2020 January Links

This post is my list of links for January 2020. My intellectual trade deficit every month is usually massive - I import a lot more information than I output. Link posts largely, though nowhere near entirely, track my intellectual imports.

Link posts give me a log to look back on. Moreover, the act of writing these links posts is a practice that helps embed the information into my head.

In a lot of ways writing these link posts throughout the month is one of my favorite things about keeping this blog.

Now the links:

1. Politics are in the genes of the most politically knowledgeable. Political views are markedly less heritable among the less politically knowledgable.

2. "The Flynn Effect" describes the phenomenon of generally rising IQs over generations. In Scandinavia, France, and now in Romania, it looks like there has been a reversal of that phenomenon (Sci-Hub)

3. More negative research on Trigger Warnings:
"We found no evidence that Trigger Warnings were helpful for trauma survivors, for those who self-reported a PTSD diagnosis, or those who qualified for probable PTSD, even when survivor's trauma matched the passage's content. We found substantial evidence that trigger warnings countertherapeutically reinforce survivor's view of their trauma as central to their identity."
4. 8000 Thousand Hours podcast with David Chalmers which I have not listened to. But it was highly recommended and I will listen today at the gym... if I stay at the gym for nearly 5 hours.

5. Men vs. women in book preferences:

7. Another way in which liberals and conservatives are very different kinds of people: they grade differently:

"The Republican line is steeper, meaning that Republicans had more variance in their grading: They gave both more A’s and more D’s than Democrats did; Democrats tend to give a lot of B’s." 

8. Cognitive control is highly heritable and leaves little room for either shared or non-shared environment to matter according to this twin study.

9. More evidence that climate change is not predicted by scientific literacy, but rather stupid politics.

10. A very good paper on why attractive people are more successful (Sci-hub)

Attractive people get paid more, get more interviews, get better grades, get tipped more, get donated to more, receive shorter sentences, etc. The Beauty Premium is generally higher for women than it is for men. Varying disciplines have differing explanations for why this phenomenon might exist.

Economists point to taste-based discrimination,
"individuals have a preference for attractive people or a prejudice against unattractive people, regardless of their productivity"
But this explanation is actually more descriptive than explanatory. Another explanation often embraced by economists,
"attractive people are preferred and rewarded more in the labor market because they are more profitable employees to the organizations that hire them. Finally, it has also been proposed that the beauty premium in the labor market may be the result of attractive workers’ greater self-confidence and their greater ability to negotiate higher wages with their employers"
Social psychologists point to a stereotype based explanation,
"Social psychologists have shown or suggested that attractive people are often perceived as friendlier, healthier, and more intelligent, competent, generous, and trustworthy (the “beautiful is good” stereotype), while unattractive people are perceived as dull, introverted, and less generous or trustworthy"
But they do little to explain why attractiveness-related stereotypes exist and why they are the way they are.

Finally, evolutionary explanations include three facets, the first is that it's a byproduct of mating behavior,
"the predisposition to exhibit prosocial behavior toward attractive mating partners is so engrained in the human mind that it generalizes also to social situations that have no bearing on mating."
Second is that it's a functional strategy for being around potential mates,
"the bias in favor of attractive people reflects sexual attraction but that this bias is actually functional: its function would be to maintain proximity to attractive people so as to increase the chances of having sexual interactions with them."
Finally, the "sexual signalling hypothesis" is that it actually is mating behavior,

"by rewarding attractive individuals with lucrative job offers, promotions, and salary raises, employers are engaging in direct courtship behavior (as opposed to simply maintaining proximity) and attempting to make themselves appealing as potential sexual partners. Since traits related to willingness to share resources (e.g., kindness, generosity, altruism, and helpfulness) make a person more attractive as a mating partner, behaving prosocially toward attractive individuals who are potential mates can also be interpreted as courtship behavior aimed at increasing the probability of mating with these individuals."
The whole paper has much more and does a good job overviewing, analyzing, and grading various hypotheses.

11. Social media and cheap data for pics/vids has made it harder to forget about our pasts. What are the costs? Consider: the value of forgetting,
Drawing from cognitive, neuroscientific, and applied research, we contextualize our findings in terms of their contributions along three important (if not entirely independent) roles supported by forgetting, namely (a) the maintenance of a positive and coherent self-image (“Guardian”), (b) the facilitation of efficient cognitive function (“Librarian”), and (c) the development of a creative and flexible worldview (“Inventor”). Together, these roles depict an expanded understanding of how forgetting provides memory with many of its cardinal virtues.
12. The Economist tells us 45% of America's Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants and their children. It neglects to tell us how many were selected out via legal immigration processes.

I'm very Caplanian on immigration. Any immigrant does not need to produce more than average to be an asset. Tey merely have to produce more than they consume, which is virtually ensured when they're paired with capital. Still, this economist statistic seems disingenuous when placed inside the discussion about illegal immigration. We can't pretend like legal immigration isn't highly selective.

13. Exposure to elevated levels of testosterone predicts empathy deficits later on.

Also, surprisingly, only small correlations found between testosterone and human aggression, and no strong evidence for a causal effect (a meta-analysis)

Also also, testosterone has declined among young males over the last 2 decades.

14. Everythings' Awesome Nobody's Happy: In sub-Saharan Africa, the infant mortality rate per 1,000 live births fell from 82.2 in 2001, to 51.7 in 2015. This is a decline of more than 37%.

15. Eric Weinstein is mean to his brother, Bret, but they have a fabulous discussion about how the lab rats we do medical testing on may not be representative.

16. Slightly more people identify as feminists as 3 years ago, but still, most men and women do not identify as feminists. However, most people do identify as feminist if you explicitly define it as, "someone who advocates and supports equal opportunities for women?"

Which reminds me of the Motte and Bailey fallacy

17. Wise words and clever arguments from Bryan Caplan,
"insiders are too emotionally invested in their group identity to see how trivial their differences really are."
"As an academic, it’s hard not to notice that liberals dominate at the university. And the simple truth is that people at top schools are smarter than people at lower-ranked schools. The result is that in any intellectual debate, the best liberals are usually smarter than the best non-liberals. 
If my analysis is right, however, this actually counts against the liberal view. Weren’t most professors liberals long before they had any arguments for their position? And wouldn’t it take overwhelming intellectual firepower to drive them to apostacy? Then it’s no wonder that the smartest liberal academics are smarter than the smartest non-liberal adademics. They have the same kind of inherent competitive advantage that China has over Luxembourg."
18.  Meta-analysis on the academic benefits of music training shows a highly consistent null-effect across studies.

19. Sentencing disparities,

"sentences for men are on average 63 percent longer than sentences for women."
I looked up some factors that go into prison sentencing,
"Whether the offender is a "first-time" or repeat offender,
Whether the offender was an accessory (helping the main offender) or the main offender,
Whether the offender committed the crime under great personal stress or duress,
Whether anyone was hurt, and whether the crime was committed in a manner that was unlikely to result in anyone being hurt,
Whether the offender was particularly cruel to a victim, or particularly destructive, vindictive, etc.
(sometimes) whether the offender is genuinely contrite or remorseful."
I wouldn't be surprised if most or nearly all of the sex disparity in sentencing was made up by these-finer grain factors (e.g. men are less remorseful after committing a crime, so they get longer sentences.) Discrimination may still exist, but it's one piece of a much larger puzzle. This is the way we should think about all disparities. I'm not sure this gap should or needs to be closed.

20. Robert Wiblin lists the boring consensus view on waste disposal. The updates to add nuance and long list of sources at the end is appreciated. Here is the list:
1. We aren’t anywhere near running out of space for landfill.
2. Properly run landfill doesn’t hurt the environment in itself.
3. Even really well run landfills are a very cheap way to dispose of our waste.
4. The main downside of sending something to landfill is we miss the chance to benefit from recycling it — but recycling is only sometimes cheaper or better for the environment.
5. The problem of rubbish polluting the sea, rivers and land can be most cheaply addressed by improving rubbish collection and making sure everything gets to landfill.
6. icinerating waste and generating electricity from it is an alternative form of rubbish disposal that is good for the environment and resolves the problem permanently, but is expensive to operate up front.
7. Sending things to landfill isn’t as ‘unsustainable’ as you might think.
8. Reusable straws and bags are often more resource intensive than single-use ones.
9. If we don’t use materials in the first place, we save resources and don’t have to worry about any of the above.
21. Study (Sci-hub): Republicans express less support for gay political candidates by approximately the same magnitude as Democrats express more support for gay candidates.

They also find partisanship is more important to conservatives than sexuality,
"Even more conservative individuals reliably prefer gay candidates from their own party to straight candidates from the other."
22. Throw all the twin research in the garbage, identical twins are not exactly 100% genetically identical all the time. Also, the identical twins that were different genders.

23. From Reddit Data is Beautiful: each black line represents one person from the time they became the oldest human being to the time they died. Pink are women, blue are men.

24. A great example of how small group differences in the mean creates large differences at the extremes: sex population ratios get more dramatic with age. 90-year old women outnumber 90-year old men 2-1, 100-year old women outnumber 100-year old men 4-1.

25. Study finds,
Overall, we do not find evidence that online/social media explain support for right-wing populist candidates and parties. Instead, in the USA, use of online media decreases support for right-wing populism. Looking specifically at echo chambers measures, we find offline discussion with those who are similar in race, ethnicity, and class positively correlates with support for populist candidates and parties in the UK and France. The findings challenge claims about the role of social media and the rise of populism.
26. Twitter users are higher in openness and more Machiavellian than Facebook users.

28. 950,000 children ages 2-5 were studied over time to assess the impact of Sweden's Contact Family Program, a popular program praised by users, volunteers, and social workers. The 30 year-old program tries to improve the long-term outcomes of at-risk children in adverse family environments through various interventions which generally emphasize role-modeling and extra-familial adults
"The CFP can in practice be anything from having a child staying overnight in the volunteer family one weekend/month, to formation of strong bonds between the child/mother and the volunteer family, resulting in the latter assuming supportive roles during the child’s formative years resembling those of close relatives"
Ultimately, the study finds,
"The results did not find support for CFP effectiveness in reducing risks of compromised long-term developmentin children and out-of-home care placements."
29. Not merely cultural: men are older than their partners in every country. All of them, every single one. However, we can see that culture matters in that more similar areas have more similar age gaps.

30. Michael Huemer on how history of philosophy is not history, not philosophy, and not useful.

31. Having more brothers makes you more likely to be gay.

32. People get more conservative as they get older, starting from age 25.

I am curious how much of this is a result of definitions of liberal/conservative changing over time.

I do not feel more conservative than I used to be.

33. Where we donate vs. diseases that kill us, I notice gendered causes receive the most donations.

34. A meta-analysis of 50 years worth of research on gender-related differences in toy preferences reveals one of the largest sex differences in psychology.

Certain kinds of people would say that this is because from the womb our children are exposed to a gendered culture,
"Rippon shows how children’s “cerebral sponges” probably differentiate thanks to the starkly pink-versus-blue cultures in which they are soaked from the moment of prenatal sex reveal."
I think this kind of thing sets the standard of proof to absurd levels.

35. Conservatives have figured out how to be funny. Truly the 2020 election is lost

36. Public opinion on the division of labor preferences if they, hypothetically, were married and had children:
"contemporary young people exhibited greater openness to a variety of division of labor scenarios for their future selves as parents, although the husband-as-earner/wife-as-homemaker arrangement remained most desired."

37. Meta-analysis (492 studies) shows that effort to change implicit biases rarely appear to work, and when they do it doesn't necessarily translate to explicit bias or actual behavior.

"In 3 large international prospective studies including ∼177,000 individuals, 12,701 deaths, and 13,658 CVD events from 50 countries in 6 continents, we did not find significant associations between egg intake and blood lipids, mortality, or major CVD events."
40. Women showed widespread increase in gray matter after giving birth.

There are three times in life when your brain is pounded with large quantities of hormones: in utero, at puberty, and if you're a woman during/after pregnancy. These are the times when we should expect to see changes in sex differences to the extent that they're caused by the brain's exposure to hormones.

41. SamHarris.org added a subscribe for free button, which is good because his conversations with Thomas Chatterton Williams and Paul Bloom are great.

42. Researchers apply polygenic scores to explore group differences and finds 80% or more of the IQ variance between Africans and Europeans is environmental in nature. They estimate, "At most 5-6 IQ points can be attributed to genetic effects"

43. Double standards: "For men, frequent sexual activity was more expected, and evaluated more positively, than for women."

Also double standards: women who flirt with younger men are cougars. Men who flirt with younger women are creepers.

I'm not sure where I stand on resolving all these double standards, but I know that many blind themselves to half of them.

44. The media reported a spike in homicide rates from 2016-2018 that did not happen.

45. Far from rehabilitation, using twins as a control group shows contact with the criminal justice system seems to increase anti-social behavior and increases future crime:
"The pattern of findings provides support for labeling theory, showing that contact with the justice system—through spending a night in jail/prison, being issued an anti‐social behaviour order (ASBO), or having an official record—promotes delinquency."
46. Research on coffee consumption. Studies frequently fail to adjust for confounders like smoking and bad eating habits and added sugar, leading to an underestimate of coffee's health benefits.

Also, coffee consumption is more heritable within the upper end of the intake distribution

47. 50%+ of male-male gay couples have a household income above $100,000

48. Coronavirus is the trending topic of fear in the present day. To date, it has killed 170 people, which would be a lot of we lived in a small village. Sometimes fear is justified by claiming that while it hasn't killed many people, it has the potential to spread fast and the next thing we know we have another black plague on our hands. I remain skeptical; however, as availability cascades such as this never seem to amount to much of a death toll (think: SARS, Mad Cow Disease, Ebola, Anthrax, etc, etc, etc). One interpretation is that authorities in charge never fail to save us from the potentially devastating impact of these threats. Another interpretation is that they were never serious threats in the first place.

49. Social Media and Echo chambers are found not guilty of causing right wing-populism

50. Blogger Grokinfullness posts about why horrible topics are funny. It reminds me that it is not how bad something is, but how sacred it is, that leads people to not laugh at a joke. In other words, "the line" is set at sacredness, not badness. Serial killing is bad, but a joke about it is fine, but joking about Jesus to an evangelical or sexism to a feminist is just. not. funny.

51. From Marginal Revolution and Scientific American, sex differences are large and important.

While small differences are found in broad personality measures (5-factor personality test), finer-grained personality measures find more, larger differences. Men and women are very close in the broad category extraversion, but aspects of extraversion like assertiveness and friendliness have larger sex-differences.

Also, while each personality metric don't matter very much individually, one can predict with 85% accuracy what sex you are based on your global personality profile.

52. Also from Marginal Revolution, Who put Trump in the White House?
"A surprising fact about the 2016 election is that Trump received fewer votes from whites with the highest levels of racial resentment than Romney did in 2012…Trump’s vote totals improved the most among swing voters: low-socioeconomic status whites who are political moderates."
This has a lot to do with who Romney was running against.

53. Thing of the month! 100 ways to live better. Look out for #53!

54. Countering Jonathan Haidt's story, the relationship between digital technology usage and adolescent mental health (particularly anxiety and depression) is not at all clear,
"The review highlights that most research to date has been correlational, focused on adults versus adolescents, and has generated a mix of often conflicting small positive, negative and null associations. The most recent and rigorous large‐scale preregistered studies report small associations between the amount of daily digital technology usage and adolescents’ well‐being that do not offer a way of distinguishing cause from effect and, as estimated, are unlikely to be of clinical or practical significance."
55. Tyler Cowen interviews Ezra Klein. They talk a lot about polarization, which is what Ezra's new book is about. It reminds me of all the best things I like about Ezra Klein.

I'm looking forward to John Mcwhorter being on the show next.

56. One of my favorite actors Jesse Eisenberg was on Conan O'brien's podcast. Eisenberg shows of his wit and imagination. Conan gives a rare peek at his politics and why he never gets political. Skip to 12:00 for Jess Eisenberg


Last month (January) I think my favorite post was No Pain No Trauma. The justification for enacting short term pain for your children should bear no relationship to it's long-term traumatic impact. The post revealed a flaw in thinking that bugged me for a long time and it felt good to write it down.

Next month (February) I think I might write about:
-The death count of hyped-up diseases and outbreaks like Coronavirus, SARS, and others.
-How ability is more important than compatibility in relationship success
-Your brain is an organ, not a muscle


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