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Monday, August 4, 2014

Taskmaster

Them's Fightin' Words: The Effects of Violent Rhetoric on Ethical Decision Making in Business

Joshua Gubler, Nathan Kalmoe & David Wood
Journal of Business Ethics, forthcoming

Abstract:
Business managers regularly employ metaphorical violent rhetoric as a means of motivating their employees to action. While it might be effective to this end, research on violent media suggests that violent rhetoric might have other, less desirable consequences. This study examines how the use of metaphorical violent rhetoric by business managers impacts the ethical decision making of employees. We develop and test a model that explains how the use of violent rhetoric impacts employees' willingness to break ethical standards, depending on the source of the rhetoric. The results of two experiments suggest that the use of violent rhetoric by a CEO at a competing company increases employees' willingness to engage in ethical violations while the use of violent rhetoric by employees' own CEO decreases their willingness to engage in unethical behavior. Furthermore, we find that participants who made less ethical decisions motivated by violent rhetoric used by a competitor's CEO did not view their decisions as less ethical than the other participants in the experiments. The results of these studies highlight potentially harmful unintended consequences of the use of violent rhetoric, providing knowledge that should be useful to managers and academics who want to increase employee motivation without increasing a willingness to engage in unethical behavior.

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A (Blurry) Vision of the Future: How Leader Rhetoric about Ultimate Goals Influences Performance

Andrew Carton, Chad Murphy & Jonathan Clark
Academy of Management Journal, forthcoming

Abstract:
One key responsibility of leaders involves crafting and communicating two types of messages - visions and values - that help followers understand the ultimate purpose of their work. Although scholars have long considered how leaders communicate visions and values to establish a sense of purpose, they have overlooked how these messages can be used to establish a shared sense of purpose, which is achieved when multiple employees possess the same understanding of the purpose of work. In this research, we move beyond the traditional focus on leader rhetoric and individual cognition to examine leader rhetoric and shared cognition. We suggest that a specific combination of messages - a large amount of vision imagery combined with a small number of values - will boost performance more than other combinations because it triggers a shared sense of the organization's ultimate goal, and, in turn, enhances coordination. We found support for our predictions in an archival study of 151 hospitals and an experiment with 62 groups of full-time employees. In light of these findings, we conducted exploratory analyses and discovered two dysfunctional practices: leaders tend to (1) communicate visions without imagery and (2) over-utilize value-laden rhetoric.

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Technological Change, Relative Worker Productivity, and Firm-Level Substitution: Evidence From the NBA

Grant Gannaway et al.
Journal of Sports Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
In this article, we examine the effect, on players, of a change in the technology for scoring points in the NBA, the introduction of the three-point line. While a naive prediction about the impact of this change suggests that it would disproportionately raise the productivity and value of guards who are more likely to shoot the ball from behind the three-point line, we show in a simple model that the strategic response of the defense leads the three-point line to increase the relative productivity of players who are more likely to shoot closer to the basket. We provide evidence that centers and forwards experienced increases in relative productivity with the introduction of the three-point line. Finally, we present evidence that the labor market in the NBA adjusted by increasing the demand for height in the NBA draft. Our results highlight the potential for strategic adjustments to affect the bias of technological change.

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The unintended consequences of the rat race: The detrimental effects of performance pay on health

Keith Bender & Ioannis Theodossiou
Oxford Economic Papers, July 2014, Pages 824-847

Abstract:
Although performance pay schemes have been linked to labour market productivity, one unintended consequence, suggested early by Adam Smith, is that performance pay is detrimental to health. Recent research has shown that there is a positive relationship between performance pay and injuries on the job. This article focusses on the consequences of performance pay on health and investigates if there is a link between performance pay and self-reported general health or specific illnesses. Using data from the British Household Panel Survey, this study uses survival analysis to show that being in jobs with a performance pay element increases the likelihood of health deterioration, ceteris paribus.

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Paying It Forward vs. Rewarding Reputation: Mechanisms of Generalized Reciprocity

Wayne Baker & Nathaniel Bulkley
Organization Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Generalized reciprocity is a widely recognized but little studied component of social capital in organizations. We develop a causal model of the multiple mechanisms that sustain generalized reciprocity in an organization, drawing together disparate literatures in the social, organizational, and biological sciences. We conduct the first-ever critical test of two key mechanisms: paying it forward and rewarding reputation. These are fundamentally different grammars of organizing, either of which could sustain a system of generalized reciprocity. In an organization, paying it forward is a type of organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) that occurs when members of an organization help third parties because they themselves were helped. Rewarding reputation is a type of OCB that occurs when peers monitor one another, helping those who help others and refusing to help those who do not. Using behavioral data collected from members of two organizational groups over a three-month period, we found that reputational effects were strongest in the short term but decayed thereafter. Paying it forward had stronger and more lasting effects. Dominant theories assume that rewarding reputation is the main cause of generalized reciprocity, but our analysis demonstrates that generalized reciprocity in an organization occurs for multiple reasons. We use the empirical findings to develop propositions about the mechanisms of generalized reciprocity in organizations and link these to management practices. Our study contributes to social exchange theory, macro-level prosocial behavior, OCB, positive organizational scholarship, and management.

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Multiple types of motives don't multiply the motivation of West Point cadets

Amy Wrzesniewski et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 29 July 2014, Pages 10990-10995

Abstract:
Although people often assume that multiple motives for doing something will be more powerful and effective than a single motive, research suggests that different types of motives for the same action sometimes compete. More specifically, research suggests that instrumental motives, which are extrinsic to the activities at hand, can weaken internal motives, which are intrinsic to the activities at hand. We tested whether holding both instrumental and internal motives yields negative outcomes in a field context in which various motives occur naturally and long-term educational and career outcomes are at stake. We assessed the impact of the motives of over 10,000 West Point cadets over the period of a decade on whether they would become commissioned officers, extend their officer service beyond the minimum required period, and be selected for early career promotions. For each outcome, motivation internal to military service itself predicted positive outcomes; a relationship that was negatively affected when instrumental motives were also in evidence. These results suggest that holding multiple motives damages persistence and performance in educational and occupational contexts over long periods of time.

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The Multinational Advantage

Drew Creal et al.
University of Chicago Working Paper, May 2014

Abstract:
Using a proprietary dataset, we investigate whether the degree of international diversification affects firm value for U.S. multinational corporations (MNCs). Our analyses offer robust evidence that organizing a set of otherwise independent activities within a multinational network results in a value premium, relative to a benchmark portfolio of independent firms operating in the same country-industry footprint as the MNC. We also examine frictions and economic forces that plausibly give rise to this value premium and find forces related to equity market segmentation, exposure to various legal environments, and cost containment strategies affect the advantage of MNCs, relative to local competitors.

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Do non-competition agreements lead firms to pursue risky R&D projects?

Raffaele Conti
Strategic Management Journal, August 2014, Pages 1230-1248

Abstract:
This study investigates the impact of non-competition agreements on the type of R&D activity undertaken by companies. Non-competition agreements, by reducing outbound mobility and knowledge leakages to competitors, make high-risk R&D projects relatively more valuable than low-risk ones. Thus, they induce companies to choose riskier R&D projects, such that corporate inventions are more likely to lie in the tails of the inventions' value distribution (as breakthroughs or failures) and be in novel technological areas. This study uses data about U.S. patent applications from 1990 to 2000 and considers longitudinal variation in the enforcement of non-compete clauses. The results indicate that in states with stricter enforcement, companies undertake riskier R&D paths than in states that do not enforce non-compete agreements as strictly.

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Euphemisms and Ethics: A Language-Centered Analysis of Penn State's Sexual Abuse Scandal

Kristen Lucas & Jeremy Fyke
Journal of Business Ethics, July 2014, Pages 551-569

Abstract:
For 15 years, former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky used his Penn State University perquisites to lure young and fatherless boys by offering them special access to one of the most revered football programs in the country. He repeatedly used the football locker room as a space to groom, molest, and rape his victims. In February 2001, an eye-witness alerted Penn State's top leaders that Sandusky was caught sexually assaulting a young boy in the showers. Instead of taking swift action against Sandusky, leaders began a cover-up that is considered one of the worst scandals in sports history. While public outcry has focused on the leaders' silence, we focus on the talk that occurred within the organization by key personnel. Drawing from court documents and internal investigative reports, we examine two euphemism clusters that unfolded in the scandal. The first cluster comprises reporting euphemisms, in which personnel used coded language to report the assault up the chain of command. The second cluster comprises responding euphemisms, in which Penn State's top leaders relied on an innocuous, but patently false, interpretation of earlier euphemisms as a decision-making framework to chart their course of (in)action. We use this case to demonstrate how euphemistic language impairs ethical decision-making, particularly by framing meaning and visibility of acts, encouraging mindless processing of moral considerations, and providing a shield against psychological and material consequences. Further, we argue that euphemism may serve as a disguised retort to critical upward communication in organizations.

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Employer Learning, Productivity, and the Earnings Distribution: Evidence from Performance Measures

Lisa Kahn & Fabian Lange
Review of Economic Studies, forthcoming

Abstract:
Pay distributions fan out with experience. The leading explanations for this pattern are that over time, either employers learn about worker productivity but productivity remains fixed or workers' productivities themselves evolve heterogeneously. We propose a dynamic specification that nests both employer learning and dynamic productivity heterogeneity. We estimate this model on a 20-year panel of pay and performance measures from a single, large firm. The advantage of these data is that they provide us with repeat measures of productivity, some of which have not yet been observed by the firm when it sets wages. We use our estimates to investigate how learning and dynamic productivity heterogeneity jointly contribute to the increase in pay dispersion with age. We find that both mechanisms are important for understanding wage dynamics. The dispersion of pay increases with experience primarily because productivity differences increase. Imperfect learning, however, means that wages differ significantly from individual productivity all along the life cycle because firms continuously struggle to learn about a moving target in worker productivity. Our estimates allow us to calculate the degree to which imperfect learning introduces a wedge between the private and social incentives to invest in human capital. We find that these disincentives exist throughout the life cycle but increase rapidly after about 15 years of experience. Thus, in contrast to the existing literature on employer learning, we find that imperfect learning might have especially large effects on investments among older workers.

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Learning through the Distribution of Failures within an Organization: Evidence from Heart Bypass Surgery Performance

Vinit Desai
Academy of Management Journal, forthcoming

Abstract:
While research suggests that organizations can improve by investigating and learning from failures, some work finds that they may generate incorrect lessons or fail to learn. This study addresses the debate by turning attention to the processes that underlie learning, using attribution theory to highlight the way that decision makers interpret information about where failures occurred or who was involved. This approach is notable because it suggests that different organizations with similar experiences may have quite distinct reactions based on where that experience originates. Specifically, I predict that organizations learn less effectively when their failures are fairly concentrated in origin, meaning that failures typically involve a particular unit or even a specific individual, rather than when failures are more broadly dispersed. I also examine factors that intensify or ameliorate this effect, including an organization's size or its performance relative to aspirations. I test related hypotheses on a panel of hospitals that offered a specific surgical procedure within California from 2003 through 2010.

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Turnover and Knowledge Loss: An Examination of the Differential Impact of Production Manager and Worker Turnover in Service and Manufacturing Firms

Rory Eckardt, Bruce Skaggs & Mark Youndt
Journal of Management Studies, forthcoming

Abstract:
This research examines the comparative effects of production manager and worker turnover in service and manufacturing settings. We suggest that, due to the centrality of human-action in services and the ability of manufacturers to insulate the technical core, service and manufacturing companies are differentially dependent on and impacted by the loss of production manager and worker knowledge. The results from a survey of 150 service and manufacturing firms provide partial support for this notion and show that turnover impacts these organizations differently. More specifically, we find that: 1) the negative impact of production worker turnover on firm performance is greater in service settings than in manufacturing settings; and 2) the negative impact of production worker turnover on firm performance is greater than the impact of production manager turnover in service firms. In addition, our findings show that organizational capital moderates the turnover-performance relationship for production workers in service firms.

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Social Media as Technologies of Accountability: Explaining Resistance to Implementation Within Organizations

Jeffrey Treem
American Behavioral Scientist, forthcoming

Abstract:
This study extends recent work exploring the affordances of social media in organizations by considering how social media may also operate as technologies of accountability. This perspective adopts a performative view of social media use in organizations and recognizes that the technologies not only display communication to organizational members but also, in doing so, potentially increase the accountability of workers. Using a case study of the implementation of a social media system inside a financial services company, this work explores how workers view social media in terms of various forms of accountability. The findings reveal that prior to implementation of the social media system workers expressed concern about the accountability social media would create, and that the reluctance to face the accountability associated with communications led to low use of the social media system.

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Matching Capital and Labor

Jonathan Berk, Jules van Binsbergen & Binying Liu
NBER Working Paper, May 2014

Abstract:
We establish an important role for the firm by studying capital reallocation decisions of mutual fund firms. We show that firms add significant value by matching capital to labor. We find that, following the firm's decision to reallocate capital to one of its managers, future value added increases significantly. We find no evidence of a similar effect when a firm hires a manager from another firm. We conclude that an important reason why firms exist is the private information that derives from firms' ability to better assess the skill of their own employees.

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A View Inside Corporate Risk Management

Gordon Bodnar et al.
Duke University Working Paper, May 2014

Abstract:
A number of theories have been proposed to explain why firms hedge. Unfortunately, these theories are hard to test: While we might observe the hedges, it is hard to answer the question of "why" hedging occurs. Our paper attacks the "why" by directly questioning the managers that make the risk management decisions. Our results present a fresh, inside view of corporate risk management. Rather than hedging being conducted solely by "firms", our results suggest that personal risk aversion in combination with other executive traits plays a key role in whether a company hedges. As such, our results suggest an important deficiency in many modern theories of risk management which ignore the role of the individual manager.

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Do Interviewers Sell Themselves Short? The Effects of Selling Orientation on Interviewers' Judgments

Jennifer Carson Marr & Dan Cable
Academy of Management Journal, June 2014, Pages 624-651

Abstract:
Drawing on alternative perspectives about the automaticity of dispositional judgments, we examine whether the motivation to attract the other (i.e., selling orientation) in interpersonal first meetings (e.g., job interviews) helps or hinders the accuracy and validity of dispositional judgments. In a laboratory study (Study 1), we found that selling orientation reduced the accuracy of interviewers' judgments about applicants' core self-evaluations. Then, we investigated the real-world implications of selling orientation in a field study (Study 2) with two different samples (Samples A and B) and found that a selling orientation negatively influenced the predictive validity of interviewers' judgments. Specifically, when selling orientation was low, interviewers' judgments accurately predicted which applicants would be most (and least) successful as newcomers in the organization (in terms of citizenship, performance, and fit). However, when selling orientation was high, interviewers' judgments no longer predicted applicant outcomes. Together, these results suggest that making dispositional judgments in interpersonal first meetings is an effortful process that is hindered by focusing on other goals (e.g., selling). We discuss the practical and theoretical implications of these findings.

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Shall we continue or stop disapproving of self-presentation? Evidence on impression management and faking in a selection context and their relation to job performance

Pia Ingold et al.
European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
The self-presentation tactics of candidates during job interviews and on personality inventories have been a focal topic in selection research. The current study investigated self-presentation across these two selection devices. Specifically, we examined whether candidates who use impression management (IM) tactics during an interview show more faking on a personality inventory and whether the relation to job performance is similar for both forms of self-presentation. Data were collected in a simulated selection process with an interview under applicant conditions and a personality inventory that was administered under applicant conditions and thereafter for research purposes. Because all participants were employed, we were also able to collect job performance ratings from their supervisors. Candidates who used IM in the interview also showed more faking in a personality inventory. Importantly, faking was positively related to supervisors' job performance ratings, but IM was unrelated. Hence, this study gives rise to arguments for a more balanced view of self-presentation.

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Reallocation and Technology: Evidence from the US Steel Industry

Allan Collard-Wexler & Jan De Loecker
American Economic Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
We measure the impact of a drastic new technology for producing steel - the minimill - industry-wide productivity in the US steel industry, using unique plant-level data between 1963 and 2002. The sharp increase in the industry's productivity is linked to this new technology through two distinct mechanisms: 1) the mere displacement of the older technology (vertically integrated producers) was responsible for a third of the increase in the industry's productivity, 2) Increased competition, due the minimill expansion, drove a productivity resurgence at the surviving vertical integrated producers and, consequently, the productivity of the industry as a whole.

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Gone Fishing! Reported Sickness Absenteeism and the Weather

Jingye Shi & Mikal Skuterud
Economic Inquiry, forthcoming

Abstract:
A fundamental challenge in informing employer-employee agency problems is measuring employee shirking activity. We identify the propensity of employees to misreport health in order to exploit favorable weather by linking Canadian weather data and survey data on short-term spells of sickness absenteeism among indoor workers during the non-winter months. The results point to a clear tendency for reported sickness absenteeism to rise with the recreational quality of the weather. Comparing across workers suggests larger marginal weather effects where shirking costs are higher, which we show is consistent with employees' marginal utility of outdoor leisure increasing in the interaction of their health and weather quality. We discuss the implications of our findings for flexible vacation policies and survey respondents' trust in the confidentiality guarantees of statistical agencies.

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Big Data Investment, Skills, and Firm Value

Prasanna Tambe
Management Science, June 2014, Pages 1452-1469

Abstract:
This paper analyzes how labor market factors have shaped early returns on big data investment using a new data source - the LinkedIn skills database. The data source enables firm-level measurement of the employment of workers with technical skills such as Hadoop, MapReduce, and Apache Pig. From 2006 to 2011, Hadoop investments were associated with 3% faster productivity growth, but only for firms (a) with significant data assets and (b) in labor markets where similar investments by other firms helped to facilitate the development of a cadre of workers with complementary technical skills. The benefits of labor market concentration decline for investments in mature data technologies, such as Structured Query Language-based databases, for which the complementary skills can be acquired by workers through universities or other channels. These findings underscore the importance of geography, corporate investment, and skill acquisition channels for explaining productivity growth differences during the spread of new information technology innovations.

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Non-Executive Employee Ownership and Corporate Risk

Francesco Bova et al.
Accounting Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
Prior research documents a negative link between risk and executive holding of stock (generally positive link is observed for options). We find a similar negative relation for non-executive holding of stock. Our finding is consistent with the view that non-executives not only face significant incentives to reduce risk when they hold stock, but they are also able to affect corporate risk. While endogeneity cannot be ruled out fully, the results of a battery of tests suggest that it plays a limited role. A second robust result is that the documented relation becomes more negative as option-based executive compensation increases. Overall, corporate risk is related to the incentives created by stock and options held by both executives and non-executives, as well as interactions among those incentives.

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Morning Employees Are Perceived as Better Employees: Employees' Start Times Influence Supervisor Performance Ratings

Kai Chi Yam, Ryan Fehr & Christopher Barnes
Journal of Applied Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
In this research, we draw from the stereotyping literature to suggest that supervisor ratings of job performance are affected by employees' start times - the time of day they first arrive at work. Even when accounting for total work hours, objective job performance, and employees' self-ratings of conscientiousness, we find that a later start time leads supervisors to perceive employees as less conscientious. These perceptions in turn cause supervisors to rate employees as lower performers. In addition, we show that supervisor chronotype acts as a boundary condition of the mediated model. Supervisors who prefer eveningness (i.e., owls) are less likely to hold negative stereotypes of employees with late start times than supervisors who prefer morningness (i.e., larks). Taken together, our results suggest that supervisor ratings of job performance are susceptible to stereotypic beliefs based on employees' start times.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Happy hour

Memories of Traumatic Events in Childhood Fade After Experiencing Similar Less Stressful Events: Results From Two Natural Experiments

Carl Weems et al.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, forthcoming

Abstract:
The long-term stability of youth reports of traumatic events is largely unknown. Translational animal research suggests that there may be an alteration of memories for traumatic events via memory reconsolidation processes, whereas clinical research suggests memory alteration may occur through augmentation by negative emotions. In this report, 2 natural experiments test reconsolidation model and augmentation model predictions about the course of traumatic memories in youth. Data are from 2 prospective studies that assessed reports of an initial traumatic event (Hurricane Katrina) and tested recall both pre and post a similar event (Hurricane Gustav). In the 1st (Sample 1; n = 94, initial Grade 9 followed to 11), youth were assessed at 4 time points: Times 1–3 were 13, 20, and 26 months post-Katrina and then Time 4 was 5 months post-Hurricane Gustav. In the 2nd (Sample 2; n = 141, Grades 4 through 8), youth were assessed at 12 months pre-Gustav (Time 1; 24 months post-Katrina) and then again at 1 month (Time 2) and 8 months (Time 3) post-Gustav. Those with relatively high Gustav exposure showed more stability in their reports of Katrina exposure events, whereas in those with low Gustav exposure, reports of Katrina events decreased. Time spans between recall, age, gender, symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, or cognitive/learning ability did not explain changes in the reports. The study provides the 1st long-term data on the consistency of youth reports of disaster-related experiences and provides initial evidence for the ecological validity of memory reconsolidation theory applied to traumatic events in youth.

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Why is intelligence associated with stability of happiness?

Satoshi Kanazawa
British Journal of Psychology, August 2014, Pages 316–337

Abstract:
In the National Child Development Study, life-course variability in happiness over 18 years was significantly negatively associated with its mean level (happier individuals were more stable in their happiness, and it was not due to the ceiling effect), as well as childhood general intelligence and all Big Five personality factors (except for Agreeableness). In a multiple regression analysis, childhood general intelligence was the strongest predictor of life-course variability in life satisfaction, stronger than all Big Five personality factors, including Emotional stability. More intelligent individuals were significantly more stable in their happiness, and it was not entirely because: (1) they were more educated and wealthier (even though they were); (2) they were healthier (even though they were); (3) they were more stable in their marital status (even though they were); (4) they were happier (even though they were); (5) they were better able to assess their own happiness accurately (even though they were); or (6) they were better able to recall their previous responses more accurately or they were more honest in their survey responses (even though they were both). While I could exclude all of these alternative explanations, it ultimately remained unclear why more intelligent individuals were more stable in their happiness.

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Disparities in Adverse Childhood Experiences Among Individuals With a History of Military Service

John Blosnich et al.
JAMA Psychiatry, forthcoming

Objective: To compare the prevalence of ACEs among individuals with and without a history of military service.

Design, Setting, and Participants: Data are from the 2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Computer-assisted telephone interviews were conducted with population-based samples of noninstitutionalized US adults from January 1 through December 31, 2010. Analyses were limited to respondents who received the ACE module (n = 60 598). Participants were categorized by history of military service and whether a respondent was 18 years of age in 1973.

Main Outcomes and Measures: History of military service was defined by active duty service, veteran status, or training for the Reserves or National Guard. The ACE inventory assessed 11 negative experiences before the age of 18 years. Weighted χ2 tests and multiple logistic regression analyses were used to examine differences in ACEs by history of military service, era of service, and sex.

Results: Those with military experience had greater odds of any difference in prevalence of ACEs. In the all-volunteer era, men with military service had a higher prevalence of ACEs in all 11 categories than men without military service. Notably, in the all-volunteer era, men with military service had twice the odds of reporting forced sex before the age of 18 years (odds ratio, 2.19; 95% CI, 1.34-3.57) compared with men without military service. In the draft era, the only difference among men was household drug use, in which men with a history of military service had a significantly lower prevalence than men without a history of military service (2.1% vs 3.3%; P = .003). Fewer differences were observed among women in the all-volunteer and draft eras.

Conclusions and Relevance: Differences in ACEs by era and sex lend preliminary support that enlistment may serve as an escape from adversity for some individuals, at least among men. Further research is needed to understand how best to support service members and veterans who may have experienced ACEs.

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Intranasal Oxytocin Enhances Positive Self-Attribution in Healthy Men

Valentina Colonnello & Markus Heinrichs
Journal of Psychosomatic Research, forthcoming

Objective: A growing body of studies consistently demonstrates that social responsiveness towards others is influenced by the neurohormone oxytocin. However, the potential role of oxytocin for self-perception remains relatively unexplored. Thus, we investigated whether oxytocin administration influences the self-attribution of positive and negative adjectives at the early, effortful stage of self-related information processing.

Methods: Sixty healthy male participants received either 24 I.U. oxytocin or a placebo in a randomized double-blind study before completing a sorting task, in which they were instructed to co-classify, as fast as possible, positive and negative adjectives into either self or non-self categories.

Results: Oxytocin-treated participants reported stronger positive attitudes toward themselves compared to placebo.

Conclusions: The present findings demonstrate that oxytocin administration influences the early stage of self-related information processing and suggests that the oxytocinergic system might be involved in psychopathological conditions characterized by a negative representation of self.

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2D:4D digit ratio predicts depression severity for females but not for males

Kerrie Smedley, Kayla McKain & Devon McKain
Personality and Individual Differences, November 2014, Pages 136–139

Abstract:
Depression affects at least twice the number of women than men. This difference appears to be relatively consistent across a wide range of cultures, with an average female to male ratio of 2:1 (Immerman & Mackey, 2003). Explanations of this sex difference have focused on hormones, the role that early traumas such as sexual abuse play in predisposing females to depression, and socialization influences (Nolen-Hoeksema, 1998). Digit ratio (2D:4D index to ring finger) is a well-established sexually dimorphic trait in humans, with females having a higher ratio than males (Martin, Manning, & Dowrick, 1999). This trait, stable across the lifetime, has been correlated with many other sexually dimorphic traits (Austin, Manning, McInroy, & Matthews, 2001). Previous research has shown contradictory results regarding whether depression is associated with a more masculine digit ratio or a more feminine digit ratio. The purpose of this study was to further investigate whether digit ratio is predictive of severity of depression. Results indicated that higher digit ratio is correlated with higher depression scores in females, but not males. Study limitations and further directions are considered.

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Elevated Maternal C-Reactive Protein and Increased Risk of Schizophrenia in a National Birth Cohort

Sarah Canetta et al.
American Journal of Psychiatry, forthcoming

Objective: The objective of the present study was to investigate an association between early gestational C-reactive protein, an established inflammatory biomarker, prospectively assayed in maternal sera, and schizophrenia in a large, national birth cohort with an extensive serum biobank.

Method: A nested case-control design from the Finnish Prenatal Study of Schizophrenia cohort was utilized. A total of 777 schizophrenia cases (schizophrenia, N=630; schizoaffective disorder, N=147) with maternal sera available for C-reactive protein testing were identified and matched to 777 control subjects in the analysis. Maternal C-reactive protein levels were assessed using a latex immunoassay from archived maternal serum specimens.

Results: Increasing maternal C-reactive protein levels, classified as a continuous variable, were significantly associated with schizophrenia in offspring (adjusted odds ratio=1.31, 95% confidence interval=1.10–1.56). This finding remained significant after adjusting for potential confounders, including maternal and parental history of psychiatric disorders, twin/singleton birth, urbanicity, province of birth, and maternal socioeconomic status.

Conclusions: This finding provides the most robust evidence to date that maternal inflammation may play a significant role in schizophrenia, with possible implications for identifying preventive strategies and pathogenic mechanisms in schizophrenia and other neurodevelopmental disorders.

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Rapid Mood-Elevating Effects of Low Field Magnetic Stimulation in Depression

Michael Rohan et al.
Biological Psychiatry, 1 August 2014, Pages 186–193

Background: We previously reported rapid mood elevation following an experimental magnetic resonance imaging procedure in depressed patients with bipolar disorder (BPD). This prompted the design, construction, and testing of a portable electromagnetic device that reproduces only the rapidly oscillating (1 kHz, <1 V/m) electromagnetic field of the experimental procedure, called low field magnetic stimulation (LFMS).

Methods: We used a randomized, double blind, sham controlled treatment protocol to study the effects of LFMS in a large group of stably medicated, depressed patients with either BPD (n = 41) or major depressive disorder (n = 22). Subjects received a single, 20-minute treatment. Change in mood was assessed immediately afterward using a visual analog scale (VAS), the 17-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS-17), and the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule scales.

Results: Substantial improvement (>10% of baseline) in mood was observed following LFMS treatment relative to sham treatment for both diagnostic subgroups for our primary outcomes, the VAS and the HDRS-17. These differences were not statistically significant in primary analyses stratifying by diagnosis but were significant in secondary analyses combining data across the two diagnostic groups (p = .01 VAS, p = .02 HDRS-17). Rapid improvement in mood was also observed using the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule scales as secondary measures (positive affect scale p = .02 BPD, p = .002 combined group). A finite element method calculation indicates a broad penetration of the LFMS electric field throughout the cerebral cortex.

Conclusions: Low field magnetic stimulation may produce rapid changes in mood using a previously unexplored range of electromagnetic fields.

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Social Identity Reduces Depression by Fostering Positive Attributions

Tegan Cruwys et al.
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Social identities are generally associated with better health and in particular lower levels of depression. However, there has been limited investigation of why social identities protect against depression. The current research suggests that social identities reduce depression in part because they attenuate the depressive attribution style (internal, stable, and global; e.g., “I failed because I’m stupid”). These relationships are first investigated in a survey (Study 1, N = 139) and then followed up in an experiment that manipulates social identity salience (Study 2, N = 88). In both cases, people with stronger social identities were less likely to attribute negative events to internal, stable, or global causes and subsequently reported lower levels of depression. These studies thus indicate that social identities can protect and enhance mental health by facilitating positive interpretations of stress and failure. Implications for clinical theory and practice are discussed.

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Mental health in the foreclosure crisis

Jason Houle
Social Science & Medicine, October 2014, Pages 1–8

Abstract:
Current evidence suggests that the rise in home foreclosures that began in 2007 created feelings of stress, vulnerability, and sapped communities of social and economic resources. Minority and low SES communities were more likely to be exposed to predatory lending and hold subprime mortgages, and were the hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis. Little research has examined whether and how the foreclosure crisis has undermined population mental health. I use data from 2245 counties in 50 U.S. states to examine whether living in high foreclosure areas is associated with residents' mental health and whether the foreclosure crisis has the potential to exacerbate existing disparities in mental health during the recessionary period. I use county-level data from RealtyTrac and other data sources, and individual-level data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey from 2006 to 2011. I find that – net of time invariant unobserved between-county differences, national time trends, and observed confounders – a rise in a county's foreclosure rate is associated with a decline in residents' mental health. This association is especially pronounced in counties with a high concentration of low SES and minority residents, which supports the perspective that the foreclosure crisis has the potential to exacerbate existing social disparities in mental health.

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Symbolic providers help people regulate affect relationally: Implications for perceived support

Brian Lakey et al.
Personal Relationships, forthcoming

Abstract:
Relational regulation theory (Lakey & Orehek, 2011) predicts that the correlation between perceived support and mental health emerges through ordinary conversation and shared activities rather than through conversations about stress and how to cope with it. Observing the conversations and activities of others also helps regulate mental health. Symbolic providers (known only through media) mimic how real providers regulate affect in that recipients observe the conversations and shared activities of symbolic providers. Thus, many perceived support findings obtained for real providers should also be found for symbolic providers. We found the same links between perceived support and affect when recipients rated symbolic providers as when recipients rated real providers. When participants' affect was worsened, viewing symbolic providers helped restore affect.

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To have in order to do: Exploring the effects of consuming experiential products on well-being

Darwin Guevarra & Ryan Howell
Journal of Consumer Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
The experience recommendation – if you want to be happier, buy life experiences instead of material items – is supported in empirical research. However, this evidence is primarily based on the dichotomous comparison of material items and life experiences. The goal of this article is to examine the effects of consuming experiential products – purchases that fall between material items and life experiences – on well-being. Study 1 and Study 2 demonstrate that experiential products provide similar levels of well-being compared to life experiences and more well-being than material items. Study 3 replicates this finding for purchases that turn out well. In addition, Study 3 shows experiential products, when compared to life experiences, lead to more feelings of competence but less feelings of relatedness, which explains why these two purchases result in similar levels of well-being. We discuss why experiential products and life experiences lead to psychological need satisfaction and how our results support the Positive-Activity Model, Self-Determination Theory, and Holbrook and Hirschman's hedonic consumption framework.

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Longitudinal changes of telomere length and epigenetic age related to traumatic stress and post-traumatic stress disorder

Marco Boks et al.
Psychoneuroendocrinology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Several studies have reported an association between traumatic stress and telomere length suggesting that traumatic stress has an impact on aging at the cellular level. A newly derived tool provides an additional means to investigate cellular aging by estimating epigenetic age based on DNA methylation profiles. We therefore hypothesise that in a longitudinal study of traumatic stress both indicators of cellular aging will show increased aging. We expect that particularly in individuals that developed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) increases in these aging parameters would stand out. From an existing longitudinal cohort study, ninety-six male soldiers were selected based on trauma exposure and the presence of symptoms of PTSD. All military personnel were deployed in a combat zone in Afghanistan and assessed before and 6 months after deployment. The Self-Rating Inventory for PTSD was used to measure the presence of PTSD symptoms, while exposure to combat trauma during deployment was measured with a 19-item deployment experiences checklist. These groups did not differ for age, gender, alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking, military rank, length, weight, or medication use. In DNA from whole blood telomere length was measured and DNA methylation levels were assessed using the Illumina 450 K DNA methylation arrays. Epigenetic aging was estimated using the DNAm age estimator procedure. The association of trauma with telomere length was in the expected direction but not significant (B = -10.2, p = 0.52). However, contrary to our expectations, development of PTSD symptoms was associated with the reverse process, telomere lengthening (B = 1.91, p = 0.018). In concordance, trauma significantly accelerated epigenetic aging (B = 1.97, p = 0.032) and similar to the findings in telomeres, development of PTSD symptoms was inversely associated with epigenetic aging (B = -0.10, p = 0.044). Blood cell count, medication and premorbid early life trauma exposure did not confound the results. Overall, in this longitudinal study of military personnel deployed to Afghanistan we show an acceleration of ageing by trauma. However, development of PTSD symptoms was associated with telomere lengthening and reversed epigenetic aging. These findings warrant further study of a perhaps dysfunctional compensatory cellular aging reversal in PTSD.

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Verbal Makes It Positive, Spatial Makes It Negative: Working Memory Biases Judgments, Attention, and Moods

Justin Storbeck & Philip Watson
Emotion, forthcoming

Abstract:
Prior research has suggested that emotion and working memory domains are integrated, such that positive affect enhances verbal working memory, whereas negative affect enhances spatial working memory (Gray, 2004; Storbeck, 2012). Simon (1967) postulated that one feature of emotion and cognition integration would be reciprocal connectedness (i.e., emotion influences cognition and cognition influences emotion). We explored whether affective judgments and attention to affective qualities are biased by the activation of verbal and spatial working memory mind-sets. For all experiments, participants completed a 2-back verbal or spatial working memory task followed by an endorsement task (Experiments 1 & 2), word-pair selection task (Exp. 3), or attentional dot-probe task (Exp. 4). Participants who had an activated verbal, compared with spatial, working memory mind-set were more likely to endorse pictures (Exp. 1) and words (Exp. 2) as being more positive and to select the more positive word pair out of a set of word pairs that went ‘together best’ (Exp. 3). Additionally, people who completed the verbal working memory task took longer to disengage from positive stimuli, whereas those who completed the spatial working memory task took longer to disengage from negative stimuli (Exp. 4). Interestingly, across the 4 experiments, we observed higher levels of self-reported negative affect for people who completed the spatial working memory task, which was consistent with their endorsement and attentional bias toward negative stimuli. Therefore, emotion and working memory may have a reciprocal connectedness allowing for bidirectional influence.

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Cognitive Reappraisal Increases Neuroendocrine Reactivity to Acute Social Stress and Physical Pain

Thomas Denson et al.
Psychoneuroendocrinology, November 2014, Pages 69–78

Abstract:
Cognitive reappraisal can foster emotion regulation, yet less is known about whether cognitive reappraisal alters neuroendocrine stress reactivity. Some initial evidence suggests that although long-term training in cognitive behavioral therapy techniques (which include reappraisal as a primary training component) can reduce cortisol reactivity to stress, some studies also suggest that reappraisal is associated with heightened cortisol stress reactivity. To address this mixed evidence, the present report describes two experimental studies that randomly assigned young adult volunteers to use cognitive reappraisal while undergoing laboratory stressors. Relative to the control condition, participants in the reappraisal conditions showed greater peak cortisol reactivity in response to a socially evaluative speech task (Experiment 1, N = 90) and to a physical pain cold pressor task (Experiment 2, N = 94). Participants in the cognitive reappraisal group also reported enhanced anticipatory psychological appraisals of self-efficacy and control in Experiment 2 and greater post-stressor self-efficacy. There were no effects of the reappraisal manipulation on positive and negative subjective affect, pain, or heart rate in either experiment. These findings suggest that although cognitive reappraisal fosters psychological perceptions of self-efficacy and control under stress, this effortful emotion regulation strategy in the short-term may increase cortisol reactivity. Discussion focuses on promising psychological mechanisms for these cognitive reappraisal effects.

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A re-examination of behaviour in depression: Have we grossly underestimated the extent and impact of the behavioural suffering?

Robert Hopkins, David Michela & Lindy Kilik
Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, July 2014, Pages 456-463

Abstract:
While depression is known to be a disturbance of mood, it is also a disturbance of behaviour. From clinical evidence, it is suggested that this behavioural disturbance may be more profound than previously reported. The purpose of the study was to assess the level of behavioural disturbance in a moderately to severely depressed group of community living individuals aged 21 to 65 (N = 30). Behaviour was assessed by the Kingston Standardized Behavioural Assessment, and cognition was assessed by the Kingston Standardized Cognitive Assessment–Revised and the Mini-Mental State Examination. This depressed group was indeed more behaviourally impaired than one would expect from the traditional descriptions of depression. In fact, the level of behavioural disturbance found was equal to that in community-dwelling Alzheimer’s disease patients. The depressed group was then compared to an equally behaviourally disturbed group of probable Alzheimer’s disease patients also living in the community. The depressed group was both significantly better oriented, and had better overall cognition. Behavioural patterns were compared between groups. The findings of this study suggest that individuals with depression are more significantly impaired than traditionally thought. Not only was a broader range of behaviour change seen in patients, but there was a greater number of changes seen per patient than previously described. This also suggests that a greater number of targets for clinical intervention are available.

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“I'm Disgusting”: Investigating the Role of Self-Disgust in Nonsuicidal Self-Injury

Noelle Smith et al.
Archives of Suicide Research, forthcoming

Objectives: Self-directed disgust, a component of self-criticism may present an important, yet unexplored emotion in the context of nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI). The aim of this study was to examine the role of self-disgust in NSSI, specifically as a potential mediator in the relations between depression and NSSI as well as sexual abuse and NSSI, and to also better understand characteristics that might differentiate recent and past self-injurers.

Method: 549 college students completed measures assessing NSSI, self-disgust, depression, anxiety sensitivity and physical and sexual abuse.

Results: Results indicated self-disgust fully mediated the relation between depressive symptoms and NSSI status and partially mediated the relation between sexual abuse and NSSI status. Additionally, compared to past self-injurers (4.6%; n = 25), recent self-injurers (6.4%; n = 35) endorsed significantly higher self-disgust and depressive symptoms.

Conclusion: Self-disgust may be an important component in NSSI and should be addressed in treatment.

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Why are people with high self-control happier? The effect of trait self-control on happiness as mediated by regulatory focus

Tracy Cheung et al.
Frontiers in Psychology, July 2014

Background: While self-control has often been related to positive outcomes in life such as higher academic achievements and better health, recent insights reveal that people with high trait self-control (TSC) may even experience greater life satisfaction or happiness.

Objective: The current study further scrutinizes this potential association between TSC and happiness, and examines how regulatory focus, defined as the way people frame and direct their goal pursuit strategies, plays a role in this relationship. Accordingly, the present study examines the mediating role of regulatory-focus (promotion and prevention focus) on the relationship between TSC and happiness.

Method: Data was collected from 545 individuals (65.9% female, Mage = 27.52 years) regarding their TSC, regulatory focus, and happiness.

Results: Mediation analyses demonstrate that TSC positively predicts happiness, while this effect was partially mediated by relatively more promotion focus and less prevention focus.

Conclusion: Results suggest that people with higher TSC are happier possibly because they are: (1) more promotion-focused on acquiring positive gains thereby facilitating more approach-oriented behaviors, and (2) less prevention-focused on avoiding losses thereby reducing avoidance-oriented behaviors. These findings are relevant for topical scientific debates regarding the underlying mechanisms of self-control regarding initiatory and inhibitory behaviors.

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Emotion Regulation Meets Emotional Attention: The Influence of Emotion Suppression on Emotional Attention Depends on the Nature of the Distracters

Julia Vogt & Jan De Houwer
Emotion, forthcoming

Abstract:
Recent evidence has suggested a crucial role of people’s current goals in attention to emotional information. This asks for research investigating how and what kinds of goals shape emotional attention. The present study investigated how the goal to suppress a negative emotional state influences attention to emotion-congruent events. After inducing disgust, we instructed participants to suppress all feelings of disgust during a subsequent dot probe task. Attention to disgusting images was modulated by the sort of distracter that was presented in parallel with disgusting imagery. When disgusting images were presented together with neutral images, emotion suppression was accompanied by a tendency to attend to disgusting images. However, when disgusting images were shown with positive images that allow coping with disgust (i.e., images representing cleanliness), attention tended away from disgusting images and toward images representing cleanliness. These findings show that emotion suppression influences the allocation of attention but that the successful avoidance of emotion-congruent events depends on the availability of effective distracters.

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A vacation from your mind: Problematic online gaming is a stress response

Jeffrey Snodgrass et al.
Computers in Human Behavior, September 2014, Pages 248–260

Abstract:
We present ethnographically-informed survey and interview data suggesting that problematic online gaming in the World of Warcraft (WoW) can be conceptualized as a response to pre-existing life stress, which for highly stressed individuals magnifies rather than relieves their suffering. In particular, we explore how relaxing and arousing in-game experiences and activities provide forms of cognitive diversion that can lead to problematic play among more highly stressed individuals. Our research supports what has been called a “rich get richer” model of problematic Internet use. In this instance, less stressed individuals manage to play WoW so as to enhance their offline lives. By contrast, more highly stressed players further magnify the stress and suffering in their lives by playing problematically the online game within which they sought refuge from their offline problems.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Felt something

The Effects of Heightened Physiological Needs on Perception of Psychological Connectedness

Xiuping Li & Meng Zhang
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
In three sets of experiments, we propose and find a cognition shift caused by heightened physiological states such as sexual desire and hunger. In particular, it was found that exposure to images of sexy women decreases male consumers' perception of being connected to others. A similar effect was demonstrated in a study when participants were feeling hungry. Such an effect of physiological need on social perception is profound, irrespective of whether the target "other" is an acquaintance, a best friend, an unknown person, or even the future self. We also test the downstream behavioral consequences of this reduced psychological connectedness (e.g., less resource allocation and less helping).

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When do socially accepted people feel ostracized? Physical pain triggers social pain

Zhansheng Chen, Kai-Tak Poon & Nathan DeWall
Social Influence, forthcoming

Abstract:
The present research investigated whether physical suffering would cause people to feel ostracized even when they are accepted by their social interaction partners. Participants were instructed to place their hands either into a circulated cold water bath (to induce physical pain) or into a water bath at room temperature while they were either included or ostracized during an online ball tossing game — Cyberball. We found that physical pain led people to experience social pain, while they are socially accepted during a social interaction. Our findings suggest that people with physical suffering may need extra attention in social interactions to satisfy their threatened social needs.

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In doubt and disorderly: Ambivalence promotes compensatory perceptions of order

Frenk van Harreveld et al.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, August 2014, Pages 1666-1676

Abstract:
Ambivalence is a presumably unpleasant experience, and coming to terms with it is an intricate part of human existence. It is argued that ambivalent attitude holders cope with their ambivalence through compensatory perceptions of order. We first show that ambivalence leads to an increase in (visual) perceptions of order (Study 1). In Study 2 we conceptually replicate this finding by showing that ambivalence also increases belief in conspiracy theories, a cognitive form of order perception. Furthermore, this effect is mediated by the negative emotions that are elicited by ambivalence. In Study 3 we show that increased need for order is driving these effects: Affirmations of order cancel out the effect of ambivalence on perceptions of order. Theoretical as well as societal implications are discussed.

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Ray of Hope: Hopelessness Increases Preferences for Brighter Lighting

Ping Dong, Xun (Irene) Huang & Chen-Bo Zhong
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Does bright lighting seem more desirable when people feel hopeless? Common parlance such as “ray of hope” depicts an association between hope and the perception of brightness. Building on research in embodied cognition and conceptual metaphor, we examined whether incidental emotion of hopelessness can affect brightness perception, which may influence people’s preference for lighting. Across four studies, we found that people who feel hopeless judge the environment to be darker (Study 1). As a consequence, hopeless people expressed a greater desire for ambient brightness and higher wattage light bulbs (Studies 2 and 3). Study 4 showed the reversal of the effect — being in a dimmer (vs. brighter) room induces greater hopelessness toward the perceived job search prospects. Taken together, these results suggest that hopeless feeling seems to bias people’s perceptual judgment of ambient brightness, which may potentially impact their electricity consumption.

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Is It Still Working? Task Difficulty Promotes a Rapid Wear-Off Bias in Judgments of Pharmacological Products

Veronika Ilyuk, Lauren Block & David Faro
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
Misuse of pharmacological products is a major public health concern. Seven studies provide evidence of a rapid wear-off bias in judgments of pharmacological products: consumers infer that duration of product efficacy is dependent on concurrent task difficulty, such that relatively more difficult tasks lead to faster product wear-off. This bias appears to be grounded in consumers’ incorrect application of a mental model about substance wear-off based on their experiences with, and beliefs about, various physical and biological phenomena. Results indicate that the rapid wear-off bias affects consumption frequency and may thus contribute to overdosing of widely available pharmacological products. Further, manufacturers’ intake instructions in an interval format (e.g., “Take one pill every 2-4 hours”) are shown to signal that efficacy is task-dependent and reinforce the bias. Debiasing mechanisms — interventions to reduce the rapid wear-off bias and its impact — along with implications for consumers, marketers, and public health officials are discussed.

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Chemical communication of fear: A case of male–female asymmetry

Jasper de Groot, Gün Semin & Monique Smeets
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, August 2014, Pages 1515-1525

Abstract:
Previous research has documented sex differences in nonverbal communication. What has remained unknown is whether similar sex differences would exist with regard to olfactory communication via chemosignals, a relatively neglected nonverbal communication medium. Because women generally have a better sense of smell and greater sensitivity to emotional signals, we hypothesized that compared with male participants and relative to a neutral control condition, female participants would emulate the fearful state of the sender producing the chemosignals. Facial electromyography was used in a double-blind experiment to measure in the receiver a partial reproduction of the state of the sender, controlling for the moderating influence of the sex of the sender and receiver. The results indicated that only female participants emulated the fearful state of the sender. The present study revealed a boundary condition for effective chemosignaling by reporting behavioral evidence of sexual asymmetry in olfactory communication via chemosignals.

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Seeing the Big Picture: The Effect of Height on the Level of Construal

Pankaj Aggarwal & Min Zhao
Journal of Marketing Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
Drawing on research on grounded cognition and metaphorical representation, the authors propose and confirm in five studies that physical height or even the mere concept of height can impact the perceptual and conceptual levels of mental construal. As such, consumers perceiving themselves to be physically “high” or elevated are more likely to adopt a global perceptual processing and higher level of conceptual construal, while those perceiving themselves to be physically “low” are more likely to adopt a local perceptual processing and lower level of conceptual construal. This difference in level of construal also impacts product choices involving trade-offs between long-term benefit and short-term effort. Alternative accounts such as vertical distance, visual distance, and perceived power are addressed. By highlighting the novel relationship between height and construal level, these findings contribute to research on grounded cognition and construal-level theory, while also providing practical suggestions to marketing managers across a variety of domains.

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Gaze direction affects visuo-spatial short-term memory

Christophe Carlei & Dirk Kerzel
Brain and Cognition, October 2014, Pages 63–68

Abstract:
Hemispheric asymmetries were investigated by changing the horizontal position of stimuli that had to be remembered in a visuo-spatial short-term memory task. Observers looked at matrices containing a variable number of filled squares on the left or right side of the screen center. At stimulus offset, participants reproduced the positions of the filled squares in an empty response matrix. Stimulus and response matrices were presented in the same quadrant. We observed that memory performance was better when the matrices were shown on the left side of the screen. We distinguished between recall strategies that relied on visual or non-visual (verbal) cues and found that the effect of gaze position occurred more reliably in participants using visual recall strategies. Overall, the results show that there is a solid enhancement of visuo-spatial short-term memory when observers look to the left. In contrast, vertical position had no influence on performance. We suggest that unilateral gaze to the left activates centers in the right hemisphere contributing to visuo-spatial memory.

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Disinhibition of olfaction: Human olfactory performance improves following low levels of alcohol

Yaara Endevelt-Shapira et al.
Behavioural Brain Research, 1 October 2014, Pages 66–74

Abstract:
We hypothesize that true human olfactory abilities are obscured by cortical inhibition. Alcohol reduces inhibition. We therefore tested the hypothesis that olfactory abilities will improve following alcohol consumption. We measured olfaction in 85 subjects, 45 in a between-subjects design, and 40 in a repeated-measures within-subjects design before and after consumption of alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages. Subjects were also assessed using neurocognitive measures of inhibition. Following alcohol consumption, blood alcohol levels ranged from 0.005% to 0.11%. Across subjects, before any consumption of alcohol, we found that individuals who were less inhibited had lower (better) olfactory detection thresholds (r = 0.68, p < 0.005). Moreover, after alcohol consumption, subjects with low alcohol levels could make olfactory discriminations that subjects with 0% alcohol could not make (chance = 33%, alcohol = 51.3 ± 22.7%, control = 34.7 ± 31.6%, t(43) = 2.03, p < 0.05). Within subjects, we found correlations between levels of alcohol and olfactory detection (r = 0.63, p < 0.005) and discrimination (r = −0.50, p < 0.05), such that performance was improved at low levels of alcohol (significantly better than baseline for detection) and deteriorated at higher levels of alcohol. Finally, levels of alcohol-induced improved olfactory discrimination were correlated with levels of alcohol-induced cognitive disinhibition (r = 0.48, p < 0.05). Although we cannot rule out alternative non-inhibitory alcohol-induced routes of influence, we conclude that improved olfaction at low levels of alcohol supports the notion of an inhibitory mechanism obscuring true olfactory abilities.

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Interoceptive ability predicts aversion to losses

Peter Sokol-Hessner et al.
Cognition and Emotion, forthcoming

Abstract:
Emotions have been proposed to inform risky decision-making through the influence of affective physiological responses on subjective value. The ability to perceive internal body states, or “interoception” may influence this relationship. Here, we examined whether interoception predicts participants' degree of loss aversion, which has been previously linked to choice-related arousal responses. Participants performed both a heartbeat-detection task indexing interoception and a risky monetary decision-making task, from which loss aversion, risk attitudes and choice consistency were parametrically measured. Interoceptive ability correlated selectively with loss aversion and was unrelated to the other value parameters. This finding suggests that specific and separable component processes underlying valuation are shaped not only by our physiological responses, as shown in previous findings, but also by our interoceptive access to such signals.

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Experimental evolution of prepared learning

Aimee Dunlap & David Stephens
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming

Abstract:
Animals learn some things more easily than others. To explain this so-called prepared learning, investigators commonly appeal to the evolutionary history of stimulus–consequence relationships experienced by a population or species. We offer a simple model that formalizes this long-standing hypothesis. The key variable in our model is the statistical reliability of the association between stimulus, action, and consequence. We use experimental evolution to test this hypothesis in populations of Drosophila. We systematically manipulated the reliability of two types of experience (the pairing of the aversive chemical quinine with color or with odor). Following 40 generations of evolution, data from learning assays support our basic prediction: Changes in learning abilities track the reliability of associations during a population’s selective history. In populations where, for example, quinine–color pairings were unreliable but quinine–odor pairings were reliable, we find increased sensitivity to learning the quinine–odor experience and reduced sensitivity to learning quinine–color. To the best of our knowledge this is the first experimental demonstration of the evolution of prepared learning.

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Eye contact elicits bodily self-awareness in human adults

Matias Baltazar et al.
Cognition, October 2014, Pages 120–127

Abstract:
Eye contact is a typical human behaviour known to impact concurrent or subsequent cognitive processing. In particular, it has been suggested that eye contact induces self-awareness, though this has never been formally proven. Here, we show that the perception of a face with a direct gaze (that establishes eye contact), as compared to either a face with averted gaze or a mere fixation cross, led adult participants to rate more accurately the intensity of their physiological reactions induced by emotional pictures. Our data support the view that bodily self-awareness becomes more acute when one is subjected to another’s gaze. Importantly, this effect was not related to a particular arousal state induced by eye contact perception. Rejecting the arousal hypothesis, we suggest that eye contact elicits a self-awareness process by enhancing self-focused attention in humans. We further discuss the implications of this proposal.

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Speeding in School Zones: Violation or Lapse in Prospective Memory?

Bree Gregory et al.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, forthcoming

Abstract:
Inappropriate speed is a causal factor in around one third of fatal accidents (OECD/ECMT, 2006). But are drivers always consciously responsible for their speeding behavior? Two studies are reported which show that an interruption to a journey, caused by stopping at a red traffic light, can result in failure to resume the speed of travel prior to the interruption (Study 1). In Study 2 we showed that the addition of a reminder cue could offset this interruption. These studies were conducted in a number of Australian school zone sites subject to a 40 km/h speed limit, requiring a reduction of between 20 km/h and 40 km/h. Motorists who had stopped at a red traffic signal sped on average, 8.27 km/h over the speed limit compared with only 1.76 km/h over the limit for those who had not been required to stop. In the second study a flashing “check speed” reminder cue, placed 70 m after the traffic lights, in the same school zones as those in Study 1 eliminated the interruptive effect of stopping with drivers resuming their journey at the legal speed. These findings have practical implications for the design of road environments, enforcement of speed limits, and the safety of pedestrians.

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Seeing what you want to see: Priors for one's own actions represent exaggerated expectations of success

Noham Wolpe, Daniel Wolpert & James Rowe
Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, June 2014

Abstract:
People perceive the consequences of their own actions differently to how they perceive other sensory events. A large body of psychology research has shown that people also consistently overrate their own performance relative to others, yet little is known about how these “illusions of superiority” are normally maintained. Here we examined the visual perception of the sensory consequences of self-generated and observed goal-directed actions. Across a series of visuomotor tasks, we found that the perception of the sensory consequences of one's own actions is more biased toward success relative to the perception of observed actions. Using Bayesian models, we show that this bias could be explained by priors that represent exaggerated predictions of success. The degree of exaggeration of priors was unaffected by learning, but was correlated with individual differences in trait optimism. In contrast, when observing these actions, priors represented more accurate predictions of the actual performance. The results suggest that the brain internally represents optimistic predictions for one's own actions. Such exaggerated predictions bind the sensory consequences of our own actions with our intended goal, explaining how it is that when acting we tend to see what we want to see.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Friday, August 1, 2014

Wise up

The far-reaching effects of believing people can change: Implicit theories of personality shape stress, health, and achievement during adolescence

David Scott Yeager et al.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, June 2014, Pages 867-884

Abstract:
The belief that personality is fixed (an entity theory of personality) can give rise to negative reactions to social adversities. Three studies showed that when social adversity is common - at the transition to high school - an entity theory can affect overall stress, health, and achievement. Study 1 showed that an entity theory of personality, measured during the 1st month of 9th grade, predicted more negative immediate reactions to social adversity and, at the end of the year, greater stress, poorer health, and lower grades in school. Studies 2 and 3, both experiments, tested a brief intervention that taught a malleable (incremental) theory of personality - the belief that people can change. The incremental theory group showed less negative reactions to an immediate experience of social adversity and, 8 months later, reported lower overall stress and physical illness. They also achieved better academic performance over the year. Discussion centers on the power of targeted psychological interventions to effect far-reaching and long-term change by shifting interpretations of recurring adversities during developmental transitions.

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Successful Schools and Risky Behaviors Among Low-Income Adolescents

Mitchell Wong et al.
Pediatrics, forthcoming

Objectives: We examined whether exposure to high-performing schools reduces the rates of risky health behaviors among low-income minority adolescents and whether this is due to better academic performance, peer influence, or other factors.

Methods: By using a natural experimental study design, we used the random admissions lottery into high-performing public charter high schools in low-income Los Angeles neighborhoods to determine whether exposure to successful school environments leads to fewer risky (eg, alcohol, tobacco, drug use, unprotected sex) and very risky health behaviors (eg, binge drinking, substance use at school, risky sex, gang participation). We surveyed 521 ninth- through twelfth-grade students who were offered admission through a random lottery (intervention group) and 409 students who were not offered admission (control group) about their health behaviors and obtained their state-standardized test scores.

Results: The intervention and control groups had similar demographic characteristics and eighth-grade test scores. Being offered admission to a high-performing school (intervention effect) led to improved math (P < .001) and English (P = .04) standard test scores, greater school retention (91% vs 76%; P < .001), and lower rates of engaging in ?1 very risky behaviors (odds ratio = 0.73, P < .05) but no difference in risky behaviors, such as any recent use of alcohol, tobacco, or drugs. School retention and test scores explained 58.0% and 16.2% of the intervention effect on engagement in very risky behaviors, respectively.

Conclusions: Increasing performance of public schools in low-income communities may be a powerful mechanism to decrease very risky health behaviors among low-income adolescents and to decrease health disparities across the life span.

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The Impact of Attending a School With High-Achieving Peers: Evidence from the New York City Exam Schools

Will Dobbie & Roland Fryer
American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper uses data from three prominent exam high schools in New York City to estimate the impact of attending a school with high-achieving peers on college enrollment and graduation. Our identification strategy exploits sharp discontinuities in the admissions process. Applicants just eligible for an exam school have peers that score 0.17 to 0.36 standard deviations higher on eighth grade state tests and that are 6.4 to 9.5 percentage points less likely to be black or Hispanic. However, exposure to these higher-achieving and more homogeneous peers has little impact on college enrollment, college graduation, or college quality.

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What Is a Summer Job Worth? The Impact of Summer Youth Employment on Academic Outcomes

Jacob Leos-Urbel
Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper estimates the impact of New York City's Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) on school attendance and other educational outcomes in the following school year for a large sample of low-income high school students. The program provides summer jobs and training to youth aged 14 to 21, and due to high demand allocates slots through a lottery. Analyses focusing on 36,550 students who applied in 2007 indicate that SYEP produces small increases in attendance in the following school year, with larger increases for students who may be at greater educational risk: those aged 16 and older with low baseline school attendance. For this group, SYEP also increases the likelihood of attempting and passing statewide high school math and English examinations. Findings suggest that although SYEP's explicit goals focus on workforce readiness rather than academics, the program fosters engagement and success in school.

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Boring but Important: A Self-Transcendent Purpose for Learning Fosters Academic Self-Regulation

David Yeager et al.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Many important learning tasks feel uninteresting and tedious to learners. This research proposed that making such tasks meaningful by promoting a prosocial, self-transcendent purpose could improve academic self-regulation. This proposal was supported in four studies with over 2,000 adolescents and young adults. Study 1 documented a correlation between a self-transcendent purpose for learning and both trait and behavioral measures of academic self-regulation. Those with more of a purpose for learning persisted longer on a boring task rather than give in to a tempting alternative. Many months later, they were also more likely to remain in college. Study 2 addressed causality. It showed that a brief, one-time psychological intervention promoting a self-transcendent purpose for learning could improve high school science and math GPA over several months. Studies 3 and 4 were short-term experiments that explored possible mechanisms. They showed that the self-transcendent purpose manipulation could increase deeper learning behavior on tedious test review materials (Study 3), and sustain self-regulation over the course of an increasingly-boring task (Study 4). More self-oriented motives for learning - such as the desire to have an interesting or enjoyable career - did not consistently produce the same benefits (Studies 1 and 4).

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The Effect of School Closings on Student Achievement

Quentin Brummet
Journal of Public Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
Many school districts across the country are shutting schools, but school closing policies remain a very controversial issue. The current study investigates the effects of school closing policies on student achievement by examining over 200 school closings in Michigan. Relative to the previous literature, the analysis uses a broader set of school closings to thoroughly investigate heterogeneity in treatment effects based on the performance level of the closed school. The results indicate that, on average, school closings in Michigan did no persistent harm to the achievement of displaced students. Moreover, students displaced from relatively low-performing schools experience achievement gains. The displacement of students and teachers creates modest negative spillover effects on the receiving schools, however. Hence, the closing of low-performing schools may generate some achievement gains for displaced students, but not without imposing spillover effects on a large number of students in receiving schools.

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The Slowdown in American Educational Attainment

Elisa Keller
Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, forthcoming

Abstract:
Relative to those for high school graduates, lifetime earnings for college graduates are higher for more recent cohorts. At the same time, across successive cohorts born after 1950, there is a stagnation in the fraction of high school graduates that go on to complete a college degree. What explains this phenomenon? I formulate a life-cycle model of human capital accumulation in college and on the job, where successive cohorts decide whether or not to acquire a college degree as well as the quality of their college education. Cohorts differ by the sequence of rental price per unit of human capital they face and by the distribution of initial human capital across individuals. My model reproduces the observed pattern in college attainment for the 1920 to 1970 birth cohorts. The stagnation in college attainment is due to the decrease in the growth rate of the rental price per unit of human capital commencing in the 1970s. My model also generates about 80% of the increase in lifetime earnings for college graduates relative to those for high school graduates observed across cohorts.

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Grading Standards and Education Quality

Raphael Boleslavsky & Christopher Cotton
American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, forthcoming

Abstract:
We consider a game in which schools compete to place graduates by investing in education quality and by choosing grading policies. In equilibrium, schools strategically adopt grading policies that do not perfectly reveal graduate ability to evaluators (including employers and graduate schools). We compare equilibrium outcomes when schools grade strategically to equilibrium outcomes when evaluators perfectly observe graduate ability. With strategic grading, grades are less informative, and evaluators rely less on grades and more on a school's quality when assessing graduates. Consequently, under strategic grading, schools have greater incentive to invest in quality, and this can improve evaluator welfare.

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Should Student Employment Be Subsidized? Conditional Counterfactuals and the Outcomes of Work-Study Participation

Judith Scott-Clayton & Veronica Minaya
NBER Working Paper, July 2014

Abstract:
Student employment subsidies are one of the largest types of federal employment subsidies, and one of the oldest forms of student aid. Yet it is unclear whether they help or harm students' long term outcomes. We present a framework that decomposes overall effects into a weighted average of effects for marginal and inframarginal workers. We then develop an application of propensity scores, which we call conditional-counterfactual matching, in which we estimate the overall impact, and the impact under two distinct counterfactuals: working at an unsubsidized job, or not working at all. Finally, we estimate the effects of the largest student employment subsidy program - Federal Work-Study (FWS) - for a broad range of participants and outcomes. Our results suggest that about half of FWS participants are inframarginal workers, for whom FWS reduces hours worked and improves academic outcomes, but has little impact on future employment. For students who would not have worked otherwise, the pattern of effects reverses. With the exception of first-year GPA, we find scant evidence of negative effects of FWS for any outcome or subgroup. However, positive effects are largest for lower-income and lower-SAT subgroups, suggesting there may be gains to improved targeting of funds.

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School and family effects on educational outcomes across countries

Richard Freeman & Martina Viarengo
Economic Policy, July 2014, Pages 395-446

Abstract:
This study analyses the link between student test scores and the school students attend, the policies and practices of the schools, students' family background and their parents' involvement in their education using data from the 2009 wave of the Program for International Student Assessment. We find that (1) a substantial proportion of the variation of test scores within countries is associated with the school students attend; (2) a sizeable proportion of the school fixed effects is associated with school policies and teaching practices beyond national policies or other mechanisms that sort students of differing abilities among schools; (3) school fixed effects are a major pathway for the link between family background and test scores. The implication is that what schools do is important in the level and dispersion of test scores, suggesting the value of further analysis of what goes on in schools to pin down causal links between policies and practices and test score outcomes.

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Direct and indirect impact of charter schools' entry on traditional public schools: New evidence from North Carolina

Yusuke Jinnai
Economics Letters, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper examines the effects of charter schools on student achievement at neighboring traditional schools. The study shows that charter school entry does not induce indirect impact on non-overlapping grades but generates positive direct impact on overlapping grades. I also demonstrate that such positive effects would have been significantly undervalued in prior studies, since they do not distinguish between the two impacts.

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Expanding the School Breakfast Program: Impacts on Children's Consumption, Nutrition and Health

Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach & Mary Zaki
NBER Working Paper, July 2014

Abstract:
School meals programs are the front line of defense against childhood hunger, and while the school lunch program is nearly universally available in U.S. public schools, the school breakfast program has lagged behind in terms of availability and participation. In this paper we use experimental data collected by the USDA to measure the impact of two popular policy innovations aimed at increasing access to the school breakfast program. The first, universal free school breakfast, provides a hot breakfast before school (typically served in the school's cafeteria) to all students regardless of their income eligibility for free or reduced-price meals. The second is the Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC) program that provides free school breakfast to all children to be eaten in the classroom during the first few minutes of the school day. We find both policies increase the take-up rate of school breakfast, though much of this reflects shifting breakfast consumption from home to school or consumption of multiple breakfasts and relatively little of the increase is from students gaining access to breakfast. We find little evidence of overall improvements in child 24-hour nutritional intake, health, behavior or achievement, with some evidence of health and behavior improvements among specific subpopulations.

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Student Age and the Collegiate Pathway

Michael Hurwitz, Jonathan Smith & Jessica Howell
Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, forthcoming

Abstract:
Using a rich data set of all SAT test takers from the 2004 through 2008 high school graduation cohorts, we investigate the impact of state-specific school age-of-entry laws on students' pathways into and through college. We document that these laws do not impact the probability that a student takes the SAT; however, we find strong evidence that students who are expected to be the oldest in their school cohorts based on their state residency and birthdays have a greater probability of taking an Advanced Placement (AP) exam and tend to take more AP exams. We also find that relatively younger students are more likely to attend two-year colleges before attending four-year colleges and are less likely to have earned bachelor's degrees four years beyond high school graduation, but eventually catch up to their older peers six years beyond high school graduation.

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Measuring Value-Added in Higher Education: Possibilities and Limitations in the Use of Administrative Data

Jesse Cunha & Trey Miller
Economics of Education Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper develops a general methodology for measuring the value added of institutions of higher education using commonly-available administrative data. Our approach recognizes the data limitations and selection problems inherent in higher education, and highlights the challenges these issues pose for education policy. Combining information from different administrative sources in the state of Texas, we follow the universe of Texas college applicants from the time of application (pre-enrollment) through public college and into the labor market. In specifications that do not control for selection, we find large, significant differences across colleges in terms of persistence, graduation, and earnings; however, these differences decrease substantially when we control for selection. In light of the growing interest in using value-added measures in higher education for both funding and incentivizing purposes, our methodology offers unique evidence and lessons for policy makers.

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Intensive Math Instruction and Educational Attainment: Long-Run Impacts of Double-Dose Algebra

Kalena Cortes, Joshua Goodman & Takako Nomi
NBER Working Paper, June 2014

Abstract:
We study an intensive math instruction policy that assigned low-skilled 9th graders to an algebra course that doubled instructional time, altered peer composition and emphasized problem solving skills. A regression discontinuity design shows substantial positive impacts of double-dose algebra on credits earned, test scores, high school graduation and college enrollment rates. Test score effects under-predict attainment effects, highlighting the importance of long-run evaluation of such a policy. Perhaps because the intervention focused on verbal exposition of mathematical concepts, the impact was largest for students with below average reading skills, emphasizing the need to target interventions toward appropriately skilled students.

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Frictions in Polycentric Administration with Noncongruent Borders: Evidence from Ohio School District Class Sizes

Justin Ross, Joshua Hall & William Resh
Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, July 2014, Pages 623-649

Abstract:
Public managers who operate within cross-jurisdictional governance regimes face substantial difficulties in facilitating network collaboration. Scholars have long suggested that noncongruence of geographic borders can create coordination problems among the political communities within polycentric administrative units. A frequently reoccurring example of such coordination problems arises in cases where municipalities and school districts have noncongruent borders, creating fiscal externalities in residential development land use decisions. Using GIS data from 611 Ohio school districts and 1,585 municipalities in 2000, we calculate the degree of noncongruence between school district and municipal territory to test for evidence that noncongruence of municipal-school district borders influences school district class size. The results indicate that schools with noncongruent borders do experience substantively larger class sizes. Furthermore, these effects seem to increase with the degree of noncongruence. Our findings are robust to model specification and consistent across OLS and treatment effects regression estimates. Policy implications for state-encouraged consolidation of school districts are discussed as well as theoretical and empirical implications of noncongruent jurisdictional borders for governance studies more generally.

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Instructor Attire and Student Performance: Evidence from an Undergraduate Industrial Organization Experiment

Joseph Craig & Scott Savage
International Review of Economics Education, forthcoming

Abstract:
Four classes of the same Industrial Organization class were compared. The test group was taught by the instructor dressed in business attire, while the comparison group was taught by the instructor dressed casually. Results show that the attendance for test students was 8.50 percentage points higher than comparison students and this increase is associated with an improvement in their final exam score of 0.69 percentage points. Final exam scores for test students were 2.33 percentage points higher than comparison students. Together, the indirect and direct effects indicate that the total effect on learning from instructor attire is 3.02 percentage points.

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High-Stakes Choice: Achievement and Accountability in the Nation's Oldest Urban Voucher Program

John Witte et al.
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, forthcoming

Abstract:
This article considers the impact of a high-stakes testing and reporting requirement on students using publicly funded vouchers to attend private schools. We describe how such a policy was implemented during the course of a previously authorized multi-year evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, which provided us with data on voucher students before and after the reform, as well as on public school students who received no new policy treatment. Our results indicate substantial growth for voucher students in the first high-stakes testing year, particularly in mathematics, and for students with higher levels of earlier academic achievement. We discuss these results in the context of both the school choice and accountability literatures.

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Flaking Out: Student Absences and Snow Days as Disruptions of Instructional Time

Joshua Goodman
NBER Working Paper, June 2014

Abstract:
Despite the fact that the average American student is absent more than two weeks out of every school year, most research on the effect of instructional time has focused not on attendance but on the length of the school day or year. Student and school fixed effects models using Massachusetts data show a strong relationship between student absences and achievement but no impact of lost instructional time due to school closures. I confirm those findings in instrumental variables models exploiting the fact that moderate snowfall induces student absences while extreme snowfall induces school closures. Prior work ignoring this non-linearity may have mis-attributed the effect of absences to such snow days. Each absence induced by bad weather reduces math achievement by 0.05 standard deviations, suggesting that attendance can account for up to one-fourth of the achievement gap by income. That absences matter but closures do not is consistent with a model of instruction in which coordination of students is the central challenge, as in Lazear (2001). Teachers appear to deal well with coordinated disruptions of instructional time like snow days but deal poorly with disruptions like absences that affect different students at different times.

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The Effects of an Anti-grade-Inflation Policy at Wellesley College

Kristin Butcher, Patrick McEwan & Akila Weerapana
Journal of Economic Perspectives, Summer 2014, Pages 189-204

Abstract:
Average grades in colleges and universities have risen markedly since the 1960s. Critics express concern that grade inflation erodes incentives for students to learn; gives students, employers, and graduate schools poor information on absolute and relative abilities; and reflects the quid pro quo of grades for better student evaluations of professors. This paper evaluates an anti-grade-inflation policy that capped most course averages at a B+. The cap was biding for high-grading departments (in the humanities and social sciences) and was not binding for low-grading departments (in economics and sciences), facilitating a difference-in-differences analysis. Professors complied with the policy by reducing compression at the top of the grade distribution. It had little effect on receipt of top honors, but affected receipt of magna cum laude. In departments affected by the cap, the policy expanded racial gaps in grades, reduced enrollments and majors, and lowered student ratings of professors.

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Paying for Performance: The Education Impacts of a Community College Scholarship Program for Low-Income Adults

Lisa Barrow et al.
Journal of Labor Economics, July 2014, Pages 563-599

Abstract:
We evaluate the effect of performance-based incentive programs on educational outcomes for community college students from a random assignment experiment at three campuses. Incentive payments over 2 semesters were tied to meeting two conditions - enrolling at least half-time and maintaining a C or better grade point average. Eligibility increased the likelihood of enrolling in the second semester after random assignment and total number of credits earned. Over 2 years, program group students completed nearly 40% more credits. We find little evidence that program eligibility changed types of courses taken but some evidence of increased academic performance and effort.

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When Opportunity Knocks, Who Answers? New Evidence on College Achievement Awards

Joshua Angrist, Philip Oreopoulos & Tyler Williams
Journal of Human Resources, Summer 2014, Pages 572-610

Abstract:
We evaluate the effects of academic achievement awards for first-and second-year college students studying at a Canadian commuter college. The award scheme offered linear cash incentives for course grades above 70. Awards were paid every term. Program participants also had access to peer advising by upperclassmen. Program engagement appears to have been high but overall treatment effects were small. The intervention increased the number of courses graded above 70 and points earned above 70 for second-year students but generated no significant effect on overall GPA. Results are somewhat stronger for a subsample of applicants who correctly described the program rules.

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How do Principals Assign Students to Teachers? Finding Evidence in Administrative Data and the Implications for Value Added

Steven Dieterle et al.
Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, forthcoming

Abstract:
The federal government's Race to the Top competition has promoted the adoption of test-based value-added measures (VAMs) of performance as a component of teacher evaluations throughout many states, but the validity of these measures has been controversial among researchers and widely contested by teachers' unions. A key concern is the extent to which nonrandom sorting of students to teachers may bias the results and lead to a misclassification of teachers as high or low performing. In light of potential for bias, it is important to assess the extent to which evidence of sorting can be found in the large administrative data sets used for VAM estimation. Using a large longitudinal data set from an anonymous state, we find evidence that a nontrivial amount of sorting exists - particularly sorting based on prior test scores - and that the extent of sorting varies considerably across schools, a fact obscured by the types of aggregate sorting indices developed in prior research. We also find that VAM estimation is sensitive to the presence of nonrandom sorting. There is less agreement across estimation approaches regarding a particular teacher's rank in the distribution of estimated effectiveness when schools engage in sorting.

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When Incentives Matter Too Much: Explaining Significant Responses to Irrelevant Information

Thomas Ahn & Jacob Vigdor
NBER Working Paper, July 2014

Abstract:
When economic agents make decisions on the basis of an information set containing both a continuous variable and a discrete signal based on that variable, theory suggests that the signal should have no bearing on behavior conditional on the variable itself. Numerous empirical studies, many based on the regression discontinuity design, have contradicted this basic prediction. We propose two models of behavior capable of rationalizing this observed behavior, one based on information acquisition costs and a second on learning and imperfect information. Using data on school responses to discrete signals embedded in North Carolina's school accountability system, we find patterns of results inconsistent with the first model but consistent with the second. These results imply that rational responses to policy interventions may take time to emerge; consequently evaluations based on short-term data may understate treatment effects.

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Peer Effects in Early Childhood Education: Testing the Assumptions of Special-Education Inclusion

Laura Justice et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
There has been a push in recent years for students with disabilities to be educated alongside their typically developing peers, a practice called inclusion. In this study, we sought to determine whether peer effects operate within early-childhood special-education (ECSE) classrooms in which preschoolers with disabilities are educated alongside typical peers. Peer effects specific to language growth were assessed for 670 preschoolers (mean age = 52 months) in 83 ECSE classrooms; 55% of the children had disabilities. We found that the average language skills of classmates, as assessed in the fall of the year, significantly predicted children's language skills in the spring (after controlling for their relative skill level in the fall); in addition, there was a significant interactive effect of disability status (i.e., the presence or absence of a disability) and peers' language skills. Peer effects were the least consequential for children without disabilities whose classmates had relatively strong language skills, and the most consequential for children with disabilities whose classmates had relatively poor language skills.

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Does State Preschool Crowd-Out Private Provision? The Impact of Universal Preschool on the Childcare Sector in Oklahoma and Georgia

Daphna Bassok, Maria Fitzpatrick & Susanna Loeb
Journal of Urban Economics, forthcoming

Abstract:
Universal preschool policies introduced in Georgia and Oklahoma offer an opportunity to investigate the impact of government intervention on provision of childcare. Since Georgia used a voucher-like program and Oklahoma utilized its existing public schools, the two states offer a case study of how government provision compares to government subsidization alone. Using a synthetic control group difference-in-difference estimation framework, we examine the effects of universal preschool on childcare providers. In both states there is an increase in the number of formal childcare centers. With the voucher-like program in Georgia, the overall increase in care is partly driven by an increase in the supply of formal childcare in the private sector and partly driven by new publicly-provided preschools. However, there is substantial crowd-out of private consumption of preschool. In Oklahoma, where universal preschool is publicly provided, the increase in the number of childcare providers occurred only in the public sector. The expansion of publicly-provided care seems to be driven largely by movement of employees from private centers to public settings. As such, this case-study comparison suggests that government subsidization through funding was more effective at expanding preschool than government provision.

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Classmate Characteristics and Student Achievement in 33 Countries: Classmates' Past Achievement, Family Socioeconomic Status, Educational Resources, and Attitudes Toward Reading

Ming Ming Chiu & Bonnie Wing-Yin Chow
Journal of Educational Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Classmates can influence a student's academic achievement through immediate interactions (e.g., academic help, positive attitudes toward reading) or by sharing tangible or intangible family resources (books, stories of foreign travel). Multilevel analysis of 141,019 fourth-grade students' reading achievements in 33 countries showed that classmates' family factors (parent socioeconomic status [SES], home educational resources) were more strongly related to a student's reading achievement than were classmates' characteristics (parent ratings of past literacy skills, attitudes toward reading). However, these classmate links to reading achievement differed across students (e.g., high-SES classmates benefited high-SES students more than low-SES students). Also, links between classmates' past reading achievement and a student's current reading achievement were stronger in countries that were richer, were more collectivist, or avoided uncertainty less. These findings show how an ecological model of family and classmate microsystems, classmate family mesosystem, and country macrosystem can help provide a comprehensive account of children's academic achievement.

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Intended and Unintended Effects of State-Mandated High School Science and Mathematics Course Graduation Requirements on Educational Attainment

Andrew Plunk et al.
Educational Researcher, June/July 2014, Pages 230-241

Abstract:
Mathematics and science course graduation requirement (CGR) increases in the 1980s and 1990s might have had both intended and unintended consequences. Using logistic regression with Census and American Community Survey (ACS) data (n = 2,892,444), we modeled CGR exposure on (a) high school dropout, (b) beginning college, and (c) obtaining any college degree. Possible between-groups differences were also assessed. We found that higher CGRs were associated with higher odds to drop out of high school, but results for the college-level outcomes varied by group. Some were less likely to enroll, whereas others who began college were more likely to obtain a degree. Increased high school dropout was consistent across the population, but some potential benefit was also observed, primarily for those reporting Hispanic ethnicity.

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Does Participation in 4-H Improve Schooling Outcomes? Evidence from Florida

Alfonso Flores-Lagunes & Troy Timko
University of Florida Working Paper, June 2014

Abstract:
We examine the effect of participation in 4-H, the largest youth development program in the United States, on standardized test scores. We do this by utilizing grade-level longitudinal data on Florida's school districts from the Florida Department of Education combined with 4-H participation statistics from Florida 4-H. Specifically, we analyze the effect of the extent of 4-H participation for third through tenth grade on the mathematics and reading subtests of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). We use a difference-in-difference-in-differences (DDD) approach to control for potential confounders of the causal relationship at the level of school districts, grades, and years. Our results indicate that the extent of 4-H participation at the district-grade-year level is positively and significantly related to several measures of performance on the FCAT test.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Procreation

Differential Fertility as a Determinant of Trends in Public Opinion about Abortion in the United States

Alex Kevern & Jeremy Freese
Northwestern University Working Paper, July 2014

Abstract:
Differential fertility is frequently overlooked as a meaningful force in longitudinal public opinion change. We examine the effect of fertility on abortion attitudes, a useful case study due to their strong correlation with family size and high parent-child correlation. We test the hypothesis that the comparatively high fertility of pro-life individuals has led to a more pro-life population using 34 years of GSS data (1977-2010). We find evidence that the abortion attitudes have lagged behind a liberalizing trend of other correlated attitudes, and consistent evidence that differential fertility between pro-life and pro-choice individuals has had a significant effect on this pattern. Future studies should account for differential fertility as a meaningful force of cohort replacement in studies of public opinion where parents and children are likely to share the same attitude.

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Intelligence and childlessness

Satoshi Kanazawa
Social Science Research, November 2014, Pages 157–170

Abstract:
Demographers debate why people have children in advanced industrial societies where children are net economic costs. From an evolutionary perspective, however, the important question is why some individuals choose not to have children. Recent theoretical developments in evolutionary psychology suggest that more intelligent individuals may be more likely to prefer to remain childless than less intelligent individuals. Analyses of the National Child Development Study show that more intelligent men and women express preference to remain childless early in their reproductive careers, but only more intelligent women (not more intelligent men) are more likely to remain childless by the end of their reproductive careers. Controlling for education and earnings does not at all attenuate the association between childhood general intelligence and lifetime childlessness among women. One-standard-deviation increase in childhood general intelligence (15 IQ points) decreases women’s odds of parenthood by 21-25%. Because women have a greater impact on the average intelligence of future generations, the dysgenic fertility among women is predicted to lead to a decline in the average intelligence of the population in advanced industrial nations.

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Criminal offending as part of an alternative reproductive strategy: Investigating evolutionary hypotheses using Swedish total population data

Shuyang Yao et al.
Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
Criminality is highly costly to victims and their relatives, but often also to offenders. From an evolutionary viewpoint, criminal behavior may persist despite adverse consequences by providing offenders with fitness benefits as part of a successful alternative mating strategy. Specifically, criminal behavior may have evolved as a reproductive strategy based on low parental investment reflected in low commitment in reproductive relationships. We linked data from nationwide total population registers in Sweden to test if criminality is associated with reproductive success. Further, we used several different measures related to monogamy to determine the relation between criminal behavior and alternative mating tactics. Convicted criminal offenders had more children than individuals never convicted of a criminal offense. Criminal offenders also had more reproductive partners, were less often married, more likely to get remarried if ever married, and had more often contracted a sexually transmitted disease than non-offenders. Importantly, the increased reproductive success of criminals was explained by a fertility increase from having children with several different partners. We conclude that criminality appears to be adaptive in a contemporary industrialized country, and that this association can be explained by antisocial behavior being part of an adaptive alternative reproductive strategy.

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Changing Fertility Regimes and the Transition to Adulthood: Evidence from a Recent Cohort

Andrew Cherlin, Elizabeth Talbert & Suzumi Yasutake
Johns Hopkins University Working Paper, June 2014

Abstract:
Recent demographic trends have produced a distinctive fertility regime among young women and men in their teenage years and their twenties -- a period sometimes called early adulthood. Data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1997 cohort, show that by the time the cohort had reached ages 26-31 in 2011, 81% of births reported by women and 87% of births reported by men had occurred to non-college graduates. In addition, 57% of births had occurred outside of marriage for both men and women. Moreover, 64% of women (and 63% of men) who reported a birth had at least one child outside of marriage, a figure that rose to 74% among women (and 70% among men) without 4-year college degrees. It is now unusual for non-college-graduates who have children in their teens and twenties to have all of them within marriage. The implications of these developments are discussed in light of the differing transitions to adulthood of non-college-graduates versus college-graduates and the growing social class inequalities in family patterns.

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Red Alert: Prenatal Stress and Plans to Close Military Bases

Kyle Carlson
Caltech Working Paper, June 2014

Abstract:
In May 2005 the U.S. military announced a restructuring plan called Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC). Some areas were projected to lose 20 percent of employment, sparking much distress. Previous research shows that stress affects pregnancy and fetal development. I find that immediately following the announcement, the mean gestational age in the most affected areas dropped by 1.5 days for a period of 1-2 months. Births shifted from 39 to 37-38 weeks, a period linked to health risks. Similar changes appear in birth weight. Local changes in employment and mothers’ characteristics do not account for these effects.

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Fear Itself: The Effects of Distressing Economic News on Birth Outcomes

Kyle Carlson
Caltech Working Paper, March 2014

Abstract:
I use new administrative data on mass layoffs and plant closings to study the effects of distressing economic news. Exposure to stressful events during pregnancy can impair fetal development. I find that announcement of impending job losses leads to a transient decrease in the mean birth weight within the firm’s county 1–4 months before the job losses. A loss of 500 jobs corresponds roughly to a decrease of 15–20 grams and 16 percent greater risk of low birth weight. Further analyses show that the initial effect results from curtailment of gestation, while slower intrauterine growth plays a later role.

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The Effect of Prenatal Natural Disaster Exposure on School Outcomes

Sarah Fuller
Demography, August 2014, Pages 1501-1525

Abstract:
This study looks at the impact of exposure to natural disasters during pregnancy on the educational outcomes of North Carolina children at the third grade level. A broad literature relates negative birth outcomes to poor educational performance, and a number of recent studies have examined the effect of prenatal exposure to natural disasters on birth outcomes. This study takes the next step by considering how prenatal exposure affects later outcomes. Combining North Carolina administrative data on births and school performance with disaster declarations from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) allows for the identification of children who were exposed to disasters during prenatal development. These children are compared with other children born in the same county who were not exposed to disasters while in utero. Regression results suggest that children exposed to hurricanes prenatally have lower scores on third grade standardized tests in math and reading. Those exposed to flooding or tornadoes also have somewhat lower math scores. Additionally, results suggest that these negative effects are more concentrated among children in disadvantaged subgroups, especially children born to black mothers. However, no evidence exists that these effects are mediated by common measures of birth outcomes, including birth weight and gestational age.

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Upper-body strength predicts hunting reputation and reproductive success in Hadza hunter-gatherers

Coren Lee Apicella
Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
Hunting is a characteristic feature of early human subsistence and many theories of evolution have emphasized the role of hunting in hominization. Still today hunting ability continues to be selected for in extant foragers with better hunters experiencing greater reproductive success. Yet little is known about the traits that comprise a successful hunter, traits that are presupposed to also be under selection. Two complementary empirical analyses were conducted to examine this question using data collected from Hadza hunter-gatherers in Tanzania. First, data on upper-body strength, running speed, target precision and visual and auditory acuity were collected to examine the traits that predict hunting reputation in men. Second, interview data were also collected from Hadza informants about the traits they deem important for hunting. Results from the first study implicate upper-body strength as the strongest and most consistent predictor of men’s hunting reputation. Hadza conventional wisdom also accord with these findings. Although informants stressed the importance of non-physical traits, such as “intelligence” and “heart”, strong arms were cited as the most important physical trait for hunting. Finally, men with stronger upper-bodies experienced greater reproductive success, a result that is largely mediated by hunting reputation. These findings suggest that selection for hunting ability may have acted on men’s upper-bodies. Nevertheless, the importance of effort on strength and hunting success cannot be dismissed. This is also discussed.

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Do short birth intervals have long-term implications for parental health? Results from analyses of complete cohort Norwegian register data

Emily Grundy & Øystein Kravdal
Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, forthcoming

Background: Short and very long interbirth intervals are associated with worse perinatal, infant and immediate maternal outcomes. Accumulated physiological, mental, social and economic stresses arising from raising children close in age may also mean that interbirth intervals have longer term implications for the health of mothers and fathers, but few previous studies have investigated this.

Methods: Discrete-time hazards models were estimated to analyse associations between interbirth intervals and mortality risks for the period 1980–2008 in complete cohorts of Norwegian men and women born during 1935–1968 who had had two to four children. Associations between interbirth intervals and use of medication during 2004–2008 were also analysed using ordinary least-squares regression. Covariates included age, year, education, age at first birth, parity and change in coparent since the previous birth.

Results: Mothers and fathers of two to three children with intervals between singleton births of less than 18 months, and mothers of twins, had raised mortality risks in midlife and early old age relative to parents with interbirth intervals of 30–41 months. For parents with three or four children, longer average interbirth intervals were associated with lower mortality. Short intervals between first and second births were also positively associated with medication use. Very long intervals were not associated with raised mortality or medication use when change of coparent since the previous birth was controlled.

Conclusions: Closely spaced and multiple births may have adverse long-term implications for parental health. Delayed entry to parenthood and increased use of fertility treatments mean that both are increasing, making this a public health issue which needs further investigation.

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Associations of Adolescent Hopelessness and Self-Worth With Pregnancy Attempts and Pregnancy Desire

Anna Fedorowicz et al.
American Journal of Public Health, August 2014, Pages e133-e140

Objectives: We examined the associations of pregnancy desire (ambivalence or happiness about a pregnancy in the next year) and recent pregnancy attempts with hopelessness and self-worth among low-income adolescents.

Methods: To evaluate independent associations among the study variables, we conducted gender-stratified multivariable logistic regression analyses with data derived from 2285 sexually experienced 9- to 18-year-old participants in the Mobile Youth Survey between 2006 and 2009.

Results: Fifty-seven percent of youths reported a desire for pregnancy and 9% reported pregnancy attempts. In multivariable analyses, hopelessness was positively associated and self-worth was negatively associated with pregnancy attempts among both female and male youths. Hopelessness was weakly associated (P = .05) with pregnancy desire among female youths.

Conclusions: The negative association of self-worth and the positive association of hopelessness with pregnancy attempts among young men as well as young women and the association of hopelessness with pregnancy desire among young women raise questions about why pregnancy is apparently valued by youths who rate their social and cognitive competence as low and who live in an environment with few options for material success.

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Fertility Decline and Missing Women

Seema Jayachandran
NBER Working Paper, June 2014

Abstract:
India's male-biased sex ratio has worsened over the past several decades. In combination with the increased availability of prenatal sex-diagnostic technology, the declining fertility rate is a hypothesized factor. Suppose a couple strongly wants to have at least one son. At the natural sex ratio, they are less likely to have a son the fewer children they have, so a smaller desired family size will increase the likelihood they manipulate the sex composition of their children. This paper empirically measures the relationship between desired fertility and the sex ratio. Standard survey questions on fertility preferences ask the respondent her desired number of children of each sex, but people who want larger families have systematically stronger son preference, which generates bias. This paper instead elicits desired sex composition at specified, randomly determined, levels of total fertility. These data allow one to isolate the causal effect of family size on the desired sex ratio. I find that the desired sex ratio increases sharply as the fertility rate falls; fertility decline can explain roughly half of the increase in the sex ratio that has occurred in India over the past thirty years. In addition, factors such as female education that lead to more progressive attitudes could counterintuitively cause a more male-skewed sex ratio because while they reduce the desired sex ratio at any given family size, they also reduce desired family size.

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Perceived stress during pregnancy and the catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) rs165599 polymorphism impacts on childhood IQ

Yvette Lamb et al.
Cognition, September 2014, Pages 461–470

Abstract:
Maternal stress during pregnancy has been associated with a range of adverse outcomes in offspring and the catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene has been linked to differential susceptibility to the consequences of antenatal stress. This study examined two functional polymorphisms of the COMT gene (rs4680 and rs165599) in relation to maternal perceived stress and childhood cognitive performance. Data from the longitudinal Auckland Birthweight Collaborative (ABC) study was used. Maternal perceived stress over the prior month was measured at birth, 3.5 and 7 years. Full-Scale IQ (FSIQ) was measured at ages 7 and 11. At age 11, a total of 546 DNA samples were collected from the child participants. Data were subjected to a series of split-plot ANCOVAs with birthweight for gestational age and maternal school leaving age as covariates. There were direct effects of maternal stress during the last month of pregnancy on offspring FSIQ at ages 7 and 11 years. A significant interaction revealed that children exposed to high maternal antenatal stress had significantly lower FSIQ scores at both 7 and 11 years of age than those exposed to low stress, only when they were carriers of the rs165599 G allele. At each age, this difference was of approximately 5 IQ points. The G allele of the rs165599 polymorphism may confer genetic susceptibility to negative cognitive outcomes arising from exposure to antenatal stress. This finding highlights the need to consider gene-environment interactions when investigating the outcomes of antenatal stress exposure.

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Saving Babies: The Impact of Public Education Programs on Infant Mortality

Carolyn Moehling & Melissa Thomasson
Demography, April 2014, Pages 367-386

Abstract:
We take advantage of unique data on specific activities conducted under the Sheppard-Towner Act from 1924 through 1929 to focus on how public health interventions affected infant mortality. Interventions that provided one-on-one contact and opportunities for follow-up care, such as home visits by nurses and the establishment of health clinics, reduced infant deaths more than did classes and conferences. These interventions were particularly effective for nonwhites, a population with limited access to physicians and medical care. Although limited data on costs prevent us from making systematic cost-benefit calculations, we estimate that one infant death could be avoided for every $1,600 (about $20,400 in 2010 dollars) spent on home nurse visits.

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Trade and fertility in the developing world: The impact of trade and trade structure

Thomas Gries & Rainer Grundmann
Journal of Population Economics, October 2014, Pages 1165-1186

Abstract:
In the literature on trade and development, fertility and trade have been widely discussed as two separate economic forces. However, an important recent contribution connects these two and suggests that international trade between developed and developing countries has an asymmetric effect on the demand for human capital. The asymmetry leads to a decline in fertility rates in developed countries and an increase in these rates in developing countries. We provide additional comprehensive empirical evidence in support of this novel hypothesis. Our findings suggest that countries that export skill-intensive manufacturing goods experience a decline in fertility rates, whereas in countries that export primary, low-skill-intensive goods, fertility rates are affected positively. Further, our findings indicate that the negative influence of manufacturing exports on fertility holds primarily and most strongly for middle-income countries where structural modernization and a growing manufacturing-intensive export sector is observed.

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Game Change in Colorado: Widespread Use Of Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptives and Rapid Decline in Births Among Young, Low-Income Women

Sue Ricketts, Greta Klingler & Renee Schwalberg
Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, forthcoming

Context: Long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) methods are recommended for young women, but access is limited by cost and lack of knowledge among providers and consumers. The Colorado Family Planning Initiative (CFPI) sought to address these barriers by training providers, financing LARC method provision at Title X–funded clinics and increasing patient caseload.

Methods: Beginning in 2009, 28 Title X–funded agencies in Colorado received private funding to support CFPI. Caseloads and clients’ LARC use were assessed over the following two years. Fertility rates among low-income women aged 15–24 were compared with expected trends. Abortion rates and births among high-risk women were tracked, and the numbers of infants receiving services through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) were examined.

Results: By 2011, caseloads had increased by 23%, and LARC use among 15–24-year-olds had grown from 5% to 19%. Cumulatively, one in 15 young, low-income women had received a LARC method, up from one in 170 in 2008. Compared with expected fertility rates in 2011, observed rates were 29% lower among low-income 15–19-year-olds and 14% lower among similar 20–24-year-olds. In CFPI counties, the proportion of births that were high-risk declined by 24% between 2009 and 2011; abortion rates fell 34% and 18%, respectively, among women aged 15–19 and 20–24. Statewide, infant enrollment in WIC declined 23% between 2010 and 2013.

Conclusions: Programs that increase LARC use among young, low-income women may contribute to declines in fertility rates, abortion rates and births among high-risk women.

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Sexual activity, endogenous reproductive hormones and ovulation in premenopausal women

Ankita Prasad et al.
Hormones and Behavior, July 2014, Pages 330–338

Abstract:
We investigated whether sexual activity was associated with reproductive function in the BioCycle Study, a prospective cohort study that followed 259 regularly menstruating women aged 18 to 44 years for one (n = 9) or two (n = 250) menstrual cycles in 2005–2007. Women were not attempting pregnancy nor using hormonal contraceptives. History of ever having been sexually active was assessed at baseline and frequency of sexual activity, defined as vaginal-penile intercourse, was self-reported daily throughout the study. Serum concentrations of estradiol, luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), progesterone, and testosterone were measured up to 8 times/cycle. Sporadic anovulation was identified using peak progesterone concentration. Linear mixed models were used to estimate associations between sexual activity and reproductive hormone concentrations and generalized linear models were used to estimate associations with sporadic anovulation. Models were adjusted for age, race, body mass index, perceived stress, and alcohol consumption and accounted for repeated measures within women. Elevated concentrations of estrogen (+ 14.6%, P < .01), luteal progesterone (+ 41.0%, P < .01) and mid-cycle LH (+ 23.4%, P < .01), but not FSH (P = .33) or testosterone (P = .37), were observed in sexually active women compared with sexually inactive women (no prior and no study-period sexual activity); sexually active women had lower odds of sporadic anovulation (adjusted odds ratio = 0.34, 95% confidence interval: 0.16-0.73). Among sexually active women, frequency of sexual activity was not associated with hormones or sporadic anovulation (all P > .23). Findings from our study suggest that ever having been sexually active is associated with improved reproductive function, even after controlling for factors such as age.

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Global, regional, and national levels of neonatal, infant, and under-5 mortality during 1990—2013: A systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013

Haidong Wang et al.
Lancet, forthcoming

Background: Remarkable financial and political efforts have been focused on the reduction of child mortality during the past few decades. Timely measurements of levels and trends in under-5 mortality are important to assess progress towards the Millennium Development Goal 4 (MDG 4) target of reduction of child mortality by two thirds from 1990 to 2015, and to identify models of success.

Methods: We generated updated estimates of child mortality in early neonatal (age 0—6 days), late neonatal (7—28 days), postneonatal (29—364 days), childhood (1—4 years), and under-5 (0—4 years) age groups for 188 countries from 1970 to 2013, with more than 29 000 survey, census, vital registration, and sample registration datapoints. We used Gaussian process regression with adjustments for bias and non-sampling error to synthesise the data for under-5 mortality for each country, and a separate model to estimate mortality for more detailed age groups. We used explanatory mixed effects regression models to assess the association between under-5 mortality and income per person, maternal education, HIV child death rates, secular shifts, and other factors. To quantify the contribution of these different factors and birth numbers to the change in numbers of deaths in under-5 age groups from 1990 to 2013, we used Shapley decomposition. We used estimated rates of change between 2000 and 2013 to construct under-5 mortality rate scenarios out to 2030.

Findings: We estimated that 6.3 million (95% UI 6.0—6.6) children under-5 died in 2013, a 64% reduction from 17.6 million (17.1—18.1) in 1970. In 2013, child mortality rates ranged from 152.5 per 1000 livebirths (130.6—177.4) in Guinea-Bissau to 2.3 (1.8—2.9) per 1000 in Singapore. The annualised rates of change from 1990 to 2013 ranged from −6.8% to 0.1%. 99 of 188 countries, including 43 of 48 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, had faster decreases in child mortality during 2000—13 than during 1990—2000. In 2013, neonatal deaths accounted for 41.6% of under-5 deaths compared with 37.4% in 1990. Compared with 1990, in 2013, rising numbers of births, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, led to 1.4 million more child deaths, and rising income per person and maternal education led to 0.9 million and 2.2 million fewer deaths, respectively. Changes in secular trends led to 4.2 million fewer deaths. Unexplained factors accounted for only −1% of the change in child deaths. In 30 developing countries, decreases since 2000 have been faster than predicted attributable to income, education, and secular shift alone.

Interpretation: Only 27 developing countries are expected to achieve MDG 4. Decreases since 2000 in under-5 mortality rates are accelerating in many developing countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. The Millennium Declaration and increased development assistance for health might have been a factor in faster decreases in some developing countries. Without further accelerated progress, many countries in west and central Africa will still have high levels of under-5 mortality in 2030.

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Do fertility transitions influence infant mortality declines? Evidence from early modern Germany

Alan Fernihough & Mark McGovern
Journal of Population Economics, October 2014, Pages 1145-1163

Abstract:
The timing and sequencing of fertility transitions and early-life mortality declines in historical Western societies indicate that reductions in sibship (number of siblings) may have contributed to improvements in infant health. Surprisingly, however, this demographic relationship has received little attention in empirical research. We outline the difficulties associated with establishing the effect of sibship on infant mortality and discuss the inherent bias associated with conventional empirical approaches. We offer a solution that permits an empirical test of this relationship while accounting for reverse causality and potential omitted variable bias. Our approach is illustrated by evaluating the causal impact of family size on infant mortality using genealogical data from 13 German parishes spanning the sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. Overall, our findings do not support the hypothesis that declining fertility led to increased infant survival probabilities in historical populations.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

State of poverty

A family-oriented psychosocial intervention reduces inflammation in low-SES African American youth

Gregory Miller et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming

Abstract:
Children of low socioeconomic status (SES) are at elevated risk for health problems across the lifespan. Observational studies suggest that nurturant parenting might offset some of these health risks, but their design precludes inferences about causal direction and clinical utility. Here we ask whether a psychosocial intervention, focused improving parenting, strengthening family relationships, and building youth competencies, can reduce inflammation in low-SES, African Americans from the rural South. The trial involved 272 mothers and their 11-y-old children from rural Georgia, half of whose annual household incomes were below the federal poverty line. Families were randomly assigned to a 7-wk psychosocial intervention or to a control condition. When youth reached age 19, peripheral blood was collected to quantify six cytokines that orchestrate inflammation, the dysregulation of which contributes to many of the health problems known to pattern by SES. Youth who participated in the intervention had significantly less inflammation on all six indicators relative to controls (all P values < 0.001; effect sizes in Cohen’s d units ranged from −0.69 to −0.91). Mediation analyses suggested that improved parenting was partially responsible for the intervention’s benefits. Inflammation was lowest among youth who received more nurturant-involved parenting, and less harsh-inconsistent parenting, as a consequence of the intervention. These findings have theoretical implications for research on resilience to adversity and the early origins of disease. If substantiated, they may also highlight a strategy for practitioners and policymakers to use in ameliorating social and racial health disparities.

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Human Capital Effects of Anti-Poverty Programs: Evidence from a Randomized Housing Voucher Lottery

Brian Jacob, Max Kapustin & Jens Ludwig
NBER Working Paper, May 2014

Abstract:
Whether government transfer programs increase the human capital of low-income children is a question of first-order policy importance. Such policies might help poor children if their parents are credit constrained, and so under-invest in their human capital. But it is also possible that whatever causes parents to have low incomes might also directly influence children’s development, in which case transfer programs need not improve poor children’s long-term life chances. While several recent influential studies suggest anti-poverty programs have larger human capital effects per dollar spent than do even the best educational interventions, identification is a challenge because most transfer programs are entitlements. We overcome that problem by studying the effects on children of a generous transfer program that is heavily rationed — means-tested housing assistance. We take advantage of a randomized housing voucher lottery in Chicago in 1997, for which 82,607 people applied, and use administrative data on schooling, arrests, and health to track children’s outcomes over 14 years. We focus on families living in unsubsidized private housing at baseline, for whom voucher receipt generates large changes in both housing and non-housing consumption. Estimated effects are mostly statistically insignificant and always much smaller than those from recent studies of cash transfers, and are smaller on a per dollar basis than the best educational interventions.

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European feelings of deprivation amidst the financial crisis: Effects of welfare state effort and informal social relations

Tim Reeskens & Wim van Oorschot
Acta Sociologica, August 2014, Pages 191-206

Abstract:
As European governments have embraced the credo of austerity, the perennial discussion whether welfare states erode the quality of social networks has taken on a more prominent position on political and social science research agendas. While non-believers of this so-called ‘crowding out’ thesis argue that social networks flourish well in welfare states, believers argue that welfare provisions render social networks irrelevant in mobilizing resources. Using the 2010 wave of the European Social Survey, we analyse the extent to which both the welfare state and social networks have prevented deprivation, as well as the extent to which the functional quality of social networks in inhibiting impoverishment differs as a function of welfare state generosity. Both the ‘crowding out’ and the ‘crowding in’ theses are supported: resources are less mobilized through networks in more generous welfare states precisely because encompassing welfare provisions reduce deprivation significantly, lowering the functional quality of social networks.

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Cash by any other name? Evidence on labeling from the UK Winter Fuel Payment

Timothy Beatty et al.
Journal of Public Economics, October 2014, Pages 86–96

Abstract:
Government transfers to individuals are often given labels indicating that they are designed to support the consumption of particular goods. Standard economic theory implies that the labeling of cash transfers or cash-equivalents should have no effect on spending patterns. We study the UK Winter Fuel Payment, a cash transfer to older households. Our empirical strategy nests a regression discontinuity design with an Engel curve framework. We find robust evidence of a behavioral effect of labeling. On average households spend 47% of the WFP on fuel. If the payment were treated as cash, we would expect households to spend 3% of the payment on fuel.

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The Long Term Impact of Cash Transfers to Poor Families

Anna Aizer et al.
NBER Working Paper, May 2014

Abstract:
We estimate the long-run impact of cash transfers to poor families on children’s longevity, educational attainment, nutritional status, and income in adulthood. To do so, we collected individual-level administrative records of applicants to the Mothers’ Pension program — the first government-sponsored welfare program in the US (1911-1935) — and matched them to census, WWII and death records. Male children of accepted applicants lived one year longer than those of rejected mothers. Male children of accepted mothers received one-third more years of schooling, were less likely to be underweight, and had higher income in adulthood than children of rejected mothers.

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Hard Times in the Land of Plenty: The Effect on Income and Disability Later in Life for People Born During the Great Depression

Melissa Thomasson & Price Fishback
Explorations in Economic History, forthcoming

Abstract:
We use 20th-century data to examine how community economic conditions at the time of birth influenced various measures of socioeconomic success as adults. Our analysis focuses on the worst downturn ever experienced in the United States: the Great Depression. We merge individual information reported by respondents in the U.S. Censuses of 1970 and 1980 with information on state per capita income during the individual’s year of birth in their state of birth. Results indicate that the effect of state income per capita in the birth year on income and disability later in life varies with changes in income levels. Individuals born in the trough of the Depression in low-income states had substantially lower incomes and higher work disability rates later in life than workers born in those states in the peak year of 1929. However, the effect of being born during the trough of the Depression in states with higher incomes during the first half of the 20th century was much weaker on income and disability later in life.

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Debt Relief and Debtor Outcomes: Measuring the Effects of Consumer Bankruptcy Protection

Will Dobbie & Jae Song
Princeton Working Paper, December 2013

Abstract:
Consumer bankruptcy is one the largest social insurance programs in the United States, but little is known about its impact on debtors. In this paper, we use a new dataset linking 500,000 bankruptcy filings with administrative tax records to estimate the impact of Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection – which provides debt relief and asset protection in exchange for a partial repayment of debt – on subsequent earnings and mortality. Our empirical strategy exploits the fact that U.S. bankruptcy courts use a blind rotation system to assign cases to judges, effectively randomizing filings to judges. Using differences in judge discharge rates as
an instrumental variable, we are able to identify the impact of bankruptcy protection on the marginal recipient. We find that Chapter 13 protection increases annual earnings in the first five post-filing years by $5,012, increases employment over the same time period by 3.5 percentage points, and decreases five-year mortality by 1.9 percentage points. We conclude by using our reduced form estimates to calibrate a general equilibrium model of the credit market, finding that the benefits of consumer bankruptcy are an order of magnitude larger than previously estimated.

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The Impact of Parental Layoff on Higher Education Investment

Ben Ost & Weixiang Pan
Economics of Education Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper uses variation in the timing of parental layoff to identify the effect of parental job loss on higher education enrollment. Unlike research that compares laid-off workers to workers who do not lose their jobs, all families in our analysis experience a layoff at some point. The treatment group (layoff when child is 15-17) and control group (layoff when child is 21-23) have statistically indistinguishable initial characteristics, but substantially different higher education enrollment rates. We find that parental job loss between ages 15 and 17 decreases college enrollment by 10 percentage points.

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Lower Social Class Does Not (Always) Mean Greater Interdependence: Women in Poverty Have Fewer Social Resources Than Working-Class Women

Nicole Stephens, Jessica Cameron & Sarah Townsend
Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, August 2014, Pages 1061-1073

Abstract:
Social resources (i.e., number and nature of relationships with family and friends) are an important, yet largely unrecognized, feature of the sociocultural contexts of social class that influence psychological functioning. To assess the nature and content of social resources, we conducted semistructured interviews with American women living in poverty (n = 21) and working-class (n = 31) contexts. In contrast to previous research, which demonstrates that lower social class contexts foster greater social connection and interdependence than middle-class or upper-class contexts, this study revealed that poverty constitutes a clear cutoff point at which reduced material resources no longer predict higher levels of social connection, but instead social isolation. Our interview data revealed that women in poverty had fewer connections to family and friends, experienced greater difficulty with trust, and reported more challenges involving relationships compared with working-class women. These findings extend psychological theories regarding how social class shapes psychological functioning and have important implications for understanding the maintenance and reproduction of poverty.

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The pitfalls of work requirements in welfare-to-work policies: Experimental evidence on human capital accumulation in the Self-Sufficiency Project

Chris Riddell & Craig Riddell
Journal of Public Economics, September 2014, Pages 39–49

Abstract:
This paper investigates whether policies that encourage recipients to exit welfare for full-time employment influence participation in educational activity. The Self-Sufficiency Project (‘SSP’) was a demonstration project where long-term welfare recipients randomly assigned to the treatment group were offered a generous earnings supplement if they exited welfare for full-time employment. We find that treatment group members were less likely to upgrade their education along all dimensions: high-school completion, enrolling in a community college or trade school, and enrolling in university. Thus, ‘work-first’ policies that encourage full-time employment may reduce educational activity and may have adverse consequences on the long-run earnings capacity of welfare recipients. We also find that there was a substantial amount of educational upgrading in this population. For instance, among high-school dropouts at the baseline, 19% completed their diploma by the end of the demonstration. Finally, we simulate the consequences of the earnings supplement in the absence of adverse effects on educational upgrading. Doing so alters the interpretation of the lessons from the SSP demonstration.

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Family Structure and Child Food Insecurity

Daniel Miller et al.
American Journal of Public Health, July 2014, Pages e70-e76

Objectives: We examined whether food insecurity was different for children in cohabiting or repartnered families versus those in single-mother or married-parent (biological) families.

Methods: We compared probabilities of child food insecurity (CFI) across different family structures in 4 national data sets: the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study—Birth Cohort (ECLS-B), the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCWS), the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study—Kindergarten Cohort (ECLS-K), and the Panel Study of Income Dynamics—Child Development Supplement (PSID-CDS).

Results: Unadjusted probabilities of CFI in cohabiting or repartnered families were generally higher than in married-biological-parent families and often statistically indistinguishable from those of single-mother families. However, after adjustment for sociodemographic factors, most differences between family types were attenuated and most were no longer statistically significant.

Conclusions: Although children whose biological parents are cohabiting or whose biological mothers have repartnered have risks for food insecurity comparable to those in single-mother families, the probability of CFI does not differ by family structure when household income, family size, and maternal race, ethnicity, education, and age were held at mean levels.

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Do Jobs Work? Risk and Protective Behaviors Associated with Employment among Disadvantaged Female Teens in Urban Atlanta

Janet Rosenbaum et al.
Journal of Women, Politics & Policy, Spring 2014, Pages 155-173

Abstract:
Adolescent employment research has focused on middle-class rather than disadvantaged adolescents. We identified risks and benefits of adolescent employment in a 12-month study of 715 low-socioeconomic-status female African American adolescents using nearest-neighbor Mahalanobis matching on baseline factors including substance use and socioeconomic status. Employed adolescents were more likely to graduate high school and less likely to depend on boyfriends for spending money, but they were more likely to use marijuana, alcohol, and have sex while high or drunk. Employment may help female adolescents avoid potentially coercive romantic relationships, but increase access to drugs or alcohol.

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Adrift at the Margins of Urban Society: What Role Does Neighborhood Play?

George Galster, Anna Maria Santiago & Jessica Lucero
Urban Affairs Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
We quantify how social detachment (measured as neither working nor attending school) of low-income African-American and Latino young adults relates to their teen neighborhood conditions. Data come from retrospective surveys of Denver Housing Authority (DHA) households. Because DHA household allocation mimics quasirandom assignment to neighborhoods throughout Denver County, this program represents a natural experiment for overcoming geographic selection bias. Our multilevel, mixed-effects logistic analyses found significant relationships between neighborhood safety and population composition and odds of social detachment of low-income, minority young adults that can be interpreted as causal effects. The strength of these relationships was often contingent on gender and ethnicity, however. We draw conclusions for macroeconomic, income-support, subsidized housing and community development policy.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Big data

Impaired Associative Learning with Food Rewards in Obese Women

Zhihao Zhang et al.
Current Biology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Obesity is a major epidemic in many parts of the world. One of the main factors contributing to obesity is overconsumption of high-fat and high-calorie food, which is driven by the rewarding properties of these types of food. Previous studies have suggested that dysfunction in reward circuits may be associated with overeating and obesity. The nature of this dysfunction, however, is still unknown. Here, we demonstrate impairment in reward-based associative learning specific to food in obese women. Normal-weight and obese participants performed an appetitive reversal learning task in which they had to learn and modify cue-reward associations. To test whether any learning deficits were specific to food reward or were more general, we used a between-subject design in which half of the participants received food reward and the other half received money reward. Our results reveal a marked difference in associative learning between normal-weight and obese women when food was used as reward. Importantly, no learning deficits were observed with money reward. Multiple regression analyses also established a robust negative association between body mass index and learning performance in the food domain in female participants. Interestingly, such impairment was not observed in obese men. These findings suggest that obesity may be linked to impaired reward-based associative learning and that this impairment may be specific to the food domain.

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Can merely learning about obesity genes affect eating behavior?

Ilan Dar-Nimrod et al.
Appetite, October 2014, Pages 269–276

Abstract:
Public discourse on genetic predispositions for obesity has flourished in recent decades. In three studies, we investigated behaviorally-relevant correlates and consequences of a perceived genetic etiology for obesity. In Study 1, beliefs about etiological explanations for obesity were assessed. Stronger endorsement of genetic etiology was predictive of a belief that obese people have no control over their weight. In Study 2, beliefs about weight and its causes were assessed following a manipulation of the perceived underlying cause. Compared with a genetic attribution, a non-genetic physiological attribution led to increased perception of control over one's weight. In Study 3, participants read a fictional media report presenting either a genetic explanation, a psychosocial explanation, or no explanation (control) for obesity. Results indicated that participants who read the genetic explanation ate significantly more on a follow-up task. Taken together, these studies demonstrate potential effects of genetic attributions for obesity.

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Preliminary evidence of cognitive and brain abnormalities in uncomplicated adolescent obesity

Po Lai Yau et al.
Obesity, August 2014, Pages 1865–1871

Objective: To ascertain whether pediatric obesity without clinically significant insulin resistance (IR) impacts brain structure and function.

Methods: Thirty obese and 30 matched lean adolescents, all without clinically significant IR or a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome (MetS), received comprehensive endocrine, neuropsychological, and MRI evaluations.

Results: Relative to lean adolescents, obese non-IR adolescents had significantly lower academic achievement (i.e., arithmetic and spelling) and tended to score lower on working memory, attention, psychomotor efficiency, and mental flexibility. In line with our prior work on adolescent MetS, memory was unaffected in uncomplicated obesity. Reductions in the thickness of the orbitofrontal and anterior cingulate cortices as well as reductions of microstructural integrity in major white matter tracts without gross volume changes were also uncovered.

Conclusions: It was documented, for the first time, that adolescents with uncomplicated obesity already have subtle brain alterations and lower performance in selective cognitive domains. When interpreting these preliminary data in the context of our prior reports of similar, but more extensive brain findings in obese adolescents with MetS and T2DM, it was concluded that “uncomplicated” obesity may also result in subtle brain alterations, suggesting a possible dose effect with more severe metabolic dysregulation giving rise to greater abnormalities.

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Emotional Ability Training and Mindful Eating

Blair Kidwell, Jonathan Hasford & David Hardesty
Journal of Marketing Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
Consumers are often mindless eaters (Wansink 2006). The current research provides a framework for how consumers can become more mindful of their food choices. An ability-based training program is developed to strengthen individuals' ability to focus on goal-relevant emotional information. We not only demonstrate that emotional ability is trainable and that food choices can be enhanced (study 1), but also that emotional ability training improves food choices beyond a nutrition knowledge training program (study 2). Then, in study 3, a test of our conceptual model indicated that emotional ability training increased goal-relevant emotional thoughts and reduced reliance on the unhealthy=tasty intuition. Both of these factors mediated mindful eating effects. Lastly, in study 4 the long-term benefits of emotional ability training were demonstrated by showing that emotionally trained individuals lost weight over a 3-month period relative to a control group and nutrition knowledge training group. Together, these findings suggest that consumers can gain control over their food choices through enhancement of emotional ability. Implications for policy officials, health care professionals, and marketers are discussed.

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Is it fun or exercise? The framing of physical activity biases subsequent snacking

Carolina Werle, Brian Wansink & Collin Payne
Marketing Letters, forthcoming

Abstract:
Do consumers eat more when they exercise more? If so, the implications could ripple through the multi-billion dollar fitness and food industries and have implications for both consumers and health-care providers. Three studies — two field experiments and one observational field study — triangulate on this potential compensatory mechanism between physical activity and food intake. The findings showed that when physical activity was perceived as fun (e.g., when it is labeled as a scenic walk rather than an exercise walk), people subsequently consume less dessert at mealtime and consume fewer hedonic snacks. A final observational field study during a competitive race showed that the more fun people rated the race as being, the less likely they were to compensate with a hedonic snack afterwards. Engaging in a physical activity seems to trigger the search for reward when individuals perceive it as exercise but not when they perceive it as fun. Key implications for the fitness industry and for health-care professionals are detailed along with the simple advice to consumers to make certain they make their physical activity routine fun in order to avoid compensation.

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Socioeconomic Status and Trajectory of Overweight from Birth to Mid-Childhood: The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort

Jessica Jones-Smith et al.
PLoS ONE, June 2014

Objective: Our objective was to use longitudinal data from a US birth cohort to test whether the probability of overweight or obesity during the first 6 years of life varied according to socioeconomic status.

Design and Methods: Using six waves of longitudinal data from full-term children in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort (2001–2007; n≈4,950), we examined the prevalence of overweight or obesity (Body Mass Index (BMI)>2 standard deviations above age- and sex- specific WHO Childhood Growth Standard reference mean; henceforth, “overweight/obesity”) according to age, socioeconomic status, and race/ethnicity using generalized estimating equation models.

Results: The association between socioeconomic status and overweight/obesity varied significantly by race/ethnicity, but not by sex. Overweight/obesity was significantly associated with socioeconomic status among whites, Hispanics and Asians; the adjusted odds of overweight/obesity began to diverge according to SES after the first 9 months of life. By approximately 4 years, children with the highest SES had a significantly lower odds of overweight/obesity. SES was not significantly related to overweight/obesity among African Americans and American Indians during early childhood.

Conclusions: Few studies have assessed the associations between SES and overweight/obesity within racial/ethnic groups in the US. We find that in contemporary, US-born children, SES was inversely associated with overweight/obesity among more racial/ethnic groups (whites, Hispanics, and Asians) than previously reported.

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Influences of the neighbourhood food environment on adiposity of low-income preschool-aged children in Los Angeles County: A longitudinal study

Pia Chaparro et al.
Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, forthcoming

Background: Few studies have examined the association between the food environment and adiposity in early childhood, a critical time for obesity prevention. The objective of this study was to examine the longitudinal association between neighbourhood food environment and adiposity among low-income preschool-aged children in a major metropolitan region in the USA.

Methods: The study sample was 32 172 low-income preschool-aged children in Los Angeles County who had repeated weight and height measurements collected between ages 2 and 5 years through a federal nutrition assistance programme. We conducted multilevel longitudinal analyses to examine how spatial densities of healthy and unhealthy retail food outlets in the children's neighbourhoods were related to adiposity, as measured by weight-for-height z-score (WHZ), while controlling for neighbourhood-level income and education, family income, maternal education, and child's gender and race/ethnicity.

Results: Density of healthy food outlets was associated with mean WHZ at age 3 in a non-linear fashion, with mean WHZ being lowest for those exposed to approximately 0.7 healthy food outlets per square mile and higher for lesser and greater densities. Density of unhealthy food outlets was not associated with child WHZ.

Conclusions: We found a non-linear relationship between WHZ and density of healthy food outlets. Research aiming to understand the sociobehavioural mechanisms by which the retail food environment influences early childhood obesity development is complex and must consider contextual settings.

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Trends in Abdominal Obesity Among US Children and Adolescents

Bo Xi et al.
Pediatrics, forthcoming

Objectives: Previous studies showed that prevalence of abdominal obesity among US children and adolescents increased significantly between 1988–1994 and 2003–2004. However, little is known about recent time trends in abdominal obesity since 2003–2004.This study was to provide recent updated national estimates of childhood abdominal obesity and examine the trends in childhood abdominal obesity from 2003 to 2012.

Methods: Data were from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) conducted during 5 time periods (2003–2004, 2005–2006, 2007–2008, 2009–2010, and 2011–2012). A total of 16 601 US children and adolescents aged 2 to 18 years were included. Abdominal obesity is defined as a waist circumference (WC) ≥ gender- and age-specific 90th percentile based on data from NHANES III (1988–1994) and a waist-to-height (WHtR) ≥0.5, respectively.

Results: In 2011–2012, 17.95% of children and adolescents aged 2 to 18 years were abdominally obese defined by WC, and 32.93% of those aged 6 to 18 years were abdominally obese defined by WHtR. Mean WC and WHtR and prevalence of abdominal obesity kept stable between 2003–2004 and 2011–2012, independently of gender, age, and race/ethnicity. However, there was a significant decrease in abdominal obesity among children aged 2 to 5 years.

Conclusions: The prevalence of abdominal obesity leveled off among US children and adolescents from 2003–2004 to 2011–2012.

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Obesity, Abdominal Obesity, Physical Activity, and Caloric Intake in U.S. Adults: 1988-2010

Uri Ladabaum et al.
American Journal of Medicine, forthcoming

Background: Obesity and abdominal obesity are independently associated with morbidity and mortality. Physical activity attenuates these risks. We examined trends in obesity, abdominal obesity, physical activity, and caloric intake in U.S. adults from 1988 to 2010.

Methods: Univariate and multivariate analyses were performed using National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data.

Results: Average body-mass index (BMI) increased by 0.37% (95% CI, 0.30-0.44%) per year in both women and men. Average waist circumference increased by 0.37% (95% CI, 0.30-0.43%) and 0.27% (95% CI, 0.22-0.32%) per year in women and men, respectively. The prevalence of obesity and abdominal obesity increased substantially, as did the prevalence of abdominal obesity among overweight adults. Younger women experienced the greatest increases. The proportion of adults who reported no leisure-time physical activity increased from 19.1% (95% CI, 17.3-21.0%) to 51.7% (95% CI, 48.9-54.5%) in women, and from 11.4% (95% CI, 10.0-12.8%) to 43.5% (95% CI, 40.7-46.3%) in men. Average daily caloric intake did not change significantly. BMI and waist circumference trends were associated with physical activity level, but not caloric intake. The associated changes in adjusted BMIs were 8.3% (95% CI, 6.9-9.6%) higher among women and 1.7% (95% CI, 0.68-2.8%) higher among men with no leisure-time physical activity compared to those with an ideal level of leisure-time physical activity.

Conclusions: Our analyses highlight important dimensions of the public health problem of obesity, including trends in younger women and in abdominal obesity, and lend support to the emphasis placed on physical activity by the Institute of Medicine.

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Children's knowledge of packaged and fast food brands and their BMI. Why the relationship matters for policy makers

Bettina Cornwell, Anna McAlister & Nancy Polmear-Swendris
Appetite, October 2014, Pages 277–283

Abstract:
Studies regarding the advancing challenges of obesity in many countries are beginning to converge on the importance of early food exposure and consumption patterns. Across two studies (Study 1, 34 boys, 35 girls; Study 2, 40 boys, 35 girls, ages 3–6), child knowledge of brands offering products high in sugar, salt and fat was shown to be a significant predictor of child BMI, even after controlling for their age and gender and when also considering the extent of their TV viewing. Additionally, two different collage measures of brand knowledge (utilized across the two studies) performed similarly, suggesting that this measure may be serving as a surrogate indicator of an overall pattern of product exposure and consumption. Policy implications are discussed.

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Psychosocial predictors of body mass index at late childhood: A longitudinal investigation

Jill Holm-Denoma et al.
Journal of Health Psychology, June 2014, Pages 754-764

Abstract:
Little is known about the psychosocial circumstances under which children develop excessive body mass. A community sample was followed up from age 2–10 years to determine which early problems were predictive of increased body mass index. Hypothesized mediators (i.e. eating habits, physical activity, and “screen time”) were also examined. After controlling for parental psychopathology, family income, child’s gender, and child’s body mass index, externalizing behaviors, aggressive behaviors, and anger predicted a relatively high body mass index. Exploratory analyses did not support hypothesized mediators, although low power was an issue.

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Sustained hunger suppression from stable liquid food foams

Sergey Melnikov et al.
Obesity, forthcoming

Objective: Simple aeration of food matrices with gas has previously been shown to generate immediate suppression of appetite, though duration of effects has not been shown. This research tested whether liquids aerated with nitrous oxide (N2O) to achieve high in-body stability could produce enhanced and sustained effects on eating motivations.

Methods: In two randomized cross-over studies, appetite ratings were collected for 240 min. In Study 1, 24 volunteers consumed a full portion liquid (325 ml, 190 kcal) or aerated (1,000 ml, 190 kcal) drink at 0 min, or half portions of liquid (162 ml, 95 kcal) or aerated (500 ml, 95 kcal) drink at 0 and 120 min. In Study 2, assessing the effect of N2O itself, 23 volunteers consumed water saturated with N2O or with CO2 10 min after a mini-drink (180 kcal). Appetite was quantified by area-under-the curve (AUC) and time-to-return-to-baseline (TTRTB).

Results: Full- and half-size aerated drinks decreased hunger AUC over 4 h by 26 and 50% (P < 0.0001) versus the respective liquid versions. Effects were also sustained significantly longer (TTRTB from 203 to 335 and from 173 to 286 min, respectively). In Study 2, N2O and CO2 had similar effects on appetite ratings.

Conclusions: Aeration of foods using appropriate microstructural design has a powerful effect on eating motivations.

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Attenuated interoceptive sensitivity in overweight and obese individuals

Beate Herbert & Olga Pollatos
Eating Behaviors, August 2014, Pages 445–448

Objective: Perceiving internal signals of hunger and satiety are related to the regulation of food intake. Recent data suggest that interoception (perception of bodily signals) and interoceptive sensitivity (sensitivity for internal signals) might be a crucial variable for the regulation of behavior associated with feelings of satiety. It is yet unclear whether interoceptive sensitivity is altered in overweight and obese participants.

Design and methods: We therefore examined interoceptive sensitivity among 75 overweight and obese women and men using a heartbeat detection task and compared them to normal weight controls. We hypothesized that overweight and obesity would be related to attenuated interoceptive sensitivity.

Results: Interoceptive sensitivity was higher in normal weight participants as compared to overweight and obese participants. Additionally, we found a negative correlation coefficient between the BMI and interoceptive sensitivity in the overweight and obese group only.

Conclusions: In accordance with our hypotheses, we found evidence for reduced interoceptive sensitivity in overweight and obese individuals. Interoceptive sensitivity presumably interacts with regulation of food intake in everyday life in part by facilitating the detection of bodily changes accompanying satiety. Overweight and obese individuals might experience greater difficulties in accurately detecting such signals due to reduced interoceptive sensitivity.

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Does child–parent resemblance in body weight status vary by sociodemographic factors in the USA?

Qi Zhang et al.
Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, forthcoming

Background: Clustered obese parents and children are prevalent, but there is little knowledge about whether and how child–parent resemblance varies by sociodemographic groups.

Methods: This paper used nationally representative data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III (NHANES: 1988–1994). We matched 4958 parents with 6765 children aged 2–16 years old for whom we had complete data on body mass index (BMI), overweight and obesity status. Correlation coefficients and κ statistics between parents’ and children's BMI and body weight status were calculated for different sociodemographic groups. Multivariate linear and logistic regression models were fit to study the child–parent resemblance and socioeconomic and demographic differences in the resemblance.

Results: The child–parent correlation coefficients for BMI were greater in Caucasians than in minorities and greater in groups with higher socioeconomic status. The mother–child resemblance in BMI was negatively associated with child age (p<0.001). The mother–daughter resemblance in overweight was significantly lower in non-Hispanic blacks (OR=0.53, 95% CI (0.36 to 0.78)) and Mexican Americans (OR=0.58, 95% CI (0.36 to 0.93)) than in Caucasians. The father–child resemblance in overweight was significantly lower in high school graduates compared with those with less-than-high-school-graduate fathers (OR=0.53, 95% CI (0.37 to 0.77) for father–son dyads and OR=0.69, 95% CI (0.50 to 0.96) for father–daughter dyads). Similar results were found for parent–child resemblance in obesity.

Conclusions: Child–parent resemblance in body weight status exists across sociodemographic groups in the USA, but it varies by demographics and socioeconomic status.

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Associations Between Childhood Obesity and the Availability of Food Outlets in the Local Environment: A Retrospective Cross-Sectional Study

Laura Miller et al.
American Journal of Health Promotion, July/August 2014, Pages e137-e145

Purpose: Examine whether individual-level childhood obesity is related to residential availability of fast food and healthy food outlets.

Subjects: A total of 1850 children aged 5 to 15 years in 2005–2010 who participated in the Western Australian Health and Wellbeing Surveillance System survey.

Results: An increasing number of healthy food outlets within 800 m of a child's home was associated with a significantly reduced risk of being overweight/obese in all models tested. After controlling for age, physical activity, time spent sedentary, weekly takeaway consumption, area disadvantage, and count of fast food outlets, each additional healthy food outlet within 800 m was associated with a 20% decrease in the likelihood of a child being overweight or obese (odds ratio: .800, 95% confidence intervals: .686–.933).

Conclusion: The local food environment around children's homes has an independent effect on child weight status. These findings highlight the importance of the built environment as a potential contributor towards child health, which should be considered when developing community health promotion programs.

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High sitting time or obesity: Which came first? Bidirectional association in a longitudinal study of 31,787 Australian adults

Zeljko Pedisic et al.
Obesity, forthcoming

Objective: Evidence on the direction of the association between sitting time and obesity is limited. The prospective associations between baseline total sitting time and subsequent changes in body mass index (BMI), and baseline BMI and subsequent changes in sitting time were examined.

Methods: BMI, from self-reported height and weight, and a single-item measure of sitting time were ascertained at two time points (3.4 ± 0.96 years apart) in a prospective questionnaire-based cohort of 31,787 Australians aged 45–65 years without severe physical limitations.

Results: In a fully adjusted model, baseline obesity was associated with increased sitting time among all participants (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] = 1.20 [95% CI, 1.11-1.30]; P < 0.001) and in most subgroups. The association was significant among those who were sitting <4 hours/day (aOR = 1.24 [95% CI, 1.07-1.44]; P = 0.004) and 4–8 hours/day at baseline (aOR=1.18 [95% CI, 1.06-1.32]; P = 0.003), but not in the high sitting groups (P = 0.111 and 0.188 for 8–11 and ≥11 sitting hours/day, respectively). Nonsignificant and inconsistent results were observed for the association between baseline sitting time and subsequent change in BMI.

Conclusions: Our findings support the hypothesis that obesity may lead to a subsequent increase in total sitting time, but the association in the other direction is unclear.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Monday, July 28, 2014

Drinking the Kool-Aid

Self-Fulfilling Misperceptions of Public Polarization

Douglas Ahler
Journal of Politics, July 2014, Pages 607-620

Abstract:
Mass media convey deep divisions among citizens despite scant evidence for such ideological polarization. Do ordinary citizens perceive themselves to be more extreme and divided than they actually are? If so, what are the ramifications of such misperception? A representative sample from California provides evidence that voters from both sides of the state’s political divide perceive both their liberal and conservative peers’ positions as more extreme than they actually are, implying inaccurate beliefs about polarization. A second study again demonstrates this finding with an online sample and presents evidence that misperception of mass-level extremity can affect individuals’ own policy opinions. Experimental participants randomly assigned to learn the actual average policy-related predispositions of liberal and conservative Americans later report opinions that are 8–13% more moderate, on average. Thus, citizens appear to consider peers’ positions within public debate when forming their own opinions and adopt slightly more extreme positions as a consequence.

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Paradoxical thinking as a new avenue of intervention to promote peace

Boaz Hameiri et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming

Abstract:
In societies involved in an intractable conflict, there are strong socio-psychological barriers that contribute to the continuation and intractability of the conflict. Based on a unique field study conducted in the context of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, we offer a new avenue to overcome these barriers by exposing participants to a long-term paradoxical intervention campaign expressing extreme ideas that are congruent with the shared ethos of conflict. Results show that the intervention, although counterintuitive, led participants to express more conciliatory attitudes regarding the conflict, particularly among participants with center and right political orientation. Most importantly, the intervention even influenced participants' actual voting patterns in the 2013 Israeli general elections: Participants who were exposed to the paradoxical intervention, which took place in proximity to the general elections, reported that they tended to vote more for dovish parties, which advocate a peaceful resolution to the conflict. These effects were long lasting, as the participants in the intervention condition expressed more conciliatory attitudes when they were reassessed 1 y after the intervention. Based on these results, we propose a new layer to the general theory of persuasion based on the concept of paradoxical thinking.

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“Ditto Heads”: Do Conservatives Perceive Greater Consensus Within Their Ranks Than Liberals?

Chadly Stern et al.
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming

Abstract:
In three studies, we examined (a) whether conservatives possess a stronger desire to share reality than liberals and are therefore more likely to perceive consensus with politically like-minded others even for non-political judgments and, if so, (b) whether motivated perceptions of consensus would give conservatives an edge in progressing toward collective goals. In Study 1, participants estimated ingroup consensus on non-political judgments. Conservatives perceived more ingroup consensus than liberals, regardless of the amount of actual consensus. The desire to share reality mediated the relationship between ideology and perceived ingroup consensus. Study 2 replicated these results and demonstrated that perceiving ingroup consensus predicted a sense of collective efficacy in politics. In Study 3, experimental manipulations of affiliative motives eliminated ideological differences in the desire to share reality. A sense of collective efficacy predicted intentions to vote in a major election. Implications for the attainment of shared goals are discussed.

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Do Open Primaries Help Moderate Candidates? An Experimental Test of California’s 2012 Top-Two Primary

Douglas Ahler, Jack Citrin & Gabriel Lenz
University of California Working Paper, April 2014

Abstract:
To alleviate growing polarization among US lawmakers, reformers, pundits, and scholars have promoted open primaries — allowing voters to choose primary candidates from any party — but evidence on this reform's efficacy is mixed. To determine whether open primaries favor centrist candidates, we conducted a statewide experiment just before California’s 2012 primaries, the first conducted under a new open format. We randomly assigned voters in districts with moderate and extreme candidates to select candidates from either the new ballot or the ballot they would have seen absent reform. We find that moderate candidates for US House of Representatives and California State Senate fared no better under the open ballot. Although voters apparently prefer moderate candidates, they failed to discern which candidates held moderate policy views. Tellingly, the reform actually led voters to choose more ideologically distant candidates. These results suggest that voters lack the knowledge to incentivize centrism in congressional open primaries.

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Sore Loser Laws and Congressional Polarization

Barry Burden, Bradley Jones & Michael Kang
Legislative Studies Quarterly, August 2014, Pages 299–325

Abstract:
To enhance explanations for party polarization in the U.S. Congress, we focus on an unappreciated legal structure known as the sore loser law. By restricting candidates who lose partisan primaries from subsequently appearing on the general election ballot as independents or as nominees of other parties, these laws give greater control over ballot access to the party bases, thus producing more extreme major party nominees. Using several different measures of candidate and legislator ideology, we find that sore loser laws account for as much as a tenth of the ideological divide between the major parties.

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A Multidimensional Study of Ideological Preferences and Priorities among the American Public

Samara Klar
Public Opinion Quarterly, Summer 2014, Pages 344-359

Abstract:
Political ideology is not always best measured along a unidimensional spectrum. With a multidimensional construct, we are better able to understand the complexities of Americans’ ideological views. This research note presents new survey data from a nationally representative sample of over 2,000 Americans. The survey asks respondents to place themselves on distinct ideological scales regarding social and economic issues, then to prioritize the importance of these issues. The first of its kind to include both ideological preferences and attitude importance, this survey contributes new insights into the complex dimensionality of ideology. Results reveal a plurality of individuals identifying as conservative on both social and economic issues, and a smaller group that is consistently liberal on both policy spectrums. Eleven percent of respondents self-identify as liberal on one scale and conservative on the other, yet choose to identify as “moderate” on the traditional unidimensional scale. By analyzing an extensive set of attitudinal and behavioral measures — including vote choice in the 2012 presidential election — this research demonstrates that true moderates are substantially different from those who mix both social and economic beliefs. It further shows that the vast majority of Americans place more importance on economic issues than on social issues, which has greater influence over respondents’ unidimensional ideological placement as well as their presidential vote choice. This study reveals important consequences of the multidimensional nature of ideology at the mass level.

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Partisan Conflict

Marina Azzimonti
Federal Reserve Working Paper, June 2014

Abstract:
American politics have become extremely polarized in recent decades. This deep political divide has caused significant government dysfunction. Political divisions make the timing, size, and composition of government policy less predictable. According to existing theories, an increase in the degree of economic policy uncertainty or in the volatility of fiscal shocks results in a decline in economic activity. This occurs because businesses and households may be induced to delay decisions that involve high reversibility costs. In addition, disagreement between policymakers may result in stalemate, or, in extreme cases, a government shutdown. This adversely affects the optimal implementation of policy reforms and may result in excessive debt accumulation or inefficient public-sector responses to adverse shocks. Testing these theories has been challenging given the low frequency at which existing measures of partisan conflict have been computed. In this paper, I provide a novel high-frequency indicator of the degree of partisan conflict. The index, constructed for the period 1891 to 2013, uses a search-based approach that measures the frequency of newspaper articles that report lawmakers' disagreement about policy. I show that the long-run trend of partisan conflict behaves similarly to political polarization and income inequality, especially since the Great Depression. Its short-run fluctuations are highly related to elections, but unrelated to recessions. The lower-than-average values observed during wars suggest a "rally around the flag" effect. I use the index to study the effect of an increase in partisan conflict, equivalent to the one observed since the Great Recession, on business cycles. Using a simple VAR, I find that an innovation to partisan conflict increases government deficits and significantly discourages investment, output, and employment. Moreover, these declines are persistent, which may help explain the slow recovery observed since the 2007 recession ended.

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Ideological Labels in America

Christopher Claassen, Patrick Tucker & Steven Smith
Political Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
This paper extends Ellis and Stimson’s (Ideology in America. New York: Cambridge UniversityPress, 2012) study of the operational-symbolic paradox using issue-level measures of ideological incongruence based on respondent positions and symbolic labels for these positions across 14 issues. Like Ellis and Stimson, we find that substantial numbers — over 30 % — of Americans experience conflicted conservatism. Our issue-level data reveal, furthermore, that conflicted conservatism is most common on the issues of education and welfare spending. In addition, we also find that 20 % of Americans exhibit conflicted liberalism. We then replicate Ellis and Stimson’s finding that conflicted conservatism is associated with low sophistication and religiosity, but also find that it is associated with being socialized in a post-1960s generation and using Fox News as a main news source. Finally, we show the important role played by identities, with both conflicted conservatism and conflicted liberalism linked with partisan and ideological identities, and conflicted liberalism additionally associated with ethnic identities.

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Social vigilantism and reported use of strategies to resist persuasion

Donald Saucier et al.
Personality and Individual Differences, November 2014, Pages 120–125

Abstract:
We assessed the unique contribution of social vigilantism (SV; the tendency to impress and propagate one’s “superior” beliefs onto others to correct others’ more “ignorant” opinions) in predicting participants’ reported use of strategies to resist persuasion. Consistent with hypotheses, SV was uniquely and positively associated with reported use of several resistance strategies (including counterarguing, impressing views, social validation, negative affect, and source derogation) in response to challenges above and beyond the effects of argumentativeness, attitude strength, and topic (in Study 1, the issue was abortion; in Study 2, the war in Iraq or the constitutional rights of pornographers). These studies indicate that social vigilantism is an important individual difference variable in the process of attitude resistance.

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Who Do Voters Blame for Policy Failure? Information and the Partisan Assignment of Blame

Jeffrey Lyons & William Jaeger
State Politics & Policy Quarterly, forthcoming

Abstract:
How do people assign blame in the wake of significant government failures? If the role of the citizenry in a representative democracy is to discipline elected officials for failing to meet collective expectations, then this question is of paramount importance. Much research suggests that the base tendency of citizens is to simply blame the other party — a normatively concerning outcome. However, some argue that information, especially that from expert and nonpartisan sources, may push citizens to overlook their party affiliation and assign blame in a more performance-based fashion. Using an experimental design, we test this possibility, manipulating whether there is unified or divided government, the partisanship of key actors, and the nature of expert information that participants receive during a hypothetical budget crisis at the state level. We find strong evidence that party weighs heavily on individuals’ minds when assigning blame, as expected. More importantly, we find that nonpartisan expert information about the situation does not live up to its potential to sway partisans from their priors. Rather, unbiased information appears to be used as a weapon — ignored when it challenges partisan expectations and used to magnify blame of the other party when it conforms with them.

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Public Preferences for Bipartisanship in the Policymaking Process

Laurel Harbridge, Neil Malhotra & Brian Harrison
Legislative Studies Quarterly, August 2014, Pages 327–355

Abstract:
At a time of a high level of polarization in Congress, public opinion surveys routinely find that Americans want politicians to compromise. When evaluating legislation, does the preference for bipartisanship in the legislative process trump partisan identities? We find that it does not. We conduct two experiments in which we alter aspects of the political context to see how people respond to parties (not) coming together to achieve broadly popular public policy goals. Although citizens can recognize bipartisan processes, preferences for bipartisan legislating do not outweigh partisan desires in the evaluation of public policies.

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Party Polarization and Mass Partisanship: A Comparative Perspective

Noam Lupu
Political Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
Scholars view polarization with trepidation. But polarization may clarify voters’ choices and generate stronger party attachments. The link between party polarization and mass partisanship remains unclear. I look to theories of partisanship to derive implications about the relationships among polarization, citizens’ perceptions of polarization, and mass partisanship. I test those implications using cross-national and longitudinal survey data. My results confirm that polarization correlates with individual partisanship across space and time. Citizens in polarized systems also perceive their parties to be more polarized. And perceiving party polarization makes people more likely to be partisan. That relationship appears to be causal: using a long-term panel survey from the United States, I find that citizens become more partisan as they perceive polarization increasing.

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Partisan Personality: The Psychological Differences Between Democrats and Republicans, and Independents Somewhere in Between

Kaye Sweetser
American Behavioral Scientist, August 2014, Pages 1183-1194

Abstract:
Focusing on the psychological underpinnings of partisanship, this study asks whether there is a difference in the personality profile for self-described Democrats and Republicans. Using a survey of young voters (N = 610), psychological measures such as the Big Five personality dimensions and locus of control were measured in conjunction with standard political interest variables such as political cynicism and political information efficacy. The results indicate supporters for the two major parties are wired differently, in line with previous findings about ideology. Democrats were driven by an external locus of control and Republicans by an internal locus. This research finds self-identified Independents as truly being somewhere in between.

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Political Conservatives’ Affinity for Obedience to Authority Is Loyal, Not Blind

Jeremy Frimer, Danielle Gaucher & Nicola Schaefer
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming

Abstract:
Liberals and conservatives disagree about obeying authorities, with conservatives holding the more positive views. We suggest that reactions to conservative authorities, rather than to obedience itself, are responsible for the division. Past findings that conservatives favor obedience uniformly confounded obedience with conservative authorities. We break down obedience to authority into its constituent parts to test the divisiveness of each part. The concepts of obedience (Study 1) and authority (Study 2) recruited inferences of conservative authorities, conflating results of simple, seemingly face valid tests of their divisiveness. These results establish necessary features of a valid test, to which Study 3 conforms. Conservatives have the more positive moral views of obedience only when the authorities are conservative (e.g., commanding officers); liberals do when the authorities are liberal (e.g., environmentalists). The two camps agree about obeying ideologically neutral authorities (e.g., office managers). Obedience itself is not ideologically divisive.

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Ideological Moderates Won’t Run: How Party Fit Matters for Partisan Polarization in Congress

Danielle Thomsen
Journal of Politics, July 2014, Pages 786-797

Abstract:
Scholars have focused on elite-level and mass-level changes to explain partisan polarization in Congress. This article offers a candidate entry explanation for the persistence of polarization and the rise in asymmetric polarization. The central claim is that ideological conformity with the party — what I call party fit — influences the decision to run for office, and I suggest that partisan polarization in Congress has discouraged ideological moderates in the pipeline from pursuing a congressional career. I test this hypothesis with a survey of state legislators and with ideology estimates of state legislators who did and did not run for Congress from 2000 to 2010. I find that liberal Republican and conservative Democratic state legislators are less likely to run for Congress than those at the ideological poles, though this disparity is especially pronounced among Republicans. The findings provide an additional explanation for recent patterns of polarization in Congress.

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Partisan Paths to Exposure Diversity: Differences in Pro- and Counterattitudinal News Consumption

Kelly Garrett & Natalie Jomini Stroud
Journal of Communication, forthcoming

Abstract:
This study examines selective exposure to political information, arguing that attraction to proattitudinal information and aversion to counterattitudinal information are distinct phenomena, and that the tendency to engage in these behaviors varies by partisanship. Data collected in a strict online experiment support these predictions. Republicans are significantly more likely to engage in selective avoidance of predominantly counterattitudinal information than those with other partisan affiliations, while non-Republicans are significantly more likely to select a story that includes proattitudinal information, regardless of its counterattitudinal content. Individuals across the political spectrum are receptive to predominantly proattitudinal content and to content that offers a mix of views, but the form these preferences take varies by partisanship. The political significance of these findings is discussed.

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Partisan Media and Discussion as Enhancers of the Belief Gap

Aaron Veenstra, Mohammad Delwar Hossain & Benjamin Lyons
Mass Communication and Society, forthcoming

Abstract:
This study examines the roles of partisanship, partisan media use, and political discussion in the development of belief gaps. Using national survey data, we construct models of political identity, media use, and discussion factors predicting beliefs on five contested political issues, and find that ideology and partisanship are generally stronger predictors of beliefs than is education. Notably, each has independent effects on belief outcomes. Contrary to some concerns that the Internet especially promotes partisan clustering, use of partisan traditional media – television and radio – is by far the strongest information-related predictor of belief outcomes, while partisan social media use and partisan discussion are relatively weak and inconsistent. These findings suggest that political elites continue to exert significant influence over the perceptions of rank and file partisans.

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Political Differences in Past, Present, and Future Life Satisfaction: Republicans Are More Sensitive than Democrats to Political Climate

David Mandel & Philip Omorogbe
PLoS ONE, June 2014

Abstract:
Previous research finds that Republicans report being happier or more satisfied with their lives than Democrats. Using representative American samples from 2002, 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2010, we tested a Person × Situation interactionist account in which political affiliation (Democrat, Republican) and political climate (favorable when the president in office is of the same party) are proposed to affect past, present, and anticipated future life satisfaction. Meta-analyses of related tests of key hypotheses confirmed that (a) life satisfaction was greater when the political climate was favorable rather than unfavorable and (b) Republicans were more sensitive to political climate than Democrats. As predicted, Republicans also were more politically polarized than Democrats. Taken together, the findings indicate that, compared to Democrats, Republicans are more apt to self-identify in political terms, and core aspects of their subjective well-being are more easily affected by the outcome of political events.

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Demand for Slant: How Abstention Shapes Voters’ Choice of News Media

Santiago Oliveros & Felix Várdy
Economic Journal, forthcoming

Abstract:
Political commentators warn that the fragmentation of the modern media landscape induces voters to withdraw into “information cocoons” and segregate along ideological lines. We show that the option to abstain breaks ideological segregation and generates “cross-over” in news consumption: voters with considerable leanings toward a candidate demand information that is less biased toward that candidate than voters who are more centrist. This non-monotonicity in the demand for slant makes voters’ ideologies non-recoverable from their choice of news media and generates disproportionate demand for media outlets that are centrist or only moderately biased. It also implies that polarization of the electorate may lead to ideological moderation in news consumption.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Yes we can

Negotiating face-to-face: Men's facial structure predicts negotiation performance

Michael Haselhuhn et al.
Leadership Quarterly, forthcoming

Abstract:
Although a great deal of research has examined specific behaviors that positively affect leaders' negotiation processes and outcomes, there has been considerably less attention devoted to stable characteristics, psychological or physical, that might also influence outcomes at the bargaining table. In the current research, we identify a measureable physical trait - the facial width-to-height ratio - that predicts negotiation performance in men. Across four studies, we show that men with greater facial width-to-height ratios are less cooperative negotiators compared to men with smaller facial ratios. This lack of cooperation allows men with greater facial width-to-height ratios to claim more value when negotiating with other men, but inhibits their ability to discover creative agreements that benefit all negotiating parties. These results provide insight into the factors linking leadership, facial structure and conflict resolution.

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Using abstract language signals power

Cheryl Wakslak, Pamela Smith & Albert Han
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, July 2014, Pages 41-55

Abstract:
Power can be gained through appearances: People who exhibit behavioral signals of power are often treated in a way that allows them to actually achieve such power (Ridgeway, Berger, & Smith, 1985; Smith & Galinsky, 2010). In the current article, we examine power signals within interpersonal communication, exploring whether use of concrete versus abstract language is seen as a signal of power. Because power activates abstraction (e.g., Smith & Trope, 2006), perceivers may expect higher power individuals to speak more abstractly and therefore will infer that speakers who use more abstract language have a higher degree of power. Across a variety of contexts and conversational subjects in 7 experiments, participants perceived respondents as more powerful when they used more abstract language (vs. more concrete language). Abstract language use appears to affect perceived power because it seems to reflect both a willingness to judge and a general style of abstract thinking.

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The Effect of 9/11 on the Heritability of Political Trust

Christopher Ojeda
Political Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, a rally effect led to a precipitous rise in political trust. However, the increase in political trust concealed a simultaneous decline among a smaller portion of the population. This article examines the psychological mechanisms underlying these heterogeneous attitudes towards government and shows that a biosocial model best explains the observed patterns of response. The interplay of genetic and environmental factors of political trust reveals the stable but dynamic nature of heritability: genetic influences of political trust increased immediately following 9/11 but quickly decayed to pre-9/11 levels.

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A counterpart's feminine face signals cooperativeness and encourages negotiators to compete

Eric Gladstone & Kathleen O'Connor
Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, September 2014, Pages 18-25

Abstract:
Early on, negotiators take each other's measure, drawing inferences that shape subsequent decisions and behaviors. In two studies, we investigate whether impressions based on the facial femininity of counterparts affect negotiators' behaviors. In our first experiment, we tested whether negotiators would choose counterparts with more feminine-featured faces over those with less feminine faces. As predicted, regardless of counterpart sex, negotiators preferred counterparts with more feminine-featured faces. When choosing agents, however, this preference reversed, indicating strategic decision making on the part of negotiators. In a second experiment, we tested our underlying claim that facial femininity evokes stereotypes of cooperativeness. It did, and in keeping with our main hypotheses, negotiators demanded more from their feminine-featured counterparts.

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The many (distinctive) faces of leadership: Inferring leadership domain from facial appearance

Christopher Olivola, Dawn Eubanks & Jeffrey Lovelace
Leadership Quarterly, forthcoming

Abstract:
Previous research has shown that people form impressions of potential leaders from their faces and that certain facial features predict success in reaching prestigious leadership positions. However, much less is known about the accuracy or meta-accuracy of face-based leadership inferences. Here we examine a simple, but important, question: Can leadership domain be inferred from faces? We find that human judges can identify business, military, and sports leaders (but not political leaders) from their faces with above-chance accuracy. However, people are surprisingly bad at evaluating their own performance on this judgment task: We find no relationship between how well judges think they performed and their actual accuracy levels. In a follow-up study, we identify several basic dimensions of evaluation that correlate with face-based judgments of leadership domain, as well as those that predict actual leadership domain. We discuss the implications of our results for leadership perception and selection.

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Proud to Cooperate: The Consideration of Pride Promotes Cooperation in a Social Dilemma

Anna Dorfman, Tal Eyal & Yoella Bereby-Meyer
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, November 2014, Pages 105-109

Abstract:
In social dilemmas, broad collective interests conflict with immediate self-interests. In two studies, we examine the role of pride in guiding cooperative behavior in a social dilemma. We find that the consideration of pride led to more cooperation compared to the consideration of joy or a control condition (Study 1) and compared to the consideration of enjoyment (Study 2). The importance participants assigned to cooperation mediated this effect of emotion on cooperation (Studies 1 and 3). We suggest that because pride is linked to pro-social behavior, considering pride activates the concept of pride which in turn makes related behavioral representations more accessible and thus increases cooperation.

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Ode to the sea: Workplace Organizations and Norms of Cooperation

Uri Gneezy, Andreas Leibbrandt & John List
NBER Working Paper, June 2014

Abstract:
The functioning and well-being of any society and organization critically hinges on norms of cooperation that regulate social activities. Empirical evidence on how such norms emerge and in which environments they thrive remains a clear void in the literature. To provide an initial set of insights, we overlay a set of field experiments in a natural setting. Our approach is to compare behavior in Brazilian fishermen societies that differ along one major dimension: the workplace organization. In one society (located by the sea) fishermen are forced to work in groups whereas in the adjacent society (located on a lake) fishing is inherently an individual activity. We report sharp evidence that the sea fishermen trust and cooperate more and have greater ability to coordinate group actions than their lake fishermen counterparts. These findings are consistent with the argument that people internalize social norms that emerge from specific needs and support the idea that socio-ecological factors play a decisive role in the proliferation of pro-social behaviors.

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Violent Entertainment and Cooperative Behavior: Examining Media Violence Effects on Cooperation in a Primarily Hispanic Sample

Raul Ramos, Christopher Ferguson & Kelly Frailing
Psychology of Popular Media Culture, forthcoming

Abstract:
The impact of violent entertainment on viewer behavior remains disputed in the academic community. Although most studies focus on negative outcomes such as aggression, some studies also consider whether violent entertainment may reduce positive behaviors such as cooperation. The current article describes 2 studies of violent TV influences on cooperative behavior. The first study examined whether exposure to violent TV shows impacted cooperative behavior using the prisoner's dilemma task in a sample of 181 mostly Hispanic young adults. Results indicated that exposure to violent TV had no impact on short-term cooperative behavior. Long-term exposure to violent TV in real life also did not predict the level of cooperative behavior. The second study examined how motivational factors influenced the relationship between violent TV and cooperative behavior. Overall, these results do not support traditional media effects models of violent entertainment, at least in regard to short-term influences in an experimental setting.

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Bargaining and fairness

Kenneth Binmore
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 22 July 2014, Pages 10785-10788

Abstract:
The idea that human morality might be the product of evolution is not popular. The reason is partly that the moral principles that actually govern our day-to-day behavior have been idealized in a way that makes a natural origin seem impossible. This paper puts the case for a more down-to-earth assessment of human morality by arguing that the evolution of our sense of fairness can be traced to the practicalities of food-sharing. When animals share food, they can be seen as enjoying the fruits of an implicit bargain to ensure each other against hunger. The implications of this observation are explored using the tools of game theory. The arguments lead to a structure for fair bargains that closely resembles the structure proposed by John Rawls, the leading moral philosopher of the last century.

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Conflict Templates in Negotiations, Disputes, Joint Decisions, and Tournaments

Nir Halevy & Taylor Phillips
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Conflict situations present interaction partners with opportunities to behave cooperatively or competitively. Conflict templates (CTs) capture interaction partners' perceptions of the relationships between their actions and outcomes. Study 1 investigated situational influences on CTs as well as the cross-situational consistency of CTs using a longitudinal diary design. Deal-making negotiation produced more competitive perceptions than dispute resolution, joint decision making, or naturally occurring social interactions. Study 2 investigated downstream consequences of CTs by having participants submit strategies for a tournament involving four types of situations. Each strategy was matched with all other submitted strategies in a series of repeated games for a total of over 12 million rounds. Cooperative perceptions significantly predicted economic performance in the tournament. We highlight the implications of the current findings for conflict management and resolution.

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Strategic Display of Anger and Happiness in Negotiation: The Moderating Role of Perceived Authenticity

Han-Ying Tng & Al Au
Negotiation Journal, July 2014, Pages 301-327

Abstract:
Emotional display is often used as a strategy in negotiation to manipulate one's counterpart's behavior. Previous research has examined the interpersonal effects of emotions in negotiation, but the evidence so far has largely focused on the perspective of the negotiator displaying the emotion with little attention paid to the impact of the emotional display on that negotiator's counterparts. In this study, we conducted two experiments to examine whether a negotiator's perceptions about the authenticity of his or her counterpart's displayed emotions of anger and happiness moderate the impact of those emotions on the negotiator. In Experiment One, we manipulated the perceived authenticity of the counterpart's anger as a between-subjects factor (authentic versus inauthentic). Negotiators who perceived their counterpart's anger as inauthentic conceded less than did negotiators who perceived it as authentic. In Experiment Two, we corroborated this finding with a two-variable (counterpart's emotion: anger versus happiness) times three-variable (perceived authenticity of counterpart's displayed emotion: authentic versus ambiguous versus inauthentic) between-subjects design. Negotiators conceded more to an angry counterpart than to a happy one when they perceived their counterpart's emotion as authentic, but we found the reverse pattern among negotiators who perceived their counterparts' emotions as inauthentic. Negotiators who perceived their counterparts' emotions as ambiguous in authenticity did not differ in concessions whether the counterpart displayed anger or happiness. We discuss the theoretical and practical implications of these findings.

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Market institutions bring tolerance, especially where there is social trust

Niclas Berggren & Therese Nilsson
Applied Economics Letters, forthcoming

Abstract:
Tolerant societies seem to function better than nontolerant societies both economically and socially. This makes it worthwhile to identify ways to stimulate tolerance. While previous research indicates that market-oriented formal institutions and policies offer such stimulus, it does not investigate what role cultural factors, like social trust, plays. We find that trust is a catalyst: The more there is, the more positive the effect of economic freedom on tolerance. Formal institutions hence interact with the culture of a society and work better as generators of tolerance in alignment with trust.

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Neighborhood factors related to the likelihood of successful informal social control efforts

Barbara Warner
Journal of Criminal Justice, September-October 2014, Pages 421-430

Purpose: To expand conceptualizations of informal social control in social disorganization and collective efficacy theories to include responses to informal social control, and to examine neighborhood level predictors of responses to informal social control.

Methods: The study uses surveys of approximately 2300 residents across 66 neighborhoods, supplemented with census data at the block group level.

Results: Neighborhood mobility decreased the odds of positive responses to informal social control, measured as both "giving in" and "talking it out" when you have a disagreement with your neighbor. Disadvantage was found to decrease only the odds of "giving in." Neighborhood level measures of social cohesion and faith in the police were also found to increase the odds of responding positively to informal social control efforts. In contrast, social ties were not found to significantly affect the likelihood of positive responses to informal social control.

Conclusions: The findings from this study broaden support of collective efficacy theory and concepts related to efficacious neighborhoods. While previous studies have raised questions about the measurement of informal social control, the findings in this paper offer support to earlier studies by providing a different approach to the conceptualization and measurement of informal social control.

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Why can't we be friends? Entitlements and the costs of conflict

Erik Kimbrough & Roman Sheremeta
Journal of Peace Research, July 2014, Pages 487-500

Abstract:
We design an experiment to explore the impact of earned entitlements on the frequency and intensity of conflicts in a two-stage conflict game where players may attempt to use non-binding side-payments to avoid conflict. In this game, Proposers make offers and Responders decide simultaneously whether to accept the offers and whether to engage in a conflict. A simple theoretical analysis suggests that Proposers should never offer side-payments because Responders should always accept them and then still choose to enter conflict; however, our experiment reveals that some individuals use this non-binding mechanism to avoid conflict. Moreover, when subjects earn their roles (Proposer or Responder), conflicts are 44% more likely to be avoided than when roles are assigned randomly. Earned entitlements impact behavior in three important ways: (1) Proposers who have earned their position persistently make larger offers; (2) larger offers lead to a lower probability of conflict; but (3) Proposers whose offers do not lead to conflict resolution respond spitefully with greater conflict expenditure. Hence, with earned rights, the positive welfare effects of reduced conflict frequency are offset by higher conflict intensity. This result differs from previous experimental evidence from ultimatum games in which earned entitlements tend to encourage agreement and increase welfare; thus, our findings highlight the important consequences of endogenizing the costs of conflict. Our analysis suggests that earned entitlements alter behavior by influencing the beliefs of Proposers about the willingness of Responders to accept a peaceful resolution. As a result, these Proposers make persistent high offers, and when their beliefs are disappointed by a Responder's decision to accept a side-payment and still enter conflict, they retaliate.

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Competition and Cooperation in a Public Goods Game: A Field Experiment

Ned Augenblick & Jesse Cunha
Economic Inquiry, forthcoming

Abstract:
We explore the effects of competitive and cooperative motivations on contributions in a field experiment. A total of 10,000 potential political donors received solicitations referencing past contribution behavior of members of the competing party (competition treatment), the same party (cooperative treatment), or no past contribution information (control). We first theoretically analyze the effect of these treatments on the contribution behavior of agents with different social preferences in a modified intergroup public good (IPG) game. Then, we report the empirical results: Contribution rates in the competitive, cooperative, and control treatments were 1.45%, 1.08%, and 0.78%, respectively. With the exception of one large contribution, the distribution of contributions in the competitive treatment first order stochastically dominates that of the cooperative treatment. Qualitatively, it appears that the cooperative treatment induced more contributions around the common monetary reference point, while the competitive treatment led to more contributions at twice this amount. These results suggest that eliciting competitive rather than cooperative motivations can lead to higher contributions in IPG settings.

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The Detrimental Effects of Sanctions on Intragroup Trust: Comparing Punishments and Rewards

Kyle Irwin, Laetitia Mulder & Brent Simpson
Social Psychology Quarterly, forthcoming

Abstract:
Recent work shows that both reward and punishment systems increase short-term cooperation in social dilemmas. Yet, a growing body of research finds that punishment systems generate a range of negative side effects, including an undermining of trust in fellow group members' cooperative intentions. The present work asks whether reward systems can generate the same positive effects as punishment systems (increased cooperation) without the negative side effects (decreased interpersonal trust) or whether reward systems also lead to detrimental effects on trust. In two experiments we find that once removed, reward systems, like punishment systems, reduced trust to levels below a control group who never experienced sanctions. This research highlights the detrimental effects of punishment and reward systems on intragroup trust and thus shows that while reward systems can generate the same positive effects as punishment systems, they also generate the same negative side effects.

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In Search of Homo economicus

Toshio Yamagishi et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Homo economicus, a model for humans in neoclassical economics, is a rational maximizer of self-interest. However, many social scientists regard such a person as a mere imaginary creature. We found that 31 of 446 residents of relatively wealthy Tokyo suburbs met the behavioral definition of Homo economicus. In several rounds of economic games, participants whose behavior was consistent with this model always apportioned the money endowed by the experimenter to themselves, leaving no share for their partners. These participants had high IQs and a deliberative decision style. An additional 39 participants showed a similar disregard for other people's welfare, although they were slightly more altruistic than those in the Homo economicus group. The psychological composition of these quasi-Homo economicus participants was distinct from that of participants in the Homo economicus group. Although participants in the latter group behaved selfishly on the basis of rational calculations, those in the former group made selfish choices impulsively. The implications of these findings concerning the two types of extreme noncooperators are discussed.

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Communally Constrained Decisions in Workplace Contexts

Megan McCarty, Margo Monteith & Cheryl Kaiser
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
We propose that people who value communion strongly experience low communion work contexts as aversive and avoid them, and consequently forego even those work opportunities that promise career advancement. In Experiment 1, participants varying in their own communal goals described a prior work experience with a coworker who was either low or high in communion. Participants with strong communal goals had greater aversive and avoidant reactions to low communion work environments, relative to high communion work environments. This difference was much less pronounced for participants with weaker communal goals. In Experiments 2a (undergraduate sample) and 2b (MTurk sample), participants took the perspective of a protagonist considering a high status promotion in which subordinates were described as low or high in communion. Again, participants who strongly valued communion had especially aversive and avoidant reactions to the low communion work environment. Furthermore, high communion participants reported they were less likely to accept the promotion in the low communion environment condition, whereas the communal nature of the environment did not influence low communal participants' decisions. Thus, work decisions are constrained by the communal nature of the environment, but only among people who strongly value communion. Importantly, women scored higher on communion than men in all experiments, suggesting that women are more likely to experience communally constrained decisions.

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Activity in the Nucleus Accumbens and Amygdala Underlies Individual Differences in Prosocial and Individualistic Economic Choices

Masahiko Haruno, Minoru Kimura & Christopher Frith
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, August 2014, Pages 1861-1870

Abstract:
Much decision-making requires balancing benefits to the self with benefits to the group. There are marked individual differences in this balance such that individualists tend to favor themselves whereas prosocials tend to favor the group. Understanding the mechanisms underlying this difference has important implications for society and its institutions. Using behavioral and fMRI data collected during the performance of the ultimatum game, we show that individual differences in social preferences for resource allocation, so-called "social value orientation," is linked with activity in the nucleus accumbens and amygdala elicited by inequity, rather than activity in insula, ACC, and dorsolateral pFC. Importantly, the presence of cognitive load made prosocials behave more prosocially and individualists more individualistically, suggesting that social value orientation is driven more by intuition than reflection. In parallel, activity in the nucleus accumbens and amygdala, in response to inequity, tracked this behavioral pattern of prosocials and individualists. In addition, we conducted an impunity game experiment with different participants where they could not punish unfair behavior and found that the inequity-correlated activity seen in prosocials during the ultimatum game disappeared. This result suggests that the accumbens and amygdala activity of prosocials encodes "outcome-oriented emotion" designed to change situations (i.e., achieve equity or punish). Together, our results suggest a pivotal contribution of the nucleus accumbens and amygdala to individual differences in sociality.

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Oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) polymorphism and self-punishment after an unintentional transgression

Yohsuke Ohtsubo et al.
Personality and Individual Differences, October 2014, Pages 182-186

Abstract:
The present study investigated a genetic underpinning of human reconciliation. Recent research has shown that people tend to inflict self-punishment as part of a repertoire of reparative acts. Since empathy generally facilitates reparative acts, we hypothesized that there exists an association between an empathy-related genetic variation, a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in the oxytocin receptor (OXTR) gene (rs53576 A vs. G), and the tendency toward self-punishment. Participants played a modified version of the dictator game, in which they made an unfair allocation unintentionally. They then had the opportunity to punish themselves by reducing some portion of their monetary reward. The results showed that the participants with the GA or GG genotype, compared to the participants with the AA genotype, were more likely to engage in self-punishment after making the unfair allocation unintentionally. This effect was not mediated by self-critical feelings (guilt and shame) associated with the unfair allocation. The present study suggests that the OXTR polymorphism is associated with a human reconciliatory tendency.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Natural order

Discrimination Divides across Identity Dimensions: Perceived Racism Reduces Support for Gay Rights and Increases Anti-Gay Bias

Maureen Craig & Jennifer Richeson
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Recent research has found that perceiving racial discrimination toward one’s own group results in the expression of more positive attitudes toward members of other racial minority groups; however, perceiving sexism results in the expression of more negative attitudes toward other stigmatized groups, namely, racial minorities. One possibility for this seeming discrepancy is that perceived group disadvantage better enables identification with other disadvantaged groups within a dimension of identity (i.e., among racial minorities) than across dimensions of identity (i.e., between White women and racial minorities). The present research investigates this possibility or, rather, whether racial discrimination is such a potent experience for racial minorities that making it salient will increase identification with and, thus, facilitate more positive attitudes toward members of other stigmatized groups, even those that cross an identity dimension (e.g., sexual minorities). Analyses of two nationally representative datasets (Studies 1a & 1b) reveal that perceived racial discrimination against the ingroup is associated with more negative attitudes toward gay men and lesbians. Similarly, a laboratory experiment with Black and Latino participants (Study 2) reveals that making racial discrimination against the ingroup salient leads to more negative attitudes toward gay men and lesbians as well as less support for policies that would benefit sexual minorities. Overall, the present research suggests that although perceived discrimination may result in more positive attitudes within an identity dimension, it is associated with more negative intra-minority intergroup relations across dimensions of identity.

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When Boys Wear Pink: A Gendered Color Cue Violation Evokes Risk Taking

Avi Ben-Zeev & Tara Dennehy
Psychology of Men & Masculinity, forthcoming

Abstract:
A primary way to signal gender differences starting in infancy is via a clothing color cue (pink is for girls, not boys). We examined whether a violation of this seemingly innocuous gendered prescription would lead to differential decision making regarding infants’ health and well being. In Experiment 1, participants were given an adaptation of the Asian Disease Problem (Tversky & Kahneman, 1981) describing a flu outbreak expected to affect male infants, who were dressed in pink or blue. Participants tended to choose the risk-averse treatment for boys in blue, consistent with Tversky and Kahneman’s theorizing and findings. In contrast, participants tended to opt for the risk-taking treatment for boys in pink, consistent with research highlighting people’s tendency to place lower subjective value on the lives of individuals who belong to socially devalued groups. Experiment 2 ruled out a possible expectancy effect with a different natural category. We discuss the reification of clothing color for demarcating masculinity as a societal attempt at policing gender and situate the findings in a cognitive consistency framework.

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The Wage Gap against Gay Men: The Leveling of the Playing Field

Bruce Elmslie & Edinaldo Tebaldi
Kyklos, August 2014, Pages 330–345

Abstract:
This study uses data from the March Supplement Current Population Survey (CPS) to examine the wage differential against gay men from 1995 to 2011 in the United States. A wage equation is estimated using the Heckman two-stage method, which addresses the sample selection bias inherent in wage equation estimations. We find evidence that in the United States the wage gap against gay men has significantly decreased over the last two decades. We also find that evidence that the wage gap has become concentrated in three occupations: managerial, sales, and protective services. We conclude that the evidence is most consistent with the hypothesis that discrimination is decreasing, and possibly non-existent and that any lingering discrimination is based on the taste for discrimination by employees against being managed by a gay man and by customers.

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Health Insurance and Labor Force Participation: What Legal Recognition Does for Same-Sex Couples

Marcus Dillender
Contemporary Economic Policy, forthcoming

Abstract:
Using Current Population Survey data, I examine how same-sex couples' labor force participation and health insurance coverage change as a result of their unions being legally recognized. The results indicate female same-sex couples switch from arrangements where both members work to arrangements where only one member of the couple works. Being able to gain health insurance through a spouse's employer seems to play a major role in this change. Male same-sex couples experience no change in their labor force participation or health insurance.

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How Statewide LGB Policies Go From “Under Our Skin” to “Into Our Hearts”: Fatherhood Aspirations and Psychological Well-Being Among Emerging Adult Sexual Minority Men

José Bauermeister
Journal of Youth and Adolescence, August 2014, Pages 1295-1305

Abstract:
Researchers have noted increasingly the public health importance of addressing discriminatory policies towards lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) populations. At present, however, we know little about the mechanisms through which policies affect LGB populations’ psychological well-being; in other words, how do policies get under our skin? Using data from a study of sexual minority young men (N = 1,487; M = 20.80 (SD = 1.93); 65 % White; 92 % gay), we examined whether statewide bans (e.g., same-sex marriage, adoption) moderated the relationship between fatherhood aspirations and psychological well-being. Fatherhood aspirations were associated with lower depressive symptoms and higher self-esteem scores among participants living in states without discriminatory policies. In states with marriage equality bans, fatherhood aspirations were associated with higher depressive symptoms and lower self-esteem scores, respectively. Fatherhood aspirations were associated negatively with self-esteem in states banning same-sex and second parent adoptions, respectively. Our findings underscore the importance of recognizing how anti-equality LGB policies may influence the psychosocial development of sexual minority men.

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Does Policy Adoption Change Opinions on Minority Rights? The Effects of Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage

Rebecca Kreitzer, Allison Hamilton & Caroline Tolbert
Political Research Quarterly, forthcoming

Abstract:
The Iowa Supreme Court adopted an unpopular but unanimous ruling in Varnum v. Brien, which established same-sex marriage. Using a unique panel study conducted immediately before and after the court decision, we evaluate the impact of policy adoption on changing opinions on minority rights. The signaling of new social norms pressured some respondents to modify their expressed attitudes. We find that respondents whose demographic characteristics would predict support for marriage equality, but previously did not, were more likely to shift their opinions to be consistent with the new state law. A policy feedback mechanism may be responsible for the rapid diffusion of laws legalizing same-sex in the states.

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Proposer Gender, Pleasure, and Danger in Casual Sex Offers among Bisexual Women and Men

Terri Conley et al.
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, November 2014, Pages 80–88

Abstract:
Previous research suggested that the gender of the casual sex proposer is an important predictor of casual sex acceptance, particularly because male proposers are perceived to have lesser sexual capabilities than female proposers (Conley, 2011). We examined this hypothesis more directly by taking advantage of unique characteristics associated with bisexual individuals. Bisexual people have the capacity to be attracted to both women and men; thus, the present studies tease apart the effects of participant gender and proposer gender – something that is not possible in studies of casual sex among heterosexual individuals. Gender of proposer was a significant predictor in each study, prior to controlling for sexual capabilities, as Conley (2011) predicted. No gender differences emerged in acceptance of actual casual sex offers from women — gender differences only emerged in response to actual offers from men. Sexual capabilities mediated the relationship between gender and acceptance of the casual sex offer. Although previous research has shown that women do not like casual sex as much as men do (Buss & Schmitt, 1993), the present research does not provide support for that finding.

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Give the Kid a Break — But Only if He’s Straight: Retributive Motives Drive Biases Against Gay Youth in Ambiguous Punishment Contexts

Jessica Salerno, Mary Murphy & Bette Bottoms
Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, forthcoming

Abstract:
Two studies addressed how people punish juvenile sex offenders in ambiguous punishment contexts. Sex offender registry laws now make voluntary sexual activity between juveniles a registration-worthy offense in the U.S. Using contemporary prejudice theories as a theoretical framework, we tested whether the ambiguity surrounding the application of these laws to juveniles provides a context for expression of prejudice against gay youth. In the ambiguous context of 2 juveniles having consensual sex, people supported sex offender registration more for gay, versus heterosexual, offenders. This punishment discrimination did not emerge, however, in the societally less ambiguous context of an adult having sex with a juvenile. Study 2 revealed that punishment discrimination again emerged against gay male juveniles but not lesbian juveniles. Across both studies, punishment discrimination against gay juveniles was consistently mediated by retributive motives (moral outrage), but less consistently by utilitarian motives (concern about protecting society) — the stated legislative purpose of registration.

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Haven’t I seen you before? Straight men who are insecure of their masculinity remember gender-atypical faces

David Lick, Kerri Johnson & Rachel Riskind
Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, forthcoming

Abstract:
To navigate a busy interpersonal landscape, people direct perceptual resources in a motivated fashion that maximizes goals and minimizes threats. While adaptive, these heuristics can also lead to noteworthy biases, including a well-documented memory advantage for ingroup members. Recent research has extended these findings to reveal other motivational biases that emerge early in social perception. When perceivers feel threatened, for example, they are vigilant to outgroup members. Although compelling, evidence for this vigilance-threat hypothesis is currently limited to feelings of physical threat and memory for racial outgroups. Here, we extended these findings to a different form of threat — gender identity threat. Four studies documented that straight men who feel insecure about their masculinity have heightened recognition of gender-atypical faces. We therefore argue that gender identity concerns play an important role in social vision, arousing perceptual biases that have implications for how men attend to and remember others in their social environments.

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“Hot” Girls and “Cool Dudes”: Examining the Prevalence of the Heterosexual Script in American Children’s Television Media

Alexandra Kirsch & Sarah Murnen
Psychology of Popular Media Culture, forthcoming

Abstract:
As children’s consumption of media increases, examining the messages prevalent in popular TV programs is central to understanding how children learn to view and understand gender. A coding scheme of themes of the “heterosexual script” related to gender, sexuality, and relationships developed by Kim et al. (2007) was applied to 7 popular American children’s TV programs. The prevalence of the script varied across program, with certain programs depicting gender stereotypes as frequently as adult prime-time TV programs. Across programs, the most common theme was boys objectifying and valuing girls solely for their appearance and girls engaging in self-objectification and ego-stroking of boys. Programs with leads who are boys were more likely to enact these stereotypes, especially in the presence of other-gender peers, indicating that this script is linked to expectations within heterosexual relationships.

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Latent variable analysis indicates that seasonal anisotropy accounts for the higher prevalence of left-handedness in men

Ulrich Tran, Stefan Stieger & Martin Voracek
Cortex, August 2014, Pages 188–197

Abstract:
According to the Geschwind-Galaburda theory of cerebral lateralization, high intrauterine testosterone levels delay left brain hemisphere maturation and thus promote left-handedness. Human circulating testosterone levels are higher in the male fetus and also vary with length of photoperiod. Therefore, a higher prevalence of left-handedness, coupled with seasonal anisotropy (i.e., a non-uniform distribution of handedness across birth months or seasons), may be expected among men. Prior studies yielded inconsistent evidence for seasonal anisotropy and suffered from confounding and a number of shortcomings affecting statistical power. This study examined hand preference and associations of handedness with sex, age, and season of birth in independent discovery (n = 7658) and replication (n = 5062) samples from Central Europe with latent class analysis (LCA). We found clear evidence of a surplus of left-handed men born during the period November–January, which is consistent with predictions from the Geschwind-Galaburda theory. Moreover, seasonal anisotropy fully accounted for the higher prevalence of left-handedness among men, relative to women. Implications of these findings with regard to seasonal anisotropy research and handedness assessment and classification are discussed.

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Parent-of-origin-specific allelic associations among 106 genomic loci for age at menarche

John Perry et al.
Nature, forthcoming

Abstract:
Age at menarche is a marker of timing of puberty in females. It varies widely between individuals, is a heritable trait and is associated with risks for obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, breast cancer and all-cause mortality1. Studies of rare human disorders of puberty and animal models point to a complex hypothalamic-pituitary-hormonal regulation2, 3, but the mechanisms that determine pubertal timing and underlie its links to disease risk remain unclear. Here, using genome-wide and custom-genotyping arrays in up to 182,416 women of European descent from 57 studies, we found robust evidence (P < 5 × 10−8) for 123 signals at 106 genomic loci associated with age at menarche. Many loci were associated with other pubertal traits in both sexes, and there was substantial overlap with genes implicated in body mass index and various diseases, including rare disorders of puberty. Menarche signals were enriched in imprinted regions, with three loci (DLK1-WDR25, MKRN3-MAGEL2 and KCNK9) demonstrating parent-of-origin-specific associations concordant with known parental expression patterns. Pathway analyses implicated nuclear hormone receptors, particularly retinoic acid and γ-aminobutyric acid-B2 receptor signalling, among novel mechanisms that regulate pubertal timing in humans. Our findings suggest a genetic architecture involving at least hundreds of common variants in the coordinated timing of the pubertal transition.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM


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