Good Enough

Kevin Lewis

July 09, 2024

Charity: Have the Rates of US Households Contributing Money or Time Declined?
Kerry Smith
NBER Working Paper, June 2024

This paper uses the responses to questions about charitable contributions from the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) between 1992 and 2022 to consider the rates of US households contributing money or time to charitable organizations. The fraction donating $500 or more remained relatively constant over this period, with about 47% answering they had donated in both 1991 and 2021. The fraction of households volunteering time declined consistently after 2005 from 34% to 26%. When the samples are restricted to those giving financially or those volunteering, the results confirm the relationship between giving time or money depends on people’s other charitable behaviors.

People Have Systematically Different Ownership Intuitions in Seemingly Simple Cases
Xiuyuan Zhang, Paul Bloom & Julian Jara-Ettinger
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Our understanding of ownership influences how we interact with objects and with each other. Here, we studied people’s intuitions about ownership transfer using a set of simple, parametrically varied events. We found that people (N = 120 U.S. adults) had similar intuitions about ownership for some events but sharply opposing intuitions for others (Experiment 1). People (N = 120 U.S. adults) were unaware of these conflicts and overestimated ownership consensus (Experiment 2). Moreover, differences in people’s ownership intuitions predicted their intuitions about the acceptability of using, altering, controlling, and destroying the owned object (N = 130 U.S. adults; Experiment 3), even when ownership was not explicitly mentioned (N = 130 U.S. adults; Experiment 4). Subject-level analyses suggest that these disagreements reflect at least two underlying intuitive theories, one in which intentions are central to ownership and another in which physical possession is prioritized.

Mindless furry test-tubes: Categorizing animals as lab-subjects leads to their mind denial
Kevin Vezirian, Laurent Bègue & Brock Bastian
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, September 2024

Despite caring for animals, most people use products tested on lab-animals daily, and rarely consider the implications of their choices for animal testing. We experimentally examined across four preregistered and high-powered online studies (total N = 3405) whether categorizing animals as being lab-subjects, in a context where people are also reminded of the implications of their own consumer choices, could lead to their mind denial. Findings confirmed that participants consistently denied mind to animals used for product testing compared to those same animals presented outside of this context. Manipulating the perceived suffering experienced by laboratory animals and the responsibility of individuals, however, did not affect the extent of mind denial. Our findings suggest, consistent with previous work, that categorizing animals as ‘furry test-tubes’ changes how we perceive them, in order to rationalize their use for testing the products we consume on a daily basis.

Economic valuation of becoming a superhero
Julian Hwang & Dongso Lee
Journal of Cultural Economics, forthcoming

Have you ever wished that you were a superhero? If so, how much would you be willing to pay to become one? In this study, we measured the economic value of becoming a superhero or obtaining a superpower using a discrete choice experiment. We focused on four superpowers: mind-control, flight, teleportation, and supernatural physical strength and measured values for each power. Our results indicate that of the four powers, our participants valued teleportation the most.

Indirect reciprocity undermines indirect reciprocity destabilizing large-scale cooperation
Eric Schnell & Michael Muthukrishna
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 7 May 2024

Previous models suggest that indirect reciprocity (reputation) can stabilize large-scale human cooperation [K. Panchanathan, R. Boyd, Nature 432, 499–502 (2004)]. The logic behind these models and experiments [J. Gross et al., Sci. Adv. 9, eadd8289 (2023) and O. P. Hauser, A. Hendriks, D. G. Rand, M. A. Nowak, Sci. Rep. 6, 36079 (2016)] is that a strategy in which individuals conditionally aid others based on their reputation for engaging in costly cooperative behavior serves as a punishment that incentivizes large-scale cooperation without the second-order free-rider problem. However, these models and experiments fail to account for individuals belonging to multiple groups with reputations that can be in conflict. Here, we extend these models such that individuals belong to a smaller, “local” group embedded within a larger, “global” group. This introduces competing strategies for conditionally aiding others based on their cooperative behavior in the local or global group. Our analyses reveal that the reputation for cooperation in the smaller local group can undermine cooperation in the larger global group, even when the theoretical maximum payoffs are higher in the larger global group. This model reveals that indirect reciprocity alone is insufficient for stabilizing large-scale human cooperation because cooperation at one scale can be considered defection at another. These results deepen the puzzle of large-scale human cooperation.

More than labels: Neural representations of emotion words are widely distributed across the brain
Kent Lee & Ajay Satpute
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, forthcoming

Although emotion words such as “anger”, “disgust”, “happiness”, or “pride” are often thought of as mere labels, increasing evidence points to language as being important for emotion perception and experience. Emotion words may be particularly important for facilitating access to the emotion concepts. Indeed, deficits in semantic processing or impaired access to emotion words interfere with emotion perception. Yet, it is unclear what these behavioral findings mean for affective neuroscience. Thus, we examined the brain areas that support processing of emotion words using representational similarity analysis of fMRI data (N = 25). In the task, participants saw 10 emotion words (e.g., “anger”, “happiness”) while in the scanner. Participants rated each word based on its valence on a continuous scale ranging from 0 (Pleasant/Good) to 1 (Unpleasant/Bad) scale to ensure they were processing the words. Our results revealed that a diverse range of brain areas including prefrontal, midline cortical, and sensorimotor regions contained information about emotion words. Notably, our results overlapped with many regions implicated in decoding emotion experience by prior studies. Our results raise questions about what processes are being supported by these regions during emotion experience.


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