Is kindness less optional for women than for men?

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Eric Barker  -  
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At least in the workplace it is:

In 2 experimental studies, the authors hypothesized that the performance of altruistic citizenship behavior in a work setting would enhance the favorability of men’s (but not women’s) evaluations and recommendations, whereas the withholding of altruistic citizenship behavior would diminish the favorability of women’s (but not men’s) evaluations and recommendations. Results supported the authors’ predictions. Together with the results of a 3rd study demonstrating that work-related altruism is thought to be less optional for women than for men, these results suggest that gender-stereotypic prescriptions regarding how men and women should behave result in different evaluative reactions to the same altruistic behavior, depending on the performer’s sex.

Source: “Same Behavior, Different Consequences: Reactions to Men’s and Women’s Altruistic Citizenship Behavior.” from Journal of Applied Psychology

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Should you get wasted the night before a big exam?

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Sure, why not? Despite what I recently posted about drinking negatively affecting performance in college, this study says that binge drinking the night before a test doesn’t negatively affect grades:

In a first-of-its kind controlled experiment, researchers from the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) and Brown University have found that surprisingly, binge drinking the night before a test does not impact college students’ test performance – although it can affect their moods, attention and reaction times.

The study, which appears in the April 2010 edition of the journal Addiction, was conducted by Jonathan Howland, professor of community health sciences at BUSPH , and Damaris Rohsenow, research professor at Brown’s Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies.

The study found that intoxication in the evening did not affect students’ next day scores on academic tests requiring long-term memory, or on tests of recently learned material. Binge drinking did, however, slow participants’ attention/reaction times and worsen mood states – impacts that could affect safety-related behaviors, such as driving.

Howland said the research team was surprised by the test-taking results because some prior studies have found that occupational performance was impaired the day after intoxication. But, he explained, “We looked at one particular academic outcome. Test-taking is only one measure of academic success.”

The researchers also noted that binge drinking could affect other types of academic performance, such as essay-writing and problem-solving requiring higher-order cognitive skills.

“We do not conclude… that excessive drinking is not a risk factor for academic problems,” the researchers wrote. “It is possible that a higher alcohol dose would have affected next-day academic test scores. Moreover, test-taking is only one factor in academic success. Study habits, motivation and class attendance also contribute to academic performance; each of these could be affected by intoxication.”

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Here’s How The Season Of Your Birth Affects Your Future Health And Success

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Eric Barker  -  
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No, I’m not talking about astrology. (If you’re a regular reader of this blog you can guess what my feelings on astrology might be.) This connection is indirect and has to do with who has babies when:

Research has found that season of birth is associated with later health and professional outcomes; what drives this association remains unclear. In this paper we consider a new explanation: that children born at different times in the year are conceived by women with different socioeconomic characteristics. We document large seasonal changes in the characteristics of women giving birth throughout the year in the United States. Children born in the winter are disproportionally born to women who are more likely to be teenagers and less likely to be married or have a high school degree. We show that controls for family background characteristics can explain up to half of the relationship between season of birth and adult outcomes. We then discuss the implications of this result for using season of birth as an instrumental variable; our findings suggest that, though popular, season-of-birth instruments may produce inconsistent estimates. Finally, we find that some of the seasonality in maternal characteristics is due to summer weather differentially affecting fertility patterns across socioeconomic groups.

Source: “Season of Birth and Later Outcomes: Old Questions, New Answers” from National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 14573, December 2008

From the paper:

…we find that the fraction of children born to women without a high school degree is about 10 percent higher (2 percentage points) in January than in May. By way of comparison, this 2-percentage-point-effect on the fraction of mothers without a high school degree is about ten times larger than the effect from a one-percentage-point increase in unemployment estimated by Dehejia and Lleras-Muney (2004). We also document a 10 percent decline in the fraction of children born to teenagers from January to May. This effect, which is observed every spring, is about as large as the decline in the annual fraction of children born to teenagers observed over the entire 1990s. We show similar seasonality in maternal characteristics using the 1960, 1970, and 1980 censuses.

A 10% swing? Holy crap. If you have an “at-risk” teenage girl, lock her in the closet during the summer.

There are times I just want to read the abstract and move on, but sentences like “Finally, we find that some of the seasonality in maternal characteristics is due to summer weather differentially affecting fertility patterns across socioeconomic groups” make me very curious…

Given that the relationship between season of birth and later outcomes seems in part driven by fertility patterns among different groups of women, it is natural to ask what causes these different fertility patterns. We explore one possibility, which is that the fertility-decreasing effects of hot summer temperatures disproportionately affect low socio-economic populations. To test this, we document fertility patterns for married and unmarried women, and add controls for weather at conception. We find that including weather controls attenuates the dip in births to unmarried women in the spring (nine months after the peak of summer heat), but does not affect fertility patterns for married women. This suggests that differences in exposure to extreme temperatures can account for some of the relationship between season of birth and family background.

And the possible reasons for this:

Lam and Miron (1996) show that extreme heat may reduce conceptions, in part because heat reduces sperm count and sperm motility. Low SES individuals may be more exposed to temperature extremes, and work has also shown that temperature may have larger effects on the health outcomes of low SES populations than others. If low SES women or their partners are more responsive to summer heat than other women, this may explain the dip in spring births in Figure 3 (nine months after the hottest months of summer)… There is some evidence that women would like to avoid giving birth in the winter—for example, Rodgers and Udry (1988) survey undergraduate students, and find that almost half of the respondents name either December or January as the worst month for birth. The winter dip to married women in Figure 3 could be generated if high-SES women are either more likely to have these preferences, or are better at executing them (perhaps because their births are more likely to be planned).

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Is group studying more effective?

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Not if you want to remember anything:

Humans routinely encode and retrieve experiences in interactive, collaborative contexts. Yet much of what we know about human memory comes from research on individuals working in isolation. Some recent research has examined collaboration during retrieval, but not much is known about how collaboration during encoding affects memory. We examined this issue. Participants created episodes by elaborating on study materials alone or collaboratively, and they later performed a cued-recall task alone, with the study partner, or with a different partner (Experiment 1). Collaborative encoding impaired recall. This counterintuitive outcome was found for both individual and group recall, even when the same partners collaborated across encoding and retrieval. This impairment was significantly reduced, but persisted, when the encoding instructions encouraged free-flowing collaboration (Experiment 2). Thus, the collaborative-encoding deficit is robust in nature and likely occurs because collaborative encoding produces less effective cues for later retrieval.

Source: “When two is too many: Collaborative encoding impairs memory” from Memory & Cognition

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How To Deal With A Narcissist, Backed By Research

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Eric Barker  -  
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There are ways to make a narcissist easier to deal with.

Emphasize community when you talk to them. When they feel there’s a strong group behind something, they’re more likely to behave:

Three studies tested the hypotheses that the activation of communal mental representations promotes relationship commitment (communal activation hypothesis) and that this effect is stronger among narcissists than among nonnarcissists (Communal Activation x Narcissism hypothesis). Across experimental, longitudinal, and interaction-based research methods, and in participant samples ranging from college students to married couples, results supported the communal activation hypothesis in two of three studies and the Communal Activation x Narcissism hypothesis in all three studies. Moreover, a meta-analytic summary of the results across the three studies revealed that the association of communal activation with commitment was significant overall and that it was stronger among narcissists than among nonnarcissists. Narcissists tended to be less committed than nonnarcissists at low levels of communal activation, but this effect diminished and sometimes even reversed at high levels. This work is the first to identify a mechanism by which narcissists can become more committed relationship partners.

Source: “The Metamorphosis of Narcissus: Communal Activation Promotes Relationship Commitment Among Narcissists” from Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin

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When they do something wrong, use disappointment as a weapon to keep them in line. It works better than anger:

The authors examined whether individual differences in social value orientation moderate responses to other’s expressions of disappointment in negotiation. The literature suggested competing hypotheses: First, prosocials are more responsive to other’s disappointment because they have a greater concern for other; second, proselfs are more responsive because they see other’s disappointment as a threat to their own outcomes. Results of a computer-mediated negotiation in which a simulated opponent expressed disappointment, no emotion, or anger supported the second prediction: Proselfs conceded more to a disappointed opponent than to a neutral or angry one, whereas prosocials were unaffected by the other’s emotion. This effect was mediated by participants’ motivation to satisfy the other’s needs, which disappointment triggered more strongly in proselfs than in prosocials. Implications for theorizing on emotion, social value orientation, and negotiation are discussed.

Source: “What Other’s Disappointment May Do to Selfish People: Emotion and Social Value Orientation in a Negotiation Context” from Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin

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Maybe you think you don’t deal with too many narcissists. There’s research that shows the leader of a group is more likely to be on the narcissistic end of the spectrum:

These studies investigate whether individuals with high narcissism scores would be more likely to emerge as leaders during leaderless group discussions. The authors hypothesized that narcissists would emerge as group leaders. In three studies, participants completed personality questionnaires and engaged in four-person leaderless group discussions. Results from all three studies reveal a link between narcissism and leader emergence. Studies 1 and 2 further reveal that the power dimension of narcissism predicted reported leader emergence while controlling for sex, self-esteem, and the Big Five personality traits. Study 3 demonstrates an association between narcissism and expert ratings of leader emergence in a group of executives. The implications of the propensity of narcissists to emerge as leaders are discussed.

Source: “Leader Emergence: The Case of the Narcissistic Leader” from Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin

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