Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Psychological hibernation in Antarctica

Psychological hibernation in Antarctica. Gro M Sandal, Fons Van De Vijver, Nathan Smith. Frontiers in Psychology, 2018 Nov 19. DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02235

Abstract: Human activity in Antarctica has increased sharply in recent years. In particular during the winter months, people are exposed to long periods of isolation and confinement and an extreme physical environment that poses risks to health, well-being and performance. The aim of the present study was to gain a better understanding of processes contributing to psychological resilience in this context. Specifically, the study examined how the use of coping strategies changed over time, and the extent to which changes coincided with alterations in mood and sleep. Two crews (N=27) spending approximately 10 months at the Concordia station completed the Utrecht Coping List, the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS), and a structured sleep diary at regular intervals (x 9). The results showed that several variables reached a minimum value during the midwinter period, which corresponded to the third quarter of the expedition. The effect was particularly noticeable for coping strategies (i.e., active problem solving, palliative reactions, avoidance, and comforting cognitions). The pattern of results could indicate that participants during Antarctic over-wintering enter a state of psychological hibernation as a stress coping mechanism.

The findings from this study suggest that coping strategies, sleep quality, and PA were influenced by the environmental conditions to a smaller or larger degree during midwinter. Quadratic time-based models demonstrated the greatest effect sizes, suggesting that when the conditions are harshest, resources are more depleted and participants were less involved in any form of coping and reported less PA. Also subjective sleep quality showed a negative trend over time, a result consistent with other research (Bhargava et al., 2000; Pattyn et al., 2018) although at the end of the stay the average score did increase slightly. While chronic hypoxia might lead to deterioration in sleep quality in high altitude (Collet et al., 2015), the effect of hypoxia on adaptation among residents on Concordia has been shown to persist over time (Porcelli et al., 2018). Thus, we argue that hypoxia cannot explain seasonal variations in sleep quality observed in this study. The reduction in sleep quality and PA is consistent with the “midwinter syndrome” observed by other researchers (Bhargava et al., 2000; Palinkas and Suedfeld, 2008). It is noticeable that reports of NA remained low over time and did not show the expected change during midwinter. One possible explanation is that participants were reluctant to report distress.

Perhaps the most striking result from this study was the reduction in all of observed coping strategies during the midwinter period. This pattern contradicts the idea that emotional strategies and avoidance take over from more active strategies in situations involving chronic stressors. Our findings may reflect that participants became more indifferent or emotionally flat during the winter months. This interpretation is consistent with early research which noted the occurrence of a mild psychological fugue state known as the Antarctic stare, around the third quarter of the stay (Barabasz et al., 1983). The phenomenon state is characterized by an altered state of consciousness or pronounced absentmindedness, “drifting,” wandering off attention, and deterioration in situational awareness. We believe that this reaction is not unique to people overwintering in Antarctica. For example, during a 520 days confinement study (MARS500) crew members reported reduced need for stimulation around the third quarter (Sandal and Bye, 2015). Interactions between crew members declined, and one crew member showed indications of dissociation. The state of seeking reduced stimulation, and emotional flatness bears resemblance to what could be called “psychological hibernation.” A state of psychological hibernation may be beneficial for coping with the harshness of prolonged exposure to stress in extreme environments. The ability to “switch off” mentally has been associated with positive outcomes in the work stress literature (Sonnentag and Bayer, 2005). However, psychological detachment has also been described as a symptom of burnout after prolonged exposure to stress at work (Maslach and Leiter, 2016). Whilst psychological hibernation could be an adaptive response to the extreme conditions, especially if it disappears when conditions become less extreme (as evidenced by the increase in coping strategy use reported in the present study), understanding the nature of this phenomenon should be an avenue for future research. Further research is also needed to determine the extent to which this state might be associated with decrement in cognitive function and the ability to react to acute, safety-critical situations. So far studies on cognitive performance investigations on Antarctica have been controversial. While no detectable cognitive deterioration was found in a study of a crew overwintering on Concordia (Barkaszi et al., 2016), other researchers have shown that residence in Antarctica had a detrimental effect on cognition (Reed et al., 2001).

In social risk, the costs, benefits, & uncertainty of an action depend on the behavior of another individual; humans & chimpanzees overvalue the costs of a socially risky decision when compared with that of purely economic risk

Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) Are More Averse to Social Than Nonsocial Risk. Sarah E. Calcutt et al. Psychological Science,

Abstract: Social risk is a domain of risk in which the costs, benefits, and uncertainty of an action depend on the behavior of another individual. Humans overvalue the costs of a socially risky decision when compared with that of purely economic risk. Here, we played a trust game with 8 female captive chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) to determine whether this bias exists in one of our closest living relatives. A correlation between an individual’s social- and nonsocial-risk attitudes indicated stable individual variation, yet the chimpanzees were more averse to social than nonsocial risk. This indicates differences between social and economic decision making and emotional factors in social risk taking. In another experiment using the same paradigm, subjects played with several partners with whom they had varying relationships. Preexisting relationships did not impact the subjects’ choices. Instead, the apes used a tit-for-tat strategy and were influenced by the outcome of early interactions with a partner.

Keywords: trust, chimpanzee, risk, relationships, tit-for-tat

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Why Smart People Are Vulnerable to Putting Tribe Before Truth

Why Smart People Are Vulnerable to Putting Tribe Before Truth. Dan M Kahan. Scientific American, Dec 03 2018.

Excerpts (full text and links in the link above):

What intellectual capacities—or if one prefers, cognitive virtues—should the citizens of a modern democratic society possess? For decades, one dominant answer has been the knowledge and reasoning abilities associated with science literacy. Scientific evidence is indispensable for effective policymaking. And for a self-governing society to reap the benefits of policy-relevant science, its citizens must be able to recognize the best available evidence and its implications for collective action.

This account definitely isn’t wrong. But the emerging science of science communication, which uses scientific methods to understand how people come to know what’s known by science, suggests that it is incomplete.

Indeed, it’s dangerously incomplete. Unless accompanied by another science-reasoning trait, the capacities associated with science literacy can actually impede public recognition of the best available evidence and deepen pernicious forms of cultural polarization.

The supplemental trait needed to make science literacy supportive rather than corrosive of enlightened self-government is science curiosity.

Simply put, as ordinary members of the public acquire more scientific knowledge and become more adept at scientific reasoning, they don’t converge on the best evidence relating to controversial policy-relevant facts. Instead they become even more culturally polarized.

This is one of the most robust findings associated with the science of science communication. It is a relationship observed, for example, in public perceptions of myriad societal risk sources—not just climate change but also nuclear power, gun control and fracking, among others.

In addition, this same pattern—the greater the proficiency, the more acute the polarization—characterizes multiple forms of reasoning essential to science comprehension: polarization increases in tandem not only with science literacy but also with numeracy (an ability to reason well with quantitative information) and with actively open-minded thinking—a tendency to revise one’s beliefs in light of new evidence.

The same goes for cognitive reflection. The Cognitive Reflection Test (CRT) measures how much people rely on two forms of information processing: “fast,” preconscious, emotion-driven forms of reasoning, often called “System 1”; or a conscious, deliberate, analytical, “slow” form, designated “System 2.”

There’s no doubt that scientific reasoning demands a high degree of proficiency in System 2 information processing. But as ordinary members of the public become more adept at this style of reasoning, they don’t think more like scientists. Instead, they become more reliable indicators of what people who share their group commitments think about culturally contested risks and related facts.

This relationship is readily apparent in public opinion survey studies (Figure 1). It has also been documented experimentally. Experiments catch these thinking capacities “in the act”: proficient reasoners are revealed to be using their analytical skills to ferret out evidence that supports their group’s position, while rationalizing dismissal of such evidence when it undermines their side’s beliefs.

Figure 1. Increasing polarization associated with various reasoning capacities and issues. Credit: Dan M. Kahan

What explains this effect? As counterintuitive as it sounds, it is perfectly rational to use one’s reason this way in a science communication environment polluted by tribalism.

What an ordinary member of the public thinks about climate change, for example, has no impact on the climate. Nor does anything that she does as a consumer or a voter; her individual impact is too small to make a difference. Accordingly, when she is acting in one of these capacities, any mistake she makes about the best available scientific evidence will have zero impact on her or anyone she cares about.

But given what positions on climate change have now come to signify about one’s group allegiances, adopting the “wrong” position in interactions with her peers could rupture bonds on which she depends heavily for emotional and material well-being. Under these pathological conditions, she will predictably use her reasoning not to discern the truth but to form and persist in beliefs characteristic of her group, a tendency known as “identity-protective cognition.”

One doesn’t have to be a Nobel prizewinner to figure out which position one’s tribe espouses. But if someone does enjoy special proficiency in comprehending and interpreting empirical evidence, it is perfectly predictable that she’ll use that skill to forge even stronger links between what she believes and who she is, culturally speaking.

Now consider curiosity.

Conceptually, curiosity has properties directly opposed to those of identity-protective cognition. Whereas the latter evinces a hardened resistance to exploring evidence that could challenge one’s existing views, the former consists of a hunger for the unexpected, driven by the anticipated pleasure of surprise. In that state, the defensive sentries of existing opinion have necessarily been made to stand down. One could reasonably expect, then, that those disposed toward science curiosity would be more open-minded and as a result less polarized along cultural lines.

This is exactly what we see when we test this conjecture empirically. In general population surveys, diverse citizens who score high on the Science Curiosity Scale (SCS) are less divided than are their low-scoring peers.

Indeed, rather than becoming more polarized as their science literacy increases, those who score highest on SCS tend to converge on what the evidence signifies about climate change, private gun ownership, nuclear power and the other risk sources.

Experimental data suggest why. Afforded a choice, low-curiosity individuals opt for familiar evidence consistent with what they already believe; high-curiosity citizens, in contrast, prefer to explore novel findings, even if that information implies that their group’s position is wrong (Figure 2). Consuming a richer diet of information, high-curiosity citizens predictably form less one-sided and hence less polarized views.

Figure 2. Selection of position-threatening news story. N= 750, nationally representative sample. Dotted lines denote 0.95 confidence intervals. Credit: Dan M. Kahan

This empirical research paints a more complex picture of the cognitively virtuous democratic citizen. To be sure, she knows a good deal about scientific discoveries and methods. But of equal importance, she experiences wonder and awe—the emotional signatures of curiosity—at the insights that science affords into the hidden processes of nature.

The findings on science curiosity also have implications for the practice of science communication. Merely imparting information is unlikely to be effective—and could even backfire—in a society that has failed to inculcate curiosity in its citizens and that doesn’t engage curiosity when communicating policy-relevant science.

What, then, should educators, science journalists, and other science communication professionals do to enlist the benefits of science curiosity?

The near-term answer to this question is straightforward: join forces with empirical researchers to study science curiosity and the advancement of their craft.

The value of such collaborations was a major theme of the National Academy of Sciences’ recent expert-consensus report Communicating Science Effectively. Indeed, connected lab-field initiatives of the kind envisioned by the NAS Report are already in place. The Science Curiosity Scale is itself the product of a collaborative project between social science researchers affiliated with the Cultural Cognition Project at Yale Law School (CCP) and the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania (APPC), on the one hand, and science film producers at Tangled Bank Studios, on the other.

Results from that initiative, in turn, inform a collaboration between APPC social scientists and science communicators at the public television station KQED. Funded by the National Science Foundation and the Templeton Foundation, that partnership is performing field studies aimed at making science films and related forms of communication engaging to science-curious members of culturally diverse groups—including the groups that are bitterly divided on climate change and other issues.

For now, there are no proven protocols for using science curiosity to help extinguish the group rivalries that generate public disagreement over policy-relevant science, particularly among the most science literate members of such groups.

But if the science of science communication is not yet in a position to tell science communicators exactly what to do to harness the unifying effects of curiosity, it unmistakably does tell them how to figure that out: by use of the empirical methods of science itself.
Check also:

The key mechanism that generates scientific polarization involves treating evidence generated by other agents as uncertain when their beliefs are relatively different from one’s own:
Scientific polarization. Cailin O’Connor, James Owen Weatherall. European Journal for Philosophy of Science. October 2018, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp 855–875.
Polarized Mass or Polarized Few? Assessing the Parallel Rise of Survey Nonresponse and Measures of Polarization. Amnon Cavari and Guy Freedman. The Journal of Politics,

Tappin, Ben M., and Ryan McKay. 2018. “Moral Polarization and Out-party Hate in the US Political Context.” PsyArXiv. November 2.

Forecasting tournaments, epistemic humility and attitude depolarization. Barbara Mellers, PhilipTetlock, Hal R. Arkes. Cognition,

Does residential sorting explain geographic polarization? Gregory J. Martin & Steven W. Webster. Political Science Research and Methods,

Liberals and conservatives have mainly moved further apart on a wide variety of policy issues; the divergence is substantial quantitatively and in its plausible political impact: intra party moderation has become increasingly unlikely:

Peltzman, Sam, Polarizing Currents within Purple America (August 20, 2018). SSRN:

Does Having a Political Discussion Help or Hurt Intergroup Perceptions? Drawing Guidance From Social Identity Theory and the Contact Hypothesis. Robert M. Bond, Hillary C. Shulman, Michael Gilbert. Bond Vol 12 (2018),

All the interactions took the form of subjects rating stories offering ‘ammunition’ for their own side of the controversial issue as possessing greater intrinsic news importance:
Perceptions of newsworthiness are contaminated by a political usefulness bias. Harold Pashler, Gail Heriot. Royal Society Open Science,
When do we care about political neutrality? The hypocritical nature of reaction to political bias. Omer Yair, Raanan Sulitzeanu-Kenan. PLOS,

Democrats & Republicans were both more likely to believe news about the value-upholding behavior of their in-group or the value-undermining behavior of their out-group; Republicans were more likely to believe & want to share apolitical fake news:
Pereira, Andrea, and Jay Van Bavel. 2018. “Identity Concerns Drive Belief in Fake News.” PsyArXiv. September 11.
In self-judgment, the "best option illusion" leads to Dunning-Kruger (failure to recognize our own incompetence). In social judgment, it leads to the Cassandra quandary (failure to identify when another person’s competence exceeds our own): The best option illusion in self and social assessment. David Dunning. Self and Identity,

People are more inaccurate when forecasting their own future prospects than when forecasting others, in part the result of biased visual experience. People orient visual attention and resolve visual ambiguity in ways that support self-interests: "Visual experience in self and social judgment: How a biased majority claim a superior minority." Emily Balcetis & Stephanie A. Cardenas. Self and Identity,

Can we change our biased minds? Michael Gross. Current Biology, Volume 27, Issue 20, 23 October 2017, Pages R1089–R1091.
Summary: A simple test taken by millions of people reveals that virtually everybody has implicit biases that they are unaware of and that may clash with their explicit beliefs. From policing to scientific publishing, all activities that deal with people are at risk of making wrong decisions due to bias. Raising awareness is the first step towards improving the outcomes.
People believe that future others' preferences and beliefs will change to align with their own:
The Belief in a Favorable Future. Todd Rogers, Don Moore and Michael Norton. Psychological Science, Volume 28, issue 9, page(s): 1290-1301,
Kahan, Dan M. and Landrum, Asheley and Carpenter, Katie and Helft, Laura and Jamieson, Kathleen Hall, Science Curiosity and Political Information Processing (August 1, 2016). Advances in Political Psychology, Forthcoming; Yale Law & Economics Research Paper No. 561. Available at SSRN:
Abstract: This paper describes evidence suggesting that science curiosity counteracts politically biased information processing. This finding is in tension with two bodies of research. The first casts doubt on the existence of “curiosity” as a measurable disposition. The other suggests that individual differences in cognition related to science comprehension - of which science curiosity, if it exists, would presumably be one - do not mitigate politically biased information processing but instead aggravate it. The paper describes the scale-development strategy employed to overcome the problems associated with measuring science curiosity. It also reports data, observational and experimental, showing that science curiosity promotes open-minded engagement with information that is contrary to individuals’ political predispositions. We conclude by identifying a series of concrete research questions posed by these results.
Keywords: politically motivated reasoning, curiosity, science communication, risk perception

Facebook news and (de)polarization: reinforcing spirals in the 2016 US election. Michael A. Beam, Myiah J. Hutchens & Jay D. Hmielowski. Information, Communication & Society,

The Partisan Brain: An Identity-Based Model of Political Belief. Jay J. Van Bavel, Andrea Pereira. Trends in Cognitive Sciences,

The Parties in our Heads: Misperceptions About Party Composition and Their Consequences. Douglas J. Ahler, Gaurav Sood. Aug 2017,

The echo chamber is overstated: the moderating effect of political interest and diverse media. Elizabeth Dubois & Grant Blank. Information, Communication & Society,

Processing political misinformation: comprehending the Trump phenomenon. Briony Swire, Adam J. Berinsky, Stephan Lewandowsky, Ullrich K. H. Ecker. Royal Society Open Science, published on-line March 01 2017. DOI: 10.1098/rsos.160802,

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

Stanley, M. L., Dougherty, A. M., Yang, B. W., Henne, P., & De Brigard, F. (2017). Reasons Probably Won’t Change Your Mind: The Role of Reasons in Revising Moral Decisions. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

Science Denial Across the Political Divide — Liberals and Conservatives Are Similarly Motivated to Deny Attitude-Inconsistent Science. Anthony N. Washburn, Linda J. Skitka. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 10.1177/1948550617731500.

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

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

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

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

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

The Myth of Partisan Selective Exposure: A Portrait of the Online Political News Audience. Jacob L. Nelson, and James G. Webster. Social Media + Society,

Echo Chamber? What Echo Chamber? Reviewing the Evidence. Axel Bruns. Future of Journalism 2017 Conference.

Fake news and post-truth pronouncements in general and in early human development. Victor Grech. Early Human Development,

Consumption of fake news is a consequence, not a cause of their readers’ voting preferences. Kahan, Dan M., Misinformation and Identity-Protective Cognition (October 2, 2017). Social Science Research Network,

Are Sex Differences in Preferences for Physical Attractiveness and Good Earning Capacity in Potential Mates Smaller in Countries with Greater Gender Equality? This was not replicable.

Zhang, Lingshan, Anthony J. Lee, Lisa M. DeBruine, and Benedict C. Jones. 2018. “Are Sex Differences in Preferences for Physical Attractiveness and Good Earning Capacity in Potential Mates Smaller in Countries with Greater Gender Equality?” PsyArXiv. December 4.

Abstract: On average, women show stronger preferences for mates with good earning capacity than men do, while men show stronger preferences for physically attractive mates than women do. Studies reporting that sex differences in mate preferences are smaller in countries with greater gender equality have been interpreted as evidence that these sex differences in mate preferences are caused by the different roles society imposes on men and women. Here we attempted to replicate previously reported links between sex differences in mate preferences and country-level measures of gender inequality in a sample of 3073 participants from 36 countries. Although women preferred mates with good earning capacity more than men did and men preferred physically attractive mates more than women did, we found little evidence that these sex differences were smaller in countries with greater gender equality. Although one analysis suggested that the sex difference in preferences for good earning capacity was smaller in countries with greater gender equality, this effect was not significant when controlling for Galton’s problem or when correcting for multiple comparisons. Collectively, these results provide little support for the social roles account of sex differences in mate preferences.

Uncoordinated dances associated with high reproductive success in a crane

Uncoordinated dances associated with high reproductive success in a crane. Kohei F Takeda Mariko Hiraiwa-Hasegawa Nobuyuki Kutsukake. Behavioral Ecology, ary159,

Abstract: Coordinated mutual displays by 2 individuals are believed to play important roles in social and sexual communication. Although previous studies have described mutual displays in birds, few have conducted quantitative analyses. To understand the role of mutual signals, we investigated the reproductive function of pair dances in the red-crowned crane (Grus japonensis). We used an information theory approach to quantify the characteristics of the pair dance and tested the classical “pair bond hypothesis,” which states that the elaborate dance is related to reproductive success. We found that characteristics of the pair dances were related to reproductive success, but the results were not always consistent with the predictions. Dance duration increased as the breeding season approached. However, the past reproductive success of an individual was negatively related to dance coordination (i.e., mutual information) of a pair. These results partially support the pair bond hypothesis, but more importantly, also suggest the need to define the vague concept of a “pair bond” in a biologically reasonable, measurable way.

Curiosity share common neural mechanisms with extrinsic incentives (i.e. hunger for foods): acceptance (compared to rejection) of curiosity/incentive-driven gambles was accompanied with an enhanced activity in the striatum

Hunger for Knowledge: How the Irresistible Lure of Curiosity is Generated in the Brain. Johnny King L Lau, Hiroki Ozono, Kei Kuratomi, Asuka Komiya, Kou Murayama. bioRxiv,

Abstract: Curiosity is often portrayed as a desirable feature of human faculty. For example, a meta-analysis revealed that curiosity predicts academic performance above and beyond intelligence, corroborating findings that curiosity supported long-term consolidation of learning. However, curiosity may come at a cost of strong seductive power that sometimes puts people in a harmful situation. Here, with a set of three behavioural and two neuroimaging experiments including novel stimuli that strongly trigger curiosity (i.e. magic tricks), we examined the psychological and neural mechanisms underlying the irresistible lure of curiosity. We consistently demonstrated that across different samples people were indeed willing to gamble to expose themselves to physical risks (i.e. electric shocks) in order to satisfy their curiosity for trivial knowledge that carries no apparent instrumental values. Also, underlying this seductive power of curiosity is its incentive salience properties, which share common neural mechanisms with extrinsic incentives (i.e. hunger for foods). In particular, the two independent fMRI experiments using different kinds of curiosity-stimulating stimuli found replicable results that acceptance (compared to rejection) of curiosity/incentive-driven gambles was accompanied with an enhanced activity in the striatum.

Revisiting the Form and Function of Conflict: Neurobiological, Psychological and Cultural Mechanisms for Attack and Defense Within and Between Group

Revisiting the Form and Function of Conflict: Neurobiological, Psychological and Cultural Mechanisms for Attack and Defense Within and Between Groups. Carsten K W De Dreu, Jörg Gross. Behavioral and Brain Sciences · September 2018,

Abstract: Conflict can profoundly affect individuals and their groups. Oftentimes, conflict involves a clash between one side seeking change and increased gains through victory, and the other side defending the status quo and protecting against loss and defeat. However, theory and empirical research largely neglected these conflicts between attackers and defenders, and the strategic, social, and psychological consequences of attack and defense remain poorly understood. To fill this void, we model (i) the clashing of attack and defense as games of strategy, reveal that (ii) attack benefits from mismatching its target's level of defense, whereas defense benefits from matching the attacker's competitiveness, suggest that (iii) attack recruits neuro-endocrine pathways underlying behavioral activation and overconfidence, whereas defense invokes neural networks for behavioral inhibition, vigilant scanning and hostile attributions, and show that (iv) people invest less in attack than defense and attack often fails. Finally, we propose that (v) in intergroup conflict out-group attack needs institutional arrangements that motivate and coordinate collective action, whereas in-group defense benefits from endogenously emerging in-group identification. We discuss how games of attack and defense may have shaped human capacities for pro-sociality and aggression, and how third parties can regulate such conflicts, and reduce its waste.

The key mechanism that generates scientific polarization involves treating evidence generated by other agents as uncertain when their beliefs are relatively different from one’s own

Scientific polarization. Cailin O’Connor, James Owen Weatherall. European Journal for Philosophy of Science. October 2018, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp 855–875.

Abstract: Contemporary societies are often “polarized”, in the sense that sub-groups within these societies hold stably opposing beliefs, even when there is a fact of the matter. Extant models of polarization do not capture the idea that some beliefs are true and others false. Here we present a model, based on the network epistemology framework of Bala and Goyal (Learning from neighbors, Rev. Econ. Stud. 65(3), 784–811 1998), in which polarization emerges even though agents gather evidence about their beliefs, and true belief yields a pay-off advantage. As we discuss, these results are especially relevant to polarization in scientific communities, for these reasons. The key mechanism that generates polarization involves treating evidence generated by other agents as uncertain when their beliefs are relatively different from one’s own.

Keywords: Polarization Network Network epistemology Social epistemology Agent based modeling Theory change

“All the Gays Are Liberal?” Sexuality and Gender Gaps in Political Perspectives among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Mostly Heterosexual, and Heterosexual College Students in the Southern USA

“All the Gays Are Liberal?” Sexuality and Gender Gaps in Political Perspectives among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Mostly Heterosexual, and Heterosexual College Students in the Southern USA. Meredith G. F. Worthen. Sexuality Research and Social Policy,

Abstract: Despite the stereotype that “all the gays are liberal,” sexual identity (sexual orientation) has largely been overlooked in explorations of political attitudes save a handful of studies. The existing research indicates that lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) people tend to be more liberal than heterosexuals, supporting a “sexuality gap” in liberalism; however, there is significantly less work focused on LGB attitudes toward specific politicized topics, even less research that investigates the role of gender in these relationships, and no existing studies focusing on mostly heterosexuals’ (MH) political attitudes. The current study explores sexuality and gender gaps in political perspectives among college students enrolled at a university in the southern USA (N = 1940). Specifically, sexual identity (lesbian, gay, bisexual, mostly heterosexual, and heterosexual); gender (man/woman); and the intersections among sexual identity and gender are explored as they relate to politicized perspectives (liberal ideology and feminist identity) and support of politicized issues (death penalty and legal abortion). It is hypothesized that liberal social justice perspectives may be particularly common among LGB people as a group and perhaps especially among lesbian and bisexual women due to their multiple oppressed identities. Results confirm sexuality gaps (heterosexual-LGB, MH-LGB, and B-LG) as well as gender gaps among MH and LGB students (MH women-MH men, bisexual women-bisexual men, gay men-lesbian women), though some gaps (B-LG and G-L) are in the opposite direction from expected. In addition, there is evidence of a bisexual woman consciousness that relates to strong liberalism among bisexual college women. Overall, this research seeks to fill the gaps in the literature, expand our knowledge about sexuality and gender gaps in political attitudes, and contribute to new lines of inquiry that focus on MH and LGB people’s perspectives. In doing so, the current study works toward a deeper understanding of ways college students can promote political change and advocate for social justice.

Keywords: Liberal Politics Gender gap Sexuality gap Lesbian Gay Bisexual Mostly heterosexual Heterosexual College students Social justice

Lower Waist-to-hip, Waist-to-stature, and Waist-to-bust Ratios Predict Higher Rankings of Plus-size Models

Aung, Toe, and Leah Williams. 2018. “Lower Waist-to-hip, Waist-to-stature, and Waist-to-bust Ratios Predict Higher Rankings of Plus-size Models in a Naturalistic Condition.” OSF Preprints. December 3. doi:10.31219/

Abstract: Previous research suggests that waist-to-hip ratio (WHR), waist-to-stature ratio (WSR), and waist-to-bust ratio (WBR) serve as cues of health and fertility in women, influencing the viewers’ perception of attractiveness. However, it is unclear to what extent these findings can be applied to the perception of female attractiveness in a naturalistic condition or in women with a higher body mass index. In this study, we tested whether lower WHR, WSR, and WBR increased the perceived attractiveness of plus-size models in a naturalistic condition. The WHR, WSR, and WBR were computed via biometric data (height, bust, waist, and hip measurements) of 49 U.S. plus-size models who have been listed on The photographs of these models have been viewed 2.60 million times and voted 146,000 times. The perception of attractiveness was operationalized as rankings, generated from the relative number of upvotes and downvotes from site visitors. Spearman correlations showed that lower WHR, WSR, and WBR were all positively correlated with higher rankings. In a subsequent ordinal logistic regression, only WSR and WBR remained as significant predictors of rankings. The principal component regression also revealed that the latent body component of WHR, WSR, and WBR predicted rankings of the models.
These findings cannot be accounted by the models’ general popularity or their anthropometric measures being similar to other types of models’ (e.g., fashion, glamor, playboy, and adult film models). Our findings suggest that smaller WHR, WSR, and WBR influence the perception of female attractiveness in a naturalistic condition, even among plus-size models.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Social animals show elaborate cognitive skills to deal with others, but there are few reports of animals physically using social agents & their respective responses as means to an end—social tool use; origins of Machiavellian intelligence

Schweinfurth, M. K., DeTroy, S. E., van Leeuwen, E. J. C., Call, J., & Haun, D. B. M. (2018). Spontaneous social tool use in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Journal of Comparative Psychology, 132(4), 455-463.

Abstract: Although there is good evidence that social animals show elaborate cognitive skills to deal with others, there are few reports of animals physically using social agents and their respective responses as means to an end—social tool use. In this case study, we investigated spontaneous and repeated social tool use behavior in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). We presented a group of chimpanzees with an apparatus, in which pushing two buttons would release juice from a distantly located fountain. Consequently, any one individual could only either push the buttons or drink from the fountain but never push and drink simultaneously. In this scenario, an adult male attempted to retrieve three other individuals and push them toward the buttons that, if pressed, released juice from the fountain. With this strategy, the social tool user increased his juice intake 10-fold. Interestingly, the strategy was stable over time, which was possibly enabled by playing with the social tools. With over 100 instances, we provide the biggest data set on social tool use recorded among nonhuman animals so far. The repeated use of other individuals as social tools may represent a complex social skill linked to Machiavellian intelligence.

Sharing food from a single plate increased perceived coordination among diners, which in turn led them to behave more cooperatively & less competitively toward each other; the effect on cooperation occurred among strangers also

Shared Plates, Shared Minds: Consuming  from a Shared Plate Promotes Cooperation. Kaitlin Woolley & Ayelet Fishbach. In press, Psychological Science,

Abstract: A meal naturally brings people together, but does the way a meal is served and consumed further matter for cooperation between people? This research (n=1476) yielded evidence that it does. People eating from shared plates (i.e., Chinese style meal) cooperated more in social dilemmas and negotiations than those eating from separate plates. Specifically, sharing food from a single plate increased perceived coordination among diners, which in turn led them to behave more cooperatively and less competitively toward each other compared with individuals eating the same food from separate plates. The effect of sharing a plate on cooperation occurred among strangers, which suggests that sharing plates can bring together not only allies, but strangers as well.

Keywords: food consumption, cooperation, coordination, social dilemma, negotiation
The raw data and supplemental material for all studies are available at OSF:

Sunday, December 2, 2018

A ‘Nordic model’ to respond to prostitution? More violence, adaptation of the sex industry, no reduction in trafficking

No model in practice: a ‘Nordic model’ to respond to prostitution? Sarah Kingston, Terry Thomas. Crime, Law and Social Change,

Abstract: The so-called Nordic model to respond to prostitution has been considered in legislative debates across Europe and internationally, and hailed by some as best practice to tackle sex trafficking and is believed to support gender equality. Yet, when we interrogate the utilisation of the Nordic countries laws by law enforcers, it is not being implemented as per the law. We argue that ‘all that is occurring is the transfer of rhetoric and ideology’ in these countries ((Stone Politics, 19 (1): 51–59, 1999) at 56). In this article, we expose the cracks in the so-called Nordic model, thereby discrediting the ‘persuasive’ nature of a unified Nordic approach to prostitution. We draw on policy transfer and comparative law literature to illuminate the problems and challenges of naïve adoption of this so-called model, arguing that this can lead to uninformed, inappropriate and incomplete transfer of the Nordic model, which then becomes a policy irritant, further exacerbating the very problems it seeks to address.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

When Those We Love Misbehave: For the most part, we evaluate them & their unethical actions less harshly, but exhibit greater negative effects on our own morality & perceived relationships when close others act unethically, compared to strangers

When the Ones We Love Misbehave: Exploring Moral Processes in Intimate Bonds. Rachel Chubak Forbes. Master of Arts Thesis, Psychology. University of Toronto. 2018.

Abstract: How do we respond when those we are closest to behave unethically? Previous research has almost exclusively investigated individuals' reactions to transgressions committed by strangers. Here we examined how observers evaluated close others and their misbehavior, how close others’ misbehaviour affected observers’own morality, and how relationship relevant outcomes were impacted when a close other, compared to a stranger, acted immorally. Participants read hypothetical transgressions (Study 1), recalled actual transgressions (Study 2), and witnessed transgressions occur in the laboratory committed by eomantic partners, friends, and strangers (Study 3). Effects were consistent across Studies 1 and 2, but less so for Study 3. For the most part, participants evaluated transgressors and their unethical actions less harshly, but exhibited greater negative effects on their own morality and perceived relationships when close others acted unethically, compared to strangers. This work suggests that sharing intimate bonds with transgressors impact moral evaluation.

Are Bigger Brains Smarter? There is a consistent association. Evidence From a Large-Scale Preregistered Study

Are Bigger Brains Smarter? Evidence From a Large-Scale Preregistered Study. Gideon Nave et al. Psychological Science,

Abstract: A positive relationship between brain volume and intelligence has been suspected since the 19th century, and empirical studies seem to support this hypothesis. However, this claim is controversial because of concerns about publication bias and the lack of systematic control for critical confounding factors (e.g., height, population structure). We conducted a preregistered study of the relationship between brain volume and cognitive performance using a new sample of adults from the United Kingdom that is about 70% larger than the combined samples of all previous investigations on this subject (N = 13,608). Our analyses systematically controlled for sex, age, height, socioeconomic status, and population structure, and our analyses were free of publication bias. We found a robust association between total brain volume and fluid intelligence (r = .19), which is consistent with previous findings in the literature after controlling for measurement quality of intelligence in our data. We also found a positive relationship between total brain volume and educational attainment (r = .12). These relationships were mainly driven by gray matter (rather than white matter or fluid volume), and effect sizes were similar for both sexes and across age groups.

Keywords: intelligence, educational attainment, brain volume, preregistered analysis, UK Biobank, open data, open materials, preregistered

The Skinny on Brains: Size Matters. on H. Kaas. May 09 2017.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Depression treatments: The effects are probably overestimated, relapse rates for patients who respond are very high (about 50% over 2 years), there is little evidence for long-term effectiveness, & there are the problems of publication bias, sponsorship bias, & others

The Challenges of Improving Treatments for Depression. Pim Cuijpers. JAMA. Published online November 30, 2018. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.17824

In the past few decades substantial progress has been made in the research and development of treatments for major depression. Many different types of medications and psychotherapy are currently available and rigorous studies have shown that antidepressants are more effective than placebo,1 and several types of psychotherapies are more effective than waiting list or other controls.2 These findings suggest that many patients with depression can be successfully treated. Based on these significant and positive effects, many of these treatments are included in treatment guidelines and are widely used in clinical practice. However, not all patients with depression recover with available treatments and several important challenges need to be resolved to improve existing treatments and to increase the number of patients who benefit from them.
Spontaneous Recovery and Placebo Effects

An important challenge is the high rates of spontaneous response and placebo effects. More than half of patients who receive antidepressants or psychotherapy respond to treatment. However, response rates are also high when patients receive placebo or no treatment. In a meta-analysis that included 44 240 patients from 177 studies, 54% of patients responded to antidepressants, whereas 38% responded to placebo.3 Comparable numbers have been reported for psychotherapies with response rates of 54% compared with response rates of 41% across control conditions.4 Patients with depression who do not seek care show comparable response rates. These findings differ when other outcomes, such as remission or significant clinical change, are used. That does not, however, change the basic challenge that a substantial proportion of patients who improve with medication or psychotherapy would have recovered without treatment or with placebo. This poses substantial challenges for investigators and clinicians.

Individuals who respond to medication will probably continue to use them for at least several months, even with the risk of adverse effects. Patients who respond to psychotherapy invest many hours and make considerable efforts during their treatment. For a majority of patients who respond to treatment, the potential adverse effects of medications and the time investment in psychotherapy might not be necessary to get better. However, it is not possible yet to predict which patients will recover spontaneously or will respond to placebo, although innovative machine learning techniques and other biological markers may be helpful in the future.

Spontaneous recovery also complicates the validity of clinical knowledge as well as research about treatments. Because many patients recover while receiving treatment, clinicians and patients are inclined to think that the treatment is what made them better. However, because many patients also would have recovered without treatment, clinical judgements are not necessarily related to treatment effect.


In contrast to response to drug or placebo, a considerable group of patients are difficult to treat or do not respond to treatment. Although patients may respond to another drug after failure to respond to an initially prescribed drug, the chance of successful response is almost halved with every new treatment tried.5 Even after trying several different treatments, a substantial proportion of patients do not respond. One estimate suggests that approximately 30% of patients with depressive disorders have a chronic course with limited response to treatment.6

Another challenge is that the effects of treatment are probably overestimated. The relapse rates for patients who respond are very high (estimated at about 50% over 2 years),7 there is limited evidence for long-term effectiveness, and there are the problems of publication bias, sponsorship bias, and other sources of bias. Clinicians may have an optimistic view that these problems have little influence on outcomes or have a pessimistic view that no relevant treatment effect remains. In reality, the extent to which these factors affect outcomes is unknown.

How to Improve Treatments?

Worldwide, an estimated 330 million people have depression, which is linked with considerably diminished role functioning and quality of life, medical comorbidity, excess mortality, and high economic costs.8 Thus, addressing current therapeutic challenges and improving available treatments are critically important, regardless of the true effects of these treatments. How can this be done?

Additional research on the causes and etiological processes leading to depression is needed. The focus should be on which patients will respond to treatment, which could lead to the development of better and more targeted treatments for specific groups of patients. This may result in new approaches for preventing depression. However, this will take time and long-term investments.

A straightforward approach in the short-term is to develop treatments that are more effective than the current ones in acute phase depression. However, many drugs and psychotherapies have been developed over the past decades, and there is little evidence that one drug or psychotherapy is substantially more effective than the others. It is therefore unlikely that newly developed drugs and therapies will be substantially better than the ones that are currently available.

A potentially viable approach with respect to spontaneous recovery is to minimize treatments and reduce unnecessary resource use because many patients with depression will recover spontaneously, regardless of treatment. Clinicians already use a “watchful waiting” approach, by encouraging patients to wait before starting a treatment. Another option is to offer internet-based or other self-help interventions that involve no or minimal support from professionals, preferably in stepped-care models allowing patients who do not respond to these interventions to step up to more intensive treatment. Considerable evidence indicates that these internet-based interventions are effective and require less resources.9 Another option may be to clearly explain to patients what the chance for recovery is from treatment, from placebo, or from no treatment. This may stimulate patients with milder disorders to wait before starting treatment, whereas patients with severe disorders will probably prefer to initiate treatment.

There are also several priorities for patients with depression who have high relapse rates or those who do not respond to treatments. One important priority is to further examine relapse prevention. In routine practice, this often consists of maintenance treatment with drugs. However, convincing evidence indicates that psychological interventions can reduce relapse rates considerably, although these interventions are seldom implemented in routine care.

Another priority is to increase research on the treatment of chronic and resistant depression. Fortunately, these conditions are increasingly the focus of drug trials, and some promising new medications are being tested, such as ketamine.10 However, few psychological treatments are available that are specifically designed for chronic depression. The development of such therapies should have more priority than developing new therapies for acute depression that almost certainly will show comparable effects as already existing treatments.

Answering the Challenge

Evidence-based treatments can make a substantial difference in the lives of many patients. Nevertheless, for patients with depression many do not benefit from treatment, and some only partially benefit or only experience short-term improvement. Furthermore, a considerable group of treated patients would have also recovered without treatment. The group of patients in between these extremes are the ones who currently benefit from available treatments, but they are still a minority of all patients. Because of the public health effects of depression and the enormous related adverse effects on the quality of life of patients, it should be a priority to search for methods to increase the number of patients who benefit from treatment and in this way reduce the burden of depression.

Corresponding Author: Pim Cuijpers, PhD, Department of Clinical, Neuro and Developmental Psychology, Amsterdam Public Health Research Institute, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Van der Boechorststraat 7, 1081 BT Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: No disclosures were reported.

Cipriani  A, Furukawa  TA, Salanti  G,  et al.  Comparative efficacy and acceptability of 21 antidepressant drugs for the acute treatment of adults with major depressive disorder: a systematic review and network meta-analysis.  Lancet. 2018;391(10128):1357-1366. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(17)32802-7
Barth  J, Munder  T, Gerger  H,  et al.  Comparative efficacy of seven psychotherapeutic interventions for patients with depression: a network meta-analysis.  PLoS Med. 2013;10(5):e1001454. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001454
Levkovitz  Y, Tedeschini  E, Papakostas  GI.  Efficacy of antidepressants for dysthymia: a meta-analysis of placebo-controlled randomized trials.  J Clin Psychiatry. 2011;72(4):509-514. doi:10.4088/JCP.09m05949blu4.
Cuijpers  P, Karyotaki  E, Weitz  E, Andersson  G, Hollon  SD, van Straten  A.  The effects of psychotherapies for major depression in adults on remission, recovery and improvement: a meta-analysis.  J Affect Disord. 2014;159:118-126. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2014.02.026
Rush  AJ, Trivedi  MH, Wisniewski  SR,  et al.  Acute and longer-term outcomes in depressed outpatients requiring one or several treatment steps: a STAR*D report.  Am J Psychiatry. 2006;163(11):1905-1917. doi:10.1176/ajp.2006.163.11.1905
Murphy  JA, Byrne  GJ.  Prevalence and correlates of the proposed DSM-5 diagnosis of chronic depressive disorder.  J Affect Disord. 2012;139(2):172-180. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2012.01.033
Vittengl  JR, Clark  LA, Dunn  TW, Jarrett  RB.  Reducing relapse and recurrence in unipolar depression: a comparative meta-analysis of cognitive-behavioral therapy’s effects.  J Consult Clin Psychol. 2007;75(3):475-488. doi:10.1037/0022-006X.75.3.475
Bloom  DE, Cafiero  E, Jané-Llopis  E,  et al. The global economic burden of noncommunicable diseases. Geneva, Switzerland: World Economic Forum. Published September 2011. Accessed November 18, 2018.
Andrews  G, Basu  A, Cuijpers  P,  et al.  Computer therapy for the anxiety and depression disorders is effective, acceptable and practical health care: an updated meta-analysis.  J Anxiety Disord. 2018;55:70-78. doi:10.1016/j.janxdis.2018.01.00110.
Wilkinson  ST, Sanacora  G.  Considerations on the off-label use of ketamine as a treatment for mood disorders.  JAMA. 2017;318(9):793-794. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.10697

The article thus challenges the general notion that ‘terrorism always ends’; only certain types of jihadists will end, while others—such as al-Qaida & Islamic State—may survive indefinitely

Jihadism after the ‘Caliphate’: towards a new typology. Anne Stenersen. British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies,

ABSTRACT: The rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and its subsequent split with al-Qaida in 2014, revealed there is still much we do not know about jihadism. Existing typologies of Islamism describe jihadism as a unitary phenomenon, characterized by a preference for violence over other methods for political change. This article presents a more fine-grained typology of jihadism that captures the core divisionary issues within the jihadist current. It argues that jihadist groups can be classified along two scales: the ‘takfirism’ scale defines how the group relates to society, and it runs from integration at one end, to separation on the other. The ‘pan-Islamism’ scale defines what the group fights for, and it runs from ethnic homeland on one end to umma on the other. The main argument is that jihadist groups ensure their survival by shifting their position along the scales—either by becoming less takfiri or more pan-Islamist. The article thus challenges the general notion that ‘terrorism always ends’. Only certain types of jihadists will end, while others—such as al-Qaida and Islamic State—may survive indefinitely.

Is creativity, hands-on modeling and cognitive learning gender-dependent?

Is creativity, hands-on modeling and cognitive learning gender-dependent? Julia Mierdel, Franz X. Bogner. Thinking Skills and Creativity, Volume 31, March 2019, Pages 91-102.

•    Combining hands-on modeling with experimentation is successful.
•    The model quality is not influenced by students’ individual creativity levels.
•    Girls produced significantly better structured DNA-models.
•    ‘Flow’ experiences and model quality are related with girls’ cognitive achievement.

Abstract: Modeling plays a key role in science research and education is considered to increase comprehensibility of abstract concepts and processes. Especially hands-on experiences in authentic learning environments offer students the opportunity to feel like real researchers and support the development of problem-based thinking skills. In our study, we applied an inquiry-based, out-of-school laboratory module that uses classic experimental challenges as well as innovative model-supported teaching to promote cognitive achievement. Our hands-on module was designed for 9th graders and combined experimentation and creative model work to visualize molecular and otherwise invisible contents of DNA-structure. After mental modeling, participants (N = 114; 40.87% female) produced a physical DNA-model using handcrafting materials. Our major aims were to evaluate the model qualities and to monitor potential relationships between successful model elaboration, individual creativity and knowledge levels. Therefore, we correlated students’ creativity levels with model quality scores as well as with cognitive achievement. While no relations were found for creativity and model elaboration further results were gender-dependent. Girls produced significantly higher model quality scores and significant positive correlations were revealed between short-term and mid-term knowledge levels. Correlations also were observed between girls’ cognitive achievement and the creativity subscale ‘flow’. In contrast, neither creativity nor model quality were decisive for boys cognitive achievement. Their average simpler modeling results did not correlate with the short-term and mid-term knowledge levels, although they achieved similar scores on both. Model elaboration seemingly provides more support for girls and offers a suitable approach for emphasizing creativity in science education. In attempting to attract girls to scientific ideas, creative modeling may further support hands-on experimentation.

Animated Disney female characters that exhibit low WHRs should be perceived as good; lower waist-to-hip ratio is more commonly associated with Disney princesses than Disney female villains

Aung, T., & Williams, L. (2018). Mirror, mirror on the wall: Whose figure is the fairest of them all? Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences,

Abstract: Although the “what is beautiful is good” phenomenon has been examined in animated Disney movies, studies have not investigated what makes a particular Disney princess more beautiful than the others. In our study, we further investigated what makes a particular Disney female character (n = 20) beautiful by measuring and analyzing their waist-to-hip ratios (WHRs). From evolutionary perspectives, lower WHRs in women signal high reproductive potential, and are attractive to men and ideal for women. Thus, we expected that animated Disney female characters that exhibit low WHRs should be perceived as good. Our analyses suggest that lower WHR is more commonly associated with Disney princesses than Disney female villains. In addition, we found that WHRs of Disney princesses (Mdn = 0.50, range = 0.31–0.69) were less varied than those of the villains (Mdn = 0.66, range = 0.47–1.29), suggesting that the “what is beautiful is good” stereotype is strongly reflected in the smaller WHRs of Disney princesses.

Some articles on psychology of animals

The mating preferences of female fruitflies are strongly influenced by the existing preferences they observe in other females, generating traditions that are repeatedly passed on to others and spread in the population
The intense selection of chickens for production traits (egg laying) is thought to cause undesirable side effects & changes in behavior due to trade-offs from energy expenditure; contrary to expectations, productive hens show increased cognitive skills

Males reversed their initial preference for larger females in the presence of a conspecific audience male because they recognized the audience male as a competitor and tried to deceive that male about their real mating preference
A female fish that today doesn't need males to clone itself copulates with other species' males to stimulate embryonic development. Those males do that probably because the interactions of a sexual male and the female are observed by conspecific females and make that male more attractive
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
Chimpanzees appear to perceive similarity in primate faces in a similar way to humans. Information about perceptual similarity is likely prioritized over the potential influence of previous experience
Is birth attendance a uniquely human feature? New evidence suggests that Bonobo females protect and support the parturient
Prolonged transport and cannibalism of mummified infant remains by a Tonkean macaque mother

From 2017: Exceptionalism is not exceptional in relation to sexual and reproduction mechanisms — Contrasts of human and animal sexuality

Exceptionalism is not exceptional in relation to sexual and reproduction mechanisms: Contrasts of human and animal sexuality. Roy J. Levin. Clin. Anat. 30:940–945, 2017.

Abstract: Speculation that the release of oxytocin by orgasm in the human female during coitus facilitates fertility by enhancing uterine sperm transport has been criticized as having no unequivocal empirical human evidence. However, a counter claim that this supports human “exceptionalism” as some form of uterine sperm transport occurs in other species. This is a misconception as it ignores that human uterine peristalsis, powered by contractions of the smooth muscle of the archimyometrium, facilitates sperm transport even without any systemic oxytocin involvement. Moreover, examination of various unique reproductive mechanisms in numerous animals also indicates that the claim is misjudged and rests on a biased interpretation of what “exceptionalism” means in this biological context. Ten chosen aspects of our sexuality are presented as being exceptional to humans.

From 2013: Sexual Wiring of Women's Breasts — Neuroscientists establish breasts as sexual organs

Sexual Wiring of Women's Breasts. Nigel Barber. Psychology Today, May 07, 2013.

Neuroscientists establish breasts as sexual organs

Excerpts (full text with links in the link above):

If men have sex on the brain, they are not alone. Recent research found that women’s sensory cortex has three distinct areas corresponding to stimulation of the clitoris, vagina, and cervix (1). To their surprise, researchers found that self stimulation of the nipples lights up the same areas. This sheds further light on the sexual importance of breasts.

In an earlier post, I discussed some evolutionary reasons that men are fascinated by women’s breasts and pointed out that stimulation of the breast plays a key role in women’s sexual arousal and satisfaction.

The Background

The permanently enlarged human breast is a peculiarity of our species (2). It may have some signal value in communicating fertility and plays a role in physical attractiveness.

Breasts are less eroticized in subsistence societies where women go topless than in our own where they are exploited in advertising, and in pornography. Even in subsistence societies, breasts are not entirely lacking in sexual significance and are generally stimulated in foreplay according to ethnographic accounts (3).

Moreover, the breasts play a key role in female sexual arousal and we are beginning to understand why in terms of hormones and neuroscience. In their classic report on the female sexual response, Masters and Johnson (4) pointed out that breast volume increases during sexual arousal in addition to changes in the areola and erection of the nipples.

The breast and bonding

The function of the breast in sexual behavior is sometimes attributed to face-to-face copulation that is unusual amongst mammals. If the breast is already used for mother- infant bonding, the argument goes, then it is a small step for it to be used in facilitating bonding between lovers. After all, it is in easy reach!

Stimulation of the nipple during breast feeding increases the amount of the hormone oxytocin that circulates. Oxytocin is often referred to as the “cuddling hormone” because it is released by male and female mammals during close social encounters of various kinds (5).

In addition to its general social effects, whereby a mother feels closeness for the baby she is feeding (and vice versa), there are other more specialized functions of oxytocin. One is that milk flows, a reflex known as the “milk let-down response” familiar to mothers and dairy farmers alike.

Another is sexual arousal, and orgasm. Some women experiencing intense pleasure - even orgasm - from breast feeding. This phenomenon was long written off as a mere oddity but neuroscientists are beginning to understand why it happens.

Sexual wiring of women’s brains

The great complexity of the female sexual response may be attributable to the fact that there is not one, but three sensory maps in the parietal cortex that light up in functional MRI images when the genitals are (self) stimulated. One represents the clitoris, another the vagina and the third represents the cervix.

All three of these maps also receive input when the nipple is stimulated. From a functional perspective, this means that the breast doubles as a truly sexual organ. It is not just an exciting visual stimulus for (most) men but also a key source of sexual pleasure for most women.

As to the wiring of men’s nipples the jury is out. Some men’s nipples are also responsive to sexual stimulation but the brain response has yet to be mapped.


1. Komisaruk, B. R., et al. (2011). Women’s clitoris, vagina, and cervix mapped on the sensory cortex: fMRI evidence. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 8, 2822-2830.

2. Barber, N. (1995). The evolutionary psychology of physical attractiveness: Sexual selection and human morphology. Ethology and Sociobiology, 16, 395-424.

3. Ford, C. S., & Beach, F. A. (1951). Patterns of sexual behavior. New York: Harper.

4. Masters, W. H., & Johnson, V. E. (1966). Human sexual response. Boston: Little Brown.

5. Uvnas-Moberg, K. (1998). Oxytocin may mediate the benefits of positive social interaction and emotions. Psychoneuroendocrinology 23: 819-835.

Nigel Barber, Ph.D., is an evolutionary psychologist as well as the author of Why Parents Matter and The Science of Romance, among other books.

The mating preferences of female fruitflies are strongly influenced by the existing preferences they observe in other females, generating traditions that are repeatedly passed on to others and spread in the population

Culture and conformity shape fruitfly mating. Andrew Whiten et al. Science Vol. 362, Issue 6418, pp. 998-999. DOI: 10.1126/science.aav5674

Summary: Culture pervades every aspect of human lives, its achievements providing a compelling explanation for our species' domination of the planet (1). Defined as the matrix of traditions built by previous generations and inherited by social learning, culture was long thought to be uniquely human. In recent decades, however, mounting evidence for culture defined in this way has accumulated for numerous vertebrate species and an expanding diversity of behaviors (2). Examples include migratory knowledge in bighorn sheep (3); foraging techniques in humpback whales (4), great tits (5), and bumble bees (6); and tool use in apes (2). These discoveries suggest that although human culture has developed unprecedented complexities, it evolved from more elementary forms shared with other species. On page 1025 of this issue, Danchin et al. (7) offer evidence that a species that may surprise many should be added to this growing animal “culture club”: the humble fruitfly. They show that the mating preferences of female fruitflies are strongly influenced by the existing preferences they observe in other females, generating traditions that are repeatedly passed on to others and spread in the population. Animal culture may be a much more widespread phenomenon than hitherto acknowledged.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Vertical pupils are perceived as more threatening; snake phobia, & not spider phobia, was found to be related to perceiving vertical pupils as threatening

The evil eye effect: vertical pupils are perceived as more threatening. Sinan Alper, Elif Oyku Us & Dicle Rojda Tasman. Cognition and Emotion,

ABSTRACT: Popular culture has many examples of evil characters having vertically pupilled eyes. Humans have a long evolutionary history of rivalry with snakes and their visual systems were evolved to rapidly detect snakes and snake-related cues. Considering such evolutionary background, we hypothesised that humans would perceive vertical pupils, which are characteristics of ambush predators including some of the snakes, as threatening. In seven studies (aggregate N = 1458) conducted on samples from American and Turkish samples, we found that vertical pupils are perceived as more threatening on both explicit (Study 1) and implicit level (Studies 2–7) and they are associated with physical, rather than social, threat (Study 4). Findings provided partial support regarding our hypothesis about the relevance of snake detection processes: Snake phobia, and not spider phobia, was found to be related to perceiving vertical pupils as threatening (Study 5), however an experimental manipulation of saliency of snakes rendered no significant effect (Study 6) and a comparison of fears of snakes, alligators, and cats did not support our prediction (Study 7). We discuss the potential implications and limitations of these novel findings.

KEYWORDS: Evolutionary psychology, horizontal pupil, snake detection theory, implicit association test, vertical pupil

In matters of the heart, as in many other matters generally, we adhere to existing states (“status quo bias”) & value them more (“endowment effect”)

I Have, Therefore I Love: Status Quo Preference in Mate Choice. Gul Gunaydin et al. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin,

Abstract: Decades of research indicate that individuals adhere to existing states (“status quo bias”) and value them more (“endowment effect”). The present work is the first to investigate status quo preference within the context of trade-offs in mate choice. Across seven studies (total N = 1,567), participants indicated whether they would prefer remaining with a current partner possessing a particular set of traits (e.g., high trustworthiness, low attractiveness) or switching to an alternative partner possessing opposite traits. Preference for a given trait was highest when the individual representing the status quo (one’s romantic partner or an interaction partner) possessed that trait. Concerns about hurting the partner, ambiguity avoidance, and biased construal of the partner and the alternative predicted status quo preference and disapproval of the current partner by network members eliminated this effect. These findings indicate that when it comes to matters of the heart, we tend to love what we currently have.

Keywords: status quo bias, endowment effect, decision making, romantic relationships, mate-choice trade-offs

Psychopathy and homicide are importantly linked and that psychopathic personality functioning is a significant risk factor for various forms of lethal violence

Psychopathic killers: A meta-analytic review of the psychopathy-homicide nexus. Bryanna Fox, Matt DeLisi. Aggression and Violent Behavior,

Abstract: Despite cultural notions that psychopathy and homicide are strongly linked, there has not been a quantitative meta-analytic review of the association between psychopathy and homicide offending. The current study meta-analyzed data from 29 unique samples from 22 studies that included 2603 homicide offenders, and found that the mean psychopathy score on the PCL-R for a homicide offender was 21.2 (95% CI = 18.9–23.6). This score is indicative of moderate psychopathy. The overall effect size r = 0.68 was large, and effect sizes intensified in studies of more severe manifestations of homicide including sexual homicide (r = 0.71), sadistic homicide (r = 0.78), serial homicide (r = 0.74), and multi-offender homicide (r = 0.80). Current study findings make clear that psychopathy and homicide are importantly linked and that psychopathic personality functioning is a significant risk factor for various forms of lethal violence.

An oxytocin receptor gene has been associated with emotional traits such as positive affect and related constructs such as optimism and self-esteem; this seems not replicable

The Oxytocin Receptor Gene (OXTR) Variant rs53576 is Not Related to Emotional Traits or States in Young Adults. Tamlin S. Conner et al. Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02548

BACKGROUND: To understand the genetic underpinnings of emotion, researchers have studied genetic variants in the oxytocin system, a hormone and neurotransmitter important to socio-emotional functioning. The oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) variant rs53576 has been associated with emotional traits such as positive affect and related constructs such as optimism and self-esteem. Individuals carrying the A allele (AG and AA genotypes) of rs53576 have been found to score lower in these traits when compared to GG homozygotes, although not always. Given recent mixed evidence regarding this polymorphism, replication of these associations is critical.

METHODS: Using a cross-sectional design, the present study tested the association between rs53576 and a wide variety of emotional traits and states in a sample of 611 young adults ages 18 - 25 of various ethnicities (European, Asian, Māori/Pacific Islander, other). Participants completed standard trait measures of positive and negative affect, depressive symptoms, life engagement, psychological well-being, optimism, and self-esteem. They also completed state measures of positive and negative affect and life engagement for 13-days using Internet daily diaries.

RESULTS: Controlling for ethnicity and gender, variation at the OXTR variant rs53576 obtained from blood samples was not related to any of the emotional traits or states. This null finding occurred despite measuring emotions in ‘near to real time’ using daily diaries and having sufficient power to detect a medium effect size difference between homozygous genotype groups.

CONCLUSION: These findings suggest that variation at the rs53576 locus may not be as involved in emotional differences as initial studies suggested.

Keywords: Oxytocin, Genetics, Rs53576, Mental Health, emotion, mood, Well-being, gene, Daily diary

Mindfulness not related to behavioral & speech markers of emotional positivity (or less negativity), interpersonally better connected (quality or quantity), or prosocial orientation (more affectionate, less gossipy or complaining)

Dispositional mindfulness in daily life: A naturalistic observation study. Deanna M. Kaplan, L. Raison, Anne Milek, Allison M. Tackman, Thaddeus W. W. Pace, Matthias R. Mehl. PLOS,

Abstract: Mindfulness has seen an extraordinary rise as a scientific construct, yet surprisingly little is known about how it manifests behaviorally in daily life. The present study identifies assumptions regarding how mindfulness relates to behavior and contrasts them against actual behavioral manifestations of trait mindfulness in daily life. Study 1 (N = 427) shows that mindfulness is assumed to relate to emotional positivity, quality social interactions, prosocial orientation and attention to sensory perceptions. In Study 2, 185 participants completed a gold-standard, self-reported mindfulness measure (the FFMQ) and underwent naturalistic observation sampling to assess their daily behaviors. Trait mindfulness was robustly related to a heightened perceptual focus in conversations. However, it was not related to behavioral and speech markers of emotional positivity, quality social interactions, or prosocial orientation. These findings suggest that the subjective and self-reported experience of being mindful in daily life is expressed primarily through sharpened perceptual attention, rather than through other behavioral or social differences. This highlights the need for ecological models of how dispositional mindfulness “works” in daily life, and raises questions about the measurement of mindfulness.

Check also Other consequences of mindfulness in the moral domain: Attenuated repair intentions after having read a scenario in which participants caused harm to a friend & attenuated intentions to change bad eating habits:

Potential negative consequences of mindfulness in the moral domain. Simon Schindler, Stefan Pfattheicher, Marc-Andre Reinhard. To appear in the European Journal of Social Psychology, January 2019,

And Yoga and meditation are highly popular. Purportedly, they foster well-being by “quieting the ego” or, more specifically, curtailing self-enhancement. We observed that, instead, they boost self-enhancement:

Gebauer, Jochen, Nehrlich, A.D., Stahlberg, D., Sedikides, Constantine, Hackenschmidt, D, Schick, D, Stegmaie, C A, Windfelder, C. C, Bruk, A and Mander, J V (2018) Mind-body practices and the self: yoga and meditation do not quiet the ego, but instead boost self-enhancement. Psychological Science, 1-22.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Those who minimize (vs. acknowledge) the extent to which their group is the target of discrimination report better well-being across myriad indicators: body mass index, social well-being, self-esteem, depression, & mental illness diagnosis

The Palliative Effects of System Justification on the Health and Happiness of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Individuals. Alexandra Suppes, Jaime L. Napier, Jojanneke van der Toorn. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin,

Abstract: Across three studies, we examine the correlates of subjective well-being and mental and physical health among members of a historically disadvantaged group, namely, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals. Results show those who minimize (vs. acknowledge) the extent to which their group is the target of discrimination report better well-being across myriad indicators (Studies 1-3). We also demonstrate that this effect is mediated by perceived system fairness (Study 1); holds above and beyond internalized homonegativity (Studies 1 and 3) and ingroup identification (Studies 2-3); and is true regardless of whether individuals reside in hostile or accepting environments (Study 2), and regardless of whether individuals had personally experienced discrimination (Study 3). For some indicators (namely, body mass index [BMI], social well-being, self-esteem, depression, and mental illness diagnosis), the relationship between minimization of discrimination and well-being was stronger among those who had frequent (vs. rare) discriminatory experiences.

Keywords: well-being, health, system justification, LGBT, discrimination

Border wall expansion, 2007-2010, harmed Mexican workers & high-skill U.S. workers, but benefited U.S. low-skill ones; reduced trade costs between US & Mexico by 25% should have reduced Mexico to US migration with welfare gains

Border Walls. Treb Allen, Cauê de Castro Dobbin, Melanie Morten. NBER Working Paper No. 25267, Nov 2018,

What are the economic impacts of a border wall between the United States and Mexico? We use confidential data on bilateral flows of primarily unauthorized Mexican workers to the United States to estimate how a substantial expansion of the border wall between the United States and Mexico from 2007 to 2010 affected migration. We then combine these estimates with a general equilibrium spatial model featuring multiple labor types and a flexible underlying geography to quantify the economic impact of the wall expansion. At a construction cost of approximately $7 per person in the United States, we estimate that the border wall expansion harmed Mexican workers and high-skill U.S. workers, but benefited U.S. low-skill workers, who achieved gains equivalent to an increase in per capita income of $0.36. In contrast, a counterfactual policy which instead reduced trade costs between the United States and Mexico by 25% would have resulted in both greater declines in Mexico to United States migration and substantial welfare gains for all workers.

To quantify partisan audience bias, we developed a domain-level score by leveraging the sharing propensities of registered voters on a large Twitter panel; we found little evidence for the "filter bubble'' hypothesis

Auditing Partisan Audience Bias within Google Search. Ronald E. Robertson et al. Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction - CSCW archive. Volume 2 Issue CSCW, November 2018, Article No. 148, doi: 10.1145/3274417

Abstract: There is a growing consensus that online platforms have a systematic influence on the democratic process. However, research beyond social media is limited. In this paper, we report the results of a mixed-methods algorithm audit of partisan audience bias and personalization within Google Search. Following Donald Trump's inauguration, we recruited 187 participants to complete a survey and install a browser extension that enabled us to collect Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) from their computers. To quantify partisan audience bias, we developed a domain-level score by leveraging the sharing propensities of registered voters on a large Twitter panel. We found little evidence for the "filter bubble'' hypothesis. Instead, we found that results positioned toward the bottom of Google SERPs were more left-leaning than results positioned toward the top, and that the direction and magnitude of overall lean varied by search query, component type (e.g. "answer boxes"), and other factors. Utilizing rank-weighted metrics that we adapted from prior work, we also found that Google's rankings shifted the average lean of SERPs to the right of their unweighted average.

Check also: Few people are actually trapped in filter bubbles. Why do they like to say that they are? Plus: Are your Google results really that different from your neighbor’s? Laura Hazard Owen. NiemanLab, Dec 07 2018.

Young adult mental health and functional outcomes among individuals with remitted, persistent and late-onset ADHD

Agnew-Blais, J., Polanczyk, G., Danese, A., Wertz, J., Moffitt, T., & Arseneault, L. (2018). Young adult mental health and functional outcomes among individuals with remitted, persistent and late-onset ADHD. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 213(3), 526-534. doi:10.1192/bjp.2018.97


Background: Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is associated with mental health problems and functional impairment across many domains. However, how the longitudinal course of ADHD affects later functioning remains unclear.

Aims: We aimed to disentangle how ADHD developmental patterns are associated with young adult functioning.

Method: The Environmental Risk (E-Risk) Longitudinal Twin Study is a population-based cohort of 2232 twins born in England and Wales in 1994–1995. We assessed ADHD in childhood at ages 5, 7, 10 and 12 years and in young adulthood at age 18 years. We examined three developmental patterns of ADHD from childhood to young adulthood – remitted, persistent and late-onset ADHD – and compared these groups with one another and with non-ADHD controls on functioning at age 18 years. We additionally tested whether group differences were attributable to childhood IQ, childhood conduct disorder or familial factors shared between twins.

Results: Compared with individuals without ADHD, those with remitted ADHD showed poorer physical health and socioeconomic outcomes in young adulthood. Individuals with persistent or late-onset ADHD showed poorer functioning across all domains, including mental health, substance misuse, psychosocial, physical health and socioeconomic outcomes. Overall, these associations were not explained by childhood IQ, childhood conduct disorder or shared familial factors.

Conclusions: Long-term associations of childhood ADHD with adverse physical health and socioeconomic outcomes underscore the need for early intervention. Young adult ADHD showed stronger associations with poorer mental health, substance misuse and psychosocial outcomes, emphasising the importance of identifying and treating adults with ADHD.

Attitudes towards robots became more negative between 2012 and 2017; robots assisting at work showed the strongest negative trend; countries with a larger share of older citizens evaluated robots more favorably

Are robots becoming unpopular? Changes in attitudes towards autonomous robotic systems in Europe. Timo Gnambs, Markus Appel. Computers in Human Behavior,

•    Attitudes towards robots became more negative between 2012 and 2017.
•    Attitudes towards robots assisting at work showed the strongest negative trend.
•    Women with lower education evaluated robots more negatively.
•    Countries with a larger share of older citizens evaluated robots more favorably.

Abstract: Many societies are on the brink of a robotic era. In the near future, various autonomous computer systems are expected to be part of many people's daily lives. Because attitudes influence the adoption of new technologies, we studied the attitudes towards robots in the European Union between 2012 and 2017. Using representative samples from 27 countries (three waves, total N = 80,396), these analyses showed that, within five years, public opinions regarding robots exhibited a marked negative trend. Respondents became more cautious towards the use of robots. This tendency was particularly strong for robots at the workplace, which are, despite the drop, still more positively evaluated than robots performing surgeries or autonomous cars. Attitudes were more positive among men and people in white-collar jobs. Moreover, countries with a larger share of older citizens evaluated robotic assistance more favorably. In general, these results highlight increasing reservations towards autonomous robotic systems in Europe.

The impact of pseudo-psychological demonstrations make people believe that one can read a person’s mind by evaluating micro expressions, psychological profiles & muscle activities, & can prime a person’s behaviour through subtle suggestions

Fake science: The impact of pseudo-psychological demonstrations on people’s beliefs in psychological principles. Yuxuan Lan, Christine Mohr, Xiaomeng Hu, Gustav Kuhn. PLOS,

Abstract: Magicians use deception to create effects that allow us to experience the impossible. More recently, magicians have started to contextualize these tricks in psychological demonstrations. We investigated whether witnessing a magic demonstration alters people’s beliefs in these pseudo-psychological principles. In the classroom, a magician claimed to use psychological skills to read a volunteer’s thoughts. After this demonstration, participants reported higher beliefs that an individual can 1) read a person’s mind by evaluating micro expressions, psychological profiles and muscle activities, and 2) effectively prime a person’s behaviour through subtle suggestions. Whether he was presented as a magician or psychologist did not influence people’s beliefs about how the demonstration was achieved, nor did it influence their beliefs in pseudo-psychological principles. Our results demonstrate that pseudo-psychological demonstrations can have a significant impact on perpetuating false beliefs in scientific principles and raise important questions about the wider impact of scientific misinformation.

Doubling the permissible length of a Tweet led to more polite, less informal, more analytical, and overall healthier discussions online

Jaidka, Kokil and Zhou, Alvin and Lelkes, Yphtach, Brevity is the soul of Twitter: The constraint affordance and political discussion (November 20, 2018). Final version Journal of Communication, Volume 69, Issue 4, August 2019, Pages 345–372,

Abstract: Many hoped that social networks would allow for the open exchange of information and a revival of the public sphere. Unfortunately, conversations on social media are often toxic and not conducive to healthy political discussion. Twitter, the most widely used social network for political discussions, doubled the limit of characters in a Tweet in November 2017, which provided a natural experiment to study the causal effect of technological affordances on political discussions with a discontinuous time series design. Using supervised and unsupervised natural language processing methods, we analyze 358,242 Tweet replies to U.S. politicians from January 2017 to March 2018. We show that the doubling the permissible length of a Tweet led to more polite, less informal, more analytical, and overall healthier discussions online. However, the declining trend in the political relevance of these tweets raises concerns about the implications of the changing norms for the quality of political deliberation.

Keywords: Political Communication, Political Discussion, Social Media, Computational Social Science

Study with rats sheds light on why women are roughly twice as likely as men to develop depression, anxiety and other stress-related problems, including difficulty with attention

Early Life Stress Drives Sex-Selective Impairment in Reversal Learning by Affecting Parvalbumin Interneurons in Orbitofrontal Cortex of Mice. Haley L. Goodwill et al. Cell Reports, Volume 25, ISSUE 9, P2299-2307.e4, Nov 27 2018.

    •    Early life stress leads to select deficits in reversal learning in female mice
    •    Impaired rule-reversal learning is associated with decreased PV and GAD67 in OFC
    •    Optogenetic silencing of OFC PV+ cells recapitulates ELS effects on reversal learning
    •    Optogenetic silencing of mPFC PV+ cells impairs rule shifting, but not reversal learning

Summary: Poverty, displacement, and parental stress represent potent sources of early life stress (ELS). Stress disproportionately affects females, who are at increased risk for stress-related pathologies associated with cognitive impairment. Mechanisms underlying stress-associated cognitive impairment and enhanced risk of females remain unknown. Here, ELS is associated with impaired rule-reversal (RR) learning in females, but not males. Impaired performance was associated with decreased expression and density of interneurons expressing parvalbumin (PV+) in orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), but not other interneuron subtypes. Optogenetic silencing of PV+ interneuron activity in OFC of control mice phenocopied RR learning deficits observed in ELS females. Localization of reversal learning deficits to PV+ interneurons in OFC was confirmed by optogenetic studies in which neurons in medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) were silenced and associated with select deficits in rule-shift learning. Sex-, cell-, and region-specific effects show altered PV+ interneuron development can be a driver of sex differences in cognitive dysfunction.