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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Living proof

How Effective are Public Health Departments at Preventing Mortality?

Timothy Tyler Brown
Economics & Human Biology, forthcoming

Abstract:
This study estimates the causal impact of variation in the expenditures of California county departments of public health on all-cause mortality rates and the associated value of lives saved. Since the activities of county departments of public health are likely to affect mortality rates with a lag, Koyck distributed lag models are estimated using the Lewbel instrumental variables estimator. The findings show that an additional $10 per capita of public health expenditures reduces all-cause mortality by 9.1 deaths per 100,000. At current funding levels, the long-run annual number of lives saved by the presence of county departments of public health in California is estimated to be approximately 27,000 (26,937 lives, 95% confidence interval: [11,963,41,911]). The annual value of these lives is estimated to be worth $212.8 billion using inflation-adjusted standard U.S. government estimates of the value of a statistical life ($7.9 million).

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The Effect of Mandatory Seat Belt Laws on Seat Belt Use by Socioeconomic Position

Sam Harper et al.
Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Winter 2014, Pages 141–161

Abstract:
We investigated the differential effect of mandatory seat belt laws on seat belt use among socioeconomic subgroups. We identified the differential effect of legislation across higher versus lower education individuals using a difference-in-differences model based on state variations in the timing of the passage of laws. We find strong effects of mandatory seat belt laws for all education groups, but the effect is stronger for those with fewer years of education. In addition, we find that the differential effect by education is larger for mandatory seat belt laws with primary rather than secondary enforcement. Our results imply that existing socioeconomic differences in seat belt use would be further mitigated if all states upgraded to primary enforcement.

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Geographic Divergence in Mortality in the United States

Andrew Fenelon
Population and Development Review, December 2013, Pages 611–634

Abstract:
The United States trails other developed countries in adult mortality, a process that has become more pronounced over the past several decades. However, comparisons are complicated by substantial geographic variations in mortality within the United States. The second half of the twentieth century was characterized by a substantial divergence in adult mortality between the South and the rest of the United States. The article examines trends in US geographic variation in mortality between 1965 and 2004, in particular the aggregate divergence in mortality between the southern states and states with more favorable mortality experience. Relatively high smoking-attributable mortality in the South explains 50–100 percent of the divergence for men between 1965 and 1985 and up to 50 percent for women between 1985 and 2004. There is also a geographic correspondence between the contribution of smoking and other factors, suggesting that smoking may be one piece of a more complex health-related puzzle.

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Association of Nut Consumption with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality

Ying Bao et al.
New England Journal of Medicine, 21 November 2013, Pages 2001-2011

Background: Increased nut consumption has been associated with a reduced risk of major chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes mellitus. However, the association between nut consumption and mortality remains unclear.

Methods: We examined the association between nut consumption and subsequent total and cause-specific mortality among 76,464 women in the Nurses' Health Study (1980–2010) and 42,498 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (1986–2010). Participants with a history of cancer, heart disease, or stroke were excluded. Nut consumption was assessed at baseline and updated every 2 to 4 years.

Results: During 3,038,853 person-years of follow-up, 16,200 women and 11,229 men died. Nut consumption was inversely associated with total mortality among both women and men, after adjustment for other known or suspected risk factors. The pooled multivariate hazard ratios for death among participants who ate nuts, as compared with those who did not, were 0.93 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.90 to 0.96) for the consumption of nuts less than once per week, 0.89 (95% CI, 0.86 to 0.93) for once per week, 0.87 (95% CI, 0.83 to 0.90) for two to four times per week, 0.85 (95% CI, 0.79 to 0.91) for five or six times per week, and 0.80 (95% CI, 0.73 to 0.86) for seven or more times per week (P<0.001 for trend). Significant inverse associations were also observed between nut consumption and deaths due to cancer, heart disease, and respiratory disease.

Conclusions: In two large, independent cohorts of nurses and other health professionals, the frequency of nut consumption was inversely associated with total and cause-specific mortality, independently of other predictors of death.

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Life Satisfaction and Frequency of Doctor Visits

Eric Kim et al.
Psychosomatic Medicine, forthcoming

Objective: Identifying positive psychological factors that reduce health care use may lead to innovative efforts that help build a more sustainable and high-quality health care system. Prospective studies indicate that life satisfaction is associated with good health behaviors, enhanced health, and longer life, but little information about the association between life satisfaction and health care use is available. We tested whether higher life satisfaction was prospectively associated with fewer doctor visits. We also examined potential interactions between life satisfaction and health behaviors.

Methods: Participants were 6379 adults from the Health and Retirement Study, a prospective and nationally representative panel study of American adults older than 50 years. Participants were tracked for 4 years. We analyzed the data using a generalized linear model with a gamma distribution and log link.

Results: Higher life satisfaction was associated with fewer doctor visits. On a 6-point life satisfaction scale, each unit increase in life satisfaction was associated with an 11% decrease in doctor visits — after adjusting for sociodemographic factors (relative risk = 0.89, 95% confidence interval = 0.86–0.93). The most satisfied respondents (n = 1121; 17.58%) made 44% fewer doctor visits than did the least satisfied (n = 182; 2.85%). The association between higher life satisfaction and reduced doctor visits remained even after adjusting for baseline health and a wide range of sociodemographic, psychosocial, and health-related covariates (relative risk = 0.96, 95% confidence interval = 0.93–0.99).

Conclusions: Higher life satisfaction is associated with fewer doctor visits, which may have important implications for reducing health care costs.

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The Cold-War Origins of the Value of Statistical Life (VSL)

Spencer Banzhaf
Georgia State University Working Paper, November 2013

Abstract:
This paper traces the history of the "Value of Statistical Life" (VSL), which today is used routinely in benefit-cost analysis of life-saving investments. Schelling (1968) made the crucial move of thinking in terms of risk rather than individual lives, with the hope to dodge the moral thicket of valuing "life." But as recent policy debates have illustrated, his move only thickened it. Tellingly, interest in the subject can be traced back another twenty years before Schelling's essay, to a controversy at the RAND Corporation following its earliest application of operation research to defense planning. RAND wanted to avoid valuing pilot's lives, but the Air Force insisted they confront the issue. Thus, the VSL is not only well acquainted with political controversy; it was born from it.

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Socioeconomic inequalities in health after age 50: Are health risk behaviors to blame?

Benjamin Shaw et al.
Social Science & Medicine, forthcoming

Abstract:
Recent studies indicate that socioeconomic inequalities in health extend into the elderly population, even within the most highly developed welfare states. One potential explanation for socioeconomic inequalities in health focuses on the role of health behaviors, but little is known about the degree to which health behaviors account for health inequalities among older adults, in particular. Using data from the Health and Retirement Study (N=19,245), this study examined the degree to which four behavioral risk factors – smoking, obesity, physical inactivity, and heavy drinking – are associated with socioeconomic position among adults aged 51 and older, and whether these behaviors mediate socioeconomic differences in mortality, and the onset of disability among those who were disability-free at baseline, over a 10-year period from 1998-2008. Results indicate that the odds of both smoking and physical inactivity are higher among persons with lower wealth, with similar stratification in obesity, but primarily among women. The odds of heavy drinking decrease at lower levels of wealth. Significant socioeconomic inequalities in mortality and disability onset are apparent among older men and women; however, the role that health behaviors play in accounting for these inequalities differs by age and gender. For example, these health behaviors account for between 23-45% of the mortality disparities among men and middle aged women, but only about 5% of the disparities found among women over 65 years. Meanwhile, these health behaviors appear to account for about 33% of the disparities in disability onset found among women survivors, and about 9-14% among men survivors. These findings suggest that within the U.S. elderly population, behavioral risks such as smoking and physical inactivity contribute moderately to maintaining socioeconomic inequalities in health. As such, promoting healthier lifestyles among the socioeconomically disadvantaged older adults should help to reduce later life health inequalities.

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The Impact of Biomedical Knowledge Accumulation on Mortality: A Bibliometric Analysis of Cancer Data

Frank Lichtenberg
NBER Working Paper, October 2013

Abstract:
I examine the relationship across diseases between the long-run growth in the number of publications about a disease and the change in the age-adjusted mortality rate from the disease. The diseases analyzed are almost all the different forms of cancer, i.e. cancer at different sites in the body (lung, colon, breast, etc.). Time-series data on the number of publications pertaining to each cancer site were obtained from PubMed. For articles published since 1975, it is possible to distinguish between publications indicating and not indicating any research funding support. My estimates indicate that mortality rates: (1) are unrelated to the (current or lagged) stock of publications that had not received research funding; (2) are only weakly inversely related to the contemporaneous stock of published articles that received research funding; and (3) are strongly inversely related to the stock of articles that had received research funding and been published 5 and 10 years earlier. The effect after 10 years is 66% larger than the contemporaneous effect. The strong inverse correlation between mortality growth and growth in the lagged number of publications that were supported by research funding is not driven by a small number of outliers.

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Removing Financial Barriers to Organ and Bone Marrow Donation: The Effect of Leave and Tax Legislation in the U.S.

Nicola Lacetera, Mario Macis & Sarah Stith
Journal of Health Economics, January 2014, Pages 43–56

Abstract:
Many U.S. states passed legislation providing leave to organ and bone marrow donors and/or tax benefits for live and deceased organ and bone marrow donations and to employers of donors. We exploit cross-state variation in the timing of such legislation to analyze its impact on organ donations by living and deceased persons, on measures of the quality of the transplants, and on the number of bone marrow donations. We find that these provisions do not have a significant impact on the quantity of organs donated. The leave laws, however, do have a positive impact on bone marrow donations, and the effect increases with the size of the population of beneficiaries and with the generosity of the legislative provisions. Our results suggest that this legislation works for moderately invasive procedures such as bone marrow donation, but these incentives may be too low for organ donation, which is riskier and more burdensome.

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Loopholes Undermine Donation: An Experiment Motivated by an Organ Donation Priority Loophole in Israel

Judd Kessler & Alvin Roth
Journal of Public Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
Giving registered organ donors priority on organ waiting lists, as has been implemented in Israel and Singapore, provides an incentive for registration and has the potential to increase the pool of deceased donor organs. However, the implementation of a priority rule might allow for loopholes — as is the case in Israel — in which an individual can register to receive priority but avoid ever being in a position to donate organs. We experimentally investigate how such a loophole affects donation and find that the majority of subjects use the loophole when available. The existence of a loophole completely eliminates the increase in donation generated by the priority rule. When information about loophole use is made public, subjects respond to others’ use of the loophole by withholding donation such that the priority system with a loophole generates fewer donations than an allocation system without priority.

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A Fundamental Cause Approach to the Study of Disparities in Lung Cancer and Pancreatic Cancer Mortality in the United States

Marcie Rubin, Sean Clouston & Bruce Link
Social Science & Medicine, January 2014, Pages 54–61

Abstract:
This study examines how associations between socioeconomic status (SES) and lung and pancreatic cancer mortality have changed over time in the U.S. The fundamental cause hypothesis predicts as diseases become more preventable due to innovation in medical knowledge or technology, individuals with greater access to resources will disproportionately benefit, triggering the formation or worsening of health disparities along social cleavages. We examine socioeconomic disparities in mortality due to lung cancer, a disease that became increasingly preventable with the development and dissemination of knowledge of the causal link between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer, and compare it to that of pancreatic cancer, a disease for which there have been no major prevention or treatment innovations. County-level disease-specific mortality rates for those ≥ 45 years, adjusted for sex, race, and age during 1968-2009 are derived from death certificate and population data from the National Center for Health Statistics. SES is measured using five county-level variables from four decennial censuses, interpolating values for intercensal years. Negative binomial regression was used to model mortality. Results suggest the impact of SES on lung cancer mortality increases 0.5% per year during this period. Although lung cancer mortality rates are initially higher in higher SES counties, by 1980 persons in lower SES counties are at greater risk and by 2009 the difference in mortality between counties with SES one SD above compared to one SD below average was 33 people per 100,000. In contrast, we find a small but significant reverse SES gradient in pancreatic cancer mortality that does not change over time. These data support the fundamental cause hypothesis: social conditions influencing access to resources more greatly impact mortality when preventative knowledge exists. Public health interventions and policies should facilitate more equitable distribution of new health-enhancing knowledge and faster uptake and utilization among lower SES groups.

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About time: Daylight Saving Time transition and individual well-being

Yiannis Kountouris & Kyriaki Remoundou
Economics Letters, January 2014, Pages 100–103

Abstract:
Daylight Saving Time is controversial due to its alleged negative impact on individual well-being. Using longitudinal data from Germany we find evidence that the transition to summer time has negative influence on general life satisfaction and mood, which is stronger for those in full time employment.

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A statin a day keeps the doctor away: Comparative proverb assessment modelling study

Adam Briggs, Anja Mizdrak & Peter Scarborough
British Medical Journal, December 2013

Objective: To model the effect on UK vascular mortality of all adults over 50 years old being prescribed either a statin or an apple a day.

Intervention: Either a statin a day for people not already taking a statin or an apple a day for everyone, assuming 70% compliance and no change in calorie consumption. The modelling used routinely available UK population datasets; parameters describing the relations between statins, apples, and health were derived from meta-analyses.

Results: The estimated annual reduction in deaths from vascular disease of a statin a day, assuming 70% compliance and a reduction in vascular mortality of 12% (95% confidence interval 9% to 16%) per 1.0 mmol/L reduction in low density lipoprotein cholesterol, is 9400 (7000 to 12 500). The equivalent reduction from an apple a day, modelled using the PRIME model (assuming an apple weighs 100 g and that overall calorie consumption remains constant) is 8500 (95% credible interval 6200 to 10 800).

Conclusions: Both nutritional and pharmaceutical approaches to the prevention of vascular disease may have the potential to reduce UK mortality significantly. With similar reductions in mortality, a 150 year old health promotion message is able to match modern medicine and is likely to have fewer side effects.

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Do Interviewer and Physician Health Ratings Predict Mortality?: A Comparison with Self-Rated Health

Megan Todd & Noreen Goldman
Epidemiology, November 2013, Pages 913-920

Background: Despite the serious biases that characterize self-rated health, researchers rely heavily on these ratings to predict mortality. Using newly collected survey data, we examine whether simple ratings of participants’ health provided by interviewers and physicians can markedly improve mortality prediction.

Methods: We use data from a prospective cohort study based on a nationally representative sample of older adults in Taiwan. We estimate proportional-hazard models of all-cause mortality between the 2006 interview and 30 June 2011 (mean 4.7 years’ follow-up).

Results: Interviewer ratings were more strongly associated with mortality than physician or self-ratings, even after controlling for a wide range of covariates. Neither respondent nor physician ratings substantially improve mortality prediction in models that include interviewer ratings. The predictive power of interviewer ratings likely arises in part from interviewers’ incorporation of information about the respondents’ physical and mental health into their assessments.

Conclusions: The findings of this study support the routine inclusion of a simple question at the end of face-to-face interviews, comparable to self-rated health, asking interviewers to provide an assessment of respondents’ overall health. The costs of such an undertaking are minimal and the potential gains substantial for demographic and health researchers. Future work should explore the strength of the link between interviewer ratings and mortality in other countries and in surveys that collect less detailed information on respondent health, functioning, and well-being.

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The social side of accidental death

Justin Denney & Monica He
Social Science Research, January 2014, Pages 92–107

Abstract:
Mortality from unintentional injuries, or accidents, represents major and understudied causes of death in the United States. Epidemiological studies show social factors, such as socioeconomic and marital status, relate with accidental death. But social theories posit a central role for social statuses on mortality risk, stipulating greater relevance for causes of death that have been medically determined to be more preventable than others. These bodies of work are merged to examine deaths from unintentional injuries using 20 years of nationally representative survey data, linked to prospective mortality. Results indicate that socially disadvantaged persons were significantly more likely to die from the most preventable and equally likely to die from the least preventable accidental deaths over the follow-up, compared to their more advantaged counterparts. This study extends our knowledge of the social contributors to a leading cause of death that may have substantial implications on overall disparities in length of life.

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Variation in U.S. traffic safety policy environments and motor vehicle fatalities 1980–2010

D. Silver et al.
Public Health, December 2013, Pages 1117–1125

Objective: To examine the impact of variation in state laws governing traffic safety on motor vehicle fatalities.

Methods: Fixed effects regression models estimate the relationship between state motor vehicle fatality rates and the strength of the state law environment for 50 states, 1980–2010. The strength of the state policy environment is measured by calculating the proportion of a set of 27 evidence-based laws in place each year. The effect of alcohol consumption on motor vehicle fatalities is estimated using a subset of alcohol laws as instrumental variables.

Results: Once other risk factors are controlled in statistical models, states with stronger regulation of safer driving and driver/passenger protections had significantly lower motor vehicle fatality rates for all ages. Alcohol consumption was strongly associated with higher MVC death rates, as were state unemployment rates.

Conclusions: Encouraging laggard states to adopt the full range of available laws could significantly reduce preventable traffic-related deaths in the U.S. – especially those among younger individuals. Estimating the relationship between different policy environments and health outcomes can quantify the result of policy gaps.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Monday, December 23, 2013

Grinches

Americans’ Changing Views on Crime and Punishment

Mark Ramirez
Public Opinion Quarterly, forthcoming

Abstract:

Despite a decline in crime rates, the size of America’s criminal justice system has continued to expand in both expenditures and the number of citizens under correctional supervision. Polls examined here show that the public viewed national crime as declining since the 1990s, while viewing local crime rates as stable. Moreover, the polls show that public support for “get tough” crime policies, once seen as unwavering, has declined substantially. The decline in support occurred across a range of policies, from judicial sentencing to the death penalty to increasing expenditures for law enforcement agencies. Finally, polls show fluctuations in public views regarding which political party was better suited to deal with crime. Overall, these data illustrate that leaders now have the opportunity to move policy in a less punitive direction and that no single party has ownership over the issue.

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Offender Perceptions of Graduated Sanctions

Eric Wodahl et al.
Crime & Delinquency, December 2013, Pages 1185-1210

Abstract:

Finding credible alternatives to revocation for offenders who violate the conditions of their community supervision has emerged as a salient issue in the corrections field. A number of jurisdictions have turned to graduated sanctions as an alternative to revocation. This study addresses one of the major gaps in the research on graduated sanctions by examining perceptions of graduated sanction severity through the administration of surveys to offenders under active supervision. Survey results revealed several important findings. First, offenders do not view jail as being substantially more punitive than community-based sanctions such as community service or electronic monitoring. Second, offenders viewed treatment-oriented sanctions as being more punitive than other graduated sanctions. Third, offender perceptions of graduated sanctions were influenced by a variety of individual characteristics such as gender, age, and education level.

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Increased homicide victimization of suspects arrested for domestic assault: A 23-year follow-up of the Milwaukee Domestic Violence Experiment (MilDVE)

Lawrence Sherman & Heather Harris
Journal of Experimental Criminology, December 2013, Pages 491-514

Objective: To test for any long-term effects on the death rates of domestic assault suspects due to arresting them versus warning them at the scene.

Methods: The Milwaukee Domestic Violence Experiment (MilDVE) employed a randomized experimental design with over 98 % treatment as assigned. In 1987–88, 1,200 cases with 1,128 suspects were randomly assigned to arrest or a warning in a 2:1 ratio. Arrested suspects were generally handcuffed and taken to a police station for about 3 to 12 h. Warned suspects were left at liberty at the scene after police read aloud a scripted statement. Death records were obtained in 2012–13 from the Wisconsin Office of Vital Statistics and the Social Security Death Index, with the support of the Milwaukee Police Department.

Results: In the first presenting case in which the 1,128 were identified as suspects, they were randomly assigned to arrest in 756 cases and to a warning in 372. No clear difference in death rates from all causes combined (d = 0.04) was ever evident between the groups, or for five of the six specific categories of cause of death. However, a clear difference in homicide victimizations of the suspects emerged between those arrested and those warned. At 23 years after enrolment, suspects assigned to arrest were almost three times more likely to have died of homicide (at 2.25 % of suspects) than suspects assigned to a warning (at 0.81 %), a small to moderate effect size (d = 0.39) with marginal significance (two-tailed p = 0.096; relative risk ratio = 2.79:1; 90 % CI = 1.0007 to 7.7696). Cox regressions controlling for suspects’ stakes in conformity (employment and marriage) show that homicide victimization for arrested suspects is three times that of warned suspects (p = 0.07), although no interactions are yet significant. Logistic regression with more covariates increases arrest effects on homicide to 3.2 times more than warnings (p = 0.06).

Conclusions: Suspects randomly assigned to arrest died from homicide at a consistently higher rate than controls over a two-decade period, but the difference was not statistically discernible until the 22nd year after assignment. Long-term follow-up of randomized experiments is essential for detecting mortality differences that substantially affect cost–benefit analyses of criminal justice practices.

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An examination of the effects of concealed weapons laws and assault weapons bans on state-level murder rates

Mark Gius
Applied Economics Letters, Winter 2014, Pages 265-267

Abstract:

The purpose of the present study is to determine the effects of state-level assault weapons bans and concealed weapons laws on state-level murder rates. Using data for the period 1980 to 2009 and controlling for state and year fixed effects, the results of the present study suggest that states with restrictions on the carrying of concealed weapons had higher gun-related murder rates than other states. It was also found that assault weapons bans did not significantly affect murder rates at the state level. These results suggest that restrictive concealed weapons laws may cause an increase in gun-related murders at the state level. The results of this study are consistent with some prior research in this area, most notably Lott and Mustard (1997).

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Gone in 60 Seconds: The Impact of the Megaupload Shutdown on Movie Sales

Brett Danaher & Michael Smith
International Journal of Industrial Organization, forthcoming

Abstract:

The growth of Internet-based piracy has led to a wide-ranging debate over how copyright policy should be enforced in the digital era. In this paper we analyze the impact of the US government’s shutdown of a major piracy site — Megaupload.com — on digital sales and rentals of movies. Exploiting cross-country variation in pre-shutdown usage of Megaupload, we find that the shutdown of Megaupload and its associated sites caused digital revenues for three major motion picture studios to increase by 6.5-8.5%. Our results suggest that some consumers will turn to legal channels when a major filesharing site is shut down, and by extension that illegal filesharing displaces digital movie sales.

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Does increased post-release supervision of criminal offenders reduce recidivism? Evidence from a statewide quasi-experiment

Georgios Georgiou
International Review of Law and Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:

Approximately 4.8 million offenders are subject to community supervision in the United States. This paper examines whether a program that assigned different supervision levels based on a risk assessment instrument, had any effect on offenders’ recidivism rates. Using a large statewide sample of adult offenders in Washington State and a regression discontinuity design, I compare offenders whose risk characteristics are similar but who received different levels of post- release supervision. I find that offenders who received more supervision were not less likely to reoffend. The result holds for high-risk and low-risk offenders and for various types of recidivism.

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Effectiveness of a short-term mental health court: Criminal recidivism one year postexit

Virginia Aldigé Hiday, Heathcote Wales & Bradley Ray
Law and Human Behavior, December 2013, Pages 401-411

Abstract:

This article investigated criminal recidivism 1 year postexit from a mental health court (MHC), which has, unlike prior MHCs studied, relatively short periods of court supervision. It benefits from a federal pretrial services agency that screens all arrestees for mental illness and dedicates a specialized supervision unit (SSU) to provide supervision and services while on pretrial release to all screened positive, including MHC participants. We compared criminal activity prior to key arrest with criminal activity post court disposition in MHC participants (N = 408) and MHC-eligible mentally ill arrestees in SSU (N = 687) receiving the same supervision and services while controlling for possible confounders. The proportion of MHC participants arrested was significantly lower in the year after MHC exit and significantly lower than that of the comparison group. They also averaged fewer rearrests and had a longer time to rearrest. MHC graduates made the greatest gains and accounted for the recidivism differences between MHC participants and the comparison group. This study adds to the accumulating evidence of the effectiveness of MHCs in reducing recidivism among offenders with severe mental illness.

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Criminal Propensity, Social Context, and Recidivism: A Multilevel Analysis of Interactive Relationships

Xia Wang et al.
Criminal Justice and Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:

With almost 700,000 inmates released annually in the United States, the predictors of successful reentry have received considerable attention. Prior research documents that recidivism is influenced by both ex-inmate characteristics and social context. Little attention, however, has been paid to the role social context might play in moderating the effects of individual-level risk factors. Using inmate release data from the Florida Department of Corrections and other sources, we examine whether contextual factors that promote crime and antisocial behavior amplify the association between individual criminal propensity and recidivism. Our analysis offers limited support for the moderating effects of context, suggesting that the relationship between criminal propensity and recidivism is substantial and largely independent of community characteristics. We discuss the implications of the findings for theory, research, and policy.

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Long-term effects of the Moving to Opportunity residential mobility experiment on crime and delinquency

Matthew Sciandra et al.
Journal of Experimental Criminology, December 2013, Pages 451-489

Objectives: Using data from a randomized experiment, to examine whether moving youth out of areas of concentrated poverty, where a disproportionate amount of crime occurs, prevents involvement in crime.

Methods: We draw on new administrative data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Moving to Opportunity (MTO) experiment. MTO families were randomized into an experimental group offered a housing voucher that could only be used to move to a low-poverty neighborhood, a Section 8 housing group offered a standard housing voucher, and a control group. This paper focuses on MTO youth ages 15–25 in 2001 (n = 4,643) and analyzes intention to treat effects on neighborhood characteristics and criminal behavior (number of violent- and property-crime arrests) through 10 years after randomization.

Results: We find the offer of a housing voucher generates large improvements in neighborhood conditions that attenuate over time and initially generates substantial reductions in violent-crime arrests and sizable increases in property-crime arrests for experimental group males. The crime effects attenuate over time along with differences in neighborhood conditions.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that criminal behavior is more strongly related to current neighborhood conditions (situational neighborhood effects) than to past neighborhood conditions (developmental neighborhood effects). The MTO design makes it difficult to determine which specific neighborhood characteristics are most important for criminal behavior. Our administrative data analyses could be affected by differences across areas in the likelihood that a crime results in an arrest.

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The attribution of responsibility in cases of stalking

Adrian Scott et al.
Psychology, Crime & Law, forthcoming

Abstract:

There is a general belief that stranger stalkers present the greatest threat to the personal safety of victims, despite national victimisation surveys and applied research demonstrating that ex-partner stalkers are generally more persistent and violent. The just-world hypothesis offers a possible explanation for this apparent contradiction. The current research used nine hypothetical scenarios, administered to 328 university students, to investigate the assumptions that underlie attributions of responsibility in cases of stalking. It explores whether these assumptions are consistent with the proposed mechanisms of the just-world hypothesis, and whether they vary according to the nature of the perpetrator–victim relationship and conduct severity. Thematic analysis revealed that the victim was perceived to be more responsible for the situation when the perpetrator was portrayed as an ex-partner rather than a stranger or acquaintance. Furthermore, victims were perceived to be more responsible when the perpetrator's behaviour was persistent and threatening. These findings are discussed in the context of the just-world hypothesis and related to the proposed mechanisms by which a person can reinterpret a situation so that the perceived injustice disappears.

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Do flexible alcohol trading hours reduce violence? A theory-based natural experiment in alcohol policy

David Humphreys & Manuel Eisner
Social Science & Medicine, February 2014, Pages 1–9

Abstract:

Alcohol-related violence is a pressing public health concern. In 2005, the government of England and Wales took a controversial approach to preventing violence by removing restrictions on opening hours for alcohol outlets, thus increasing the availability of alcohol. The policy aimed to remove fixed closing times, which it claimed was contributing to urban violence occurring at peak closing times. It proposed to reduce violence and disorder by installing systems of ‘staggered closing times’. This policy was criticised for overlooking established public health principles prioritising the control of alcohol availability in the prevention of alcohol-related harm. In this study, we treated the removal of trading hour restrictions as a natural experiment to test competing theoretical principles about the relationship between alcohol availability and violence. Our study took place in the City of Manchester over a four-year period 2004-2008. Detailed trading records for over 600 alcohol outlets were obtained, as were police records for all violent incidents. We found considerable variation in the implementation of extended trading hours across the city, which affected area-level exposure of changes in alcohol availability and staggered closing times. To isolate the effect of these changes on violence, we performed a dose-response analysis to examine whether improved staggering of closing hours (or increased alcohol availability) was associated with decreases in violence. We found no evidence to support the government-proposed hypothesis that staggered closing reduces violence. We also found no support for the alternative hypothesis; that increase alcohol availability would result in increased violence. This study provides an example of how better evidence can be generated from natural experiments by placing added emphasis on theory, causal mechanisms and implementation science.

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How long did it last? A 10-year reconviction follow-up study of high intensity training for young offenders

Darrick Jolliffe, David Farrington & Philip Howard
Journal of Experimental Criminology, December 2013, Pages 515-531

Objectives: Most research has suggested that correctional boot camps are not very successful in reducing reoffending, but recent evidence has been more encouraging for programs that include significant rehabilitative components. In line with this, High Intensity Training (HIT) for offenders aged 18–21 at Thorn Cross Young Offender Institution in England was followed by a significant reduction in the number of reconvictions in a 2-year follow up. This article aims to evaluate the impact of the HIT program after 10 years.

Methods: The evaluation used a quasi-experimental design in which male young offenders who received HIT were individually matched, on their risk of reconviction, to a comparison group who went to other prisons. Official reconviction data, including the prevalence, frequency, types, and costs of offenses were used as the outcome measures.

Results: Offenders who received HIT had a significantly lower prevalence and frequency of reconvictions, but their superiority over the control group reduced over time (after about 4 years). However, the cumulative number of convictions that were saved increased steadily over time, from 1.35 per offender at 2 years to 3.35 per offender at 10 years. The cumulative cost savings also increased over time, and the benefit:cost ratio, based on fewer convictions, increased from 1.13 at 2 years to 3.93 at 10 years.

Conclusions: The beneficial effects of the HIT program became more obvious over time. More randomized experiments and long-term follow-up research, including regular interviews, are needed to evaluate the cumulative and persisting effects of correctional interventions more accurately.

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Using friends for money: The positional importance of money-launderers in organized crime

Aili Malm & Gisela Bichler
Trends in Organized Crime, December 2013, Pages 365-381

Abstract:

Despite the significant amount of attention and resources invested into the global anti-money laundering (AML) regime, there is a dearth of empirical studies on the role of money-launderers in illicit markets. This research tests two primary justifications of AML policy: 1) most money-launderers would not be detected through criminal investigations of predicate crimes and organized crime groups; and, 2) professional money-launderers play an important role in illicit markets and criminal networks. We extracted information about money-launderers in the drug market from police intelligence reports over a three-year period. Social network analysis was used to assess the positional importance of the launderers. The results show that most individuals are self-laundering, and relative to other market roles, launderers are not particularly central players. Policy implications for AML enforcement are discussed.

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Assessing Sex Offender Recidivism Using Multiple Measures: A Longitudinal Analysis

Lawrence Bench & Terry Allen
Prison Journal, December 2013, Pages 411-428

Abstract:

While the recidivistic activity of sex offenders has received considerable attention from researchers, most studies have been limited by using a single measurement of recidivism. Using arrest/conviction episodes as the unit of analysis, the present study tracked 389 convicted sex offenders for up to 10 arrest/conviction episodes using 11 different measurements of recidivism for an average of 15.7 years. Logistic regression was used to create a model that successfully predicted recidivism with approximately 70% accuracy. The rate of recidivism as defined by new convictions for sex offenses was approximately 10% overall.

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A Method for Internal Benchmarking of Criminal Justice System Performance

Greg Ridgeway & John MacDonald
Crime & Delinquency, forthcoming

Abstract:

Internal benchmarking is the process of comparing the performance of one entity with the performance of comparison entities. Assessments of the various entities of the criminal justice system, such as police officers, judges, correctional facilities, and neighborhoods, often involve the construction of benchmarks with which to compare their relative performance. However, the typically made comparisons do not adequately account for the underlying differences in these entities. This article presents a general method, based on propensity scoring and doubly robust estimation, for constructing benchmarks for assessing the performance of entities within the criminal justice system while properly accounting for potentially confounding differences among the entities. The article demonstrates the method on an assessment of police performance in Cincinnati.

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Examining the Relations Among Pain Tolerance, Psychopathic Traits, and Violent and Nonviolent Antisocial Behavior

Joshua Miller et al.
Journal of Abnormal Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:

Psychopathic traits are typically associated with an array of externalizing behaviors including violent and nonviolent crime and recidivism, substance use, aggression, and sexual coercion. In the current study, we test the hypothesis that psychopathic traits are related to an increased tolerance for physical pain, which may partially account for the relations between psychopathy and antisocial behavior (ASB). Using community participants oversampled for psychopathic traits (N = 104), we found that psychopathic traits, measured using self- and informant reports, manifested small correlations with some measures of physical pain tolerance (tolerance of pressure and electric shock) but not others (tolerance of cold temperature). In addition, pain tolerance, particularly tolerance of pressure, manifested small correlations with a history of antisocial and aggressive behavior. However, there was little evidence that pain tolerance serves as a mediator of the relations between psychopathy and violent or nonviolent ASB. Conversely, there was evidence that the relations between pain tolerance and ASB were mediated by the presence of certain psychopathic traits. The implications of these findings are discussed.

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Deployments, Combat Exposure, and Crime

Mark Anderson & Daniel Rees
Montana State University Working Paper, December 2013

Abstract:

During the period 2001-2009, four combat brigades and the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment were based at Fort Carson, Colorado. These units were repeatedly deployed during the Iraq War, allowing us to measure the effect of arguably exogenous changes in troop levels on violent crime in El Paso County, where Fort Carson is located. Our results suggest that never-deployed units contributed to community violence in the form of assaults, murders, and robberies. In contrast, estimates of the relationship between the number of previously deployed units and violent crime are generally small and statistically insignificant. We conclude that soldiers returning from combat do not represent a special threat to public safety.

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Staying out of Sight? Concentrated Policing and Local Political Action

Amy Lerman & Vesla Weaver
ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, January 2014, Pages 202-219

Abstract:

In some urban neighborhoods, encounters with police have become one of the primary points of contact between disadvantaged citizens and their government. Yet extant scholarship has only just begun to explore how criminal justice interventions help to shape the political lives of the urban poor. In this article, we ask: What are the consequences of the increased use of stop-and-frisks (Terry stops) in disadvantaged neighborhoods for communities’ engagement with the state? Relying on a novel measure of local citizen engagement (311 calls for service) and more than one million police stops, we find that it is not concentrated police surveillance per se that matters but, rather, the character of police contact. The concentration of police stops overall is associated with higher levels of community engagement, while at the same time, a high degree of stops that feature searches or the use of force, especially when they do not result in an arrest, have a chilling effect on neighborhood-level outreach to local government. Our article marks a first step toward understanding what concentrated policing means for the democratic life and political agency of American communities.

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Criminal Offending and Learning Disabilities in New Zealand Youth: Does Reading Comprehension Predict Recidivism?

Julia Rucklidge, Anthony McLean & Paula Bateup
Crime & Delinquency, December 2013, Pages 1263-1286

Abstract:

Sixty youth (16-19 years) from two youth prison sites participate in a prospective study examining criminal offending and learning disabilities (LD), completing measures of estimated IQ, attention, reading, and mathematical and oral language abilities. Prevalence rates of LDs exceed those of international studies, with 91.67% of the offenders showing significant difficulties in at least one area of achievement (defined as 1 SD or more below the normative mean), the mean reading comprehension score falling at the 4th percentile. Four years post assessment, recidivism rates among released youth (n = 51) are investigated. After the investigators control for other known risk factors (including delinquency and estimated IQ), reading comprehension predicts future offending across measures, capturing rate, seriousness, and persistence of offending post release.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Sunday, December 22, 2013

In this together

Looking Like a Leader – Facial Shape Predicts Perceived Height and Leadership Ability

Daniel Re et al.
PLoS ONE, December 2013

Abstract:

Judgments of leadership ability from face images predict the outcomes of actual political elections and are correlated with leadership success in the corporate world. The specific facial cues that people use to judge leadership remain unclear, however. Physical height is also associated with political and organizational success, raising the possibility that facial cues of height contribute to leadership perceptions. Consequently, we assessed whether cues to height exist in the face and, if so, whether they are associated with perception of leadership ability. We found that facial cues to perceived height had a strong relationship with perceived leadership ability. Furthermore, when allowed to manually manipulate faces, participants increased facial cues associated with perceived height in order to maximize leadership perception. A morphometric analysis of face shape revealed that structural facial masculinity was not responsible for the relationship between perceived height and perceived leadership ability. Given the prominence of facial appearance in making social judgments, facial cues to perceived height may have a significant influence on leadership selection.

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Oxytocin and the Biological Basis for Interpersonal and Political Trust

Jennifer Merolla et al.
Political Behavior, December 2013, Pages 753-776

Abstract:

Political scientists have documented the many ways in which trust influences attitudes and behaviors that are important for the legitimacy and stability of democratic political systems. They have also explored the social, economic, and political factors that tend to increase levels of trust in others, in political figures, and in government. Neuroeconomic studies have shown that the neuroactive hormone oxytocin, a peptide that plays a key role in social attachment and affiliation in non-human mammals, is associated with trust and reciprocity in humans (e.g., Kosfeld et al., Nature 435:673–676, 2005; Zak et al., Horm Beh 48:522–527, 2005). While oxytocin has been linked to indicators of interpersonal trust, we do not know if it extends to trust in government actors and institutions. In order to explore these relationships, we conducted an experiment in which subjects were randomly assigned to receive a placebo or 40 IU of oxytocin administered intranasally. We show that manipulating oxytocin increases individuals’ interpersonal trust. It also has effects on trust in political figures and in government, though only for certain partisan groups and for those low in levels of interpersonal trust.

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Money makes you reveal more: Consequences of monetary cues on preferential disclosure of personal information

Sumitava Mukherjee, Jaison Manjaly & Maithilee Nargundkar
Frontiers in Psychology, November 2013

Abstract:

With continuous growth in information aggregation and dissemination, studies on privacy preferences are important to understand what makes people reveal information about them. Previous studies have demonstrated that short-term gains and possible monetary rewards make people risk disclosing information. Given the malleability of privacy preferences and the ubiquitous monetary cues in daily lives, we measured the contextual effect of reminding people about money on their privacy disclosure preferences. In experiment 1, we found that priming money increased willingness to disclose their personal information that could be shared with an online shopping website. Beyond stated willingness, experiment 2 tested whether priming money increases propensity for actually giving out personal information. Across both experiments, we found that priming money increases both the reported willingness and the actual disclosure of personal information. Our results imply that not only do short-term rewards make people trade-off personal security and privacy, but also mere exposure to money increases self-disclosure.

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Why do survey respondents disclose more when computers ask the questions?

Laura Lind et al.
Public Opinion Quarterly, forthcoming

Abstract:

Self-administration of surveys has been shown to increase respondents’ reporting of sensitive information, and audio computer-assisted self-interviewing (ACASI) has become the self-administration method of choice for many social surveys. The study reported here, a laboratory experiment with 235 respondents, examines why ACASI seems to promote disclosure. It compares responses in a voice-only (self-administered) interface with responses to a face-to-face (FTF) human interviewer and to two automated interviewing systems that presented animated virtual interviewers with more and less facial movement. All four modes involved the same human interviewer’s voice, and the virtual interviewers’ facial motion was captured from the same human interviewer who carried out the FTF interviews. For the ten questions for which FTF-ACASI mode differences (generally, more disclosure in ACASI than FTF) were observed, we compared response patterns for the virtual interviewer conditions. Disclosure for most questions was greater under ACASI than in any of the other modes, even though the two virtual interview modes involved computerized self-administration. This suggests that the locus of FTF-ACASI effects is particularly tied to the absence of facial representation in ACASI. Additional evidence suggests that respondents’ affective experience (e.g., comfort) during the interview may mediate these mode effects.

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Exploring own-age biases in deception detection

Gillian Slessor et al.
Cognition & Emotion, forthcoming

Abstract:

The present study explored own-age biases in deception detection, investigating whether individuals were more likely to trust those in their own-age group. Younger and older participants were asked to detect deceit from videos of younger and older speakers, rating their confidence in each decision. Older participants showed an own-age bias: they were more likely to think that deceptive speakers of their own age, relative to younger speakers, were telling the truth. Older participants were also more confident in their judgements of own-age, relative to other-age, speakers. There were no own-age biases for younger participants. In a subsequent (apparently unrelated) task, participants were asked to rate the trustworthiness of the speakers. Both age groups of participants trusted younger speakers who had previously told the truth more compared to those who had lied. This effect was not found for older speakers. These findings are considered in relation to the in-group/out-group model of social cognition and common stereotypical beliefs held about younger and older adults.

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Second thoughts on free riding

Ulrik Nielsen, Jean-Robert Tyran & Erik Wengström
Economics Letters, February 2014, Pages 136–139

Abstract:

We use the strategy method to classify subjects into cooperator types in a large-scale online Public Goods Game and find that free riders spend more time on making their decisions than conditional cooperators and other cooperator types. This result is robust to reversing the framing of the game and is not driven by free riders lacking cognitive ability, confusion, or natural swiftness in responding. Our results suggest that conditional cooperation serves as a norm and that free riders need time to resolve a moral dilemma.

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Does Laboratory Trading Mirror Behavior in Real World Markets? Fair Bargaining and Competitive Bidding on EBay

Gary Bolton & Axel Ockenfels
Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, January 2014, Pages 143–154

Abstract:

Laboratory market experiments observe a sharp dichotomy between (selfish) competitive behavior and fair-minded social behavior depending on competitive conditions. While the dichotomy is consistent with social preference theory, the often advanced hypothesis that social behavior is an artifact of laboratory conditions has not heretofore been ruled out. We tested these competing hypotheses in a field experiment on eBay conducted with experienced traders. The buyer behavior we observe strongly confirms the social preference hypothesis. Also, the behavioral patterns in the field experiment mirror fully naturally occurring trading patterns in the market. For instance, some sellers do not use their commitment power as predicted by theories of both selfish and social behavior, with the pattern of deviation reflecting traders’ market experience outside the experiment.

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Forgiver Triumphs in Alternating Prisoner's Dilemma

Benjamin Zagorsky et al.
PLoS ONE, December 2013

Abstract:

Cooperative behavior, where one individual incurs a cost to help another, is a wide spread phenomenon. Here we study direct reciprocity in the context of the alternating Prisoner's Dilemma. We consider all strategies that can be implemented by one and two-state automata. We calculate the payoff matrix of all pairwise encounters in the presence of noise. We explore deterministic selection dynamics with and without mutation. Using different error rates and payoff values, we observe convergence to a small number of distinct equilibria. Two of them are uncooperative strict Nash equilibria representing always-defect (ALLD) and Grim. The third equilibrium is mixed and represents a cooperative alliance of several strategies, dominated by a strategy which we call Forgiver. Forgiver cooperates whenever the opponent has cooperated; it defects once when the opponent has defected, but subsequently Forgiver attempts to re-establish cooperation even if the opponent has defected again. Forgiver is not an evolutionarily stable strategy, but the alliance, which it rules, is asymptotically stable. For a wide range of parameter values the most commonly observed outcome is convergence to the mixed equilibrium, dominated by Forgiver. Our results show that although forgiving might incur a short-term loss it can lead to a long-term gain. Forgiveness facilitates stable cooperation in the presence of exploitation and noise.

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Too good to be true: Suspicion-based rejections of high offers

Wolfgang Steinel, Ilja van Beest & Eric Van Dijk Group
Processes & Intergroup Relations, forthcoming

Abstract:

It is a common belief that high offers are more readily accepted than low offers. In contrast to this general notion, the current set of studies shows that there is a limit to the beneficial effects of making high offers and that becoming too generous may backfire. This paradoxical finding is observed when offers are made in an ambiguous situation of asymmetric information. In three studies, we found that when bargaining opponents had private information over the total amount that was to be distributed, participants became suspicious about high offers (i.e., offers that were beneficial to themselves), but not about low or equal offers. Due to suspicion, participants rejected high offers more often than equal offers.

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A Description–Experience Gap in Social Interactions: Information about Interdependence and Its Effects on Cooperation

Jolie Martin et al.
Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, forthcoming

Abstract:

In social interactions, decision makers are often unaware of their interdependence with others, precluding the realization of shared long-term benefits. In an experiment, pairs of participants played an Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma under various conditions involving differing levels of interdependence information. Each pair was assigned to one of four conditions: “No-Info” players saw their own actions and outcomes, but were not told that they interacted with another person; “Min-Info” players knew they interacted with another person but still without seeing the other's actions or outcomes; “Mid-Info” players discovered the other's actions and outcomes as they were revealed over time; and “Max-Info” players were also shown a complete payoff matrix mapping actions to outcomes from the outset and throughout the game. With higher levels of interdependence information, we found increased individual cooperation and mutual cooperation, driven by increased reciprocating cooperation (in response to a counterpart's cooperation). Furthermore, joint performance and satisfaction were higher for pairs with more information. We discuss how awareness of interdependence may encourage cooperative behavior in real-world interactions.

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Defectors Cannot Be Detected during “Small Talk” with Strangers

Joseph Manson, Matthew Gervais & Michelle Kline
PLoS ONE, December 2013

Abstract:

To account for the widespread human tendency to cooperate in one-shot social dilemmas, some theorists have proposed that cooperators can be reliably detected based on ethological displays that are difficult to fake. Experimental findings have supported the view that cooperators can be distinguished from defectors based on “thin slices” of behavior, but the relevant cues have remained elusive, and the role of the judge's perspective remains unclear. In this study, we followed triadic conversations among unacquainted same-sex college students with unannounced dyadic one-shot prisoner's dilemmas, and asked participants to guess the PD decisions made toward them and among the other two participants. Two other sets of participants guessed the PD decisions after viewing videotape of the conversations, either with foreknowledge (informed), or without foreknowledge (naïve), of the post-conversation PD. Only naïve video viewers approached better-than-chance prediction accuracy, and they were significantly accurate at predicting the PD decisions of only opposite-sexed conversation participants. Four ethological displays recently proposed to cue defection in one-shot social dilemmas (arms crossed, lean back, hand touch, and face touch) failed to predict either actual defection or guesses of defection by any category of observer. Our results cast doubt on the role of “greenbeard” signals in the evolution of human prosociality, although they suggest that eavesdropping may be more informative about others' cooperative propensities than direct interaction.

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Unintended imitation affects success in a competitive game

Marnix Naber, Maryam Vaziri Pashkam & Ken Nakayama
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 10 December 2013, Pages 20046-20050

Abstract:

Imitation typically occurs in social contexts where people interact and have common goals. Here, we show that people are also highly susceptible to imitate each other in a competitive context. Pairs of players performed a competitive and fast-reaching task (a variant of the arcade whac-a-mole game) in which money could be earned if players hit brief-appearing visual targets on a large touchscreen before their opponents. In three separate experiments, we demonstrate that reaction times and movements were highly correlated within pairs of players. Players affected their success by imitating each other, and imitation depended on the visibility of the opponent’s behavior. Imitation persisted, despite the competitive and demanding nature of the game, even if this resulted in lower scores and payoffs and even when there was no need to counteract the opponent’s actions.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Warm and fuzzy

The Temperature Premium: Warm Temperatures Increase Product Valuation

Yonat Zwebner, Leonard Lee & Jacob Goldenberg
Journal of Consumer Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:

A series of five field and laboratory studies reveal a temperature-premium effect: warm temperatures increase individuals' valuation of products. We demonstrate the effect across a variety of products using different approaches to measure or manipulate physical warmth and different assessments of product valuation. The studies suggest that exposure to physical warmth activates the concept of emotional warmth, eliciting positive reactions and increasing product valuation. Further supporting the causal role of emotional warmth, and following prior research relating greater positive feelings to reduced distance, we find that warm temperatures also reduce individuals’ perceived distance from the target products.

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The Rise and Fall of Humor: Psychological Distance Modulates Humorous Responses to Tragedy

Peter McGraw, Lawrence Williams & Caleb Warren
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Abstract:

Humor is a ubiquitous experience that facilitates coping, social coordination, and well-being. We examine how humorous responses to a tragedy change over time by measuring reactions to jokes about Hurricane Sandy. Inconsistent with the belief that the passage of time monotonically increases humor, but consistent with the benign violation theory of humor, a longitudinal study reveals that humorous responses to Sandy’s destruction rose, peaked, and eventually fell over the course of 100 days. Time creates a comedic sweet spot that occurs when the psychological distance from a tragedy is large enough to buffer people from threat (creating a benign violation) but not so large that the event becomes a purely benign, nonthreatening situation. The finding can help psychologists understand how people cope and provide clues to what makes things funny and when they will be funny.

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The Ultra-Rare-Item Effect: Visual Search for Exceedingly Rare Items Is Highly Susceptible to Error

Stephen Mitroff & Adam Biggs
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:

Accuracy is paramount in radiology and security screening, yet many factors undermine success. Target prevalence is a particularly worrisome factor, as targets are rarely present (e.g., the cancer rate in mammography is ~0.5%), and low target prevalence has been linked to increased search errors. More troubling is the fact that specific target types can have extraordinarily low frequency rates (e.g., architectural distortions in mammography — a specific marker of potential cancer — appear in fewer than 0.05% of cases). By assessing search performance across millions of trials from the Airport Scanner smartphone application, we demonstrated that the detection of ultra-rare items was disturbingly poor. A logarithmic relationship between target detection and target frequency (adjusted R2 = .92) revealed that ultra-rare items had catastrophically low detection rates relative to targets with higher frequencies. Extraordinarily low search performance for these extraordinarily rare targets — what we term the ultra-rare-item effect — is troubling given that radiological and security-screening searches are primarily ultra-rare-item searches.

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Prevalence effects in newly trained airport checkpoint screeners: Trained observers miss rare targets, too

Jeremy Wolfe et al.
Journal of Vision, December 2013

Abstract:

Many socially important search tasks are characterized by low target prevalence, meaning that targets are rarely encountered. For example, transportation security officers (TSOs) at airport checkpoints encounter very few actual threats in carry-on bags. In laboratory-based visual search experiments, low prevalence reduces the probability of detecting targets (Wolfe, Horowitz, & Kenner, 2005). In the lab, this “prevalence effect” is caused by changes in decision and response criteria (Wolfe & Van Wert, 2010) and can be mitigated by presenting a burst of high-prevalence search with feedback (Wolfe et al., 2007). The goal of this study was to see if these effects could be replicated in the field with TSOs. A total of 125 newly trained TSOs participated in one of two experiments as part of their final evaluation following training. They searched for threats in simulated bags across five blocks. The first three blocks were low prevalence (target prevalence ≤ .05) with no feedback; the fourth block was high prevalence (.50) with full feedback; and the final block was, again, low prevalence. We found that newly trained TSOs were better at detecting targets at high compared to low prevalence, replicating the prevalence effect. Furthermore, performance was better (and response criterion was more “liberal”) in the low-prevalence block that took place after the high-prevalence block than in the initial three low-prevalence blocks, suggesting that a burst of high-prevalence trials may help alleviate the prevalence effect in the field.

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Out of Mind, Out of Sight: Unexpected Scene Elements Frequently Go Unnoticed Until Primed

George Slavich & Philip Zimbardo
Current Psychology, December 2013, Pages 301-317

Abstract:

The human visual system employs a sophisticated set of strategies for scanning the environment and directing attention to stimuli that can be expected given the context and a person’s past experience. Although these strategies enable us to navigate a very complex physical and social environment, they can also cause highly salient, but unexpected stimuli to go completely unnoticed. To examine the generality of this phenomenon, we conducted eight studies that included 15 different experimental conditions and 1,577 participants in all. These studies revealed that a large majority of participants do not report having seen a woman in the center of an urban scene who was photographed in midair as she was committing suicide. Despite seeing the scene repeatedly, 46 % of all participants failed to report seeing a central figure and only 4.8 % reported seeing a falling person. Frequency of noticing the suicidal woman was highest for participants who read a narrative priming story that increased the extent to which she was schematically congruent with the scene. In contrast to this robust effect of inattentional blindness, a majority of participants reported seeing other peripheral objects in the visual scene that were equally difficult to detect, yet more consistent with the scene. Follow-up qualitative analyses revealed that participants reported seeing many elements that were not actually present, but which could have been expected given the overall context of the scene. Together, these findings demonstrate the robustness of inattentional blindness and highlight the specificity with which different visual primes may increase noticing behavior.

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Point-and-Shoot Memories: The Influence of Taking Photos on Memory for a Museum Tour

Linda Henkel
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:

Two studies examined whether photographing objects impacts what is remembered about them. Participants were led on a guided tour of an art museum and were directed to observe some objects and to photograph others. Results showed a photo-taking-impairment effect: If participants took a photo of each object as a whole, they remembered fewer objects and remembered fewer details about the objects and the objects’ locations in the museum than if they instead only observed the objects and did not photograph them. However, when participants zoomed in to photograph a specific part of the object, their subsequent recognition and detail memory was not impaired, and, in fact, memory for features that were not zoomed in on was just as strong as memory for features that were zoomed in on. This finding highlights key differences between people’s memory and the camera’s “memory” and suggests that the additional attentional and cognitive processes engaged by this focused activity can eliminate the photo-taking-impairment effect.

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Trust as an alternative to risk

Eric Uslaner
Public Choice, December 2013, Pages 629-639

Abstract:

Many students of trust see it as a way to mitigate risk through the development of strong institutions that create trust. I offer an alternative view of trust, moralistic or generalized trust, that depends upon a psychological foundation of optimism and control. This form of trust, in contrast to arguments by Paldam and others, has “value” independent of experience. Using data from a survey of metropolitan Philadelphia in 1996, I show that if you believe that “most people can be trusted,” you are substantially more likely to see your neighborhood as safe at night even controlling for both the objective level of crime as well having been the victim of a crime, having had parents who were the victims of crime, watching local television news (which exposes people to violent events), where you live (central city and suburb), and gender. Trust thus “reduces” perceptions of risk independently of personal experience.

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Acceleration of image analyst training with transcranial direct current stimulation

Andy McKinley et al.
Behavioral Neuroscience, December 2013, Pages 936-946

Abstract:

Humans today are routinely and increasingly presented with vast quantities of data that challenge their capacity for efficient processing. To restore the balance between man and machine, it is worthwhile to explore new methods for enhancing or accelerating this capacity. This study was designed to investigate the efficacy of transcranial DC stimulation (tDCS) to reduce training time and increase proficiency in spatial recognition using a simulated synthetic aperture radar (SAR) task. Twenty-seven Air Force active duty members volunteered to participate in the study. Each participant was assigned to 1 of 3 stimulation groups and received two, 90-min training sessions on a target search and identification task using SAR imagery followed by a test. The tDCS anode was applied to site F10 according to the 10–20 electroencephalographic electrode convention while the cathode was placed on the contralateral bicep. Group 1 received anodal tDCS at 2 mA for 30 min in the first training session and sham tDCS in the second session. Group 2 received the stimulation conditions in the opposite order. Group 3 did not receive stimulation at all. Results showed that participants receiving training plus tDCS attained visual search accuracies ∼25% higher than those provided with sham stimulation or no stimulation. However, a corresponding performance improvement was not found in the first training session for the change detection portion of the task. This indicates that experience with the imagery is important in the tDCS-elicited performance improvements in change detection.

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The Eye Pupil Adjusts to Imaginary Light

Bruno Laeng & Unni Sulutvedt
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:

If a mental image is a rerepresentation of a perception, then properties such as luminance or brightness should also be conjured up in the image. We monitored pupil diameters with an infrared eye tracker while participants first saw and then generated mental images of shapes that varied in luminance or complexity, while looking at an empty gray background. Participants also imagined familiar scenarios (e.g., a “sunny sky” or a “dark room”) while looking at the same neutral screen. In all experiments, participants’ eye pupils dilated or constricted, respectively, in response to dark and bright imagined objects and scenarios. Shape complexity increased mental effort and pupillary sizes independently of shapes’ luminance. Because the participants were unable to voluntarily constrict their eyes’ pupils, the observed pupillary adjustments to imaginary light present a strong case for accounts of mental imagery as a process based on brain states similar to those that arise during perception.

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When One Is Ostracized, Others Loom: Social Rejection Makes Other People Appear Closer

Shane Pitts, John Paul Wilson & Kurt Hugenberg
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Abstract:

Social rejection causes a host of interpersonal consequences, including increases in reaffiliative behaviors. In two experiments, we show that reaffiliation motivation stemming from rejection biases perceptions of one’s distance from a social target, making others seem closer than they are. In Experiment 1, participants who had written about rejection underthrew a beanbag when the goal was to land it at the feet of a new interaction partner, relative to control participants. In Experiment 2, rejected participants provided written underestimates of the distance to a person relative to control participants, but only when the target was a real person, and not a life-sized cardboard simulation of a person. Thus, using multiple manipulations of social rejection, and multiple measures of distance perception, this research demonstrates that rejection can bias basic perceptual processes, making actual sources of reaffiliation (actual people), but not mere images of people, loom toward the self.

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Stranger Danger: Parenthood Increases the Envisioned Bodily Formidability of Menacing Men

Daniel Fessler et al.
Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:

Due to altriciality and the importance of embodied capital, children’s fitness is contingent on parental investment. Injury suffered by a parent therefore degrades the parent’s fitness both by constraining reproduction and by diminishing the fitness of existing offspring. Due to the latter added cost, compared to non-parents, parents should be more cautious in hazardous situations, including potentially agonistic interactions. Prior research indicates that relative formidability is conceptualized in terms of size and strength. As erroneous under-estimation of a foe’s formidability heightens the risk of injury, parents should therefore conceptualize a potential antagonist as larger, stronger, and of more sinister intent than should non-parents; secondarily, the presence of one’s vulnerable children should exacerbate this pattern. We tested these predictions in the U.S. using reactions to an evocative vignette, administered via the Internet (Study 1), and in-person assessments of the facial photograph of a purported criminal, collected on the streets of Southern California (Study 2). As predicted, parents envisioned a potential antagonist to be more formidable than did non-parents. Significant differences between parents with children and non-parents without children in the threat that the foe was thought to pose (Study 1) were fully mediated by increases in estimated physical formidability.

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Awe, Uncertainty, and Agency Detection

Piercarlo Valdesolo & Jesse Graham
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:

Across five studies, we found that awe increases both supernatural belief (Studies 1, 2, and 5) and intentional-pattern perception (Studies 3 and 4) — two phenomena that have been linked to agency detection, or the tendency to interpret events as the consequence of intentional and purpose-driven agents. Effects were both directly and conceptually replicated, and mediational analyses revealed that these effects were driven by the influence of awe on tolerance for uncertainty. Experiences of awe decreased tolerance for uncertainty, which, in turn, increased the tendency to believe in nonhuman agents and to perceive human agency in random events.

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Does Everything Happen When You Are Young? Introducing the Youth Bias

Jonathan Koppel & Dorthe Berntsen
Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:

The reminiscence bump refers to the disproportionate number of individuals' autobiographical memories which date from young adulthood. A similar bump is found in cultural life scripts: When people are asked to nominate and date major transitional events in a typical life course in their culture, a disproportionate number of the events cited are likewise expected to occur in young adulthood. Across two online studies, we tested whether these effects reflect a broader tendency to ascribe most important events to young adulthood. Specifically, we probed, in adult USA samples, for when individuals expect the most important public event of a typical person's life to take place. Although the occurrence of such public events should be randomly distributed across the lifespan, we found a bump in young adulthood. We found this bump in both subjective (Study 1; probing cultural expectations for the expected timing of the public event that a typical person considers to be the most important of their lifetime) and objective (Study 2; probing cultural expectations for the expected timing of the objectively most important public event of a typical person's lifetime) conditions. We term this set of cultural expectations the youth bias and discuss its implications for human cognition.

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Blue Light Stimulates Cognitive Brain Activity in Visually Blind Individuals

Gilles Vandewalle et al.
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, December 2013, Pages 2072-2085

Abstract:

Light regulates multiple non-image-forming (or nonvisual) circadian, neuroendocrine, and neurobehavioral functions, via outputs from intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs). Exposure to light directly enhances alertness and performance, so light is an important regulator of wakefulness and cognition. The roles of rods, cones, and ipRGCs in the impact of light on cognitive brain functions remain unclear, however. A small percentage of blind individuals retain non-image-forming photoreception and offer a unique opportunity to investigate light impacts in the absence of conscious vision, presumably through ipRGCs. Here, we show that three such patients were able to choose nonrandomly about the presence of light despite their complete lack of sight. Furthermore, 2 sec of blue light modified EEG activity when administered simultaneously to auditory stimulations. fMRI further showed that, during an auditory working memory task, less than a minute of blue light triggered the recruitment of supplemental prefrontal and thalamic brain regions involved in alertness and cognition regulation as well as key areas of the default mode network. These results, which have to be considered as a proof of concept, show that non-image-forming photoreception triggers some awareness for light and can have a more rapid impact on human cognition than previously understood, if brain processing is actively engaged. Furthermore, light stimulates higher cognitive brain activity, independently of vision, and engages supplemental brain areas to perform an ongoing cognitive process. To our knowledge, our results constitute the first indication that ipRGC signaling may rapidly affect fundamental cerebral organization, so that it could potentially participate to the regulation of numerous aspects of human brain function.

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Thyme to touch: Infants possess strategies that protect them from dangers posed by plants

Annie Wertz & Karen Wynn
Cognition, January 2014, Pages 44–49

Abstract:

Plants have been central to human life as sources of food and raw materials for artifact construction over evolutionary time. But plants also have chemical and physical defenses (such as harmful toxins and thorns) that provide protection from herbivores. The presence of these defenses has shaped the behavioral strategies of non-human animals. Here we report evidence that human infants possess strategies that would serve to protect them from dangers posed by plants. Across two experiments, infants as young as eight months exhibit greater reluctance to manually explore plants compared to other entities. These results expand the growing literature showing that infants are sensitive to certain ancestrally recurrent dangers, and provide a basis for further exploration.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Friday, December 20, 2013

Inside job

The Value of Connections in Turbulent Times: Evidence from the United States

Daron Acemoglu et al.
NBER Working Paper, December 2013

Abstract:
The announcement of Timothy Geithner as nominee for Treasury Secretary in November 2008 produced a cumulative abnormal return for financial firms with which he had a connection. This return was about 6% after the first full day of trading and about 12% after ten trading days. There were subsequently abnormal negative returns for connected firms when news broke that Geithner’s confirmation might be derailed by tax issues. Excess returns for connected firms may reflect the perceived impact of relying on the advice of a small network of financial sector executives during a time of acute crisis and heightened policy discretion.

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Presidential Prospects, Political Support, and Stock Market Performance

Nikhar Gaikwad
Quarterly Journal of Political Science, Fall 2013, Pages 451-464

Abstract:
I exploit the sudden and dramatic jolt that Osama Bin Laden's capture gave to Barack Obama's 2012 re-election prospects to gauge the relationship between presidential prospects and stock market valuation changes. Using campaign contributions as an indicator of political support, I find that following Bin Laden's death, firms that had previously supported Democrats registered significant positive returns, whereas firms that had supported Republicans registered significant negative returns. Across the S&P 500, the president's transformed re-election prospects shifted market capital worth $101 billion over one day and $245 billion over one week. My findings indicate that the relationship between the presidency and firm valuations is associated with patterns of past political support, substantively and significantly important, and more pronounced for the presidency than for Congress.

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The role of stock ownership by US members of Congress on the market for political favors

Ahmed Tahoun
Journal of Financial Economics, January 2014, Pages 86–110

Abstract:
I examine whether stock ownership by politicians helps to enforce noncontractible quid pro quo relations with firms. The ownership by US Congress members in firms contributing to their election campaigns is higher than in noncontributors. This bias toward contributors depends on the financial incentives of politicians and the relation's value. Firms with a stronger ownership–contribution association receive more government contracts. The financial gains from these contracts are economically large. When politicians divest stocks, firms discontinue contributions to the politicians, lose future contracts, and perform poorly. Politicians divest the stocks in contributors, but not in noncontributors, in anticipation of retirement.

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Washington Meets Wall Street: A Closer Examination of the Presidential Cycle Puzzle

Roman Kräussl et al.
Journal of International Money and Finance, forthcoming

Abstract:
We show that the annual excess return of the S&P 500 is almost 10 percent higher during the last two years of the presidential cycle than during the first two years. This pattern cannot be explained by business-cycle variables capturing time-varying risk premia, differences in risk levels, or by consumer and investor sentiment. We formally test the presidential election cycle (PEC) hypothesis as an alternative to explain the presidential cycle anomaly. The PEC states that incumbent parties and presidents have an incentive to manipulate the economy (via budget expansions and taxes) to remain in power. We formulate eight testable propositions relating to the fiscal, monetary, tax, unexpected inflation and political implications of the PEC hypothesis. We do not find statistically significant evidence confirming the PEC hypothesis as a plausible explanation for the presidential cycle effect. The presidential cycle effect in U.S. financial markets thus remains a puzzle that cannot be easily explained by politicians employing their economic influence to remain in power, as is often believed.

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Risk and Roll Calls: How Legislators' Personal Finances Shape Congressional Decisions

Christian Grose
University of Southern California Working Paper, April 2013

Abstract:
Does exposure to the stock market in legislators’ personal investment portfolios affect their vote choices? Do personal financial interests matter as much or more than the typical predictors of legislative decision-making such as party and constituency? I argue that legislator self-interest predicts more than just reelection-seeking behavior. Self-interest also suggests that legislators seek to maintain and protect their equity investments. I theorize that risk-averse legislators who have significant exposure to the stock market will make policy choices in order to avert market crashes and thus limit personal financial losses, and that legislators with little exposure to the market or who are risk accepting will not. Original data on the financial assets of members of Congress are collected and a novel measure of legislators’ revealed risk profiles is introduced. The empirical test is an examination of the eleventh-hour August 2011 U.S. House roll call to raise the U.S. debt limit. The findings show that risk-averse members of Congress with more money invested in the stock market were more likely to vote to increase the debt limit, presumably in order to avoid a market crash. The implications for the fields of political science, legislative decision-making, and finance are discussed.

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Presidents Profiting from Disasters: Evidence of Presidential Distributive Politics

Nicholas Stramp
Presidential Studies Quarterly, December 2013, Pages 839–865

Abstract:
In what ways do presidents engage in distributive politics? I study the effects of presidential electoral politics on the federal government's financial response to disasters. Specifically I ask whether swing states or safe states are more likely to receive additional disaster aid through presidentially ordered increases in the federal reimbursement rate for specific disasters. I examine four potential political factors affecting this distribution: swing states versus safe states, a president's base states versus the opposing party's base states, the presence of co-partisan presidents and governors, and the proximity of the next presidential election. I find that the effects vary by administration, with Bill Clinton not appearing to make partisan decisions in this way, while his successors include these factors when making the decisions. These findings demonstrate the presence of partisan political calculations in the distribution of disaster aid and also highlight differences in the ways power is handled in different presidential administrations.

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Political Economy of Presidential Disaster Declarations and Federal Disaster Assistance

Thomas Husted & David Nickerson
Public Finance Review, January 2014, Pages 35-57

Abstract:
Billions of dollars have been transferred to state governments for disaster recovery. Owing to the discretionary authority of the president in these decisions, moral hazard may influence approval of such requests. We test within a model of recursive choice the hypothesis that the sequential executive decisions to grant disaster declarations and the conditional amount of aid allocated are affected by political incentives. We combine expenditure and approval data from FEMA with state-level census and political data for the period 1969 through 2005. After accounting for the severity of flood damage in the state and the ability of the state to recover, an incumbent president is more likely to grant disaster declarations when facing reelection, particularly in states with a larger number of electoral votes and in states with a governor from the same political party as the president. We also find Democratic presidents award more disaster aid than their Republican counterparts.

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Political Spending and Shareholder Wealth: The Effect of the U.S. Supreme Court Ruling in Citizens United

Natasha Burns & Jan Jindra
American Politics Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
We examine the impact of the Citizens United decision on firm value. While the value of U.S. firms do not respond significantly to the Citizens United decision on average, we find evidence that firms in industries subject to more extensive regulation react significantly and positively to the announcement. We also find evidence consistent with Justice John Paul Stevens’ argument that the Court decision will affect state laws. Specifically, our results indicate that firms that are headquartered in states with more stringent limits on political spending by corporations respond positively to the announcement.

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Term limits and the tobacco industry

Dorie Apollonio, Stanton Glantz & Lisa Bero
Social Science & Medicine, forthcoming

Abstract:
In the 1990s several American states passed term limits on legislators with the stated intention of reducing the influence of wealthy industries on career legislators. Although term limits in the United States do not have a direct relationship to public health, the tobacco industry anticipated that term limits could have indirect effects by either limiting or expanding industry influence. We detail the strategy of the tobacco industry in the wake of term limits using internal tobacco company documents and a database of campaign contributions made to legislators in term limited states between 1988 and 2002. Despite some expectations that term limits would limit tobacco industry access to state legislators, term limits appear to have had the opposite effect.

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Is Federalism a Political Safety Valve? Evidence from Congressional Decision Making, 1960–2005

Sara Chatfield & Philip Rocco
Publius, Winter 2014, Pages 1-23

Abstract:
American federalism is often described as a system that contains “political safety valves,” or institutional mechanisms that ensure that major policy reforms can be created, even during periods of intense political conflict. By granting discretion to the states, for example, scholars claim that Congress can ensure that diverse constituencies receive their preferred policies. In this article, we examine Congress’s pattern of delegating discretion to sub-national institutions in the postwar period, systematically assessing how the political conditions under which a broad sample of landmark legislation passed are related to the delegation of administrative authority to the states. Contrary to the “safety valve” image of federalism, we find very little evidence to suggest that Congress grants more discretion to sub-national governments under periods of intense political conflict.

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Strange bedfellows? Voluntary corporate social responsibility disclosure and politics

Paul Griffin & Yuan Sun
Accounting & Finance, December 2013, Pages 867–903

Abstract:
We show a reliable association between voluntary corporate social responsibility (CSR) disclosure and company political interests, which we proxy by company employees’ contributions to political action committees and statewide voting in presidential elections. This relation is most pronounced for the contributions of Democratic employees at companies in states that vote for the Democratic presidential candidate. We also show a positive association between corporate political contributions and excess stock returns. A portfolio strategy of investing based on company size, CSR disclosure intensity and corporate political contributions produces a significant positive mean excess stock return of 4.5 per cent over 3 months following CSR disclosure.

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The rise of contextual journalism, 1950s–2000s

Katherine Fink & Michael Schudson
Journalism, January 2014, Pages 3-20

Abstract:
Many journalists and other observers remember the 1960s as a watershed moment in American journalism. Do they remember correctly? This essay reviews relevant empirical studies on how US newspapers have changed since the 1950s. There is strong existing evidence that journalists have come to present themselves as more aggressive, that news stories have grown longer, and that journalists are less willing to have politicians and other government officials frame stories and more likely to advance analysis and context on their own. Based on content analysis of the New York Times, Washington Post, and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, this study finds that the growth in ‘contextual reporting’ has been enormous – from under 10 percent in all three newspapers in 1955 to about 40 percent in 2003; ‘conventional’ news stories on the front page declined from 80–90 percent in all three papers to about 50 percent in all three papers in the same period. What this study calls ‘contextual reporting’ has not been widely recognized (unlike, say, investigative reporting) as a distinctive news genre or news style and this article urges that it receive more attention.

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The Dynamics of Public Investment Under Persistent Electoral Advantage

Marina Azzimonti
Federal Reserve Working Paper, November 2013

Abstract:
This paper studies the effects of asymmetries in re-election probabilities across parties on public policy and their subsequent propagation to the economy. The struggle between groups that disagree on targeted public spending (e.g., pork) results in governments being endogenously short-sighted: Systematic underinvestment in infrastructure and overspending on targeted goods arise, above and beyond what is observed in symmetric environments. Because the party enjoying an electoral advantage is less short-sighted, it devotes a larger proportion of revenues to productive investment. Hence, political turnover induces economic fluctuations in an otherwise deterministic environment. I characterize analytically the longrun distribution of allocations and show that output increases with electoral advantage, despite the fact that governments expand. Volatility is non-monotonic in electoral advantage and is an additional source of inefficiency. Using panel data from US states I confirm these findings.

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“Know All Men By These Presents”: Bonds, Localism, and Politics in Early Republican Mississippi

Erik Mathisen
Journal of the Early Republic, Winter 2013, Pages 727-750

Abstract:
This article examines local politics in Mississippi during the early to mid-nineteenth century, by examining the bonds that officeholders were required to post to hold their positions in county government. The article argues that while states like Mississippi remain at the forefront of the history of American mass democracy, the existence of this election ritual paints a complicated picture of political practice. By requiring officeholders to post hundreds and even thousands of dollars to hold office, and by requiring that political friends vouch for them with their money and their reputations, bonds dampened democratic elections at every turn. In so doing, bonds suggest just some of the ways in which Americans practiced a much more complex politics than current paradigms allow.

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The political activities of American corporate leaders

Anthony Nownes & Nurgul Aitalieva
Business and Politics, November 2013, Pages 493–527

Abstract:
What is the nature and extent of corporate leader involvement in American national politics? The results of a mail survey of nearly 100 such individuals show that leaders are quite active, devoting an average of nearly 1 hour per day to national political activity. We also show that corporate leaders engage in a wide range of advocacy activities. Monetary activities loom particularly large in the political lives of American corporate leaders, as large numbers are approached by members of Congress for contributions, and many who are approached answer the call. In addition, we find that corporate leaders, unlike advocacy professionals, do a great deal of their advocacy work in private; for the most part they eschew public activities such as testifying before congressional committees. Speaking to the question of which leaders are most politically active, our data evince a strong relationship between firm political activity and firm leader political activity. In sum, politically active firms have politically active leaders. We thus contribute to the ongoing academic discussion of corporate political activity by showing that the CEO’s office is an additional locus of political power within business firms, and that CEO political activity is instrumental rather than consumptive in nature.

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The Bully Pulpit and Media Coverage: Power without Persuasion

Matthew Miles
International Journal of Press/Politics, January 2014, Pages 66-84

Abstract:
Though modern presidents seem to be less persuasive in their public campaigns for policy, they are more likely to go public. In addition, they publicly campaign for policies that they could enact without the support of Congress or the public. The dominant view emphasizes the persuasive capacity of the president or his ability to set the agenda of various government institutions; however, this neglects one of the more powerful components of the bully pulpit. I demonstrate that presidents can use the bully pulpit to remove issues from the national news agenda with relative ease. By modeling the daily change in national media content, I show that presidents can divert the attention of the national media away from issues that are less desirable toward more favorable issues with a single televised address. This suggests that the bully pulpit is more powerful than the current literature expects.

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Government Reform, Political Ideology, and Administrative Burden: The Case of Performance Management in the Bush Administration

Stéphane Lavertu, David Lewis & Donald Moynihan
Public Administration Review, November/December 2013, Pages 845–857

Abstract:
This article examines how ideological differences between political officials and agencies may have affected the implementation of an ostensibly nonpartisan, government-wide administrative initiative: the George W. Bush administration's Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) review of federal programs. The analysis reveals that managers in agencies associated with liberal programs and employees (“liberal agencies”) agreed to a greater extent than those in agencies associated with conservative programs and employees (“conservative agencies”) that PART required significant agency time and effort and that it imposed a burden on management resources. Further analysis reveals that differences in reported agency effort can be explained partly by objective differences in the demands that PART placed on agencies — liberal agencies were required to evaluate more programs and implement more improvement plans relative to their organizational capacity — and partly by the ideological beliefs of employees — on average, liberal managers reported more agency effort, even after accounting for objective measures of administrative burden.

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No Strength in Numbers: The Failure of Big-City Bills in American State Legislatures, 1880–2000

Gerald Gamm & Thad Kousser
American Political Science Review, November 2013, Pages 663-678

Abstract:
Do big cities exert more power than less populous ones in American state legislatures? In many political systems, greater representation leads to more policy gains, yet for most of the nation's history, urban advocates have argued that big cities face systematic discrimination in statehouses. Drawing on a new historical dataset spanning 120 years and 13 states, we find clear evidence that there is no strength in numbers for big-city delegations in state legislatures. District bills affecting large metropolises fail at much higher rates than bills affecting small cities, counties, and villages. Big cities lose so often because size leads to damaging divisions. We demonstrate that the cities with the largest delegations — which are more likely to be internally divided — are the most frustrated in the legislative process. Demographic differences also matter, with district bills for cities that have many foreign-born residents, compared with the state as a whole, failing at especially high rates.

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Crowd-Funded Journalism

Lian Jian & Nikki Usher
Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, forthcoming

Abstract:
Crowd-funded journalism is a novel business model in which journalists rely on micropayments from ordinary people to finance their reporting. Based on analyses of the database of Spot.us, a pioneering crowd-funded journalism website, we examine the impact of crowd-funded journalism on the news produced. We apply a uses and gratifications approach to study consumers' choices when they donate to crowd-funded journalism and find that consumers are more likely to donate to stories that provide them with practical guidance for daily living (e.g., stories about public health or local city infrastructure), as opposed to stories from which they gain a general awareness of the world (e.g., cultural diversity, or government and politics). We discuss the implications for the future of news.

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Reexamining the Use of Unilateral Orders: Source of Authority and the Power to Act Alone

Jeremy Bailey & Brandon Rottinghaus
American Politics Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
Recent debate on the use of unilateral presidential directives suggests that a president’s ability to shape and act without the consent of Congress is largely unchecked by traditional institutional arrangements while other research shows that presidents are more likely to be restrained by Congress. This article contributes to this debate by examining the source of authority used in unilateral orders. Using a new database of unilateral orders and a new theory, we reexamine when presidents use unilateral orders. We find that orders that invoke Congressionally based sources of authority are used when Congress is stronger while those that are presidency-based are used when Congress is weaker. These findings allow us to be more precise about how presidential unilateral strategy is shaped by institutional forces.

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When Newsworthy is Not Noteworthy: Examining the value of news from the audience's perspective

Angela Lee & Hsiang Iris Chyi
Journalism Studies, forthcoming

Abstract:
In the history of news production, the gap between editors' news judgment and audience interest has been widely noticeable. In scholarly research, while news consumption remains a central focus, the value of news content as a product has rarely been examined from the audience's perspective. News is almost always presumed by scholars and practitioners to be of value, which, however, is not necessarily the case in today's media environment. The recent decline in news consumption from the traditional media is often attributed to demographic factors, particularly age. However, such age-oriented narratives shift the responsibility away from news providers to users. From the media economics standpoint, when news organizations fail to address users' needs and wants, the product delivers limited utility and demand would dwindle as a result. This study conceptualizes and empirically examines the “noteworthiness” of news content as perceived by the general public. Results based on a national survey of US internet users show that only about one-third of the content produced by the mainstream news media is perceived as noteworthy. While previous studies identified demographics as significant predictors of news consumption, findings from this study suggest that perceived noteworthiness is a stronger factor influencing news consumption in terms of news enjoyment, newspaper and TV news use, and paying intent for print newspapers. Instead of using technology to pursue a particular demographic group, news organizations should rethink their content strategy and prioritize audience-oriented value creation to serve news consumers at large.

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The Control of Politicians in Normal Times and Times of Crisis: Wealth Accumulation by U.S. Congressmen, 1850–1880

Pablo Querubin & James Snyder
Quarterly Journal of Political Science, Fall 2013, Pages 409-450

Abstract:
We employ a regression discontinuity design (RDD) based on close elections to estimate the rents from a seat in the U.S. Congress between 1850 and 1880. Using census data, we compare wealth accumulation among those who won or lost their first race by a small margin. We find evidence of significant returns for the first half of the 1860s, during the Civil War, but not for other periods. Those who won their first election by a narrow margin and served during the period 1861–1866 accumulated, on average, almost 40% more wealth between 1860 and 1870 (roughly $800,000 in present-day values) relative to those who ran but did not serve. We also find that wealth accumulation was particularly large for congressmen who represented states most involved in military contracting and those who served during the Civil War in committees that were responsible for most military appropriations. We hypothesize that increased opportunities from the sudden spike in government spending during the war and the decrease in control by the media might have made it easier for incumbent congressmen to collect rents.

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Uncertainty and Roll-Call Voting in Lame-Duck Sessions of the U.S. House, 1969–2010

Timothy Nokken
Legislative Studies Quarterly, November 2013, Pages 571–591

Abstract:
Lame-duck sessions of Congress have become increasingly common of late. Such sessions are marked by higher levels of ideological and participatory shirking among departing members, creating a more uncertain legislative environment. I investigate the consequences of such shirking on coalition formation and roll-call behavior. I analyze House roll-call votes held in the 12 congresses that convened lame-duck sessions from 1969 to 2010 (91st to 111th Congresses) to assess how roll-call behavior changes across sessions. I find subtle but statistically significant changes across sessions consistent with claims regarding greater uncertainty in roll-call voting in lame-duck sessions.

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Why does bureaucratic corruption occur in the EU?

Urs Steiner Brandt & Gert Tinggaard Svendsen
Public Choice, December 2013, Pages 585-599

Abstract:
Why does bureaucratic corruption occur in the EU system? Several examples suggest that bureaucratic corruption exists and that the Commission’s anti-fraud agency, OLAF, is not a fully independent authority. We thus develop a novel interpretation of the principal-supervisor-agent model to cope with non-independent anti-fraud units. This model shows that corruption is likely to occur when the expected value to the client from bribing the agent is larger than the expected value to the principal of truth-telling by the supervisor. Overall, this analysis points to the risks of flawed incentives and the lack of institutional independence among principal, agent, supervisor and client. Our main policy recommendations as a result of these findings are that OLAF should be placed outside the Commission, and that whistleblowers should receive adequate protection.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:22:00 AM

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Decisive

When Three Charms but Four Alarms: Identifying the Optimal Number of Claims in Persuasion Settings

Suzanne Shu & Kurt Carlson
Journal of Marketing, forthcoming

Abstract:
How many positive claims should firms use to produce the most positive impression of a product or service? This article posits that when consumers know that the message source has a persuasion motive, the optimal number of positive claims is three. Increasing the number of claims improves consumer perceptions until the fourth claim, at which point consumers' persuasion knowledge causes them to view all the claims with skepticism. The studies herein establish and explore this pattern, which the authors refer to as the “charm of three.” An initial experiment indicates that impressions peak at three claims for sources with a persuasion motive but not for sources without a persuasion motive. The second experiment indicates that this effect occurs for attitudes and impressions and that increased skepticism at four or more claims explains the effect. Two final experiments examine the mental process by which the charm of three occurs by investigating how cognitive load and sequential claims influence the effect.

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Positive Effects of Imagery on Police Officers' Shooting Performance under Threat

Laura Colin et al.
Applied Cognitive Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
We investigated the effects of imagery on police officers' shooting performance under threat. To this end, 66 officers executed a realistic shooting exercise against an opponent that initially did not shoot back with painful coloured-soap cartridges (low-threat condition) followed by a condition in which he did [high-threat (HT) condition]. In between conditions, participants performed an imagery intervention: one group imagined ‘successful shot execution’ and one imagined ‘successful shot execution under threat, including the accompanying emotions’; a control group received no imagery intervention. Although for the control group shot accuracy was significantly lower in the HT condition than under low-threat conditions, both imagery groups were able to maintain their shot accuracy in the HT condition, despite increased levels of anxiety. It is concluded that focusing on successful shot execution is pivotal, whereas adding emotional statements does not seem to have an additional positive effect.

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The vision heuristic: Judging music ensembles by sight alone

Chia-Jung Tsay
Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, forthcoming

Abstract:
Team effectiveness and group performance are often defined by standards set by domain experts. Professional musicians consistently report that sound output is the most important standard for evaluating the quality of group performance in the domain of music. However, across six studies, visual information dominated rapid judgments of group performance. Participants (1062 experts and novices) were able to select the actual winners of live ensemble competitions and distinguish top-ranked orchestras from non-ranked orchestras based on 6-s silent video recordings yet were unable to do so from sound recordings or recordings with both video and sound. These findings suggest that judgments of group performance in the domain of music are driven at least in part by visual cues about group dynamics and leadership.

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Potential: The valuation of imagined future achievement

Andrew Poehlman & George Newman
Cognition, January 2014, Pages 134–139

Abstract:
The concept of potential is central to a number of decisions, ranging from organizational hiring, to athletic recruiting, to the evaluation of artistic performances. While potential may often be valued for its future payoffs, the present studies investigate whether people value potential even when making decisions about goods and experiences that can only be consumed in the present. Experiment 1 demonstrates that potential makes people more likely to consume inferior performances in the present. Experiment 2 manipulated temporal focus and demonstrates that focusing on the present (vs. the future) attenuates the effect of potential on enjoyment. Experiment 3 demonstrates that merely moving the performance into the past negates the effect of potential. And, Experiment 4 demonstrates that potential increases valuation only when value is tied to abstract, hedonic dimensions, but not when it is tied to concrete, utilitarian dimensions.

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Receptive to bad reception: Jerky motion can make persuasive messages more effective

Himalaya Patel et al.
Computers in Human Behavior, March 2014, Pages 32–39

Abstract:
When used deliberately in television and film, jerky motion captures attention. However, it can be distracting in the movements of characters in digital video. To what extent does this kind of jerkiness influence message processing? Based on a limited-capacity model of message processing, jerky character motion was predicted to increase compliance to a persuasive message. The present experiment manipulated the jerkiness of an actor’s movements in a computer-delivered video to examine its effect on responses to a hypothetical medical scenario. Jerkiness, whether subtle or obvious, increased self-reported compliance. It also decreased heart rate variability, indicating attentional mediation. Though counterintuitive, these findings indicate that jerky character motion can make computer-mediated messages more persuasive.

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Should I think carefully or sleep on it?: Investigating the moderating role of attribute learning

Jonathan Hasford
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, March 2014, Pages 51–55

Abstract:
An emerging debate in the judgment and decision making literature has focused on whether unconscious thought can improve complex decision making beyond conscious thought. However, a previously overlooked factor in this debate is the role of attribute learning prior to deliberation. The effect of information specificity in prior learning is examined here. When attribute information is less specific (i.e. presented in valence), unconscious thought improves decision making beyond conscious thought. However, when attribute information is more specific (i.e. presented in absolute values), conscious thought with attribute information improves choice similarly to unconscious thought. These findings help bridge previous inconsistencies by suggesting that initial attribute learning exerts an important influence on the effectiveness of conscious and unconscious thought in complex decision making.

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Overconfidence as a social bias: Experimental evidence

Till Proeger & Lukas Meub
Economics Letters, February 2014, Pages 203–207

Abstract:
The overconfidence bias is discussed extensively in economic studies, yet fails to hold experimentally once monetary incentives and feedback are implemented. We consider overconfidence as a social bias. For a simple real effort task, we show that, individually, economic conditions effectively prevent overconfidence. By contrast, the introduction of a very basic, purely observational social setting fosters overconfident self-assessments. Additionally, observing others’ actions effectively eliminates underconfidence compared to the individual setting.

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Do I Amuse You? Asymmetric Predictors for Humor Appreciation and Humor Production

Joseph Moran et al.
Journal of Research in Personality, forthcoming

Abstract:
A “sense of humor” can be fractionated into appreciation (enjoying jokes), production fluency (making jokes), and production success (making funny jokes). There is scant research on how appreciation and production relate, and their relation to individual differences. Participants (N=159) rated the humor of captioned cartoons and created captions for different cartoons. People who wrote funnier captions were less amused by the professionally-captioned cartoons. Production fluency, in contrast, was not related to appreciation. Personality predicted humor appreciation, but not production success. Demographics predicted production success, but not appreciation. Appreciation and production success appear to rely on separable mechanisms and motivations. Our results were also inconsistent with the idea that humor creators are motivated by dominance and humor appreciators by affiliation.

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Death of a salesman: Webpage-based manipulations of mortality salience

William Chopik & Robin Edelstein
Computers in Human Behavior, February 2014, Pages 94–99

Abstract:
Most people are accustomed to ignoring the advertisements that they encounter while surfing the Internet, despite the profound effects such advertisements can have on behavior. We showed that webpage advertisements can remind people of their mortality (Study 1) and lead them to invest in culturally valued behavior (Studies 2–4). Specifically, individuals in the “mortality salience” condition reported greater worldview defense (Study 2) and spent more money on luxury items (Studies 3 and 4) than those in the control condition, consistent with proposals set forth by terror management theory. In Study 4, death-related thoughts mediated the relationship between mortality salience and willingness to spend money on luxury items. Findings are discussed in the context of online consumer behavior.

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Can Negative Mood Improve Language Understanding? Affective Influences on the Ability to Detect Ambiguous Communication

Diana Matovic, Alex Koch & Joseph Forgas
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Can negative mood improve language understanding? Two experiments explored mood effects on people’s ability to correctly identify sentences that lack clear meaning in the absence of further contextual information (ambiguous anaphora). Based on recent affect – cognition theories, we predicted and found that negative affect, induced by film clips, improved people’s ability to detect linguistic ambiguity. An analysis of response latencies (Studies 1 & 2) and recall (Study 2) confirmed that negative mood produced longer and more attentive processing, and a mediational analysis suggested that processing latencies mediated mood effects on detecting linguistic ambiguity. These results are consistent with negative affect selectively promoting a more concrete, vigilant and externally focused accommodative information processing style, involving more detailed attention to the communicative content of a message. The theoretical relevance of these results for recent affect-cognition theories is considered, and the practical implications of the findings for everyday verbal communication and interpersonal behavior are discussed.

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“Piensa” twice: On the foreign language effect in decision making

Albert Costa et al.
Cognition, February 2014, Pages 236–254

Abstract:
In this article, we assess to what extent decision making is affected by the language in which a given problem is presented (native vs. foreign). In particular, we aim to ask whether the impact of various heuristic biases in decision making is diminished when the problems are presented in a foreign language. To this end, we report four main studies in which more than 700 participants were tested on different types of individual decision making problems. In the first study, we replicated Keysar et al.’s (2012) recent observation regarding the foreign language effect on framing effects related to loss aversion. In the second section, we assessed whether the foreign language effect is present in other types of framing problems that involve psychological accounting biases rather than gain/loss dichotomies. In the third section, we studied the foreign language effect in several key aspects of the theory of decision making under risk and uncertainty. In the fourth study, we assessed the presence of a foreign language effect in the cognitive reflection test, a test that includes logical problems that do not carry emotional connotations. The absence of such an effect in this test suggests that foreign language leads to a reduction of heuristic biases in decision making across a range of decision making situations and provide also some evidence about the boundaries of the phenomenon. We explore several potential factors that may underlie the foreign language effect in decision making.

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No Time to Waste: Restricting Life-Span Temporal Horizons Decreases the Sunk-Cost Fallacy

JoNell Strough et al.
Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, January 2014, Pages 78–94

Abstract:
In three studies, we examined the influence of restricted and expansive temporal horizons on the sunk-cost fallacy. The sunk-cost fallacy occurs when prior investments instead of future returns influence decisions about future investments. When making decisions about future investments, rational decision makers base decisions on future consequences, not already-invested costs that are “sunk” and cannot be recovered. In Study 1, we restricted young adult college students' temporal horizons by instructing them to imagine that they did not have much longer to live; this manipulation decreased the sunk-cost fallacy. In Study 2, we replicated Study 1 and also found that the consequences of manipulating temporal horizons were most pronounced for prior investments of time and that prior investments of time and money had different implications for the sunk-cost fallacy, depending on the social or nonsocial decision domain. In Study 3, we manipulated temporal horizons by instructing students to imagine their time as a college student was coming to an end. Results were mostly similar to Study 2 but also suggested that focusing on one's mortality may have unique consequences. Implications of the three studies for understanding age differences in sunk-cost decisions, interventions to improve sunk-cost decisions, and the situations in which interventions might be most needed are discussed.

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Overindividuation in Gift Giving: Shopping for Multiple Recipients Leads Givers to Choose Unique but Less Preferred Gifts

Mary Steffel & Robyn Le Boeuf
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
This research examines how the social context in which gifts are selected influences gift choices. Six experiments show that, when givers select gifts for multiple recipients, they tend to pass up gifts that would be better liked by one or more recipients in favor of giving different gifts to each recipient, even when recipients will not compare gifts. This overindividuation does not seem to arise because givers perceive recipients’ preferences differently when they consider them together versus separately: although givers’ gift selections differ between a one-recipient and multiple-recipient context, their perceptions of which gifts would be better liked do not. Rather, overindividuation seems to arise because givers try to be thoughtful by treating each recipient as unique. Consistent with this, givers are more likely to overindividuate when they are encouraged to be thoughtful. Focusing givers on recipients’ preferences reduces overindividuation and can help givers select better-liked gifts.

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Hierarchical Control and Driving

Nathan Medeiros-Ward, Joel Cooper & David Strayer
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, forthcoming

Abstract:
We manipulated primary task predictability and secondary task workload in the context of driving an automobile. As the driving task became less predictable (by adding wind gusts), more attention was required to maintain lane position. When drivers concurrently engaged in a secondary cognitive task in the windy driving condition, attention was diverted from driving and the ability to maintain lane position was degraded. By contrast, when the driving task was predictable (no wind), lane maintenance actually improved when a secondary cognitive task diverted attention from driving. These data provide evidence for a hierarchical control network that coordinates an interaction between automatic, encapsulated routines and limited capacity attention.

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Enhanced activation of the left hemisphere promotes normative decision making

Ryan Corser & John Jasper
Laterality: Asymmetries of Body, Brain and Cognition, forthcoming

Abstract:
Previous studies have reported that enhanced activation of the left cerebral hemisphere reduces risky-choice, attribute, and goal-framing effects relative to enhanced activation of the right cerebral hemisphere. The present study sought to extend these findings and show that enhanced activation of the left hemisphere also reduces violations of other normative principles, besides the invariance principle. Participants completed ratio bias (Experiment 1, N = 296) and base rate neglect problems (Experiment 2, N = 145) under normal (control) viewing or with the right or left hemisphere primarily activated by imposing a unidirectional gaze. In Experiment 1 we found that enhanced left hemispheric activation reduced the ratio bias relative to normal viewing and a group experiencing enhanced right hemispheric activation. In Experiment 2 enhanced left hemispheric activation resulted in using base rates more than normal viewing, but not significantly more than enhanced right hemispheric activation. Results suggest that hemispheric asymmetries can affect higher-order cognitive processes, such as decision-making biases. Possible theoretical accounts are discussed as well as implications for dual-process theories.

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Construing creativity: The how and why of recognizing creative ideas

Jennifer Mueller, Cheryl Wakslak & Vish Krishnan
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, March 2014, Pages 81–87

Abstract:
While prior theory proposes that domain knowledge is the main factor that determines creativity assessments, we provide theory and evidence to suggest that situational factors can also alter what people view as creative. Specifically, we test the notion that one’s current construal-level can shift what people perceive as creative. We employ three studies manipulating construal in two ways (i.e., with spatial distance and construal level mindset priming) to show that people with low-level and high-level construal orientations differ in creativity assessments of the same idea. We further show that low- and high-level construals do not alter perceptions of ideas low in creativity, and that uncertainty sometimes mediates the relationship between construal level priming and creativity assessments of an examined idea. These findings shed light on why people desire but often reject creativity, and suggest practical solutions to help organizations (e.g., journals, government agencies, venture capitalists) spot creative ideas.

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Debiasing the Mind Through Meditation: Mindfulness and the Sunk-Cost Bias

Andrew Hafenbrack, Zoe Kinias & Sigal Barsade
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
In the research reported here, we investigated the debiasing effect of mindfulness meditation on the sunk-cost bias. We conducted four studies (one correlational and three experimental); the results suggest that increased mindfulness reduces the tendency to allow unrecoverable prior costs to influence current decisions. Study 1 served as an initial correlational demonstration of the positive relationship between trait mindfulness and resistance to the sunk-cost bias. Studies 2a and 2b were laboratory experiments examining the effect of a mindfulness-meditation induction on increased resistance to the sunk-cost bias. In Study 3, we examined the mediating mechanisms of temporal focus and negative affect, and we found that the sunk-cost bias was attenuated by drawing one’s temporal focus away from the future and past and by reducing state negative affect, both of which were accomplished through mindfulness meditation.

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Does Emotion Help or Hinder Reasoning? The Moderating Role of Relevance

Isabelle Blanchette, Sarah Gavigan & Kathryn Johnston
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, forthcoming

Abstract:
Some prior research has shown that emotion impairs logicality in deductive reasoning tasks, while other research suggests improved performance with emotional contents. We suggest that relevance, whether the affective state is associated with the semantic contents of the reasoning task, may be crucial in explaining these apparently inconsistent findings. This hypothesis is based on a framework distinguishing between integral emotions, where affective responses are evoked by the semantic contents of the target task, and incidental emotions, where affective responses are not related to the task. In 4 experiments we examined the effect of emotion on conditional reasoning when affective responses were relevant and irrelevant. We used images presented simultaneously with the reasoning stimuli (Experiments 1, 2, and 3) or videos presented prior to the reasoning stimuli (Experiment 4) that were either emotional or neutral and semantically related or not to the conditional statements. Results showed that emotion decreased the proportion of normatively correct responses only in the irrelevant condition. In the relevant condition, emotion did not produce reliable deleterious effects. We used reaction time and skin conductance measures to investigate the physiological and cognitive correlates of these effects. Results are discussed in terms of the distinction between incidental and integral emotions.

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The Top-Ten Effect: Consumers' Subjective Categorization of Ranked Lists

Mathew Isaac & Robert Schindler
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming

"Six studies show that consumers mentally subdivide ranked lists into a smaller set of categories and exaggerate differences between consecutive items adjacent to category boundaries. Further, despite prior work suggesting that people might subjectively produce place-value categories (e.g., single digits, the 20s), this research shows that consumers interpret ranked lists by generating round-number categories ending in zero or five (e.g., top 10, top 25)."

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What makes you click? The effect of question headlines on readership in computer-mediated communication

Linda Lai & Audun Farbrot
Social Influence, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper reports the results of two field experiments that investigate the effect of using question headlines to enhance readership in computer-mediated communication. The results from both experiments suggest that question headlines are significantly more effective than declarative headlines in generating readership. The results from the second experiment also indicate that question headlines with self-referencing cues are particularly effective and generate higher readership than question headlines without self-referencing cues and rhetorical question headlines. However, results also suggest that the effect of question headlines varies across message topics. Limitations and future research opportunities are discussed.

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Do You Want the Good News or the Bad News First? The Nature and Consequences of News Order Preferences

Angela Legg & Kate Sweeny
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming

Abstract:
Information often comes as a mix of good and bad news, prompting the question, “Do you want the good news or the bad news first?” In such cases, news-givers and news-recipients differ in their concerns and considerations, thus creating an obstacle to ideal communication. In three studies, we examined order preferences of news-givers and news-recipients and the consequences of these preferences. Study 1 confirmed that news-givers and news-recipients differ in their news order preferences. Study 2 tested two solutions to close the preference gap between news-givers and recipients and found that both perspective-taking and priming emotion-protection goals shift news-givers’ delivery patterns to the preferred order of news-recipients. Study 3 provided evidence that news order has consequences for recipients, such that opening with bad news (as recipients prefer) reduces worry, but this emotional benefit undermines motivation to change behavior.

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Beyond Rationality: The Role of Anger and Information in Deliberation

Nuri Kim
Communication Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
The effects of anger and information were experimentally tested in a small group deliberation setting. The participants were randomly assigned to one of four conditions varying in the level of induced anger and amount of information they received. After reading about a controversial local issue, they engaged in a group discussion about the topic. Content analysis revealed each individual’s level of participation. More informed participants expressed more opinions during deliberation than less informed participants. Participants made to feel angry were also more active than those in the control condition, but to a lesser degree than the more informed participants. Structural equation modeling suggested that the effect of anger on postdeliberation argument repertoire and knowledge was more direct, whereas the effect of information was mediated by active participation during deliberation.

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Egocentric framing — One way people may fail in a switch dilemma: Evidence from excessive lane switching

David Navon, Todd Kaplan & Ronen Kasten
Acta Psychologica, November 2013, Pages 604–616

Abstract:
To study switching behavior, an experiment mimicking the state of a driver on the road was conducted. In each trial participants were given a chance to switch lanes. Despite the fact that lane switching had no sound rational basis, participants often switched lanes when the speed of driving in their lane on the previous trial was relatively slow. That tendency was discerned even when switching behavior had been sparsely reinforced, and was especially marked in almost a third of the participants, who manifested it consistently. The findings illustrate a type of behavior occurring in various contexts (e.g., stocks held in a portfolio, conduct pertinent for residual life expectancy, supermarket queues). We argue that this behavior may be due to a fallacy reminiscent of that arising in the well-known “envelopes problem”, in which each of two players holds a sum of money of which she knows nothing about except that it is either half or twice the amount held by the other player. Players may be paradoxically tempted to exchange assets, since an exchange fallaciously appears to always yield an expected value greater than whatever is regarded as the player's present assets. We argue that the fallacy is due to egocentrically framing the problem as if the “amount I have” is definite, albeit unspecified, and shows that framing the paradox acentrically instead eliminates the incentive to exchange assets. A possible psychological source for the human disposition to frame problems in a way that inflates expected gain is discussed. Finally, a heuristic meant to avert the source of the fallacy is proposed.

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The Effect of Intuitive Advice Justification on Advice Taking

Stefanie Tzioti, Berend Wierenga & Stijn van Osselaer
Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, January 2014, Pages 66–77

Abstract:
How do you respond when receiving advice from somebody with the argumentation “my gut tells me so” or “this is what my intuition says”? Most likely, you would find this justification insufficient and disregard the advice. Are there also situations where people do appreciate such intuitive advice and change their opinion accordingly? A growing number of authors write about the power of intuition in solving problems, showing that intuitively made decisions can be of higher quality than decisions based on analytical reasoning. We want to know if decision makers, when receiving advice based on an intuitive cognitive process, also recognize the value of such advice. Is advice justified by intuition necessarily followed to a lesser extent than an advice justified by analysis? Furthermore, what are the important factors influencing the effect of intuitive justification on advice taking? Participants across three studies show that utilization of intuitive advice varies depending on advisor seniority and type of task for which the advice is given. Summarizing, the results suggest that decision makers a priori doubt the value of intuitive advice and only assess it as accurate if other cues in the advice setting corroborate this. Intuitively justified advice is utilized more if it comes from a senior advisor. In decision tasks with experiential products, intuitively justified advice can even have more impact than analytically justified advice.

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When Fatigue Turns Deadly: The Association Between Fatigue and Racial Bias in the Decision to Shoot

Debbie Ma et al.
Basic and Applied Social Psychology, November/December 2013, Pages 515-524

Abstract:
Racial bias in the decision to shoot can be minimized if individuals have ample cognitive resources to regulate automatic reactions. However, when individuals are fatigued, cognitive control may be compromised, which can lead to greater racial bias in shoot/don't-shoot decisions. The current studies provide evidence for this hypothesis experimentally using undergraduate participants (Study 1) and in a correlational design testing police recruits (Study 2). These results shed light on the processes underlying the decision to shoot and, given the high prevalence of fatigue among police officers, may have important practical implications.

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Dissociable Effects of Dopamine and Serotonin on Reversal Learning

Hanneke den Ouden et al.
Neuron, 20 November 2013, Pages 1090-1100

Abstract:
Serotonin and dopamine are speculated to subserve motivationally opponent functions, but this hypothesis has not been directly tested. We studied the role of these neurotransmitters in probabilistic reversal learning in nearly 700 individuals as a function of two polymorphisms in the genes encoding the serotonin and dopamine transporters (SERT: 5HTTLPR plus rs25531; DAT1 3′UTR VNTR). A double dissociation was observed. The SERT polymorphism altered behavioral adaptation after losses, with increased lose-shift associated with L′ homozygosity, while leaving unaffected perseveration after reversal. In contrast, the DAT1 genotype affected the influence of prior choices on perseveration, while leaving lose-shifting unaltered. A model of reinforcement learning captured the dose-dependent effect of DAT1 genotype, such that an increasing number of 9R-alleles resulted in a stronger reliance on previous experience and therefore reluctance to update learned associations. These data provide direct evidence for doubly dissociable effects of serotonin and dopamine systems.

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Framing Influences Willingness to Pay but Not Willingness to Accept

Yang Yang, Joachim Vosgerau & George Loewenstein
Journal of Marketing Research, December 2013, Pages 725-738

Abstract:
The authors show, with real and hypothetical payoffs, that consumers are willing to pay substantially less for a risky prospect when it is called a “lottery ticket,” “raffle,” “coin flip,” or “gamble” than when it is labeled a “gift certificate” or “voucher.” Willingness to accept, in contrast, is not affected by these frames. This differential framing effect is the result of an aversion to bad deals, which causes buyers to focus on different aspects than sellers. Buyers' willingness to pay is influenced by the extent to which a risky prospect's frame is associated with risk (Experiment 1) as well as the prospect's lowest (but not highest) possible outcome (Experiment 2). Sellers’ willingness to accept, in contrast, is influenced by a prospect's lowest and highest possible outcomes but not by the risk associated with its frame (Experiments 2 and 3). The framing effect on willingness to pay is independent of the objective level of uncertainty (Experiment 4) and can lead to the uncertainty effect. The findings have important implications for research on risk preferences and marketing practice.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Hot and bothered

Conservative Protestantism and skepticism of scientists studying climate change

John Evans & Justin Feng
Climatic Change, December 2013, Pages 595-608

Abstract:
Politicians who proclaim both their skepticism about global warming and their conservative religious credentials leave the impression that conservative Protestants may be more skeptical about scientists’ claims regarding global warming than others. The history of the relationship between conservative Protestantism and science on issues such as evolution also suggests that there may be increased skepticism. Analyzing the 2006 and 2010 General Social Survey, we find no evidence that conservative Protestantism leads respondents to have less belief in the conclusiveness of climate scientists’ claims. However, a second type of skepticism of climate scientists is an unwillingness to follow scientists’ public policy recommendations. We find that conservative Protestantism does lead to being less likely to want environmental scientists to influence the public policy debate about what to do about climate change. Existing sociological research on the relationship between religion and science suggests that this stance is due to a long-standing social/moral competition between conservative Protestantism and science.

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Attenuating Initial Beliefs: Increasing the Acceptance of Anthropogenic Climate Change Information by Reflecting on Values

Anne-Marie van Prooijen & Paul Sparks
Risk Analysis, forthcoming

Abstract:
Anthropogenic climate change information tends to be interpreted against the backdrop of initial environmental beliefs, which can lead to some people being resistant toward the information. In this article (N = 88), we examined whether self-affirmation via reflection on personally important values could attenuate the impact of initial beliefs on the acceptance of anthropogenic climate change evidence. Our findings showed that initial beliefs about the human impact on ecological stability influenced the acceptance of information only among nonaffirmed participants. Self-affirmed participants who were initially resistant toward the information showed stronger beliefs in the existence of climate change risks and greater acknowledgment that individual efficacy has a role to play in reducing climate change risks than did their nonaffirmed counterparts.

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Feeling the Heat: Temperature, Physiology & the Wealth of Nations

Geoffrey Heal & Jisung Park
NBER Working Paper, December 2013

Abstract:
Does temperature affect economic performance? Has temperature always affected social welfare through its impact on physical and cognitive function? While many studies have explored the indirect links between climate and welfare (e.g. agricultural yield, violent conflict, or sea-level rise), few address the possibility of direct impacts operating through human physiology. This paper presents a model of labor supply under thermal stress, building on a longstanding physiological literature linking thermal stress to health and task performance. A key prediction is that effective labor supply – defined as a composite of labor hours, task performance, and effort – is decreasing in temperature deviations from the biological optimum. We use country-level panel data on population-weighted average temperature and income (1950-2005), to illustrate the potential magnitude of the effect. Using a fixed effects estimation strategy, we find that hotter-than-average years are associated with lower output per capita for already hot countries and higher output per capita for cold countries: approximately 3%-4% in both directions. We then use household data on air conditioning and heating expenditures from the US to provide further evidence in support of a physiologically based causal mechanism. This more direct causal link between climate and social welfare has important implications for both the economics of climate change and comparative development.

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Impacts of 21st century climate change on global air pollution-related premature mortality

Yuanyuan Fang et al.
Climatic Change, November 2013, Pages 239-253

Abstract:
Climate change modulates surface concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and ozone (O3), indirectly affecting premature mortality attributed to air pollution. We estimate the change in global premature mortality and years of life lost (YLL) associated with changes in surface O3 and PM2.5 over the 21st century as a result of climate change. We use a global coupled chemistry-climate model to simulate current and future climate and the effect of changing climate on air quality. Epidemiological concentration-response relationships are applied to estimate resulting changes in premature mortality and YLL. The effect of climate change on air quality is isolated by holding emissions of air pollutants constant while allowing climate to evolve over the 21st century according to a moderate projection of greenhouse gas emissions (A1B scenario). Resulting changes in 21st century climate alone lead to an increase in simulated PM2.5 concentrations globally, and to higher (lower) O3 concentrations over populated (remote) regions. Global annual premature mortality associated with chronic exposure to PM2.5 increases by approximately 100 thousand deaths (95 % confidence interval, CI, of 66–130 thousand) with corresponding YLL increasing by nearly 900 thousand (95 % CI, 576–1,128 thousand) years. The annual premature mortality due to respiratory disease associated with chronic O3 exposure increases by +6,300 deaths (95 % CI, 1,600–10,400). This climate penalty indicates that stronger emission controls will be needed in the future to meet current air quality standards and to avoid higher health risks associated with climate change induced worsening of air quality over populated regions.

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Locked into Copenhagen pledges — Implications of short-term emission targets for the cost and feasibility of long-term climate goals

Keywan Riahi et al.
Technological Forecasting and Social Change, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper provides an overview of the AMPERE modeling comparison project with focus on the implications of near-term policies for the costs and attainability of long-term climate objectives. Nine modeling teams participated in the project to explore the consequences of global emissions following the proposed policy stringency of the national pledges from the Copenhagen Accord and Cancún Agreements to 2030. Specific features compared to earlier assessments are the explicit consideration of near-term 2030 emission targets as well as the systematic sensitivity analysis for the availability and potential of mitigation technologies. Our estimates show that a 2030 mitigation effort comparable to the pledges would result in a further “lock-in” of the energy system into fossil fuels and thus impede the required energy transformation to reach low greenhouse-gas stabilization levels (450 ppm CO2e). Major implications include significant increases in mitigation costs, increased risk that low stabilization targets become unattainable, and reduced chances of staying below the proposed temperature change target of 2 °C in case of overshoot. With respect to technologies, we find that following the pledge pathways to 2030 would narrow policy choices, and increases the risks that some currently optional technologies, such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) or the large-scale deployment of bioenergy, will become “a must” by 2030.

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US biofuels subsidies and CO2 emissions: An empirical test for a weak and a strong green paradox

Quentin Grafton et al.
Energy Policy, forthcoming

Abstract:
Using energy data over the period 1981–2011 we find that US biofuels subsidies and production have provided a perverse incentive for US fossil fuel producers to increase their rate of extraction that has generated a weak green paradox. Further, in the short-run if the reduction in the CO2 emissions from a one-to-one substitution between biofuels and fossil fuels is less than 26 percent, or less than 57 percent if long run effect is taken into account, then US biofuels production is likely to have resulted in a strong green paradox. These results indicate that subsidies for first generation biofuels, which yield a low level of per unit CO2 emission reduction compared to fossil fuels, might have contributed to additional net CO2 emissions over the study period.

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Continued global warming after CO2 emissions stoppage

Thomas Lukas Frölicher, Michael Winton & Jorge Louis Sarmiento
Nature Climate Change, forthcoming

Abstract:
Recent studies have suggested that global mean surface temperature would remain approximately constant on multi-century timescales after CO2 emissions are stopped. Here we use Earth system model simulations of such a stoppage to demonstrate that in some models, surface temperature may actually increase on multi-century timescales after an initial century-long decrease. This occurs in spite of a decline in radiative forcing that exceeds the decline in ocean heat uptake — a circumstance that would otherwise be expected to lead to a decline in global temperature. The reason is that the warming effect of decreasing ocean heat uptake together with feedback effects arising in response to the geographic structure of ocean heat uptake overcompensates the cooling effect of decreasing atmospheric CO2 on multi-century timescales. Our study also reveals that equilibrium climate sensitivity estimates based on a widely used method of regressing the Earth’s energy imbalance against surface temperature change are biased. Uncertainty in the magnitude of the feedback effects associated with the magnitude and geographic distribution of ocean heat uptake therefore contributes substantially to the uncertainty in allowable carbon emissions for a given multi-century warming target.

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If Anthropogenic CO2 Emissions Cease, Will Atmospheric CO2 Concentration Continue to Increase?

Andrew MacDougall, Michael Eby & Andrew Weaver
Journal of Climate, December 2013, Pages 9563–9576

Abstract:
If anthropogenic CO2 emissions were to suddenly cease, the evolution of the atmospheric CO2 concentration would depend on the magnitude and sign of natural carbon sources and sinks. Experiments using Earth system models indicate that the overall carbon sinks dominate, such that upon the cessation of anthropogenic emissions, atmospheric CO2 levels decrease over time. However, these models have typically neglected the permafrost carbon pool, which has the potential to introduce an additional terrestrial source of carbon to the atmosphere. Here, the authors use the University of Victoria Earth System Climate Model (UVic ESCM), which has recently been expanded to include permafrost carbon stocks and exchanges with the atmosphere. In a scenario of zeroed CO2 and sulfate aerosol emissions, whether the warming induced by specified constant concentrations of non-CO2 greenhouse gases could slow the CO2 decline following zero emissions or even reverse this trend and cause CO2 to increase over time is assessed. It is found that a radiative forcing from non-CO2 gases of approximately 0.6 W m−2 results in a near balance of CO2 emissions from the terrestrial biosphere and uptake of CO2 by the oceans, resulting in near-constant atmospheric CO2 concentrations for at least a century after emissions are eliminated. At higher values of non-CO2 radiative forcing, CO2 concentrations increase over time, regardless of when emissions cease during the twenty-first century. Given that the present-day radiative forcing from non-CO2 greenhouse gases is about 0.95 W m−2, the results suggest that if all CO2 and aerosols emissions were eliminated without also decreasing non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions CO2 levels would increase over time, resulting in a small increase in climate warming associated with this positive permafrost–carbon feedback.

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Conditional Cooperation and Climate Change

Dustin Tingley & Michael Tomz
Comparative Political Studies, forthcoming

Abstract:
It is widely believed that international cooperation can arise through strategies of reciprocity. In this paper, we investigate whether citizens in the United States and 25 other countries support reciprocity to deal with climate change. We find little public enthusiasm for intrinsic reciprocity, in which countries restrain their consumption of fossil fuels if and only if other countries do the same. In contrast, we find significant support for extrinsic reciprocity, in which countries enforce cooperation by linking issues. Citizens support economic sanctions against polluters and are willing to shame them in international forums, especially when the polluters are violating a treaty. Cooperation could, therefore, emerge from efforts to link climate with other issues and to embed climate commitments in international law.

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Can Negotiating a Uniform Carbon Price Help to Internalize the Global Warming Externality?

Martin Weitzman
NBER Working Paper, November 2013

Abstract:
Thus far, most approaches to resolving the global warming externality have been quantity based. With n different national entities, a meaningful comprehensive treaty involves negotiating n different binding emissions quotas (whether tradeable or not). In post-Kyoto practice this n-dimensional coordination problem has proven intractable and has essentially devolved into sporadic regional volunteerism. By contrast, on the price side there is a natural one-dimensional focus on negotiating a single binding carbon price, the proceeds from which are domestically retained. Significantly (and unlike negotiated quantities) the negotiated uniform price on carbon emissions embodies an automatic "countervailing force" against free-riding self interest by incentivizing agents to internalize the externality. The model of this paper indicates an exact sense in which each agent's extra cost from a higher emissions price is counter-balanced by that agent's extra benefit from inducing (via the higher emissions price) all other agents to simultaneously lower their emissions. With some further restrictions, the theoretical model shows that population-weighted majority rule for a uniform price on carbon emissions can come as close to global efficiency as the median marginal benefit (per capita) is close to the mean marginal benefit (per capita).

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The Role of Emotion in Global Warming Policy Support and Opposition

Nicholas Smith & Anthony Leiserowitz
Risk Analysis, forthcoming

Abstract:
Prior research has found that affect and affective imagery strongly influence public support for global warming. This article extends this literature by exploring the separate influence of discrete emotions. Utilizing a nationally representative survey in the United States, this study found that discrete emotions were stronger predictors of global warming policy support than cultural worldviews, negative affect, image associations, or sociodemographic variables. In particular, worry, interest, and hope were strongly associated with increased policy support. The results contribute to experiential theories of risk information processing and suggest that discrete emotions play a significant role in public support for climate change policy. Implications for climate change communication are also discussed.

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Can Carbon Taxes Be Progressive?

Yazid Dissou & Muhammad Shahid Siddiqui
Energy Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
Most studies have assessed the distributional impact of carbon taxes through their effects on commodity prices alone, while ignoring their impact on individual welfare brought about by changes in factor prices. Yet, the remunerations of capital and labor are not affected by these taxes similarly, and their shares in earned incomes are not uniform across households. This paper provides a comprehensive analysis of the incidence of carbon taxes on inequality by considering simultaneously the commodity and the income channels. We propose a decomposition of the change in individual welfare metrics. Then, we develop a general equilibrium model to assess the impact of carbon taxes on factor and commodity prices, and subsequently their distributional impact on households, using the Lorenz and concentration curves and the Gini index. Our results suggest that changes in factor prices and changes in commodity prices (especially those of energy commodities) have opposing effects on inequality. Carbon taxes tend to reduce inequality through the changes in factor prices and tend to increase inequality through the changes in commodity prices. Hence, we find a non-monotonic (U-shaped) relationship between carbon taxes and inequality. Our results suggest that the traditional approach of assessing the impact of carbon taxes on inequality through changes in commodity prices alone may be misleading. The findings cast light on the desirability of using both channels in the assessment of carbon taxes on inequality.

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Expert assessment of sea-level rise by AD 2100 and AD 2300

Benjamin Horton et al.
Quaternary Science Reviews, 15 January 2014, Pages 1–6

Abstract:
Large uncertainty surrounds projections of global sea-level rise, resulting from uncertainty about future warming and an incomplete understanding of the complex processes and feedback mechanisms that cause sea level to rise. Consequently, existing models produce widely differing predictions of sea-level rise even for the same temperature scenario. Here we present results of a broad survey of 90 experts who were amongst the most active scientific publishers on the topic of sea level in recent years. They provided a probabilistic assessment of sea-level rise by AD 2100 and AD 2300 under two contrasting temperature scenarios. For the low scenario, which limits warming to <2 °C above pre-industrial temperature and has slowly falling temperature after AD 2050, the median ‘likely’ range provided by the experts is 0.4–0.6 m by AD 2100 and 0.6–1.0 m by AD 2300, suggesting a good chance to limit future sea-level rise to <1.0 m if climate mitigation measures are successfully implemented. In contrast, for the high warming scenario (4.5 °C by AD 2100 and 8 °C in AD 2300) the median likely ranges are 0.7–1.2 m by AD 2100 and 2.0–3.0 m by AD 2300, calling into question the future survival of some coastal cities and low-lying island nations.

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A geological perspective on sea-level rise and its impacts along the U.S. mid-Atlantic coast

Kenneth Miller et al.
Earth's Future, forthcoming

Abstract:
We evaluate paleo-, historical, and future sea-level rise along the U.S. mid-Atlantic coast. The rate of relative sea-level rise in New Jersey decreased from 3.5 ± 1.0 mm/yr at 7.5–6.5 ka, to 2.2 ± 0.8 mm/yr at 5.5–4.5 ka to a minimum of 0.9 ± 0.4 mm/yr at 3.3–2.3 ka. Relative sea level rose at a rate of 1.6 ± 0.1 mm/yr from 2.2 to 1.2 ka (750 Common Era [CE]) and 1.4 ± 0.1 mm/yr from 800 to 1800 CE. Geological and tide-gauge data show that sea-level rise was more rapid throughout the region since the Industrial Revolution (19th century = 2.7 ± 0.4 mm/yr; 20th century = 3.8 ± 0.2 mm/yr). There is a 95% probability that the 20th century rate of sea-level rise was faster than it was in any century in the last 4.3 kyr. These records reflect global rise (∼1.7 ± 0.2 mm/yr since 1880 CE) and subsidence from glacio-isostatic adjustment (∼1.3 ± 0.4 mm/yr) at bedrock locations (e.g., New York City). At coastal plain locations, the rate of rise is 0.3–1.3 mm/yr higher due to groundwater withdrawal and compaction. We construct 21st century relative sea-level rise scenarios including global, regional, and local processes. We project a 22 cm rise at bedrock locations by 2030 (central scenario; low- and high-end scenarios range of 16–38 cm), 40 cm by 2050 (range 28–65 cm), and 96 cm by 2100 (range 66–168 cm), with coastal plain locations having higher rises (3, 5–6, and 10–12 cm higher, respectively). By 2050 CE in the central scenario, a storm with a 10 year recurrence interval will exceed all historic storms at Atlantic City.

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Anthropogenic emissions of methane in the United States

Scot Miller et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 10 December 2013, Pages 20018-20022

Abstract:
This study quantitatively estimates the spatial distribution of anthropogenic methane sources in the United States by combining comprehensive atmospheric methane observations, extensive spatial datasets, and a high-resolution atmospheric transport model. Results show that current inventories from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research underestimate methane emissions nationally by a factor of ∼1.5 and ∼1.7, respectively. Our study indicates that emissions due to ruminants and manure are up to twice the magnitude of existing inventories. In addition, the discrepancy in methane source estimates is particularly pronounced in the south-central United States, where we find total emissions are ∼2.7 times greater than in most inventories and account for 24 ± 3% of national emissions. The spatial patterns of our emission fluxes and observed methane–propane correlations indicate that fossil fuel extraction and refining are major contributors (45 ± 13%) in the south-central United States. This result suggests that regional methane emissions due to fossil fuel extraction and processing could be 4.9 ± 2.6 times larger than in EDGAR, the most comprehensive global methane inventory. These results cast doubt on the US EPA’s recent decision to downscale its estimate of national natural gas emissions by 25–30%. Overall, we conclude that methane emissions associated with both the animal husbandry and fossil fuel industries have larger greenhouse gas impacts than indicated by existing inventories.

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Arctic Sea Ice Reduction and Extreme Climate Events over the Mediterranean Region

Barbara Grassi, Gianluca Redaelli & Guido Visconti
Journal of Climate, December 2013, Pages 10101–10110

Abstract:
During the last decade, Arctic sea ice cover has experienced an accelerated decline that has been suggested to drive the increased occurrence of extremely cold winter events over continental Europe. Observations and modeling studies seem to support the idea that Mediterranean climate is also changing. In this work, the authors estimate potential effects on the Mediterranean Basin, during the winter period, of Arctic sea ice reduction. Two sets of simulations have been performed by prescribing different values of sea ice concentrations (50% and 20%) on the Barents–Kara Seas in the NCAR Community Atmosphere Model, version 3 (CAM3), as representative of idealized present and future sea ice conditions. Global model simulations have then been used to run the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) Regional Climate Model, version 4 (RegCM4), over central Europe and the Mediterranean domain. Simulations provide evidence for a large-scale atmospheric circulation response to sea ice reduction, resembling the negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation (AO) and characterized by a wave activity flux from the North Atlantic toward the Mediterranean Basin, during winter months. An increase in the occurrence and intensity of extreme cold events, over continental Europe, and extreme precipitation events, over the entire Mediterranean Basin, was found. In particular, simulations suggest an increased risk of winter flooding in southern Italy, Greece, and the Iberian Peninsula.

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Water–CO2 trade-offs in electricity generation planning

Mort Webster, Pearl Donohoo & Bryan Palmintier
Nature Climate Change, December 2013, Pages 1029–1032

Abstract:
In 2011, the state of Texas experienced the lowest annual rainfall on record, with similar droughts affecting East Africa, China and Australia. Climate change is expected to further increase the likelihood and severity of future droughts. Simultaneously, population and industrial growth increases demand for drought-stressed water resources and energy, including electricity. In the US, nearly half of water withdrawals are for electricity generation, much of which comes from greenhouse gas emitting fossil fuel combustion. The result is a three-way tension among efforts to meet growing energy demands while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and water withdrawals, a critical issue within the so-called water–energy nexus. We focus on this interaction within the electric sector by using a generation expansion planning model to explore the trade-offs. We show that large reductions in CO2 emissions would probably increase water withdrawals for electricity generation in the absence of limits on water usage, and that simultaneous restriction of CO2 emissions and water withdrawals requires a different mix of energy technologies and higher costs than one would plan to reduce either CO2 or water alone.

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The green paradox of the economics of exhaustible resources

Robert Cairns
Energy Policy, February 2014, Pages 78–85

Abstract:
The green paradox states that an increasing tax on emissions of carbon dioxide, consonant with the expected increase in their marginal damages, may induce oil producers to shift their production toward the present and thereby to exacerbate the problem of climatic change. The model is based on Hotelling models of resource use that do not take the natural and technical features of oil production into account. Natural features include the decline of production through time according to a decline curve. Technical features include the requirement to sink investment in productive capacity. A model of a profit-maximizing firm indicates that, if these features are taken into account, the prediction of the green paradox is unlikely.

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An apparent hiatus in global warming?

Kevin Trenberth & John Fasullo
Earth's Future, forthcoming

Abstract:
Global warming first became evident beyond the bounds of natural variability in the 1970s, but increases in global mean surface temperatures have stalled in the 2000s. Increases in atmospheric greenhouse gases, notably carbon dioxide, create an energy imbalance at the top-of-atmosphere (TOA) even as the planet warms to adjust to this imbalance, which is estimated to be 0.5–1 W m−2 over the 2000s. Annual global fluctuations in TOA energy of up to 0.2 W m−2 occur from natural variations in clouds, aerosols, and changes in the Sun. At times of major volcanic eruptions the effects can be much larger. Yet global mean surface temperatures fluctuate much more than these can account for. An energy imbalance is manifested not just as surface atmospheric or ground warming but also as melting sea and land ice, and heating of the oceans. More than 90% of the heat goes into the oceans and, with melting land ice, causes sea level to rise. For the past decade, more than 30% of the heat has apparently penetrated below 700 m depth that is traceable to changes in surface winds mainly over the Pacific in association with a switch to a negative phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) in 1999. Surface warming was much more in evidence during the 1976–1998 positive phase of the PDO, suggesting that natural decadal variability modulates the rate of change of global surface temperatures while sea-level rise is more relentless. Global warming has not stopped; it is merely manifested in different ways.

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Projected Changes in Late-Twenty-First-Century Tropical Cyclone Frequency in 13 Coupled Climate Models from Phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project

K.J. Tory et al.
Journal of Climate, December 2013, Pages 9946–9959

Abstract:
Changes in tropical cyclone (TC) frequency under anthropogenic climate change are examined for 13 global models from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5), using the Okubo–Weiss–Zeta parameter (OWZP) TC-detection method developed by the authors in earlier papers. The method detects large-scale conditions within which TCs form. It was developed and tuned in atmospheric reanalysis data and then applied without change to the climate models to ensure model and detector independence. Changes in TC frequency are determined by comparing TC detections in the CMIP5 historical runs (1970–2000) with high emission scenario (representative concentration pathway 8.5) future runs (2070–2100). A number of the models project increases in frequency of higher-latitude tropical cyclones in the late twenty-first century. Inspection reveals that these high-latitude systems were subtropical in origin and are thus eliminated from the analysis using an objective classification technique. TC detections in 8 of the 13 models reproduce observed TC formation numbers and geographic distributions reasonably well, with annual numbers within ±50% of observations. TC detections in the remaining five models are particularly low in number (10%–28% of observed). The eight models with a reasonable TC climatology all project decreases in global TC frequency varying between 7% and 28%. Large intermodel and interbasin variations in magnitude and sign are present, with the greatest variations in the Northern Hemisphere basins. These results are consistent with results from earlier-generation climate models and thus confirm the robustness of coupled model projections of globally reduced TC frequency.

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Trade of woody biomass for electricity generation under climate mitigation policy

Alice Favero & Emanuele Massetti
Resource and Energy Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
Bio-energy with carbon capture and sequestration (BECCS) has the potential to be a key mitigation option, because it can generate electricity and absorb emissions at the same time. However, biomass is not distributed evenly across the globe and regions with a potentially high demand might be constrained by limited domestic supply. Therefore, climate mitigation policies might create the incentive to trade biomass internationally. This paper uses scenarios generated by the integrated assessment model WITCH to study trade of woody biomass from multiple perspectives: the volume of biomass traded, its value, the impact on other power generation technologies and on the efficiency of mitigation policy. The policy scenarios consist of three representative carbon tax policies (4.8 W/m2, 3.8 W/m2 and 3.2 W/m2 radiative forcing values in 2100) and a cap-and-trade scheme (3.8 W/m2 in 2100). Results show that the incentive to trade biomass is high: at least 50% of biomass consumed globally is traded internationally. Regions trade 13-69 EJ/yr of woody biomass in 2050 and 55-81 EJ/yr in 2100. In 2100 the value of biomass traded is equal to US$ 0.7-7.2 Trillion. Trade of woody biomass substantially increases the efficiency of the mitigation policy. In the tax scenarios, abatement increases by 120-323 Gt CO2 over the century. In the cap-and-trade scenario biomass trade reduces the price of emission allowances by 34% in 2100 and cumulative discounted policy costs by 14%.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Just desserts

The Ironic Effects of Weight Stigma

Brenda Major et al.
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, March 2014, Pages 74–80

Abstract:
America’s war on obesity has intensified stigmatization of overweight and obese individuals. This experiment tested the prediction that exposure to weight-stigmatizing messages threatens the social identity of individuals who perceive themselves as overweight, depleting executive resources necessary for exercising self-control when presented with high calorie food. Women were randomly assigned to read a news article about stigma faced by overweight individuals in the job market or a control article. Exposure to weight-stigmatizing news articles caused self-perceived overweight women, but not women who did not perceive themselves as overweight, to consume more calories and feel less capable of controlling their eating than exposure to non-stigmatizing articles. Weight-stigmatizing articles also increased concerns about being a target of stigma among both self-perceived overweight and non-overweight women. Findings suggest that social messages targeted at combating obesity may have paradoxical and undesired effects.

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Chocolate Cake: Guilt or Celebration? Associations with Healthy Eating Attitudes, Perceived Behavioural Control, Intentions and Weight-loss

Roeline Kuijer & Jessica Boyce
Appetite, forthcoming

Abstract:
Food and eating are often associated with ambivalent feelings: pleasure and enjoyment, but also worry and guilt. Guilt has the potential to motivate behaviour change, but may also lead to feelings of helplessness and loss of control. This study firstly examined whether a default association of either ‘guilt’ or ‘celebration’ with a prototypical forbidden food item (chocolate cake) was related to differences in attitudes, perceived behavioural control, and intentions in relation to healthy eating, and secondly whether the default association was related to weight change over an 18 month period (and short term weight-loss in a subsample of participants with a weight-loss goal). This study did not find any evidence for adaptive or motivational properties of guilt. Participants associating chocolate cake with guilt did not report more positive attitudes or stronger intentions to eat healthy than did those associating chocolate cake with celebration. Instead, they reported lower levels of perceived behavioural control over eating and were less successful at maintaining their weight over an 18 month period. Participants with a weight-loss goal who associated chocolate cake with guilt were less successful at losing weight over a 3 month period compared to those associating chocolate cake with celebration.

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Overweight Adolescents and Life Events in Childhood

Julie Lumeng et al.
Pediatrics, December 2013, Pages e1506-e1512

Objectives: To test the association of life events in childhood with overweight risk in adolescence; to examine the effects of chronicity, timing, intensity, valence, and type of life events; and to test potential moderators.

Methods: Mothers of children enrolled in the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development responded to the Life Experiences Survey at ages 4, 9, and 11 years. Using logistic regression analysis, we tested the association of experiencing many negative life events with being overweight at age 15 years, controlling for child gender, race/ethnicity, maternal education, and maternal obesity. Child gender, maternal education, maternal obesity, child’s ability to delay gratification for food, and maternal sensitivity were tested as moderators.

Results: Among the 848 study children (82% non-Hispanic white), experiencing many negative life events was associated with a higher risk of overweight (odds ratio: 1.47 [95% confidence interval: 1.04–2.10]). Greater chronicity and negative valence of the event were associated with greater overweight risk; timing of exposure and maternal reported impact of the event were not. The association was more robust for events related to family physical or mental health and among children of obese mothers and children who waited longer for food.

Conclusions: Children who experience many negative life events are at higher risk of being overweight by age 15 years. Future work should investigate mechanisms involved in this association, particularly those connected to appetitive drive and self-regulation; these mechanisms may hold promise for obesity prevention strategies.

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Perceived weight in youths and risk of overweight or obesity six years later

Hao Duong & Robert Roberts
Journal of Psychosomatic Research, forthcoming

Objective: To examine the association between perceived overweight in adolescents and the development of overweight or obesity later in life.

Methods: This paper uses data from a prospective, two-wave cohort study. Participants are 2445 adolescents 11–17 years of age who reported perceived weight at baseline and also had height and weight measured at baseline and at follow-up six years later sampled from managed care groups in a large metropolitan area.

Results: Youths who perceived themselves as overweight at baseline were approximately 2.5 times as likely to be overweight or obese six years later compared to youths who perceived themselves as average weight (OR = 2.45, 95% CI = 1.77-3.39), after adjusting for weight status at baseline, demographic characteristics, major depression, physical activity and dieting behaviors. Those who perceived themselves as skinny were less likely to be overweight or obese later (OR = 0.36, 95% CI = 0.27-0.49).

Conclusions: Perceived overweight was associated with overweight or obesity later in life. This relationship was not fully explained by extreme weight control behaviors or major depression. Further research is needed to explore the mechanism involved.

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Humans are not fooled by size illusions in attractiveness judgements

Melissa Bateson et al.
Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
Could signallers use size contrast illusions to dishonestly exaggerate their attractiveness to potential mates? Using composite photographs of women from three body mass index (BMI) categories designed to simulate small groups, we show that target women of medium size are judged as thinner when surrounded by larger women than when surrounded by thinner women. However, attractiveness judgements of the same target women were unaffected by this illusory change in BMI, despite small true differences in the BMIs of the target women themselves producing strong effects on attractiveness. Thus, in the context of mate choice decisions, the honesty of female body size as a signal of mate quality appears to have been maintained by the evolution of assessment strategies that are immune to size contrast illusions. Our results suggest that receiver psychology is more flexible than previously assumed, and that illusions are unlikely to drive the evolution of exploitative neighbour choice in human sexual displays.

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A brisk walk, compared with being sedentary, reduces attentional bias and chocolate cravings among regular chocolate eaters with different body mass

Hwajung Oh & Adrian Taylor
Appetite, December 2013, Pages 144–149

Abstract:
Poor self-regulation of high energy snacking has been linked to weight gain. Physical activity can acutely reduce chocolate consumption and cravings but the effects on attentional bias (AB) are unknown. The study aimed to test the effects of exercise among normal and overweight/obese individuals during temporary and longer abstinence. Participants were 20 normal and 21 overweight regular female chocolate eaters (after 24 h abstinence), and 17 females (after ⩾1 week abstinence during Lent). They were randomly assigned to engage in 15 min brisk walking or rest, on separate days. AB was assessed using an adapted dot probe task pre and post-treatment at each session, with chocolate/neutral paired images presented for 200 ms (initial AB; IAB) or 1000 ms (maintained AB; MAB). Chocolate craving was assessed pre, during, immediately after, and 5 min and 10 min after treatment, using a 0–100 visual analogue score. Three-way mixed ANOVAs revealed that there was no significant interaction effect between group (i.e., BMI status, or abstinence status) and condition × time for craving and AB to chocolate cues. Fully repeated 2-way ANOVAS revealed a significant condition × time interaction for IAB (F(1, 57) = 6.39) and chocolate craving (F(2.34, 133.19) = 14.44). After exercise IAB (t(57) = 2.78, p < 0.01) was significantly lower than after the rest condition. Craving was significantly lower than the rest condition at all assessments post-baseline. A short bout of physical activity reduces cravings and AB to chocolate cues, relative to control, irrespective of BMI or abstinence period.

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Personality Traits, Education, Physical Exercise, and Childhood Neurological Function as Independent Predictors of Adult Obesity

Helen Cheng & Adrian Furnham
PLoS ONE, November 2013

Objective: To investigate whether personality traits, education, physical exercise, parental socio-economic conditions, and childhood neurological function are independently associated with obesity in 50 year old adults in a longitudinal birth cohort study.

Method: The sample consisted of 5,921 participants born in Great Britain in 1958 and followed up at 7, 11, 33, 42, and 50 years with data on body mass index measured at 42 and 50 years.

Results: There was an increase of adult obesity from 14.2% at age 42 to 23.6% at 50 years. Cohort members who were reported by teachers on overall clumsiness as “certainly applied” at age 7 were more likely to become obese at age 50. In addition, educational qualifications, traits Conscientiousness and Extraversion, psychological distress, and physical exercise were all significantly associated with adult obesity. The associations remained to be significant after controlling for birth weight and gestation, maternal and paternal BMI, childhood BMI, childhood intelligence and behavioural adjustment, as well as diet.

Conclusion: Neurological function in childhood, education, trait Conscientiousness, and exercise were all significantly and independently associated with adult obesity, each explained unique individual variability.

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Acute Effect of Oatmeal on Subjective Measures of Appetite and Satiety Compared to a Ready-to-Eat Breakfast Cereal: A Randomized Crossover Trial

Candida Rebello et al.
Journal of the American College of Nutrition, July/August 2013, Pages 272-279

Objective: The physicochemical properties of soluble oat fiber (β-glucan) affect viscosity-dependent mechanisms that influence satiety. The objective of this study was to compare the satiety impact of oatmeal with the most widely sold ready-to-eat breakfast cereal (RTEC) when either was consumed as a breakfast meal.

Methods: Forty-eight healthy individuals ≥18 years of age were enrolled in a randomized crossover trial. Following an overnight fast, subjects consumed either oatmeal or RTEC in random order at least a week apart. The breakfasts were isocaloric and contained 363 kcal (250 kcal cereal, 113 kcal milk). Visual analogue scales measuring appetite and satiety were completed before breakfast and throughout the morning. The content and physicochemical properties of oat β-glucan were determined. Appetite and satiety responses were analyzed by area under the curve (AUC). Physicochemical properties were analyzed using t tests.

Results: Oatmeal, higher in fiber and protein but lower in sugar than the RTEC, resulted in greater increase in fullness (AUC: p = 0.005 [120 minute: p = 0.0408, 180 minute: p = 0.0061, 240 minute: p = 0.0102]) and greater reduction in hunger (AUC: p = 0.0009 [120 minute: p = 0.0197, 180 minute: p = 0.0003, 240 minute: p = 0.0036]), desire to eat (AUC: p = 0.0002 [120 minute: p = 0.0168, 180 minute: p < 0.0001, 240 minute: p = 0.0022]), and prospective intake (AUC: p = 0.0012 [120 minute: p = 0.0058, 180 minute: p = 0.006, 240 minute: p = 0.0047]) compared to the RTEC. Oatmeal had higher β-glucan content, higher molecular weight (p < 0.0001), higher viscosity (p = 0.025), and larger hydration spheres (p = 0.0012) than the RTEC.

Conclusion: Oatmeal improves appetite control and increases satiety. The effects may be attributed to the viscosity and hydration properties of its β-glucan content.

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Calories and portion sizes in recipes throughout 100 years: An overlooked factor in the development of overweight and obesity?

Maj Bloch Eidner et al.
Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, December 2013, Pages 839-845

Background: Large portion sizes have been associated with large energy intake, which can contribute to the development of overweight and obesity. Portion sizes of non-home cooked food have increased in the past 20 years, however, less is known about portion sizes of home-cooked food.

Aim: The aim of the study was to assess if the portion sizes measured in calories in Danish cookbook recipes have changed throughout the past 100 years.

Methods: Portion size measured in calories was determined by content-analysis of 21 classic Danish recipes in 13 editions of the famous Danish cookbook “Food” from 1909 to 2009. Calorie content of the recipes was determined in standard nutritional software, and the changes in calories were examined by simple linear regression analyses.

Results: Mean portion size in calories increased significantly by 21% (β = 0.63; p < 0.01) over the past 100 years in the analyzed recipes. The mean portion size in calories from a composed homemade meal increased by 77% (β = 2.88; p < 0.01). The mean portion size in calories from meat increased by 27% (β = 0.85; p = 0.03), starchy products increased by 148% (β = 1.28; p < 0.01), vegetables increased by 37% (β = 0.21; p = 0.13) and sauce increased by 47% (β = 0.56; p = 0.02) throughout the years.

Conclusions: Portion sizes measured in calories in classical Danish recipes have increased significantly in the past 100 years and can be an important factor in increased energy intake and the risk of developing overweight and obesity.

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Maternal Work and Children's Diet, Activity, and Obesity

Ashlesha Datar, Nancy Nicosia & Victoria Shier
University of Southern California Working Paper, November 2013

Abstract:
Mothers’ work hours are likely to affect their time allocation towards activities related to children’s diet, activity and well-being. For example, mothers who work more may be more reliant on processed foods, foods prepared away from home and school meal programs for their children’s meals. A greater number of work hours may also lead to more unsupervised time for children that may, in turn, allow for an increase in unhealthy behaviors among their children such as snacking and sedentary activities such as TV watching. Using data on a national cohort of children, we examine the relationship between mothers’ average weekly work hours during their children’s school years on children’s dietary and activity behaviors, BMI and obesity in 5th and 8th grade. Our results are consistent with findings from the literature that maternal work hours are positively associated with children’s BMI and obesity especially among children with higher socioeconomic status. Unlike previous papers, our detailed data on children’s behaviors allow us to speak directly to affected behaviors that may contribute to the increased BMI. We show that children whose mothers work more consume more unhealthy foods (e.g. soda, fast food) and less healthy foods (e.g. fruits, vegetables, milk) and watch more television. Although they report being slightly more physically active, likely due to organized physical activities, the BMI and obesity results suggest that the deterioration in diet and increase in sedentary behaviors dominate.

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Racial Differences in the Influence of Female Adolescents’ Body Size on Dating and Sex

Mir Ali et al.
Economics & Human Biology, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper investigates the effect of body size on dating and sexual experiences of white (non-Hispanic) and African American (non-Hispanic) female adolescents. Using data from Add-Health, we estimate the effects of obesity and BMI z-score on the probability of having been involved in a romantic relationship, having ever been touched in the genital area in a sexual way, and having ever engaged in sexual intercourse. We find that obese white teenage girls are less likely to have been in a romantic relationship compared to their non-obese counterparts. In addition, obese white girls are less likely to ever have had sex (intercourse) or to ever have been intimate. There are no systematic differences in relationship experiences and sexual behaviors between obese and non-obese black girls. Overall, the estimated relationships are very robust to common environmental influences at the school-level and to the inclusion of proxies for low self-esteem, attitudes towards sex and interviewer assessment of appearance and personality. Instrumental variables estimates and estimates from models with lagged weight status confirm the overall patterns.

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Change in BMI Accurately Predicted by Social Exposure to Acquaintances

Rahman Oloritun et al.
PLoS ONE, November 2013

Abstract:
Research has mostly focused on obesity and not on processes of BMI change more generally, although these may be key factors that lead to obesity. Studies have suggested that obesity is affected by social ties. However these studies used survey based data collection techniques that may be biased toward select only close friends and relatives. In this study, mobile phone sensing techniques were used to routinely capture social interaction data in an undergraduate dorm. By automating the capture of social interaction data, the limitations of self-reported social exposure data are avoided. This study attempts to understand and develop a model that best describes the change in BMI using social interaction data. We evaluated a cohort of 42 college students in a co-located university dorm, automatically captured via mobile phones and survey based health-related information. We determined the most predictive variables for change in BMI using the least absolute shrinkage and selection operator (LASSO) method. The selected variables, with gender, healthy diet category, and ability to manage stress, were used to build multiple linear regression models that estimate the effect of exposure and individual factors on change in BMI. We identified the best model using Akaike Information Criterion (AIC) and R2. This study found a model that explains 68% (p<0.0001) of the variation in change in BMI. The model combined social interaction data, especially from acquaintances, and personal health-related information to explain change in BMI. This is the first study taking into account both interactions with different levels of social interaction and personal health-related information. Social interactions with acquaintances accounted for more than half the variation in change in BMI. This suggests the importance of not only individual health information but also the significance of social interactions with people we are exposed to, even people we may not consider as close friends.

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Saturated fat consumption may not be the main cause of increased blood lipid levels

C.B. Dias et al.
Medical Hypotheses, forthcoming

Abstract:
Consumption of foods rich in saturated fatty acids (SFA) has often been associated with elevated blood lipid levels and consequently with risk for chronic diseases, including coronary heart disease. However, epidemiological and interventional studies on this topic are contradictory. While some studies have established a positive link, other studies have failed to show a significant association between saturated fat consumption and blood lipid levels, and others have even found an inverse association. Moreover, studies using animal models have demonstrated that dietary saturated fats raise blood lipid (cholesterol and triglycerides) levels only when the diet is deficient in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3PUFA). The n-3PUFA are known for their potential in the management of hyperlipidaemia for the prevention of coronary heart disease, as well as for their anti-arrhythmic, anti-aggregatory and anti-inflammatory potential. We believe that with an adequate consumption of n-3PUFA dietary saturated fat may not result in elevated blood lipid levels. Therefore, we critically evaluated the literature regarding saturated fat and blood lipid level, with an emphasis on the role of n-3PUFA on this relationship. Evidence from animal studies and few clinical trials lead to the hypothesis that there are beneficial or neutral effects of saturated fatty acids when combined with recommended levels of n-3PUFA in the diet. However, an intervention focusing on the background fat when the volunteers’ diet is supplemented with n-3PUFA is yet to be done. Proving the authenticity of this hypothesis would mean a substantial change in public health messages regarding saturated fats and their health effects; and also a change in the strategies related to prevention of chronic cardiac and artery diseases.

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Density and Proximity of Fast Food Restaurants and Body Mass Index Among African Americans

Lorraine Reitzel et al.
American Journal of Public Health, January 2014, Pages 110-116

Objectives: The purpose of this study was to address current gaps in the literature by examining the associations of fast food restaurant (FFR) density around the home and FFR proximity to the home, respectively, with body mass index (BMI) among a large sample of African American adults from Houston, Texas.

Methods: We used generalized linear models with generalized estimating equations to examine associations of FFR density at 0.5-, 1-, 2-, and 5-mile road network buffers around the home with BMI and associations of the closest FFR to the home with BMI. All models were adjusted for a range of individual-level covariates and neighborhood socioeconomic status. We additionally investigated the moderating effects of household income on these relations. Data were collected from December 2008 to July 2009.

Results: FFR density was not associated with BMI in the main analyses. However, FFR density at 0.5, 1, and 2 miles was positively associated with BMI among participants with lower incomes (P ≤ .025). Closer FFR proximity was associated with higher BMI among all participants (P < .001), with stronger associations emerging among those of lower income (P < .013) relative to higher income (P < .014).

Conclusions: Additional research with more diverse African American samples is needed, but results supported the potential for the fast food environment to affect BMI among African Americans, particularly among those of lower economic means.

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Genetic Analysis of Low BMI Phenotype in the Utah Population Database

William Yates et al.
PLoS ONE, December 2013

Abstract:
The low body mass index (BMI) phenotype of less than 18.5 has been linked to medical and psychological morbidity as well as increased mortality risk. Although genetic factors have been shown to influence BMI across the entire BMI, the contribution of genetic factors to the low BMI phenotype is unclear. We hypothesized genetic factors would contribute to risk of a low BMI phenotype. To test this hypothesis, we conducted a genealogy data analysis using height and weight measurements from driver's license data from the Utah Population Data Base. The Genealogical Index of Familiality (GIF) test and relative risk in relatives were used to examine evidence for excess relatedness among individuals with the low BMI phenotype. The overall GIF test for excess relatedness in the low BMI phenotype showed a significant excess over expected (GIF 4.47 for all cases versus 4.10 for controls, overall empirical p-value<0.001). The significant excess relatedness was still observed when close relationships were ignored, supporting a specific genetic contribution rather than only a family environmental effect. This study supports a specific genetic contribution in the risk for the low BMI phenotype. Better understanding of the genetic contribution to low BMI holds promise for weight regulation and potentially for novel strategies in the treatment of leanness and obesity.

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Does Walkability Influence Housing Prices?

Austin Boyle, Charles Barrilleaux & Daniel Scheller
Social Science Quarterly, forthcoming

Objective: We examine the effects of neighborhood walkability on house values. Recent research claims that walkability makes homes more valuable, ceteris paribus. We contend that some studies report a spurious effect of walkability because of differences between areas with high and low walkability.

Methods: We replicate the positive effect of walkability on prices for single-family homes and condominiums in Miami, Florida, using a unique data set of house values and characteristics. We employ a fixed effects regression model instead of a traditional ordinary least squares regression model to account for the unobserved heterogeneity of neighborhoods.

Results: We find that walkability's impact on housing value becomes statistically insignificant at the margin after controlling for heteroscedasticity and neighborhood fixed effects.

Conclusions: The significant impact of the fixed effects suggests that something other than walkability is affecting prices and that better specified models are needed to discern the real price effects of walkability.

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Extraverted Children Are More Biased by Bowl Sizes than Introverts

Koert van Ittersum & Brian Wansink
PLoS ONE, October 2013

Abstract:
Extraverted children are hypothesized to be most at risk for over-serving and overeating due to environmental cues – such as the size of dinnerware. A within-subject field study of elementary school students found that extraverted children served themselves 33.1% more cereal in larger bowls (16-oz) than in smaller (12-oz) bowls, whereas introverted children were unaffected by bowl size (+5.6%, ns). However, when children were asked by adults how much cereal they wanted to eat, both extraverted and introverted children requested more cereal when given a large versus small bowl. Insofar as extraverted children appear to be more biased by environmental cues, this pilot study suggests different serving styles are recommended for parents and other caregivers. They should serve extraverts, but allow introverts to serve themselves. Still, since the average child still served 23.2% more when serving themselves than when served by an adult, it might be best for caregivers to do the serving whenever possible – especially for extraverted children.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Monday, December 16, 2013

Labor problem

Amerisclerosis? The Puzzle of Rising U.S. Unemployment Persistence

Olivier Coibion, Yuriy Gorodnichenko & Dmitri Koustas
NBER Working Paper, October 2013

Abstract:
The persistence of U.S. unemployment has risen with each of the last three recessions, raising the specter that future U.S. recessions might look more like the Eurosclerosis experience of the 1980s than traditional V-shaped recoveries of the past. In this paper, we revisit possible explanations for this rising persistence. First, we argue that financial shocks do not systematically lead to more persistent unemployment than monetary policy shocks, so these cannot explain the rising persistence of unemployment. Second, monetary and fiscal policies can account for only part of the evolving unemployment persistence. Therefore, we turn to a third class of explanations: propagation mechanisms. We focus on factors consistent with four other cyclical patterns which have evolved since the early 1980s: a rising cyclicality in long-term unemployment, lower regional convergence after downturns, rising cyclicality in disability claims, and missing disinflation. These factors include declining labor mobility, changing age structures, and the decline in trust among Americans. To determine how these factors affect unemployment persistence, this paper exploits regional variation in labor market outcomes across Western Europe and North America during 1970-1990, in contrast to most previous work focusing either on cross-country variation or regional variation within countries. The results suggest that only cultural factors can account for the rising persistence of unemployment in the U.S., but the evolution in mobility and demographics over time should have more than offset the effects of culture.

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Creating Jobs via the 2009 Recovery Act: State Medicaid Grants Compared to Broadly-Directed Spending

Bill Dupor
Federal Reserve Working Paper, November 2013

Abstract:
Researchers have used cross-state differences to assess the jobs impact of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the Recovery Act). Existing studies find that the Act's broadly-directed spending (i.e. excluding tax cuts) increased employment, at a cost-per-job of roughly three to five times that of typical employment compensation in the U.S. Other research finds that a particular component of the Act ─ emergency Medicaid grants to states ─ created jobs at a cost of 12% to 20% that of broadly-directed spending. This paper shows that these differences across the components' impacts can be explained by omitted variables in the existing work on the emergency Medicaid grants. Adjusting for the omissions, the jobs effect of the Act's Medicaid grants becomes substantially weaker. The omissions are: (i) not controlling the degree of (non-Recovery Act) federal dependency, (ii) not duly controlling for pre-Act housing and labor market conditions, and (iii) not conditioning on Recovery Act funding beyond that from the Act's Medicaid grants. Adjusting for any one of these omissions, by itself, results in a substantial increase in the cost of job creation and/or no statistically significant jobs effect.

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Economic Freedom and Labor Market Conditions: Evidence from the States

Lauren Heller & Frank Stephenson
Contemporary Economic Policy, January 2014, Pages 56–66

Abstract:
Using 1981–2009 data for the 50 states, this article examines the relationship between economic freedom and the unemployment rate, the labor force participation rate, and the employment-population ratio. After controlling for a variety of state-level characteristics, the results from most specifications indicate that economic freedom is associated with lower unemployment and with higher labor force participation and employment-population ratios.

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Capitalism and Labor Shares: A Cross-Country Panel Study

Andrew Young & Robert Lawson
European Journal of Political Economy, forthcoming

Abstract:
We examine the empirical relationship between the institutions of economic freedom and labor shares in a panel up to 93 countries covering 1970 through 2009. We find that a standard deviation increase in the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of the World (EFW) score is associated about 1/3 standard deviation increase in a country’s labor share. Starting from the sample mean labor share in our panel, this amounts to about 4.26 percentage points. This relationship is robust to considering OECD and non-OECD samples separately. It is also (both qualitatively and quantitatively) robust to controlling for differences in human capital levels, labor productivity, trade union density, and international economic flows. Breaking the EFW into its individual component areas, the regulation of credit, business and labor appears to be the most important source of the positive EFW-labor share relationship.

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Match efficiency and firms' hiring standards

Petr Sedláček
Journal of Monetary Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
During the last recession, new hires were lower than would be predicted by a standard matching function and the observed ratio of searching workers and firms. This paper first estimates U.S. match efficiency as an exogenous residual in the matching function using a simple search and matching model. It finds match efficiency to be pro-cyclical and to account for about 1/4 of unemployment increases during the most severe recessions. Second, this paper proposes a model with endogenous separations and firing costs that endogenizes match efficiency, which is driven by firms’ hiring standards. The model can explain almost 1/2 of the variation in the initial estimate of match efficiency.

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Entrepreneurship over the business cycle

Li Yu, Peter Orazem & Robert Jolly
Economics Letters, February 2014, Pages 105–110

Abstract:
The fraction self-employed rises in recessions because wage work is more sensitive than self-employment to the business cycle, not because of necessity entrepreneurship. Graduating during a recession reduces the probability of starting a business for the next 11 years.

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Minimum Wages and Aggregate Job Growth: Causal Effect or Statistical Artifact?

Arindrajit Dube
University of Massachusetts Working Paper, October 2013

Abstract:
A recent paper by Meer and West argues that minimum wages reduce aggregate employment growth, and that this relationship is masked by looking at employment levels. I also find a negative association between minimum wages and aggregate employment growth using both the Business Dynamics Statistics and the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages datasets, and it is sizable for some time periods. However, I show that this negative association is present in exactly the wrong sectors. It is particularly strong in manufacturing which hires very few minimum wage workers. At the same time, there is no such association in retail, or in accommodation and food services – which together hire nearly 2/3 of all minimum wage workers. These results indicate that the negative association between minimum wages and aggregate employment growth does not represent a causal relationship. Rather the association stems from an inability to account for differences between high and low minimum wage states and the timing of minimum wage increases. Consistent with that interpretation, when I use bordering counties to construct more credible control groups, I find no such negative correlation between minimum wages and overall employment growth.

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Worker Replacement Costs and Unionization: Origins of the U.S. Labor Movement

Howard Kimeldorf
American Sociological Review, December 2013, Pages 1033-1062

Abstract:
The embattled state of U.S. labor has generated a voluminous body of research on the processes of deunionization contributing to its decline. Revisiting the less researched topic of unionization, this study explores the social conditions facilitating union growth during the labor movement’s formative years. Focusing on the first decade of the twentieth century — in many respects for labor, a period not unlike the present — I seek to explain the pattern of organizing success and failure across industries and occupations. I find that the most organized settings occurred where workers had greater disruptive capacities due to the high cost of being replaced during work stoppages. The highest replacement costs were associated with three conditions: scarcity of skilled labor, geographically isolated worksites that raised the cost of importing strikebreakers, and time-sensitive tasks that rendered replacement workers economically impractical. Workplaces that had at least one of these conditions formed the backbone of the early U.S. labor movement. The conclusion considers the impact of declining replacement costs on current challenges facing U.S. labor.

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Revisions to US labor market data and the effects on the public’s perception of the economy

Salem Abo-Zaid
Economics Letters, February 2014, Pages 119–124

Abstract:
Using the monthly “Employment Situation” reports for 1994–2013, this paper studies the revisions to US employment data. The paper shows that the first press release underestimates net job creation in expansions and overestimates it in downturns. The “errors” in reporting the data on the labor market can distort the public’s perception about the stance of the labor market and have some political consequences. This is well reflected by the finding that the job approval rate of President Obama, the index of consumer confidence and the economic conditions index of Gallup have all been responding to the initial news on the US labor market as they were published in the Employment Situation reports.

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Recall and Unemployment

Shigeru Fujita & Giuseppe Moscarini
NBER Working Paper, November 2013

Abstract:
Using data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) covering 1990-2011, we document that a surprisingly large number of workers return to their previous employer after a jobless spell and experience more favorable labor market outcomes than job switchers. Over 40% of all workers separating into unemployment regain employment at their previous employer; over a fifth of them are permanently separated workers who did not have any expectation of recall, unlike those on temporary layoff. Recalls are associated with much shorter unemployment duration and better wage changes. Negative duration dependence of unemployment nearly disappears once recalls are excluded. We also find that the probability of finding a new job is more procyclical and volatile than the probability of a recall. Incorporating this fact into an empirical matching function significantly alters its estimated elasticity and the time-series behavior of matching efficiency, especially during the Great Recession. We develop a canonical search-and-matching model with a recall option where new matches are mediated by a matching function, while recalls are free and triggered both by aggregate and job-specific shocks. The recall option is lost when the unemployed worker accepts a new job. A quantitative version of the model captures well our cross-sectional and cyclical facts through selection of recalled matches.

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Cross Country Differences in Job Reallocation: The Role of Industry, Firm Size and Regulations

John Haltiwanger, Stefano Scarpetta & Helena Schweiger
Labour Economics, January 2014, Pages 11–25

Abstract:
Somewhat surprisingly, cross-country empirical evidence (at least in the cross section) does not seem to support the predictions of standard models that economies with stricter regulations on hiring and firing should have a lower pace of job reallocation. One problem in exploring these issues empirically has been the difficulty of comparing countries on the basis of harmonized measures of job reallocation. A related problem is that there may be unobserved measurement errors or other factors accounting for differences in job reallocation across countries. This paper overcomes these challenges by using harmonized measures of job creation and destruction in a sample of 16 industrial and emerging economies, exploiting the country, industry and firm size dimensions. The analysis of variance in the paper shows that firm size effects are a dominant factor in accounting for the variation in the pace of job reallocation across country, industry and size cells. However, even after controlling for industry and size effects there remain significant differences in job flows across countries that could reflect differences in labor market regulations. We use the harmonized data to explore this hypothesis with a difference-in-difference approach. We find strong and robust evidence that stringent hiring and firing regulations tend to reduce the pace of job reallocation.

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Discouraging Workers: Estimating the Impacts of Macroeconomic Shocks on the Search Intensity of the Unemployed

Stephen DeLoach & Mark Kurt
Journal of Labor Research, December 2013, Pages 433-454

Abstract:
Discouraged and marginally attached workers have received increasing attention from policy makers over the past several years. Through slackness in the labor market, periods of high unemployment should reduce the likelihood of receiving a job offer and thus create more discouraged workers. However, the existing literature generally fails to find evidence of such pro-cyclicality in search intensity. Surprisingly, search appears to be acyclical. We hypothesize the observed acyclicality may be the result of coarse measurement of search intensity in previous studies and the failure to account for changes in individuals’ wealth across the business cycle. In this paper we use daily time use dairies from the American Time Use Survey 2003–2011 to examine the cyclicality of search intensity to explain this apparent contradiction between theory and data. Results indicate that workers do reduce their search in response to deteriorating labor market conditions, but these effects appear to be offset by the positive effects on search that are correlated with declines in household wealth.

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Should the US increase subsidies to R&D? Lessons from an endogenous growth theory

Manuel Gómez & Tiago Neves Sequeira
Oxford Economic Papers, January 2014, Pages 254-282

Abstract:
In this article we devise an endogenous growth model with R&D, physical capital, and human capital with several externalities. The model is calibrated to the US economy and used to quantitatively evaluate the effect on growth and welfare of implementing different budget-neutral policies. The welfare effects of different policies are calculated by taking into account the transitional dynamics of the economy after the policy reform. Our main findings have policy implications; mainly, subsidies to research are the most welfare-increasing amongst the budget-neutral policies, and the optimal structure of subsidies entails substantially increasing the subsidy to R&D, maintaining a zero subsidy to production, and reducing the subsidy to education, so as to keep the intertemporal government budget balanced. A detailed sensitivity analysis shows the robustness of these results.

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Housing Collateral and Entrepreneurship

Martin Schmalz, David Sraer & David Thesmar
NBER Working Paper, November 2013

Abstract:
This paper shows that collateral constraints restrict entrepreneurial activity. Our empirical strategy uses variations in local house prices as shocks to the value of collateral available to individuals owning a house and controls for local demand shocks by comparing entrepreneurial activity of homeowners and renters operating in the same region. We find that an increase in collateral value leads to a higher probability of becoming an entrepreneur. Conditional on entry, entrepreneurs with access to more valuable collateral create larger firms and more value added, and are more likely to survive, even in the long run.

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Is Internet Job Search Still Ineffective?

Peter Kuhn & Hani Mansour
Economic Journal, forthcoming

Abstract:
Using NLSY97 data for 2005-2008, we find that unemployed persons who look for work online are re-employed about 25 percent faster than comparable workers who do not search online. This finding contrasts with previous results for 1998-2001 and is robust to controls for cognitive test scores and detailed indicators of Internet access. Internet job search appears to be most effective in reducing unemployment durations when used to contact friends and relatives, to send out resumes or fill out applications, and also to look at ads. We detect a weak positive relationship between IJS and wage growth between jobs.

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Technological unemployment in industrial countries

Horst Feldmann
Journal of Evolutionary Economics, November 2013, Pages 1099-1126

Abstract:
Using annual data on 21 industrial countries from the period 1985 to 2009 and a large number of controls, this paper empirically analyzes the impact of technological change on unemployment. As proxy for technological change, it uses the ratio of triadic patent families to population. According to the regression results, an increase in technological change substantially increases unemployment over 3 years. There is no long-term effect, though. The results are robust to both endogeneity and numerous variations in specifications. They support theoretical contributions according to which faster technological progress may increase unemployment, at least during a transition period.

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Geography and High-Tech Employment Growth in US Counties

Belal Fallah, Mark Partridge & Dan Rickman
Journal of Economic Geography, forthcoming

Abstract:
This article investigates the role of geography in high-tech employment growth across US counties. The geographic dimensions examined include industry cluster effects, urbanization effects, proximity to a research university and proximity in the urban hierarchy. Growth is assessed for overall high-tech employment and for employment in selected high-tech subsectors. Econometric analyses are conducted separately for samples of metropolitan and nonmetropolitan counties. Among our primary findings, we do not find evidence of positive localization or within-industry cluster growth effects, generally finding negative growth effects. We instead find evidence of positive urbanization effects and growth penalties for greater distances from larger urban areas. Universities also appear to play their primary role in creating human capital rather than knowledge spillovers for nearby firms. Quantile regression analysis confirms the absence of within-industry cluster effects and importance of human capital for counties with fastest growth in high-tech industries.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Running on empty

Happiness From Ordinary and Extraordinary Experiences

Amit Bhattacharjee & Cassie Mogilner
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
Prior research indicates that experiences bring greater happiness than material possessions, but which experiences result in the greatest happiness? The current investigation is one of the first to categorize types of experiences and highlights one important distinction: the extent to which an experience is ordinary (common and frequent) versus extraordinary (uncommon and infrequent). Eight studies examine the experiences individuals recall, plan, imagine, and post on Facebook finding that the happiness enjoyed from ordinary and extraordinary experiences depends on age. Younger people, who view their future as extensive, gain more happiness from extraordinary experiences; however, ordinary experiences become increasingly associated with happiness as people get older, such that they produce as much happiness as extraordinary experiences when individuals have limited time remaining. Self-definition drives these effects: although extraordinary experiences are self-defining throughout one’s lifespan, as people get older they increasingly define themselves by the ordinary experiences that comprise their daily lives.

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From Tribulations to Appreciation: Experiencing Adversity in the Past Predicts Greater Savoring in the Present

Alyssa Croft, Elizabeth Dunn & Jordi Quoidbach
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Can experiencing adversity enhance people’s appreciation for life’s small pleasures? To examine this question, we asked nearly 15,000 adults to complete a vignette-based measure of savoring. In addition, we presented participants with a checklist of adverse events (e.g., divorce, death of a loved one) and asked them to indicate whether they had experienced any of these events and, if so, to specify whether they felt they had emotionally dealt with the negative event or were still struggling with it. Although people who were currently struggling with adversity reported a diminished proclivity for savoring positive events, individuals who had dealt with more adversity in the past reported an elevated capacity for savoring. Thus, the worst experiences in life may come with an eventual upside, by promoting the ability to appreciate life’s small pleasures.

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Racial differences in depression in the United States: How do subgroup analyses inform a paradox?

David Barnes, Katherine Keyes & Lisa Bates
Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, December 2013, Pages 1941-1949

Purpose: Non-Hispanic Blacks in the US have lower rates of major depression than non-Hispanic Whites, in national household samples. This has been termed a “paradox,” as Blacks suffer greater exposure to social stressors, a risk factor for depression. Subgroup analyses can inform hypotheses to explain this paradox. For example, it has been suggested that selection bias in household samples undercounts depression in Blacks; if selection is driving the paradox, Black–White differences should be most pronounced among young men with low education.

Methods: We examined Black–White differences in lifetime major depression in subgroups defined simultaneously by sex, age, and education using data from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) and the Collaborative Psychiatric Epidemiology Surveys (CPES).

Results: In NESARC and CPES, Blacks had lower odds than Whites of lifetime major depression in 21 and 23 subgroups, respectively, of 24. All statistically significant differences were in subgroups favoring Blacks, and lower odds in Blacks were more pronounced among those with more education.

Conclusions: These results suggest that hypotheses to explain the paradox must posit global mechanisms that pertain to all subgroups defined by sex, age, and education. Results do not lend support for the selection bias hypothesis.

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Prevalence, Risk, and Correlates of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Across Ethnic and Racial Minority Groups in the United States

Margarita Alegría et al.
Medical Care, December 2013, Pages 1114-1123

Objectives: We assess whether posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) varies in prevalence, diagnostic criteria endorsement, and type and frequency of potentially traumatic events (PTEs) among a nationally representative US sample of 5071 non-Latino whites, 3264 Latinos, 2178 Asians, 4249 African Americans, and 1476 Afro-Caribbeans.

Methods: PTSD and other psychiatric disorders were evaluated using the World Mental Health-Composite International Diagnostic Interview (WMH-CIDI) in a national household sample that oversampled ethnic/racial minorities (n=16,238) but was weighted to produce results representative of the general population.

Results: Asians have lower prevalence rates of probable lifetime PTSD, whereas African Americans have higher rates as compared with non-Latino whites, even after adjusting for type and number of exposures to traumatic events, and for sociodemographic, clinical, and social support factors. Afro-Caribbeans and Latinos seem to demonstrate similar risk to non-Latino whites, adjusting for these same covariates. Higher rates of probable PTSD exhibited by African Americans and lower rates for Asians, as compared with non-Latino whites, do not appear related to differential symptom endorsement, differences in risk or protective factors, or differences in types and frequencies of PTEs across groups.

Conclusions: There appears to be marked differences in conditional risk of probable PTSD across ethnic/racial groups. Questions remain about what explains risk of probable PTSD. Several factors that might account for these differences are discussed, as well as the clinical implications of our findings. Uncertainty of the PTSD diagnostic assessment for Latinos and Asians requires further evaluation.

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Serious psychological distress among non-Hispanic whites in the United States: The importance of nativity status and region of birth

Florence Dallo, Tiffany Kindratt & Tracy Snell
Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, December 2013, Pages 1923-1930

Purpose: Serious psychological distress (SPD) is an understudied health topic. When studied, estimates for minority groups are compared to that of non-Hispanic whites. Non-Hispanic whites are heterogeneous, and comprise individuals from Europe, North Africa or the Middle East. The objectives of this study are to estimate and compare the sex- and age-adjusted prevalence of SPD first by nativity status and then by region of birth (Europe, Middle East and Russia) while controlling for potential confounders.

Methods: The sample consisted of 196,483 participants, 18 years of age or older in the National Health Interview Survey (2000–2010). To measure SPD, Kessler’s K6 Likert scale was used. Individuals with scores greater than or equal to 13 were considered to have SPD.

Results: The age- and sex- adjusted prevalence of SPD was 3 % for foreign-born non-Hispanic whites. Of this, estimates were 6 % for those from the Middle East, 3 % for Europe and 2 % for Russia (p = 0.00). In the fully adjusted multivariable model, foreign-born non-Hispanic whites from the Middle East were more likely (OR = 1.76; 95 % CI = 1.01, 3.04) to report SPD when compared to US-born non-Hispanic whites. Within the foreign-born population, non-Hispanic whites from the Middle East were more than twice as likely to report SPD (OR = 2.43; 95 % CI = 1.15, 5.14) compared to foreign-born non-Hispanic whites from Europe after controlling for confounders.

Conclusions: This study’s findings will help researchers understand which subgroups within non-Hispanic whites suffer most from SPD, which will facilitate tailored prevention intervention efforts.

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Distinct Sources of Self-Discrepancies: Effects of Being Who You Want to Be and Wanting to Be Who You Are on Well-Being

Erin Hardin & Jeff Larsen
Emotion, forthcoming

Abstract:
Self-discrepancy theory contends that well-being depends, in part, on the amount of overlap between one’s actual and ideal selves. There is a variety of supportive evidence, but Rabbi Hyman Schachtel’s (1954, The real enjoyment of living, New York, NY, Dutton) contention that “happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have” (p. 37) highlights that a distinction between two potential sources of overlap between one’s actual and ideal selves has been overlooked. Whereas most measures of ideal self-discrepancies index the extent to which people are who they want to be (i.e., ideal self-actualization [ISA]), others index the extent to which people want to be who they are (i.e., actual self-regard [ASR]). In several studies, we measured ideal self-actualization by asking people to identify traits they would ideally like to possess and rate the extent to which they had those traits. We also measured actual self-regard by asking participants to identify traits they possessed and indicate the extent to which they wanted those traits. In all 4 studies, ideal self-actualization and actual self-regard were distinct from one another (rs = .24 to .32) and both were distinct from self-compassion (Study 1) and global self-esteem (Study 4). Moreover, ASR consistently accounted for unique variance in aspects of well-being (e.g., subjective well-being, positive affect, psychological growth) and ISA often did so. Finally, a longitudinal study provided evidence that actual self-regard is a precursor, but not a consequence, of subjective well-being (Study 4).

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When bad gets worse: The amplifying effect of materialism on traumatic stress and maladaptive consumption

Ayalla Ruvio, Eli Somer & Aric Rindfleisch
Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Our research explores the amplifying effect of materialism on the experience of traumatic stress and maladaptive consumption via both an Israeli field study and a U.S. national survey. Our field study assesses the moderating impact of materialism upon both traumatic stress and maladaptive consumption among participants from an Israeli town under terrorist attack vs. participants from an Israeli town not exposed to hostilities. Our survey examines the possible underlying processes behind these effects among a nationally representative sample of Americans. The Israeli study reveals that, when faced with a mortal threat such as a terrorist attack, highly materialistic individuals report higher levels of post-traumatic stress, compulsive consumption, and impulsive buying than their less materialistic counterparts. Our U.S. study suggests that these effects are likely due to the fact that materialistic individuals exhibit lower levels of self-esteem, which reduces their ability to cope with traumatic events. Thus, our results indicate that, in addition to its well-documented harmful direct effect on psychological well-being, materialism also exerts an indirect negative effect by making bad events even worse.

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Overeducation and depressive symptoms: Diminishing mental health returns to education

Piet Bracke, Elise Pattyn & Olaf von dem Knesebeck
Sociology of Health & Illness, November 2013, Pages 1242–1259

Abstract:
In general, well-educated people enjoy better mental health than those with less education. As a result, some wonder whether there are limits to the mental health benefits of education. Inspired by the literature on the expansion of tertiary education, this article explores marginal mental health returns to education and studies the mental health status of overeducated people. To enhance the validity of the findings we use two indicators of educational attainment – years of education and ISCED97 categories – and two objective indicators of overeducation (the realised matches method and the job analyst method) in a sample of the working population of 25 European countries (unweighted sample N = 19,089). Depression is measured using an eight-item version of the CES-D scale. We find diminishing mental health returns to education. In addition, overeducated people report more depression symptoms. Both findings hold irrespective of the indicators used. The results must be interpreted in the light of the enduring expansion of education, as our findings show that the discussion of the relevance of the human capital perspective, and the diploma disease view on the relationship between education and modern society, is not obsolete.

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Firearms and suicides in US states

Justin Thomas Briggs & Alexander Tabarrok
International Review of Law and Economics, March 2014, Pages 180–188

Abstract:
This study investigates the relationship between firearm prevalence and suicide in a sample of all US states over the years 2000–2009. We find strong, positive effects of gun prevalence on suicide using OLS estimation, across a variety of measures for gun possession, and with several sets of controls. When using instrumental variable estimation, the effect remains significant, despite also finding significant evidence that gun ownership causes substitution towards gun-suicide rather than other methods of suicide. There is also evidence for non-linearities in the effects of guns on suicide.

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Depression and Oxidative Stress: Results From a Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies

Priya Palta et al.
Psychosomatic Medicine, forthcoming

Objective: To perform a systematic review and meta-analysis that quantitatively tests and summarizes the hypothesis that depression results in elevated oxidative stress and lower antioxidant levels.

Methods: We performed a meta-analysis of studies that reported an association between depression and oxidative stress and/or antioxidant status markers. PubMed and EMBASE databases were searched for articles published from January 1980 through December 2012. A random-effects model, weighted by inverse variance, was performed to pool standard deviation (Cohen’s d) effect size estimates across studies for oxidative stress and antioxidant status measures, separately.

Results: Twenty-three studies with 4980 participants were included in the meta-analysis. Depression was most commonly measured using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition criteria. A Cohen’s d effect size of 0.55 (95% confidence interval = 0.47–0.63) was found for the association between depression and oxidative stress, indicating a roughly 0.55 of 1-standard-deviation increase in oxidative stress among individuals with depression compared with those without depression. The results of the studies displayed significant heterogeneity (I2 = 80.0%, p < .001). A statistically significant effect was also observed for the association between depression and antioxidant status markers (Cohen’s d = −0.24, 95% confidence interval = −0.33 to −0.15).

Conclusions: This meta-analysis observed an association between depression and oxidative stress and antioxidant status across many different studies. Differences in measures of depression and markers of oxidative stress and antioxidant status markers could account for the observed heterogeneity. These findings suggest that well-established associations between depression and poor heath outcomes may be mediated by high oxidative stress.

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Are narcissists hardy or vulnerable? The role of narcissism in the production of stress-related biomarkers in response to emotional distress

Joey Cheng, Jessica Tracy & Gregory Miller
Emotion, December 2013, Pages 1004-1011

Abstract:
Does narcissism provide a source of hardiness or vulnerability in the face of adversity? The present research addressed this question by testing whether narcissism is associated with increased physiological reactivity to emotional distress, among women. Drawing on the “fragile-ego” account, we predicted that narcissists would show a heightened physiological stress profile in response to everyday frustrations. Results supported this prediction; across a 3-day period, highly narcissistic individuals showed elevated output of 2 biomarkers of stress — cortisol and alpha-amylase — to the extent that they experienced negative emotions. In contrast, among those low in narcissism there was no association between these biomarkers and emotions. These findings suggest that narcissists’ stress-response systems are particularly sensitive to everyday negative emotions, consistent with the notion that narcissism comes with physiological costs.

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Linking genetic variants of the mineralocorticoid receptor and negative memory bias: Interaction with prior life adversity

Susanne Vogel et al.
Psychoneuroendocrinology, February 2014, Pages 181–190

Abstract:
Substantial research has been conducted investigating the association between life adversity and genetic vulnerability for depression, but clear mechanistic links are rarely identified and investigation often focused on single genetic variants. Complex phenotypes like depression, however, are likely determined by multiple variants in interaction with environmental factors. As variations in the mineralocorticoid receptor gene (NR3C2) have been related to a higher risk for depression, we investigated whether NR3C2 variance is related to negative memory bias, an established endophenotype for depression, in healthy participants. Furthermore, we explored the influence of life adversity on this association. We used a set-based analysis to simultaneously test all measured variation in NR3C2 for an association with negative memory bias in 483 participants and an interaction with life adversity. To further specify this interaction, we split the sample into low and high live adversity groups and repeated the analyses in both groups separately. NR3C2 variance was associated with negative memory bias, especially in the high life adversity group. Additionally, we identified a functional polymorphism (rs5534) related to negative memory bias and demonstrating a gene x life adversity interaction. Variations in NR3C2 are associated with negative memory bias and this relationship appears to be influenced by life adversity. As negative memory bias is implicated in the susceptibility to depression, our findings provide mechanistic support for the notion that variations in NR3C2 - which could compromise the proper function of this receptor - are a risk factor for the development of mood disorders.

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Self-compassion as a predictor of interleukin-6 response to acute psychosocial stress

Juliana Breines et al.
Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, forthcoming

Abstract:
We examined the hypothesis that self-compassion is associated with lower levels of stress-induced inflammation. On two consecutive days, plasma concentrations of interleukin-6 (IL-6) were assessed at baseline and at 30 and 120 min following exposure to a standardized laboratory stressor in a sample of 41 healthy young adults. Participants who were higher in self-compassion exhibited significantly lower day 1 IL-6 responses, even when controlling for self-esteem, depressive symptoms, demographic factors, and distress. Self-compassion was not related to day 2 IL-6 response but was inversely related to day 2 baseline IL-6 levels, and to increase in baseline IL-6 from day 1 to day 2. These findings suggest that self-compassion may serve as a protective factor against stress-induced inflammation and inflammation-related disease.

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Beliefs About Emotion: Links to Emotion Regulation, Well-Being, and Psychological Distress

Krista De Castella et al.
Basic and Applied Social Psychology, November/December 2013, Pages 497-505

Abstract:
People differ in their implicit beliefs about emotions. Some believe emotions are fixed (entity theorists), whereas others believe that everyone can learn to change their emotions (incremental theorists). We extend the prior literature by demonstrating (a) entity beliefs are associated with lower well-being and increased psychological distress, (b) people's beliefs about their own emotions explain greater unique variance than their beliefs about emotions in general, and (3) implicit beliefs are linked with well-being/distress via cognitive reappraisal. These results suggest people's implicit beliefs — particularly about their own emotions — may predispose them toward emotion regulation strategies that have important consequences for psychological health.

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Affective Instability in Daily Life Is Predicted by Resting Heart Rate Variability

Peter Koval et al.
PLoS ONE, November 2013

Abstract:
Previous research has shown that being affectively unstable is an indicator of several forms of psychological maladjustment. However, little is known about the mechanisms underlying affective instability. Our research aims to examine the possibility that being prone to extreme fluctuations in one’s feelings is related to maladaptive emotion regulation. We investigated this hypothesis by relating affective instability, assessed in daily life using the experience sampling method, to self-reported emotion regulation strategies and to parasympathetically mediated heart rate variability (HRV), a physiological indicator of emotion regulation capacity. Results showed that HRV was negatively related to instability of positive affect (as measured by mean square successive differences), indicating that individuals with lower parasympathetic tone are emotionally less stable, particularly for positive affect.

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Intranasal oxytocin as strategy for medication-enhanced psychotherapy of PTSD: Salience processing and fear inhibition processes

Saskia Koch et al.
Psychoneuroendocrinology, forthcoming

Abstract:
About ten percent of people experiencing a traumatic event will subsequently develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is characterized by an exaggerated fear response which fails to extinguish over time and cannot be inhibited in safe contexts. The neurobiological correlates of PTSD involve enhanced salience processing (i.e. amygdala, dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) and anterior insula (AI) hyperactivity), and reduced top-down inhibitory control over this fear response (i.e. dorsal and ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) hypoactivity and diminished structural and functional connectivity between the vmPFC, hippocampus and amygdala). Therefore, dampening the exaggerated fear response (i.e. by reducing amygdala hyperactivity) and enhancing top-down inhibitory control (i.e. by promoting prefrontal control over the amygdala) during psychotherapy is an important target for medication-enhanced psychotherapy (MEP) in PTSD patients. Since the neuropeptide oxytocin (OT) has been found to act on these two processes, we propose that OT is a promising pharmacological agent to boost treatment response in PTSD. Human fMRI studies indicate that intranasal OT attenuates amygdala (hyper)activity and enhances connectivity of the amygdala with the vmPFC and hippocampus, resulting in increased top-down control over the fear response. In addition, intranasal OT was found to attenuate amygdala–brainstem connectivity and to change activity and connectivity in nodes of the salience network (i.e. AI and dACC). Furthermore, OT administration may modulate hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and autonomic nervous system (ANS) function and may enhance social behaviour, which could be beneficial in the therapeutic alliance. We also discuss contextual and interindividual factors (e.g. gender and social context) which may influence the effectiveness of OT in MEP. In all, we propose that intranasal OT given prior to each psychotherapy session may be an effective additive treatment to boost treatment response in PTSD.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM


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