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

Concept: Philosophical terminology


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


We study a superlattice of silicene and hexagonal boron nitride by first principles calculations and demonstrate that the interaction between the layers of the superlattice is very small. As a consequence, quasi free-standing silicene is realized in this superlattice. In particular, the Dirac cone of silicene is preserved. Due to the wide band gap of hexagonal boron nitride, the superlattice realizes the characteristic physical phenomena of free-standing silicene. In particular, we address by model calculations the combined effect of the intrinsic spin-orbit coupling and an external electric field, which induces a transition from a semimetal to a topological insulator and further to a band insulator.

Concepts: Magnetic field, Mathematics, Fundamental physics concepts, Condensed matter physics, Band gap, Philosophical terminology, Boron nitride, Aluminium nitride


Although people often assume that multiple motives for doing something will be more powerful and effective than a single motive, research suggests that different types of motives for the same action sometimes compete. More specifically, research suggests that instrumental motives, which are extrinsic to the activities at hand, can weaken internal motives, which are intrinsic to the activities at hand. We tested whether holding both instrumental and internal motives yields negative outcomes in a field context in which various motives occur naturally and long-term educational and career outcomes are at stake. We assessed the impact of the motives of over 10,000 West Point cadets over the period of a decade on whether they would become commissioned officers, extend their officer service beyond the minimum required period, and be selected for early career promotions. For each outcome, motivation internal to military service itself predicted positive outcomes; a relationship that was negatively affected when instrumental motives were also in evidence. These results suggest that holding multiple motives damages persistence and performance in educational and occupational contexts over long periods of time.

Concepts: Motivation, Outcome, Intrinsic and extrinsic properties, Multiplication, Philosophical terminology, Motive, Officer


Abstract Although the attitudes towards homosexuality have become more liberal, particularly in industrialized Western countries, there is still a great deal of variance in terms of the worldwide levels of homonegativity. Using data from the two most recent waves of the World Values Survey (1999-2004, 2005-2009) this article seeks to explain this variance by means of a multi-level analysis of 79 countries. We include characteristics on the individual level, as age or gender, as well as aggregate variables linked to specificities of the nation-states. In particular, we focus on the religious denomination of a person and her religiosity in order to explain her attitude towards homosexuality. We find clear differences in levels of homonegativity among the followers of the individual religions.

Concepts: Metaphysics, Religion, Morality, Abstraction, Islam, Philosophical terminology, Christianity, Societal attitudes toward homosexuality


Recent research suggests that diet quality influences depression risk; however, a lack of experimental evidence leaves open the possibility that residual confounding explains the observed relationships. The aim of this study was to document the cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between dietary patterns and symptoms of depression and to undertake a detailed examination of potential explanatory factors, particularly socioeconomic circumstances, in the diet-depression relationship.

Concepts: Scientific method, Experimental design, Critical thinking, Nutrition, Confounding, Theory, Explanation, Philosophical terminology


Tool use in nonhuman apes can help identify the conditions that drove the extraordinary expansion of hominin technology. Chimpanzees and bonobos are our closest living relatives. Whereas chimpanzees are renowned for their tool use, bonobos use few tools and none in foraging. We investigated whether extrinsic (ecological and social opportunities) or intrinsic (predispositions) differences explain this contrast by comparing chimpanzees at Kalinzu (Uganda) and bonobos at Wamba (DRC). We assessed ecological opportunities based on availability of resources requiring tool use. We examined potential opportunities for social learning in immature apes. Lastly, we investigated predispositions by measuring object manipulation and object play. Extrinsic opportunities did not explain the tool use difference, whereas intrinsic predispositions did. Chimpanzees manipulated and played more with objects than bonobos, despite similar levels of solitary and social play. Selection for increased intrinsic motivation to manipulate objects likely also played an important role in the evolution of hominin tool use.

Concepts: Difference, Hominidae, Chimpanzee, Motivation, Intrinsic and extrinsic properties, Philosophical terminology, Tool, Tool-using species


Is it sufficient to base arguments for conservation on the intrinsic value of nature, regardless of the services and economic benefits that biodiversity provides for humans? This question underlies much recent debate that has been at times acrimonious and has led to calls for a more inclusive approach to conservation. Yet melding different ideologies within a unified conceptual framework has proven difficult. Here I describe an approach that recognizes the importance of the level of biological organization and spatial extent in determining the strength of alternative arguments for why we should conserve nature. I argue that the framework helps reconcile contrasting viewpoints and brings clarity to when different conservation management approaches (for instance, regulation versus monetary valuation) are most appropriate.

Concepts: DNA, Life, Species, Ecology, Natural environment, Philosophical terminology, Argumentation theory, Value theory


Contemporary prejudice research focuses primarily on people who are motivated to respond without prejudice and the ways in which unintentional bias can cause these people to act in a manner inconsistent with this motivation. However, some real-world phenomena (e.g., hate speech, hate crimes) and experimental findings (e.g., Plant & Devine, 2001, 2009) suggest that some prejudice is intentional. These phenomena and findings are difficult to explain solely from the motivations to respond without prejudice. We argue that some people are motivated to express prejudice, and we develop the Motivation to Express Prejudice Scale (MP) to measure this motivation. In 7 studies involving more than 6,000 participants, we demonstrate that, across scale versions targeted at Black people and gay men, the MP has good reliability and convergent, discriminant, and predictive validity. In normative climates that prohibit prejudice, the internal and external motivations to express prejudice are functionally nonindependent, but they become more independent when normative climates permit more prejudice toward a target group. People high in the motivation to express prejudice are relatively likely to resist pressure to support programs promoting intergroup contact and to vote for political candidates who support oppressive policies. The motivation to express prejudice predicted these outcomes even when controlling for attitudes and the motivations to respond without prejudice. This work encourages contemporary prejudice researchers to give greater consideration to the intentional aspects of negative intergroup behavior and to broaden the range of phenomena, target groups, and samples that they study. (PsycINFO Database Record

Concepts: Scientific method, Psychometrics, Motivation, Philosophical terminology, Hate speech, Hate crime


Does the presence of irrelevant neuroscience information make explanations of psychological phenomena more appealing? Do fMRI pictures further increase that allure? To help answer these questions, 385 college students in four experiments read brief descriptions of psychological phenomena, each one accompanied by an explanation of varying quality (good vs. circular) and followed by superfluous information of various types. Ancillary measures assessed participants' analytical thinking, beliefs on dualism and free will, and admiration for different sciences. In Experiment 1, superfluous neuroscience information increased the judged quality of the argument for both good and bad explanations, whereas accompanying fMRI pictures had no impact above and beyond the neuroscience text, suggesting a bias that is conceptual rather than pictorial. Superfluous neuroscience information was more alluring than social science information (Experiment 2) and more alluring than information from prestigious “hard sciences” (Experiments 3 and 4). Analytical thinking did not protect against the neuroscience bias, nor did a belief in dualism or free will. We conclude that the “allure of neuroscience” bias is conceptual, specific to neuroscience, and not easily accounted for by the prestige of the discipline. It may stem from the lay belief that the brain is the best explanans for mental phenomena.

Concepts: Psychology, Brain, Critical thinking, Science, Cognitive science, Mind, Social sciences, Philosophical terminology


Advanced brain-chip interfaces with numerous recording sites bear great potential for investigation of neuroprosthetic applications. The bottleneck towards achieving an efficient bio-electronic link is the real-time processing of neuronal signals, which imposes excessive requirements on bandwidth, energy and computation capacity. Here we present a unique concept where the intrinsic properties of memristive devices are exploited to compress information on neural spikes in real-time. We demonstrate that the inherent voltage thresholds of metal-oxide memristors can be used for discriminating recorded spiking events from background activity and without resorting to computationally heavy off-line processing. We prove that information on spike amplitude and frequency can be transduced and stored in single devices as non-volatile resistive state transitions. Finally, we show that a memristive device array allows for efficient data compression of signals recorded by a multi-electrode array, demonstrating the technology’s potential for building scalable, yet energy-efficient on-node processors for brain-chip interfaces.

Concepts: Energy, Device, Recording, Data compression, Intrinsic and extrinsic properties, Philosophical terminology, Electronics terms, Bottleneck