Open Thread, June 28th 2020

Reading The WEIRDest People in the World: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous and thinking about how perhaps America may not be so “WEIRD” in the near future…. The plan write now is to review the book somewhere, and interview the author for The Insight. I may write something earlier about WEIRD though less specifically about the book.

I have set up an account on Book Shop. Right now I put up a few history books. This is a better deal for me in regards to referrals than Amazon, though these are physical books only.

I haven’t been posting “Open Threads” as much because I’ve been busy. Sorry-not-sorry. Life happens. Though blogs are dead, my Brown Pundits blog is pulling in more than 200+ comments for each open thread. I wonder if people are tired of “discussing” on Twitter.

Ricky Gervais vs. Woke Comedy ‘Dogma’. He’s rich and he doesn’t care.

A Total-Group Phylogenetic Metatree for Cetacea and the Importance of Fossil Data in Diversification Analyses.

How does the strength of selection influence genetic correlations?

The germline mutational process in rhesus macaque and its implications for phylogenetic dating.

Things Were Going to Be So Much Better.

The genomics of trait combinations and their influence on adaptive divergence.

Natural Selection Shapes Codon Usage in the Human Genome.

Evidence of Polygenic Adaptation in Sardinia at Height-Associated Loci Ascertained from the Biobank Japan.

The Gaps Between White and Black America, in Charts.

Demographic history, cold adaptation, and recent NRAP recurrent convergent evolution at amino acid residue 100 in the world northernmost cattle from Russia.


15 thoughts on “Open Thread, June 28th 2020

  1. Very much looking forward to The WEIRDest People in the World, especially since Henrich also wrote The Secret of our Success which is one of the best books I ever wrote. I wonder what Haidt will think of it given how much he attacked WEIRDness as bad in The Righteous Mind.

  2. Strictly FYI:

    “New Evidence Supports Modern Greeks Having DNA of Ancient Mycenaeans” By
    Stavros Anastasiou Jun 22, 2020

    “New emerging DNA evidence suggests that living Greeks are indeed descendants of the ancient Mycenaeans, who ruled mainland Greece and the Aegean Sea from 1,600 BC to 1,200 BC.

    “The proof comes from a study in which scientists analyzed the genes from the teeth of 19 people across various archaeological sites within mainland Greece and Mycenae. A total of 1.2 million letters of genetic code were compared to those of 334 people across the world.

    “Genetic information was also compiled from a group of thirty modern Greek individuals in order to compare it to the ancient genomes. This allowed researchers to effectively plot how individuals were related to one another.

    “One aspect that was revealed in the study was how the Mycenaeans themselves were closely related to the Minoan civilization, which flourished on the island of Crete from 2,000 BC to 1,400”

    * * *

    “According to Harvard population geneticist Iosif Lazaridis, any difference between the two civilizations suggests that a second wave of people came to mainland Greece from Eastern Europe, yet were unable to reach the island of Crete — and in time they became known as the Mycenaeans.

    “After comparing the DNA of modern Greeks to ancient Mycenaeans, a genetic overlap was discovered that suggests that these ancient Bronze Age civilizations laid the genetic groundwork for later peoples.” * * *

  3. IRC Haidt’s model always had it’s critics here, at its general inapplicability to European left wing socialism (which American progressive commentators shrugged off as Europe’s left being quite different to American liberal left).

    That seems more salient with shift of American left to more of an angry socialist thing. Plus own ethnic dynamics which seem a bit unique.

    Haidt’s model of left simply lacking moral instincts of loyalty, authority protection, disgust maybe plausible when and where he wrote it, but not so plausible now? It looks to me more like there was a vast “dark matter” of tendency to authority submission and loyalty and purity concerns, simply not directed to the useful and “prosocial” functions (protect the wellbeing of the ingroup) he thought they must be, to be adaptive? Casts some further doubt on his framework of these as evolved, fixed moral foundations? Or not.

  4. I suspect Haidt model is valid to left-winger from a privileged background – whites defending blacks, people of middle/upper-class defendig the working class, people from the colonial power defending the independence of colonies, etc. are almost by definition people with low “loyalty”.

    But people from the “opressed” groups could have much “loyalty” and being left-wingers.

  5. Need some spicy comments on Aryan invasion, Brahmin genetics and Kashmir if open thread comments here are to reach BP levels.

  6. Funny but predictable how the NYT article omits one of the critical gaps that correlates very strongly with all the gaps they chose to show.

  7. The Haidt model is probably wrong and WEIRD has serious problems.

    I looked at Haidt’s original construct validation study and tried to get the data but they misplaced it when I asked. Using the provided graphs, I went about Wallering the loadings and it looked like his questionnaire was mostly unidimensional and he seemed to have ended up overfitting to arrive at moral foundations as he interpreted it. A lot of subsequent studies found different factor structures by culture, time, group so it’s pretty hard to put stock in it. I don’t see where the criterion validity required to justify his theorizing is but it’s not getting the emphasis it needs if it is out there.

    As far as I can tell, “WEIRDness” has always been assumed more than tested or justified. Real examples of meaningful differences between WEIRD and non-WEIRD in psychological experiments/environments are surprisingly scarce; despite this, practically every researcher seems to have jumped to the existence of WEIRD being something that is undermining psychological research. Cross-cultural research in general seems pretty broken. As a portion of the total research output in that area studies finding that populations can be compared at all are vanishingly few, anything related to criterion validation is basically nonexistent, usually unvalidated measurements of culture are typically dichotomized in unjustified ways (who thinks WEIRDness is defined as a score >0.7 on an arbitrary scale with researcher-assigned values for the sample?), methods are often rejected for giving unpalatable results, and so on.

    Cross-cultural personality research is particularly bad and it’s pretty relevant to the WEIRD stuff since attitude results are even worse than it is. Here are three examples of how bad it gets. Kajonius & Giolla (2017) claimed to find limited Big Five differences between countries but they just fit configural models that had unacceptable fit statistics and claimed a lack of differences despite no evidence that was the case or that the questionnaires could even serve as measures of the same things across cultures. McCrae et al. were proponents of the view that Big Five factors were (I don’t know if they still are) pretty much causal entities but they used PCA to justify that even though PCA leads to a formative model. In 1996 they tried to verify a five-factor model across cultures with CFA (which does allow them to test their preferred model) and they failed, so naturally, they concluded: “this points to serious problems with CFA itself when used to examine personality structure” and that, instead, the correct result is the one that comes from the method (“Procrustes” or forced rotation) that allows you to get whatever result you want by default. Lukaszewski et al. (2017) wanted to assess whether a measure of socioecological complexity – think economic diversification – related to the covariances among the big five personality factors, the idea being along the lines of more economically/socially diverse countries producing a wider array of personalities and vice-versa. They tested to see if the results of the test given to their samples could be compared across cultures and even the initial model had a completely unacceptable fit (CFI less than 0.25, RMSEA greater than 0.21). They justified this away by saying “the [test’s] lack of [invariance] would be much more problematic if our goal was to test predictions regarding cross-national variation in configurations or levels of specific personality dimensions.” But apparently they did not realize that without unbiased loadings, their factor indicators could not be interpreted the same way and neither could their factors. If the number of factors was reduced in one or another group, this would influence the covariance among factors if they were forced to an incorrect configuration. The observed differences in reliability are also expected to affect the target of their hypothesizing.

    There has been some work on using objective personality indicators like the timeliness of mailmen and the precision of clocks to assess if there are and to what extent personality traits like conscientiousness vary and have validity for explaining cross-cultural stuff (I don’t know of any WEIRD-related work like this). Heine, Buchtel & Norenzayan (2008) are an example. They looked at self- and peer-reported conscientiousness and compared them to objective indicators and found that the former two weren’t useful/predictive/differentiated in the expected direction but the latter was. Their preferred explanation was peer effects, which raises a (probably wrong) explanation for that Leukaszewski et al. result: more socioecologically complex societies have more diverse comparison groups. This could even be conceptualized with a feedback loop that connects this to life history theory.

    I’m kind of taken aback at this cultural comparison stuff where the evidence that there are even meaningful differences (in terms of size and criterion validity) is so scant that it really seems like there are more papers about what the differences mean than there are about the differences themselves. On this note, has anyone seen the cross-cultural ManyLabs? The Klein et al. (2018) study only found three significant WEIRD/non-WEIRD effects out of 28 tested effects (they classified samples as WEIRD in a weird way though). People can argue that these were samples that were WEIRDer than their countries as a whole but this just winds back to the issue of whether there’s any good evidence that this WEIRD category matters at all, or at least how its proponents think it does. There are definitely western/non-western differences in a lot of things (perhaps culturally, perhaps psychologically) but do they really justify the hubbub about psychology and sociology failing because its samples are overwhelmingly WEIRD? Most importantly, do they explain rather than reiterate differences between the west and the rest? I just don’t see the real-world value of this hypothesis or why people regard it as a strong and empirically substantial theory that has to be taken seriously in everything we do.

    Wallering explained here:






  8. Richard Rorty’s prescient warnings for the American left
    Some evidence that both family income and cognitive test scores have become much less predictive of educational success over the last 40 years.

    The Qiao Collective and Left Diasporic Chinese Nationalism

    The China Question

  9. John McWhorter backs up something Razib has been saying. It is long, but worth reading:

    “Kneeling in the Church of Social Justice: America certainly has work to do on race, but ritual and symbolic acts aren’t the way forward.”

    By John McWhorter | 6.29.2020 |

    “Over the past several years, a social justice philosophy has arisen that is less a political program than a religion in all but name. Where Christianity calls for people to display their moral worth through faith in Jesus, modern Third-Wave Antiracism (henceforth TWA) calls for people to display their moral worth through opposition to racism. In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, this vision has increasingly been expressed through procedures, routines, and phraseology directly patterned on Abrahamic religion.

    “America certainly has work to do on race. For one, while racism does not explain why cops kill more black than white people—poverty makes all people more likely to be killed by the cops, hundreds of poor whites are killed annually, but more black people are poor—they harass and abuse black people more than white people, and the real-life impact of this is in its way just as pernicious as the disparity in killings would be. If the tension between black people and the cops were resolved, America’s race problem would quickly begin dissolving faster than it ever has. But making this happen will require work, as will ending the war on drugs, improving educational opportunities for all disadvantaged black children, and other efforts such as steering more black teenagers to vocational programs training them for solid careers without four years of college.

    “These are real things, upon which we must behold scenes like in Bethesda, where protesters kneeled on the pavement in droves, chanting allegiance with upraised hands to a series of anti-white privilege tenets incanted by what a naïve anthropologist would recognize as a flock’s pastor. On a similar occasion, white protesters bowed down in front of black people standing in attendance. In Cary, North Carolina, whites washed black protesters’ feet as a symbol of subservience and sympathy. Elsewhere, when a group of white activists painted whip scars upon themselves in sympathy with black America’s past, many black protesters found it a bit much.”

  10. reading “the decline and rise of democracy.” Interesting book, it argues that democracy comes naturally to groups and has been present since very early on without any need to be exposed to greek democracy, goes on to describe examples in Africa, etc. recommended!

  11.“Where various ethnic groups live together, cities grow at a slower rate … The coupling of these two geographical datasets showed that, in more ethnically diverse provinces, a lower proportion of the total population lives in cities, and the largest city in the province is smaller … According to game theory models, conflicts between ethnolinguistic groups are more costly the more closely the groups live alongside one another. “There are therefore incentives for members of these groups to remain in rural areas. Our analysis confirms this empirically for the first time,” says the economist.”

    Mechanism seems to be that greater ethnic diversity in city slows migration from rural / less dense areas and so limits overall city size/size as a proportion of population.

    Possibly relevant to the thesis that Roman cities were particularly cosmpolitan and did not draw much from the hinterland.

  12. Re; WEIRD, I guess there is a distinction here between:

    A) WEIRD pops actually have different cognitive/psychological stances
    B) WEIRD pretty much the same on cog/psych, but functional behavioural differences driven by being embedded in different social structures with different incentives (Rollsafememe: can’t be clannish if you don’t have clans).

    Certain kinds of decline in social structures could drive further social change, even if they fail to change “human nature”.

    I’d really like to see a panel of innovation historians – Anton Howes, Joel Mokyr – and large social data historians – Seshat Project / Tuchin – offer some tentative thoughts on Henrich’s work. Does the West really deviate from general trends in what we can see in social institutions – larger markets for a given population and controlling for pre-medieval development etc – and do different social structures really explain when and where innovation is seen?

  13. Thanks for the tip on Louisiana habanero sauce. Arrived last night. As advertised!


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