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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Group dynamics

Higher Moral Obligations of Tolerance Toward Other Minorities: An Extra Burden on Stigmatized Groups

Saulo Fernández et al.
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming

Abstract:
In four experiments, we tested whether members of stigmatized groups are expected to be more tolerant toward other minorities than members of non-stigmatized groups and assessed the consequences of disconfirming those expectancies. Experiments 1 and 2 showed that majority group members expected members of a stigmatized group to be more tolerant toward immigrants, particularly when the stigmatized minority was perceived as having overcome the negative consequences of its victimization. When this tolerance expectation was disconfirmed, stigmatized group members were judged more immoral than members of a non-stigmatized group that held the same intolerant attitudes. Experiments 3 and 4 showed that these effects were driven by the belief that stigmatized groups should derive benefits from their suffering. These findings suggest that stigmatized groups are judged according to stricter moral standards than non-stigmatized groups because majority group members need to make meaning of the undeserved suffering experienced by victims of social stigma.

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Social exclusion and xenophobia: Intolerant attitudes toward ethnic and religious minorities

Nilüfer Aydin et al.
Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, forthcoming

Abstract:
The present research investigates the effects of social exclusion on attitudes toward ethnic and religious minorities. Native-born German participants who were socially excluded rather than included reported greater approval for stricter legislation regarding the naturalization of immigrants (Study 1), reported greater prejudice against openly observant Muslims (Studies 2 and 3), and stronger agreement with the view that immigrants are financial burdens to the state (Study 4). Social exclusion threatens the sense of personal control, which in turn leads to stronger rejection of stigmatized outgroups (Study 3). When perceived control was experimentally enhanced, the social exclusion effect disappeared (Study 4). The theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed.

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Hidden Costs of Hiding Stigma: Ironic Interpersonal Consequences of Concealing a Stigmatized Identity in Social Interactions

Anna-Kaisa Newheiser & Manuela Barreto
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, May 2014, Pages 58–70

Abstract:
People who possess a concealable stigmatized identity (e.g., minority sexual orientation; history of mental illness) often hide this identity from others in order to avoid bias. Despite the possible benefits of this identity management strategy, we propose that instead of increasing acceptance, hiding a stigmatized identity can result in a lowered sense of belonging and even actual social rejection. Across four studies, we show that although individuals living with concealable stigmatized identities report a preference for hiding (vs. revealing) the identity during social interactions, hiding in fact reduces feelings of belonging — an effect that is mediated by felt inauthenticity and reduced general self-disclosure (i.e., disclosure of self-relevant information not limited to the stigmatized identity). Furthermore, the detrimental interpersonal effects of hiding (vs. revealing) a stigmatized identity are detected by external observers and non-stigmatized interaction partners. Implications for understanding the predicament of people living with stigmatized social identities are discussed.

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Racial Progress as Threat to the Status Hierarchy: Implications for Perceptions of Anti-White Bias

Clara Wilkins & Cheryl Kaiser
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
In three studies, we examined how racial progress affects Whites’ perceptions of anti-White bias. When racial progress was chronically (Study 1) and experimentally (Study 2) salient, Whites who believed the current U.S. status hierarchy was legitimate were more likely to report that Whites were victims of racial discrimination. In contrast, Whites who perceived the current status system as illegitimate were unaffected by the salience of racial progress. The results of Study 3 point to the role of threat in explaining these divergent reactions to racial progress. When self-affirmed, Whites who perceived the status hierarchy as legitimate no longer showed increased perceptions of anti-White bias when confronted with evidence of racial progress. Implications for policies designed to remedy social inequality are discussed.

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When an “Educated” Black Man Becomes Lighter in the Mind’s Eye

Avi Ben-Zeev et al.
SAGE Open, January 2014

Abstract:
We offer novel evidence that a Black man appears lighter in the mind’s eye following a counter-stereotypic prime, a phenomenon we refer to as skin tone memory bias. In Experiment 1, participants were primed subliminally with the counter-stereotypic word educated or with the stereotypic word ignorant, followed by the target stimulus of a Black man’s face. A recognition memory task for the target’s face and six lures (skin tone variations of ±25%, ±37%, and ±50%) revealed that participants primed with “educated” exhibited more memory errors with respect to lighter lures — misidentifying even the lightest lure as the target more often than counterparts primed with “ignorant.” This skin tone memory bias was replicated in Experiment 2. We situate these findings in theorizing on the mind’s striving for cognitive consistency. Black individuals who defy social stereotypes might not challenge social norms sufficiently but rather may be remembered as lighter, perpetuating status quo beliefs.

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The Impact of Hispanic and White Group Cues on Attitudes Towards the Violation of Generic Norms

Mirjam Cranmer & Skyler Cranmer
PLoS ONE, December 2013

Abstract:
While much work in political science has examined the impact of racial cues on individual perceptions, we know little about how individuals evaluate members of minority outgroups on issues that are not linked to stereotypes. We measure the impacts of Hispanic and White cues on individual assessments related to a stereotype-independent norm violation: alcoholism. We test three competing theories – cognition, intergroup emotions, and social identity – using a population-based vignette experiment included in the General Social Survey. Our results contradict much of the literature, but keep with social identity theory's predictions. Hispanic alcoholics, when Hispanics constitute the outgroup, are assessed less negatively than White alcoholics in the ingroup, the latter experiencing what is called the black sheep effect. The black sheep effect occurs when ingroup members are more punitive towards members of the ingroup than the outgroup. However, the black sheep effect does not extend to measures that are more consistent with outgroup stereotypes, such as violence or money mismanagement; Hispanic alcoholics are evaluated more negatively than Whites on these measures. The implication is that the effect of racial cues depends strongly on issue linkages to group stereotypes.

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Group membership alters the threshold for mind perception: The role of social identity, collective identification, and intergroup threat

Leor Hackel, Christine Looser & Jay Van Bavel
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, May 2014, Pages 15–23

Abstract:
Human faces are used as cues to the presence of social agents, and the ability to detect minds and mental states in others occupies a central role in social interaction. In the current research, we present evidence that the human propensity for mind perception is bound by social group membership. Specifically, we show how identification with different social groups influences the threshold for mind perception. In three experiments, participants assessed a continuum of face morphs that ranged from human to doll faces. These faces were described as in-group or out-group members. Participants had higher (i.e., more stringent) thresholds for perceiving minds behind out-group faces, both in minimal (Experiment 1) and real-world groups (Experiment 2). In other words, out-group members required more humanness than in-group members to be perceived as having minds. This intergroup bias in mind perception was moderated by collective identification, such that highly identified group members had the highest threshold for perceiving minds behind out-group relative to in-group faces. In contrast, Democrats and Republicans who perceived the other party as threatening had lower thresholds for perceiving minds behind out-group faces (Experiment 3). These experiments suggest that mind perception is a dynamic process in which relevant contextual information such as social identity and out-group threat change the interpretation of physical features that signal the presence of another mind. Implications for mind perception, dehumanization, and intergroup relations are discussed.

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When do negative response expectancies undermine interracial relations? The role of the Protestant work ethic

David Butz, Kathleen Klik & Ashby Plant
Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, forthcoming

Abstract:
Although accumulating research indicates that negative expectations about interracial interactions undermine the quality of such interactions, little research has examined the factors that moderate the influence of negative expectations on responses to interracial interactions. We propose that individuals who endorse work-related ideologies such as the Protestant work ethic (PWE) expect that outcomes in interracial interactions should be contingent upon individual effort. As a result, such individuals are hypothesized to respond in a negative manner when they believe that regardless of their effort in an interracial interaction, interaction partners will respond negatively to them (termed negative response expectancies). Consistent with this hypothesis, negative response expectancies led to an increased desire to avoid interracial interactions (Studies 1a and 1b) and more antisocial behavior directed at an interracial interaction partner among individuals who strongly endorsed the PWE (Study 2). Across the studies, effects of negative response expectancies were relatively weaker or non-significant among individuals lower in the PWE. The implications of these findings for understanding the interplay between the PWE and expectancies in interracial interactions are discussed.

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Playing with fire? The impact of the hidden curriculum in school genetics on essentialist conceptions of race

Brian Donovan
Journal of Research in Science Teaching, forthcoming

Abstract:
Race has been a longstanding topic in the biology textbook curriculum. Yet, there appears to be no research investigating whether the treatment of race in modern biology textbooks impacts how students conceptualize race. In the present study, a double-blind field experiment employing mixed-methods is used to investigate the impact of textbook-based genetics learning on essentialist conceptions of race amongst adolescents. The study was carried out in an eighth grade classroom in a California Bay Area School. Students recruited for the study (N = 43) read either a racialized or a non-racialized textbook passage on human genetic diseases and completed a reading comprehension assessment. After a short distracting task they responded to items in two different race conception instruments. Controlling for race, gender, age, prior race-conceptions, and reading comprehension, statistically significant effects were observed on both race conception instruments by treatment. Students in the racialized condition exhibited stronger essentialist conceptions of race than students in the non-racialized condition. Additionally, an exploratory analysis indicated that an understanding of Mendelian heredity moderated the observed treatment effects. The findings of the present study tentatively suggest that textbook-based instruction in school biology can inadvertently reinforce essentialist conceptions of race that underlie racial bias. Implications for teaching and research are discussed.

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Permission to be prejudiced: Legitimacy credits in the evaluation of advertisements

Beomjoon Choi, Chris Crandall & Suna La
Journal of Applied Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
We investigated discrimination in the context of evaluating advertisements, based on the suppression model (justification-suppression model [JSM]) of prejudice expression. Previous research has demonstrated that when people are given an opportunity to give a high rating to an ad featuring a Black model, a sense of nonprejudice is created, which, in turn, provides an opportunity to discriminate subsequently without feeling prejudiced. We extended the JSM by investigating whether the acquisition of legitimacy credits (a moral authority earned by demonstrating nonprejudice) is a sufficient condition to release the expression of prejudice. We found that subjects who first evaluated a high-quality ad featuring a Black model felt eligible to use legitimacy credits in subsequent evaluations. But in a subsequent study, participants who acquired these credits evaluated Black model ads more negatively than White model ads only when these ads were of low quality. The implications for evaluating the subtle way that prejudice affects rating of models of color in advertisements are discussed.

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Racial Bias in Neural Empathic Responses to Pain

Luis Sebastian Contreras-Huerta et al.
PLoS ONE, December 2013

Abstract:
Recent studies have shown that perceiving the pain of others activates brain regions in the observer associated with both somatosensory and affective-motivational aspects of pain, principally involving regions of the anterior cingulate and anterior insula cortex. The degree of these empathic neural responses is modulated by racial bias, such that stronger neural activation is elicited by observing pain in people of the same racial group compared with people of another racial group. The aim of the present study was to examine whether a more general social group category, other than race, could similarly modulate neural empathic responses and perhaps account for the apparent racial bias reported in previous studies. Using a minimal group paradigm, we assigned participants to one of two mixed-race teams. We use the term race to refer to the Chinese or Caucasian appearance of faces and whether the ethnic group represented was the same or different from the appearance of the participant' own face. Using fMRI, we measured neural empathic responses as participants observed members of their own group or other group, and members of their own race or other race, receiving either painful or non-painful touch. Participants showed clear group biases, with no significant effect of race, on behavioral measures of implicit (affective priming) and explicit group identification. Neural responses to observed pain in the anterior cingulate cortex, insula cortex, and somatosensory areas showed significantly greater activation when observing pain in own-race compared with other-race individuals, with no significant effect of minimal groups. These results suggest that racial bias in neural empathic responses is not influenced by minimal forms of group categorization, despite the clear association participants showed with in-group more than out-group members. We suggest that race may be an automatic and unconscious mechanism that drives the initial neural responses to observed pain in others.

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Racial bias in pain perception and response: Experimental examination of automatic and deliberate processes

Vani Mathur et al.
Journal of Pain, forthcoming

Abstract:
Racial disparities in pain treatment pose a significant public health and scientific problem. Prior studies demonstrate clinicians and non-clinicians are less perceptive, and suggest less treatment for, the pain of African Americans, relative to European Americans. Here we investigate the effects of explicit/implicit patient race presentation, patient race, and perceiver race on pain perception and response. African American and European American participants rated pain perception, empathy, helping motivation, and treatment suggestion in response to vignettes about patients’ pain. Vignettes were accompanied by a rapid (implicit), or static (explicit) presentation of an African or European American patient’s face. Participants perceived and responded more to European American patients in the implicit prime condition, when the effect of patient race was below the level of conscious regulation. This effect was reversed when patient race was presented explicitly. Additionally, female participants perceived and responded more to the pain of all patients, relative to male participants, and in the implicit prime condition, African American participants were more perceptive and responsive than European Americans to the pain of all patients. Taken together, these results suggest that known disparities in pain treatment may be largely due to automatic (below the level of conscious regulation), rather than deliberate (subject to conscious regulation) biases. These biases were not associated with traditional implicit measures of racial attitudes, suggesting that biases in pain perception and response may be independent of general prejudice.

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More than music! A longitudinal test of German–Polish music encounters

Dieta Kuchenbrandt et al.
International Journal of Intercultural Relations, forthcoming

Abstract:
This research examines music encounters as a hitherto unexplored type of intergroup contact intervention. We tested the short- and mid-term effects of German–Polish music encounters that either took place in Germany or in Poland, respectively, on German's attitudes toward Poles. Ninety-nine German participants completed a questionnaire one week before the encounter (t0), directly thereafter (t1), and four weeks later (t2). The control group (N = 67) did not take part in any music encounter and completed the measures twice (t0 and t2). Results revealed that attitudes toward the Polish out-group improved sustainably, but only when the encounter took place in Poland. In contrast, for encounters realized in Germany, no attitude change occurred. Implications of these findings are discussed.

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Neighborhood Ethnic Diversity and Trust: The Role of Intergroup Contact and Perceived Threat

Katharina Schmid, Ananthi Al Ramiah & Miles Hewstone
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
This research reported here speaks to a contentious debate concerning the potential negative consequences of diversity for trust. We tested the relationship between neighborhood diversity and out-group, in-group, and neighborhood trust, taking into consideration previously untested indirect effects via intergroup contact and perceived intergroup threat. A large-scale national survey in England sampled White British majority (N = 868) and ethnic minority (N = 798) respondents from neighborhoods of varying degrees of diversity. Multilevel path analyses showed some negative direct effects of diversity for the majority group but also confirmed predictions that diversity was associated indirectly with increased trust via positive contact and lower threat. These indirect effects had positive implications for total effects of diversity, cancelling out most negative direct effects. Our findings have relevance for a growing body of research seeking to disentangle effects of diversity on trust that has so far largely ignored the key role of intergroup contact.

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The (In)compatibility of Diversity and Sense of Community

Zachary Neal & Jennifer Watling Neal
American Journal of Community Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Community psychologists are interested in creating contexts that promote both respect for diversity and sense of community. However, recent theoretical and empirical work has uncovered a community-diversity dialectic wherein the contextual conditions that foster respect for diversity often run in opposition to those that foster sense of community. More specifically, within neighborhoods, residential integration provides opportunities for intergroup contact that are necessary to promote respect for diversity but may prevent the formation of dense interpersonal networks that are necessary to promote sense of community. Using agent-based modeling to simulate neighborhoods and neighborhood social network formation, we explore whether the community-diversity dialectic emerges from two principles of relationship formation: homophily and proximity. The model suggests that when people form relationships with similar and nearby others, the contexts that offer opportunities to develop a respect for diversity are different from the contexts that foster a sense of community. Based on these results, we conclude with a discussion of whether it is possible to create neighborhoods that simultaneously foster respect for diversity and sense of community.

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Changing prejudiced attitudes by thinking about persuasive messages: Implications for resistance

Miguel Cárdaba et al.
Journal of Applied Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
This research showed that changing attitudes toward stigmatized groups can result from both the simple processes that require little thinking and the traditional elaborative forms of persuasion that require high thinking processes. Importantly, even when the obtained attitude change was equivalent for situations in which there was high and low message elaboration, the changes produced in high thinking conditions were found to be more resistant to further attacks than equivalent changes produced by less thoughtful mechanisms. Not only were those attitudes more resistant as measured objectively (Study 1) but participants also perceived their attitudes to be subjectively more resistant (Study 2). These studies suggest that examining the processes by which prejudice is changed can be important for understanding the consequences and long-term implications of treatments and campaigns oriented to changing attitudes toward stigmatized groups.

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Does Inter-group Deliberation Foster Inter-group Appreciation? Evidence from Two Experiments in Belgium

Didier Caluwaerts & Min Reuchamps
Politics, forthcoming

Abstract:
Deliberative democrats assume that political deliberation is capable of transforming citizens’ opinions and attitudes. This article takes this assumption as a starting point and tries to test it empirically by determining whether deliberation in an inter-group setting induces more positive out-group attitudes. Based on data from two deliberative experiments in Belgium, we argue that the overall effect of deliberative quality on attitude change is limited. The most important determinant of changes in out-group attitudes is the group composition. Citizens who are confronted with the out-group are more likely to hold more positive out-group attitudes afterwards.

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Perspective-Taking Increases Willingness to Engage in Intergroup Contact

Cynthia Wang et al.
PLoS ONE, January 2014

Abstract:
The current research explored whether perspective-taking increases willingness to engage in contact with stereotyped outgroup members. Across three studies, we find that perspective-taking increases willingness to engage in contact with negatively-stereotyped targets. In Study 1, perspective-takers sat closer to, whereas stereotype suppressors sat further from, a hooligan compared to control participants. In Study 2, individual differences in perspective-taking tendencies predicted individuals' willingness to engage in contact with a hooligan, having effects above and beyond those of empathic concern. Finally, Study 3 demonstrated that perspective-taking's effects on intergroup contact extend to the target's group (i.e., another homeless man), but not to other outgroups (i.e., a man of African descent). Consistent with other perspective-taking research, our findings show that perspective-taking facilitates the creation of social bonds by increasing contact with stereotyped outgroup members.

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Good education for all? Student race and identity development in the multicultural classroom

Daniela Martin
International Journal of Intercultural Relations, forthcoming

Abstract:
This study examined the role of ethnic identity in students’ responses to a multicultural curriculum. Specifically, it tested group differences in the key premise of multicultural education, which is that learning about other groups affects students’ identity formation and that this learning translates into skills critical to academic success, intergroup harmony, and promotion of democratic values. The results provided partial support of the hypothesis. Participating in a curriculum focusing on race and ethnicity yielded more benefits to White than non-White students, suggesting that Whites may be uniquely positioned to benefit from multiculturalism. Possible mechanisms underlying the different outcomes of multicultural education for various groups of students are discussed.

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Face Recognition and Own-Ethnicity Bias in Black, East/Southeast Asian, Hispanic, and White Children

Thomas Gross
Asian American Journal of Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Individuals tend to recognize persons of their own ethnicity better than those of another, a phenomenon known as own-ethnicity bias. One explanation of this bias is the contact hypothesis, that is, face recognition is better for ethnic faces that are seen more often. Own ethnicity bias in children, specifically Hispanic children, has received little attention and this study examined own-ethnicity bias in Black (n = 53), East/Southeast Asian (n = 54), Hispanic (n = 96), and White (n = 247) children 5–7, 9–11, 13–16 years of age from southern California. With the majority of individuals in southern California being Hispanic or White, the contact hypothesis predicts that children should recognize own-ethnicity faces better than other-ethnicity faces and other-ethnicity Hispanic and White faces better than Asian or Black faces. Children were shown 32 adult and child, men and women Asian, Black, Hispanic, and White faces. They were then asked to recognize previously seen faces from a set of old and new faces. Own-ethnicity bias was found for Hispanic and White participants. Some support was found for the contact hypothesis, that is, Hispanic and White children recognized Hispanic and White faces better than Black faces, and for White children, better than Asian faces. Contrary to expectations, Hispanic children recognized Asian faces better than Black faces; and, Asian and Black children exhibited no significant bias. An alternative explanation of face recognition biases focused on children’s attitudes toward ethnic groups.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Monday, January 27, 2014

Frozen

What Scientists Know Is Not a Function of What Scientists Know

P.D. Magnus
Philosophy of Science, December 2013, Pages 840-849

Abstract:
There are two senses of ‘what scientists know’: An individual sense (the separate opinions of individual scientists) and a collective sense (the state of the discipline). The latter is what matters for policy and planning, but it is not something that can be directly observed or reported. A function can be defined to map individual judgments onto an aggregate judgment. I argue that such a function cannot effectively capture community opinion, especially in cases that matter to us.

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Special Interests and the Media: Theory and an Application to Climate Change

Jesse Shapiro
NBER Working Paper, January 2014

Abstract:
I present a model in which competing special interests seek policy influence through the news media. In the model a journalist reports on expert opinion to a voter. Two competing interested parties can invest to acquire credentialed advocates to represent their positions in the press. Because advocates are easier to obtain when expert opinion is divided, the activities of special interests can reveal useful information to the voter. However, competition among special interests can also reduce the amount of information communicated to the voter, especially on issues with large economic stakes and a high likelihood of a scientific consensus. The model provides an account of persistent voter ignorance on climate change and other high-stakes scientific topics.

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Sensitivity of collective action to uncertainty about climate tipping points

Scott Barrett & Astrid Dannenberg
Nature Climate Change, January 2014, Pages 36–39

Abstract:
Despite more than two decades of diplomatic effort, concentrations of greenhouse gases continue to trend upwards, creating the risk that we may someday cross a threshold for ‘dangerous’ climate change. Although climate thresholds are very uncertain, new research is trying to devise ‘early warning signals’ of an approaching tipping point. This research offers a tantalizing promise: whereas collective action fails when threshold uncertainty is large, reductions in this uncertainty may bring about the behavioural change needed to avert a climate ‘catastrophe’. Here we present the results of an experiment, rooted in a game-theoretic model, showing that behaviour differs markedly either side of a dividing line for threshold uncertainty. On one side of the dividing line, where threshold uncertainty is relatively large, free riding proves irresistible and trust illusive, making it virtually inevitable that the tipping point will be crossed. On the other side, where threshold uncertainty is small, the incentive to coordinate is strong and trust more robust, often leading the players to avoid crossing the tipping point. Our results show that uncertainty must be reduced to this ‘good’ side of the dividing line to stimulate the behavioural shift needed to avoid ‘dangerous’ climate change.

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Long-term climate policy implications of phasing out fossil fuel subsidies

Valeria Jana Schwanitz et al.
Energy Policy, forthcoming

Abstract:
It is often argued that fossil fuel subsidies hamper the transition towards a sustainable energy supply as they incentivize wasteful consumption. We assess implications of a subsidy phase-out for the mitigation of climate change and the low-carbon transformation of the energy system, using the global energy–economy model REMIND. We compare our results with those obtained by the International Energy Agency (based on the World Energy Model) and by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD-Model ENV-Linkages), providing the long-term perspective of an intertemporal optimization model. The results are analyzed in the two dimensions of subsidy phase-out and climate policy scenarios. We confirm short-term benefits of phasing-out fossil fuel subsidies as found in prior studies. However, these benefits are only sustained to a small extent in the long term, if dedicated climate policies are weak or nonexistent. Most remarkably we find that a removal of fossil fuel subsidies, if not complemented by other policies, can slow down a global transition towards a renewable based energy system. The reason is that world market prices for fossil fuels may drop due to a removal of subsidies. Thus, low carbon alternatives would encounter comparative disadvantages.

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The Cost of Carbon Dioxide Abatement from State Renewable Portfolio Standards

Erik Johnson
Resource and Energy Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPSs) have become a popular tool for state governments to promote renewable electricity generation and to decrease carbon dioxide emissions within a state or region. Renewable portfolio standards are a policy tool likely to persist for many decades due to the long term goals of many state RPSs and the likely creation of a federal RPS alongside any comprehensive climate change bill. Even though RPSs have become a popular policy tool, there is little empirical evidence about their costs. Using the temporal and regional variation in RPS requirements, I estimate the long-run price elasticity of supply of renewable electricity generation to be 2.67 (95% CI of 1.74, 3.60). Using my preferred elasticity estimate, I calculate the marginal cost of abatement from RPSs is at least $11 per ton of CO2 compared to a marginal cost of abatement of $3 per ton in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

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Engaging with energy reduction: Does a climate change frame have the potential for achieving broader sustainable behaviour?

A. Spence et al.
Journal of Environmental Psychology, June 2014, Pages 17–28

Abstract:
Reducing energy use is key in meeting ambitious climate change targets being set around the world. This research considers the psychological impact, and potential for behavioural spillover, resulting from receiving energy information framed in terms of financial costs or the environment. We utilised an online tool in order to present undergraduate participants with an energy display simulation of their own energy use and presented energy use in terms of kilowatt-hours, carbon dioxide (CO2), or costs. Study 1 found increased motivations to save energy for climate change reasons and some indications that environmental behaviour might increase after participants received CO2 information compared to alternatives. Study 2 found that CO2 information increased climate change salience, which mediated effects observed on environmental behaviour intentions. Data suggest that highlighting climate change in relation to energy savings may be useful for promoting broader environmental behaviour.

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Increasing frequency of extreme El Niño events due to greenhouse warming

Wenju Cai et al.
Nature Climate Change, forthcoming

Abstract:
El Niño events are a prominent feature of climate variability with global climatic impacts. The 1997/98 episode, often referred to as ‘the climate event of the twentieth century’, and the 1982/83 extreme El Niño, featured a pronounced eastward extension of the west Pacific warm pool and development of atmospheric convection, and hence a huge rainfall increase, in the usually cold and dry equatorial eastern Pacific. Such a massive reorganization of atmospheric convection, which we define as an extreme El Niño, severely disrupted global weather patterns, affecting ecosystems, agriculture, tropical cyclones, drought, bushfires, floods and other extreme weather events worldwide. Potential future changes in such extreme El Niño occurrences could have profound socio-economic consequences. Here we present climate modelling evidence for a doubling in the occurrences in the future in response to greenhouse warming. We estimate the change by aggregating results from climate models in the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phases 3 (CMIP3) and 5 (CMIP5) multi-model databases, and a perturbed physics ensemble. The increased frequency arises from a projected surface warming over the eastern equatorial Pacific that occurs faster than in the surrounding ocean waters, facilitating more occurrences of atmospheric convection in the eastern equatorial region.

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Quantifying and Valuing Potential Climate Change Impacts on Coral Reefs in the United States: Comparison of Two Scenarios

Diana Lane et al.
PLoS ONE, December 2013

Abstract:
The biological and economic values of coral reefs are highly vulnerable to increasing atmospheric and ocean carbon dioxide concentrations. We applied the COMBO simulation model (COral Mortality and Bleaching Output) to three major U.S. locations for shallow water reefs: South Florida, Puerto Rico, and Hawaii. We compared estimates of future coral cover from 2000 to 2100 for a “business as usual” (BAU) greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions scenario with a GHG mitigation policy scenario involving full international participation in reducing GHG emissions. We also calculated the economic value of changes in coral cover using a benefit transfer approach based on published studies of consumers' recreational values for snorkeling and diving on coral reefs as well as existence values for coral reefs. Our results suggest that a reduced emissions scenario would provide a large benefit to shallow water reefs in Hawaii by delaying or avoiding potential future bleaching events. For Hawaii, reducing emissions is projected to result in an estimated “avoided loss” from 2000 to 2100 of approximately $10.6 billion in recreational use values compared to a BAU scenario. However, reducing emissions is projected to provide only a minor economic benefit in Puerto Rico and South Florida, where sea-surface temperatures are already close to bleaching thresholds and coral cover is projected to drop well below 5% cover under both scenarios by 2050, and below 1% cover under both scenarios by 2100.

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A comparison of projected future precipitation in Wisconsin using global and downscaled climate model simulations: Implications for public health

Stephen Vavrus & Ruben Behnke
International Journal of Climatology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Motivated by the documented linkage between water-borne disease outbreaks and heavy rainfall, we compare simulations of precipitation in Wisconsin from two different downscaling procedures (statistical and dynamical) and global climate models (GCMs) for the late 20th and middle 21st centuries (SRES A2 greenhouse emissions scenario). In the inter-model mean, all the three methods produce reasonably accurate simulations of seasonal and annual precipitation amounts during the historical period of 1971–2000 (yearly biases <5%), but the GCMs severely underestimate extreme precipitation compared with downscaled output and observations. The modelling methodologies agree that Wisconsin should experience a modestly wetter future climate (annual increase <10%) by the middle 21st century (2041–2070), comprised of more precipitation during winter, spring, and autumn but an equivocal summertime signal. The future simulations also exhibit robust increases in the frequency and intensity of extreme daily precipitation, consisting of larger relative changes in the return periods of heavy events (up to −50%) than in the accumulations (<30%). Although the modelling procedures vary substantially in their projected absolute differences in future precipitation, they agree surprisingly well on the simulated relative differences (percent change) of both mean and extreme precipitation. Unfortunately, there is little consistency in the simulated spatial patterns of future precipitation change across Wisconsin, complicating societal adaptation measures to enhanced extremes. Nevertheless, the composite projections presented here suggest that impending hydrological changes in Wisconsin represent a public health threat, by virtue of increasingly extreme precipitation promoting water-borne disease outbreaks.

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Less Reliable Water Availability in the 21st Century Climate Projections

Sanjiv Kumar et al.
Earth's Future, forthcoming

Abstract:
The temporal variability of river and soil water affects society at time scales ranging from hourly to decadal. The available water (AW), i.e. precipitation minus evapotranspiration, represents the total water available for runoff, soil water storage change and ground water recharge. The reliability of AW is defined as the annual range of AW between local wet and dry seasons. A smaller annual range represents greater reliability and a larger range denotes less reliability. Here we assess the reliability of AW in the 21st century climate projections by 20 climate models from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Inter-comparison Project (CMIP5). The multi-model consensus suggests less reliable AW in the 21st century than the 20th century with generally decreasing AW in local dry seasons and increasing AW in local wet seasons. In addition to the canonical perspective from climate models that wet regions will get wetter, this study suggests greater dryness during dry seasons even in regions where the mean climate becomes wetter. Lower emission scenarios show significant advantages in terms of minimizing impacts on AW, but do not eliminate these impacts altogether.

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Differences among OECD countries’ GHG emissions: Causes and policy implications

K.S. Calbick & Thomas Gunton
Energy Policy, forthcoming

Abstract:
This article assesses the reasons for observed differences in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions among high-income OECD countries. Nine factors were tested: climate, population pressure (measured as both growth and density), economic output per capita, technological development, industrial structure, energy prices, environmental governance, pollution abatement and control expenditures, and environmental pricing. Based on a series of regression analyses, three factors – energy prices, economic output per capita, and environmental governance – were identified as the most important factors for explaining differences in OECD per capita GHG emissions. Combined, these three factors explain about 81% of the variation observed in OECD per capita GHG emissions. Individually, energy prices explains about 55% of the variation in per capita GHG emissions, while economic output per capita explains about 19%, and environmental governance about 7%. These findings show that behavioural choices based on existing technologies, rather than exogenous factors such as climate, determine differences in GHG emissions and, therefore, policy options to change behaviour such as increasing energy prices and other regulatory changes have the potential to significantly reduce GHG emissions.

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Historical trends in greenhouse gas emissions of the Alberta oil sands (1970–2010)

Jacob Englander, Sharad Bharadwaj & Adam Brandt
Environmental Research Letters, November 2013

Abstract:
There has been increased scrutiny of the Alberta oil sands due to their high carbon intensity (CI) relative to conventional crude oil. Relying entirely on public and peer-reviewed data sources, we examine historical trends in the CI of oil sands extraction, upgrading, and refining. Monthly data were collected and interpolated from 1970 to 2010 (inclusive) for each oil sands project. Results show a reduction in oil sands CI over time, with industry-average full-fuel cycle (well-to-wheels, WTW) CI declining from 165 gCO2e MJ−1 higher heating value (HHV) of reformulated gasoline (RFG) to 105 (−12, +9) gCO2e MJ−1 HHV RFG. 2010 averages by production pathways are 102 gCO2e MJ−1 for Mining and 111 gCO2e MJ−1 for in situ. The CI of mining-based projects has declined due to upgrader efficiency improvements and a shift away from coke to natural gas as a process fuel. In situ projects have benefitted from substantial reductions in fugitive emissions from bitumen batteries. Both mining and in situ projects have benefitted from improved refining efficiencies. However, despite these improvements, the CI of oil sands production (on a pathway-average basis) ranges from 12 to 24% higher than CI values from conventional oil production. Due to growing output, total emissions from the oil sands continue to increase despite improved efficiency: total upstream emissions were roughly 65 MtCO2e in 2010, or 9% of Canada's emissions.

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Reduced Emissions of CO2, NOx and SO2 from U.S. Power Plants Due to the Switch from Coal to Natural Gas with Combined Cycle Technology

J.A. de Gouw et al.
Earth's Future, forthcoming

Abstract:
Since 1997, an increasing fraction of electric power in the U.S. has been generated from natural gas. Here, we use data from continuous emissions monitoring systems (CEMS), which measure emissions at the stack of most U.S. electric power generation units, to investigate how this switch affected the emissions of CO2, NOx and SO2. Per unit of energy produced, natural gas power plants equipped with combined cycle technology emit on average 44% of the CO2 compared with coal power plants. As a result of the increased use of natural gas, CO2 emissions from U.S. fossil-fuel power plants were 23% lower in 2012 than they would have been, if coal had continued to provide the same fraction of electric power as in 1997. In addition, natural gas power plants with combined cycle technology emit less NOx and far less SO2 per unit energy produced than coal power plants. The increased use of natural gas has therefore led to emissions reductions of NOx (40%) and SO2 (44%), in addition to those obtained from the implementation of emissions control systems on coal power plants. These benefits to air quality and climate should be weighed against the increase in emissions of methane, volatile organic compounds and other trace gases that are associated with the production, processing, storage and transport of natural gas.

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Small influence of solar variability on climate over the past millennium

Andrew Schurer, Simon Tett & Gabriele Hegerl
Nature Geoscience, forthcoming

Abstract:
The climate of the past millennium was marked by substantial decadal and centennial scale variability in the Northern Hemisphere. Low solar activity has been linked to cooling during the Little Ice Age (AD 1450–1850) and there may have been solar forcing of regional warmth during the Medieval Climate Anomaly (AD 950–1250). The amplitude of the associated changes is, however, poorly constrained, with estimates of solar forcing spanning almost an order of magnitude. Numerical simulations tentatively indicate that a small amplitude best agrees with available temperature reconstructions. Here we compare the climatic fingerprints of high and low solar forcing derived from model simulations with an ensemble of surface air temperature reconstructions for the past millennium. Our methodology also accounts for internal climate variability and other external drivers such as volcanic eruptions, as well as uncertainties in the proxy reconstructions and model output. We find that neither a high magnitude of solar forcing nor a strong climate effect of that forcing agree with the temperature reconstructions. We instead conclude that solar forcing probably had a minor effect on Northern Hemisphere climate over the past 1,000 years, while, volcanic eruptions and changes in greenhouse gas concentrations seem to be the most important influence over this period.

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Future Arctic Climate Changes: Adaptation and Mitigation Timescales

James Overland et al.
Earth's Future, forthcoming

Abstract:
The climate in the Arctic is changing faster than in mid-latitudes. This is shown by increased temperatures, loss of summer sea ice, earlier snow melt, impacts on ecosystems, and increased economic access. Arctic sea ice volume has decreased by 75 % since the 1980s. Long-lasting global anthropogenic forcing from CO2 has increased over the previous decades and is anticipated to increase over the next decades. Temperature increases in response to greenhouse gases are amplified in the Arctic through feedback processes associated with shifts in albedo, ocean and land heat storage, and near-surface longwave radiation fluxes. Thus for the next few decades out to 2040, continuing environmental changes in the Arctic are very likely, and the appropriate response is to plan for adaptation to these changes. For example, it is very likely that the Arctic Ocean will become nearly seasonally sea ice free before 2050 and possibly within a decade or two, which in turn will further increase Arctic temperatures, economic access, and ecological shifts. Mitigation becomes an important option to reduce potential Arctic impacts in the second half of the 21st century. Using the most recent set of climate model projections (CMIP5), multi-model mean temperature projections show an Arctic-wide end of century increase of +13 ° C in late fall and +5 ° C in late spring for a business as usual emission scenario (RCP8.5) in contrast to +7 ° C in late fall and + 3° C in late spring if civilization follows a mitigation scenario (RCP4.5). Such temperature increases demonstrate the heightened sensitivity of the Arctic to greenhouse gas forcing.

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Weakened tropical circulation and reduced precipitation in response to geoengineering

Angus Ferraro, Eleanor Highwood & Andrew Charlton-Perez
Environmental Research Letters, January 2014

Abstract:
Geoengineering by injection of reflective aerosols into the stratosphere has been proposed as a way to counteract the warming effect of greenhouse gases by reducing the intensity of solar radiation reaching the surface. Here, climate model simulations are used to examine the effect of geoengineering on the tropical overturning circulation. The strength of the circulation is related to the atmospheric static stability and has implications for tropical rainfall. The tropical circulation is projected to weaken under anthropogenic global warming. Geoengineering with stratospheric sulfate aerosol does not mitigate this weakening of the circulation. This response is due to a fast adjustment of the troposphere to radiative heating from the aerosol layer. This effect is not captured when geoengineering is modelled as a reduction in total solar irradiance, suggesting caution is required when interpreting model results from solar dimming experiments as analogues for stratospheric aerosol geoengineering.

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Changes in Seasonal Predictability due to Global Warming

Timothy DelSole et al.
Journal of Climate, January 2014, Pages 300–311

Abstract:
The change in predictability of monthly mean temperature in a future climate is quantified based on the Community Climate System Model, version 4. According to this model, the North Atlantic overtakes the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) as the dominant area of seasonal predictability by 2095. This change arises partly because ENSO becomes less variable and partly because the ENSO teleconnection pattern expands into the Atlantic. Over land, the largest change in temperature predictability occurs in the tropics and is predominantly due to a decrease in ENSO variability. The southern peninsula of Africa and northeast South America are predicted to experience significant drying in a future climate, which decreases the effective heat capacity and memory, and hence increases variance independently of ENSO changes. Extratropical land areas experience enhanced precipitation in a future climate, which decreases temperature variance by the same mechanism. Finally, the model predicts that surface temperatures near the poles will become more predictable and less variable in a future climate, primarily because melting sea ice exposes the underlying sea surface temperature, which is more predictable owing to its longer time scale. Some of these results, especially the change in ENSO variance, are known to be model dependent. This paper also advances the use of information theory to quantify predictability, including 1) deriving a quantitative relation between predictability of the first and second kinds; 2) showing how differences in predictability can be decomposed in two dramatically different ways, facilitating physical interpretation; and 3) proposing a sample estimate of mutual information whose significance can be tested using standard techniques.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Sunday, January 26, 2014

It's personal

The Scent of Disease: Human Body Odor Contains an Early Chemosensory Cue of Sickness

Mats Olsson et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Observational studies have suggested that with time, some diseases result in a characteristic odor emanating from different sources on the body of a sick individual. Evolutionarily, however, it would be more advantageous if the innate immune response were detectable by healthy individuals as a first line of defense against infection by various pathogens, to optimize avoidance of contagion. We activated the innate immune system in healthy individuals by injecting them with endotoxin (lipopolysaccharide). Within just a few hours, endotoxin-exposed individuals had a more aversive body odor relative to when they were exposed to a placebo. Moreover, this effect was statistically mediated by the individuals’ level of immune activation. This chemosensory detection of the early innate immune response in humans represents the first experimental evidence that disease smells and supports the notion of a “behavioral immune response” that protects healthy individuals from sick ones by altering patterns of interpersonal contact.

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Are You Feeling What I’m Feeling? Emotional Similarity Buffers Stress

Sarah Townsend, Heejung Kim & Batja Mesquita
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
We examine the idea that it is beneficial for people in threatening situations to affiliate with others who are experiencing similar, relative to dissimilar, emotions. Pairs of participants waited together and then engaged in a laboratory stressor (i.e., giving a speech). We created an index of each pair’s emotional similarity using participants’ emotional states. We also measured how threatening participants perceived the speech task to be (i.e., whether they had high vs. low dispositional fear of public speaking). We hypothesized that perceiving greater threat in the situation would be associated with greater stress, but interacting with someone who is emotionally similar would buffer individuals from this heightened stress. Confirming our hypotheses, greater initial dyadic emotional similarity was associated with a reduced cortisol response and lower reported stress among participants who feared public speaking.

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Polymorphisms of the OXTR gene explain why sales professionals love to help customers

Willem Verbeke et al.
Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, November 2013

Abstract:
Polymorphisms of the OXTR gene affect people's social interaction styles in various social encounters: carriers of the OXTR GG, compared to the OXTR AA/AG in general, are more motivated to interact socially and detect social salience. We focus on sales professionals operating in knowledge intensive organizations. Study 1, with a sample of 141 sales people, shows that carriers of the OXTR GG allele, compared to the OXTR AA/AG allele, are more motivated to help customers than to manipulatively impose goods/services on them. Study 2, using genomic functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) on a sample of 21 sales professionals processing facial pictures with different emotional valences, investigates key nuclei of social brain regions (SBRs). Compared to OXTR AA/AG carriers, OXTR GG carriers experience greater effective connectivity between SBRs of interest measured by Granger causality tests using univariate Haugh tests. In addition, the multivariate El-Himdi and Roy tests demonstrate that the amygdala, prefrontal cortex, and pars opercularis (inferior frontal gyrus) play key roles when processing emotional expressions. The bilateral amygdala and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) show significantly greater clout—influence on other brain regions—for GG allele carriers than non-carriers; likewise, the bilateral pars opercularis, left amygdala, and left mPFC are more receptive to activity in other brain regions among GG allele carriers than AG/AA allele carriers are. Thus, carriers of the OXTR GG allele are more sensitive to changes in emotional cues, enhancing social salience. To our knowledge, this is the first study on how insights from imaging genetics help understanding of the social motivation of people operating in a professional setting.

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The relationship between cell phone use, academic performance, anxiety, and Satisfaction with Life in college students

Andrew Lepp, Jacob Barkley & Aryn Karpinski
Computers in Human Behavior, February 2014, Pages 343–350

Abstract:
While functional differences between today’s cell phones and traditional computers are becoming less clear, one difference remains plain – cell phones are almost always on-hand and allow users to connect with an array of services and networks at almost any time and any place. The Pew Center’s Internet and American Life Project suggests that college students are the most rapid adopters of cell phone technology and research is emerging which suggests high frequency cell phone use may be influencing their health and behavior. Thus, we investigated the relationships between total cell phone use (N = 496) and texting (N = 490) on Satisfaction with Life (SWL) in a large sample of college students. It was hypothesized that the relationship would be mediated by Academic Performance (GPA) and anxiety. Two separate path models indicated that the cell phone use and texting models had good overall fit. Cell phone use/texting was negatively related to GPA and positively related to anxiety; in turn, GPA was positively related to SWL while anxiety was negatively related to SWL. These findings add to the debate about student cell phone use, and how increased use may negatively impact academic performance, mental health, and subjective well-being or happiness.

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Persistence of social signatures in human communication

Jari Saramäki et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 21 January 2014, Pages 942–947

Abstract:
The social network maintained by a focal individual, or ego, is intrinsically dynamic and typically exhibits some turnover in membership over time as personal circumstances change. However, the consequences of such changes on the distribution of an ego’s network ties are not well understood. Here we use a unique 18-mo dataset that combines mobile phone calls and survey data to track changes in the ego networks and communication patterns of students making the transition from school to university or work. Our analysis reveals that individuals display a distinctive and robust social signature, captured by how interactions are distributed across different alters. Notably, for a given ego, these social signatures tend to persist over time, despite considerable turnover in the identity of alters in the ego network. Thus, as new network members are added, some old network members either are replaced or receive fewer calls, preserving the overall distribution of calls across network members. This is likely to reflect the consequences of finite resources such as the time available for communication, the cognitive and emotional effort required to sustain close relationships, and the ability to make emotional investments.

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The BlackBerry Project: The Hidden World of Adolescents' Text Messaging and Relations With Internalizing Symptoms

Marion Underwood et al.
Journal of Research on Adolescence, forthcoming

Abstract:
In this naturalistic study of adolescents' text messaging, participants (N = 172, 81 girls, age 14) were given BlackBerry devices configured to save their text messages to a secure archive for coding. Two 2-day transcripts collected 4 months apart within the same academic year were microcoded for content. Results showed that most text message utterances were positive or neutral and that adolescents sent text messages primarily to peers and to romantic partners. Only a few sex differences emerged. Frequency of text messages containing negative talk positively predicted overall internalizing symptoms and anxious depression. Text messaging about sex was positively associated with overall internalizing and somatic complaints for girls, but not for boys.

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Facebook User Research Using a Probability-Based Sample and Behavioral Data

Tom Wells & Michael Link
Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, forthcoming

Abstract:
Research on Facebook users is often based on small convenience samples and on usage data collected through survey self-reports. The current research contributes to Facebook user research, as it is based on a large, nationally representative, probability-based, U.S. sample with Internet usage data collected from meters. Results revealed that 50% of sample members are recent Facebook users. However, within this group, there is wide variation in amount of usage between heavy, medium, and light users. Finally, based on a multivariate analysis, Facebook users are significantly more likely to be women, teens, whites, and adults with at least a high school diploma. These demographic patterns apply to heavy, medium, and light Facebook users.

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Common polymorphism in the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) is associated with human social recognition skills

David Skuse et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming

Abstract:
The neuropeptides oxytocin and vasopressin are evolutionarily conserved regulators of social perception and behavior. Evidence is building that they are critically involved in the development of social recognition skills within rodent species, primates, and humans. We investigated whether common polymorphisms in the genes encoding the oxytocin and vasopressin 1a receptors influence social memory for faces. Our sample comprised 198 families, from the United Kingdom and Finland, in whom a single child had been diagnosed with high-functioning autism. Previous research has shown that impaired social perception, characteristic of autism, extends to the first-degree relatives of autistic individuals, implying heritable risk. Assessments of face recognition memory, discrimination of facial emotions, and direction of gaze detection were standardized for age (7–60 y) and sex. A common SNP in the oxytocin receptor (rs237887) was strongly associated with recognition memory in combined probands, parents, and siblings after correction for multiple comparisons. Homozygotes for the ancestral A allele had impairments in the range −0.6 to −1.15 SD scores, irrespective of their diagnostic status. Our findings imply that a critical role for the oxytocin system in social recognition has been conserved across perceptual boundaries through evolution, from olfaction in rodents to visual memory in humans.

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Entitlement is about ‘others’, narcissism is not: Relations to sociotropic and autonomous interpersonal styles

Karen Rose & Phyllis Anastasio
Personality and Individual Differences, March 2014, Pages 50–53

Abstract:
Although narcissism and psychological entitlement are correlated, they may predict different patterns of interpersonal relationships. We hypothesized that narcissism is primarily about the self, while entitlement is about the self in relation to others. Therefore interpersonal relationships should play a minimal role in narcissism but should occupy a larger role in entitlement. To test this, we had 621 undergraduate students complete the Personal Style Inventory II which measures sociotropic (dependence) and autonomous (independence) interpersonal styles as well as the Psychological Entitlement Scale and the Narcissistic Personality Inventory. We analyzed the variance explained by entitlement and by narcissism for each interpersonal style and their subscales. Narcissism negatively predicted sociotropy and was unrelated to autonomy, indicating low levels of dependence without being overly-independent. Conversely, entitlement positively predicted both sociotropy and autonomy, revealing an inconsistent mix of dependence on others and a need for independence from them. Therefore, although psychological entitlement and narcissism share a self-centric orientation, the two constructs differ in terms of orientation to others.

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The influence of personality on social attention

David Wu et al.
Personality and Individual Differences, forthcoming

Abstract:
The intersection between personality psychology and the study of social attention has been relatively untouched. We present an initial study that investigates the influence of the Big Five personality traits on eye movement behaviour towards social stimuli. By combining a free-viewing eye-tracking paradigm with canonical correlation and regression analyses, we discover that personality relates to fixations towards eye regions. Specifically, Extraversion and Agreeableness were related to greater gaze selection, while Openness to Experience was related to diminished gaze selection. The results demonstrate that who a person is affects how they move their eyes to social stimuli. The results also indicate that personality is a stronger factor in predicting social attention than past studies have suggested. Critical to the influence of personality on attention is the social situations viewers are placed in.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Eligible

The Effect of Ecological Harshness on Perceptions of the Ideal Female Body Size: An Experimental Life History Approach

Sarah Hill et al.
Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
Why do researchers regularly observe a relationship between ecological conditions and the heaviness of female body weight ideals? The current research uses insights from life history theory and female reproductive physiology to examine whether variability in female body ideals might emerge from the different life history strategies typically adopted by individuals living in harsh versus benign ecologies. Across three experiments, we demonstrate that women who were sensitized to faster life history strategies during childhood – as indexed by earlier menarche or lower childhood SES – respond to cues of ecological harshness by shifting away from the thin body weight typically favored by Western women toward a heavier female body ideal. Additionally, although men’s perceptions of the ideal male body size did not shift in response to these cues, their perceptions of the ideal female body size did, with developmentally sensitized men also preferring a heavier female body size in the context of harsh ecologies.

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Political Ideology and Racial Preferences in Online Dating

Ashton Anderson et al.
Stanford Working Paper, October 2013

Abstract:
What explains the relative persistence of same-race romantic relationships? One possible explanation is structural -- this phenomenon could reflect the fact that social interactions are already stratified along racial lines -- while another attributes these patterns to individual-level preferences. We present novel evidence from an online dating community involving more than 250,000 people in the United States about the frequency with which individuals both express a preference for same-race romantic partners and act to choose same-race partners. Prior work suggests that political ideology is an important correlate of conservative attitudes about race in the United States, and we find that conservatives, including both men and women and Blacks and Whites, are much more likely than liberals to state a preference for same-race partners. Further, conservatives are not simply more selective in general; they are specifically selective with regard to race. Do these stated preferences predict real behaviors? In general, we find that stated preferences are a strong predictor of a behavioral preference for same-race partners, and that this pattern persists across ideological groups. At the same time, both men and women of all political persuasions act as if they prefer same-race relationships even when they claim not to. As a result, the gap between conservatives and liberals in revealed same-race preferences, while still substantial, is not as pronounced as their stated attitudes would suggest. We conclude by discussing some implications of our findings for the broader issues of racial homogamy and segregation.

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Judging a Man by the Width of His Face: The Role of Facial Ratios and Dominance in Mate Choice at Speed-Dating Events

Katherine Valentine et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Previous research has shown that men with higher facial width-to-height ratios (fWHRs) have higher testosterone and are more aggressive, more powerful, and more financially successful. We tested whether they are also more attractive to women in the ecologically valid mating context of speed dating. Men’s fWHR was positively associated with their perceived dominance, likelihood of being chosen for a second date, and attractiveness to women for short-term, but not long-term, relationships. Perceived dominance (by itself and through physical attractiveness) mediated the relationship between fWHR and attractiveness to women for short-term relationships. Furthermore, men’s perceptions of their own dominance showed patterns of association with mating desirability similar to those of fWHR. These results support the idea that fWHR is a physical marker of dominance. This is the first study to show that male dominance and higher fWHRs are attractive to women for short-term relationships in a controlled and interactive situation that could actually lead to mating and dating.

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Sexual Hookups and Adverse Health Outcomes: A Longitudinal Study of First-Year College Women

Robyn Fielder et al.
Journal of Sex Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
“Hookups” are sexual encounters between partners who are not in a romantic relationship and do not expect commitment. We examined the associations between sexual hookup behavior and depression, sexual victimization (SV), and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among first-year college women. In this longitudinal study, 483 women completed 13 monthly surveys assessing oral and vaginal sex with hookup and romantic partners, depression, SV, and self-reported STIs. Participants also provided biological specimens that were tested for STIs. During the study, 50% of participants reported hookup sex and 62% reported romantic sex. Covariates included previous levels of the outcome, alcohol use, impulsivity, sensation seeking, and romantic sex. Autoregressive cross-lagged models showed that, controlling for covariates, hookup behavior during college was correlated with depression, Bs = .21, ps < .05, and SV, Bs = .19, ps < .05. In addition, precollege hookup behavior predicted SV early in college, B = .62, p < .05. Hookup sex, OR 1.32, p < .05, and romantic sex, OR 1.19, p < .05, were associated with STIs. Overall, sexual hookup behavior among college women was positively correlated with experiencing depression, SV, and STIs, but the nature of these associations remains unclear, and hooking up did not predict future depression.

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Sociosexual Orientation and 2D:4D Ratios in Women: Relationship to Men’s Desirability Ratings as a Long-Term Pair Bond

Tara DeLecce, John Polheber & Robert Matchock
Archives of Sexual Behavior, February 2014, Pages 319-327

Abstract:
The current study examined whether men’s ratings of women’s desirability as a long-term pairbond, based on static photographs, were related to the women’s second-to-fourth digit (2D:4D) ratio and their sexual attitudes and behavior. The 2D:4D ratio was measured in 164 women and facial photographs were taken of 55 of these women. All women completed the Sociosexual Orientation Inventory (SOI). Male participants (n = 89), masked to this information, rated the 55 female participants on their desirability as a long-term sexual partner, specifically along dimensions of faithfulness, youthfulness, and attractiveness. Ten independent judges rated women’s photographed faces on masculinity. Results indicated a significant negative relationship between women’s SOI scores and men’s faithfulness ratings (more unrestricted sociosexuality was associated with lower faithfulness ratings). There was also a significant positive relationship between right (but not left) 2D:4D ratio and faithfulness ratings (women with female-like ratios were rated as being more faithful). The SOI scores of the women were not related to 2D:4D ratios. These results suggest that the potential for sexual infidelity can be gleaned from static facial cues.

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Fertile and Selectively Flirty: Women’s Behavior Toward Men Changes Across the Ovulatory Cycle

Stephanie Cantú et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Past research shows that men respond to women differently depending on where women are in their ovulatory cycle. But what leads men to treat ovulating women differently? We propose that the ovulatory cycle alters women’s flirting behavior. We tested this hypothesis in an experiment in which women interacted with different types of men at different points in their cycle. Results revealed that women in the ovulatory phase reported more interest in men who had purported markers of genetic fitness as short-term mates, but not as long-term mates. Furthermore, behavioral ratings of the interactions indicated that women displayed more flirting behaviors when they were at high than at low fertility. Importantly, fertile women flirted more only when interacting with men who had genetic-fitness markers, not with other men. In summary, fertility not only alters women’s behavior but does so in a context-dependent way that follows adaptive logic.

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Birds of a feather? Not when it comes to sexual permissiveness

Zhana Vrangalova, Rachel Bukberg & Gerulf Rieger
Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, February 2014, Pages 93-113

Abstract:
Prior research finds that sexually permissive individuals are judged more negatively than nonpermissive peers, placing them at risk of social isolation. Based on the positive assortment principle (i.e., preferences for similarity in attributes in close relationships), we examined whether participants’ own permissiveness mitigated negative judgments of permissive others in the same-sex friendship context. College students (N = 751) evaluated a hypothetical same-sex target with either 2 (nonpermissive) or 20 (permissive) past sex partners on 10 friendship-relevant outcomes. Participant permissiveness attenuated some negative evaluations. However, preferences were rarely reversed, and no moderation was found in five outcomes, suggesting the role of permissiveness-based positive assortment is limited, and evolutionary concerns may take precedence. Partial support for the sexual double standard was also found.

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Hormonal and morphological predictors of women’s body attractiveness

Rachel Grillot et al.
Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
Does women’s body attractiveness predict indices of reproductive capacity? Prior research has provided evidence that large breast size and low waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) are positively associated with women’s estrogen and progesterone concentrations, but no previous studies appear to have directly tested whether ratings of women's body attractiveness are predicted by higher concentrations of ovarian hormones measured across broad regions of the menstrual cycle. Here, we collected daily saliva samples across 1–2 menstrual cycles from a sample of young women; assayed the samples for estradiol, progesterone, and testosterone; obtained anthropometric measurements of the women’s bodies; and also obtained attractiveness ratings of the women’s bodies from photographs of them taken in standardized clothing with faces obscured. Contrary to previous research, mean hormone concentrations were uncorrelated with breast size and WHR. Body mass index (BMI) was a very strong negative predictor of body attractiveness ratings, similar to previous findings. Zero-order associations between women’s mean hormone concentrations and mean attractiveness ratings were not significant; however, after controlling for BMI, attractiveness ratings were independently and positively associated with both estradiol and testosterone concentrations. Discussion focuses on the implications of these findings for whether attractiveness assessment mechanisms are specialized for the detection of cues of differential fecundity in young women’s bodies.

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Contrast Effects in Sequential Decisions: Evidence from Speed Dating

Saurabh Bhargava & Ray Fisman
Review of Economics and Statistics, forthcoming

Abstract:
We provide an empirical test of contrast effects— a bias where a decision-maker perceives information in contrast to what preceded it — in the quasi-experimental context of “speed dating” decisions. We document that prior partner attractiveness reduces the subsequent likelihood of an affirmative dating decision. This relationship is confined to recent interactions, consistent with a perceptual error, but not learning or the presence of a quota in affirmative responses. The contrast effect is driven almost entirely by male evaluators. Additional evidence documents the effect's linearity with respect to prior partner attractiveness, its amplification for partners of moderate attractiveness, and its partial attenuation with accumulated experience.

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Sexual Risk Taking and Bullying Among Adolescents

Melissa Holt et al.
Pediatrics, December 2013, Pages e1481 -e1487

Background: Psychological and educational correlates of bullying have been explored extensively. However, little information is available about the link between bullying and sexual risk-taking behaviors among adolescents, though for some youth it may be that sexual risk taking emerges in response to bullying involvement. Associations for both heterosexual youth and those who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (GLBTQ) should be considered, as should the influence of victimization exposures in other domains. Accordingly, associations among bullying, other victimization forms, and sexual risk-taking behaviors were examined among adolescents with particular consideration to sexual orientation.

Methods: A sample of 8687 high school students completed the Dane County Youth Survey, a countywide survey administered high school students from 24 schools. Participants were asked questions about their bullying involvement and sexual risk-taking behaviors (ie, engaging in casual sex and having sex while under the influence of alcohol or drugs).

Results: Results indicated that bullies and bully-victims were more likely to engage in casual sex and sex under the influence. In multivariate analyses, these findings held even after controlling for demographic characteristics and victimization exposures in other domains, but primarily for heterosexual youth.

Conclusions: Bullies and bully-victims engaged in more sexual risk-taking behaviors, although patterns of association varied by sexual orientation. Bullying prevention programs and programs aimed at reducing unhealthy sexual practices should consider a broader stress and coping perspective and address the possible link between the stress of bullying involvement and maladaptive coping responses.

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The Framing Effect When Evaluating Prospective Mates: An Adaptationist Perspective

Gad Saad & Tripat Gill
Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
Sex differences in the framing effect within the mating domain (and the underlying negativity bias) were investigated. In three separate studies, men and women evaluated eight prospective mates, each of which was described using either positively or negatively framed attribute information. The key difference between the three studies was the temporal context of the relationship for which the mates were considered (long-term versus short-term) and the quality of mates that were presented to the participants (high quality versus low quality). Overall, women exhibited larger framing effects than men (and in three of the four experimental conditions), and this sex difference was driven by women’s greater sensitivity to negatively framed information. This robust sex effect is a manifestation of the greater vigilance that women show within the mating domain (consistent with parental investment theory). At the attribute level, women displayed stronger framing effects than men in 10 of the 11 cases where significant results were found, and these were on attributes that accord with evolutionary principles (e.g., women exhibited larger framing effects for Earning Potential and Ambition while men yielded a larger effect in only one instance for Attractive Face). Finally, the sex differences in framing effects became stronger when evaluating short-term mates as compared to long term ones (in accord with the general guiding principles of Sexual Strategies Theory). The current paper situates the framing effect within an adaptationist framework and proposes, that in many instances, the pattern with which individuals succumb to it is an instantiation of ecological rationality.

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Shame, Sexual Compulsivity, and Eroticizing Flirtatious Others: An Experimental Study

Raluca Petrican, Christopher Burris & Morris Moscovitch
Journal of Sex Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
Clinical observation and correlational studies with nonclinical samples suggest that a linkage between negative affective states (especially shame) and engagement in erotic pursuits typifies sexual compulsivity. The present study tested whether experimental induction of shame leads to increased interest in erotically suggestive targets among more sexually compulsive individuals. A total of 74 age-traditional heterosexual university students first recalled either an emotionally neutral or a shame-inducing personal experience, then completed a nonpredictive gaze-cueing task featuring flirtatious or emotionally neutral faces of the same or opposite sex. They also rated the faces’ attractiveness and completed a validated sexual compulsivity scale and two control measures (executive control, sociosexuality). Higher (versus lower) sexual compulsivity predicted weaker gaze-triggered attentional orienting in response to the flirtatious opposite-sex face in the shame (versus neutral) condition, and this was accounted for by (higher) attractiveness ratings of the flirtatious opposite-sex face. Shame thus appears to increase sexualization (i.e., reduces salience of agentic features and increases appeal of physical attributes) of erotically suggestive targets among more sexually compulsive individuals.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Friday, January 24, 2014

On the ballot

Estimating Habit Formation in Voting

Thomas Fujiwara, Kyle Meng & Tom Vogl
NBER Working Paper, December 2013

Abstract:
We estimate habit formation in voting - the effect of past on current turnout - by exploiting transitory voting cost shocks. Using county-level data on U.S. presidential elections from 1952-2012, we find that precipitation on current and past election days reduces voter turnout. Our estimates imply that a 1-point decrease in past turnout lowers current turnout by 0.7-0.9 points. Consistent with a dynamic extension of the Downsian framework, current precipitation has stronger effects following previous rainy elections. Further analyses suggest that this habit formation operates by reinforcing the intrinsic satisfaction associated with voting.

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Reconsidering the "Palin Effect" in the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election

Edward Burmila & Josh Ryan
Political Research Quarterly, December 2013, Pages 952-959

Abstract:
"The 'Palin Effect' in the U.S. 2008 Presidential Election" analyzes the effect of Sarah Palin on presidential vote choice. Two of the substantive conclusions are (1) Palin cost McCain votes among independents and moderates, and (2) Palin had the largest effect on vote choice of any recent vice-presidential nominee. Our analysis shows that the data do not support these findings. We find that respondent evaluations of Palin have a positive effect on McCain vote choice, even among independents and moderates, and Palin's effect on the election outcome is comparable with ten of the last fifteen vice-presidential nominees.

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Gendered Campaign Strategies in U.S. Elections

Jason Harold Windett
American Politics Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
This research examines the impact of gender on gubernatorial and senate candidates' issue prioritization. I argue that women running for statewide office prefer to play against gender stereotypes in their issue priorities at the outset of their campaigns, so they do not appear as a strictly "female" candidate. Instead, women will only run a "gendered campaign" in response to male candidates doing so first. I put forth a dynamic theory of gendered interaction that asserts that male candidates facing female opponents will attempt to force women to campaign on stereotypical "feminine issues." The campaign interaction between male and female candidates for office puts women in a precarious situation in which they must decide whether to respond to their male opponent or continue their "masculine" campaign strategy. I demonstrate that the gender of candidates directly influences the types of issues and strategies that each candidate pursues on the campaign trail.

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From an Honored Value to a Harmful Choice: How Presidential Candidates Have Discussed Electoral Participation (1948-2012)

Sharon Jarvis & Soo-Hye Han
American Behavioral Scientist, December 2013, Pages 1650-1662

Abstract:
This article analyzes how Barack Obama and Mitt Romney discussed electoral participation in campaign 2012 and compares their statements to those made by presidential nominees over the past 16 elections. Findings show that, overall, presidential candidates have depicted voting as a choice (not a right, duty, or value) and as harmful and divisive (as opposed to helpful or honorable). The data also reveal significant differences over the years, as candidates in the 1950s and 1960s were more likely to talk about voting as a value than transpires today and as candidates prior to the 1980s largely refrained from describing voting as a negative act. The article concludes by addressing how the campaign process has sharpened and politicized discussions of electoral participation over the years and what these shifts might mean for the contemporary campaign context.

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Broadband Internet and Political Behavior: Evidence from the United States

Ahmed Jaber
Cornell Working Paper, November 2013

Abstract:
This paper examines the effect of the introduction of broadband Internet on voting and campaign donations in the 2000s. To identify the effect of broadband, I use an instrumental variable strategy based on geographic terrain attributes which affected the cost of building cable infrastructure. I find that broadband has led to a large increase in voter turnout in presidential elections, as well as an increase in the total amount donated to political campaigns. Consistent with the hypothesis that Democrats have a stronger online presence, I also find a large effect on Democratic vote share in presidential elections. Evidence suggests the existence of both direct and indirect channels for the broadband effect. In particular, I find that broadband availability is associated with greater political knowledge, an increase in online (but not offline) donations, and the promotion of liberal values.

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Alien Abduction and Voter Impersonation in the 2012 US General Election: Evidence from a Survey List Experiment

John Ahlquist, Kenneth Mayer & Simon Jackman
University of Wisconsin Working Paper, October 2013

Abstract:
State legislatures around the United States have entertained - and passed - laws requiring voters to present various forms of state-issued identification in order to cast ballots. Proponents argue that such laws protect the integrity of the electoral process, sometimes claiming that fraudulent voting is widespread. We report the results of a survey list experiment fielded immediately after the 2012 US general election designed to measure the prevalence of one specific type of voter fraud most relevant to voter ID laws: voter impersonation. We find no evidence of voter impersonation, even in the states most contested in the Presidential campaign. We also find that states with strict voter ID laws and states with same-day voter registration are no different from others in the (non) existence of voter impersonation. To address possible "lower bound" problems with our conclusions we run both parallel and subsequent experiments to calibrate our findings. These ancillary list experiments indicate that the lower bound on the population reporting voter impersonation is nearly identical with the proportion of the population reporting abduction by extraterrestrials. Based on this evidence, strict voter ID requirements address a problem that did not exist in the 2012 US election. Effort designed to improve American election infrastructure and security would be better directed toward other initiatives.

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The Role of Call Quality in Voter Mobilization: Implications for Electoral Outcomes and Experimental Design

Christopher Mann & Casey Klofstad
Political Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
We demonstrate the centrality of high quality personal interactions for successfully overcoming the collective action problem of voter mobilization, and highlight the need for attention to treatment quality before making substantive inferences from field experiments. We exploit natural variation in the quality of voter mobilization phone calls across call centers to examine how call quality affects voter mobilization in a large-scale field experiment conducted during the 2010 Election. High quality calls (from call centers specializing in calling related to politics) produced significant increases in turnout. In contrast, low quality calls (from multi-purpose commercial call centers) failed to increase turnout. Furthermore, we offer caution about using higher contact rates as an indication of delivery quality. Our treatment conditions with higher contact rates had no impact on turnout, suggesting an unfavorable trade-off between quantity of contacts and call quality.

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The Resurgent American Voter, 1996-2012

Michael Martinez
University of Florida Working Paper, December 2013

Abstract:
Sparked both by normative concerns and a classic empirical puzzle, scholars developed and tested a variety of explanations for the turnout decline in the US between 1960 and 1988. More than a decade of research eventually showed that the sources of the decline in turnout were multifaceted: it stemmed in various degrees from declines in partisanship, political efficacy and newspaper reading, mobilization, and changes in the age distribution in the electorate with lower rates of participation in younger cohorts. Turnout slid to 52.8% of the voting eligible population in 1992, surged briefly in 1992 to 58.1%, then bottomed out at 51.7% in 1996. Since then, turnout increased in three consecutive presidential elections, reaching an estimated 61.4% in 2008, but dropped back to 58.2% in 2012. Using pooled cross-sectional data from the American National Election Studies, I find that demographic and electoral reform variables account for little of the increase in turnout since 1996, while perceptions of partisan differences and renewed importance of voter mobilization do account for substantial portions of the increase.

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Forecasting Elections with Non-Representative Polls

Wei Wang et al.
Columbia University Working Paper, September 2013

Abstract:
Election forecasts have traditionally been based on representative polls, in which randomly sampled individuals are asked for whom they intend to vote. While representative polling has historically proven to be quite effective, it comes at considerable financial and time costs. Moreover, as response rates have declined over the past several decades, the statistical benefits of representative sampling have diminished. In this paper, we show that with proper statistical adjustment, non-representative polls can be used to generate accurate election forecasts, and often faster and at less expense than traditional survey methods. We demonstrate this approach by creating forecasts from a novel and highly non-representative survey dataset: a series of daily voter intention polls for the 2012 presidential election conducted on the Xbox gaming platform. After adjusting the Xbox responses via multilevel regression and poststratification, we obtain estimates in line with forecasts from leading poll analysts, which were based on aggregating hundreds of traditional polls conducted during the election cycle. We conclude by arguing that non-representative polling shows promise not only for election forecasting, but also for measuring public opinion on a broad range of social, economic and cultural issues.

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Pretty Faces, Marginal Races: Predicting Election Outcomes using Trait Assessments of British Parliamentary Candidates

Kyle Mattes & Caitlin Milazzo
Electoral Studies, forthcoming

Abstract:
The conventional wisdom on Western European politics leads us to believe that all the "action" lies with parties, because the unified parliamentary delegations in Western Europe draw voters' attention to parties' policies and images. Though British elections take place under a single member district plurality system, British parties, like their continental counterparts, are highly centralised and feature disciplined parliamentary delegations. Despite the strong ties between British candidates and their parties, we demonstrate that perceptions of candidates' personal attributes can be used to predict general election outcomes. Using a computer-based survey where subjects are asked to evaluate real British candidates using only rapidly determined first impressions of facial images, we successfully predict outcomes from the 2010 general election. Moreover, we find that perceptions of candidates' relative attractiveness are particularly useful for predicting outcomes in marginal constituencies.

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The neuroeconomics of voting: Neural evidence of different sources of utility in voting

Ivo Bischoff et al.
Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Economics, December 2013, Pages 215-235

Abstract:
Which motives drive the decision of a voter to approve or reject a policy proposal? The Public Choice literature distinguishes between instrumental and expressive voting motives. We investigated the importance of these motives by analyzing the patterns of neural activity in different voting situations. We conducted a functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment that investigates neural activation at the moment of voting and used the altruism scale proposed by Tankersley, Stowe, and Huettell (2007) to differentiate between altruists and nonaltruists. Nonaltruists showed neural activation patterns that were consistent with expressive voting motives. Among nonaltruists, we also observed activation patterns that point at egoistic instrumental motives. Both results are in line with the corresponding Public Choice literature. On the other hand, we found no evidence for expressive voting motives among altruists. Their neural activation pattern was generally much less conclusive with respect to the underlying motives.

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Strategic Voting in a U.S. Senate Election

Seth McKee & M.V. Hood
Political Behavior, December 2013, Pages 729-751

Abstract:
Due to the strength of its two-party system, the opportunity for voters to strategically defect in favor of third party or independent candidates is rare in high profile American elections. Indeed, it has been almost a century since a third party candidate finished better than one of the major party presidential nominees - in 1912 Bull Moose Progressive Teddy Roosevelt finished ahead of Republican William H. Taft. In this study we examine strategic voting in a U.S. Senate election where the independent candidate also finished above one of the major party nominees. In the 2010 Florida Senate contest the sitting Governor Charlie Crist shed his Republican label in order to compete in the general election since he was certain to lose in the GOP primary to Marco Rubio, the eventual winner. Crist finished second by taking a substantial share of votes away from the third place candidate, Democrat Kendrick Meek. Because this type of contest seldom occurs, in American politics there is scant empirical research on strategic voting under these conditions. We employ an unobtrusive survey of a large sample of registered Floridians in order to assess the likelihood of strategic voting among respondents who preferred the Democrat Kendrick Meek. For voters who sincerely preferred the Democrat, a significant portion defected in favor of the Independent Charlie Crist if they expected him to finish ahead of Meek. Additionally, we find that after a major news story broke, in which former President Bill Clinton allegedly advised Meek to drop out of the race so that Crist might win, respondents surveyed after this event were more likely to vote strategically in favor of Crist. Our study clearly demonstrates the importance of political context. Under the appropriate conditions, we find a high likelihood of strategic voting.

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Do Voting Rights Notification Laws Increase Ex-Felon Turnout?

Marc Meredith & Michael Morse
ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, January 2014, Pages 220-249

Abstract:
Previous research documents widespread confusion about who can and cannot vote among people who have come into contact with the criminal justice system. This research, and considerable activism drawing attention to the issue, has spurred a number of state legislatures to pass laws requiring the states to notify ex-felons about their voting rights. The purpose of this article is to better understand the policy processes that produce these notification laws and to assess whether the laws affect ex-felons' registration and turnout rates. Data on discharges from the correctional system and voter files are merged from three states that have recently passed notification laws: New Mexico, New York, and North Carolina. Our findings show little evidence of an increase in ex-felon registration or turnout after notification laws are implemented.

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The Elements of Political Persuasion: Content, Charisma, and Cue

Torun Dewan, Macartan Humphreys & Daniel Rubenson
Economic Journal, forthcoming

Abstract:
Political campaigns employ multiple strategies to persuade voters to support them. We analyse the effects of the components of these strategies using data from a field experiment that randomly assigned canvassers to districts, as well as messaging and endorsement conditions. We find evidence for a strong overall campaign effect and show effects for both message-based and endorsement-based campaigns. However, we find little evidence that canvassers varied according to their persuasive ability or that endorser identity matters. Overall the results suggest a surprisingly muted role for idiosyncratic features of prospective persuaders.

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Madam Senator: Growth in Women's State Senate Representation, 1978-2010

Matthew Painter
Sociological Spectrum, November/December 2013, Pages 584-603

Abstract:
Using a dataset of women state senators from all 50 states (1978-2010) and latent growth curve analysis, this article tests two longitudinal theories of the growth of women's political representation over time. Gender salience theory posits that women increase their political representation when they explicitly campaign on their gender. Political climate theory argues that women fare better electorally during periods when domestic issues predominate as opposed to international issues. Results provide support for gender salience theory, but the evidence is too mixed for political climate theory to provide a plausible explanation for the growth in women's state-level political representation. By political party, results suggest that Democratic women were generally advantaged over Republican women; however, Republican women exclusively benefited in the 1992 and 2010 elections. This article concludes with an assessment of the two longitudinal theories and what they may tell us more broadly about women in politics.

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Does Sex Encourage Commitment? The Impact of Candidate Choices on the Time-to-Decision

Sarah Fulton & Heather Ondercin
Political Behavior, December 2013, Pages 665-686

Abstract:
The sex of a congressional candidate can influence voting choices, but does candidate sex also influence the timing of those choices? This paper examines that question in light of other information that voters weigh in making their decisions. Using a national survey from the 2006 election, and a unique dataset of political informants, we find that the sex of the candidate conveys ideological information that permits voters to make swifter judgments. Additionally, it reduces the probability of a delayed decision by supplying information helpful to the choice between candidates - even in the absence of ideology. In fact, the impact of candidate sex rivals other variables that are traditionally used to explain the time-to-decision. Consistent with the literature on sex stereotypes, we find a stronger influence for Democratic than Republican female candidates.

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Funny, Ha-Ha: The Impact of User-Generated Political Satire on Political Attitudes

Leslie Rill & Christopher Cardiel
American Behavioral Scientist, December 2013, Pages 1738-1756

Abstract:
The 2012 election season provided increased opportunities for the collaboration among citizens, new media, and democracy. The "social media election" saw a rise in online user-generated political content posted to YouTube. These videos, often satirical in nature, were viewed by millions, making the potential impacts from this new form of political communication deserving of inquiry. Using experimental design, this study explored the relationship between user-generated political satire and "normative" political attitudes. The results revealed that viewing satirical representations of political candidates did not affect individuals' level of political cynicism or political information efficacy; however, perceptions of candidate credibility and favorability were altered.

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Compulsory versus voluntary voting: An experimental study

Sourav Bhattacharya, John Duffy & Sun-Tak Kim
Games and Economic Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
We report on an experiment comparing compulsory and voluntary voting institutions in a voting game with common preferences. Rational choice theory predicts sharp differences in voter behavior between these two institutions. If voting is compulsory, then voters may find it rational to vote insincerely, i.e., against their private information. If voting is voluntary so that abstention is allowed, then sincere voting in accordance with a voter?s private information is always rational while participation may become strategic. We find strong support for these theoretical predictions in our experimental data. Moreover, voters adapt their decisions to the voting institution in place in such a way as to make the group decision accuracy differences between the two voting institutions negligible. The latter finding may serve to rationalize the co-existence of compulsory and voluntary voting institutions in nature.

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The Looks of a Leader: Competent and Trustworthy, but Not Dominant

Fang Fang Chen, Yiming Jing & Jeong Min Lee
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, March 2014, Pages 27-33

Abstract:
The aim of this paper is twofold: to uncover the conditions under which trustworthiness influences social judgment and to examine the possible double edged sword nature of social dominance in deciding social outcomes. In three studies, participants evaluated the personality traits of political candidates based on inferences from their faces. Perceptions of these traits were then used to predict actual election results and the subjective voting support of the participants. Trustworthiness increased the chances of winning actual elections, but only for those who were judged as competent. The expected double-edged sword effect of dominance was found: on the one hand, dominance predicted winning of actual elections indirectly via competence; on the other hand, dominance predicted losing elections directly once its positive connection with competence was controlled. A different picture emerged with respect to the subjective voting support of the participants: all traits predicted the likelihood of winning.

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The Minnesota Multi-Investigator 2012 Presidential Election Panel Study

Philip Chen et al.
Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, forthcoming

Abstract:
In an analysis of the 2012 presidential election, we sought to optimize two key desiderata in capturing campaign effects: establishing causality and measuring dynamic (i.e., intraindividual) change over time. We first report the results of three survey-experiments embedded within a three-wave survey panel design. Each experiment was focused on a substantive area of electoral concern. Our results suggest, among other findings, that retrospective evaluations exerted a stronger influence on vote choice in the referendum (vs. the choice) frame; that among White respondents, racial animosity strongly predicted economic evaluations for knowledgeable Republicans who were led to believe that positive economic developments were the result of actions taken by the Obama administration; and that information-seeking bias is a contingent phenomenon, one depending jointly on the opportunity and motivation to selectively tune in to congenial information. Lastly, we demonstrate how the panel design also allowed us to (1) examine the reliability and stability of a variety of election-related implicit attitudes, and to assess their impact on candidate evaluation; and (2) determine the causal impact of perceptions of candidates' traits and respondents' policy preferences on electoral preferences, and vice versa, an area of research long plagued by concerns about endogeneity.

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Political knowledge reduces hindsight memory distortion in election judgements

Dustin Calvillo & Abraham Rutchick
Journal of Cognitive Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Hindsight bias occurs when outcome information biases judgements. Previous studies have demonstrated hindsight bias in judgements of election outcomes, but few studies have examined the role of domain knowledge in hindsight bias. The present study examined the relationship between political knowledge and hindsight bias using both memory and hypothetical designs. Participants answered political knowledge questions and some made predictions before the 2012 US Presidential Election. After the election, participants were provided with the outcomes. Those who made predictions were asked to recall them, whereas those who did not make predictions were asked what they would have predicted. Both groups demonstrated hindsight bias: their recalled or hypothetical predictions were closer to the election results than participants' actual predictions. Political knowledge was negatively correlated with hindsight bias in recalled predictions but not significantly correlated with hindsight bias in hypothetical predictions. These findings help elucidate the role of domain knowledge in hindsight bias.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Parental guidance suggested

“That’s Not Just Beautiful — That’s Incredibly Beautiful!”: The Adverse Impact of Inflated Praise on Children With Low Self-Esteem

Eddie Brummelman et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
In current Western society, children are often lavished with inflated praise (e.g., “You made an incredibly beautiful drawing!”). Inflated praise is often given in an attempt to raise children’s self-esteem. An experiment (Study 1) and naturalistic study (Study 2) found that adults are especially inclined to give inflated praise to children with low self-esteem. This inclination may backfire, however. Inflated praise might convey to children that they should continue to meet very high standards — a message that might discourage children with low self-esteem from taking on challenges. Another experiment (Study 3) found that inflated praise decreases challenge seeking in children with low self-esteem and has the opposite effect on children with high self-esteem. These findings show that inflated praise, although well intended, may cause children with low self-esteem to avoid crucial learning experiences.

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The Motherhood Penalty at Midlife: Long-Term Effects of Children on Women's Careers

Joan Kahn, Javier García-Manglano & Suzanne Bianchi
Journal of Marriage and Family, February 2014, Pages 56–72

Abstract:
The authors build on prior research on the motherhood wage penalty to examine whether the career penalties faced by mothers change over the life course. They broaden the focus beyond wages to also consider labor force participation and occupational status and use data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Young Women to model the changing impact of motherhood as women age from their 20s to their 50s (n = 4,730). They found that motherhood is “costly” to women's careers, but the effects on all 3 labor force outcomes attenuate at older ages. Children reduce women's labor force participation, but this effect is strongest when women are younger and is eliminated by the 40s and 50s. Mothers also seem able to regain ground in terms of occupational status. The wage penalty for having children varies by parity, persisting across the life course only for women who have 3 or more children.

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Housing Affordability And Investments In Children

Sandra Newman & Scott Holupka
Journal of Housing Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper uses the 2004-2009 Consumer Expenditure Surveys to examine whether housing affordability affects expenditures on children in families with income at or below 200 percent of the poverty line. After accounting for selection using propensity score matching, estimating effects using nonlinear GLM, and performing sensitivity tests, we find that child enrichment expenditures have an inverted U-shaped relationship with housing cost burden, our measure of housing affordability. This result is similar to the concave pattern of the association between housing cost burden and measures of children’s cognitive achievement in reading and math. Thus, child expenditures, particularly for enrichment, may be one mechanism by which housing affordability affects children’s cognitive outcomes. The inflection point for enrichment spending occurs at roughly the 30 percent housing cost-to-income ratio, the longstanding rule-of-thumb for defining housing affordability.

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Evaluative and hedonic wellbeing among those with and without children at home

Angus Deaton & Arthur Stone
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming

Abstract:
We document and interpret differences in life evaluation and in hedonic experience between those who live with children and those who do not; most previous literature has concluded that those with children have worse lives. For a sample of 1.8 million Americans of all ages, and without controls for other circumstances, we find little difference in subjective wellbeing between people with and without children. Among those most likely to be parents, life evaluation and all hedonic experiences except stress are markedly better among those living with a child. However, within this group, people who live with children are more likely to be married, richer, better educated, more religious, and healthier, all of which have well-documented positive associations with evaluative and hedonic wellbeing. With statistical controls for these background factors, the presence of a child has a small negative association with life evaluation, although it is associated with more of both positive and negative hedonics. These patterns are replicated in the English-speaking countries of the world, but not in other regions. We argue that the causal effect of children on parental wellbeing, which is the target for most of the literature, is not well defined. Instead, we interpret our rich-country results within a theory of children and wellbeing in which adults sort into parenthood according to their preferences. In poor, high-fertility countries, we find evidence that at least some people have children even when it diminishes their personal wellbeing.

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Universal Child Care, Maternal Employment, and Children’s Long-Run Outcomes: Evidence from the U.S. Lanham Act of 1940

Chris Herbst
Arizona State University Working Paper, December 2013

Abstract:
This paper provides a comprehensive analysis of the Lanham Act of 1940, a heavily-subsidized and universal child care program that was administered throughout the U.S. during World War II. I begin by estimating the impact of the Lanham Act on maternal employment using 1940 and 1950 Census data in a difference-in-difference-in-differences framework. The evidence suggests that mothers’ paid work increased substantially following the introduction of the child care program. I then study the implications of the Lanham Act for children’s long-run outcomes related to educational attainment, family formation, and labor market participation. Using Census data from 1970 to 1990, I assess well-being in a lifecycle framework by tracking cohorts of treated individuals throughout their prime working years. Results from difference-in-differences models suggest that the Lanham Act had strong and persistent positive effects on well-being, equivalent to a 0.36 standard deviation increase in a summary index of adult outcomes. In addition, a supplementary analysis of distributional effects shows that the benefits of the Lanham Act accrued largely to the most economically disadvantaged adults. Together, these findings shed light on the design of contemporary child care systems that balance the twin goals of increasing parental employment and enhancing child well-being.

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The formation of secure new attachments by children who were maltreated: An observational study of adolescents in foster care

Michelle Joseph et al.
Development and Psychopathology, February 2014, Pages 67-80

Abstract:
Children who were maltreated and enter foster care are at risk for maladjustment and relationship disturbances with foster carers. A popular hypothesis is that prior attachment relationships with abusive birth parents are internalized and carried forward to impair the child's subsequent attachment relationships. However, the empirical base for this model is limited, especially in adolescence. We examined the attachment patterns of 62 adolescents with their birth parents and their foster parents; we compared them to a comparison sample of 50 adolescents in normal-risk families. Attachment was assessed using the Child Attachment Interview; adolescent–parent interaction quality was assessed from direct observation; disruptive behavior symptoms were assessed from multiple informants. Whereas nearly all of the adolescents in foster families exhibited insecure attachments to their birth mothers (90%) and birth fathers (100%), nearly one-half were classified as having a secure attachment with their foster mother (46%) and father (49%); rates of secure attachment toward foster parents did not differ significantly from the rate in comparison families. Within the foster care sample, attachment security to the foster mother was predicted from current observed relationship quality and the duration of current placement. In addition, attachment quality in foster adolescents was associated with fewer disruptive behavior symptoms, and this association was equally strong in foster and comparison families. Our findings demonstrate that there is substantial potential for maltreated children to change and develop subsequent secure attachments in adolescence.

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Does Family Instability Make Girls Fat? Gender Differences Between Instability and Weight

Daphne Hernandez et al.
Journal of Marriage and Family, February 2014, Pages 175–190

Abstract:
Data from the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth and the Young Adult file were used to explore the relationship between the number of family structure transitions experienced from birth to age 18 and weight status in young adulthood. This was done by testing both linear risk and threshold effect models by gender (N = 3,447). The findings suggest that a linear risk approach best describes the relationship between family instability during childhood and weight status in young adulthood. Specifically, the cumulative family structure transitions children experienced from birth to age 18 place females, but not males, at greater risk for being overweight/obese in young adulthood. Sensitivity analyses indicated that cumulative family structure instability — and not formations or dissolutions separately — drove the main results. Birth order did not affect the findings. Increasing children's support systems during times of instability may reduce female children's risk of being overweight/obese as young adults.

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Early Adverse Environments and Genetic Influences on Age at First Sex: Evidence for Gene × Environment Interaction

Marie Carlson, Jane Mendle & Paige Harden
Developmental Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Youth who experience adverse environments in early life initiate sexual activity at a younger age, on average, than those from more advantaged circumstances. Evolutionary theorists have posited that ecological stress precipitates earlier reproductive and sexual onset, but it is unclear how stressful environments interact with genetic influences on age at first sex. Using a sample of 1,244 pairs of twins and non-twin full siblings from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, the present study tested for gene-by-environment interactions (G × E) on age at first sex (AFS). Multivariate interaction models indicated that genetic influences on AFS were suppressed among low-socioeconomic-status (SES) and ethnic-minority compared with higher SES and ethnic-majority youth. Father absence did not uniquely moderate genetic influences on AFS. These results are broadly consistent with previous findings that genetic influences are minimized among individuals whose environments are characterized by elevated risk; however, future research would benefit from samples with larger numbers of individuals at the very low end of the SES spectrum.

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Fostering relations: First sex and marital timings for children raised by kin and non-kin carers

Paula Sheppard et al.
Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
Kinship fostering is generally preferred to non-kin fostering by policy makers in the U.S. and elsewhere. Researchers and policy makers alike tend to provide several proximate reasons for why this may be, generally neglecting an ultimate evolutionary framework. However, kin selection theory predicts that in the absence of genetically related parents, care from kin will result in the most similar life history outcomes. In low-fertility settings, parents typically favour increased investment in embodied capital and thus delayed reproductive life history strategy. Using archival data from the original Kinsey survey, collected in the U.S. from 1938 to 1963, we used survival analyses to compare the effects of living with kin and non-kin fosterers in childhood on timings of first sex and marriage. Our results support a kin selection hypothesis showing that while fostered children have accelerated life histories compared to children from “intact families”, kin fosterers buffer children from early sexual and reproductive behaviours, compared to children cared for by non-kin.

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Family Learning Environment and Early Literacy: A Comparison of Bilingual and Monolingual Children

Li Feng, Yunwei Gai & Xiaoning Chen
Economics of Education Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
Early research on literacy development usually focuses on children in preschool or kindergarten. Few studies have examined the early literacy of bilingual children. This study examines its relationship with different family learning environments (e.g. book availability), and family learning activities (e.g. reading books, telling stories, and singing songs) of bilingual and monolingual children from 9 months of age to kindergarten entry. The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort was used as the analysis sample. We included 1,200 bilingual children and 5,350 English monolingual children. We uncover that bilingual children generally lag behind in both resources and frequency of family learning activities. Using various decomposition techniques, we show that early reading score differences between bilingual and monolingual children can be explained by differences in resources and early family learning environments.

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The Effects of Paid Family Leave in California on Labor Market Outcomes

Charles Baum & Christopher Ruhm
NBER Working Paper, December 2013

Abstract:
Using data from the 1997 cohort of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY-97), we examine the effects of California’s first in the nation government-mandated paid family leave program (CA-PFL) on mothers’ and fathers’ use of leave during the period surrounding child birth, and on the timing of mothers’ return to work, the probability of eventually returning to pre-childbirth jobs, and subsequent labor market outcomes. Our results show that CA-PFL raised leave-taking by around 2.4 weeks for the average mother and just under one week for the average father. The timing of the increased leave use – immediately after birth for men and around the time that temporary disability insurance benefits are exhausted for women – is consistent with causal effects of CA-PFL. Rights to paid leave are also associated with higher work and employment probabilities for mothers nine to twelve months after birth, possibly because they increase job continuity among those with relatively weak labor force attachments. We also find positive effects of California’s program on hours and weeks of work during their child’s second year of life and possibly also on wages.

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Who Was Helping? The Scope for Female Cooperative Breeding in Early Homo

Adrian Viliami Bell, Katie Hinde & Lesley Newson
PLoS ONE, December 2013

Abstract:
Derived aspects of our human life history, such as short interbirth intervals and altricial newborns, have been attributed to male provisioning of nutrient-rich meat within monogamous relationships. However, many primatologists and anthropologists have questioned the relative importance of pair-bonding and biparental care, pointing to evidence that cooperative breeding better characterizes human reproductive and child-care relationships. We present a mathematical model with empirically-informed parameter ranges showing that natural selection favors cooperation among mothers over a wide range of conditions. In contrast, our analysis provides a far more narrow range of support for selection favoring male coalition-based monogamy over more promiscuous independent males, suggesting that provisioning within monogamous relationships may fall short of explaining the evolution of Homo life history. Rather, broader cooperative networks within and between the sexes provide the primary basis for our unique life history.

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Variation in Associations Between Family Dinners and Adolescent Well-Being

Ann Meier & Kelly Musick
Journal of Marriage and Family, February 2014, Pages 13–23

Abstract:
Empirical evidence and conventional wisdom suggest that family dinners are associated with positive outcomes for youth. Recent research using fixed-effects models as a more stringent test of causality suggests a more limited role of family meals in protecting children from risk. Estimates of average effects, however, may mask important variation in the link between family meals and well-being; in particular, family meals may be more or less helpful based on the quality of family relationships. Using 2 waves of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (N = 17,977), this study extended recent work to find that family dinners have little benefit when parent–child relationships are weak but contribute to fewer depressive symptoms and less delinquency among adolescents when family relationships are strong. The findings highlight the importance of attending to variation when assessing what helps and what hurts in families.

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Breastfeeding and trajectories of children's cognitive development

Jin Huang et al.
Developmental Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
The aim of this study was to examine the association of breastfeeding practices with the growth trajectories of children's cognitive development. We used data from the Child Development Supplement (CDS) of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) with variables on presence and duration of breastfeeding and standardized test scores obtained during three different panel waves (N = 2681). After adjusting for covariates we found that breastfed children had higher test scores but that breastfed and non-breastfed children had similar growth trajectories in test scores over time. The results indicate that breastfeeding has an important association with test scores, and that subsequent schooling and other experiences during adolescence do not eliminate the breastfeeding gap that appears in very early childhood.

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The Effects of Breastfeeding Exclusivity on Early Childhood Outcomes

Jade Marcus Jenkins & Michael Foster
American Journal of Public Health, February 2014, Pages S128-S135

Objectives: We examined the relationship between breastfeeding exclusivity and duration and children’s health and cognitive outcomes at ages 2 and 4 years.

Methods: We used the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study—Birth Cohort, a nationally representative sample of 10 700 children born in the United States in 2001. Parent interviews and child assessments were conducted in measurement waves at 9 months, 2 years, 4 years, and in kindergarten, with the focus on ages 2 and 4 years. We employed propensity scores as a means of adjusting for confounding involving observed characteristics.

Results: Outcome analyses using propensity scores showed some small effects of breastfeeding on key outcomes at age 4 years but not at age 2 years. Effects appeared to be concentrated in reading and cognitive outcomes. Overall, we found no consistent evidence for dosage effects of breastfeeding exclusivity. Our sensitivity analyses revealed that a small amount of unobserved confounding could be responsible for the resulting benefits.

Conclusions: Our study revealed little or no effect of breastfeeding exclusivity and duration on key child outcomes.

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Children of surrogate mothers: Psychological well-being, family relationships and experiences of surrogacy

V. Jadva & S. Imrie
Human Reproduction, January 2014, Pages 90-96

Study question: What impact does surrogacy have on the surrogates' own children?

Particiapnts/materials, setting, methods: Participants whose mother had been a surrogate 5–15 years prior to interview and who were aged over 12 years were eligible to take part. Thirty-six participants (14 male and 22 female) aged 12–25 years were interviewed (response rate = 52%). Questionnaires assessing psychological health and family functioning were administered.

Main results and the role of chance: Forty-four per cent (15) of participants' mothers had undergone gestational surrogacy, 39% (14) had used their own egg (genetic surrogacy) and 19% (7) had completed both types of surrogacy. Most surrogates' children (86%, 31) had a positive view of their mother's surrogacy. Forty-seven per cent (17) of children were in contact with the surrogacy child and all reported good relationships with him/her. Forty per cent (14) of children referred to the child as a sibling or half-sibling and this did not differ between genetic and gestational surrogacy. Most children (89%, 32), reported a positive view of family life, with all enjoying spending time with their mother. Mean scores on the questionnaire assessments of psychological health and self-esteem were within the normal range and did not differ by surrogacy type.

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Broadband in the Labor Market: The Impact of Residential High Speed Internet on Married Women's Labor Force Participation

Lisa Dettling
Federal Reserve Working Paper, September 2013

Abstract:
This paper investigates how high-speed home Internet has impacted married women's labor force participation. I estimate the net effect of individual Internet usage on labor supply using an instrumental variables strategy which exploits cross-state variation in supply-side constraints to residential broadband Internet access. Results indicate that married women who use the Internet are more likely to participate in the labor force. The average effects mask substantial heterogeneity and increases in participation are concentrated on women with higher levels of education and children. The results suggest home Internet facilitates work-family balance for highly educated women.

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Proceed With Caution? Parents' Union Dissolution and Children's Educational Achievement

Wendy Sigle-Rushton et al.
Journal of Marriage and Family, February 2014, Pages 161–174

Abstract:
Using high-quality Norwegian register data on 49,879 children from 23,655 families, the authors estimated sibling fixed-effects models to explore whether children who are younger at the time of a parental union dissolution perform less well academically, as measured by their grades at age 16, than their older siblings who have spent more time living with both biological parents. Results from a baseline model suggest a positive age gradient that is consistent with findings in some of the extant family structure literature. Once birth order is taken into account, the gradient reverses. When analyses also control for grade inflation by adding year of birth to the model, only those children who experience a dissolution just prior to receiving their grades appear relatively disadvantaged. The results illustrate the need to specify and interpret sibling fixed-effects model with great care.

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“My Baby & Me”: Effects of an Early, Comprehensive Parenting Intervention on At-Risk Mothers and Their Children

Cathy Guttentag et al.
Developmental Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
This study examined the efficacy of a multimodule parenting intervention, “My Baby & Me,” that began prenatally and continued until children reached 2.5 years of age. The intervention targeted specific parenting skills designed to alter trajectories of maternal and child development. Of 361 high-risk mothers (193 adolescents, 168 adults) enrolled across 4 states, half were randomly assigned to the high-intensity (HI) home visitation coaching program (55 sessions), and half to a low-intensity (LI) condition that included monthly phone calls from a coach, printed informational materials, and community resource referrals. Videotaped observations of mother–child play were coded at 5 time points for multiple maternal and child behaviors and skills. Compared to mothers in the LI group, mothers in the HI group showed higher levels of contingent responsiveness, higher quality verbal stimulation, and more verbal scaffolding by 30 months, with higher levels of warmth and greater decreases in physical intrusiveness and negativity when their children were 24 months. By 30 months, children in the HI group showed more rapid increases and higher levels of engagement with the environment, expressive language skills, and social engagement, as well as more complex toy play and fewer problem behaviors than those in the LI group. Gains in maternal responsive behaviors mediated the effects of the intervention on child outcomes. Results were comparable for adolescent and adult mothers. A strong theoretical framework, consistent focus on maternal responsiveness, high dosage, and trusting relationships with coaches are thought to explain the positive outcomes.

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Developmental trajectory from early responses to transgressions to future antisocial behavior: Evidence for the role of the parent–child relationship from two longitudinal studies

Sanghag Kim et al.
Development and Psychopathology, February 2014, Pages 93-109

Abstract:
Parent–child relationships are critical in development, but much remains to be learned about the mechanisms of their impact. We examined the early parent–child relationship as a moderator of the developmental trajectory from children's affective and behavioral responses to transgressions to future antisocial, externalizing behavior problems in the Family Study (102 community mothers, fathers, and infants, followed through age 8) and the Play Study (186 low-income, diverse mothers and toddlers, followed for 10 months). The relationship quality was indexed by attachment security in the Family Study and maternal responsiveness in the Play Study. Responses to transgressions (tense discomfort and reparation) were observed in laboratory mishaps wherein children believed they had damaged a valued object. Antisocial outcomes were rated by parents. In both studies, early relationships moderated the future developmental trajectory: diminished tense discomfort predicted more antisocial outcomes, but only in insecure or unresponsive relationships. That risk was defused in secure or responsive relationships. Moderated mediation analyses in the Family Study indicated that the links between diminished tense discomfort and future antisocial behavior in insecure parent–child dyads were mediated by stronger discipline pressure from parents. By indirectly influencing future developmental sequelae, early relationships may increase or decrease the probability that the parent–child dyad will embark on a path toward antisocial outcomes.

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Survival of Offspring who Experience Early Parental Death: Early Life Conditions and Later-Life Mortality

Ken Smith et al.
Social Science & Medicine, forthcoming

Abstract:
We examine the influences of a set of early life conditions (ELCs) on all-cause and cause-specific mortality among elderly individuals, with special attention to one of the most dramatic early events in a child's, adolescent's, or even young adult's life, the death of a parent. The foremost question is, once controlling for prevailing (and potentially confounding) conditions early in life (family history of longevity, paternal characteristics (SES, age at time of birth, sibship size, and religious affiliation)), is a parental death associated with enduring mortality risks after age 65? The years following parental death may initiate new circumstances through which the adverse effects of paternal death operate. Here we consider the offspring's marital status (whether married; whether and when widowed), adult socioeconomic status, fertility, and later life health status. Adult health status is based on the Charlson Co-Morbidity Index, a construct that summarizes nearly all serious illnesses afflicting older individuals that relies on Medicare data. The data are based on linkages between the Utah Population Database and Medicare claims that hold medical diagnoses data. We show that offspring whose parents died when they were children, but especially when they were adolescents/young adults, have modest but significant mortality risks after age 65. What are striking are the weak mediating influences of later-life comorbidities, marital status, fertility and adult socioeconomic status since controls for these do little to alter the overall association. No beneficial effects of the surviving parent's remarriage were detected. Overall, we show the persistence of the effects of early life loss on later-life mortality and indicate the difficulties in addressing challenges at young ages.

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Parental misperception of youngest child size

Jordy Kaufman et al.
Current Biology, 16 December 2013, Pages R1085-R1086

Abstract:
After the birth of a second child many parents report that their first child appears to grow suddenly and substantially larger. Why is this? One possibility is that this is simply a contrast effect that stems from comparing the older sibling to the new baby: “everything looks big compared to a newborn”. But, such reports could be the result of a far more interesting biopsychological phenomenon. More specifically, we hypothesized that human parents are subject to a kind of ‘baby illusion’ under which they routinely misperceive their youngest child as smaller than he/she really is, regardless of the child’s age. Then, when a new baby is born, this illusion ceases and the parent sees, for the first time, the erstwhile youngest at its true size. By this account the apparent growth results from the mismatch of the parent’s now accurate perception with the stored memories of earlier misperceptions. Here we report that the baby illusion is a real and commonly occurring effect that recasts our understanding of how infantile features motivate parental caregiving.

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The impact of attachment on preschool children’s preference for parent-resembling faces — A possible link to sexual imprinting

F. Kocsor, P. Gyuris & T. Bereczkei
Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, December 2013, Pages 171-183

Abstract:
One possible form of how children use parental models in their social relations would be if children showed more willingness to make friends with peers resembling their parents. To test this possibility, composite faces created from 3 to 6 year old children’s photos were transformed to resemble facial images of their parents. The children were asked to show which one of the two same-sex transforms they find more appealing: the familial or the control face. Children who lived in emotional proximity to their parents, and in particular to their mothers, were attracted more to father-resembling faces than to unfamiliar ones. These results suggest that childhood experiences influence face preferences. This bias may affect social decisions later in adulthood, and could help to explain preferences for parent-resembling mates.

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Empirically probing the quantity–quality model

Emla Fitzsimons & Bansi Malde
Journal of Population Economics, January 2014, Pages 33-68

Abstract:
This paper etimates the causal effects of family size on girls’ education in Mexico, exploiting prenatal son preference as a source of random variation in the propensity to have more children within an instrumental variables framework. It finds no evidence of family size having an adverse effect on education. The paper then weakens the identification assumption and allows for the possibility that the instrument is invalid. It finds that the effects of family size on girls’ schooling remain extremely modest at most. Families that are relatively large compensate for reduced per-child resources by increasing maternal labour supply.

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The role of skin conductance level reactivity in the impact of children’s exposure to interparental conflict on their attention performance

Martina Zemp, Guy Bodenmann & Mark Cummings
Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, February 2014, Pages 1–12

Abstract:
Previous research suggests that undermining of attention performance might be one decisive underlying mechanism in the link between marital conflict and children’s academic maladjustment, but little is known about specific risk patterns in this regard. This study examines, in an experimental approach, the role of children’s history of interparental discord and skin conductance level reactivity (SCLR) as moderators in the link between analogue marital conflict exposure and children’s attention. The attention performance of 57 children, aged 11 to 13 years, was assessed prior to and immediately after a 1-min video exposure to either (a) a couple conflict or (b) a neutral condition. SCLR was measured continuously throughout the stimulus presentation. Results indicated that children’s family background of interparental conflict and their physiological reactivity moderated the influence of the experimental stimulus on children’s short-term attention performance. Lower SCLR served as a protective factor in children from high-conflict homes exposed to the couple conflict. The current study advances the body of knowledge in this field by identifying risk patterns for the development of attention problems in children in relation to marital conflict exposure.

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Child Diurnal Cortisol Rhythms, Parenting Quality, and Externalizing Behaviors in Preadolescence

Christina Gamache Martin et al.
Psychoneuroendocrinology, February 2014, Pages 170–180

Abstract:
This study examined a neurobiologically–informed model of the emergence of child externalizing behaviors in an ethnically diverse community sample of 232 9–12 year old children. Replicating extensive prior research, our analyses revealed that parents’ inconsistent discipline and poor quality monitoring were predictive of child externalizing behavior. In addition, poor parental monitoring, but not inconsistent discipline, was associated with children having a significantly flatter morning–to–evening cortisol slope, which was in turn, related to higher levels of externalizing behaviors. An indirect effect of parental monitoring on externalizing behaviors, through child diurnal cortisol rhythms, was also supported. These findings highlight the role of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis and its hormonal end product, cortisol, in the relationship between the caregiving environment and the development of externalizing behaviors.

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The bonnie baby: Experimentally manipulated temperament affects perceived cuteness and motivation to view infant faces

Christine Parsons et al.
Developmental Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Attractive individuals are perceived as having various positive personality qualities. Positive personality qualities can in turn increase perceived attractiveness. However, the developmental origins of the link between attractiveness and personality are not understood. This is important because infant attractiveness (‘cuteness’) elicits caregiving from adults, and infant personality (‘temperament’) shapes caregiving behaviour. While research suggests that adults have more positive attitudes towards cuter infants, it is not known whether positive infant temperament can increase the perception of infant cuteness. We investigated the impact of experimentally established infant temperament on adults' perception of cuteness and desire to view individual faces. At baseline, adults rated the cuteness of, and keypressed to view, images of unfamiliar infants with neutral facial expressions. Training required adults to learn about an infant's ‘temperament’, through repeated pairing of the neutral infant face with positive or negative facial expressions and vocalizations. Adults then re-rated the original neutral infant faces. Post-training, there were significant changes from baseline: infants who were mostly happy were perceived as cuter and adults expended greater effort to view them. Infants who were mostly sad were not perceived as cuter and adults expended less effort to view them. Our results suggest that temperament has clear consequences for how adults perceive ‘bonnie’ babies. Perception of infant cuteness is not based on physical facial features alone, and is modifiable through experience.

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Implementation and Randomized Controlled Trial Evaluation of Universal Postnatal Nurse Home Visiting

Kenneth Dodge et al.
American Journal of Public Health, February 2014, Pages S136-S143

Objectives: We evaluated whether a brief, universal, postnatal nurse home-visiting intervention can be implemented with high penetration and fidelity, prevent emergency health care services, and promote positive parenting by infant age 6 months.

Methods: Durham Connects is a manualized 4- to 7-session program to assess family needs and connect parents with community resources to improve infant health and well-being. All 4777 resident births in Durham, North Carolina, between July 1, 2009, and December 31, 2010, were randomly assigned to intervention and control conditions. A random, representative subset of 549 families received blinded interviews for impact evaluation.

Results: Of all families, 80% initiated participation; adherence was 84%. Hospital records indicated that Durham Connects infants had 59% fewer infant emergency medical care episodes than did control infants. Durham Connects mothers reported fewer infant emergency care episodes and more community connections, more positive parenting behaviors, participation in higher quality out-of-home child care, and lower rates of anxiety than control mothers. Blinded observers reported higher quality home environments for Durham Connects than for control families.

Conclusions: A brief universal home-visiting program implemented with high penetration and fidelity can lower costly emergency medical care and improve family outcomes.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Size matters

Why are educated adults slim — causation or selection?

Paul von Hippel & Jamie Lynch
Social Science & Medicine, forthcoming

Abstract:
More educated adults tend to have lower body mass index (BMI) and a lower risk of overweight and obesity. We contrast two explanations for this education gradient in BMI. One explanation is selection: adolescents with high BMI are less likely to plan for, attend, and complete higher levels of education. An alternative explanation is causation: higher education confers lifelong social, economic, and psychological benefits that help adults to restrain BMI growth. We test the relative importance of selection and causation using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1997 cohort (NLSY97), which tracks BMI from adolescence (age 15) through young adulthood (age 29). Ordinal regression models confirm the selection hypothesis that high-BMI adolescents are less likely to complete higher levels of education. Selection has primarily to do with the fact that high-BMI adolescents tend to come from socioeconomically disadvantaged families and tend to have low grades and test scores. Among high-BMI girls there is also some evidence that educational attainment is limited by bullying, pessimism, poor health, and early pregnancy. About half the selection of high-BMI girls out of higher education remains unexplained. Fixed-effects models control for selection and suggest that the causal effect of education on BMI, though significant, accounts for only one-quarter of the mean BMI differences between more and less educated adults at age 29. Among young adults, it appears that most of the education gradient in BMI is due to selection.

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Increasing socioeconomic disparities in adolescent obesity

Carl Frederick, Kaisa Snellman & Robert Putnam
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming

Abstract:
Recent reports suggest that the rapid growth in youth obesity seen in the 1980s and 1990s has plateaued. We examine changes in obesity among US adolescents aged 12–17 y by socioeconomic background using data from two nationally representative health surveys, the 1988–2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys and the 2003–2011 National Survey of Children’s Health. Although the overall obesity prevalence stabilized, this trend masks a growing socioeconomic gradient: The prevalence of obesity among high-socioeconomic status adolescents has decreased in recent years, whereas the prevalence of obesity among their low-socioeconomic status peers has continued to increase. Additional analyses suggest that socioeconomic differences in the levels of physical activity, as well as differences in calorie intake, may have contributed to the growing obesity gradient.

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Financial Hardship and Obesity

Susan Averett & Julie Smith
Economics & Human Biology, forthcoming

Abstract:
There is a substantial correlation between household debt and health. Individuals with less healthy lifestyles are more likely to hold debt, yet there is little evidence as to whether this is merely a correlation or if financial hardship actually causes obesity. In this paper, we use data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health to test whether financial hardship affects body weight. We divide our sample into two groups: men and women, explore two different types of financial hardship: holding credit card debt and having trouble paying bills, and three outcomes: overweight, obese and Body Mass Index (BMI). We use a variety of econometric techniques: Ordinary Least Squares, Propensity Score Matching, Sibling Fixed Effects, and Instrumental Variables to investigate the relationship that exists between financial hardship and body weight. In addition, we conduct several robustness checks. Although our OLS and PSM results indicate a correlation between financial hardship and body weight these results appear to be largely driven by unobservables. Our IV results suggest that there is no causal relationship between credit card debt and overweight or obesity for either men or women. However, we find suggestive evidence that having trouble paying bills may be a cause of obesity for women.

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Pass the popcorn: “Obesogenic” behaviors and stigma in children's movies

Elizabeth Throop et al.
Obesity, forthcoming

Objective: To determine the prevalence of obesity-related behaviors and attitudes in children's movies.

Design and Methods: A mixed-methods study of the top-grossing G- and PG-rated movies, 2006-2010 (4 per year) was performed. For each 10-min movie segment, the following were assessed: 1) prevalence of key nutrition and physical activity behaviors corresponding to the American Academy of Pediatrics obesity prevention recommendations for families; 2) prevalence of weight stigma; 3) assessment as healthy, unhealthy, or neutral; 3) free-text interpretations of stigma.

Results: Agreement between coders was >85% (Cohen's kappa = 0.7), good for binary responses. Segments with food depicted: exaggerated portion size (26%); unhealthy snacks (51%); sugar-sweetened beverages (19%). Screen time was also prevalent (40% of movies showed television; 35% computer; 20% video games). Unhealthy segments outnumbered healthy segments 2:1. Most (70%) of the movies included weight-related stigmatizing content (e.g., “That fat butt! Flabby arms! And this ridiculous belly!”).

Conclusions: These popular children's movies had significant “obesogenic” content, and most contained weight-based stigma. They present a mixed message to children, promoting unhealthy behaviors while stigmatizing the behaviors' possible effects. Further research is needed to determine the effects of such messages on children.

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Influencing Food Choices by Training: Evidence for Modulation of Frontoparietal Control Signals

Tom Schonberg et al.
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, February 2014, Pages 247-268

Abstract:
To overcome unhealthy behaviors, one must be able to make better choices. Changing food preferences is an important strategy in addressing the obesity epidemic and its accompanying public health risks. However, little is known about how food preferences can be effectively affected and what neural systems support such changes. In this study, we investigated a novel extensive training paradigm where participants chose from specific pairs of palatable junk food items and were rewarded for choosing the items with lower subjective value over higher value ones. In a later probe phase, when choices were made for real consumption, participants chose the lower-valued item more often in the trained pairs compared with untrained pairs. We replicated the behavioral results in an independent sample of participants while they were scanned with fMRI. We found that, as training progressed, there was decreased recruitment of regions that have been previously associated with cognitive control, specifically the left dorsolateral pFC and bilateral parietal cortices. Furthermore, we found that connectivity of the left dorsolateral pFC was greater with primary motor regions by the end of training for choices of lower-valued items that required exertion of self-control, suggesting a formation of a stronger stimulus–response association. These findings demonstrate that it is possible to influence food choices through training and that this training is associated with a decreasing need for top–down frontoparietal control. The results suggest that training paradigms may be promising as the basis for interventions to influence real-world food preferences.

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Spatial Mobility and Environmental Effects on Obesity

Zhenxiang Zhao, Robert Kaestner & Xin Xu
Economics & Human Biology, forthcoming

Abstract:
In this paper, we used a randomized experiment, the Moving to Opportunity for Fair Housing Demonstration (MTO) study, to assess whether several environmental attributes are causes of obesity. To accomplish our objective, we linked the MTO data with several external data sources that provide information on potential determinants of obesity including food prices, restaurant and food store availability, physical activity facility availability, the prevalence of crime and population density. We find that the environmental factors we examined are unable to explain the observed decrease in obesity associated with the MTO experiment among low-income minority women.

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Overweight People Have Low Levels of Implicit Weight Bias, but Overweight Nations Have High Levels of Implicit Weight Bias

Maddalena Marini et al.
PLoS ONE, December 2013

Abstract:
Although a greater degree of personal obesity is associated with weaker negativity toward overweight people on both explicit (i.e., self-report) and implicit (i.e., indirect behavioral) measures, overweight people still prefer thin people on average. We investigated whether the national and cultural context – particularly the national prevalence of obesity – predicts attitudes toward overweight people independent of personal identity and weight status. Data were collected from a total sample of 338,121 citizens from 71 nations in 22 different languages on the Project Implicit website (https://implicit.harvard.edu/) between May 2006 and October 2010. We investigated the relationship of the explicit and implicit weight bias with the obesity both at the individual (i.e., across individuals) and national (i.e., across nations) level. Explicit weight bias was assessed with self-reported preference between overweight and thin people; implicit weight bias was measured with the Implicit Association Test (IAT). The national estimates of explicit and implicit weight bias were obtained by averaging the individual scores for each nation. Obesity at the individual level was defined as Body Mass Index (BMI) scores, whereas obesity at the national level was defined as three national weight indicators (national BMI, national percentage of overweight and underweight people) obtained from publicly available databases. Across individuals, greater degree of obesity was associated with weaker implicit negativity toward overweight people compared to thin people. Across nations, in contrast, a greater degree of national obesity was associated with stronger implicit negativity toward overweight people compared to thin people. This result indicates a different relationship between obesity and implicit weight bias at the individual and national levels.

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Body-mass index and mortality risk in US blacks compared to whites

Chandra Jackson et al.
Obesity, forthcoming

Objective: To compare body-mass index (BMI)-related mortality risk in US Blacks vs. Whites as the relationship appears to differ across race/ethnicity groups.

Design and Methods: We pooled cross-sectional surveys of nationally representative samples of 11,934 Blacks and 59,741 Whites aged 35-75 in the National Health Interview Survey from 1997-2002 with no history of cardiovascular disease or cancer. Mortality follow-up was available through 2006. BMI was calculated from self-reported height and weight. We used adjusted Cox regression analysis to adjust for potential confounders.

Results: Over 9 years of follow-up, there were 4,303 deaths (1,205 among never smokers). Age-adjusted mortality rates were higher in Blacks compared to Whites at BMI < 25 kg/m2 and showed no increase at higher levels of BMI. In men, adjusted hazard ratios for all-cause death rose in a similar fashion across upper BMI quintiles in Blacks and Whites; in women, however, BMI was positively associated with mortality risk in Whites, but inversely associated in Blacks (p interaction = 0.01). Racial disparities were amplified in subsidiary analyses that introduced a 12-month lag for mortality or focused on CVD mortality.

Conclusions: The relationship of elevated BMI to mortality appears weaker in US Blacks than in Whites, especially among women.

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Body mass index and mortality among blacks and whites adults in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial

Qian Xiao et al.
Obesity, January 2014, Pages 260–268

Objective: In a large prospective cohort, we examined the relationship of body mass index (BMI) with mortality among blacks and compared the results to those among whites in this population.

Design and Methods: The study population consisted of 7,446 non-Hispanic black and 130,598 white participants, ages 49-78 at enrollment, in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial. BMI at baseline, BMI at age 20, and BMI change were calculated using self-reported and recalled height and weight. Relative risks were stratified by race and sex and adjusted for age, education, marital status, and smoking.

Results: During follow-up, 1,495 black and 18,236 white participants died (mean = 13 years). Clear J-shaped associations between BMI and mortality were observed among white men and women. Among black men and women, the bottoms of these curves were flatter, and increasing risks of death with greater BMI were observed only at higher BMI levels (≥35.0). Associations for BMI at age 20 and BMI change also appeared to be stronger in magnitude in whites versus blacks, and these racial differences appeared to be more pronounced among women.

Conclusion: Our results suggest that BMI may be more weakly associated with mortality in blacks, particularly black women, than in whites.

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Social Relationships and Longitudinal Changes in Body Mass Index and Waist Circumference: The Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study

Kiarri Kershaw et al.
American Journal of Epidemiology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Few studies have examined longitudinal associations between close social relationships and weight change. Using data from 3,074 participants in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study who were examined in 2000, 2005, and 2010 (at ages 33–45 years in 2000), we estimated separate logistic regression random-effects models to assess whether patterns of exposure to supportive and negative relationships were associated with 10% or greater increases in body mass index (BMI) (weight (kg)/height (m)2) and waist circumference. Linear regression random-effects modeling was used to examine associations of social relationships with mean changes in BMI and waist circumference. Participants with persistently high supportive relationships were significantly less likely to increase their BMI values and waist circumference by 10% or greater compared with those with persistently low supportive relationships after adjustment for sociodemographic characteristics, baseline BMI/waist circumference, depressive symptoms, and health behaviors. Persistently high negative relationships were associated with higher likelihood of 10% or greater increases in waist circumference (odds ratio = 1.62, 95% confidence interval: 1.15, 2.29) and marginally higher BMI increases (odds ratio = 1.50, 95% confidence interval: 1.00, 2.24) compared with participants with persistently low negative relationships. Increasingly negative relationships were associated with increases in waist circumference only. These findings suggest that supportive relationships may minimize weight gain, and that adverse relationships may contribute to weight gain, particularly via central fat accumulation.

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Accumulation of childhood poverty on young adult overweight or obese status: Race/ethnicity and gender disparities

Daphne Hernandez & Emily Pressler
Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, forthcoming

Background: Childhood poverty is positively correlated with overweight status during childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Repeated exposure of childhood poverty could contribute to race/ethnicity and gender disparities in young adult overweight/obese (OV/OB) weight status.

Methods: Young adults born between 1980 and 1990 who participated in the Young Adult file of the 1979 National Longitudinal Study of Youth were examined (N=3901). The accumulation of childhood poverty is captured via poverty exposure from each survey year from the prenatal year through age 18 years. Body mass index was calculated and categorised into the reference criteria for adults outlined by the Center for Disease Control. Logistic regression models were stratified by race/ethnicity and included a term interacting poverty and gender, along with a number of covariates, including various longitudinal socioeconomic status measures and indicators for the intergenerational transmission of economic disadvantage and body weight.

Results: Reoccurring exposure to childhood poverty was positively related to OV/OB for white, black and Hispanic young adult women and inversely related for white young adult men. A direct relationship between the accumulation of childhood poverty and OV/OB was not found for black and Hispanic young adult men.

Conclusions: Helping families move out of poverty may improve the long-term health status of white, black and Hispanic female children as young adults. Community area interventions designed to change impoverished community environments and assist low-income families reduce family level correlates of poverty may help to reduce the weight disparities observed in young adulthood.

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The association of fast food consumption with poor dietary outcomes and obesity among children: Is it the fast food or the remainder of the diet?

Jennifer Poti, Kiyah Duffey & Barry Popkin
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, January 2014, Pages 162-171

Background: Although fast food consumption has been linked to adverse health outcomes, the relative contribution of fast food itself compared with the rest of the diet to these associations remains unclear.

Objective: Our objective was to compare the independent associations with overweight/obesity or dietary outcomes for fast food consumption compared with dietary pattern for the remainder of intake.

Design: This cross-sectional analysis studied 4466 US children aged 2–18 y from NHANES 2007–2010. Cluster analysis identified 2 dietary patterns for the non–fast food remainder of intake: Western (50.3%) and Prudent. Multivariable-adjusted linear and logistic regression models examined the association between fast food consumption and dietary pattern for the remainder of intake and estimated their independent associations with overweight/obesity and dietary outcomes.

Results: Half of US children consumed fast food: 39.5% low-consumers (≤30% of energy from fast food) and 10.5% high-consumers (>30% of energy). Consuming a Western dietary pattern for the remainder of intake was more likely among fast food low-consumers (OR: 1.51; 95% CI: 1.24, 1.85) and high-consumers (OR: 2.21; 95% CI: 1.60, 3.05) than among nonconsumers. The remainder of diet was independently associated with overweight/obesity (β: 5.9; 95% CI: 1.3, 10.5), whereas fast food consumption was not, and the remainder of diet had stronger associations with poor total intake than did fast food consumption.

Conclusions: Outside the fast food restaurant, fast food consumers ate Western diets, which might have stronger associations with overweight/obesity and poor dietary outcomes than fast food consumption itself. Our findings support the need for prospective studies and randomized trials to confirm these hypotheses.

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Using Incentives to Encourage Healthy Eating in Children

David Just & Joseph Price
Journal of Human Resources, Fall 2013, Pages 855-872

Abstract:
There is growing interest in the situations in which incentives have a significant effect on positive behaviors, particularly in children. Using a randomized field experiment, we find that incentives increase the fraction of children eating a serving of fruits or vegetables during lunch by 80% and reduces the amount of waste by 33%. At schools with a larger fraction of low-income children, the increase in the fraction of children who eat a serving of fruits or vegetables is even larger, indicating that incentives successfully target the children who are likely to benefit the most from the increased consumption.

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A randomized trial comparing two approaches to weight loss: Differences in weight loss maintenance

Robert Carels et al.
Journal of Health Psychology, February 2014, Pages 296-311

Abstract:
This study compared treatment outcomes for a new weight loss program that emphasized reducing unhealthy relationships with food, body image dissatisfaction, and internalized weight bias (New Perspectives) to a weight loss program that emphasizes environmental modification and habit formation and disruption (Transforming Your Life). Fifty-nine overweight and obese adults (body mass index ≥ 27 kg/m2) were randomly assigned to either a 12-week New Perspectives or Transforming Your Life intervention. Despite equivalent outcomes at the end of treatment, the Transforming Your Life participants were significantly more effective at maintaining their weight loss than New Perspectives participants during the 6-month no-treatment follow-up period.

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Is overweight and class I obesity associated with increased health claims costs?

Truls Østbye et al.
Obesity, forthcoming

Objectives: Evaluate the relationship between body mass index (BMI) and health claims costs over the last decade, assess the strength and nature of the relationship between BMI and costs, and identify comorbidities that may drive any increased costs.

Design and Methods: Using 2001-2011 claims data for employees participating in annual health appraisals, annual paid claims costs were calculated. One-part negative binomial models were fit to evaluate the relationship between BMI and costs, controlling for age, gender, race/ethnicity, and calendar year period.

Results: The relationship between increasing BMI and increasing health claims costs is gradual and starts already at a BMI of 19. The nature of the relationship did not change notably over time. The most important obesity-related comorbidities, expressed as percent increase in cost per BMI unit, was cardiovascular disease (males 10.53, 95% CI [6.46, 14.77], females 4.27, 95% CI [1.25, 7.38), while cardiovascular agents (7.23, 95% CI [6.08, 8.39]) were the most important driver of pharmacy costs.

Conclusion: In contrast to recent evidence relating to effects on mortality, we observed a gradual increase in health claims costs starting at the low end of the recommended BMI range.

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The Stress of Stigma: Exploring the Effect of Weight Stigma on Cortisol Reactivity

Natasha Schvey, Rebecca Puhl & Kelly Brownell
Psychosomatic Medicine, forthcoming

Objective: To determine the physiological impact of exposure to weight stigma by examining alterations in salivary cortisol among lean and overweight women.

Methods: Participants were 123 lean and overweight adult women (mean body mass index = 26.99 [7.91] kg/m2). Participants’ salivary cortisol was assessed both before and after either a weight stigmatizing or a neutral video. Participants completed self-report measures of mood and reactions to the video. Height and weight were obtained at the conclusion of the study.

Results: Participants in the stigmatizing condition exhibited significantly greater cortisol reactivity when compared with those in the neutral condition, irrespective of weight status (Pillai trace = 0.077; F(1,85) = 7.22, p = .009). Lean and overweight women in the stigmatizing condition were equally likely to find the video upsetting and were equally likely to report that they would rather not see obese individuals depicted in a stigmatizing manner in the media.

Conclusions: Exposure to weight-stigmatizing stimuli was associated with greater cortisol reactivity among lean and overweight women. These findings highlight the potentially harmful physiological consequences of exposure to weight stigma.

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Increased Scalp Hair Cortisol Concentrations in Obese Children

Margriet Veldhorst et al.
Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, January 2014, Pages 285-290

Context: Pathologically increased cortisol exposure induces obesity, but it is not known whether relatively high cortisol within the physiological range is related to childhood obesity.

Objective: The aim of the study was to compare hair cortisol concentrations between obese and normal-weight children.

Design: We performed an observational case-control study.

Participants: Twenty obese children (body mass index-SD score [BMI-SDS] > 2.3) and 20 age- and sex-matched normal-weight children (BMI-SDS < 1.1) aged 8–12 years were recruited.

Main Outcome Measures: Scalp hair samples from the posterior vertex were collected, and hair cortisol concentrations were measured using ELISA. Body weight, height, and waist circumference were measured. From the obese children, additional data on blood pressure and blood lipid concentrations were collected.

Results: In both groups, five boys and 15 girls were included; their mean age was 10.8 ± 1.3 vs 10.8 ± 1.2 years (obese vs normal weight; not significant). Body weight, BMI, BMI-SDS, and waist circumference were higher in the obese children compared with the normal-weight children (69.8 ± 17.2 vs 35.5 ± 7.2 kg; 29.6 ± 4.9 vs 16.4 ± 1.6 kg/m2; 3.4 ± 0.5 vs −0.2 ± 0.8 SDS; 94 ± 13 vs 62 ± 6 cm; P < .001 all). Hair cortisol concentration was higher in obese than normal-weight children (median [interquartile range], 25 [17, 32] vs 17 [13, 21] pg/mg; P < .05).

Conclusions: Hair cortisol concentration, a measure for long-term cortisol exposure, was higher in obese children than normal-weight children. This suggests long-term activation of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis in obese children and may provide a novel target for treatment of obesity in children.

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Implicit and explicit weight bias in a national sample of 4732 medical students: The medical student CHANGES study

Sean Phelan et al.
Obesity, forthcoming

Objective: To examine the magnitude of explicit and implicit weight biases compared to biases against other groups; and identify student factors predicting bias in a large national sample of medical students.

Design and Methods: A web-based survey was completed by 4732 1st year medical students from 49 medical schools as part of a longitudinal study of medical education. The survey included a validated measure of implicit weight bias, the implicit association test, and 2 measures of explicit bias: a feeling thermometer and the anti-fat attitudes test.

Results: A majority of students exhibited implicit (74%) and explicit (67%) weight bias. Implicit weight bias scores were comparable to reported bias against racial minorities. Explicit attitudes were more negative toward obese people than toward racial minorities, gays, lesbians, and poor people. In multivariate regression models, implicit and explicit weight bias was predicted by lower BMI, male sex, and non-Black race. Either implicit or explicit bias was also predicted by age, SES, country of birth, and specialty choice.

Conclusions: Implicit and explicit weight bias is common among 1st year medical students, and varies across student factors. Future research should assess implications of biases and test interventions to reduce their impact.

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Portion size me: Plate-size induced consumption norms and win-win solutions for reducing food intake and waste

Brian Wansink & Koert van Ittersum
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, December 2013, Pages 320-332

Abstract:
Research on the self-serving of food has empirically ignored the role that visual consumption norms play in determining how much food we serve on different sized dinnerware. We contend that dinnerware provides a visual anchor of an appropriate fill-level, which in turn, serves as a consumption norm (Study 1). The trouble with these dinnerware-suggested consumption norms is that they vary directly with dinnerware size — Study 2 shows Chinese buffet diners with large plates served 52% more, ate 45% more, and wasted 135% more food than those with smaller plates. Moreover, education does not appear effective in reducing such biases. Even a 60-min, interactive, multimedia warning on the dangers of using large plates had seemingly no impact on 209 health conference attendees, who subsequently served nearly twice as much food when given a large buffet plate 2 hr later (Study 3). These findings suggest that people may have a visual plate-fill level — perhaps 70% full — that they anchor on when determining the appropriate consumption norm and serving themselves. Study 4 suggests that the Delboeuf illusion offers an explanation why people do not fully adjust away from this fill-level anchor and continue to be biased across a large range of dishware sizes. These findings have surprisingly wide-ranging win–win implications for the welfare of consumers as well as for food service managers, restaurateurs, packaged goods managers, and public policy officials.

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The Effect of Prices on Nutrition: Comparing the Impact of Product- and Nutrient-Specific Taxes

Matthew Harding & Michael Lovenheim
NBER Working Paper, January 2014

Abstract:
This paper provides an analysis of the role of prices in determining food purchases and nutrition using very detailed transaction-level observations for a large, nationally-representative sample of US consumers over the period 2002-2007. Using product- specific nutritional information, we develop a new method of partitioning the product space into relevant nutritional clusters that define a set of nutritionally-bundled goods, which parsimoniously characterize consumer choice sets. We then estimate a large utility-derived demand system over this joint product-nutrient space that allows us to calculate price and expenditure elasticities. Using our structural demand estimates, we simulate the role of product taxes on soda, sugar-sweetened beverages, packaged meals, and snacks, and nutrient taxes on fat, salt, and sugar. We find that a 20% nutrient tax has a significantly larger impact on nutrition than an equivalent product tax, due to the fact that these are broader-based taxes. However, the costs of these taxes in terms of consumer utility are not higher. A sugar tax in particular is a powerful tool to induce healthier nutritive bundles among consumers.

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Life Years Lost Associated with Obesity-Related Diseases for U.S. Non-Smoking Adults

Su-Hsin Chang, Lisa Pollack & Graham Colditz
PLoS ONE, June 2013

Abstract:
The objectives of this paper are to predict life years lost associated with obesity-related diseases (ORDs) for U.S. non-smoking adults, and to examine the relationship between those ORDs and mortality. Data from the National Health Interview Survey, 1997–2000, were used. We employed mixed proportional hazard models to estimate the association between those ORDs and mortality and used simulations to project life years lost associated with the ORDs. We found that obesity-attributable comorbidities are associated with large decreases in life years and increases in mortality rates. The life years lost associated with ORDs is more marked for younger adults than older adults, for blacks than whites, for males than females, and for the more obese than the less obese. Using U.S. non-smoking adults aged 40 to 49 years as an example to illustrate percentage of the life years lost associated with ORDs, we found that the mean life years lost associated with ORDs for U.S. non-smoking black males aged 40 to 49 years with a body mass index above 40 kg/m2 was 5.43 years, which translates to a 7.5% reduction in total life years. White males of the same age range and same degree of obesity lost 5.23 life years on average – a 6.8% reduction in total life years, followed by black females (5.04 years, a 6.5% reduction in life years), and white females (4.7 years, a 5.8% reduction in life years). Overall, ORDs increased chances of dying and lessened life years by 0.2 to 11.7 years depending on gender, race, BMI classification, and age.

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The Neighborhood Energy Balance Equation: Does Neighborhood Food Retail Environment + Physical Activity Environment = Obesity? The CARDIA Study

Janne Boone-Heinonen et al.
PLoS ONE, December 2013

Background: Recent obesity prevention initiatives focus on healthy neighborhood design, but most research examines neighborhood food retail and physical activity (PA) environments in isolation. We estimated joint, interactive, and cumulative impacts of neighborhood food retail and PA environment characteristics on body mass index (BMI) throughout early adulthood.

Methods and Findings: We used cohort data from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) Study [n=4,092; Year 7 (24-42 years, 1992-1993) followed over 5 exams through Year 25 (2010-2011); 12,921 person-exam observations], with linked time-varying geographic information system-derived neighborhood environment measures. Using regression with fixed effects for individuals, we modeled time-lagged BMI as a function of food and PA resource density (counts per population) and neighborhood development intensity (a composite density score). We controlled for neighborhood poverty, individual-level sociodemographics, and BMI in the prior exam; and included significant interactions between neighborhood measures and by sex. Using model coefficients, we simulated BMI reductions in response to single and combined neighborhood improvements. Simulated increase in supermarket density (from 25th to 75th percentile) predicted inter-exam reduction in BMI of 0.09 kg/m2 [estimate (95% CI): -0.09 (-0.16, -0.02)]. Increasing commercial PA facility density predicted BMI reductions up to 0.22 kg/m2 in men, with variation across other neighborhood features [estimate (95% CI) range: -0.14 (-0.29, 0.01) to -0.22 (-0.37, -0.08)]. Simultaneous increases in supermarket and commercial PA facility density predicted inter-exam BMI reductions up to 0.31 kg/m2 in men [estimate (95% CI) range: -0.23 (-0.39, -0.06) to -0.31 (-0.47, -0.15)] but not women. Reduced fast food restaurant and convenience store density and increased public PA facility density and neighborhood development intensity did not predict reductions in BMI.

Conclusions: Findings suggest that improvements in neighborhood food retail or PA environments may accumulate to reduce BMI, but some neighborhood changes may be less beneficial to women.

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Demand for food-away-from-home: A multiple-discrete–continuous extreme value model

Timothy Richards & Lisa Mancino
European Review of Agricultural Economics, February 2014, Pages 111-133

Abstract:
Policymakers have suggested the use of taxes to raise the relative cost of buying fast food. Yet, little is known of the structure of demand for food-away-from-home (FAFH) in general. This study provides estimates of the price-elasticity of demand for four different types of FAFH using a new data set from NPD, Inc. and an econometric approach that accounts for the multiple-discrete–continuous nature of FAFH demand. We find that cross-price elasticities of demand are small, so consumers are unwilling to substitute between food-at-home and any type of FAFH or among types of FAFH. Therefore, taxing fast food may be effective in reducing the number of fast food visits and shifting consumption to at-home meals.

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Using crowdsourcing to compare temporal, social temporal, and probability discounting among obese and non-obese individuals

Warren Bickel et al.
Appetite, forthcoming

Abstract:
Previous research comparing obese and non-obese samples on the delayed discounting procedure has produced mixed results. The aim of the current study was to clarify these discrepant findings by comparing a variety of temporal discounting measures in a large sample of internet users (n = 1163) obtained from a crowdsourcing service, Amazon Mechanical Turk (AMT). Measures of temporal, social–temporal (a combination of standard and social temporal), and probability discounting were obtained. Significant differences were obtained on all discounting measures except probability discounting, but the obtained effect sizes were small. These data suggest that larger-N studies will be more likely to detect differences between obese and non-obese samples, and may afford the opportunity, in future studies, to decompose a large obese sample into different subgroups to examine the effect of other relevant measures, such as the reinforcing value of food, on discounting.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Here and there

Does Travel Broaden the Mind? Breadth of Foreign Experiences Increases Generalized Trust

Jiyin Cao, Adam Galinsky & William Maddux
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Five studies examined the effect of breadth and depth of foreign experiences on generalized trust. Study 1 found that the breadth (number of countries traveled) but not the depth (amount of time spent traveling) of foreign travel experiences predicted trust behavior in a decision-making game. Studies 2 and 3 established a causal effect on generalized trust by experimentally manipulating a focus on the breadth versus depth of foreign experiences. Study 4 used a longitudinal design to establish that broad foreign travel experiences increased generalized trust. Study 5 explored the underlying processes and found that a focus on the differences rather than the similarities among the countries visited was critical in producing greater generalized trust. Across five studies, using various methods (correlational, lab experiment, and longitudinal), samples (United States and Chinese) and operationalizations (trust game and generalized trust scale), we found a robust relationship between the breadth of foreign travel experiences and generalized trust.

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Individualism and the cultural roots of management practices

André van Hoorn
Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, forthcoming

Abstract:
We study the cultural foundations of management practices, which are increasingly recognized as important determinants of firm performance. This research closes the loop on two developing literatures, one seeking cultural explanations for economic development and the other seeking to account for differences in firm performance from differences in how firms are managed. Theoretically, we expect individualist culture to improve management practices because it formalizes the labor relation. Results show that higher individualism is strongly associated with more sophisticated management practices. Several robustness checks confirm our findings. In a direct test, culture is a much more important determinant of management practices than are key formal institutions. Moreover, a formal test shows that management practices are indeed an important mediator in the empirical link between culture and per-capita income. The evidence presented in this paper moves us forward in opening up the black box of culture-performance linkages, helping us to understand better the channels through which culture can affect economic prosperity.

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A Very Economic Elite: The Case of the Danish Top CEOs

Christoph Houman Ellersgaard, Anton Grau Larsen & Martin Munk
Sociology, December 2013, Pages 1051-1071

Abstract:
Although the business elites in western societies have a very privileged social background in common, there are substantial differences in the reproduction mechanisms and social trajectories leading to a position within this elite group. These differences are explored by comparing the career paths of the top 100 CEOs in Britain, France, Germany and Denmark. In France and Britain, this reproduction is mediated through degrees from elite universities. In Germany, the principle of admission is the incorporated cultural capital acquired through an exclusive bourgeois origin combined with any university degree. Elite universities also hold little importance for Danish top CEOs, partly due to the institutions’ historic decline; instead, reproduction is mediated through time spent in the economic field, placing the case of the Danish CEOs between that of their British and German counterparts. Specific trajectories of Danish executives, in particular sales people, are identified using Multiple Correspondence Analysis and cluster analysis.

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Do Only Fools Smile at Strangers? Cultural Differences in Social Perception of Intelligence of Smiling Individuals

Kuba Krys et al.
Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, February 2014, Pages 314-321

Abstract:
Studies on social perception reveal that on many dimensions, smiling individuals are perceived more positively in comparison with non-smiling individuals. The experiment carried out in seven countries (China, Germany, Iran, Norway, Poland, USA, and the Republic of South Africa) showed that in some cultures, smiling individuals may be perceived less favorably than non-smiling individuals. We compared ratings of intelligence made by participants viewing photos of smiling and non-smiling people. The results showed that smiling individuals were perceived as more intelligent in Germany and in China; smiling individuals were perceived as less intelligent than the (same) non-smiling individuals in Iran. We suggest that the obtained effects can be explained by the cultural diversity within the dimension of uncertainty avoidance described in the GLOBE (Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness) project by House, Hanges, Javidan, Dorfman, and Gupta.

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Why do Firms (not) Hedge? - Novel Evidence on Cultural Influence

Martin Lievenbrück & Thomas Schmid
Journal of Corporate Finance, April 2014, Pages 92–106

Abstract:
We examine whether cultural differences between countries help explaining firms’ hedging decisions. For this, we manually collect data on the hedging behavior of worldwide energy utilities. The analysis reveals a strong impact of a country’s long-term orientation, which reduces the probability for hedging and the hedged volume. The only other factor with a consistently higher economic impact is firm size. Furthermore, hedging with options is less common in countries with a high level of masculinity. Overall, the results reveal that culture has a strong impact on the hedging behavior of firms. This influence is not captured by other country-specific factors such as economic development or the legal framework.

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Cross-border media and nationalism: Evidence from Serbian radio in Croatia

Stefano DellaVigna et al.
American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
How do nationalistic media affect animosity between ethnic groups? We consider one of Europe’s deadliest conflicts since WWII: the Serbo-Croatian conflict. We show that, after a decade of peace, cross-border nationalistic Serbian radio triggers ethnic hatred towards Serbs in Croatia. Mostly attracted by non-political content, many Croats listen to Serbian public radio (intended for Serbs in Serbia) whenever signal is available. As a result, the vote for extreme nationalist parties is higher, and ethnically offensive graffiti are more common, in Croatian villages with Serbian radio reception. A laboratory experiment confirms that Serbian radio exposure causes anti-Serbian sentiment among Croats.

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Expanding Opportunities by Opening Your Mind: Multicultural Engagement Predicts Job Market Success Through Longitudinal Increases in Integrative Complexity

William Maddux et al.
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
A longitudinal study found that the psychological approach individuals take when immersed in a general multicultural environment can predict subsequent career success. Using a culturally diverse sample, we found that “multicultural engagement” — the extent to which students adapted to and learned about new cultures — during a highly international 10-month master of business administration (MBA) program predicted the number of job offers students received after the program, even when controlling for important personality/demographic variables. Furthermore, multicultural engagement predicted an increase in integrative complexity over the course of the 10-month program, and this increase in integrative complexity mediated the effect of multicultural engagement on job market success. This study demonstrates that even when individuals are exposed to the same multicultural environment, it is their psychological approach and engagement with different cultures that determines growth in integrative complexity and tangible increases in professional opportunities.

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5,535 Hours of Impact: Effects of Olympic Media on Nationalism Attitudes

Andrew Billings, Kenon Brown & Natalie Brown
Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, Fall 2013, Pages 579-595

Abstract:
Past studies have shown how international events such as the Olympic broadcast tend to favor athletes from a home nation in terms of both the amount of time devoted and the descriptions ascribed to home-nation athletes. This study highlights the ramifications of this focus on nationalism within the 2012 London Olympic telecast. A survey of 342 respondents at three different points in time (immediately before the Olympics, immediately after, and one month after) was conducted to determine the relationship between Olympic media exposure and nationalistic attitudes. Results showed that heavy viewers of the Olympics displayed significantly higher levels of nationalism, patriotism, internationalism and smugness than light viewers of Olympic media. Moreover, regarding differences between measurements before and after the Olympics, only smugness increased over time. Theoretical extrapolations of cultivation effects are offered, as are directions for future research.

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From Pride to Smugness and the Nationalism Between: Olympic Media Consumption Effects on Nationalism Across the Globe

Andrew Billings et al.
Mass Communication and Society, November/December 2013, Pages 910-932

Abstract:
To measure relationships between Olympic media viewing and nation-based attitudes, 6 nations (Australia, Bulgaria, China, the Netherlands, Slovenia, and the United States) were surveyed in the 5 days immediately after the 2012 London Olympics. A total of 1,025 respondents answered questions pertaining to four measures of nationalism: patriotism, nationalism, internationalism, and smugness. The amount of Olympic viewing resulted in significantly higher scores for patriotism, nationalism, and smugness, but not internationalism. In addition, differences by nation are reported, revealing considerable differences in nationalism measures among the 6 nations studied; for instance, the United States was the lowest of the 6 nations regarding internationalism yet highest of the 6 nations regarding smugness. Conclusions related to theory and the role of Olympic media content are offered.

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Cultural Variation in the Minimal Group Effect

Carl Falk, Steven Heine & Kosuke Takemura
Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, February 2014, Pages 265-281

Abstract:
The minimal group effect (MGE) is one of the most robust psychological findings in studies of intergroup conflict, yet there is little evidence comparing its magnitude across cultures. Recent evidence suggests that the MGE is due in part to a projection of one’s own perceived characteristics onto the novel in-group. Because of cultural variability in self-enhancement motivations, we thus expected that those from East Asian cultures would exhibit a diminished MGE relative to Westerners. A large and diverse sample of Japanese and American participants completed a traditional minimal group study. American participants were more likely to show an in-group bias in group identification, perceived group intelligence, perceived group personality traits, and resource allocation. Furthermore, these cultural differences were partially mediated by self-esteem. We discuss the implication of these findings for theories of intergroup conflict and suggest multiple directions for future cross-cultural research on the MGE.

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Cultural determinants of status: Implications for workplace evaluations and behaviors

Carlos Torelli et al.
Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, January 2014, Pages 34–48

Abstract:
Status is a valued workplace resource that facilitates career success, yet little is known regarding whether and how cultural orientation affects status attainment. We integrate status characteristics theory with the literature on individualism and collectivism and propose a cultural patterning in the determinants of status. Four studies (N = 379) demonstrate that cultural orientation influences the tendency to view high status individuals as competent versus warm (Study 1), uncover cultural differences in both individuals’ tendency to engage in competence and warmth behaviors to attain workplace status (Study 2) and evaluators’ tendency to ascribe status to individuals who demonstrate competence versus warmth (Study 3), and verify that cultural differences in the effects of competence and warmth on status perceptions, and in turn performance evaluations, generalize to real world interdependent groups (Study 4). Our findings advance theory on the cultural contingencies of status attainment and have implications for managing diversity at work.

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Psychopathological symptoms in two generations of the same family: A cross-cultural comparison

Cecilia Essau et al.
Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, December 2013, Pages 2017-2026

Purpose: The main aims of the present study were to compare the frequency and correlates of psychopathological symptoms in two generations of the same family in Japan and in England.

Methods: The sample included 689 adolescents and one of their parents/guardians. All participants completed a set of questionnaires to measure psychopathological symptoms, self-construals, and perceived social support.

Results: In both parent and adolescent data, the Japanese sample reported significantly lower psychopathological symptoms than the English sample. The relationship between parental and adolescent psychopathology was significant in England, but not in Japan. In both countries, perceived social support and independent self-construal were generally associated with less psychopathological symptoms, and interdependent self-construal was associated with more symptoms. Additionally, in England, a significant interaction effect was found between social support and the self-construals. Participants with low independent and high interdependent self-construal had elevated levels of psychopathological symptoms when perceived social support was low.

Conclusions: The present study illustrates the importance of culture in the transmission of psychopathological symptoms across different generations in the same family.

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International Variation in Sin Stocks and its Effects on Equity Valuation

Larry Fauver & Michael McDonald
Journal of Corporate Finance, April 2014, Pages 173–187

Abstract:
We examine the impact of differences in time varying social views towards sin stocks across G20 nations on firm valuation and excess returns. Sin stocks have an 8% lower equity valuation in countries where society is strongly against such industries. After controlling for other factors, sin stocks have excess returns of about 1-2% annually. However, these returns are largely arbitraged away in nations without capital and investment controls, but persist in countries with capital restrictions. These results are robust to proxies for litigation risk, transparency, growth opportunities, sin measures, and alternative measures of firm valuation.

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Culture and institutional agency: Difference in judgments of economic behavior and organizational responsibilities

Xiaowei Lu et al.
Journal of Applied Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
The current research tested the concept of institutional agency (IA) and its implications for laypeople's attribution patterns related to economic behaviors and organizational responsibilities. The term “institutional agency” refers to a set of lay theories about whether or not an organization can have personhood and related mental properties, such as wishes, desires, intents, and responsibility. Through three cross-cultural studies, we found that people do form certain beliefs about IA which are similar to the legal discourse of institutional responsibility. However, there are significant cultural differences in views of IA, and the concept is more mentally salient for Americans than for Chinese. In Study 1, we distinguished institutional from group agency by showing the cultural differences on attributions in the scenario with “individual vs. group agency” and the scenario with “individual vs. institutional agency.” In Study 2, we again demonstrated the stronger salience of IA for Americans than for Chinese by including the individual, group, and institutional agencies together in one scenario. In Study 3, we further demonstrated that the concept of IA is more salient for Americans by presenting three different agents in separate scenarios. The practical implications of these cultural differences for cross-cultural understanding and the psychological effects of economic globalization are discussed.

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Are Maximizers Unhappier than Satisficers? A Comparison between Japan and the USA

Shigehiro Oishi et al.
Journal of Research in Personality, forthcoming

Abstract:
The present research examined whether maximizing tendencies are associated with lower levels of subjective well-being among Japanese and American residents. Two popular scales exist to measure maximizing tendencies: a Schwartz et al. (2002) scale that conceptualizes maximizing as a combination of high standards and a strong desire to optimize choice and a Diab, Gillespie, and Highhouse (2008) scale which primarily emphasizes the high standards component of maximizing tendencies. Among Americans, maximizers reported being more depressed, less happy, and less satisfied with their lives when assessed by Schwartz et al.’s (2002) scale. In contrast, when assessed by Diab et al.’s (2008) scale, American maximizers actually reported being happier than satisficers. Among Japanese, however, maximizers reported being more depressed, less happy, and less satisfied with their lives regardless of the scale used.

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Sex and Cultural Differences in Spatial Performance Between Japanese and North Americans

Maiko Sakamoto & Mary Spiers
Archives of Sexual Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
Previous studies have suggested that Asians perform better than North Americans on spatial tasks but show smaller sex differences. In this study, we evaluated the relationship between long-term experience with a pictorial written language and spatial performance. It was hypothesized that native Japanese Kanji (a complex pictorial written language) educated adults would show smaller sex differences on spatial tasks than Japanese Americans or North Americans without Kanji education. A total of 80 young healthy participants (20 native Japanese speakers, 20 Japanese Americans-non Japanese speaking, and 40 North Americans-non Japanese speaking) completed the Rey Complex Figure Test (RCFT), the Mental Rotations Test (MRT), and customized 2D and 3D spatial object location memory tests. As predicted, main effects revealed men performed better on the MRT and RCFT and women performed better on the spatial object location memory tests. Also, as predicted, native Japanese performed better on all tests than the other groups. In contrast to the other groups, native Japanese showed a decreased magnitude of sex differences on aspects of the RCFT (immediate and delayed recall) and no significant sex difference on the efficiency of the strategy used to copy and encode the RCFT figure. This study lends support to the idea that intensive experience over time with a pictorial written language (i.e., Japanese Kanji) may contribute to increased spatial performance on some spatial tasks as well as diminish sex differences in performance on tasks that most resemble Kanji.

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When Does Life Satisfaction Accompany Relational Identity Signaling: A Cross-Cultural Analysis

Robert Kreuzbauer et al.
Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Economists have proposed that signaling one’s social identity can increase a person’s subjective utility or happiness. However, there is little cross-cultural research on this relationship. The present research fills this knowledge gap. Using relational identity signaling as an illustration, in two studies, the authors showed that relative to European Americans, Asians (Chinese and Indians) value the relational self more and have relatively high intention to signal their relational identities publicly. Furthermore, for Asians, relational identity signaling is accompanied by higher life satisfaction (the cognitive component of happiness) only when the assimilation motive is salient. In contrast, for European Americans, a positive relationship between relational identity signaling and life satisfaction emerges only when the differentiation motive is salient. These findings suggest that relational identity signaling can confer utility to both Asians and European Americans. Moreover, whether relational identity signaling would increase life satisfaction in a certain culture is a joint function of what the normative practice is in the culture and the motivation to seek social connection of the self to or differentiation of it from others.

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Marital age homogamy in China: A reversal of trend in the reform era?

Zheng Mu & Yu Xie
Social Science Research, March 2014, Pages 141–157

Abstract:
This paper reports on a study of trends in marital age homogamy in China from 1960 to 2005 that uses data from the China 2005 1% Population Inter-census Survey. Instead of a consistent increase in age homogamy, as expected, results show an inverted U-shaped trend. One plausible explanation is that intensified economic pressure, rising consumerism, and a shrinking gender gap in education during the post-1990s reform era have acted to increase women’s desire to marry men who are more economically established, and thus usually older, than less financially secure men. We argue that age hypergamy maintains status hypergamy, a deeply rooted norm for couples in China. An auxiliary analysis based on the human capital model for earnings supports this interpretation. A continued trend in age hypergamy implies a future “marriage squeeze” for men of low socioeconomic status.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Monday, January 20, 2014

Book smart

The Impacts of Expanding Access to High-Quality Preschool Education

Elizabeth Cascio & Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach
NBER Working Paper, December 2013

Abstract:
President Obama's "Preschool for All" initiative calls for dramatic increases in the number of 4 year olds enrolled in public preschool programs and in the quality of these programs nationwide. The proposed program shares many characteristics with the universal preschools that have been offered in Georgia and Oklahoma since the 1990s. This study draws together data from multiple sources to estimate the impacts of these "model" state programs on preschool enrollment and a broad set of family and child outcomes. We find that the state programs have increased the preschool enrollment rates of children from lower- and higher-income families alike. For lower-income families, our findings also suggest that the programs have increased the amount of time mothers and children spend together on activities such as reading, the chances that mothers work, and children's test performance as late as eighth grade. For higher-income families, however, we find that the programs have shifted children from private to public preschools, resulting in less of an impact on overall enrollment but a reduction in childcare expenses, and have had no positive effect on children's later test scores.

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Can Intensive Early Childhood Intervention Programs Eliminate Income-Based Cognitive and Achievement Gaps?

Greg Duncan & Aaron Sojourner
Journal of Human Resources, Fall 2013, Pages 945-968

Abstract:
How much of the income-based gaps in cognitive ability and academic achievement could be closed by a two-year, center-based early childhood education intervention? Data from the Infant Health and Development Program (IHDP), which randomly assigned treatment to low-birth-weight children from both higher- and low-income families between ages one and three, shows much larger impacts among low- than higher-income children. Projecting IHDP impacts to the U.S. population's IQ and achievement trajectories suggests that such a program offered to low-income children would essentially eliminate the income-based gap at age three and between a third and three-quarters of the age five and age eight gaps.

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The Unrealistic Educational Expectations of High School Pupils: Is America Exceptional?

John Jerrim
Sociological Quarterly, Winter 2014, Pages 196-231

Abstract:
There is growing concern that many American teenagers hold unrealistic educational plans. This may indicate a detachment from reality, which could be detrimental to well-being in later life. But is this problem specific to certain countries like the United States, or is it common among young people from across the developed world? This article uses data from the Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) to investigate this issue. It shows how expected and actual college graduation rates differ across a number of countries but also that this gap is particularly large in the United States. Additional analysis suggests that this is being driven, at least in part, by the large proportion of low-achieving American children who believe they will go on to obtain a bachelor's degree. The implications of these findings are discussed in reference to educational policy and contemporary sociological debates.

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Later School Start Time Is Associated with Improved Sleep and Daytime Functioning in Adolescents

Julie Boergers, Christopher Gable & Judith Owens
Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, January 2014, Pages 11-17

Objective: Chronic insufficient sleep is a growing concern among adolescents and is associated with a host of adverse health consequences. Early school start times may be an environmental contributor to this problem. The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of a delay in school start time on sleep patterns, sleepiness, mood, and health-related outcomes.

Method: Boarding students (n = 197, mean age = 15.6 yr) attending an independent high school completed the School Sleep Habits Survey before and after the school start time was experimentally delayed from 8:00 a.m. to 8:25 a.m.

Results: The delay in school start time was associated with a significant (29 min) increase in sleep duration on school nights. The percentage of students receiving 8 or more hours of sleep on a school night increased to more than double, from 18% to 44%. Students in 9th and 10th grade and those with lower baseline sleep amounts were more likely to report improvements in sleep duration after the schedule change. Daytime sleepiness, depressed mood, and caffeine use were all significantly reduced after the delay in school start time. Sleep duration reverted to baseline levels when the original (earlier) school start time was reinstituted.

Conclusions: A modest (25 min) delay in school start time was associated with significant improvements in sleep duration, daytime sleepiness, mood, and caffeine use. These findings have important implications for public policy and add to research suggesting the health benefits of modifying school schedules to more closely align with adolescents' circadian rhythms and sleep needs.

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How States Can Reduce the Dropout Rate for Undocumented Immigrant Youth: The Effects of In-State Resident Tuition Policies

Stephanie Potochnick
Social Science Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
As of December 2011, 13 states have adopted an in-state resident tuition (IRT) policy that provides in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants and several other states are considering similar legislation. While previous research focuses on how IRT policies affect college entry and attainment, this study examines the effect these policies have on high school dropout behavior. Using the Current Population Survey (CPS) and difference-in-difference models, this paper examines whether IRT policies reduce the likelihood of dropping out of high school for Mexican foreign-born non-citizens (FBNC), a proxy for undocumented youth. The policy is estimated to cause an eight percentage point reduction in the proportion that drops out of high school. The paper develops an integrated framework that combines human capital theory with segmented assimilation theory to provide insight into how IRT policies influence student motivation and educational attainment at the high school level.

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In-State College Tuition Policies for Undocumented Immigrants: Implications for High School Enrollment Among Non-citizen Mexican Youth

Robert Bozick & Trey Miller
Population Research and Policy Review, February 2014, Pages 13-30

Abstract:
This paper examines the secondary effects of policies that extend or deny in-state tuition to children of undocumented immigrants. Drawing upon repeated cross-sections of 15-17-year-olds in the Current Population Survey across 1997-2010, we assess changes in high school enrollment rates among Mexican-born non-citizen youth - a proxy for the undocumented youth population. We find that Mexican-born non-citizen youth living in states that deny in-state tuition benefits to undocumented youth are 49 % less likely to be enrolled in school than their peers living in states with no explicit policy. Conversely, Mexican-born non-citizen youth living in states that grant in-state tuition benefits to undocumented youth are 65 % more likely to be enrolled in school than their peers living in states with no explicit policy. The enactment of these policies is unrelated to changes in school enrollment among naturalized citizens. Our findings lend support to the proposition that that the implementation of in-state tuition policies sends signals to immigrant youth about their future educational possibilities in the long-term, which in turn influences the extent to which they engage in school in the short-term.

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No Child Left Bilingual: Accountability and the Elimination of Bilingual Education Programs in New York City Schools

Kate Menken & Cristian Solorza
Educational Policy, January 2014, Pages 96-125

Abstract:
Although educational policies for emergent bilinguals in New York City schools have historically supported the provision of bilingual education, the past decade has borne witness to a dramatic loss of bilingual education programs in city schools. This study examines the factors that determine language education policies adopted by school principals, through qualitative research in 10 city schools that have eliminated their bilingual education programs in recent years and replaced them with English-only programs. Our findings draw a causal link between the pressures of test-based accountability imposed by No Child Left Behind and the adoption of English-only policies in city schools. Testing and accountability are used as the justification for dismantling bilingual education programs and create a disincentive to serve emergent bilingual students, as schools are far more likely to be labeled low performing and risk sanctions such as closure simply for admitting and educating these students.

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The Economic Value of a Law Degree

Michael Simkovic & Frank McIntyre
Harvard Working Paper, April 2013

Abstract:
Legal academics and journalists have marshaled statistics purporting to show that enrolling in law school is irrational. We investigate the economic value of a law degree and find the opposite: given current tuition levels, the median and even 25th percentile annual earnings premiums justify enrollment. For most law school graduates, the net present value of a law degree typically exceeds its cost by hundreds of thousands of dollars. We improve upon previous studies by tracking lifetime earnings of a large sample of law degree holders. Previous studies focused on starting salaries, generic professional degree holders, or the subset of law degree holders who practice law. We also include unemployment and disability risk rather than assume continuous full time employment. After controlling for observable ability sorting, we find that a law degree is associated with a 60 percent median increase in monthly earnings and 50 percent increase in median hourly wages. The mean annual earnings premium of a law degree is approximately $53,300 in 2012 dollars. The law degree earnings premium is cyclical and recent years are within historical norms. We estimate the mean pre-tax lifetime value of a law degree as approximately $1,000,000.

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Competition and public high school performance

Julie Harrison & Paul Rouse
Socio-Economic Planning Sciences, forthcoming

Abstract:
Increasing the level of school competition has been suggested as a way to improve school performance. This study examines one of the most extreme examples of such reform using data from New Zealand public high schools. In the 1990s school zoning was abolished in New Zealand and public schools competed for students, not just with private schools, but also with each other. A categorical Data Envelopment Analysis model using data on school resources and student academic performance, stratified using student socio-economic characteristics, is used to calculate efficiency scores for schools. A regression model is then used to analyse differences in these efficiency scores and their relationship to different levels of competition. The study finds average school performance tends to be higher when schools are located in areas of high competition. However, this result appears to vary depending on school size, suggesting that competition can lead to a widening in the gap between the best and worst performing schools. Long-term this is likely to result in the inefficient use of fixed public resources, as public school survival is only indirectly related to performance.

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Cognitive Skills, Student Achievement Tests, and Schools

Amy Finn et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Cognitive skills predict academic performance, so schools that improve academic performance might also improve cognitive skills. To investigate the impact schools have on both academic performance and cognitive skills, we related standardized achievement-test scores to measures of cognitive skills in a large sample (N = 1,367) of eighth-grade students attending traditional, exam, and charter public schools. Test scores and gains in test scores over time correlated with measures of cognitive skills. Despite wide variation in test scores across schools, differences in cognitive skills across schools were negligible after we controlled for fourth-grade test scores. Random offers of enrollment to oversubscribed charter schools resulted in positive impacts of such school attendance on math achievement but had no impact on cognitive skills. These findings suggest that schools that improve standardized achievement-test scores do so primarily through channels other than improving cognitive skills.

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Encouraging Classroom Peer Interactions: Evidence from Chinese Migrant Schools

Tao Li et al.
Journal of Public Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
In a randomized trial conducted with primary school students in China, we find that pairing high and low achieving classmates as benchmates and offering them group incentives for learning improved low achiever test scores by approximately 0.265 standard deviations without harming the high achievers. Offering only low achievers incentives for learning in a separate trial had no effect. Pure peer effects at the benchmate level are not sufficiently powerful to explain the differences between these two results. We interpret our evidence as suggesting that group incentives can increase the effectiveness of peer effects.

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What is behind class attendance in college economics courses?

Qihui Chen & Tade Okediji
Applied Economics Letters, Winter 2014, Pages 433-437

Abstract:
How class attendance influences students' performance remains unclear. Specifically, do students learn more in class if they attend more classes, or does class attendance create incentives for students to study harder outside class? To better understand this relationship, we designed an attendance policy in an economics course that does not significantly change students' attendance rates. Students who scored below a cut-off on the midterm exam were required to attend subsequent class lectures even though attendance had been implicitly made mandatory for all students, accounting for 10% of the course grade. Our regression discontinuity analysis suggests that our attendance policy significantly improved students' performance on the final exam, even though it had minimal impacts on their attendance rates. We also found that the policy worked via inducing students to reallocate their time spent studying other courses outside class to economics.

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Does Lecture Attendance Affect Academic Performance? Panel Data Evidence for Introductory Macroeconomics

Vincenzo Andrietti
International Review of Economics Education, forthcoming

Abstract:
We analyze data from students enrolled in an introductory macroeconomics course taught at a public university in Italy to assess the impact of lecture attendance on academic performance. Using proxy variables regressions to capture the effect of unobservable student traits possibly correlated with attendance, we still find a positive and significant effect of attendance. However, when using panel data fixed effect estimators to eliminate time-invariant individual-specific unobservables, the effect disappears. The robustness of our results to supplementary data from a major Spanish public university suggests that the positive effect of attendance commonly reported in the literature may still incorporate an impact of unobservable student traits.

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Gendering County Government and the End of 100,000 American School Districts, 1920-1970

Michael Callaghan Pisapia
Publius, Winter 2014, Pages 24-50

Abstract:
Americans abolished 100,000 school districts from 1920 to 1970, altering a policy domain that had long epitomized the decentralized character of American politics. This political development coincided with women's increased authority at the county level of government as reformers sought to overcome local, and typically male, resistance to reform. Not only did women become pivotal actors in generating legislative support for change; they came to wield new influence as the county became a central locus for administration. This gendering of county government, as women reformers undermined entrenched patterns of male political power at the local level, shows how avenues for women's political influence may open up as the administration of policy across different levels of government shifts over time.

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Do single mothers take their share?: FAFSA completion among aid-eligible female students

Melissa Radey & Leah Cheatham
Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, December 2013, Pages 261-275

Abstract:
Approximately 17% of college students are single mothers, a growing and vulnerable subpopulation of women (Miller, Gault, & Thorman, 2011). Although postsecondary education promotes poverty exit, many single mothers - 40% of whom live below the poverty line - lack the financial resources for attendance. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a first step to accessing aid. This study uses data from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:08) to describe and analyze how student characteristics influence FAFSA application rates among low-income, aid-eligible women and consider how student status (single mother, other independent, or dependent student), race/ethnicity, and poverty level intersect to influence application rates. Descriptive findings showed that almost four-fifths of students filed FAFSAs, with 87% of single mothers doing so. Logistic regression results indicate that single mothers' FAFSA completion advantage disappears and becomes a disadvantage after considering economic and nontraditional characteristics. Significant interactions between poverty level and student status reveal that the poorest aid-eligible single mothers filed at lower than expected rates. Findings support two policy recommendations: FAFSA simplification and targeted personal application assistance.

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Teacher heterogeneity, value-added and education policy

Scott Condie, Lars Lefgren & David Sims
Economics of Education Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
This study examines the theoretical and practical implications of ranking teachers with a one-dimensional value-added metric when teacher effectiveness varies across subjects or student types. We create a theoretical framework which suggests specifc tests of the standard teacher input homogeneity assumption. Using North Carolina data we show that value-added fails to empirically meet these tests and document that this leads to a large number of teacher misrankings. Thus, critics of potential value-added teacher personnel policies are correct that such policies will terminate many of the wrong teachers. However, we derive the conditions under which such policies will improve student test scores and find that they will almost certainly be met. We then demonstrate that value-added information can also be used to improve student test scores by matching teachers to students or subjects according to their comparative advantage. These matching gains likely exceed those of a feasible, value-added based firing policy.

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Political economics of higher education finance

Rainald Borck & Martin Wimbersky
Oxford Economic Papers, January 2014, Pages 115-139

Abstract:
We study voting over higher education finance in an economy with risk averse households who are heterogeneous in income. We compare four different systems and analyse voters' preferences among them: a traditional subsidy scheme, a pure loan scheme, income contingent loans and graduate taxes. Using numerical simulations, we find that the poor prefer the subsidy scheme over the other systems, even though they pay part of the taxes. We also find that majorities for income contingent loans or graduate taxes become more likely as risk aversion rises or the income distribution gets more equal.

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Disease or utopia? Testing Baumol in education

Xin Chen & Charles Moul
Economics Letters, February 2014, Pages 220-223

Abstract:
Baumol's Cost Disease offers a compelling hypothesis of rising unit costs in stagnant sectors, but increased productivity in progressive sectors may generate the same prediction through income effects. We examine quantity (rather than expenditure) data from the U.S. educational sector to distinguish between these explanations. Our results indicate significant negative impacts of manufacturing productivity on teacher-pupil ratios.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sensational

Incandescent Affect: Turning On The Hot Emotional System With Bright Light

Alison Jing Xu & Aparna Labroo
Journal of Consumer Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
We propose turning on the light can turn on the hot emotional system. Across six studies we show that ambient brightness makes people feel warmer, which increases intensity of affective response, including sensation seeking from spicy-hot foods, perception of aggression and sexiness (“hotness”) in others, and generating more extreme affective reactions toward positive and negative words and drinks. We suggest these effects arise because light underlies perception of heat, and perception of heat can trigger the hot emotional system. Thus, turning down the light, effortless and unassuming as it may seem, can reduce emotionality in everyday decisions, most of which take place under bright light.

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Seeing the Unseen: Autism Involves Reduced Susceptibility to Inattentional Blindness

John Swettenham et al.
Neuropsychology, forthcoming

Objective: Attention research in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has produced conflicting results. Some findings demonstrate greater distractibility while others suggest superior focused attention. Applying Lavie’s load theory of attention to account for this discrepancy led us to hypothesize increased perceptual capacity in ASD. Preliminary support for our hypothesis has so far been found for adults with ASD with reaction time (RT) and signal detection sensitivity measures. Here we test the novel prediction we derived from this hypothesis that children with ASD should have lower rates of inattentional blindness than controls.

Method: Twenty-four children with ASD (mean age = 10 years 10 months) and 39 typically developing children (age and IQ matched) took part in the study. We assessed the effects of perceptual load on the rates of inattentional blindness in each group. Participants performing a line discrimination task in either a high load or low load condition were presented with an unexpected extra stimulus on a critical trial. Performance on the line judgment task and rates of detection and stimulus identification were recorded.

Results: Overall rates of detection and identification were higher in the ASD group than in the controls. Moreover, whereas both detection and identification rates were significantly lower in the high (compared with low) load conditions for the controls, these were unaffected by load in the ASD group.

Conclusion: Reduced inattentional blindness rates under load in ASD suggests higher perceptual capacity is a core feature, present from childhood and leading to superior performance in various measures of perception and attention.

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Post-study caffeine administration enhances memory consolidation in humans

Daniel Borota et al.
Nature Neuroscience, forthcoming

Abstract:
It is currently not known whether caffeine has an enhancing effect on long-term memory in humans. We used post-study caffeine administration to test its effect on memory consolidation using a behavioral discrimination task. Caffeine enhanced performance 24 h after administration according to an inverted U-shaped dose-response curve; this effect was specific to consolidation and not retrieval. We conclude that caffeine enhanced consolidation of long-term memories in humans.

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Trust in Me: Trustworthy Others Are Seen as More Physically Similar to the Self

Harry Farmer, Ryan McKay & Manos Tsakiris
Psychological Science, January 2014, Pages 290-292

"In the present study, we examined how participants’ perception of facial similarity was affected by taking part in a social interaction (trust game) in which the trustee either rewarded or betrayed the participant’s trust...The faces of trustworthy interaction partners are perceived as more similar to one’s own than those of untrustworthy interaction partners are."

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Self-Affirmation Counters the Effects of Self-Regulatory Resource Depletion on Height Perception

Stefan Huynh, Jeanine Stefanucci & Lisa Aspinwall
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Perception of the layout of the environment may be influenced by factors other than the physical information provided to the retina, including self-regulatory and psychosocial resources. We tested whether depletion of self-regulatory resources affected estimates of the height of a balcony and whether a psychosocial resource could substitute for self-regulatory resources among individuals making such estimates. Undergraduates performed a self-regulation depletion task and a values-affirmation task or their control equivalents in a 2 × 2 design (N = 80) and viewed a balcony height from above. A rope was attached to the height to make action on the height possible. Those who expended self-regulatory resources overestimated the balcony height more than the control group (both groups overestimated relative to the true height). However, this effect was counteracted by the values-affirmation task. Depleted participants who affirmed core values did not overestimate the height as much, resulting in estimates similar to the non-depleted participants. These results were not mediated by perceived threat posed by the height, positive mood or more specific positive, other-directed feelings. Our results suggest that visual perception of a threatening environment can be affected by the resources available to the perceiver for performing action on the environment.

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A processing fluency-account of funniness: Running gags and spoiling punchlines

Sascha Topolinski
Cognition & Emotion, forthcoming

Abstract:
Earlier theories on humour assume that funniness stems from the incongruity resolution of the surprising punchline and thus an insight into the joke's meaning. Applying recent psychological theorising that insight itself draws on processing fluency being the ease and speed with which mental content is processed, it is predicted that increasing the fluency of processing the punchline of a joke increases funniness. In Experiments 1 and 2, significant nouns from the punchlines or from the beginnings of jokes were presented before a joke was rated in funniness. Pre-exposing punchline words 15 minutes and even only 1 minute before the eventual joke led to increased funniness ratings. In contrast, pre-exposing punchline words directly before a joke led to decreased funniness ratings. Furthermore, pre-exposing the beginning of a joke 1 minute before the joke had no effects on funniness. Experiment 3 ruled out exposure-facilitated punchline anticipation as alternative mechanism, and Experiment 4 replicated this fluency effect with typing font as manipulation. These findings also show that pre-exposing a punchline, which in common knowledge should spoil a joke, can actually increase funniness under certain conditions.

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Illusory self-identification with an avatar reduces arousal responses to painful stimuli

Daniele Romano et al.
Behavioural Brain Research, 15 March 2014, Pages 275–281

Abstract:
Looking at one's own body has been shown to induce analgesia. In the present work we investigated whether illusory self-identification with an avatar, as induced experimentally through visuo-tactile stimulation, modulates the response to painful stimuli. In 30 healthy volunteers, a robotic device was used to stroke the participants back, while they viewed either the body of an avatar, a non-body object (control object), or a body avatar with scrambled body parts (control body). All were visually stimulated in either congruent or incongruent fashion with the participant's body. We collected physiological responses (Skin Conductance Response - SCR) to painful stimuli delivered to the participant's hand and responses to a questionnaire inquiring about self-identification with the avatar. We expected reduced physiological responses to pain during the observation of a body avatar only during synchronous visuo-tactile stroking and no reduction for the control object and the control body. Results showed a reduced SCR to painful stimuli when participants observed the normal body avatar being stroked synchronously that was also associated with largest self-identification ratings recordable already during the pain anticipation. Moreover, a negative correlation between self-identification and SCR was observed, suggesting that a greater degree of self-identification with the avatar was associated with larger decreases in SCR. These results suggest that, during states of illusory self-identification with the avatar, the vision of an alien body (anatomically compatible for the vision and congruently stroked for the touch) is effective in modulating physiological responses to painful stimuli.

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Bright light and mental fatigue: Effects on alertness, vitality, performance and physiological arousal

K.C.H.J. Smolders & Y.A.W. de Kort
Journal of Environmental Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Alertness-enhancing effects of bright light are particularly strong at night or after sleep deprivation. Alerting effects during daytime also exist, yet these appear to be more modest. In this study, we investigate whether a higher illuminance level particularly benefits individuals who suffer from mental fatigue – not from sleep pressure, but from mental exertion. A 2x2 within-subjects design (N = 28; 106 sessions) was applied to investigate effects of 1000 vs. 200 lx at the eye on self-report measures, task performance and physiological arousal after a mental antecedent condition (fatigue vs. control). Results showed that participants felt less sleepy, more vital and happier when exposed to bright light. Effects on subjective sleepiness and self-control capacity were stronger under mental fatigue. Vigilance benefited from bright light exposure – although this effect emerged with a delay irrespective of the antecedent condition. Other tasks showed more mixed and sometimes even adverse effects of bright light.

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Taking a Shine to It: How the Preference for Glossy Stems from an Innate Need for Water

Katrien Meert, Mario Pandelaere & Vanessa Patrick
Journal of Consumer Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Human beings are attracted to glossy objects. However, the investigation of whether this preference for glossy is a systematic bias, and the rationale for why, has received little or no attention. Drawing on an evolutionary psychology framework, we propose and test the hypothesis that the preference for glossy stems from an innate preference for water as a valuable resource. In a set of six studies we demonstrate the preference for glossy amongst both adults and young children (studies 1A, 1B and 2) ruling out a socialization explanation, investigate the hypothesis that the preference for glossy stems from an innate need for water as a resource (studies 3 and 5) and, in addition, rule out the more superficial account of glossy = pretty (study 4). The interplay between the different perspectives, implications of the findings and future research directions are discussed.

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Happiness takes you right: The effect of emotional stimuli on line bisection

Zaira Cattaneo et al.
Cognition & Emotion, Winter 2014, Pages 325-344

Abstract:
Emotion recognition is mediated by a complex network of cortical and subcortical areas, with the two hemispheres likely being differently involved in processing positive and negative emotions. As results on valence-dependent hemispheric specialisation are quite inconsistent, we carried out three experiments with emotional stimuli with a task being sensitive to measure specific hemispheric processing. Participants were required to bisect visual lines that were delimited by emotional face flankers, or to haptically bisect rods while concurrently listening to emotional vocal expressions. We found that prolonged (but not transient) exposition to concurrent happy stimuli significantly shifted the bisection bias to the right compared to both sad and neutral stimuli, indexing a greater involvement of the left hemisphere in processing of positively connoted stimuli. No differences between sad and neutral stimuli were observed across the experiments. In sum, our data provide consistent evidence in favour of a greater involvement of the left hemisphere in processing positive emotions and suggest that (prolonged) exposure to stimuli expressing happiness significantly affects allocation of (spatial) attentional resources, regardless of the sensory (visual/auditory) modality in which the emotion is perceived and space is explored (visual/haptic).

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM


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