Sunday, December 10, 2017

Effects of glucose and sucrose on mood: a systematic review of interventional studies

Effects of glucose and sucrose on mood: a systematic review of interventional studies. Ondine van de Rest Nikita L van der Zwaluw Lisette C P G M de Groot. Nutrition Reviews, nux065, https://doi.org/10.1093/nutrit/nux065.

Abstract

Context: Glucose is the main energy source for the brain, and as such, manipulation of glucose supply may affect brain function. It has been suggested that a change in blood glucose may influence mood.

Objective: The aim of this review was to investigate the potential effects of glucose and sucrose, compared with placebo, on mood.

Data Sources: The electronic databases PubMed and Scopus were searched. Reference lists of selected articles were checked manually.

Data Extraction: Randomized controlled trials or crossover trials comparing the effects of glucose or sucrose on mood that were published up to May 2017 were eligible. Potentially eligible articles were selected independently by 2 reviewers.

Results: In total, 19 studies were found. Thirteen studies investigated the effects of glucose consumption compared with placebo on mood. Seven of these 13 studies found no effect of glucose on mood. The other 6 studies found small and partial effects that may also be due to other factors like palatability and expectation. Seven of the 19 studies investigated the effects of sucrose ingestion versus placebo on mood. None of these studies found a positive effect on mood, and 1 study observed an adverse effect. One of the studies investigated the effects of both glucose and sucrose.

Conclusions: The results from this review show limited effects of glucose ingestion on mood and no effect of sucrose on mood.

Keywords: glucose, mood, sucrose, sugar

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Perfume is more pleasant if labeled with expensive brands

“Dior, J’adore”: The role of contextual information of luxury on emotional responses to perfumes. Tiffany Baer et al. Food Quality and Preference, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodqual.2017.12.003

Highlights
•    We tested the effect of contextual information of luxury on affective responses.
•    We presented nine perfumes with a luxurious, a non-luxurious and no label.
•    We used subjective, physiological and expressive indicators of affective responses.
•    Participants tended to rate luxurious perfumes as more pleasant and familiar.
•    Physiological and expressive responses were not sensitive to contextual information.

Abstract: Luxury conveys values of quality and rarity and holds a particular emotional meaning. Yet, studies conducted on the impact of contextual information of luxury on emotional responses to products remain scarce. In this study, we tested whether contextual information, in particular evoking luxury, could influence emotional responses to perfumes, which are known to be powerful elicitors of emotion. More specifically, we measured the subjective, physiological, and expressive components of participants’ emotional responses. We conducted an experiment in which participants had to smell and assess perfumed pens as well as blank pens (i.e., without perfume) presented either in a luxurious context (i.e., name, brand and bottle), a non-luxurious one, or no information. Results indicated that participants tended to rate perfumes as more pleasant and rated them as more familiar when presented in a luxurious context than in a non-luxurious one or without context, and the blank pen as more irritating in a non-luxurious context than in a luxurious one. However, we did not find evidence of a significant contextual information effect on expressive or physiological indicators. Our findings suggest that contextual information of luxury can moderately influence the subjective component of participants’ emotional responses, while no evidence for such effect was found with respect to the physiological and expressive components.

Keywords: Emotional response; Contextual information; Luxury; Perfumes; Psychophysiological measures

Sexually objectifying women reduces empathy: An fMRI investigation

Reduced empathic responses for sexually objectified women: an fMRI investigation, Carlotta Cogoni, Andrea Carnaghi, Giorgia Silani. Cortex, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cortex.2017.11.020

Abstract: Sexual objectification is a widespread phenomenon characterized by a focus on the individual´s physical appearance over his/her mental state. This has been associated with negative social consequences, as objectified individuals are judged to be less human, competent, and moral. Moreover, behavioral responses toward the person change as a function of the degree of the perceived sexual objectification. In the present study, we investigated how behavioral and neural representations of other social pain are modulated by the degree of sexual objectification of the target. Using a within-subject fMRI design, we found reduced empathic feelings for positive (but not negative) emotions toward sexually objectified women as compared to non-objectified (personalized) women when witnessing their participation to a ball-tossing game. At the brain level, empathy for social exclusion of personalized women recruited areas coding the affective component of pain (i.e., anterior insula and cingulate cortex), the somatosensory components of pain (i.e., posterior insula and secondary somatosensory cortex) together with the mentalizing network (i.e., middle frontal cortex) to a greater extent than for the sexually objectified women. This diminished empathy is discussed in light of the gender-based violence that is afflicting the modern society.

Keywords: Sexual Objectification; Empathy; Social exclusion; fMRI; Anterior Insula

Friday, December 8, 2017

Reassessing the Perimeter of Government Accounts in China -- Gov't Lies Persist Despite Positive Steps

Reassessing the Perimeter of Government Accounts in China. Rui Mano, Phil Stokoe. IMF Working Paper No. 17/272, http://www.imf.org/en/Publications/WP/Issues/2017/12/08/Reassessing-the-Perimeter-of-Government-Accounts-in-China-45455

Summary: China’s official general government accounts do not include off-budget quasi-fiscal spending unlike the IMF’s augmented government accounts. This paper argues that the broader concept of augmented government remains relevant despite recent positive measures to separate off-budget units from the government. In fact, new avenues to finance public infrastructure, such as Special Construction Funds and Government Guided Funds, have emerged and this paper re-defines the perimeter of augmented government to include them. Finally, concrete steps for improving China’s fiscal accounts are put forward. If these steps are taken, the perimeter of general government would expand relative to official statistics but would likely be narrower than where augmented aggregates place it.

IQ will go down, especially at the top of the curve

IQ decline and Piaget: Does the rot start at the top? James R. Flynn, , Michael Shayer. Intelligence, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.intell.2017.11.010

Highlights
•    Important national differences, particularly the contrast between Scandinavia and elsewhere.
•    Dutch trends show that IQ gains vary by age which is indicative of the strength of various causal factors.
•    Piagetian trends provide information conventional tests do not: that the largest losses may be at the top of the curve.

Abstract: The IQ gains of the 20th century have faltered. Losses in Nordic nations after 1995 average at 6.85 IQ points when projected over thirty years. On Piagetian tests, Britain shows decimation among high scorers on three tests and overall losses on one. The US sustained its historic gain (0.3 points per year) through 2014. The Netherlands shows no change in preschoolers, mild losses at high school, and possible gains by adults. Australia and France offer weak evidence of losses at school and by adults respectively. German speakers show verbal gains and spatial losses among adults. South Korea, a latecomer to industrialization, is gaining at twice the historic US rate.

When a later cohort is compared to an earlier cohort, IQ trends vary dramatically by age. Piagetian trends indicate that a decimation of top scores may be accompanied by gains in cognitive ability below the median. They also reveal the existence of factors that have an atypical impact at high levels of cognitive competence. Scandinavian data from conventional tests confirm the decimation of top scorers but not factors of atypical impact. Piagetian tests may be more sensitive to detecting this phenomenon.

Some people are attracted sexually to intelligence: A psychometric evaluation of sapiosexuality

Some people are attracted sexually to intelligence: A psychometric evaluation of sapiosexuality. Gilles E. Gignac, Joey Darbyshire, Michelle Ooi. Intelligence, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.intell.2017.11.009

Highlights
•    On average, the 90th IQ percentile (IQ ≈ 120) was rated the most sexually attractive.
•    The Sapiosexual Questionnaire (SapioQ) was found to measure a moderately strong single-factor.
•    The SapioQ scores were found to have coefficient alpha = 0.78.
•    Approximately 8% and 1% of the sample scored an average score of 4.0 and 4.5, respectively, on the SapioQ.
•    Objective intelligence did not relate to the SapioQ (r = − 0.02; BF01 = 12.84).

Abstract: The emergence of the popular culture notion of a sapiosexual, an individual who finds high levels of intelligence (IQ) the most sexually attractive characteristic in a person, suggests that a high IQ may be a genuinely sexually attractive trait, at least for some people. Consequently, mean desirability ratings of IQ on a percentile continuum were estimated, across sexual attraction specifically and long-term partner interest conditions (N = 383). Furthermore, we evaluated the psychometric properties of a newly developed measure, the Sapiosexuality Questionnaire (SapioQ). Finally, we estimated the correlation between objective intelligence and the SapioQ. On average, the 90th percentile of intelligence (IQ ≈ 120) was rated to be the most sexually attractive and the most desirable in a long-term partner. However, 8.1% and 1.3% of the sample scored above 4.0 and 4.5, respectively, on the SapioQ (theoretical range: 1 to 5), which had respectable psychometric properties. The desirability ratings across the IQ percentile continuum interacted with the two conditions (i.e., sexual attraction specifically versus partner interest), such that the rater desirability of IQ increased more substantially for partner interest than sexual attraction specifically across the 25th to 75th IQ percentiles. Finally, objective intelligence correlated negatively with rated sexual attraction specifically and partner interest for a hypothetical person at 25th and 50th percentiles of IQ (r ≈ − 0.25). By contrast, objective intelligence failed to correlate with sapiosexuality (r = − 0.02, p = 0.765; BF01 = 12.84). The results were interpreted to suggest that, for most people, a very high IQ in a partner (IQ 135 +) is not the most attractive level of intelligence, which may be considered supportive of a version of the threshold hypothesis of intelligence. Finally, although sapiosexuality may be a genuine psychological construct, it appears to be influenced by non-intellective factors.

Keywords: Mate preferences; Intelligence; Sapiosexuality; Some people are attracted sexually to intelligence

Basel III: Finalising post-crisis reforms

Basel III: Finalising post-crisis reforms

December 2017
The Basel III framework is a central element of the Basel Committee's response to the global financial crisis. It addresses shortcomings of the pre-crisis regulatory framework and provides a regulatory foundation for a resilient banking system that supports the real economy.
A key objective of the revisions incorporated into the framework is to reduce excessive variability of risk-weighted assets (RWA). At the peak of the global financial crisis, a wide range of stakeholders lost faith in banks' reported risk-weighted capital ratios. The Committee's own empirical analyses also highlighted a worrying degree of variability in banks' calculation of RWA. The revisions to the regulatory framework will help restore credibility in the calculation of RWA by:
  • enhancing the robustness and risk sensitivity of the standardised approaches for credit risk and operational risk, which will facilitate the comparability of banks' capital ratios
  • constraining the use of internally modelled approaches
  • complementing the risk-weighted capital ratio with a finalised leverage ratio and a revised and robust capital floor
An accompanying document summarises the main features of these revisions.
For more information on the Basel III reforms, see the Basel III webpage.

Examining the Roles of Pornography Use, Religiousness, and Moral Incongruence

Grubbs, Joshua, Joel Engelman, and Jennifer T Grant. 2017. “Who’s a Porn Addict? Examining the Roles of Pornography Use, Religiousness, and Moral Incongruence.”. PsyArXiv. December 8. psyarxiv.com/s6jzf

Abstract: Pornography use is a common but controversial behavior in developed nations. At present, the scientific community has not reached a consensus regarding whether or not people may be become addicted to or compulsive in use of pornography. Even so, there is considerable evidence that a substantial number of people are likely to perceive their use of pornography to be problematic or addictive in nature. Whereas prior works considered perceived addiction dimensionally, the present work sought to examine what might lead someone to specifically identify as a pornography addict. Consistent with prior research, pre-registered hypotheses predicted that religiousness, moral disapproval, and pornography use would emerge as consistent predictors of self-identification as a pornography addict. Three samples, involving adult pornography users (Sample 1, N=829; Sample 2, N=424) and undergraduates (Sample 3, N=231), were collected.  Across all three samples, male gender, moral incongruence, and pornography use behaviors consistently emerged as predictors of self-identification as a pornography addict. In contrast to prior literature indicating that moral incongruence and religiousness are the best predictors of perceived addiction (measured dimensionally), results from all three samples indicated that male gender and pornography use behaviors were the most strongly associated with self-identification as a pornography addict.

African elephants (Loxodonta africana) display remarkable olfactory acuity in human scent

African elephants (Loxodonta africana) display remarkable olfactory acuity in human scent matching to sample performance. Katharina E.M. von Dürckheim et al. pplied Animal Behaviour Science, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2017.12.004

Highlights
•    Habituated African elephants were trained to discriminate and match human odours using Matching to Sample (MTS) protocols.
•    African elephants displayed no loss of working memory, and successfully discriminated target odours.
•    African elephants also discriminated between related human individuals spanning three generations and including sibling pairs.
•    This experiment proved the elephants’ significant ability to perform well at operant conditioning tasks.

Abstract: This paper presents data on the success rate of African elephants in human scent matching to sample performance. Working with equipment and protocols similar to those used in the training of forensic canine units in Europe, scent samples were collected on cotton squares from twenty-six humans of differing ethnic groups, sexes and ages, and stored in glass jars. Three African elephants were trained to match human body scent to the corresponding sample. In total, four hundred and seventy trials, during which the elephant handlers were blind to the experiment details, were conducted. Each trial consisted of one scent that served as the starting (target) sample to which the elephant then systematically determined a potential match in any of the nine glass jars presented. Elephants matched target and sample at levels significantly higher than indicated by random chance, displayed no loss of working memory, and successfully discriminated target odours. They also discriminated between related human individuals spanning three generations and including sibling pairs. In addition to demonstrating scent matching capabilities, this experiment supported the elephants’ significant ability to perform well at operant conditioning tasks.

Keywords: African elephant; olfaction; scent discrimination; scent matching to sample

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Comparative assessments of dietary sugars on cognitive performance

The “sweet” effect: Comparative assessments of dietary sugars on cognitive performance. Rachel Ginieis et al. Physiology & Behavior, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2017.12.010

Highlights
•    Glucose and sucrose ingestion led to negative cognitive performances.
•    Negative effects due to blood glucose increase were more evident with overnight fasting.
•    Sugar effects on cognitive abilities are likely to be glucose-mediated.
•    Sweetness perception does not play a role in moderating cognitive performances.

Abstract: In recent years there has been increasing interest in studying cognitive effects associated with sugar consumption. Neuro-cognitive research has confirmed that glucose, as a main energy substrate for the brain, can momentarily benefit cognitive performances, particularly for memory functioning. However, there is still limited understanding of relative effects of other common sugars (e.g., fructose and sucrose) on cognitive performance. The present study tested in 49 people the effects of three common dietary sugars against a placebo sweetener (i.e., sucralose), on performance of three well-studied cognitive tasks – simple response time, arithmetic, and Stroop interference, all of which are suggested to rely on the prefrontal lobe. A double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over experimental design was used. Results revealed that ingestion of glucose and sucrose led to poorer performances on the assessed tasks as opposed to fructose and the placebo (p < 0.05); these effects were particularly pronounced under the fasting condition in comparison to the non-fasting condition (p < 0.001). Overall, these results indicate that cognitive effects of sugar are unlikely to be mediated by the perception of sweetness. Rather, the effects are mediated by glucose. Further research should systematically assess effects of dietary sugars on other cognitive domains, such as memory, to give further insights on effects of sugar consumption.

Keywords: Glucose facilitation effect; Sucrose; Fructose; Attention

The CSI-education effect: Do potential criminals benefit from forensic TV series?

The CSI-education effect: Do potential criminals benefit from forensic TV series? Andreas M.Baranowski, Anne Burkhardt, Elisabeth Czernik, Heiko Hecht. International Journal of Law, Crime and Justice. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijlcj.2017.10.001

Highlights
•    Overview over the state of the CSI effect.
•    First article to experimentally test if consumers of forensic series are better in committing crimes.
•    4 studies with mixed methodology to ensure reliability of the results.
•    Support of the notion that there is no connection between consumption of forensic series and skills in committing a crime.

Abstract: Forensic series have become popular over the last two decades. They have raised the importance of forensic evidence in the eyes of the public (CSI effect). However, it has not been investigated to what extent criminals may learn about forensic evidence through these shows. We used multiple approaches to tackle this potential CSI-education effect. First, we analyzed crime statistics for crime and detection rate. Second, we asked convicted criminals about their impressions about the usefulness of crime shows for covering up a crime. Third, we asked fans of crime series and a control group of non-watchers to slip into the role of a criminal by enacting the cleaning up a murder crime scene. Finally, a sample of 120 subjects had to clean up the scene of a would-be murder using a model. In none of these experiments did we find supportive evidence for the CSI-education effect.

Selfishness is attributed to men who help young women: Signaling function of male altruism

Selfishness is attributed to men who help young women: Signaling function of male altruism.
Yuta Kawamura, Takashi Kusumi. Letters on Evolutionary Behavioral Science, Vol 8, No 2 (2017). lebs.hbesj.org/index.php/lebs/article/view/lebs.2017.64

Abstract: To investigate the function of altruism as a mating signal especially among males, the present study examined whether the motivation of a man who behaves altruistically toward a woman is more likely to be perceived as selfish by a third party. In two studies, participants read vignettes about one person helping a stranger, after which they rated the helpers’ perceived selfish motivation. We manipulated the sex of the recipient and helper (Study 1) and the recipient’s age (young vs. old; Study 2). In both studies, a man who helped a young woman was regarded as having a more selfish motivation than was an individual who helped the same sex. Conversely, although a woman who helped a man was viewed as more selfish than was a woman who helped another woman, the effect was smaller than when the helper was male (Study 1). Furthermore, a man who helped an old woman was not regarded as more selfish than was a man who helped another man (Study 2). These results support the notion that male altruism works as a courtship display.




Folk intuitions about disadvantageous and advantageous inequity aversion

It’s not fair: Folk intuitions about disadvantageous and advantageous inequity aversion. Alex Shaw and Shoham Choshen-Hillel. Judgment and Decision Making, Vol. 12, No. 3, May 2017, pp. 208-223. http://journal.sjdm.org/17/17215a/jdm17215a.html

Abstract: People often object to inequity; they react negatively to receiving less than others (disadvantageous inequity aversion), and more than others (advantageous inequity aversion). Here we study people’s folk intuitions about inequity aversion: what do people infer about others’ fairness concerns, when they observe their reactions to disadvantageous or advantageous inequity? We hypothesized that, people would not intuitively regard disadvantageous inequity aversion by itself as being rooted in fairness, but they would regard advantageous inequity aversion by itself as being rooted in fairness. In four studies, we used vignettes describing inequity aversion of a made up alien species to assess people’s folk intuitions about inequity aversion. The studies supported our main hypothesis that disadvantageous inequity aversion, without advantageous inequity aversion, does not fit people’s folk conception of fairness. Instead, participants reported it to be rooted in envy. According to these results, the claim that disadvantageous inequity aversion reveals a concern with fairness, does not readily accord with people’s intuitions. We connect these findings to other pieces of evidence in the literatures of behavioral economics, developmental psychology, and social psychology, indicating that lay people’s intuitions may be on the mark in this case. Specifically, unlike advantageous inequity aversion, disadvantageous inequity aversion need not be rooted in a sense of fairness.

Keywords: fairness, inequity aversion, envy, social comparison, equity

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Analytic Atheism: A Cross-culturally Weak and Fickle Phenomenon?

Gervais, Will M, Michiel van Elk, Dimitris Xygalatas, Ryan McKay, Mark Aveyard, Emma E K BUCHTEL, Ilan Dar-Nimrod, et al. 2017. “Analytic Atheism: A Cross-culturally Weak and Fickle Phenomenon?”. PsyArXiv. December 6. psyarxiv.com/92r8x

Abstract: Religious belief is a topic of longstanding interest to psychological science, however the psychology of religious disbelief is a relative newcomer. One prominently discussed model is analytic atheism, wherein analytic thinking overrides religious intuitions and instruction. Consistent with this model, performance-based measures of reliance on analytic thinking predict religious disbelief in WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, & Democratic) samples. However, the generality of analytic atheism remains unknown. Drawing on a large global sample (N = 3459) from 13 religiously, demographically, and culturally diverse societies, we find that analytic atheism is in fact quite fickle cross-culturally, only appearing robustly in aggregate analyses and in three individual countries. Such complexity implies a need to revise simplistic theories of religious disbelief as primarily grounded in cognitive style. The results provide additional evidence for culture’s effects on core beliefs, highlighting the power of comparative cultural evidence to clarify core mechanisms of human psychological variation.

Evidence for a sex effect during overimitation: boys copy irrelevant modelled actions more than girls across cultures

Evidence for a sex effect during overimitation: boys copy irrelevant modelled actions more than girls across cultures. Aurélien Frick, Fabrice Clément, Thibaud Gruber. http://rsos.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/4/12/170367

Abstract: Children are skilful at acquiring tool-using skills by faithfully copying relevant and irrelevant actions performed by others, but poor at innovating tools to solve problems. Five- to twelve-year-old urban French and rural Serbian children (N = 208) were exposed to a Hook task; a jar containing a reward in a bucket and a pipe cleaner as potential recovering tool material. In both countries, few children under the age of 10 made a hook from the pipe cleaner to retrieve the reward on their own. However, from five onward, the majority of unsuccessful children succeeded after seeing an adult model manufacturing a hook without completing the task. Additionally, a third of the children who observed a similar demonstration including an irrelevant action performed with a second object, a string, replicated this meaningless action. Children's difficulty with innovation and early capacity for overimitation thus do not depend on socio-economic background. Strikingly, we document a sex difference in overimitation across cultures, with boys engaging more in overimitation than girls, a finding that may result from differences regarding explorative tool-related behaviour. This male-biased sex effect sheds new light on our understanding of overimitation, and more generally, on how human tool culture evolved.


Energizing, activating, & hedonic effects of fast thinking -- The effects are independent of thought content, fluency, and goal progress

Consequences of Thought Speed. Kaite Yang*, Emily Pronin. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, https://doi.org/10.1016/bs.aesp.2017.10.003

Abstract: The speed of thinking is a frequently overlooked aspect of mental life. However, the pace of thought is an essential property of thinking, and its consequences have recently begun to be discovered. In this chapter, we review the psychological consequences of accelerated and decelerated thought pace. We begin by examining how the manipulation of thought speed alters mood, self-perception, risk-taking, creativity, and arousal. We highlight the energizing, activating, and hedonic effects of fast thinking, and we show how thought-speed effects are independent of thought content, fluency, and goal progress. We describe an adaptive theory of thought speed wherein psychological responses to the acceleration of thinking confer adaptive advantages for confronting novel, urgent, and rapidly changing situations, and engaging in behaviors driven by appetitive motivation. Lastly, we discuss implications of thought speed and its manipulation for treatment of mental illness, for design and delivery of communications and messages, and for life in the age of rapid access and exposure to information.

Keywords: Thought speed; Emotion; Behavioral activation; Risk-taking; Creativity; Mania

Common knowledge, coordination, and the logic of self-conscious emotions

Common knowledge, coordination, and the logic of self-conscious emotions. Kyle A. Thomas, Peter DeScioli, Steven Pinker. Evolution and Human Behavior, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2017.12.001

Imagine spilling a plate of food into your lap in front of a crowd. Afterwards, you might fix your gaze on your cell phone to avoid acknowledging the bumble to onlookers. Similarly, after disappointing your family or colleagues, it can be hard to look them in the eye. Why do people avoid acknowledging faux pas or transgressions that they know an audience already knows about?

Following a transgression, people feel the negative self-conscious emotions of shame, embarrassment, or guilt, and these emotions help them regulate their relationships [...]. A transgressor has displayed ineptitude, which can damage his reputation as a valuable cooperator, or a disregard for someone’s welfare, which can damage his reputation as a trustworthy cooperator. The discomfort caused by the resulting emotions, even when privately felt, motivates a person to manage these threats by drawing his attention to the transgression and motivating him to make amends and avoid similar acts in the future [...].

The idea that self-conscious emotions regulate relationships also explains why the presence of an audience intensifies feelings of embarrassment, shame, and guilt [...] If onlookers infer that a transgression is the result of a stable disposition that predicts future incompetence or exploitation, they now have reason to devalue, ostracize, or punish the transgressor. To prevent these damaging consequences, the transgressor must persuade the onlookers either that the act was not intentional and hence unrepresentative of his underlying disposition, or that he will change his disposition and will not repeat the behavior in the future. Moreover, for such assurances to be more than self-serving cheap talk, they must be made credible: The transgressor must endure a cost, in the form of visible discomfort and perhaps tangible restitution, and display signs that the changed priorities are products of involuntary emotions rather than conscious strategic calculations. Indeed, research on the psychology of contrition and forgiveness shows that the negative self-conscious emotions have these specifications

Out-of-Control Sexual Behavior in Women

Out-of-Control Sexual Behavior in Women. Montgomery-Graham, S. Current Sexual Health Reports, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 200–206, December 2017. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11930-017-0125-2

Abstract

Purpose of Review: The goals of this article are to review the current research on out-of-control sexual behavior, also known as problematic hypersexuality, or hypersexual disorder, as it relates to women. Specifically, the paper reviews the existing epidemiological data, conceptualization of the symptoms, and measurement instruments used clinically and concludes by critically reviewing the small body of recent empirical research on out-of-control sexual behavior in women.

Recent Findings: Women are understudied and often not included in research about out-of-control sexual behavior. Empirical research studies use differing samples—clinical, community, and convenience samples—and use varying scales that capture different elements of the problematic hypersexuality construct. No clear clinical picture of women and problematic hypersexuality exists currently.

Summary: Future research should include women so researchers and clinicians can better understand clinical presentations, etiology, case conceptualization, and treatment of women presenting with beliefs and feelings that their sexual behavior is out of control.

Attitudinal Change Toward Same-Sex Parents: the Effect of the Explanation of the Etiology of the Homosexual Sexual Orientation

Attitudinal Change Toward Same-Sex Parents: the Effect of the Explanation of the Etiology of the Homosexual Sexual Orientation. Livia García, Gloria Garcia-Banda, Marcos Pascual-Soler, Laura Badenes-Ribera. Sexuality Research and Social Policy, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13178-017-0313-x

Abstract: The attributional theory of stigma maintains that the rejection of the stigmatized group increases when attributions are made to controllable causes rather than to genetic factors. Our study has two objectives: one, to provide evidence for the bifactorial structure of the scale of Beliefs about Children’s Adjustment in Same-Sex Families Scale (BCASSFS); and two, to carry out a direct replication of a previous experimental study about the effect of the etiology of the homosexual sexual orientation on attitudes toward same-sex parents. The sample was composed of 229 Spanish university students with a mean age of 26.18 years (SD = 9.43). This study demonstrates that the rejection of same-sex parents is greater when the homosexual sexual orientation is attributed to learning. The effect is observed in the scores on the two subscales: traditional rejection or individual opposition and modern rejection or normative opposition. The practical implications of our findings are related to homophobia intervention programs in educational settings or in the promotion of social change.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Relationship Between the Enhancement of Facial Features by Cosmetics and a Woman’s Increased “Halo Effect” and Perceived Reproductive Status

From the Pyramids to the Present: The Relationship Between the Enhancement of Facial Features by Cosmetics and a Woman’s Increased “Halo Effect” and Perceived Reproductive Status. Vibha Shekhar. 31st National Conference on Undergraduate Research, University of Memphis, Memphis, Tennessee, April 6-8, 2016. Published in 2017. http://ncurproceedings.org/ojs/index.php/NCUR2017/article/view/2312/1292

Abstract: Female makeup in the ancient Egyptian time period versus cosmetic use in Modern America was studied to determine whether cosmetics alter a women’s perceived reproductive status in order to help the reader understand whether society seems to equate a woman’s facial beauty with her fertility. To answer this question, journal articles that explored the types of cosmetics used by the ancient Egyptians, the cosmetics used by modern-day Americans, the relationship between the use of cosmetics in ancient Egypt and in modern-day America, the correlation between beauty and the beautiful individual’s “halo-effect” in society, and how individuals tend to perceive women as more fertile (and valuable) due to their physical attractiveness were examined. A study was conducted at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in which photographs of five Caucasian women wearing no makeup, modern-day makeup (applied in accordance to researchers Nancy Etcoff, Lauren Haley, David House, Angela McKeegan, Richard Russell, Ian Stephen, Shannon Stock, and Sarah Vickery), and ancient Egyptian style makeup (applied in accordance to individuals’ cosmetics portrayed by ancient Egyptian works of art), were shown to 11 VCU students (6 female, 5 male). The results were quite similar to those found by the aforementioned researchers, who found that attractive individuals are perceived as more socially competent and likeable, and receive better societal opportunities. Men, since the Neolithic time period, have sought to expand their bloodline, and tend to prefer beautiful women as the birth-givers, as men perceive beautiful women as more valuable and fertile than average-looking women12; therefore, because cosmetics increase a woman’s perceived beauty, cosmetics can therefore increase a woman’s perceived fertility as well. Women who wear cosmetics tend to reap the societal benefits of feminine beauty (collectively known as the “Halo Effect”), which is relevant because it demonstrates the idea that women no longer have to be naturally beautiful in order to receive societal benefits.

Keywords: Cosmetics, Halo-Effect, Perceived Fertility

Monday, December 4, 2017

Cross-spectrum microaggression perception: The association between participants’ ideological orientation & their judgements of ostensible microaggressions differed as a function of the apparent victims of ostensible microaggressions

Harper, Craig A. 2017. “Political Microaggressions Across the Ideological Spectrum”. PsyArXiv. November 29. psyarxiv.com/973v8

Abstract: Microaggressions – subtle slights that communicate implicit bias – have become a widespread concern in recent years. However, the empirical credibility of microaggression theory has been questioned due to a lack of conceptual clarity and the prevalence of methodological biases within microaggression research. This study examined the potential for cross-spectrum microaggression perception, challenging the idea that microaggression victims are purely traditionally ‘minority’ groups. Using an experimental online survey (N = 404), the association between participants’ ideological orientation and their judgements of ostensible microaggressions differed as a function of the apparent victims of ostensible microaggressions. While liberals were more punitive towards aggressors against left-wing-affiliated targets, conservatives demonstrated a similar antipathy for those aggressing against right-wing-affiliated groups. These associations were partially and asymmetrically moderated by participants’ emotional investment in their ideological orientation (i.e., collective narcissism). Implications for microaggression theory, and the study of politically-salient individual differences research, are addressed.

New Evidence of Generational Progress for Mexican Americans

New Evidence of Generational Progress for Mexican Americans. Brian Duncan, Jeffrey Grogger, Ana Sofia Leon, Stephen J. Trejo. NBER Working Paper No. 24067. http://www.nber.org/papers/w24067

U.S.-born Mexican Americans suffer a large schooling deficit relative to other Americans, and standard data sources suggest that this deficit does not shrink between the 2nd and later generations. Standard data sources lack information on grandparents’ countries of birth, however, which creates potentially serious issues for tracking the progress of later-generation Mexican Americans. Exploiting unique NLSY97 data that address these measurement issues, we find substantial educational progress between the 2nd and 3rd generations for a recent cohort of Mexican Americans. Such progress is obscured when we instead mimic the limitations inherent in standard data sources.

The Long-run Effects of Agricultural Productivity on Conflict, 1400-1900

The Long-run Effects of Agricultural Productivity on Conflict, 1400-1900. Murat Iyigun, Nathan Nunn, Nancy Qian. NBER Working Paper No. 24066. http://www.nber.org/papers/w24066

Abstract: This paper provides evidence of the long-run effects of a permanent increase in agricultural productivity on conflict. We construct a newly digitized and geo-referenced dataset of battles in Europe, the Near East and North Africa covering the period between 1400 and 1900 CE. For variation in permanent improvements in agricultural productivity, we exploit the introduction of potatoes from the Americas to the Old World after the Columbian Exchange. We find that the introduction of potatoes permanently reduced conflict for roughly two centuries. The results are driven by a reduction in civil conflicts.

Selling the snake oil of nudging: Only 7% of the studies applied power analysis, 2% used guidelines to improve the quality of reporting, no study was preregistered, & the used intervention nomenclatures were non-exhaustive & often have overlapping categories

Szaszi, B., Palinkas, A., Palfi, B., Szollosi, A., and Aczel, B. (2017) A Systematic Scoping Review of the Choice Architecture Movement: Toward Understanding When and Why Nudges Work. J. Behav. Dec. Making, doi: 10.1002/bdm.2035

Abstract: In this paper, we provide a domain-general scoping review of the nudge movement by reviewing 422 choice architecture interventions in 156 empirical studies. We report the distribution of the studies across countries, years, domains, subdomains of applicability, intervention types, and the moderators associated with each intervention category to review the current state of the nudge movement. Furthermore, we highlight certain characteristics of the studies and experimental and reporting practices that can hinder the accumulation of evidence in the field. Specifically, we found that 74% of the studies were mainly motivated to assess the effectiveness of the interventions in one specific setting, while only 24% of the studies focused on the exploration of moderators or underlying processes. We also observed that only 7% of the studies applied power analysis, 2% used guidelines aiming to improve the quality of reporting, no study in our database was preregistered, and the used intervention nomenclatures were non-exhaustive and often have overlapping categories. Building on our current observations and proposed solutions from other fields, we provide directly applicable recommendations for future research to support the evidence accumulation on why and when nudges work.

CO2 emissions in developed countries have stabilized, but emissions in developing countries have doubled due in part to offshoring economic activity from relatively environmentally-friendly places to others with lax environmental laws

Growth in emission transfers via international trade from 1990 to 2008. Glen P Peters et al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,  vol. 108 no. 21. http://www.pnas.org/content/108/21/8903

Abstract: Despite the emergence of regional climate policies, growth in global CO2 emissions has remained strong. From 1990 to 2008 CO2 emissions in developed countries (defined as countries with emission-reduction commitments in the Kyoto Protocol, Annex B) have stabilized, but emissions in developing countries (non-Annex B) have doubled. Some studies suggest that the stabilization of emissions in developed countries was partially because of growing imports from developing countries. To quantify the growth in emission transfers via international trade, we developed a trade-linked global database for CO2 emissions covering 113 countries and 57 economic sectors from 1990 to 2008. We find that the emissions from the production of traded goods and services have increased from 4.3 Gt CO2 in 1990 (20% of global emissions) to 7.8 Gt CO2 in 2008 (26%). Most developed countries have increased their consumption-based emissions faster than their territorial emissions, and non–energy-intensive manufacturing had a key role in the emission transfers. The net emission transfers via international trade from developing to developed countries increased from 0.4 Gt CO2 in 1990 to 1.6 Gt CO2 in 2008, which exceeds the Kyoto Protocol emission reductions. Our results indicate that international trade is a significant factor in explaining the change in emissions in many countries, from both a production and consumption perspective. We suggest that countries monitor emission transfers via international trade, in addition to territorial emissions, to ensure progress toward stabilization of global greenhouse gas emissions.

As predicted, happy men were inferred to be happier than happy women, but sad men were not inferred to be sadder than sad women

Do We Expect Women to Look Happier Than They Are? A Test of Gender-Dependent Perceptual Correction. John Eric Steephen, Samyak Raj Mehta, Raju Surampudi Bapi. Perception, https://doi.org/10.1177/0301006617745240

Abstract: Feminine facial features enhance the expressive cues associated with happiness but not sadness. This makes a woman look happier than a man even when their smiles have the same intensity. So, to correctly infer the actual happiness of a woman, one would have to subtract the effect of these facial features. We hypothesised that our perceptual system would apply this subtraction for women, but not for men. This implies that this female-specific subtraction would cause one to infer a man to be happier than a woman if both are matched for facial appearance and expression intensity. We tested this using androgynous virtual faces with equal expression intensity. As predicted, happy men were inferred to be happier than happy women, but sad men were not inferred to be sadder than sad women, supporting our hypothesis of a gender- and emotion-specific perceptual correction.

Keywords: facial emotion, gender difference, perceptual correction, nonverbal communication, emotion perception, vision, perceptual learning

“Everybody knows psychology is not a real science”: Public perceptions of psychology and how we can improve our relationship with policymakers, the scientific community, and the general public

Ferguson, C. J. (2015). “Everybody knows psychology is not a real science”: Public perceptions of psychology and how we can improve our relationship with policymakers, the scientific community, and the general public. American Psychologist, 70(6), 527-542. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0039405

Abstract: In a recent seminal article, Lilienfeld (2012) argued that psychological science is experiencing a public perception problem that has been caused by both public misconceptions about psychology, as well as the psychological science community’s failure to distinguish itself from pop psychology and questionable therapeutic practices. Lilienfeld’s analysis is an important and cogent synopsis of external problems that have limited psychological science’s penetration into public knowledge. The current article expands upon this by examining internal problems, or problems within psychological science that have potentially limited its impact with policymakers, other scientists, and the public. These problems range from the replication crisis and defensive reactions to it, overuse of politicized policy statements by professional advocacy groups such as the American Psychological Association (APA), and continued overreliance on mechanistic models of human behavior. It is concluded that considerable problems arise from psychological science’s tendency to overcommunicate mechanistic concepts based on weak and often unreplicated (or unreplicable) data that do not resonate with the everyday experiences of the general public or the rigor of other scholarly fields. It is argued that a way forward can be seen by, on one hand, improving the rigor and transparency of psychological science, and making theoretical innovations that better acknowledge the complexities of the human experience.


The problem of false positives and false negatives in violent video game experiments -- studies of aggression appear to be particularly prone to false positive results

The problem of false positives and false negatives in violent video game experiments. Christopher J. Ferguson. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, Volume 56, January–February 2018, Pages 35–43. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijlp.2017.11.001

Abstract: The problem of false positives and negatives has received considerable attention in behavioral research in recent years. The current paper uses video game violence research as an example of how such issues may develop in a field. Despite decades of research, evidence on whether violent video games (VVGs) contribute to aggression in players has remained mixed. Concerns have been raised in recent years that experiments regarding VVGs may suffer from both “false positives” and “false negatives.” The current paper examines this issue in three sets of video game experiments, two sets of video game experiments on aggression and prosocial behaviors identified in meta-analysis, and a third group of recent null studies. Results indicated that studies of VVGs and aggression appear to be particularly prone to false positive results. Studies of VVGs and prosocial behavior, by contrast are heterogeneous and did not demonstrate any indication of false positive results. However, their heterogeneous nature made it difficult to base solid conclusions on them. By contrast, evidence for false negatives in null studies was limited, and little evidence emerged that null studies lacked power in comparison those highlighted in past meta-analyses as evidence for effects. These results are considered in light of issues related to false positives and negatives in behavioral science more broadly.

Keywords: Video games; Violence; Aggression; Prosocial behaviors; Null results

An abundance of toys present reduced quality of toddlers’ play

The influence of the number of toys in the environment on toddlers’ play. Carly Dauch, Michelle Imwalle, Brooke Ocasio, Alexia E. Metz. Infant Behavior and Development, Volume 50, February 2018, Pages 78–87. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.infbeh.2017.11.005

Highlights
•    An abundance of toys present reduced quality of toddlers’ play.
•    Fewer toys at once may help toddlers to focus better and play more creatively.
•    This can done in many settings to support development and promote healthy play.

Abstract: We tested the hypothesis that an environment with fewer toys will lead to higher quality of play for toddlers. Each participant (n = 36) engaged in supervised, individual free play sessions under two conditions: Four Toy and Sixteen Toy. With fewer toys, participants had fewer incidences of toy play, longer durations of toy play, and played with toys in a greater variety of ways (Z = −4.448, p < 0.001, r = −0.524; Z = 2.828, p = 0.005, r = 0.333; and Z = 4.676, p < 0.001, r = 0.55, respectively). This suggests that when provided with fewer toys in the environment, toddlers engage in longer periods of play with a single toy, allowing better focus to explore and play more creatively. This can be offered as a recommendation in many natural environments to support children’s development and promote healthy play.

Pedigree size and relative fecundity in both the paternal and maternal sides of the homosexual women’s families were significantly higher than in the heterosexuals’ families

Possible Balancing Selection in Human Female Homosexuality. Andrea Camperio Ciani et al. Human Nature, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12110-017-9309-8

Abstract: A growing number of researchers suggest that female homosexuality is at least in part influenced by genetic factors. Unlike for male homosexuality, few familial studies have attempted to explore maintenance of this apparently fitness-detrimental trait in the population. Using multiple recruitment methods, we explored fecundity and sexual orientation within the pedigrees of 1,458 adult female respondents. We compared 487 homosexual and 163 bisexual with 808 heterosexual females and 30,203 of their relatives. Our data suggest that the direct fitness of homosexual females is four times lower than the direct fitness of heterosexual females of corresponding ages. The prevalence of nonheterosexuality within the homosexual female respondents’ families (2.83%) appear to be more than four times higher than the basal prevalence in the Italian population (0.63%). Pedigree size and relative fecundity in both the paternal and maternal sides of the homosexual women’s families were significantly higher than in the heterosexuals’ families. If confirmed, the relative average fecundity increase within the family seems to offset the loss in fitness due to the low direct fitness of homosexual females. Therefore, the balanced fecundity in the homosexual females’ families may allow the trait to be maintained at a low-frequency equilibrium in the population.

Keywords: Female homosexuality Fecundity Fitness Pedigrees Balancing selection

Extraordinary Altruists Exhibit Enhanced Self-other Overlap in Neural Responses to Distress

Brethel-Haurwitz, Kristin, Elise Cardinale, Kruti Vekaria, Emily L Robertson, Brian Walitt, John VanMeter, and Abigail Marsh. 2017. “Extraordinary Altruists Exhibit Enhanced Self-other Overlap in Neural Responses to Distress”. PsyArXiv. December 3. psyarxiv.com/hr2gy

Abstract: Shared neural representations during experienced and observed distress reflect empathy, which is hypothesized to support altruism. But the correspondence between real-world altruism and shared neural representations has not been directly tested; the role of empathy for distress in promoting altruism toward strangers has been recently questioned. Here we show that individuals who have performed costly altruism (donating a kidney to a stranger) exhibit greater self-other overlap in neural representations of pain and threat in anterior insula (AI) in an empathic pain paradigm. Altruists exhibited greater self-other correspondence in pain-related activation in left AI, highlighting that group-level overlap was supported by individual-level prediction of empathic pain by first-hand pain, but not threat. Altruists exhibited enhanced functional coupling of left AI with left mid-insula during empathic pain and threat, and bilateral amygdala during empathic threat. Results show that heightened neural instantiations of empathy correspond to real-world altruism and highlight limitations of self-report.


Sunday, December 3, 2017

Why is linguistics such a magnet for dilettantes and crackpots?

Talking gibberish: The study of languages has long been prone to nonsense. Gaston Dorren.
https://aeon.co/essays/why-is-linguistics-such-a-magnet-for-dilettantes-and-crackpots



Ah, for the days of fact-free linguistics! The pre-scientific era might have produced a lot of codswallop and hogwash, but how entertaining it is to look back upon. Scholars erred in ways that few modern linguists ever would. Today, their field of study is a respectable social science, exacting in its methods, broad in its scope and generous in its harvest. Without phoneticians, computers wouldn’t be able to process spoken English. Without sociolinguists, prejudice against dialects and non-Western languages would still be rife – or rather, rifer still. Forensic linguists help to solve crimes, clinical linguists treat people with language impairments, historical linguists shed light on language change and even on prehistoric culture and migration – the list goes on and on. As in other disciplines, pertinent questions and rigorous methods to answer them have been at the root of success.

When natural philosophy began to slowly develop into physics and other natural sciences, learned speculation in the human domain did not immediately follow suit. But it too gradually developed into what we now call the social sciences, and the study of language was one of the earliest adopters of the new methods. Its practitioners would pore over ancient texts written in long-dead languages and long-forgotten scripts, and compare them ever more systematically. This led to a breakthrough in the late 18th century, when there emerged new ideas about the historical origins of modern languages. Most of these ideas have stood the test of time.

But the budding discipline did not merely come up with new answers, it also changed the questions. Scholars of yore, when reflecting upon language, would wonder things such as: which of the contemporary languages was spoken by the first man? Which one is superior to the rest? And which of the human tongues deserves the label ‘divine’? Modern linguists will not touch those with a 10-foot pole. The oldest language is unknowable, but it was certainly different from anything spoken today. The ‘best’ language is impossible to define in any meaningful way. And as for ‘divine’ – the very word is meaningless in relation to languages, except in a cultural sense.

Not so in the olden days. Indeed, the answers seemed pretty obvious to many thinkers, if only thanks to that most anti-scientific habit of mind known as ethnocentrism. To the ancient Greeks, determining the world’s most excellent language was a perfect no-brainer: it could only be theirs. People who spoke differently were ‘barbarians’ or babblers. The Romans were only slightly more broad-minded. Their appreciation extended beyond Latin to other languages with a tradition of writing, especially Greek (which might conceivably even be superior), but also Punic, spoken by the Carthaginians, and Etruscan. All scriptless languages, however, were sneered at. Even in the late 5th century, with Rome’s power gone, the Roman aristocrat Sidonius Apollinaris called the Germanic language of the new rulers ‘an instrument of but three strings’.

Other cultures were equally self-complacent. In the last centuries BCE, the people of North India felt that their Sanskrit was nothing less than divine, and 1,000 years later the Arabs would feel likewise about the language of the Quran. For the Chinese, civilising the neighbouring peoples was practically tantamount to familiarising them with the only great language. The French of the Enlightenment, not to be outdone, deemed their language better than divine – it was logical.

This claim was perhaps most famously defended by the 18th-century writer Antoine de Rivarol on grounds that were both illogical and plain wrong. He argued that the French word order (subject first, followed by verb and then object) is both unique and more logical than any other. But not only is it extremely common among the world’s languages, it’s also an order that French itself very often does not respect – and these are only some of the more obvious objections.

As silly as it is, the notion of ‘French as the pinnacle of logic’ became an idée reçue. The cover of my first French dictionary, published in the 1950s (and not even in France!) claimed that the language was ‘an unsurpassed creation as a vehicle for the mind’. The Arabs, Chinese and Greeks would beg to differ.

Today, the language of choice is English, especially in most of the Western world. And sure enough, it has inherited French’s status as the allegedly superior language. How rich in vocabulary it is, how suitable for song and science, how clear, concise and, in a word, cool. And how this makes me – as a non-English speaker – chuckle. English is not a bad language as languages go but, a century from now, all the exultant praise will sound as silly as it would have sounded less than a century ago, before its rise to dominance.

Speakers of big languages are not the only ones to get carried away by love for their lingo. Quite a few people in Tamil Nadu in South India used quite literally to consider the Tamil language a goddess, and some still do. And early medieval Irish monks spun this elaborate yarn to prove that Irish Gaelic stood alone: after God had destroyed the Tower of Babel and confused the tongues of man, King Phenius of Scythia travelled thither with his son and 72 scholars. Out of the best elements of all the confused languages they found there, they created a new one: Irish.

As for the oldest language, this was Hebrew. At least, this is something that Christians commonly believed for more than 1,000 years. (Only Saint Ephrem the Syrian held that his own Syriac was older.) The Church Father Augustine, for instance, wrote in the 5th century:

so when the nations, by a prouder godlessness, earned the punishment of the dispersion and the confusion of tongues, … there was still the house of Heber in which the primitive language of the race survived. … His family preserved that language which is not unreasonably believed to have been the common language of the race, it was on this account thenceforth named Hebrew.

For a long time, it was considered heresy to doubt that the Hebrew language and script of the Bible were inspired by God – including the so-called vowel points, which were actually added by rabbis several centuries after the beginning of our era.

Even today, Christians who take the Bible literally adhere to the traditional view. In 2011, the Dutchman Willem Westerbeke published a theological tract titled ‘God Spoke Hebrew’. And as in Christianity, so elsewhere: one Thakur Prasad Verma in 2005 claimed not only that Sanskrit was the original language of all humankind, but that it was a direct gift from above: ‘Vedas are verbal transformations of God.’ And in a scholarly tome, too.

Outside the churches, the consensus slowly began to crack and crumble from the Renaissance on and, between the 16th and 18th centuries, one scholar after another came up with other ‘first languages’ (see table below). German was a popular candidate, but the 17th-century Swedish scholar Olof Rudbeck favoured his own mother tongue, for a reason that was nothing if not creative: Sweden, he argued, was Atlantis, and thus the cradle of human civilisation.

                                        [Full article in the link above.]

What Nihilism is

What Nihilism is.

"Once upon a time, in some out of the way corner of that universe which is dispersed into numberless twinkling solar systems, there was a star upon which clever beasts invented knowing. That was the most arrogant and mendacious minute of ‘world history’, but nevertheless,it was only a minute. After nature had drawn a few breaths, the star cooled and congealed, and the clever beasts had to die. – One might invent such a fable, and yet he still would not have adequately illustrated how miserable, how shadowy and transient, how aimless and arbitrary the human intellect looks within nature. There were eternities during which it did not exist. And when it is all over with the human intellect, nothing will have happened."
                                                                                                  (Nietzsche 1873)

Being fed up with life & with men: One life is more than enough

In Burma, in a Buddhist sermon by one of the most senior monks in the country, a NY Times journalist talks to a lady:
I got talking to Daw Kyaing, aged 65, a woman with a lovely smile. I asked her why there were more women than men attending.

“Because only the women want to go to heaven. The men are busy drinking.”

“Where will the men go?

“To hell.”

“What do you want to be in in your next life?”

“I don’t want to come back in any form.”

“One life is enough?”

“More than enough.”

“You wouldn’t want to come back as a man?”

“No. I don’t want to drink. My husband was violent. We had 11 children. Now he can’t drink, so he doesn’t beat me anymore. I live with him, and grow rice, on a bend in the peaceful river.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/01/opinion/myanmar-rakhine-state-rohingya.html

I think that sums up things pretty well: Life is not worth living.Thats why there are anti-natalists: http://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/11/anti-natalist-philosophers-contend-life.html

Now, since you are alive, you may be useful to others. Or maybe you should be useful, we are not exempt of having good behavior, good words and good intentions:
  • care (with modest behavior) for your neighbors if you have no family or you are not in speaking terms with your kin;
  • try to be virtuous, from the easy to the difficult:
    • relatively easy: do not jump the queue, park the car well, do not litter, do not be noisy at home or in public, open the doors/give your seat to others (with modesty, not showing pompously you are such a good fellow), ...;
    • difficult: protect the weak, do not support discrimination of defenseless people --- this doesn't mean you need to offend the traditionalists in your country or family/clan/tribe, just be modest, rational and force you to believe that all human beings are that, human (not pigs/monkeys/cockroaches, as many say of those who are different), and behave with respect for all, despite their class defects (wrong religion, noisyness, wrong clothes, wrong customs, wrong politics, etc.);
  • work for some NGO some hours per week;
  • or create your own one --- possible ideas for your own NGO, besides helping neighbors:
  • teach your abilities to others (at work, to children in your area), always with modesty, since people is easly offended by those who offer help;
  • contribute a few pennies of your savings to buy a blanket, or water, or something else that is much needed for some person in your neighborhood (or a distant place, of course).
  • if you have talents for it, learn to play music, painting, etc., and entertain the others with your capabilities;
  • if you are exceptional in strength (physical and mental), you may some day be a firefighter, policeman, soldier;
  • try to be less sad, choleric, harsh to others;
  • physical exercise helps to be more useful in case of catastrophe.

Legal & readily accessible abortion is estimated to have caused a 34 pct reduction in first births, a 19 pct reduction in first marriages, & a 63 pct reduction in "shotgun marriages" prior to age 19

The Power of Abortion Policy: Reexamining the Effects of Young Women’s Access to Reproductive Control. Caitlin Knowles Myers. Journal of Political Economy, http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/pdfplus/10.1086/694293

Abstract: I provide new evidence on the relative “powers” of contraception and abortion policy in effecting the dramatic social transformations of the 1960s and 1970s. Trends in sexual behavior suggest that young women’s increased access to the birth control pill fueled the sexual revolution, but neither these trends nor difference-in-difference estimates support the view that this also led to substantial changes in family formation. Rather, the estimates robustly suggest that it was liberalized access to abortion that allowed large numbers of women to delay marriage and motherhood.

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[...] policy environments in which abortion has legal and readily accessible by young women are estimated to have caused a 34 percent reduction in first births, a 19 percent reduction in first marriages, and a 63 percent reduction in "shotgun marriages" prior to age 19.

[...]

Between the 1950 and 1955 birth cohorts, the fraction of women having sex prior to age 18 increased from 34 to 47 percent.

[...] cohorts that experienced the most rapid changes in sexual behavior exhibited little change in fertility.

[...]

Lahey (2014)...finds that the introduction of abortion restrictions in the nineteenth century increased birthrates by 4-12 percent...

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Women's attractiveness is linked to expected age at menopause

Bovet, J., Barkat-Defradas, M., Durand, V., Faurie, C. and Raymond, M. (), Women's attractiveness is linked to expected age at menopause. J. Evol. Biol. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1111/jeb.13214

Abstract: A great number of studies have shown that features linked to immediate fertility explain a large part of the variance in female attractiveness. This is consistent with an evolutionary perspective, as men are expected to prefer females at the age at which fertility peaks (at least for short-term relationships) in order to increase their reproductive success. However, for long-term relationships, a high residual reproductive value (the expected future reproductive output, linked to age at menopause) becomes relevant as well. In that case, young age AND late menopause are expected to be preferred by men. However, the extent to which facial features provide cues to the likely age at menopause has never been investigated so far. Here, we show that expected age at menopause is linked to facial attractiveness of young women. As age at menopause is heritable, we used the mother's age at menopause as a proxy for her daughter's expected age of menopause. We found that men judged faces of women with a later expected age at menopause as more attractive than those of women with an earlier expected age at menopause. This result holds when age, cues of immediate fertility and facial ageing were controlled for. Additionally, we found that the expected age at menopause was not correlated with any of the other variables considered (including immediate fertility cues and facial ageing). Our results show the existence of a new correlate of women's facial attractiveness, expected age at menopause, which is independent from immediate fertility cues and facial ageing.

Expressions of disgust serve to signal one's own moral intentions even when a different emotion is felt internally on the basis of appraisal

What Makes Moral Disgust Special? An Integrative Functional Review. Roger Giner-Sorolla, , Tom Kupfer, John Sabo. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, https://doi.org/10.1016/bs.aesp.2017.10.001

Abstract: The role of disgust in moral psychology has been a matter of much controversy and experimentation over the past 20 or so years. We present here an integrative look at the literature, organized according to the four functions of emotion proposed by integrative functional theory: appraisal, associative, self-regulation, and communicative. Regarding appraisals, we review experimental, personality, and neuroscientific work that has shown differences between elicitors of disgust and anger in moral contexts, with disgust responding more to bodily moral violations such as incest, and anger responding more to sociomoral violations such as theft. We also present new evidence for interpreting the phenomenon of sociomoral disgust as an appraisal of bad character in a person. The associative nature of disgust is shown by evidence for “unreasoning disgust,” in which associations to bodily moral violations are not accompanied by elaborated reasons, and not modified by appraisals such as harm or intent. We also critically examine the literature about the ability of incidental disgust to intensify moral judgments associatively. For disgust's self-regulation function, we consider the possibility that disgust serves as an existential defense, regulating avoidance of thoughts that might threaten our basic self-image as living humans. Finally, we discuss new evidence from our lab that moral disgust serves a communicative function, implying that expressions of disgust serve to signal one's own moral intentions even when a different emotion is felt internally on the basis of appraisal. Within the scope of the literature, there is evidence that all four functions of Giner-Sorolla’s (2012) integrative functional theory of emotion may be operating, and that their variety can help explain some of the paradoxes of disgust.

Keywords: Disgust; Anger; Morality; Emotions; Communication; Functionality

Friday, December 1, 2017

Although people tend to see themselves in the best possible light, also have a surprisingly grim, and inevitable, outlook on their social lives

Deri, S., Davidai, S., & Gilovich, T. (2017). Home alone: Why people believe others’ social lives are richer than their own. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 113(6), 858-877.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/pspa0000105

Abstract: Although decades of research show that people tend to see themselves in the best possible light, we present evidence that people have a surprisingly grim outlook on their social lives. In 11 studies (N = 3,293; including 3 preregistered), we find that most people think that others lead richer and more active social lives than they do themselves. We show that this bias holds across multiple populations (college students, MTurk respondents, shoppers at a local mall, and participants from a large, income-stratified online panel), correlates strongly with well-being, and is particularly acute for social activities (e.g., the number of parties one attends or proximity to the “inner circle” of one’s social sphere). We argue that this pessimistic bias stems from the fact that trendsetters and socialites come most easily to mind as a standard of comparison and show that reducing the availability of extremely social people eliminates this bias. We conclude by discussing implications for research on social comparison and self-enhancement.

Because people value living their lives in contact with reality, and care about who they are and what they do (“authenticity”), they reject living in a machine of only pleasurable experiences, but can accept an experience pill or a pill that improves overall functioning

Nozick’s experience machine: An empirical study. Frank Hindriks & Igor Douven. Philosophical Psychology, https://doi.org/10.1080/09515089.2017.1406600

Abstract: Many philosophers deny that happiness can be equated with pleasurable experiences. Nozick introduced an experience machine thought experiment to support the idea that happiness requires pleasurable experiences that are “in contact with reality.” In this thought experiment, people can choose to plug into a machine that induces exclusively pleasurable experiences. We test Nozick’s hypothesis that people will reject this offer. We also contrast Nozick’s experience machine scenario with scenarios that are less artificial, and offer options which are less invasive or disruptive than being connected to a machine, specifically scenarios in which people are offered an experience pill or a pill that improves overall functioning.

Keywords: Experience machine, happiness, Nozick

Not All Skepticism Is Equal: Exploring the Ideological Antecedents of Science Acceptance and Rejection

Not All Skepticism Is Equal: Exploring the Ideological Antecedents of Science Acceptance and Rejection. Bastiaan T. Rutjens, Robbie M. Sutton, Romy van der Lee. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167217741314

Abstract: Many topics that scientists investigate speak to people’s ideological worldviews. We report three studies—including an analysis of large-scale survey data—in which we systematically investigate the ideological antecedents of general faith in science and willingness to support science, as well as of science skepticism of climate change, vaccination, and genetic modification (GM). The main predictors are religiosity and political orientation, morality, and science understanding. Overall, science understanding is associated with vaccine and GM food acceptance, but not climate change acceptance. Importantly, different ideological predictors are related to the acceptance of different scientific findings. Political conservatism best predicts climate change skepticism. Religiosity, alongside moral purity concerns, best predicts vaccination skepticism. GM food skepticism is not fueled by religious or political ideology. Finally, religious conservatives consistently display a low faith in science and an unwillingness to support science. Thus, science acceptance and rejection have different ideological roots, depending on the topic of investigation.

Keywords science, religion, conservatism, morality, science skepticism, anti-science

Studying voluntary contributions to a public good: Four clearly distinct behavioural types account for over 90% of participants

Behavioural types in public goods games: A re-analysis by hierarchical clustering. Francesco Fallucchi & R. Andrew Luccasen. http://www.gambit-project.org/turocy

Abstract: We re-analyse participant behaviour in standard economics experiments studying voluntary contributions to a public good. Previous approaches were based in part on a priori models of decision-making, such as maximising personal earnings, or reciprocating the behaviour of others.  Many participants however do not conform to one of these models exactly, requiring ad hoc adjustments to the theoretical baselines to identify them as belonging to a given behavioural type.  We construct a typology of behaviour based on a similarity measure between strategies using hierarchical clustering analysis.  We identify four clearly distinct behavioural types which together account for over 90% of participants in six experimental studies.  The resulting type classification distinguishes behaviour across groups more consistently than previous approaches.

Keywords: behavioral economics, cluster analysis, cooperation, public goods
JEL Classifications: C65, C71, H41.

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Own-maximisers (OWN, 25.8% of participants) allocate zero or very few tokens to the group account in all contingencies, named because the modal allocation is zero. The modal behaviour among strong conditional cooperators (SCC, 38.8%) is to match average allocations on a one-to-one basis. The classification contrasts these with weak conditional cooperators (WCC, 18.9%), who have allocation strategies that are increasing in the allocations of other group members, contributing on average about half as much as the other group members. There is a small but distinct group of unconditional cooperators (UNC, 4.7%), corresponding to contributions which are at or near full contribution of the tokens  to the group account. (Recall that full contribution to the group account maximises the group’s total earnings from those tokens.) This labeling parallels that of Kurzban and Houser (2005), where, in a setting in which participants play the game repeatedly, those whose always contribute more than the average of the others in their group are called (unconditional) “cooperators”. The final cluster (11.8%) is labeled various (VAR), and contribute on average about one-half of the tokens. This group is the most diverse; in addition to a high frequency of contributions exactly equal to 10, there are also “negative conditional contributors” (Burton-Chellew et al., 2016) who decrease their contribution in response to higher contributions by others.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Safety First: Perceived Risk of Street Harassment and Educational Choices of Women in India

Safety First: Perceived Risk of Street Harassment and Educational Choices of Women. Girija Borker. https://www.brown.edu/academics/economics/candidates/girija-borker

Abstract: This paper examines the impact of perceived risk of street harassment on women's human capital attainment. I assemble a unique dataset that combines information on 4,000 students at the University of Delhi from a survey that I designed and conducted, a mapping of the potential travel routes to all colleges in the students' choice set using an algorithm I developed in Google Maps, and crowd-sourced mobile application safety data. Using a random utility framework, I estimate that women are willing to choose a college in the bottom half of the quality distribution over a college in the top quintile for a route that is perceived to be one standard deviation (SD) safer. Alternatively, women are willing to spend an additional INR 18,800 (USD 290) per year, relative to men, for a route that is one SD safer - an amount equal to double the average annual college tuition. These findings have implications for other economic decisions made by women. For example, it could help explain the puzzle of low female labor force participation in India.

Anti-natalist philosophers contend life is so painful that humans should not reproduce

The Case for Not Being Born: The anti-natalist philosopher David Benatar argues that it would be better if no one had children ever again. By Joshua Rothman. New Yorker, November 27, 2017. https://www.newyorker.com/culture/persons-of-interest/the-case-for-not-being-born

Anti-natalist philosophers contend life is so painful that humans should not reproduce.

David Benatar may be the world’s most pessimistic philosopher. An “anti-natalist,” he believes that life is so bad, so painful, that human beings should stop having children for reasons of compassion. “While good people go to great lengths to spare their children from suffering, few of them seem to notice that the one (and only) guaranteed way to prevent all the suffering of their children is not to bring those children into existence in the first place,” he writes, in a 2006 book called “Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming Into Existence.” In Benatar’s view, reproducing is intrinsically cruel and irresponsible—not just because a horrible fate can befall anyone, but because life itself is “permeated by badness.” In part for this reason, he thinks that the world would be a better place if sentient life disappeared altogether.

For a work of academic philosophy, “Better Never to Have Been” has found an unusually wide audience. It has 3.9 stars on GoodReads, where one reviewer calls it “required reading for folks who believe that procreation is justified.” A few years ago, Nic Pizzolatto, the screenwriter behind “True Detective,” read the book and made Rust Cohle, Matthew McConaughey’s character, a nihilistic anti-natalist. (“I think human consciousness is a tragic misstep in evolution,” Cohle says.) When Pizzolatto mentioned the book to the press, Benatar, who sees his own views as more thoughtful and humane than Cohle’s, emerged from an otherwise reclusive life to clarify them in interviews. Now he has published “The Human Predicament: A Candid Guide to Life’s Biggest Questions,” a refinement, expansion, and contextualization of his anti-natalist thinking. The book begins with an epigraph from T. S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets”—“Humankind cannot bear very much reality”—and promises to provide “grim” answers to questions such as “Do our lives have meaning?,” and “Would it be better if we could live forever?”

Benatar was born in South Africa in 1966. He is the head of the philosophy department at the University of Cape Town, where he also directs the university’s Bioethics Centre, which was founded by his father, Solomon Benatar, a global-health expert. (Benatar dedicated “Better Never to Have Been” “to my parents, even though they brought me into existence.”) Beyond these bare facts, little information about him is available online. There are no pictures of Benatar on the Internet; YouTube videos of his lectures consist only of PowerPoint slides. One video, titled “What Does David Benatar Look Like?,” zooms in on a grainy photograph taken from the back of a lecture hall until an arrow labelled “David Benatar” appears, indicating the abstract, pixellated head of a man in a baseball cap.

After finishing “The Human Predicament,” I wrote to Benatar to ask if we could meet. He readily agreed, then, after reading a few of my other pieces, followed up with a note. “I see that you aim to portray the person you interview, in addition to his or her work,” he wrote:
One pertinent fact about me is that I am a very private person who would be mortified to be written about in the kind of detail I’ve seen in the other interviews. I would thus decline to answer questions I would find too personal. (I would be similarly uncomfortable with a photograph of me being used.) I understand entirely if you would rather not proceed with the interview under these circumstances. If, however, you would be happy to conduct an interview that recognized this aspect of me, I would be delighted.

Undoubtedly, Benatar is a private person by nature. But his anonymity also serves a purpose: it prevents readers from psychologizing him and attributing his views to depression, trauma, or some other aspect of his personality. He wants his arguments to be confronted in themselves. “Sometimes people ask, ‘Do you have children?’ ” he told me later. (He speaks calmly and evenly, in a South African accent.) “And I say, ‘I don’t see why that’s relevant. If I do, I’m a hypocrite—but my arguments could still be right.’ ” When he told me that he’s had anti-natalist views since he was “very young,” I asked how young. “A child,” he said, after a pause. He smiled uncomfortably. This was exactly the kind of personal question he preferred not to answer.

Benatar and I met at the World Trade Center, where The New Yorker has its offices. He is small and trim, with an elfin face, and he was neatly dressed in trousers and a lavender sweater; I recognized him by his baseball cap. On the building’s sixty-fourth floor, we settled into a pair of plush chairs arranged near windows with panoramic views of Manhattan: the Hudson on the left, the East River on the right, the skyscrapers of midtown in the distance.

Social scientists often ask people about their levels of happiness. A typical survey asks respondents to rate their lives on a scale of one (“the worst possible life for you”) to ten (“the best possible life for you”); according to the 2017 World Happiness Report, Americans surveyed between 2014 and 2016 rated their lives, on average, 6.99—less happy than the lives of Canadians (7.32) and happier than those of citizens of Sudan (4.14). Another survey reads, “Taking all things together, would you say you are (i) Very happy, (ii) Rather happy, (iii) Not very happy or (iv) Not at all happy?” In recent years, in countries such as India, Russia, and Zimbabwe, responses to this question have been trending upward. In 1998, ninety-three per cent of Americans claimed to be very or rather happy. By 2014, after the Great Recession, the number had fallen, but only slightly, to ninety-one per cent.

People, in short, say that life is good. Benatar believes that they are mistaken. “The quality of human life is, contrary to what many people think, actually quite appalling,” he writes, in “The Human Predicament.” He provides an escalating list of woes, designed to prove that even the lives of happy people are worse than they think. We’re almost always hungry or thirsty, he writes; when we’re not, we must go to the bathroom. We often experience “thermal discomfort”—we are too hot or too cold—or are tired and unable to nap. We suffer from itches, allergies, and colds, menstrual pains or hot flashes. Life is a procession of “frustrations and irritations”—waiting in traffic, standing in line, filling out forms. Forced to work, we often find our jobs exhausting; even “those who enjoy their work may have professional aspirations that remain unfulfilled.” Many lonely people remain single, while those who marry fight and divorce. “People want to be, look, and feel younger, and yet they age relentlessly”:
They have high hopes for their children and these are often thwarted when, for example, the children prove to be a disappointment in some way or other. When those close to us suffer, we suffer at the sight of it. When they die, we are bereft.

The knee-jerk response to observations like these is, “If life is so bad, why don’t you just kill yourself?” Benatar devotes a forty-three-page chapter to proving that death only exacerbates our problems. “Life is bad, but so is death,” he concludes. “Of course, life is not bad in every way. Neither is death bad in every way. However, both life and death are, in crucial respects, awful. Together, they constitute an existential vise—the wretched grip that enforces our predicament.” It’s better, he argues, not to enter into the predicament in the first place. People sometimes ask themselves whether life is worth living. Benatar thinks that it’s better to ask sub-questions: Is life worth continuing? (Yes, because death is bad.) Is life worth starting? (No.)

Benatar is far from the only anti-natalist. Books such as Sarah Perry’s “Every Cradle Is a Grave” and Thomas Ligotti’s “The Conspiracy Against the Human Race” have also found audiences. There are many “misanthropic anti-natalists”: the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, for example, has thousands of members who believe that, for environmental reasons, human beings should cease to exist. For misanthropic anti-natalists, the problem isn’t life—it’s us. Benatar, by contrast, is a “compassionate anti-natalist.” His thinking parallels that of the philosopher Thomas Metzinger, who studies consciousness and artificial intelligence; Metzinger espouses digital anti-natalism, arguing that it would be wrong to create artificially conscious computer programs because doing so would increase the amount of suffering in the world. The same argument could apply to human beings.

Like a boxer who has practiced his counters, Benatar has anticipated a range of objections. Many people suggest that the best experiences in life—love, beauty, discovery, and so on—make up for the bad ones. To this, Benatar replies that pain is worse than pleasure is good. Pain lasts longer: “There’s such a thing as chronic pain, but there’s no such thing as chronic pleasure,” he said. It’s also more powerful: would you trade five minutes of the worst pain imaginable for five minutes of the greatest pleasure? Moreover, there’s an abstract sense in which missing out on good experiences isn’t as bad as having bad ones. “For an existing person, the presence of bad things is bad and the presence of good things is good,” Benatar explained. “But compare that with a scenario in which that person never existed—then, the absence of the bad would be good, but the absence of the good wouldn’t be bad, because there’d be nobody to be deprived of those good things.” This asymmetry “completely stacks the deck against existence,” he continued, because it suggests that “all the unpleasantness and all the misery and all the suffering could be over, without any real cost.”

Some people argue that talk of pain and pleasure misses the point: even if life isn’t good, it’s meaningful. Benatar replies that, in fact, human life is cosmically meaningless: we exist in an indifferent universe, perhaps even a “multiverse,” and are subject to blind and purposeless natural forces. In the absence of cosmic meaning, only “terrestrial” meaning remains—and, he writes, there’s “something circular about arguing that the purpose of humanity’s existence is that individual humans should help one another.” Benatar also rejects the argument that struggle and suffering, in themselves, can lend meaning to existence. “I don’t believe that suffering gives meaning,” Benatar said. “I think that people try to find meaning in suffering because the suffering is otherwise so gratuitous and unbearable.” It’s true, he said, that “Nelson Mandela generated meaning through the way he responded to suffering—but that’s not to defend the conditions in which he lived.”

I asked Benatar why the proper response to his arguments wasn’t to strive to make the world a better place. The possible creation of a better world in the future, he told me, hardly justifies the suffering of people in the present; at any rate, a dramatically improved world is impossible. “It’ll never happen. The lessons never seem to get learnt. They never seem to get learnt. Maybe the odd individual will learn them, but you still see this madness around you,” he said. “You can say, ‘For goodness’ sake! Can’t you see how you’re making the same mistakes humans have made before? Can’t we do this differently?’ But it doesn’t happen.” Ultimately, he said, “unpleasantness and suffering are too deeply written into the structure of sentient life to be eliminated.” His voice grew more urgent; his eyes teared up. “We’re asked to accept what is unacceptable. It’s unacceptable that people, and other beings, have to go through what they go through, and there’s almost nothing that they can do about it.” In an ordinary conversation, I would’ve murmured something reassuring. In this case, I didn’t know what to say.

Benatar had selected a vegan restaurant for lunch, and we set out to walk there, along the Hudson. At the end of Vesey Street, we passed the Irish Hunger Memorial—a quarter acre of soil transplanted from Ireland, in 2001, to commemorate the millions who had died during the country’s Great Famine. At Benatar’s suggestion, we spent a few minutes exploring and reading the historical quotes displayed in the entryway. The famine lasted seven years; recalling it, one man wrote, “It dwells in my memory as one long night of sorrow.”

It was a warm day. In Battery Park, mothers picnicked with their small children on the grass. A group of co-workers played table tennis. Down by the water, couples strolled hand in hand. There were runners on the path—shirtless men with muscular chests, women in stylish workout gear.

“Do you ever feel a dissonance between your beliefs and your environment?” I asked.

“I’m not opposed to people having fun, or in denial that life contains good things,” Benatar said, laughing. I glanced over to see that he had removed his sweater and was now in shirtsleeves. His cap appeared not to have moved. We reached the spot where, eight weeks later, a twenty-nine-year-old man in a van would kill eight people and injure eleven others.

Like everyone else, Benatar finds his views disturbing; he has, therefore, ambivalent feelings about sharing them. He wouldn’t walk into a church, stride to the pulpit, and declare that God doesn’t exist. Similarly, he doesn’t relish the idea of becoming an ambassador for anti-natalism. Life, he says, is already unpleasant enough. He reassures himself that, because his books are philosophical and academic, they will be read only by those who seek them out. He hears from readers who are grateful to find their own secret thoughts expressed. One man with several children read “Better Never to Have Been,” then told Benatar that he believed having them had been a terrible mistake; people suffering from terrible mental and physical afflictions write to say they wish that they had never existed. He also hears from people who share his views and are disabled by them. “I’m just filled with sadness for people like that,” he said, in a soft voice. “They have an accurate view of reality, and they’re paying the price for it.” I asked Benatar whether he ever found his own thoughts overwhelming. He smiled uncomfortably—another personal question—and said, “Writing helps.”

He doesn’t imagine that anti-natalism could ever be widely adopted: “It runs counter to too many biological drives.” Still, for him, it’s a source of hope. “The madness of the world as a whole—what can you or I do about that?” he said, while we walked. “But every couple, or every person, can decide not to have a child. That’s an immense amount of suffering that’s avoided, which is all to the good.” When friends have children, he must watch his words. “I’m torn,” he said. Having a child is “pretty horrible, given the predicament in which it will find itself”; on the other hand, “optimism makes life more bearable.” Some years ago, when a fellow-philosopher told him that she was pregnant, his response was muted. Come on, she insisted—you have to be happy for me. Benatar consulted his conscience, then said, “I am happy—for you.”

At lunch, we sat next to a little girl and her mother. The girl was around eight years old, wearing a dress and holding a book. “Do you want to take these home?” her mother asked, pointing to some French fries.

“Yes!” the girl said.

My conversation with Benatar continued, but I found it hard to talk about anti-natalism while sitting next to the mother and daughter. We spent much of our lunch amiably discussing our work habits. On the street, we shook hands. “I’m just going to walk around a bit,” Benatar said. He planned to wander the West Village before heading to the airport. I walked south and, near the World Trade Center, descended into the Oculus, the vast, sepulchral mall and train station that has replaced the one destroyed in the 9/11 attacks. With its towering, spine-like roof and white-marble ribs, it is part skeleton, part cathedral. Standing on the escalator, I watched as a woman with one arm in her jacket struggled to insert the other. An overweight businessman, his ears plugged with earbuds, brushed past me, jostling me with his briefcase. As he reached the bottom, he held the woman’s coat, and she slipped into it.

Joshua Rothman is The New Yorker’s archive editor. He is also a frequent contributor to newyorker.com, where he writes about books and ideas

Psychometric and Faciometric Support for Observable Facial Feminization in Gay Men: Both Men And Women Find Them More Attractive

Psychometric and Faciometric Support for Observable Facial Feminization in Gay Men. Julia M. Robertson, Barbara E Kingsley & Gina C. Ford. Journal of Homosexuality, https://doi.org/10.1080/00918369.2017.1411692

ABSTRACT: Though male homosexuality appears to be evolutionarily paradoxical, phenotypic feminization has been offered as a route for three current models positing a genetic basis for male homosexuality. We tested whether facial feminization is observable in gay men in two studies. In Study 1, using two composite images of gay and of heterosexual men, naive participants (N = 308) rated the ‘gay’ face more highly on stereotypically feminine traits and actual femininity and the ‘heterosexual’ face more highly on stereotypically masculine traits and actual masculinity. In Study 2, faciometrics of 428 internet images of gay (N = 219) and heterosexual men were analyzed along six, sexually dimorphic ratios. The faciometrics of gay men were more feminine, both in gestalt terms, and for five of the six individual traits. The studies offer objective support for a more feminized facial phenotype in gay males that is difficult to explain through cultural or behavioral cues.

KEYWORDS: Feminization, faciometric, facial metrics, sexual dimorphism, homosexual men, sexually antagonistic selection, cheekbone prominence, eye mouth eye angle, lip depth

Effects of Domestication on the Vocal Communication of Dogs: Able to Target Barks at Humans, Leaving Aside Othe Dogs

Modeling Evolutionary Changes in Information Transfer: Effects of Domestication on the Vocal Communication of Dogs (Canis familiaris). Peter Pongracz. European Psychologist (2017), 22, pp. 219-232.

Abstract. Interspecific communication provides good opportunity for studying signal evolution. In this theoretical paper, we hypothesized that vocal signaling in dogs may show specific changes that made it more suitable for interspecific communication in the anthropogenic niche. We assumed that (1) some dog vocalizations will diverge from the corresponding exemplars of wolves; (2) they provide comprehendible affective, indexical, and contextual information for humans; (3) some aspects of dog vocalizations are more typical for the interspecific than for the intraspecific domain. We found that the most unique type of vocalization in the dog is barking. We proved that human listeners can contextually categorize dog barks, as well as attribute distinct inner states of dogs based on the barks. We found that dogs are sensitive to both contextual and individual-specific features of other dogs’ barks. However, dogs showed almost no response to the bark emitted in isolation, which is one of the easiest to recognize by humans, indicating the possibility of a specific, new communicative role for barks, not present in its original function. Our conclusion is that the qualitative and quantitative proliferation of barks can be explained by mechanisms of evolution such as ritualization and adaptive radiation. Barks became suitable for conveying a more various set of information than the original barks of wolves did. Barks also became typical in such contexts where originally they were not used – such as the contact seeking calls of isolated specimens, apparently targeted at the human, and not at a canine audience.

Keywords: dog, vocalizations, evolution, adaptive radiation

Does Religious Attendance Moderate the Connection between Pornography Consumption and Attitudes toward Women?

Does Religious Attendance Moderate the Connection between Pornography Consumption and Attitudes toward Women? Kyler R Rasmussen & Taylor Kohut. The Journal of Sex Research, https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2017.1396571

Abstract: Feminist theory and religious doctrines alike often suggest that pornography alters the attitudes of those who consume it, particularly with respect to how consumers view women. Many would assume that pornography would universally encourage sexism and female objectification, but recent evidence has linked pornography use with more gender egalitarian views. Using data from a large-scale, nationally representative survey, we argue that cognitive dissonance among pornography consumers could alter egalitarian attitudes. We found that those who reported consuming pornography had more egalitarian attitudes than those who did not, but this difference was stronger among those who attended religious services more regularly—those who would be likely to experience dissonance when consuming pornography. This pattern was consistent across the three egalitarian attitudes we examined: attitudes toward women in power, women in the workplace, and abortion. Our results suggest that pornography might foster progressive attitudes among those most likely to hold conservative beliefs.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Real-life schadenfreude events: No correlation with personality traits

The Relationship Between Personality and Schadenfreude in Hypothetical Versus Live Situations. Keegan D. Greenier. Psychological Reports, https://doi.org/10.1177/0033294117745562

Abstract: This study sought to investigate how individual differences are related to schadenfreude (pleasure derived from another’s misfortune) by replicating past findings and extending them to additional personality traits. Because most past research on schadenfreude has relied heavily on the use of reactions to hypothetical scenarios, an attempt was made to demonstrate external validity by also including a reaction to a live event (confederate misfortune). For the scenarios, schadenfreude was positively correlated with the Dark Triad and just world beliefs; negatively correlated with empathy and agreeableness; and uncorrelated with dispositional envy, self-esteem, or the remaining Big Five traits. For the live event, no personality traits were correlated with schadenfreude, suggesting responses to hypothetical situations may not be representative of real-life schadenfreude events.

Keywords Schadenfreude, empathy, Dark Triad, agreeableness, just world beliefs, envy, self-esteem, five-factor model