Monday, January 30, 2012

Trivers on genes and mental traits

From Robert Trivers' The Folly of Fools:
By some estimates, more than half of all genes express themselves in the brain: that is, more than ten thousand genes. This means that genetic variation for mental and behavioral traits should be especially extensive and fine-grained in our species--contra decades of social science dogma.

Florida Hispanics don't care about illegal immigration

Here's one more bit of evidence that Hispanic "representatives" lie about their community being obsessed with the illegal immigration issue.

According to a Miami Herald poll of likely voters, Romney beats Obama by 16 points (53% v 37%) among Florida Hispanics. Now how does a Republican who says that all illegals should go home and get in the back of the line for legal permission to enter this country do so well among Latinos in Florida? Because they're mostly Cubans and Puerto Ricans who simply don't care about the illegal issue. Like other Americans, their first priority is more jobs. (Of course, Cubans care about Cuba, too.) Romney shows that you can talk tough about illegals and still win.  

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Explanations of rape

Here's new research from Evolution and Human Behavior:
We use data from the National Incident-Based Reporting System to examine the effects of offender and victim age on whether male offenders commit sexual assault while robbing women. Restricting analyses to robberies reveals the offenders' age preferences since it allows one to control for the effects of opportunity. We find that robbers of all ages are most likely to sexually assault women at ages 15–29 years, ages when their reproductive potential is highest. However, in contrast to the idea that rape is a direct adaptation, victims are no more likely to be raped than sexually assaulted at these ages. The age of the offender is also a strong predictor of sexual assault. The likelihood that a robber commits a sexual assault increases from age 12 years until he reaches his early thirties when it begins to decline. This age pattern corresponds, to some extent, to age differences in the male sex drive.

The findings contradict the feminist theory of rape. Given a robbery, criminals are more likely to use the opportunity to sexually assault a female victim if she is young. According to feminists, rape is a way to put a woman in her place. If this were the motivation, I would expect men to target powerful women. A criminal would get a much bigger power rush from raping Hillary Clinton than a little 15 year old nobody. I imagine the feminist would respond that Hillary is a high-risk target--perps target weak victims because they are more likely to get away with it. I would agree with the view that rapists are opportunists, but that just supports a rational choice theory of rape.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

IQ and drug use

New from the journal Intelligence:
One motivation for trying recreational drugs is the desire for novel experiences. More intelligent people tend to value novelty more highly and may therefore be more likely to have tried recreational drugs. Using data from a national survey, it is shown that intelligence tends to be positively related to the probabilities of having tried alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and several other recreational drugs. Evidence is also presented that those relationships typically disappear or change sign at high levels of intelligence. These patterns persist after accounting for a wide range of personal characteristics.

In addition to greater openness, the results point to hedonism among smart people. The authors speculate that drug use drops among those with the highest IQs because this is a rare trait that may be socially isolating (there is a strong social component to the consumption of drugs).

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Race and self-enhancement

Robert Trivers claims in The Folly of Fools that blacks explicitly self-enhance but subconsciously feel that they are inferior. Consistent with this blog's analyses, Trivers cites research indicating that, when asked, blacks inflate themselves more than whites. But Trivers then describes studies that show that blacks implicitly associate whiteness with goodness and blackness with undesirability. They also perform worse on IQ tests when reminded that they are black. Whites, by contrast, associate whiteness with goodness and do a bit better on tests when reminded that they are white. Trivers explains this in terms of identfying with the oppressor: to reduce conflict, victims self-deceive and adopt the view of the exploiter.

In my view, Triver's goofy leftism runs him off the rails here. The fact is that whites are not the oppresors of blacks, and have not been for several decades. It is also a fact that whites are better suited than blacks to life in a civilized society. Perhaps blacks sense this inferiority subconsciously--which is revealed in these studies of subconscious attitudes--but their excessive self-enhancement is manifested consciously. This helps explain phenomena like clownish Afro-centrism. Or perhaps the truth is as simple as whites creating a dominant culture which minorites tend to absorb because it's the water you swim in. The culture doesn't portray whites as superior, but it is mostly made by whites. You might identify with the leader, not because he is exploiting you, but because he is the leader.

For whites, their subconscious self-enhancement is most simply explained as natural: if Trivers is correct, people naturally self-enhance unless there is something to override it.     

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Do smart people lie more?

In his new book The Folly of Fools, Robert Trivers hypothesizes that smart people are more likely to tell lies. This surprised me since I usually assume that intelligent people tend to act more prosocially. According to Trivers, if you compare across species, deception increases with intelligence. Better deception and manipulation require more mental ability.   

Add Health participants (teens and young adults) were given a vocabulary test and were asked how often they lie to their parents about their whereabouts. I looked at the correlation between the two questions: it is a tiny .07 (sample size = 6,168). For males, it is a bit stronger--.10--while it is .only .05 for females. So, there is a tendency for smarter youths to lie more frequently, but it is very weak.

Anecdotally, I can see that my smartest child is the most dishonest.  His lies are pretty clever for a 4 year old.  A few more years, and he'll probably outsmart his old man. I'd like to think that I can teach him to be more honest, but behavioral genetic research makes me less optimistic.

By they way, Trivers seems to think that bright people not only deceive more; they are also more likely to self-deceive, which is contrary to what most intelligent people think about themselves.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Agreeableness and marital status among men

According to the Game theory of male/female relations (correct me if I'm wrong), women tend to control whether a relationship is made or continued, and her decision depends on the guy's alpha-ness. She won't want to be in a relationship if the guy is too agreeable. If this is so, I would expect disagreeable men to be more likely than cooperative men to be married. The MIDUS study measured Big Five personality traits and asked about marital status. I dichotmized this variable into married (1) and not married (0).  I looked at the relationship between the agreeableness scale and being married, and included age in the model as a control:

Logistic regression coefficients (sample = 1,788)

Age .01*
Agreeableness -.04

*statistically significant

Older men are more likely to be married, but being an agreeable guy doesn't hurt one's chance of marriage at all.

I suspect that the Game perspective is flawed by oversimplifying. As we learn from evolutionary psychology, women tend to look at men from two different perspectives: as short-term and long-term partners. They tend to be more attracted to the Alpha for short-term relationships but focus more on the Beta for marriage. Betas are at a disadvantage if they just want to get laid, but their cooperativeness does not appear to keep them out of long-term relationships. (Nor are they more likely to lose a wife through separation and divorce: the mean agreeableness scores for married, separated, and divorced men do not differ.)

Race, gender, and self-deception

In his fascinating book The Folly of Fools, Robert Trivers theorizes that people are very prone to self-deception in order to better deceive others to one's advantage. You lie more effectively if you believe the lie yourself. Since having status is particularly important for men, they are more likely than women to inflate their abilities. To test this, I looked at Add Health data. I examined the relationship between gender and self-described intelligence, controlling for objective intelligence (based on a vocabulary test). I also added race/ethnicity to the model to see if groups differ in the tendency to exaggerate one's intelligence. All minority groups are compared to whites (who serve as the reference category):

Standardized OLS regression coefficients (sample size = 6,169)

Objective IQ .32*
Male (vs. female) -.02
Black .17*
Hispanic -.02
Asian .02
American Indian -.01 

*statistically significant

First, people do have a tendency to rate their intelligence correctly--self-described intelligence is positively correlated with measured IQ--but the tendency is only moderate. Next, males are not more likely than females to inflate their smarts. By contrast, blacks are significantly more likely to--compared to whites. The other racial/ethnics groups do not differ from whites.

Regarding blacks, I'm not sure if this is a racial trait or something that is induced by living in a society with a high average IQ. Hispanics and American Indians have lower than average IQs, but do not inflate their intelligence more than whites, which makes me suspect that above-average boastfulness is a black thing.

One other item--the results do not support the claim that Asians underestimate their IQs (out of cultural modesty). The tendency for Hispanics to do so falls just short of statistical significance.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Religiosity and single-parent kids

With religion's prohibition against abortion, I wondered if religious people might be more likely to have children and not be married. Using GSS data, I looked at white households with minor-age children. Here is the breakdown of marital status by church attendance (sample size = 611):

Never attends
Married 54.1
Widowed 5.2
Separated 6.2
Divorced 17.7
Never Married 16.8

Attends weekly
Married 76.5
Widowed 4.9
Separated 2.0
Divorced 9.5
Never Married 7.1

Religious people with kids at home are more likely to be married, and are less likely to be separated, divorced, or never-married. All comparisons are significantly different except for the widowed category.

Racial differences in autism

Dr. Charlton asked about data concerning racial differences in autism. I merged the four National Health Interview Surveys from the past decade (sample size = 43,774) which yielded 193 autistic kids. The rate for whites is 4.5 per 1,000. It's 4.1 per 1,000 for blacks. I don't see much of a difference here.

Digit ratios and celebrity worship

A new study in Personality and Individual Differences looked at Korean teenagers and found that girls with more feminine digit ratios are much more likely to worship celebrities. The authors interpret this to mean that celebrity worship is a form of submissiveness seen in feminine girls ("feminine" meaning the girls were feminized by sex hormones prenatally):
The current study tested the hypothesis that digit ratios would be associated with celebrity worship, especially among adolescents. Our sample consisted of 45 male and 61 female participants aged 12–14 years (M = 13.20, SD = 0.71). We measured the digit ratios on the participants’ right hands and used the 23 items of the revised Celebrity Attitude Scale (CAS) to explore the degree to which participants engaged in celebrity worship. The average digit ratio was 0.95 (SD = 0.04) among male participants and 0.97 (SD = 0.05) among female participants. The mean CAS scores were 50.06 (SD = 20.63) for male participants and 64.49 (SD = 18.04) for female participants. The digit ratios for the entire sample were positively correlated with CAS scores (r = 0.29, p < 0.005). However, the digit ratios were positively correlated with CAS scores among female (r = 0.51, p < 0.001) but not male (r = −0.13, p = .394) participants. Our research found evidence of a significant positive correlation between 2D:4D ratios and celebrity worship in females but not in males, which indicated that females with lower digit ratios were less likely to worship celebrities.
I thought it was a sexist society that makes girls but not boys go crazy for rock stars.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Religious preference and nihilism

The MIDUS Study asked participants if they agree that they have a sense of direction and purpose in life. Answers ranged from "strongly agree" (1) to "strongly disagree (7). Here are the means by religious preference (sample size = 3,978):

Mean nihilism score

No religious preference 2.54
Agnostic 2.49
Buddhist 2.46
Episcopalian 2.24
Atheist 2.23
Lutheran 2.22*
Roman Catholic 2.20*
Methodist 2.19*
Presbyterian 2.17*
Jewish 2.09*
Pentecostal 1.93*
Mormon 1.91*
Born-again Christian 1.90*
Jehovah's Witness 1.71*

*significantly lower than those with no religious preference

Lower levels of nihilism are associated with having a religious affiliation and especially with belonging to a more conservative faith. For example, the gap between those with no religious preference and Jehovah's Witnesses is more than sixth-tenths of a standard deviation--a fairly large difference.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Atheism and nihilism

I categorized GSS participants as atheists or non-atheists, and as nihilists or non-nihilists. Nihilists answered strongly agree, agree, or neutral to the question that life serves no purpose. With a sample size of 3,708, I found that 17.8 percent of atheists versus 8.2 percent of everyone else are nihilists. This difference is statistically significant. So atheism more than doubles the risk of believing that life is without purpose.   (On the other hand, the vast majority--more than 80 percent--of atheists believe life serves a purpose.)

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Attitudes toward blacks by race/ethnicity

Drug Use Trajectory participants were asked: "Based on your experience, a person could be counted on to do what they say if that person was Black." Answers ranged from "strongly agree" (1) to "strongly disagree" (5). Here are the means by race/ethnicity (sample size = 1,795):

Mean "can't count on blacks" score

Whites 1.61
Hispanics 1.90*
Black Hispanics 2.28*
Blacks 2.88*

*significantly higher than whites

Blacks--both Hispanic and non-Hispanic--are much less likely to agree that blacks can be counted on. The gap in attitude between blacks and whites is huge--1.1 standard deviations. Whites have nicer views of blacks than Hispanics do, and they have a much more positive view of blacks than blacks have of themselves. So much for the idea that white attitudes make blacks feel bad about themselves.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Religiosity and tax fraud

Here's a study that uses World Values Survey data and finds that greater religiosity is associated with less acceptance of tax fraud:
Religion provides an important basis for social integration and the prevention of deviant behavior, such as tax fraud, a crime that costs society billions of dollars in lost revenue. The literature on tax fraud and tax fraud acceptability (TFA) has neglected religiosity as a social bond that may deter this type of behavior. Furthermore, existing work is based on the United States; there are no systematic cross-national studies. In particular, there is no research exploring the "moral communities" hypothesis that religiosity's effect on deviance will vary according to the strength of national moral communities. The present study addresses these two gaps in the literature by analyzing data on 45,728 individuals in 36 nations from the World Values Surveys. We control for other predictors of TFA, including social bonds, economic strain, and demographic factors. The results determined that the higher the individual's level of religiosity, the lower the TFA. Results on the moral community's hypothesis were mixed. However, in a separate analysis of individual nations, the presence of a "moral community" (majority of the population identifies with a religious group) explained 39 percent of the variation in the presence or absence of the expected religiosity-TFA relationship. Furthermore, the presence of a communist regime in a nation, often known for the oppression of religious groups who then may view the regime as illegitimate, diminished the impact of religion on TFA.

Racial differences in antisocial personality disorder

A reader asked if I know of data on racial differences in psychopathy. I did find a sample of young adult South Floridians (called Drug Use Trajectories) which recorded DSM-IV diagnoses. Here are the percentages diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder (APD) by race/ethnicty (sample size = 1,792):

Percent with APD

Non-Hispanic white 12.3
Non-black Hispanic 13.2
Black Hispanic 30.8*
Black 19.0*

*significantly higher than non-Hispanic whites

Blacks--both Hispanic and non-Hispanic--have significantly higher numbers than whites or non-black Hispanics. Keep in mind that many of the Hispanics in this sample are Cuban. The pattern of findings suggests that race matters, not ethnicity or culture.

Are gun owners mentally ill?

  Some anti-gun people think owning a gun is a sign of some kind of mental abnormality. According to General Social Survey data, gun owners ...