Tuesday, November 27, 2018

When asking for assistance, is it beneficial to incentivize a helper by offering a motivated gift (gift with the hope of getting support in return)? Sometimes undermine the assistance that people hope to receive. A third of Americans had given such gift at least once

aknin, Lara, Dylan Wiwad, and Yuthika Girme. 2018. “Not All Gifts Are Good: The Potential Practical Costs of Motivated Gifts.” PsyArXiv. November 27. doi:10.31234/osf.io/stkx8

Abstract: People rely on support from others to accomplish mundane and momentous tasks. When asking for assistance, is it beneficial to incentivize a helper by offering a motivated gift (i.e. a gift with the hope of getting support in return)? Six studies (N>2,500) examine the frequency and potential costs of motivated gifts. In Study 1, a third of Americans indicated that they had given a motivated gift at least once, while nearly two-thirds believed they had received one. In Studies 2a-d, most participants who imagined receiving a motivated gift before a favor request reported lower willingness to help and anticipated satisfaction from helping than participants who imagined simply being asked for a favor. Finally, Study 3 replicates these findings with actual help provided among friends in a laboratory setting. Findings suggest that motivated gifts are relatively common but may sometimes undermine the assistance that people hope to receive.

Dystopian novels/movies enhance the willingness to justify radical—especially violent—forms of political action; no evidence for the conventional wisdom that they reduce political trust & efficacy

It’s the End of the World and They Know It: How Dystopian Fiction Shapes Political Attitudes. Calvert W. Jones and Celia Paris. Perspectives on Politics, Volume 16, Issue 4, December 2018 , pp. 969-989. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1537592718002153

Abstract: Given that the fictional narratives found in novels, movies, and television shows enjoy wide public consumption, memorably convey information, minimize counter-arguing, and often emphasize politically-relevant themes, we argue that greater scholarly attention must be paid to theorizing and measuring how fiction affects political attitudes. We argue for a genre-based approach for studying fiction effects, and apply it to the popular dystopian genre. Results across three experiments are striking: we find consistent evidence that dystopian narratives enhance the willingness to justify radical—especially violent—forms of political action. Yet we find no evidence for the conventional wisdom that they reduce political trust and efficacy, illustrating that fiction’s effects may not be what they seem and underscoring the need for political scientists to take fiction seriously.

Men who more strongly endorsed hostile sexism underestimated the power they had compared with their partners’ reports; this perception predicted greater aggression toward female partners; this was not the result of generally being more dominant & aggressive

An Interdependence Account of Sexism and Power: Men's Hostile Sexism, Biased Perceptions of Low Power, and Relationship Aggression. Emily J. Cross, Nickola C. Overall, Rachel S.T. Low, & James K. McNulty. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Nov 26, 2018.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/pspi0000167

Abstract: Protecting men’s power is fundamental to understanding the origin, expression, and targets of hostile sexism, yet no prior theoretical or empirical work has specified how hostile sexism is related to experiences of power. In the current studies, we propose that the interdependence inherent in heterosexual relationships will lead men who more strongly endorse hostile sexism to perceive they have lower power in their relationship, and that these perceptions will be biased. We also predicted that lower perceptions of power would in turn promote aggression toward intimate partners. Across 4 studies, men who more strongly endorsed hostile sexism perceived lower power in their relationships. Comparisons across partners supported that these lower perceptions of power were biased; men who more strongly endorsed hostile sexism underestimated the power they had compared with their partners’ reports of that power (Studies 1 and 2). These lower perceptions of power, in turn, predicted greater aggression toward female partners during couples’ daily interactions (Study 1), observed during couples’ video-recorded conflict discussions (Study 2), and reported over the last year (Studies 3 and 4). Moreover, the associations between hostile sexism, power, and aggression were specific to men perceiving lower relationship power rather than desiring greater power in their relationships (Studies 3 and 4), and they were not the result of generally being more dominant and aggressive (Studies 3 and 4), or more negative relationship evaluations from either partner (Studies 1– 4). The findings demonstrate the importance of an interdependence perspective in understanding the experiences, aggressive expressions, and broader consequences associated with hostile sexism.

Keywords: hostile sexism, relationship power, relationship aggression, biased perceptions
Supplemental materials: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/pspi0000167.supp

Reading faces: Participants correctly identified the high-narcissism male & female, & the high-psychopathy male significantly more often than by chance, & the high-psychopathy female significantly less often

Are dark triad cues really visible in faces? Victor Kenji M. Shiramizu, Luca Kozm, Lisa M. DeBruine, Benedict C. Jones. Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 139, 1 March 2019, Pages 214-216. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2018.11.011

Abstract: The ‘dark triad’ refers to the personality traits narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy. Previous research found that participants could distinguish dark triad faces when judging images with average facial characteristics of people who scored either high or low on these traits. These results suggest that faces contain valid cues to dark triad personality traits and that the dark triad is a set of physical-morphological characteristics, as well as a set of psycho-social characteristics. Because putative links between personality traits and facial appearance have often not replicated well across studies, we attempted to replicate these results with a new set of face images. Participants correctly identified the high-narcissism male and female prototypes and the high-psychopathy male prototype significantly more often than would be expected by chance. By contrast, our analyses showed no evidence that participants could discriminate between the high- and low-Machiavellianism prototypes for either sex. Surprisingly, participants correctly identified the high-psychopathy female prototype significantly less often than would be expected by chance alone. Together our results suggest that male and female faces contain valid cues of narcissism, but do not necessarily contain valid cues of psychopathy or Machiavellianism.

School achievement engenders high expectations about future prospects, yet markets are only contingently sensitive to that achievement; the misalignment schools-markets is perceived by academics as morally unacceptable

Magni-Berton, R., & Ríos, D. (2018). Why do academics oppose the market? A test of Nozick’s hypothesis. Current Sociology. https://doi.org/10.1177/0011392118812934

Abstract: In this article, the authors explore why academics tend to oppose the market. To this intent the article uses normative political theory as an explanatory mechanism, starting with a conjecture originally suggested by Robert Nozick. Academics are over-represented amongst the best students of their cohort. School achievement engenders high expectations about future economic prospects. Yet markets are only contingently sensitive to school achievement. This misalignment between schools and markets is perceived by academics – and arguably by intellectuals in general – as morally unacceptable. To test this explanation, the article uses an online questionnaire with close to 1500 French academic respondents. The data resulting from this investigation lend support to Nozick’s hypothesis.

Keywords Academics, attitudes, justice, the market, Nozick

Monday, November 26, 2018

Sensation seeking & the factor intellect/imagination predict liking of horror & frequency of use; gender, educational level, & age are also correlated; people seek out horror media with threatening stimuli that they perceive to be plausible

Clasen, M., Kjeldgaard-Christiansen, J., & Johnson, J. A. (2018). Horror, personality, and threat simulation: A survey on the psychology of scary media. Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/ebs0000152

Abstract: Horror entertainment is a thriving and paradoxical industry. Who are the consumers of horror, and why do they seek out frightening media? We provide support for the threat simulation theory of horror, according to which horror media provides a form of benign masochism that offers negative emotional stimulation through simulation of threat scenarios. Through an online survey of genre use and preference as well as personality traits and paranormal beliefs (n = 1,070), we find that sensation seeking and the fifth of the Big Five factors, intellect/imagination, predict liking of horror and frequency of use. Gender, educational level, and age are also correlated with horror liking and frequency of use (males show higher liking and more frequent use, whereas liking and use frequency are negatively correlated with educational level and age). People with stronger beliefs in the paranormal tend to seek out horror media with supernatural content, whereas those with weaker beliefs in the paranormal gravitate toward horror media with natural content, suggesting that people seek out horror media with threatening stimuli that they perceive to be plausible. While frightening media may be initially aversive, people high in sensation seeking and intellect/imagination, in particular, like intellectual stimulation and challenge and expect not just negative but also positive emotions from horror consumption. They brave the initially aversive response to simulate threats and so enter a positive feedback loop by which they attain adaptive mastery through coping with virtual simulated danger.

Check also So Disgusting, But You Can't Take Your Eyes Off the Screen: Can Personality Traits and Disgust Sensitivity Influence People's Love for Horror Movies? Ashley Marie Dillard. Western Carolina University, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2018. 10788427. https://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2018/09/significant-correlations-between.html

Normalized hurricane damage in the continental United States 1900–2017: Consistent with observed trends in the hurricane landfalls, the updated normalized loss estimates also show no trend

Normalized hurricane damage in the continental United States 1900–2017. Jessica Weinkle, Chris Landsea, Douglas Collins, Rade Musulin, Ryan P. Crompton, Philip J. Klotzbach & Roger Pielke Jr. Nature Sustainability (2018), https://www.nature.com/articles/s41893-018-0165-2

Abstract: Direct economic losses result when a hurricane encounters an exposed, vulnerable society. A normalization estimates direct economic losses from a historical extreme event if that same event was to occur under contemporary societal conditions. Under the global indicator framework of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the reduction of direct economic losses as a proportion of total economic activity is identified as a key indicator of progress in the mitigation of disaster impacts. Understanding loss trends in the context of development can therefore aid in assessing sustainable development. This analysis provides a major update to the leading dataset on normalized US hurricane losses in the continental United States from 1900 to 2017. Over this period, 197 hurricanes resulted in 206 landfalls with about US$2 trillion in normalized (2018) damage, or just under US$17 billion annually. Consistent with observed trends in the frequency and intensity of hurricane landfalls along the continental United States since 1900, the updated normalized loss estimates also show no trend. A more detailed comparison of trends in hurricanes and normalized losses over various periods in the twentieth century to 2017 demonstrates a very high degree of consistency.

People will often fight not for individual or collective material gain, but because of their commitment to abstract moral & sacred ideas; decisions to support or oppose war are descriptively deontological & are relatively insensitive to material costs or benefits

The Moral Logic of Political Violence. Jeremy Ginges. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2018.11.001

Abstract: There is a moral logic to reasoning about political violence. People will often fight not for individual or collective material gain, but because of their commitment to abstract moral and sacred ideas. Moreover, decisions to support or oppose war are descriptively deontological and are relatively insensitive to material costs or benefits.

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For example, in one set of experiments carried out with Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, participants were randomly presented with one of two compromises over a disputed issue such as Jerusalem: a straight compromise for peace, or the same compromise for peace plus a material incentive such as the promise of a life free of violence, or billions of dollars to the collective.  When participants were moral absolutists with respect to the issues in conflict (regarding them as sacred values) adding a material incentive backfired, ironically ‘increasing’ support for violent opposition to the deal. The existence of culturally specific sacred values does not itself impede tolerant interactions across cultures (Box 1). However, aggression may occur when one group acts to demean or threaten the second group’s sacred values.

Decisions about War Are Relatively Insensitive to Consequences
Rather than being a product of a breakdown in morality, war is often regarded as a moral necessity if not a moral good [2,7,13]. While moral reasoning is important to collective action in general [5], people tend to make decisions about war in a deontological way such that violence is either seen as prohibited or mandated.  This leads to decisions that are relatively insensitive to material consequences.  In anonymous surveys of Jewish Israelis living in the West Bank and Gaza, participation in non-violent protest (aggressive and non-aggressive) was related to both the perceived effectiveness of such behavior and its perceived ‘righteousness’. However, participation in violent attacks was predicted by righteousness and unrelated to effectiveness [3].

Cross-cultural experiments show similar effects [2]. In one experimental paradigm, participants were randomly assigned to consider their support for either a non-violent response (negotiation) or a violent response (armed attack) to the kidnapping and imminent murder of 100 innocent civilians.  In prior tests, participants thought both options were equally appropriate and desirable. However, when asked to indicate how many hostages they required to be rescued to support the response they were considering, participants in the negotiation condition demanded between 80 and 100 hostages to be rescued, while those in the armed attack condition option required only one hostage to be rescued.  Participants in themilitary conditions would often give strategic reasons for their responses, typically by arguing that violence will deter future attacks. Yet, a subsequent experiment showed that support for military options was similarly insensitive to its deterrent capability [2]. Thus, people reason differently about violent and nonviolent option in intergroup conflicts, using the logic of instrumental rationality for nonviolence, but deontological reasoning when making choices about political violence.  This can lead to systematic inconsistency of preferences for military action (Box 2).

Degree of perceived aggression in a robot's behavior did not have a significant impact on their decision to follow the robot's instruction; people often exhibit reactance in situations where they feel their freedom is being threatened

S. Agrawal and M. Williams, "Would You Obey an Aggressive Robot: A Human-Robot Interaction Field Study," 2018 27th IEEE International Symposium on Robot and Human Interactive Communication (RO-MAN), Nanjing, China, 2018, pp. 240-246. doi: 10.1109/ROMAN.2018.8525615

Abstract: Social Robots have the potential to be of tremendous utility in healthcare, search and rescue, surveillance, transport, and military applications. In many of these applications, social robots need to advise and direct humans to follow important instructions. In this paper, we present the results of a Human-Robot Interaction field experiment conducted using a PR2 robot to explore key factors involved in obedience of humans to social robots. This paper focuses on studying how the human degree of obedience to a robot's instructions is related to the perceived aggression and authority of the robot's behavior. We implemented several social cues to exhibit and convey both authority and aggressiveness in the robot's behavior. In addition to this, we also analyzed the impact of other factors such as perceived anthropomorphism, safety, intelligence and responsibility of the robot's behavior on participants' compliance with the robot's instructions. The results suggest that the degree of perceived aggression in the robot's behavior by different participants did not have a significant impact on their decision to follow the robot's instruction. We have provided possible explanations for our findings and identified new research questions that will help to understand the role of robot authority in human-robot interaction, and that can help to guide the design of robots that are required to provide advice and instructions.

Keywords: Robot sensing systems; Safety; Human-robot interaction; Security; Anthropomorphism; Surveillance


A 4-Year Longitudinal Study of the Sex-Creativity Relationship: There was female superiority in childhood & early adolescence, & male superiority was not found in adolescence & emerging adulthood

A 4-Year Longitudinal Study of the Sex-Creativity Relationship in Childhood, Adolescence, and Emerging Adulthood: Findings of Mean and Variability Analyses. Wu-Jing He. Front. Psychol., 26 November 2018 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02331

Abstract: The relationship between sex and creativity remains an unresolved research question. The present study aimed to approach this question through the lens of the developmental theory of sex differences in intelligence, which posits a dynamic pattern of sex differences in intellectual abilities from female superiority in childhood and early adolescence to male superiority starting at 16 years of age. A total of 775 participants from three age groups (i.e., children, adolescents, and emerging adults) completed a 4-year longitudinal study comprising four assessments of creative thinking at 1-year intervals. Creative thinking was assessed with the Test for Creative Thinking-Drawing Production. While the results revealed female superiority in childhood and early adolescence, male superiority was not found in adolescence and emerging adulthood. Rather, greater sex similarities and greater male variability were found based on mean and variability analyses, respectively. This study elucidated the link between sex and creativity by (1) taking a developmental perspective, (2) employing a 4-year longitudinal design in three age groups (i.e., children, adolescents, and emerging adults), and (3) analyzing sex differences based on both mean and variability analyses.

Contra media reports, there is no “loneliness epidemic” among older adults; contra previous literature, loneliness may not have cardiometabolic implications; such nonreplications are increasingly common

Loneliness does (not) have cardiometabolic effects: A longitudinal study of older adults in two countries. Social Science & Medicine, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2018.10.021

Highlights
•    Contrary to media reports, there is no “loneliness epidemic” among older adults.
•    Opposing previous studies, loneliness may not be linked to cardiometabolic outcomes.
•    Such nonreplications are common in the growing “biosocial science” literature.
•    More rigorous methods are available, and urgently need incorporation.

Abstract

Objectives: Mass media increasingly report a “loneliness epidemic.” A growing academic literature claims downstream effects of this experience on surrogate markers of cardiometabolic risk. Evidence on such influences is based on flawed samples and methodologies, rendering inferences questionable. The current study tested these claims.

Methods: Analysis was based on three-wave data on older adults from two national probability samples—the U.S. Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA). Models were gender-differentiated. Cardiovascular states were indexed by systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and metabolic condition by hemoglobin A1c. Fixed effects models were used for initial investigation, and subsequent triangulation was through a first-differencing approach with instrumental variables.

Results: Loneliness had no linkage with any of the three outcomes. Nor were prevalences indicative of an epidemic of this affective state. Both gender and cross-national variations emerged: women were lonelier than men in each sample, while ELSA participants of both genders were less so than their HRS counterparts.

Discussion: Contra previous literature, loneliness may not have cardiometabolic implications. Such nonreplications are increasingly common in the emerging “biosocial science” literature. Potential sources are discussed. More rigorous methods are available and urgently need incorporation to root out flawed inferences and conceptual models.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Despite vast increases in the time and money spent on research, progress is barely keeping pace with the past. What went wrong?

Science Is Getting Less Bang for Its Buck. Patrick Collison, Michael Nielsen. The Atlantic, Nov 16, 2018
https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/11/diminishing-returns-science/575665/

Despite vast increases in the time and money spent on research, progress is barely keeping pace with the past. What went wrong?

https://scientificreturns.org/diminishing-returns

What’s causing the productivity slowdown? The subject is controversial among economists, and many different answers have been proposed. Some have argued that it’s merely that existing productivity measures don’t do a good job measuring the impact of new technologies. Our argument here suggests a different explanation, that diminishing returns to spending on science are contributing to a genuine productivity slowdown.

We aren’t the first to suggest that scientific discovery is showing diminishing returns. In 1971, the distinguished biologist Bentley Glass wrote an article in Science arguing that the glory days of science were over, and the most important discoveries had already been made:
It’s hard to believe, for me, anyway, that anything as comprehensive and earthshaking as Darwin’s view of the evolution of life or Mendel’s understanding of the nature of heredity will be easy to come by again. After all, these have been discovered!

In his 1996 book The End of Science, the science writer John Horgan interviewed many leading scientists and asked them about prospects for progress in their own fields. What he found was not encouraging. Here, for instance, is Leo Kadanoff, a leading theoretical physicist, on recent progress in science:
The truth is, there is nothing—there is nothing—of the same order of magnitude as the accomplishments of the invention of quantum mechanics or of the double helix or of relativity. Just nothing like that has happened in the last few decades.

Horgan asked Kadanoff whether that state of affairs was permanent. Kadanoff was silent, before sighing and replying: “Once you have proven that the world is lawful to the satisfaction of many human beings, you can’t do that again.”

But while many individuals have raised concerns about diminishing returns to science, there has been little institutional response. The meteorologist Kelvin Droegemeier, the current nominee to be President Donald Trump’s science adviser, claimed in 2016 that “the pace of discovery is accelerating” in remarks to a U.S. Senate committee. The problem of diminishing returns is mentioned nowhere in the 2018 report of the National Science Foundation, which instead talks optimistically of “potentially transformative research that will generate pioneering discoveries and advance exciting new frontiers in science.” Of course, many scientific institutions—particularly new institutions—do aim to find improved ways of operating in their own fields. But that’s not the same as an organized institutional response to diminishing returns.

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Check also Are Ideas Getting Harder to Find? Nicholas Bloom, Charles I. Jones, John Van Reenen, and Michael Webb. NBER Working Paper No. 23782. https://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/09/are-ideas-getting-harder-to-find.html

How does nature exposure make people healthier?: Evidence for the role of impulsivity and expanded space perception

How does nature exposure make people healthier?: Evidence for the role of impulsivity and expanded space perception. Meredith A. Repke, Meredith S. Berry, Lucian G. Conway III, Alexander Metcalf, Reid M. Hensen, Conor Phelan. PLOS One, Aug 22 2018, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0202246

Abstract: Nature exposure has been linked to a plethora of health benefits, but the mechanism for this effect is not well understood. We conducted two studies to test a new model linking the health benefits of nature exposure to reduced impulsivity in decision-making (as measured by delay discounting) via psychologically expanding space perception. In study 1 we collected a nationwide U.S. sample (n = 609) to determine whether nature exposure was predictive of health outcomes and whether impulsive decision-making mediated the effect. Results indicated that Nature Accessibility and Nature Exposure From Home significantly predicted reduced scores on the Depression, Anxiety, Stress Scales (DASS) (p < .001, p = .03, respectively) and improved general health and wellbeing (p < .001, p < .01, respectively). Nature Accessibility also predicted reduced impulsive decision-making (p < .01), and Nature Accessibility showed significant indirect effects through impulsive decision-making on both the DASS (p = .02) and general health and wellbeing (p = .04). In Study 2, a lab-based paradigm found that nature exposure expanded space perception (p < .001), and while the indirect effect of nature exposure through space perception on impulsive decision-making did not meet conventional standards of significance (p < .10), the pattern was consistent with hypotheses. This combination of ecologically-valid and experimental methods offers promising support for an impulsivity-focused model explaining the nature-health relationship.

Sex workers sell information gleaned from their customers—specifically, corrupt police officers—to al-Shabaab; “If you want information here, you use the prostitutes and street kids"

al-Shabaab’s Mata Hari Network. Katharine Petrich. War on the Rocks, Aug 14 2018. https://warontherocks.com/2018/08/al-shabaabs-mata-hari-network/

Excerpts:

I recently spent several weeks in the slum districts of Nairobi, researching al-Shabaab’s criminal activities in the Horn of Africa. I expected to learn about the traditional criminal practices of terrorist groups: drugs, arms, money laundering, and perhaps even a regional particularity like sugar smuggling. What I wasn’t expecting to discover was a highly structured, hierarchical network in which sex workers sell information gleaned from their customers — specifically, corrupt police officers — to al-Shabaab. As one interviewee noted, “If you want information here, you use the prostitutes and street kids — they see everything, go everywhere, and nobody notices them.”

The strength and depth of this sex worker-militant network surprised me and many terrorism experts in the West I spoke with, but it’s an open secret among Nairobi residents. My first interview subject didn’t understand why I wanted more details — surely everyone knew about it? Many of my interviewees were neighbors of, or otherwise friendly with, the sex workers involved. They described an arrangement in which al-Shabaab offered money to women who picked up interesting information in the course of their regular sex work — pillow talk from politicians, police officers, and businessmen. One local memorably opined: “Of course! Half the reason these men go to [sex workers] is to complain about their lives. Why not get paid for listening?”

The co-option of sex workers as intelligence officers suggests that al-Shabaab is a rational actor willing to circumvent its highly public ideological stances when there is significant operational benefit to be gained. This calculating, bottom-line mentality runs counter to much of the international narrative about the group. The “Mata Hari” network also shows that al-Shabaab is an innovative organization that looks for unconventional solutions and is actively seeking to survive and expand, despite the long-running efforts by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and its international military partners. Al-Shabaab has increased its resilience to counter-terrorism operations by leveraging the safe haven of neighboring Kenya, a sanctuary of sorts created by porous borders, weak government integrity, and sympathetic communities. Finally, this is a group interested in working “behind the lines” deep in adversarial territory that has learned how to exploit human weakness and failures of integrity in its area of operation.

[...]

The rational choice to leverage sex workers’ access to powerful government and law enforcement figures offers a window into al-Shabaab’s cost-benefit calculations. The group imposes strict restrictions on female sexuality in Somalia, its primary area of operation: It bans independent sex work, has imposed the death penalty for adultery, considers sexual assault to be adultery (and thus punishable by stoning to death), and utilizes forced marriages and rape as a reward system for its male soldiers. Given this deeply conservative position inside Somalia, its willingness to cooperate with and reward sex work in Nairobi, where the group is more constrained in its activities, suggests al-Shabaab is a limited, rational organization with concrete territorial aims. It is not a maximalist extremist group prioritizing ideological principles over tangible benefits, and because the group has a state-based goal, it is comfortable supporting or at least engaging with activities that contravene sharia law. An informant remarked wryly, “Al-Shabaab likes [that group of sex workers] very much. They are worth many sins.” Other interviewees described how group members publicly banned and beat sex workers in one neighborhood, decrying their “wickedness,” while simultaneously protecting the sex workers involved in the intelligence network. Immorality seems to be a reasonable price to pay for real-time intelligence.

[...]

The strength of Nairobi’s “prostitute spy” network demonstrates al-Shabaab’s organizational innovation, rationality, and broad geographic range. If the militia has learned the effectiveness of co-opting sex work in Nairobi, organizational learning theory argues it will attempt to replicate that success in other areas. Indeed, media reports indicate similar gambits of using “very beautiful women” as intelligence officers have also occurred in Kenya’s Lamu, Tana River, and Garissa counties. This evolution suggests al-Shabaab may be permanently incorporating sex work into its portfolio of intelligence operations.

[...]

Full text with much more and many links in War on the Rocks, link above.

Paperwork burdens, “sludge,” reduces access to important licenses, programs, & benefits; its defenses turn out to be more attractive in principle than in practice; a form of cost-benefit analysis is essential

Sunstein, Cass R., Sludge and Ordeals (November 20, 2018). Duke Law Journal, Forthcoming. http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3288192

Abstract: In 2015, the United States government imposed 9.78 billion hours of paperwork burdens on the American people. Many of these hours are best categorized as “sludge,” reducing access to important licenses, programs, and benefits. Because of the sheer costs of sludge, rational people are effectively denied life-changing goods and services; the problem is compounded by the existence of behavioral biases, including inertia, present bias, and unrealistic optimism. In principle, a serious deregulatory effort should be undertaken to reduce sludge, through automatic enrollment, greatly simplified forms, and reminders. At the same time, sludge can promote legitimate goals. First, it can protect program integrity, which means that policymakers might have to make difficult tradeoffs between (1) granting benefits to people who are not entitled to them and (2) denying benefits to people who are entitled to them. Second, it can overcome impulsivity, recklessness, and self-control problems. Third, it can prevent intrusions on privacy. Fourth, it can serve as a rationing device, ensuring that benefits go to people who most need them. In most cases, these defenses of sludge turn out to be more attractive in principle than in practice. For sludge, a form of cost-benefit analysis is essential, and it will often argue in favor of a neglected form of deregulation: sludge reduction. Various suggestions are offered for new action by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which oversees the Paperwork Reduction Act; for courts; and for Congress.

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My comment:

This was the most cited legal and constitutional scholar in the US, almost as much as the next two guys combined (between 2009 and 2013)... It is difficult to overstate how harmful has been the kind of theories Mr Sunstein supported in his work for the previous federal president, justifying in many occasions laws and regulations of great cost with abandon. Partially compensating this, he acknowledges in a paper devoted for the first time to law/regulations costs and how unfair they are, that:

1  the costs of paperwork are enormous; 2  rational people are effectively denied life-changing goods and services; 3  the problem is compounded by the existence of behavioral biases, including inertia, present bias, and unrealistic optimism; 4  defenses of paperwork burden are specious (are more attractive in principle (!) than in practice); 5  a form of cost-benefit analysis is essential, and 6   analysis will often argue in favor of paperwork burden reduction, "neglected form of deregulation."

Welcome to sanity, all of you guys that most of the time payed so little attention to regulation costs and the rights of the people, and how our cognitive defects, our biases, make lots of regulatory actions not only unworkable, but damaging in big ways.

Choosing a meal to increase your appeal: How relationship status, sexual orientation, dining partner sex, and attractiveness impact nutritional choices in social dining scenarios

Choosing a meal to increase your appeal: How relationship status, sexual orientation, dining partner sex, and attractiveness impact nutritional choices in social dining scenarios. Michael Baker, Andie Strickland, Nicole D. Fox. Appetite, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2018.11.023

Abstract: The impact of social context on dining choices was investigated via an online experiment. Participants were assigned to different hypothetical dining partners of the same or opposite sex and varying levels of attractiveness (or no partner in a control condition) and were then asked to indicate what foods they would order if they were dining with this individual. Following a food selection task, the attractiveness of the hypothetical partner was rated, followed by the measurement of personal characteristics such as current relationship status, participant sex, and sexual orientation. Results revealed that among heterosexual participants, relationship status, partner sex, and partner attractiveness interacted to influence the total number of calories ordered. Heterosexual male and female participants who were not currently in a relationship and had been assigned to an opposite-sex dining partner tended to order fewer calories the more attractive that they perceived their partner to be. The findings of this study build upon previous research on social influences on dining behavior by examining the roles of relationship status and dining partner attractiveness on nutritional decision-making.

Social media as a source of political information do not reduce the compatibility of individual issue horizons: they are not caught in an 'echo chamber' or reduce issue diversity, top issue focus or issue overlap with others

Stefan Geiß, Melanie Magin, Birgit Stark, Pascal Jürgens, „Common Meeting Ground” in Gefahr? Selektionslogiken politischer Informationsquellen und ihr Einfluss auf die Fragmentierung individueller Themenhorizonte in: M&K Medien & Kommunikationswissenschaft, Seite 502 - 525, Jahrgang 66 (2018), Heft 4, https://doi.org/10.5771/1615-634X-2018-4-502

Abstract: The diversification of the political information supply has raised concerns about social integration and collective democratic self-determination. Automatically personalised media content on social network sites such as Facebook which make use of individual online behaviour are often suspected of facilitating fragmentation. People with extreme political attitudes are particularly seen as vulnerable and likely to losing touch with society as a whole, for instance, if they are caught in an ‘echo chamber’. We draw on data from an innovative operationalisation of issue fragmentation using individual-level data, investigating whether the use of such content reduces the compatibility of individual issue horizons; i.e. reduced issue diversity, top issue focus, and issue overlap with others. We also investigate how this contributes to the fragmentation of society, both generally and among political extremists. Empirically, we rely on data from a two-week daily diary study with 333 participants, who provided information on the two political issues they found most important on that day. Participants also specified which sources they relied on for political information about the relevant issue. Our results show that social media as a source of political information do not reduce the compatibility of individual issue horizons. However, relying on these media outlets increases the compatibility of issue horizons, particularly among those with extreme political attitudes. In conclusion, we discuss the implications of these findings for the self-determination of individuals and society in the digital world.

Sumatran orangutan mothers suppressed alarm calls up to 20 min until the model was out of sight in function of perceived danger for themselves & for an infant, suggesting high-order cognition

Time-space–displaced responses in the orangutan vocal system. Adriano R. Lameira and Josep Call. Science Advances, Nov 14 2018, Vol. 4, no. 11, eaau3401. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aau3401

Abstract: One of the defining features of language is displaced reference—the capacity to transmit information about something that is not present or about a past or future event. It is very rare in nature and has not been shown in any nonhuman primate, confounding, as such, any understanding of its precursors and evolution in the human lineage. Here, we describe a vocal phenomenon in a wild great ape with unparalleled affinities with displaced reference. When exposed to predator models, Sumatran orangutan mothers temporarily suppressed alarm calls up to 20 min until the model was out of sight. Subjects delayed their vocal responses in function of perceived danger for themselves, but four major predictions for stress-based mechanisms were not met. Conversely, vocal delay was also a function of perceived danger for another—an infant—suggesting high-order cognition. Our findings suggest that displaced reference in language is likely to have originally piggybacked on akin behaviors in an ancestral hominid.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Reward retroactively prioritizes memory for objects closest to the reward; there is a 24-hour delay & is stronger for mazes followed by a longer rest interval, suggesting a role for post-reward replay & overnight consolidation

Retroactive and graded prioritization of memory by reward. Erin Kendall Braun, G. Elliott Wimmer & Daphna Shohamy. Nature Communications, volume 9, Article number: 4886 (2018). https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-07280-0

Abstract: Many decisions are based on an internal model of the world. Yet, how such a model is constructed from experience and represented in memory remains unknown. We test the hypothesis that reward shapes memory for sequences of events by retroactively prioritizing memory for objects as a function of their distance from reward. Human participants encountered neutral objects while exploring a series of mazes for reward. Across six data sets, we find that reward systematically modulates memory for neutral objects, retroactively prioritizing memory for objects closest to the reward. This effect of reward on memory emerges only after a 24-hour delay and is stronger for mazes followed by a longer rest interval, suggesting a role for post-reward replay and overnight consolidation, as predicted by neurobiological data in animals. These findings demonstrate that reward retroactively prioritizes memory along a sequential gradient, consistent with the role of memory in supporting adaptive decision-making.

Ovulation, Sex Hormones, and Women’s Mating Psychology: No increase in preference for uncommited sex with men displaying putative fitness cues during the high-fertility phase of the menstrual cycle

Jones, Benedict C., Amanda Hahn, and Lisa M. DeBruine. 2018. “Ovulation, Sex Hormones, and Women’s Mating Psychology.” PsyArXiv. November 24. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2018.10.008

Abstract: The Dual Mating Strategy hypothesis proposes that women’s preferences for uncommitted sexual relationships with men displaying putative fitness cues increase during the high-fertility phase of the menstrual cycle. Results consistent with this hypothesis are widely cited as evidence that sexual selection has shaped human mating psychology. However, the methods used in most of these studies have recently been extensively criticized. Here we discuss (1) new empirical studies that address these methodological problems and largely report null results and (2) an alternative model of hormonal regulation of women’s mating psychology that can better accommodate these new data.

People evaluate their own voices as more attractive than the voices of others & that the self‐enhancement bias of voice attractiveness can be generalised to similar & familiar versions of self‐voice

One's own and similar voices are more attractive than other voices. Zhikang Peng, Yanran Wang, Linghao Meng, Hongyan Liu. Zhiguo Hu. Australian Journal of Psychology, https://doi.org/10.1111/ajpy.12235

Abstract

Objective: The aim of the present study was to explore whether people consider their own voice to be more attractive than others and whether the self‐enhancement bias of one's own voice could be generalised to other variants of self‐voice.

Method: Two experiments were conducted. In Experiment 1, female and male participants were asked to rate the attractiveness of three types of audio recordings (numbers, vowels, words) from same‐sex participants. In Experiment 2, the participants were instructed to rate the attractiveness of six types of audio signals: their own original voice, their recorded voice, a “pitch+20 Hz” audio recording, a “pitch−20 Hz” audio recording, a “loudness+10 dB” audio recording, and a “loudness−10 dB” audio recording. The participants also rated the similarity between the given audio signals and their own voices.

Results: Experiment 1 showed that the participants rated their own audio recordings as more attractive than others rated their audio recordings, and they rated their own audio recordings as more attractive than those of others. Experiment 2 revealed that the participants rated the recorded voices and the “loudness+/−10 dB” audio recordings as more attractive and similar than the “pitch+/−20 Hz” audio recordings.

Conclusions: The present study demonstrates that people evaluate their own voices as more attractive than the voices of others and that the self‐enhancement bias of voice attractiveness can be generalised to similar and familiar versions of self‐voice.

Response to Baron and Jost's False Equivalence: Are Liberals and Conservatives in the U.S. Equally “Biased”?

Partisan Bias and Its Discontents. Peter Ditto et al. Perspectives on Psychological Science, Nov 2018. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/328916374

Abstract: Baron and Jost (this issue) present three critiques of our meta-analysis demonstrating similar levels of partisan bias in liberals and conservatives: 1) that the studies we examined were biased toward finding symmetrical bias among liberals and conservatives, 2) that the studies we examined do not measure partisan bias but rather rational Bayesian updating, and 3) that social psychology is not biased in favor of liberals but biased instead toward creating false equivalencies. We respond in turn that: 1) the included studies covered a wide variety of issues at the core of contemporary political conflict and fairly compared bias by establishing conditions under which both liberals and conservatives would have similar motivations and opportunity to demonstrate bias, 2) we carefully selected studies that were least vulnerable to Bayesian counterexplanation and most scientists and laypeople consider these studies demonstrations of bias, and 3) there is reason to be vigilant about liberal bias in social psychology, but this does not preclude concern about other possible biases, all of which threaten good science. We close with recommendations for future research and urge researchers to move beyond broad generalizations of political differences that are insensitive to time and context.
Response to  False Equivalence: Are Liberals and Conservatives in the U.S. Equally “Biased”? Jonathan Baron and John T. Jost. Invited Revision, Perspectives on Psychological Science,

Abstract: On the basis of a meta-analysis of 51 studies, Ditto, Liu, Clark, Wojcik, Chen, et al. (2018) conclude that ideological “bias” is equivalent on the left and right of U.S. politics. In this commentary, we contend that this conclusion does not follow from the review and that Ditto and colleagues are too quick to embrace a false equivalence between the liberal left and the conservative right. For one thing, the issues, procedures, and materials used in studies reviewed by Ditto and colleagues were selected for purposes other than the inspection of ideological asymmetries. Consequently, methodological choices made by researchers were systematically biased to avoid producing differences between liberals and conservatives. We also consider the broader implications of a normative analysis of judgment and decision-making and demonstrate that the “bias” examined by Ditto and colleagues is not, in fact, an irrational bias, and that it is incoherent to discuss bias in the absence of standards for assessing accuracy and consistency. We find that Jost’s (2017) conclusions about domain-general asymmetries in motivated social cognition, which suggest that epistemic virtues are more prevalent among liberals than conservatives, are closer to the truth of the matter when it comes to current American politics. Finally, we question the notion that the research literature in psychology is necessarily characterized by “liberal bias,” as several authors have claimed.

Here is the end:
If academics are disproportionately liberal—in comparison with society at large—it just might be due to the fact that being liberal in the early 21st century is more compatible with the epistemic standards, values, and practices of academia than is being conservative.

Predispositions and the Political Behavior of American Economic Elites: Technology entrepreneurs support liberal redistributive, social, & globalistic policies but conservative regulatory policies

Predispositions and the Political Behavior of American Economic Elites: Evidence from Technology Entrepreneurs. David E. Broockman, Gregory Ferenstein, Neil Malhotra. American Journal of Political Science, https://doi.org/10.1111/ajps.12408

Abstract: Economic elites regularly seek to exert political influence. But what policies do they support? Many accounts implicitly assume economic elites are homogeneous and that increases in their political power will increase inequality. We shed new light on heterogeneity in economic elites' political preferences, arguing that economic elites from an industry can share distinctive preferences due in part to sharing distinctive predispositions. Consequently, how increases in economic elites' influence affect inequality depends on which industry's elites are gaining influence and which policy issues are at stake. We demonstrate our argument with four original surveys, including the two largest political surveys of American economic elites to date: one of technology entrepreneurs—whose influence is burgeoning—and another of campaign donors. We show that technology entrepreneurs support liberal redistributive, social, and globalistic policies but conservative regulatory policies—a bundle of preferences rare among other economic elites. These differences appear to arise partly from their distinctive predispositions.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Biased Study: Krebs et al.'s “Effect of Opioid vs Nonopioid Medications on Pain-Related Function in Patients With Chronic Back Pain or Hip or Knee Osteoarthritis Pain

Uncritical Publication of a Biased Study Leads to Misleading Media Reports. Lynn R Webster. Pain Medicine, pny234, https://doi.org/10.1093/pm/pny234

Excerpts:
On March 6, 2018, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a manuscript titled “Effect of Opioid vs Nonopioid Medications on Pain-Related Function in Patients With Chronic Back Pain or Hip or Knee Osteoarthritis Pain: The SPACE Randomized Clinical Trial,” by Krebs et al. [1]. The authors concluded that treatment with opioids was not superior to treatment with nonopioid medications for improving pain-related function over 12 months. The national interest in this topic and the putative results of the study led to headlines in major news outlets touting proof that opioids were not effective for chronic noncancer pain. The article is in the top 5% of all research outputs measured by Altmetric: As of this writing, 313 news stories from 191 outlets, 2 278 tweeters, 45 Facebook pages, nine blogs, and seven Redditors have reported on the study [2]. This much media reach could influence social and political policy for the better if the understanding of the research is valid. Unfortunately, the conclusions of the article were widely mischaracterized so that the extensive reporting could instead lead to harm. Four Letters to the Editor of JAMA, along with a reply by Krebs et al., were published, demonstrating that others also had concerns about the manuscript [3–7]. We as researchers and reviewers of manuscripts can better help people to understand this type of complicated research on controversial topics. Here is my analysis of how the journal authors, reviewers, and media got it wrong.

[...]

Here is a simple analogous illustration of how the pragmatic study design was compromised. In Scenario A, a market research study with the strict inclusion criteria of an RCT is conducted among ice cream consumers to determine their preferred ice cream flavor: chocolate, vanilla, or no preference. The average result will almost surely be either chocolate or vanilla.

Scenario B, in contrast, is a pragmatic trial that would include all consumers, both those who eat ice cream and those who do not, so the inference to consumers as a whole can be made. If the majority of study participants do not even eat ice cream, the average result will almost surely be no preference. The inference is wider, and yet the pragmatic study conclusion does not apply to the relevant market research question: If a consumer is going to buy ice cream (which will only happen with consumers who eat ice cream), which flavor will they choose? A reasonable person would realize that the pragmatic study approach is not useful in this situation.

A more extreme Scenario C would exclude ice cream consumers altogether, so the foregone conclusion is no preference. Now the study is so ludicrous that there is a legitimate question as to whether the study should be conducted. This scenario no longer represents pragmatic research because it violates the central principle of “little or no selection beyond the clinical indication of interest.” It is merely a poorly designed study with participant selection bias so extreme that it has no scientific validity.

What if after conducting the Scenario C study, the investigators did not point out the selection bias to the reader and the impact it had on the results (ice cream consumers were excluded, masking that chocolate is the more popular ice cream flavor)? What if, further, the investigators did not report the additional finding that consumers reported that they prefer chocolate over vanilla in other foods, misleading by omission? [...]

These omissions describe the errors in the JAMA article. By specifically excluding patients who had tolerated and presumably benefitted from opioids (ice cream consumers), the investigators studied only participants 1) who had previously tried opioids and discovered they did not respond to them and 2) patients who had never tried opioids because they had previously responded adequately to nonopioid medications. In the words of the analogy, they studied only people who do not consume ice cream.

Naturally, therefore, the JAMA study achieved the only finding possible: that both opioids and nonopioids reduced pain equally well in patients in whom opioids were not medically indicated. Unfortunately, and probably unintentionally, the authors’ conclusion underplayed the selection bias: “Treatment with opioids was not superior to treatment with nonopioid medications for improving pain-related function over 12 months. Results do not support initiation of opioid therapy for moderate to severe chronic back pain or hip to knee osteoarthritis pain.” This is not a false conclusion, but it is misleading. [...]

The study authors could have partially ameliorated these problems by informing JAMA readers of the serious selection bias. To accomplish this, the JAMA article should have contained a more complete description of how opioid users were identified and how they were excluded from the study. [...]


Inverse association between caffeine intake and depressive symptoms in US adults

Inverse association between caffeine intake and depressive symptoms in US adults: data from National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2005–2006. Sohrab Iranpour, Siamak Sabour. Psychiatry Research, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2018.11.004

Highlights
•    We used the 9-item Patient Health Questionnaire to examine the association between caffeine consumption and depressive symptoms
•    Data derived from 4737 individuals aged ≥18 years who participated in the 2005–06 National Health and Nutritional Examination Surveys.
•    A multiple logistic regression analysis suggested that caffeine's psychostimulant properties protect against depressive symptoms.

ABSTRACT: The objective of this study was to examine the association between caffeine consumption and depressive symptoms. We used data from the 2005–06 National Health and Nutritional Examination Surveys (NHANES). A total of 4737 individuals aged ≥18 years who answered the caffeine intake and PHQ-9 questionnaires were selected for this study. Depressive symptoms were assessed using the 9-item Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) with total scores between 0 and 27. Those with PHQ-9 total scores ≥10 were considered as having clinically relevant depression. To investigate the association of caffeine intake and PHQ-9 scores, a multiple logistic regression was used in different models. The overall weighted prevalence of depression was 5.5% (4.3% in men and 6.6% in women). After controlling for potential confounders (age, sex, family PIR, education, marital status, disease history, sleep disorders, thyroid problems, physical activity, social support, smoking, total energy, and cholesterol, retinol, vitamin A, beta-carotene, beta-criptoxanthin, vitamin B1, iron, and phosphorus levels), a significant nonlinear inverse association between caffeine consumption and PHQ-9 scores was observed. In conclusion, caffeine's psychostimulant properties appear to protect against depressive symptoms; however, additional prospective studies are required to ascertain whether or not caffeine consumption can lead to a decrease in depressive symptoms.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Increased marriage age across these cohorts contributed to the assortative mating and thus to the rising inequality; the increase in marriage age can explain almost 80% of the increase in the assortative mating

Assortative Mating and Inequality. Alparslan Tuncay. Job Market Paper, Nov 19 2018. https://drive.google.com/file/d/165eaweyxlId9NcTYa5RxzfMEy8zoGJEY/view

Abstract: This paper studies the evolution of assortative mating based on the permanent wage (the individual-specific component of wage) in the U.S., its role in the increase in family wage inequality, and the factors behind this evolution. I first document a remarkable trend in the assortative mating, as measured by the permanent-wage correlation of couples, from 0.3 for families formed in the late 1960s to 0.52 for families formed in the late 1980s. I show that this trend accounts for more than one-third of the increase in family wage inequality across these family cohorts. I then argue that the increased marriage age across these cohorts contributed to the assortative mating and thus to the rising inequality. Individuals face a large degree of uncertainty about their permanent wages early in their careers. If they marry early, as most individuals in the late 1960s did, this uncertainty leads to weak marital sorting along permanent wage levels. But when marriage is delayed, as in the late 1980s, the sorting becomes stronger as individuals are more able to predict their likely future wages. After providing reduced-form evidence on the impact of marriage age, I build and estimate a marriage model with wage uncertainty, and show that the increase in marriage age can explain almost 80% of the increase in the assortative mating.

Body size estimation: Greater underestimation for self than other body size emerged; positive attitudes towards the self make young adults' own body size closer to the ideal body (thinner bodies were judged as more attractive)

Thinner than yourself: self-serving bias in body size estimation. Mara Mazzurega, Jlenia Marisa, Massimiliano Zampini, Francesco Pavani. Psychological Research, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00426-018-1119-z

Abstract: The self-serving bias is the tendency to consider oneself in unrealistically positive terms. This phenomenon has been documented for body attractiveness, but it remains unclear to what extent it can also emerge for own body size perception. In the present study, we examined this issue in healthy young adults (45 females and 40 males), using two body size estimation (BSE) measures and taking into account inter-individual differences in eating disorder risk. Participants observed pictures of avatars, built from whole body photos of themselves or an unknown other matched for gender. Avatars were parametrically distorted along the thinness–heaviness dimension, and individualised by adding the head of the self or the other. In the first BSE task, participants indicated in each trial whether the seen avatar was thinner or fatter than themselves (or the other). In the second BSE task, participants chose the best representative body size for self and other from a set of avatars. Greater underestimation for self than other body size emerged in both tasks, comparably for women and men. Thinner bodies were also judged as more attractive, in line with standard of beauty in modern western society. Notably, this self-serving bias in BSE was stronger in people with low eating disorder risk. In sum, positive attitudes towards the self can extend to body size estimation in young adults, making own body size closer to the ideal body. We propose that this bias could play an adaptive role in preserving a positive body image.

Much of theory in sociology consists of articles propounding theories that cannot be falsified, grounded in confirmation bias, crafted in a strange & inaccessible argot, appealing to pathos in the creation of a Moloch upon which to hang blame for the world’s ills

Avatars of the New Dark Age: Moloch, Magical Thinking, and the Anti-Scientific Spirit. Stanley Ridgley. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/319112083

Abstract: Much of what is considered bleeding edge theory in sociology today consists of articles propounding theories that cannot be falsified, that are grounded in confirmation bias, that are crafted in a strange and inaccessible argot, and that appeal to pathos in the creation of a Moloch upon which to hang blame for the world’s ills. Any one of these contentions about modern sociological writing could and probably should be the subject of expanded study – taken together, they constitute a tendency in sociology toward a New Metaphysics. This tendency represents a profound change in the modern zeitgeist – a reversal, in fact. We are experiencing a reversal of the ascendancy of science and scientific thinking and a resurgence of medievalist magical thinking about society – how we live, how we exchange with each other, how we are governed. This essay ranges far in this regard and charts a course for further exploration. It examines the rise of the New Metaphysics and its primary means of communicating its ideas. It draws parallels between today’s new metaphysicians and those schoolmen of the middle ages, whose embrace of magic thinking was so complete that its straitened medieval orthodoxy not only hindered scientific, economic, and commercial progress, but also often punished such progress as heretical. Finally, this essay suggests that in its embrace of its own truth and with its “praxis-oriented” posture, the New Metaphysics poses a growing threat to the scholarly traditions of the university and itself constitutes a barbarous pseudo-science that begs unmasking.

---
According to Popper, the central problem with “theories” of a metaphysical bent was their apparent strength – their explanatory power. This type of theory excites and impresses those exposed to it, and this can lead to a suspension of the critical faculties in favor of what we call today confirmation bias [41; 51]. Popper’s discussion of the matter:
These theories appeared to be able to explain practically everything that happened within the fields to which they referred. The study of any of them seemed to have the effect of an intellectual conversion or revelation, opening your eyes to a new truth hidden from those not yet initiated. Once your eyes were thus opened you saw confirming instances everywhere: the world was full of verifications of the theory. Whatever happened always confirmed it. Thus its truth appeared manifest; and unbelievers were clearly people who did not want to see the manifest truth; who refused to see it, either because it was against their class interest, or because of their repressions which were still ‘un-analysed’ and crying aloud for treatment. The most characteristic element in this situation seemed to me the incessant stream of confirmations, of observations which ‘verified’ the theories in question; and this point was constantly emphasize by their adherents. A Marxist could not open a newspaper without finding on every page confirming evidence for his interpretation of history; not only in the news, but also in its presentation – which revealed the class bias of the paper – and especially of course in what the paper did not say.

[...]

The rebellion against scientific theory-testing has continued and, if anything, has worsened. The main problem with the path that social science has taken with regard to theory – sociology, in particular – is that theory construction is hamstrung by what we may call the “Popper Problem.” In the archipelago of niche sociological speculation, scholars have all but abandoned the notion that their theories ought to withstand the scrutiny of testing. Rather than a willingness to test rigorously various popular theories that emerged from the heyday of critical theory, which spawned a cottage industry of various “critical” subfields, we find a sort of enshrinement of verification, if not outright confirmation bias. Some subfields, such as “critical race theory,” are founded almost exclusively on confirmation bias.8 Modern theories in sociology spun from critical theory are largely not falsifiable. They are faith-based. As a method of exploration, this is not wholly objectionable. [...]

Check also comments on Irving Louis Horowitz's The Decomposition of Sociology. Article in Academic Questions 5(2):32-40. September 1994, DOI: 10.1007/BF02683271. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/225367690

Cerebral blood flow changes after a day of wake, sleep, & sleep deprivation: There are morning-to-evening increases in cerebral blood flow, reversed by a night of sleep; a night of sleep deprivation is linked to further cerebral blood flow increases

Cerebral blood flow changes after a day of wake, sleep, and sleep deprivation. Torbjørn Elvsåshagen et al. NeuroImage, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2018.11.032

Highlights
•    How cerebral blood flow changes during the sleep-wake cycle remains to be clarified.
•    We examined cerebral blood flow after wake, sleep, and sleep deprivation.
•    There were morning-to-evening increases in cerebral blood flow.
•    These changes were reversed by a night of sleep.
•    A night of sleep deprivation was associated with further cerebral blood flow increases.

Abstract: Elucidating the neurobiological effects of sleep and wake is an important goal of the neurosciences. Whether and how human cerebral blood flow (CBF) changes during the sleep-wake cycle remain to be clarified. Based on the synaptic homeostasis hypothesis of sleep and wake, we hypothesized that a day of wake and a night of sleep deprivation would be associated with gray matter resting CBF (rCBF) increases and that sleep would be associated with rCBF decreases. Thirty-eight healthy adult males (age 22.1 ± 2.5 years) underwent arterial spin labeling perfusion magnetic resonance imaging at three time points: in the morning after a regular night's sleep, the evening of the same day, and the next morning, either after total sleep deprivation (n = 19) or a night of sleep (n = 19). All analyses were adjusted for hematocrit and head motion. rCBF increased from morning to evening and decreased after a night of sleep. These effects were most prominent in bilateral hippocampus, amygdala, thalamus, and in the occipital and sensorimotor cortices. Group × time interaction analyses for evening versus next morning revealed significant interaction in bilateral lateral and medial occipital cortices and in bilateral insula, driven by rCBF increases in the sleep deprived individuals and decreases in the sleepers, respectively. Furthermore, group × time interaction analyses for first morning versus next morning showed significant effects in medial and lateral occipital cortices, in anterior cingulate gyrus, and in the insula, in both hemispheres. These effects were mainly driven by CBF increases from TP1 to TP3 in the sleep deprived individuals. There were no associations between the rCBF changes and sleep characteristics, vigilant attention, or subjective sleepiness that remained significant after adjustments for multiple analyses. Altogether, these results encourage future studies to clarify mechanisms underlying sleep-related rCBF changes.

The Joy of Lottery Play: Lottery participation increased the happiness of participants before the draw; winning a small prize had no effect on happiness; it seems that people may not only care about the outcomes of the lottery, but also enjoy the game

The Joy of Lottery Play: Evidence from a Field Experiment. Martijn Burger, Martijn Hendriks, Emma Pleeging, Jan C. van Ours. Tinbergen Institute Discussion Paper TI 2018-078/V, October 23, 2018, http://papers.tinbergen.nl/18078.pdf

Abstract: We conducted a field experiment to increase our understanding of lottery participation. Using representative data for the Netherlands, we find that lottery participation increased the happiness of participants before the draw. Winning a small prize had no effect on happiness. Our results indicate that people may not only care about the outcomes of the lottery, but also enjoy the game. Accordingly, we conclude that lottery play has a utility value in itself and part of the lottery ticket is consumed before the draw.

Keywords:  lottery play, happiness, field experiment
JEL-codes:  C93, I31

Time Use and Happiness of Millionaires: Two large-scale surveys of millionaires and the general population show that millionaires spend their time in surprisingly similar ways as the general population

Time Use and Happiness of Millionaires. Paul Smeets, Rene Bekkers, Ashley V. Whillans, Michael Norton. Harvard Business School Working Paper 18-111. https://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Publication%20Files/18-111_401aafe7-dede-4cf9-9d95-073eee6868da.pdf

Abstract: How do the wealthy spend their time, and does their time use relate to their greater well-being? Two large-scale surveys of millionaires and the general population show that millionaires spend their time in surprisingly similar ways as the general population. For example, millionaires spend the same amount of time as the general population cooking, shopping, and eating – and even spend more time on household chores. However, while millionaires and non-millionaires also spend the same amount of time engaging in leisure activities, a critical difference emerged: the wealthy engage in more active leisure (e.g., exercising and volunteering) and less passive leisure (e.g., watching TV and relaxing). Moreover, the extent to which wealthy individuals engage in greater active leisure helps to explain the gap in life satisfaction between millionaires and the general population. Together, these results further our unders tanding of when and how wealth translates into well-being.

Keywords: Time Use; Wealth; Life Satisfaction; Millionaires; Social Class

Touching narratives motivate to give to charity, and phylosophical arguments have difficulties in this task

Narrative but Not Philosophical Argument Motivates Giving to Charity. Eric Schwitzgebel and Christopher McVey. Provisional results, The Splintered Mind blog, Wednesday, November 21, 2018. schwitzsplinters.blogspot.com/2018/11/narrative-but-not-philosophical.html

We regard this as preliminary evidence that exposure to at least one type of narrative influences charitable giving, motivation, and opinion, while exposure to one common type of philosophical argument has little if any influence.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Early childhood investment impacts social decision-making four decades later

Early childhood investment impacts social decision-making four decades later. Yi Luo, Sébastien Hétu, Terry Lohrenz, Andreas Hula, Peter Dayan, Sharon Landesman Ramey, Libbie Sonnier-Netto, Jonathan Lisinski, Stephen LaConte, Tobias Nolte, Peter Fonagy, Elham Rahmani, P. Read Montague & Craig Ramey. Nature Communications, volume 9, Article number: 4705 (2018). https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-07138-5

Abstract: Early childhood educational investment produces positive effects on cognitive and non-cognitive skills, health, and socio-economic success. However, the effects of such interventions on social decision-making later in life are unknown. We recalled participants from one of the oldest randomized controlled studies of early childhood investment—the Abecedarian Project (ABC)—to participate in well-validated interactive economic games that probe social norm enforcement and planning. We show that in a repeated-play ultimatum game, ABC participants who received high-quality early interventions strongly reject unequal division of money across players (disadvantageous or advantageous) even at significant cost to themselves. Using a multi-round trust game and computational modeling of social exchange, we show that the same intervention participants also plan further into the future. These findings suggest that high quality early childhood investment can result in long-term changes in social decision-making and promote social norm enforcement in order to reap future benefits.

Practicing cognitive-training programs or intellectually demanding activities do not enhance any cognitive skill; at best, such interventions boost one’s performance in tasks similar to the trained task

Cognitive Training Does Not Enhance General Cognition. Giovanni Sala, Fernand Gobet. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2018.10.004

Highlights
*  General cognitive ability (GCA) has been consistently found to correlate with performance in cognitive tasks and complex activities such as playing music, board games, and video games.
*  In the past two decades, researchers have thus extensively investigated the effects of engaging in cognitive-training programs and intellectually demanding activities on GCA. The results have been mixed.
*  Several independent researchers have noticed that the between-study variability can be accounted for by the quality of the experimental design and statistical artifacts. Those studies including large samples and active control groups often report no training-related effects.
*  These findings show that practicing cognitive-training programs or intellectually demanding activities do not enhance GCA or any cognitive skill. At best, such interventions boost one’s performance in tasks similar to the trained task.

Abstract: Due to potential theoretical and societal implications, cognitive training has been one of the most influential topics in psychology and neuroscience. The assumption behind cognitive training is that one’s general cognitive ability can be enhanced by practicing cognitive tasks or intellectually demanding activities. The hundreds of studies published so far have provided mixed findings and systematic reviews have reached inconsistent conclusions. To resolve these discrepancies, we carried out several meta-analytic reviews. The results are highly consistent across all the reviewed domains: minimal effect on domain-general cognitive skills. Crucially, the observed between-study variability is accounted for by design quality and statistical artefacts. The cognitive-training program of research has showed no appreciable benefits, and other more plausible practices to enhance cognitive performance should be pursued.

The field of nutrition could regain lost credibility by acknowledging the empirical & theoretical refutations of their memory-based methods & ensure use of rigorous methods to study the role of diet in chronic disease; see also comments against

The Failure to Measure Dietary Intake Engendered a Fictional Discourse on Diet-Disease Relations. Edward Archer, Carl J. Lavie and James O. Hill. Front. Nutr., Nov 13 2018 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2018.00105

Abstract: Controversies regarding the putative health effects of dietary sugar, salt, fat, and cholesterol are not driven by legitimate differences in scientific inference from valid evidence, but by a fictional discourse on diet-disease relations driven by decades of deeply flawed and demonstrably misleading epidemiologic research. Over the past 60 years, epidemiologists published tens of thousands of reports asserting that dietary intake was a major contributing factor to chronic non-communicable diseases despite the fact that epidemiologic methods do not measure dietary intake. In lieu of measuring actual dietary intake, epidemiologists collected millions of unverified verbal and textual reports of memories of perceptions of dietary intake. Given that actual dietary intake and reported memories of perceptions of intake are not in the same ontological category, epidemiologists committed the logical fallacy of “Misplaced Concreteness.” This error was exacerbated when the anecdotal (self-reported) data were impermissibly transformed (i.e., pseudo-quantified) into proxy-estimates of nutrient and caloric consumption via the assignment of “reference” values from databases of questionable validity and comprehensiveness. These errors were further compounded when statistical analyses of diet-disease relations were performed using the pseudo-quantified anecdotal data. These fatal measurement, analytic, and inferential flaws were obscured when epidemiologists failed to cite decades of research demonstrating that the proxy-estimates they created were often physiologically implausible (i.e., meaningless) and had no verifiable quantitative relation to the actual nutrient or caloric consumption of participants. In this critical analysis, we present substantial evidence to support our contention that current controversies and public confusion regarding diet-disease relations were generated by tens of thousands of deeply flawed, demonstrably misleading, and pseudoscientific epidemiologic reports. We challenge the field of nutrition to regain lost credibility by acknowledging the empirical and theoretical refutations of their memory-based methods and ensure that rigorous (objective) scientific methods are used to study the role of diet in chronic disease.

Comments on this: Is Nutrition Science Mostly Junk? Alex Berezow. American Council on Science and Health blog, Nov 20 2018. https://www.acsh.org/news/2018/11/19/nutrition-science-mostly-junk-13611

More psychopathic, narcissistic, & Machiavellian individuals possess a reasonable degree of insight into their trait levels & impairment, against theory, which holds that individuals’ ability to recognize the presence, severity, & impact of pathological traits is low

Sleep, Chelsea, Josh Miller, Donald Lynam, and William K. Campbell. 2018. “Antagonism-related Pds Insight & Impairment 11.13.18.” PsyArXiv. November 21. doi:10.31234/osf.io/597h4

Abstract: Clinical theory is skeptical of individuals’ ability to recognize the presence, severity, and impact of clinical symptoms and pathological traits (Oltmanns & Powers, 2012); however, empirical work has found moderate self-other convergence for reports of pathological traits and for Antagonism-related personality disorder (PD) constructs (i.e., psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism), which are characterized by low insight. Nevertheless, empirical examinations of insight into perceptions of impairment is scant. Thus, the present study sought to examine individuals’ insight regarding pathological traits and related impairment in two samples. In Sample 1, more psychopathic, narcissistic, and Machiavellian individuals reported higher levels of pathological traits and were aware of related impairment. In Sample 2, individuals reported higher levels of pathological traits and, albeit to a lesser degree, more Antagonism-related impairment. Thus, more psychopathic, narcissistic, and Machiavellian individuals possess a reasonable degree of insight into their trait levels and associated impairment.

Overall, both a women’s and her spouse’s income is significantly negatively associated with the woman’s number of children; probability to remain childless increases with increasing own, but decreases with increasing spouse’s income

Effects of woman’s and husband’s income on woman’s reproduction: Darwinian perspectives on human mating. Martin Fieder and Susanne Huber. Front. Sociol. | doi: 10.3389/fsoc.2018.00037

Abstract: From a Darwinian perspective, for women, mate choice may be of crucial importance particularly concerning resources needed for rearing the children. In modern societies, however, resources in terms of income are often provided by both women and men. Nonetheless, the effects of a women’s and her husband’s socio-economic status on woman’s reproduction have not been investigated on a broader level. We therefore aimed to investigate the effects of a women’s and her husband’s income on the women’s number of children and her probability of remaining childless on the basis of census data of 9 contemporary census samples mainly from the developing world, totaling 782,147 women aged 45-54 years and their spouses. Overall, both a women’s and her spouse’s income is significantly negatively associated with the woman’s number of children. Only in Israel, we find a positive association between husband’s income and woman’s offspring number. A woman’s probability to remain childless, however, increases with increasing own, but decreases with increasing spouse’s income. We conclude that in this sample of nearly all developing countries, effects of male social status on woman’s reproduction are acting through childlessness.

Keywords: human, Reproduction, Childlessness, socio-economic status, census

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Positive affect (PA) was associated with positive interpretations of neutral faces; PA & life satisfaction were associated with positive interpretations of ambiguous and positive, but not negative, social interaction vignettes

Subjective Well-Being, Social Interpretation, and Relationship Thriving. Samantha J. Heintzelman. Ed Diener. Journal of Research in Personality, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrp.2018.11.007

Highlights
•    Happiness related to interpretations of ambiguous social stimuli.
•    Happiness did not relate to interpretations of negative situations.
•    Positive social interpretations were associated with social thriving.
•    Happiness indirectly related to social thriving through social interpretations.

Abstract: Social interactions are open to a range of interpretations. We examine the associations among subjective well-being, social interpretations, and social thriving. In Study 1 (N=276) positive affect (PA) was associated with positive interpretations of neutral faces. In Studies 2 and 3 (Ns=295, 298) PA and life satisfaction were associated with positive interpretations of ambiguous and positive, but not negative, social interaction vignettes. In Study 4 (N=501) there were indirect relationships of PA and life satisfaction on social thriving through interpretations. Subjective well-being’s association with social interpretations provides a critical base of support for conclusions from previous methodologically limited mood and social interpretation studies. This work also provides initial evidence for a role of social interpretation tendencies in social thriving.

Rolf Degen summarizing: Yet more evidence that the Implicit Association Test, though to be a neutral test instrument, changes the attitudes it is intended to assess, possibly making the cure worse than the disease

Implicit Association Test as an Analogical Learning Task. Ian Hussey and Jan De Houwer. Experimental Psychology (2018), 65, pp. 272-285. https://doi.org/10.1027/1618-3169/a000416

Abstract. The Implicit Association Test (IAT) is a popular tool for measuring attitudes. We suggest that performing an IAT could, however, also change attitudes via analogical learning. For instance, when performing an IAT in which participants categorize (previously unknown) Chinese characters, flowers, positive words, and negative words, participants could infer that Chinese characters relate to flowers as negative words relate to positive words. This analogy would imply that Chinese characters are opposite to flowers in terms of valence and thus that they are negative. Results from three studies (N = 602) confirmed that evaluative learning can occur when completing an IAT, and suggest that this effect can be described as analogical. We discuss the implications of our findings for research on analogy and research on the IAT as a measure of attitudes.

Keywords: Implicit Association Test, analogy, learning

Further examining the potential association between birth order and personality: Null results from a national sample of American siblings

Further examining the potential association between birth order and personality: Null results from a national sample of American siblings. Cashen M. Boccio, Kevin M. Beaver. Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 139, 1 March 2019, Pages 125-131. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2018.11.017

Abstract: There has been a body of research examining whether there is an association between birth order and personality traits. The results of these studies have been somewhat mixed, with some findings indicating an association and others reporting no association. Against this backdrop, the current study analyzed data drawn from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health to further examine the potential link between birth order and personality (N = 2,508–14,125). The results of both within- and between-family research designs revealed no consistent evidence of a link between birth order and the personality traits of extraversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness. We discuss certain limitations in our study and offer suggestions for ways to overcome them in future studies.

Do certain personality traits provide a mating market competitive advantage? Sex, offspring & the Big five

Do certain personality traits provide a mating market competitive advantage? Sex, offspring & the big 5. Stephen Whyte, Robert C. Brooks, Ho Fai Chan, Benno Torgler. Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 139, 1 March 2019, Pages 158-169. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2018.11.019

Abstract: This study uses the BIG 5 personality traits to quantitatively explore correlates of sexual frequency and reproductive success of a large sample (NMale = 2998; NFemale = 1480) of heterosexuals advertised to on an Australian dating website. Consistent with previous research we find that for both sexes, extraversion has a positive linear relationship with sexual frequency. The same is also observable for males that are more conscientious, more emotionally stable, and less agreeable; indicating that for men, a greater number of personality factors matter in explaining the variation in sexual activity. Higher extraversion or lower openness in males correlates with more offspring. Conversely, only more agreeable females have more offspring. Our non-parametric thin-plate spline analysis suggests certain combinations of the traits extraversion & agreeableness, extraversion & conscientiousness, and agreeableness & conscientiousness provide select males a mating market competitive advantage in relation to sexual frequency, compared to other males. Our findings suggest that greater variance in male traits and their particular combinations thereof may provide a fitness comparative advantage for males, but not necessarily for females.

Popular areas of research—brain training, mind-set, grit, deliberate practice, & bilingual advantage—overstate that environmental factors are the overwhelming determinants of success in real-world pursuits

Overstating the Role of Environmental Factors in Success: A Cautionary Note. David Moreau, Brooke N. Macnamara, David Z. Hambrick. Current Directions in Psychological Science, https://doi.org/10.1177/0963721418797300

Abstract: Several currently popular areas of research—brain training, mind-set, grit, deliberate practice, and the bilingual advantage—are premised on the idea that environmental factors are the overwhelming determinants of success in real-world pursuits. Here, we describe the major claims from each of these areas of research and discuss evidence for these claims, particularly focusing on meta-analyses. We suggest that overemphasizing the malleability of abilities and other traits can have negative consequences for individuals, science, and society. We conclude with a call for balanced appraisals of the available evidence concerning this issue, to reflect current scientific discrepancies and thereby enable informed individual decisions and collective policies.

Keywords: abilities, skills, interventions, environment, genetics

Completing a Race Test Increases Implicit Racial Bias: By measuring, we often perturb the system that we wish to understand

Hussey, Ian, and Jan De Houwer. 2018. “Completing a Race IAT Increases Implicit Racial Bias.” PsyArXiv. November 19. doi:10.31234/osf.io/vxsj7

Abstract: The Implicit Association Test has been used in online studies to assess implicit racial attitudes in over seven million participants. Although typically used as an assessment measure, results from four pre-registered experiments (N = 940) demonstrated that completing a Race IAT exacerbates the negative implicit attitudes that it seeks to assess. Increases in White participants’ negative automatic racial evaluations of Black people were observed across two different implicit measures (SC-IAT and AMP) but did not generalize to another measure of automatic racial bias (Shooter Bias task). Results highlight an important caveat for the Race IAT, but also for many other forms of psychological assessment: that by measuring, we often perturb the system that we wish to understand.

Monday, November 19, 2018

From 2016 > The natural selection of bad science, logical consequences of structural incentives: selection for high output leads to poorer methods and increasingly high false discovery rates

The natural selection of bad science. Paul E. Smaldino, Richard McElreath. Royal Society Open Science, Sep 21 2016. DOI: 10.1098/rsos.160384

Abstract: Poor research design and data analysis encourage false-positive findings. Such poor methods persist despite perennial calls for improvement, suggesting that they result from something more than just misunderstanding. The persistence of poor methods results partly from incentives that favour them, leading to the natural selection of bad science. This dynamic requires no conscious strategizing—no deliberate cheating nor loafing—by scientists, only that publication is a principal factor for career advancement. Some normative methods of analysis have almost certainly been selected to further publication instead of discovery. In order to improve the culture of science, a shift must be made away from correcting misunderstandings and towards rewarding understanding. We support this argument with empirical evidence and computational modelling. We first present a 60-year meta-analysis of statistical power in the behavioural sciences and show that power has not improved despite repeated demonstrations of the necessity of increasing power. To demonstrate the logical consequences of structural incentives, we then present a dynamic model of scientific communities in which competing laboratories investigate novel or previously published hypotheses using culturally transmitted research methods. As in the real world, successful labs produce more ‘progeny,’ such that their methods are more often copied and their students are more likely to start labs of their own. Selection for high output leads to poorer methods and increasingly high false discovery rates. We additionally show that replication slows but does not stop the process of methodological deterioration. Improving the quality of research requires change at the institutional level.

The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.
    "Donald T. Campbell (1976, p. 49) [1]"

How mindfulness is currently being invented as a scientific fact or object of inquiry: On the porosity of subject & object in “mindfulness” scientific study, & challenges to “scientific” construction, operationalization & measurement of mindfulness

On the porosity of subject and object in “mindfulness” scientific study: Challenges to “scientific” construction, operationalization and measurement of mindfulness. Paul Grossman. Current Opinion in Psychology, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2018.11.008

Abstract: Mindfulness, derived from Buddhist psychology and philosophy, has gained broad popularity in the last decades, due importantly to scientific interest and findings. Yet Buddhist mindfulness developed in Asian pre-scientific culture and religion, and is predicated upon long-term cultivation of introspective awareness of lived experience, not highly accessible to empirical study. Further complicating the “science” of mindfulness, mindfulness’s very definition is multifaceted, resistant to dismantling and requires substantial amounts of personal practice to gain expertise. Most scientists investigating mindfulness have not achieved a high level of this expertise. Here I address how mindfulness is currently being invented as a scientific fact or object of inquiry. The intrinsic porosity of subjective and objective factors influencing the investigation of mindfulness is highlighted: the evolving body of “scientific” experts, instruments used to measure mindfulness, the alliances of funders and other supporters of mindfulness research, and the public representation of the related findings.


Check also Mind the Hype: A Critical Evaluation and Prescriptive Agenda for Research on Mindfulness and Meditation. Nicholas T. van Dam et al. Perspectives on Psychological Science, https://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/10/mind-hype-critical-evaluation-and.html

How Hawkish Is the Chinese Public?: The young, netizens & elites are even more inclined to call on the Chinese government to invest and rely more on military strength

Weiss, Jessica Chen, How Hawkish Is the Chinese Public?: Another Look at ‘Rising Nationalism’ and Chinese Foreign Policy (August 31, 2018). Journal of Contemporary China, Forthcoming. https://ssrn.com/abstract=3265588

Abstract: Chinese leaders often invoke the feelings of the Chinese people in denouncing foreign actions in international confrontations. But most survey research on Chinese public opinion on international affairs has looked at measures of nationalist identity rather than beliefs about foreign policy and evaluations of the government’s performance. Five surveys of Chinese citizens, netizens, and elites help illuminate the public attitudes that the Chinese government grapples with in managing international security policy. The results show that Chinese attitudes are more hawkish than dovish and that younger Chinese, while perhaps not more nationalist in identity, may be more hawkish in their foreign policy beliefs than older generations. Netizens and elites are even more inclined to call on the Chinese government to invest and rely more on military strength.

Keywords: Public Opinion, Foreign Policy, Attitudes, Surveys, Nationalism

Check also: Arthur Thomas Blouin and Sharun W. Mukand, "Erasing Ethnicity? Propaganda, Nation Building and Identity in Rwanda," Journal of Political Economy, https://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2018/11/propaganda-nation-building-those.html

Maria Montessori concluded that pretend play and fantasy were not as helpful for children's development

Pretend Play and Fantasy: What if Montessori Was Right? Angeline S. Lillard, Jessica Taggart. Child Development Perspectives, https://doi.org/10.1111/cdep.12314

Abstract: Pretend play and fantasy are staples of childhood, supported by adults’ provision of encouraging tools (like dress‐up clothing and play kitchens) and by media. Decades ago, Maria Montessori developed a system of education based on close observation of children, and she concluded that pretend play and fantasy were not as helpful for children's development as the zeitgeist suggested (and still suggests). In this article, we present her views and relevant evidence, and ask: What if she was right? What if, as a culture, we are putting great effort and faith into activities and contexts for children that we believe help development but that might actually be less helpful than engaging in the real world?

Access to copulation decreases measures of male sexual motivation when male subjects were visually exposed to the female they had copulated with & this effect is not counteracted by the view of a new female

Effects of a novel partner and sexual satiety on the expression of male sexual behavior and brain aromatase activity in quail. Catherinede Bournonville et al. Behavioural Brain Research, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbr.2018.11.026

Abstract: This study was designed to determine whether changes in sexual motivation acutely regulate brain estrogen synthesis by aromatase. Five experiments (Exp.1-5) were first conducted to determine the effect of recent mating and of the presentation of a new female (Coolidge effect) on sexual motivation. Exp.1-2 showed that 10 min or overnight access to copulation decreases measures of male sexual motivation when male subjects were visually exposed to the female they had copulated with and this effect is not counteracted by the view of a new female. Exp.3 showed that sexual motivation is revived by the view of a new female in previously unmated males only allowed to see another female for 10 min. After mating for 10 min (Exp.4) or overnight (Exp.5) with a female, males showed a decrease in copulatory behavior that was not reversed by access to a new female. Exp.6 and 7 confirmed that overnight copulation (Exp.6) and view of a novel female (Exp.7) respectively decreases and increases sexual behavior and motivation. Yet, these manipulations did not affect brain aromatase activity except in the tuberal hypothalamus. Together these data confirm that copulation or prolonged view of a female decrease sexual motivation but a reactivation of sexual motivation by a new female can only be obtained if males had only seen another female but not copulated with her, which is different in some degree from the Coolidge effect described in rodents. Moreover changes in brain aromatase do not simply reflect changes in motivation and more complex mechanisms must be considered.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

For the dreamer, the dream world is the real world, best explained in terms of the concept of mental ownership: the exogenous nature of that narrative is the result of an individual assuming perspectival, not personal, ownership of the content

B. Klein, Stan. (2018). The phenomenology of REM-sleep dreaming: The contributions of personal and perspectival ownership, subjective temporality, and episodic memory. Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice. 10.1037/cns0000174

Abstract: Although the dream narrative, of (bio)logical necessity, originates with the dreamer, he or she typically is not aware of this. For the dreamer, the dream world is the real world. In this article, I argue that this nightly misattribution is best explained in terms of the concept of mental ownership (e.g., Albahari, 2006; Klein, 2015a; Lane, 2012). Specifically, the exogenous nature of the dream narrative is the result of an individual assuming perspectival, but not personal, ownership of the content she or he authored (i.e., “The content in my head is not mine. Therefore it must be peripherally perceived”). Situating explanation within a theoretical space designed to address questions pertaining to the experienced origins of conscious content has a number of salutary consequences. For example, it promotes predictive fecundity by bringing to light empirical generalizations whose presence otherwise might have gone unnoticed (e.g., the severely limited role of mental time travel within the dream narrative).

Saving regret (the wish in hindsight to have saved more earlier in life): little of the variation is explained by procrastination & psychological factors; unemployment, health & divorce explain much more

Saving Regret. Axel H. Börsch-Supan, Tabea Bucher-Koenen, Michael D. Hurd, Susann Rohwedder. NBER Working Paper No. 25238, Nov 2018. https://www.nber.org/papers/w25238

Abstract: We define saving regret as the wish in hindsight to have saved more earlier in life. We measured saving regret and possible determinants in a survey of a probability sample of those aged 60-79. We investigate two main causes of saving regret: procrastination along with other psychological traits, and the role of shocks, both positive and negative. We find high levels of saving regret but relatively little of the variation is explained by procrastination and psychological factors. Shocks such as unemployment, health and divorce explain much more of the variation. The results have important implications for retirement saving policies.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Gene discovery & polygenic prediction from a genome-wide association study in 1.1 million individuals: Explain 11–13% of the variance in educational attainment & 7–10% in cognitive performance

Gene discovery and polygenic prediction from a genome-wide association study of educational attainment in 1.1 million individuals. James J. Lee et al. Nature Genetics, volume 50, pages1112–1121 (Jul 2018). https://www.nature.com/articles/s41588-018-0147-3

Abstract: Here we conducted a large-scale genetic association analysis of educational attainment in a sample of approximately 1.1 million individuals and identify 1,271 independent genome-wide-significant SNPs. For the SNPs taken together, we found evidence of heterogeneous effects across environments. The SNPs implicate genes involved in brain-development processes and neuron-to-neuron communication. In a separate analysis of the X chromosome, we identify 10 independent genome-wide-significant SNPs and estimate a SNP heritability of around 0.3% in both men and women, consistent with partial dosage compensation. A joint (multi-phenotype) analysis of educational attainment and three related cognitive phenotypes generates polygenic scores that explain 11–13% of the variance in educational attainment and 7–10% of the variance in cognitive performance. This prediction accuracy substantially increases the utility of polygenic scores as tools in research.

Associations & civil society as key factors in a healthy liberal democracy: do individuals who are members of civil associations vote less for populist parties?; & does membership in associations decrease when populist parties are in power?

Populism and Civil Society. Tito Boeri; Prachi Mishra; Chris Papageorgiou; Antonio Spilimbergo. Int'l Monetary Fund, Working Paper No. 18/245, Nov 16, 2018. https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/WP/Issues/2018/11/17/Populism-and-Civil-Society-46324

Summary: Populists claim to be the only legitimate representative of the people. Does it mean that there is no space for civil society? The issue is important because since Tocqueville (1835), associations and civil society have been recognized as a key factor in a healthy liberal democracy. We ask two questions: 1) do individuals who are members of civil associations vote less for populist parties? 2)does membership in associations decrease when populist parties are in power? We answer thesequestions looking at the experiences of Europe, which has a rich civil society tradition, as well as of Latin America, which already has a long history of populists in power. The main findings are that individuals belonging to associations are less likely by 2.4 to 4.2 percent to vote for populist parties, which is large considering that the average vote share for populist parties is from 10 to 15 percent. The effect is strong particularly after the global financial crisis, with the important caveat that membership in trade unions has unclear effects.

Active-sampling policies & their relation to attention & curiosity: Sampling & search depend on individual preferences over cognitive states, including attitudes towards uncertainty, learning progress & types of information

Towards a neuroscience of active sampling and curiosity. Jacqueline Gottlieb & Pierre-Yves Oudeyer. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, volume 19, pages758–770 (2018), https://www.nature.com/articles/s41583-018-0078-0

Abstract: In natural behaviour, animals actively interrogate their environments using endogenously generated ‘question-and-answer’ strategies. However, in laboratory settings participants typically engage with externally imposed stimuli and tasks, and the mechanisms of active sampling remain poorly understood. We review a nascent neuroscientific literature that examines active-sampling policies and their relation to attention and curiosity. We distinguish between information sampling, in which organisms reduce uncertainty relevant to a familiar task, and information search, in which they investigate in an open-ended fashion to discover new tasks. We review evidence that both sampling and search depend on individual preferences over cognitive states, including attitudes towards uncertainty, learning progress and types of information. We propose that, although these preferences are non-instrumental and can on occasion interfere with external goals, they are important heuristics that allow organisms to cope with the high complexity of both sampling and search, and generate curiosity-driven investigations in large, open environments in which rewards are sparse and ex ante unknown.

Generational changes in personality & frequencies of individual words 1900-2002: Modest increase for Extraversion-, Agreeableness-, and Stability-related adjectives; Intellect-related words increased up to 1960, then declined

Generational Changes in Personality: The Evidence From Corpus Linguistics. Eka Roivainen. Psychological Reports, https://doi.org/10.1177/0033294118805937

Abstract: According to theory, social change is interconnected with changes in mental phenomena and language. In the present study, secular change in the usage frequencies of common English personality adjectives (n = 336) qualifying the word person was analyzed over the period 1900 to 2002. It was hypothesized that words that represent those personality traits that are advantageous in occupations typical for modern societies have increased in frequency. The results show changes in the frequencies of individual words but stability across the five major categories of trait adjectives in the Google Books English fiction corpus. A modest increase for Extraversion-, Agreeableness-, and Stability-related adjectives was observed in the Google Books English 2012 corpus. Frequency of Intellect-related words increased up to 1960 and then declined. The results suggest that (a) human nature has changed little over the 20th century, (b) generational changes in personality are not strongly reflected in language, or (c) the corpus linguistic method used is not reliable for studying generational changes in personality.

Keywords: Personality, generational change, Google Ngram, corpus linguistics, societal change