2015-2016 journal club talk archive

Academic year 2016/17 Meetings

Friday, December 16th

  • Title: TBA
  • Presenter: Aja Louise Booth, University of Cambridge
  • Time & Place: 4pm, S38
  • Abstract: TBA

Friday, December 9th

  • Title: Departmental seminar
  • Presenter: TBA
  • Time & Place: 4pm, F21
  • Abstract: TBA

Friday, December 2nd

  • Title: From brain to behaviour: risk and resilience to adolescent depression
  • Presenter: Stella Chan
  • Time & Place: 4pm, S38
  • Abstract: TBA

Friday, November 25th

  • Title: Personality Change and Development
  • Presenter: Gautam Kumar
  • Time & Place: 4pm, F21
  • Paper: Josefsson et al., 2013

Friday, November 18th

  • Title: Departmental seminar
  • Presenter: TBA
  • Time & Place: 4pm, F21
  • Abstract: TBA

Friday, November 11th

Friday, November 4th

  • Title: Psychology of Space Travel
  • Presenter: Madison Campbell
  • Time & Place: 4pm, S38
  • Paper: Collins, 2003

Friday, October 28th

  • Title: Departmental seminar: Meet the faculty
  • Presenter: Everyone
  • Time & Place: 4pm, F21
  • Flyer: pdf

Thursday, October 27th

  • Title: Dogs' cognitive abilities
  • Presenter: Rosalind Arden, London School of Economics
  • Time & Place: 5pm, S38
  • Abstract: That scores from any task which taps cognitive abilities co-vary, to some extent, forming an all-positive matrix (from which the g factor emerges) is probably the most replicated finding in the whole of the human behavioural sciences. It is disconcerting then, that we know so little concerning the structure of cognitive abilities in other species. It would be useful to know about other animals minds, partly because lacking social class differences, their general abstemiousness and taste for exercise make them excellent models in which to explore some of the known outcomes associated with g. I will describe some recent work on individual differences in dogs' cognitive abilities and explain where I hope it will lead.

Friday, October 21st

Friday, October 14th

Friday, October 7th

  • Departmental seminar: Joint Reasoning in Social Interaction: A Virtual Bargaining Approach
  • Presenter: Prof. Nick Chater, Warwick Business School
  • Time & Place: 4pm, F21
  • Abstract: Successful social interaction involves coordinating thoughts and behaviour between people. But how is such coordination achieved? If each person attempts to second-guess the thoughts and behaviour of the other, there is a danger of an infinite regress. We introduce a new approach: that people can reason jointly about what they would agree to think or do, were they able to negotiate. That is, they reason not about “What will you do?” and “What should I do?, but rather “What should we agree to do?” Where it is “obvious” what a resultant such negotiation would be, no actual communication is required: we can coordinate our thoughts and actions through a simulation of the bargaining process Virtual bargaining provides a new foundation for understanding the reasoning that underpins social behaviour, including communication itself.
  • Poster: pdf

Friday, September 30th

  • Title: Genetics of success?
  • Presenter: Stuart Ritchie
  • Time & Place: 4pm, S38
  • Abstract: Two recent papers (attached) have shown that a whole range of very important life outcomes (educational, occupational, psychological, and health-related) can be predicted from a ‘polygenic score’ for education (an index of how many education-linked genetic variants a person carries), which can, in theory, be taken from a blood test at or before birth. In this journal club presentation, we’ll discuss the main findings of these two papers, and then I’ll show some of our new results from analyses of polygenic education scores, social class, and longevity.
  • Papers: Belsky et al., 2016; Selzam et al., 2016

Friday, September 23rd

  • Title: Meet & Greet
  • Presenter: Everyone
  • Time & Place: 4pm, S38
  • Abstract: Casual introduction from individual differences staff and students, all spiced up with some pizza!

Academic year 2015/16 Meetings

Friday, May 13th:

  • Title: Open Science as response to the replication crisis in the scientific world
  • Presenter: Felix Schönbrodt
  • Time & Place: 1pm, F21
  • Abstract: Careers of scientists are based on publications and the current incentive structures prefer surprising, novel results with p < .05. However, major replication projects in the last 3 years could show that more than half of these results could not be replicated. On the one hand, this led to a credibility crisis – “Which results can we still trust?” On the other hand, recent years have shown a great movement towards “Open Science” (e.g., the TOP guidelines or Open Science Badges). Organisations such as the DFG (German Science Community) and the EU are also moving in this direction. In this talk I would like to highlight three aspects of this new development:
  1. How bad is it? A brief overview of the history and the most current events in the recent credibility crisis.
  2. Diagnostic tools to uncover publication bias and p-hacking.
  3. How to proceed from here? Open Science as (one) answer to the crisis; implications for research practises, teaching, job appointments, statistics, and journal guidelines. Among other things I will present our own commitment to research transparency, and show the work of our newly found Open Science Committee.

Friday, April 22nd:

  • Title: Modelling major depressive disorder (MDD) symptom assessments as item response tree
  • Presenter: Mark Adams
  • Abstract: Identifying aetiological subtypes within major depressive disorder entails analysing data on individual symptoms. However, the cohort and population studies that could best power such analyses often have incomplete symptom-level data. Because of resource constraints when collecting data on > 10K participants, screening questions are used to bypass a detailed assessment of most participants. Information is therefore lost and is not missing at random. This missing data problem can be addressed using item response trees (IRTrees) that express screening questions and symptom assessments as a series of branching yes/no items and encode those responses as a mixed-linear model. I used IRTrees to model depression symptom data from the Generation Scotland: Scottish Family Health Study (N=23,960) and examined the genetic structure among responses and identified differential associations with demographic, psychological, medical, and genetic factors.

Friday, April 8th:

  • Title: Are all smart nations happier? Country aggregate IQ predicts happiness, but the relationship is moderated by individualism–collectivism
  • Presenter: Zander Crook
  • Abstract: The authors examined the moderating role of individualism–collectivism in the relationship between intelligence and life satisfaction, as measured at the country level. Intelligence was a robust positive predictor of national life satisfaction, however the relationship proved significantly stronger in countries which are more individualistic. Further analyses revealed a moderated mediation effect, showing that per capita GDP was an intermediate link in our model. The present results are in line with other research suggesting that people in individualistic societies seek life satisfaction in self-realization, developing personal qualities and achieving individualistic goals. Intelligence might be an undeniably useful resource in such efforts, as it determines many outcomes associated with life success, such as wealth, educational achievements, health and longevity, both at the individual and on the national level. In collectivistic cultures, satisfaction results from social affiliation and being a part of community remains the main point of reference. Achieving individualistic goals is then probably not sufficient for attaining satisfaction in such societies and intelligence, accompanied by elevated wealth, appear to be less valuable resources, at least from a life satisfaction standpoint. They conclude that cultural specificity should be taken into account in the research on implications of country aggregate IQ.
  • Paper: Stolarskia, Jasielskab, & Zajenkowskia, 2015

Friday, March 25th:

  • Title: Origins of personality maturation
  • Presenter: Conor Smith
  • Abstract: Human personality development evinces increased emotional stability, prosocial tendencies, and responsibility. One hypothesis offered to explain this pattern is Social-Investment Theory, which posits that culturally defined social roles, including marriage and employment, are responsible for the increased maturity. Alternatively, Five-Factor Theory emphasizes the role of biological factors, such as those governing physical development, which may predate the emergence of humans. Five-Factor Theory, unlike Social-Investment Theory, predicts that all or some of the human personality developmental trends should be present in great apes, our closest evolutionary relatives. To test this prediction and to better understand the evolutionary origins of sex differences, we examined age and sex differences in the chimpanzee and orangutan personality domains Extraversion, Dominance, Neuroticism, and Agreeableness. We also examined the Activity and Gregariousness facets of Extraversion and the orangutan Intellect domain. Extraversion and Neuroticism declined across age groups in both species, in common with humans. A significant interaction indicated that Agreeableness declined in orangutans but increased in chimpanzees, as it does in humans, though this may reflect differences in how Agreeableness was defined in each species. Significant interactions indicated that male chimpanzees, unlike male orangutans, displayed higher Neuroticism scores than females and maintained higher levels of Activity and Dominance into old age than female chimpanzees, male orangutans, and female orangutans. Personality–age correlations were comparable across orangutans and chimpanzees and were similar to those reported in human studies. Sex differences were stronger in chimpanzees than in humans or orangutans. These findings support Five-Factor Theory, suggest the role of gene–culture coevolution in shaping personality development, and suggest that sex differences evolved independently in different species.
  • Paper: Weiss & King, 2014

Friday, February 29th:

  • Title: Generalising intra-individual dynamics: multi-level VAR modeling of ESM data
  • Presenter: Sacha Epskamp
  • Abstract: There has been an emergence in the use of experience sampling method (ESM) in modeling and testing intra-individual hypotheses and processes in Psychology. In ESM, subjects are measured repeatedly over time by the use of some device or smartphone app; several times per day the app will query the subject to fill in a short questionnaire on his or her mood, experiences, feelings, etcetera. The use of ESM data comes from both a call for studying intra-individual processes in addition to inter-individual differences (Hamaker, 2012) as well as technological advances to gather such data—many subjects now carry a smartphone which can easily be used for this purpose. Bringman et al., (2013) proposed to analyse such datasets using multi-level Vector Autoregression (VAR), a methodology that has since been implemented in the free to use software package "mlVAR" (Epskamp, Deserno, & Bringmann, 2015). This software however, has not yet been validated and is only usable for datasets with up to 6 variables due to computational reasons. This talk will focus on describing the multilevel VAR model and challenges its estimation brings, as well as different solutions to these challenges that are now being implemented and tested in the mlVAR software package.

Friday, February 12th:

  • Title: Personality predictors of mortality in the Western Electric Study
  • Presenter: Alex Weiss

Friday, January 29th:

  • Title: Long-term personality changes and predictive adaptive responses after depressive episodes
  • Presenter: Drew Altschul
  • Abstract: An external or internal “predictive adaptive response” (PAR) can be defined as an adaptive change in long-term behavior or development due to an environmental exposure that triggers it. A PAR can lead to differential development among initially similar individuals, and increase evolutionary fitness. Despite many theories and empirical observations of PAR-like changes in depressive tendencies, clear empirical findings on human personality changes following depressive symptoms are lacking, possibly because these changes take a long time to develop and most follow up studies have been short. Here we show that in sufficiently long (5- and 15-year) clinical and general-population follow ups, increases can be observed in the Temperament and Character Inventory's personality trait harm avoidance as a function of temporally accumulating major depressive episodes (132 depression patients from Vantaa Depression Study) and depressive symptoms (3105 participants from Young Finns general-population sample). Personality changes did not occur in the other six personality traits of the inventory, but did in a highly similar neuroticism trait from another inventory. Even when controlling for concurrent changes in depressive symptoms from the baseline to the endpoint, depressive symptoms that occurred during the follow-up period associated with harm-avoidance changes, rendering individuals more fearful and anticipating harm. This study provides consistent, specific, and plausible dose–response and temporal gradients between accumulated depressive episodes and personality change. Effect sizes were between small to moderate, though. Altogether, the findings support the feasibility of using existing systems of personality assessment (i.e., self-report questionnaires) to study PARs, despite the multiplicity of the systems.

Tuesday January 19th, 5pm: Genomic epidemiology: Drawing inference on complex traits by combining genetic and genomic data

  • Presenter: Professor Peter Visscher, Centre of Neurogenetics & Statistical Genomics at the Queensland Brain Institute.
  • VENUE!!: Room G.04 of 50 George Square, University of Edinburgh.

Abstract: Large datasets with genetic and phenotypic information and smaller sets with -omics data such as gene expression or CpG methylation can be combined to address questions about trait (co)variation and how polymorphisms affect complex traits. Such data can also be leveraged to prioritise likely causal pathways for disease. I will give an example of using genome-wide gene expression, gene methylation and genotype data to detect the likely gene targets from GWAS signals and examples of phenotypic prediction from genetic and genomic data.

Departmental seminar October 2015: Reproducibility

Friday, November 27th:

  • Title: What do conscientious people do?
  • Presenter: Iva Čukić
  • Abstract: Typical assessments of personality traits collapse behaviors, thoughts, and feelings into a single measure without distinguishing between these different manifestations. To address this lack of specification, the current study develops and validates a measure that assesses a number of broad behaviors associated with the personality trait of conscientiousness (the Behavioral Indicators of Conscientiousness; BIC). Findings suggest that the lower-order structure of conscientious behaviors is mostly similar to the lower-order structure in extant trait measures. Furthermore, a daily diary method was used to validate the BIC against frequency counts of conscientious behavior. Overall, the results identify specific behaviors that conscientious individuals tend to perform and highlight possible advantages of this approach over broad trait assessment.
  • Paper: Jackson et al., 2010, Journal of Research in Personality

Friday, November 20th:

Monday, November 16th:

  • Where and when: The Loft Bar, Teviot, 7-9pm
  • Title: A Skeptic looks at the flawed PACE Chronic Fatigue Syndrome study
  • Presenter: Prof James Coyne
  • Abstract: Lancet Psychiatry recently published a long term follow-up study of cognitive behaviour therapy and graded exercise for chronic fatigue syndrome or myalgicencephalomyelitis (ME/CFS). With a well orchestrated publicity campaign, the investigators declared that the follow-up assessment proved the enduring benefits of psychological therapies. As expected, the community of people with ME/CFS vocally objected, but this time they were joined by professionals from around the world. Events are still unfolding, but it appears that there are major changes going on aroundhow we think and talk about ME/CFS and its sufferers. This talk will provide background and discuss the changes that we can expect. flyer, background blog post

Friday, November 13th:

  • Title: How Does Household Income Affect Child Personality Traits and Behaviors?
  • Presenter: Drew Altschul
  • Abstract: Existing research has investigated the effect of early childhood educational interventions on the child’s later-life outcomes. These studies have found limited impact of supplementary programs on children’s cognitive skills, but sustained effects on personality traits. We examine how a positive change in unearned household income affects children’s emotional and behavioral health and personality traits. Our results indicate that there are large beneficial effects of improved household financial wellbeing on children’s emotional and behavioral health and positive personality trait development. Moreover, we find that these effects are most pronounced for children who are lagging behind their peers in these measures before the intervention. Increasing household incomes reduce differences across adolescents with different levels of initial emotional-behavioral symptoms and personality traits. We also examine potential channels through which the increased household income may contribute to these positive changes. Parenting and relationships within the family appear to be an important mechanism. We also find evidence that a sub-sample of the population moves to census tracts with better income levels and educational attainment.
  • Paper: Akee et al., 2015, National Bureau of Economic Research

Friday, November 6th:

  • Title: Why does the brain shrink in old age?
  • Presenter: Stuart Ritchie
  • Abstract: I’ll discuss recent work on longitudinal brain imaging in the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936. We have structural brain measures from age 73 and age 76, and a large amount of information on lifestyle, health, fitness, socioeconomic factors, and genetics. I tested which of these factors predicted greater levels of brain change with age. Overall, it appears that the specific genetic factors we measured (the APOE e4 allele and polygenic risk for schizophrenia) make more of a contribution than lifestyle factors like alcohol and smoking. I’ll discuss which other, non-measured factors might contribute, and how we’ll follow up on this research using future waves of the LBC study.

Friday, October 30th:

  • Title: Bonobo Personality
  • Presenter: Vanessa Wilson
  • Abstract: The authors found 6 factors: Assertiveness, Conscientiousness, Openness, Agreeableness, Attentiveness, and Extraversion. The interrater reliabilities and test-retest reliabilities for these factors were comparable to those found in humans and other species. Using orthogonal targeted Procrustes rotations, the authors compared the bonobo dimensions with those of three samples of captive chimpanzees. Overall congruence coefficients indicated a fair degree of similarity; at the factor level, there was good evidence for Assertiveness, Conscientiousness, Openness, and Agreeableness in the chimpanzee samples; evidence for Attentiveness and Extraversion was poor. These findings suggest that, as expected given their close phylogenetic relationship, bonobo personality structure resembles chimpanzee personality structure in some respects. However, divergent evolution, perhaps as a result of socioecological differences between bonobos and chimpanzees, also appears to have shaped personality structure in these species.

Friday, October 23rd:

  • Title: Introduction to Epigenetics and Epidemiology
  • Presenter: Riccardo Marioni
  • Abstract: I'll give a brief overview of DNA methylation, how it is measured, and how it can be analysed. This will be followed by some examples from the literature that focus on ageing related traits and cognitive ability. I'll also talk about using epigenetics to predict chronological age, and will compare this predictor with other biological clocks.

Friday, October 16th:

  • Title: Personality variability within individuals
  • Presenter: René Mõttus
  • Abstract: I will be talking about within-individual variability in personality states and its relations with physical exercising. I will also discuss challenges related to analyzing high-dimensional multi-level data, including attempts to come with a step-wise multi-level model.

Friday, October 9th:

  • Title: Pragmatic randomized controlled trial of long-term psychoanalytic psychotherapy for treatment-resistant depression: the Tavistock Adult Depression Study (TADS)
  • Presenter: Tim Bates
  • Presentation link: ppt
  • Paper: pdf.
  • Abstract: This pragmatic randomized controlled trial tested the effectiveness of long-term psychoanalytic psychotherapy (LTPP) as an adjunct to treatment-as-usual according to UK national guidelines (TAU), compared to TAU alone, in patients with long-standing major depression who had failed at least two different treatments and were considered to have treatment-resistant depression. Patients (N=129) were recruited from primary care and randomly allocated to the two treatment conditions. They were assessed at 6-monthly intervals during the 18 months of treatment and at 24, 30 and 42 months during follow-up. The primary outcome measure was the 17-item version of the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS-17), with complete remission defined as a HDRS-17 score ≤8, and partial remission defined as a HDRS-17 score ≤12. Secondary outcome measures included self-reported depression as assessed by the Beck Depression Inventory - II, social functioning as evaluated by the Global Assessment of Functioning, subjective wellbeing as rated by the Clinical Outcomes in Routine Evaluation - Outcome Measure, and satisfaction with general activities as assessed by the Quality of Life Enjoyment and Satisfaction Questionnaire. Complete remission was infrequent in both groups at the end of treatment (9.4% in the LTPP group vs. 6.5% in the control group) as well as at 42-month follow-up (14.9% vs. 4.4%). Partial remission was not significantly more likely in the LTPP than in the control group at the end of treatment (32.1% vs. 23.9%, p=0.37), but significant differences emerged during follow-up (24 months: 38.8% vs. 19.2%, p=0.03; 30 months: 34.7% vs. 12.2%, p=0.008; 42 months: 30.0% vs. 4.4%, p=0.001). Both observer-based and self-reported depression scores showed steeper declines in the LTPP group, alongside greater improvements on measures of social adjustment. These data suggest that LTPP can be useful in improving the long-term outcome of treatment-resistant depression. End-of-treatment evaluations or short follow-ups may miss the emergence of delayed therapeutic benefit.

Friday, October 2nd:

  • Title: Structural brain MRI trait polygenic score prediction of cognitive abilities
  • Presenter: Michelle Luciano
  • Abstract: Structural brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) traits share part of their genetic variance with cognitive traits. I will report on the use of genetic association results from large meta-analytic studies of genome-wide association for brain infarcts, white matter hyperintensities, intracranial, hippocampal and total brain volumes to estimate polygenic scores for these traits in three Scottish samples: Generation Scotland: Scottish Family Health Study (GS:SFHS), and the Lothian Birth Cohorts of 1936 (LBC1936) and 1921 (LBC1921). These five brain MRI trait polygenic scores were used to 1) predict corresponding MRI traits in the LBC1936 (numbers ranged 573 to 630 across traits) and 2) predict cognitive traits in all three cohorts (in 8,115 to 8,250 persons). Results will be discussed.

Friday, September 25th:

  • Title: Neuroimaging, cognitive and pharmacological investigations of schizotypal personality
  • Presenter: Ulrich Ettinger, University of Bonn
  • Abstract: Schizotypy refers to a set of temporally stable traits that are observed in the general population and that resemble the signs and symptoms of schizophrenia. In this talk, I will first present evidence from studies on brain structure, cognition, oculomotor control and brain function in relation to psychometric schizotypy. I will specifically focus on identifying areas of overlap between schizotypy and schizophrenia. The evidence suggests that significant overlap exists between the two, covering the behavioral, brain structural and functional levels. I will then address the question of how this evidence may be used to inform model systems of schizophrenia in order to aid development of antipsychotic and pro-cognitive drugs. Specifically, I will draw comparisons between individuals with schizotypy and participants in two experimental models of schizophrenia, viz. ketamine and sleep deprivation. Evidence points to both similarities and differences between these models of schizophrenia, suggesting that combinations of trait (schizotypy) and state (e.g. sleep deprivation) approaches may be important.

Friday, May 29th: Assessing Emotional Perception in Chimpanzees

  • Presenter: Vanessa Wilson
  • Abstract: Since the concept of Theory of Mind was established in humans, researchers have questioned whether the same perceptual abilities can be found in other species. Much of this research has focused on one of our closest relatives, chimpanzees, and whether they understand the knowledge and intent of others. Whilst this research highlights that chimps share many of our human abilities when it comes to intersubjectivity, there has been limited assessments of how chimpanzees perceive emotions in conspecifics, possibly because testing emotional perception is methodologically difficult. This study aimed to address this issue by examining both behavioural responses to the emotions of conspecifics and response on a video task of social scenarios, in 18 adult chimpanzees housed at Edinburgh Zoo.

Friday, April 24th

  • Presenter: Blake Morton, University of Stirling

Friday, April 17th: Do extraverted people create more extraverted networks?

  • Presenter: Milan Valášek
  • Abstract: At the next journal club, I'll be talking about a recent paper that has been doing the rounds on the internet lately, about how there might be fewer extroverts around than we tend to think. More specifically, it deals with three main questions: 1. Are extraverted people more "popular" than introverts? 2. Do people tend to create social relationships with people who are similar to them on extraversion? 3. If 1 & 2, does this lead to the extraversion of the average social network being biased with respect to the average population extraversion?
  • Paper: Feiler, D. C., & Kleinbaum, A. M. Popularity, Similarity, and the Network Extraversion Bias. Link

Friday, April 10th: BSPID Annual Conference

  • Where: York
  • Description: British Society for the Psychology of Individual Differences Annual Meeting

Friday, April 3rd: What is happiness and what determines it?

  • Presenter: Alex Wood, University of Stirling
  • Abstract: This talk argues that the investigation of happiness needs interdisciplinary research between philosophy, social science, and psychology. “Happiness” is a concept thrown around in every day conversation and used in research without proper consideration as to what it means. Several philosophical perspectives exist, including; (a) the balance of positive to negative moods; (b) life satisfaction; (c) living in line with culturally valued characteristics; and (d) living in a country which doesn’t constrain one’s potential. Each of these implies different measurement and research reviews are confounded by aggregating studies that adopt different definitions. Which definition we adopt also determines the goals we set in life and, as governments start to measure happiness for policy evaluations, the societies in which we live. A programme of empirical studies is then presented to show that different conclusions are reached if we take an integrative social science and psychology approach rather than relying on either in isolation (and that these conclusions are different based on which philosophical definition of happiness we adopt). Results are based on analysis of six nationally representative datasets (BHSP, 29,000 people over 17 waves; WLS 10,300 people over ten years; ELSA, 7,500 people over 4 years; Gallup World Poll, >100,000 people in 166 countries; GSOEP, 29,000 over 8 waves; BHPS 12,000 over 5 waves) supplemented by specifically collected data. Using the example of income, a social science approach that focuses on the objective environment did a poor job at predicting happiness: (a) Income had only a trivial relationship with well-being; (b) this representing psychosocial position rather than material wealth; and (c) the findings are driven by losses rather than gains in income. Psychological approaches fared better, with personality predicting considerable variance in happiness. However, fuller prediction of happiness was achieved by a combined approach, where objective social science indicators longitudinally interacted with psychological characteristics (e.g., adaptation to disability only occurred for those high in agreeableness, conscientious people suffered more following unemployment, and the income and well-being relationship only applied for a small group of people in specific circumstances – those high on conscientiousness losing income). The talk argues that neither philosophy, social science, nor psychology have all of the answers and that a genuinely open minded and interdisciplinary approach is needed to understand happiness.

Friday, March 27th: Personality and biomarkers between species and cultures

  • Presenter: Drew Altschul
  • Abstract: Comparative models of cardiovascular risk factors stand to augment our understanding of human and non-human primate fitness. In humans, cardiovascular and metabolic disorders have become a worldwide public health issue. With the development of factor models of animal personality, we can investigate the associations between personality (both in humans and chimpanzees) and common biomarkers. With data from three samples, the Yerkes Primate Center Chimpanzees, MIDUS II Biomarker Project, and MIDJA Biomarker Project, I will compare models incorporating six personality dimensions (Big 5 + dominance / agency), alongside blood pressure and blood levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, and creatinine.

Friday, March 13th: Infant brain development: Heritability and testing Socioeconomic moderation

  • Presenter: Tim Bates
  • Abstract: I’ll be talking about a study of 400 twins that we’re working on. Subjects are infants; brains scanned as neonates, and again at ages 1 and 2 years. I’ll present results from a draft paper on brain gray and white matter volume, testing different models of heritability, how many factors are involved, whether genes are general, of active at distinct times, links of gray and white matter development, whether family environment is present, and what shape it takes, as well as how the data map on IQ heritability data.

Friday, March 6th: Superforecasting' and geopolitical intelligence

  • Presenter: Michael W Story, policy researcher and Superforecaster with the Good Judgement Project
  • Abstract: Since 2011, a team of 200 civilians has been predicting the future more accurately than best of US intelligence agencies. Formed five years ago under the auspices of IARPA (the US Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, informally known as 'DARPA for spies'), the Good Judgement Project's 'Superforecaster' teams have been forecasting the specifics of North Korean missile programmes, the movement of Russian troops and the longevity of Robert Mugabe, achieving a 50% lower error rate than the previous state of the art. This talk will cover who makes these forecasts, how they are doing it, and some techniques shown to make nearly anyone more accurate when predicting the future.

Friday, February 27th: Expectations and gender (mis)representation in academia

  • Presenter: Stuart Ritchie
  • Papers: Leslie, S. J., Cimpian, A., Meyer, M., & Freeland, E. (2015). Expectations of brilliance underlie gender distributions across academic disciplines. Science, 347(6219), 262-265. pdf

Friday, February 20th: Collective Intelligence

  • Presenter: Shivani Gupta
  • Papers: Woolley, A. W., Chabris, C. F., Pentland, A., Hashmi, N., & Malone, T. W. (2010). Evidence for a collective intelligence factor in the performance of human groups. Science, 330(6004), 686-688. pdf

Friday, February 13th: The use of item parcels in structural equation modelling

  • Presenter: Mijke Rhemtulla, Psychological Methods, University of Amsterdam
  • Abstract: Structural equation modellers often reduce large sets of items (e.g., 32 items on a subjective well-being questionnaire) into a smaller set of subscale scores (e.g., 4 sum scores, each representing the sum of 8 items) before building a structural equation model. This practice of “parceling” is commonly used to reduce the complexity of a model, improve model fit, and improve the distributional properties of observed variables. It is also a highly contentious practice among methodologists, many of whom note that parceling can substantially change both parameter estimates and the substantive interpretation of latent variables. In this talk, I will explain the conceptual and mathematical basis of parceling, describe some parcel-formation strategies that have been proposed, discuss some of the arguments that have been levied for and against the use of parcels, and then present some of my own research into the consequences of parceling at the population level. In particular, I’ll consider the effects of parceling on the accuracy of parameter estimates, on model fit, and on power to detect misspecifications in the measurement and structural parts of a model.

Friday, February 6th: Adolescent mental health and unemployment in the Great Recession: evidence from a US cohort study

  • Presenter: Mark Egan, University of Stirling
  • Abstract: Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth 1997 (NLSY97), we examined the relationship between self-reported mental health in 2000 and a set of employment outcomes over 2000-11. In analysis adjusting for intelligence, physical health and other sociodemographic characteristics (N = 5,596), adolescents classified as having mental health problems were 2.8 percentage points more likely to experience unemployment, 5.5 points more likely to be unemployed or out of the labor force (UOLF) and experienced 11 weeks more unemployment. These effects were similar in magnitude to a 1 SD decrease in intelligence, double the magnitude of having a serious physical health problem and were mostly robust to sibling fixed-effects analysis. Difference-in-difference analysis of unemployment rates before (2006-08) and after (2009-11) the Great Recession found that those with mental health problems were disproportionately more likely to exit employment (p=0.06) in the post-recession period. This effect was largely driven by sharply increasing unemployment rates among the least educated, who also reported the highest rate of mental health problems. These findings build on prior research linking early-life mental health to youth unemployment and suggest this relationship may be intensified during economic recessions.

Friday, January 30th: Sex, skydiving, and following the crowd: How are sex differences in risky behaviour shaped by evolution and culture?

  • Presenters: Kate Cross, University of St Andrews
  • Abstract: What do getting into fights, jumping out of planes, and ignoring the views of a majority have in common? They’re all potentially risky, and they’re all more frequently done by men than by women. Efforts to explain each of these sex differences have come from both evolutionary accounts based on evolved adaptations, and social role accounts based on gendered social expectations. Here, I attempt to reconcile the two. Drawing on meta-analyses and empirical work, I argue that there is evidence for domain-general sex differences in personality factors, including sensation seeking and punishment sensitivity, which might be relatively insensitive to cultural change and which partly account for sex differences in risky behaviour. However, the perceived risk of any behaviour can change radically depending on context and culture, such that the effects of these personality factors can be overridden. I offer three examples: the effect of target intimacy on sex differences in aggression, the effect of prevailing gender norms on sex differences in sensation seeking, and the effects of gender-specific task expectations on sex differences in conformity. I propose that considering interactions between personality and contextual factors provides a more complete understanding not only of why sex differences in human behaviour show plasticity, but how they come to exist in the first place.

Friday, January 23rd: Praise for intelligence can undermine children's motivation and performance

  • Presenter: Bálint Puster
  • Abstract: Praise for ability is commonly considered to have beneficial effects on motivation. Contrary to this popular belief, six studies demonstrated that praise for intelligence had more negative consequences for students' achievement motivation than praise for effort. Fifth graders praised for intelligence were found to care more about performance goals relative to learning goals than children praised for effort. After failure, they also displayed less task persistence, less task enjoyment, more low- ability attributions, and worse task performance than children praised for effort. Finally, children praised for intelligence described it as a fixed trait more than children praised for hard work, who believed it to be subject to improvement. These findings have important implications for how achievement is best encouraged, as well as for more theoretical issues, such as the potential cost of performance goals and the socialization of contingent self-worth.