Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Justice was swift with ISIS... Before, “You have to have wasta —a connection to someone— for the police to take your case under consideration"

The Case of the Purloined Poultry: How ISIS Prosecuted Petty Crime. Rukmini Callimachi. The New York Times, Jul 01 2018,


TEL KAIF, Iraq — The crime scene was Stall No. 200 in a market eight miles north of Mosul, Iraq.

It was there that Zaid Imad Khalaf, 24, made a living selling chickens, scraping by next to a grocer who sold onions by the kilogram and a trader who sold flour by the scoop.

And it was there that an Islamic State soldier, one of the thousands who ruled the plains of northern Iraq, walked by and pointed to Mr. Imad’s plumpest chicken. “That one,” he said.

Mr. Imad butchered the bird, plucked it, weighed it and then asked for the 8,000 dinars he was owed, around $7. That’s when the problems started. “When he went to pull the money from his pocket he said that he only had 4,000 dinars and said he would pay me the rest tomorrow,” Mr. Imad recalled.

Normally, the story should have ended there, with a poor man being stiffed by a more powerful one.

And yet a week after the incident in 2016, Mr. Imad did something that might seem foolhardy when the rulers of your city have a reputation for unbridled brutality: He lodged a complaint for the missing $3.50 with the town’s Islamic Police station. The next day, the Islamic State fighter hurried in to pay the amount he owed.

It was a quick, neat and efficient resolution to the pettiest of problems, one which probably would have gone unheeded before the arrival of the militants.

In a terrorist version of the “broken window” school of policing, the Islamic State aggressively prosecuted minor crimes in the communities it took over, winning points with residents who were used to having to pay bribes to secure police help.

The documents show that the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, was willing — even eager — to get involved in the messy details of people’s day-to-day lives, and conversely that hundreds of people trusted them to fairly resolve their issues, no matter how trivial.

With the Islamic State’s territory reduced to a fraction of what it once was, the world’s attention has moved on. Yet the records shed light on how the group managed to hold onto so much land in the first place. And with ISIS still in control of approximately 1,000 square miles in Iraq and Syria, they may also offer lessons about the battles ahead.

The records are contained in hundreds of files recovered from a cluster of buildings in the northern Iraqi town of Tel Kaif, which had housed the group’s Shorta Islamiya — its Islamic police force. Most of the papers were discovered by Iraqi security forces who liberated the area in early 2017. They in turn handed them over to The New York Times, so that their contents could be shared with the world.

Grocers, convenience store owners and traders who sold their goods on credit turned to the Islamic State government when customers failed to pay. They sought reimbursement for a cow, a bird, meat, wheat, vegetables, an oil change and a heater. One filed a report for the 150 meters of electrical wire he hadn’t been compensated for.

Farmers asked for investigations into the crops damaged by livestock. One sought compensation for the watermelons trampled by an errant sheep. Another said his newly planted field had been kicked up by a total of 21 cows. Yet another reported a shepherd who, he said, allowed his flock to graze on his land seven different times. “Each time, I forgive him and he says he won’t do it again, and then he does,” he lamented in the report.

One father came to complain that a neighbor’s child had kicked his son. (He underlined that the child doing the kicking was bigger than the child being kicked.) Another accused an acquaintance of calling him a “pimp.” Yet another came to file a complaint because he had been called a “shoe.”

Justice was swift and efficient, mostly because no one wanted to risk punishment at the hands of the militants. Yet the fact that hundreds of civilians filed complaints, including against ISIS fighters who had wronged them, suggests that at least some Iraqis believed the terrorist group would do right by them.

Even residents who suffered abuses at the hands of the militants gave them points for their policing, saying that for nonreligious disputes, they were not only fair but also willing to wade into problems that might have been brushed off by most authorities.

Would the Iraqi government have pursued the case of a stolen chicken?

“They wouldn’t have even heard this complaint because it was only for 4,000,” or $3.50, said Mr. Imad’s younger brother, Alosh Imad. “You have to have wasta — a connection to someone,” for the police to take your case under consideration, he explained. “As far as justice was concerned,” he said, “ISIS was better than the government.”


Frustrated at being repeatedly brushed off by the fighter, who surely by now had eaten his plumpest bird, Mr. Imad, the chicken seller, padlocked his stall, changed into fresh clothes and headed to the Islamic State police station on Al Bareed Street.

The procedure for filing a complaint involved several steps, and each step involved its own paperwork, the voluminous remnants of which were found at the old station.

The police station was housed in a square room, 20 feet by 20 feet.

The police chief faced Mr. Imad across a large desk. Under the circling of a Chinese-made plastic fan that sliced the thick air, he heard Mr. Imad’s complaint. Then he pulled out a form bearing the terrorist group’s name and, in the field labeled “Case Number,” jotted down: 329.

Then, in blue ink, he filled in the date — Jan. 22, 2016, Sunday, 10 a.m. — before writing down the details of the claim in neat script: “The complainant (Zaid Imad Khalaf) complains that the respondent (Bariq) owes him (4,000 Iraqi dinars) after selling him a chicken.”

Then he pulled out another form, this one a summons. It ordered the ISIS fighter to report to the precinct. “Warning: In the event you do not show up, necessary steps will be taken to punish you,” it said. The police chief then dispatched one of his agents on a scooter, Mr. Imad said, to deliver the summons.

The fighter showed up the next day and immediately paid up, according to a receipt (below).

“In the name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Gracious,” the statement begins. The police officer then filled in the blanks on the form: “An amount (4,000 IQD) was received from (Bariq Sibhan Younis) to be paid to (Zaid Imad Khalaf),” it said. “Remaining amount is zero.”

Both parties signed the form and put their fingerprints on it, dipping their index fingers into bright purple ink, a gesture that aped one of the bureaucratic procedures of the Iraqi government.

To ascertain the authenticity of the documents, The Times showed a cross section of them to six independent analysts who study the Islamic State, including Mara Revkin of Yale University; Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi of the Middle East Forum; and a team from West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center.

One Tel Kaif resident, Abdulwahid Abdalla, described being on the receiving end of a complaint handled by the militants.

Mr. Abdalla said he had owed his cousin about $145 for the transportation services the cousin provided to help him move some heavy materials. He had managed to pay off half but then stopped making payments because he ran out of money, he said. To his surprise, his cousin lodged a complaint against him.

The Islamic State gave him a deadline. They didn’t care if he didn’t have the money, he said, and instructed him to sell something to come up with it. So Mr. Abdalla, a carpenter, sold some beams he had been saving for a construction job at a loss.

When the dispute involved one party insulting or harming another, the Islamic State played a role not unlike that of a school principal asking an unruly pupil to apologize.
Case No. 393, for example, involved three shepherds who beat a farmer after he asked them to stop their sheep from trampling his crops. The three signed a statement saying: “I will not attack my Muslim brother Ahmed Mohammed Qadir and I will not swear at him. I will not let my sheep enter lands belonging to Muslims.”

And to make sure that the resolution had teeth, there was also an implicit threat: “In the event I do not keep my promise,” the form reads, “I expect to face any and all legal sanctions and punishments” — which meant only one thing in ISIS-controlled Iraq.

One of the Islamic State’s first priorities when capturing a new area was to win the trust and cooperation of the civilians, whose labor and good will were essential to their state, said Ms. Revkin, the Yale researcher. Among the ways it did this was by providing swift justice, which is one of the most basic functions of any state — and one that was sorely lacking under Iraq’s government.

“ISIS seemed to recognize early on that it could exploit local demands for dignity by listening to people’s complaints and problems and offering some fast solutions,” said Ms. Revkin, who has interviewed more than 200 people who lived in ISIS-controlled areas.

Now in prison, the “emir” of the police station in the village of Sahaji, which had jurisdiction over an 11-mile stretch northwest of Mosul, confirmed that the militants’ goal was to try to win over the population. In a jailhouse interview in northern Iraq, where he spoke with his hands in handcuffs while a guard looked on, he recalled how he had aggressively investigated the case of a shopkeeper who had been owed the equivalent of $4.25.

“If we succeeded in delivering justice, we knew we would win the hearts of the people,” he explained.

As word spread, residents began showing up with complaints about unpaid loans and services dating to well before ISIS came to power. Among them was a complaint for an unpaid bill of $119 from 2010 — or four years before ISIS planted its flag in Tel Kaif. “He has been asking for his money during that period, but the respondent was stalling and delaying until now,” the filing says.

There was also a three-year-old debt of $340 for electricity, a claim for $298 for a three-year-old window installation, a three-year-old unpaid meat bill of $170 and two-year-old claims for $2,115 for vegetables.

Mr. Salim, a stocky, rosy-faced 26-year-old, said he filed three complaints in the time ISIS ruled the town, one of which was recovered in the files left behind in the police station. Before the militants took over, he recalled, he struggled for over a year to get the $136 owed him by a butcher who frequented his convenience store. “It was as if I was begging him,” he said.
As soon as the Islamic State got involved, the problem disappeared. The man showed up four days later to pay back what was owed.

“It was efficient, because people were afraid of them,” Mr. Salim said. “If you hear you’ve been summoned to the ISIS police station, you’ll do everything to avoid that.”

Prosecuting Their Own

“This case was transferred to the court,” the police officer scribbled in the margin of Case No. 407, a complaint lodged by a woman who said her husband had beaten her in public.

While a majority of the cases were settled inside the police station, the records show that those the group deemed to be the most severe were sent to an Islamic tribunal.

The 87 carbon-copied, prison transfer records found in the police station are an archive of religious zeal. Citizens were thrown in jail for shaving their beards and for more obscure transgressions, like eyebrow plucking.

Men were locked up for sitting too close to a woman, for being found alone with a woman, for wearing tight clothes and even for disobeying their parents. Several were charged with mocking or slandering the Islamic State.

Reporting was contributed by Falih Hassan from Baghdad; Alaa Mohammed from Mosul; Muhammad Nashat Mahmud and Mohammed Sardar Jasim from Erbil; and Abduljabbar Yousif from New York.

A version of this article appears in print on July 2, 2018, on Page A6 of the New York edition with the headline: In ISIS Territory, Justice Was Swift for Petty Beefs.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

65% of Americans believe they are above average in intelligence: Results of two nationally representative surveys

65% of Americans believe they are above average in intelligence: Results of two nationally representative surveys. Patrick R. Heck, Daniel J. Simons, Christopher F. Chabris. PLOS One,

Abstract: Psychologists often note that most people think they are above average in intelligence. We sought robust, contemporary evidence for this “smarter than average” effect by asking Americans in two independent samples (total N = 2,821) whether they agreed with the statement, “I am more intelligent than the average person.” After weighting each sample to match the demographics of U.S. census data, we found that 65% of Americans believe they are smarter than average, with men more likely to agree than women. However, overconfident beliefs about one’s intelligence are not always unrealistic: more educated people were more likely to think their intelligence is above average. We suggest that a tendency to overrate one’s cognitive abilities may be a stable feature of human psychology.

Rattner in TNYT: The Myth of Corporate America’s Short-Term Thinking

The Myth of Corporate America’s Short-Term Thinking. Steven Rattner. The New York Times Jul 02 2018,

American companies, according to their critics, are so focused on making quick profits that they have abdicated building for the long term. That idea has captivated policymakers, commentators and even some leading business executives.

The complaint has reached a fevered pitch amid news that companies are diverting much of their proceeds from the recent tax cut into buying back record amounts of their own shares.

But there is little evidence to back up the idea that American businesses are overly focused on short-term boosts to profits and stock prices.

The easiest path for companies to goose earnings would be to cut back on investment. However, business investment has remained between 11 percent and 15 percent of gross domestic product since 1970. Last year, corporate investment, which includes structures, equipment and the like, totaled 12.6 percent ( of G.D.P.

Included in those investments is corporate spending on research and development — an undertaking with a long payback — which has reached its highest ( ever percentage of G.D.P. and has become a more important part of overall investment.

I have spent three decades analyzing, advising and investing in companies, and I believe American businesses are as willing to fund worthy projects as they have ever been. Investors are fully prepared to back companies focused on the long term. Far from penalizing public companies building for the future, the stock market often rewards them.

Consider America’s five largest public companies by market capitalization: Apple, Amazon, Alphabet (Google), Microsoft and Facebook. All have been investing heavily, and all sport heady valuations.

Amazon, in particular, often appears almost disdainful of profits; last year, it earned just $3 billion on its vast $178 billion of revenues. With a stock market capitalization of $805 billion, that gives it a price to earnings ratio of 268. By comparison, the average S&P 500 company trades at 21 times earnings. On the smaller end, many biotech companies, which often have no revenues, let alone any profits, also trade at handsome (some would say absurd) valuations.

Away from the public markets, a towering wall of venture capital — hardly a short-term investment strategy — stands ready to fund pretty much any vaguely promising new idea.

That brings us back to the stock repurchases. Yes, they often bump up share prices. But they are really a consequence of the vast cash reserves — $2.4 trillion and rising — held by American companies. When top executives don’t see more attractive investment opportunities, at least not in the United States, it can be a prudent use of that cash to buy back shares in their own companies.

As companies return capital to shareholders through buybacks or dividends, the money doesn’t disappear. Its recipients typically reinvest it in other opportunities. That’s not short-term thinking; that’s efficiency.

Advocates of the recent tax legislation say it will provide more incentives for American companies to invest at home. I’d certainly welcome that. But taxes are only part of the equation. Businesses must also see the possibility of attractive returns, which are not always readily available in our relatively slow-growth economy.

That’s why many American companies see greater opportunity to expand abroad. Between 2000 and 2015, American multinationals hired 4.3 million people in the United States but added 6.2 million jobs overseas.

Meanwhile, spending on factories and equipment in the United States has become a less important part of overall business investment, consistent with the decline in manufacturing’s share as companies shift production to lower-cost countries.

Decrying “short-termism” is hardly a new phenomenon. A Harvard Business Review article pronounced that American business is “servicing existing markets rather than creating new ones” and is devoted to “short-term returns and management by the numbers.”

That was in 1980. Nine years later, Akio Morita, the co-founder of Sony, declared that “America looks 10 minutes ahead; Japan looks 10 years.”

Today, American technology firms are, of course, dominant, while Sony is a shadow of its former self.

Across the spectrum, companies in the United States continue to lead the developed world, and profits are at record levels. If American business had been short-term focused since 1980, profits would be falling, not rising, and our companies would be faltering.

Recently, the Business Roundtable — corporate America’s pre-eminent trade organization — called for eliminating quarterly earnings guidance as a means of reducing short-termism. Such recommendations are, at best, a distraction. Only 28 percent of major companies even provide quarterly guidance, and those forecasts help set investors’ expectations and smooth market volatility.

The Business Roundtable should make it a higher priority to call for tighter corporate governance. While the “buddy system” of picking directors has subsided considerably, boards are often still too compliant. Executive compensation (, which has grown exponentially faster than workers’ pay, is out of control and should be more closely tied to long-term performance.

Shareholders should be able to nominate directors more easily. To better represent owners, the roles of chairman and chief executive officer should be split, as they are in many European companies.

But corporate executives recoil from those ideas. They prefer to complain about equity markets that often swiftly punish laggards. Isn’t that what investors are supposed to do?

Again, "no evidence of loss aversion": Cheating, incentives, and money manipulation

Cheating, incentives, and money manipulation. Gary Charness, Celia Blanco-Jimenez, Lara Ezquerra, Ismael Rodriguez-Lara. Experimental Economics,

Abstract: We use different incentive schemes to study truth-telling in a die-roll task when people are asked to reveal the number rolled privately. We find no significant evidence of cheating when there are no financial incentives associated with the reports, but do find evidence of such when the reports determine financial gains or losses (in different treatments). We find no evidence of loss aversion in the standard case in which subjects receive their earnings in a sealed envelope at the end of the session. When subjects manipulate the possible earnings, we find evidence of less cheating, particularly in the loss setting; in fact, there is no significant difference in behavior between the non-incentivized case and the loss setting with money manipulation. We interpret our findings in terms of the moral cost of cheating and differences in the perceived trust and beliefs in the gain and the loss frames.

h/t: Rolf Degen

Gender difference in time use decreased 1965-1995, remained constant since; differences in social attitudes by political ideology & income increased over the last four decades; whites and non-whites have converged somewhat on attitudes but have diverged in consumer behavior

Coming Apart? Cultural Distances in the United States over Time. Marianne Bertrand, Emir Kamenica. NBER Working Paper No. 24771,

Abstract: We analyze temporal trends in cultural distance between groups in the US defined by income, education, gender, race, and political ideology. We measure cultural distance between two groups as the ability to infer an individual's group based on his or her (i) media consumption, (ii) consumer behavior, (iii) time use, or (iv) social attitudes. Gender difference in time use decreased between 1965 and 1995 and has remained constant since. Differences in social attitudes by political ideology and income have increased over the last four decades. Whites and non-whites have converged somewhat on attitudes but have diverged in consumer behavior. For all other demographic divisions and cultural dimensions, cultural distance has been broadly constant over time.

A paper shopping list includes more items than a digital shopping list, & products on the first are less hedonic than those on the second list; also, the use of a digital shopping list leads to more unplanned & hedonic purchases in the store

Write or Type? How a Paper versus a Digital Shopping List Influences the Way Consumers Plan and Shop. Yanliu Huang and Zhen Yang. Journal of the Association for Consumer Research,

Abstract: This research examines how a traditional handwritten paper shopping list differs from a digital shopping list created on smart devices in influencing consumers’ planning and shopping behavior. We propose that a paper shopping list includes more items than a digital shopping list, and products on a paper shopping list are less hedonic than those on a digital shopping list. Furthermore, the use of a digital shopping list leads to more unplanned and hedonic purchases in the store, while the use of a paper shopping list results in more planned purchases. We also discuss psychological processes underlying these effects. We conduct three studies in which we manipulate shopping list type and track consumers’ actual purchases to provide support for our hypotheses.

Support for redistribution is strongly correlated with the perceived composition of immigrants –their origin & economic contribution– rather than with the perceived share of immigrants per se

Immigration and Redistribution. Alberto Alesina, Armando Miano, Stefanie Stantcheva. NBER Working Paper No. 24733.

We design and conduct large-scale surveys and experiments in six countries to investigate how natives' perceptions of immigrants influence their preferences for redistribution. We find strikingly large biases in natives' perceptions of the number and characteristics of immigrants: in all countries, respondents greatly overestimate the total number of immigrants, think immigrants are culturally and religiously more distant from them, and are economically weaker – less educated, more unemployed, poorer, and more reliant on government transfers – than is the case. While all respondents have misperceptions, those with the largest ones are systematically the right-wing, the non-college educated, and the low-skilled working in immigration-intensive sectors. Support for redistribution is strongly correlated with the perceived composition of immigrants – their origin and economic contribution – rather than with the perceived share of immigrants per se. Given the very negative baseline views that respondents have of immigrants, simply making them think about immigration in a randomized manner makes them support less redistribution, including actual donations to charities. We also experimentally show respondents information about the true i) number, ii) origin, and iii) “hard work” of immigrants in their country. On its own, information on the “hard work” of immigrants generates more support for redistribution. However, if people are also prompted to think in detail about immigrants' characteristics, then none of these favorable information treatments manages to counteract their negative priors that generate lower support for redistribution.

Monday, July 2, 2018

None of the multitasking measures (accuracy, total time, total distance covered by the avatar, a prospective memory score, & a distractor management score) showed any sex differences

No sex difference in an everyday multitasking paradigm. Marco Hirnstein, Frank Larøi, Julien Laloyaux. Psychological Research,

Abstract: According to popular beliefs and anecdotes, females best males when handling multiple tasks at the same time. However, there is relatively little empirical evidence as to whether there truly is a sex difference in multitasking and the few available studies yield inconsistent findings. We present data from a paradigm that was specifically designed to test multitasking abilities in an everyday scenario, the computerized meeting preparation task (CMPT), which requires participants to prepare a room for a meeting and handling various tasks and distractors in the process. Eighty-two males and 66 females with a wide age range (18–60 years) and a wide educational background completed the CMPT. Results revealed that none of the multitasking measures (accuracy, total time, total distance covered by the avatar, a prospective memory score, and a distractor management score) showed any sex differences. All effect sizes were d ≤ 0.18 and thus not even considered “small” by conventional standards. The findings are in line with other studies that found no or only small gender differences in everyday multitasking abilities. However, there is still too little data available to conclude if, and in which multitasking paradigms, gender differences arise.

At variance with the honest signal hypothesis, vocal and facial attractiveness were uncorrelated, with the exception of a moderate positive correlation for vowels

Zäske, Romi, Verena G. Skuk, and Stefan R. Schweinberger. 2018. “Attractiveness and Distinctiveness in Voices and Faces of Young Adults.” PsyArXiv. June 29. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: Facial attractiveness has been linked to the averageness (or typicality) of a face. More tentatively, it has also been linked to a speaker’s vocal attractiveness, via the “honest signal” hypothesis, holding that attractiveness signals good genes. In four experiments, we assessed ratings for attractiveness and two common measures of distinctiveness (“distinctiveness-in-thecrowd”- DITC and “deviation-based distinctiveness”-DEV) for faces and voices (vowels or sentences) from 64 young adult speakers (32 female). Consistent and strong negative correlations between attractiveness and DEV generally supported the averageness account of attractiveness for both voices and faces. By contrast, indicating that both measures of distinctiveness reflect different constructs, correlations between attractiveness and DITC were numerically positive for faces (though small and non-significant), and significant for voices in sentence stimuli. As the only exception, voice ratings based on vowels exhibited a moderate but significant negative correlation between attractiveness and DITC. Between faces and voices, distinctiveness ratings were uncorrelated. Remarkably, and at variance with the honest signal hypothesis, vocal and facial attractiveness were uncorrelated, with the exception of a moderate positive correlation for vowels. Overall, while our findings strongly support an averageness account of attractiveness for both domains, they provide little evidence for an honest signal account of facial and vocal attractiveness in complex naturalistic speech. Although our findings for vowels do not rule out the tentative notion that more primitive vocalizations can provide relevant clues to genetic fitness, researchers should carefully consider the nature of voice samples, and the degree to which these are representative of human vocal communication.

The so-called universal sex differences have been shown to be more pronounced in Western industrial societies than in most non-Western developing societies; a possible reason is less consanguineal marriages in the first group

Evolution, Societal Sexism, and Universal Average Sex Differences in Cognition and Behavior. Lee Ellis. In Oxford Handbook of Evolution, Biology, and Society, Edited by Rosemary L. Hopcroft, Apr 2018. DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190299323.013.30

Abstract: During the past century, social scientists have documented many cross-cultural sex differences in personality and behavior, quite a few of which now appear to be found in all human societies. However, contrary to most scientists’ expectations, these so-called universal sex differences have been shown to be more pronounced in Western industrial societies than in most non-Western developing societies. This chapter briefly reviews the evidence bearing on these findings and offers a biologically based theory that could help shed light on why cross-cultural sex differences exist. The following hypothesis is offered: The expression of many genes influencing sexually dimorphic traits is more likely among descendants of couples who are least closely related to one another. If so, societies in which out-marriage is normative (i.e., Western industrial countries) will exhibit a stronger expression of genes for sexually dimorphic traits compared to societies in which consanguineal marriages are common.

Keywords: social role theory, evolutionary theory, evolutionary neuroandrogenic theory, sex egalitarian societies, sex differences, personality traits

Personality assimilation across species: enfacing an ape reduces own intelligence and increases emotion attribution to apes

Personality assimilation across species: enfacing an ape reduces own intelligence and increases emotion attribution to apes. Ke Ma. Roberta Sellaro, Bernhard Hommel. Psychological Research,

Abstract: Seeing another person’s face while that face and one’s own face are stroked synchronously or controlling a virtual face by moving one’s own induces the illusion that the other face has become a part of oneself—the enfacement effect. Here, we demonstrate that humans can enface even members of another species and that this enfacement promotes “feature migration” in terms of intelligence and emotional attribution from the representation of other to the representation of oneself, and vice versa. We presented participants with a virtual human face moving in or out of sync with their own face, and then morphed it into an ape face. Participants tended to perceive the ape face as their own in the sync condition, as indicated by body-ownership and inclusion-of-others-in-the-self ratings. More interestingly, synchrony also reduced performance in a fluid-intelligence task and increased the willingness to attribute emotions to apes. These observations, which fully replicated in another experiment, fit with the idea that self and other are represented in terms of feature codes, just like non-social events (as implied by the Theory of Event Coding), so that representational self–other overlap invites illusory conjunctions of features from one representation to the other.

Task in which responding sooner led to consistent, small rewards, and responding later led to larger rewards, but greater risk of gaining nothing: Males waited longer for the possibility of larger rewards, women responded sooner & consistently gain smaller rewards

Gender differences in preference for reward frequency versus reward magnitude in decision-making under uncertainty. Astin C. Cornwall, Kaileigh A. Byrne, Darrell A. Worthy. Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 135, 1 December 2018, Pages 40–44.

•    Participants performed an experience-based probabilistic intertemporal choice task.
•    Responding sooner led to consistent, small rewards.
•    Responding later led to larger rewards, but greater risk of gaining nothing.
•    Males preferred to wait longer for the possibility of larger rewards.
•    Females preferred to respond sooner and consistently gain smaller rewards.

Abstract: Extensive research has focused on gender differences in intertemporal choices made from description in which participants must choose from multiple options that are specified without ambiguity. However, there has been limited work examining gender differences in intertemporal choices made from experience in which the possible payoffs among choice alternatives are not initially known and can only be gained from experience. Other work suggests that females attend more to reward frequency, whereas males attend more to reward magnitude. However, the tasks used in this research have been complex and did not examine intertemporal decision-making. To specifically test whether females are more sensitive to reward frequency and males are more sensitive to reward magnitude on intertemporal decisions made from experience, we designed a simple choice task in which participants pressed a response button at a time of their own choosing on each of many trials. Faster responses led to smaller, but more frequent rewards, whereas slower responses led to larger, but less frequently given rewards. As predicted, females tended to respond quicker for more certain, smaller rewards than males, supporting our prediction that women attend more to reward frequency whereas men attend more to reward magnitude.

Keywords: Uncertainty; Gender; Reward; Decision-making; Delay discounting

People inflate their earnings less when they use a foreign language; reason is a dual system account that suggests that self‐serving dishonesty is an automatic tendency, which is supported by a fast and intuitive system

Honesty Speaks a Second Language. Yoella Bereby‐Meyer et al. Topics in Cognitive Science,

Abstract: Theories of dishonest behavior implicitly assume language independence. Here, we investigated this assumption by comparing lying by people using a foreign language versus their native tongue. Participants rolled a die and were paid according to the outcome they reported. Because the outcome was private, they could lie to inflate their profit without risk of repercussions. Participants performed the task either in their native language or in a foreign language. With native speakers of Hebrew, Korean, Spanish, and English, we discovered that, on average, people inflate their earnings less when they use a foreign language. The outcome is explained by a dual system account that suggests that self‐serving dishonesty is an automatic tendency, which is supported by a fast and intuitive system. Because using a foreign language is less intuitive and automatic, it might engage more deliberation and reduce the temptation to lie. These findings challenge theories of ethical behavior to account for the role of the language in shaping ethical behavior.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Impact of the menstrual cycle on women’s engagement in activities that could negatively affect their health, including sexual behavior & alcohol & tobacco consumption, as well as their ability to recognize & avoid potentially threatening people & situations

Do Women Expose Themselves to more Health-Related Risks in Certain Phases of the Menstrual Cycle? A Meta-analytic Review. Jordane Boudesseul, Kelly A. Gildersleeve, Martie Haselton, Laurent Bègue. July 02, 2018.

Abstract: Over the past three decades, researchers have increasingly examined the menstrual cycle as a potential source of day-to-day variation in women’s cognitions, motivations, and behavior. Within this literature, several lines of research have examined the impact of the menstrual cycle on women’s engagement in activities that could negatively affect their health, including sexual behavior and alcohol and tobacco consumption, as well as their ability to recognize and avoid potentially threatening people and situations. However, findings have been mixed, leaving it unclear whether women may expose themselves to more health-related risks during certain phases of the cycle. To address this question, we conducted a meta-analysis of 23 published and 4 unpublished studies (N = 7,527). The meta-analysis revealed some shifts across the menstrual cycle in women’s sexual behavior and risk recognition and avoidance, whereas patterns were less clear for alcohol and cigarette consumption. These findings help to clarify the proximate physiological and evolutionary mechanisms underlying women’s health-related risk-taking and may inform new interventions.

Clinical & informal sperm donation markets: Factors that impact female’s decision to choose specific donors, and the characteristics, personality and behaviour of males who choose to donate

Decision-making in mate choice markets. Stephen Whyte. Submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for Doctor of Philosophy (Economics), School of Economics & Finance. Queensland University of Technology,

Abstract: This thesis contributes to the behavioural economic and behavioural science  literature by providing empirical evidence of factors that  impact  large scale decision making in mate choice settings. The thesis consists of five studies. The first three explore human decision making in the online dating market. They utilise both stated preference and actual decision outcomes to explore differences between preference and choice, positive assortment, and specificity of preference for different sexes. Studies four and five concern male and female behaviour in the clinical and informal (online) sperm donation markets. These studies explore factors that impact female’s decision to choose specific donors, and the characteristics, personality and behaviour of males who choose to donate.

58.4% of the sampled women experienced a more intense orgasm depending on their partner’s ejaculation intensity (loud moaning, strong thrusting), but 65.1% did not experience a more intense orgasm depending on the subjectively assessed ejaculation volume

The importance of male ejaculation for female sexual satisfaction and orgasm ability. A. Burri1, J. Buchmeier2, H. Porst. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, Volume 15, Issue 7, Supplement 3, July 2018, Pages S123, Proceedings of the 21st World Meeting on Sexual Medicine.

Objective: Previous research has shown that female sexual functioning and overall relationship quality is also in fluenced by the partner’s sexual problems such as premature ejaculation (PE). Therefore, the aim of the study was to assess the importance of intravaginal ejaculation characteristics including as subjectively assessed ejaculation intensity and ejaculation volume and its importance for female sexual satisfaction (FSS) and female orgasm ability.

Material and Methods: A total of N = 245 women between 18 and 75 years meeting the criteria of “previous experience of sexual activity” and “absence of a sexual pain disorder” were included in this cross-sectional online study. Validated questionnaires were administered to assess the relevant study information. Furthermore, a study-specific, self-constructed questionnaire consisting of 29 items asking about women’s sexual and ejaculatory preferences (items responded to on a 5 to 7-pointed Likert-type scale). Relationships between the variables of interest were investigated using partial Spearman correlations controlling for age.

1) Women with a high orgasmic ability considered the ejaculation during intercourse to be more important than women with a low orgasmic ability (rs = 0.15, p < 0.05).

2) Women subjectively reporting minor problems regarding their male partner’s ejaculatory characteristics were more sexually satisfied than women reporting major problems.

3) 56.6% of the women said they experienced a more intense orgasm depending on their
partner’s presence of ejaculation.

4) 29.4% of the women never focused on the ejaculation volume during intercourse and 65.1% did not experience a more intense orgasm depending on the subjectively assessed ejaculation volume.

5) 58.4% of the sampled women experienced a more intense orgasm depending on their partner’s ejaculation intensity (loud moaning, strong thrusting).

6) No significant difference regarding the importance of ejaculation was detected between women preferring intra-vaginal intercourse and women preferring other sexual activities (p > 0.05).

Conclusions: The findings provide insight to importance and perception of different ejaculation aspects and their association with the female partner’s sexual function and satisfaction. The results have clinical relevance, as the treatment of ejaculatory dysfunctions should consider a stronger involvement of the the female partner.

h/t: Rolf Degen

Women: Sexual conservatism, rather than age, predicted more unpleasantness attributed to the pictures; findings point to the use of erotica as aviable tool aimed at increasing women’s subjective sexual arousal, including in older ages

003 Effects of age on the subjective sexual response and emotional appraisal of sex pictures in women. J. Carvalho, L. Ferreira, R. Rico, I.M. Santos. The Journal of Sexual Medicine. Volume 15, Issue 7, Supplement 3, July 2018, Pages S124, Proceedings of the 21st World Meeting on Sexual Medicine.

Objective(s): Age is expected to influence women’s sexual functioning and behavior, not only due its impact at the organic level, but also given the strong cohort effects that shape women’s beliefs regarding sexuality and relationships. However, most of the current assumptions about the effects of age in women’s sexual response and behavior, relate to the influence of health issues on the propensity for sexual difficulties. Indeed, broader aspects such as sexual and relationship satisfaction, have only recently fallen under the scope of scientific research. Similarly, other aspects relating to the appraisal of sexual contents by older women have been completely dismissed. Accordingly, the aim of the current study was to test the effect of age on the sexual and emotional responses to sex stimuli, as well as to test the adding effects of women’s beliefs regarding sexuality, on the appraisal of these stimuli.

Material and Method(s): Seventy-three heterosexual women, ranging from 18-77 years old, were exposed to a series of romantic, sexually moderate and sexually explicit pictures in a laboratorial context. Women reported on the levels of emotional valence, subjective sexual arousal, and level of sexual content attributed to the pictures in each set. Additionally, women completed a self-report questionnaire aimed at measuring women’s beliefs regarding female sexuality.

Result(s): Findings from hierarchical regression analyses (age entered at step 1 and sexual beliefs entered at step 2) revealed that age did not predict the emotional valence attributed to the sexual pictures; instead, sexual conservatism predicted more unpleasantness attributed to the s exually explicit pictures. Also, age predicted higher levels of subjective sexual arousal to all types of pictures and was further related to the appraisal of romantic and sexually moderate pictures as being more “sexual

Conclusion(s): Contrary to some myths supporting the negative effects of age on women's sexuality, the current results have shown that age was actually a significant (positive) predictor of subjective sexual arousal to all types of pictures (romantic, sexually moderate and sexually explicit pictures), and did not have a negative effect on the emotional valence attributed to the sex pictures. Indeed, sexual conservatism, rather than age, predicted more unpleasantness attributed to the pictures. Accordingly, findings point to the use of erotica as aviable tool aimed at increasing women’s subjective sexual arousal, including in older ages, while sexual beliefs should be monitored at all ages.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Does Partisan Self-interest Dictate Support for Election Reform? It Does. Experimental Evidence on the Willingness of Citizens to Alter the Costs of Voting for Electoral Gain

Does Partisan Self-interest Dictate Support for Election Reform? Experimental Evidence on the Willingness of Citizens to Alter the Costs of Voting for Electoral Gain. Daniel R. Biggers. Political Behavior,

Abstract: Elite support for modifying electoral institutions and policies generally depends on whether a proposed change is expected to improve their party’s electoral prospects. Prior studies suggest that the average citizen evaluates potential reforms in a similar manner, but they fail to directly demonstrate that individuals actually consider their partisan self-interest when forming policy preferences. I address this limitation through two survey experiments that manipulate the specific group for whom reforms make voting more or less difficult. The results provide strong causal evidence that individuals update their attitudes as expected in response to that information. Members of both parties consistently express greater support for changes when framed as advancing their party’s electoral prospects than when characterized as benefiting their opponents. The findings have important implications for the constraints faced by political actors in gaming the electoral system in their favor and for understanding the role of self-interest in shaping policy attitudes.

Recent findings from both human neuroimaging and animal electrophysiology have revealed that prior expectations can either damp the sensory representation or enhance it via a process of sharpening.

How Do Expectations Shape Perception? Floris P. de Lange, Micha Heilbron, Peter Kok. Trends in Cognitive Sciences,


Expectations play a strong role in determining the way we perceive the world.

Prior expectations can originate from multiple sources of information, and correspondingly have different neural sources, depending on where in the brain the relevant prior knowledge is stored.

Recent findings from both human neuroimaging and animal electrophysiology have revealed that prior expectations can modulate sensory processing at both early and late stages, and both before and after stimulus onset. The response modulation can take the form of either dampening the sensory representation or enhancing it via a process of sharpening.

Theoretical computational frameworks of neural sensory processing aim to explain how the probabilistic integration of prior expectations and sensory inputs results in perception.

Abstract: Perception and perceptual decision-making are strongly facilitated by prior knowledge about the probabilistic structure of the world. While the computational benefits of using prior expectation in perception are clear, there are myriad ways in which this computation can be realized. We review here recent advances in our understanding of the neural sources and targets of expectations in perception. Furthermore, we discuss Bayesian theories of perception that prescribe how an agent should integrate prior knowledge and sensory information, and investigate how current and future empirical data can inform and constrain computational frameworks that implement such probabilistic integration in perception.

Keywords: prediction; perception; sensory processing; Bayesian inference; predictive coding; perceptual inference

Benevolent Sexism and Mate Preferences: Why Do Women Prefer Benevolent Men Despite Recognizing That They Can Be Undermining?

Benevolent Sexism and Mate Preferences: Why Do Women Prefer Benevolent Men Despite Recognizing That They Can Be Undermining? Pelin Gul et al. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin,

Abstract: Benevolent sexism (BS) has detrimental effects on women, yet women prefer men with BS attitudes over those without. The predominant explanation for this paradox is that women respond to the superficially positive appearance of BS without being aware of its subtly harmful effects. We propose an alternative explanation drawn from evolutionary and sociocultural theories on mate preferences: Women find BS men attractive because BS attitudes and behaviors signal that a man is willing to invest. Five studies showed that women prefer men with BS attitudes (Studies 1a, 1b, and 3) and behaviors (Studies 2a and 2b), especially in mating contexts, because BS mates are perceived as willing to invest (protect, provide, and commit). Women preferred BS men despite also perceiving them as patronizing and undermining. These findings extend understanding of women’s motives for endorsing BS and suggest that women prefer BS men despite having awareness of the harmful consequences.

Keywords: benevolent sexism, mate preferences, romantic relationships, social role theory, parental investment theory

h/t: Rolf Degen

Sexual identities & participation in liberal & conservative social movements: the greater activism of gays and lesbians also crossed over to recent Occupy Wall Street, peace, & environmental mobilizations

Sexual identities and participation in liberal and conservative social movements. Eric Swank. Social Science Research, Volume 74, August 2018, Pages 176-186.

Abstract: The desire for social change, political activism, and sexual identities may all be related. Lesbians and gays generally contest heterosexism more than heterosexuals but we do not know how sexual identities sways participation in class, race, and gender based social movements. When analyzing the American National Election Surveys of 2012 (n = 3519), gays and lesbians were about twenty times more likely to join LGB justice campaigns than heterosexuals. Moreover, the greater activism of gays and lesbians also crossed over to recent Occupy Wall Street, peace, and environmental mobilizations. Finally, this analysis ends with logistic regressions that determine if any sexual identity gaps in movement participation are the result of demographic, contextual, and ideological covariates.

Friday, June 29, 2018

People often respond to decreases in the prevalence of a stimulus by expanding their concept of it. This “prevalence-induced concept change” occurred even when participants were forewarned about it and even when they were instructed and paid to resist it.

Prevalence-induced concept change in human judgment. David E. Levari et al. Science  Jun 29 2018: Vol. 360, Issue 6396, pp. 1465-1467. DOI: 10.1126/science.aap8731

Perceptual and judgment creep: Do we think that a problem persists even when it has become less frequent? Levari et al. show experimentally that when the “signal” a person is searching for becomes rare, the person naturally responds by broadening his or her definition of the signal—and therefore continues to find it even when it is not there. From low-level perception of color to higher-level judgments of ethics, there is a robust tendency for perceptual and judgmental standards to “creep” when they ought not to. For example, when blue dots become rare, participants start calling purple dots blue, and when threatening faces become rare, participants start calling neutral faces threatening. This phenomenon has broad implications that may help explain why people whose job is to find and eliminate problems in the world often cannot tell when their work is done.

Abstract: Why do some social problems seem so intractable? In a series of experiments, we show that people often respond to decreases in the prevalence of a stimulus by expanding their concept of it. When blue dots became rare, participants began to see purple dots as blue; when threatening faces became rare, participants began to see neutral faces as threatening; and when unethical requests became rare, participants began to see innocuous requests as unethical. This “prevalence-induced concept change” occurred even when participants were forewarned about it and even when they were instructed and paid to resist it. Social problems may seem intractable in part because reductions in their prevalence lead people to see more of them.

Self-reported Addiction to Pornography in a Nationally Representative Sample: The Role of Religiousness and Morality

Grubbs, Joshua, Shane W. Kraus, and Samuel Perry. 2018. “Self-reported Addiction to Pornography in a Nationally Representative Sample: The Role of Religiousness and Morality.” PsyArXiv. June 29. doi:10.17605/OSF.IO/M94NK


Background and Aims: Despite controversies regarding its existence as a legitimate mental health condition, self-reported pornography addiction is known to occur regularly. In the United States, prior works using various sampling techniques, such as undergraduate samples and online convenience samples, have consistently demonstrated that a number of pornography users report feeling dysregulated or out of control in their use. Even so, there has been very little work in U.S. nationally representative samples to examine self-reported pornography addiction.

Methods: The present study sought to examine self-reported pornography addiction in a U.S. nationally representative sample of adult internet users (N=2,075).

Results:  Results indicated that the majority of the sample had viewed pornography within their lifetimes (n = 1,466), with just over half reporting some use in the past year (n = 1,056).  Moreover, roughly 11% of men and 3% of women reported some agreement with feelings of pornography addiction. Across all participants, such feelings were most strongly associated with male gender, younger age, greater religiousness, greater moral incongruence regarding pornography use, and greater use of pornography.

Discussion and Conclusions: Collectively, these findings are consistent with prior works that have noted that self-reported pornography addiction is a complex phenomenon that is predicted by both objective behavior and subjective moral evaluations of that behavior.

Between 1800 & 2000, for both genders, adjectives related to agreeableness were used most often and those related to neuroticism least often. The usage frequency of agreeableness declined, whereas extraversion & openness showed increases

How Have Males and Females Been Described Over the Past Two Centuries? An Analysis of Big-Five Personality-related adjectives in the Google English Books. Shenglu Yea et al. Journal of Research in Personality,

•    Agreeableness was described most often for both men and women.
•    Positive personality words were used more often than negative words for all factors.
•    The usage frequencies were higher for men than women for four factors except openness.
•    Gender differences showed some reduction over time.

Abstract: Using the American corpus and the English fiction corpus from Google Books databases, this study examined the frequencies of Big-Five personality adjectives used to describe the two genders between 1800 and 2000. Both gender similarities and differences were found. For both genders, adjectives related to agreeableness were used most often and those related to neuroticism least often. The usage frequency of agreeableness showed a steady decline, whereas extraversion and openness (and, to some extent, neuroticism) showed increases first and then leveled off. In terms of gender differences, the overall frequencies were higher for men than women for agreeableness, extraversion, conscientiousness, and neuroticism, but there was no gender difference for openness. Gender differences showed some reduction over time.

Keywords: Word frequency; time trend; gender similarities; gender differences; Big Five

Odor awareness: A model including individual-level predictors (gender, age, material situation, education & preferred social distance) provided a relatively good fit to the data, but adding country-level predictors did not

Global study of social odor awareness. Agnieszka Sorokowska Agata et al. Chemical Senses, bjy038,

Abstract: Olfaction plays an important role in human social communication, including multiple domains in which people often rely on their sense of smell in the social context. The importance of the sense of smell and its role can however vary inter-individually and culturally. Despite the growing body of literature on differences in olfactory performance or hedonic preferences across the globe, the aspects of a given culture as well as culturally universal individual differences affecting odor awareness in human social life remain unknown. Here, we conducted a large-scale analysis of data collected from 10,794 participants from 52 study sites from 44 countries all over the world. The aim of our research was to explore the potential individual and country-level correlates of odor awareness in the social context. The results show that the individual characteristics were more strongly related than country-level factors to self-reported odor awareness in different social contexts. A model including individual-level predictors (gender, age, material situation, education and preferred social distance) provided a relatively good fit to the data, but adding country-level predictors (Human Development Index, population density and average temperature) did not improve model parameters. Although there were some cross-cultural differences in social odor awareness, the main differentiating role was played by the individual differences. This suggests that people living in different cultures and different climate conditions may still share some similar patterns of odor awareness if they share other individual-level characteristics.

Keywords: odor awareness, olfaction, smell, culture

We reveal that mobility patterns evolve significantly yet smoothly, and that the number of familiar locations an individual visits at any point is a conserved quantity with a typical size of ~25

Evidence for a conserved quantity in human mobility. Laura Alessandretti, Piotr Sapiezynski, Vedran Sekara, Sune Lehmann & Andrea Baronchelli. Nature Human Behaviour,

Abstract: Recent seminal works on human mobility have shown that individuals constantly exploit a small set of repeatedly visited locations1,2,3. A concurrent study has emphasized the explorative nature of human behaviour, showing that the number of visited places grows steadily over time4,5,6,7. How to reconcile these seemingly contradicting facts remains an open question. Here, we analyse high-resolution multi-year traces of ~40,000 individuals from 4 datasets and show that this tension vanishes when the long-term evolution of mobility patterns is considered. We reveal that mobility patterns evolve significantly yet smoothly, and that the number of familiar locations an individual visits at any point is a conserved quantity with a typical size of ~25. We use this finding to improve state-of-the-art modelling of human mobility4,8. Furthermore, shifting the attention from aggregated quantities to individual behaviour, we show that the size of an individual’s set of preferred locations correlates with their number of social interactions. This result suggests a connection between the conserved quantity we identify, which as we show cannot be understood purely on the basis of time constraints, and the ‘Dunbar number’9,10 describing a cognitive upper limit to an individual’s number of social relations. We anticipate that our work will spark further research linking the study of human mobility and the cognitive and behavioural sciences.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

The Proportion of Sexual Offenders Who Are Female Is Higher Than Thought: A Meta-Analysis

The Proportion of Sexual Offenders Who Are Female Is Higher Than Thought: A Meta-Analysis. Franca Cortoni et al. Criminal Justice and Behavior,

Abstract: Women commit sexual offenses, but the proportion of sexual offenders who are female is subject to debates. Based on 17 samples from 12 countries, the current meta-analysis found that a small proportion of sexual offenses reported to police are committed by females (fixed-effect meta-analytical average = 2.2%). In contrast, victimization surveys indicated prevalence rates of female sexual offenders that were six times higher than official data (fixed-effect meta-analytical average = 11.6%). Female sexual offenders are more common among juvenile offenders than adult offenders, with approximately 2 percentage points more female juvenile sex offenders than female adult sex offenders. We also found that males were much more likely to self-report being victimized by female sex offenders compared with females (40% vs. 4%). The current study provides a robust estimate of the prevalence of female sexual offending, using a large sample of sexual offenses across diverse countries.

The Association Between Fraternal Birth Order and Anal-Erotic Roles of Men Who Have Sex with Men: Bottoms had a significantly greater mean number of older brothers than did Not-Bottoms

The Association Between Fraternal Birth Order and Anal-Erotic Roles of Men Who Have Sex with Men. Charles H. Wampold. Archives of Sexual Behavior,

Abstract: The fraternal birth order effect (FBOE) describes the phenomenon that homosexual men tend to have a greater number of older brothers than do heterosexual men. The FBOE is a marker for an innate, biological predisposition for androphilia in genotypic males. The FBOE has been studied since the 1930s and is the most consistent biodemographic correlate of sexual orientation in men. This study sought to determine whether the FBOE applies equally to all men who have sex with men (MSM), or disproportionately to MSM whose anal intercourse behavior is predominantly receptive (Bottoms). Participants included 243 North American adult MSM who responded to advertisements posted on a Web site and other electronic media associated with the GALA festival, a quadrennial gathering of gay and lesbian choruses. Each was asked whether his anal intercourse behavior during the preceding year was predominantly receptive, predominantly penetrative, or about equally receptive and penetrative. Those who indicated their behavior was predominantly receptive were coded “Bottoms”; all others were coded “Not-Bottoms.” Participants were also surveyed as to their sibship composition. Bottoms had a significantly greater mean number of older brothers than did Not-Bottoms. There was no significant difference with respect to older or younger sisters or younger brothers. Further, the older sibling sex ratio (OSSR) for the Bottom cohort, but not for the Not-Bottom cohort, was significantly higher than the expected OSSR for the general male population (OSSR = No. older brothers/No. older sisters × 100; expected OSSR for general population = 106). Thus, late fraternal birth order was correlated with receptive anal-erotic behavior among MSM.

Are some people truly better able to accurately perceive the personality of others? Previous research suggests that the good judge may be of little practical importance and individual differences minimal

Rogers, K. H., & Biesanz, J. C. (2018). Reassessing the good judge of personality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Advance online publication.

Abstract: Are some people truly better able to accurately perceive the personality of others? Previous research suggests that the good judge may be of little practical importance and individual differences minimal. In four large samples we assessed whether expressive accuracy (the good target) is a necessary condition for perceptive accuracy (the good judge) to emerge. As predicted from Funder’s (1995) realistic accuracy model, assessments of the good judge predicted increased impression accuracy in the context of judgments of the good target. In contrast, evaluative tendencies for judges did not evidence a similar interaction; the positivity of impressions did not reliably increase as a function of how positively targets tend to be viewed. The present results suggest the good judge does indeed exist—some individuals are much better able to detect and utilize valid cues from targets—but this is only strongly evident when perceiving a good target.

Witchcraft beliefs in early modern Europe: Memes, or parasites of the mind

Parasites of the Mind. Why Cultural Theorists Need the Meme’s Eye View. Maarten Boudry, Steije Hofhuis. Cognitive Systems Research,

Abstract: Are there any such things as mind parasites? By analogy with biological parasites, such cultural items are supposed to subvert or harm the interests of their host. The hypothesis of cultural parasitism has appeared in different guises in the burgeoning field of cultural evolution. To unpack the notion of mind parasites, we first clear some conceptual ground around the concept of cultural adaptation and its relation to human agency. We then formulate Millikan’s challenge: how can cultural items develop novel purposes of their own, cross-cutting or subverting our own personal purposes? If this central challenge is not met, talk of cultural ‘parasites’ or ‘selfish memes’ remains vacuous. First, we discuss why other attempts to answer Millikan’s challenge have failed. In particular, we put to rest the claims of panmemetics, a somewhat sinister worldview according to which human culture is nothing more than a swarm of selfish agents, plotting and scheming behind the scenes. Next, we reject a more reasonable, but still overly permissive approach to mind parasites, which equates them with biologically maladaptive culture. Finally, we present our own answer to Millikan’s challenge: certain systems of misbelief can be fruitfully treated as cultural parasites, which are designed by cultural evolution and which subvert the interests of their human hosts. As a proof of concept, we discuss witchcraft beliefs in early modern Europe, and show how the meme’s eye view promises to shed new light on a mystery that historians and social scientists have been wrestling with for decades.

Keywords: mind parasites; cultural adaptation; misbeliefs; meme’s eye view; witch persecutions; maladaptive culture

87% of husbands and 49% of wives reported consistently experiencing orgasm. 43% of husbands misperceived how often their wives experienced orgasm; wives' sexual satisfaction was positively associated with self-reported orgasm frequency, & both wives' and husbands' sexual communication

The Significance of the Female Orgasm: A Nationally Representative, Dyadic Study of Newlyweds' Orgasm Experience. Nathan D. Leonhardt et al. Leonhardt ND, Willoughby BJ, Busby DM, et al. The Journal of Sexual Medicine 2018;XX:XXX–XXX.


Background: Self-reported orgasm, perception of partner's orgasm, and misperception of partner's orgasm have each been correlated with individual sexual and relationship satisfaction, but these associations have rarely included dyadic data, have not fully accounted for potentially confounding variables such as sexual communication, and have never been simultaneously studied with a nationally representative sample.

Aim: To provide a more complete picture of how the orgasmic experience within the heterosexual couple influences individual and partner sexual and relationship satisfaction.

Methods: Using a nationally representative dyadic sample of 1,683 newlywed heterosexual couples, a structural equation model was estimated to test associations between husband and wife self-reported orgasm frequency, husband and wife report of the other partner's orgasm frequency, and husband and wife misperception of their partner's orgasm frequency, as correlates of relationship and sexual satisfaction.

Outcomes: Both husband and wife completed the Couples Satisfaction Index to assess their own relationship satisfaction, and completed a sexual satisfaction instrument designed for the CREATE study.

Results: 87% of husbands and 49% of wives reported consistently experiencing orgasm. 43% of husbands misperceived how often their wives experienced orgasm. The final structural equation model, including sexual communication, explained moderate amounts of variance in wives' and husbands' relationship satisfaction, and a high level of variance for wives' and husbands' sexual satisfaction. Wives' relationship satisfaction was positively associated with wives' and husbands' sexual communication. Wives' sexual satisfaction was positively associated with self-reported orgasm frequency, and both wives' and husbands' sexual communication. Husbands' relationship satisfaction was positively associated with husbands' and wives' sexual communication. Husbands' sexual satisfaction was positively associated with husbands' perception of wives' orgasm frequency, and both husbands' and wives' sexual communication.

Clinical Translation: When counseling couples, clinicians should give particular attention to the wife's orgasm experiences, to potentially help both husbands and wives have higher sexual satisfaction.

Strengths & Limitations: Strengths of this study include the use of a nationally representative sample and dyadic data. Limitations include cross-sectional data, and the assessment of sexual experiences only in newlywed couples.

Conclusion: Wives' orgasm (wives' self-report of frequency and husbands' perception of frequency) has a unique positive association with sexual satisfaction, even after taking into account other aspects of the orgasm experience and sexual communication.

Key Words: Sexuality; Sexual Satisfaction; Orgasm; Marriage; Marital Relationship; Misperception

Does Being Smarter Make You Happier? Evidence from Europe shows that only those older than 50 seem to be happier

Does Being Smarter Make You Happier? Evidence from Europe. Rifaan Ahmed, Dusanee Kesavayuth, Vasileios Zikos. Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics,

•    We examine whether, and to what extent, cognitive abilities matter for the subjective well-being of older individuals
•    We utilize unique panel data from SHARE on individuals aged 50+
•    We find that individuals with higher cognitive abilities have, on average, higher levels of well-being
•    The beneficial effect of cognitive ability is more pronounced when it comes to the CASP measure as opposed to life satisfaction
•    The current paper provides some of the first empirical evidence on the relationship between cognition and well-being of older individuals in Europe

Abstract: In this paper we study the importance of cognitive abilities for the subjective well-being of older individuals. We draw unique panel data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) on a representative sample of individuals aged 50+. The analysis reveals that individuals with higher cognitive abilities have, on average, higher levels of subjective well-being. The result holds for two different well-being measures and remains robust under different specifications and limitations on the data. As such, it provides some of the first empirical evidence on the relationship between cognition and subjective well-being of older individuals in Europe.

Keywords: Life satisfaction; Quality of life; Cognition; Well-being; SHARE JEL codes: D01, I31

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Race and economic opportunity in the United States: Summary

Race and economic opportunity in the United States. Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren, Maggie R. Jones, Sonya R. Porter. Vox, Jun 27 2018.

The sources of racial disparities in income have been debated for decades. This column uses data on 20 million children and their parents to show how racial disparities persist across generations in the US. For instance, black men have much lower chances of climbing the income ladder than white men even if they grow up on the same block. In contrast, black and white women have similar rates of mobility. The column discusses how such findings can be used to reduce racial disparities going forward.

Finding #1: Hispanic Americans are moving up in the income distribution across generations, while Black Americans and American Indians are not.

Finding #2: The black.white income gap is entirely driven by differences in men's, not women's, outcomes.

Finding #3: Differences in family characteristics (parental marriage rates, education, wealth) and differences in ability explain very little of the black.white gap.

Finding #4: In 99% of neighbourhoods in the United States, black boys earn less in adulthood than white boys who grow up in families with comparable income.

Finding #5: Both black and white boys have better outcomes in low-poverty areas, but black-white gaps are bigger in such neighbourhoods.

Finding #6: Within low-poverty areas, black.white gaps are smallest in places with low levels of racial bias among whites and high rates of father presence among blacks.

Finding #7: The black.white gap is not immutable: black boys who move to better neighbourhoods as children have significantly better outcomes.

Ethnolinguistic Favoritism in African Politics: Ethnic favoritism is more widespread than previously believed, finding that patronage tends to be targeted toward ethnic regions rather than individuals of a particular ethnic group

Dickens, Andrew. 2018. "Ethnolinguistic Favoritism in African Politics." American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 10(3):370-402. DOI: 10.1257/app.20160066

Abstract: African political leaders have a tendency to favor members of their own ethnic group. Yet for all other ethnic groups in a country, it is unclear whether having a similar ethnicity to the leader is beneficial. To shed light on this issue, I use a continuous measure of linguistic similarity to quantify the ethnic similarity of a leader to all ethnic groups in a country. Combined with panel data on 163 ethnic groups partitioned across 35 sub-Saharan countries, I use within-group time variation in similarity that results from a partitioned group's concurrent exposure to multiple national leaders. Findings show that ethnic favoritism is more widespread than previously believed: in addition to evidence of coethnic favoritism, I document evidence of non-coethnic favoritism that typically goes undetected in the absence of a continuous measure of similarity. I also find that patronage tends to be targeted toward ethnic regions rather than individuals of a particular ethnic group. I relate these results to the literature on coalition building, and provide evidence that ethnicity is one of the guiding principles behind high-level government appointments.

Stanford Prison Experiment: Using recordings from the archive we show how the experimenters directly intervened to persuade Guards to adopt their roles and to act tough

Van Bavel, Jay J. 2018. “Rethinking the ‘nature’ of Brutality: Uncovering the Role of Identity Leadership in the Stanford Prison Experiment.” PsyArXiv. June 27. doi:10.17605/OSF.IO/B7CRX

Abstract: On the basis of findings from the Stanford Prison Experiment (SPE), Zimbardo and colleagues (e.g., Haney, Banks & Zimbardo, 1973) have argued that people’s willingness to oppress others — whether in the world at large or in classic social psychological studies — is the result of a tendency to conform ‘naturally’ to brutal roles. In contrast, Haslam and Reicher (e.g., 2007) have argued that it results from leadership which encourages potential perpetrators to identify with what is presented as a noble ingroup cause and to see their actions as necessary for the advancement of that cause. We review a range of evidence to show that such an analysis explains other classic studies of toxic behaviour (e.g. Milgram’s obedience studies). Nevertheless, researchers have hitherto had limited capacity to establish whether analysis framed in terms of identity leadership can account for brutality in the SPE. This has changed following the recent digitization of the SPE archive. Using recordings from the archive we show how the experimenters directly intervened to persuade Guards to adopt their roles and to act tough. Moreover, we show how these interventions accord with the tenets of identity leadership. Implications for the analysis of conformity, the understanding of brutality and the interpretation of the SPE are discussed.

h/t: Rolf Degen

Sex, trait psychopathy, and trait sadism were significant predictors of a short-term mating orientation. For long-term mating orientations, there was no predictive utility of sex, but there were positive associations for narcissism & negative associations for psychopathy & sadism

Predicting Short- and Long-Term Mating Orientations: The Role of Sex and the Dark Tetrad. Alexandra Tsoukas & Evita March. The Journal of Sex Research,

Abstract: Previous literature has extensively considered factors that influence short- and long-term mating orientations, with specific attention given to individual differences (e.g., sex and personality). Although research has established the role “darker” personality traits (i.e., the dark triad) play in mating orientation, this triad has recently been reconceptualized as a tetrad. Due to this reconceptualization, the current study sought to establish the utility of sex and the dark tetrad in predicting individual short- and long-term mating orientations. In addition, as an alternative to previous methodology, the orientations were assessed using a continuous measure. A total of 464 participants, ages 18 to 69, completed an online questionnaire assessing dark tetrad traits and mating orientations. Results showed that sex, trait psychopathy, and trait sadism were significant predictors of a short-term mating orientation. For long-term mating orientations, there was no predictive utility of sex, but there were positive associations for narcissism and negative associations for psychopathy and sadism. These findings add further understanding of the predictors of mating orientation and the utility of the tetrad in predicting mating orientations. In addition, the findings offer future mating orientation studies an alternative measure to the traditional dichotomous format.

h/t: Rolf Degen

Cognition, emotion and reward networks associated with sex differences for romantic appraisals: men and women differ in the processing of romantic information and that it may be more effortful for men to perceive and evaluate romance degree

Cognition, emotion and reward networks associated with sex differences for romantic appraisals. Jie Yin, Zhiling Zou, Hongwen Song, Zhuo Zhang, Bo Yang & Xiting Huang. Scientific Reports, volume 8, Article number: 2835 (2018).

Abstract: Romantic love is a cross-culturally universal phenomenon that serves as a commitment device for motivating pair bonding in human beings. Women and men may experience different feelings when viewing the same warm, romantic scenes. To determine which brain systems may be involved in romance perception and examine possible sex differences, we scanned 16 women and 16 men who were intensely in love, using functional MRI. Participants were required to rate the romance level of 60 pictures showing romantic events that may frequently occur during romantic relationship formation. The results showed that greater brain activation was found for men in the insula, PCC (posterior cingulate cortex), and prefrontal gyrus compared with women, primarily under the High-romance condition. In addition, enhanced functional connectivity between the brain regions involved in the High-romance condition in contrast to the Low-romance condition was only found for men. These data suggest that men and women differ in the processing of romantic information and that it may be  more effortful for men to perceive and evaluate romance degree.

h/t: Rolf Degen

Most taxa lack well-developed sexual weaponry; females of only a few species possess better weapons than males; & animals possessing the most developed weapons have non‐hunting habits or are faunivores that prey on very small prey relative to their body size

Intrasexually selected weapons. Alejandro Rico‐Guevara, Kristiina J. Hurme. Biological Reviews,

ABSTRACT: We propose a practical concept that distinguishes the particular kind of weaponry that has evolved to be used in combat between individuals of the same species and sex, which we term intrasexually selected weapons (ISWs). We present a treatise of ISWs in nature, aiming to understand their distinction and evolution from other secondary sex traits, including from ‘sexually selected weapons’, and from sexually dimorphic and monomorphic weaponry. We focus on the subset of secondary sex traits that are the result of same‐sex combat, defined here as ISWs, provide not previously reported evolutionary patterns, and offer hypotheses to answer questions such as: why have only some species evolved weapons to fight for the opposite sex or breeding resources? We examined traits that seem to have evolved as ISWs in the entire animal phylogeny, restricting the classification of ISW to traits that are only present or enlarged in adults of one of the sexes, and are used as weapons during intrasexual fights. Because of the absence of behavioural data and, in many cases, lack of sexually discriminated series from juveniles to adults, we exclude the fossil record from this review. We merge morphological, ontogenetic, and behavioural information, and for the first time thoroughly review the tree of life to identify separate evolution of ISWs. We found that ISWs are only found in bilateral animals, appearing independently in nematodes, various groups of arthropods, and vertebrates. Our review sets a reference point to explore other taxa that we identify with potential ISWs for which behavioural or morphological studies are warranted. We establish that most ISWs come in pairs, are located in or near the head, are endo‐ or exoskeletal modifications, are overdeveloped structures compared with those found in females, are modified feeding structures and/or locomotor appendages, are most common in terrestrial taxa, are frequently used to guard females, territories, or both, and are also used in signalling displays to deter rivals and/or attract females. We also found that most taxa lack ISWs, that females of only a few species possess better‐developed weapons than males, that the cases of independent evolution of ISWs are not evenly distributed across the phylogeny, and that animals possessing the most developed ISWs have non‐hunting habits (e.g. herbivores) or are faunivores that prey on very small prey relative to their body size (e.g. insectivores). Bringing together perspectives from studies on a variety of taxa, we conceptualize that there are five ways in which a sexually dimorphic trait, apart from the primary sex traits, can be fixed: sexual selection, fecundity selection, parental role division, differential niche occupation between the sexes, and interference competition. We discuss these trends and the factors involved in the evolution of intrasexually selected weaponry in nature.

Moral character of similar persons (in social beliefs) was perceived as much higher than that of dissimilar ones (effect was large); similar persons were perceived as more trustworthy than dissimilar ones (also large effect)

The mere liking effect: Attitudinal influences on attributions of moral character. Konrad Bocian et al. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Volume 79, November 2018, Pages 9–20.

•    The article bridges two classic areas of psychology: moral judgments and attitudes.
•    Attitudes strongly influence judgments of moral character.
•    These influences are entirely mediated by changes in liking of the judged persons.
•    Changes in mood do not play such a role.
•    Attitudinal influences might lay at the core of moral character perceptions.

Abstract: People believe that their moral judgments are well-justified and as objective as scientific facts. Still, dual-process models of judgment provide strong theoretical reasons to expect that in reality moral judgments are substantially influenced by highly subjective factors such as attitudes. In four experiments (N = 645) we provide evidence that similarity-dissimilarity of beliefs, mere exposure, and facial mimicry influence judgments of moral character measured in various ways. These influences are mediated by changes in liking of the judged persons, suggesting that attitudinal influences lay at the core of moral character perceptions. Changes in mood do not play such a role. This is the first line of studies showing that attitudes influence moral judgments in addition to frequently studied discrete emotions. It is also the first research evidencing the affective influences on judgments of moral character.

Keywords: Moral judgments; Moral character; Attitudes; Attribution

h/t: Rolf Degen

The Myth of the Liberal Order, by Graham Allison

The Myth of the Liberal Order: From Historical Accident to Conventional Wisdom. Graham Allison. Foreign Affairs, July/August 2018.

Among the debates that have swept the U.S. foreign policy community since the beginning of the Trump administration, alarm about the fate of the liberal international rules-based order has emerged as one of the few fixed points. From the international relations scholar G. John Ikenberry’s claim that “for seven decades the world has been dominated by a western liberal order” to U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s call in the final days of the Obama administration to “act urgently to defend the liberal international order,” this banner waves atop most discussions of the United States’ role in the world.

About this order, the reigning consensus makes three core claims. First, that the liberal order has been the principal cause of the so-called long peace among great powers for the past seven decades. Second, that constructing this order has been the main driver of U.S. engagement in the world over that period. And third, that U.S. President Donald Trump is the primary threat to the liberal order—and thus to world peace. The political scientist Joseph Nye, for example, has written, “The demonstrable success of the order in helping secure and stabilize the world over the past seven decades has led to a strong consensus that defending, deepening, and extending this system has been and continues to be the central task of U.S. foreign policy.” Nye has gone so far as to assert: “I am not worried by the rise of China. I am more worried by the rise of Trump.”

Although all these propositions contain some truth, each is more wrong than right. The “long peace” was the not the result of a liberal order but the byproduct of the dangerous balance of power between the Soviet Union and the United States during the four and a half decades of the Cold War and then of a brief period of U.S. dominance. U.S. engagement in the world has been driven not by the desire to advance liberalism abroad or to build an international order but by the need to do what was necessary to preserve liberal democracy at home. And although Trump is undermining key elements of the current order, he is far from the biggest threat to global stability.

These misconceptions about the liberal order’s causes and consequences lead its advocates to call for the United States to strengthen the order by clinging to pillars from the past and rolling back authoritarianism around the globe. Yet rather than seek to return to an imagined past in which the United States molded the world in its image, Washington should limit its efforts to ensuring sufficient order abroad to allow it to concentrate on reconstructing a viable liberal democracy at home.


The ambiguity of each of the terms in the phrase “liberal international rules-based order” creates a slipperiness that allows the concept to be applied to almost any situation. When, in 2017, members of the World Economic Forum in Davos crowned Chinese President Xi Jinping the leader of the liberal economic order—even though he heads the most protectionist, mercantilist, and predatory major economy in the world—they revealed that, at least in this context, the word “liberal” has come unhinged.

What is more, “rules-based order” is redundant. Order is a condition created by rules and regularity. What proponents of the liberal international rules-based order really mean is an order that embodies good rules, ones that are equal or fair. The United States is said to have designed an order that others willingly embrace and sustain.

Many forget, however, that even the UN Charter, which prohibits nations from using military force against other nations or intervening in their internal affairs, privileges the strong over the weak. Enforcement of the charter’s prohibitions is the preserve of the UN Security Council, on which each of the five great powers has a permanent seat—and a veto. As the Indian strategist C. Raja Mohan has observed, superpowers are “exceptional”; that is, when they decide it suits their purpose, they make exceptions for themselves. The fact that in the first 17 years of this century, the self-proclaimed leader of the liberal order invaded two countries, conducted air strikes and Special Forces raids to kill hundreds of people it unilaterally deemed to be terrorists, and subjected scores of others to “extraordinary rendition,” often without any international legal authority (and sometimes without even national legal authority), speaks for itself.


The claim that the liberal order produced the last seven decades of peace overlooks a major fact: the first four of those decades were defined not by a liberal order but by a cold war between two polar opposites. As the historian who named this “long peace” has explained, the international system that prevented great-power war during that time was the unintended consequence of the struggle between the Soviet Union and the United States. In John Lewis Gaddis’ words, “Without anyone’s having designed it, and without any attempt whatever to consider the requirements of justice, the nations of the postwar era lucked into a system of international relations that, because it has been based upon realities of power, has served the cause of order—if not justice—better than one might have expected.”

During the Cold War, both superpowers enlisted allies and clients around the globe, creating what came to be known as a bipolar world. Within each alliance or bloc, order was enforced by the superpower (as Hungarians and Czechs discovered when they tried to defect in 1956 and 1968, respectively, and as the British and French learned when they defied U.S. wishes in 1956, during the Suez crisis). Order emerged from a balance of power, which allowed the two superpowers to develop the constraints that preserved what U.S. President John F. Kennedy called, in the aftermath of the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, the “precarious status quo.”

What moved a country that had for almost two centuries assiduously avoided entangling military alliances, refused to maintain a large standing military during peacetime, left international economics to others, and rejected the League of Nations to use its soldiers, diplomats, and money to reshape half the world? In a word, fear. The strategists revered by modern U.S. scholars as “the wise men” believed that the Soviet Union posed a greater threat to the United States than Nazism had. As the diplomat George Kennan wrote in his legendary “Long Telegram,” the Soviet Union was “a political force committed fanatically to the belief that with US there can be no permanent modus vivendi.” Soviet Communists, Kennan wrote, believed it was necessary that “our society be disrupted, our traditional way of life be destroyed, the international authority of our state be broken, if Soviet power [was] to be secure.”

Before the nuclear age, such a threat would have required a hot war as intense as the one the United States and its allies had just fought against Nazi Germany. But after the Soviet Union tested its first atomic bomb, in 1949, American statesmen began wrestling with the thought that total war as they had known it was becoming obsolete. In the greatest leap of strategic imagination in the history of U.S. foreign policy, they developed a strategy for a form of combat never previously seen, the conduct of war by every means short of physical conflict between the principal combatants.

To prevent a cold conflict from turning hot, they accepted—for the time being—many otherwise unacceptable facts, such as the Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. They modulated their competition with mutual constraints that included three noes: no use of nuclear weapons, no overt killing of each other’s soldiers, and no military intervention in the other’s recognized sphere of influence.

American strategists incorporated Western Europe and Japan into this war effort because they saw them as centers of economic and strategic gravity. To this end, the United States launched the Marshall Plan to rebuild Western Europe, founded the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and negotiated the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade to promote global prosperity. And to ensure that Western Europe and Japan remained in active cooperation with the United States, it established NATO and the U.S.-Japanese alliance.

Each initiative served as a building block in an order designed first and foremost to defeat the Soviet adversary. Had there been no Soviet threat, there would have been no Marshall Plan and no NATO. The United States has never promoted liberalism abroad when it believed that doing so would pose a significant threat to its vital interests at home. Nor has it ever refrained from using military force to protect its interests when the use of force violated international rules. Had there been no Soviet threat, there would have been no Marshall Plan and no Nato.

Nonetheless, when the United States has had the opportunity to advance freedom for others—again, with the important caveat that doing so would involve little risk to itself—it has acted. From the founding of the republic, the nation has embraced radical, universalistic ideals. In proclaiming that “all” people “are created equal,” the Declaration of Independence did not mean just those living in the 13 colonies.

It was no accident that in reconstructing its defeated adversaries  Germany and Japan and shoring up its allies in Western Europe, the United States sought to build liberal democracies that would embrace shared values as well as shared interests. The ideological campaign against the Soviet Union hammered home fundamental, if exaggerated, differences between “the free world” and “the evil empire.” Moreover, American policymakers knew that in mobilizing and sustaining support in Congress and among the public, appeals to values are as persuasive as arguments about interests.

In his memoir, Present at the Creation, former U.S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson, an architect of the postwar effort, explained the thinking that motivated U.S. foreign policy. The prospect of Europe falling under Soviet control through a series of “‘settlements by default’ to Soviet pressure” required the “creation of strength throughout the free world” that would “show the Soviet leaders by successful containment that they could not hope to expand their influence throughout the world.” Persuading Congress and the American public to support this undertaking, Acheson acknowledged, sometimes required making the case “clearer than truth.”


In the aftermath of the disintegration of the Soviet Union and Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s campaign to “bury communism,”Americans were understandably caught up in a surge of triumphalism. The adversary on which they had focused for over 40 years stood by as the Berlin Wall came tumbling down and Germany reunified. It then joined with the United States in a unanimous UN Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force to throw the Iraqi military out of Kuwait. As the iron fist of Soviet oppression withdrew, free people in Eastern Europe embraced market economies and democracy. U.S. President George H. W. Bush declared a “new world order.” Hereafter, under a banner of “engage and enlarge,” the United States would welcome a world clamoring to join a growing liberal order.

Writing about the power of ideas, the economist John Maynard Keynes noted, “Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back.” In this case, American politicians were following a script offered by the political scientist Francis Fukuyama in his best-selling 1992 book, The End of History and the Last Man. Fukuyama argued that millennia of conflict among ideologies were over. From this point on, all nations would embrace free-market economics to make their citizens rich and democratic governments to make them free. “What we may be witnessing,” he wrote, “is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.” In 1996, the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman went even further by proclaiming the “Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention”: “When a country reaches a certain level of economic development, when it has a middle class big enough to support a McDonald’s, it becomes a McDonald’s country, and people in McDonald’s countries don’t like to fight wars; they like to wait in line for burgers.”

This vision led to an odd coupling of neoconservative crusaders on the right and liberal interventionists on the left. Together, they persuaded a succession of U.S. presidents to try to advance the spread of capitalism and liberal democracy through the barrel of a gun. In 1999, Bill Clinton bombed Belgrade to force it to free Kosovo. In 2003, George W. Bush invaded Iraq to topple its president, Saddam Hussein. When his stated rationale for the invasion collapsed after U.S. forces were unable to find weapons of mass destruction, Bush declared a new mission: “to build a lasting democracy that is peaceful and prosperous.” In the words of Condoleezza Rice, his national security adviser at the time, “Iraq and Afghanistan are vanguards of this effort to spread democracy and tolerance and freedom throughout the Greater Middle East.” And in 2011, Barack Obama embraced the Arab Spring’s promise to bring democracy to the nations of the Middle East and sought to advance it by bombing Libya and deposing its brutal leader, Muammar al-Qaddafi. Few in Washington paused to note that in each case, the unipolar power was using military force to impose liberalism on countries whose governments could not strike back. Since the world had entered a new chapter of history, lessons from the past about the likely consequences of such behavior were ignored. The end of the Cold War produced a unipolar moment, not a unipolar era.

As is now clear, the end of the Cold War produced a unipolar moment, not a unipolar era. Today, foreign policy elites have woken up to the meteoric rise of an authoritarian China, which now rivals or even surpasses the United States in many domains, and the resurgence of an assertive, illiberal Russian nuclear superpower, which is willing to use its military to change both borders in Europe and the balance of power in the Middle East. More slowly and more painfully, they are discovering that the United States’ share of global power has shrunk. When measured by the yardstick of purchasing power parity, the U.S. economy, which accounted for half of the world’s GDP after World War II, had fallen to less than a quarter of global GDP by the end of the Cold War and stands at just one-seventh today. For a nation whose core strategy has been to overwhelm challenges with resources, this decline calls into question the terms of U.S. leadership.

This rude awakening to the return of history jumps out in the Trump administration’s National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy, released at the end of last year and the beginning of this year, respectively. The NDS notes that in the unipolar decades, “the United States has enjoyed uncontested or dominant superiority in every operating domain.” As a consequence, “we could generally deploy our forces when we wanted, assemble them where we wanted, and operate how we wanted.” But today, as the NSS observes, China and Russia “are fielding military capabilities designed to deny America access in times of crisis and to contest our ability to operate freely.” Revisionist powers, it concludes, are “trying to change the international order in their favor.”


During most of the nation’s 242 years, Americans have recognized the necessity to give priority to ensuring freedom at home over advancing aspirations abroad. The Founding Fathers were acutely aware that constructing a government in which free citizens would govern themselves was an uncertain, hazardous undertaking.

Among the hardest questions they confronted was how to create a government powerful enough to ensure Americans’ rights at home and protect them from enemies abroad without making it so powerful that it would abuse its strength.

Their solution, as the presidential scholar Richard Neustadt wrote, was not just a “separation of powers” among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches but “separated institutions sharing power.” The Constitution was an “invitation to struggle.” And presidents, members of Congress, judges, and even journalists have been struggling ever since. The process was not meant to be pretty. As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis explained to those frustrated by the delays, gridlock, and even idiocy these checks and balances sometimes produce, the founders’ purpose was “not to promote efficiency but to preclude the exercise of arbitrary power.”

From this beginning, the American experiment in self-government has always been ...

To overcome the feeling of eeriness of own-voice recordings, some have suggested equalization of the recorded voice with various types of filters; but there is no general filter that can represent own voice for everyone, and the uncanny valley does not exist for own voice, specifically

Auditory traits of "own voice". Marino Kimura, Yuko Yotsumoto. PLOS June 26, 2018.

Abstract: People perceive their recorded voice differently from their actively spoken voice. The uncanny valley theory proposes that as an object approaches humanlike characteristics, there is an increase in the sense of familiarity; however, eventually a point is reached where the object becomes strangely similar and makes us feel uneasy. The feeling of discomfort experienced when people hear their recorded voice may correspond to the floor of the proposed uncanny valley. To overcome the feeling of eeriness of own-voice recordings, previous studies have suggested equalization of the recorded voice with various types of filters, such as step, bandpass, and low-pass, yet the effectiveness of these filters has not been evaluated. To address this, the aim of experiment 1 was to identify what type of voice recording was the most representative of one’s own voice. The voice recordings were presented in five different conditions: unadjusted recorded voice, step filtered voice, bandpass filtered voice, low-pass filtered voice, and a voice for which the participants freely adjusted the parameters. We found large individual differences in the most representative own-voice filter. In order to consider roles of sense of agency, experiment 2 investigated if lip-synching would influence the rating of own voice. The result suggested lip-synching did not affect own voice ratings. In experiment 3, based on the assumption that the voices used in previous experiments corresponded to continuous representations of non-own voice to own voice, the existence of an uncanny valley was examined. Familiarity, eeriness, and the sense of own voice were rated. The result did not support the existence of an uncanny valley. Taken together, the experiments led us to the following conclusions: there is no general filter that can represent own voice for everyone, sense of agency has no effect on own voice rating, and the uncanny valley does not exist for own voice, specifically.