Wednesday, September 30, 2009

No sh*t psychology   posted by Razib @ 9/30/2009 10:25:00 PM

Women Prefer Taken Guys:
The most striking result was in the responses of single women. Offered a single man, 59 per cent were interested in pursuing a relationship. But when he was attached, 90 per cent said they were up for the chase.

This is just a subset of the wisdom of Seinfeld.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Emotional reaction to moral issues happens in the brain   posted by Razib @ 7/27/2009 11:50:00 PM

A new neuroscience take on moral psychology, Right or Wrong? The brain's fast response to morally objectionable statements:
How does the brain respond to statements that clash with a person's value system? We recorded EEG potentials while respondents from contrasting political-ethical backgrounds completed an attitude survey on drugs, medical ethics, social conduct and other issues. Our results show that value-based disagreement is unlocked by language extremely rapidly, within 200-250 milliseconds after the first word at which a statement begins to clash with the reader's value system (e.g., "I think euthanasia is an acceptable/unacceptable...."). Furthermore, strong disagreement rapidly influences the ongoing analysis of meaning, indicating that even very early processes in language comprehension are sensitive to a person's value system. Our results testify to rapid reciprocal links between neural systems for language and for valuation.

You can read a preprint at the link, or, ScienceDaily's summary. The authors reference Jonathan Haidt's findings, which suggest that moral values have less to do with reason than emotionally colored intuition. Anyone familiar with the importance of emotion in decision making and judgement, or the heuristics & biases literature, won't be surprised by these results. The main obvious implication is that yes, psychology does manifest biophysically in the brain.

My interest is not in general average propensities, but individual differences. Bryan Caplan has shown for example that intelligence is correlated with economic rationality. To some extent one might view this as another fruit of high g, but another unrelated component might be the way in which emotions express themselves when faced with assertions counter to one's intuition or moral outlook. One problem that I face with many extremely intelligent individuals is a reflexive aversion to entertaining possibilities or thought experiments which are abhorrent to their moral or political orientation. One the one hand these emotional responses probably have an important role in sorting and ranking the order in which one performs cognitive tasks. Many thought experiments are after all useless. But when feeling has reason too tightly on the leash there is unfortunately a tendency for it to constrain the search space of intellectual possibilities.

It would be interested to see if there is an aspect of rationality which is related to the ability of individuals to suppress or shunt aside the power of emotional response, a dynamic which I presume could be ferreted out by various imaging techniques. As an analogy, those with higher g may have more powerful tools, but to some extent there is something to be said for willingness to use the tools one has on hand as well.

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Friday, January 30, 2009

Herding cats   posted by Razib @ 1/30/2009 07:02:00 PM

Just watched the film Today's Man, which is about an individual, Nicky Gottlieb, with Asperger Syndrome. Near the end of the film he attends a meeting with others who are not "neurotypicals." Gottlieb has some weird ticks throughout the film which shows quite clearly that he's not "all there" (or, more precisely, no one else is there in his own mind). But it was really interesting to see a meeting of people with the same lack of normal social skills...they all seemed "out of sync" with each other (or, perhaps they were in sync in a different way which I wasn't able to perceive). The most peculiar aspect for me was that physically these were all human beings, but their manner, gestures (or lack of) and social fluidity was almost like that of alien species. I've met people who have major social skill deficits before, but I haven't observed dozens trying to interact. The closest thing I've seen in my own life are interactions with Singularitarians and some Perl Mongers. But these events & groups were tied together by a common theme or topic around which verbal exchanges invariably circled in a structured manner. Nicky Gottlieb going to be a meeting with other individuals suffering Asperger Syndrome and talking about their lack of social skills and attempting to grapple with the fact that most humans view them as abnormal freaks was different. It was like peering into the psychology of a species running radically different software.

Note: I'm not too interested in whether there really is unitary Asperger Syndrome rooted in specific neurological dysfunctions. Rather, it's clear that a minority of humans are noticeably socially retarded enough that when they interact together with others who lack normal social skills the communal synergy, or lack thereof, is definitely not a scene you see everyday.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

T and Financial Risk   posted by Piccolino @ 9/17/2008 05:17:00 PM

Here is a nice follow-up to the Herbert and Coates study on London floor traders where they study the profitability of traders and testosterone levels. In this new paper, "Testosterone and Financial Risk Preferences", available on the website on one of the authors, a Harvard-led team of researchers report that men with higher T make more financially risky decisions. They are careful to note that it is merely an association. But it is a start. The slam dunk paper that remains to be written is one with exogenous administration of testosterone (and placebo). That would hopefully settle the causality issue (and might therefore excite the imaginations of some economists!). There are some interesting ideas in the manuscript about financial-risk taking as a form of male-male competition.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

↑testosterone ∝ ↑sexual interest ∝ ↑sex typical faces?   posted by Razib @ 9/16/2008 09:09:00 PM

Attraction 'down to testosterone':
Dr Ben Jones, a psychology lecturer, said: "People preferred different types of face in the session where their testosterone level was highest than in the session where it was lowest.

"When men's testosterone levels were high, they were more attracted to feminine women. When women's testosterone levels were high, they were more attracted to masculine men.

"Since masculine men and feminine women are thought to produce the healthiest children and sex drive is higher when testosterone levels are also high, these findings suggest that men and women in hormonal states where their interest in sex is highest, show stronger attraction to high quality - or healthy - mates."

They used a survey. Is there any way that fMRI would add more value or precision? This hasn't been published yet, but since it's about hotitude of course it will get a lot of play. Since I don't know how strong the effect was from this report I'll hold off on the judging the evolutionary explanation. But I wonder if the constant stream of these sorts of evolutionary psychology results are a function of the British press, or is evolutionary psychology just really popular on that side of the pond?

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