1. Modeling social interactions to improve collective decision-making

    November 16, 2017 by Ashley

    From the CNRS press release:

    How are we affected by other peoples’ opinions? To answer this question, scientists[1] at the CNRS, Inra and Université Toulouse 1 Capitole conducted a study in France and Japan, quantifying this impact on our decisions. They identified five behaviors common to both countries: a majority of subjects make a compromise between their opinion and that of others (59% of people in France), some hold to their opinion (29% in France), whereas others follow faithfully, amplify or contradict the information they receive. The study also shows how social information can help a group collectively improve its performance and the precision of its estimates. From this analysis, a model has been developed that reproduces the results of the study and predicts the performance of a group depending on the amount and quality of information exchanged between its members. The long-term goal would be to develop algorithms for decision-making support tools. The results of this study were published on November 6, 2017 in PNAS.

    The fast growth of digital technologies and content availability is making us interact more with others. Increasingly, social networks are becoming important sources of information that we choose to take account of or ignore. Many e-commerce sites make extensive use of review and scoring systems, which allow their customers to use the opinions of others to make their own choices. Without even considering false information, that is sometimes difficult to detect, we are each exposed to too much information to process it correctly every time.

    These observations call for the development of tools to help in collective decision-making, which could assist with processing information and making decisions in a group that uses social interactions. The group of researchers involved in the study focused on the impact of social information, i.e., the way that others affect what we do. Under what conditions can this social information increase the effectiveness of our collective decision-making?

    The experiments involved 186 people in France and 180 in Japan. Each participant had to estimate values, such as Gandhi’s age when he died, or the number of stars in our galaxy, and give a degree of confidence in their answer. After the first stage, the average of the previous participants’ responses — the social information-was given to them, and the subject had to reply again to give a final estimate. One of the unique features of this study is the introduction of virtual agents who were controlled by the researchers without the knowledge of the participants — and always gave the correct answer. These agents, whose number varied, therefore favorably influenced the social information sent to subjects.

    This work shows how social information leads the group to collectively improve its performance and the precision of its estimations. It can also accurately measure how sensitive subjects are to social information. The researchers identified five sensitivity profiles that are independent of cultural bias, because they are present in both countries. In France, an analysis of almost 11,000 responses shows that 29% of the people sampled hold to their opinion, 4% strictly follow the information given to them, and 59% find a compromise between their initial opinion and the social information. Thinking that the rest of the group has, the same way as they did, underestimated their initial response, 6% of people amplify the social information received. Finally, 2% end up contradicting their own estimation and that of the group, most often without being able to justify their decision. In addition, the further a participant’s personal feeling is from the social information received, the more sensitive this subject is to the information. In another more surprising result, the scientists have shown that the performance of a group may be improved by a limited quantity of incorrect information, which compensates for a human cognitive bias that underestimates quantities.

    Based on these experiments, a mathematical model has been developed. It faithfully reproduces the social information sensitivity mechanisms observed experimentally and predicts the impact of the amount and quality of information exchanged between the individuals in a group on their collective performance. A better understanding of the governing processes of how social information influences individual choices and collective information opens new perspectives. Personalized algorithms could be developed to anticipate the different types of answers according to the form of social information received. This could contribute to improving cooperation and collaboration on the scale of groups.

    Note:

    [1] The French laboratories involved in this study:

    The Centre de recherches sur la cognition animale (CNRS/Université Toulouse III — Paul Sabatier)

    The Laboratoire de physique théorique (CNRS/Université Toulouse III — Paul Sabatier)

    TSE Recherche (CNRS/Université Toulouse 1 Capitole/INRA/EHESS) a Toulouse school of economics laboratory


  2. Study suggests student self-reporting can help educators catch academic and mental health problems early

    November 15, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Missouri-Columbia press release:

    At the start of the school year, many students expect to go through the process of getting their ears and eyes checked by school nurses for hearing and vision issues. Increasingly, students might also expect to be screened for potential mental health problems. Stephen Kilgus, an associate professor in the Department of Educational, School and Counseling Psychology in the College of Education at the University of Missouri, is analyzing how a new screening tool, which is completed by students, can help teachers identify potential academic, social and emotional problems. The data might help give teachers better tools to improve children’s lives in the classroom and beyond.

    Kilgus and his colleagues have developed a student version of the Social, Academic and Emotional Behavior Risk Screener (SAEBRS), which students use to provide information about their own mental health. Research suggests that as students enter middle school, they tend to internalize issues. This is particularly true of conditions such as depression and anxiety. Furthermore, middle and high school students spend their school day with multiple teachers and adults, making it difficult to find a single adult who can easily track their behavior and report it accurately. Widespread use of the student version of the SAEBRS, in which students report their mental state directly, would remedy this by providing more accurate assessments for older children.

    “The goal is to place these screeners within a broader service delivery framework, where we identify kids that need help, provide them with interventions and then monitor their progress over time,” Kilgus said.

    Schools have quickly become the primary provider for screening students for potential challenges. Kilgus said not every family in a community has access to or the ability to access behavioral support, but schools often have the manpower and resources to provide accessible preventative services. The teacher version of SAEBRS is a screening survey completed by teachers at the start of the school year to identify which students might need more support. Kilgus’ objective is to pinpoint screening tools that can identify more kids who need help and bring teachers and parents in on the conversation.

    “Every time we work with educators, we try to help teachers understand the role they play in providing behavioral supports to students,” Kilgus said. “We also want parents to feel like they understand the process and give them a voice in how the scale and the data will be used.”

    Kilgus said the student version, which was given to middle school students in the study, is available through Fastbridge Learning, a software company that works with schools to offer online academic and behavioral screening, as well as other assessment services. The teacher scale also is available via FastBridge Learning and already in use with 250,000 students nationally.

    “Development and validation of the social, academic and emotional behavior risk screener-student rating scale” was published in Assessment for Effective Intervention. Other contributors were Nathaniel von der Embse, assistant professor of school psychology at the University of South Florida; Stephanie Iaccarino, doctoral student in the educational psychology program at Temple University; Ariel Mankin, doctoral student in the school psychology program at Temple University; and Eran Magen, Director of the Center for Supportive Relationships.


  3. Study suggests willingness to support corporate social responsibility initiatives contingent on perception of boss’ ethics

    November 14, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Vermont press release:

    A new study shows that people who perceive their employer as committed to environmental and community-based causes will, in turn, engage in green behavior and local volunteerism, with one caveat: their boss must display similarly ethical behavior.

    The forthcoming study in the Journal of Business Ethics by Kenneth De Roeck, assistant professor at the University of Vermont, and Omer Farooq of UAE University, shows that people who work for socially and environmentally responsible companies tend to identify more strongly with their employer, and as a result, increase their engagement in green and socially responsible behaviors like community volunteerism.

    “When you identify with a group, you tend to adopt its values and goals as your own,” says De Roeck. “For example, if you are a fan who identifies with the New England Patriots, their objective to win the Super Bowl becomes your objective too. If they win it, you will say ‘we,’ rather than ‘they,’ won the Super Bowl, because being a fan of the New England Patriots became part of your own identity.”

    That loyalty goes out the window, however, if employees don’t perceive their immediate supervisor as ethical, defined as conduct that shows concern for how their decisions affect others’ well-being. Results show that the propensity for the company’s environmental initiatives to foster employees’ green behaviors disappears if they think their boss has poor ethics. Employees’ engagement in volunteer efforts in support of their company’s community-based initiatives also declines if they believe their boss is not ethical, though not as dramatically.

    “When morally loaded cues stemming from the organization and its leaders are inconsistent, employees become skeptical about the organization’s ethical stance, integrity, and overall character,” says De Roeck. “Consequently, employees refrain from identifying with their employers, and as a result, significantly diminish their engagement in creating social and environmental good.”

    Companies as engines for positive social change

    Findings of the study, based on surveys of 359 employees at 35 companies in the manufacturing industry (consumer goods, automobile, and textile), could provide insight for companies failing to reap the substantial societal benefits of CSR.

    “This isn’t another story about how I can get my employees to work better to increase the bottom line, it’s more about how I can get employees to create social good,” says De Roeck, whose research focuses on the psychological mechanisms explaining employees’ reactions to, and engagement in, CSR. “Moreover, our measure of employees’ volunteer efforts consists of actions that extend well beyond the work environment, showing that organizations can be a strong engine for positive social change by fostering, through the mechanism of identification, a new and more sustainable way of life to their employees.”

    De Roeck says organizations wanting to boost their social performance by encouraging employee engagement in socially responsible behaviors need to ensure that employees perceive their ethical stance and societal engagement as authentic. To do so, and avoid any perception of greenwashing – the promotion of green-based initiatives despite not practicing them fully – organizations should strive to ensure consistency between CSR engagement and leaders’ ethical stance by training supervisors about social and ethical responsibility. Organizations should also be cautious in hiring and promoting individuals to leadership positions who fit with the company CSR strategy and ethical culture.

    “Organizations should not treat CSR as an add-on activity to their traditional business models, but rather as something that should be carefully planned and integrated into the company strategy, culture, and DNA,” says De Roeck. “Only then will employees positively perceive CSR as a strong identity cue that will trigger their identification with the organization and, as a result, foster their engagement in such activities through socially responsible behaviors.”


  4. First large-scale doxing study reveals motivations and targets for cyber bullying

    by Ashley

    From the New York University Tandon School of Engineering press release:

    Researchers at the New York University Tandon School of Engineering and the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) have published the first large-scale study of a low-tech, high-harm form of online harassment known as doxing.

    Coined as an abbreviation of the word “documents,” doxing involves collecting and publishing sensitive personal information online to exact revenge, seek justice, or intimidate victims.

    The researchers created a custom text classifier that allowed them to identify and analyze dox files, which often include highly identifying personal information, including links to social media accounts. The study revealed that doxing exacts a significant toll on victims, who are far likelier than others to close or increase the privacy settings of social media accounts following an attack. However, new abuse filters deployed on Facebook and Instagram appear to be effective in making victims feel safer. The primary motivations for doxing are revenge and justice, with competition and politics far behind, at just over 1 percent each of the reasons discerned by the study.

    “This study adds significantly to our understanding of this deeply damaging form of online abuse,” said Damon McCoy, an assistant professor of computer science and engineering at NYU Tandon. “The ability to detect doxing and identify the primary motivations for these attacks is key to helping Internet service providers, law enforcement, and social media networks better protect users from harassment.”

    The research team also includes Peter Snyder, a doctoral student in computer science and an Electronic Security and Privacy IGERT fellow, and Chris Kanich, an assistant professor of computer science, both from UIC,;and Periwinkle Doerfler, a doctoral candidate at NYU Tandon. The paper, “Fifteen Minutes of Unwanted Fame: Detecting and Characterizing Doxing,” was presented at the Internet Measurement Conference in London last week.

    The team focused on several websites well known for hosting doxed files and captured more than 1.7 million text files shared on those sites over two 6- to 7-week periods. Using their custom text classifier, the researchers identified and analyzed more than 5,500 files associated with doxing.

    According to the study, 32 percent of doxing victims closed or changed the privacy settings on their Instagram account, and 25 percent adjusted the settings on a Facebook account after an attack. But Facebook and Instagram serendipitously debuted new abuse filters to curb online harassment during the study’s data collection period, and they were apparently effective. Just 10 percent of doxing victims altered their Instagram account once anti-abuse measures were in place, and 3 percent changed their settings on Facebook.

    “This is an indicator that these filters can help mitigate some of the harmful impacts of doxing,” Snyder said. However, he noted that much of the doxing occurs on field-specific sites that cater to the hacker or gaming communities, where reputations can be damaged among valued peers.

    More than 90 percent of the doxed files included the victim’s address, 61 percent included a phone number, and 53 percent included an email address. Forty percent of victims’ online user names were made public, and the same percentage revealed a victim’s IP address. While less common, sensitive information such as credit card numbers (4.3 percent), Social Security numbers (2.6 percent), or other financial information (8.8 percent) was also revealed.

    “Most of what we know about doxing thus far has been anecdotal and based on a small number of high-profile cases,” said Snyder. “It’s our hope that by bringing a quantitative approach to this phenomenon, we can provide a fuller understanding of doxing and inform efforts to reduce the damage.”


  5. Study suggests bonobos help strangers without being asked

    by Ashley

    From the Duke University press release:

    A passer-by drops something and you spring to pick it up. Or maybe you hold the door for someone behind you. Such acts of kindness to strangers were long thought to be unique to humans, but recent research on bonobos suggests our species is not as exceptional in this regard as we like to think.

    Famously friendly apes from Africa’s Congo Basin, bonobos will go out of their way to help strangers too, said Jingzhi Tan, a postdoctoral associate in evolutionary anthropology at Duke University.

    A previous study by Tan and associate professor of evolutionary anthropology Brian Hare found that bonobos share food with strangers. Now, in a new series of experiments, the team is trying to find out just how far this kindness goes.

    The researchers studied wild-born bonobos at the Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

    In one experiment, they found that bonobos will help a stranger get food even when there is no immediate payback.

    Sixteen bonobos were led one at a time into one of two adjacent rooms separated by a fence. The researchers hung a piece of apple from a rope just above the empty room, visible but out of reach.

    The apes couldn’t access the fruit or the rope. But if they climbed the fence they could reach a wooden pin holding the rope to the ceiling and release the dangling fruit, causing it to drop within reach of any bonobo that entered the next room.

    The bonobos released the fruit roughly four times more often when an unfamiliar bonobo was in the adjacent room than when the room was empty.

    What’s more, the bonobos didn’t wait to be asked for help, they just offered it. The researchers changed the size of the mesh surrounding the stranger’s room so that in some trials they were able to stick their arms through the openings in the screen to beg for the treat, and in other trials they were not. The bonobos helped just as often whether the stranger gestured for help or not.

    Bonobos’ impulse to feel for strangers isn’t entirely under conscious control, the researchers also found. In another experiment, they had 21 bonobos watch a series of short videos. In some videos, the apes saw a familiar group member either yawning or making a neutral expression. In other videos they watched complete strangers from the Columbus Zoo in the U.S. behaving the same way.

    Just as watching another person yawn can make you yawn, yawning is contagious in bonobos too. Previous studies suggest the phenomenon is linked to a basic form of empathy called “emotional contagion,” when one person’s mood triggers similar emotions in others around them.

    The researchers found that stranger yawns were just as contagious as those of groupmates.

    The impulse to be nice to strangers is likely to evolve in species where the benefits of bonding with outsiders outweigh the costs, said Tan, now a postdoctoral scholar at the University California, San Diego.

    Female bonobos leave the group where they were born to join a new group when they reach adulthood, where they form bonds with other unrelated adults they’ve never met. Bonobos, like humans, may simply be eager to make a good first impression.

    “All relationships start between two strangers,” Tan said. “You meet a stranger, but you may meet them again, and this individual could become your future friend or ally. You want to be nice to someone who’s going to be important for you.”


  6. Study finds that keeping harsh punishment in check helps kids with ADHD

    November 13, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Ohio State University press release:

    Cutting back on yelling, criticism and other harsh parenting approaches, including physical punishment, has the power to calm children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, according to a new study.

    Researchers from The Ohio State University evaluated physiological markers of emotional regulation in preschool children with ADHD before and after a parent and child intervention aimed at improving family relations. Changes in parenting — including less yelling and physical discipline — led to improvements in children’s biological regulation.

    “This is the first study to show that improved parenting changes kids biologically,” said Theodore Beauchaine, the study’s senior author and a professor of psychology at Ohio State.

    “The idea is to change family dynamics so these highly vulnerable kids don’t run into big problems down the road, including delinquency and criminal behavior.”

    The study appears in the journal Clinical Psychological Science.

    Parents of 99 preschoolers with ADHD received parenting coaching — half during 20 weekly two-hour sessions and half during 10 similar sessions. The parents learned skills including problem-solving, positive parenting techniques and effective responses to their children’s behaviors. Meanwhile, their children met with therapists who reinforced topics such as emotional regulation and anger management.

    Before the training began, parents (usually moms) and their children engaged in play sessions that included an intentionally frustrating block-building exercise. Parents dumped a large container of blocks on the floor and were told not to touch the blocks and to coach their children on how to build progressively complex structures.

    During the exercise, the children were tethered to equipment that recorded their heart activity. Abnormal patterns of heart activity are common among children who have trouble controlling their emotions, including some children with ADHD, Beauchaine said.

    After parent coaching was complete, the researchers had families return to the lab for retesting to determine if the training sessions led to changes in parenting and heart activity among children.

    Reductions in negative parenting were found to drive improved biological function in children. Increases in positive parenting had no effect.

    The researchers also observed each parent and child during a 30-minute play session in the family home and video-recorded positive and negative parenting approaches. Positive parenting included praise, encouragement and problem-solving. Negative parenting included critical statements, physical discipline and commands that gave children no opportunity to comply.

    Less-harsh parenting also was linked to improved behavior in children, a finding that bolsters previous research in this area.

    “Negative interactions between parents and children have a big effect on kids,” Beauchaine said.

    Greater improvements in parenting were seen in those who had 20 weeks of classes, versus 10. Regardless, the intervention was relatively short, Beauchaine said.

    “Just 20 weeks to observe this much change is somewhat surprising,” he said.

    Children in the study all struggled primarily with hyperactivity and impulsivity, as opposed to inattention. Most of them — 76 percent — were boys, which is similar to ADHD rates in the general population. Families were participants in Beauchaine’s work with collaborators at the University of Washington. One limitation of the study is that it did not include a control group of parents and children who did not receive lessons.

    Beauchaine said it is important to recognize the tremendous parenting challenges that moms and dads of children with ADHD face.

    “A lot of times, these young kids and their parents don’t like each other much. We strive to change that. It’s challenging for parents, because these kids can be hard to raise,” he said.

    “The idea is not to blame parents or kids, but to look for ways to help them both.”


  7. Energy firm study suggests branding influences customer switching, not deals

    November 12, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of East Anglia press release:

    Energy companies in the UK are using specific branding approaches instead of product innovation to keep customers, according to new research from the University of East Anglia (UEA).

    While previous research has tended to focus on pricing, this study looked at the branding strategies and personalities of the Big Six energy firms — British Gas, SSE, EDF Energy, E.ON UK, npower and Scottish Power — and whether this is increasing consumer loyalty and therefore reducing switching behaviour. The Big Six represent more than 90 per cent of all energy supplied in the UK consumer sector.

    Focusing on the electricity market between 2013 — when the number of customers switching providers reached its lowest level — and 2015, the researchers find that brand personality consistency over time is important.

    Consistent brands, such as EDF Energy, performed better as they saw decreases in switching compared to firms, like npower and Scottish Energy, that had significantly changed their brand personality position or communicated inconsistently in this period.

    Providers that had a significantly different brand personality position between marketing communication channels, such as their website and annual report, also had more switching than those that remained consistent. Interestingly, the majority of the brands studied were inconsistent on this measure.

    The findings are published in the journal European Management Review.

    Lead author Dr Richard Rutter, a visiting research fellow at UEA’s Norwich Business School and assistant professor at the Australian College of Kuwait, said: “This research demonstrates the long-term importance of corporate branding in the energy sector and that brand personality does have an impact on customer retention.

    “The Big Six energy providers recognise the power of brand identity when attempting to persuade consumers to switch providers. Rather than doing so simply on the basis of superior financial offers, they are increasingly looking to build a long-term brand personality with which consumers will identify.

    “These organisations wish to be viewed as customer-focused and as offering a fair deal to consumers. There seem to be subtle but important differences in the ways that each company is choosing to communicate with its domestic audience and some are more effective than others.”

    Concentrating on companies’ communication through their websites and annual reports, the researchers examined what brand personality dimensions — defined as sincerity, excitement, competence, sophistication and ruggedness — were communicated most strongly and how consistently each organisation communicated its brand between the website and annual report. They then assessed the organisation’s performance, measured by consumer loyalty or switching behaviour.

    They found that brands communicating excitement more strongly, such as EDF Energy, had the lowest levels of switching. The findings also suggest an ideal brand personality for the UK energy sector: low to medium levels of sincerity and competence and high levels of excitement and ruggedness communicated through the website lead to better performance. The authors say the annual report should maintain this, but also communicate a higher level of competence.

    Co-author Prof Konstantinos Chalvatzis, of Norwich Business School and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at UEA, said: “Under scrutiny from the public and politicians, the energy sector is changing rapidly. Branding within the energy sector has become increasingly important, as energy firms seek to attract and, importantly, retain customers.

    “We find that certain energy brands, for example EDF Energy have communicated their personality consistently, while others, such as npower and British Gas, seem to have repositioned themselves. A strong brand personality alone is not enough to prevent consumer switching, rather, particular dimensions of personality are more favourable than others and the relevance of specific personality traits can change.”

    The authors, who also include Prof Stuart Roper of the University of Huddersfield and Prof Fiona Lettice of Norwich Business School, recommend that firms should not drastically change their branding each year. Brand managers should also consider how to increase the communication of excitement in relation to their brands without being inauthentic, and ensure that their brand is consistent over time and between different marketing media.

    Relatively quick gains could be made by reviewing external communications for consistency of language and message. The findings also highlight the need for greater emphasis on competence related language, particularly when delivering negative information.


  8. Study suggests ways to make email and other technology interruptions productive

    November 11, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Stephen J.R. Smith School of Business, Queen’s University press release:

    The average knowledge worker enjoys a measly five minutes of uninterrupted time and, once interrupted, half won’t even get back to what they were doing in the first place. Yet organizational expectations or social pressures make it hard to resist the urge to check incoming emails or text messages — pressing tasks be damned.

    Research suggests that such interruptions are not necessarily bad, and can even be productive.

    “I know from personal experience that some interruptions are actually good,” says Shamel Addas, an assistant professor of information systems at Smith School of Business. “It depends on the content and timing. You can get some critical information that will help, like completing your task. So that’s one of the assumptions I feel needs to be challenged and tested.”

    Addas has conducted several studies to learn more about the relationship between technology-related interruptions and performance.

    He found that interruptions that did not relate to primary activities undermined workers’ performance — they led to higher error rates, poorer memory, and lower output quality. It also took longer for workers to return to their primary work and complete their tasks. Such interruptions also had an indirect effect on performance by increasing workers’ stress levels.

    Email interruptions that related to workers’ primary activities increased stress levels as well but also boosted workers’ performance. Such interruptions were tied to mindful processing of task activities, which led to better performance both in terms of efficiency and effectiveness.

    Addas also discovered that the very features of the interrupting technology can influence the outcomes of the interruptions positively or negatively. Individuals who engaged in several email threads of conversations at the same time or those who kept getting interrupted by email but let the messages pile up in their in-box experienced higher stress levels and lower performance.

    And those who reprocessed their received messages during interruptions episodes or rehearsed their message responses before sending saw some benefits. Doing this enabled them to process their tasks more mindfully, Addas says, which boosted their performance.

    What does this mean for managers? For one thing, just recognizing that there are different types of interruptions, each with its own trade off, can help managers mitigate the negative impacts on performance and stress.

    Addas suggests that managers develop email management programs and interventions, such as specifying a time-response window for emails based on their urgency or relevance to primary activities. They can also establish periods of quiet time for uninterrupted work. And they can encourage work groups to develop effective coordination strategies to ensure one person’s interruptions do not adversely affect colleagues.

    As for individuals, they can start handling interruptions in batch rather than in real time to reduce the costs of switching back and forth between tasks and interruptions. To reduce stress from overload, Addas suggests, people should limit parallel exchanges during interruptions and delete or folder messages that are of limited use for their core work.

    “People might well consider thinking about the messages they construct and examining carefully their previously received messages as needed to ensure that they process their tasks more mindfully, which is beneficial for performance,” Addas says.

    Addas believes there are design implications to consider as well, particularly relating to context aware systems and email clients. Context aware systems know what kinds of tasks people are working on and can detect high and low periods of workload. “Email clients can be programmed to screen messages for task-relevant content and distinguish between incongruent and congruent interruptions,” he says. “They can then manipulate the timing at which each type of interruption is displayed to users, such as masking incongruent interruptions until a later time.”


  9. Study suggests absentee dads affect how women interpret interest from men

    by Ashley

    From the University of Utah press release:

    Women who grow up without a caring father, or who even are reminded of painful and disappointing experiences with their father, see more sexual intent in men.

    New research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology finds that women who were reminded of a time that their dad was absent from their lives — or who actually experienced poor quality fathering while growing up — perceived greater mating intent in the described behaviors of a hypothetical male dating partner and when talking with a man. These women also “saw” more sexual arousal when viewing images of men’s faces.

    “This research underscores an important psychological change — perceiving greater sexual interest among men — that could increase a woman’s likelihood of engaging in unrestricted or risky sexual behavior in response to growing up with a disengaged father,” said Danielle J. DelPriore, a University of Utah postdoctoral fellow and lead author.

    The new research was co-authored by University of Utah psychology professor Bruce J. Ellis, and professor Sarah E. Hill and graduate student Randi Proffitt Leyva of the Department of Psychology at TCU in Fort Worth, Texas.

    DelPriore noted that research has long shown relationships between a dad’s behavior and a daughter’s sexual development, from when she becomes sexually mature to when she first engages in sexual activity. But, DelPriore said, “we don’t really know how one leads to the other.”

    Some research has suggested a potential genetic explanation, with men who are genetically inclined to engage in socially deviant or risky behaviors being more likely to have daughters with the same inclinations. The new study suggests that shared genes are not the whole story.

    The authors employed a randomized design to demonstrate cause-and-effect relationships. They were able to show that being reminded of painful and disappointing experiences with one’s father caused daughters to increase their perceptions of men’s sexual interest, “a shift that is linked with greater engagement in sexual behavior,” DelPriore said.

    The researchers ran five different studies in which half of the female participants were randomly assigned to remember a time when their birth father was absent from an important life event. For comparison purposes, the other half of the participants across studies were either asked to recall a time that their father was present, or that their mother was absent, for an important event.

    The second phase of each study prompted the women to rate the sexual and romantic interest of men based on the following: described behavior of a hypothetical dating partner (from holding hands to flirting), viewing male facial portraits, or interacting with a potential partner via a video screen.

    In each study, the researchers found evidence that women who were reminded of painful and disappointing experiences with their fathers subsequently perceived greater mating intent among the men. Similar results were not found when women were reminded of disappointing experiences with their mothers.

    Many of the research participants were from intact families and did not actually experience the father’s absence from the home while growing up. However, one study specifically included participants whose parents had separated or divorced during childhood. Women in this study had many real-life experiences with father absence and disengagement on which they could draw.

    Significantly, reminding a woman of a time her father was absent for an event and actually growing up with a disengaged father produced similar results.

    “The experiments test the effect of making salient feelings of pain, loss and disappointment related to the father on a daughter’s sexual perceptions,” DelPriore said, “and using this approach allowed us to capture psychological shifts that could help shape women’s mating behavior. Importantly, we found evidence of similar shifts taking place in response to women’s actual exposures to harsh and deviant fathering while they were growing up.”


  10. Study suggests smoking, binge drinking and unsafe tanning may be linked in men

    by Ashley

    From the University of Connecticut press release:

    Even though men use tanning beds at lower rates than women, men who tan tend to do it in riskier ways, according to a study by researchers at the University of Connecticut. The findings should help public health officials rethink how, and to whom, they’re targeting anti-tanning messages.

    Because the stereotypical tanning salon client is a young woman, almost all the research and health messaging on tanning has focused on that demographic. But the new research in press in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that one in three people who use tanning beds in the U.S. are male.

    Men who tan report using tanning beds with about the same frequency as women, but smoke and binge drink at higher rates than their female counterparts, and they also tend to treat tanning more like an addiction than women do, say the authors. A full 49 percent of men who used tanning beds fit a pattern of addictive behavior around tanning.

    “That was really surprising,” says lead author Sherry Pagoto, a clinical psychologist and director of the UConn Center for mHealth and Social Media. “If they tan with the same frequency as women, why would tanning in men be more addictive?”

    Pagoto and her colleagues conducted a national survey of 636 people who answered “yes” when asked whether they had ever used a tanning bed. They queried the participants about frequency of use, preferred locations to tan, how they felt about tanning, and why they did it.

    The differences between men and women were marked. Women preferred to tan in salons, and said they valued low cost, cleanliness, and convenience. Men who tanned preferred less regulated settings, such as gyms or private homes. They said they liked to tan to accentuate the appearance of their muscles, or as a reward after working out. They also reported smoking tobacco, binge drinking alcohol, and drinking soda significantly more often than women who tan.

    Men also answered “yes” when asked if they ever felt anxious if they weren’t able to tan, tanned to relieve stress, or spent money on tanning even when they couldn’t afford it. They agreed with statements such as “I’d like to quit but I keep going back to it.”

    There’s a population of men who tan and engage in other risky behaviors and are very unlike the young women that health educators assume are at risk of tanning bed health impacts, says Pagoto.

    Pagoto and her team are pursuing another study to delve more deeply into who tans, asking questions about sexual orientation, given that recent research has revealed that homosexual men are just as likely to use tanning beds as young women. The research should help health officials trying to warn the public of the very real connection between tanning beds and skin cancer, she says.

    Sun lamps and tanning beds are legal for adult use in all 50 states, even though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies them as a Class 1 carcinogen like tobacco, radon, and arsenic, and the use of tanning beds has been linked to melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

    Most current marketing messaging is targeted to teen- and college-aged women, according to Pagoto. Men who tan are unlikely to relate to that type of message. Pagoto is now applying social media marketing principles to develop prevention messages that resonate with specific audience segments.

    “We’re also hoping to spread the message on college campuses, since the tanning industry heavily markets to college students,” she says.