Tuesday, July 28, 2020

This would suggest that people with strong Aesthetic Motivation would be unhappy and unproductive in many jobs, even some artistic jobs

Demographic, Personality Trait and Personality Disorder Correlates of Aesthetic Motivation. Adrian Furnham. Imagination, Cognition and Personality, July 28, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1177/0276236620942917

Abstract: This study looked at personality and sub-clinical personality disorder correlates of self-rated motives for aesthetic motivation (AM). Two groups, totalling over 4000 adult British managers, completed three tests including a personality trait measure (HPI); a personality disorders measure (HDS), and a measure of their Motives and Values (MVPI) for Aestheticism and Culture. The two different groups had similar results, showing that for personality traits Inquisitiveness (Openness-to-Experience) and Sociability (Extraversion) were positively, and Adjustment (low Neuroticism) and Prudence (Conscientiousness) were negatively, related to AM. For personality disorder traits Imaginativeness (Schizotypy) and Colourful (Histrionic) were positively correlated with AM. Factor analysis confirmed the higher order classification of both traits and disorders. Regressions at the higher factor level suggested personality traits were more related to AM than disorder traits. Implications for the selection and management of aesthetic people are considered. Limitations and future directions are also noted.

Keywords: aestheticism, personality traits, personality disorders, Schizotypy

This would suggest that people with strong Aesthetic Motivation would be unhappy and unproductive in many jobs, even some artistic jobs.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Clarifying the Structure and Nature of Left-wing Authoritarianism

Costello, Thomas H., Shauna Bowes, Sean T. Stevens, Irwin Waldman, and Scott O. Lilienfeld. 2020. “Clarifying the Structure and Nature of Left-wing Authoritarianism.” PsyArXiv. May 11. doi:10.31234/osf.io/3nprq

Abstract: Left-wing authoritarianism (LWA) is one of the more controversial and poorly understood major constructs in political psychology. In this series of studies, we investigate LWA’s nature, structure, correlates, and psychological implications. Beginning with a broad preliminary conceptualization of LWA, we use exploratory and empirical strategies of test construction across five community samples (N = 6,292) to iteratively construct a measure of LWA with promising content validity; refine our conceptualization based on the measure’s structural and nomological validity; and update the measure to reflect these changes. We conduct quantitative tests of LWA’s relations with a host of authoritarianism-related variables, based on a priori hypotheses derived in part from right-wing authoritarianism’s well-established nomological network, and use a behavioral paradigm to show that LWA and social dominance orientation (but not right-wing authoritarianism) predict aggression towards threatening ideological opponents over and above political ideology. We conclude that a shared psychological “core” underlies authoritarianism across the political left and right.

Check also Right-wing Authoritarianism, Left-wing Authoritarianism, and pandemic-mitigation authoritarianism. Joseph H. Manson. Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 167, 1 December 2020, 110251. https://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2020/07/right-wing-authoritarianism-left-wing.html

Right-wing Authoritarianism, Left-wing Authoritarianism, and pandemic-mitigation authoritarianism

Right-wing Authoritarianism, Left-wing Authoritarianism, and pandemic-mitigation authoritarianism. Joseph H. Manson. Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 167, 1 December 2020, 110251. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2020.110251

• Recent work supports the validity of the construct of Left-wing Authoritarianism.
• LWA shares some features with Right-wing Authoritarianism (RWA).
• The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted implementation of authoritarian policies.
• Both RWA and LWA predicted support for authoritarian pandemic-mitigation policies.

Abstract: Recent research suggests the validity of the construct of Left-wing Authoritarianism (LWA). Like its well-studied parallel construct Right-wing Authoritarianism, LWA is characterized by dogmatism, punitive attitudes toward dissenters, and desire for strong authority figures. In contrast to RWA, LWA mobilizes these traits on behalf of left-wing values (e.g. anti-racism, anti-sexism, and wealth redistribution). I inductively examined the extent to which RWA and LWA predicted, in April 2020, Americans' endorsement of 19 authoritarian policies and practices intended to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. For 11 of these policies (e.g. abrogating the right to trial by jury for pandemic-related crimes), both RWA and LWA independently positively predicted endorsement. These findings are consistent with recent work showing psychological similarities between the two constructs.

Keywords: Right-wing AuthoritarianismLeft-wing AuthoritarianismCOVID-19

5. Discussion
Reacting to the severe public health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in Spring 2020, many citizens of liberal democratic nations have tolerated, or even demanded, actions from their governments that they would view as unacceptably heavy-handed under normal conditions. The current study used this situation to extend the nomological networks of the well-established construct of Right-wing Authoritarianism (Altemeyer, 1981Duckitt et al., 2010), and the promising, but so far little-explored, construct of Left-wing Authoritarianism (Conway III et al., 2017Costello, Bowes, et al., 2020). Both traits predicted endorsement of a range of putatively pandemic-mitigating policies and practices that many would regard as authoritarian. A few of these results were unremarkable, or even slightly circular, e.g. one of the ACT items condemns abortion, and one of the policies endorsed more by people higher in RWA was closing abortion clinics. However, most of the results illuminated, some of them rather surprisingly, how people with authoritarian attitudes respond when, due to a crisis, a menu of normally taboo authoritarian policies appears on the table of mainstream public debate in a liberal democracy. For example, RWA is positively related to conservatism (Crowson, Thoma, & Hestevold, 2005), and one component of American conservatism is advocacy of free markets, and yet RWA was positively associated with endorsement of the government running the economy.
Although I did not measure perception of the danger posed by COVID-19, it is unlikely that variation in objective risk of death or serious illness drove the observed associations between RWA or LWA and increased endorsement of putatively authoritarian policies. None of the three covariates chosen because of their association with COVID-19 mortality risk (county COVID-19 rate, age, or African-American identity) was consistently positively related to endorsement of these policies.
This study builds on recent work (Costello, Bowes, et al., 2020) that has demonstrated the existence of authoritarian attitudes on both ends of the political spectrum, and has documented numerous psychological similarities between RWA and LWA. Two such similarities are belief in a dangerous world, and preference for state control. Consistent with these findings, I found that in response to the danger posed by a deadly pandemic, people high in RWA and people high in LWA agreed on the need for enhanced state control in several domains, including restrictions on the right to protest, punishment without the right to trial by jury, and surveillance via a mandatory tracking app. The policies on which people high in RWA and people high in LWA disagreed tended to be those most directly tied to American right-wing vs. left-wing values, e.g. religion, abortion, and immigration.

5.1. Limitations

This study had three major limitations. First, no other political attitudes, besides RWA and LWA, were measured. Controlling for other attitudes would have changed the observed statistical associations between authoritarianism and policy endorsements. As just one example, RWA is distinct from, but positively correlated with, Social Dominance Orientation (SDO: Pratto, Sidanius, Stallworth, & Malle, 1994Roccato & Ricolfi, 2005), defined as degree of preference for inequality among social groups. Controlling for SDO might have reduced the association between RWA and endorsement of ban foreigners from entering. Second, as a cross-sectional study, this work cannot address the possibility of reversed causality, i.e. that the COVID-19 pandemic, as a perceived threat, has increased levels of authoritarianism (see Duckitt, 2001). Finally, my study population consisted exclusively of U.S. residents, so its findings do not generalize to other countries. Exploring this general topic internationally would require compiling country-specific lists of putatively authoritarian pandemic-mitigation policies. Furthermore, the validity of the LWA construct outside the U.S. has not been demonstrated.

5.2. Conclusions

LWA holds considerable promise as an explanatory construct in political psychology (Conway III et al., 2017Costello, Bowes, et al., 2020). Both the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the general U.S. political scene, have changed considerably since the data for this study were collected. Therefore, replicating it exactly might be impossible. In general, however, the relationship of LWA to policy preferences comprises a fruitful topic for future research.

Appendix (Conway, L. G., Houck, S. C., Gornick, L. J. and Repke, M. A. (2017), Finding the Loch Ness Monster: Left-Wing Authoritarianism in the United States. Political Psychology. http://www.bipartisanalliance.com/2017/12/left-wing-authoritarianism-in-united.html)

Left‐Wing Authoritarianism (LWA) Scale

For the following questions, please answer on a 1–7 scale, where 1 = “I disagree completely,” 4 = “neutral/undecided,” and 7 = “I completely agree.”
  • _______1. Our country desperately needs a mighty and liberal leader who will do what has to be done to destroy the radical traditional ways of doing things that are ruining us.
  • _______2. Christian fundamentalists are just as healthy and moral as anybody else.
  • _______3. It's always better to trust the judgment of the proper authorities in science with respect to issues like global warming and evolution than to listen to the noisy rabble‐rousers in our society who are trying to create doubts in people's minds.
  • _______4. Christian Fundamentalists and others who have rebelled against the established sciences are no doubt every bit as good and virtuous as those who agree with the best scientific minds.
  • _______5. The only way our country can get through the crisis ahead is to get rid of our “traditional” values, put some tough leaders in power who oppose those values, and silence the troublemakers spreading bad (and so‐called “traditional”) ideas.
  • _______6. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Christian Fundamentalist camps designed to create a new generation of Fundamentalists.
  • _______7. Our country needs traditional thinkers who will have the courage to defy modern progressive movements, even if this upsets many people.
  • _______8. Our country will be destroyed someday if we do not smash the traditional beliefs eating away at our national fiber and growing progressive beliefs.
  • _______9. With respect to environmental issues, everyone should have their own personality, even if it makes them different from everyone else.
  • _______10. Progressive ways and liberal values show the best way of life.
  • _______11. You have to admire those who challenged the law and the majority's view by
  • protesting against abortion rights or in favor of reinstating school prayer.
  • _______12. What our country really needs is a strong, determined leader who will crush the evil of pushy Christian religious people, and take us forward to our true path.
  • _______13. Some of the best people in our country are those who are challenging our government, supporting religion, and ignoring the “normal way” things are supposed to be done.
  • _______14. We should strongly punish those who try to uphold what they claim are “God's laws” about abortion, pornography, and marriage, when they break the actual laws of the country in order to do so.
  • _______15. There are many radical, immoral Christian people in our country today, who are trying to ruin it for their religious purposes, whom the authorities should put out of action.
  • _______16. A Christian's place should be wherever he or she wants to be. The days when
  • Christians are submissive to the conventions of this country belong strictly in the past.
  • _______17. Our country will be great if we honor the ways of progressive thinking, do what the best liberal authorities tell us to do, and get rid of the religious and conservative “rotten apples” who are ruining everything.
  • _______18. With respect to environmental issues, there is no “ONE right way” to live life; everybody has to create their own way.
  • _______19. Christian Fundamentalists should be praised for being brave enough to defy the
  • current societal and legal norms.
  • _______20. This country would work a lot better if certain groups of Christian troublemakers would just shut up and accept their group's proper place in society.

Every time I would call someone racist or sexist, I would get a rush ... reaffirmed and sustained by the stars, hearts, and thumbs-up that constitute the nickels and dimes of social media validation

I Was the Mob Until the Mob Came for Me. Barrett Wilson (pen name). Quillette, July 14, 2018. https://quillette.com/2018/07/14/i-was-the-mob-until-the-mob-came-for-me/


In my previous life, I was a self-righteous social justice crusader. I would use my mid-sized Twitter and Facebook platforms to signal my wokeness on topics such as LGBT rights, rape culture, and racial injustice. Many of the opinions I held then are still opinions that I hold today. But I now realize that my social-media hyperactivity was, in reality, doing more harm than good.

Within the world created by the various apps I used, I got plenty of shares and retweets. But this masked how ineffective I had become outside, in the real world. The only causes I was actually contributing to were the causes of mobbing and public shaming. Real change does not stem from these tactics. They only cause division, alienation, and bitterness.

How did I become that person? It happened because it was exhilarating. Every time I would call someone racist or sexist, I would get a rush. That rush would then be reaffirmed and sustained by the stars, hearts, and thumbs-up that constitute the nickels and dimes of social media validation. The people giving me these stars, hearts, and thumbs-up were engaging in their own cynical game: A fear of being targeted by the mob induces us to signal publicly that we are part of it.


When my callouts were met with approval and admiration, I was lavished with praise: “Thank you so much for speaking out!” “You’re so brave!” “We need more men like you!”

Then one day, suddenly, I was accused of some of the very transgressions I’d called out in others. I was guilty, of course: There’s no such thing as due process in this world. And once judgment has been rendered against you, the mob starts combing through your past, looking for similar transgressions that might have been missed at the time. I was now told that I’d been creating a toxic environment for years at my workplace; that I’d been making the space around me unsafe through microaggressions and macroaggressions alike.

Social justice is a surveillance culture, a snitch culture. The constant vigilance on the part of my colleagues and friends did me in. That’s why I’m delivering sushi and pizza. Not that I’m complaining. It’s honest work, and it’s led me to rediscover how to interact with people in the real world. I am a kinder and more respectful person now that I’m not regularly on social media attacking people for not being “kind” and “respectful.”

I mobbed and shamed people for incidents that became front page news. But when they were vindicated or exonerated by some real-world investigation, it was treated as a footnote by my online community. If someone survives a social justice callout, it simply means that the mob has moved on to someone new. No one ever apologizes for a false accusation, and everyone has a selective memory regarding what they’ve done.


The social justice vigilantism I was living on Twitter and Facebook was like the app in my dream. Aggressive online virtue signaling is a fundamentally two-dimensional act. It has no human depth. It’s only when we snap out of it, see the world as it really is, and people as they really are, that we appreciate the destruction and human suffering we caused when we were trapped inside.

The anecdote is taken from Grandstanding: The Use and Abuse of Moral Talk, by Justin Tosi & Brandon Warmke, https://www.amazon.com/Grandstanding-Use-Abuse-Moral-Talk-ebook/dp/B0851PR3DB/

Teaching Physics and having success at it: Millikan

Teaching Physics and having success at it:
At the close of my sophomore year [...] my Greek professor [...] asked me to teach the course in elementary physics in the preparatory department during the next year. To my reply that I did not know any physics at all, his answer was, "Anyone who can do well in my Greek can teach physics." "All right," said I, "you will have to take the consequences, but I will try and see what I can do with it." I at once purchased an Avery's Elements of Physics, and spent the greater part of my summer vacation of 1889 at home – trying to master the subject. [...] I doubt if I have ever taught better in my life than in my first course in physics in 1889. I was so intensely interested in keeping my knowledge ahead of that of the class that they may have caught some of my own interest and enthusiasm.

(Wikipedia page on Millikan, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Andrews_Millikan, retrieved Jul 27 2020)

Sunday, July 26, 2020

The expanding class divide in happiness in the United States, 1972–2016

The expanding class divide in happiness in the United States, 1972–2016. Twenge, J. M., & Cooper, A. B. Emotion, Jul 2020. https://doi.org/10.1037/emo0000774

Is there a growing class divide in happiness? Among U.S. adults ages 30 and over in the nationally representative General Social Survey (N = 44,198), the positive correlation between socioeconomic status (SES; including income, education, and occupational prestige) and happiness grew steadily stronger between the 1970s and 2010s. Associations between income and happiness were linear, with no tapering off at higher levels of income. Between 1972 and 2016, the happiness of high-SES White adults was fairly stable, whereas the happiness of low-SES White adults steadily declined. Among Black adults, the happiness of low-SES adults was fairly stable, whereas the happiness of high-SES adults increased. Thus, the happiness advantage favoring high-SES adults has expanded over the decades. Age–period–cohort analyses based on hierarchical linear modeling demonstrate that this effect is primarily caused by time period rather than by birth cohort or age.

General Discussion
Between the early 1970s and the mid-2010s, socioeconomic status (SES) indicators such as income, education, and occupational prestige became stronger predictors of happiness among American adults over age 30. The happiness of low-SES White adults declined between 1972 and 2016 while the happiness of high-SES White adults stayed steady or declined less steeply; the happiness of low-SES Black adults generally stayed steady, while the happiness of high-SES Black adults generally increased. The result is a growing class divide in happiness, with the happiness advantage of high-SES individuals growing steadily larger over the decades.

Contrary to some previous studies, we did not find SES to be a weak or non-existent correlate of happiness (Diener, Ng, Harter, & Arora, 2010; Lykken & Tellegen, 1996; StewartBrown et al., 2015), especially in recent years. Instead, we found robust associations, particularly for income (with d = .59 between the 1st and 5th quintiles of income, and correlations as high as r = .26). The median effect for actual observed effect sizes in psychology is r = .19, and r = .29 is in the top 25% (Gignac & Szodorai, 2016); thus, the association between income and happiness is moderate to large. The difference in happiness between the lowest and highest deciles of income is also large (d = .71). Nor did we find a satiation point or a tapering off at higher levels of income as some have found using other datasets (Jebb et al., 2018; Kahneman et al., 2010); in the GSS sample, associations between income and happiness were steady and linear. Thus, at least in this sample, money and prestige do appear to buy happiness, and more is continuously better, especially in recent years.

This study was limited by several factors. First, the measure of happiness was a single item rather than a more psychometrically vetted multiple-item scale of well-being or mental health symptoms. Although we were able to use four measures of SES, all were self-reported rather than objectively verified. In some cases, n’s were too low for Black Americans to perform certain analyses. Our analysis was restricted to the U.S.; thus, we do not know if these findings extend to other nations (such as the UK) also rumored to have a growing class divide in wellbeing and other factors.

Finally, we were unable to definitively determine the causes of the growing class divide in happiness. However, the analyses controlling for marital status suggest the trend may be partially rooted in the growing class divide in rates of marriage. Although we did not directly examine marriage as a determinant of happiness, the reduced correlations with year when marital status was controlled are consistent with the general conclusion that marriage exerts a positive influence on happiness (Grover & Helliwell, 2019). However, controlling for religious service attendance did not substantially alter the correlations with year, suggesting that the increasing class divide in religious commitment is not the cause of the growing class divide in happiness.

Another possibility is that SES has become more salient as income inequality has grown; we were not able to address this possibility with this dataset, but this may be an avenue for future research. We found that the reasons for the growing class divide differed by race, with declines in happiness among low-SES Whites but little change for low-SES Blacks, and a rise in happiness among high-SES Blacks but little change for high-SES Whites. Although we can only speculate, it is possible that the increase in Black Americans’ educational attainment may play a role; increases in high school graduation rates likely lifted the prospects of non-college-educated Blacks, and increases in college graduation rates may have created a larger critical mass of college-educated Blacks, which may have had benefits for happiness. Declines in explicitly stated racial prejudice may also play a role (Marsden, 2012), especially if these declines primarily benefited high-SES Blacks.

The idea of a growing class divide was a common point of discussion after the 2016 U.S.  Presidential election (e.g., Galston & Hendrickson, 2016), and will likely continue to occupy the national conversation for years to come. If Americans without a college degree – who remain the majority of the population – are increasingly unhappy, politicians who promise change may be more attractive, and there will be growing class polarization in views of political candidates.  Growing dissatisfaction among those with less income may also make political systems such as socialism and government policies such as universal basic income more popular. Although happiness among Black Americans instead increased over time, the increases were limited to high-SES individuals, which may also prompt discussion of a class divides among Black Americans.

In a follow-up study to their findings on the growing mortality gap by social class in the U.S. (Case & Deaton, 2015), Case and Deaton (2017) concluded that much of the excess mortality among less educated White Americans was due to “deaths of despair” from drugs, alcohol, and suicide. The current results suggest that the growing class divide extends to broader measures of well-being such as general happiness. Between the 1970s and the 2010s, many of the “have nots” of the economy became increasingly unhappy, with potential downstream consequences for mental health, physical health, and the political climate of the nation.

From 2018... The Ideological Origins of the Rule of Law

From 2018... Hill, Peter J., The Ideological Origins of the Rule of Law (April 20, 2018). Presented at The Life and Legacy of Douglass North Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of North’s Nobel Prize in Economics, March 2018, SSRN: http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3166294

Abstract: The background conditions for the emergence of the rule of law are important but underdeveloped. This paper traces more fully the relationship between the concept of human equality and the development of the rule of law. It presents evidence that the Jewish and Christian concept of all human beings as God’s image bearers is an important contributor to the rule of law in Western civilization. The formulation of universal human equality was not, however, a sufficient condition for the emergence of the rule of law. It took centuries of articulation in different institutions and social settings. It only reached full fruition when it was joined with an understanding of appropriate political systems as expressed by political theorists such as Locke, Montesquieu, and Madison.

Keywords: rule of law, religion

Strategically influencing an uncertain future: Recent developments in strategic decision-making suggest that individuals (or a small group of them), can unilaterally influence the collective outcome of complex social dilemmas

Strategically influencing an uncertain future. Alain Govaert & Ming Cao. Scientific Reports volume 10, Article number: 12169. July 22 2020. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-69006-x

Abstract: Many of today’s most pressing societal concerns require decisions which take into account a distant and uncertain future. Recent developments in strategic decision-making suggest that individuals, or a small group of individuals, can unilaterally influence the collective outcome of such complex social dilemmas. However, these results do not account for the extent to which decisions are moderated by uncertainty in the probability or timing of future outcomes that characterise the valuation of a (distant) uncertain future. Here we develop a general framework that captures interactions among uncertainty, the resulting time-inconsistent discounting, and their consequences for decision-making processes. In deterministic limits, existing theories can be recovered. More importantly, new insights are obtained into the possibilities for strategic influence when the valuation of the future is uncertain. We show that in order to unilaterally promote and sustain cooperation in social dilemmas, decisions of generous and extortionate strategies should be adjusted to the level of uncertainty. In particular, generous payoff relations cannot be enforced during periods of greater risk (which we term the “generosity gap”), unless the strategic enforcer orients their strategy towards a more distant future by consistently choosing “selfless” cooperative decisions; likewise, the possibilities for extortion are directly limited by the level of uncertainty. Our results have implications for policies that aim to solve societal concerns with consequences for a distant future and provides a theoretical starting point for investigating how collaborative decision-making can help solve long-standing societal dilemmas.


Classic theories of strategic decision-making rely on how one’s actions can affect their future. If one would consider to defect by choosing selfishly at some point in time, how large will the consequences of retaliation be? And is the fear of retaliation from others enough to sustain cooperation even when the immediate benefit of defection is large? These strategic trade-offs are commonly referred to as “the shadow of the future” and provide an elegant theoretical explanation for the emergence of cooperative behaviour of rational players in repeated social dilemmas8. However, even with moderate discount factors, the exponential discounting functions used in these theories attribute meaningless significance to the distant future23 and do not take into account empirically observed time-inconsistent valuations, making them less suitable for modelling strategic decisions that affect a distant future. More recently, strategic behaviour has been studied from an alternative perspective by identifying decision-making strategies that can unilaterally exert strategic influence on the long-run collective behaviour. Because they require minimal assumptions on the behaviour of others, such strategies are of particularly interest to human decision-making7. However, also these theories are built upon valuations of future scenarios that, in reality, are riddled with uncertainties in the probability or timing of payoffs that are likely to influence strategic decisions27,42.
Here we have modelled these uncertainties with a discounting method that exhibits the characteristic features of empirically validated delay, probability and social discounting methods1,5. Using the proposed framework, existing theories of strategic decision-making can be recovered in deterministic limits and new insights are obtained into the interaction between uncertainty, discounting and the possibilities for strategic influence. Namely, in social dilemmas, uncertainty leads to generosity gaps that require generous strategic influence to be adjusted to the longer term. These potentially long periods of time in which no generous payoff relation can be enforced may also contribute to the empirically observed inconsistencies in strategic influence and cooperation levels over time25,26. On the other hand, our results indicate that the slower discounting becomes, the more certain an extortioner needs to be about an increasingly distant future: sufficient patience thus requires sufficient certainty. These findings illustrate the difficulties one can expect when attempting to exert strategic influence in the real world and provide new insights for decision-making experiments in more controlled environments. From a more technical point of view, our extension to time-varying strategies that is found in the Supplementary Information section 2, provides a novel perspective for the study of reciprocity in changing environments43.
In this paper, we interpreted the beta distribution as a common uncertain belief in the discount factor or continuation probability which is a rather restricting assumption. However, we believe arguments can be made for interpreting the beta distribution as an approximation of the distribution of discount factors in a large group of individuals21,44. In this case, (1) can be seen as a weighted average discounting function used in collaborative decisions45,46. In this context, our framework can be used to theoretically study the strategic behaviour of groups making collective decisions and how the group composition can affect their cooperative behaviour.
Regardless of the interpretation, our work shows that strategic efforts to solve social dilemmas must be adjusted to the uncertainty in the valuation of the future, because only then can strategic influence help to solve today’s societal concerns.

Contributions to the English page about Pier Luigi Pizzi: Positive Assessment of Pizzi's Productions in the Press

Contributions to the English page on Pier Luigi Pizzi. Not published because a bot found the translations a possible vandalization of the page:

Positive Assessment of Pizzi's Productions in the Press

(translated from the Italian page about Pier Luigi Pizzi)

  • 1980 - Gioachino Rossini's Semiramide - Coproduction of Aix-en Provence Festival, Teatro Carlo Felice di Genova & Teatro Regio di Torino.
Of course, if Muti or Abbado had been on the podium this would have been a world-class show, because Pier Luigi Pizzi's staging and costumes are simply brilliant in recreating with modern means that atmosphere of oriental exoticism that, undoubtedly, has its part in the score fluidity and in baroque sound [...] Massimo Mila,Una bella «Semiramide» rilancia il Regio (sovratitoli: Bravissime la Valentini e la Ricciarelli, splendida la scena di Pizzi), La Stampa, April 26, 1981.
Pizzi's immersive and magical staging, under Charles Fabius direction, has lost none of its beauty and stylistic precision [...] The stylized characters, those statues of absolute whiteness, which contrast with the flamboyant Arsace, Semiramide and Assur (candid in the first part and funeral in the second), and the motionless suggestion of the stage, always had an exemplary musical and ritual correspondence. Angelo FolettoÈ madre e regina: ama, uccide, ma soprattutto canta, la Repubblica, Mar 7, 1981
  • 1981 - Georg Friedrich Händel's Ariodante - Piccola Scala di Milano
Watching this show [...] provides an immediate satisfaction of the senses, caressed by perfect harmony [...] Pizzi is never as comfortable as in the baroque universe «Opéra International»Ariodante - Un chef d'oeuvre méconnu de Haendel, Oct 1983
  • 1982 - Gioachino Rossini's Tancredi - Rossini Opera Festival
Already from the musical point of view, the Rossini Festival of Pesaro's "Tancredi" [...] will be remembered as examplar. [The conductor] Gelmetti is a highly sought after specialist in avant-garde music, but this does not prevent him from having several other things in his pocket, including Rossini [...] As a male character, Lucia Valentini Terrani [...] arrived at such expressive and vocal flexibility that will leave behind, and not a little, even the famous Tancredi della Horne; and as a feminine character, the fascinating Katia Ricciarelli [...] And there was the exquisite British Choir Abroad with an unbelievably limpid Italian; and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, part of the well-known Youth Orchestra of the European Community.
All this would have been enough to make this "Tancredi" a show of maximum prominence in any of our productions; but not that "unicum" that actually succeeded. And that such would not have succeeded without a sublime direction, radically independent from the models featured today [...]
In "Tancredi" [...] unreality is particularly pronounced given the libretto, which has purged Voltaire's characters of almost every individual characteristics; while characters of enchanting freshness the music lends to the "affections" that they are staging (...) This is precisely what Pizzi has completely understood and made understood. As for Goethe, for him this work is a fairy tale [...]; which can be learned not only from the scenes and costumes, of exquisite Franco-Gothic inspiration, but above all an almost unique case in a country where the routine of government theaters discourages "work on man" a priori - from acting, from mimicry: in great measure expressive and very natural but never naturalistic, as befits mirages of fantasy and appearances. It is all recorded on music, both in its nuances and in its forms: the air or the tripartite duet systematically resolved in a partittion in three parts of the figurative situations; and with the singer who, in culminating moments, advances on a walkway placed behind the conductor as a touching reminder of that proscenium which the "Musikdrama" murdered. Nor will we forget the use of the choir: characters of etherial elegance (not recruited in fact [...] among the masses of some theater; reason why if this show were to undertake a world tour, as it deserves, the choir of its birth should be kept).
Fedele D'AmicoUn genio vergine. L'Espresso, Sep 26, 1982
From 1976 onwards, I listened to several editions of "Tancredi", the milestone of today's 'Rossini renassaince.'. On balance, therefore, I believe that the edition prepared in Turin's theater in the current season can be considered as the most complete. The Turin theater presented the best staging and the best direction in an absolute sense, which are then those that Pier Luigi Pizzi launched in Pesaro years ago. Rodolfo CellettiTancredi, Epoca, n. 1802, April 19, 1985.

Pending translations to contribute some day:

  • 1982 - Gioachino Rossini's L'assedio di Corinto - Teatro Comunale di Firenze (Florence)
Splendide la regia e le scene di Pierluigi Pizzi, attentissimo ai valori musicali e abilissimo, nel gioco dell'astrazione, a dar corpo alla Sfinge rossiniana, così singolarmente collocata tra passato e futuro, immobilità e frenesia. Cosicché, al termine di questa serata, si sarebbe voluto evitare il crollo, un po' prosaico, delle mura di Corinto e lasciarle lì immobili nel tempo e nello spazio a perpetuo godimento del clan dei rossiniani e dei cultori, che pure ancora esistono, del «bello ideale». Bruno CagliMaometto alla francese, «Paese Sera», 20 dicembre 1982.
  • 1983 - Jean-Philippe Rameau's Les Indes galantes - Théâtre du Châtelet (Paris), Grand Théâtre (Dijon); Gran Teatro La Fenice (Venice)
Come resistere alla magia dispiegata sotto i nostri occhi da Pier Luigi Pizzi, il grande vincitore della serata? Dal levare del vaporoso grande sipario blu di Francia, disseminato di fiori d'oro e sollevantesi verso il soffitto in un movimento di aerea assenza di peso, gli sguardi sono affascinati da tutto ciò che vedono: i musicisti in abiti d'epoca del XVIII secolo, che il praticabile dell'orchestra innalza gradualmente verso di noi; i coristi egualmente vestiti di ricchi abiti pastello e che prolungano le loro melodie in gesti semplici e morbidi, evoluendo, per tutto il corso della serata, dalla fossa alla scena, in teorie discrete, navigatori dei flutti o delle nubi. Come non ammirare anche e soprattutto questi ammirevoli costumi, variati all'infinito, d'oro e porpora profondi nell'Entrée des Incas, usciti direttamente fuori da una miniatura persiana nell'Entrée des Fleurs, e sempre immersi in una luce tenera, cangiante, viva come la musica di Rameau? «Opéra International»Pier Luigi Pizzi met en scène Rameau, maggio 1983
  • 1983 - Jean-Philippe Rameau's Hippolyte et Aricie - Coproduction Paris' Opéra, Festival of Aix-en-Provence & Lyon's Opéra
Pizzi ha intuito una cifra figurativa tra le più felici della sua esuberante fantasia nel ricreare un ideale barocco. Nei raffinatissimi toni bruniti degli ori, dei porfidi e delle malachiti, le colonne scentrate al posto di improbabili cariatidi danno subito quel senso di inquietudine e di tensione che coinvolgerà drammaticamente Fedra e Teseo. Un gran velario viola serve da sipario alla scena e abilmente agitato secondo una tecnica portata da Pizzi a vertici di autentico virtuosismo si trasformerà poi in flutti furiosi o nel drago che inghiottirà il protagonista. Ottima la regia e favolosi i costumi realizzati da Tirelli ... Adriano CavicchiUn dongiovanni da tragedia, «il Resto del Carlino», 29 marzo 1987
... ostacoli reali impediscono l'esportazione di un genere così radicalmente «nazionale» come la tragédie-lyrique ... Si tratta di rendere i suoi valori percepibili a un pubblico straniero d'oggi: e l'impresa, vi assicuro, non è facile.
Splendidamente ci è riuscito però Pier Luigi Pizzi in uno spettacolo che è tra i più belli visti in questi ultimi anni: non è solo lo sontuosità dei costumi e delle scene, la festa dei colori, l'eleganza e la varietà dei movimenti, la profonda cultura figurativa che anima il tutto ad avvincere profondamente lo spettatore, ma il modo in cui è reso lo spirito di questa tragédie lyrique, la stilizzazione aulica di un mito che non ha l'eguale per conturbante ambiguità e misterioso fatalismo tragico. Hippolyte e Aricie non è altro che la versione musicale della Fedra: Rameau si misura nientemeno che con Racine, e il paragone regge il confronto.
Paolo GallaratiCon Pizzi torna grande il tragico mito di Fedra, «La Stampa», 29 marzo 1987
E se ripensiamo alle altre realizzazioni omologhe ... è immediata l'identificazione del tratto scenico e teatrale di Pizzi con la dimensione cristallizzata, sontuosa eppure immobile, immobile eppure carica di drammaturgia segreta; caratteristica delle rappresentazioni musicali del diciottesimo secolo. Riportare alla memoria il cammino barocco del regista, dopo aver visto Hippolyte et Aricie, è automatico: in questo spettacolo denso e affascinante pare, infatti di ripercorrere tutto il percorso inventivo del Pizzi migliore. Nulla di nuovo eppure non una soluzione che sfugga al senso preciso del teatro di Rameau.
Il segno di Pizzi si rivela inconfondibile nel gesto con cui i mimi fanno scomparire il velo-sipario violetto. È un segno dove l'oro e i marmi scuri si compongono in lega cromatica indimenticabile, ma non unica. Ogni scena dell'opera, ogni personaggio avrà poi la sua precisazione di colore, di drappeggio del costume, di collocazione luminosa. Pizzi ormai ci ha allenato a una nitidezza e un'eleganza che «fanno» di per sé la stagione più generosa del teatro in musica: opera barocca è ritrovare le posizioni diversificate a ogni sezione delle arie, è riconoscere nei gesti bloccati del coro la coscienza di una partecipazione interpretativa che impiega l'astrazione come vocabolo pienamente espressivo. Opera barocca è il silenzioso apparire e scomparire dei protagonisti, anche loro ingabbiati in posizioni fisiche caratteristiche; privati quasi delle movenze quotidiane (cui provvedono i fidi, silenziosissimi e carbonei mimi), slanciati in una dimensione dell'esistenza che li avvicina agli dei così presenti nel loro destino terreno.
Su tutto il profumo della continua meraviglia delle immagini e di una ritualità teatrale che si specchia nel proprio profilo artigianale esibito (i «trucchi» sono sempre evidenti seppure magici) e che fa preferire l'uomo alla macchina nelle trasformazioni scenotecniche. Il passo drammaticamente estatico di Hippolyte et Aricie ha un'urgenza espressiva che conquista, pur sfuggendo alla semplicistica sensazione estetica. La bellezza delle immagini, cioè, non soffoca la tensione rappresentativa o le venature cupe che Pizzi giustamente intravede dietro il teatro cosmopolita di Rameau (...)
Angelo FolettoGli ori e i marmi dell'opera barocca, «la Repubblica», 29/30 marzo 1987
  • 1983 - Mosè in Egitto di Gioachino Rossini - Rossini Opera Festival
L'allestimento – le scene, i costumi e la regia sono di un sontuoso Pier Luigi Pizzi – tiene conto [della] particolare situazione musicale e dà anche allo spazio scenico una profondità verticale. L'azione viene prevalentemente collocata tra i gradini di lunghe scalinate sulle quali, come accordi, si addensano gli Egizi con il loro oro, il loro azzurro, il loro viola, contrapposti al bianco che avvolge gli Ebrei. Il gesto scenico è spesso improntato a mimare una stupefazione che sovrasta la gente nel susseguirsi dei prodigi compiuti da Mosè. Momenti di fascino spettacolare si hanno nel buio dell'inizio e nella esplosione abbagliante della luce, nell'imperversare fumoso dei fulmini e nel miracolo del mare che si apre e si richiude, realizzato con un movimento di teli di plastica che forse potevano essere di una materia più preziosa.' Erasmo ValenteEcco la Bibbia di Rossini, «l'Unità», 11 settembre 1983
  • 1984 - Claudio Monteverdi/Luciano Berio's L'Orfeo, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino (Musical May, Florence)
Intorno all'Orfeo di Monteverdi, e al mito di Orfeo in generale, Luciano Berio, responsabile artistico del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino 1984, ha costruito una serie di proposte che, pur serbando ognuna la propria individualità, si chiariscono soltanto se messe in relazione e a confronto. La prima è una versione dell'Orfeo monteverdiano di tipo tradizionale […] La seconda è una versione moderna, se non post-moderna, dello stesso testo, sperimentalmente rielaborato e interpretato con segni e valenze di oggi per uno spettacolo popolare all'aria aperta (il cortile di Palazzo Pitti) cui il pubblico partecipa da coprotagonista: frutto di un lavoro di équipe e di scambio coordinato da Berio, Pier Luigi Pizzi e Franco Piperno, e realizzato da una «bottega» di giovani musicisti-trascrittori […]
Tutt'altro clima e tutt'altre intenzioni nell'Orfeo trascritto da Berio e dalla sua équipe. La volontà di adattare il capolavoro monteverdiano all'ascolto e ai mezzi di oggi, senza tradire l'immensa carica di seduzione emotiva dell'opera, appare decisiva. Il lavoro è affidato a cinque gruppi, ognuno diretto da uno specialista che assicura il complesso passaggio verso la libera elaborazione dei materiali di partenza (solo la linea vocale rimane immutata): voci e strumenti tradizionali, banda, computer, complesso rock, manipolazione elettronica delle voci. La scena è la piazza, o meglio il cortile, circondato da ogni lato ad altoparlanti che amplificano il suono o lo compongono attraverso il mixaggio e la trasformazione elettronica: al centro, su un grande piedistallo, campeggia la statua di Dante (presenza degli inferi o semplice omaggio a Firenze?); a un angolo, il David di Michelangelo a grandezza naturale. L'azione si svolge circolando sul perimetro del cortile; con alcuni spazi fissi deputati a simboleggiare determinati luoghi scenici. I personaggi mitologici indossano costumi d'epoca; gli altri, a sottolineare l'eternità e l'attualità dei protagonisti, sono biancovestiti, con un monogramma orfeico impresso sul pettorale. La rappresentazione ricorda un po' i carri trionfali medicei e carnevaleschi, un po' gli spettacoli popolari itineranti e le processioni; ma il pubblico, che è costretto a muoversi in tondo, ora distraendosi per salutare amici e conoscenti, ora immedesimandosi in ciò che vede e ascolta, ne rimane fortemente coinvolto.
Sergio SablichFirenze: Orfeo al Maggio Musicale, «Musica Viva», anno VIII, n. 9, settembre 1984
  • 1984 - Le comte Ory di Gioachino Rossini - Rossini Opera Festival (l'allestimento è stato ripreso più volte anche in altri teatri)
Pier Luigi Pizzi per mettere in scena Le Comte Ory ha scelto la chiave della semplificazione ambientale, puntando piuttosto ad isolare le caratteristiche più intime quasi metaforiche della comicità rossiniana, senza confonderle con uno «sfondo» bozzettistico. E stavolta così c'era da ammirare più il regista dello scenografo.
Con un occhio alla commedia musicale con il suo ininterrotto racconto attraverso le passerelle dei personaggi e uno allenato a certa comicità mediterranea, fatta di ritmi gestuali sghembi e di mossette collettive, pronto a cogliere l'efficacia dei travestimenti che accompagnano la boccaccesca e goliardica vicenda del Conte Ory, Pizzi ha ordinato uno spettacolo dal respiro scenico cattivante e oliatissimo, toccando momenti saporosi soprattutto nel finale primo e nella parte del trio notturno, quando i personaggi sembrano muoversi come in un acquario, sfiorandosi e sfuggendosi.
Angelo FolettoChe briccone quel Conte Ory per sedurla si veste da frate, «la Repubblica», 9 settembre 1984
  • 1985 - Rinaldo di Georg Friedrich Händel - Coproduzione Teatro Municipale Valli di Reggio Emilia e Théâtre Musical de Paris/Châtelet (allestimento più volte ripreso, oltre che in diversi teatri emiliani e allo stesso Municipale Valli nel 1991 e nel 2012, alla Fenice di Venezia, al São Carlos di Lisbona, alla Zarzuela di Madrid, al Grand Théâtre di Ginevra, al Teatro Verdi di Pisa, al Teatro Politeama Greco di Lecce, all'Arts Center di Seul, nonché, con nuovi costumi, al Teatro degli Arcimboldi, sede provvisoria del Teatro alla Scala di Milano, il 3 aprile 2005)
Il Rinaldo di Händel che è andato in scena al Municipale di Reggio e sarà prossimamente riprese in altre città emiliane, ha avuto come protagonista Pier Luigi Pizzi. In pochi casi io mi rassegno ad attribuire a una regia il primo posto, anziché l'ultimo, in uno spettacolo operistico, ma tant'è: il portastendardo questa volta è stato il regista-scenografo-costumista.
Il poema cavalleresco in musica, vanto del melodramma barocco, trovò nel Rinaldo (Londra, 1711) uno dei suoi prototipi; e Pizzi, come già in altre opere coeve, ha perfettamente compreso che il muro maestro di simili costruzioni è l'elemento mitico-fiabesco. È riuscito, per esempio, ad attribuire ai personaggi dimensioni quasi metafisiche stilizzandone la staticità e abolendo, come tratto indegno di loro, il muoversi sui propri piedi. Gli eroi e le eroine di questo Rinaldo quasi non danno un passo. Stanno in groppa a imponenti cavalloni, sia pure di cartapesta, o si spostano, in pose ieratiche, su carrelli a ruote pilotati da torme di solerti mimi. I costumi si ispirano a quelli dei tempi di Händel, già di per sé fantastici, irreali. Pizzi li ha resi ancor più iperbolici (e che era l'iperbole se non una delle componenti fondamentali dell'estro barocco?) e gli sterminati manti che si gonfiavano come per soffi immani di vento o i giochi di luce che sgorgavano dalle tenebre per mettere a fuoco i rutilanti oppure corruschi abbigliamenti dei personaggi erano la fantastica cornice di musiche di volta in volta maestose, guerresche, patetiche, vezzeggianti, ma anch'esse nate con il crisma di un mondo di incantesimi e sostilegi. Qua e là si decifrava controluce qualcosa di caricaturale; ed erano ammiccamenti all'Ariosto, da cui la trama in parte deriva.
Rodolfo CellettiRinaldo, «Epoca», n. 1795, 1º marzo 1985
  • 1985 - Maometto II di Gioachino Rossini - Rossini Opera Festival
...la regia di Pier Luigi Pizzi, che ha giocato su costumi classici o di una visione neaclassica dell'Oriente favolosa e dirompente, in un cortile grigio, in cui si avvicendavano pochi elementi sufficienti a variare lo spazio e le condizioni dei movimenti, ha caricato di responsabilità la recitazione dei singoli personaggi che, in precise geometrie e insieme in forte personalizzazione dei gesti, conducevano la vicenda rivelando la progressione drammaturgica in modo infallibile con folgorante gioia dell'immagine e con attentissima rivelazione razionale. Lorenzo ArrugaCon Rossini a Pesaro uno sguardo nel futuro, «Il Giorno», 21 agosto 1985
  • 1986 - Nel Giorno di Santa Cecilia, festa teatrale di Pier Luigi Pizzi, su musiche di Henry Purcell - Teatro Municipale Valli di Reggio Emilia
Se avete un momento di tempo, leggete questo articolo; ma se per caso avete parecchi momenti di tempo, correte a Reggio Emilia a vedere lo spettacolo di cui sto per parlarvi e non leggete niente prima. Godetevi la sorpresa di vedere insieme uno degli spettacoli più belli del nostro tempo, di ascoltare una musica gradevole e intensa, di scoprire come nel cuore dell'Emilia ci possa essere il cuore del Barocco ritrovato.
Lo spettacolo si intitola «Nel giorno di Santa Cecilia», su musiche del grande compositore inglese Henry Purcell e ... fa sorgere l'immortale opera «Didone e Enea» all'interno dell'«Ode per il giorno di Santa Cecilia», come se nella cappella di un educandato femminile, o comunque in una cappella inglese della fine del '600 nascesse da una celebrazione sacra d'un giorno di festa, come per caso o per esigenza fatale e magica, ma anche come rappresentazione accuratamente preparata e deliziosamente giocata, l'opera classica sul dolore di Didone all'abbandono di Enea; opera che peraltro era nata proprio in un educandato femminile a Chelsea nel 1689.
Lorenzo ArrugaPurcell, il Barocco ritrovato, «Il Giorno», 23 febbraio 1986
[I musicisti e gli interpreti]...tutti in costume secentesco. Il costume, si intende, non è un vezzo esteriore, ma uno degli elementi principali della ricostruzione dell'antico mondo voluta da Pizzi. Un mondo in cui, oltre l'abito, si rinnova lo spirito di un'arte legata alla pittura, alla danza e, in una parola, alla scena vagheggiata come il centro del pensiero dell'epoca.
Qui Pizzi dà veramente fondo allo scibile unendo idealmente il culto di Santa Cecilia con la profusione dei simboli della scena drammatica. Non occorre dire quale sia la ricchezza delle immagini composte rievocando la grande pittura, da Raffaello al Carpaccio, dal Gentileschi al Reni al Vermeer che hanno dipinto la Santa con colori di cielo tra la profusione argentea e dorata degli strumenti musicali. È un continuo rinnovarsi di figure, di scorci, di assieme tra i quali l'occhio ammirato si perde.
Una magnifica riuscita, anche se talvolta proprio l'abbondanza delle immagini rischia di attenuare il senso di uno spettacolo «privato» come era la rappresentazione del dramma di Didone ed Enea all'Istituto delle Fanciulle di Chelsea. Un dramma di una sublime intimità, di toccanti sentimenti amorosi che vengono un po' sommersi dall'alluvione degli strumenti musicali che invadono la scena: l'organo che fa da letto a Didone, il violoncello bruciato nel rito delle streghe, trasformato in scudo o in nave, le trombe e i cimbali portati in processione sono tutti elementi in sé affascinanti ma che, aggiunti alle macchine, agli astrolabi, alle fiamme simboliche e alle candele decorative, riescono un po' frastornanti. Come se il gusto del bello spettacolo prendesse la mano a Pizzi.. Ma poiché sulla bellezza non vi sono dubbi, la serata, all'insegna delle meraviglie, ha ottenuto un esito trionfale ...
Rubens TedeschiIl bello di Purcell, «l'Unità», 23 febbraio 1986
  • 1986 - Bianca e Falliero di Gioachino Rossini - Rossini Opera Festival
Pier Luigi Pizzi ha tradotto questa tragedia delle forme in uno spettacolo di forme. Un grande porticato rinascimentale, sul quale si aprono tre archi, costituisce tutta la scena. Piedistalli, scalinate si compongono e scompongono ai lati, al centro, secondo le esigenze dell'azione.
In questo spazio si innestano le figure umane, drappeggiati in rosso gli uomini che hanno il potere, a colori più delicati le donne, gialli, azzurri, ma anche Bianca è vestita di rosso, una volta entrata nel cerchio maledetto dei giochi di dominio. I movimenti dei personaggi creano quadri di stupenda fastosità: si riconosce, come modello, la Cena in casa Levi del Veronese. Un pittore del fasto, della recita, è il modello visivo più giusto per questo tipo di teatro. Non l'interiore Tiziano o il tormentato Tintoretto.
I costumi, splendidamente realizzati da Tirelli, sembrano fatti di una pasta cromatica spalmata sulla tela. Si gonfiano, frusciano, recitano coi cantanti. Sono l'equivalente visivo di arie, duetti, quartetti. A una così raffinata invenzione di visioni teatrali, lo spettacolo dell'Auditorium Pedrotti unisce una realizzazione musicale perfetta.
Dino VillaticoSia dato un lieto fine a quella giovane passione, «la Repubblica», 25 agosto 1986
  • 1988 - Otello di Gioachino Rossini - Rossini Opera Festival
Una Venezia rinascimentale, tutta pareti di marmo bianco o grigio e sopra vi si stampano grandi cerchi di porfido, si aprono archi a tutto sesto. Ai lati si alzano scale nude, senza parapetti, che si stagliano contro un cielo acquoso (...) Profili disegnati con la punta di china anche le figure, coi berretti cilindrici che sembrano levati da una tela del Carpaccio o di Gentile Bellini, per esempio quella dell'arrivo di una ambasceria turca a San Marco. E le pareti della basilica sembrano, infatti, ritornare, come un'ossessione lagunare, un po' in tutte le scene. Su quel monumento dorme Desdemona L'arco a tutto sesto bizantino funziona anche da arco rinascimentale. Una colonna divide in due parti il campo visivo. E allora a sinistra si può svolgere un festino, mentre a destra esplode il dramma familiare. Oppure, a sinistra, come sul proprio monumento marmoreo giace addormentata Desdemona, palpitante Ilaria del Carretto sottratta al Duomo di Lucca. Così la trova Otello e su quel letto-monumento funebre la uccide, anzi è Desdemona stessa, ormai freneticamente desiderosa di scomparire, di annientarsi, che guida le braccia del Moro a ficcare il pugnale nel suo cuore. È l'intuizione più interessante di questa nuova regia rossiniana di Pier Luigi Pizzi. L'Otello di Rossini non è né quello di Shakespeare né quello che dopo di lui compone Verdi. Dino VillaticoOtello, la lucida gelosia, «la Repubblica», 19 agosto 1988

Strong implication of opioids in gregarious (i.e., not linked to reproduction) birdsong: Endogenous opioids in the medial preoptic nucleus may facilitate song by influencing an individual’s intrinsic reward state

Endogenous opioids facilitate intrinsically-rewarded birdsong. Sharon A. Stevenson, Alice Piepenburg, Jeremy A. Spool, Caroline S. Angyal, Allison H. Hahn, Changjiu Zhao & Lauren V. Riters. Scientific Reports volume 10, Article number: 11083. July 6 2020. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-67684-1

Abstract: Many songbirds sing in non-reproductive contexts while in flocks. Singing in such gregarious contexts is critical for maintaining and learning songs; however, song is not directed towards other individuals and has no obvious, immediate social consequences. Studies using conditioned place preference (CPP) tests of reward indicate that song production in gregarious contexts correlates positively with a bird’s intrinsic reward state and with opioid markers in the medial preoptic nucleus (mPOA). However, the causal involvement of opioids in gregarious song is unknown. Here we report that the selective mu opioid receptor (MOR) agonist fentanyl dose-dependently facilitates gregarious song and reduces stress/anxiety-related behavior in male and female European starlings. Furthermore, infusion of siRNA targeting MORs specifically in mPOA both suppresses gregarious song and disrupts the positive association between affective state and singing behavior, as revealed using CPP tests of song-associated reward. Results strongly implicate opioids in gregarious song and suggest that endogenous opioids in the mPOA may facilitate song by influencing an individual’s intrinsic reward state.


This study is the first to demonstrate a causal role for MOR (mu opioid receptor) in gregarious song in both male and female songbirds. Results also suggest a role for MOR in mPOA in gregarious song and the positive affective state associated with singing behavior. More broadly, this study is consistent with a growing body of research that expands what is known about the role of mPOA to include an important role in non-sexual social behaviors, a role that may generalize to other species and other intrinsically-rewarded social behaviors as detailed below.

MOR agonism reduces stress/anxiety and stimulates gregarious singing behavior

We report that peripheral injections of the selective MOR agonist fentanyl cause dose-dependent increases in gregarious singing behavior in male and female starlings, while at the same time decreasing beak wiping, which is considered a sign of stress or anxiety39,40. The fentanyl did not affect landings, indicating that fentanyl effects on behavior were not caused by gross deficits in motor activity.
Past studies demonstrate that opioids act at MOR to induce both a positive affective state and to reduce signs of anxiety or fear41,42,43,44,45,46. Gregarious singing behavior is facilitated by the presence of flock mates when birds are free from stress and fear (e.g., in the absence of predators) 18,47,48,49. Thus our findings suggest that the presence of flock mates/safety of a flock may naturally lead to opioid release and stimulation of MOR to induce a positive/low anxiety state that is conducive to gregarious singing behavior. This idea is further supported by the observation that in both the female and male studies, control birds sang very little. Given that birds were only selected for inclusion in the study if they sang at high rates consistently during pre-test observations, this suggests that the injection procedure, which involves chasing, catching, and injecting the bird, induced a state of stress/anxiety in the birds that reduced singing behavior. The finding that fentanyl rescued singing behavior is consistent with the idea that natural MOR stimulation may facilitate song by reducing a state of stress or anxiety. It may also be that opioids are released naturally by the act of singing itself to maintain ongoing singing behavior.
It is noteworthy that in past studies the highest dose of fentanyl (0.25 mg/kg), which we report here to stimulate gregarious song, inhibited sexually-motivated song in male starlings50. These opposing findings are consistent with studies of intrinsically-rewarded social behavior and extrinsically-rewarded, mate-directed behavior in mammals. Specifically, stimulation of MOR in rats facilitates gregarious social play behavior (behavior that, similar to gregarious song, has been shown to be intrinsically-rewarded using CPP tests27,31,51,52,53). In contrast, MOR agonists in male rats generally inhibit mate-directed behaviors that can be extrinsically-rewarded by copulation54,55,56,57,58,59,60, as in our past study on sexually-motivated song in male starlings50. The similarities identified in the roles played by opioids in gregarious and sexual behaviors in songbirds and rats, suggest that mechanisms of opioid action on socio-sexual behaviors may be conserved across species. Furthermore, the finding that MOR agonism affected behaviors similarly in males and females suggests that similar mechanisms may underlie this type of singing behavior in both sexes.

MOR downregulation disrupts singing behavior and associated reward

siRNA targeting MOR in mPOA suppressed gregarious song. Specifically, relative to birds infused with negative control sequences, birds infused with siRNA sang significantly less both 24 h and 48 h post infusion. Unlike the peripheral MOR manipulations, this treatment did not significantly impact beak wiping, indicating that MOR acts in other brain regions (such as the periaqueductal gray21) to reduce stress/anxiety needed to facilitate gregarious song. No effects were observed on feeding or drinking behaviors, suggesting that siRNA treatment did not induce non-specific changes in behavior. (Although MOR are involved in feeding behavior61,62, the mPOA has not been identified as a critical site of action for this behavior.)
Because infusion of opioids that stimulate MOR into the mPOA induces reward in rats63, we hypothesized that MOR in mPOA may underlie the reward state associated with gregarious song in songbirds. Consistent with this hypothesis, siRNA targeting MOR in mPOA disrupted the positive correlation observed in controls between singing behavior and a positive affective state, measured using CPP. Specifically, for control birds song rate correlated positively with the amount of time a bird spent in a chamber in which it had been placed previously after singing. Thus these birds demonstrated a song-associated CPP. In contrast, there was no positive relationship between song rate and CPP in siRNA treated birds. We interpret these results as consistent with a role for MOR in mPOA in the positive affective state associated with singing behavior; however, other interpretations are also possible. For example, the lack of correlation in MOR knockdown birds may be interpreted to reflect learning or memory deficits rather than a lack of reward. Although we found no publications implicating MOR in mPOA in learning and memory, such alternative interpretations must be considered.
We interpret our findings cautiously because in this study the sample size for control birds was limited; however, the positive relationship between song and CPP observed in the controls here replicates results of four prior studies from our lab (including one in male zebra finches) that used this method to assess song-associated reward12,22,23, suggesting the correlation in controls is not likely due to chance. Although sample sizes for the sexes were not large in this study, these initial findings do not demonstrate sex differences, suggesting that mechanisms rewarding gregarious song may be similar across males and females, but this must be tested in future studies.

Additional considerations related to siRNA methodology

Our initial validation study demonstrates strong suppression of MOR mRNA in mPOA at 24 h. After using an identical infusion protocol for the behavioral study, we see the same pattern for MOR protein 48 h post-infusion; however, MOR protein was not significantly lower in siRNA treated birds compared to controls. This lack of a significant difference is not unexpected given individual differences in MOR are likely present in individuals prior to treatment and because MOR synthesis may begin to be restored at the time that brains were collected. Thus, given the effectiveness of the method at 24 h we assume that we did successfully knockdown MOR receptors in the mPOA at the time of conditioning in the birds used in the behavioral experiment.
A second caveat is that we do not know how far the siRNA infusions spread. It is likely that infusions spread and downregulated MOR beyond the boundaries of mPOA. Thus, it is possible that effects on behavior are caused by MOR downregulation outside mPOA. Although possible, past studies that show that lesions to mPOA nearly abolish spring song also show that lesions located even slightly outside the boundaries of mPOA have no effect19,64,65. Similarly, studies that demonstrate strong effects of intra-mPOA opioid and dopamine receptor manipulations on singing behavior also show no effects on behavior when cannulae miss mPOA, even by a small margin38,66. Finally, in songbird studies MORs appear to be denser in mPOA than in the immediately surrounding regions67,68. Altogether these past studies suggest that the area immediately surrounding mPOA is not a primary site involved in the regulation of song but do not preclude the possibility that MOR downregulation in sites outside of mPOA may have influenced behavior.

Additional considerations related to the CPP methodology

Our attempt to assess rewarding properties associated with the act of producing song presents unique challenges that require modification of the CPP methodology somewhat from CPP tests used in studies of drug or food reward (reviewed69,70). Unlike food or drugs we cannot administer the “act of singing”. Birds either sing or they do not, which means that we cannot pair the act of singing with one chamber in a CPP apparatus and a lack of singing with another chamber an equal numbers of times and then compare time spent in each chamber to a neutral zone, as is common in studies of food or drug reward. This imbalanced design causes birds to be exposed to the song-paired side of the apparatus more than the non-song-paired side. Thus, it may be that on test day something about the more familiar side of the CPP apparatus (i.e., the previously song-paired side) is more appealing to birds singing higher rates of undirected song. Although we interpret our results cautiously, without a compelling reason to propose that high singers should be more attracted to familiarity than low singers, we suggest that a straightforward interpretation of the results is that gregarious singing behavior is coupled to a positive affective state. Detailed discussion of this and other interpretational issues can be found in12.