1. Study suggests new way to assess presence of psychopathic traits

    October 26, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Plymouth press release:

    New research shows that people would sacrifice one person to save a larger group of people — and in addition, the force with which they carry out these actions could be predicted by psychopathic traits.

    The study, led by the University of Plymouth, compared what people ‘said’ they would do with what they actually ‘did’ by comparing a questionnaire with actions in immersive moral dilemmas created using virtual-haptic technologies (i.e. using a robotic device which measures force, resistance, and speed, whilst simulating the action of harming a human).

    In several dilemmas, participants had to decide whether to sacrifice a person by performing a harmful action against them, in order to save a larger group of people.

    While all individuals were more likely to sacrifice others in these immersive environments than in questionnaire-based assessments, people with strong psychopathic traits were more likely to generate these harmful actions with greater physical power.

    Psychopathy is generally characterised by antisocial behaviour and impaired empathy. As such, it is thought that individuals with strong psychopathic traits find it less emotionally challenging to sanction utilitarian actions.

    In the present research, this resilience to performing actively harmful acts appears to enable these individuals to act for the ‘greater good’ (i.e. to save the many). This result therefore indicates that, in certain circumstances, psychopathic traits could be considered beneficial, since they can lead to a more vigorous response.

    This study is a result of an interdisciplinary collaboration between Dr Kathryn Francis, Dr Sylvia Terbeck, Raluca Briazu, Dr Michaela Gummerum, and Dr Giorgio Ganis in the University’s School of Psychology, Agi Haines, a designer based in the University’s Transtechnology research group, and Dr Ian Howard of the Centre for Robotics and Neural Systems.

    Dr Francis, now a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Philosophy and Psychology at the University of Reading, said: “This research highlights our proneness to moral inconsistency; what we say and what we do can be very different. For the first time, we demonstrate how personality traits can influence the physical power of our moral actions. Importantly, the multidisciplinary approaches that we have used here, combining virtual reality, robotics, and interactive sculpture, places further emphasis on the need to unite the sciences and the arts when investigating complex phenomena such as morality.”

    Dr Sylvia Terbeck, Lecturer in Social Psychology and study co-author, added:

    “This study opens up the possibility to assess psychopathy using novel virtual reality technology — which is vital to better understand how and why people with these behavioural traits act in certain ways.”

    Dr Ian Howard, Associate Professor in the Centre for Robotics and Neural Systems, said: “This work shows how techniques developed to study human movement can play a value role in psychological assessment and thereby lead to new insights into human social behaviour.”


  2. Study suggests “dark triad” personality traits are liabilities in hedge fund managers

    October 19, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Society for Personality and Social Psychology press release:

    When it comes to financial investments, hedge fund managers higher in “dark triad” personality traits — psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism — perform more poorly than their peers, according to new personality psychology research. The difference is a little less than 1% annually compared to their peers, but with large investments over several years that slight underperformance can add up. The results appear in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, published by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology.

    While the average person doesn’t invest in hedge funds, “We should re-think our assumptions that might favor ruthlessness or callousness in an investment manager,” says Leanne ten Brinke, lead author and a social psychologist at the University of Denver. “Not only do these personality traits not improve performance, our data suggest that they many hinder it.”

    Researchers from the University of Denver and the University of California, Berkeley, measured personality traits of 101 hedge fund managers, then compared the personality types with their investments and financial returns from 2005 — 2015. They compared not only the annualized returns, but also risk measures.

    The researchers found managers with psychopathic traits made less profitable investments than peers, by just under 1% per year, but this can add up over the course of years on large investments. Managers with narcissistic traits took more investment risks to earn the same amount of money as less narcissistic peers.

    Some may be surprised that most hedge fund managers rank pretty low on the Dark Triad traits. However, the results did show correlations between personality traits, investment success, and risk management.

    These findings build on their earlier work, studying behavioral evidence of Dark Triad traits in U.S. Senators, and finding that “those who displayed behaviors associated with psychopathy were actually less likely to gain co-sponsors on their bills,” says ten Brinke. That study also showed those who displayed behaviors associated with courage, humanity, and justice, “were the most effective political leaders.”

    The results add to a growing body of literature suggesting that Dark Triad personality traits are not desirable in leaders in a variety of contexts, summarizes ten Brinke.

    “When choosing our leaders in organizations and in politics,” write the authors, “we should keep in mind that psychopathic traits — like ruthlessness and callousness — don’t produce the successful outcomes that we might expect them to.”


  3. Study looks at how disliked classes affect incidence of college student cheating

    October 13, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Ohio State University press release:

    One of the tactics that discourages student cheating may not work as well in courses that college students particularly dislike, a new study has found.

    Previous research suggests instructors who emphasize mastering the content in their classes encounter less student cheating than those who push students to get good grades.

    But this new study found emphasizing mastery isn’t related as strongly to lower rates of cheating in classes that students list as their most disliked. Students in disliked classes were equally as likely to cheat, regardless of whether the instructors emphasized mastery or good grades.

    The factor that best predicted whether a student would cheat in a disliked class was a personality trait: a high need for sensation, said Eric Anderman, co-author of the study and professor of educational psychology at The Ohio State University.

    People with a high need for sensation are risk-takers, Anderman said.

    “If you enjoy taking risks, and you don’t like the class, you may think ‘why not cheat.’ You don’t feel you have as much to lose,” he said.

    Anderman conducted the study with Sungjun Won, a graduate student in educational psychology at Ohio State. It appears online in the journal Ethics & Behavior and will be published in a future print edition.

    The study is the first to look at how academic misconduct might differ in classes that students particularly dislike.

    “You could understand why students might be less motivated in classes they don’t like and that could affect whether they were willing to cheat,” Anderman said.

    The researchers surveyed 409 students from two large research universities in different parts of the country.

    The students were asked to answer questions about the class in college that they liked the least.

    Participants were asked if they took part in any of 22 cheating behaviors in that class, including plagiarism and copying test answers from another student. The survey also asked students their beliefs about the ethics of cheating, their perceptions of how much the instructor emphasized mastery and test scores, and a variety of demographic questions, as well as a measure of sensation-seeking.

    A majority of the students (57 percent) reported a math or science course as their most disliked. Large classes were not popular: Nearly half (45 percent) said their least favorite class had more than 50 students enrolled, while two-thirds (65 percent) said the course they disliked was required for their major.

    The most interesting finding was that an emphasis on mastery or on test scores did not predict cheating in disliked classes, Anderman said.

    In 20 years of research on cheating, Anderman said he and his colleagues have consistently found that students cheated less — and believed cheating was less acceptable — in classes where the goals were intrinsic: learning and mastering the content. They were more likely to cheat in classes where they felt the emphasis was on extrinsic goals, such as successful test-taking and getting good grades.

    This study was different, Anderman said.

    In classes that emphasized mastery, some students still believed cheating was wrong, even in their most-disliked class. But when classes are disliked, the new findings suggest a focus on mastery no longer directly protects against cheating behaviors. Nevertheless, there is still a positive relation between actual cheating and the belief that cheating is morally acceptable in those classes.

    “When you have students who are risk-takers in classes that they dislike, the benefits of a class that emphasizes learning over grades seems to disappear,” he said.

    But Anderman noted that this study reinforced results from earlier studies that refute many of the common beliefs about student cheating.

    “All of the things that people think are linked to cheating don’t really matter,” he said.

    “We examined gender, age, the size of classes, whether it was a required class, whether it was graded on a curve — and none of those were related to cheating once you took into account the need for sensation in this study,” he said. “And in other studies, the classroom goals were also important.”

    The good news is that the factors that cause cheating are controllable in some measure, Anderman said. Classes can be designed to emphasize mastery and interventions could be developed to help risk-taking students.

    “We can find ways to help minimize cheating,” he said.


  4. When hoping to be seen as powerful, consumers prefer wider faces on watches, cars

    September 5, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Kansas press release:

    People are typically averse to wider human faces because they elicit fears of being dominated. However, consumers might like wider faces on some products they buy, such as watches or cars, when they want to be seen in a position of power in certain situations, according to a new study led by a University of Kansas marketing researcher.

    “When consumers are motivated to dominate others, or when they use the product in public, their liking will be heightened toward high-ratio product faces,” said Ahreum Maeng, assistant professor in marketing at the KU School of Business.

    Maeng’s study she co-authored with Pankaj Aggarwal, professor of marketing at the university of Toronto, was published recently in the Journal of Consumer Research, one of the leading journals on marketing academic research.

    In five experiments, respondents examined photos of human faces that varied from low width-to-height ratio (narrow) to ones with a higher ratio (wider) to establish the perception of dominance when seeing higher-ratio faces. The researchers also had respondents view photos of products that might have a design resembling a human face, such as watch and clock faces and automobiles, from low to high width-to-height ratios.

    “These kinds of things are automatically going on in people’s brains,” Maeng said. “When we see those shapes resembling a human face in the product design, we can’t help but perceive it that way.”

    Researchers have established that people are evolutionarily adapted to read facial cues, especially those signaling dominance, and the width-to-height ratio of face is a cue to attribute dominance to the face. In the notion of anthropomorphism, scholars have found people often attribute human traits to non-human entities, such as products.

    In addition, the researchers had participants view the images while they thought about different scenarios, such as preparing to encounter either an old high school bully or a former sweetheart at a 10-year-old high school reunion or a business trip that might require a difficult negotiation.

    Their main finding was that when people felt they were in a situation where they might want to be perceived as dominant — such as that business negotiation or when seeing an old bully at a high-school reunion — people were inclined to select the wider product design for a watch or car they might be renting for the trip.

    Maeng said this differs from how people tend to see dominance in the human face. They typically become averse to a higher width-to-height ratio because they feel threatened or intimated.

    “But when it comes to a dominant-looking product face, they really like it,” she said. “It’s probably because people view the product as part of themselves and they would think, ‘it’s my possession. I have control over it when I need it, and I can demonstrate my dominance through the product.”

    In scenarios where participants did not feel the need to project any dominance, such as a more laid-back time with their children or family, the width-to-height ratio of the products became less important, the researchers found.

    Maeng said the findings have important implications for marketers of products that might resemble a human face, such as watches with a circular face and cars. They found consumers’ preferences for dominant-looking product faces is not the same as people’s preference simply for luxury or expensive items.

    Also, typically, product-design efforts have focused on visual aesthetics and ergonomics, an assumption that beauty and functionality covers the entire canvas of product design. However, more recent contrary findings by marketing researchers suggest that product design can signal a specific personality trait about the product.

    Maeng said this type of preference means that manufacturers and marketers would be able to charge higher prices for products that have wider faces. They have already found a positive relationship in examining 2013 prices of automobiles based on the width-to-height ratio, and their study likely supports those types of decisions.

    “Brand managers and product designers may be particularly interested in these findings,” the researchers said, “because a simple design feature, namely product face ratio, can have marketplace impact — by significantly improving the company’s bottom line.”


  5. Who learns foreign language better, introverts or extroverts?

    July 31, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) press release:

    Extrovert Chinese students learning English as a second language are likely to perform better in speaking and reading, but less proficient in listening than their introvert counterparts, according to a study published in Pertanika Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities (JSSH).

    In Chinese culture, students are expected to listen to their teachers attentively, as opposed to Western culture where class participation is encouraged. The Chinese culture is influenced by Confucian values, including collectivism, socialisation for achievement, and high acceptance of power and authority. Some studies have suggested that such introversion hinders Chinese students’ ability to learn English as a second language.

    However, it is unclear if a relationship exists between extroversion-introversion traits and English language proficiency for nonnative speakers. In an ongoing debate, psychologists argue introverts are less susceptible to distraction and have better long-term memory, while linguists claim the extroverts’ sociable and outgoing attitudes, as well as their high tolerance to risk, help with learning a foreign language.

    Study of this topic that involves Chinese students based in Asia is lacking, explains Assistant Professor Shahcla Zarfar at the University of Central Punjab, India.

    Zarfar and colleagues examined whether Chinese students are introverted by nature, whether extrovert-introvert tendencies affected English language proficiency among Chinese students in India, and how these traits influenced language learning.

    The researchers analysed the data from 145 Chinese exchange students aged between 18 and 21 at VIT University, Vellore, India. The data comprised of English language test scores and two types of questionnaires — one asked about personality and linguistic information, and the other only about their personality.

    They found the majority of the students were introverts (47%), followed by extroverts (35%), and ‘no tendency towards the extroversion-introversion traits’ (18%). The team confirmed a significant relationship between the two personality traits and English language proficiency, with higher scores in speaking, reading and overall language proficiency for extrovert students. There was little difference in writing between the two groups.

    However, surprisingly, the researchers found introvert students were better listeners than extrovert students, contradicting some claims that academic excellence relies solely on the extrovert tendency. They speculate that this might indicate introverts’ ability to focus more effectively on listening than extroverts.

    The researchers suggest that instructors should adjust their teaching strategies depending on different personality traits among students learning English as a second language. Further studies should involve a bigger sample group, and investigate why introvert students perform better than their peers in some conditions.


  6. Study suggests there are genes that up insomnia risk

    June 25, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam press release:

    An international team of researchers has found, for the first time, seven risk genes for insomnia. With this finding the researchers have taken an important step towards the unravelling of the biological mechanisms that cause insomnia. In addition, the finding proves that insomnia is not, as is often claimed, a purely psychological condition. Today, Nature Genetics publishes the results of this research.

    Insomnia is probably the most common health complaint. Even after treatment, poor sleep remains a persistent vulnerability for many people. By having determined the risk genes, professors Danielle Posthuma (VU and VUmc) and Eus Van Someren (Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience, VU and VUmc), the lead researchers of this international project, have come closer to unravelling the biological mechanisms that cause the predisposition for insomnia.

    Hope and recognition for insomniacs

    Professor Van Someren, specialized in sleep and insomnia, believes that the findings are the start of a path towards an understanding of insomnia at the level of communication within and between neurons, and thus towards finding new ways of treatment.

    He also hopes that the findings will help with the recognition of insomnia. “As compared to the severity, prevalence and risks of insomnia, only few studies targeted its causes. Insomnia is all too often dismissed as being ‘all in your head’. Our research brings a new perspective. Insomnia is also in the genes.”

    In a sample of 113,006 individuals, the researchers found 7 genes for insomnia. These genes play a role in the regulation of transcription, the process where DNA is read in order to make an RNA copy of it, and exocytosis, the release of molecules by cells in order to communicate with their environment. One of the identified genes, MEIS1, has previously been related to two other sleep disorders: Periodic Limb Movements of Sleep (PLMS) and Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS). By collaborating with Konrad Oexle and colleagues from the Institute of Neurogenomics at the Helmholtz Zentrum, München, Germany, the researchers could conclude that the genetic variants in the gene seem to contribute to all three disorders. Strikingly, PLMS and RLS are characterized by restless movement and sensation, respectively, whereas insomnia is characterized mainly by a restless stream of consciousness.

    Genetic overlap with other characteristics

    The researchers also found a strong genetic overlap with other traits, such as anxiety disorders, depression and neuroticism, and low subjective wellbeing. “This is an interesting finding, because these characteristics tend to go hand in hand with insomnia. We now know that this is partly due to the shared genetic basis,” says neuroscientist Anke Hammerschlag (VU), PhD student and first author of the study.

    Different genes for men and women

    The researchers also studied whether the same genetic variants were important for men and women. “Part of the genetic variants turned out to be different. This suggests that, for some part, different biological mechanisms may lead to insomnia in men and women,” says professor Posthuma. “We also found a difference between men and women in terms of prevalence: in the sample we studied, including mainly people older than fifty years, 33% of the women reported to suffer from insomnia. For men this was 24%.”

    The risk genes could be tracked down in cohorts with the DNA and diagnoses of many thousands of people. The UK Biobank — a large cohort from England that has DNA available — did not have information as such about the diagnosis of insomnia, but they had asked their participants whether they found it difficult to fall asleep or to have an uninterrupted sleep. By making good use of information from slaapregister.nl (the Dutch Sleep Registry), the UK Biobank was able, for the first time, to determine which of them met the insomnia profile. Linking the knowledge from these two cohorts is what made the difference.


  7. How self-regulation can help young people overcome setbacks

    June 7, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Frontiers press release:

    Failing an exam at school, getting rejected for a job or being screamed at by your teacher or superior are only a few examples of situations that may cause despair, disappointment or a sense of failure. Unfortunately, such set-backs are part of anyone’s life and can start early-on. However, dealing with adversity throughout a lifetime is a reality that some seem to be managing better than others.

    Where some give-up or crumble at the sight of a difficulty, others have levels of resilience that allow them to preserver and to stay calm under pressure. This often gives them the cutting edge to draw onto their resources and to readjust as needed while a less resilient person may become emotional, panic and lose control. What makes the difference?

    First of all, resilience is an acquired skill rather than a fixed character trait. This means that it can be learned and involves working on behaviours, thoughts and actions. This may be easier said than done, especially when it comes to young people that are at high-risk of social exclusion. How can resilience be acquired effectively?

    In a recent study entitled “Relationship between Resilience and Self-regulation: A Study of Spanish Youth at Risk of Social Exclusion” published in Frontiers in Psychology, Professor Raquel Artuch-Garde from the Universidad Internacional de La Rioja (UNIR) in Spain et.al. analysed whether self-regulation would be a good predictor of resilience. They looked at 365 Spanish students aged 15-21 years, who are marked by academic failure, and who, without the necessary qualifications, find access to the job market later on very much restricted.

    “We wondered whether these students would survive better in the system if they were prepared to overcome adversity. The research shows the relationship between two essential non-cognitive skills: resilience and self-regulation that are equally or even more important than cognitive aspects in the educational process of students at risk of social exclusion.” says Professor Artuch-Garde.

    In fact, the relationship was significant as learning from mistakes was a major predictor of resilience, in particular coping and confidence, tenacity and adaptation as well as tolerance to negative situations. The study shows that helping these young people to bounce-back from adversities by acquiring self-regulation skills such as setting goals and adjusting their path after a misstep, equips them better to do well in school and in life.

    The results according to Professor Artuch-Garde illustrate “the importance of working on students’ strengths that go beyond the academic or technical areas and which help them to cope positively with the adverse situations that they encounter in their lives.”

    She further concludes “By working on self-regulation skill of students at risk, we encourage their resilient capacity to build an optimistic life plan and to preserver, which in turn reduces drop-out rates that lead to social exclusion.”


  8. Study suggests moviegoers’ taste in movies is idiosyncratic and at odds with critics’ preferences

    May 19, 2017 by Ashley

    From the New York University press release:

    Our taste in movies is notably idiosyncratic, and not linked to the demographic traits that studios target, finds new study on film preferences. The work also shows that moviegoers’ ratings are not necessarily in line with those of critics.

    “What we find enjoyable in movies is strikingly subjective — so much so that the industry’s targeting of film goers by broad demographic categories seems off the mark,” says Pascal Wallisch, a clinical assistant professor in New York University’s Department of Psychology and the senior author of the study, which appears in the journal Projections.

    “Critics may be adept at evaluating films, but that doesn’t mean their assessments will accurately predict how much the public will like what they see,” adds co-author Jake Whritner, a graduate of the Cinema Studies Program at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and currently part of the Cognitive and Data Science Lab at Rutgers University-Newark.

    Over the past century, filmmakers have sought to control viewers’ attention through different editing and shooting techniques, with the assumption that the audience will respond in the same way.

    However, while neural and attentional processing has been extensively examined, the level of agreement in the appraisal of movies among viewers has not been studied. Similarly, while past research has analyzed the relationship between reviews and box-office success as well as agreement among critics for films, none have explored agreement between critics and the general public.

    To address these questions, the researchers considered more than 200 major motion pictures, taking into account popularity, financial success, and critics’ reviews. They then surveyed over 3,000 participants, asking them to give a rating of how much they liked each of the films in the sample that they had previously seen. The researchers also asked participants to provide demographic information (e.g., age, gender) and whether they consider movie critics’ recommendations in choosing which movies to see.

    Finally, Wallisch and Whritner gathered reviews from 42 publicly accessible critics or rating sites (e.g., IMDb) for each of the films in the sample.

    The results generally showed low levels of correlation in movie preferences among study participants. However, there were some patterns. As the number of jointly seen films increased, so did the correlation of the ratings for such films — at least up to a point. When the number of ratings for a given film reached between 100 and 120, correlation grew to its highest point — but as this number continued to increase, correlation for that film’s ratings began to dip, before spiking up again at around 180 commonly seen films.

    Looking at demographics, the survey showed greater agreement in film ratings among male participants than among females — and this difference between genders was statistically significant. However, agreement among both men and women in films was relatively low. There was also little correlation between movie ratings and age — however, because the overall sample skewed younger, the significance of this result is limited. In general, neither gender nor age had much of an effect on inter-subjective agreement. Overall, the low inter-subjective agreement could account for all the vehement disagreements between people on whether or not a given movie was good: on average, one could expect a 1.25-star difference in disagreement on a scale from 0 to 4 stars.

    Turning to correlations with movie critics, the connection between the ratings of critics and any given participant was no better than the average correlation between participants. Even a critic as well regarded as the late Roger Ebert did no better in predicting how well someone would like a movie than a randomly picked participant in the sample. In contrast, critics agreed with each other relatively strongly. In fact, the best predictor of a critic’s response to a film was that of other critics while the best predictor of a non-critics’ response were the aggregated evaluations of other non-critics such as those on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) — but not the aggregated ratings of critics such as Rotten Tomatoes. So it is not the aggregation of ratings per se that improves predictability, but aggregation of non-critic ratings.

    “Something about being a critic seems to make the recommendations of critics unsuitable for predicting the movie taste of regular people,” the authors conclude. “This study is the first to quantify this in an adequately powered fashion, and it helps to explain why people often perceive critics to be out of touch.

    “There are some people in our sample who are ‘superpredictors’ — they perform as well as the best aggregated non-critic ratings when it comes to predicting average non-critics will like. Short of these exceptional predictors, if someone seeks recommendations about what to see, their best bet is to either consult sites that aggregate individual judgements, or to find other individuals or critics with similar tastes.”


  9. Personality factors are best defense against losing your job to a robot

    May 15, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Houston press release:

    Worried robots will take your job? Researchers say people who are more intelligent and who showed an interest in the arts and sciences during high school are less likely to fall victim to automation.

    Later educational attainment mattered, but researchers said the findings highlight the importance of personality traits, intelligence and vocational interests in determining how well people fare in a changing labor market. The work was published this week in the European Journal of Personality.

    “Robots can’t perform as well as humans when it comes to complex social interactions,” said Rodica Damian, assistant professor of social and personality psychology at the University of Houston and lead author of the study. “Humans also outperform machines when it comes to tasks that require creativity and a high degree of complexity that is not routine. As soon as you require flexibility, the human does better.”

    Researchers used a dataset of 346,660 people from the American Institutes of Research, which tracked a representative sample of Americans over 50 years, looking at personality traits and vocational interests in adolescence, along with intelligence and socioeconomic status. It is the first study to look at how a variety of personality and background factors predict whether a person will select jobs that are more (or less) likely to be automated in the future.

    “We found that regardless of social background, people with higher levels of intelligence, higher levels of maturity and extraversion, higher interests in arts and sciences … tended to select (or be selected) into less computerizable jobs 11 and 50 years later,” they wrote.

    In addition to Damian, the researchers included Marion Spengler of the University of Tuebingen and Brent W. Roberts of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

    Damian said the findings suggest traditional education may not be fully equipped to address upcoming changes in the labor market, although she acknowledged the educational system has changed since the research subjects were in school in the 1960s.

    “Perhaps we should consider training personality characteristics that will help prepare people for future jobs,” she said.

    The researchers found that every 15-point increase in IQ predicted a 7 percent drop in the probability of one’s job being computerized, the equivalent of saving 10.19 million people from losing their future careers to computerization if it were extrapolated across the entire U.S. population. Similarly, an increase of one standard deviation in maturity or in scientific interests — equal to an increase of 1 point on a 5-point scale, such as moving from being indifferent to scientific activities to liking them fairly well — across the U.S. population would each be equivalent to 2.9 million people avoiding a job loss to computerization.

    While IQ is not easily changed, a solution could be to find effective interventions to increase some personality traits — doing well in social interactions, for example, or being industrious — or interest in activities related to the arts and sciences, Damian said.

    Machine learning and big data will allow the number of tasks that machines can perform better than humans to increase so rapidly that merely increasing educational levels won’t be enough to keep up with job automation, she said. “The edge is in unique human skills.”

    Still, that can correlate with more education, and the researchers say an across-the-board increase in U.S. education levels could mean millions fewer jobs at risk. Targeting at-risk groups would yield significant benefits, she said.

    And while skeptics question whether the labor market will be able to absorb millions of higher skilled workers, Damian looks at it differently.

    “By preparing more people, at least more people will have a fighting chance,” she said.


  10. Narcissism and social networking

    April 23, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Würzburg press release:

    Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have become an important part of the lives of many people worldwide. Around two billion users were active on Facebook at the end of 2016; 500 million regularly post photos on Instagram and more than 300 million communicate via Twitter.

    Various studies conducted over the past years have investigated to what extent the use of social media is associated with narcissistic tendencies — with contradictory results. Some studies supported a positive relationship between the use of Facebook, Twitter and the likes, whereas others confirmed only weak or even negative effects.

    Most comprehensive meta-analysis so far

    Fresh findings are now presented by scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories Bamberg and the University of Würzburg. They were able to show that there is a weak to moderate link between a certain form of narcissism and social media activity. When taking a differentiated look at specific forms of behaviour or at the participants’ cultural background, the effect is even pronounced in some cases.

    The study is managed by Professor Markus Appel, who holds the Chair of Media Communication at the University of Würzburg, and Dr. Timo Gnambs, head of the Educational Measurement section at the Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories, Bamberg. For their meta-analysis, the scientists summarized the results of 57 studies comprising more than 25,000 participants in total. They have now published their findings in the Journal of Personality.

    Forms of narcissism

    They think of themselves as being exceptionally talented, remarkable and successful. They love to present themselves to other people and seek approval from them: This is how psychologists describe the typical behaviour of people commonly referred to as narcissists. “Accordingly, social networks such as Facebook are believed to be an ideal platform for these people,” says Markus Appel.

    The network gives them easy access to a large audience and allows them to selectively post information for the purpose of self-promotion. Moreover, they can meticulously cultivate their image. Therefore, researchers have suspected social networking sites to be an ideal breeding ground for narcissists from early on.

    Three hypotheses

    The recently published meta-analysis shows that the situation does not seem to be as bad as feared. The scientists examined the truth behind three hypotheses. Firstly, the assumption that grandiose narcissists frequent social networking sites more often than representatives of another form of narcissism, the “vulnerable narcissists.” Vulnerable narcissism is associated with insecurity, fragile self-esteem, and social withdrawal.

    Secondly, they assumed that the link between narcissism and the number of friends and certain self-promoting activities is much more pronounced compared to other activities possible on social networking sites.

    Thirdly, the researchers hypothesized that the link between narcissism and the social networking behaviour is subject to cultural influences. In collectivistic cultures where the focus is on the community rather than the individual or where rigid roles prevail, social media give narcissists the opportunity to escape from prevalent constraints and present themselves in a way that would be impossible in public.

    The results

    The meta-analysis of the 57 studies did in fact confirm the scientists’ assumptions. Grandiose narcissists are encountered more frequently in social networks than vulnerable narcissists. Moreover, a link has been found between the number of friends a person has and how many photos they upload and the prevalence of traits associated with narcissism. The gender and age of users is not relevant in this respect. Typical narcissists spend more time in social networks than average users and they exhibit specific behavioural patterns.

    A mixed result was found for the influence of the cultural background on the usage behaviour. “In countries where distinct social hierarchies and unequal power division are generally more accepted such as India or Malaysia, there is a stronger correlation between narcissism and the behaviour in social media than in countries like Austria or the USA,” says Markus Appel.

    However, the analysis of the data from 16 countries on four continents does not show a comparable influence of the “individualism” factor.

    Generation Me

    So is the frequently cited “Generation Me” a product of social media such as Facebook and Instagram because they promote narcissistic tendencies? Or do these sites simply provide the ideal environment for narcissists? The two scientists were not able to finally answer these questions.

    “We suggest that the link between narcissism and the behaviour in social media follows the pattern of a self-reinforcing spiral,” Markus Appel says. An individual disposition controls the social media activities and these activities in turn reinforce the disposition. To finally resolve this question, more research has to be conducted over longer periods.