1. Are market bubbles caused by traders’ testosterone levels?

    March 19, 2017 by Ashley

    From the American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev press release:

    Research conducted at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) has determined that psychological momentum significantly affects performance among men but not among women, which may account for exaggerated risk-taking in financial and business endeavors among males.

    Psychological momentum is defined as a state-of-mind where an individual or a team feels things are going unstoppably their way and is known to be caused, among other factors, by shifts in testosterone levels. The study, “Psychological Momentum and Gender,” is published in the March volume of the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.

    According to Dr. Danny Cohen-Zada, a lecturer in the BGU Department of Economics, “The purpose of our study was twofold: to estimate the causal effect of psychological momentum on performance in real tournament settings, and to examine whether there are any gender differences in the corresponding response.”

    The researchers analyzed two different samples of men’s and women’s judo competitions from 2009 to 2013. In the first, they looked at the bronze medal fights of each tournament. While competitors in this fight won the same number of total bouts, some had won their most recent bout while others did not. Those who reached the bronze medal fight following a win have a potential momentum advantage.

    The authors examined this unique setting to determine whether the contestants with the momentum advantage had a higher probability to win the fight.

    “Our results showed that based on a cross-section analysis of 106 men’s and 111 women’s fights from eight major annual judo events, having a psychological momentum advantage significantly increases the winning probability in men’s contests but not in women’s,” says Dr. Alex Krumer of the Swiss Institute for Empirical Economic Research (SEW), University of St. Gallen, Switzerland.

    In the second part of the study, based on the head-to-head history of the pairs from the first sample and analyzing 225 men’s and 231 women’s fights, the researchers obtained similar results by analyzing how the performance of the same pair of judokas (judo experts) is affected by varied momentum statuses in different tournaments. As expected, the results of these specifications indicate that the psychological momentum effect exists among men, but not among women.

    The researchers believe that their findings have implications for business. “We can connect our findings to the effect of psychological momentum in financial markets of which 90 percent are men,” says Dr. Ze’ev Shtudiner from the Department of Economics and Business Administration, Ariel University, Israel. Drs. Krumer and Shtudiner earned their doctoral degrees in economics from BGU.

    “Such an effect may lead male traders, driven by an increase in testosterone due to a successful investment, to take exaggerated risks, which, in turn, create price bubbles,” says Dr. Shtudiner. “By increasing the number of women in financial markets, it may be possible to stabilize these markets since women have less dramatic shifts in testosterone levels, which can make them less prone to the momentum effect. This argument is consistent with our results that momentum effects are generated only among men, since it is only among them that testosterone levels increase after success.”

    According to Dr. Krumer, “An increased frequency of positive feedback from managers after successful actions may turn into a positive psychological momentum and thus increase productivity. Similarly, managers should exert efforts to reduce the influence of unsuccessful actions of their workers to avoid productivity losses.”

    Given these findings, Dr. Cohen-Zada believes additional research would be beneficial focusing on the role of psychological effects on performance in male-dominated positions, such as stockbrokers, high-profile managers, politicians, and military commanders.


  2. Looking for happiness in all the wrong places

    January 6, 2016 by Ashley

    From the Taylor & Francis media release:

    Depression frustrationEveryone knows that money can’t buy happiness — but what might make rich people happier is revealed in the current issue of The Journal of Positive Psychology.

    James A. Roberts of Baylor University and his two colleagues set out to explore the relationship between materialism — making acquisition of material possessions a central focus of one’s life — and life satisfaction.

    Numerous studies have already shown that people who are more materialistic are generally less satisfied with their standards of living, their relationships and their lives as a whole. With that being the case, the researchers wondered if anything could moderate that relationship and in effect make materialistic people more satisfied with their lot.

    They write: “Given the negative relationship that materialism has with positive affect, it stands to reason that positive affect and related constructs such as gratitude might be important moderators in the association between materialism and life satisfaction. In contrast to materialism, gratitude is a positive emotion that is experienced when someone perceives that another person has intentionally given him or her a valued benefit.”

    To test their theory, the trio analyzed the results of a specially designed questionnaire sent to 249 university students. The main results were as expected. “People who pursue happiness through material gain tend to feel worse, and this is related to negative appraisals of their satisfaction with life,” they confirmed.

    However, their results also demonstrated that gratitude, and to a lesser extent, positive affect, both ‘buffer’ the negative effects of materialism, in effect making more grateful individuals more satisfied with their lives.

    The team observed: “Individuals high in gratitude showed less of a relationship between materialism and negative affect. Additionally, individuals high in materialism showed decreased life satisfaction when either gratitude or positive affect was low.”

    The trio conclude that negative affect, positive affect and gratitude seem to be ‘key pieces to the puzzle of the relationship between materialism and dissatisfaction with life.‘ They suggest that the ‘pro-social, other-focused nature of gratitude’ might help to reduce the ‘self-focus’ inherent in materialism.

    “Specifically, individuals who are able to appreciate what they have even while engaging in materialistic pursuits might be able to be maintain high levels of life satisfaction.”

    In other words, being rich isn’t enough to make you happy; you also need to be grateful as well.


  3. Study: 25 percent of children who are homeless need mental health services

    February 19, 2015 by Ashley

    From the NORTH CAROLINA STATE UNIVERSITY media release:

    child sullen poutingA pilot study in Wake County, North Carolina, finds that 25 percent of children who are homeless are in need of mental health services.

    The study, conducted by researchers at North Carolina State University and Community Action Targeting Children who are Homeless (CATCH), highlights the need for more screening and support for the millions of homeless children in the United States.

    These children have often been exposed to domestic or neighborhood violence, chronic poverty, inadequate healthcare and other circumstances that place any child at risk of mental health problems,” says Dr. Mary Haskett, a professor of psychology at NC State and lead author of a paper on the research.

    “As a result of their exposure to those difficult life circumstances – combined with living in a shelter – homeless children are at a much greater risk of developmental delays, social and emotional problems, and problems at school,” says Jenna Armstrong, a Ph.D. student at NC State and co-author of the paper. “And the scale of the problem is huge.” A 2014 report from the National Center on Family Homelessness found that 2.5 million children are homeless each year in the U.S.

    “Our research was aimed at defining the scope of the problem and determining whether screening children at homeless shelters could be a valuable tool for connecting families with resources to help meet a child’s mental health needs,” Armstrong says.

    The researchers drew on data from CATCH, a Salvation Army-funded project that works with homeless families at 11 shelters in Wake County to address the mental health needs of children. The CATCH project screens children who enter the shelters, assessing each child’s development and social-emotional functioning.

    Haskett and Armstrong evaluated screening data on 328 children, who were between two months and six years old.

    “We found that 25 percent of the children in shelters needed mental health services, based on their social-emotional functioning,” Armstrong says. “This rate is certainly much, much higher than in the general population.” For purposes of comparison, Columbia University’s National Center for Children in Poverty reports that social and emotional problems impair 10 to 14 percent of U.S. children from birth to age five.

    The researchers also found that school-age children, between five and six years old, also performed well below average on language and academic skills. This affected both boys and girls, though boys performed significantly worse than girls in both areas of functioning.

    “Children in shelters are often overlooked – they’re basically invisible,” Armstrong says. “But these findings highlight the importance of providing resources to meet the needs of these children. Twenty-five percent of 2.5 million is 625,000. So, we’re talking about 625,000 children who need mental health support every year in the United States. We, as a society, can’t afford to let these kids down.”

    The paper, “Developmental Status and Social-Emotional Functioning of Young Children Experiencing Homelessness,” is published online in the Early Childhood Education Journal. The paper was co-authored by Jennifer Tisdale of CATCH. The work was supported by the Salvation Army, Wake County Smart Start and the John Rex Endowment.


  4. Consumer preferences and the power of scarcity

    February 9, 2015 by Ashley

    From the University of Maryland media release:

    Shopping for electronicsWhen something is rare, it’s alluring–true whether you’re talking about precious gemstones or a pristine edition of the first issue of Action Comics (which introduced Superman). And psychologists have long known that if you can make a consumer good more desirable by making it appear rare.

    But how does scarcity, or the appearance of scarcity, affect choice when several consumer products are presented at once? That’s the question Rebecca Ratner, professor of marketing at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, and Meng Zhu, of Johns Hopkins University, attack in a new paper. They found a clear pattern: Scarcity polarizes preferences.

    When people perceive a bunch of items to be scarce, they choose relatively more of their favorite item,” Ratner says. “They become less exploratory. They focus on their leading option.”

    On the other hand, in situations of abundance–lots of each possible option–they spread out their selections. These findings have implications for anyone trying to “nudge” people toward certain options.

    Ratner and Zhu conducted several experiments in which they asked people to choose among an array of goods–typically in online surveys accompanied by photographs. The choices they faced included different flavors of yogurt, different vegetables, different small candies, and different gift certificates. In each case, there was the same pattern: When the items were presented as scarce, customers took more of their favorites, and they subjectively rated their favorite items higher.

    The effect emerged whether the scarcity was “real” or merely apparent. In one experiment, the same number of vegetables were placed in 8 oz. clear-plastic containers, making the containers look full-to-the-brim, or in 32 oz. containers, making the vegetables look scant. When they looked scant, the polarized reaction kicked in.

    The authors theorized that scarcity induces mild psychological arousal in consumers, and they found evidence of this in self-reports. And Ratner and Zhu were also able to change people’s decision making by inducing arousal: When surveys had bright background colors (which increase arousal), the polarizing effect increased.

    The researchers could even introduce the scarcity effect by exposing the test subjects to words related to rarity.

    The research has obvious implications for retailers. If you have one popular high-margin product that you’d like to steer customers to, one course of action would be to make that the only product on display. But customers view stores with small sections negatively, so a better alternative would be to present only a few of each product the store offers, thereby increasing desire for the most-popular item.

    On the other hand, if you wanted to encourage students in a cafeteria to put together a well-balanced meal–protein, fiber, greens–the study implies you should present many of each choice.

    The study has implications, too, for how policymakers and communicators should frame the messages they send about rare and endangered natural resources. “If you say that national parks are a scarce resource for the country, the implications of our finding are that that message might lead people to go to the national park that is most appealing to them,” Ratner says. “The additional traffic could potentially degrade that resource.”

    In short, saying “This is scarce” can backfire.

    “Scarcity Polarizes Preferences: The Impact on Choice Among Multiple Items in a Product Class,” by Meng Zhu and Rebecca K. Ratner, appears in the February issue of the Journal of Marketing Research http://journals.ama.org/doi/abs/10.1509/jmr.13.0451


  5. A life well spent: Consume now (in case you die early)

    June 10, 2014 by Ashley

    From the Princeton University media release:

    computer gaming seniorsYou only live once. Carpe diem. You can’t take it with you.

    As often as we hear these clichés, they might include some real economic wisdom for some, according to research led by Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School. The researchers argue in the Journal of Mathematical Economics that some people might want to spend more and work less — just in case their time runs out.

    Marc Fleurbaey, the Robert E. Kuenne Professor in Economics and Humanistic Studies and professor of public affairs, and his collaborators — Marie-Louise Leroux from the University of Quebec and Gregory Ponthiere from the Paris School of Economics — examined an inequality that is not often under the spotlight: those who live long, fruitful lives and those who die early.

    The researchers argue that a premature exit from life is a serious loss that should imply compensation beyond just relatives but also to the deceased person. But how — when the person is dead?

    To evaluate compensation, the researchers first determined the economic losses associated with living too short of a life. They constructed a mathematical model that measured the loss of an early death in terms of an equivalent loss in income or consumption. By analyzing these measures, the researchers could compare the usual economic inequalities to the inequalities due to premature deaths.

    To test their model, the researchers used data on income and longevity and France to examine four socio-professional groups: executives, professionals, blue-collar workers and clerks from age 20 to 100. Under the assumption that each individual lived the same amount of time, the researchers found that, unsurprisingly, those with the lowest income (clerks) are the worst off in terms of financial losses — for instance, their income is 30 percent lower than the professionals. But, across the four groups, those who die at age 55 lose, on average, the equivalent of 40 percent of income compared to those who live until age 85. In sum, short lives result in big losses, comparable to the gaps between socio-economic groups.

    The only way in which inequalities between short- and long-lived can be attenuated is by having everyone spend a little more and work a little less early in life,” said Fleurbaey. “That way, for those who are unlucky and die prematurely, their life is not as bad economically as it would be if they had planned to enjoy more consumption and leisure later.”

    While the authors do not argue that savings should be curbed — savings are famously low in the United States — they claim that the usual concern about under-saving may be partly assuaged by considering the problems that come with an early death. Decades ago, programs like Social Security and public pensions came about so that a person’s declining years were not spent in grinding poverty, which, in the 18th and 19th century was an issue; people literally landed in the poorhouse. Now, thanks to growing affluence, there is an opposite risk: not living long enough to enjoy all that money squirreled away.

    “Through economics and psychology, we’ve learned that people are not rational when it comes to money, leading people to save too little. But saving a little less may be good for some, as it curbs the inequality that exists between the short- and long-lived,” said Fleurbaey. “Likewise, the tradition of encouraging savings, which comes from an era of scarcity but remains strong today, appears somewhat ill-adapted in the context of affluence. Suppose you spend your whole life saving and saving for retirement, but you die the year before you retire. On an individual level, you might have been better off if you consumed more, earlier in life.

    The paper, “Compensating the dead,” was published in the March 2014 issue of The Journal of Mathematical Economics.


  6. Good diet boosts health but not wealth

    April 2, 2014 by Ashley

    From the Monash University media release:

    Shopping2The idea that a good diet means a healthy population with lower health costs only holds true when it comes to emergency care, a study shows.

    Researchers from Monash University, the National Defense Medical Centre, Taiwan, and the National Health Research Institutes, Taiwan, found that although men and women aged over 65 years who ate healthily had shorter stays in hospital, they were strong users of other medical services. In fact, they tended to make greater use of outpatient services, preventive care and dental care than those who did not follow a healthy eating regime.

    Emeritus Professor Mark Wahlqvist from Monash University’s Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine and the Monash Asia Institute said individuals with a higher socioeconomic status usually followed a healthier diet and took better care of their health needs, while those on lower incomes were more likely to cut back on basic needs like food and medication.

    “A diverse diet can be quite costly, which can lead to food insecurity for low socioeconomic groups who cannot afford it,” Professor Wahlqvist said.

    “This may partly explain the greater expenditure on acute care that they incur.”

    Professor Walhlqvist said that economic factors played an inescapable role in the development of health policies, but the medical costs of diet-related and nutritionally related diseases were rarely given attention.

    The findings have important implications for nutrition-related health service policy given that most countries are facing increased medical expenditure as their population ages.

    “Such a policy should pay close attention to socially disadvantaged groups with poorer dietary quality,” Professor Wahlqvist said.


  7. Higher status than one’s partner makes both men, women vulnerable to intimate partner violence

    March 10, 2014 by Ashley

    From the KILDEN – Information Centre for Gender Research in Norway media release:

    abused woman domestic violenceHaving a higher income or education than your partner could be risky, as a higher socio-economic status than ones partner increases the chance of psychological violence and abuse. This applies to both men and women.

    New research on violence and relationships does not support the stereotypical pattern of strong men in powerful positions who abuse their weaker, female partner.

    Whenever power is unevenly allocated in a relationship the chance of physical and psychological abuse increases. And the abused partner is the one with the highest status,” says sociologist Heidi Fischer Bjelland.

    According to the sociologist this applies both to men and women.

    Bjelland is a PhD student at The Norwegian Police University College and she has previously carried out research on intimate partner violence in Norway. In her articleEn voldsom maktbalanse? En studie av relativ makt og forekomst av partnervold (“A fierce power balance? A study of relative power and intimate partner violence”), Bjelland presents her analysis of a survey carried out by Statistics Norway in 2003/2004.

    Bjelland has examined survey replies from 1640 men and 1791 women who live with their partners. The participants have answered questions relating to whether they have experienced physical partner violence such as strangling and flat hand slapping, and psychological abuse such as threats of physical violence, jealous behavior and freedom restriction.

    Women more exposed

    Both men and women with a higher status than their partner have an increased risk of experiencing psychological abuse or controlling partners, but women with a higher income than their partner also have an increased risk of experiencing physical abuse:

    “Their risk of experiencing both physical and psychological violence increases with the difference in income,” says Bjelland.

    The figures from the study shows that women earning more than 67 per cent of the total household income have an almost seven times bigger risk of experiencing psychological and physical abuse — so-called double violence — from their partner compared to women who earn less than 33 per cent of the total household income. Moreover, women with considerably higher education than their partner have an increased risk of experiencing both physical and psychological abuse.

    The study challenges previous research which has concluded that a high socio-economic status decreases the risk of experiencing intimate partner violence.

    “My study shows that high income or education works as protection against acts of violence only as far as the income and education does not exceed that of the partner,” says Bjelland.

    “There seem to be two mechanisms at play here: one relating to the individual and another to the relationship as such.”

    Men also affected

    The study shows that men with a higher income or education than their partner have an increased risk of experiencing psychological abuse and control. However, men do not face the same risk of experiencing physical abuse.

    Previous studies have looked primarily at physical abuse. They have also included some types of psychological violence such as control and threats of physical violence, but they have not distinguished these psychological acts of violence as a category in itself. When I distinguish between psychological and physical acts of violence, the psychological factor is becoming much clearer and the results become more nuanced,” says the researcher.

    One of the finds particularly surprised Bjelland:

    “The fact that men with a higher socio-economic status than their partner have an increased risk of experiencing abuse in their relationships was very surprising, since it conflicts with international studies within the same field.”

    She emphasizes the Norwegian gender equality as a possible explanation.

    Perhaps this indicates that, in today’s Norway, women won’t accept being without power as a result of having a lower socio-economic status than their partner.”

    “On the other hand, few studies have examined men’s risk of abuse earlier, which may be an explanation as to why these finds are so new and surprising.

    According to Bjelland, previous studies of intimate partner violence have often excluded men from the data material.

    “There has been a strikingly unbalanced focus on women and what consequences their experiences of intimate partner violence might have for them.”

    Power and contrapower

    Bjelland’s study shows the abuse primarily affects the person in the relationship with the most power defining resources such as income and education. This applies to both men and women.

    “This implies that intimate partner violence may be all about trying to change the power balance,” claims the sociologist.

    She believes that much of the intimate partner violence is a type of contrapower strategy towards a stronger partner.

    “Violence or control is used as a compensation for the partner’s weak position in the relationship, and may thus be regarded as an attempt to balance what is perceived as an uneven division of power.”

    Such power strategies are often referred to in sociology as conscious tactics. Bjelland is not convinced that these strategies are as premeditated as the theory implies.

    “Perhaps the abuse in some cases has to do with an unconscious fear of losing a partner which is more attractive “on the market” due to his or her socio-economic status.”

    Jealousy or traditional gender roles?

    The most frequent type of psychological abuse or partner violence in the survey had to do with the partner wanting to know where the other part is, who they’re with and when they’re due back home. The second most common type was jealous behavior and attempts to restrict the other part’s social interaction with friends and family.

    “It is not uncommon to want to know where one’s partner is and when he or she might be home; when does this become psychological violence?”

    “There is no clear answer to that. But this does not have to do with everyday random questions about where someone has been. When the interviewees describe their partners as being inquisitive regarding these things, it is reasonable to assume that it is a type of violation and an attempt to restrict the partner’s freedom. This is a common way of identifying psychological violence in studies on intimate partner violence,” says Bjelland.

    Different mechanisms generate different types of violence. Bjelland regards jealousy, the fear of losing one’s partner and contrapower strategies as possible explanations to much of the psychological power abuse and control in relationships.

    According to Bjelland, another explanation may be stress and frustration related to society’s views on masculinity and femininity, and the feeling of not being able to live up to expectations related to traditional gender roles.

    This has been described in previous research on violence, and Bjelland points to this as one possible explanation to the double violence which women are more exposed to if they have higher status than their partner.

    Men with lower status than their partner may feel that they are not living up to the traditional gender role. This may cause stress and frustration which again may lead to escalating conflicts which end in physical violence towards their partner,” says Bjelland.

    Not a conscious strategy

    Bjelland believes that the physical violence in many of these cases revolves around situational conflicts and outbursts caused by anger and frustration rather than conscious power strategies.

    “In these situations I presume that men relate to traditional gender role norms, but I wish to emphasize that this analysis does not necessarily apply to all men on an individual basis.”

    “The connection between power, gender and violence is very complex, and there are several mechanisms at play. Contrapower strategies, for instance, do not apply so much to relationships practicing traditional gender roles.”

    One of the finds in the study is that women with the same status as their partner more often experience intimate partner violence than women with lower status. Bjelland believes this may indicate that also having the same status may be perceived by some as conflicting with traditional gender roles in relationships.

    “This find should, on the other hand, be analysed with special care, since the data material is scarce,” Bjelland underlines.

    Research couples, not individuals

    According to Bjelland the Norwegiann research on violence has focused on finding explanations to violence on an individual basis, and it has particularly focused on the woman. Although this research has been necessary, Bjelland wishes to focus more on the relational aspects of intimate partner violence in the future.

    “I believe that one have to look at relational factors in order to understand partner violence. The violence occurs in the relation between the two partners. One has to look at the couple as a unity, not just at the individual.”

    Since the relationship is a part of a society, the sociologist is also of the opinion that one has to examine the violence in light of society’s gender and power structures.

    “It is important to always keep this context in mind,” emphasizes Bjelland.

     higher income or education than your partner could be risky, as a higher socio-economic status than ones partner increases the chance of psychological violence and abuse. This applies to both men and women.

    New research on violence and relationships does not support the stereotypical pattern of strong men in powerful positions who abuse their weaker, female partner.

    “Whenever power is unevenly allocated in a relationship the chance of physical and psychological abuse increases. And the abused partner is the one with the highest status,” says sociologist Heidi Fischer Bjelland.

    According to the sociologist this applies both to men and women.

    Bjelland is a PhD student at The Norwegian Police University College and she has previously carried out research on intimate partner violence in Norway. In her articleEn voldsom maktbalanse? En studie av relativ makt og forekomst av partnervold (“A fierce power balance? A study of relative power and intimate partner violence”), Bjelland presents her analysis of a survey carried out by Statistics Norway in 2003/2004.

    Bjelland has examined survey replies from 1640 men and 1791 women who live with their partners. The participants have answered questions relating to whether they have experienced physical partner violence such as strangling and flat hand slapping, and psychological abuse such as threats of physical violence, jealous behavior and freedom restriction.

    Women more exposed

    Both men and women with a higher status than their partner have an increased risk of experiencing psychological abuse or controlling partners, but women with a higher income than their partner also have an increased risk of experiencing physical abuse:

    “Their risk of experiencing both physical and psychological violence increases with the difference in income,” says Bjelland.

    The figures from the study shows that women earning more than 67 per cent of the total household income have an almost seven times bigger risk of experiencing psychological and physical abuse — so-called double violence — from their partner compared to women who earn less than 33 per cent of the total household income. Moreover, women with considerably higher education than their partner have an increased risk of experiencing both physical and psychological abuse.

    The study challenges previous research which has concluded that a high socio-economic status decreases the risk of experiencing intimate partner violence.

    “My study shows that high income or education works as protection against acts of violence only as far as the income and education does not exceed that of the partner,” says Bjelland.

    “There seem to be two mechanisms at play here: one relating to the individual and another to the relationship as such.”

    Men also affected

    The study shows that men with a higher income or education than their partner have an increased risk of experiencing psychological abuse and control. However, men do not face the same risk of experiencing physical abuse.

    “Previous studies have looked primarily at physical abuse. They have also included some types of psychological violence such as control and threats of physical violence, but they have not distinguished these psychological acts of violence as a category in itself. When I distinguish between psychological and physical acts of violence, the psychological factor is becoming much clearer and the results become more nuanced,” says the researcher.

    One of the finds particularly surprised Bjelland:

    “The fact that men with a higher socio-economic status than their partner have an increased risk of experiencing abuse in their relationships was very surprising, since it conflicts with international studies within the same field.”

    She emphasizes the Norwegian gender equality as a possible explanation.

    “Perhaps this indicates that, in today’s Norway, women won’t accept being without power as a result of having a lower socio-economic status than their partner.”

    “On the other hand, few studies have examined men’s risk of abuse earlier, which may be an explanation as to why these finds are so new and surprising.”

    According to Bjelland, previous studies of intimate partner violence have often excluded men from the data material.

    “There has been a strikingly unbalanced focus on women and what consequences their experiences of intimate partner violence might have for them.”

    Power and contrapower

    Bjelland’s study shows the abuse primarily affects the person in the relationship with the most power defining resources such as income and education. This applies to both men and women.

    “This implies that intimate partner violence may be all about trying to change the power balance,” claims the sociologist.

    She believes that much of the intimate partner violence is a type of contrapower strategy towards a stronger partner.

    “Violence or control is used as a compensation for the partner’s weak position in the relationship, and may thus be regarded as an attempt to balance what is perceived as an uneven division of power.”

    Such power strategies are often referred to in sociology as conscious tactics. Bjelland is not convinced that these strategies are as premeditated as the theory implies.

    “Perhaps the abuse in some cases has to do with an unconscious fear of losing a partner which is more attractive “on the market” due to his or her socio-economic status.”

    Jealousy or traditional gender roles?

    The most frequent type of psychological abuse or partner violence in the survey had to do with the partner wanting to know where the other part is, who they’re with and when they’re due back home. The second most common type was jealous behavior and attempts to restrict the other part’s social interaction with friends and family.

    “It is not uncommon to want to know where one’s partner is and when he or she might be home; when does this become psychological violence?”

    “There is no clear answer to that. But this does not have to do with everyday random questions about where someone has been. When the interviewees describe their partners as being inquisitive regarding these things, it is reasonable to assume that it is a type of violation and an attempt to restrict the partner’s freedom. This is a common way of identifying psychological violence in studies on intimate partner violence,” says Bjelland.

    Different mechanisms generate different types of violence. Bjelland regards jealousy, the fear of losing one’s partner and contrapower strategies as possible explanations to much of the psychological power abuse and control in relationships.

    According to Bjelland, another explanation may be stress and frustration related to society’s views on masculinity and femininity, and the feeling of not being able to live up to expectations related to traditional gender roles.

    This has been described in previous research on violence, and Bjelland points to this as one possible explanation to the double violence which women are more exposed to if they have higher status than their partner.

    “Men with lower status than their partner may feel that they are not living up to the traditional gender role. This may cause stress and frustration which again may lead to escalating conflicts which end in physical violence towards their partner,” says Bjelland.

    Not a conscious strategy

    Bjelland believes that the physical violence in many of these cases revolves around situational conflicts and outbursts caused by anger and frustration rather than conscious power strategies.

    “In these situations I presume that men relate to traditional gender role norms, but I wish to emphasize that this analysis does not necessarily apply to all men on an individual basis.”

    “The connection between power, gender and violence is very complex, and there are several mechanisms at play. Contrapower strategies, for instance, do not apply so much to relationships practicing traditional gender roles.”

    One of the finds in the study is that women with the same status as their partner more often experience intimate partner violence than women with lower status. Bjelland believes this may indicate that also having the same status may be perceived by some as conflicting with traditional gender roles in relationships.

    “This find should, on the other hand, be analysed with special care, since the data material is scarce,” Bjelland underlines.

    Research couples, not individuals

    According to Bjelland the Norwegiann research on violence has focused on finding explanations to violence on an individual basis, and it has particularly focused on the woman. Although this research has been necessary, Bjelland wishes to focus more on the relational aspects of intimate partner violence in the future.

    “I believe that one have to look at relational factors in order to understand partner violence. The violence occurs in the relation between the two partners. One has to look at the couple as a unity, not just at the individual.”

    Since the relationship is a part of a society, the sociologist is also of the opinion that one has to examine the violence in light of society’s gender and power structures.

    “It is important to always keep this context in mind,” emphasizes Bjelland.


  8. Demand for details on food labels includes the good — and the bad

    December 2, 2013 by Ashley

    From the Cornell University media release:

    Shopping2It’s no surprise that labels are becoming the “go to” place when people have questions about how food is produced. But new Cornell University research finds that consumers crave more information, especially for the potentially harmful ingredients that aren’t included in the product.

    The laboratory study of 351 shoppers found consumers willing to pay a premium when a product label says “free of” something, but only if the package includes “negative” information on whatever the product is “free of.”

    For example, a food labeled “free” of a food dye will compel some consumers to buy that product. But even more people will buy that product if that same label also includes information about the risks of ingesting such dyes.

    “What did surprise us was the effect of supplementary information,” said Harry M. Kaiser, a Cornell professor whose field of study includes product labeling. “Even seemingly negative information was valued over just the label itself.”

    When provided more information about ingredients, consumers are more confident about their decisions and value the product more, Kaiser said.

    Published earlier this month as “Consumer Response to ‘Contains’ and ‘Free of’ Labeling” in the journal, Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy, the Cornell study might interest CEOs of food-processing companies, government policy makers and American consumers alike.

    Other authors of the journal article were Jura Liaukonyte, Nadia A. Streletskaya and Bradley J. Rickard, all of the Dyson School. The study was supported by internal funds from Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.


  9. Older Americans: Attitudes on work and retirement

    October 16, 2013 by Ashley

    From the University of Chicago media release:

    senior south asian manThe Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research has released the results of a major new survey exploring the views of older Americans about their plans for work and retirement. It provides in-depth information about a rapidly growing segment of the population that by choice or circumstance is working longer. The Great Recession has had a marked impact on retirement plans.

    The survey illuminates an important shift in Americans’ attitudes toward work, aging, and retirement,” said Trevor Tompson, director of the AP-NORC Center. “Retirement is not only coming later in life, it no longer represents a complete exit from the workforce. The data in this survey reveal strikingly different views of retirement among older workers today than those held by the prior generation.”

    With funding provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research conducted a national survey of 1,024 adults ages 50 and over. It is a segment of the population that is not only growing rapidly in numbers, but is also becoming substantially healthier. Projections show that the U.S. population age 65 and over will increase to 19 percent of the population by 2030, up from 13 percent in 2010, an estimated 72 million people. At the same time, people age 55 and over comprise the fastest growing segment of the workforce. By 2020, approximately one fourth of American workers will be 55 or older.

    Key findings of the survey include:

    • The Great Recession has had a marked impact on retirement planning. The average age of those who report retiring before the recession was 57 while the average for those who retired afterward is 62.
    • The line between working and retirement is shifting, with 82 percent of Americans age 50 and older who are working but not yet retired saying it is likely or very likely that they will do some work for pay during their retirement.
    • Of those who are currently working, 47 percent now plan to retire at a later age than they expected when they were 40. Financial need, health and the need for benefits were cited as the most important factors in the retirement decision.
    • Older workers have a clear view about solutions to ensuring the long term health of Social Security. Sixty-one percent of them favor raising the cap on income subject to Social Security taxes and 41 percent favor reducing Social Security benefits for those with higher incomes. In contrast, 29 percent favor gradually raising the minimum Social Security age and 21 percent favor changing the way benefits are calculated so that cost of living increases are smaller.
    • Thirty-nine percent of workers age 50 and older report having $100,000 or less saved for retirement, not including pensions or homes; and 24 percent have less than $10,000.
    • Among those who are retired, one third report that they did not have a choice in the matter. That figure increases to 54 percent for retirees under age 65.
    • Fully 20 percent of working Americans age 50 and older report that they have personally experienced prejudice or discrimination because of their age in the job market or at work since turning 50. Forty four percent of those who experienced discrimination have looked for a job in the past five years compared with 16 percent who did not report discrimination.

    The nature of a person’s work shapes their view of whether age is an asset or a liability. For example, 28 percent of people who work or worked in professional services see age as an asset while only 3 percent in manufacturing hold that view.

    About half of workers age 50 and older say their boss is younger than them. Those with bosses older than them are less likely to report they have cut back on their hours than people with younger bosses (9 percent vs. 23 percent). Those with older bosses are more likely to consider age an asset to their career. (39 percent vs. 20 percent.)

    Additional information, including the Associated Press stories based on the survey results and the survey’s complete topline findings can be found on the AP-NORC Center’s website at http://www.apnorc.org.


  10. Personality a key factor in health care use

    September 25, 2013 by Ashley

    From the University of Rochester Medical Center media release:

    health_costs_moneyPsychiatrists and psychologists have long understood that an individual’s personality can define how he or she views the world around them, reacts to situations, and interacts with others. It now appears that personality traits can be linked to the frequency with which older adults use expensive health care services.

    A study, published today in the journal The Milbank Quarterly, finds that certain measurable personality characteristics can be correlated to health care consumption, in some instances increasing use high cost health care services such as emergency room visits and nursing home stays by 20 to 30 percent and even higher.

    “This is the first study to show that personality traits predispose some older adults to use several expensive acute and long-term care services,” said Bruce Friedman, M.P.H., Ph.D., an associate professor in the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Department of Public Health Sciences and lead author of the study. “It is important for health care systems to recognize that personality characteristics are associated with how individuals use health care services, and design interventions that redirect patients towards lower cost solutions to their health problems that are just as effective.”

    The study was based on data collected from 1,074 individuals over the age of 65 who participated in study funded by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The study, called the Medicare Primary and Consumer-Directed Care Demonstration, involved participants from upstate New York, West Virginia, and Ohio who were deemed likely to be high cost patients.

    Participants completed a questionnaire which assigns a score for each of the “big five” personality traits: neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. The survey, called the NEO-FFI, asks individuals to respond to questions about their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, such as whether they are easy to laugh, are courteous to others, get into arguments easily, feel inferior, or like to be around other people.

    The survey results enable researchers to understand each individual’s personality profile and how these traits may impact their health care decisions. For example, people on the high end of the neuroticism scale tend to be more likely to feel angry, anxious, depressed, or vulnerable. An individual with a high score in openness to experience is generally more intellectually curious, imaginative, and creative. People who are high in agreeableness are compassionate, altruistic, and cooperative. Those who score low tend to be suspicious or antagonistic. People who score on the high end of the conscientiousness scale are dependable, reliable, and goal-oriented.

    The researchers then looked at which health care services these individuals utilized over a two year period. This information was recorded in daily logs kept by the study participants. The study focuses on seven high cost health care services: emergency department (ED) visits, hospital stays, hospital-based rehabilitation, skilled nursing home care, custodial nursing home care, home-based skilled nurse and therapist care, and home-based custodial care.

    They found correlations between several personality traits and health care service utilization. People who scored high in neuroticism were 24 percent more likely to visit the ED and more than twice as likely to spend time in a nursing home for long term care as individuals low in neuroticism. Among users of care, those with lower openness scores were admitted more frequently to EDs (16 percent) and spent more days in nursing homes that provide long term care (30 percent).

    The researchers believe that these findings could potentially be used to help lower health care costs — one of the central objectives of the Affordable Care Act — based on an assessment of individuals’ personality profiles. Health care providers could develop forecasts of the overuse and underuse of health care services by personality trait and then use interventions to, for example, prevent unnecessary ED visits among patients who are high in neuroticism.

    These finding have a range of potential implications in terms of how clinicians and health systems deliver patient-centered care,” said Friedman. “Customizing interventions to a person’s personality profile could be one of the keys to ensuring the appropriate use of health services and containing the continuing rise in health care costs.”

    Additional co-authors include Paul Duberstein, Peter Veazie, and Benjamin Chapman with URMC and Willard Manning with the University of Chicago. The study was supported with funded from the National Institute on Aging and CMS.