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Monday, October 20, 2014

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Political Reinforcement: How Rising Inequality Curbs Manifested Welfare Generosity

Erling Barth, Henning Finseraas & Karl Moene
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
We propose a political reinforcement hypothesis, suggesting that rising inequality moves party politics on welfare state issues to the right, strengthening rather than modifying the impact of inequality. We model policy platforms by incorporating ideology and opportunism of party members and interests and sympathies of voters. If welfare spending is a normal good within income classes, a majority of voters moves rightward when inequality increases. As a response, the left, in particular, shift their welfare policy platform toward less generosity. We find support for our arguments using data on the welfare policy platforms of political parties in 22 OECD countries.

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Jealous of the Joneses: Conspicuous consumption, inequality, and crime

Daniel Hicks & Joan Hamory Hicks
Oxford Economic Papers, October 2014, Pages 1090-1120

Abstract:
Empirical research on the relationship between economic inequality and crime has focused on income inequality, despite the fact that income is not easily observed by potential criminals. We extend this literature by shifting the focus from income to its visible manifestation — conspicuous consumption. Using variation within US states over time, we document a robust association between the distribution of conspicuous consumption and violent crime. Our results link violent crime to inequality in visible expenditure, but not to inequality in total expenditure, suggesting that information plays a key role in the determination of crime. Furthermore, focusing on conspicuous expenditure allows for new tests of competing theories of crime. Our findings are consistent with social theories that link crime with relative deprivation, but provide little support for traditional economic theory.

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Affirmative Action and Human Capital Investment: Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment

Christopher Cotton, Brent Hickman & Joseph Price
NBER Working Paper, August 2014

Abstract:
The empirical literature on Affirmative Action (AA) in college admissions tends to ignore the effects admissions policies have on incentives of students to invest developing pre-college human capital. We explore the incentive effects of AA using a field experiment that creates a microcosm of the college admissions market. Our experimental design is based on the asymmetric, multi-object, all-pay auction framework in Bodoh-Creed and Hickman (2014). We pay 5th through 8th grade students based on their performance on a national mathematics exam relative to other competitor students, and observe the use of a study website as students prepare for the exam. An AA treatment favors "disadvantaged" students by reserving prizes for lower grade students who on average have less mathematics training and practice. We find that the AA policy significantly increases both average time investment and subsequent math achievement scores for disadvantaged students. At the same time, we find no evidence that it weakens average human capital investment incentives for advantaged students. We also find strong evidence that AA can narrow achievement gaps while promoting greater equality of market outcomes.

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Process over outcome: How perceptions of procedural fairness influence conservative support for redistributive taxes

Matthew Miles
Social Science Journal, forthcoming

Abstract:
Though majorities of Americans express support for redistributive tax policies as a cure for income inequality in the United States, this general support tends to dissipate when the public evaluates their support for specific proposals. The dominant explanations emphasize elite behavior and the disconnect between American values and political representation. An alternative view is that this counter-intuitive finding is entirely consistent with individual values. Some people place higher priority on policy processes than policy outcomes. This paper demonstrates that conservatives think about redistributive tax policy differently than liberals. Conservative support (opposition) for redistributive taxes is based on evaluations of the fairness of processes of government that lead to economic inequality. When conservatives believe that these processes are not fair, they are very supportive of wealth redistribution as a cure for economic inequality, whereas liberal support for wealth redistribution is more outcome-dependent.

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Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens

Martin Gilens & Benjamin Page
Perspectives on Politics, September 2014, Pages 564-581

Abstract:
Each of four theoretical traditions in the study of American politics — which can be characterized as theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy, Economic-Elite Domination, and two types of interest-group pluralism, Majoritarian Pluralism and Biased Pluralism — offers different predictions about which sets of actors have how much influence over public policy: average citizens; economic elites; and organized interest groups, mass-based or business-oriented. A great deal of empirical research speaks to the policy influence of one or another set of actors, but until recently it has not been possible to test these contrasting theoretical predictions against each other within a single statistical model. We report on an effort to do so, using a unique data set that includes measures of the key variables for 1,779 policy issues. Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. The results provide substantial support for theories of Economic-Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism.

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Campaign Finance Laws, Policy Outcomes, and Political Equality in the American States

Patrick Flavin
Political Research Quarterly, forthcoming

Abstract:
Laws that regulate the financing of campaigns are one attempt to attenuate the role of money in politics and promote more egalitarian policy outcomes. Do states with stricter campaign finance regulations represent citizens’ interests more equally? Using data on state spending priorities from 1977 to 2008, this article finds that states with stricter campaign finance laws devote a larger proportion of their annual budget to public welfare spending in general and to cash assistance programs in particular. In contrast, there is no relationship between the strictness of campaign finance laws and spending decisions for non-redistributive policy areas. I also investigate possible causal mechanisms and uncover evidence that stricter campaign finance laws alter incentives for candidates to respond to wealthy constituents by lessening the proportion of contributions that originate from business interests. These results suggest that laws that regulate the financing of political campaigns can play an important role in promoting the interests of disadvantaged citizens and enhancing political equality.

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Lobbying Regulations and Political Equality in the American States

Patrick Flavin
American Politics Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
Laws that regulate the conduct of professional lobbyists in statehouses across the nation are one attempt to ensure that citizens’ opinions receive more equal consideration when elected officials make policy decisions. Do states with stricter lobbying regulations actually display more egalitarian patterns of political representation? Using public opinion measures from the National Annenberg Election Surveys and data on state policies, this article first demonstrates that state policy decisions are consistently more proximate to the opinions of affluent citizens. I then evaluate the relationship between the stringency of state lobbying regulations and representational equality across the states and find evidence that states with stricter regulations weigh citizens’ opinions more equally in the policymaking process. These findings suggest that lobbying regulations can play an important role in promoting greater political equality.

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When Do the Rich Vote Less Than the Poor and Why? Explaining Turnout Inequality across the World

Kimuli Kasara & Pavithra Suryanarayan
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
The conventional wisdom that the poor are less likely to vote than the rich is based upon research on voting behavior in advanced industrialized countries. However, in some places, the relationship between turnout and socioeconomic status is reversed. We argue that the potential tax exposure of the rich explains the positive relationship between income and voting in some places and not others. Where the rich anticipate taxation, they have a greater incentive to participate in politics, and politicians are more likely to use fiscal policy to gain support. We explore two factors affecting the tax exposure of the rich — the political salience of redistribution in party politics and the state's extractive capacity. Using survey data from developed and developing countries, we demonstrate that the rich turn out to vote at higher rates when the political preferences of the rich and poor diverge and where bureaucratic capacity is high.

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It's Where You Work: Increases in Earnings Dispersion across Establishments and Individuals in the U.S.

Erling Barth et al.
NBER Working Paper, September 2014

Abstract:
This paper links data on establishments and individuals to analyze the role of establishments in the increase in inequality that has become a central topic in economic analysis and policy debate. It decomposes changes in the variance of ln earnings among individuals into the part due to changes in earnings among establishments and the part due to changes in earnings within-establishments and finds that much of the 1970s-2010s increase in earnings inequality results from increased dispersion of the earnings among the establishments where individuals work. It also shows that the divergence of establishment earnings occurred within and across industries and was associated with increased variance of revenues per worker. Our results direct attention to the fundamental role of establishment-level pay setting and economic adjustments in earnings inequality.

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Paragon or Pariah? The Consequences of Being Conspicuously Rich in China’s New Economy

Michael Firth et al.
Journal of Corporate Finance, forthcoming

Abstract:
In some cultures vast personal wealth is lauded whereas in others, it is viewed with suspicion and contempt. In recent years, a super rich elite of business people has emerged in China, and, given the country’s cultural and socialist past, we believe people are more likely to react negatively to reports of conspicuous wealth. To test our arguments, we examine the reactions to and consequences of China’s entrepreneurs being included on the Hurun Rich List. We find negative consequences for stock market traded firms controlled by the Rich List entrepreneurs: stock prices decline, government subsidies are reduced, and the named entrepreneurs are more likely to be investigated. These effects are strongest in rent-seeking industries and are mitigated by philanthropy.

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Individualistic tendencies: When group status makes the difference

Vincenzo Iacoviello & Fabio Lorenzi-Cioldi
Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, forthcoming

Abstract:
In three studies, the authors investigated whether individualistic tendencies are contingent upon ingroup social status. Ingroup status was created using experimental procedures, and individualistic tendencies were assessed as preference for individualistic over collectivistic advertisement messages or preference for scarce over available products. It was predicted and found that (a) members of high-status groups emphasize individualistic tendencies compared to members of low-status groups, and that (b) this difference increases as a function of ingroup identification. Among highly identified participants, high-status group members held onto their individualistic tendencies, whereas low-status group members resolutely reduced these tendencies. The discussion addresses the role of group status in the emergence of individualistic self-conceptions and worldviews.

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Taxation and Top Incomes in Canada

Kevin Milligan & Michael Smart
NBER Working Paper, September 2014

Abstract:
We estimate the elasticity of reported income with respect to tax rates for high earners using subnational variation across Canadian provinces. We argue this allows for better identification of tax elasticities than the existing literature. We find that elasticities of reported income at the provincial level are large for incomes in the top one percent, but small for lower earners. There are strong indications that the response happens both through earned and capital income. While our estimated elasticities are large, changes in tax rates cannot explain much of the overall long-run trend of higher income concentration in Canada.

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Inequality Preservation through Uneven Diffusion of Cultural Materials across Stratified Groups

Neha Gondal
Social Forces, forthcoming

Abstract:
Inequality between groups is frequently maintained through the construction and legitimation of inter-group cultural differences. I draw on Blau's multiform heterogeneity and complex contagion models to theorize and develop a relational mechanism that shows how inequality can be preserved when additional, new bases of differentiating between groups layer over existing ones. I investigate the conditions under which variations in the distribution of the population across stratified groups and homophily of social networks along the stratifying attribute interact in such a way that a belief/practice diffuses widely in one group but not the other — an outcome referred to as differential diffusion. I also analyze how size of ego networks and adoption thresholds affect differential diffusion. Using mathematical and agent-based models, I find a positive correlation between adoption thresholds and homophily: when social networks are highly homophilous (e.g., race and socioeconomic class), uneven diffusion of non-normative behavior reproduces inequality; inclusive networks (e.g., in diverse city schools), in contrast, reestablish inequality through differential diffusion of low-risk behavior. This suggests that cultivating diversity is likely to mitigate inequality preservation in conservative situations where adoption of new beliefs/practices needs considerable affirmation. Encouraging status-based solidarity is more appropriate in receptive contexts where adoption of new behaviors entails comparatively lower risk. The results also imply that analyses of diffusion need to be sensitive to contextual factors, including homophily, cultural institutionalization of the diffusing material, and population distribution. Finally, I extend Ridgeway's seminal work to show how relational structure can not only construct status hierarchies but also contribute to their symbolic maintenance.

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Equity theory and fair inequality: A neuroeconomic study

Alexander Cappelen et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming

Abstract:
The present paper reports results from, to our knowledge, the first study designed to examine the neuronal responses to income inequality in situations in which individuals have made different contributions in terms of work effort. We conducted an experiment that included a prescanning phase in which the participants earned money by working, and a neuronal scanning phase in which we examined how the brain responded when the participants evaluated different distributions of their earnings. We provide causal evidence for the relative contribution of work effort being crucial for understanding the hemodynamic response in the brain to inequality. We found a significant hemodynamic response in the striatum to deviations from the distribution of income that was proportional to work effort, but found no effect of deviations from the equal distribution of income. We also observed a striking correlation between the hemodynamic response in the striatum and the self-reported evaluation of the income distributions. Our results provide, to our knowledge, the first set of neuronal evidence for equity theory and suggest that people distinguish between fair and unfair inequalities.

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Resolution of the Happiness–Income Paradox

Zee Ma & Ye Zhang
Social Indicators Research, November 2014, Pages 705-721

Abstract:
It is widely believed that happiness is strongly correlated with wealth and income, but according to the happiness–income paradox, this is not always true. The paradox predicates that there is a strong positive correlation between income and happiness nationally, but the correlation is essentially absent in international comparisons, or in a long-term longitudinal comparison. This paradox has been widely debated among economists and the controversy has persisted for several decades. In this article, the happiness–income paradox is explained in terms of ecological correlation due to spatial aggregation or data-grouping, change of reference classes, and confounding variables. The controversy is resolved when ecological correlations and third-variable effects are accounted for. At the individual level, happiness and income are correlated positively, but not as strongly as many believe. In international comparisons, happiness and income are, in general, quite strongly correlated as well, contrary to what Easterlin (Nations and households in economic growth: essays in honor of Moses Abramovitz, Academic Press, New York, 1974) claimed and similar to what others have found, but for different reasons. Long-term comparison is also related to ecological correlation, but it is related to the change of reference classes as well.

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Income inequality, poverty and crime across nations

Paul-Philippe Pare & Richard Felson
British Journal of Sociology, September 2014, Pages 434–458

Abstract:
We examine the relationship between income inequality, poverty, and different types of crime. Our results are consistent with recent research in showing that inequality is unrelated to homicide rates when poverty is controlled. In our multi-level analyses of the International Crime Victimization Survey we find that inequality is unrelated to assault, robbery, burglary, and theft when poverty is controlled. We argue that there are also theoretical reasons to doubt that the level of income inequality of a country affects the likelihood of criminal behaviour.

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Bequests and family traditions: The case of nineteenth century France

Luc Arrondel & Cyril Grange
Review of Economics of the Household, September 2014, Pages 439-459

Abstract:
Like father, like son: is the bequest behavior of children “inherited” from that of their parents? Most economic models (altruistic, paternalistic or exchange models) postulate that bequest behavior does not depend per se on parents’ behavior. Yet because of data limitations, few empirical studies have analyzed the link between bequests left and inheritances received. In this paper, we evaluate the effect of inheritance relative to lifetime income on the amount that individuals bequeath, in the case of France. This study uses original historical data including wealth genealogies covering the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries for the Loire Inférieure département. Empirical evidence suggests that the propensity to bequeath is much greater for inheritance than for human resources: a deceased having inherited twice the average wealth leaves 35–60 % more to his own heirs that the average for his generation. In nineteenth century France, bequests are explained more by inheritance received than by personal savings per se.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Positive and negative

State-Level Social Capital and Suicide Mortality in the 50 U.S. States

Nathan Smith & Ichiro Kawachi
Social Science & Medicine, November 2014, Pages 269–277

Abstract:
This study investigated whether state levels of social capital are associated with rates of completed suicides in the fifty U.S. states. To do this we regressed state-level suicide rates on an index of social capital, along with other variables known to influence suicide rates such as gun ownership, income inequality, alcohol abuse and dependence, drug abuse and dependence, serious mental illness, unemployment, percent of population living in urban areas, poverty, population stability, and living in a “suicide belt” state. Suicide rates were aggregated from 1999 to 2002, and examined separately by sex and different race/ethnic groups. The results showed that White men and women in states with higher levels of social capital had significantly lower rates of suicide when controlling for the other influential variables. When we examined sub-dimensions of social capital, we found that community organizations (for White women) and group membership (for White men) were particularly strongly associated with lower suicide risk.

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Time Period and Birth Cohort Differences in Depressive Symptoms in the U.S., 1982–2013

Jean Twenge
Social Indicators Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
Across four surveys (N = 6.9 million), Americans reported substantially higher levels of depressive symptoms, particularly somatic symptoms, in the 2000s–2010s compared to the 1980s–1990s. High school students in the 2010s (vs. the 1980s) reported more somatic symptoms (e.g., trouble sleeping, thinking, and remembering; shortness of breath) and were twice as likely to have seen a professional for mental issues. College students in recent years (vs. the 1980s) were more likely to report feeling overwhelmed and to believe they were below average in mental and physical health, but were less likely to say they felt depressed. Total Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression scores were higher among adults in 2000 (vs. 1988), especially somatic symptoms. Teens displayed less suicidal ideation in 2011 versus 1991 and were slightly less likely to commit suicide. Thus, more subtle symptoms of depression became more prevalent even as some overt indicators of depression became less prevalent.

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The Unforeseen Costs of Extraordinary Experience

Gus Cooney, Daniel Gilbert & Timothy Wilson
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
People seek extraordinary experiences — from drinking rare wines and taking exotic vacations to jumping from airplanes and shaking hands with celebrities. But are such experiences worth having? We found that participants thoroughly enjoyed having experiences that were superior to those had by their peers, but that having had such experiences spoiled their subsequent social interactions and ultimately left them feeling worse than they would have felt if they had had an ordinary experience instead. Participants were able to predict the benefits of having an extraordinary experience but were unable to predict the costs. These studies suggest that people may pay a surprising price for the experiences they covet most.

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Emodiversity and the Emotional Ecosystem

Jordi Quoidbach et al.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, forthcoming

Abstract:
Bridging psychological research exploring emotional complexity and research in the natural sciences on the measurement of biodiversity, we introduce — and demonstrate the benefits of — emodiversity: the variety and relative abundance of the emotions that humans experience. Two cross-sectional studies across more than 37,000 respondents demonstrate that emodiversity is an independent predictor of mental and physical health — such as decreased depression and doctor’s visits — over and above mean levels of positive and negative emotion. These results remained robust after controlling for gender, age, and the 5 main dimensions of personality. Emodiversity is a practically important and previously unidentified metric for assessing the health of the human emotional ecosystem.

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Preventing Symptoms of Depression by Teaching Adolescents That People Can Change: Effects of a Brief Incremental Theory of Personality Intervention at 9-Month Follow-Up

Adriana Sum Miu & David Scott Yeager
Clinical Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
The transition to high school coincides with an increase in the prevalence of depressive symptoms. Could this be due in part to increasing beliefs about the fixedness of personal traits at a time of frequent social setbacks? And could teaching adolescents that people can change help prevent the increase in depressive symptoms? A longitudinal intervention experiment involved three independent samples of students entering high school (N = 599). A brief self-administered reading and writing activity taught an incremental theory of personality — the belief that people’s socially relevant characteristics have the potential to change. The intervention reduced the incidence of clinically significant levels of self-reported depressive symptoms 9 months postintervention by nearly 40% among adolescents assigned to the intervention condition, compared with control participants. Analyses of symptom clusters, measures of self-esteem, and measures of natural language use explored the outcomes that did and did not show treatment effects. Moderation analyses confirmed theoretical expectations. Among adolescents assigned to the control condition, those who endorsed more of an entity theory of personality — believing people cannot change — showed greater increases in depressive symptoms during the year. The effect of this risk factor was eliminated by the intervention.

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Friend support and psychological distress in a U.S. adult twin sample

Briana Horwitz et al.
Personal Relationships, forthcoming

Abstract:
Friend support is often assumed to exert direct environmental influences on psychological distress, yet the role of both genetic and environmental influences on this association has not been examined. This study investigates whether both genetic and environmental factors explain the link between friend support and psychological distress in adults. The sample was drawn from the Midlife Development in the United States study and included 947 pairs of monozygotic, same-sex dizygotic (DZ), and opposite-sex DZ twins. Results showed that genetic influences explain the association between friend support and psychological distress, suggesting that heritable contributions to friend support also shape psychological distress. Interventions focused on psychological distress should consider how individuals' heritable characteristics influence their friend support and psychological distress.

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Compulsory Schooling, Education, Depression and Memory: New Evidence from SHARELIFE

Laura Crespo, Borja López-Noval & Pedro Mira
Economics of Education Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
In this paper we provide new evidence on the causal effect of education on adult depression and cognition. We use SHARE data and schooling reforms in several European countries as instruments for educational attainment. We find that an extra year of education has a large and significant protective effect on mental health: the probability of suffering depression decreases by 6.5 percentage points. We find a large and significant protective effect on cognition as measured by word recall. We also explore whether heterogeneity and selection play a part in the large discrepancy between OLS and IV (LATE) estimates of the effect of education on depression and cognition. Using the data available in SHARELIFE on early life conditions of the respondents such as the individuals’ socioeconomic status, health, and performance at school, we identify subgroups particularly affected by the reforms and with high marginal health returns to education.

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Do Slumped and Upright Postures Affect Stress Responses? A Randomized Trial

Shwetha Nair et al.
Health Psychology, forthcoming

Objective: The hypothesis that muscular states are related to emotions has been supported predominantly by research on facial expressions. However, body posture also may be important to the initiation and modulation of emotions. This experiment aimed to investigate whether an upright seated posture could influence affective and cardiovascular responses to a psychological stress task, relative to a slumped seated posture.

Method: There were 74 participants who were randomly assigned to either a slumped or upright seated posture. Their backs were strapped with physiotherapy tape to hold this posture throughout the study. Participants were told a cover story to reduce expectation effects of posture. Participants completed a reading task, the Trier Social Stress speech task, assessments of mood, self-esteem, and perceived threat. Blood pressure and heart rate were continuously measured.

Results: Upright participants reported higher self-esteem, more arousal, better mood, and lower fear, compared to slumped participants. Linguistic analysis showed slumped participants used more negative emotion words, first-person singular pronouns, affective process words, sadness words, and fewer positive emotion words and total words during the speech. Upright participants had higher pulse pressure during and after the stressor.

Conclusions: Adopting an upright seated posture in the face of stress can maintain self-esteem, reduce negative mood, and increase positive mood compared to a slumped posture. Furthermore, sitting upright increases rate of speech and reduces self-focus. Sitting upright may be a simple behavioral strategy to help build resilience to stress. The research is consistent with embodied cognition theories that muscular and autonomic states influence emotional responding.

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Why People Are in a Generally Good Mood

Ed Diener et al.
Personality and Social Psychology Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
Evidence shows that people feel mild positive moods when no strong emotional events are occurring, a phenomenon known as positive mood offset. We offer an evolutionary explanation of this characteristic, showing that it improves fertility, fecundity, and health, and abets other characteristics that were critical to reproductive success. We review research showing that positive mood offset is virtually universal in the nations of the world, even among people who live in extremely difficult circumstances. Positive moods increase the likelihood of the types of adaptive behaviors that likely characterized our Paleolithic ancestors, such as creativity, planning, mating, and sociality. Because of the ubiquity and apparent advantages of positive moods, it is a reasonable hypothesis that humans were selected for positivity offset in our evolutionary past. We outline additional evidence that is needed to help confirm that positive mood offset is an evolutionary adaptation in humans and we explore the research questions that the hypothesis generates.

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Opposite risk patterns for autism and schizophrenia are associated with normal variation in birth size: Phenotypic support for hypothesized diametric gene-dosage effects

Sean Byars, Stephen Stearns & Jacobus Boomsma
Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, 7 November 2014

Abstract:
Opposite phenotypic and behavioural traits associated with copy number variation and disruptions to imprinted genes with parent-of-origin effects have led to the hypothesis that autism and schizophrenia share molecular risk factors and pathogenic mechanisms, but a direct phenotypic comparison of how their risks covary has not been attempted. Here, we use health registry data collected on Denmark's roughly 5 million residents between 1978 and 2009 to detect opposing risks of autism and schizophrenia depending on normal variation (mean ± 1 s.d.) in adjusted birth size, which we use as a proxy for diametric gene-dosage variation in utero. Above-average-sized babies (weight, 3691–4090 g; length, 52.8–54.3 cm) had significantly higher risk for autism spectrum (AS) and significantly lower risk for schizophrenia spectrum (SS) disorders. By contrast, below-average-sized babies (2891–3290 g; 49.7–51.2 cm) had significantly lower risk for AS and significantly higher risk for SS disorders. This is the first study directly comparing autism and schizophrenia risks in the same population, and provides the first large-scale empirical support for the hypothesis that diametric gene-dosage effects contribute to these disorders. Only the kinship theory of genomic imprinting predicts the opposing risk patterns that we discovered, suggesting that molecular research on mental disease risk would benefit from considering evolutionary theory.

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Sync or sink? Interpersonal synchrony impacts self-esteem

Joanne Lumsden, Lynden Miles & Neil Macrae
Frontiers in Psychology, September 2014

Abstract:
Synchronized behavior has significant social influence both in terms of everyday activities (e.g., walking and talking) as well as via more historical contexts (e.g., cultural rituals). Grounded in the science of coordination dynamics, previous research has revealed that interpersonal synchrony has numerous affiliative and pro-social consequences, such as enhanced rapport, cooperation, and social-cognitive functioning. The current study sought to explore the impact of intentional synchrony versus asynchrony on an individual’s self-esteem and their feelings of social connection with a partner. The results revealed that individuals felt better about themselves following a period of synchronous compared to asynchronous movement, while they also perceived a greater self-other overlap with their partner. These findings not only extend previous research on social connections following interpersonal synchrony, but also provide the first demonstration of an influence on self-evaluations. Overall, it appears that moving in time with others may result in us feeling better about ourselves compared to moving to our own rhythm.

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Association of Serum Interleukin 6 and C-Reactive Protein in Childhood With Depression and Psychosis in Young Adult Life: A Population-Based Longitudinal Study

Golam Khandaker et al.
JAMA Psychiatry, October 2014, Pages 1121-1128

Objective: To test the hypothesis that higher serum levels of IL-6 and CRP in childhood would increase future risks for depression and psychosis.

Design, Setting, and Participants: The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC)is a prospective general population birth cohort study based in Avon County, England. We have studied a subsample of approximately 4500 individuals from the cohort with data on childhood IL-6 and CRP levels and later psychiatric assessments.

Results: After adjusting for sex, age, body mass index, ethnicity, social class, past psychological and behavioral problems, and maternal postpartum depression, participants in the top third of IL-6 values compared with the bottom third at age 9 years were more likely to be depressed (CIS-R) at age 18 years (adjusted odds ratio [OR], 1.55; 95% CI, 1.13-2.14). Results using the MFQ were similar. Risks of PEs and of psychotic disorder at age 18 years were also increased with higher IL-6 levels at baseline (adjusted OR, 1.81; 95% CI, 1.01-3.28; and adjusted OR, 2.40; 95% CI, 0.88-6.22, respectively). Higher IL-6 levels in childhood were associated with subsequent risks of depression and PEs in a dose-dependent manner.

Conclusions and Relevance: Higher levels of the systemic inflammatory marker IL-6 in childhood are associated with an increased risk of developing depression and psychosis in young adulthood. Inflammatory pathways may provide important new intervention and prevention targets for these disorders. Inflammation might explain the high comorbidity between heart disease, diabetes mellitus, depression, and schizophrenia.

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Prevalence of a Positive Screen for PTSD Among OEF/OIF and OEF/OIF-Era Veterans in a Large Population-Based Cohort

Erin Dursa et al.
Journal of Traumatic Stress, October 2014, Pages 542–549

Abstract:
Multiple studies have reported the prevalence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) veterans; however, these studies have been limited to populations who use the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for health care, specialty clinic populations, or veterans who deployed. The 3 aims of this study were to report weighted prevalence estimates of a positive screen for PTSD among OEF/OIF and nondeployed veterans, demographic subgroups, and VA health care system users and nonusers. The study analyzed data from the National Health Study for a New Generation of U.S. Veterans, a large population-based cohort of OEF/OIF and OEF/OIF-era veterans. The overall weighted prevalence of a positive screen for PTSD in the study population was 13.5%: 15.8% among OEF/OIF veterans and 10.9% in nondeployed veterans. Among OEF/OIF veterans, there was increased risk of a positive screen for PTSD among VA health care users (OR = 2.71), African Americans (OR = 1.61), those who served in the Army (OR = 2.67), and those on active duty (OR = 1.69). The same trend with decreased magnitude was observed in nondeployed veterans. PTSD is a significant public health problem in OEF/OIF-era veterans, and should not be considered an outcome solely related to deployment.

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Blunted endocrine and cardiovascular reactivity in young healthy women reporting a history of childhood adversity

Annette Voellmin et al.
Psychoneuroendocrinology, January 2015, Pages 58–67

Background: Chronic or prolonged stress exposure in childhood can alter structural and functional brain development, leading to mental and physical illness and alterations of psychobiological stress systems in adulthood. Recently, attenuation in stress reactivity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and cardiovascular system have been related to the number of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). We set out to investigate the association of ACE duration and age of ACE occurrence on stress reactivity.

Methods: 104 women in the age range 18-25 years (mean = 21.7) free of mental and physical illness underwent psychosocial stress testing with the Montreal Imaging Stress Task (MIST). Free saliva cortisol and heart rate were assessed repeatedly before and after the MIST.

Results: Number of ACEs was associated with attenuated cortisol and heart rate responses to stress in a dose-response relationship. Whereas overall duration of ACEs was significantly associated with an attenuated cortisol response, the specific age of first ACE occurrence did not contribute further to the dampened stress response.

Conclusions: ACEs are associated with blunted endocrine and cardiovascular stress reactivity in young and healthy women. Adverse life events in childhood, particularly if they occur repeatedly and chronically, show a strong association with alterations in stress reactivity in adulthood, potentially predisposing for later mental or physical disorders.

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Asian Americans’ proportion of life in the United States and suicide ideation: The moderating effects of ethnic subgroups

Joel Wong et al.
Asian American Journal of Psychology, September 2014, Pages 237-242

Abstract:
Although the past decade has witnessed a growth in research on Asian Americans’ suicide-related outcomes, previous studies have tended not to address within-group ethnic variability among Asian Americans. Therefore, this study examined ethnic differences in suicide ideation in a nationally representative sample of Asian Americans that included the six largest Asian American ethnic groups — Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese Americans. Participants were 1,332 Asian American adults who participated in the National Epidemiologic Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions. The authors found that participants who had lived a longer proportion of their lives in the United States had increased odds of lifetime suicide ideation. There were significant ethnic differences in suicide ideation rates, with Korean Americans and Indian Americans reporting the highest and lowest ideation rates, respectively. Ethnicity was also a significant moderator of the relationship between proportion of life in the United Sates and suicide ideation. The potential adverse impact of proportion of life in the United States on suicide ideation was weaker among Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese Americans, relative to non-Chinese, non-Japanese, non-Korean, and non-Vietnamese Asian Americans, respectively. In contrast, the association between proportion of life in the United States and suicide ideation was stronger among Indian Americans than among non-Indian Americans. These findings underscore the importance of disaggregating data on Asian American suicide-related outcomes.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Lowbrow

Rapid Evolution of the Cerebellum in Humans and Other Great Apes

Robert Barton & Chris Venditti
Current Biology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Humans’ unique cognitive abilities are usually attributed to a greatly expanded neocortex, which has been described as “the crowning achievement of evolution and the biological substrate of human mental prowess”. The human cerebellum, however, contains four times more neurons than the neocortex and is attracting increasing attention for its wide range of cognitive functions. Using a method for detecting evolutionary rate changes along the branches of phylogenetic trees, we show that the cerebellum underwent rapid size increase throughout the evolution of apes, including humans, expanding significantly faster than predicted by the change in neocortex size. As a result, humans and other apes deviated significantly from the general evolutionary trend for neocortex and cerebellum to change in tandem, having significantly larger cerebella relative to neocortex size than other anthropoid primates. These results suggest that cerebellar specialization was a far more important component of human brain evolution than hitherto recognized and that technical intelligence was likely to have been at least as important as social intelligence in human cognitive evolution. Given the role of the cerebellum in sensory-motor control and in learning complex action sequences, cerebellar specialization is likely to have underpinned the evolution of humans’ advanced technological capacities, which in turn may have been a preadaptation for language.

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The parasite-stress theory of sociality, the behavioral immune system, and human social and cognitive uniqueness

Randy Thornhill & Corey Fincher
Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, October 2014, Pages 257-264

Abstract:
Parasite adversity was an important source of Darwinian selection in human evolutionary history because parasites selected for a diversity of human behavioral parasite-defenses in addition to the numerous defenses provided by the classical human immune system. We argue for a broader view of behavioral immunity than has been emphasized recently. We propose a new hypothesis for the evolution of the unique cognitive and social adaptations of humans. We argue that, in human evolutionary history, as weaponry and other technologies reduced the importance of the physical environment, typical ecological challenges, and predators as agents of selection shaping mental and social traits, parasites became more important selection agents on these traits. Also, we suggest that the reduction of natural selection in the context of predation in human evolutionary history resulted in selection favoring high pathogenicity in human parasites because predation is focused on debilitated prey and hence selects against pathogenicity in the parasites involved. The new hypothesis argues that, in human evolutionary history, temporal variation in local parasite adversity gave rise to frequent change and complexity in the values that are adaptive for individuals to use in their social navigation in relation to the degree of local disease stress, and that selection in this context accounts for the evolution of aspects of human uniqueness in cognitive ability and sociality. The new hypothesis is akin to the social brain hypothesis but is contrary to the version of that hypothesis deemphasizing parasites. Tests of the new hypothesis are addressed.

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Can Government Be Self-Organized? A Mathematical Model of the Collective Social Organization of Ancient Teotihuacan, Central Mexico

Tom Froese, Carlos Gershenson & Linda Manzanilla
PLoS ONE, October 2014

Abstract:
Teotihuacan was the first urban civilization of Mesoamerica and one of the largest of the ancient world. Following a tradition in archaeology to equate social complexity with centralized hierarchy, it is widely believed that the city’s origin and growth was controlled by a lineage of powerful individuals. However, much data is indicative of a government of co-rulers, and artistic traditions expressed an egalitarian ideology. Yet this alternative keeps being marginalized because the problems of collective action make it difficult to conceive how such a coalition could have functioned in principle. We therefore devised a mathematical model of the city’s hypothetical network of representatives as a formal proof of concept that widespread cooperation was realizable in a fully distributed manner. In the model, decisions become self-organized into globally optimal configurations even though local representatives behave and modify their relations in a rational and selfish manner. This self-optimization crucially depends on occasional communal interruptions of normal activity, and it is impeded when sections of the network are too independent. We relate these insights to theories about community-wide rituals at Teotihuacan and the city’s eventual disintegration.

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A rock engraving made by Neanderthals in Gibraltar

Joaquín Rodríguez-Vidal et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 16 September 2014, Pages 13301–13306

Abstract:
The production of purposely made painted or engraved designs on cave walls — a means of recording and transmitting symbolic codes in a durable manner — is recognized as a major cognitive step in human evolution. Considered exclusive to modern humans, this behavior has been used to argue in favor of significant cognitive differences between our direct ancestors and contemporary archaic hominins, including the Neanderthals. Here we present the first known example of an abstract pattern engraved by Neanderthals, from Gorham’s Cave in Gibraltar. It consists of a deeply impressed cross-hatching carved into the bedrock of the cave that has remained covered by an undisturbed archaeological level containing Mousterian artifacts made by Neanderthals and is older than 39 cal kyr BP. Geochemical analysis of the epigenetic coating over the engravings and experimental replication show that the engraving was made before accumulation of the archaeological layers, and that most of the lines composing the design were made by repeatedly and carefully passing a pointed lithic tool into the grooves, excluding the possibility of an unintentional or utilitarian origin (e.g., food or fur processing). This discovery demonstrates the capacity of the Neanderthals for abstract thought and expression through the use of geometric forms.

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Evolutionary demography of agricultural expansion in preindustrial northern Finland

Samuli Helle et al.
Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, 7 November 2014

Abstract:
A shift from nomadic foraging to sedentary agriculture was a major turning point in human evolutionary history, increasing our population size and eventually leading to the development of modern societies. We however lack understanding of the changes in life histories that contributed to the increased population growth rate of agriculturalists, because comparable individual-based reproductive records of sympatric populations of agriculturalists and foragers are rarely found. Here, we compared key life-history traits and population growth rate using comprehensive data from the seventieth to nineteenth century Northern Finland: indigenous Sami were nomadic hunter-fishers and reindeer herders, whereas sympatric agricultural Finns relied predominantly on animal husbandry. We found that agriculture-based families had higher lifetime fecundity, faster birth spacing and lower maternal mortality. Furthermore, agricultural Finns had 6.2% higher annual population growth rate than traditional Sami, which was accounted by differences between the subsistence modes in age-specific fecundity but not in mortality. Our results provide, to our knowledge, the most detailed demonstration yet of the demographic changes and evolutionary benefits that resulted from agricultural revolution.

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A Spring Forward for Hominin Evolution in East Africa

Mark Cuthbert & Gail Ashley
PLoS ONE, September 2014

Abstract:
Groundwater is essential to modern human survival during drought periods. There is also growing geological evidence of springs associated with stone tools and hominin fossils in the East African Rift System (EARS) during a critical period for hominin evolution (from 1.8 Ma). However it is not known how vulnerable these springs may have been to climate variability and whether groundwater availability may have played a part in human evolution. Recent interdisciplinary research at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, has documented climate fluctuations attributable to astronomic forcing and the presence of paleosprings directly associated with archaeological sites. Using palaeogeological reconstruction and groundwater modelling of the Olduvai Gorge paleo-catchment, we show how spring discharge was likely linked to East African climate variability of annual to Milankovitch cycle timescales. Under decadal to centennial timescales, spring flow would have been relatively invariant providing good water resource resilience through long droughts. For multi-millennial periods, modelled spring flows lag groundwater recharge by 100 s to 1000 years. The lag creates long buffer periods allowing hominins to adapt to new habitats as potable surface water from rivers or lakes became increasingly scarce. Localised groundwater systems are likely to have been widespread within the EARS providing refugia and intense competition during dry periods, thus being an important factor in natural selection and evolution, as well as a vital resource during hominin dispersal within and out of Africa.

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Ancient human genomes suggest three ancestral populations for present-day Europeans

Iosif Lazaridis et al.
Nature, 18 September 2014, Pages 409–413

Abstract:
We sequenced the genomes of a ~7,000-year-old farmer from Germany and eight ~8,000-year-old hunter-gatherers from Luxembourg and Sweden. We analysed these and other ancient genomes with 2,345 contemporary humans to show that most present-day Europeans derive from at least three highly differentiated populations: west European hunter-gatherers, who contributed ancestry to all Europeans but not to Near Easterners; ancient north Eurasians related to Upper Palaeolithic Siberians, who contributed to both Europeans and Near Easterners; and early European farmers, who were mainly of Near Eastern origin but also harboured west European hunter-gatherer related ancestry. We model these populations’ deep relationships and show that early European farmers had ~44% ancestry from a ‘basal Eurasian’ population that split before the diversification of other non-African lineages.

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Early modern human settlement of Europe north of the Alps occurred 43,500 years ago in a cold steppe-type environment

Philip Nigst et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 7 October 2014, Pages 14394–14399

Abstract:
The first settlement of Europe by modern humans is thought to have occurred between 50,000 and 40,000 calendar years ago (cal B.P.). In Europe, modern human remains of this time period are scarce and often are not associated with archaeology or originate from old excavations with no contextual information. Hence, the behavior of the first modern humans in Europe is still unknown. Aurignacian assemblages — demonstrably made by modern humans — are commonly used as proxies for the presence of fully behaviorally and anatomically modern humans. The site of Willendorf II (Austria) is well known for its Early Upper Paleolithic horizons, which are among the oldest in Europe. However, their age and attribution to the Aurignacian remain an issue of debate. Here, we show that archaeological horizon 3 (AH 3) consists of faunal remains and Early Aurignacian lithic artifacts. By using stratigraphic, paleoenvironmental, and chronological data, AH 3 is ascribed to the onset of Greenland Interstadial 11, around 43,500 cal B.P., and thus is older than any other Aurignacian assemblage. Furthermore, the AH 3 assemblage overlaps with the latest directly radiocarbon-dated Neanderthal remains, suggesting that Neanderthal and modern human presence overlapped in Europe for some millennia, possibly at rather close geographical range. Most importantly, for the first time to our knowledge, we have a high-resolution environmental context for an Early Aurignacian site in Central Europe, demonstrating an early appearance of behaviorally modern humans in a medium-cold steppe-type environment with some boreal trees along valleys around 43,500 cal B.P.

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Sequencing an Ashkenazi reference panel supports population-targeted personal genomics and illuminates Jewish and European origins

Shai Carmi et al.
Nature Communications, September 2014

Abstract:
The Ashkenazi Jewish (AJ) population is a genetic isolate close to European and Middle Eastern groups, with genetic diversity patterns conducive to disease mapping. Here we report high-depth sequencing of 128 complete genomes of AJ controls. Compared with European samples, our AJ panel has 47% more novel variants per genome and is eightfold more effective at filtering benign variants out of AJ clinical genomes. Our panel improves imputation accuracy for AJ SNP arrays by 28%, and covers at least one haplotype in ≈67% of any AJ genome with long, identical-by-descent segments. Reconstruction of recent AJ history from such segments confirms a recent bottleneck of merely ≈350 individuals. Modelling of ancient histories for AJ and European populations using their joint allele frequency spectrum determines AJ to be an even admixture of European and likely Middle Eastern origins. We date the split between the two ancestral populations to ≈12–25 Kyr, suggesting a predominantly Near Eastern source for the repopulation of Europe after the Last Glacial Maximum.

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Classic Maya Bloodletting and the Cultural Evolution of Religious Rituals: Quantifying Patterns of Variation in Hieroglyphic Texts

Jessica Munson et al.
PLoS ONE, September 2014

Abstract:
Religious rituals that are painful or highly stressful are hypothesized to be costly signs of commitment essential for the evolution of complex society. Yet few studies have investigated how such extreme ritual practices were culturally transmitted in past societies. Here, we report the first study to analyze temporal and spatial variation in bloodletting rituals recorded in Classic Maya (ca. 250–900 CE) hieroglyphic texts. We also identify the sociopolitical contexts most closely associated with these ancient recorded rituals. Sampling an extensive record of 2,480 hieroglyphic texts, this study identifies every recorded instance of the logographic sign for the word ch’ahb’ that is associated with ritual bloodletting. We show that documented rituals exhibit low frequency whose occurrence cannot be predicted by spatial location. Conversely, network ties better capture the distribution of bloodletting rituals across the southern Maya region. Our results indicate that bloodletting rituals by Maya nobles were not uniformly recorded, but were typically documented in association with antagonistic statements and may have signaled royal commitments among connected polities.

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Climate windows for Polynesian voyaging to New Zealand and Easter Island

Ian Goodwin, Stuart Browning & Atholl Anderson
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 14 October 2014, Pages 14716–14721

Abstract:
Debate about initial human migration across the immense area of East Polynesia has focused upon seafaring technology, both of navigation and canoe capabilities, while temporal variation in sailing conditions, notably through climate change, has received less attention. One model of Polynesian voyaging observes that as tradewind easterlies are currently dominant in the central Pacific, prehistoric colonization canoes voyaging eastward to and through central East Polynesia (CEP: Society, Tuamotu, Marquesas, Gambier, Southern Cook, and Austral Islands) and to Easter Island probably had a windward capacity. Similar arguments have been applied to voyaging from CEP to New Zealand against prevailing westerlies. An alternative view is that migration required reliable off-wind sailing routes. We investigate the marine climate and potential voyaging routes during the Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA), A.D. 800–1300, when the initial colonization of CEP and New Zealand occurred. Paleoclimate data assimilation is used to reconstruct Pacific sea level pressure and wind field patterns at bidecadal resolution during the MCA. We argue here that changing wind field patterns associated with the MCA provided conditions in which voyaging to and from the most isolated East Polynesian islands, New Zealand, and Easter Island was readily possible by off-wind sailing. The intensification and poleward expansion of the Pacific subtropical anticyclone culminating in A.D. 1140–1260 opened an anomalous climate window for off-wind sailing routes to New Zealand from the Southern Austral Islands, the Southern Cook Islands, and Tonga/Fiji Islands.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Friday, October 17, 2014

Campaign signs

Implicit Cue-Taking in Elections

Adam Berinsky et al.
MIT Working Paper, September 2014

Abstract:
Can implicit racial cues change voters' perceptions about a candidate's race, and even change their support for a candidate? The results from a recent local election, in which a white conservative man defeated a well-established African American incumbent with Democratic endorsements in a predominantly non-white and Democratic district, suggest that is can be done. In this paper we run an experiment to test whether the anecdotal explanation for this outcome, that a white Dave Wilson implied that he was black by including photos of only African Americans in his campaign mailers, holds true. We not only find that the racial composition of campaign photos affects perceptions about a candidate's race, it also translates into increased electoral support: Black respondents were more likely to vote for a candidate whose campaign flyer used black images relative to the same flyer that used photos of white people. We also explore whether this electoral boost comes from voters wanting an elected official who looks like them, or whether voters use the candidate's race as a way to infer other politically-relevant information, like ideology and policy stances. While we find that black respondents who viewed campaign materials with black images perceived the candidate as more liberal and more Democratic, the effects do not persist at the level of individual policy positions or personal characteristics. Taken together, our results highlight how voters gather and use information in low-salience elections and demonstrate that a campaign strategy of implicit racial cuing seems to be an effective one.

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Media Power

Andrea Prat
Columbia University Working Paper, August 2014

Abstract:
How much influence can news providers exert on the political process? This paper defines the power of a media organization as its ability to induce voters to make electoral decisions they would not make if reporting were unbiased. While existing media concentration measures are built by aggregating market shares across platforms, the new measure performs cross-platform aggregation at the level of individual voters on the basis of their attention shares. The paper derives a robust upper bound to media power over a range of assumptions on the beliefs and attention patterns of voters. Computing the value of the index for all major news sources in the United States from 2000 to 2012 results in four findings. First, it cannot be excluded that the three largest media conglomerates could individually swing the outcome of most presidential elections. Second, in all specifications the most powerful media organizations are broadcasters: the press and new media are always below. Third, relative media power is well approximated by a simple function of attention shares. Fourth, a calibrated version of the model indicates that media power is much lower than the upper bound but still substantial.

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Issue-Based Negativity and Candidate Assessment

Kevin Banda
Public Opinion Quarterly, forthcoming

Abstract:
Citizens are exposed to a great deal of information during election campaigns, much of which takes the form of cues about candidates' positions on issues. This research examines how citizens respond to information cues embedded in negative messages made by candidates about their opponents. Specifically, I examine how such cues influence citizens' views of both the target and the sponsor of the attack. Data from a survey experiment show that citizens use these cues in two ways: (1) they assess the target of the message as holding more extreme ideological positions than the ones the attacker actually espouses; while (2) their assessments of the attack's sponsor shift in the opposite direction.

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Group-based Appeals and the Latino Vote in 2012: How immigration Became a Mobilizing Issue

Matt Barreto & Loren Collingwood
Electoral Studies, forthcoming

Abstract:
We evaluate a theory of campaign learning in the context of immigration and the 2012 Latino vote. Following events in Nevada and Arizona after the 2008 election and prior to the 2012 election, we argue and show that Obama's campaign team learned from several Democratic U.S. Senate campaigns in how best to mobilize the Latino vote on the issue of immigration. As a result, we argue, this campaign learning led to an increase in the Latino vote for Obama. To demonstrate this, we compare a group-based appeals model against a traditional vote-choice model, and show that variables measuring Latino Outreach had the greatest impact on the 2012 Latino vote - above and beyond party identification and other traditional vote-choice predictors.

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Connecting the Candidates: Consultant Networks and the Diffusion of Campaign Strategy in American Congressional Elections

Brendan Nyhan & Jacob Montgomery
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Modern American political campaigns are typically conceptualized as "candidate-centered" and treated as conditionally independent in quantitative analyses. In reality, however, these campaigns are linked by professional consulting firms, which are important agents of campaign strategy diffusion within the extended party networks of the contemporary era. To test our hypothesis that consultants disseminate campaign strategies among their clients, we analyze new data on U.S. House elections derived from Federal Election Commission records. Using spatial autoregressive models, we find that candidates who share consultants are more likely to use similar campaign strategies than we would otherwise expect, conditional on numerous explanatory variables. These results, which largely withstand an extensive series of robustness and falsification tests, suggest that consultants play a key role in diffusing strategies among congressional campaigns.

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Economic Discontent as a Mobilizer: Unemployment and Voter Turnout

Barry Burden & Amber Wichowsky
Journal of Politics, October 2014, Pages 887-898

Abstract:
Published scholarship argues that a poor economy depresses voter participation in the United States. This troubling result suggests that incumbents are "underpenalized" for bad economic performance. We challenge this conclusion theoretically and empirically. Theoretically, we argue that a worsening economy has a disruptive effect that prods worried citizens to voice concern and seek remedies. Empirically, we analyze county-level data and find that, contrary to earlier studies, higher unemployment rates in fact stimulate more people to vote. We show that the effect is not the result of heightened electoral competition when unemployment is high. The relationship displays a partisan asymmetry in which Republican candidates are especially harmed by higher unemployment. The results also indicate that studies of economic voting need to consider the role of turnout in connecting economic performance to the incumbent's vote share.

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Race, Ethnicity, and Alphabetically Ordered Ballots

Barry Clayton Edwards
Election Law Journal, September 2014, Pages 394-404

Abstract:
A number of scholars have recently argued that ballot order effects give certain candidates an unfair advantage in elections and have urged states to randomize or rotate the order of candidate names to make elections more rational and fair. This article suggests that advocates of reform have been too quick to concede that static ordering methods are nondiscriminatory. One common method of ballot ordering, arranging candidates in alphabetical order by their last names, disadvantages specific minority populations by pushing their candidates down the ballot. To substantiate this argument, I engineer two computer simulation experiments which show a significant link between ballot position and racial/ethnic status under alphabetic ordering laws. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are particularly burdened by these laws. Because courts apply a higher level of scrutiny to election laws that infringe fundamental voting rights than laws that merely regulate elections, the discriminatory impact of alphabetic ordering rules significantly bolsters the case to rotate or randomize ballot order.

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The decline in the White Vote for Barack Obama in 2012: Racial attitudes or the economy?

Herbert Weisberg
Electoral Studies, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper examines the role of racial attitudes in accounting for the decrease in Obama's vote percentage among whites from 43% in 2008 to 39% in 2012. Studies of voting in 2008 emphasized the impact of racial attitudes. Racial resentment is found not to have increased, and Romney's improved showing over McCain was concentrated among those with very low and neutral resentment levels. Racial attitudes are found to be significant for vote direction again in 2012, but with less of an impact than in 2008, though there was an additional effect of racial attitudes on turnout in 2012. The most important change was that Obama lost the vote boost he had received in 2008 from the economic issue, not benefiting as much as he had then from negative evaluations of Bush's economic performance. Thus, the decline of Obama's vote percentage among whites in 2012 was due more to economic evaluations than to racial attitudes.

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A vote at the opera? The political economy of public theatres and orchestras in the German states

Markus Tepe & Pieter Vanhuysse
European Journal of Political Economy, December 2014, Pages 254-273

Abstract:
Policymakers generally have powerful incentives to attract votes by strategically manipulating public policies, for instance by increasing public spending during election periods or by implementing ideologically valued policies for their electoral base. At first sight, public theatres and orchestras appear an unlikely domain for such tactics. Highbrow culture is elitist and provides few jobs to artists as voters (patronage). However, we argue that policymakers indirectly target a larger highbrow culture-consuming voting public, as this public is more likely to go voting, to actively engage in politics, and to influence other voters' political behavior through political and sociological multiplier effects. We find evidence of such manipulation tactics in Germany, 1993-2010. Artist numbers increase during state-level, and even more during municipal-level, election years (electioneering). More tentatively, leftwing party power increases cultural subsidies and jobs in Eastern states.

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Political Trust and Negative Campaigns: Two Tests of the Figure-Ground Hypothesis

Stephen Craig & Paulina Rippere
Politics & Policy, October 2014, Pages 693-743

Abstract:
Despite what many Americans believe, there is little evidence that increased campaign negativity has contributed to the loss of public trust in government in recent decades. In this article, we consider the relationship between negative campaigning and trust in a different light. The "figure-ground hypothesis" suggests that negative information is more likely than positive information to shape people's attitudes and behavior, in part because negativity "stands out" in a world where most of us have positive expectations of others. Accordingly, we posit that negative campaign ads are most effective among those who possess a high level of trust in their political leaders. The catch is that high trust is uncommon in U.S. politics today, in which case negative appeals may play to a smaller audience than in the past. Our data indicate, however, that a well-conceived negative campaign ad can influence voter choice regardless of one's feelings about government.

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Do non-citizens vote in U.S. elections?

Jesse Richman, Gulshan Chattha & David Earnest
Electoral Studies, December 2014, Pages 149-157

Abstract:
In spite of substantial public controversy, very little reliable data exists concerning the frequency with which non-citizen immigrants participate in United States elections. Although such participation is a violation of election laws in most parts of the United States, enforcement depends principally on disclosure of citizenship status at the time of voter registration. This study examines participation rates by non-citizens using a nationally representative sample that includes non-citizen immigrants. We find that some non-citizens participate in U.S. elections, and that this participation has been large enough to change meaningful election outcomes including Electoral College votes, and Congressional elections. Non-citizen votes likely gave Senate Democrats the pivotal 60th vote needed to overcome filibusters in order to pass health care reform and other Obama administration priorities in the 111th Congress.

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The Problem of Voter Fraud

Michael Gilbert
Columbia Law Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
Voter ID laws have provoked a fierce controversy in politics and public law. Supporters claim that such laws deter fraudulent votes and protect the integrity of American elections. Opponents, on the other hand, argue that such laws, like poll taxes and literacy tests before them, intentionally depress turnout by lawful voters. A vast literature, including legal scholarship and opinions of the Supreme Court, accept these two narratives. But these narratives are wrong, or at least incomplete. Voter ID laws can have many effects, including surprising ones like this: they can exacerbate fraud. To illustrate, suppose that without a voter ID law candidates A and B would receive 13 and 10 lawful votes, respectively, and B would receive two fraudulent votes. Candidate A wins non-fraudulently, 13 to 12. Now suppose that with a voter ID law, candidates A and B would get nine and nine lawful votes, respectively (less than before because of depressed turnout), and B would get one fraudulent vote (less than before because of fraud deterrence). Candidate B wins fraudulently, 10-9. The conditions necessary for ID laws to have this effect are simple and may be common. The paper captures this risk with a formula, the Election Integrity Ratio, which judges and scholars could use to determine when ID laws protect elections - and when they cause the very problem they purport to solve. The paper has implications for constitutional law and public policy. It also has broad reach. Any law that deters fraudulent votes, depresses lawful votes, or does both - citizenship and residency requirements, for example, which are used throughout the United States and around the world - are subject to the analysis herein.

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Federal Roadblocks: The Constitution and the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact

Ian Drake
Publius, Fall 2014, Pages 681-701

Abstract:
The National Popular Vote (NPV) interstate compact proposes to change the presidential election system from a state-based federal system to a national popular vote system. NPV proponents contend states can implement the compact without federal governmental authorization. This article addresses the constitutional questions of whether the NPV must obtain Congress's approval and whether Congress has the constitutional authority to grant such approval. In addressing these questions, I review U.S. Supreme Court precedents and constitutional history and find the NPV is the type of compact the Supreme Court would conclude requires congressional approval. Most importantly, I contend Congress is constitutionally unable to grant approval of this compact and the Supreme Court will play an integral role in making this determination.

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Valence politics and voting in the 2012 U.S. presidential election

Harold Clarke et al.
Electoral Studies, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper analyzes voting behavior in the 2012 U.S. presidential election. Using national survey data gathered in the 2012 Political Support in America project, the paper investigates the ability of a valence politics model of electoral choice to account for voting in that election. Multivariate analyses reveal that a valence politics model comprised of judgments about party performance on important issues, flexible partisan attachments, and images of the two major presidential candidates outperforms rival models and provides a parsimonious and powerful explanation of decisions voters made. The analyses show that although several factors had significant effects on the vote, the impact of candidate images was especially strong. Although many voters expressed doubts about Obama's competence, even more were unconvinced that Romney offered a viable alternative. Most voters were unenthusiastic about Romney and this cost him dearly at the ballot box.

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On the Validity of the Regression Discontinuity Design for Estimating Electoral Effects: New Evidence from over 40,000 Close Races

Andrew Eggers et al.
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
The regression discontinuity (RD) design is a valuable tool for identifying electoral effects, but this design is only effective when relevant actors do not have precise control over election results. Several recent papers contend that such precise control is possible in large elections, pointing out that the incumbent party is more likely to win very close elections in the United States House of Representatives in recent periods. In this article, we examine whether similar patterns occur in other electoral settings, including the U.S. House in other time periods, statewide, state legislative, and mayoral races in the U.S. and national or local elections in nine other countries. No other case exhibits this pattern. We also cast doubt on suggested explanations for incumbent success in close House races. We conclude that the assumptions behind the RD design are likely to be met in a wide variety of electoral settings and offer a set of best practices for RD researchers going forward.

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Memory for flip-flopping: Detection and recollection of political contradictions

Adam Putnam, Christopher Wahlheim & Larry Jacoby
Memory & Cognition, October 2014, Pages 1198-1210

Abstract:
During political campaigns, candidates often change their positions on controversial issues. Does changing positions create confusion and impair memory for a politician's current position? In 3 experiments, two political candidates held positions on controversial issues in two debates. Across the debates, their positions were repeated, changed, or held only in the second debate (control). Relative to the control condition, recall of the most recent position on issues was enhanced when change was detected and recollected, whereas recall was impaired when change was not recollected. Furthermore, examining the errors revealed that subjects were more likely to intrude a Debate 1 response than to recall a blend of the two positions, and that recollecting change decreased Debate 1 intrusions. We argue that detecting change produces a recursive representation that embeds the original position in memory along with the more recent position. Recollecting change then enhances memory for the politician's positions and their order of occurrence by accessing the recursive trace.

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Expectation Setting and Retrospective Voting

Neil Malhotra & Yotam Margalit
Journal of Politics, October 2014, Pages 1000-1016

Abstract:
That citizens engage in retrospective voting is widely established in the literature. But to what extent is retrospection affected by the expectations that leaders set in advance? We develop a theoretical framework of how expectation setting affects voters' retrospective evaluations of incumbent performance. To test the theory, we conduct a series of between-subjects experiments in which we independently manipulate both expectation setting and the eventual outcome. In domains where politicians have practical authority, or direct influence over outcomes, setting high expectations incurs a cost in public support if the projected outcome is not attained. The same is true in domains where politicians have theoretical authority, or limited influence, but where expectation setting sends a signal about the leader's judgment. However, in domains where politicians have neither practical nor theoretical authority, setting high expectations is unambiguously beneficial, implying that optimism is valued by voters as a personality disposition.

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Satisfaction with democracy and voter turnout: A temporal perspective

Lawrence Ezrow & Georgios Xezonakis
Party Politics, forthcoming

Abstract:
Numerous studies conclude that countries in which citizens express higher levels of satisfaction with democracy also tend to display higher levels of voter turnout in national elections. Yet it is difficult to draw causal inferences from this positive cross-sectional relationship, because democracies feature many historical, cultural, and institutional differences that are not easily controlled for in cross-sectional comparisons. We apply an alternative, temporal approach to this issue by asking the question: Are over-time declines (increases) in aggregate levels of satisfaction within democracies associated with increases (declines) in levels of voter turnout within these democracies? Our temporal analysis of this relationship in 12 democracies over the period 1976-2011 reveals a pattern that is the opposite of that suggested by previous cross-sectional studies: namely, we find that over-time increases in citizens' satisfaction with democracy are associated with significant decreases in voter turnout in national elections in these countries.

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Informing Electorates via Election Law: An Experimental Study of Partisan Endorsements and Nonpartisan Voter Guides in Local Elections

Cheryl Boudreau, Christopher Elmendorf & Scott MacKenzie
Election Law Journal, forthcoming

Abstract:
Many legal scholars and political practitioners advocate using election law to increase voters' access to political information, either by providing such information directly on ballots or in ballot pamphlets. To date, however, little empirical evidence exists to guide policymakers and judges charged with weighing the benefits of such legal interventions against any costs they might impose. We address this gap by conducting survey experiments to examine three types of political information that legal interventions can make available or withhold: political party endorsements, endorsements from prominent public officials, and a nonpartisan voter guide describing candidates' policy positions. Our results provide evidence that such legal interventions can yield tangible benefits - namely, helping voters choose candidates whose policy views are similar to their own.

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Making Young Voters: The Impact of Preregistration on Youth Turnout

John Holbein & Sunshine Hillygus
Duke University Working Paper, August 2014

Abstract:
Recent research has cast doubt on the potential for many electoral reforms to increase voter turnout. In this paper we examine the effectiveness of preregistration laws, which allow young citizens to register before being eligible to vote. We use two empirical approaches to evaluate the impact of preregistration on youth turnout. First, we implement difference-in-difference and lag models to bracket the causal effect of preregistration implementation using the 2000-2012 Current Population Survey. Second, focusing on the state of Florida, we leverage a discontinuity based on date of birth to estimate the effect of increased preregistration exposure on the turnout of young registrants. In both approaches we find preregistration increases voter turnout, with equal effectiveness for various subgroups in the electorate. More broadly, observed patterns suggest that the campaign context and supporting institutions may help to determine when and if electoral reforms are effective.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Round numbers

Has Increased Body Weight Made Driving Safer?

Richard Dunn & Nathan Tefft
Health Economics, November 2014, Pages 1374–1389

Abstract:
We develop a model of alcohol consumption that incorporates the negative biological relationship between body mass and inebriation conditional on total alcohol consumption. Our model predicts that the elasticity of inebriation with respect to weight is equal to the own-price elasticity of alcohol, consistent with body mass increasing the effective price of inebriation. Given that alcohol is generally considered price inelastic, this result implies that as individuals gain weight, they consume more alcohol but become less inebriated. We test this prediction and find that driver blood alcohol content (BAC) is negatively associated with driver weight. In fatal accidents with driver BAC above 0.10, the driver was 7.8 percentage points less likely to be obese than drivers in fatal accidents that did not involve alcohol. This relationship is not explained by driver attributes (age and sex), driver behaviors (speed and seatbelt use), vehicle attributes (weight class, model year, and number of occupants), or accident context (county of accident, time of day, and day of week).

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In good company. The effect of an eating companion's appearance on food intake

Mitsuru Shimizu, Katie Hancock & Brian Wansink
Appetite, December 2014, Pages 263–268

Abstract:
The purpose of this study was to examine whether or not the presence of an overweight eating companion influences healthy and unhealthy eating behavior, and to determine if the effect is moderated by how the companion serves himself or herself. A professional actress either wore an overweight prosthesis (i.e., “fatsuit”) or did not wear one, and served herself either healthily (i.e., a small amount of pasta and a large amount of salad) or unhealthily (i.e., a large amount of pasta and a small amount of salad) for lunch. After observing her, male and female participants were asked to serve themselves pasta and salad to eat. Results demonstrated that regardless of how the confederate served, participants served and ate a larger amount of pasta when she was wearing the prosthesis than when she was not. In addition, when the confederate served herself healthily, participants served and ate a smaller amount of salad when she was wearing the prosthesis than when she was not. Consistent with the “lower health commitment” hypothesis, these results demonstrated that people may eat larger portions of unhealthy food and smaller portions of healthy food when eating with an overweight person, probably because the health commitment goal is less activated. More generally, this study provides evidence that the body type of an eating companion, as well as whether she serves herself healthily or unhealthily, influences the quantity of food intake.

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A Question of Color: The Influence of Skin Color and Stress on Resting Blood Pressure and Body Mass Among African American Women

Cheryl Armstead et al.
Journal of Black Psychology, October 2014, Pages 424-450

Abstract:
This study describes the relative influence of facial skin color, lifetime exposure to racial discrimination, chronic stress, and traditional prehypertension risk factors (family history of hypertension and age) on resting blood pressure and body mass index (BMI) among 196 southern African American (AA) female undergraduate students. Stepwise regression analyses indicated that skin color was the strongest predictor of systolic blood pressure (SBP), diastolic blood pressure (DBP), and BMI. Skin color, chronic stress, and family history of hypertension predicted 53% of the SBP variance. Skin color, chronic stress, and family history of hypertension predicted 30.2% of the DBP variance. Racism and age were not significant predictors of SBP or DBP. Of the variance in BMI, 33% was predicted by skin color, chronic stress, and racism. Age and family history of hypertension were not predictors of BMI. The current study provides evidence of the relationship of skin color and chronic stress to blood pressure among young southern AA women. The study identifies an important relationship between increased racial stress exposure and heavier BMIs, a predictor of prehypertensive risk.

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Body Size Perception Among African American Women

Elizabeth Lynch & John Kane
Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, September–October 2014, Pages 412–417

Objective: To assess body size perception among African American women using cultural definitions of body size terms.

Methods: Sixty-nine African American women classified Body Image Scale figures as overweight, obese, and too fat, and independently selected the figure they considered closest to their current body size.

Results: Body size classifications of figures did not vary by participant weight status. Overweight figures were not considered too fat. For 86% of overweight (body mass index [BMI], 25–29.9) women and 40% of obese (BMI > 30) women, the self figure was not defined as overweight, obese, or too fat. Among participants with BMI ≥ 35, 65% did not classify their self figure as obese and 29% did not classify their self figure as overweight.

Conclusions and Implications: The difference between cultural (folk) and medical definitions of body size terms may serve as a barrier to effective communication between patients and providers about health effects of excess adiposity.

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Coming unmoored: Disproportionate increases in obesity prevalence among young, disadvantaged white women

Whitney Robinson et al.
Obesity, forthcoming

Objectives: Since the 1980s, older, low-educated White women experienced an unprecedented decrease in life expectancy. We investigated whether a similar phenomenon was evident among younger women for obesity.

Methods: Using the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, age-adjusted changes were estimated in the prevalence of overall and abdominal obesity (BMI ≥ 30 kg/m2, waist circumference > 88 cm) between 1988-1994 and 2003-2010 among non-Hispanic White women aged 25-44 years, stratified by educational attainment (<high school (HS), HS, some college, college degree). To address bias from secular increases in educational attainment, White women's changes in obesity prevalence were compared to changes among similarly educated Black women.

Results: Relative increases in overall obesity were disproportionately larger for low-educated (<HS) compared to college-educated White women: 12.3 (95% CI: 3.1, 21.5) percentage points (ppts). For overall and abdominal obesity, general trends indicated dissimilar racial differences by educational attainment. For instance, overall obesity increased more in Blacks than Whites among college-educated (9.9 ppts) but not low-educated (−2.5 ppts) women.

Conclusions: Contemporary young, low-educated White women showed indications of disproportionate worsening of overall obesity prevalence compared to more educated White and similarly educated Black women. Low education levels are more powerful indicators of obesity risk among contemporary White women than 30 years ago.

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Neighborhood Influences on Girls’ Obesity Risk Across the Transition to Adolescence

Lindsay Hoyt et al.
Pediatrics, forthcoming

Background and objectives: The neighborhoods in which children live, play, and eat provide an environmental context that may influence obesity risk and ameliorate or exacerbate health disparities. The current study examines whether neighborhood characteristics predict obesity in a prospective cohort of girls.

Methods: Participants were 174 girls (aged 8–10 years at baseline), a subset from the Cohort Study of Young Girls’ Nutrition, Environment, and Transitions. Trained observers completed street audits within a 0.25-mile radius around each girl’s residence. Four scales (food and service retail, recreation, walkability, and physical disorder) were created from 40 observed neighborhood features. BMI was calculated from clinically measured height and weight. Obesity was defined as BMI-for-age ≥95%. Logistic regression models using generalized estimating equations were used to examine neighborhood influences on obesity risk over 4 years of follow-up, controlling for race/ethnicity, pubertal status, and baseline BMI. Fully adjusted models also controlled for household income, parent education, and a census tract measure of neighborhood socioeconomic status.

Results: A 1-SD increase on the food and service retail scale was associated with a 2.27 (95% confidence interval, 1.42 to 3.61; P < .001) increased odds of being obese. A 1-SD increase in physical disorder was associated with a 2.41 (95% confidence interval, 1.31 to 4.44; P = .005) increased odds of being obese. Other neighborhood scales were not associated with risk for obesity.

Conclusions: Neighborhood food and retail environment and physical disorder around a girl’s home predict risk for obesity across the transition from late childhood to adolescence.

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Body Mass Index: Accounting for Full Time Sedentary Occupation and 24-Hr Self-Reported Time Use

Catrine Tudor-Locke et al.
PLoS ONE, October 2014

Objectives: We used linked existing data from the 2006–2008 American Time Use Survey (ATUS), the Current Population Survey (CPS, a federal survey that provides on-going U.S. vital statistics, including employment rates) and self-reported body mass index (BMI) to answer: How does BMI vary across full time occupations dichotomized as sedentary/non-sedentary, accounting for time spent in sleep, other sedentary behaviors, and light, moderate, and vigorous intensity activities?

Methods: We classified time spent engaged at a primary job (sedentary or non-sedentary), sleep, and other non-work, non-sleep intensity-defined behaviors, specifically, sedentary behavior, light, moderate, and vigorous intensity activities. Age groups were defined by 20–29, 30–39, 40–49, and 50–64 years. BMI groups were defined by 18.5–24.9, 25.0–27.4, 27.5–29.9, 30.0–34.9, and ≥35.0 kg/m2. Logistic and linear regression were used to examine the association between BMI and employment in a sedentary occupation, considering time spent in sleep, other non-work time spent in sedentary behaviors, and light, moderate, and vigorous intensity activities, sex, age race/ethnicity, and household income.

Results: The analysis data set comprised 4,092 non-pregnant, non-underweight individuals 20–64 years of age who also reported working more than 7 hours at their primary jobs on their designated time use reporting day. Logistic and linear regression analyses failed to reveal any associations between BMI and the sedentary/non-sedentary occupation dichotomy considering time spent in sleep, other non-work time spent in sedentary behaviors, and light, moderate, and vigorous intensity activities, sex, age, race/ethnicity, and household income.

Conclusions: We found no evidence of a relationship between self-reported full time sedentary occupation classification and BMI after accounting for sex, age, race/ethnicity, and household income and 24-hours of time use including non-work related physical activity and sedentary behaviors. The various sources of error associated with self-report methods and assignment of generalized activity and occupational intensity categories could compound to obscure any real relationships.

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Weight bias in 2001 versus 2013: Contradictory attitudes among obesity researchers and health professionals

Janet Tomiyama et al.
Obesity, forthcoming

Objectives: To assess levels of two types of anti-fat bias in obesity specialists, explicit bias, or consciously accessible anti-fat attitudes, and implicit bias, or attitudes that are activated outside of conscious awareness, were examined. This study also assessed changes over time by comparing levels of bias in 2013 to published data from 2001.

Methods: In 232 attendees at the ObesityWeek 2013 conference, we measured explicit anti-fat bias and conducted the Implicit Association Test. These data were compared to those from a study conducted at the 2001 meeting of this group.

Results: Participants exhibited significant implicit and explicit anti-fat/pro-thin bias. Positivity of professional experience with obesity, but not type of professional experience, was correlated with lower explicit anti-fat bias. Compared to 2001, the 2013 sample had lower levels of implicit bias and higher levels of explicit bias.

Conclusions: Although implicit anti-fat attitudes appeared to decrease from 2001 to 2013, explicit anti-fat attitudes increased. Future research should examine whether increasing positive experiences with obese patients reduces anti-fat bias among health professionals. Together, these results suggest that despite the current climate of widespread anti-fat bias, there are pathways toward understanding and ameliorating this bias.

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Sociodemographic Differences and Infant Dietary Patterns

Xiaozhong Wen et al.
Pediatrics, forthcoming

Objectives: To identify dietary patterns in US infants at age 6 and 12 months, sociodemographic differences in these patterns, and their associations with infant growth from age 6 to 12 months.

Methods: We analyzed a subsample (760 boys and 795 girls) of the Infant Feeding Practices Study II (2005–2007). Mothers reported their infants’ intakes of 18 types of foods in the past 7 days, which were used to derive dietary patterns at ages 6 and 12 months by principal component analysis.

Results: Similar dietary patterns were identified at ages 6 and 12 months. At 12 months, infants of mothers who had low education or non-Hispanic African American mothers (vs non-Hispanic white) had a higher score on “High sugar/fat/protein” dietary pattern. Both “High sugar/fat/protein” and “High dairy/regular cereal” patterns at 6 months were associated with a smaller increase in length-for-age z score (adjusted β per 1 unit dietary pattern score, −1.36 [95% confidence interval (CI), −2.35 to −0.37] and −0.30 [−0.54 to −0.06], respectively), while with greater increase in BMI z score (1.00 [0.11 to 1.89] and 0.32 [0.10 to 0.53], respectively) from age 6 to 12 months. The “Formula” pattern was associated with greater increase in BMI z score (0.25 [0.09 to 0.40]). The “Infant guideline solids” pattern (vegetables, fruits, baby cereal, and meat) was not associated with change in length-for-age or BMI z score.

Conclusions: Distinct dietary patterns exist among US infants, vary by maternal race/ethnicity and education, and have differential influences on infant growth. Use of “Infant guideline solids” with prolonged breastfeeding is a promising healthy diet for infants after age 6 months.

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Association of Antibiotics in Infancy With Early Childhood Obesity

Charles Bailey et al.
JAMA Pediatrics, forthcoming

Objective: To assess the impact of antibiotics prescribed in infancy (ages 0-23 months) on obesity in early childhood (ages 24-59 months).

Design, Setting, and Participants: We conducted a cohort study spanning 2001-2013 using electronic health records. Cox proportional hazard models were used to adjust for demographic, practice, and clinical covariates. The study spanned a network of primary care practices affiliated with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia including both teaching clinics and private practices in urban Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the surrounding region. All children with annual visits at ages 0 to 23 months, as well 1 or more visits at ages 24 to 59 months, were enrolled. The cohort comprised 64 580 children.

Results: Sixty-nine percent of children were exposed to antibiotics before age 24 months, with a mean (SD) of 2.3 (1.5) episodes per child. Cumulative exposure to antibiotics was associated with later obesity (rate ratio [RR], 1.11; 95% CI, 1.02-1.21 for ≥4 episodes); this effect was stronger for broad-spectrum antibiotics (RR, 1.16; 95% CI, 1.06-1.29). Early exposure to broad-spectrum antibiotics was also associated with obesity (RR, 1.11; 95% CI, 1.03-1.19 at 0-5 months of age and RR, 1.09; 95% CI, 1.04-1.14 at 6-11 months of age) but narrow-spectrum drugs were not at any age or frequency. Steroid use, male sex, urban practice, public insurance, Hispanic ethnicity, and diagnosed asthma or wheezing were also predictors of obesity; common infectious diagnoses and antireflux medications were not.

Conclusions and Relevance: Repeated exposure to broad-spectrum antibiotics at ages 0 to 23 months is associated with early childhood obesity. Because common childhood infections were the most frequent diagnoses co-occurring with broad-spectrum antibiotic prescription, narrowing antibiotic selection is potentially a modifiable risk factor for childhood obesity.

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Distance to Store, Food Prices, and Obesity in Urban Food Deserts

Bonnie Ghosh-Dastidar et al.
American Journal of Preventive Medicine, forthcoming

Purpose: To examine the relationship among distance to store, food prices, and obesity.

Methods: The Pittsburgh Hill/Homewood Research on Eating, Shopping, and Health study conducted baseline interviews with 1,372 households between May and December 2011 in two low-income, majority African American neighborhoods without a supermarket. Audits of 16 stores where participants reported doing their major food shopping were conducted. Data were analyzed between February 2012 and February 2013.

Results: Distance to store and prices were positively associated with obesity (p<0.05). When distance to store and food prices were jointly modeled, only prices remained significant (p<0.01), with higher prices predicting a lower likelihood of obesity. Although low- and high-price stores did not differ in availability, they significantly differed in their display and marketing of junk foods relative to healthy foods.

Conclusions: Placing supermarkets in food deserts to improve access may not be as important as simultaneously offering better prices for healthy foods relative to junk foods, actively marketing healthy foods, and enabling consumers to resist the influence of junk food marketing.

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Outcome of a Food Observational Study Among Low-Income Preschool Children Participating in a Family-Style Meal Setting

Roberto Treviño et al.
Health Education & Behavior, forthcoming

Introduction: In the United States, one out of every seven low-income children between the ages of 2 and 5 years is at risk for overweight and obesity. Formative research was conducted to determine if preschool children participating in family-style meals consumed the minimum food servings according to U.S. Department of Agriculture dietary guidelines.

Method: Participants were 135 low-income children aged 3 to 4 years who attended an urban child care center. Participant’s parents completed a Family Demographic Questionnaire to provide information on race/ethnicity, parent’s level of education, and household income. Direct observation of children’s food and beverage consumption during school breakfast and lunch was collected over 3 consecutive days. Dietary data were assessed using the Nutrition Data System for Research software. Height and weight measurements were obtained to determine risk for obesity. Descriptive statistics were reported by using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences Version 16.

Results: Among 135 participants, 98% identified as Mexican American, 75% lived at or below poverty level, and 24% reported a family history of diabetes. Children consumed less than half of the calories provided between breakfast and lunch and did not consume the minimum recommended dietary food servings. Despite the poor dietary intake, physical measurement findings showed 25% obesity prevalence among study participants.

Conclusions: Findings support the need for evidenced-based early childhood obesity prevention programs that provide behavior change opportunities for children, their families, teachers, and menu planners. Family-style meal settings are ideal opportunities for implementing nutrition education strategies to prevent early childhood obesity.

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Offering Variety: A Subtle Manipulation to Promote Healthy Food Choice Throughout the Day

Rachel Burns & Alexander Rothman
Health Psychology, forthcoming

Objective: Providing a variety of food generally increases consumption and enjoyment. This effect is typically associated with unhealthy behavior (e.g., overindulgence at a buffet) and studied during a single meal. Two studies tested whether this effect can be leveraged in a subtle, simple manipulation to promote healthy food choices over the course of a day.

Method: In Studies 1 and 2, 188 and 187 participants, respectively, chose between a sweet and a piece of fruit in the afternoon. The fruit was either the same as or different from fruit that was selected in the morning; choice was not given in the morning. Study 1 tested this effect in the domain of expressed preferences and Study 2 examined actual choice.

Results: In both studies, a second piece of fruit was more likely to be selected in the afternoon if it was different from fruit that was selected in the morning.

Conclusions: These results illustrate how a robust effect that is typically associated with unhealthy outcomes can be harnessed to promote healthy food choices and underscore the importance of conceptualizing eating as a series of interrelated behavioral decisions. This work has implications for applied settings, such as cafeterias, and is distinguished from other simple structural manipulations by its focus on sustaining healthy food choice over the course of the day.

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Behavioral and Neural Valuation of Foods Is Driven by Implicit Knowledge of Caloric Content

Deborah Tang, Lesley Fellows & Alain Dagher
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
The factors that affect food choices are critical to understanding obesity. In the present study, healthy participants were shown pictures of foods to determine the impact of caloric content on food choice. Brain activity was then measured while participants bid for a chance to purchase and eat one item. True caloric density, but not individual estimates of calorie content, predicted how much participants were willing to pay for each item. Caloric density also correlated with the neural response to food pictures in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, a brain area that encodes the value of stimuli and predicts immediate consumption. That same region exhibited functional connectivity with an appetitive brain network, and this connectivity was modulated by willingness to pay. Despite the fact that participants were poor at explicitly judging caloric content, their willingness to pay and brain activity both correlated with actual caloric density. This suggests that the reward value of a familiar food is dependent on implicit knowledge of its caloric content.

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The heavy weight of death: How anti-fat bias is affected by weight-based group membership and existential threat

Ann Seibert, Simon Schindler & Marc-André Reinhard
Journal of Applied Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Anti-fat bias is marked by a devaluation of overweight people compared with non-overweight persons. Even though belonging to the same group, research on social identity theory (SIT) indicates that overweight people also devaluate overweight others. Merging insights from research on anti-fat bias, SIT, and terror management theory, our study (n = 101) provides new insights on motivational aspects of anti-fat bias by investigating the effects of existential threat on the evaluation of non-overweight and overweight people. Results revealed that participants in the existential threat condition displayed in-group bias: Participants perceiving themselves as non-overweight showed more pronounced anti-fat bias compared with participants in the non-death threat condition. In contrast, participants perceiving themselves as overweight demonstrated less anti-fat bias than controls.

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The Effect of Visualizing Healthy Eaters and Mortality Reminders on Nutritious Grocery Purchases: An Integrative Terror Management and Prototype Willingness Analysis

Simon McCabe et al.
Health Psychology, forthcoming

Objective: To use insights from an integration of the terror management health model and the prototype willingness model to inform and improve nutrition-related behavior using an ecologically valid outcome.

Method: Prior to shopping, grocery shoppers were exposed to a reminder of mortality (or pain) and then visualized a healthy (vs. neutral) prototype. Receipts were collected postshopping and food items purchased were coded using a nutrition database.

Results: Compared with those in the control conditions, participants who received the mortality reminder and who were led to visualize a healthy eater prototype purchased more nutritious foods.

Conclusion: The integration of the terror management health model and the prototype willingness model has the potential for both basic and applied advances and offers a generative ground for future research.

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Generalized Nutrient Taxes Can Increase Consumer Welfare

David Bishai
Health Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
Certain nutrients can stimulate appetite making them fattening in a way that is not fully conveyed by the calorie content on the label. For rational eaters, this information gap could be corrected by more labeling. As an alternative, this paper proposes a set of positive and negative taxes on the fattening and slimming nutrients in food rather than on the food itself. There are conditions under which this tax plus subsidy system could increase welfare by stopping unwanted weight gain while leaving the final retail price of food unchanged. A nutrient tax system could improve welfare if fattening nutrients, net of their effect on weight, are inferior goods and the fiscal cost of administering the tax is sufficiently low. More data on the price elasticity of demand for nutrients as well as data on how specific nutrients affect satiety and how total calorie intake would be necessary before one could be sure a nutrient tax would work in practice.

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Calorie Changes in Chain Restaurant Menu Items: Implications for Obesity and Evaluations of Menu Labeling

Sara Bleich, Julia Wolfson & Marian Jarlenski
American Journal of Preventive Medicine, forthcoming

Purpose: To describe trends in calories available in large U.S. restaurants.

Methods: Data were obtained from the MenuStat project, a census of menu items in 66 of the 100 largest U.S. restaurant chains, for 2012 and 2013 (N=19,417 items). Generalized linear models were used to calculate (1) the mean change in calories from 2012 to 2013, among items on the menu in both years; and (2) the difference in mean calories, comparing newly introduced items to those on the menu in 2012 only (overall and between core versus non-core items). Data were analyzed in 2014.

Results: Mean calories among items on menus in both 2012 and 2013 did not change. Large restaurant chains in the U.S. have recently had overall declines in calories in newly introduced menu items (–56 calories, 12% decline). These declines were concentrated mainly in new main course items (–67 calories, 10% decline). New beverage (–26 calories, 8% decline) and children’s (–46 calories, 20% decline) items also had fewer mean calories. Among chain restaurants with a specific focus (e.g., burgers), average calories in new menu items not core to the business declined more than calories in core menu items.

Conclusions: Large chain restaurants significantly reduced the number of calories in newly introduced menu items. Supply-side changes to the calories in chain restaurants may have a significant impact on obesity prevention.

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The Evaluation of the Impact of a Stand-Biased Desk on Energy Expenditure and Physical Activity for Elementary School Students

Mark Benden et al.
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, September 2014, Pages 9361-9375

Abstract:
Due to the increasing prevalence of childhood obesity, the association between classroom furniture and energy expenditure as well as physical activity was examined using a standing-desk intervention in three central-Texas elementary schools. Of the 480 students in the 24 classrooms randomly assigned to either a seated or stand-biased desk equipped classroom, 374 agreed to participate in a week-long data collection during the fall and spring semesters. Each participant’s data was collected using Sensewear® armbands and was comprised of measures of energy expenditure (EE) and step count. A hierarchical linear mixed effects model showed that children in seated desk classrooms had significantly lower (EE) and fewer steps during the standardized lecture time than children in stand-biased classrooms after adjusting for grade, race, and gender. The use of a standing desk showed a significant higher mean energy expenditure by 0.16 kcal/min (p < 0.0001) in the fall semester, and a higher EE by 0.08 kcal/min (p = 0.0092) in the spring semester.

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Chefs move to schools: A pilot examination of how chef-created dishes can increase school lunch participation and fruit and vegetable intake

David Just, Brian Wansink & Andrew Hanks
Appetite, December 2014, Pages 242–247

Abstract:
To demonstrate the feasibility of introducing a main dish designed by a professional chef in the National School Lunch Program and to document the impact on child participation, a chef was recruited to design pizza to be served in an upstate New York school district. The pizza was designed to meet both the cost and ingredient requirements of the NSLP. High school students were significantly more likely to select the pizza prepared by the chef. While the chef had no significant impact on main dish consumption given selection, more students took a vegetable and vegetable consumption increased by 16.5%. This pilot study demonstrates the plausibility of using chefs to boost participation in the school lunch program, and potentially increase nutrition through side selection, among high school students.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Usual suspects

Do Traffic Tickets Reduce Motor Vehicle Accidents? Evidence from a Natural Experiment

Dara Lee Luca
Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper analyzes the effect of traffic tickets on motor vehicle accidents. Ordinary least squares (OLS) estimate may be upward biased because police officers tend to focus on areas where and periods when there is heavy traffic and thus higher rates of accidents. This paper exploits the dramatic increase in tickets during the Click-it-or-Ticket campaign to identify the causal impact of tickets on accidents using data from Massachusetts. I find that tickets significantly reduce accidents and nonfatal injuries. I provide suggestive evidence that tickets have a larger impact at night and on female drivers.

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An Experimental Evaluation on the Utility of Burglary Profiles Applied in Active Police Investigations

Bryanna Hahn Fox & David Farrington
Criminal Justice and Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
This study evaluated the effect on burglary arrest rates when using statistically derived behavioral profiles for burglary offenses and offenders in active police investigations. To do this, an experiment was conducted where one police agency that used the profiles was compared with three matched police agencies that did not. Burglary arrest rates were studied 4 years before and 1 year after the profile was implemented. Results show that the arrest rates for the treated agency increased by 3 times as compared with the control agencies. The interaction effect between treatment/control agency and pretest/posttest arrest rates was significant, showing that the experimental intervention had an effect, after controlling for pre-existing differences between the agencies. These findings on the utility of offender profiling, the first to be derived from an experiment conducted in active police investigations, suggest that the statistically based behavioral profiles could be a useful tool in increasing arrest rates for police.

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Policing Domestic Violence in the Post-SARP Era: The Impact of a Domestic Violence Police Unit

Lyn Exum et al.
Crime & Delinquency, October 2014, Pages 999-1032

Abstract:
During the Spousal Assault Replication Program, the city of Charlotte, North Carolina, was identified as a site where arrest did not deter misdemeanor domestic violence. Shortly after these findings were published, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department developed a Domestic Violence (DV) unit to combat the problem of intimate partner violence. The mission of the Charlotte DV unit is to reduce future offending through intensive investigation and victim assistance. The current study evaluates the impact of the Charlotte DV unit versus standard patrol on official accounts of offender recidivism in a random sample of 891 domestic violence cases. Controlling for offender demographics, prior criminal history, case severity, and additional criminal justice responses, suspects processed through the DV unit had significantly lower rates of re-offending across an 18- to 30-month follow-up period. Theoretical explanations for the DV unit effect are proposed.

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Falling Behind? Children’s Early Grade Retention after Paternal Incarceration

Kristin Turney & Anna Haskins
Sociology of Education, October 2014, Pages 241-258

Abstract:
A growing literature documents the myriad penalties for children of incarcerated fathers, but relatively little is known about how paternal incarceration contributes to educational outcomes in early and middle childhood. In this article, we use data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study to provide the first estimates of the relationship between paternal incarceration and children’s grade retention in elementary school. Propensity score matching models indicate that children of incarcerated fathers are more likely to experience early grade retention than their counterparts. This relationship is not driven by test scores or behavior problems; preliminary evidence suggests this relationship may be driven by teachers’ perceptions of children’s academic proficiency. These findings suggest that elementary school teachers may play an important role in the lives of children experiencing paternal incarceration and, more generally, highlight yet another way in which the large-scale incarceration of men limits their children’s potential.

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The Relationship Between Gun Ownership and Stranger and Nonstranger Firearm Homicide Rates in the United States, 1981–2010

Michael Siegel et al.
American Journal of Public Health, October 2014, Pages 1912-1919

Objectives: We examined the relationship between gun ownership and stranger versus nonstranger homicide rates.

Methods: Using data from the Supplemental Homicide Reports of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reports for all 50 states for 1981 to 2010, we modeled stranger and nonstranger homicide rates as a function of state-level gun ownership, measured by a proxy, controlling for potential confounders. We used a negative binomial regression model with fixed effects for year, accounting for clustering of observations among states by using generalized estimating equations.

Results: We found no robust, statistically significant correlation between gun ownership and stranger firearm homicide rates. However, we found a positive and significant association between gun ownership and nonstranger firearm homicide rates. The incidence rate ratio for nonstranger firearm homicide rate associated with gun ownership was 1.014 (95% confidence interval = 1.009, 1.019).

Conclusions: Our findings challenge the argument that gun ownership deters violent crime, in particular, homicides.

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The impact of state and federal assault weapons bans on public mass shootings

Mark Gius
Applied Economics Letters, forthcoming

Abstract:
The purpose of the present study is to determine the effects of federal and state assault weapons bans on public mass shootings. Using a Poisson effect model and data for the period 1982 to 2011, it was found that both state and federal assault weapons bans have statistically significant and negative effects on mass shooting fatalities but that only the federal assault weapons ban had a negative effect on mass shooting injuries. This study is one of the first studies that looks solely at the effects of assault weapons bans on public mass shootings.

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Political Correlates of Violent Death Rates in the U.S., 1900-2010: Longitudinal and Cross-Sectional Analyses

Bandy Lee et al.
Aggression and Violent Behavior, forthcoming

Objectives: Our goal was to identify if there might be associations between a major public health problem, i.e., violent deaths, and a potential macro-level determinant, i.e., political party in office.

Methods: Vital statistics, labor statistics, and GDP data were obtained for the years 1900-2010. Independent t tests were used to compare homicide, suicide, and total violent death rates during Republican and Democratic administrations and between states voting for Republican and Democratic presidential candidates. Correlation and hidden Markov modeling were used to assess the relationships among party of the president and changes in unemployment rate, GDP, and violent death.

Results: The party of the president was significantly associated with annual changes in suicide and homicide rates, unemployment rates, and GDP (p < 0.001 to p < 0.05, depending on the measure and time lag), with higher violent death and unemployment increases being associated with Republican presidencies and higher GDP with Democratic ones. Adjusting for unemployment and GDP reduced but did not eliminate party effect. Suicide and homicide rates were higher in states that voted for the Republican candidate for presidenby than in states that voted for the Democratic candidate (p < 0.0001 and p < 0.07).

Conclusions: Violent deaths were associated with an increase under Republican presidents and a decrease under Democratic presidents, were higher in states that vote for Republican than for Democratic presidential candidates, and increased alongside increasing unemployment and falling national GDP. As with heart disease, obesity and cancer, identified associations with environmental factors can increase understanding of the public health problem and point to ways of reducing it. Future research beyond the boundaries of the United States could help elucidate the relationship between government, socioeconomic policy orientation, and violent death rates.

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Following Incarceration, Most Released Offenders Never Return to Prison

William Rhodes et al.
Crime & Delinquency, forthcoming

Abstract:
Recent studies suggest that 50% of offenders released from state prisons return to prison within 3 to 5 years. In contrast, this article shows that roughly two of every three offenders who enter and exit prison will never return to prison. Using data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ newly revised National Corrections Reporting Program, we examine prison admissions and releases over a 13-year period in 17 states and over shorter periods in other states to determine the rate at which individual offenders return to prison. We distinguish between the traditional event-based sampling methods for studying recidivism and our alternative offender-based method, explaining how each is useful but how the two approaches answer different policy questions.

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Correctional destabilization and jail violence: The consequences of prison depopulation legislation

Jonathan Caudill et al.
Journal of Criminal Justice, November–December 2014, Pages 500–506

Purpose: This study explored the effects of prison depopulation on local jail violence through a general systems perspective – where an abrupt shift in the processing of offenders had the potential to create ripple effects through other organizations – of the criminal justice system.

Methods: In 2011, California passed the Criminal Justice Realignment legislation aimed to reduce prison population by making low-level felony offenders ineligible for state incarceration and diverting those already in state prison for the included offenses from state to county-level community supervision once paroled. This study incorporated bivariate and negative binomial regression analyses to model officially-recorded county jail panel data to estimate the effects of state prison depopulation on California county jails.

Results: Findings demonstrated support for the general systems framework as there was a significant decrease in jail utility in the bivariate analysis and a significant increase in jail violence in the multivariate analysis associated with passage of California’s prison depopulation legislation.

Conclusions: The results supported the notion of an interconnected criminal justice system. Policy implications include the consequences of increased violence on jail operations, the potential for a cadre of habitual offenders, and generalizing these findings to the community.

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Recidivism and the “Worst of Both Worlds” Hypothesis: Do Substance Misuse and Crime Interact Or Accumulate?

Glenn Walters
Criminal Justice and Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
Interactive and additive terms for substance misuse and crime were used to predict recidivism in 1,435 male inmates. Negative binomial regression revealed that although the additive term consistently predicted general recidivism and the presence of new charges, the interaction term consistently failed to predict these same two outcomes. The additive model continued to predict general recidivism and new charges when age and prior convictions were both controlled and when prior substance misuse and crime were entered separately. Both the substance misuse and crime components predicted income (property and drug) offenses, but only the crime component predicted person offenses. These results have implications for assessing and treating substance-involved offenders and suggest that the two components of the “worst of both worlds” hypothesis accumulate rather than interact in their effect on future recidivism. Although the effect depends on both components, one component may be stronger than the other in predicting certain outcomes.

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New Parochialism, Sources of Community Investment, and the Control of Street Crime

David Ramey & Emily Shrider
Criminology & Public Policy, May 2014, Pages 193–216

Abstract:
We examined Seattle, Washington's Neighborhood Matching Fund (NMF), a unique neighborhood improvement program that provides city funding for projects organized within neighborhoods. We found an inverse relationship between NMF funding and violent crime rates, a relationship that is stronger in poorer neighborhoods. The relationship also is stronger as funds accumulate within the neighborhoods over time. These findings suggest that investment and neighborhood participation can have both short-term and long-term crime reduction effects.

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Keep the Kids Inside: Juvenile Curfews, Bad Weather, and Urban Gun Violence

Jillian Carr & Jennifer Doleac
University of Virginia Working Paper, August 2014

Abstract:
Gun violence is an important problem in many American cities, large and small. Due to limited data, it has been difficult to convincingly test the impacts of government policies on the quantity and geography of gunfire. This paper is the first to use a new source of data on gunfire incidents, and tests the incapacitation effects of two interventions in Washington, DC: (1) juvenile curfews, and (2) rain. Both work primarily by keeping would-be offenders indoors. The former is a common, but extremely controversial, policy used in cities across the United States, and its impact is likely highly sensitive to how it is enforced. The latter is an intervention over which we have no control, but can be thought of as a perfectly-enforced incapacitation "policy": anyone who stays outside during a rainstorm gets wet. We use exogenous variation in the hours affected by each intervention to estimate its causal impact on gun violence and reported crime. We find minimal evidence that juvenile curfews are effective, but rainstorms result in large, statistically-significant reductions in gun violence and other crime. We interpret these results as evidence that incapacitation works as a crime-prevention tool, and a reminder that implementation and enforcement are key determinants of a policy’s success.

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A Longitudinal Study of the Impact of Home Vacancy on Robbery and Burglary Rates During the U.S. Housing Crisis, 2005-2009

Roderick Jones & William Alex Pridemore
Crime & Delinquency, forthcoming

Abstract:
The growing empirical literature on the effects on crime of the recent housing crisis in the United States provides inconsistent results for a direct effect. Furthermore, no longitudinal studies examine the association between home vacancy and crime during the U.S. housing crisis. To address this question, we used a sample of 126 major metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) within the United States for the period 2005-2009 and estimated random and fixed effects models. Results indicated that increasing rates of home vacancy during the housing crisis were significantly associated with burglary rates within and between MSAs but had no association with robbery rates after controlling for other important crime covariates. We discuss the theoretical and methodological implications of these findings.

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Is the Highway Patrol Really Tougher on Out-of-State Drivers? An Empirical Analysis

Michael Roach
B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, forthcoming

Abstract:
Using speeding citations from the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, this paper examines whether out-of-state drivers face different enforcement standards than in-state drivers. Discrimination effects are identified by assuming exogenous differences in license plate design affect troopers’ abilities to identify out-of-state drivers. The pattern of citations for difficult to identify out-of-state drivers is significantly different from (indeed, stricter than) the pattern for more easily identifiable out-of-state drivers. I take this as evidence of troopers attempting to apply different enforcement standards to out-of-state drivers. One explanation is troopers attempting to deter in-state speeders whose behavior may be more sensitive to enforcement.

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Misalignment In Supervision: Implementing Risk/Needs Assessment Instruments in Probation

Jill Viglione, Danielle Rudes & Faye Taxman Criminal
Justice and Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
Risk and needs assessment (RNA) tools are well regarded as a critical component of a community corrections organization implementing evidence-based practices (EBPs), given the potential impact of using such tools on offender-level and system outcomes. The current study examines how probation officers (POs) use a validated RNA tool in two adult probation settings. Using interview and observational data, this study explores how POs use an assessment tool during all facets of their work from preplanning, routine administrative tasks, and face-to-face case management interactions with probation clients. Findings suggest POs overwhelmingly administer the RNA tool, but rarely link the RNA scores to key case management or supervision decisions. These findings highlight some of the challenges and complexities associated with the application of RNA tools in everyday practice. Study implications emphasize the need to modify current probation practices to create a synergy between the RNA and related supervision practices. Findings from this study contribute to a better appreciation for how the new penology integrates risk management with client-centered case models to improve outcomes.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A higher power

Changes in Religiosity After First Intercourse in the Transition to Adulthood

Sara Vasilenko & Eva Lefkowitz
Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, forthcoming

Abstract:
Religiosity delays initiation of sexual behavior, but the association may be bidirectional, and individuals may become less religious after first intercourse. This study uses longitudinal data from college students to examine whether 2 aspects of religiosity change before and after first intercourse using multiphase growth curve models. Students’ religiosity did not change in the 6 months preceding first intercourse, but on average they attended services less often and felt religion was less important in the 12 months after first intercourse. These findings suggest that sexual behavior can influence religious development in emerging adulthood, and underscore the importance of studying the impact of sexuality beyond the health outcomes typically studied, and of examining how life events influence religious development in adolescence and emerging adulthood.

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Roll a Die and Tell a Lie – What Affects Honesty?

Yuval Arbel et al.
Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, November 2014, Pages 153–172

Abstract:
We examine the effect of religiosity and gender on the level of honesty by conducting under-the-cup die experiments among secular and religious Jewish students. The highest level of honesty was found among young religious females while the lowest was found among secular females. Finally, we derive practical implications for increasing the level of honesty in society.

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Personal prayer counteracts self-control depletion

Malte Friese et al.
Consciousness and Cognition, October 2014, Pages 90-95

Abstract:
Praying over longer time spans can foster self-control. Less is known about the immediate, short-term consequences of praying. Here we investigated the possibility that praying may counteract self-control depletion. Participants suppressed or did not suppress thoughts about a white bear before engaging in a brief period of either personal prayer or free thought. Then, all participants completed a Stroop task. As expected, thought suppression led to poorer Stroop performance in the free thought, but not in the prayer condition. This effect emerged on a dependent variable devoid of any religious or moral associations (Stroop task). Possible mediating mechanisms and directions for future research are discussed.

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Compulsory Schooling Laws and Formation of Beliefs: Education, Religion and Superstition

Naci Mocan & Luiza Pogorelova
NBER Working Paper, October 2014

Abstract:
We exploit information on compulsory schooling reforms in 11 European countries, implemented mostly in the 1960s and 70s, to identify the impact of education on religious adherence and religious practices. Using micro data from the European Social Survey, conducted in various years between 2002 and 2013, we find consistently large negative effects of schooling on self-reported religiosity, social religious acts (attending religious services), as well as solitary religious acts (the frequency of praying). We also use data from European Values Survey to apply the same empirical design to analyze the impact of schooling on superstitious beliefs. We find that more education, due to increased mandatory years of schooling, reduces individuals’ propensity to believe in the power of lucky charms and the tendency to take into account horoscopes in daily life.

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From Jesus to Christianity: The economics of sacrifice

Mario Ferrero
Rationality and Society, November 2014, Pages 397-424

Abstract:
This article models the birth of a new religion from the ashes of apocalyptic prophecy. Christianity started around the imminent expectation of God’s Kingdom. Followers forsook worldly opportunities to prepare for the event. As the Kingdom’s arrival tarried, they found themselves “trapped” because those sacrifices — like transaction-specific investments — were wasted if they dropped out. This provided incentives to stay and transform the faith. Such effort, enhanced by reaction to the cognitive dissonance caused by prophecy failure, turned an apocalyptic movement into an established church. A survey of other apocalyptic groups confirms that dropout costs are critical to explaining outcomes.

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Rituals or Good Works: Social Signaling in Religious Organizations

Gilat Levy
Journal of the European Economic Association, October 2014, Pages 1317–1360

Abstract:
We develop a model of social signaling of religiosity and cooperative behavior in religious organizations. The model embeds a ritual-based religious organization in which signaling arises through the use of costly rituals, and a discipline-based religious organization in which such signaling occurs through the monitoring of past behavior. We use this framework to contrast — positively and normatively — these two forms of social signaling. We show that ritual-based religions, while using a costly and wasteful signal, also imply a higher level of coordination of behavior in social interactions and a higher incidence of mutual cooperation. Our welfare analysis suggests that communities are more likely to support a switch to a discipline-based religion if strategic complementarities are high, and if there is sufficiently high level of public information about social behavior. This accords with the success of Calvin's Reformation in Switzerland and France, a process characterized by the reduction of rituals along with the creation of institutions to monitor and publicize individuals' behavior, such as the Consistory.

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Might Depression, Psychosocial Adversity, and Limited Social Assets Explain Vulnerability to and Resistance against Violent Radicalisation?

Kamaldeep Bhui, Brian Everitt & Edgar Jones
PLoS ONE, September 2014

Background: This study tests whether depression, psychosocial adversity, and limited social assets offer protection or suggest vulnerability to the process of radicalisation.

Methods: A population sample of 608 men and women of Pakistani or Bangladeshi origin, of Muslim heritage, and aged 18–45 were recruited by quota sampling. Radicalisation was measured by 16 questions asking about sympathies for violent protest and terrorism. Cluster analysis of the 16 items generated three groups: most sympathetic (or most vulnerable), most condemning (most resistant), and a large intermediary group that acted as a reference group. Associations were calculated with depression (PHQ9), anxiety (GAD7), poor health, and psychosocial adversity (adverse life events, perceived discrimination, unemployment). We also investigated protective factors such as the number social contacts, social capital (trust, satisfaction, feeling safe), political engagement and religiosity.

Results: Those showing the most sympathy for violent protest and terrorism were more likely to report depression (PHQ9 score of 5 or more; RR = 5.43, 1.35 to 21.84) and to report religion to be important (less often said religion was fairly rather than very important; RR = 0.08, 0.01 to 0.48). Resistance to radicalisation measured by condemnation of violent protest and terrorism was associated with larger number of social contacts (per contact: RR = 1.52, 1.26 to 1.83), less social capital (RR = 0.63, 0.50 to 0.80), unavailability for work due to housekeeping or disability (RR = 8.81, 1.06 to 37.46), and not being born in the UK (RR = 0.22, 0.08 to 0.65).

Conclusions: Vulnerability to radicalisation is characterised by depression but resistance to radicalisation shows a different profile of health and psychosocial variables. The paradoxical role of social capital warrants further investigation.

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Rejecting Evolution: The Role of Religion, Education, and Social Networks

Jonathan Hill
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, September 2014, Pages 575–594

Abstract:
Large segments of the American public are skeptical of human evolution. Surveys consistently find that sizable minorities of the population, frequently near half, deny that an evolutionary process describes how human life developed. Using data from the National Study of Youth and Religion, I examine the role of religion and education in predicting who changes their beliefs about evolution between late adolescence and early emerging adulthood. I conclude that religion is far more important than educational attainment in predicting changing beliefs about evolution. Perhaps more importantly, I find that social networks play an important moderating role in this process. High personal religiousness is only associated with the maintenance of creationist beliefs over time when the respondent is embedded in a social network of co-religionists. This finding suggests that researchers should pay far more attention to the social context of belief formation and change.

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Attributions to God and Satan About Life-Altering Events

Shanna Ray et al.
Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, forthcoming

Abstract:
When faced with negative life events, people often interpret the events by attributing them to the actions of God or Satan (Lupfer, Tolliver, & Jackson, 1996; Ritzema, 1979). To explore these attributions, we conducted a mixed-method study of Christians who were college freshmen. Participants read vignettes depicting a negative life event that had a beginning and an end that was systematically varied. Participants assigned a larger role to God in vignettes where an initially negative event (e.g., relationship breakup) led to a positive long-term outcome (e.g., meeting someone better) than with a negative (e.g., depression and loneliness) or unspecified long-term outcome. Participants attributed a lesser role to Satan when there was positive outcome rather than negative or unspecified outcome. Participants also provided their own narratives, recounting personal experiences that they attributed to the actions of God or Satan. Participant-supplied narratives often demonstrated “theories” about the actions of God, depicting God as being involved in negative events as a rescuer, comforter, or one who brings positive out of the negative. Satan-related narratives were often lacking in detail or a clear theory of how Satan worked. Participants who did provide this information depicted Satan as acting primarily through influencing one’s thoughts and/or using other people to encourage one’s negative behavior.

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Young Children Can Be Taught Basic Natural Selection Using a Picture-Storybook Intervention

Deborah Kelemen et al.
Psychological Science, April 2014, Pages 893-902

Abstract:
Adaptation by natural selection is a core mechanism of evolution. It is also one of the most widely misunderstood scientific processes. Misconceptions are rooted in cognitive biases found in preschoolers, yet concerns about complexity mean that adaptation by natural selection is generally not comprehensively taught until adolescence. This is long after untutored theoretical misunderstandings are likely to have become entrenched. In a novel approach, we explored 5- to 8-year-olds’ capacities to learn a basic but theoretically coherent mechanistic explanation of adaptation through a custom storybook intervention. Experiment 1 showed that children understood the population-based logic of natural selection and also generalized it. Furthermore, learning endured 3 months later. Experiment 2 replicated these results and showed that children understood and applied an even more nuanced mechanistic causal explanation. The findings demonstrate that, contrary to conventional educational wisdom, basic natural selection is teachable in early childhood. Theory-driven interventions using picture storybooks with rich explanatory structure are beneficial.

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Finding Brands and Losing Your Religion?

Keisha Cutright et al.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, forthcoming

Abstract:
Religion is a powerful force in many people’s lives, impacting decisions about life, death, and everything in between. It may be difficult, then, to imagine that something as seemingly innocuous as the usage of brand name products might influence individuals’ commitment to religion. However, we demonstrate across 6 studies that when brands are a highly salient tool for self-expression, individuals are less likely to report and demonstrate strong religious commitment. We suggest that a desire to maintain consistency among self-identities is one important driver of this relationship and find that the effect is mitigated when the perceived distance between brands and religious values is minimized.

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Cross-Cultural Variations in Big Five Relationships With Religiosity: A Sociocultural Motives Perspective

Jochen Gebauer et al.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
A sociocultural motives perspective (SMP) on Big Five relationships is introduced. According to the SMP, Agreeableness and Conscientiousness elicit assimilation to sociocultural norms, Openness elicits contrast from these norms, and Extraversion and Neuroticism are independent of sociocultural assimilation and contrast. Due to sociocultural assimilation, then, relationships of Agreeableness and Conscientiousness with an outcome wax (become more positive or less negative) with that outcome’s increasing sociocultural normativeness. Due to sociocultural contrast, relationships of Openness with an outcome wane (become less positive or more negative) with that outcome’s increasing sociocultural normativeness. We tested the SMP using religiosity as our outcome. Study 1 included 4 cross-sectional self-report data sets across 66 countries (N = 1,129,334), 50 U.S. states (N = 1,057,342), 15 German federal states (N = 20,885), and 121 British urban areas (N = 386,315). Study 2 utilized informant-report data across 37 countries (N = 544,512). Study 3 used longitudinal data across 15 German federal states (N = 14,858). Results consistently supported the SMP. Relationships of Agreeableness and Conscientiousness with religiosity were more positive in religious sociocultural contexts than in secular contexts. Relationships of Openness with religiosity were more negative in religious sociocultural contexts than in secular contexts. At a more general level, the SMP offers theory-driven explanations for cross-cultural variations in Big Five relationships with their outcomes.

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Investing in children’s education: Are Muslim immigrants different?

Andreea Mitrut & François-Charles Wolff
Journal of Population Economics, October 2014, Pages 999-1022

Abstract:
Using a unique data set on immigrants living in France in 2003, we investigate whether Muslims invest differently in their children’s education compared to non-Muslims. In particular, we want to assess whether educational inequalities between the children of Muslim and non-Muslim immigrants stem from differences between or within families. After controlling for a broad set of individual and household characteristics, we find no difference in education between children of different religions. However, we do find more within-family inequality in children’s educational achievements among Muslims relative to non-Muslims. The within-family variance is 15 % higher among Muslims relative to Catholics and 45 % higher relative to immigrants with other religions, but the intra-family inequality remains difficult to explain. Overall, our results suggest that Muslim parents tend to redistribute their resources more unequally among their children.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Monday, October 13, 2014

Going without

Dignity and Dreams: What the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Means to Low-Income Families

Jennifer Sykes et al.
American Sociological Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
Money has meaning that shapes its uses and social significance, including the monies low-income families draw on for survival: wages, welfare, and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). This study, based on in-depth interviews with 115 low-wage EITC recipients, reveals the EITC is an unusual type of government transfer. Recipients of the EITC say they value the debt relief this government benefit brings. However, they also perceive it as a just reward for work, which legitimizes a temporary increase in consumption. Furthermore, unlike other means-tested government transfers, the credit is seen as a springboard for upward mobility. Thus, by conferring dignity and spurring dreams, the EITC enhances feelings of citizenship and social inclusion.

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Childhood family income, adolescent violent criminality and substance misuse: Quasi-experimental total population study

Amir Sariaslan et al.
British Journal of Psychiatry, forthcoming

Aims: To investigate whether childhood family income predicts subsequent violent criminality and substance misuse and whether the associations are in turn explained by unobserved familial risk factors.

Method: Nationwide Swedish quasi-experimental, family-based study following cohorts born 1989-1993 (ntotal = 526 167, ncousins = 262 267, nsiblings = 216 424) between the ages of 15 and 21 years.

Results: Children of parents in the lowest income quintile experienced a seven-fold increased hazard rate (HR) of being convicted of violent criminality compared with peers in the highest quintile (HR = 6.78, 95% CI 6.23-7.38). This association was entirely accounted for by unobserved familial risk factors (HR = 0.95, 95% CI 0.44-2.03). Similar pattern of effects was found for substance misuse.

Conclusions: There were no associations between childhood family income and subsequent violent criminality and substance misuse once we had adjusted for unobserved familial risk factors.

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Associations of Neighborhood Concentrated Poverty, Neighborhood Racial/Ethnic Composition, and Indoor Allergen Exposures: a Cross-Sectional Analysis of Los Angeles Households, 2006–2008

Marlene Camacho-Rivera et al.
Journal of Urban Health, August 2014, Pages 661-676

Abstract:
Although racial/ethnic, socioeconomic, and neighborhood factors have been linked to asthma, and the association between indoor allergens and asthma is well documented, few studies have examined the relationship between these factors and indoor allergens. We examined the frequency of reported indoor allergens and differences by racial/ethnic, socioeconomic, and neighborhood characteristics among a diverse sample of Los Angeles households. Multilevel logistic regression models were used to analyze the data from 723 households from wave 2 of the Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Survey. The reported presence of rats, mice, cockroaches, mold, pets, and tobacco smoke were the primary outcomes of interest. Hispanic and Asian households had a nearly threefold increase in the odds of reporting cockroaches compared to non-Hispanic Whites (OR, 2.85; 95 % CI 1.38–5.88 and OR, 2.62; 95 % CI 1.02–6.73, respectively) even after adjusting for socioeconomic factors. Primary caregivers who had obtained a high school degree were significantly less likely to report the presence of mice and cockroaches compared to primary caregivers with less than a high school degree (OR, 0.19; 95 % CI 0.08–0.46 and OR, 0.39; 95 % CI 0.23–0.68, respectively). Primary caregivers with more than a high school degree were also less likely to report the presence of rats, mice, and cockroaches within their households, compared to those with less than a high school degree. Compared to renters, home owners were less likely to report the presence of mice, cockroaches, and mold within their households. At the neighborhood level, households located within neighborhoods of high concentrated poverty (where the average poverty rate is at least 50 %) were more likely to report the presence of mice and cockroaches compared to households in low concentrated poverty neighborhoods (average poverty rate is 10 % or less), after adjusting for individual race/ethnicity and socioeconomic characteristics. Our study found evidence in support of neighborhood-level racial/ethnic and socioeconomic influences on indoor allergen exposure, above and beyond individual factors. Future studies should continue to explore individual and neighborhood-level racial/ethnic and socioeconomic differences in household allergen exposures across diverse contexts.

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The Role of Poverty and Chaos in the Development of Task Persistence Among Adolescents

Thomas Fuller-Rowell et al.
Journal of Research on Adolescence, forthcoming

Abstract:
Late adolescents (N = 256; Mage = 17.5) who spent a larger proportion of their early life in poverty exhibited less persistence when confronted by a challenging task. Greater chaos during early adolescence also predicted less task persistence at age 17. However, the effects of poverty were moderated by chaos such that if chaos levels were high during early adolescence, task persistence was uniformly lower among late adolescents, irrespective of childhood poverty. Only when chaos levels were relatively low did poverty matter for future task persistence. Furthermore, the interactive effects of chaos and early childhood poverty were independent of child ability, and of concurrent chaos and poverty.

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Physical and mental health outcomes following housing improvements: Evidence from the GoWell study

Angela Curl et al.
Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, forthcoming

Background: Existing research points towards physical and mental health gains from housing improvements, but findings are inconsistent and often not statistically significant. The detailed characteristics and variability of housing improvement works are problematic and studies are often small, not experimental, with short follow-up times.

Methods: A quasi-experimental design was used to assess the impact on physical health and mental health (using SF-12v2 Physical and Mental health component summary scales) of four types of housing improvement works — central heating, ‘Secured By Design’ front doors, fabric works, kitchens and bathrooms — both singly and in pairwise combinations. A longitudinal sample of 1933 residents from 15 deprived communities in Glasgow, UK was constructed from surveys carried out in 2006, 2008 and 2011. Sociodemographic characteristics and changes in employment status were taken into account.

Results: Fabric works had positive associations with physical health (+2.09, 95% CI 0.13 to 4.04) and mental health (+1.84, 95% CI 0.04 to 3.65) in 1–2 years. Kitchens and bathrooms had a positive association with mental health in 1–2 years (+2.58, 95% CI 0.79 to 4.36). Central heating had a negative association with physical health (−2.21, 95% CI −3.74 to −0.68). New front doors had a positive association with mental health in <1 year (+5.89, 95% CI 0.65 to 11.14) and when provided alongside kitchens and bathrooms (+4.25, 95% CI 1.71 to 6.80). Gaining employment had strong associations with physical health (+7.14, 95% CI 4.72 to 9.55) as well as mental health (+5.50, 95% CI 3.27 to 7.73).

Conclusions: Fabric works may provide insulation benefits and visual amenity benefits to residents. Front doors may provide important security benefits in deprived communities. Economic regeneration is important alongside property-led regeneration.

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Poverty Concentration, Job Access, and Employment Outcomes

Lingqian Hu & Genevieve Giuliano
Journal of Urban Affairs, forthcoming

Abstract:
Existing literature suggests that both access to jobs and poverty concentration can affect poor job seekers’ employment outcomes, but no research has tested the two factors together or examined how their effects interact. In this article, we examine the effects of job accessibility in places of various degrees of poverty concentrations, focusing on the employment status and commute distance of the poor. Using the Los Angeles metropolitan area as the case study, we find that spatial access does not explain unequal employment status of the poor: the association between access and employment status is insignificant in almost all places regardless of the poverty rates. Poor job seekers cannot take advantage of proximity to jobs even if they live in low-poverty places. The only exceptions are the places that experienced increases in both poverty rates and job access, where the estimation of job accessibility's effects tends to be upwardly biased. The association between job accessibility and commute distance is significant in places with low to medium poverty rates, meaning that for poor workers who live in low-poverty neighborhoods, proximity to jobs can reduce their commute distance. For those who live in high-poverty places, proximity to jobs does not significantly affect their commute distances. These findings challenge the optimistic expectations of housing dispersion programs, at least their effects on employment status.

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Within-Mother Estimates of the Effects of WIC on Birth Outcomes in New York City

Janet Currie & Ishita Rajani
NBER Working Paper, August 2014

Abstract:
There is a large literature suggesting that “WIC works” to improve birth outcomes. However, methodological limitations related to selection into the WIC program have left room for doubt about this conclusion. This paper uses birth records from New York City to address the limitations of the previous literature. We estimate models with mother fixed effects to control for fixed characteristics of mothers and we directly investigate the way that time-varying characteristics of mothers affect selection into the WIC program. We find that WIC is associated with reductions in low birth weight, even among full term infants, and with reductions in the probability that a child is “small for dates.” These improvements are associated with a reduction in the probability that the mother gained too little weight during pregnancy. Improvements tend to be largest for first born children. We also find that women on WIC are more likely to be diagnosed with chronic conditions, and receive more intensive medical services, a finding that may reflect improved access to medical care.

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The short-term impacts of Earned Income Tax Credit disbursement on health

David Rehkopf, Kate Strully & William Dow
International Journal of Epidemiology, forthcoming

Background: There are conflicting findings regarding long- and short-term effects of income on health. Whereas higher average income is associated with better health, there is evidence that health behaviours worsen in the short-term following income receipt. Prior studies revealing such negative short-term effects of income receipt focus on specific subpopulations and examine a limited set of health outcomes.

Methods: The United States Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is an income supplement tied to work, and is the largest poverty reduction programme in the USA. We utilize the fact that EITC recipients typically receive large cash transfers in the months of February, March and April, in order to examine associated changes in health outcomes that can fluctuate on a monthly basis. We examine associations with 30 outcomes in the categories of diet, food security, health behaviours, cardiovascular biomarkers, metabolic biomarkers and infection and immunity among 6925 individuals from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Survey. Our research design approximates a natural experiment, since whether individuals were sampled during treatment or non-treatment months is independent of social, demographic and health characteristics that do not vary with time.

Results: There are both beneficial and detrimental short-term impacts of income receipt. Although there are detrimental impacts on metabolic factors among women, most other impacts are beneficial, including those for food security, smoking and trying to lose weight.

Conclusions: The short-term impacts of EITC income receipt are not universally health promoting, but on balance there are more health benefits than detriments.

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Endogenous neighborhood effects on welfare participation

Qingyan Shang
Empirical Economics, September 2014, Pages 639-667

Abstract:
This article examines the impact of neighborhood welfare participation on individual welfare participation, that is, the endogenous neighborhood effects. Endogenous neighborhood effects generate social multipliers. Few existing empirical studies on neighborhood effects distinguish between endogenous neighborhood effects and exogenous neighborhood effects, that is, the effects of neighborhood characteristics. This article constitutes an early attempt to identify and estimate endogenous and exogenous neighborhood effects separately. I construct an instrumental variable for neighborhood welfare participation rate based on the variation in welfare benefits and neighborhood demographic composition to address the reflection problem and the omitted neighborhood variables problem. A two-step method is proposed to separately estimate endogenous and exogenous neighborhood effects. The results show that neighborhood welfare participation plays an important role in a woman’s welfare participation both before and after the welfare reform in 1996.

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Positive Externalities of Social Insurance: Unemployment Insurance and Consumer Credit

Joanne Hsu, David Matsa & Brian Melzer
NBER Working Paper, July 2014

Abstract:
This paper studies the impact of unemployment insurance (UI) on consumer credit markets. Exploiting heterogeneity in UI generosity across U.S. states and over time, we find that UI helps the unemployed avoid defaulting on their mortgage debt. We estimate that UI expansions during the Great Recession prevented about 1.4 million foreclosures. Lenders respond to this decline in default risk by expanding credit access and reducing interest rates for low-income households at risk of being laid off. Our findings call attention to two benefits of unemployment insurance not previously highlighted: reducing deadweight losses from loan default and expanding access to credit.

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Government Capital, Intimate and Community Social Capital, and Food Security Status in Older Adults with Different Income Levels

Wesley Dean et al.
Rural Sociology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Whether government-based forms of food assistance such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), communal efforts including food pantries, aid from friends and family, or alternative means such as gardening are the appropriate means to reduce the prevalence of household food insecurity is a continuous source of policy contention. To inform this debate, we examine the relative importance of these forms of food assistance and acquisition to a sample of U.S. older adults from the 2010 Brazos Valley Health Assessment of central Texas households that have been stratified by income eligibility for SNAP, low-income SNAP ineligibility, and above low income status. To identify how membership in these socioeconomic groups constrains household capacity to acquire sufficient food to maintain an adequate and healthy diet, we explore the varied associations of assets received from government; communal and intimate social networks; and alternative food sources such as gardening, hunting, and fishing with household food security across socioeconomic status, while examining the importance of place of residence on the use of capital assets. SNAP participation was the only specific capital asset associated with all levels of food insecurity for both SNAP-eligible and ineligible low-income groups, thus emphasizing the continued importance of food assistance among poverty-level older adults.

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The Impact of Public Housing on Social Networks: A Natural Experiment

Craig Pollack et al.
American Journal of Public Health, September 2014, Pages 1642-1649

Objectives: We assessed whether 2 types of public housing — scattered among market-rate housing developments or clustered in small public housing projects — were associated with the perceived health and health behaviors of residents’ social networks.

Methods: Leveraging a natural experiment in Montgomery County, Maryland, in which residents were randomly assigned to different types of public housing, we surveyed 453 heads of household in 2011. We asked residents about their own health as well as the perceived health of their network members, including their neighbors.

Results: Residents in scattered-site public housing perceived that their neighbors were more likely to exercise than residents of clustered public housing (24.7% of network members vs 14.0%; P < .001). There were no significant differences in the proportion of network members who were perceived to have major health problems, depressed mood, poor diet, or obesity. Having more network members who smoked was associated with a significantly higher likelihood of smoking.

Conclusions: Different types of public housing have a modest impact on the health composition of one’s social network, suggesting the importance of housing policy for health.

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Environmental Conditions in Low-Income Urban Housing: Clustering and Associations With Self-Reported Health

Gary Adamkiewicz et al.
American Journal of Public Health, September 2014, Pages 1650-1656

Objectives: We explored prevalence and clustering of key environmental conditions in low-income housing and associations with self-reported health.

Methods: The Health in Common Study, conducted between 2005 and 2009, recruited participants (n = 828) from 20 low-income housing developments in the Boston area. We interviewed 1 participant per household and conducted a brief inspection of the unit (apartment). We created binary indexes and a summed index for household exposures: mold, combustion by-products, secondhand smoke, chemicals, pests, and inadequate ventilation. We used multivariable logistic regression to examine the associations between each index and household characteristics and between each index and self-reported health.

Results: Environmental problems were common; more than half of homes had 3 or more exposure-related problems (median summed index = 3). After adjustment for household-level demographics, we found clustering of problems in site (P < .01) for pests, combustion byproducts, mold, and ventilation. Higher summed index values were associated with higher adjusted odds of reporting fair–poor health (odds ratio = 2.7 for highest category; P < .008 for trend).

Conclusions: We found evidence that indoor environmental conditions in multifamily housing cluster by site and that cumulative exposures may be associated with poor health.

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Estimating the Impact of Low-Income Universal Service Programs

Daniel Ackerberg et al.
International Journal of Industrial Organization, November 2014, Pages 84–98

Abstract:
This policy study uses U.S. Census microdata to evaluate how subsidies for universal telephone service vary in their impact across low-income racial groups, gender, age, and home ownership. Our demand specification includes both the subsidized monthly price (Lifeline program) and the subsidized initial connection price (Linkup program) for local telephone service. Our quasi-maximum likelihood estimation controls for location differences and instruments for price endogeneity. The microdata allow us to estimate the effects of demographics on both elasticities of telephone penetration and the level of telephone penetration. Based on our preferred estimates, the subsidy programs increased aggregate penetration by 6.1% for households below the poverty line. Our results suggest auto-enroll policies are important and that Linkup is more cost-effective than Lifeline, which calls into question a recent FCC (2012) decision to reduce Linkup subsidies in favor of Lifeline. Our study can inform the evaluation of similar universal service policies for Internet access.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Sunday, October 12, 2014

With friends like you

Morphological and population genomic evidence that human faces have evolved to signal individual identity

Michael Sheehan & Michael Nachman
Nature Communications, September 2014

Abstract:
Facial recognition plays a key role in human interactions, and there has been great interest in understanding the evolution of human abilities for individual recognition and tracking social relationships. Individual recognition requires sufficient cognitive abilities and phenotypic diversity within a population for discrimination to be possible. Despite the importance of facial recognition in humans, the evolution of facial identity has received little attention. Here we demonstrate that faces evolved to signal individual identity under negative frequency-dependent selection. Faces show elevated phenotypic variation and lower between-trait correlations compared with other traits. Regions surrounding face-associated single nucleotide polymorphisms show elevated diversity consistent with frequency-dependent selection. Genetic variation maintained by identity signalling tends to be shared across populations and, for some loci, predates the origin of Homo sapiens. Studies of human social evolution tend to emphasize cognitive adaptations, but we show that social evolution has shaped patterns of human phenotypic and genetic diversity as well.

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Delinquency and Peer Acceptance in Adolescence: A Within-Person Test of Moffitt's Hypotheses

Kelly Rulison, Derek Kreager & Wayne Osgood
Developmental Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
We tested 2 hypotheses derived from Moffitt's (1993) taxonomic theory of antisocial behavior, both of which are central to her explanation for the rise in delinquency during adolescence. We tested whether persistently delinquent individuals become more accepted by their peers during adolescence and whether individuals who abstain from delinquent behavior become less accepted. Participants were 4,359 adolescents from 14 communities in the PROSPER study, which assessed friendship networks and delinquency from 6th (M = 11.8 years) to 9th (M = 15.3 years) grade. We operationalized peer acceptance as number of nominations received (indegree centrality), attractiveness as a friend (adjusted indegree centrality), and network bridging potential (betweenness centrality) and tested the hypotheses with multilevel modeling. Contrary to Moffitt's hypothesis, persistently delinquent youths did not become more accepted between early and middle adolescence, and although abstainers were less accepted in early adolescence, they became more accepted over time. Results were similar for boys and girls; when differences occurred, they provided no support for Moffitt's hypotheses for boys and were opposite of her hypotheses for girls. Sensitivity analyses in which alternative strategies and additional data were used to identify persistently delinquent adolescents produced similar results. We explore the implications of these results for Moffitt's assertions that social mimicry of persistently antisocial adolescents leads to increases in delinquency and that social isolation leads to abstention.

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Beautiful friendship: Social sharing of emotions improves subjective feelings and activates the neural reward circuitry

Ullrich Wagner et al.
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, forthcoming

Abstract:
Humans have a strong tendency to affiliate with other people, especially in emotional situations. Here, we suggest that a critical mechanism underlying this tendency is that socially sharing emotional experiences is in itself perceived as hedonically positive and thereby contributes to the regulation of individual emotions. We investigated the effect of social sharing of emotions on subjective feelings and neural activity by having pairs of friends view emotional (negative and positive) and neutral pictures either alone or with the friend. While the two friends remained physically separated throughout the experiment - with one undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging and the other performing the task in an adjacent room - they were made aware on a trial-by-trial basis whether they were seeing pictures simultaneously with their friend (shared) or alone (unshared). Ratings of subjective feelings were improved significantly when participants viewed emotional pictures together than alone, an effect that was accompanied by activity increase in ventral striatum and medial orbitofrontal cortex, two important components of the reward circuitry. Because these effects occurred without any communication or interaction between the friends, they point to an important proximate explanation for the basic human motivation to affiliate with others, particularly in emotional situations.

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Balancing Competing Motives: Adaptive Trade-Offs Are Necessary to Satisfy Disease Avoidance and Interpersonal Affiliation Goals

Donald Sacco, Steven Young & Kurt Hugenberg
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming

Abstract:
The current research provides novel evidence for motivational trade-offs between the two fundamental human goals of pursuing social affiliation and avoiding disease. In Study 1, participants completed a writing prime that manipulated inclusionary status and found that socially excluded participants indicated lower feelings of current disease susceptibility compared with control and socially included participants. In Study 2, participants were included or excluded via Cyberball and then indicated their preferences for symmetrical versus asymmetrical faces. Socially excluded participants displayed lower preferences for symmetrical faces - a cue associated with greater disease resistance. Finally, in Study 3, participants were primed with either disease threat or a general negative affective state and then indicated their current affiliation interest. Activated disease concerns uniquely led participants to display less interest in social affiliation. Taken together, affiliation needs result in disease avoidance down-regulation to aid reaffiliation, whereas disease concerns result in affiliation down-regulation to facilitate pathogen avoidance.

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The Influence of Ethnic Community Knowledge on Indian Inventor Innovativeness

Paul Almeida, Anupama Phene & Sali Li
Organization Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper investigates the knowledge influences of the ethnic community on the quality of innovations of Indian immigrant inventors in the U.S. semiconductor industry. Membership in the Indian ethnic community enables inventors to source knowledge from, and to collaborate with, others in the community. By analyzing patent data, we find that the utility of ethnic knowledge and collaborators depends on the level of inventor embeddedness in the community. Most inventors benefit by sourcing knowledge from, or collaborating with, other Indians and hence enhance innovation quality, but at a diminishing rate. For those who are very heavily embedded in the community, ethnic community knowledge decreases the quality of innovation. Our results provide some support for the idea that simultaneously sourcing ethnic knowledge and using ethnic collaborators also decreases innovativeness. Thus, for Indian inventors, the level of embeddedness in the community is a key factor in influencing the quality of innovation.

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Social-Network Complexity in Humans Is Associated With the Neural Response to Social Information

Sarah Dziura & James Thompson
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Humans have evolved to thrive in large and complex social groups, and it is likely that this increase in group complexity has come with a greater need to decode and respond to complex and uncertain communicatory signals. In this functional MRI study, we examined whether complexity of social networks in humans is related to the functioning of brain regions key to the perception of basic, nonverbal social stimuli. Greater activation to biological than to scrambled motion in the right posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS) and right amygdala were positively correlated with the diversity of social-network roles. In the pSTS, in particular, this association was not due to a relationship between network diversity and network size. These findings suggest that increased functioning of brain regions involved in decoding social signals might facilitate the detection and decoding of subtle signals encountered in varied social settings.

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Electrified emotions: Modulatory effects of transcranial direct stimulation on negative emotional reactions to social exclusion

Paolo Riva et al.
Social Neuroscience, forthcoming

Abstract:
Social exclusion, ostracism, and rejection can be emotionally painful because they thwart the need to belong. Building on studies suggesting that the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (rVLPFC) is associated with regulation of negative emotions, the present experiment tests the hypothesis that decreasing the cortical excitability of the rVLPFC may increase negative emotional reactions to social exclusion. Specifically, we applied cathodal transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) over the rVLPFC and predicted an increment of negative emotional reactions to social exclusion. In Study 1, participants were either socially excluded or included, while cathodal tDCS or sham stimulation was applied over the rVLPFC. Cathodal stimulation of rVLPFC boosted the typical negative emotional reaction caused by social exclusion. No effects emerged from participants in the inclusion condition. To test the specificity of tDCS effects over rVLPFC, in Study 2, participants were socially excluded and received cathodal tDCS or sham stimulation over a control region (i.e., the right posterior parietal cortex). No effects of tDCS stimulation were found. Our results showed that the rVLPFC is specifically involved in emotion regulation and suggest that cathodal stimulation can increase negative emotional responses to social exclusion.

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Autism as a disorder of prediction

Pawan Sinha et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming

Abstract:
A rich collection of empirical findings accumulated over the past three decades attests to the diversity of traits that constitute the autism phenotypes. It is unclear whether subsets of these traits share any underlying causality. This lack of a cohesive conceptualization of the disorder has complicated the search for broadly effective therapies, diagnostic markers, and neural/genetic correlates. In this paper, we describe how theoretical considerations and a review of empirical data lead to the hypothesis that some salient aspects of the autism phenotype may be manifestations of an underlying impairment in predictive abilities. With compromised prediction skills, an individual with autism inhabits a seemingly "magical" world wherein events occur unexpectedly and without cause. Immersion in such a capricious environment can prove overwhelming and compromise one's ability to effectively interact with it. If validated, this hypothesis has the potential of providing unifying insights into multiple aspects of autism, with attendant benefits for improving diagnosis and therapy.

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"More Than Words": Social Validation in Close Relationships

Namkje Koudenburg, Ernestine Gordijn & Tom Postmes
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, November 2014, Pages 1517-1528

Abstract:
Conversations are susceptible to many disturbances: A speaker's hesitations, distractions, or, when communicating online, technical hiccups that may cause brief delays. Research among previously unacquainted individuals revealed that brief disruptions in conversational flow can have profound social consequences: Silences or delays in mediated communication threaten the need to belong and validate one's ideas. The present research, however, shows that when occurring in close relationships, flow disruptions may be ironically beneficial. We hypothesized that when flow disruptions occur, partners fall back on their relationship beliefs to infer mutual agreement and the existence of a shared reality. When a relationship is perceived as secure, partners may believe that "no words are needed" to understand each other. Flow disruptions can thus paradoxically make shared cognitions accessible and foster feelings of social validation. Data from two experiments, using partners in different types of relationships, supported this hypothesis.

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Try to find me: Social anxiety and peer first impressions

Audrey Aiken et al.
Behavior Therapy, November 2014, Pages 851-862

Abstract:
Following initial interactions, other people are less willing to pursue ongoing contact with socially anxious individuals than with those who are not socially anxious. To better understand this process, we conducted two studies that examined peers' first impressions of target individuals. Unacquainted individuals (N = 104 and 114) participated in round robin, unstructured interactions in groups of 3 to 10 and then rated each partner and themselves on items reflecting the Big-5 personality dimensions. The ratings were analyzed according to Biesanz's social accuracy model of interpersonal perception (SAM; Biesanz, 2010), which distinguishes the positivity from the accuracy of social judgments. Study 1 revealed that perceivers did not view socially anxious targets more negatively or as less likeable than non-socially anxious targets but were less able to recognize their unique personality features. Study 2 replicated those findings and indicated that perceivers' difficulties recognizing socially anxious targets' unique features were not due to negative biases in the socially anxious targets' self-ratings or to general psychological maladjustment. The findings are consistent with cognitive models, which underscore the role of self-concealment in social anxiety disorder.

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Oxytocin increases the likeability of physically formidable men

Frances Chen et al.
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, forthcoming

Abstract:
Physical size and strength are associated with dominance and threat. The current study tested (i) whether men's evaluations of male strangers would be negatively influenced by cues indicating physical formidability, and (ii) whether these evaluations would be influenced by oxytocin, a neuropeptide that mediates social behavior and reduces social anxiety. In a placebo-controlled, double-blind design, we administered either oxytocin (24 I.U.) or placebo intranasally to 100 healthy males and assessed their responses to an image of either a physically formidable (strong) or physically non-formidable (weak) male peer. Whereas participants receiving placebo expressed dislike and avoidance of the strong male relative to the weak male, oxytocin selectively improved social evaluation of the strong male. These results provide first evidence that oxytocin regulates social evaluation of peers based on body features indicating strength and formidability. We discuss the possibility that oxytocin may promote the expansion of social networks by increasing openness towards potentially threatening individuals.

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"The we's have it": Evidence for the distinctive benefits of group engagement in enhancing cognitive health in ageing

Catherine Haslam, Tegan Cruwys & Alexander Haslam
Social Science & Medicine, November 2014, Pages 57-66

Abstract:
Aligned with research in the social capital and general health literature, a large body of evidence shows that older people who are more socially active have better cognitive integrity and are less vulnerable to cognitive decline. The present research addresses the question of whether the type of social engagement (group-based vs. individual) has differential effects on these cognitive health outcomes. Drawing on population data (N=3413) from three waves (i.e., Waves 3, 4 and 5) of the English Longitudinal Study of Aging, we investigated the independent contribution of group and individual engagement in predicting cognitive functioning four years later. Hierarchical linear regression was used entering age, gender, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and physical health as covariates. The final model, controlling for initial cognitive function and social engagement (both group and individual) showed that only group engagement made a significant, sustained, and unique contribution to subsequent cognitive function. Furthermore, the effects of group engagement were stronger with increasing age. These findings extend previous work on the social determinants of health by pinpointing the types of relationships that are particularly beneficial in protecting cognitive health. The fact that group engagement optimized health outcomes, and that this was especially the case with increasing age, has important implications for directing community resources to keep older adults mentally active and independent for longer.

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Minimizing the Pain and Probability of Rejection: Evidence for Relational Distancing and Proximity Seeking Within Face-to-Face Interactions

Kristin Sommer & Frank Bernieri
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Some studies have revealed evidence for proximity seeking following interpersonal rejection, whereas other studies have found evidence of relational distancing (Williams, 2007). This study examined whether both processes could occur simultaneously within face-to-face interactions. Participants were accepted or rejected by one person and then interacted with a new partner for the purposes of an impression-formation task. Conversations were recorded and transcribed. Dyads containing a previously rejected compared to accepted participant exhibited higher levels of linguistic style matching and reciprocated conversational content, suggestive of proximity seeking. However, rejected targets also rated their new partners as less kind and reported lower levels of rapport/liking for their partners, consistent with relational distancing. Partner evaluations were statistically mediated by targets' expectations of rejection. We suggest that automatic proximity seeking and the appraisal-mediated devaluation of new partners reflect efforts to minimize the potential for and pain of future rejection. Recommendations for future research are discussed.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Saturday, October 11, 2014

May the force be with you

Obama cares about visuo-spatial attention: Perception of political figures moves attention and determines gaze direction

Mark Mills et al.
Behavioural Brain Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
Processing an abstract concept such as political ideology by itself is difficult but becomes easier when a background situation contextualizes it. Political ideology within American politics, for example, is commonly processed using space metaphorically, i.e., the political "left" and "right" (referring to Democrat and Republican views, respectively), presumably to provide a common metric to which abstract features of ideology can be grounded and understood. Commonplace use of space as metaphor raises the question of whether an inherently non-spatial stimulus (e.g., picture of the political "left" leader, Barack Obama) can trigger a spatially-specific response (e.g., attentional bias toward "left" regions of the visual field). Accordingly, pictures of well-known Democrats and Republicans were presented as central cues in peripheral target detection (Experiment 1) and saccadic free-choice (Experiment 2) tasks to determine whether perception of stimuli lacking a direct association with physical space nonetheless induce attentional and oculomotor biases in the direction compatible with the ideological category of the cue (i.e., Democrat/left and Republican/right). In Experiment 1, target detection following presentation of a Democrat (Republican) was facilitated for targets appearing to the left (right). In Experiment 2, participants were more likely to look left (right) following presentation of a Democrat (Republican). Thus, activating an internal representation of political ideology induced a shift of attention and biased choice of gaze direction in a spatially-specific manner. These findings demonstrate that the link between conceptual processing and spatial attention can be totally arbitrary, with no reference to physical or symbolic spatial information.

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Shared Experiences Are Amplified

Erica Boothby, Margaret Clark & John Bargh
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
In two studies, we found that sharing an experience with another person, without communicating, amplifies one's experience. Both pleasant and unpleasant experiences were more intense when shared. In Study 1, participants tasted pleasant chocolate. They judged the chocolate to be more likeable and flavorful when they tasted it at the same time that another person did than when that other person was present but engaged in a different activity. Although these results were consistent with our hypothesis that shared experiences are amplified compared with unshared experiences, it could also be the case that shared experiences are more enjoyable in general. We designed Study 2 to distinguish between these two explanations. In this study, participants tasted unpleasantly bitter chocolate and judged it to be less likeable when they tasted it simultaneously with another person than when that other person was present but doing something else. These results support the amplification hypothesis.

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Illusions of Learning: Irrelevant Emotions Inflate Judgments of Learning

Roy Baumeister, Jessica Alquist & Kathleen Vohs
Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, forthcoming

Abstract:
People use assessments of how much they have learned to choose and recommend instructors, seminars, and weekend trips. How do people assess how much they have learned? Recent theorizing has depicted emotion as a cue for learning, and so people may be misled by recent emotional states to infer that they have learned more than they actually have. Four studies showed that people associated emotion with learning and believed, often falsely, that they learned more when in an emotional than unemotional state. Factual lessons were coupled with manipulations of arbitrary, irrelevant emotional states. Participants rated that they learned more after an emotion had been induced than in emotionally neutral control conditions. These differences remained significant after controlling for actual learning as measured by objective tests, which was unaffected by emotion. This illusion of learning caused by emotion was robust with respect to changes of procedure and sample, including whether the emotion came before or after the information to be learned. Alternative explanations were ruled out, including that emotion would intensify ratings generally, that emotion would make incoming information seem particularly personally relevant, that emotion increased engagement in the research, and that illusory learning would depend on retrospective exaggeration of one's prior ignorance. Because irrelevant emotions can increase people's judgments that they have learned something, incidental emotional experiences could increase a person's likelihood of deciding to take another class with a particular instructor, to sign up for another leadership seminar, or to engage in a risky (but emotion-filled) excursion.

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Providing Views of the Driving Scene to Drivers' Conversation Partners Mitigates Cell-Phone-Related Distraction

John Gaspar et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Cell-phone use impairs driving safety and performance. This impairment may stem from the remote partner's lack of awareness about the driving situation. In this study, pairs of participants completed a driving simulator task while conversing naturally in the car and while talking on a hands-free cell phone. In a third condition, the driver drove while the remote conversation partner could see video of both the road ahead and the driver's face. We tested the extent to which this additional visual information diminished the negative effects of cell-phone distraction and increased situational awareness. Collision rates for unexpected merging events were high when participants drove in a cell-phone condition but were reduced when they were in a videophone condition, reaching a level equal to that observed when they drove with an in-car passenger or drove alone. Drivers and their partners made shorter utterances and made longer, more frequent traffic references when they spoke in the videophone rather than the cellphone condition. Providing a view of the driving scene allows remote partners to help drivers by modulating their conversation and referring to traffic more often.

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Red - Take a Closer Look

Vanessa Buechner et al.
PLoS ONE, September 2014

Abstract:
Color research has shown that red is associated with avoidance of threat (e.g., failure) or approach of reward (e.g., mating) depending on the context in which it is perceived. In the present study we explored one central cognitive process that might be involved in the context dependency of red associations. According to our theory, red is supposed to highlight the relevance (importance) of a goal-related stimulus and correspondingly intensifies the perceivers' attentional reaction to it. Angry and happy human compared to non-human facial expressions were used as goal-relevant stimuli. The data indicate that the color red leads to enhanced attentional engagement to angry and happy human facial expressions (compared to neutral ones) - the use of non-human facial expressions does not bias attention. The results are discussed with regard to the idea that red induced attentional biases might explain the red-context effects on motivation.

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Detecting Knowledge of Incidentally Acquired, Real-World Memories Using a P300-Based Concealed-Information Test

John Meixner & Peter Rosenfeld
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Autobiographical memory for events experienced during normal daily life has been studied at the group level, but no studies have yet examined the ability to detect recognition of incidentally acquired memories among individual subjects. We present the first such study here, which employed a concealed-information test in which subjects were shown words associated with activities they had experienced the previous day. Subjects wore a video-recording device for 4 hr on Day 1 and then returned to the laboratory on Day 2, where they were shown words relating to events recorded with the camera (probe items) and words of the same category but not relating to the subject's activities (irrelevant items). Electroencephalograms were recorded, and presentation of probe items was associated with a large peak in the amplitude of the P300 component. We were able to discriminate perfectly between 12 knowledgeable subjects who viewed stimuli related to their activities and 12 nonknowledgeable subjects who viewed only irrelevant items. These results have strong implications for the use of memory-detection paradigms in criminal contexts.

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Advertising Memory: The Power of Mirror Neurons

Sophie Lacoste-Badie & Olivier Droulers
Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
As part of the insights of neuroscience available for the study of advertising, the concept of mirror neurons provides opportunities for new research. Mirror neurons are a particular class of visuomotor neurons in the brain that show activity both when an individual performs an action and when he observes another individual performing the same action. According to researchers in cognitive neuroscience, mirror neurons are the brain basis for learning by imitation. The observation of 2 types of movement specifically causes the mirror neurons activation: "grasping with the hand" and "bringing to the mouth." This article seeks to show that TV commercials, in which a character grabs a food product and brings it to his mouth, are more effective. To investigate this research question we designed a between-subjects experiment (n = 130) to compare the memorization of 2 versions of the same ad (featuring an unfamiliar mineral water brand). In the first ad version, the character grabs the product, while there is no contact between the product and the character in the second version. The article outlines that memory was higher in the grasping and drinking condition. Although we cannot conclusively say that the mirror neurons were activated when people saw the character grabbing the product in the ad, the literature on mirror neurons provides an explanatory framework for the observed results. In other words, this study points out that the discovery of mirror neurons is a very new concept for marketing, which can enrich our understanding of advertising processing.

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Testing the snake-detection hypothesis: Larger early posterior negativity in humans to pictures of snakes than to pictures of other reptiles, spiders and slugs

Jan Van Strien, Ingmar Franken & Jorg Huijding
Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, September 2014

Abstract:
According to the snake detection hypothesis (Isbell, 2006), fear specifically of snakes may have pushed evolutionary changes in the primate visual system allowing pre-attentional visual detection of fearful stimuli. A previous study demonstrated that snake pictures, when compared to spiders or bird pictures, draw more early attention as reflected by larger early posterior negativity (EPN). Here we report two studies that further tested the snake detection hypothesis. In Study 1, we tested whether the enlarged EPN is specific for snakes or also generalizes to other reptiles. Twenty-four healthy, non-phobic women watched the random rapid serial presentation of snake, crocodile, and turtle pictures. The EPN was scored as the mean activity at occipital electrodes (PO3, O1, Oz, PO4, O2) in the 225-300 ms time window after picture onset. The EPN was significantly larger for snake pictures than for pictures of the other reptiles. In Study 2, we tested whether disgust plays a role in the modulation of the EPN and whether preferential processing of snakes also can be found in men. 12 men and 12 women watched snake, spider, and slug pictures. Both men and women exhibited the largest EPN amplitudes to snake pictures, intermediate amplitudes to spider pictures and the smallest amplitudes to slug pictures. Disgust ratings were not associated with EPN amplitudes. The results replicate previous findings and suggest that ancestral priorities modulate the early capture of visual attention.

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"Good Is Up" Is Not Always Better: A Memory Advantage for Words in Metaphor-Incompatible Locations

Elizabeth Crawford, Stephanie Cohn & Arnold Kim
PLoS ONE, September 2014

Abstract:
Four experiments examined whether memory for positive and negative words depended on word location and vertical hand movements. Cognitive processing is known to be facilitated when valenced stimuli are presented in locations that are congruent with the GOOD is UP conceptual metaphor, relative to when they are presented in incongruent locations. In both free recall and recognition tasks, we find a memory advantage for words that had been studied in metaphor incongruent locations (positive down, negative up). This incongruity advantage depends on the location of words during encoding, but no evidence was found to suggest that other spatial associations, such as the vertical position of the hand at encoding or word location during retrieval, affect memory. The results indicate that metaphors, like schemas, categories, and stereotypes, can influence cognition in complex ways, producing variable outcomes across different tasks.

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From threat to safety: Instructed reversal of defensive reactions

Vincent Costa, Margaret Bradley & Peter Lang
Psychophysiology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Cues that signal the possibility of receiving an electric shock reliably induce defensive activation. To determine whether cues can also easily reverse defensive reactions, a threat reversal paradigm was developed in which a cue signaling threat of shock reversed its meaning across the course of the study. This allowed us to contrast defensive reactions to threat cues that became safe cues, with responses to cues that continued to signal threat or safety. Results showed that, when participants were instructed that a previously threatening cue now signaled safety, there was an immediate and complete attenuation of defensive reactions compared to threat cues that maintained their meaning. These findings highlight the role that language can play both in instantiating and attenuating defensive reactions, with implications for understanding emotion regulation, social communication, and clinical phenomena.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM


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