SciCombinator

Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Critical thinking

505

Almost 150 years after the first identification of Neandertal skeletal material, the cognitive and symbolic abilities of these populations remain a subject of intense debate. We present 99 new Neandertal remains from the Troisième caverne of Goyet (Belgium) dated to 40,500-45,500 calBP. The remains were identified through a multidisciplinary study that combines morphometrics, taphonomy, stable isotopes, radiocarbon dating and genetic analyses. The Goyet Neandertal bones show distinctive anthropogenic modifications, which provides clear evidence for butchery activities as well as four bones having been used for retouching stone tools. In addition to being the first site to have yielded multiple Neandertal bones used as retouchers, Goyet not only provides the first unambiguous evidence of Neandertal cannibalism in Northern Europe, but also highlights considerable diversity in mortuary behaviour among the region’s late Neandertal population in the period immediately preceding their disappearance.

Concepts: Belgium, Northern Europe, Neanderthal, Carbon-14, Psychology, Critical thinking, Radiocarbon dating, Isotope

289

Scientists are trained to evaluate and interpret evidence without bias or subjectivity. Thus, growing evidence revealing a gender bias against women-or favoring men-within science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) settings is provocative and raises questions about the extent to which gender bias may contribute to women’s underrepresentation within STEM fields. To the extent that research illustrating gender bias in STEM is viewed as convincing, the culture of science can begin to address the bias. However, are men and women equally receptive to this type of experimental evidence? This question was tested with three randomized, double-blind experiments-two involving samples from the general public (n = 205 and 303, respectively) and one involving a sample of university STEM and non-STEM faculty (n = 205). In all experiments, participants read an actual journal abstract reporting gender bias in a STEM context (or an altered abstract reporting no gender bias in experiment 3) and evaluated the overall quality of the research. Results across experiments showed that men evaluate the gender-bias research less favorably than women, and, of concern, this gender difference was especially prominent among STEM faculty (experiment 2). These results suggest a relative reluctance among men, especially faculty men within STEM, to accept evidence of gender biases in STEM. This finding is problematic because broadening the participation of underrepresented people in STEM, including women, necessarily requires a widespread willingness (particularly by those in the majority) to acknowledge that bias exists before transformation is possible.

Concepts: Gender identity, Scientific method, Critical thinking, Gender role, Bias, Experiment, Science, Gender

253

Eye gaze is a window onto cognitive processing in tasks such as spatial memory, linguistic processing, and decision making. We present evidence that information derived from eye gaze can be used to change the course of individuals' decisions, even when they are reasoning about high-level, moral issues. Previous studies have shown that when an experimenter actively controls what an individual sees the experimenter can affect simple decisions with alternatives of almost equal valence. Here we show that if an experimenter passively knows when individuals move their eyes the experimenter can change complex moral decisions. This causal effect is achieved by simply adjusting the timing of the decisions. We monitored participants' eye movements during a two-alternative forced-choice task with moral questions. One option was randomly predetermined as a target. At the moment participants had fixated the target option for a set amount of time we terminated their deliberation and prompted them to choose between the two alternatives. Although participants were unaware of this gaze-contingent manipulation, their choices were systematically biased toward the target option. We conclude that even abstract moral cognition is partly constituted by interactions with the immediate environment and is likely supported by gaze-dependent decision processes. By tracking the interplay between individuals, their sensorimotor systems, and the environment, we can influence the outcome of a decision without directly manipulating the content of the information available to them.

Concepts: Causality, Critical thinking, Morality, Cognitive psychology, Brain, Psychology, Decision making, Cognition

242

Algorithms for predicting recidivism are commonly used to assess a criminal defendant’s likelihood of committing a crime. These predictions are used in pretrial, parole, and sentencing decisions. Proponents of these systems argue that big data and advanced machine learning make these analyses more accurate and less biased than humans. We show, however, that the widely used commercial risk assessment software COMPAS is no more accurate or fair than predictions made by people with little or no criminal justice expertise. We further show that a simple linear predictor provided with only two features is nearly equivalent to COMPAS with its 137 features.

Concepts: Algorithm, Risk assessment, Psychometrics, Crime, Criminal law, Evaluation, Critical thinking, Scientific method

223

Received academic wisdom holds that human judgment is characterized by unrealistic optimism, the tendency to underestimate the likelihood of negative events and overestimate the likelihood of positive events. With recent questions being raised over the degree to which the majority of this research genuinely demonstrates optimism, attention to possible mechanisms generating such a bias becomes ever more important. New studies have now claimed that unrealistic optimism emerges as a result of biased belief updating with distinctive neural correlates in the brain. On a behavioral level, these studies suggest that, for negative events, desirable information is incorporated into personal risk estimates to a greater degree than undesirable information (resulting in a more optimistic outlook). However, using task analyses, simulations, and experiments we demonstrate that this pattern of results is a statistical artifact. In contrast with previous work, we examined participants' use of new information with reference to the normative, Bayesian standard. Simulations reveal the fundamental difficulties that would need to be overcome by any robust test of optimistic updating. No such test presently exists, so that the best one can presently do is perform analyses with a number of techniques, all of which have important weaknesses. Applying these analyses to five experiments shows no evidence of optimistic updating. These results clarify the difficulties involved in studying human ‘bias’ and cast additional doubt over the status of optimism as a fundamental characteristic of healthy cognition.

Concepts: Philosophy of life, Scientific method, Statistics, Pessimism, Motivation, Optimism, Critical thinking, Psychology

212

According to the Intuitive Belief Hypothesis, supernatural belief relies heavily on intuitive thinking-and decreases when analytic thinking is engaged. After pointing out various limitations in prior attempts to support this Intuitive Belief Hypothesis, we test it across three new studies using a variety of paradigms, ranging from a pilgrimage field study to a neurostimulation experiment. In all three studies, we found no relationship between intuitive or analytical thinking and supernatural belief. We conclude that it is premature to explain belief in gods as ‘intuitive’, and that other factors, such as socio-cultural upbringing, are likely to play a greater role in the emergence and maintenance of supernatural belief than cognitive style.

Concepts: Supernatural, Analytic, Cognitive science, Experiment, Theory, Psychology, Critical thinking, Cognition

211

Humans show a natural tendency to discount bad news while incorporating good news into beliefs (the “good news-bad news effect”), an effect that may help explain seemingly irrational risk taking. Understanding how this bias develops with age is important because adolescents are prone to engage in risky behavior; thus, educating them about danger is crucial. We reveal a striking valence-dependent asymmetry in how belief updating develops with age. In the ages tested (9-26 y), younger age was associated with inaccurate updating of beliefs in response to undesirable information regarding vulnerability. In contrast, the ability to update beliefs accurately in response to desirable information remained relatively stable with age. This asymmetry was mediated by adequate computational use of positive but not negative estimation errors to alter beliefs. The results are important for understanding how belief formation develops and might help explain why adolescents do not respond adequately to warnings.

Concepts: Epistemology, Philosophical terminology, Religion, Human, Psychology, Core issues in ethics, Critical thinking, Risk

204

The objective of this study was to critically review the empirical evidence from all relevant disciplines regarding obesity stigma in order to (i) determine the implications of obesity stigma for healthcare providers and their patients with obesity and (ii) identify strategies to improve care for patients with obesity. We conducted a search of Medline and PsychInfo for all peer-reviewed papers presenting original empirical data relevant to stigma, bias, discrimination, prejudice and medical care. We then performed a narrative review of the existing empirical evidence regarding the impact of obesity stigma and weight bias for healthcare quality and outcomes. Many healthcare providers hold strong negative attitudes and stereotypes about people with obesity. There is considerable evidence that such attitudes influence person-perceptions, judgment, interpersonal behaviour and decision-making. These attitudes may impact the care they provide. Experiences of or expectations for poor treatment may cause stress and avoidance of care, mistrust of doctors and poor adherence among patients with obesity. Stigma can reduce the quality of care for patients with obesity despite the best intentions of healthcare providers to provide high-quality care. There are several potential intervention strategies that may reduce the impact of obesity stigma on quality of care.

Concepts: Discrimination, Illness, Empirical, Health care, Critical thinking, Empiricism, Scientific method, Health care provider

198

Widespread misperceptions undermine citizens' decision-making ability. Conclusions based on falsehoods and conspiracy theories are by definition flawed. This article demonstrates that individuals' epistemic beliefs-beliefs about the nature of knowledge and how one comes to know-have important implications for perception accuracy. The present study uses a series of large, nationally representative surveys of the U.S. population to produce valid and reliable measures of three aspects of epistemic beliefs: reliance on intuition for factual beliefs (Faith in Intuition for facts), importance of consistency between empirical evidence and beliefs (Need for evidence), and conviction that “facts” are politically constructed (Truth is political). Analyses confirm that these factors complement established predictors of misperception, substantively increasing our ability to explain both individuals' propensity to engage in conspiracist ideation, and their willingness to embrace falsehoods about high-profile scientific and political issues. Individuals who view reality as a political construct are significantly more likely to embrace falsehoods, whereas those who believe that their conclusions must hew to available evidence tend to hold more accurate beliefs. Confidence in the ability to intuitively recognize truth is a uniquely important predictor of conspiracist ideation. Results suggest that efforts to counter misperceptions may be helped by promoting epistemic beliefs emphasizing the importance of evidence, cautious use of feelings, and trust that rigorous assessment by knowledgeable specialists is an effective guard against political manipulation.

Concepts: Science, Religion, Knowledge, Critical thinking, Conspiracy theory, Truth, Scientific method, Epistemology

186

It is widely accepted that behavioural changes induced by Toxoplasma gondii are an adaptation of the parasite to enhance transmission to its cat definitive host. In our opinion, this explanation requires a rethink. We argue that the experimental evidence that observed behavioural changes will enhance transmission to cats is not convincing. We also argue that cats and sexual reproduction may not be essential for transmission and maintenance of this parasite. Thus, the selection pressure to infect a cat may not be sufficiently strong for the evolution of adaptive host manipulation to have occurred in order to enhance predation by cats.

Concepts: Immune system, Predation, Critical thinking, Natural selection, Cat, Toxoplasma gondii, Toxoplasmosis, Rat