Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Compared to controls, professional comedians had greater cortical surface area in brain regions that have been previously implicated in abstract, divergent thinking and the default-mode network

Mapping the “Funny Bone”: Neuroanatomical Correlates of Humor Creativity in Professional Comedians. Jacob Brawer, Ori Amir. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, nsab049, April 28 2021. https://doi.org/10.1093/scan/nsab049

Abstract: What are the neuroanatomical correlates of expertise in a specific creative domain? Professional comedians, amateurs, and controls underwent a T1 MRI anatomical scan. Measures of cortical surface area (gyrification and sulcal depth) and thickness were extracted for each participant. Compared to controls, professional comedians had greater cortical surface area in the left inferior temporal gyrus, angular gyrus, precuneus, and right medial prefrontal cortex. These regions have been previously implicated in abstract, divergent thinking and the default-mode network. The high degree of overlap between the regions of greater surface area in professional comedians with the regions showing greater activation in the same group during comedy improvisation in our previous work (particularly the temporal regions and angular gyrus), suggests these regions may be specifically involved in humor creativity.

Keywords: Creativity, Expertise, Neuroanatomy, Comedians, Humor


Science Skepticism Across 24 Countries: General faith in science was predicted by spirituality, suggesting that it, more than religiosity, may be the ‘enemy’ of science acceptance

Science Skepticism Across 24 Countries. Bastiaan T. Rutjens et al. Social Psychological and Personality Science, April 28, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1177/19485506211001329

Abstract: Efforts to understand and remedy the rejection of science are impeded by lack of insight into how it varies in degree and in kind around the world. The current work investigates science skepticism in 24 countries (N = 5,973). Results show that while some countries stand out as generally high or low in skepticism, predictors of science skepticism are relatively similar across countries. One notable effect was consistent across countries though stronger in Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic (WEIRD) nations: General faith in science was predicted by spirituality, suggesting that it, more than religiosity, may be the ‘enemy’ of science acceptance. Climate change skepticism was mainly associated with political conservatism especially in North America. Other findings were observed across WEIRD and non-WEIRD nations: Vaccine skepticism was associated with spirituality and scientific literacy, genetic modification skepticism with scientific literacy, and evolution skepticism with religious orthodoxy. Levels of science skepticism are heterogeneous across countries, but predictors of science skepticism are heterogeneous across domains.

Keywords: science skepticism, spirituality, ideology, climate change, vaccination, WEIRD, genetic modification, evolution, religion

The extent to which science skepticism varies in degree and in kind around the world is not well understood. Up to now, a systematic cross-national investigation of the relative impact of various potential predictors of science skepticism across domains was lacking. This lacuna has obstructed efforts to understand and remedy the rejection of science—a phenomenon that is causing catastrophic health, economic, and environmental harms (Gallup, 2019World Health Organization, 2019). The current paper reports the results of the first large-scale effort to address this lacuna. In so doing, this work provides clear support for the heterogeneity of science skepticism, both in degree (levels of skepticism vary across domains but also across countries) and in kind (different predictors drive science skepticism in different domains). As formalized in our main hypotheses (Hypotheses 1–6), we expected different predictors to drive skepticism in different domains, within and across nations. All main hypotheses were supported, except for Hypothesis 2 (we did not find evidence that religious orthodoxy uniquely contributes to vaccine skepticism). We had also expected some heterogeneity to manifest between nations such that WEIRD and non-WEIRD nations would show systematic variation in patterns of science skepticism. These predictions were formalized in the country-level hypotheses (Hypotheses 1a, 2a, 2b, 6a, and 6b). It was indeed found that the impact of political conservatism on climate change skepticism was the strongest in the United States (Hypothesis 1a), but note that it was equally strong in Canada (followed by other WEIRD nations; Australia and the Netherlands). Evidence for the hypotheses that vaccine skepticism and low faith in science would be best predicted by spirituality in WEIRD nations (Hypotheses 2a–6a) and by orthodoxy in non-WEIRD nations (Hypotheses 2a and 2b) was found for faith in science but not for vaccine skepticism. Taken together, the results show that, of the various beliefs and ideologies examined as predictors of science skepticism, spirituality is among the most important.

Indeed, confirming previous results obtained in the Netherlands (Rutjens & van der Lee, 2020)—and providing strong support for Hypothesis 6—the current data speak to the crucial role of spirituality in fostering low faith in science, more generally, beyond its domain-specific effects on vaccine skepticism. This indicates that the negative impact of spirituality on faith in science represents a cross-national phenomenon that is more generalizable than might be expected based on the large variety (Muthukrishna et al., 2020) of countries included here. A possible explanation for the robustness of this effect may lie in the inherent irreconcilability of the intuitive epistemology of a spiritual belief system with science (Rutjens & van der Lee, 2020). (If so, then we might look at a potentially much larger problem that extends beyond spirituality and applies more generally to “post-truth” society, in which truth and perceptions of reality may be based on feelings rather than facts; Martel et al., 2020Rutjens & Brandt, 2018.) However, these results do not mean that traditional religiosity as a predictor of science skepticism (McPhetres & Zuckermann, 2018Rutjens, Heine, et al., 2018Rutjens, Sutton, & van der Lee, 2018) has now become irrelevant: Not only did religious orthodoxy significantly contribute to low faith in science, it was also found to be a very consistent cross-national predictor of evolution skepticism (but not of other forms of science skepticism included in the study).

Research has started to challenge the widespread notion that science skepticism primarily results from a lack of knowledge.10 In the current work, scientific literacy was the main driver of science skepticism only in the domain of GM. This corroborates previous research and observations that suggest that merely addressing information deficits to combat science skepticism is in most cases not sufficient (McPhetres et al., 2019Rutjens, Heine, et al., 2018Rutjens & van der Lee, 2020).

The cross-national approach of the current work is important because it provides support for the emerging theoretical understanding of what causes skepticism across different domains of science (Hornsey et al., 2018a2018bMcPhetres et al., 2019McPhetres & Zuckermann, 2018Rutjens, Heine, et al., 2018Rutjens & van der Lee, 2020) and does so by including various countries that have been virtually absent from the psychological science database (Apicella et al., 2020Hruschka et al., 2018Muthukrishna et al., 2020). The present results demonstrate that while predictors of science skepticism to some extent vary in predictable ways between countries, many of the hypothesized effects were observed across many of the included countries. Levels of skepticism showed more regional variation. This heterogeneity of science skepticism in degree is illustrated in Table 2 and Figure 1, with some countries standing out as being especially high or low on skepticism. For example, in Egypt, Romania, and Venezuela, science skepticism is much stronger than in Australia or Canada. Additionally, remarkable differences in science skepticism were observed within countries, depending on the domain (e.g., GM skepticism vs. skepticism in other domains in France, general faith in science vs. domain-specific skepticism in Turkey).

One obvious and important limitation to the current work concerns the limited nature of the measures used. Many of the key measures employed were self-report single-item (i.e., most outcome variables) or two-item indices (i.e., most of the predictor variables). The brevity of the materials was necessary in order to keep study length constrained. Thus, the construct validity and (cross-cultural) reliability of these measures are necessarily limited, and we hope that future research will replicate and extend (some of) these results with better measures and extensive equivalence testing. That being said, the current measures have been used frequently in previous work; the single-item outcome measures have been shown to produce similar results as multi-item variants (Rutjens, Sutton, & van der Lee, 2018Rutjens & van der Lee, 2020), and the spirituality and religious orthodoxy indices consist of the items with the highest factor loadings (Rutjens, Sutton, & van der Lee, 2018Rutjens & van der Lee, 2020).

In conclusion, the present results can support the further development of our understanding of the various causes of science skepticism in different domains and in different cultures and countries, which in turn may help support interventions and communication strategies. Indeed, these results may be particularly informative when the aim is to understand how trust in science and compliance with its recommendations vary across individuals and countries, for example, during a global pandemic like COVID-19. To illustrate, let us return to the more general problem of vaccine hesitancy as an example of how skepticism can pose serious risks to public health. The current results suggest that increasing scientific literacy might prove to be a more fruitful approach in some cultural contexts than in others (see Figure 3C). In contrast, a better understanding of the relation between spiritual beliefs and general science skepticism is likely to be extremely informative regardless of cultural context. Regardless, it is evident that any strategy aimed at combating science skepticism needs to be underpinned by a nuanced theoretical and empirical understanding of its causes across domains as well as cultural contexts.

Privacy intuitions evolved in an environment that was radically different from the one found online; this evolved privacy psychology leaves people disconnected from the consequence of online privacy threats

The Privacy Mismatch: Evolved Intuitions in a Digital World. Azim Shariff, Joe Green, William Jettinghoff. Current Directions in Psychological Science, April 14, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1177/0963721421990355

Abstract: Although people report grave concern over their data privacy, they take little care to protect it. We suggest that this privacy paradox can be understood in part as the consequence of an evolutionary mismatch: Privacy intuitions evolved in an environment that was radically different from the one found online. This evolved privacy psychology leaves people disconnected from the consequence of online privacy threats.

Keywords: emotion, evolution, Internet, privacy, technology

“You have zero privacy anyway,” declared Scott McNealy, CEO of Sun Microsystems in 1999. “Get over it” (quoted in Sprenger, 1999, paras. 1–2). Two decades later, the amount of public data vacuumed up by social networks, geolocalized cell phones, and other smart devices makes those early days seem quaint. Yet polling indicates that people remain strongly—indeed, increasingly—concerned about online privacy (Pew Research Center, 2019). They have not “gotten over it.” Or at least, they say they have not. Though people express serious concerns about their privacy, these same people do little to protect it (Gerber et al., 2018). This inconsistency—now extensively documented (Kokolakis, 2017)—is known as the privacy paradox.


As more of people’s lives moves online and falls under increasingly sophisticated surveillance technologies, these gaps between the public’s professed desire for privacy and their behavior will become more consequential. We argue here that understanding privacy psychology in modern online environments requires looking back to the evolutionary roots of privacy concern. The privacy paradox, we submit, is the consequence of an evolutionary mismatch (Li et al., 2018). Human privacy intuitions emerged in an ancestral environment that differed radically from the digital environment in which those intuitions are now being tested.

For privacy psychology, the past three decades have seen an environmental change that is arguably larger than even the Neolithic revolution 12,000 years ago. In this current environment, online interfaces befuddle intuitions that have otherwise allowed people to adaptively decide what to share, how much, and with whom. The mass, permanent record of online behavior leaves access to people’s information—and thus control over their reputations and decisions—to the whims of online power brokers. This leaves users vulnerable to coercive persecution by dissent-averse governments, commercial manipulation by profit-seeking corporations, and criminal exploitation by tech-savvy ne’er-do-wells (Zuboff, 2019).

Examples of the consequences of privacy erosion are accumulating. Data breaches have taken a substantial psychological and human toll (the leaking of account information from adulterous match-making site Ashley Madison provoked divorces, resignations, and suicides). The easily accessed digital footprints people leave online can often return to sabotage other aspects of their life (e.g., Sherman, 2013, found that one in ten 16- to 34-year-olds reported being rejected from a job because of something they had posted online). Surreptitiously acquired personal data on Facebook can be used to sway an electorate (as happened in the 2016 U.S. election with the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica and the Trump campaign). Perhaps the most large-scale example is the broad use of online data that powers China’s Social Credit System, which has already been used to regulate millions of citizens’ travel options, apartment rents, medical wait times, and even education quality.

However, people’s reactions to privacy violations are tied not to these grave consequences, but to their evolved intuitions. This disconnect between reaction and consequence exposes how privacy psychology can be exploited for power and profit. For instance, even though technology companies soberly and technically explain their privacy policies, they can nonetheless easily coax data from people by burying the cues that would trigger evolved privacy concerns. In exchange, companies offer returns—for example, the connection of social networks or the titillation of online pornography—that powerfully appeal to evolved desires. Both corporations and governments often appease citizens’ civil-liberty concerns by removing the triggers of, rather than the actual intrusions behind, privacy concern. These types of solutions exploit humans’ mismatched psychology, quelling immediate emotional reactions while leaving the deeper, more rational concerns unaddressed.

Evolutionary mismatches tend to resolve via subsequent evolution, environmental change, or behavioral adaptation (Lloyd et al., 2014. The glacial pace of genetic evolution precludes subsequent evolution from being a reasonable solution for this issue. Environmental change, in this context, would entail changing how people experience the Internet. Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation was aimed at such user-level changes, but its contractual legalese bloodlessly appealed only to abstract concerns, failing to ignite emotional privacy intuitions. Privacy alerts could be reimagined to more viscerally trigger people’s social intuitions (Calo, 2012), and researchers should measure the effectiveness of such changes for aligning preferences and behavior. However, we are pessimistic.

The sheer scale of privacy management online makes putting the behavioral onus on individual users—even with the help of alerts and pop-ups on websites—unrealistic. The problems are similar, if even more formidable, for bottom-up behavioral adaptations that require individual users to simply edit their privacy settings themselves. Even scholars who are themselves skeptical of the existence of a privacy paradox (e.g., Solove, 2020) recognize that when it comes to privacy, the online environment is too vast to be individually managed given humans’ psychological limitations. People were not built for it.

Given the privacy mismatch, efforts to align users’ preferences and behavior may prove futile. A more tractable solution could focus on mitigating the negative consequences of people’s loose privacy behavior, but data-protection efforts face resistance from powerful government and corporate interests. Challenging those interests would require rousing public interest in, and changing social norms about, data privacy. Psychologically, one strategy for lifting an issue to sociopolitical importance is via “moral piggybacking”—tying privacy to other areas of existing moral concern (Feinberg et al., 2019). Privacy could be piggybacked on fairness concerns, by highlighting the injustice of corporations extracting personal data for profit, or onto liberty concerns, by reminding people that their data fuel mass manipulation through personalization algorithms. Moralizing privacy via piggybacking may rally greater political will to support privacy rights.

Obviously, the online environment is vast and diverse. Not all domains will lead to poorly calibrated oversharing. In fact, certain technologies may provoke mismatches that err in the other direction, affording novel but self-defeating motivations for social withdrawal. For instance, videoconferencing enables asymmetric visibility whereby students, patients, or audience members can unilaterally disable their webcams—rendering themselves seeing, but unseen. This protects privacy, but may undermine other goals by degrading a traditional social experience.

In either case, for something so morally complex, culturally ubiquitous, and increasingly topical, privacy somehow remains understudied in psychology. We hope that the functionalist approach we have outlined here can help close the gap between the paucity of psychological research on privacy and the important, pervasive, and ever-widening public discussion of it. There are few topics for which the gap is so large.

Selling well even when there is no gain... Trigger warning efficacy/impact: Warnings had no significant effect on changes to affect or test scores but did significantly increase perceptions of warnings as necessary

Boysen, G. A., Isaacs, R. A., Tretter, L., & Markowski, S. (2021). Trigger warning efficacy: The impact of warnings on affect, attitudes, and learning. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology, 7(1), 39–52, Apr 2021. https://doi.org/10.1037/stl0000150

Abstract: The purpose of trigger warnings is to prevent distress by giving prior notice about sensitive topics, but there is little empirical evidence to support their effectiveness in psychology education. The current research examined the effects of trigger warnings on affect, learning, and attitudes. Study 1 (N = 353) presented an online sample of adults with a video lecture about sexual assault, and participants reported their positive and negative affect before and after the video. They also took a test on the content and reported their attitudes about the necessity of warnings. Learning about sexual assault led to significant changes in affect for participants with and without personal experience related to the topic. Trigger warnings had no significant impact on changes in affect or test scores. However, participants who received a trigger warning had significantly increased belief that warnings are necessary for the topic of sexual assault. Study 2 (N = 412) replicated Study 1 using the topic of suicide. Trigger warnings had no significant effect on changes to affect or test scores but did significantly increase perceptions of warnings as necessary. Study 3 examined a sample of college students (N = 105) learning about sexual assault, and it also showed no significant effect of trigger warnings on changes to affect or test scores but a significant effect on belief that warnings are necessary. Overall, trigger warnings appear to have little impact on affect or learning, but they do increase people’s belief that warnings are necessary for sensitive topics.


Hydras, without a central nervous system, seem to have a sleep-like state; seems a conserved sleep mechanisms during the evolutionary development of the central nervous system

A sleep-like state in Hydra unravels conserved sleep mechanisms during the evolutionary development of the central nervous system. Hiroyuki J. Kanaya et al. Science Advances Oct 7 2020:Vol. 6, no. 41, eabb9415. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abb9415

Abstract: Sleep behaviors are observed even in nematodes and arthropods, yet little is known about how sleep-regulatory mechanisms have emerged during evolution. Here, we report a sleep-like state in the cnidarian Hydra vulgaris with a primitive nervous organization. Hydra sleep was shaped by homeostasis and necessary for cell proliferation, but it lacked free-running circadian rhythms. Instead, we detected 4-hour rhythms that might be generated by ultradian oscillators underlying Hydra sleep. Microarray analysis in sleep-deprived Hydra revealed sleep-dependent expression of 212 genes, including cGMP-dependent protein kinase 1 (PRKG1) and ornithine aminotransferase. Sleep-promoting effects of melatonin, GABA, and PRKG1 were conserved in Hydra. However, arousing dopamine unexpectedly induced Hydra sleep. Opposing effects of ornithine metabolism on sleep were also evident between Hydra and Drosophila, suggesting the evolutionary switch of their sleep-regulatory functions. Thus, sleep-relevant physiology and sleep-regulatory components may have already been acquired at molecular levels in a brain-less metazoan phylum and reprogrammed accordingly.

DISCUSSION

Our demonstration of the sleep-like state in Hydra and the commonality of sleep-regulatory genes, neurotransmitters, and physiology provide important insights into how ancestral sleep has evolved with developing CNS and how sleep-regulatory pathways have been reorganized accordingly. While the two-process model for shaping daily sleep has been widely accepted (12), free-running circadian rhythms are not readily detectable in Hydra behaviors. This observation contrasts with circadian control of the quiescence state in the cnidarian jellyfish (5). Circadian clocks are not an essential prerequisite for sleep behaviors because animal species with no overt circadian rhythms (e.g., Caenorhabditis elegans) or circadian clock mutants in Drosophila and mammals exhibit sleep. Circadian rhythms have also been observed widely in nonanimal kingdoms, where sleep-like states are not recognized. Nonetheless, our discovery of 4-hour free-running rhythms in Hydrasleep may reflect an evolutionary intermediate for circadian clock-dependent sleep given that circadian rhythms emerge from coupled ultradian oscillators (33). We also reason that the ultradian rhythms in Hydra sleep could be an ancestral form of the sleep-stage cycling in mammals. In this sense, Hydra may represent one of the most primitive animal models for sleep.

Dopamine is a wake-promoting molecule conserved across animal species (1). We, however, showed that dopamine promotes Hydra sleep. This unexpected finding suggests that dopamine’s sleep-regulatory function may depend on how dopaminergic circuits are incorporated into sleep-regulatory pathways of the developing CNS. Consistent with this idea, dopamine is one of the major arousal neurotransmitters in adult flies, whereas it is dispensable for sleep in developing larvae (31). We speculate that the functional flipping of specific sleep-regulatory pathways (e.g., dopamine and ornithine) may have occurred during the evolutionary development of CNS. On the other hand, sleep-promoting pathways involving melatonin, GABA, or PRKG1 may have persisted in this process.

Our evidence does not necessarily exclude the possible contribution of the diffuse nerve net to Hydra sleep. Emerging evidence, however, indicates the presence of sleep-wake cycles of cell-autonomous nature and sleep-regulatory mechanisms of non-neuronal origin in mammals and Drosophila (1). Likewise, dopamine may contribute to Hydra sleep via its indirect effects on peripheral tissues (e.g., metabolism, cell growth, and oxidative stress) (34). We predict that essential metabolism (e.g., ornithine-derived metabolic pathways) would play a key role in shaping these ancestral forms of sleep, and Hydra would act as an important node in the phylogenetic tree of sleep for validating this hypothesis. Future studies should further mine phylogenetic nodes to illustrate the evolutionary trace of sleep-regulatory mechanisms at high resolution and elucidate the origin of sleep.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Nationality, age, services offered, ethnicity, region & sexual orientation influenced rates & popularity in the market for commercial sexual services; research consistently underestimates the importance & number of men in sex work

Selling sex: what determines rates and popularity? An analysis of 11,500 online profiles. Alicia Mergenthaler & Taha Yasseri. Culture, Health & Sexuality, Apr 22 2021. https://doi.org/10.1080/13691058.2021.1901145

Abstract: Sex work, or the exchange of sexual services for money or goods, is ubiquitous across eras and cultures. However, the practice of selling sex is often hidden due to stigma and the varying legal status of sex work. Online platforms that sex workers use to advertise services have become an increasingly important means of studying a market that is largely hidden. Although prior literature has primarily shed light on sex work from a public health or policy perspective (focusing largely on female sex workers), there are few studies that empirically research patterns of service provision in online sex work. This study investigated the determinants of pricing and popularity in the market for commercial sexual services online by using data from the largest UK network of online sexual services, a platform that is the industry-standard for sex workers. While the size of these influences varies across genders, nationality, age and the services provided are shown to be primary drivers of rates and popularity in sex work.

Keywords: sex workpopularity dynamicsgenderonline marketplaceUK


David Schmitt summarizing... From 2020... Contributions to cheating: Age, education, gender, race/ethnicity, religiosity; after statistically accounting for those, people who were less conscientious (less hard-working, organized) were more likely to have a partner cheat on them

Self‐reported Big Five personality traits of individuals who have experienced partner infidelity. Meghna Mahambrey. Personal Relationships, June 10 2020. https://doi.org/10.1111/pere.12315

Abstract: Infidelity is defined as unapproved romantic or sexual behaviors outside of one's relationship. Previous literature has identified characteristics of the partner involved in infidelity; this study investigates the Big Five personality traits (openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism) of uninvolved partners. Relationship quality and physical intimacy are also examined within a married subsample. Data was drawn from the second wave of the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS), collected through telephone interviews and self‐administered questionnaires between 2004 and 2006. Results for the overall sample (N = 1,577) indicate that conscientiousness is negatively associated with lifetime partner infidelity. Within the married subsample (n = 898), conscientiousness is negatively associated with spousal infidelity, and agreeableness is positively associated with spousal infidelity.


Beware of correlations: When correlating two signals which both evolve slowly over time, the chances of finding a significant correlation between the two are much higher than when comparing signals which lack this property

Meijer, Guido. 2021. “Neurons in the Mouse Brain Correlate with Cryptocurrency Price: A Cautionary Tale.” PsyArXiv. April 27. doi:10.31234/osf.io/fa4wz

Abstract: In this paper I report the discovery of neurons which showed a neural correlate with ongoing fluctuations of Bitcoin and Ethereum prices at the time of the recording. I used the publicly available dataset of Neuropixel recordings by the Allen Institute to correlate the firing rate of single neurons with cryptocurrency price. Out of ~40.000 recorded single neurons, ~70% showed a significant correlation with Bitcoin or Ethereum prices. Even when using the conservative Bonferroni correction for multiple comparisons, ~35% of neurons showed a significant correlation, which is well above the expected false positive rate of 5%. These results were due to "nonsense correlations": when correlating two signals which both evolve slowly over time, the chances of finding a significant correlation between the two are much higher than when comparing signals which lack this property.


Sets of cultural dimensions in the literature: Instead of looking at dimensions from different sets one by one, each set of dimensions can be viewed as one unit covering a certain space of values, norms, beliefs, attitudes

Merging Hofstede, Schwartz, and Inglehart into a Single System. Anneli Kaasa. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, April 19, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1177/00220221211011244

Abstract: There are various sets of cultural dimensions in the literature. Can they be merged into a single system? While previous studies have mainly compared different dimensions empirically, this article takes a conceptual approach and explains how Hofstede’s, Schwartz’s, and Inglehart’s models can be merged into one system. Instead of looking at dimensions from different sets one by one, this study uses a novel approach: each set of dimensions is viewed as one unit covering a certain space of values, norms, beliefs, attitudes, etc. The results make it possible to arrange three sets of dimensions into one visualized system and confirm several conclusions in the existing literature. Knowing how different models are related to each other allows easier comparisons of the results of studies using different sets of cultural dimensions as explanations of extraneous variables.

Keywords: cultural dimensions, Hofstede, Schwartz, Inglehart


Metadehumanization, the perception that another group dehumanizes your own group, is a robust predictor of Americans’ support for anti-democratic norms

Landry, Alexander. 2021. “Metadehumanization Erodes Democratic Norms During the 2020 Presidential Election.” PsyArXiv. April 26. doi:10.31234/osf.io/yj4h6

Abstract: The present research identifies social psychological factors threatening American democracy. Namely, we identify metadehumanization, the perception that another group dehumanizes your own group, as a robust predictor of Americans’ support for anti-democratic norms. Both immediately before and after the 2020 US Presidential Election, American political partisans perceived that their political opponents dehumanized them more than was actually the case. Partisans’ exaggerated metadehumanization inspired reciprocal dehumanization of the other side, which in turn predicted their support for using anti-democratic means to hurt the opposing party. Along with extending past work demonstrating metadehumanization’s corrosive effect on democratic integrity, the present research also contributes novel insights into our understanding of this process. We found the most politically engaged partisans held the most exaggerated, and therefore most inaccurate, levels of metadehumanization. Moreover, despite the socially progressive and egalitarian outlook traditionally associated with liberalism, we found that the most liberal Democrats actually expressed greatest dehumanization than Republicans. This suggests that political ideology can at times be as much an expression of social identity as a reflection of deliberative policy considerations, and demonstrates the need to develop more constructive outlets for social identity maintenance.

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Partisan Differences in (Meta)dehumanization. Moore-Berg et al. (2020a) found roughly equal levels of both metadehumanization and dehumanization between Democrats and Republicans. Consistent with this, independent samples t-tests revealed that Democrats and Republicans did not differ in their metadehumanization (Time 1: p = .63; Time 2: p = .20), nor in their metaprejudice (Time 1: p = .20; Time 2: p = .52). However, in our sample, Democrats expressed greater dehumanization of Republicans than vice-versa (Time 1: Mdiff = 11.14, t(858) = 4.86, p = .001, d = .35; Time 2: Mdiff = 7.65, t(858) = 3.41, p = .002, d = .24). Democrats also expressed greater prejudice (Time 1: Mdiff = 15.30, t(858) = 6.54, p = .001, d = .45; Time 2: Mdiff = 13.21, t(858) = 5.61, p = .001, d = .39) and spite (Time 1: Mdiff = 0.39, t(853) = 4.72, p = .001, d = .33; Time 2: Mdiff = 0.31, t(853) = 3.68, p = .002, d = .26) than Republicans.


Demographic and social factors impacting coming out as a sexual minority among Generation-Z teenage boys

Moskowitz, D. A., Rendina, H. J., Alvarado Avila, A., & Mustanski, B. (2021). Demographic and social factors impacting coming out as a sexual minority among Generation-Z teenage boys. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, Apr 2021. https://doi.org/10.1037/sgd0000484

Teenagers have shown a 60% increase in identifying as gay, bisexual, queer/questioning, and pansexual (GBQP) since 2005. Although studies in the early 2000s have measured the prevalence of GBQP identities across adult populations and over time, the correlates of “coming out” as GBQP are less understood among Generation-Z teenagers (i.e., those born after 1997). We sampled 1,194 GBQP male (assigned-at-birth) teenagers aged 13–18 as part of an online HIV prevention study. Demographic (e.g., age, race/ethnicity, location, sexual identity) and social factors (e.g., school-based HIV education; religiousness; internalized stigma; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender victimization) were surveyed and entered into logistic regression models predicting outness to a female and/or male parental figure, as well as general others. Nearly two thirds were out to a female parental figure; nearly half were out to a male parental figure. We created three multivariable models predicting outness to general others, outness to a female parental figure, and outness to a male parental figure. Statistically significant correlates consistent across the models predicted greater outness for GBQP White teenagers relative to Black and Asian teenagers, gay-identified teenagers relative to bisexual and questioning/unsure teenagers, and GBQP teenagers reporting more experiences of victimization relative to less. Correlates that predicted reduced outness include identifying as religious, attending religious services, and reporting higher internalized sexual minority stigma. We concluded that outness among Generation-Z teenagers varied by sociocultural factors, prompting some teens to move across coming-out milestones more quickly. Most important for mental health, the findings substantiate that victimization toward out-teenagers has not relented and remains an area of concern.

Public Significance Statement: This study identified rates of outness to parental caregivers and to others among a large group of Generation-Z teenagers, ages 13–18. The findings highlight the need for greater attention for teens having difficulty reconciling their sexual identities and who may be being victimized by peers. They also show both the positive and negative impact of spirituality and religiosity on the coming-out process.

Keywords: coming out, teenagers, men who have sex with men, demographic differences

Discussion In this article, we conducted a set of analyses among a diverse nationwide sample of GBQP, Generation-Z teenagers to understand sociodemographic, geographic, and individual factors associated with outness construed both broadly and with parents. Our goal was also to suggest the key factors that might help or hinder movement from milestones like self-realization of sexual identity to disclosure. Overall, many in the sample were out to most or all people in their lives, with nearly two thirds being out to a female parental figure and nearly half being out to a male parental figure. When examining these three outness variables, several consistent factors emerged as associated with being out. In terms of sociodemographic factors, Black and Asian GBQP teenagers and those of other non-Latino race were less likely to be out than White teens to parents, upholding those previous studies from the 2000s (Grov et al., 2006; Rosario et al., 2004). Gay-identified teenagers were more likely to be out than those who identified as bisexual or were unsure of their identities; to our surprise, no differences by age group were identified. We found that religiosity remains an important factor associated with outness—those who identified as religious had two to three times the odds of not being out compared to those of any other religious or spiritual identity, although some of these findings diminished or lacked significance within multivariable analyses. Independent of this effect, people who attended religious services more frequently had significantly lower levels of outness, broadly construed, but did not differ in terms of outness to either parent in multivariable analyses. Finally, we found that lower levels of internalized sexual minority stigma and more experiences of sexual minority victimization were associated with greater outness across the three indicators. The levels of outness in this sample were higher relative to some nationwide research with adults (Pew, 2013). For example, Pew data from 2013 among 1,197 sexual minority adults showed 56% were out to a female parent figure and 39% were out to a male parent figure, which are lower than the 66% and 49%, respectively, within the present sample. This is not surprising, as parents’ attitudes toward having a sexual minority child are continuously improving. As of 2015, 57% of parents reported they would not be upset, relative to 36% in 2004, and 23% in 2000 (Gao, 2015). This trend has likely also contributed to generational cohorts of teens coming out at earlier ages (Dunlap, 2016). Surprisingly, this was not a finding we could replicate with our sample, as 13- to 14-year-olds were just as likely to be out as 17- to 18-year-olds. The lack of findings could be attributable to social acceptability reaching high enough peaks that age of coming out has essentially decreased to around the onset of puberty. Alternatively, the null age findings could be an artifact of the sample being recruited for a larger-scale online HIV prevention study. According to the milestones framework, acknowledgment of same-sex attraction and self-realization of a sexual minority identity precede coming out; enactment of same-sex behavior usually predates coming out too (Floyd & Stein, 2002). This study required participants to report some degree of sexual behavioral enactment to be eligible and thus were more likely to be further along on the milestones continuum. It is for this reason that future studies should continually measure outness by age to see if a floor effect has occurred or if the current timeline documented most recently by Bishop et al. (2020) is not generalizable to those under 18. Our findings regarding religiousness showed some similarities with previous research (Baiocco et al., 2016; Hoffarth & Bogaert, 2017; Winder, 2015) but also described a more complex relationship than that previously understood regarding spirituality. Granted, teenagers identifying as religious were less likely to report outness. They were also less likely to be generally out to people if they reported greater frequency in religious attendance. However, teens who reported being religious in tandem with being spiritual were more likely to come out, even within the adjusted models. In fact, such teens showed similar rates of outness to teens who reported being neither religious nor spiritual. It was previously assumed that religiousness was an indivisible individual difference that kept LGBTQ adolescents/GBQP teens from reaching higher disclosure milestones. Our findings suggest that pockets of religious teenagers may be accessing their spirituality to find strength to come out. Alternatively, teenagers who report being only religious may be referencing their family’s religiousness, which may be why they are less likely to be out. Regardless, our findings regarding religiousness suggest future study into spirituality specifically, as almost 39% of our sample endorsed being spiritual. Additional findings from our study reinforce the impact of internalized sexual minority stigma and experiences of sexual minority victimization on outness. While internalized stigma tended to keep the teenage participants in the closet, victimization was associated with their coming out. The precise directionality of these findings remains unclear though, especially regarding victimization. For example, it is unknown whether teens who are victimized tend to come out more as a resiliency strategy or as a resistance approach to stigma (Asakura & Craig, 2014) or whether those who come out then become targets of victimization. It is also unknown whether gender (a)typicality plays a moderating effect over these constructs. Gender atypicality is associated with victimization among those in adolescence and early adulthood (Toomey et al., 2012, 2014). While our data showed no differences between identifying as male versus an alternative identity (e.g., nonbinary, transgender) regarding reaching the coming-out milestone, we did not delve into the social role of gender expression, which might better elucidate the relationship. Coming out may be less a choice for teens who self-define along the gender continuum (Russell et al., 2014); alternatively, sexual orientation disclosure may be too difficult for teens who are stereotypically and heteronormatively masculine acting. Regardless, enduring external factors like victimization and developing internal attitudes like internalized stigma are psychologically deleterious (Greene et al., 2014). Finding ways for those with internalized stigma to reconcile their cognitive dissonance may improve rates of teenage sexual orientation disclosure. Most important, linking those being victimized—especially those just coming out of the closet—with helpful allies may improve the coming-out experience and reduce physical or psychological distress (Ybarra et al., 2014). Our findings were some of the first to incorporate outness data on gender identities other than “male” (for individuals assigned male at birth), as well as sexual orientations other than lesbian, gay, or bisexual (i.e., pansexual, queer). As mentioned, we found no significant differences between teenagers identifying as transgender, nonbinary, gender nonconforming, and those identifying as male, and this finding should be taken with qualification. We had a relatively small sample of such teenagers, and findings must be replicated with a larger sample. For in reviewing the odds ratios and their confidence intervals, it is likely that with more data, nonmale identified teens would reach statistical significance and trend toward reporting higher rates of coming out relative to male-identified teenagers. We found significant differences between all three categories of sexual identities (i.e., bisexual, pansexual/queer, and questioning/unsure) relative to those self-identifying as gay regarding general outness. These findings suggest teens may feel uncomfortable or uncertain about discussing their sexuality because their sexual identity may be unknown by older generations. Among their own peers, they may not disclose their identity because it might be misunderstood or they might feel stigmatized or be victimized (Kosciw et al., 2015) if they came out. These reasons have certainly been found for reductions in bi outness for other samples (Israel, 2018; Schrimshaw et al., 2018). Yet, while there may be overlap in our general outness findings, it may not be appropriate to talk about nonmonosexual identities as combinable. Bisexuals often are grouped demographically with pansexual, queer, and “other” identities (e.g., demisexual) in research, but our findings show no differences between outness to parents for pansexual and queer teenagers when compared with gay teenagers, but bisexual teens reported significantly reduced outness to parents relative to their gay counterparts. Such findings would suggest that pansexual- and queer-identifying teenagers, if anything, could be grouped with gay-identified teenagers regarding reaching disclosure milestones (when such groupings are required). While it may be convenient to group pansexual, queer, and bisexual individuals into a group for research purposes (commonly known as a “biĆ¾” group; Davila et al., 2019; Rahman et al., 2019), our study suggests that to be a mistake, given they report rates of disclosures closer to gay individuals. Nonmonosexual identities other than bisexual are being readily adopted by teenagers. Our own sample showed about 8% self-identifying outside of gay or bisexual. Considering research is literally just starting to count and account for these identities, treatment of such individuals as being distinct from traditional sexual orientations should become increasingly standard.

Girls with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) appear to have more genetic mutations than boys with ASD; differences in brain structure and function; advocate caution in drawing conclusions regarding female ASD based on male-predominant cohorts

A neurogenetic analysis of female autism. Allison Jack et al. Brain, awab064, April 16 2021. https://doi.org/10.1093/brain/awab064

Abstract: Females versus males are less frequently diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and while understanding sex differences is critical to delineating the systems biology of the condition, female ASD is understudied. We integrated functional MRI and genetic data in a sex-balanced sample of ASD and typically developing youth (8–17 years old) to characterize female-specific pathways of ASD risk. Our primary objectives were to: (i) characterize female ASD (n = 45) brain response to human motion, relative to matched typically developing female youth (n = 45); and (ii) evaluate whether genetic data could provide further insight into the potential relevance of these brain functional differences. For our first objective we found that ASD females showed markedly reduced response versus typically developing females, particularly in sensorimotor, striatal, and frontal regions. This difference between ASD and typically developing females does not resemble differences between ASD (n = 47) and typically developing males (n = 47), even though neural response did not significantly differ between female and male ASD. For our second objective, we found that ASD females (n = 61), versus males (n = 66), showed larger median size of rare copy number variants containing gene(s) expressed in early life (10 postconceptual weeks to 2 years) in regions implicated by the typically developing female > female functional MRI contrast. Post hoc analyses suggested this difference was primarily driven by copy number variants containing gene(s) expressed in striatum. This striatal finding was reproducible among n = 2075 probands (291 female) from an independent cohort. Together, our findings suggest that striatal impacts may contribute to pathways of risk in female ASD and advocate caution in drawing conclusions regarding female ASD based on male-predominant cohorts.

Keywords: autism spectrum disorder, functional MRI, genetics, striatum, social perception


Discussion

This ASDf-enriched sample has yielded a number of novel insights into female neuro-endophenotypes of social motion perception and potential contributors to female risk for ASD. While functional MRI highlights widespread functional differences between ASDf and TDf viewing human motion, analysis of the size of rare CNVs containing genes expressed in these functional MRI-identified brain regions suggests that potential impacts to striatum may be related to a sex-differential process of risk in early development. These larger ASDf CNVs support the FPE model prediction of greater genetic load in ASDf versus ASDm. Below, we discuss findings related to our major research objectives: (i) characterization of a functional MRI-based profile of ASDf (versus TDf) response to socially meaningful motion; and (ii) integration of functional MRI and genetics data.

First, we observed that the ASDf brain response during human action observation is characterized by less recruitment of parietal and posterior frontal cortex relative to TDf, particularly right somatosensory cortex, motor/premotor areas, and the putaminal region of striatum. This is distinct both from the ASD neural response associated with this paradigm in previous ASDm-predominant literature,13,14 and from trend-level TDm > ASDm results in this sample, which exhibit minimal overlap with TDf > ASDf. One prominent peak of TDf > ASDf occurred in right PMv, a region putatively associated with ‘mirroring’ properties,47,48 and which some suggest may help observers ‘fill in’ information missing from point-light human motion displays.49 Somatosensory regions detected in TDf > ASDf also display putative mirroring properties.50 Thus, greater recruitment of these regions by TDf might imply stronger engagement of such processes. PMv was not represented in BrainSpan, and was thus excluded from our Objective 2 analyses.

To contextualize our TDf > ASDf results, we also analysed differences in response between TDf and TDm, TDm and ASDm, and between ASDf and ASDm. TDf showed increased response to BIO > SCRAM relative to TDm in a variety of frontal and parietal regions. As in the sample of typically developing adults from the study by Anderson and colleagues20, TDf versus TDm demonstrated greater BIO > SCRAM activation within right DFC, although other regions demonstrating typically developing child (e.g. ventromedial prefrontal cortex) or typically developing adult (e.g. amygdala) sex differences in their cohort did not replicate in our sample, possibly due to differences in the age ranges of our samples. Many of the regions that emerged from our TDf > TDm contrast overlapped with those represented in the TDf > ASDf map, including right-lateralized anterior insula, IFG, DFC, MFG, and bilateral aIPS and paracingulate. Together, these regions resemble the salience and central executive brain networks. The salience network contains bilateral fronto-insular cortex and dorsal anterior cingulate, and contributes to monitoring and detection of salient stimuli.51 The central executive network is correlated with right fronto-insular activity and includes DFC, supplementary motor area, and lateral parietal cortices; these systems together play a role in attention, working memory, and cognitive control.52 The executive and salience sites recruited more strongly by TDf could play a number of roles potentially contributory to resilience in social perception. Right anterior insula contributes to detection of novel salient stimuli51 and switching between the task-negative (default) and task-positive central executive network53; activity in right anterior insula, IFG, and MFG/DFC can indicate renewed attention to a stimulus.54 These functions suggest more robust attentional reorienting among TDf to the human stimulus after a scrambled block, and/or greater attribution of salience to BIO displays by TDf than either TDm or ASDf.

In previous work examining resting state functional connectivity in our GENDAAR cohort, we found that typically developing youth demonstrated sex differences in functional connectivity of the salience but not the central executive network, while ASD youth showed the opposite pattern, with sex differences in the central executive, but not the salience network.55 Given our previous results, and the role of the salience network in managing switching to the central executive network,53 the TDf > ASDf differences we observed in response to social stimuli within nodes of these two networks could be driven by intrinsic neurotypical sex differences in the salience network that are not evident in ASD. Unfortunately, while our present results, and those of our previous resting state work, suggest that anterior insula and aIPS might have relevance to TDf resilience in social perception, these regions were not characterized in BrainSpan, and thus could not be assessed in our Objective 2 analyses.

We did not detect significant differences between ASDf and ASDm in their functional MRI neural response to biological motion. Moreover, contrary to extant literature, ASDm did not differ from TDm on this task. In exploratory follow-up analyses, we considered whether the TDm > ASDm pattern might be similar to that of TDf > ASDf, but below our threshold for statistical detection. Under a more lenient method for statistical inference, ASDm versus TDm displayed right pSTS hypoactivation similar to that found in previous work,13,14 suggesting that modern methods of functional MRI statistical inference may reduce our power to detect this effect in exchange for greater type I error control. TDf > ASDf did not overlap with TDm > ASDm under this more lenient method. Thus, while ASDf and ASDm response to human motion did not significantly differ, at the same time what distinguishes ASDf from TDf does not appear similar to what distinguishes ASDm from TDm.

While ASDf and ASDm functional brain response did not differ, genetic analyses demonstrated significant differences between these groups. Specifically, ASDf (versus ASDm) exhibited larger size of rare CNVs containing genes expressed during early development of striatum. This finding, accompanied by ASDf (versus TDf) hypoactivation of putamen (a component of the striatum) during social perception, suggests that potential impacts to striatum may be an element of developmental risk for ASD trajectories in girls. Previously, putaminal disruptions in ASD versus typically developing individuals have been documented,56–61 albeit largely in ASDm-exclusive or ASDm-predominant samples. We interpret our findings as suggesting that striatal involvement, while not unique to ASDf, may have a particularly important role in ASDf aetiologies. The putamen, historically attributed a primarily motoric role, also appears involved in social and language functions.62 Among typically developing individuals, the putamen receives projections from motor/premotor (primarily terminating in dorsolateral/central putamen), and prefrontal cortex (primarily terminating in anterior putamen), and appears to serve as an interface between information about motivational value and voluntary behaviour.63,64 Recent work using resting state functional MRI data suggests that while TDm (females not assessed) demonstrate distinct functional segregation of putamen into anterior and posterior segments, putamen in ASDm appears as one functional unit.56 In the present investigation, we observed the peak coordinate of TDf > ASDf striatal response in a region of right anterior putamen characterized as having structural connectivity primarily to executive prefrontal regions (including MFG and DFC65) It also may be notable that in addition to reduced ASDf response in M1C, we observed larger size of CNVs containing genes expressed in M1C in many (though not all) of our control tests. Taken together, this pattern of results could indicate disturbances to the striatomotor-cortical system more broadly and, thus, processes of linking information about motivational value to action. Differential putaminal recruitment during social perception might reflect differing organization of functional connectivity, in which the region is linked to the central executive network and, perhaps, associated protective functions for TDf but not ASDf. Genetic disruptions specifically impacting striatal cortex during development may underlie such functional atypicalities, and have greater impact via disruption of female protective mechanisms. The general lack of female characterization in the literature on ASD putaminal disruptions, however, makes it difficult to draw strong conclusions along these lines. Future work should analyse ASDf and TDf patterns of functional connectivity and gene co-expression among these regions to clarify this possibility.

When considering together our findings of robust TDf > ASDf and TDf > TDm differences in brain function, lack of ASD sex differences in brain response, and greater ASDf versus ASDm size of CNVs containing genes expressed in early striatal development, the overall picture presented is complex but not inconsistent with an FPE model. While the FPE predicts that ASDf should have greater genetic load than ASDm—a prediction supported by our findings—this does not necessarily equate to greater symptomaticity or disruption of brain function. While some ASDf may lack resilience factors typically found in TDf, other ASDf may retain aspects of female protection that make their phenotype less severe than it might otherwise have been given their greater aetiological load. Moreover, female resilience factors may also have sociocultural aspects (e.g. more emotion-oriented talk to daughters versus sons66); the different socialization experiences that an ASDf might encounter could lead, by adolescence, to a brain profile that does not significantly differ from ASDm despite greater genetic load.

In sum, our findings provide new insights into ASDf brain response during social perception, reveal a potential substrate of female risk for ASD trajectories, and illuminate unique qualities of TDf response to human motion relative to TDm. In addition to the basic systems for processing social motion engaged by both sexes, TDf (unique from TDm or ASDf) recruit additional salience and central executive systems. Further, relative to TDf, ASDf show reduced recruitment of striatum during this perceptual task. Compared to ASDm, ASDf (both in our cohort and an independent sample) demonstrate larger size of rare CNVs containing genes expressed in early striatal development, suggesting that, for ASDf, potential impacts to striatum may be particularly relevant. Our results demonstrate the risk of drawing conclusions regarding ASDf based on work comprised of ASDm-predominant samples, and argue for continued attention to the unique characteristics of ASDf.