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

Concept: Revealed preference


Why do we like the music we do? Research has shown that musical preferences and personality are linked, yet little is known about other influences on preferences such as cognitive styles. To address this gap, we investigated how individual differences in musical preferences are explained by the empathizing-systemizing (E-S) theory. Study 1 examined the links between empathy and musical preferences across four samples. By reporting their preferential reactions to musical stimuli, samples 1 and 2 (Ns = 2,178 and 891) indicated their preferences for music from 26 different genres, and samples 3 and 4 (Ns = 747 and 320) indicated their preferences for music from only a single genre (rock or jazz). Results across samples showed that empathy levels are linked to preferences even within genres and account for significant proportions of variance in preferences over and above personality traits for various music-preference dimensions. Study 2 (N = 353) replicated and extended these findings by investigating how musical preferences are differentiated by E-S cognitive styles (i.e., ‘brain types’). Those who are type E (bias towards empathizing) preferred music on the Mellow dimension (R&B/soul, adult contemporary, soft rock genres) compared to type S (bias towards systemizing) who preferred music on the Intense dimension (punk, heavy metal, and hard rock). Analyses of fine-grained psychological and sonic attributes in the music revealed that type E individuals preferred music that featured low arousal (gentle, warm, and sensual attributes), negative valence (depressing and sad), and emotional depth (poetic, relaxing, and thoughtful), while type S preferred music that featured high arousal (strong, tense, and thrilling), and aspects of positive valence (animated) and cerebral depth (complexity). The application of these findings for clinicians, interventions, and those on the autism spectrum (largely type S or extreme type S) are discussed.

Concepts: Psychology, Cognition, Revealed preference, Preference, Utility, Rock music, Genre, Rock music genres


Infant-directed speech (IDS) is a special speech register thought to aid language acquisition and improve affiliation in human infants. Although IDS shares some of its properties with dog-directed speech (DDS), it is unclear whether the production of DDS is functional, or simply an overgeneralisation of IDS within Western cultures. One recent study found that, while puppies attended more to a script read with DDS compared with adult-directed speech (ADS), adult dogs displayed no preference. In contrast, using naturalistic speech and a more ecologically valid set-up, we found that adult dogs attended to and showed more affiliative behaviour towards a speaker of DDS than of ADS. To explore whether this preference for DDS was modulated by the dog-specific words typically used in DDS, the acoustic features (prosody) of DDS or a combination of the two, we conducted a second experiment. Here the stimuli from experiment 1 were produced with reversed prosody, meaning the prosody and content of ADS and DDS were mismatched. The results revealed no significant effect of speech type, or content, suggesting that it is maybe the combination of the acoustic properties and the dog-related content of DDS that modulates the preference shown for naturalistic DDS. Overall, the results of this study suggest that naturalistic DDS, comprising of both dog-directed prosody and dog-relevant content words, improves dogs' attention and may strengthen the affiliative bond between humans and their pets.

Concepts: Human, Improve, Linguistics, Language, Revealed preference, Preference, Dog, Register


To what extent is there a general factor of risk preference, R, akin to g, the general factor of intelligence? Can risk preference be regarded as a stable psychological trait? These conceptual issues persist because few attempts have been made to integrate multiple risk-taking measures, particularly measures from different and largely unrelated measurement traditions (self-reported propensity measures assessing stated preferences, incentivized behavioral measures eliciting revealed preferences, and frequency measures assessing actual risky activities). Adopting a comprehensive psychometric approach (1507 healthy adults completing 39 risk-taking measures, with a subsample of 109 participants completing a retest session after 6 months), we provide a substantive empirical foundation to address these issues, finding that correlations between propensity and behavioral measures were weak. Yet, a general factor of risk preference, R, emerged from stated preferences and generalized to specific and actual real-world risky activities (for example, smoking). Moreover, R proved to be highly reliable across time, indicative of a stable psychological trait. Our findings offer a first step toward a general mapping of the construct risk preference, which encompasses both general and domain-specific components, and have implications for the assessment of risk preference in the laboratory and in the wild.

Concepts: Psychology, Risk, Educational psychology, Psychometrics, Factor analysis, Revealed preference, Uncertainty, Preference


Bismuth sodium titanate (Bi(0.5)Na(0.5))TiO(3) (BNT) is considered to be one of the most promising lead-free alternatives to piezoelectric lead zirconate titanate (PZT). However, the effect of dopants on the material has so far received little attention from an atomic point of view. In this study we investigated the effects of cobalt-doping on the formation of additional phases and determined the preferred lattice site of cobalt in BNT. The latter was achieved by comparing the measured x-ray absorption near-edge structure (XANES) spectra to numerically calculated spectra of cobalt on various lattice sites in BNT. (Bi(0.5)Na(0.5))TiO(3) + x mol% Co (x = 0.0, 0.5, 1.0, 2.6) was synthesized via solid state reaction. As revealed by SEM backscattering images, a secondary phase formed in all doped specimens. Using both XRD and SEM-EDX, it was identified as Co(2)TiO(4) for dopant levels >0.5 mol%. In addition, a certain amount of cobalt was incorporated into BNT, as shown by electron probe microanalysis. This amount increased with increasing dopant levels, suggesting that an equilibrium forms together with the secondary phase. The XANES experiments revealed that cobalt occupies the octahedral B-site in the BNT perovskite lattice, substituting Ti and promoting the formation of oxygen vacancies in the material.

Concepts: Condensed matter physics, Lead, Revealed preference, Piezoelectricity, Boron, Dopant, Ferroelectricity, Lead zirconate titanate


Recent public discussions suggest that there is much disagreement about the way autism is and should be described. This study sought to elicit the views and preferences of UK autism community members - autistic people, parents and their broader support network - about the terms they use to describe autism. In all, 3470 UK residents responded to an online survey on their preferred ways of describing autism and their rationale for such preferences. The results clearly show that people use many terms to describe autism. The most highly endorsed terms were ‘autism’ and ‘on the autism spectrum’, and to a lesser extent, ‘autism spectrum disorder’, for which there was consensus across community groups. The groups disagreed, however, on the use of several terms. The term ‘autistic’ was endorsed by a large percentage of autistic adults, family members/friends and parents but by considerably fewer professionals; ‘person with autism’ was endorsed by almost half of professionals but by fewer autistic adults and parents. Qualitative analysis of an open-ended question revealed the reasons underlying respondents' preferences. These findings demonstrate that there is no single way of describing autism that is universally accepted and preferred by the UK’s autism community and that some disagreements appear deeply entrenched.

Concepts: Autism, Pervasive developmental disorder, Asperger syndrome, Autism spectrum, PDD-NOS, Revealed preference, Controversy, Controversies


Television consumption influences perceptions of attractive female body size. However, cross-cultural research examining media influence on body ideals is typically confounded by differences in the availability of reliable and diverse foodstuffs. 112 participants were recruited from 3 Nicaraguan villages that differed in television consumption and nutritional status, such that the contribution of both factors could be revealed. Participants completed a female figure preference task, reported their television consumption, and responded to several measures assessing nutritional status. Communities with higher television consumption and/or higher nutritional status preferred thinner female bodies than communities with lower television consumption and/or lower nutritional status. Bayesian mixed models estimated the plausible range of effects for television consumption, nutritional status, and other relevant variables on individual preferences. The model explained all meaningful differences between our low-nutrition villages, and television consumption, after sex, was the most likely of these predictors to contribute to variation in preferences (probability mass >95% when modelling only variables with zero-order associations with preferences, but only 90% when modelling all possible predictors). In contrast, we found no likely link with nutritional status. We thus found evidence that where media access and nutritional status are confounded, media is the more likely predictor of body ideals.

Concepts: Human body, Revealed preference, Preference, Utility, Female body shape, Consumer theory, Mass media, Marshall McLuhan


There is a major gap in funding required for conservation, especially in low income countries. Given the significant contribution of taxpayers in industrialized countries to funding conservation overseas, and donations from membership organisation, understanding the preferences of ordinary people in a high income country for different attributes of conservation projects is valuable for future marketing of conservation. We conducted a discrete choice experiment with visitors to a UK zoo, while simultaneously conducting a revealed preference study through a real donation campaign on the same sample. Respondents showed the highest willingness to pay for projects that have local community involvement in management (95% confidence interval £9.82 to £15.83), and for improvement in threatened species populations (£2.97 - £13.87). Both of these were significantly larger than the willingness to pay for projects involving provision of alternative livelihoods, or improving the condition of conservation sites. Results of the simultaneous donation campaign showed that respondents were very willing to donate the suggested £1 or above donation (88% made a donation, n = 1798); there was no effect of which of the two campaigns they were exposed to (threatened species management or community involvement in management). The small number of people who did not make a donation had a higher stated willingness to pay within the choice experiment, which may suggest hypothetical bias. Conservationists increasingly argue that conservation should include local communities in management (for both pragmatic and moral reasons). It is heartening that potential conservation donors seem to agree.

Concepts: Revealed preference, Preference, Conservation, Consumer theory, Donation, Biodiversity Action Plan, Income tax


Revealed preference theory provides axiomatic tools for assessing whether individuals make observable choices “as if” they are maximizing an underlying utility function. The theory evokes a tradeoff between goods whereby individuals improve themselves by trading one good for another good to obtain the best combination. Preferences revealed in these choices are modeled as curves of equal choice (indifference curves) and reflect an underlying process of optimization. These notions have far-reaching applications in consumer choice theory and impact the welfare of human and animal populations. However, they lack the empirical implementation in animals that would be required to establish a common biological basis. In a design using basic features of revealed preference theory, we measured in rhesus monkeys the frequency of repeated choices between bundles of two liquids. For various liquids, the animals' choices were compatible with the notion of giving up a quantity of one good to gain one unit of another good while maintaining choice indifference, thereby implementing the concept of marginal rate of substitution. The indifference maps consisted of nonoverlapping, linear, convex, and occasionally concave curves with typically negative, but also sometimes positive, slopes depending on bundle composition. Out-of-sample predictions using homothetic polynomials validated the indifference curves. The animals' preferences were internally consistent in satisfying transitivity. Change of option set size demonstrated choice optimality and satisfied the Weak Axiom of Revealed Preference (WARP). These data are consistent with a version of revealed preference theory in which preferences are stochastic; the monkeys behaved “as if” they had well-structured preferences and maximized utility.

Concepts: Revealed preference, Choice, Preference, Utility, Consumer theory, Indifference curve, Microeconomics, Convex preferences


Depending on obstetric risk, maternity care may be provided in one of two locations at hospital level: a consultant-led unit (CLU) or a midwifery-led unit (MLU). Care in a MLU is sparsely provided in Ireland, comprising as few as two units out of a total 21 maternity units. Given its potential for greater efficiencies of care and cost-savings for the state, there has been an increased interest to expand MLUs in Ireland. Yet, very little is known about women’s preferences for midwifery-led care, and whether they would utilise this service when presented with the choice of delivering in a CLU or MLU. This study seeks to involve women in the future planning of maternity care by investigating their preferences for care and subsequent motivations when choosing place of birth. Qualitative research is undertaken to explore maternal preferences for these different models of care. Women only revealed a preference for the MLU when co-located with a CLU due to its close proximity to medical services. However, the results suggest women do not have a clear preference for either model of care, but rather a hybrid model of care which encompasses features of both consultant- and midwifery-led care.

Concepts: Pregnancy, Childbirth, Obstetrics, Motivation, Revealed preference, Choice, Preference, Gestational age


Results of previous work suggest a preference of adult observers for cute compared to less cute infants. In Study 1 we investigated whether the preference for cute infants depends on the ethnicity and species of the infant. We simultaneously presented two faces (one cute and one less cute) and asked Caucasian participants to choose the infant to whom they would rather give a toy (Task 1) and which infant they would rather adopt (Task 2). The infants were Caucasian or African human babies or dog puppies. For all face categories and in both tasks we found a strong preference for cute infants. A possible reason for preferring cute infants may be that cute infants look healthier than less cute infants. To investigate whether cuteness is associated with the assessment of health we conducted Study 2. Faces of Caucasian and African infants and dog puppies were rated for cuteness and health. The findings revealed a significant relationship between health and cuteness evaluation across all stimuli. We suggest that one reason why cute infants are preferred might be because they are perceived as being healthier.

Concepts: Childbirth, Infant, Human, Infant mortality, White American, Revealed preference, Social psychology, Dog