Sunday, December 17, 2017

Romanticizing the Hunter-Gatherer, Despite the Girl Infanticide, the Homicide Rate, etc.

Romanticizing the Hunter-Gatherer. William Buckner. Quillette, December 16, 2017. Check full text, table, photos, at

O Man, to whatever country you belong and whatever your opinions, listen: here is your history as I believe I have read it, not in the books of your fellow men who are liars but in Nature which never lies.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, A Discourse on Inequality

In 1966, at the ‘Man the Hunter’ symposium held at the University of Chicago, anthropologist Richard B. Lee presented a paper that would radically rewrite how academics and the public at large interpret life in hunter-gatherer societies. Questioning the notion that the hunter-gatherer way of life is a “precarious and arduous struggle for existence,” Lee instead described a society of relative comfort and abundance. Lee studied the !Kung of the Dobe area in the Kalahari Desert (also known variously as Bushmen, the San people, or the Ju/’hoansi) and noted that they required only 12 to 19 hours a week to collect all the food they needed. Lee further criticized the notion that hunter-gatherers have a low life expectancy, arguing that the proportion of individuals older than 60 among the !Kung, “compares favorably to the percentage of elderly in industrialized populations.”1 [...].

[photo removed: book Affluence without Abundance by James Suzman]

It’s not often that you see a 50-year-old paper repeatedly referenced in mainstream publications, but you can find mentions of Lee’s work pretty much everywhere today. In the Guardian, the New York Times, the London Review of Books, the Financial Times, and Salon, among others. Much of this attention has to do with two recently published books, Against the Grain by James C. Scott and Affluence without Abundance by James Suzman, both of which are informed by Lee and Sahlins’s conception of hunter-gatherer affluence. An article in the September 18 issue of the New Yorker by John Lanchester heavily cites each of these books in order to make “The Case Against Civilization.”


Let us first revisit the !Kung themselves. As Lee himself would later mention in his 1984 book on the Dobe !Kung, his original estimate of 12-19 hours worked per week did not include food processing, tool making, or general housework, and when such activities were included he estimated that the !Kung worked about 40-44 hours per week.2 Lee noted that this number still compares quite favorably to the average North American wage earner, who spends over 40 hours a week above their wage labor doing housework or shopping. Even with the revised figures, this seems to indeed point to a life of greater leisure among hunter-gatherers (or, at least, among the !Kung) than industrialized populations. However, it is important to note that this does not take into account the difficulty or danger involved in the types of tasks undertaken by hunter-gatherers. It is when you look into the data on mortality rates, and dig through diverse ethnographic accounts, that you realize how badly mistaken claims about an “original affluent society” really are.

While you’ll read much about Lee’s work in the popular press, you’ll find little on his critics. Anthropologists Henry Harpending and LuAnn Wandsnider wrote, “Lee’s (1968, 1969, 1979) studies of !Kung diet and caloric intake have generated a misleading belief among anthropologists and others that !Kung are well fed and under little or no nutritional stress.”3 They note that “1964 may have been an unusually productive year for bush food,” and compare it with work describing the severe effects of the 1973 environment, “…people were starving, and weight loss and widespread social disruption occurred.” In 1986, Nancy Howell wrote that “…the !Kung are very thin and complain often of hunger, at all times of the year.”4  In Hunter and Habitat in the Central Kalahari Desert, George B. Silberbauer states that, “Undoubtedly Bushmen do succumb in years of very serious drought,” and describes how 37 individuals of another San population, the G/wi, died of dehydration during the drought of 1939.5 And in a 1986 article entitled “Ethnographic Romanticism and the Idea of Human Nature,” Melvin Konner & Marjorie Shostak summed it up well, stating that, “Data on morbidity and mortality, though not necessarily relevant to abundance, certainly made use of the term “affluent” seem inappropriate.”6

[photo removed: Two Hadzabe men in Tanzania returning from a hunt]

In his later work, Lee would acknowledge that, “Historically, the Ju/’hoansi have had a high infant mortality rate…”7 In a study on the life histories of the !Kung Nancy Howell found that the number of infants who died before the age of 1 was roughly 20 percent.8 (As high as this number is, it compares favorably with estimates from some other hunter-gatherer societies, such as among the Casiguran Agta of the Phillipines, where the rate is 34 percent.)9  Life expectancy for the !Kung is 36 years of age.10 Again, while this number is only about half the average life expectancy found among contemporary nation states, this number still compares favorably with several other hunter-gatherer populations, such as the Hiwi (27 years) and the Agta (21 years). [...] 11

Much is made of the increased risk of infectious disease in large, concentrated, sedentary populations, but comparatively little attention has been given to the risk of ‘traveler’s diarrhea’ common among hunter-gatherers. For mobile groups, infants, the elderly, and other vulnerable individuals have little opportunity to develop resistance to local pathogens. This may help explain why infant and child mortality among hunter-gatherers tends to be so high. Across hunter-gatherer societies, only about 57% of children born survive to the age of 15. Sedentary populations of forager-horticulturalists, and acculturated hunter-gatherers, have a greater number of children surviving into adulthood, with 64% and 67%, respectively, surviving to the age of 15.

But what about egalitarianism? In a 2004 study, Michael Gurven marshals an impressive amount of cross-cultural data and notes that hunters tend to keep more of their kill for themselves and their families than they share with others.12 While there is undeniably a great deal of sharing across hunter-gatherer societies, common notions of generalized equality are greatly overstated. Even in circumstances where hunters give away more of their meat than they end up receiving from others in return, good hunters tend to be accorded high status, and rewarded with more opportunities to reproduce everywhere the relationship has been studied.13 When taking into account ‘embodied wealth’ such as hunting returns and reproductive success, and ‘relational wealth’ such as the number of exchange and sharing partners, Alden Smith et al. calculated that hunter-gatherer societies have a ‘moderate’ level of inequality, roughly comparable to that of Denmark.14 While this is less inequality than most agricultural societies and nation states, it’s not quite the level of egalitarianism many have come to expect from hunter-gatherers.

In the realm of reproductive success, hunter-gatherers are even more unequal than modern industrialized populations, exhibiting what is called “greater reproductive skew,” with males having significantly larger variance in reproductive success than females.15 Among the Ache of Paraguay, males have over 4 times the variance in reproductive success that females do, which is one of the highest ratios recorded. This means some males end up having lots of children with different women, while a significant number of males end up having none at all. This is reflected in the fact that polygynous marriage is practiced in the majority of hunter-gatherer societies for which there are data. Across these societies, the average age at marriage for females is only 13.8, while the average age at marriage for males is 20.7.16 Rather than defending what would be considered child marriage in contemporary Western societies, anthropologists often omit mentioning this information entirely.

According to anthropologists Douglas Fry and Geneviève Souillac, “Nomadic forager data suggest a human predilection toward equality, including gender equality, in ethos and action,”17 yet the available data do not support this notion in the slightest. On the contrary, in 1978 Robert Tonkinson had found that, among the Mardu hunter-gatherers of Australia, “Mardu men accord themselves greater ritual responsibility, higher status, more power, and more rights than women. It is a society in which male interests generally prevail when rights are contested and in the centrally important arena of religious life.”18 Among the Hiwi of Venezuela, and the Ache of Paraguay, female infants and children are disproportionately victims of infanticide, neglect, and child homicide.19 20 It is in fact quite common in hunter-gatherer societies that are at war, or heavily reliant on male hunting for subsistence, for female infants to be habitually neglected or killed.21 22 In 1931, Knud Rasmussen recorded that, among the Netsilik Inuit, who were almost wholly reliant on male hunting and fishing, out of 96 births from parents he interviewed, 38 girls were killed (nearly 40 percent).23

It is also instructive to compare the homicide rates of hunter-gatherer societies with those of contemporary nation states. In a 2013 paper entitled “From the Peaceful to the Warlike,” anthropologist Robert Kelly provides homicide data for 15 hunter-gatherer societies.24

tabled removed: Kelly’s table is published in ‘War, Peace and Human Nature: The Convergence of Evolutionary and Cultural Views’ edited by Douglas P. Fry, p 153.

11 of these 15 societies have homicide rates higher than that of the most violent modern nation, and 14 out of the 15 have homicide rates higher than that of the United States in 2016. The one exception, the Batek of Malaysia, have a long history of being violently attacked and enslaved by neighboring groups, and developed a survival tactic of running away and studiously avoiding conflict. Yet even they recount tales of wars in the past, where their shamans would shoot enemies with blowpipes.25 Interestingly, Ivan Tacey & Diana Riboli have noted that “…the Batek frequently recount their nostalgic memories of British doctors, administrators and army personnel visiting their communities in helicopters to deliver medicines and other supplies,” which conflicts with the idea that hunter-gatherer societies would have no want or need of anything nation states have to offer. From 1920-1955 the !Kung had a homicide rate of 42/100,000 (about 8 times that of the US rate in 2016), however Kelly mentions that, “murders ceased after 1955 due to the presence of an outside police force.”

Many of the recent articles in the popular media on hunter-gatherer societies have failed to represent these societies accurately. The picture you get from reading articles in publications like the New Yorker and the Guardian, or from anthropologists like Douglas Fry and James Suzman, is often quite different from what a deep dive into the ethnographic record reveals. The excessive reliance on a single paper published 50 years ago has contributed to some severe misconceptions about hunter-gatherer ‘affluence,’ and their relative freedom from scarcity and disease. There is a tendency to downplay the benefits of modern medicine, institutions, and infrastructure – as well as the very real costs of not having access to them – in these discussions [...]

So, what explains the popularity of this notion of an “original affluent society”? Why do people in societies with substantially greater life expectancy, reduced infant mortality, greater equality in reproductive success, and reduced rates of violence,26 27 romanticize a way of life filled with hardships they have never experienced? In wealthy, industrialized populations oriented around consumerism and occupational status, the idea that there are people out there living free of greed, in natural equality and harmony, provides an attractive alternative way of life. To quote anthropologist David Kaplan, “The original affluent society thesis then may be as much a commentary on our own society as it is a depiction of the life of hunter-gatherers. And that may be its powerful draw and lasting appeal.”28 One might think that if avarice, status hierarchies, and inequality are peculiarly modern phenomena, then maybe they aren’t part of human nature, and with the right kind of activism, and enough forward-thinking individuals, such problems can be readily solved by changing the culture.


Additionally, progressives and many anthropologists understandably do not wish to denigrate other cultures, or to give the appearance of doing so. In his book Sick Societies, anthropologist Robert Edgerton writes, “…certain practices, all anthropologists know, are sometimes not reported because doing so would offend the people being described or discredit them in the eyes of others.”29 [...]

At this year’s annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association, President Alisse Waterston said that the “responsibility now for anthropologists is to participate in envisioning an alternative world.” [...]

For as long as humans have been around, people the world over have faced similar struggles: getting enough to eat, navigating social relationships, dealing with parasites and disease, raising their young. It’s a nice idea to believe that somewhere deep in the past, or still today in a more remote part of the world, there existed or exists a society that has figured it all out; where everyone is healthy and happy and equal, untouched by the difficulties of modern living. But even if violence, inequality, discrimination, and other social problems are universal and part of human nature, that doesn’t mean their prevalence can’t be reduced. They can and recent trends make this abundantly clear. Denying the scope of the problem, pretending that these social issues are uniquely modern or uniquely Western, or the product of agriculture or capitalism, does not help to fix our contemporary social ills. Instead it leaves us more confused about the causes of these problems, and, consequently, less equipped to solve them.

William Buckner is a student of Evolutionary Anthropology at UC Davis. He is interested in cultural evolution and understanding human conflict patterns across cultures. He can be followed on Twitter @Evolving_Moloch


1 Lee, R., 1966, What Hunters Do for a Living, or, How to Make Out on Scarce Resources. In Man the Hunter (ed. by R. Lee & I. Devore). Chicago: Aldine Publishing.

2 Lee, R., 1984, 2013 The Dobe Ju/’hoansi, Belmont: Cengage Learning.

3 Harpending, H., & Wandsnider, L., 1982, Population Structure of Ghanzi and Ngamiland !Kung. Current Developments in Anthropological Genetics

4 Howell, N., 1986, Feedback and buffers in Relation to Scarcity and Abundance: Studies of Hunter-Gatherer Populations. in The State of Population Theory (ed. by D. Coleman and R. Schofield). New York: Basil Blackwell.

5 Silberbauer, G., 1981, Hunter and Habitat in the Central Kalahari Desert. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

6 Konner, M., & Shostak, M., 1986, Ethnographic Romanticism and the Idea of Human Nature: Parallels Between Samoa and !Kung San. in The Past and Future of !Kung Ethnography: Critical Reflections and Symbolic Perspectives. Essays in Honour of Lorna Marshall (ed. by M. Biesele). Netherlands: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

7 Lee, R., 1984, 2013 The Dobe Ju/’hoansi, Belmont: Cengage Learning.

8 Howell, N., 1979, Demography of the Dobe !Kung. New York: Academic Press.

9 Headland, T., 1988, Ecosystemic change in a Philippine tropical rainforest and its effect on a Negrito foraging society, Tropical Ecology

10 Gurven, M., & Kaplan, H., 2007 Longevity Among Hunter-Gatherers: A Cross-Cultural Examination, Population and Development Review

11 Migliano, A.B., et al., 2007, Life History Trade-Offs Explain the Evolution of Human Pygmies, PNAS

12 Gurven, M., 2004, To Give and to Give Not: The Behavioral Ecology of Human Food Transfers, Behavioral and Brain Sciences

13 Alden Smith, E., 2004 Why do good hunters have higher reproductive success? Human Nature

14 Alden Smith, E., et al., 2010, Wealth Transmission and Inequality Among Hunter-Gatherers, Current Anthropology

15 Brown, G., et al., 2009, Bateman’s principles and human sex roles, Cell Press

16 Binford, L., 2001, Constructing Frames of Reference, An Analytical Method for Archaeological Theory Building Using Ethnographic and Environmental Data Sets. Berkeley: University of California Press.

17 Fry, D., & Souillac, G., 2017, The Original Partnership Societies: Evolved Propensities for Equality, Prosociality, and Peace, Interdisciplinary Journal of Partnership Societies

18 Tonkinson, R., 1978, The Mardudjara Aborigines: Living the dream in Australia’s desert. New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston.

19 Hill, K., et al., 2007 High adult mortality among Hiwi hunter-gatherers: Implications for human evolution, Journal of Human Evolution

20 Hurtado, A.M., & Hill, K., 1996, Ache Life History: The Ecology and Demography of Foraging People. New York. Routledge

21 Divale, W.T., & Harris, M., 1976, Population, Warfare, and the Male Supremacist Complex, American Anthropologist

22 Hewlett, B.S., 1991, Demography and Childcare in Preindustrial Societies, Journal of Anthropological Research

23 Rasmussen, K., 1931, The Netsilik Eskimos, Social Life and Spiritual Culture. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.

24 Kelly, R., 2013, From the Peaceful to the Warlike: Ethnographic and Archaeological Insights into Hunter-Gatherer-Warfare and Homicide. in War, Peace, and Human Nature: The Convergence of Evolutionary and Cultural Views (ed. by Douglas P. Fry). United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.

25 Tacey, I., & Fiboli, D., 2014, Violence, fear and anti-violence: the Batek of Peninsular Malaysia, Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research

26 Keeley, L., 1996, War Before Civilization. United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.

27 Pinker, S., 2011, The Better Angles of Our Nature. London: Penguin Books.

28 Kaplan, D., 2000, The Darker Side of the “Original Affluent Society”, Journal of Anthropological Research

29 Edgerton, R.B., 1992, 2010, Sick Societies. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Perpetrator as a Potential Victim. Does Threatened Retaliation from the Victim Reduce Obedience towards Authority?

Grzyb, T. & Doliński, D., (2017). Perpetrator as a Potential Victim. Does Threatened Retaliation from the Victim Reduce Obedience towards Authority? Psychologica Belgica. 57(2), pp.123–132. DOI:

Abstract: In an experiment conducted within the Milgram paradigm, it was examined whether obedience towards an authority would be reduced in conditions in which the teacher had grounds to fear revenge from the learner. A comparison was made of the behaviour of participants in classic conditions and in conditions in which they were told that following the first part of the experiment, there would be an alteration of roles: the teacher would become the learner. It turned out that the level of compliance was the same in both groups. The dominant behaviour, regardless of whether the participant expects a change of roles or not, is total obedience.

Keywords: retaliation,  social influence,  obedience,  Milgram paradigm

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Paleoclimatological Context and Reference Level of the 2°C and 1.5°C Paris Agreement Long-Term Temperature Limits

Paleoclimatological Context and Reference Level of the 2°C and 1.5°C Paris Agreement Long-Term Temperature Limits. Sebastian Lüning and Fritz Vahrenholt. Front. Earth Sci., December 12 2017.

The Paris Agreement adopted in December 2015 during the COP21 conference stipulates that the increase in the global average temperature is to be kept well below 2°C above “pre-industrial levels” and that efforts are pursued to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above “pre-industrial levels.” In order to further increase public acceptance of these limits it is important to transparently place the target levels and their baselines in a paleoclimatic context of the past 150,000 years (Last Interglacial, LIG) and in particular of the last 10,000 years (Holocene; Present Interglacial, PIG). Intense paleoclimatological research of the past decade has firmed up that pre-industrial temperatures have been highly variable which needs to be reflected in the pre-industrial climate baseline definitions. The currently used reference level 1850–1900 represents the end of the Little Ice Age (LIA). The LIA represents the coldest phase of the last 10,000 years when mean temperatures deviated strongly negatively from the Holocene average and which therefore are hard to justify as a representative pre-industrial baseline. The temperature level reached during the interval 1940–1970 may serve as a better reference level as it appears to roughly correspond to the average pre-industrial temperature of the past two millennia. Placing the climate limits in an enlarged paleoclimatic context will help to demonstrate that the chosen climate targets are valid and represent dangerous extremes of the known natural range of Holocene temperature variability.

Influence of Body Odors and Gender on Perceived Genital Arousal

Influence of Body Odors and Gender on Perceived Genital Arousal. Patrícia Alves-Oliveira et al. Archives of Sexual Behavior,

Abstract: Olfaction is often linked to mating behavior in nonhumans. Additionally, studies in mating behavior have shown that women seem to be more affected by odor cues than men. However, the relationship between odor cues and sexual response—specifically, sexual arousal—has not been studied yet. The aim of this study was to evaluate the impact of the exposure to human body odors (from individuals of the opposite gender) on perceived genital arousal, while these were presented concomitantly to sexually explicit video clips. Eighty university students (40 women) rated their perceived genital arousal (perceived degree of erection/genital lubrication) in response to an audiovisual sexual stimulus, while simultaneously exposed to a body odor from an opposite-gender donor or no odor. Participants also rated each odor sample’s (body odor and no odor) perceived pleasantness, intensity, and familiarity. Findings indicated that odor condition had an effect on women’s (but not men’s) perceived genital arousal, with women showing higher levels of perceived genital arousal in the no odor condition. Also, results showed that women rated body odors as less pleasant than no odor. Notwithstanding, the odor ratings do not seem to explain the association between body odor and perceived genital arousal. The current results support the hypothesis that women, rather than men, are sensitive to odors in the context of sexual response. The findings of this study have relevance for the understanding of human sexuality with respect to chemosensory communication.

Understanding the Relationship Between Facebook, Twitter, and Political Understanding

Siegel, Ruby. 2017. “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Social Media: Understanding the Relationship Between Facebook, Twitter, and Political Understanding”. SocArXiv. December 15.

Abstract: Social media is ubiquitous and holds a significant place in modern society. Social media feeds are inundated with political content and are used by politicians and citizens alike to post political commentary. Neither mass media nor politics are new areas of study in sociology, but the entanglement of the two is proving to be of interest, as some scholarship argues that social media is driving changes in how politics works in the United States. We must consider how the citizenry consumes and processes political information in the modern era in view of the interplay between social media and current events. This study examines how membership and/or regular use of Facebook, and membership and/or regular use of Twitter affects perceived political understanding. I propose that, respectively, Facebook and Twitter use will increase perception of political understanding. Analysis of data from the 2016 General Social Survey reveals that Twitter membership and/or regular use is correlated with political understanding; meaning that those who use Twitter are more likely to believe they have an understanding of the political issues facing our country. The data confirms that the relationship between social media and political understanding must be taken seriously, and warrants deeper exploration. There is a need for future research that explores the kinds of content individuals consume on social media and the time they spend on these sites in order to develop a more robust understanding of exactly how social media use affects political understanding

Other People’s Money: Money’s Perceived Purchasing Power Is Smaller for Others Than for the Self

Evan Polman, Daniel A Effron, Meredith R Thomas; Other People’s Money: Money’s Perceived Purchasing Power Is Smaller for Others Than for the Self, Journal of Consumer Research, , ucx119,

Abstract: Nine studies find that people believe their money has greater purchasing power than the same quantity of others’ money. Using a variety of products from socks to clocks to chocolates, we found that participants thought the same amount of money could buy more when it belonged to themselves versus others—a pattern that extended to undesirable products. Participants also believed their money—in the form of donations, taxes, fines, and fees—would help charities and governments more than others’ money. We tested six mechanisms based on psychological distance, the endowment effect, wishful thinking, better-than-average biases, pain of payment, and beliefs about product preferences. Only a psychological distance mechanism received support. Specifically, we found that the perceived purchasing power of other people’s money decreased logarithmically as others’ psychological distance from the self increased, consistent with psychological distance’s subadditive property. Further supporting a psychological distance mechanism, we found that framing one’s own money as distant (versus near) reduced the self-other difference in perceived purchasing power. Our results suggest that beliefs about the value of money depend on who owns it, and we discuss implications for marketing, management, psychology, and economics.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Understanding Libertarian Morality: The Psychological Dispositions of Self-Identified Libertarians (2012)

Understanding Libertarian Morality: The Psychological Dispositions of Self-Identified Libertarians. Ravi Iyer, Spassena Koleva, Jesse Graham, Peter Ditto, Jonathan Haidt. PLoS,

Abstract: Libertarians are an increasingly prominent ideological group in U.S. politics, yet they have been largely unstudied. Across 16 measures in a large web-based sample that included 11,994 self-identified libertarians, we sought to understand the moral and psychological characteristics of self-described libertarians. Based on an intuitionist view of moral judgment, we focused on the underlying affective and cognitive dispositions that accompany this unique worldview. Compared to self-identified liberals and conservatives, libertarians showed 1) stronger endorsement of individual liberty as their foremost guiding principle, and weaker endorsement of all other moral principles; 2) a relatively cerebral as opposed to emotional cognitive style; and 3) lower interdependence and social relatedness. As predicted by intuitionist theories concerning the origins of moral reasoning, libertarian values showed convergent relationships with libertarian emotional dispositions and social preferences. Our findings add to a growing recognition of the role of personality differences in the organization of political attitudes.

Summary at The Largest Study Ever of Libertarian Psychology. Jonathan Haidt. Aug 26 2012. (with full links). Extract:
1) On moral values: Libertarians match liberals in placing a relatively low value on the moral foundations of loyalty, authority, and sanctity (e.g., they’re not so concerned about sexual issues and flag burning), but they join conservatives in scoring lower than liberals on the care and fairness foundations (where fairness is mostly equality, not proportionality; e.g., they don’t want a welfare state and heavy handed measures to enforce equality). This is why libertarians can’t be placed on the spectrum from left to right: they have a unique pattern that is in no sense just somewhere in the middle. They really do put liberty above all other values.

2) On reasoning and emotions: Libertarians have the most “masculine” style, liberals the most “feminine.” We used Simon Baron-Cohen’s measures of “empathizing” (on which women tend to score higher) and “systemizing”, which refers to “the drive to analyze the variables in a system, and to derive the underlying rules that govern the behavior of the system.” Men tend to score higher on this variable. Libertarians score the lowest of the three groups on empathizing, and highest of the three groups on systemizing. (Note that we did this and all other analyses for males and females separately.) On this and other measures, libertarians consistently come out as the most cerebral, most rational, and least emotional. On a very crude problem solving measure related to IQ, they score the highest. Libertarians, more than liberals or conservatives, have the capacity to reason their way to their ideology.

3) On relationships: Libertarians are the most individualistic; they report the weakest ties to other people. They score lowest of the three groups on many traits related to sociability, including extroversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. They have a morality that matches their sociability – one that emphasizes independence, rather than altruism or patriotism.

In other words: Libertarians, liberals, and conservatives all differ from each on dozens of psychological traits, which help to explain why people – even siblings in the same family — gravitate to different ideological positions as they grow up. Understanding these psychological differences will be crucial for politicians and political movements that want to appeal to libertarians, who are often left out as so much attention is lavished on liberals and conservatives.

What is behind envy? Approach from a psychosocial perspective

What is behind envy? Approach from a psychosocial perspective. Ginés Navarro-Carrillo, Ana-María Beltrán-Morillas, Inmaculada Valor-Segura & Francisca Expósito.  Revista de Psicología Social/International Journal of Social Psychology, Volume 32, 2017 - Issue 2, Pages 217-245.

Abstract: Envy strongly influences many spheres of social life. However, the psychology of envy is still in its infancy. A theoretical and empirical examination of envy was performed with a psychosocial focus via two exploratory studies. In Study 1 (N = 141), participants were asked to describe an event in which they experienced envy, indicating which people they envied and the reasons for that envy. In Study 2 (N = 311), the relationship between envy and several psychosocial variables such as self-efficacy, self-esteem and perceived control were analysed, as well as the predisposition to express aggressive behaviours in response to this emotion. The results of Study 1 revealed that friends were the most envied people, and abilities or personal skills were the most frequent sources of envy. Likewise, the results of Study 2 showed that self-efficacy, self-esteem and perceived control predicted envy, which in turn predicted the expression of verbal aggressive behaviours.

Sex differences in academic strengths contribute to gender segregation in education and occupation: A longitudinal examination of 167,776 individuals

Sex differences in academic strengths contribute to gender segregation in education and occupation: A longitudinal examination of 167,776 individuals. S. Dekhtyar et al. Intelligence,

•    Women and men exhibit different patterns of academic strengths at age 16.
•    Men and women pursue careers reflecting their earlier academic strengths.
•    Career gender segregation is related to the extent careers demand varying skills.
•    Sex differences in academic strengths cannot fully explain gendered career choices.

Abstract: We investigate whether sex differences in academic strengths have an impact on society by affecting the career choices made by women and men. By longitudinally following 167,776 individuals from Sweden, we found that (1) more 16-year old girls than boys had a relative strength in verbal/language school subjects than in technical/numerical ones, whereas more boys than girls had a relative strength in technical/numerical school subjects than in verbal/language ones; (2) when these girls and boys attained higher education and entered employment, they largely pursued careers cognitively matching their initial academic strengths; (3) while individuals generally made career choices in line with their academic strengths, men and women matched on these strengths nevertheless made rather distinct career choices, in particular women with technical/numerical strengths who largely avoided careers demanding these skills; (4) sex distribution in education and occupation was related to the extent these career paths were perceived as either numerically or verbally demanding. Taken together, although gender segregation is to some extent associated with individuals making choices matching their academic strengths, the vast discrepancies in career outcomes between men and women can be only in part attributed to sex differences in academic performance.

Gender differences in romantic relationship memories: who remembers? Who cares?

Gender differences in romantic relationship memories: who remembers? Who cares? Diane Holmberg, Tabatha M. Thibault & Jennifer D. Pringle. Memory,

ABSTRACT: Two studies were conducted to assess patterns of gender differences in memory for romantic relationship events. Results suggested that people believe that women have better memory for romantic relationship events than men, that better relationship memory predicts higher levels of relationship well-being, and that the association between relationship memory and relationship well-being is somewhat stronger for women than for men. Women did tend to have somewhat better relationship memory than men, as assessed via subjective reports from both partners in mixed-sex relationships, and via the number of details partners provided when asked to recall a specific relationship event (i.e., their first date). Consistent with the lay theories, both own and partner’s better relationship memory predicted higher levels of relationship well-being; however, the association between better relationship memory and higher levels of relationship well-being was equally strong for both genders. Implications and future research directions are discussed.

KEYWORDS: Relationships, gender differences, relationship well-being, lay theories

In the domain of instrumental harm, deontological agents were uniformly preferred across a variety of social roles. Regarding impartial beneficence, are preferred for roles of direct interaction (friend, spouse, etc)

Everett, Jim A C, Nadira S Faber, Julian Savulescu, and Molly Crockett. 2017. “Everett Et Al. The Cost of Being Consequentialist”. PsyArXiv. December 15.

Abstract: Previous work has demonstrated that people are more likely to trust “deontological” agents who reject instrumentally harming one person to save a greater number than “consequentialist” agents who endorse such harm in pursuit of the greater good. It has been argued that these differential social perceptions of deontological vs. consequentialist agents could explain the higher prevalence of deontological moral intuitions. Yet consequentialism involves much more than decisions to endorse instrumental harm: another critical dimension is impartial beneficence, defined as the impartial maximization of the greater good, treating the well-being of every individual as equally important. In three studies (total N = 1,634), we investigated preferences for deontological vs. consequentialist social partners in both the domains of instrumental harm and impartial beneficence, and consider how such preferences vary across different types of social relationships. Our results demonstrate consistent preferences for deontological over consequentialist agents across both domains of instrumental harm and impartial beneficence: deontological agents were viewed as more moral and trustworthy, and were actually entrusted with more money in a resource distribution task. However, preferences for deontological agents were stronger when those preferences were revealed via aversion to instrumental harm than impartial beneficence. Finally, in the domain of instrumental harm, deontological agents were uniformly preferred across a variety of social roles, but in the domain of impartial beneficence, people prefer deontologists for roles requiring direct interaction (friend, spouse, boss) but not for more distant roles with little-to-no personal interaction (political leader).

Direct replication of Gervais & Norenzayan (2012): No evidence that analytic thinking decreases religious belief

Direct replication of Gervais & Norenzayan (2012): No evidence that analytic thinking decreases religious belief. Clinton Sanchez, Brian Sundermeier, Kenneth Gray, Robert J. Calin-Jageman. PLoS One,

Abstract: Gervais & Norenzayan (2012) reported in Science a series of 4 experiments in which manipulations intended to foster analytic thinking decreased religious belief. We conducted a precise, large, multi-site pre-registered replication of one of these experiments. We observed little to no effect of the experimental manipulation on religious belief (d = 0.07 in the wrong direction, 95% CI[-0.12, 0.25], N = 941). The original finding does not seem to provide reliable or valid evidence that analytic thinking causes a decrease in religious belief.

Check also Epistemic rationality: Skepticism toward unfounded beliefs requires sufficient cognitive ability and motivation to be rational. Tomas Ståhl, Jan-Willem van Prooijen. Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 122, February 01 2018, Pages 155–163.

And: Public Perceptions of Partisan Selective Exposure. Perryman, Mallory R.. The University of Wisconsin - Madison, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2017. 10607943.

And: Dispelling the Myth: Training in Education or Neuroscience Decreases but Does Not Eliminate Beliefs in Neuromyths. Kelly Macdonald et al. Frontiers in Psychology, Aug 10 2017.

And: Wisdom and how to cultivate it: Review of emerging evidence for a constructivist model of wise thinking. Igor Grossmann. European Psychologist, in press. Pre-print:
And: Science Denial Across the Political Divide — Liberals and Conservatives Are Similarly Motivated to Deny Attitude-Inconsistent Science. Anthony N. Washburn, Linda J. Skitka. Social Psychological and Personality Science,

And: Biased Policy Professionals. Sheheryar Banuri, Stefan Dercon, and Varun Gauri. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 8113.

And: Individuals with greater science literacy and education have more polarized beliefs on controversial science topics. Caitlin Drummond and Baruch Fischhoff. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 114 no. 36, pp 9587–9592, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1704882114

And: Expert ability can actually impair the accuracy of expert perception when judging others' performance: Adaptation and fallibility in experts' judgments of novice performers. By Larson, J. S., & Billeter, D. M. (2017). Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 43(2), 271–288.
And: Bottled Water and the Overflowing Nanny State, by Angela Logomasini. How Misinformation Erodes Consumer Freedom. CEI, February 17, 2009

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

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Many lesbian and gay adoptive parents reported that birth parents had intentionally selected a same-sex adoptive couple

Farr, R. H., Ravvina, Y. and Grotevant, H. D. (2017), Birth Family Contact Experiences Among Lesbian, Gay, and Heterosexual Adoptive Parents With School-Age Children. Fam Relat. doi:10.1111/fare.12295


Objective: To examine how lesbian, gay, and heterosexual adoptive parents navigate openness dynamics with children's birth family across a 5-year period, when children are preschool- to school-age.

Background: Few studies regarding birth family contact have included longitudinal data as well as a sample of adoptive parents of varying sexual orientations. Thus, this study used a multiprong theoretical approach grounded in emotional distance regulation, families of choice, and gender theory.

Method: A mixed-methods approach with longitudinal quantitative survey and qualitative interview data from 106 lesbian, gay, and heterosexual adoptive parent families was employed to examine the type of contact, its frequency, who was involved, perceptions of this contact, and the extent to which formal agreements exist between adoptive and birth families regarding contact.

Results: Findings revealed variations in the status and perceptions of contact across adoptive families. We also discovered that many lesbian and gay adoptive parents reported that birth parents had intentionally selected a same-sex adoptive couple, and birth parents appeared to have distinct reasons for this choice.

Conclusion: Although some differences in birth family contact distinguished lesbian, gay, and heterosexual adoptive parent families, these families generally appeared more similar than different.

Implications: Implications—particularly a need for demonstrated competencies in adoption openness—are discussed for adoption professionals in policy, practice, and legal realms.