Thursday, September 5, 2019

Online comment sections: Those who hold strong opinions are more likely to comment when they perceive the opinion climate to be oppositional rather than supportive to their worldview

Staying silent and speaking out in online comment sections: The influence of spiral of silence and corrective action in reaction to news. Megan Duncan et al. Computers in Human Behavior, Volume 102, January 2020, Pages 192-205.

•  Homogenous opinion climates shifted opinions more than mixed climates.
•  Comments most effect the opinion those with ambiguous initial opinions.
•  Most comments were generated by those with strong opinions.
•  Corrective action seems to motivate polarized audiences to comment.
•  Comment sections may distort audiences' perceptions of public opinion.

Abstract: Through the lenses of Spiral of Silence Theory, the Corrective Action Hypothesis, and peer influence research, we conducted an online experiment to identify the influence of varying opinion climates on opinion expression about a news controversy. This study expands the corrective action literature by manipulating the perceived opinion climate and measuring opinion change and subsequent expression. After all participants (N = 415) read the same news story, they were randomly assigned to one of five opinion climate conditions (supportive, oppositional, mixed, uncertain or polarized) operationalized through user comments following the story. The experiment allowed participants to reply, comment, do both, or not further engage in an attempt to mirror real-world expression behavior. The results suggest that the opinion climate formed by news comments influenced the opinions and comments of participants, providing evidence that those who hold strong opinions are more likely to comment when they perceive the opinion climate to be oppositional rather than supportive to their worldview.

Keywords: News audienceOpinion climateNews comment sectionsCorrective actionSpiral of silencePeer influenceExperimentMedia effects

Linkages between violence‐associated attitudes and psychological, physical, and sexual dating abuse perpetration and victimization among male and female adolescents

Linkages between violence‐associated attitudes and psychological, physical, and sexual dating abuse perpetration and victimization among male and female adolescents. Michele L. Ybarra, Jennifer Langhinrichsen‐Rohling, Aggressive Behavior, August 25 2019.

Abstract: Attitudes about violence and sex in dating relationships were related to psychological, physical, and sexual teen dating abuse perpetration and victimization. Data from Wave 4 of the national, randomly selected, Growing up with Media cohort (n = 876 adolescents aged 14‐19 years), collected in 2011, were analyzed. Dating youth perceived more peer pressure to have sex and were more accepting of sex in brief or nonmarital relationships than pre‐dating youth. Boys had higher levels of rape‐supportive attitudes than girls. Among dating youth, the relative odds of involvement in teen dating abuse as a perpetrator or a victim were generally associated with greater acceptance of relationship violence, perceived peer pressure to have sex, and acceptance of sex in brief and/or nonmarital relationships. Rape‐supportive attitudes were not significantly associated with any type of teen dating abuse involvement. Programs aimed at preventing dating abuse might benefit from targeting attitudes associated with sexual activity as well as relationship violence.

A small, but not insignificant proportion of women, act aggressively beyond self-defense; focus on why and when women engage in sexual harassment and domestic abuse

Douglass, Melanie Dawn, D'Aguanno, Sofia and Jones, Sophie (2019) Women as Active Agents: Female Perpetrators of Sexual Harassment and Domestic Abuse. Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences. (In Press).

Abstract: Beginning with Darwin’s theory of sexual selection, evolutionary psychology has been dominated by the view that women are the “choosy sex” and, through intrasexual competition, males the “aggressive sex”. This view was supported by seminal works (e.g. Buss et al., 1990; Clark & Hatfield, 1989), which formed the basis of a considerable body of work. Moreover, they lent credence to the popular view that women are less interested in the sexual side of human relationships, instead being focused on protection and stability. Combined with the notion that males are the dominant/aggressive sex, the literature has therefore insufficiently examined female aggression. When female aggression does occur, it is often viewed as a retaliation against male aggression (i.e. self-defence), rather than an as active strategy used by a small, but not insignificant proportion of women. The focus on male aggression and female self-defence not only deprives women of agency, it also means that their victims are not taken as seriously, and rehabilitation programmes for female offenders are scarce. This paper will discuss evidence that women act aggressively, focusing on why and when women engage in sexual harassment and domestic abuse. It will seek to establish the underlying mechanisms for such strategies (e.g. the personality traits associated with increased aggression in women), which future research should explore. Moreover, because, historically, the evolutionary literature has taken a heteronormative approach, female aggression will be examined in the context of diverse human relationships.

Keywords: Evolution, Women, Domestic Abuse, Sexual Harassment

How strong the tendency among Finns still is to form only one, life-long relationship? Changes in how many partners they have, same-sex experiences, masturbation, etc.

Monogamy vs Polygamy. Osmo Kontula. SexuS Journal, Winter-2019, Volume 04, Issue 11, Pages 959-978.

Abstract: The focus of this chapter is to evaluate how strong the tendency among Finns still is to form only one, life-long relationship. We will also take a look at the number of sexual partners that those who enter relationships without being in love have had. In addition, we will discuss same-sex sexual experiences and analyze what unites those who have had numerous sexual relationships. Finally, we will summarize the practical significance of love in relationship formation.

KEY WORDS: Sexuality, Sexual Health, Sex Research, Finland, Monogamy, Polygamy, Polyamory, Single

Same author: Between Sexual Desire and Reality. Väestöliitto/The Population Research Institute 2009. Chapter 5

Enormous increase in masturbation activity

Over the last decades, the rate of Finnish people who masturbate has truly exploded. The proportion of male respondents jumped from 74 to 97 percent, and of women, from 51 percent to a whopping 93 percent. The figures for the youngest respondents are actually somewhat higher. In 1971, only approximately 60 percent of middleaged men and approximately 30 percent of middle-aged women had occasionally experimented with masturbation. Thereafter the experimentation and practice of masturbation has progressed rapidly from one generation to the next.

Masturbation frequency is still substantially higher among men than women. The latest research has found that, in the group of young adults, 70 percent of men and 33 percent of women had masturbated in the week preceding the survey. The figures for the preceding month were 85 percent and 59 percent. Among the middle-aged, nearly half of men and more than one-fifth of women  had masturbated in the course of the preceding one-week period. The figures for the last one-month period were two-thirds of men and half of women. In the oldest age group, the figures for the past week were one-fifth for men and less than one-tenth for women, and for the past month, half of men and one-fifth of women.

Relatively unrestricted sociosexuality was associated with an increased probability of relationship dissolution through declines in marital satisfaction over time; more sex & more sexual satisfaction weaken this association

The Implications of Sociosexuality for Marital Satisfaction and Dissolution. Juliana E. French, Emma E. Altgelt, Andrea L. Meltzer. Psychological Science, September 4, 2019.

Abstract: Most people will get married, and maintaining a quality marriage is critical to well-being. Nevertheless, many intimates experience declines in marital satisfaction, and a substantial proportion of marriages dissolve. Drawing from functional perspectives of human mating, we argue that one source of marital discord and dissolution is that people vary in their motivations to pursue uncommitted sex—that is, sociosexuality. We examined this possibility using data from two independent longitudinal studies of 204 newlywed couples and used actor–partner interdependence growth-curve modeling. Results demonstrated that relatively unrestricted (vs. restricted) sociosexuality was associated with an increased probability of relationship dissolution through declines in marital satisfaction over time. Additional exploratory analyses provided preliminary evidence suggesting that frequent sex, high sexual satisfaction, and low stress weaken this association. These primary findings suggest that strong motives to pursue uncommitted sex may interfere with marital success, and the latter findings suggest potential buffers for these negative outcomes.

Keywords: sociosexuality, marriage, evolutionary psychology, marital satisfaction, divorce, open materials

Economists & Ideological Bias: Are critics of conventional views better economists or even persons? Remembering Krugman's The Conscience of a Liberal.

Mohsen Javdani & Ha-Joon Chang, Who Said or What Said? Estimating Ideological Bias in Views Among Economists (August 1, 2019). SSRN:

Abstract: There exists a long-standing debate about the influence of ideology in economics. Surprisingly, however, there is no concrete empirical evidence to examine this critical issue. Using an online randomized controlled experiment involving economists in 19 countries, we examine the effect of ideological bias on views among economists. Participants were asked to evaluate statements from prominent economists on different topics, while source attribution for each statement was randomized without participants’ knowledge. For each statement, participants either received a mainstream source, an ideologically different less-/non-mainstream source, or no source. We find that changing source attributions from mainstream to less-/non-mainstream, or removing them, significantly reduces economists’ reported agreement with statements. This contradicts the image economists have of themselves, with 82% of participants reporting that in evaluating a statement one should only pay attention to its content. Using a framework of Bayesian updating we examine two competing hypotheses as potential explanations for these results: unbiased Bayesian updating versus ideologically-/authority-biased Bayesian updating. While we find no evidence in support of unbiased updating, our results are consistent with biased Bayesian updating. More specifically, we find that changing/removing sources (1) has no impact on economists’ reported confidence with their evaluations; (2) similarly affects experts/non-experts in relevant areas; and (3) has substantially different impacts on economists with different political orientations. Finally, we find significant heterogeneity in our results by gender, country, PhD completion country, research area, and undergraduate major, with patterns consistent with the existence of ideological bias.

Keywords: ideology, ideological bias, authority bias, Bayesian updating, views among economists
JEL Classification: A11, A14

5.4.2. Heterogeneity by Gender
[...]. In addition, we find that the estimated ideological bias is 44% larger among male economists as compared to their female counterparts (24% of a standard deviation reduction in agreement level versus 14%, respectively), a difference that is statistically significant at 0.1%. These results are consistent with studies from psychology which suggest that women exhibit less confirmation bias than men (Meyers-Levy 1986, Bar-Tal and Jarymowicz 2010). Gordon and Dahl (2013) also find evidence that suggests that male economists are less cautious in expressing an opinion. This seems to be consistent with stronger ideological bias among male economists found in our results, since ideological bias and assigning higher levels of certainly to our own views usually work hand in hand. Finally, these results are consistent with van Dalen (2019) who finds that female economists are more likely to believe that economic research is not affected by one’s political views, perhaps because they more strongly aspire to be less ideologically biased.

Just a few quick comments:

1  Care must be taken with some of the writing... We see at the beginning "We find that the estimated ideological bias among female economists is around 40 percent less than their male counterparts" and later the different formulation and figures "the estimated ideological bias is 44% larger among male economists as compared to their female counterparts." Several times they make two uses of some comments, and there are substantial, IMHO, differences among those invocations.

As Tyler Cowen says, "It is a wordy and poorly written paper, and they don't consider the possibility that deference to authority perhaps is the rational Bayesian move, not the contrary.  Still, it has numerous results of interest." (Sep 5 2019,

2  It says that "there already exists strong evidence that, compared to various other disciplines, students in economics stand out in terms of views associated with greed, corruption, selfishness, and willingness to free-ride," and a note adds to this "Even if this relationship is not strictly casual, it suggests that there exists something about economic education that leads to a disproportionate self-selection of such students into economics.". As we will see in the next comment, this goes mainly for the boys. It adds nothing about possible (or lack of) better insights, better theories, more economic geniuses among the greedy, corrupt, selfish, or free-riders. We are left with the doubt that maybe they are as they say, but that makes them better economists, maybe this makes them better at computing while modeling, maybe they see better the economic agents' motivations, aspirations, etc.

3  If anyone thinks it is a good thing to believe "that economic research is not affected by one’s political views," they are wrong, and it makes the girls not better economists (arguably makes them better persons) that "they more strongly aspire to be less ideologically biased" (if that is what really happens, the authors write "perhaps because they more strongly aspire").

As in point 2 above, maybe this makes them worse economists. Same reasoning but in reverse mode.

4  I think that it transmits biased information, besides its being hilarious, to make mention of Dani Rodrik:
"there are powerful forces having to do with the sociology of the profession and the socialization process that tend to push economists to think alike. Most economists start graduate school not having spent much time thinking about social problems or having studied much else besides math and  economics. The incentive and hierarchy systems tend to reward those with the technical skills rather than interesting questions or research agendas. An in-group versus out-group mentality develops rather early on that pits economists against other social scientists."
or Joseph Stiglitz:
"[economics as taught] in America’s graduate schools … bears testimony to a triumph of ideology over science."
, as if they less biased than the others, or were not part of powerful forces of good intentions, or we could ask them to re-organize economics teaching in America. The pontifex himself, P Krugman, author of The Conscience of a Liberal, said:
On election night 2016, I gave in temporarily to a temptation I warn others about: I let my political feelings distort my economic judgment. A very bad man had just won the Electoral College; and my first thought was that this would translate quickly into a bad economy. I quickly retracted the claim, and issued a mea culpa. (Being an old-fashioned guy, I try to admit and learn from my mistakes.) [Can the Economy Keep Calm and Carry On? Paul Krugman. The New York Times, Jan 01 2018,]

Obviously, being he, it happened only that day and it was temporary. But we the great unwashed sin frequently and, being not old-fashioned guys, we do not "try to admit and learn from" our mistakes, and are "testimony to a triumph of ideology over science."

Fortunately for us, Messrs. Javdani & Chang mentioned those three economists...

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Illusion of Knowledge through Facebook News? Effects of Snack News in a News Feed on Perceived Knowledge, Attitude Strength, and Willingness for Discussions

Illusion of Knowledge through Facebook News? Effects of Snack News in a News Feed on Perceived Knowledge, Attitude Strength, and Willingness for Discussions. Svenja Schäfer. Computers in Human Behavior, September 4 2019.

•    Many news posts make people feel more knowledgeable than they are
•    Only knowledge perception (not actual knowledge) is related to attitudes and behavior
•    Many news posts indirectly affect attitudes and behavior through perceived knowledge
•    News articles improve both actual knowledge and knowledge assessment

Abstract: Research indicates that using social network sites as a source for news increases perceived knowledge even if, objectively, people fail to acquire knowledge. This might result from the frequent repetition of topics in news posts caused by multiple news outlets posting about the same news topics and the algorithm that favors similar postings. These repeated encounters can have a positive effect on the perception of knowing more, even if actual learning hardly occurs. An experiment (N=810, representative of German Internet users) tested these assumptions. Participants were assigned to one of four groups and received a news feed with no information, few news posts, many news posts, or a full-length news article. Results indicate that the reception of many news posts increased perceived knowledge that is not paralleled by a gain in factual knowledge. Perceived knowledge mediates effects of reading many news posts on more extreme attitudes and the willingness for discussions. Even if participants who read the news article gained factual knowledge, they did not feel more knowledgeable than participants who were exposed to a news feed containing news posts. The results emphasize the meaning of engaging with full news articles, both for learning facts and for more accurate knowledge assessments.

Generalized anxiety: Most psychological and self-help interventions exerted greater effects than the waitlist group, but no psychological interventions had greater effects compared with the psychological placebo

Pharmacological and psychological interventions for generalized anxiety disorder in adults: A network meta-analysis. Ting-Ren Chen et al. Journal of Psychiatric Research, September 1 2019.

Abstract: Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a significant and common mental illness with a lifetime prevalence of 3.7%. Regardless of the complexity of treatment decisions for GAD, few studies have conducted systematic comparisons of the efficacies of varying interventions. Thus, this study performed a valid network meta-analysis (NMA) of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to synthesize direct and indirect evidence for alternative interventions for GAD. We searched four major bibliographic databases, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Embase, PsycINFO, and PubMed, for published RCTs of adult patients with a diagnosis of GAD and allowed for all comorbidities. A total of 91 articles (14,812 participants) were identified in the final NMA. The results showed that all pharmacological treatments except for serotonin modulators and second-generation antipsychotics had greater effects than placebo: norepinephrine–dopamine reuptake inhibitors (standardized mean difference (SMD) −1.84, 95% credible interval −3.05 to −0.62), noradrenergic and specific serotonergic antidepressants (−0.91, −1.62 to −0.20), melatonergic receptor agonists (−0.68, −1.15 to −0.21), selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs; −0.67, −0.90 to −0.43), azapirones (−0.58, −1.00 to −0.17), anticonvulsants (−0.56, −0.85 to −0.28), serotonin–norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs; −0.54, −0.79 to −0.30), and benzodiazepines (BZDs; −0.40, −0.65 to −0.15). Most psychological and self-help interventions exerted greater effects than the waitlist group. However, no psychological interventions had greater effects compared with the psychological placebo. Overall, most pharmacological interventions had larger effect sizes than psychological interventions, and most psychological interventions showed larger effect sizes than self-help interventions.

Check also An analysis of psychotherapy versus placebo studies. Leslie Prioleau, Martha Murdock and Nathan Brody. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Volume 6 Issue 2, June 1983 , pp. 275-285.

Abstract: Smith, Glass, and Miller (1980) have reported a meta-analysis of over 500 studies comparing some form of psychological therapy with a control condition. They report that when averaged over all dependent measures of outcome, psychological therapy is. 85 standard deviations better than the control treatment. We examined the subset of studies included in the Smith et al. metaanalysis that contained a psychotherapy and a placebo treatment. The median of the mean effect sizes for these 32 studies was. 15. There was a nonsignificant inverse relationship between mean outcome and the following: sample size, duration of therapy, use of measures of outcome other than undisguised self-report, measurement of outcome at follow-up, and use of real patients rather than subjects solicited for the purposes of participation in a research study. A qualitative analysis of the studies in terms of the type of patient involved indicates that those using psychiatric outpatients had essentially zero effect sizes and that none using psychiatric inpaticnts provide convincing evidence for psychotherapeutic effectiveness. The onty studies clearly demonstrating significant effects of psychotherapy were the ones that did not use real patients. For the most part, these studies involved small samples of subjects and brief treatments, occasionally described in quasibeliavioristic language. It was concluded that for real patients there is no evidence that the benefits of psychotherapy are greater than those of placebo treatment.

China's Vice Premier: "We must strengthen the guidance and management of public opinion."

China's Vice Premier: Pork Shortages Must Not Spoil the Party. Dim Sums blog, Sep 2 2019.

Excerpts of blog:

Chinese officials are worried that a 10-million-ton pork shortage could spoil upcoming communist party celebrations, according to a transcript of a speech ordering local officials to bolster pork supplies. In fact, the speech's instructions to "manage public opinion" and constant shifting of priorities of the communist regime suggest the celebrations may ring hollow anyway.

As the country's year-old African swine fever epidemic began to send pork prices into the stratosphere this summer, the government's rhetoric gradually shifted from admonitions to stop the spread of the disease to pronouncements that the disease is "under control" and commands to restore "normal" production and trade. On August 20-21, Premier Li Keqiang visited food markets and chaired a State Council meeting that adopted "more detailed policies and an attitude of urgency" to cope with the pork supply crisis.

On August 22, Vice Premier Hu Chunhua told communist party officials to prioritize the rebuilding of pork production capacity and preservation of pork supplies as an important "political task." The full transcript posted on a pork industry site warned officials that widespread pork shortages could occur during the upcoming moon festival, National day, New Year, and spring festival holidays if they fail to take measures. Shortages would affect the "happy and peaceful atmosphere" during the upcoming 70th anniversary of the Peoples Republic, the vice premier said. Furthermore, Hu warned that a gaping hole in the pork supply and unaffordable pork for low-income people would impair the image of the communist party in 2020 when the "well-off society" is scheduled to be achieved.

Most Chinese news media posted only the 3-paragraph summary of the Vice Premier's remarks that omits these admonitions. The full transcript--apparently an internal communication addressed to "comrades"--was posted only on social media. The full transcript is a surprisingly candid assessment of problems and shortcomings in the pork sector that are kept hidden in documents for the public.

Vice Premier Hu's remarks included a number of items that rarely appear in government-approved documents for public consumption:

    The ASF virus is now endemic in China (在我国定植).
    According to Hu, unannounced investigations found large numbers of dead pigs where no disease had been reported, indicating that the actual number of ASF cases exceeds the number reported.
    Hu acknowledged that China's pork supply situation will be "extremely severe" during the 4th quarter of this year and first half of 2020
    The Chinese government estimates that the country will have a 10-million-metric-ton deficit in pork supply this year.
    Premier Hu said the projected 10-mmt deficit exceeds the amount of pork traded in international markets.
    Monthly estimates of swine inventories by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs are based on monitoring of 4000 pig-raising villages and 13,000 scaled-up farms.
    With its short production cycle, poultry will be the main substitute relied upon to fill the deficit. China will struggle to increase poultry production by 3 mmt this year, Hu said.
    After years of prioritizing control of manure pollution by closing or moving farms, local officials are now accused of over-zealous enforcement and are ordered to pare back zones where livestock farms are banned and pay for re-building hog farms.
    Hu acknowledged that there hasn't been much progress in cleaning up manure pollution
    Local leaders in pork-producing regions have been asking for slaughterhouses to be built in their counties because subsidized pig farms generate no tax revenue and pigs are mostly trucked off to cities for slaughter. This pattern is said to "unsustainable," and trucking pigs around the country is acknowledged as contributing to the spread of disease.
    Hu acknowledged chronic weakness and under-funding of grassroots veterinary services.

Hu Chunhua recommended numerous policy measures to stabilize production and maintain market supplies of pork. Provincial and local officials are responsible for implementing these policies:

    Pork farms and companies are to be given short-term aid.
    Banks must not cut off lending to swine farms and slaughterhouses; subsidized loans should be given to swine farms. Provincial government loan guarantee organizations should prioritize recovery of swine farms.
    Poultry companies should also be given aid to expand.
    Each province is charged with maintaining a degree of self-sufficiency in pork. The mayors' market basket system will hold city officials accountable for supplying pork and other nonstaple foods to their citizens.
    Pork reserves should be expanded and made more effective.
    Pork-deficit provinces and cities are to form long-term pork supply agreements with neighboring pork-surplus provinces and counties to establish contiguous regions self-sufficient in pork.
    Officials should work out arrangements by which wealthy cities pay pork-producing counties to support their farms and infrastructure.
    Land and credit should be set aside to build slaughter facilities in pork-producing counties.
    2 billion yuan in food subsidies for low-income people have been announced.

Previous announcements targeted aid to large-scale farms, but the State Council's August 21 circular extended support to household-operated farms and removed a minimum requirement of 15 mu (1 hectare) of land for a farm to receive support.

Vice Premier Hu wrapped up his address by emphasizing two points that are distinctive features of the communist regime:

    "We must strengthen the guidance and management of public opinion."    "Stabilization of production and maintaining supply are an important political task."

[not the author's emphasis]

In China's economic model, government officials are the "directors of the play" and "companies are actors on the stage." It follows that officials have privileged access to information so they can pull the strings to organize the play. Hu reflects this duality by goading officials to "apply force on internal matters" and "in external matters do well on propaganda, issuance of information, and managing public opinion" (italics added). In the same vein, Hu advised statistical bureaus to increase the frequency of "confidential" or "secret" surveys so the government can devise timely support measures. In other words, Chinese statistics are internal information for the government's use; statistics are only released to the public after being massaged and molded into a propaganda statement.

The vice premier's remarks reveal a contradiction regarding information gathering. Like an angry schoolmaster, Hu Chunhua chided local officials for not reporting of disease to central authorities and promises they will be punished for doing so. While he is aghast that local officials withhold information from him, the Vice Premier seems to have no problem withholding information from the public. Hu believes information released to the public must be carefully managed to shape their opinion. The public cannot be trusted with information because they might panic and hoard pork or try to corner the market. (And of course, government officials would never do this themselves.)

Management of public opinion is evident from a comparison of Premier Hu's speech with a Peoples Daily propaganda article. While Premier Hu warned officials about an impending shortage of pork and potential market instability, Peoples Daily quoted a Ministry of Agriculture official who declared that "The overall meat supply is assured" and "the pork market is overall stable." Premier Hu told officials they face a long, difficult battle against ASF, but articles intended for the public declare that the disease is under control and normal production and marketing can now resume.

The elevation of promoting pork production as a "political task" reveals the constantly changing crisis-driven priorities kicked down to local officials. Efforts to control manure pollution are an example of the constant oscillation of "political tasks." Policy pronouncements in the last two months have included vague admonishments not to go beyond legal requirements in designating zones where livestock farms are banned or limited. These refer to a an ongoing tug of war over efforts to clean up pollution from pig manure in a rapidly urbanizing society. The first livestock law in 2005 included a provision that called for each community to designate zones where livestock farms would be banned,  limited or encouraged. Livestock farms would be restricted near residential areas, institutions of higher education, drinking water sources, markets, roads, and scenic areas. This idea was rarely implemented until 2013 when a water pollution prevention action plan issued by the state council called for designating such zones by the end of 2017 and destroying or moving farms from zones where they were banned.

In 2017, the Ministry of Agriculture issued a document criticizing local officials for being overzealous in designating farm-ban zones--although the examples they gave seem consistent with language describing the zone designation going back to the 2005 livestock law. Two years later, facing a pork shortage, officials now seem to have decided the Ministry of Agriculture is right by ordering local officials to scale back the pig-ban zones and rebuilding pig farms that were demolished. In his teleconference, Premier Hu also seemed to admit that little had been done to promote treatment and utilization of pig manure although it was a feature of the 2016-2020 plan for the swine sector. Environmental control seems to have been pushed aside as a priority now that there's a pork supply crisis.

In response to a comment, the author says:

In China, employees of statistical organizations must be vetted for political reliability, and even low-level managers must spend months at a communist party training school before taking up their positions. The head of the organization is assigned to his/her post by the communist party and serves as party secretary.

Gaze patterns of sexually fluid women and men at nude females and males

Widman, D. R., Bennetti, M. K., & Anglemyer, R. (2019). Gaze patterns of sexually fluid women and men at nude females and males. Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences,

Abstract: Investigations of sexual fluidity have consistently found that women are more fluid than men. Several theories have been proposed to explain this sex difference. Two of these suggest that women are sexually fluid due to reproductive pressure from men. These theories suggest that women are fluid, in part, to satisfy male sexual behavior, either by engaging in and enhancing polygynous matings or allowing extrapair copulations for the men with those women the men’s mates select. This suggests that women, in their assessment of the attractiveness of other women, should assess female attractiveness as men do. The current study examined gaze patterns of heterosexual men and women while looking at nude male and female models. The results replicate the common findings that women are more fluid than men and that men gaze at the breasts of nude female models. We also report men who believe that they are more successful at mating gaze more at male chests than less confident men and that women do gaze at sexualized body areas of men, specifically the hips and groin. Finally, as hypothesized, more fluid women spend more time gazing at the breasts of nude female models, suggesting a male pattern of attractiveness assessment.

Comparative thanatology encompasses the study of death-related responses in non-human animals to elucidate the evolutionary origins of human behavior in the context of death; seems that chimpanzees console bereaved mothers

Do chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) console a bereaved mother? Zoë Goldsborough et al. Primates, September 4 2019.

Abstract: Comparative thanatology encompasses the study of death-related responses in non-human animals and aspires to elucidate the evolutionary origins of human behavior in the context of death. Many reports have revealed that humans are not the only species affected by the death of group members. Non-human primates in particular show behaviors such as congregating around the deceased, carrying the corpse for prolonged periods of time (predominantly mothers carrying dead infants), and inspecting the corpse for signs of life. Here, we extend the focus on death-related responses in non-human animals by exploring whether chimpanzees are inclined to console the bereaved: the individual(s) most closely associated with the deceased. We report a case in which a chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) mother experienced the loss of her fully developed infant (presumed stillborn). Using observational data to compare the group members’ behavior before and after the death, we found that a substantial number of group members selectively increased their affiliative expressions toward the bereaved mother. Moreover, on the day of the death, we observed heightened expressions of species-typical reassurance behaviors toward the bereaved mother. After ruling out several alternative explanations, we propose that many of the chimpanzees consoled the bereaved mother by means of affiliative and selective empathetic expressions.

Keywords: Thanatology Consolation Empathy Bereavement Chimpanzees

Striking discrepancies between what people want in a potential partner and what the opposite gender imagines they want in romantic relationships; in addition, women appear to be better at imagining men’s preferences

Jago, Carl P. 2019. “What Women Say They Want Versus What Men Imagine They Do: A Convenient Method for Characterizing and Comparing Self-reported and Perceived Preferences.” PsyArXiv. September 4. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: Previous research has shown that, in the context of romantic relationships, men preferentially advertise traits such as wealth, status, and ambition while women preferentially advertise physical attractiveness. This finding is somewhat surprising in light of other previous research showing that men and women report these traits to be less important than others such as trustworthiness, intelligence, and warmth. In the current study, we addressed one potential reason for the disconnect, which is that men and women’s beliefs about what the other gender prefers are misguided. To address this, we asked participants to both self-report the traits they prefer in a romantic partner and to indicate what they imagine the opposite gender prefers. The results reveal some striking discrepancies between what people want in a potential partner and what the opposite gender imagines they want. In addition, women appear to be better at imagining men’s preferences, and we discuss several reasons why this might be the case.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Prolonged care and cannibalism of infant corpse by relatives in semi-free-ranging capuchin monkeys

Prolonged care and cannibalism of infant corpse by relatives in semi-free-ranging capuchin monkeys. Cinzia Trapanese et al. Primates, September 3  2019.

Abstract: Cannibalism is a quite common behaviour in animals that can have survival value when food is scarce or in the case of overpopulation. Conversely, cannibalism can also increase pathogen transmission and reduce fitness. In primates, some cases of cannibalism are associated with infanticide or are performed by mothers after their newborn has died (filial cannibalism). We report here the first observation of cannibalism, specifically infant cannibalism, in a semi-free-ranging group of brown capuchin monkeys (Sapajus apella). The baby was likely stillborn, as parts of the cranial bones were missing and no fresh injuries were visible. After half a day of taking care of the dead infant, the mother ate part of the corpse’s skin and the highly nutritional viscera, possibly thereby compensating for the physiological costs of pregnancy. After attentively watching his mother’s behaviour, the older brother of the dead newborn similarly ate parts of the corpse. Although we cannot rule out idiosyncrasy and vertical social transmission, it is possible that cannibalism is a normal—albeit rare—part of the behavioural repertoire of capuchin monkeys.

Keywords: Cannibalism Filial cannibalism Death Thanatology Maternal care Sapajus apella

Check also Grieving Orca Carries Dead Calf for More Than 3 Days: ‘She’s Just Not Letting Go.’ Mihir Zaveri. The New York Times, Jul 27 2018.

And Prolonged transport and cannibalism of mummified infant remains by a Tonkean macaque mother. Arianna De Marco, Roberto Cozzolino, and Bernard Thierry. Primates,

And Nishie H, Nakamura M. A newborn infant chimpanzee snatched and cannibalized immediately after birth: Implications for “maternity leave” in wild chimpanzee. Am J Phys Anthropol. 2017;00:1–6.

The brain, sensing the internal & external milieu, & consulting its database, predicts what is likely to be needed; it computes the best response; it rewards a better-than-predicted result with a pulse of dopamine, encouraging learning

Allostasis: A Brain-Centered, Predictive Mode of Physiological Regulation. Jay Schulkin, Peter Sterling. Trends in Neurosciences, September 2 2019.

.    Allostasis – brain-centered predictive regulation – starts with a hypothalamic clock that synchronizes clocks in every tissue.

.    On this diurnal cycle of metabolic variation, the brain superimposes an episodic rest–activity cycle that coordinates change in key systems (respiration, heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and physical activity).

.    The brain predicts upcoming needs for food, water, salt, warmth, or cooling and satisfies them by adjusting physiology and behavior to prevent errors that would require homeostatic correction.

.    The brain rewards a better-than-predicted result with a pulse of dopamine, thereby encouraging the organism to learn effective regulatory behaviors.

Abstract: Although the concept of allostasis was proposed some 30 years ago, doubts persist about its precise meaning and whether it is useful. Here we review the concept in the context of recent studies as a strategy to efficiently regulate physiology and behavior. The brain, sensing the internal and external milieu, and consulting its database, predicts what is likely to be needed; then, it computes the best response. The brain rewards a better-than-predicted result with a pulse of dopamine, thereby encouraging the organism to learn effective regulatory behaviors. The brain, by prioritizing behaviors and dynamically adjusting the flows of energy and nutrients, reduces costly errors and exploits more opportunities. Despite significant costs of computation, allostasis pays off and can now be recognized as a core principle of organismal design.

Drop of compliance over time: While in 2003 the foot-in-the-door strategy was effective in Ukraine and ineffective in Poland, in 2013, the effect was insignificant in both Ukraine and Poland

The Foot-in-the-Door Phenomenon 40 and 50 Years Later: A Direct Replication of the Original Freedman and Fraser Study in Poland and in Ukraine. Malgorzata Gamian-Wilk, Dariusz Dolinski. Psychological Reports, September 2, 2019.

Abstract: Since the original Freedman and Fraser studies were published, a great amount of research using the foot-in-the-door tactic has revealed its effectiveness. Nevertheless, the effect sizes reported in meta-analysis studies tend to be low and the effect size obtained by Freedman and Fraser in their studies has never been obtained again. We conducted a direct replication of the original foot-in-the-door experiment in two time intervals and in two countries. The results indicate a drop of compliance over time. The results reveal that, while in 2003 the foot-in-the-door strategy was effective in Ukraine and ineffective in Poland, in 2013, the effect was insignificant in both Ukraine and Poland. The results are explained by high ecological validity of the foot-in-the-door procedure.

Keywords: Replication, social influence, compliance, foot-in-the-door, ecological validity

A Large-Scale Test of Gender Bias in the Media

Shor, Eran, Arnoutvan de Rijt, and Babak Fotouhi.2019. “A Large-Scale Test of Gender Bias in the Media.” Sociological Science 6: 526-550. September 3, 2019. DOI:10.15195/v6.a20

Abstract: A large body of studies demonstrates that women continue to receive less media coverage than men do. Some attribute this difference to gender bias in media reporting—a systematic inclination toward male subjects. We propose that in order to establish the presence of media bias, one has to demonstrate that the news coverage of men is disproportional even after accounting for occupational inequalities and differences in public interest. We examine the coverage of more than 20,000 successful women and men from various social and occupational domains in more than 2,000 news sources as well as web searches for these individuals as a behavioral measure of interest. We find that when compared with similar-aged men from the same occupational strata, women enjoy greater public interest yet receive less media coverage.

Keywords:gender; bias; media coverage; computational analysis

FAO highlights the great potential of genetic improvements in aquaculture for better food security, since we are still largely farming wild fish, with 45 pct of cultured species being little different from their wild counterparts

FAO highlights the great potential of genetic improvements in aquaculture for better food security. FAO Press Release, Aug 23 2019.

Wider appropriate application of genetic improvement in aquaculture will significantly boost sustainable food supply for future generations

Aug 23 2019, Rome - Wider, appropriate and long-term application of genetic improvement in aquaculture, with a focus on selective breeding, will help boost food production to meet a projected increase in demand for fish and fish products with relatively little extra feed, land, water and other inputs, according to a new FAO report launched today.

The State of the World's Aquatic Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture reviews our use of aquatic genetic resources both in capture fisheries and in aquaculture, in areas under national jurisdiction. The first-ever global report of its kind is based on information provided by 92 countries, together representing 96 percent of global aquaculture production and over 80 percent of capture fisheries production.

Aquaculture is lagging far behind terrestrial agriculture - both crops and livestock - in terms of the characterization, domestication and improvement of its genetic resources for food production. The report concludes that we have the opportunity to significantly enhance sustainable aquaculture production through the strategic management and development of some of the more than 550 species currently used in aquaculture.

According to the report, we are still largely farming wild fish, with 45 percent of cultured species being little different from their wild counterparts. The report also notes that just over half of the reporting countries consider that genetic improvement is having a significant impact on their aquaculture production, in contrast with the extensive use of improved breeds and varieties in livestock and crop production. The report stresses the potential for sustainable production gains through the genetic improvement of farmed aquatic resources.

"I strongly welcome this report which is the fruit of a multi-year, country-driven process of data collection and analysis," said FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu. "It highlights the pressures that a growing demand for fish and fish products will place on farmed species, their wild relatives, and the habitats they depend on, as well as the opportunities for sustainable growth. This is why it is crucial that we safeguard, manage and further develop the planet's aquatic genetic resources, allowing organisms to grow, to adapt to natural and human-induced impacts such as climate change, to resist diseases and parasites, and to continue to evolve to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and our continued fight for a Zero Hunger world."

Unleashing the potential of aquaculture

According to FAO, a growing human population is expected to drive an increase in fish consumption of approximately 1.2 percent per annum over the next decade. Production of fish and fish products is estimated to reach over 200 million tonnes by 2030.

Given that production from the world's capture fisheries has stabilized at about 90-95 million tonnes per annum, with nearly a third of marine fish stocks being overfished, there is little scope for additional production in the foreseeable future except through loss and waste and efficiencies management. The expected growth in demand for fish and fish products therefore needs to be largely met from aquaculture. In this context, the responsible and sustainable use of aquatic genetic resources will be essential to fulfill this role.

Numerous technologies are available to improve aquatic genetic resources with FAO recommending a focus on well-designed, long-term selective breeding programmes, which can increase productivity of aquatic species by 10 percent per generation.

Many wild species are under threat 

The report notes that all farmed species still have wild relatives in nature but many of these wild species are under threat and are in need of targeted and prioritized conservation. The report calls on countries to develop policies and actions to address this need.

According to the report, the most depleted wild relatives of cultured species are Russian sturgeon, huchen, beluga sturgeon, Atlantic salmon and brown trout. 

The report also notes the potential impacts of escapes including of non-native species, from aquaculture farms, on biodiversity and ecosystems, and calls for the responsible exchange and use of native and non-native aquatic genetic resources.

Strengthening policies and cross-sectoral approach

Food and nutrition security depend on a diverse and healthy food basket, of which aquatic food is an important component. Therefore, aquatic genetic resources should be included in broader food security and nutrition policies.

These policies must consider long-term development strategies for aquaculture, including the transboundary management of aquatic genetic resources, access and benefit-sharing, genetic improvement and conservation, and must involve many sectors and disciplines to be effective.

The report also highlights the need for greater awareness-raising and capacity-building to develop and sustain genetic characterization and improvement, especially in developing countries, including training of geneticists to support selective breeding programmes.

At the request of FAO's Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, a voluntary and collaborative policy response is already under development to address the gaps and needs identified in the report. FAO member countries will review and negotiate this response prior to its adoption as a Global Plan of Action for the conservation, sustainable use and development of aquatic genetic resources for food and agriculture.

Beauty automatically engages our hand movement: Both attractive & unattractive faces captured greater visual attention compared to moderate faces; attractive faces attracted hand movement more strongly

Beauty in the eyes and the hand of the beholder: Eye and hand movements' differential responses to facial attractiveness. Natalie T. Faust, Anjan Chatterjee, George I. Christopoulos. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Volume 85, November 2019, 103884.

•    Facial attractiveness guides attention for actions differently through eye and hand movement.
•    Hand movement was found to be mostly driven by attractive (but not unattractive or moderate) faces.
•    Eye movement was driven by faces on the ends of the attractiveness spectrum (attractive and unattractive but not moderate).
•    “Being moved” by beauty might not simply be a metaphor. Rather, beauty automatically engages our hand movement.
•    Besides eye movement, hand movement discloses additional information on facial attention mechanisms.

Abstract: Faces carry significant social information and, as such, humans need to allocate attention to them. In particular, facial attractiveness is an important dimension that considerably influences social judgment. The allocation of attentional resources to facial attractiveness has been widely examined in social psychology, however mostly by measures of eye movement. While this literature demonstrates the influence of facial attractiveness on overt attention, how facial attractiveness drives covert attention is less known. In two studies, we tracked eye and hand movements while participants were engaged in a numerical task in the presence of faces of various degrees of attractiveness. Results show that both attractive and unattractive faces captured greater visual attention compared to moderate faces, whereas attractive faces attracted hand movement more strongly than both unattractive and moderate faces. The present study suggests that facial attractiveness guides attention for actions differently through eye and hand movements.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Dieting also starves romantic relationships: the association between dieting and romantic relationship quality

Dieting also starves romantic relationships: the association between dieting and romantic relationship quality. MacKenzie D. A. Robertson, Univ of Victoria, Faculty of Graduate Studies. Thesis. Aug 30 2019.

Abstract: The negative health consequences of dieting for individuals are well established. Yet little is known about the interpersonal consequences of dieting for romantic couples. This study utilized self-report questionnaire data from undergraduate students (N = 221) and their romantic partners (N = 74) to examine whether dieting is associated with romantic relationship processes. I hypothesized that dieting engagement would indirectly predict worse relationship outcomes. Body dissatisfaction is a core dimension of self-esteem, and people with low self-esteem often project their self-doubts onto their partner. Because dieting is strongly associated with body dissatisfaction, I hypothesized that people who engaged in more extreme dieting may project their negative self-evaluations of their bodies onto their partners, resulting in negative evaluations of their romantic partner’s attractiveness. Moreover, I expected that negative partner evaluations would predict worse relationship outcomes for both partners. As hypothesized, participants who engaged in more dieting (e.g., restricting food intake, feeling guilty after eating, compensatory behaviors) experienced higher body dissatisfaction, which predicted more negative evaluations of their romantic partner’s physical attractiveness. In turn, finding their partner less attractive predicted more negative evaluations of their partner’s worth, increased conflict, and lower commitment to their relationship. Moreover, romantic partners who were rated as less attractive perceived participants’ negative evaluations of their attractiveness, and experienced lower self-esteem. However, participant dieting did not predict relationship outcomes for their romantic partners. Overall, results indicate that dieting is negatively associated with both individual and interpersonal well-being. Findings must be replicated in longitudinal research, but highlight the potential for the negative consequences of dieting to extend beyond the individual to influence close relationship processes. This research also contradicts dominant models of dieting and close relationships that frame dieting in a positive light.

Romantic Interest Is Predicted by Body Sway and Promoted by Groovy Music in Speed Dating

Chang, Andrew, Haley E. Kragness, Wei Tsou, Dan J. Bosnyak, Anja Thiede, and Laurel Trainor. 2019. “Romantic Interest Is Predicted by Body Sway and Promoted by Groovy Music in Speed Dating.” PsyArXiv. August 29. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: Speed dating research paradigms offer both high external validity and experimental control for studying romantic interest, an essential form of social bonding. While previous studies focused on the effect of social and personality factors on romantic interest, the present study investigated whether romantic interest can be (1) predicted by dyadic interactive body sway, and (2) be further promoted by groovy background music. Participants’ body sway trajectories were recorded during speed dating. Directional (communicative) body sway coupling, but not body sway similarity, predicted interest in a long-term relationship above and beyond rated physical attractiveness. In addition, groovy music promoted interest in meeting a dating partner again. Overall, we demonstrate that real-world romantic interest can be revealed by body sway interaction, potentially reflecting the quality of communication and perceived compatibility, and can be promoted by groovy music.

Way to detect false positives in experimentation: Advanced Meta-Experimental Protocol

False-Positive Effect in the Radin Double-Slit Experiment on Observer Consciousness as Determined With the Advanced Meta-Experimental Protocol. Jan Walleczek and Nikolaus von Stillfried. Front. Psychol., August 22 2019.

Abstract: Prior work by Radin et al. (2012, 2016) reported the astonishing claim that an anomalous effect on double-slit (DS) light-interference intensity had been measured as a function of quantum-based observer consciousness. Given the radical implications, could there exist an alternative explanation, other than an anomalous consciousness effect, such as artifacts including systematic methodological error (SME)? To address this question, a conceptual replication study involving 10,000 test trials was commissioned to be performed blindly by the same investigator who had reported the original results. The commissioned study performed confirmatory and strictly predictive tests with the advanced meta-experimental protocol (AMP), including with systematic negative controls and the concept of the sham-experiment, i.e., counterfactual meta-experimentation. Whereas the replication study was unable to confirm the original results, the AMP was able to identify an unacceptably low true-negative detection rate with the sham-experiment in the absence of test subjects. The false-positive detection rate reached 50%, whereby the false-positive effect, which would be indistinguishable from the predicted true-positive effect, was significant at p = 0.021 (σ = −2.02; N = 1,250 test trials). The false-positive effect size was about 0.01%, which is within an-order-of-magnitude of the claimed consciousness effect (0.001%; Radin et al., 2016). The false-positive effect, which indicates the presence of significant SME in the Radin DS-experiment, suggests that skepticism should replace optimism concerning the radical claim that an anomalous quantum consciousness effect has been observed in a controlled laboratory setting.


Breakthroughs in science often depend on breakthroughs in scientific methodology. A scientific breakthrough might depend, for example, on a superior skill to detect the effect of an external test stimulus upon a laboratory system. The development of a measurement technique capable of detecting potentially ultra-weak effects – defined here as effects in the range of 0.1–0.001% and below – often represents a daunting technological challenge. In particular, in the exploration of unconventional scientific possibilities, such as in the search for anomalous mind-matter interactions related to unproven phenomena such as “micro-psychokinesis” (e.g., Maier et al., 2018), there could be a risk of compromising the reliability of a standard test method if one seeks to push the detection limits of the method past the limits as adopted in standard applications. Therefore, when choosing to do so, careful testing and verification of (1) the stability of the method as well as of (2) the specificity of the employed detection technology for the tested intervention should routinely accompany the pursuit of an ultra-weak-effects research program.

In recent years, the widely discussed Radin double-slit (DS) experiment has claimed scientific evidence for anomalous mind-matter interactions under controlled laboratory conditions (e.g., Radin et al., 2012). Specifically, the claim was reported that test subjects may interact “psycho-physically” with laser-light waves interfering in a DS-apparatus (for details, see Section “Insertion of the AMP Into the Radin DS-Experiment”). Briefly, in the Radin DS-experiment, test subjects follow precisely timed, computer-assisted instructions which serve “to direct their attention toward the double-slit apparatus or to withdraw their attention and relax” (Radin et al., 2012). This experiment suggests a remarkable technological skill which enables – apparently – the detection of miniscule, observer-dependent reductions in light-interference intensity. The effect size in percent due to attentional observer consciousness affecting light intensity – as detected with a photo-imaging device – was reported to be about 0.001% (Radin et al., 2016).

Despite the extremely small effect size, the researchers have reported that the original effect (Radin et al., 2012) appears to be reproducible even across different studies – at least as part of conceptual replication attempts (Radin et al., 2013, 2015, 2016). Nevertheless, given (1) the radical implications of the claim that an anomalous consciousness effect has been detected in a controlled laboratory setting, and (2) the fact that the anomalous effect is ultra-weak, at least by the above definition (≈0.1–0.001%), it seems reasonable to explore the following question: Could there exist an alternative explanation, other than observer consciousness, for the reported effect, such as a statistical artifact or systematic measurement bias? In other words, is there any chance that the astonishing claim based on the Radin DS-experiment has come about as a result of type-1 error, i.e., due to the misidentification of a false-positive for a true-positive effect?

A cautionary tale regarding ultra-weak-effects detection is the so-called “faster-than-light neutrino anomaly” (The OPERA collaboration et al., 2011). The neutrino anomaly was found to be reproducible over several years, but it was shown eventually to be caused by systematic measurement bias. The claimed effect size of the anomalous neutrino effect was on the order of 0.0001% (one part in 10,000) and the effect had achieved a high degree of statistical significance, i.e., of about six sigma. “Despite the large significance,” the researchers had warned in 2011, “of the measurement reported here and the stability of the analysis, the potentially great impact of the result motivates the continuation of our studies in order to investigate possible still unknown systematic effects that could explain the observed anomaly.” After careful, additional testing of the employed research design, a small hidden bias in the experimental set-up was finally identified, and the anomalous neutrino effect was revealed to be a false-positive effect. The identification of an alternative explanation, other than faster-than-light neutrinos, namely, a type-1 detection error, prompted the immediate retraction of the prior positive reports on the anomalous neutrino effect (The OPERA collaboration et al., 2013).

Radin and co-workers, by contrast, have presumed unlikely the possibility of a false-positive effect as an explanation of their results, and they have concluded that a genuine, i.e., true-positive, observer-consciousness effect was detected with high statistical significance (Radin et al., 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016). Naturally, if the psycho-physical influence of the intentional consciousness of a test subject on a quantum-physical process could be proven scientifically, no matter how weak this effect might be, then the implications for our view of reality, in general, and for our understanding of the foundations of quantum mechanics, in particular, would be revolutionary.

Quantum mechanics is well known to invite the possibility of many different foundational interpretations. A type of wave-function-collapse interpretation was offered as a possible explanation for the reported anomalous effect in the Radin DS-experiment (see Radin et al., 2012), whereby the particular interpretation assigns a special role to human consciousness, hence the term also of “quantum consciousness,” as part of the quantum-measurement process (e.g., von Neumann, 1932). More than 40 years ago, Hall et al. (1977) tested in the laboratory the proposal that “the reduction of the wave packet is a physical event which occurs only when there is an interaction between the physical measuring apparatus and the psyche of some observers”; however, these experiments found no evidence for any influence of the consciousness of a test subject on the targeted quantum-based process (Hall et al., 1977).

To this day, there exists no accepted scientific proof for the intentional, controlling activity of observer consciousness over quantum states or electromagnetic waves. Therefore, again, scientific claims to the contrary, as have been promoted by Radin and collaborators (Radin et al., 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016), should be viewed with reasonable caution. For example, in the case of the Radin DS-experiment, the claimed effect is derived indirectly by calculating the combined differences between experimental and control conditions from many 1,000 s of individual signal recordings as collected over weeks and months. In that case, the employed methodology could easily be prone to measurement bias, e.g., as a function of hidden sensitivities of the method to as-yet unknown factors or interactions, i.e., to ultra-weak influences other than those possibly manifested by observer consciousness. In particular, lacking experimental confirmation of the specificity of the detection method for the applied test intervention, i.e., for intentional observer consciousness, an investigator could easily reach false-positive conclusions.

Therefore, given the high stakes, it seems prudent to perform stringent tests for evaluating the stability over time as well as the degree of specificity of the measurement technology for detecting the intentional consciousness of a test subject in the Radin DS-experiment. For example, the specificity of the employed detection technology can be assessed quantitatively by determining the true-negative detection rate with the so-called sham-experiment (see Section “Sham-Experiment: Counterfactual Meta-Experimentation”). Naturally, if alternative explanations, i.e., systematic methodological error (SME) including statistical errors and experimental bias, could be eliminated (for details, see also Section “In Search of an Explanation for False-Positive Observer Effect Detection”), then the Radin DS-experiment might indeed represent a major advance toward scientific evidence for the psycho-physical influence of quantum-based observer consciousness upon a laboratory device.

For an explanation of what is meant by SME in the context of a concrete physical device, such as a DS-interference apparatus, the example of a biased or unbalanced roulette wheel is revealing. That is, the methodological challenges that are encountered in research involving ultra-weak-effects detection, including in the Radin DS-experiment, are similar to those faced by operators of roulette tables in a casino. The spinning wheel must be near perfectly balanced on the table in order to assure that mostly unbiased, i.e., near random, outcomes are obtained with each spin that is associated with placing a bet. That is, none of the eight octants of the wheel should indicate any higher probability than the others for being hit by the ball. However, there will invariably be a practical, operational limit in that regard for any concrete physical system such as the roulette wheel; as a result, there will always be a dominant octant, even if this can be revealed to the careful observer only after a large number of spins. In principle, a player could discover an imbalance in the system, e.g., an imbalance due to a one- to two-degree tilt of the wheel toward one side, and then could exploit the imbalance to place bets on the preferred octant of the wheel. As a consequence, the probability of winning will grow ever so slightly above chance, and winning would be guaranteed in the long term. In fact, cases are known when players have earned money by exploiting this loophole, i.e., the discovery of systematic and uncontrolled imbalances, and hence systematic bias, of casino roulette wheels (e.g., In the context of scientific measurement design, this loophole will be referred to as the SME-loophole.

The present article describes the use of an advanced research protocol which is capable of controlling for possible detrimental effects of the SME-loophole in the Radin DS-experiment. The closing of this loophole is of particular concern in ultra-weak-effects studies for which there is no good intuition about either the size or the probability of a systematic imbalance or measurement bias as part of some experimental design. It is essential in such studies to verify empirically that the amount of SME is well below the level that might impede the reliable detection of the targeted effect. For quantifying the actual amount of SME, which might be intrinsic to the Radin DS-experiment, the advanced meta-experimental protocol (AMP; Walleczek, in preparation) was implemented in this conceptual replication attempt which was commissioned by one of the funders of the original Radin DS-experiment (Radin et al., 2012; see Section “Materials and Methods” for details).

For explanation, in the roulette-wheel paradigm, the SME could be quantified by recording hundreds, or more, of individual games on a given roulette wheel. Data could be collected until there is an amount sufficient to calculate a statistically significant difference between any one of the octants and the other seven octants. The more balanced and unbiased is the spinning wheel, the smaller will be the SME. The same is relevant for scientific measurement paradigms also: the more balanced and unbiased is a particular research design, the smaller will be the SME, as confirmed by a low false-positive detection rate; consequently, the higher will be the effective specificity of the employed detection method. Similar to the above strategy for detecting an imbalance in the roulette-wheel paradigm, the here employed AMP-based strategy can detect measurement imbalances or biases in the experimental system under investigation.

In summary, upon insertion of the AMP into the Radin DS-experiment, it was possible to determine the amount of SME – as revealed by the determination of the true-negative rate of detection – constraining the effective specificity of the employed measurement technology. The present analysis will conclude that the specificity of the method for detecting the potential effect of observer consciousness in the Radin DS-experiment is likely to be below that required for the reliable, i.e., artifact-free, detection of a putative effect on the order of 0.001% (Radin et al., 2016). It is questionable, therefore, at least until further stringent, pre-specified, AMP-based tests have been conducted, whether the previously claimed, anomalous effect could be a reliable indicator of a genuine, i.e., true-positive, observer-consciousness effect in the Radin DS-experiment. Next will be described the experimental methodology and the confirmatory AMP-based protocol which was implemented in this commissioned replication study of the Radin DS-experiment.

Autistic People Enhance Their Selves: Autistic people are as susceptible to social desirability & self-enhancement as non-autistic people are; our results challenge the claim that autistic people are immune to reputation management

Autistic People Do Enhance Their Selves. Morton Ann Gernsbacher, Jennifer L. Stevenson, Sebastian Dern. Social Psychological and Personality Science, September 2, 2019.

Abstract: We investigated whether autistic people are less prone to self-enhance (i.e., portray themselves in socially desirable ways). Autistic (N = 130) and non-autistic (N = 130) participants first responded to social desirability items using the standard instruction to endorse each item as true or false about themselves. Then, all participants read an explanation of what social desirability items measure before responding again to the social desirability items. Self-enhancement was operationalized as participants endorsing more social desirability items before learning the explanation than after. All participants endorsed significantly more social desirability items before learning the explanation than after, F subjects(1, 258) = 57.73, p < .001, η2p = .183; F items(1, 34) = 43.04, p < .001, η2p = .559). However, autistic and non-autistic participants did not significantly differ in how many items they endorsed, either before or after reading the explanation, indicating that autistic people are as susceptible to social desirability and self-enhancement as non-autistic people are. Our results challenge the claim that autistic people are immune to reputation management.

Keywords: autism, personality, social desirability, self-enhancement

This study suggests that previous meta-analyses of a low-quality body of evidence may have considerably overestimated the effects of plate size on consumption

Plate size and food consumption: a pre-registered experimental study in a general population sample. Daina Kosīte, Laura M. König, Katie De-loyde, Ilse Lee, Emily Pechey, Natasha Clarke, Olivia Maynard, Richard W. Morris, Marcus R. Munafò, Theresa M. Marteau, Paul C. Fletcher & Gareth J. Hollands. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, August 28 2019.

Background: There is considerable uncertainty regarding the impact of tableware size on food consumption. Most existing studies have used small and unrepresentative samples and have not followed recommended procedures for randomised controlled trials, leading to increased risk of bias. In the first pre-registered study to date, we examined the impact on consumption of using larger versus smaller plates for self-served food. We also assessed impact on the underlying meal micro-structure, such as number of servings and eating rate, which has not previously been studied.

Methods: The setting was a purpose-built naturalistic eating behaviour laboratory. A general population sample of 134 adult participants (aged 18–61 years) was randomly allocated to one of two groups varying in the size of plate used for self-serving lunch: large or small. The primary outcome was amount of food energy (kcal) consumed during a meal. Additionally, we assessed impact on meal micro-structure, and examined potential modifying effects of executive function, socio-economic position, and sensitivity to perceptual cues.

Results: There was no clear evidence of a difference in consumption between the two groups: Cohen’s d = 0.07 (95% CI [− 0.27, 0.41]), with participants in the large plate group consuming on average 19.2 (95% CI [− 76.5, 115.0]) more calories (3%) compared to the small plate group (large: mean (SD) = 644.1 (265.0) kcal, versus small: 624.9 (292.3) kcal). The difference between the groups was not modified by individual characteristics. There was no evidence of impact on meal micro-structure, with the exception of more food being left on the plate when larger plates were used.

Conclusions: This study suggests that previous meta-analyses of a low-quality body of evidence may have considerably overestimated the effects of plate size on consumption. However, the possibility of a clinically significant effect – in either direction – cannot be excluded. Well-conducted trials of tableware size in real-world field settings are now needed to determine whether changing the size of tableware has potential to contribute to efforts to reduce consumption at population-level.

When more likes is not better: the consequences of high and low likes-to-followers ratios for perceived account credibility and social media marketing effectiveness

When more likes is not better: the consequences of high and low likes-to-followers ratios for perceived account credibility and social media marketing effectiveness. Eline L. E. De Vries. Marketing Letters, September 2 2019.

Abstract: Previous research on social media marketing assumes that the more followers or “likes” an individual or company has on social media, the better. The current research is the first that challenges this assumption by showing that people make inferences about the credibility of social media accounts based on the number of likes a post receives relative to the size of its likely audience. The findings indicate that high as well as low likes-to-followers ratios negatively influence the perceived credibility of the account and, as such, dampen social media marketing effectiveness. The addition of hashtags is identified as a way to guard against the negative impact of high likes-to-followers ratios. Managers, (aspiring) influencers, and people in general involved in (personal) branding on social media can use the present findings to maximize the effectiveness of their social media marketing strategy.

Keywords: Social media marketing Instagram Likes Followers Hashtag Credibility

The CFPB’s Arbitration Rule in 2017: Example of the liberality to impose extraordinary costs with impunity and good press

Treasury Releases Report Examining The CFPB’s Arbitration Rule. US Treasury Dept. Oct 23 2017.

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Treasury Department today released a report that examines the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) arbitration rule. The Treasury report delves into the analysis CFPB used to prohibit mandatory arbitration clauses.  It outlines important limitations to the data behind CFPB’s rule and explains that CFPB did not appropriately consider whether prohibiting arbitration clauses would advance consumer protection or serve the public interest.

The Treasury report found that:

.    The CFPB’s rule will impose extraordinary costs—generating more than 3,000 additional class action lawsuits over the next five years, imposing more than $500 million in additional legal defense fees, and transferring $330 million to plaintiffs’ lawyers;
.    The CFPB’s data show that the vast majority of class action lawsuits deliver no relief to the class—and that consumers very rarely claim relief available to them;
.    The CFPB did not show that its rule will achieve a necessary increase compliance with the federal consumer financial laws, despite the rule’s high costs; and
.    The CFPB failed to consider less onerous alternatives to its ban on mandatory arbitration clauses across market sectors.

My commentary: Knowing the law, knowing that the Congress rejects to amend the law or to replace or repeal it, an unaccountable organization which is one of those Executive agencies called independent imposed extraordinary costs with no consequences for it, and even having good press for the rule considered.

Full report:

Clothing and modern human behaviour: prehistoric Tasmania as a case study

Clothing and modern human behaviour: prehistoric Tasmania as a case study. Ian Gilligan. Archaeology in Oceania, Volume 42, issue 3 , pp 102-111. Oct 2007.

Abstract: A general model is outlined showing how the prehistoric development of clothing for thermal reasons may be relevant to the emergence of modern human behaviour. A distinction is drawn between simple and complex clothing, with the latter leading to repercussions that can ultimately became decoupled from thermal contingencies. Archaeological correlates of complex clothing can be linked to attributes of modern human behaviour, some (but not all) of which made a transient appearance in late Pleistocene Tasmania. Cave sites in the southwest of the island have yielded bone tools and distinctive stone scraper tools, along with evidence for the targeting of prey species (mainly wallabies) and the presence of parietal artworks in some caves. Thermal conditions in late Pleistocene Tasmania approached the known limits of human cold tolerance, necessitating the use of clothes. The archaeological record is reviewed here in relation to likely technological and other correlates of the manufacture of clothing. It is argued that thermal parameters were a significant aspect of the human response to climate change in Tasmania. These developments invite comparison with those witnessed outside the region during the Upper and late Middle Pleistocene, particularly in northern middle latitudes and also in Africa, where they are conventionally interpreted as indicating the emergence of modern human behaviour.

New plausible evolutionary function, the sexual exploitation hypothesis: Psychopathy exhibits “special design” features for subverting female mate choice, facilitating favorable impressions in women wanting intimate relations

Psychopathy and the Induction of Desire: Formulating and Testing an Evolutionary Hypothesis. Kristopher J. Brazil, Adelle E. Forth. Evolutionary Psychological Science, September 2 2019.

Abstract: The problems psychopathic individuals impose on society and in their interpersonal relationships can be held in stark contrast to reports of their appeal and sexual success in some of those relationships. In the current paper, we seek to contextualize this enigma by focusing on the interpersonal dynamics of psychopathic individuals in romantic encounters. We first formulate a plausible evolutionary function, the sexual exploitation hypothesis, that proposes psychopathy exhibits “special design” features for subverting female mate choice, facilitating the induction of favorable impressions and desire in prospective intimate relationships. We then test the hypothesis in two studies with university samples. Study 1 had young men assessed on psychopathy, social intelligence, and sociosexuality engage in a filmed dating interaction. Study 2 had young women view a subsample of the videos, rate them on desirability, and leave voice messages. Results show psychopathy was related to sociosexuality, specific factors of social intelligence, and generating higher desirability ratings from women after controlling for men’s physical attractiveness. Analyses involving comparisons of two men showed women’s ratings increased in favor of the more psychopathic man. Women’s voice pitch also changed, but only in response to different facets of psychopathy. The results provide preliminary support for the sexual exploitation hypothesis and suggest that more dynamic assessment of putative desirability in psychopathy may be required to capture its plausible special design features in prospective dating encounters.

Keywords: Psychopathy Intimate relationships Evolutionary function Dating Female mate choice Voice pitch

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Disgust lowers olfactory threshold

Disgust lowers olfactory threshold: a test of the underlying mechanism. Kai Qin Chan, Roel van Dooren, Rob W. Holland & Ad van Knippenberg. Cognition and Emotion, Aug 31 2019. 

ABSTRACT: The olfactory system provides us with rich information about the world, but the odours around us are not always detectable. Previous research has shown that disgust enhances olfactory sensitivity to n-butanol. Because n-butanol incidentally is mildly negative, it is unclear whether disgust, being a negative, avoidant emotion, enhances sensitivity to stimuli with negative qualities (valence-fit effect), or across stimuli in general (general sensitivity effect). Here we tested these competing hypotheses by examining thresholds to two scents, one positive (phenylethanol) and one mildly negative (n-butanol), during a disgust, happiness, and neutral emotion induction. We found that exposure to disgusting pictures lowered olfactory threshold across both scents. Thus our current results replicated the results of previous research, and also revealed support for a general sensitivity rather than a valence-fit effect. This suggests that disgust facilitates the perceptual detection of extremely faint targets presumably because avoidant emotions enhance perceptual vigilance in general.

KEYWORDS: Disgust, threshold, sensitivity, olfaction

Our findings demonstrate that higher-order cognition is influenced by fluctuations in internal brain states, providing a physiological basis for variability in complex human behavior

Endogenous fluctuations in the dopaminergic midbrain drive behavioral choice variability. Benjamin Chew, Tobias U. Hauser, Marina Papoutsi, Joerg Magerkurth, Raymond J. Dolan, and Robb B. Rutledge. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, August 26, 2019.

Significance: Humans are surprisingly inconsistent in their behavior, often making different choices under identical conditions. Previous research suggests that intrinsic fluctuations in brain activity can influence low-level processes, such as the amount of force applied in a motor response. Here, we show that intrinsic prestimulus brain activity in the dopaminergic midbrain influences how we choose between risky and safe options. Using computational modeling, we demonstrate that endogenous fluctuations alter phasic responses in a decision network and thereby modulate risk taking. Our findings demonstrate that higher-order cognition is influenced by fluctuations in internal brain states, providing a physiological basis for variability in complex human behavior.

Abstract: Human behavior is surprisingly variable, even when facing the same problem under identical circumstances. A prominent example is risky decision making. Economic theories struggle to explain why humans are so inconsistent. Resting-state studies suggest that ongoing endogenous fluctuations in brain activity can influence low-level perceptual and motor processes, but it remains unknown whether endogenous fluctuations also influence high-level cognitive processes including decision making. Here, using real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging, we tested whether risky decision making is influenced by endogenous fluctuations in blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) activity in the dopaminergic midbrain, encompassing ventral tegmental area and substantia nigra. We show that low prestimulus brain activity leads to increased risky choice in humans. Using computational modeling, we show that increased risk taking is explained by enhanced phasic responses to offers in a decision network. Our findings demonstrate that endogenous brain activity provides a physiological basis for variability in complex human behavior.

Keywords: behavioral variabilityintrinsic brain fluctuationsdopaminergic midbrainrisky decision makingreal-time fMRI

Found no detrimental effects on physiological health, & saw subjective health improvements (greater for those who engaged in more intense forms) in kavadi attam, a high-risk extreme ritual practice

Effects of Extreme Ritual Practices on Psychophysiological Well-Being. Dimitris Xygalatas, Sammyh Khan, Martin Lang, Radek Kundt, Eva Kundtová-Klocová, Jan Krátký, and John Shaver. Current Anthropology, Aug 30, 2019.

Abstract: Extreme ritual practices involving pain and suffering pose significant risks such as injury, trauma, or infection. Nonetheless, they are performed by millions of people around the world and are often culturally prescribed remedies for a variety of maladies, and especially those related to mental health. What is the actual impact of these practices on health? Combining ethnographic observations and psychophysiological monitoring, we investigated outcomes of participation in one of the world’s most extreme rituals, involving bodily mutilation and prolonged suffering. Performance of this physically demanding ordeal had no detrimental effects on physiological health and was associated with subjective health improvements, and these improvements were greater for those who engaged in more intense forms of participation. Moreover, individuals who experienced health problems and/or were of low socioeconomic status sought more painful levels of engagement. We suggest two potential mechanisms for these effects: a bottom-up process triggered by neurological responses to pain and a top-down process related to increased social support and self-enhancement. These mechanisms may buffer stress-induced pressures and positively affect quality of life. Our results stress the importance of traditional cultural practices for coping with adversity, especially in contexts where psychiatric or other medical interventions are not widely available.

Video of those ritual practices:

Despite their potential risks, extreme rituals in many contexts are paradoxically associated with health and healing (Jilek 1982; Ward 1984). Our findings suggest that within those contexts, such rituals may indeed convey certain psychological benefits to their performers. Our physiological measurements show that the kavadi is very stressful and high in energetic demands (fig. 2C, 2D). But the ostensibly dangerous ordeal had no detectable persistent harmful effects on participants, who in fact showed signs of improvement in their perceived health and quality of life. We suggest that the effects of ritual participation on psychological well-being occur through two distinct but mutually compatible pathways: a bottom-up process triggered by neurological responses to the ordeal and a top-down process that relies on communicative elements of ritual performance (Hobson et al. 2017).

Specifically, the bottom-up pathway involves physical aspects of ritual performance related to emotional regulation. Ritual is a common behavioral response to stress (Lang et al. 2015; Sosis 2007), and anthropological evidence shows that in many cultures dysphoric rituals involving intense and prolonged exertion and/or altered states of consciousness are considered as efficient ways of dealing with various illnesses (Jilek 1982). In our study, those who suffered from chronic illnesses engaged in more painful forms of participation by enduring more piercings. Notably, higher levels of pain during the ritual were associated with improvements in self-assessed health post-ritual. Although the pain was relatively short-lived, there is evidence that the social and individual effects of participation can be long-lasting (Tewari et al. 2012; Whitehouse and Lanman 2014).

The sensory, physiological, and emotional hyperarousal involved in strenuous ordeals can produce feelings of euphoria and alleviation from pain and anxiety (Fischer et al. 2014; Xygalatas 2008), and there is evidence of a neurochemical basis for these effects via endocrine alterations in neurotransmitters such as endorphins (Boecker et al. 2008; Lang et al. 2017) or endocannabinoids (Fuss et al. 2015). These endocrine effects are amplified when performed collectively, as shown by studies of communal chanting, dancing, and other common aspects of ritual (Tarr et al. 2015). While it is uncertain how long-lasting these effects are, such euphoric experiences may become self-referential for future well-being assessment.

At the same time, a top-down pathway involves social-symbolic aspects of ritual. Cultural expectations and beliefs in the healing power of the ritual may act as a placebo (McClenon 1997), buffering stress-induced pressures on the immune system (Rabin 1999). In addition, social factors can interact with and amplify the low-level effects of physiological arousal (Konvalinka et al. 2011). Performed collectively, these rituals can provide additional comfort through forging communal bonds, providing a sense of community and belonging, and building social networks of support (Dunbar and Shultz 2010; Xygalatas et al. 2013). The Thaipusam is the most important collective event in the life of this community, and higher investments in this ritual are ostensibly perceived by other members as signs of allegiance to the group, consequently enhancing participants’ reputation (Watson-Jones and Legare 2016) and elevating their social status (Bulbulia 2004; Power 2017a). Multiple lines of research suggest that individuals are strongly motivated to engage in status-seeking efforts (Cheng, Tracy, and Henrich 2010; Willard and Legare 2017) and that there is a strong positive relationship between social rank and subjective well-being (Anderson et al. 2012; Barkow et al. 1975). Indeed, we found that individuals of lower socioeconomic status were more motivated to invest in the painful activities that can function as costly signals of commitment. Recent evidence from a field study in India shows that those who partake in these rituals indeed reap the cooperative benefits that result from increased status (Power 2017b).

In addition, the cost of participation can have important self-signaling functions. On the one hand, it can boost performers’ perceived fitness and self-esteem, which positively affects mental health (Barkow et al. 1975). On the other hand, through a process of effort justification, such costs can strengthen one’s attachment to the group and sense of belonging (Festinger 1962; Sosis 2003). This role of costly rituals in generating positive subjective states (Bastian et al. 2014b; Fischer et al. 2014; Wood 2016) and facilitating social bonding (Bastian, Jetten, and Ferris 2014a; Whitehouse and Lanman 2014) may offer insights into the functions of painful religious practices.

Chess players are generally of higher academic standing, but more importantly it is shown statistically that learning chess increases a student’s academic performance (chess makes them smarter)

The Effect of Chess on Standardized Test Score Gains. David I. Poston, Kathryn K. Vandenkieboom. SAGE Open, August 31, 2019.

Abstract: The study compares the standardized test performance of “chess kids” versus their peers. The comparison of score gains to non-chess peers (same grade and same academic percentile) attempts to eliminate the chicken-and-egg issue that often muddles this topic, that is, does chess make kids smarter or do smart kids simply prefer chess. The data indeed confirm that chess players are generally of higher academic standing (chess kids are smart), but more importantly it statistically shows that learning chess increases a student’s academic performance (chess makes them smarter). The evaluation then digs deeper, by comparing kids who have learned perhaps a little chess (coming to chess club only) versus those that are more serious and play in U.S. Chess Federation (USCF)-rated tournaments. A variety of comparisons are made which show that the benefits of chess are strongly tied to “learning” the game; the more you learn, the more you benefit. Kids who come only to chess club receive a small (5%-10%) benefit in Math, whereas kids who play in rated tournaments gain substantially in Math (30%-50%) and significantly in Reading (10%-20%). The benefits also continue to grow as kids play more tournaments and/or increase their USCF chess rating.

Keywords: education, social sciences, chess, standardized test scores, chess benefits, statistics