as a function of the magnitude of the difference in likelihood and were modulated by the number of items in the samples. Looking patterns showed qualitative similarities across age groups. This study demonstrates that infants' looking responses are sensitive to the magnitude of the difference in likelihood between two events.

Evolution of external female genital mutilation: why do males harm their mates?

Evolution of external female genital mutilation: why do males harm their mates? Pierick Mouginot, Gabriele Uhl, Lutz Fromhage. Royal Society Open Science, November 2017. https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.171195

Abstract: Sperm competition may select for male reproductive traits that influence female mating or oviposition rate. These traits may induce fitness costs to the female; however, they may be costly for the males as well as any decrease in female fitness also affects male fitness. Male adaptations to sperm competition manipulate females by altering not only female behaviour or physiology, but also female morphology. In orb-weaving spiders, mating may entail mutilation of external structures of the female genitalia, which prevents genital coupling with subsequent males. Here, we present a game theoretical model showing that external female genital mutilation is favoured even under relatively high costs of mutilation, and that it is favoured by a high number of mate encounters per female and last-male sperm precedence.

Males may evolve traits that shift the remating or oviposition rate of the female from the female’s optimum towards their own due to selection on competitive fertilization success [1,2]. Defensive adaptations to sperm competition include mate guarding, copulatory plugs,manipulative seminal fluids and internal genital damage. These adaptations can manipulate the female by altering her behaviour or physiology, but also her genital anatomy [3]. Examples of male-inflicted damages to female genitalia have been documented in numerous taxa, especially among arthropods [4,5]. Most of these genital damages are inflicted internally by the male intromittent organ, and it is debated how these harmful traits have evolved [6–8].

Recently, it has been described that males inflict external damage to the female genitalia in two species of orb-weaving spiders as a defensive adaptation to sperm competition.

Check also 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,

Faces with makeup were perceived to have more unrestricted sociosexuality; with more makeup were perceived as more unrestricted

Evidence that makeup is a false signal of sociosexuality. Carlota Batres et al. Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 122, 1 February 2018, Pages 148–154. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2017.10.023

•    Makeup makes women appear to have more unrestricted sociosexuality.
•    Women's self-reported sociosexuality does not relate to their makeup habits.
•    People use makeup as a cue for perceiving sociosexuality but it is an invalid cue.

Abstract: While the positive effect of makeup on attractiveness is well established, there has been less exploration into other possible functions of makeup use. Here we investigated whether one function of makeup is to signal sociosexuality. Using a large, well-controlled set of photographs, we found that faces with makeup were perceived to have more unrestricted sociosexuality than the same faces without makeup. Similarly, women wearing more makeup were perceived to have more unrestricted sociosexuality. The target women who were photographed also completed questionnaires about their makeup habits and the Sociosexual Orientation Inventory. Targets' self-reported sociosexuality was not associated with their makeup habits, with observer ratings of the amount of makeup they wore, or with observer ratings of their sociosexuality when attractiveness was controlled. Thus our study shows that people use makeup as a cue for perceiving sociosexuality but that it is an invalid cue.

Keywords: Makeup; Sociosexuality; Attractiveness; Faces; Perception

Happiness in Behaviour Genetics: An Update on Heritability and Changeability

Happiness in Behaviour Genetics: An Update on Heritability and Changeability. Ragnhild Bang Nes, Espen Røysamb. Journal of Happiness Studies, October 2017, Volume 18, Issue 5, pp 1533–1552.

Abstract: In this paper we summarize recent behaviour genetic findings on happiness measured as life satisfaction (LS) and subjective wellbeing (SWB) and discuss important implications pertaining to stability and change, including the potential of individual and societal interventions. Broadly speaking, two main research strategies explore genetic and environmental influences on happiness, including quantitative and molecular genetics. Whereas molecular genetics seeks to trace the causal pathways from specific DNA variants, quantitative genetics estimates the magnitude of overall genetic and environmental influences without specifying actual DNA sequences and usually without specifying specific environmental circumstances. Molecular genetic studies have entered the happiness arena, but have shown mixed results. Most replicated findings are therefore based on quantitative genetics and derived from twin and family studies decomposing variation and co-variation into genetic, shared, and non-shared environmental sources. Recent meta-analyses of such studies report genetic influences (i.e., heritability) to account for 32–40 % of the variation in overall happiness (i.e., SWB, LS), and indicate that heritability varies across populations, subgroups, contexts and/or constructs. When exploring stable SWB levels, heritability is reported in the 70–80 % range, whereas momentary positive affect is often entirely situational. Happiness is thus heritable, stable, variable and changeable. What do these findings imply? Can happiness be raised as a platform in individuals and societies? We suggest that individual and societal interventions that target causal pathways and address both amplifying and compensatory processes (i.e., focus on developing strengths and mitigating risks)—thus providing for positive gene-environment matchmaking, are likely to be effective and longer lasting.

Swiping right: Sociosexuality, intentions to engage in infidelity, and infidelity experiences on Tinder

Swiping right: Sociosexuality, intentions to engage in infidelity, and infidelity experiences on Tinder. Dana A. Weiser et al. Personality and Individual Differences, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2017.10.025

•    A minority of participants reported infidelity facilitated by Tinder.
•    Most knew individuals who had used to Tinder to engage in infidelity.
•    Sociosexuality and intentions to engage in infidelity were associated with infidelity.
•    Gender not associated with infidelity when sociosexuality and intentions included.

Abstract: Tinder is a popular mobile dating app among young adults that may be used to facilitate meeting extradyadic partners. Participants who had used or were using Tinder (n = 550) indicated that most knew somebody who had used Tinder to meet extradyadic partners, and several participants reported that their own infidelity had been facilitated by Tinder. Participants were varied as to whether Tinder was an effective method for meeting extradyadic partners. Sociosexuality and intentions to engage in infidelity were associated with having used Tinder to engage in infidelity. Gender was not significantly associated with using Tinder to meet extradyadic partners when sociosexuality and intentions to engage in infidelity were also included in analyses.

Keywords: Extradyadic; Infidelity; Infidelity intentions; Online infidelity; Sociosexual orientation; Tinder

Link between our creations and our self-concept, emerging at age 5, leads us to value them more positively than others’ creations

When and how does labour lead to love? The ontogeny and mechanisms of the IKEA effect. Lauren E. Marsh, Patricia Kanngiesser, Bruce Hood. Cognition, Volume 170, January 2018, Pages 245–253.         https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2017.10.012

Abstract: We elevate our constructions to a special status in our minds. This ‘IKEA’ effect leads us to believe that our creations are more valuable than items that are identical, but constructed by another. This series of studies utilises a developmental perspective to explore why this bias exists. Study 1 elucidates the ontogeny of the IKEA effect, demonstrating an emerging bias at age 5, corresponding with key developmental milestones in self-concept formation. Study 2 assesses the role of effort, revealing that the IKEA effect is not moderated by the amount of effort invested in the task in 5-to-6-year olds. Finally, Study 3 examines whether feelings of ownership moderate the IKEA effect, finding that ownership alone cannot explain why children value their creations more. Altogether, results from this study series are incompatible with existing theories of the IKEA bias. Instead, we propose a new framework to examine biases in decision making. Perhaps the IKEA effect reflects a link between our creations and our self-concept, emerging at age 5, leading us to value them more positively than others’ creations.

Keywords: Ownership; Value; IKEA-effect; Development; Effort justification

Why Are Women More Easily Disgusted Than Men?

Sex Differences in Disgust: Why Are Women More Easily Disgusted Than Men? Laith Al-Shawaf, David M.G. Lewis, David M. Buss. Emotion Review, https://doi.org/10.1177/1754073917709940

Abstract: Women have consistently higher levels of disgust than men. This sex difference is substantial in magnitude, highly replicable, emerges with diverse assessment methods, and affects a wide array of outcomes—including job selection, mate choice, food aversions, and psychological disorders. Despite the importance of this far-reaching sex difference, sound theoretical explanations have lagged behind the empirical discoveries. In this article, we focus on the evolutionary-functional level of analysis, outlining hypotheses capable of explaining why women have higher levels of disgust than men. We present four hypotheses for sexual disgust and six for pathogen disgust, along with testable predictions. Discussion focuses on additional new hypotheses and on future research capable of adjudicating among these competing, but not mutually exclusive, hypotheses.

In sum, there are at least four theoretically plausible, non-mutually-exclusive factors driving the evolution of women's heightened sexual disgust relative to men: (a) greater minimum obligatory parental investment (the parental investment hypothesis), (b) higher likelihood and greater costs of contracting STIs (the sexually transmitted infections hypothesis), (c) defense against rape and sexual coercion (the rape avoidance hypothesis). and (d) sex differences in reputational damage as a consequence of promiscuous or deviant sexual behavior (the reputational damage hypothesis).


In summary, we have proposed six hypotheses for the evolution of elevated female pathogen disgust: (a) reduced risk-taking among women because female vehicles are more critical than male vehicles to the long-term propagation of the genes residing in their offspring's bodies; (b) greater female likelihood of directly transmitting infections to offspring; (c) a greater role for women in keeping children away from pathogens and teaching them effective disease-avoidance principles; (d) a greater role for ancestral women in food cleaning and food preparation; (e) lower levels of disgust among men in order to convey immune strength and facilitate short-term mating; and (f) higher male thresholds for disgust related to blood, injury, and death because of selective pressures related to hunting and warfare.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Skepticism toward unfounded beliefs requires sufficient cognitive ability AND motivation to be rational

Epistemic rationality: Skepticism toward unfounded beliefs requires sufficient cognitive ability and motivation to be rational. Tomas Ståhl, Jan-Willem van Prooijen. Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 122, February 01 2018, Pages 155–163. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2017.10.026

•    Analytic thinking is not sufficient to promote skepticism toward various unfounded beliefs.
•    Analytic thinking and valuing epistemic rationality interactively predict skepticism.
•    Cognitive ability, rather than analytic cognitive style, seems to account for these findings.

Abstract: Why does belief in the paranormal, conspiracy theories, and various other phenomena that are not backed up by evidence remain widespread in modern society? In the present research we adopt an individual difference approach, as we seek to identify psychological precursors of skepticism toward unfounded beliefs. We propose that part of the reason why unfounded beliefs are so widespread is because skepticism requires both sufficient analytic skills, and the motivation to form beliefs on rational grounds. In Study 1 we show that analytic thinking is associated with a lower inclination to believe various conspiracy theories, and paranormal phenomena, but only among individuals who strongly value epistemic rationality. We replicate this effect on paranormal belief, but not conspiracy beliefs, in Study 2. We also provide evidence suggesting that general cognitive ability, rather than analytic cognitive style, is the underlying facet of analytic thinking that is responsible for these effects.

Keywords: Paranormal belief; Conspiracy belief; Cognitive ability; Analytic cognitive style; Epistemic rationality; Importance of rationality

Check also: Public Perceptions of Partisan Selective Exposure. Perryman, Mallory R.. The University of Wisconsin - Madison, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2017. 10607943. https://search.proquest.com/openview/20d6e3befcf61455779aebe39b91d29f/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=18750&diss=y

And: Dispelling the Myth: Training in Education or Neuroscience Decreases but Does Not Eliminate Beliefs in Neuromyths. Kelly Macdonald et al. Frontiers in Psychology, Aug 10 2017. http://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/08/training-in-education-or-neuroscience.html

And: Wisdom and how to cultivate it: Review of emerging evidence for a constructivist model of wise thinking. Igor Grossmann. European Psychologist, in press. Pre-print: http://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/08/wisdom-and-how-to-cultivate-it-review.html

And: Science Denial Across the Political Divide -- Liberals and Conservatives Are Similarly Motivated to Deny Attitude-Inconsistent Science. Anthony N. Washburn, Linda J. Skitka. Social Psychological and Personality Science, http://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/09/liberals-and-conservatives-are.html

And: Biased Policy Professionals. Sheheryar Banuri, Stefan Dercon, and Varun Gauri. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 8113. http://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/08/biased-policy-professionals-world-bank.html.

And: Individuals with greater science literacy and education have more polarized beliefs on controversial science topics. Caitlin Drummond and Baruch Fischhoff. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 114 no. 36, pp 9587–9592, http://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/09/individuals-with-greater-science.html

And: Expert ability can actually impair the accuracy of expert perception when judging others' performance: Adaptation and fallibility in experts' judgments of novice performers. By Larson, J. S., & Billeter, D. M. (2017). Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 43(2), 271–288. http://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/06/expert-ability-can-actually-impair.html

And: Bottled Water and the Overflowing Nanny State, by Angela Logomasini. How Misinformation Erodes Consumer Freedom. CEI, February 17, 2009

And Competing cues: Older adults rely on knowledge in the face of fluency. By Brashier, Nadia M.; Umanath, Sharda; Cabeza, Roberto; Marsh, Elizabeth J.
Psychology and Aging, Vol 32(4), Jun 2017, 331-337. http://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/07/competing-cues-older-adults-rely-on.html

Similar but different: Interviewing monozygotic twins discordant for musical practice

Similar but different: Interviewing monozygotic twins discordant for musical practice. Helene Eriksson et al. Musicae Scientiae, Volume: 21 issue: 3, page(s): 250-266. https://doi.org/10.1177/1029864916649791

Abstract: Musical engagement is influenced by both environmental and genetic factors. Here, we explored non-genetic influences on musical engagement by performing semi-structured interviews of 10 Swedish monozygotic twin pairs that were highly discordant for piano practicing. The interviews were organized into five sections – (i) perceived reasons for the discordance; (ii) childhood differences in specific music related variables; (iii) strong memories of music; (iv) the perceived meaning of music in life and for health; and (v) language interests – and analyzed using response categorization. The playing twins from an early age found music more interesting and enjoyable than their co-twins and also gave richer and more elaborate descriptions of the meaning of music in life, in several cases emphasizing that music was important for their personal identity. In line with this, an analysis of previously collected web questionnaire data showed that the playing twins had a significantly higher openness to experience and proneness to experience flow during musical activities. In contrast, the twins reported essentially no within-pair differences in the musical engagement of their peers, parental support, music teacher, ensemble playing, public performances, and their interest and aptitude for languages. The interviews gave no indication that the differences in musical engagement were caused by systematic environmental influences that were consistent across twin pairs. Rather, the respondents presented a wide range of different explanations for their discordance in musical activity, suggesting that the remaining influences on musical engagement, when genetics and family environment are controlled for, may be highly individual and idiosyncratic.

The dark side of experiencing job autonomy: Unethical behavior

The dark side of experiencing job autonomy: Unethical behavior. Jackson Lu et al. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Volume 73, November 2017, Pages 222-234, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022103117301051

Abstract: To date, job autonomy has been conceptualized as a job characteristic that elicits positive outcomes. In contrast, the present studies unveiled a potential dark side of experiencing job autonomy: unethical behavior. Using field surveys on Israeli employees, Studies 1 and 2 found that experienced job autonomy not only positively predicted job satisfaction (thus replicating past research), but also positively predicted unethical behavior. Using experimental designs, Studies 3a and 3b drew on actual job autonomy policies from real-world corporations to prime American employees to experience different levels of job autonomy. Compared to participants in the low-autonomy or autonomy-unrelated control conditions, participants in the high-autonomy condition were more likely to behave unethically because they felt less constrained by rules. Moreover, the relationship between experienced job autonomy and unethical behavior was moderated by the importance that participants assigned to having job autonomy, such that the experience of high job autonomy was less likely to elicit unethical behavior from participants for whom having job autonomy was more important. In addition to replicating all of these findings, Study 4 revealed that the experience of high job autonomy simultaneously increased unethical behavior and creativity, further demonstrating job autonomy to be a double-edged sword. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

The Paradox of Family Structure and Plans After Work: Why Single Childless Employees May be the Least Absorbed at Work

The Paradox of Family Structure and Plans After Work: Why Single Childless Employees May be the Least Absorbed at Work. Tracy Dumas & Jill Perry-Smith. Academy of Management Journal, http://amj.aom.org/content/early/2017/10/05/amj.2016.0086.abstract

Abstract: Existing research shows that positive family experiences can affect work positively. In this article, however, we consider how family can enhance work even when family experiences are not explicitly positive. We draw on boundary theory and cognitive psychology's current concerns theory to consider how employees' family structures and associated after-work activities affect their work absorption. A survey of business school alumni (study 1) revealed that single, childless workers reported lower absorption than workers with other family structures. Further, a daily diary study of university employees (study 2), showed that employees' planned after-work activities explained the relationship between family structure and work absorption. Specifically, single, childless workers anticipated fewer domestic after-work activities, resulting in lower work absorption. Due to similarities between domestic responsibilities and work tasks — e.g., their obligatory and goal-directed nature — anticipating domestic responsibilities after work reinforces, rather than distracts from, the work mindset, thus keeping employees more immersed psychologically in their work. This finding suggests that having a spouse and/or children can affect employees' work absorption positively through the anticipation of domestic duties after work. Thus, our study contributes to a more comprehensive view of how employees' work and non-work lives are connected.

CEOs born into poor families outperform those born into wealthy families without higher risk-taking

From Playground to Boardroom: Endowed Social Status and Managerial Performance. Fangfang Du. Arizona State University Working Paper, https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3040322

Abstract: By matching a CEO's place of residence in his or her formative years with U.S. Census survey data, I obtain an estimate of the CEO's family wealth and study the link between the CEO's endowed social status and firm performance. I find that CEOs born into poor families outperform those born into wealthy families, as measured by a variety of proxies for firm performance. There is no evidence of higher risk-taking by the CEOs from low social status backgrounds. Further, CEOs from poor families are better able to preserve the firm's human capital during periods of financial distress and demonstrate greater ability to develop successful innovation. As a result, such CEOs perform better in firms with high R&D spending.

The Paradox of Intelligence: Heritability and Malleability Coexist in Hidden Gene-Environment Interplay

Sauce, B., & Matzel, L. D. (2017). The Paradox of Intelligence: Heritability and Malleability Coexist in Hidden Gene-Environment Interplay. Psychological Bulletin. Advance online publication.

Abstract: Intelligence can have an extremely high heritability, but also be malleable; a paradox that has been the source of continuous controversy. Here we attempt to clarify the issue, and advance a frequently overlooked solution to the paradox: Intelligence is a trait with unusual properties that create a large reservoir of hidden gene–environment (GE) networks, allowing for the contribution of high genetic and environmental influences on individual differences in IQ. GE interplay is difficult to specify with current methods, and is underestimated in standard metrics of heritability (thus inflating estimates of “genetic” effects). We describe empirical evidence for GE interplay in intelligence, with malleability existing on top of heritability. The evidence covers cognitive gains consequent to adoption/immigration, changes in IQ's heritability across life span and socioeconomic status, gains in IQ over time consequent to societal development (the Flynn effect), the slowdown of age-related cognitive decline, and the gains in intelligence from early education. The GE solution has novel implications for enduring problems, including our inability to identify intelligence-related genes (also known as IQ’s “missing heritability”), and the loss of initial benefits from early intervention programs (such as “Head Start”). The GE solution can be a powerful guide to future research, and may also aid policies to overcome barriers to the development of intelligence, particularly in impoverished and underprivileged populations.

The social behavioral, emotional, and cognitive mechanisms underlying narcissistic personality traits

The social behavioral, emotional, and cognitive mechanisms underlying narcissistic personality traits. Marjan Sharifi. Fachbereich Erziehungswissenschaft und Psychologie
der Freien Universität Berlin, http://diss.fu-berlin.de/diss/servlets/MCRFileNodeServlet/FUDISS_derivate_000000021938/Dissertation_Marjan_Sharifi.pdf

The cornerstone of a healthy society is social cohesion, which is based on good interpersonal relationships. Given the rampant rise in narcissistic values in our society (see, e.g., Twenge, & Campbell, 2009; Paris, 2014), it is important to understand the mechanisms behind this interpersonally disruptive personality trait.

This dissertation examines the underlying cognitive, emotional, and social behavioral mechanisms of individuals with a high number of narcissistic traits. Narcissists are known for their self-aggrandizing personality type which ultimately masks an insecure inner self. It is argued that the narcissists’ self-image is molded through dynamic interactions between self-enhancing intra- and exploitative interpersonal regulation strategies (Morf, & Rhodewalt, 2001). Accordingly, the three main research questions addressed in this thesis are:

1) What self-generated thoughts underlie the intra-individual regulation strategies of narcissists? 2) What are the mechanisms driving the interpersonally disruptive narcissistic social behaviors in active, and reactive roles? and 3) How does the grandiose ego of narcissists bias their judgment in assessing another person's emotional state?

The first study reveals that greater numbers of pathological narcissistic traits are associated with higher levels of mind-wandering, and the content of these thoughts were more socially focused (self- and other-related), temporally focused (past- and future-oriented), and more negative. Most notably, positive thoughts were only related to narcissism when they were associated with self-related and future-oriented thoughts. Thus, the content of the narcissist’s self-generated thoughts suggest two different patterns that could affect their intrapersonal regulation strategies: fantasy-driven thought patterns and patterns akin to rumination. These thought patterns may indicate why narcissists have a grandiose self-image and also a susceptibility to pathological vulnerability.

The second study examined ongoing social interactions where there were possibilities for acts of generosity and punishment amongst individuals with a range of pathological narcissistic traits. There were two main findings. First, narcissists are less generous in situations where there is a risk of being punished, and this maladaptive behavior is mediated with a reduction in perspective taking.

Second, higher narcissism scores are related to increased levels of punishment, and this retributive behavior is mediated by the narcissists experiencing anger. In the final study, the tendency to both experience and also attribute the social emotions of envy and Schadenfreude was examined. A competitive social comparison task was used amongst individuals with only high and low levels of grandiose narcissistic traits. It was found that high-level narcissists do not personally experience more envy or Schadenfreude compared to low-level narcissists. However, they do have a tendency to attribute these emotions onto others. These results indicate that narcissists do not use their own emotional state as a frame of reference when assessing another individual’s emotional state in a similar situation, but instead assume others will react differently.

Taken together, this thesis advances knowledge about the mechanisms underlying inter- and intra-personal regulation strategies of the narcissistic personality trait. As a result, it can serve as a possible source of inspiration for future intervention studies and further research on narcissistic personality traits.

Political voting follows not fair-mindedness (the weight on oneself versus others) but equality-efficiency tradeoffs

Distributional preferences and political behavior. Raymond Fisman, Pamela Jakiela, Shachar Kariv. Journal of Public Economics, Volume 155, November 2017, Pages 1-10. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpubeco.2017.08.010

Abstract: We document the relationship between distributional preferences and voting decisions in a large and diverse sample of Americans. Using a generalized dictator game, we generate individual-level measures of fair-mindedness (the weight on oneself versus others) and equality-efficiency tradeoffs. Subjects' equality-efficiency tradeoffs predict their political decisions: equality-focused subjects are more likely to have voted for Barack Obama in 2012, and to be affiliated with the Democratic Party. Our findings shed light on how American voters are motivated by their distributional preferences.

Expectations of Western Zen fans -- Seeking Solitude in Japan’s Mountain Monasteries

We are a bit crazy... Visitors of monasteries in Japan write about their disappointing travel:
Reading up on the shukubo options before my trip, I learned that many previous visitors to Koyasan were irked by the simplicity of the lodgings. Some wrote on TripAdvisor.com that their rooms were too cold, or that they could hear their neighbors snoring through the 200-year-old paper walls of the temple. More than one reviewer complained that the multicourse vegan meals were too simple to satiate people who are accustomed to eating meat. “Take snacks or you will starve,” one warned.

Others felt that they weren’t quite receiving a good enough spiritual bang for their buck. “I expected something a bit spiritual and to feel that Zen/Buddhist vibe,” one visitor from Ohio complained, “I have to say I did not feel it.” Some complained that the monks running the temples didn’t speak enough English, or didn’t offer visitors enough individual attention. “The major disappointment came during dinner,” another wrote. “I was expecting to have the opportunity to mingle with the monks.”


Full article :Seeking Solitude in Japan’s Mountain Monasteries. By ANNA HEZEL
The New York Times, Oct 11, 2017

at the link:


“Your eyes should be neither open nor closed,” explained the monk at the front of the room. “They should be sort of sleepy — like a Buddha.” It was my first time meditating, and I was anxious about making some sort of conspicuous misstep. I squinted, then tried to relax my eyelids, but inadvertently began to focus on the bright orange cushion of the person in front of me. I closed my eyes with an inward sigh of exasperation at having such a difficult time following instructions. The monk leading the session told us cheerfully that it might help to rest our vision on the tips of our noses.

I was sitting in the carpeted meditation hall of an 1,100-year-old Buddhist temple in Koyasan, in a mountainous region of southeastern Japan. The hall was separated from the temple’s garden by only a thin sliding wooden door, and the air inside was crisp and piney, threaded with smoke from incense burning on the altar. About 15 other sleepy-eyed tourists from the United States, Europe and Australia (the class was for English-speaking visitors) surrounded me across the floor, steadily counting their breaths.

Koyasan is one of the premier destinations for Buddhist pilgrims in Japan, and is considered one of the holiest sites in the country. It was chosen 1,200 years ago by the monk Kobo-Daishi for its lotus-like geography — a shallow valley nestled into a mountain — to be the headquarters of Esoteric Shingon Buddhism. The religion, which dates to the Tang dynasty, places an emphasis on daily ritual as a means of reaching enlightenment in an immediate, practicable way, developing what several monks described as a “Buddha nature.” Over the course of the last century, the religion’s birthplace has also attracted an increasing number of visitors without any background in Buddhism — visitors who seek out mountains, peace, history, or just a fleeting connection with the mysticism of another time.

I came for a little bit of each of these, teased by the promise of a remote corner of the country, thousands of miles removed, both physically and mentally, from the frenetic anxieties of New York. I wanted to challenge myself to a place with a different logic and rhythm, and to see myself disappear briefly into the magnitude of a 1,200-year-old rite. Also appealing was the prospect of a place that was truly dark at night — a place where the thick, spindly velvet of steep, tree-covered mountainsides soaks up the darkness completely. And like many others, as I would learn, I also wanted something a little bit naïve and capitalistic: to buy an ascetic experience.

THE MOUNTAIN IS DOTTED with a total of 52 shukubo, temples that historically offered overnight lodging to pilgrims. Most of these have also begun to welcome non-pilgrim tourists in recent decades (there are a dozen or so holdouts). For $80 to $150 per night, per person, you can sleep on a tatami mat on the floor of a traditional guest room in a 1,000-year-old temple, eat the monks’ traditional vegan fare, and participate in the daily meditation and prayer. A few of the temples advertise amenities like sutra writing classes, views of monks raking the gardens below, or natural hot springs to bathe in — features you can’t filter for on Airbnb or Hotels.com. And in the case of many of the temples, you can’t be totally sure what you are getting — an ambiguity that appealed to me in an era when every possible travel destination is so scrupulously documented and Instagrammed.

Although the temples on Koyasan were originally reserved for the most devout pilgrims, Buddhism is famously accepting of other religions. So over the last century, as temples in Japan and elsewhere began to struggle financially with fewer donations coming in, the natural solution was to open the doors a little wider and welcome visitors who were curious about Buddhism.

Reading up on the shukubo options before my trip, I learned that many previous visitors to Koyasan were irked by the simplicity of the lodgings. Some wrote on TripAdvisor.com that their rooms were too cold, or that they could hear their neighbors snoring through the 200-year-old paper walls of the temple. More than one reviewer complained that the multicourse vegan meals were too simple to satiate people who are accustomed to eating meat. “Take snacks or you will starve,” one warned.

Others felt that they weren’t quite receiving a good enough spiritual bang for their buck. “I expected something a bit spiritual and to feel that Zen/Buddhist vibe,” one visitor from Ohio complained, “I have to say I did not feel it.” Some complained that the monks running the temples didn’t speak enough English, or didn’t offer visitors enough individual attention. “The major disappointment came during dinner,” another wrote. “I was expecting to have the opportunity to mingle with the monks.”

I found these comments more entertaining than dissuasive. I wanted to go and prove to myself how little I was bothered by a chill in the air or a little noise through the walls. Maybe that would be its own form of spiritual growth on a micro scale — proof of my own congruity with the universe even under mildly uncomfortable conditions.

Arriving at this micro-enlightenment would take many modes of transportation, it turned out. Although Koyasan is only about 86 miles outside of Kyoto, the journey to get there is its own self-selecting odyssey. From Kyoto, I took three separate trains past power plants, greenhouses, small towns, backyard yuzu trees and grass tennis courts. At the base of the mountain, I shuffled off the train and onto a cable car along with a handful of European backpackers. At the top of the mountain, a bus waited for us to make the final journey along mortifyingly steep cedar-studded ravines into the center of Koyasan.

I arrived at my temple, Eko-in (part of the Danjo Garan temple complex), just as an American couple and their teenage son were checking in. A monk showed us where to put our shoes by the broad carved wood entrance. Outfitted with wooden slippers, I walked through a maze of creaky wooden hallways to my room, a small, serene square of space with elaborately painted sliding doors and a large window looking out onto the temple’s central garden. The room came equipped with a TV, a space heater, a telephone, and Wi-Fi. Waiting for me were some small red bean sweets and a kettle full of hot water for tea.

When it was time for dinner, a fleet of several monks arrived, bearing a carafe of hot sake and several lacquerware platforms for the food, each containing a clutter of small bowls. The traditional temple cuisine, called shojin-ryori, incorporates a bright variety of tastes, textures and colors. Tiny cups of vegetable broth and miso soup flocked around plates of delicate tempura squash, lotus root and shiso leaves. A pot of slightly bland but hearty cabbage and mushroom udon sat over a little flame. My favorite dish was one that Koyasan is famous for: a savory tofu-like pudding called goma dofu, made from ground sesame and arrowroot flour.

Once it was dark, I slipped out of my room and down to the main entrance of the temple to retrieve my shoes and join the nighttime tour of Okunoin Cemetery. An English-speaking monk led a group of about 20 guests from Eko-in and some of the surrounding temples through the lantern-lit paths of Japan’s largest cemetery, pointing out the moss-covered tombs of important national figures, including the inventor of Kabuki and the founder of Panasonic. Since Buddhism values all forms of life, our guide explained, not all of the graves belonged to human beings; the writing on one of them translated essentially to “R.I.P. Ants.” In the 600-year-old cedars overhead, we could hear the chirps and squeaks of flying squirrels rippling through the brisk air.

In the early morning, before breakfast was served, guests of the temple were invited to attend morning prayer and a daily fire ceremony. The printed schedule left in our room requested that visitors not use flash photography and issued a stern warning: “The morning service and fire ritual are NOT A TOURIST SHOW, monks must do them every day to show daily appreciation to Buddhist saints.”

In spite of this, few attendees of the fire ritual could resist capturing a moment or two of cellphone video: the drums, chanting and flames rising up to the ceiling of the temple as the presiding monk burned a stack of wooden slats with prayers written on them. Most managed to do this surreptitiously while kneeling quietly. About halfway through the ceremony, though, my eyes widened when I recognized a Frenchwoman from the cemetery tour standing at the back of the room, doing what could only be described as dancing to the beat of the drums. None of the monks seemed visibly bothered by her spontaneous self-expression.

KOYASAN BECAME A Unesco World Heritage site in 2004 (as part of the sacred sites of the Kii mountain range), and since then, the number of annual foreign visitors has more than quadrupled, while the number of Japanese visitors has declined.

More tourists seeking solace and simplicity can make a place a lot less placid, and as a visitor, it’s difficult to avoid the fact that you’re contributing to the din and litter that comes with this influx of foreigners. And yet, it is incredibly moving to be invited into the quiet, enveloping darkness of a cemetery at night — to add your footsteps to the tens of thousands that have worn down a stone path over the centuries. You come to realize how little space you can take up and how little noise you can make if you want to.

Jynne Martin, a friend who had recommended Koyasan, first traveled there 10 years ago and returned this past winter, staying at Shojoshin-in both times. On her first trip, she saw only two other tourists at the temple — the rest of the visitors were pilgrims. On her most recent trip, she saw exclusively tourists.

To her mild disappointment, Shojoshin-in had updated their amenities to include TV and internet in all of their guest rooms. A few convenience shops and a vending machine of beer had also been added to one of the main roads in town. Even so, for Jynne, Koyasan did not lose its magic. “I feel like there’s this echo and resonance within the forest and in the cemetery and in the temples where there’s some low hum or vibration that feels like it’s just been going for years and years,” she said. “I think there’s just a beautiful energy on the top of the mountain. Even with the TV and internet.”

After checking out of my room at Eko-in, I chatted for a few minutes with Yuta Kobayashi, one of the monks who run the temple. Mr. Kobayashi told me that while the temples in Koyasan used to rely on devout Buddhists for donations, they increasingly rely on income from tourists. “The Japanese government and the Japanese people don’t have a responsibility to keep the old buildings or to keep the old culture,” he said.

I asked him if he ever reads online reviews of his temple. He told me that he does. “Good opinions or bad opinions — I accept both,” he said. “And if I can change or make something better, I want to do my best.” The only type of review that ever irks him, he added, are reviews that accuse the temple’s 1,100-year-old rituals of being performatory or touristy. “We do this every morning,” he said with a laugh. “Even when people don’t stay here.”

At Eko-in (497 Koyasan; 0736-56-2514; ekoin.jp), for 15,000 yen per person (about $130), you can reserve a traditional guest room with a garden view, a shared bathroom and two meals. For 20,000 yen per person, you can reserve a room with a private bath and toilet. Prices fluctuate slightly based on season.

At Shojoshin-in (556 Koyasan; japaneseguesthouses.com), 10,800 to 12,960 yen per person will get you a room with a shared bathroom. For 16,200 yen per person, you can reserve a room with a private bathroom. Two meals are included, but no alcohol is served.

Guest rooms with shared bathrooms at Fukuchi-in (657 Koyasan; 0736-56-2021, fukuchiin.com) range from 14,000 to 16,500 yen per person, depending on whether or not the room has a garden view. Rooms with private toilets are available for 18,500 yen per person. An outdoor hot spring is available to all guests.

A version of this article appears in print on October 22, 2017, on Page TR7 of the New York edition with the headline: A Search for Solitude on a Mountain of Monasteries.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Fortifications & Democracy in the Ancient Greek World -- why elites supported democracy and were not more heavily taxed

Ober, Josiah and Weingast, Barry R., Fortifications and Democracy in the Ancient Greek World (October 23, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3057639

Abstract: In the modern world, access-limiting fortification walls are not typically regarded as promoting democracy. But in Greek antiquity, increased investment in fortifications was correlated with the prevalence and stability of democracy. This paper sketches the background conditions of the Greek city-state ecology, analyzes a passage in Aristotle’s Politics, and assesses the choices of Hellenistic kings, Greek citizens, and urban elites, as modeled in a simple game. The paper explains how city walls promoted democracy and helps to explain several other puzzles: why Hellenistic kings taxed Greek cities at lower than expected rates; why elites in Greek cities supported democracy; and why elites were not more heavily taxed by democratic majorities. The relationship between walls, democracy, and taxes promoted continued economic growth into the late classical and Hellenistic period (4th-2nd centuries BCE), and ultimately contributed to the survival of Greek culture into the Roman era, and thus modernity. We conclude with a consideration of whether the walls-democracy relationship holds in modernity.

Keywords: Democracy, Ancient Greece, Athens, Walls and Democracy, Taxation, War
JEL Classification: H11, H41, N43, O43, P51, P14, P16

Inflammatory Biomarkers and Risk of Schizophrenia. A 2-Sample Mendelian Randomization Study

Inflammatory Biomarkers and Risk of Schizophrenia. A 2-Sample Mendelian Randomization Study. Fernando Pires Hartwig et al. JAMA Psychiatry, doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2017.3191

Key Points

Question  What is the effect of increased inflammatory biomarkers on the risk of developing schizophrenia?

Findings  In this 2-sample mendelian randomization study using summary gene-biomarker association results estimated in pooled samples ranging from 1645 to more than 80 000 individuals, 2-fold increments in circulating levels of C-reactive protein and soluble interleukin-1 receptor levels were associated with a 10% reduction and a 6% increase in the lifetime odds of developing schizophrenia.

Meaning  We found that blockade of interleukin-6 effects and low C-reactive protein levels might increase schizophrenia risk, possibly due to increased susceptibility to early life infection.


Importance  Positive associations between inflammatory biomarkers and risk of psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia, have been reported in observational studies. However, conventional observational studies are prone to bias, such as reverse causation and residual confounding, thus limiting our understanding of the effect (if any) of inflammatory biomarkers on schizophrenia risk.

Objective  To evaluate whether inflammatory biomarkers have an effect on the risk of developing schizophrenia.

Design, Setting, and Participants  Two-sample mendelian randomization study using genetic variants associated with inflammatory biomarkers as instrumental variables to improve inference. Summary association results from large consortia of candidate gene or genome-wide association studies, including several epidemiologic studies with different designs, were used. Gene-inflammatory biomarker associations were estimated in pooled samples ranging from 1645 to more than 80 000 individuals, while gene-schizophrenia associations were estimated in more than 30 000 cases and more than 45 000 ancestry-matched controls. In most studies included in the consortia, participants were of European ancestry, and the prevalence of men was approximately 50%. All studies were conducted in adults, with a wide age range (18 to >80 years).

Exposures  Genetically elevated circulating levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra), and soluble interleukin-6 receptor (sIL-6R).

Main Outcomes and Measures  Risk of developing schizophrenia. Individuals with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorders were included as cases. Given that many studies contributed to the analyses, different diagnostic procedures were used.

Results  The pooled odds ratio estimate using 18 CRP genetic instruments was 0.90 (random effects 95% CI, 0.84-0.97; P = .005) per 2-fold increment in CRP levels; consistent results were obtained using different mendelian randomization methods and a more conservative set of instruments. The odds ratio for sIL-6R was 1.06 (95% CI, 1.01-1.12; P = .02) per 2-fold increment. Estimates for IL-1Ra were inconsistent among instruments, and pooled estimates were imprecise and centered on the null.

Conclusions and Relevance  Under mendelian randomization assumptions, our findings suggest a protective effect of CRP and a risk-increasing effect of sIL-6R (potentially mediated at least in part by CRP) on schizophrenia risk. It is possible that such effects are a result of increased susceptibility to early life infection.

Beautiful Bugs, Bothersome Bugs, and FUN Bugs: Examining Human Interactions with Insects and Other Arthropods

Beautiful Bugs, Bothersome Bugs, and FUN Bugs: Examining Human Interactions with Insects and Other Arthropods. Nathan J. Shipley & Robert D. Bixler. Anthrozoös, Volume 30, 2017 - Issue 3, Pages 357-372. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08927936.2017.1335083

ABSTRACT: Because the ostensible majority of incidental human–insect (and other arthropods) interactions are negative, any interest in non-pretty “bugs” appears to be inherently demotivated. Three complementary studies explored US college students’ perceptions, knowledge, and experiences of insects to better understand folk classifications and to identify potentially new ways to present them to motivate human interest. Study 1, an open-ended survey (n = 236), found that knowledge of insects is limited to a mean of 13 insects. Of these 13 insects, most were also dichotomized as liked (beautiful bugs) or disliked (bothersome bugs). The second study, using semi-structured interviews (n = 60), revealed similar categories as found in the first study, providing further details about positive and negative perceptions of, attitudes to, and types of experiences people have with, insects and other closely related arthropods. The last study (n = 200) used a paired forced-choice scale with 10 silhouettes of insects and related arthropods to replicate and expand the findings from the first two studies. This study tested whether respondents would report interest in novel and unknown arthropods over commonly known and preferred ones. The results indicate little knowledge of the diversity of insects among a young, elite, middle-class sample of college students and the existence of two robust but small folk categories of insects/arthropods (beautiful, bothersome). Results from the third study indicated there is a group of potentially fascinating unfamiliar (FUN) insects/arthropods/bugs that could evoke interest if people were simply exposed to them. Implications for informal recreation and educational programming and a research agenda are presented.

Keywords: bug, human dimensions of insects, human–insect interactions, insects, natural history, STEM

We often believe that omitting information is more ethical than telling a prosocial lie, whereas targets often believe otherwise

Levine, E., Hart, J., Moore, K., Rubin, E., Yadav, K., & Halpern, S. (2017). The Surprising Costs of Silence: Asymmetric Preferences for Prosocial Lies of Commission and Omission. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/pspa0000101

Abstract: Across 7 experiments (N = 3883), we demonstrate that communicators and targets make egocentric moral judgments of deception. Specifically, communicators focus more on the costs of deception to them—for example, the guilt they feel when they break a moral rule—whereas targets focus more on whether deception helps or harms them. As a result, communicators and targets make asymmetric judgments of prosocial lies of commission and omission: Communicators often believe that omitting information is more ethical than telling a prosocial lie, whereas targets often believe the opposite. We document these effects within the context of health care discussions, employee layoffs, and economic games, among both clinical populations (i.e., oncologists and cancer patients) and lay people. We identify moderators and downstream consequences of this asymmetry. We conclude by discussing psychological and practical implications for medicine, management, behavioral ethics, and human communication.

Implicit ambivalence of significant others: Significant others trigger positive and negative evaluations

Zayas V, Surenkok G, Pandey G. Implicit ambivalence of significant others: Significant others trigger positive and negative evaluations. Soc Personal Psychol Compass. 2017;11:e12360. https://doi.org/10.1111/spc3.12360

Abstract: Despite the rich literature on implicit partner evaluations, there has been scant attention to a defining feature of significant other mental representations—their affective complexity. Recent findings (Zayas & Shoda, 2015), however, provide an empirical demonstration that significant others automatically and simultaneously activate positive and negative evaluations—a phenomenon we refer to as implicit ambivalence. A primary aim of this paper is to extend extant theory by elaborating on the features of the dyadic context that may contribute to the formation of implicit ambivalence. Particularly, drawing from research from relationship science, social cognition, and social neuroscience, we focus on the ability of significant others to dynamically and simultaneously confer rewards and threats, the attunement of perceivers to potential social rewards and social threats, and aspects of sense-making of another person's mind that may give rise to implicit ambivalence. From this new perspective, implicit ambivalence is not a pathological or rare state. Quite the opposite, implicit ambivalence may be a normative, typical process, that is triggered even by people who are highly positive in one's network. We identify future directions for social cognition and relationship science.

Steven Koonin's Review of the Climate Science Special Report, Nov 2017

A Deceptive New Report on Climate.

True, the U.S. has had more heat waves in recent years—but no more than a century ago.

Wall Street Journal, Nov. 2, 2017

The world’s response to climate changing under natural and human influences is best founded upon a complete portrayal of the science. The U.S. government’s Climate Science Special Report, to be released Friday, does not provide that foundation. Instead, it reinforces alarm with incomplete information and highlights the need for more-rigorous review of climate assessments.

A team of some 30 authors chartered by the U.S. Global Change Research Program began work in spring 2016 on the report, “designed to be an authoritative assessment of the science of climate change.” An early draft was released for public comment in January and reviewed by the National Academies this spring. I, together with thousands of other scientists, had the opportunity to scrutinize and discuss the final draft when it was publicized in August by the New York Times . While much is right in the report, it is misleading in more than a few important places.

One notable example of alarm-raising is the description of sea-level rise, one of the greatest climate concerns. The report ominously notes that while global sea level rose an average 0.05 inch a year during most of the 20th century, it has risen at about twice that rate since 1993. But it fails to mention that the rate fluctuated by comparable amounts several times during the 20th century. The same research papers the report cites show that recent rates are statistically indistinguishable from peak rates earlier in the 20th century, when human influences on the climate were much smaller. The report thus misleads by omission.

This isn’t the only example of highlighting a recent trend but failing to place it in complete historical context. The report’s executive summary declares that U.S. heat waves have become more common since the mid-1960s, although acknowledging the 1930s Dust Bowl as the peak period for extreme heat. Yet buried deep in the report is a figure showing that heat waves are no more frequent today than in 1900. This artifice also appeared in the government’s 2014 National Climate Assessment, which emphasized a post-1980 increase in hurricane power without discussing the longer-term record. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently stated that it has been unable to detect any human impact on hurricanes.

Such data misrepresentations violate basic scientific norms. In his celebrated 1974 “Cargo Cult” lecture, the late Richard Feynman admonished scientists to discuss objectively all the relevant evidence, even that which does not support the narrative. That’s the difference between science and advocacy.

These deficiencies in the new climate report are typical of many others that set the report’s tone. Consider the different perception that results from “sea level is rising no more rapidly than it did in 1940” instead of “sea level rise has accelerated in recent decades,” or from “heat waves are no more common now than they were in 1900” versus “heat waves have become more frequent since 1960.” Both statements in each pair are true, but each alone fails to tell the full story.

Several actions are warranted. First, the report should be amended to describe the history of sea-level rise, heat waves and other trends fully and accurately. Second, the government should convene a “Red/Blue” adversarial review to stress-test the entire report, as I urged in April. Critics argue such an exercise would be superfluous given the conventional review processes, and others have questioned even the minimal time and expense that would be involved. But the report’s deficiencies demonstrate why such a review is necessary.

Finally, the institutions involved in the report should figure out how and why such shortcomings survived multiple rounds of review. How, for example, did the National Academies’ review committee conclude that the chapter on sea level rise “accurately reflects the current scientific literature on this topic”? The Academies building prominently displays Einstein’s dictum “one must not conceal any part of what one has recognized to be true.”

Mr. Koonin was undersecretary of energy for science during President Obama’s first term and is director of the Center for Urban Science and Progress at New York University.

Should we love robots? – The most liked qualities of companion dogs and how they can be implemented in social robots

Should we love robots? – The most liked qualities of companion dogs and how they can be implemented in social robots. Veronika Konok et al. Computers in Human Behavior, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2017.11.002

•    people’s attitude toward dogs is better than toward robots
•    having emotions, personality and showing attachment are the main advantages of dogs
•    respondents show high agreement about the behavioral manifestation of preferred qualities
•    we give a behavioral protocol for roboticists to design social robots


In the future, robots may live with users as long-term companions, thus it is important that some sort of attachment relationship develop between humans and agents. Man’s best friend the dog provides a model for investigating what makes a heterospecific companion a lovable social partner.

Thus, we studied people’s attitudes toward dogs and robots comparatively, with a special focus on those features in dogs that cause people to accept them in their homes and love them. Additionally, we explored from what kind of behaviors people infer these qualities.

We found that people’s attitude toward robots is much more negative than towards dogs. Having emotions, personality and showing attachment were the most frequently reported advantages of dogs. Respondents showed high agreement about the behavioral manifestation of these qualities, which are necessary for engineers to be able to implement such advantages into the social robots’ programs.

Based on our results, in the future roboticists may supply social robots with these preferred qualities, which will aid in the designing of successful social robots.

Keywords: human-robot interaction; dog; robot; attitudes; ethorobotics

When owners were asked about what they like least about their dog (Q4), the most frequent responses were stubbornness (28%), aggression (19%) and barking (10%). Interestingly, none of the owners would replace their own dogs with one from the same breed, age and sex, which is free from the unwanted features (Q5).

Group longevity as a function of its size in agricultural societies -- groups of 50, 150 and 500 people are near optimal

Optimising human community sizes. R.I.M. Dunbar, R. Sosis. Evolution and Human Behavior, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2017.11.001

Abstract: We examine community longevity as a function of group size in three historical, small scale agricultural samples. Community sizes of 50, 150 and 500 are disproportionately more common than other sizes; they also have greater longevity. These values mirror the natural layerings in hunter-gatherer societies and contemporary personal networks. In addition, a religious ideology seems to play an important role in allowing larger communities to maintain greater cohesion for longer than a strictly secular ideology does. The differences in optimal community size may reflect the demands of different ecologies, economies and social contexts, but, as yet, we have no explanation as to why these numbers seem to function socially so much more effectively than other values.

Keywords: Small scale societies; Fractal layering; Hutterites; C19th utopian communities; Kibbutz

Friday, November 3, 2017

“There was 100% better treatment as a wife under Boko Haram. There was more gifts, better food, and a lot of sex that I always enjoyed.”

Rescued and deradicalised women are returning to Boko Haram. Why? By Hilary Matfess
Girls and women who join Boko Haram simply tend to see it as the best option available to them.
African Arguments, November 1, 2017

[Photo: It is not uncommon to hear of girls and women escaping IDP camps to return to their Boko Haram husbands. Credit: UD.]

This June, reports emerged that Aisha, the wife of Boko Haram commander, had fled her home in Maiduguri. The 25-year-old reportedly escaped the city to rejoin her husband Mamman Nur and other insurgents in the Sambisa Forest.

Stories of girls and young women leaving camps for internally-displaced persons to return to the notoriously brutal Boko Haram are not uncommon in north-eastern Nigeria. But Aisha’s story is particularly troubling. She had only recently completed a targeted, nine-month long deradicalisation programme.

If Aisha returned to Boko Haram despite all the resources dedicated to her deradicalisation and rehabilitation, what does the future hold for the scores of other women who receive significantly less support?

Why women join Boko Haram

The roughly 70-person deradicalisation programme in which Aisha participated was a mixture of psychosocial support and religious education. The provision of care to women who have been traumatised is certainly valuable, but the framing of this support as a deradicalisation programme mischaracterises the motivations of women who join Boko Haram.

In my conversations with women who joined the Islamist militant group of their own volition, many cite the opportunities that being a member of the insurgency provides. Aisha, who benefitted particularly thanks to her husband’s senior role as a commander, told Reuters in February that she was given slaves who “washed, cooked, and babysat for her”. “Even the men respected me because I was Mamman Nur’s wife,” she boasted.

However, even women who were not wives of elite fighters reported that joining the group conveyed tangible benefits. One woman I spoke to said: “There was 100% better treatment as a wife under Boko Haram. There was more gifts, better food, and a lot of sex that I always enjoyed.”

Another girl who married into the insurgency told me she particularly enjoyed the sect’s mandatory, near-daily Quranic education. “I was happy because I was meeting with my friends and getting learning,” she said, contrasting this with her much more intermittent access to schooling outside the group.

As detailed in my new book Women and the War on Boko Haram, women also often joined the insurgency because of the material improvement it can bring. Many women said they were drawn to Boko Haram because brideprices are paid directly to women rather than their family and because purdah – the practice of wife seclusion that’s associated with the socio-economic elite in northern Nigeria – is practiced widely.

These benefits contrast with typical experiences outside the insurgency. Only 4% of girls in northern Nigeria complete secondary school, while a UK government report estimates that 80% of women in eight northern states are unable to read. Early marriage is prevalent, access to health care is meagre, and the maternal mortality rate in the region is five times the global average.

Coming home

Women who are rescued or removed from Boko Haram return to the material deprivation and socio-political marginalisation that drove them to the group in the first place. But in addition, they may also come to face new forms of discrimination.

According to Dr Fatima Akilu, founder of the Neem Foundation, which provides psychosocial support, women who return home face the “possibility of violence”. Women may successfully go through the deradicalisation programme, she says, but then struggle in the community because of intense stigmatisation.

This accounts for both women who joined Boko Haram voluntarily and those abducted against their will. A UNICEF and International Alert report found that some community leaders are reticent to accept abducted women back into the community as “their ideas and ways of life may now be different and may not be good for the community”.

Despite widespread recognition of the problems of reintegration, there has yet to be a broad, community-oriented sensitisation programme to help girls return home. Furthermore, deradicalisation programmes generally do not focus on the sorts of livelihood development or skills acquisition that could help these single women support themselves and their children.

This mistrust and economic insecurity puts women who return at high risk of exploitation and gender-based violence.

[Full text and reference information in the link above]
Hilary Matfess’ book Women and the War on Boko Haram Wives, Weapons, Witnesses is out on 3 November 2017.

The scientific practices of experimental psychologists have improved dramatically

Psychology's Renaissance. Leif D. Nelson, Joseph P. Simmons, and Uri Simonsohn. Annual Review of Psychology, forthcoming. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-psych-122216-011836

Abstract: In 2010–2012, a few largely coincidental events led experimental psychologists to realize that their approach to collecting, analyzing, and reporting data made it too easy to publish false-positive findings. This sparked a period of methodological reflection that we review here and call Psychology’s Renaissance. We begin by describing how psychologists’ concerns with publication bias shifted from worrying about file-drawered studies to worrying about p-hacked analyses. We then review the methodological changes that psychologists have proposed and, in some cases, embraced. In describing how the renaissance has unfolded, we attempt to describe different points of view fairly but not neutrally, so as to identify the most promising paths forward. In so doing, we champion disclosure and preregistration, express skepticism about most statistical solutions to publication bias, take positions on the analysis and interpretation of replication failures, and contend that meta-analytical thinking increases the prevalence of false positives. Our general thesis is that the scientific practices of experimental psychologists have improved dramatically.

Keywords: p-hacking, publication bias, renaissance, methodology, false positives, preregistration

Psychologists have long been aware of two seemingly contradictory problems with the published literature. On the one hand, the overwhelming majority of published findings are statistically significant (Fanelli 2012, Greenwald 1975, Sterling 1959). On the other hand, the overwhelming majority of published studies are underpowered and, thus, theoretically unlikely to obtain results that are statistically significant (Chase & Chase 1976, Cohen 1962, Sedlmeier & Gigerenzer 1989). The sample sizes of experiments meant that most studies should have been failing, but the published record suggested almost uniform success.

There is an old, popular, and simple explanation for this paradox. Experiments that work are sent to a journal, whereas experiments that fail are sent to the file drawer (Rosenthal 1979). We believe that this “file-drawer explanation” is incorrect. Most failed studies are not missing. They are published in our journals, masquerading as successes.

The file-drawer explanation becomes transparently implausible once its assumptions are made explicit. It assumes that researchers conduct a study and perform one (predetermined) statistical analysis. If the analysis is significant, then they publish it. If it is not significant, then the researcher gives up and starts over. This is not a realistic depiction of researcher behavior. Researchers would not so quickly give up on their chances for publication, nor would they abandon the beliefs that led them to run the study, just because the first analysis they ran was not statistically significant. They would instead explore the data further, examining, for example, whether outliers were interfering with the effect, whether the effect was significant within a subset of participants or trials, or whether it emerged when the dependent variable was coded differently. Pre-2011 researchers did occasionally file-drawer a study, although they did not do so when the study failed, but rather when p-hacking did. Thus, whereas our file drawers are sprinkled with failed studies that we did not publish, they are overflowing with failed analyses of the studies that we did publish.

Masturbation to Orgasm Stimulates the Release of the Endocannabinoid 2-Arachidonoylglycerol

Fuss J, Bindila L, Wiedemann K, et al. Masturbation to Orgasm Stimulates the Release of the Endocannabinoid 2-Arachidonoylglycerol in Humans. J Sex Med 2017;14:1372–1379. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsxm.2017.09.016


Background: Endocannabinoids are critical for rewarding behaviors such as eating, physical exercise, and social interaction. The role of endocannabinoids in mammalian sexual behavior has been suggested because of the influence of cannabinoid receptor agonists and antagonists on rodent sexual activity. However, the involvement of endocannabinoids in human sexual behavior has not been studied.

Aim: To investigate plasma endocannabinoid levels before and after masturbation in healthy male and female volunteers.

Outcomes: Plasma levels of the endocannabinoids 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), anandamide, the endocannabinoid-like lipids oleoyl ethanolamide and palmitoyl ethanolamide, arachidonic acid, and cortisol before and after masturbation to orgasm.

Methods: In study 1, endocannabinoid and cortisol levels were measured before and after masturbation to orgasm. In study 2, masturbation to orgasm was compared with a control condition using a single-blinded, randomized, 2-session crossover design.

Results: In study 1, masturbation to orgasm significantly increased plasma levels of the endocannabinoid 2-AG, whereas anandamide, oleoyl ethanolamide, palmitoyl ethanolamide, arachidonic acid, and cortisol levels were not altered. In study 2, only masturbation to orgasm, not the control condition, led to a significant increase in 2-AG levels. Interestingly, we also found a significant increase of oleoyl ethanolamide after masturbation to orgasm in study 2.

Clinical Translation: Endocannabinoids might play an important role in the sexual response cycle, leading to possible implications for the understanding and treatment of sexual dysfunctions.

Strengths and Limitations: We found an increase of 2-AG through masturbation to orgasm in 2 studies including a single-blinded randomized design. The exact role of endocannabinoid release as part of the sexual response cycle and the biological significance of the finding should be studied further. Cannabis and other drug use and the attainment of orgasm were self-reported in the present study.

Conclusion: Our data indicate that the endocannabinoid 2-AG is involved in the human sexual response cycle and we hypothesize that 2-AG release plays a role in the rewarding consequences of sexual arousal and orgasm.

Key Words: 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG); Anandamide (AEA); Oleoyl Ethanolamide (OEA); Masturbation; Orgasm; Sexuality; Reward; Cortisol

Adolescents with autism spectrum disorder exhibited more accurate metaperceptions than did typically developing adolescents

Metaperception in Adolescents With and Without Autism Spectrum Disorder. Lauren V. Usher et al. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10803-017-3356-1

Abstract: This study compared how adolescents with and without autism spectrum disorder (ASD) evaluated unfamiliar peers (i.e., perceptions), as well as how adolescents believed they were evaluated by peers (i.e., metaperceptions). The Perceptions and Metaperceptions Questionnaire was designed to quantify perceptions and metaperceptions following a live interaction. For all adolescents, more positive perceptions of the peer were associated with more positive metaperceptions. Adolescents with ASD exhibited more accurate metaperceptions than did typically developing adolescents. More positive perceptions and metaperceptions were associated with higher levels of observed social competence across groups. Findings extend our understanding of typically and atypically developing adolescents’ impressions of unfamiliar peers and their ability to discern what peers think of them.

Across the first year, most infants have approximately 2.5 times more social interactions with women than men

Differential Trajectories in the Development of Attractiveness Biases Toward Female and Male Targets. Jennifer L. Rennels and Kirsty M. Kulhanek. In "Perception of Beauty", book edited by Martha Peaslee Levine, ISBN 978-953-51-3582-1, Print ISBN 978-953-51-3581-4, Published: October 25, 2017 under CC BY 3.0 license.  DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.69342

Abstract: Across the first year, most infants have approximately 2.5 times more social interactions with women than men. There is evidence that because of this differential experience, infants develop a cognitive representation for human faces that is weighted toward female-like and attractive. Subsequently, attractiveness is more salient when infants process female relative to male faces. These early asymmetries in facial experience and the greater saliency of attractiveness for female and male targets persist into early childhood, which contributes to attractiveness influencing children’s categorization and judgments of females more strongly than for males. During middle childhood, children’s facial representations become more differentiated, which might explain increases in children’s attractiveness biases for male targets during this developmental period. By adolescence, mating interests seem to combine with these developing facial representations to influence attractiveness preferences. This chapter reviews asymmetries in the saliency of attractiveness for female and male targets from infancy to adolescence and focuses on how cognitive facial representations likely guide how attractiveness influences children’s processing of female and male targets.

Keywords: development, face processing, attractiveness bias, sex differences, stereotyped attitudes

Has the rising placebo response impacted antidepressant clinical trial outcome? Data from the US FDA 1987‐2013

Has the rising placebo response impacted antidepressant clinical trial outcome? Data from the US Food and Drug Administration 1987‐2013. Arif Khan et al. World Psychiatry. 2017 September 21; 16(3): 328. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5428172/

Abstract: More than fifteen years ago, it was noted that the failure rate of antidepressant clinical trials was high, and such negative outcomes were thought to be related to the increasing magnitude of placebo response. However, there is considerable debate regarding this phenomenon and its relationship to outcomes in more recent antidepressant clinical trials. To investigate this, we accessed the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reviews for sixteen antidepressants (85 trials, 115 trial arms, 23,109 patients) approved between 1987 and 2013. We calculated the magnitude of placebo and antidepressant responses, antidepressant‐placebo differences, as well as the effect sizes and success rates, and compared these measures over time. Exploratory analysis investigated potential changes in trial design and conduct over time. As expected, the magnitude of placebo response has steadily grown in the past 30 years, increasing since 2000 by 6.4% (r=0.46, p less than 0.001). Contrary to expectations, a similar increase has occurred in the magnitude of antidepressant response (6.0%, r=0.37, p less than 0.001). Thus, the effect sizes (0.30 vs. 0.29, p=0.42) and the magnitude of antidepressant‐placebo differences (10.5% vs. 10.3%, p=0.37) have remained statistically equivalent. Furthermore, the frequency of positive trial arms has gone up in the past 15 years (from 47.8% to 63.8%), but this difference in frequency has not reached statistical significance. Trial design features that were previously associated with a possible lower magnitude of placebo response were not implemented, and their relationship to the magnitude of placebo response could not be replicated. Of the 34 recent trials, two implemented enhanced interview techniques, but both of them were unsuccessful. The results of this study suggest that the relationship between the magnitude of placebo response and the outcome of antidepressant clinical trials is weak at best. These data further indicate that antidepressant‐placebo differences are about the same for all of the sixteen antidepressants approved by the FDA in the past thirty years.

Keywords: Antidepressants, clinical trials, placebo response, antidepressant‐placebo difference, effect size, success rate, enhanced interview techniques

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Impact of Variation in Twin Relatedness on Estimates of Heritability and Environmental Influences

The Impact of Variation in Twin Relatedness on Estimates of Heritability and Environmental Influences. Chang Liu, Peter C. M. Molenaar, and Jenae M. Neiderhiser. Behavior Genetics, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10519-017-9875-x

Abstract: By taking advantage of the natural variation in genetic relatedness among identical (monozygotic: MZ) and fraternal (dizygotic: DZ) twins, twin studies are able to estimate genetic and environmental contributions to complex human behaviors. Recently concerns have been raised about the accuracy of twin studies in light of findings of genetic and epigenetic changes in twins. One of the concerns raised is that MZ twins are not 100% genetically and epigenetically similar because they show variations in their genomes and epigenomes leading to inaccurate estimates of heritability. This article presents findings from a simulation study that examined the degree of bias in estimates of heritability and environmentality when the genetic and epigenetic similarity of MZ twins differs from 1.00 and when the genetic and epigenetic similarity of DZ twins differs from 0.50. The findings suggest that in the standard biometric model when MZ or DZ twin similarity differs from 1.00 or 0.50, respectively, the variance that should be attributed to genetic influences is instead attributed to nonshared environmental influences, thus deflating the estimates of genetic influences and inflating the estimates of nonshared environmental influences. Although estimates of genetic and nonshared environmental influences from the standard biometric model were found to deviate from “true” values, the bias was usually smaller than 10% points indicating that the interpretations of findings from previous twin studies are mostly correct.

Sex Differences in the Prevalence and Correlates of Handgun Carrying Among Adolescents in the USA

Sex Differences in the Prevalence and Correlates of Handgun Carrying Among Adolescents in the United States. Michael G. Vaughn et al. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, https://doi.org/10.1177/1541204017739072

Abstract: Handgun carrying is associated with a wide range of delinquent behaviors, but very little is known about sex differences in this behavior and current trends in handgun carrying in the United States. Using data from the 2002 to 2015 National Study of Drug Use and Health surveys, we found that the prevalence of handgun carrying among girls nearly doubled from 0.9% to 1.7% with most of this increase seen among non-Hispanic White and Hispanic girls. Although boys are more likely to carry handguns, approximately 20% of the total handgun carrying by adolescents in the United States occurs among girls. Both male and female adolescents who have carried a handgun in the past year evince a behavioral profile that is characterized by substance use, versatile delinquency, elevated risk propensity, and substantial school and family problems. However, adjusted odds ratios are consistently higher for females, suggesting that girls who engage in handgun carrying represent an important subgroup of potentially pernicious offenders that should be targeted for primary and tertiary prevention and juvenile justice system oversight.

Evidence of the Effect of Confirmation-Reports on Dishonesty

Duncan, D. and Li, D. (2017), Liar Liar: Experimental Evidence of the Effect of Confirmation-Reports on Dishonesty. Southern Economic Journal. doi:10.1002/soej.12244

Abstract: We identify the effect of confirmation-reports on dishonesty using data from an experiment where subjects are asked to roll a die and report its outcome using either a self-report or confirmation-report mechanism. We find that relative to self-reports, confirmation-reports have a positive effect on the share of subjects who report honestly. The effect on the magnitude of lies told depends greatly on the accuracy of the prefilled information on the confirmation-report. We argue that these results are driven by changes in the intrinsic costs of lying induced by the confirmation report.

Obviously, men lie more than women in both conditions.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Prenatal androgens apparently have large effects on interests and engagement in gendered activities; moderate effects on spatial abilities; and relatively small or no effects on gender identity, gender cognitions, and gendered peer involvement

Berenbaum, S. A. (2017), Beyond Pink and Blue: The Complexity of Early Androgen Effects on Gender Development. Child Dev Perspect. doi:10.1111/cdep.12261

Abstract: Why do girls and women differ from boys and men? Gender development is typically considered to result from socialization, but sex hormones present during sensitive periods of development, particularly prenatal androgens, play an important role. Data from natural experiments, especially from females with congenital adrenal hyperplasia, show the complexity of the effects of androgens on behavior: Prenatal androgens apparently have large effects on interests and engagement in gendered activities; moderate effects on spatial abilities; and relatively small or no effects on gender identity, gender cognitions, and gendered peer involvement. These differential effects provide an opportunity to move beyond identifying sources of variation in behavior to understanding developmental processes. These processes include links among gendered characteristics, psychological and neural mechanisms underlying development, and the joint effects of biological predispositions and social experiences.

People are reluctant to be dishonest to interaction partners with dilating pupils, which are perceived positively

Pupil to pupil: The effect of a partner's pupil size on (dis)honest behavior. Jolien A. van Breen, Carsten K.W. De Dreu, Mariska E. Kret. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Volume 74, January 2018, Pages 231–245. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2017.09.009

•    People are reluctant to be dishonest to interaction partners with dilating pupils.
•    Findings suggest that partners with dilating pupils are perceived more positively, resulting in more pro-social treatment.
•    The pro-social effects of dilating pupils were most evident in competitive contexts.
•    Pupil mimicry was restricted to non-competitive contexts.
•    The effect of observed pupil dilation on dishonesty does not rely on the occurrence of pupil mimicry between partners.

Abstract: Being observed by others fosters honest behavior. In this study, we examine a very subtle eye signal that may affect participants' tendency to behave honestly: observed pupil size. For this, we use an experimental task that is known to evoke dishonest behavior. Specifically, participants made private predictions for a coin toss and earned a bonus by reporting correct predictions. Before reporting the (in)correctness of their predictions, participants viewed videos of partners with dilating or constricting pupils. As dilating pupils are generally perceived positively, we expected that dishonesty would be reduced when participants look into the eyes of a partner with dilating pupils, especially when their own pupil size mimics the observed pupil size. In line with this prediction, Experiments 1 and 2 showed that, when earning a bonus meant harming the interaction partner, dishonesty occurred less frequently when the partner's pupils dilated rather than constricted. That is, when the interests of the self and the other conflict, participants use the pupil of the partner as a social cue to inform their behavior. However, pupil mimicry was not observed. In Experiment 3, we examined pupil mimicry and dishonesty in a context where there was no temptation to hurt the partner. Here, pupil mimicry between partners was observed, but there were no effects of the partner's pupil on dishonesty. Thus, when dishonesty harms the interaction partner, participants use pupillary cues from their partner to inform their behavior. Pupil mimicry, however, is bound to non-competitive contexts only.

Keywords: Pupil size; Pupil mimicry; Dishonesty; Interpersonal interaction; Competition

Mate choice could be random in female rats (Rattus norvegicus)

Mate choice could be random in female rats (Rattus norvegicus). Olivia Le Moëne, Eelke M. Snoeren. Physiology & Behavior, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2017.10.031

•    Female rats prefer the male visited first in a multiple partners paradigm.
•    This mate selection is not based on the male rats, but on the location of the male.
•    It suggests that mate choice in female rats is random.

Abstract: Female mate choice is often investigated in terms of reproductive success in order to understand how male characteristics contribute to sexual attractiveness. Previous studies have found that females rats prefer mating with their first encounter rather than males visited subsequently, suggesting that the rewarding value of this first encounter is enough to reinforce mating with the first partner. Using a multiple chambers paradigm, we allowed female rats to copulate freely with three males placed each in a different chamber. Then, we switched the males' position, and let the female interact with them freely again within the same session. We tested whether female mate choice was relying rather on a preferred male rat or on a preferred mating location. The results showed that females spent most time with the male in the chamber of 1st entry in the beginning, but as soon as male rats switched chambers, the female rat continued to copulate with the new male in the same chamber of 1st entry, instead of mating with her previously preferred male rat. This suggests that the male preference is an artefact of location preference. Therefore, female mate choice seems to be rather random than the consequence of an individual choice based on male characteristics. This finding, although contradictory with the intuitive feeling that mate choice is a crucial feature in sexual and reproductive behavior, is supported by several recent observations. In the coming years, behavioral neuroscience should bring light to the brain processes at work in random mate choice.

Keywords: Female rats; Multiple partner; Sexual behavior; Mate choice; Location

The procedures were similar to those previously described [1]. At the start of the experiment, a (sexually experienced, hormonally primed) female rat was placed in the
middle chamber of the multiple chambers set-up. The subject was allowed to move freely and habituate to the chambers for 5 minutes. Then, for another 5 minutes, the female was placed in the middle chamber, while three (sexually experienced) male rats were positioned in the three surrounding small chambers. During this time, the openings were blocked with a wire mesh allowing the female subject to see, smell and hear the male rats without any possibility of physical contact (habituation phase). The number of times the female rat sniffed the opening of each of the male chambers was determined, as an indicator of olfactory preference [10, 11].

After the habituation phase, the openings were unblocked and the female rat was allowed to move freely between the chambers for another 15 minutes (copulation phase A). During this period, the following behaviors were scored for each male: order in which the males were visited, latency to first visit, number of visits, time spent in the chambers, number of sniff episodes to the openings of the chambers, and the number of mounts, intromissions and ejaculations per male. In addition, the number of paracopulatory behaviors the female performed in the chamber of each male were counted.

After the copulation phase A, the male rats were quickly randomly placed in a different chamber and the test continued for another 15 minutes (copulation phase B). During this period, the same parameters were scored as during copulation phase A. All sessions were conducted with chambers containing “dirty bedding” that consisted of the smell of several male and female rats. This was done to limit the (potential) effects of bedding odors after the switch.

Is mindfulness research methodology improving over time? No.

Is mindfulness research methodology improving over time? A systematic review. Simon B. Goldberg et al. PLOS One, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0187298


Background: Despite an exponential growth in research on mindfulness-based interventions, the body of scientific evidence supporting these treatments has been criticized for being of poor methodological quality.

Objectives: The current systematic review examined the extent to which mindfulness research demonstrated increased rigor over the past 16 years regarding six methodological features that have been highlighted as areas for improvement. These feature included using active control conditions, larger sample sizes, longer follow-up assessment, treatment fidelity assessment, and reporting of instructor training and intent-to-treat (ITT) analyses.

Data sources: We searched PubMed, PsychInfo, Scopus, and Web of Science in addition to a publically available repository of mindfulness studies.

Study eligibility criteria: Randomized clinical trials of mindfulness-based interventions for samples with a clinical disorder or elevated symptoms of a clinical disorder listed on the American Psychological Association’s list of disorders with recognized evidence-based treatment.

Study appraisal and synthesis methods: Independent raters screened 9,067 titles and abstracts, with 303 full text reviews. Of these, 171 were included, representing 142 non-overlapping samples.

Results: Across the 142 studies published between 2000 and 2016, there was no evidence for increases in any study quality indicator, although changes were generally in the direction of improved quality. When restricting the sample to those conducted in Europe and North America (continents with the longest history of scientific research in this area), an increase in reporting of ITT analyses was found. When excluding an early, high-quality study, improvements were seen in sample size, treatment fidelity assessment, and reporting of ITT analyses.

Conclusions and implications of key findings: Taken together, the findings suggest modest adoption of the recommendations for methodological improvement voiced repeatedly in the literature. Possible explanations for this and implications for interpreting this body of research and conducting future studies are discussed.