The Role of Rituals in Group Cohesion

A recent study published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior [1] explores the pervasive human social behavior of participating in rituals – particularly rituals that seem to lack an obvious connection between the actions being preformed and any tangible outcomes that these actions are supposed to achieve such as rain dances or certain religious ceremonies. Many anthropologists have suspected that rituals promote increased social cohesion, although little experimental research has been conduct to explore this relationship.

In this study researcher had two groups of children, those in the “ritual condition” and those in the “control condition”. Each of these groups, in turn, was separated into a yellow ground and a green group. In both condition the yellow and green groups of children were seated on the floor in a line at opposite ends of gymnasium and given wristbands that corresponded with their groups color. Then each group’s instructor distributed bags of beads and string to each child, sat down in front of their group, and began leading the group by saying “Okay green [yellow] group, we are going to play with these beads in a special way, the way the green [yellow] group does it!” In the ritual group the instructor would then have the children build a necklace by touching the beads on their foreheads or clapping three times before stringing each bead. Whereas in the control group the children would then engage in unstructured play (which the vast majority of children used to create necklaces). The researchers made sure that both the ritual and control groups received equal amounts of social interaction and references to their group and their color.

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The End of the Gender Revolution

According to new study published in the journal Psychology of Women Quarterly among young Americans support for men’s patriarchal role within the family is increasing. In fact, since the nineties more and more 12th grade students are endorsing the view that it is the man’s role in the family to be the decision maker and breadwinner while it is better for a women to tend to the household.

The study used data from the “Monitoring the Future” survey which has continuously asked senior high school students question about various topics since 1976 [1]. Some of the question are on matters of gender roles where student are asked to rate their agreement with statements such as “The husband should make all the important decisions in the family,” and “A working mother can establish just as warm and secure a relationship with her children as a mother who does not work.” The authors report that although since the 1970s students have been increasingly endorsing the view that single-motherhood does not harm children there nonetheless seems to be somewhat of a backlash against feminism’s message of shared household responsibilities and decision-making.

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The Nature and Nurture of Women’s Political Participation

The disparity between male and female holders of political office has been the focus of much of the research on women and electoral politics in the United States. Despite making up roughly half of the population women make up only 19% of Congress, 12% of state governors, 24% of state legislators, and of the top 100 largest cities only 16% have female mayors [1].

Historically women have made up a small percentage of U.S. politicians. Following the election of the first female member of Congress in 1916 women’s representation grew slowly, and by 1981 women made up fewer than 5% of Congress [2]. It was only until the end of the 20th century that we saw a rapid increase in the number of female members of congress. On a global scale, there is considerable variation in women’s political representation. Across countries the average rate of female representation is 20% with several countries having women make up over 40% of their lower or single house and other – mostly Muslims – countries with zero women in politics [3].

women in politics

The topic of this post will be the causes of this disparity in the context of the United States. The two main categories of potential causes are those that involve the evolved differences in male and female psychology and those that involve the different ways that males and females are socialized such as differences in upbringing, social validation, and how gender role attitudes shape the way people view men and women differently. Although these two categories are by no means mutually exclusive their acceptance does seems to be somewhat divided across ideological lines. As the evolutionary psychologists David Buss and David Schmitt articulate in their paper published in a special edition of the feminist journal Sex Roles, these different approaches to sex differences have been responsible for the “uneasy history of feminism and evolutionary psychology” [4].

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Feminism, Social Change, and Women’s Happiness

The latter half of the 20th century has seen dramatic changes in the domestic and economic lives of women. In the economic sphere women’s labor force participation and real wages have increased dramatically. While only a third of working aged women were in the labor force in 1950, by 2000 that number had risen to nearly two thirds [1]. Women’s role in marriage has also changed as more and more women went from being homemakers to full-time workers alongside their husbands. These changes from homemaker to breadwinner have also coincided with large decreases in overall marriage rates and the rise of cohabitation and single motherhood. For instance, from 1950 to 1980 the rate of divorce per married couple more than doubled – from 10% to 22% [2].

The extent to which second-wave feminism contributed to these changes in not entirely clear, but what is certain is that society’s stance on women’s role in the family has shifted from that of a homemaker and mother to leaders and career women. Data from the General Social Survey bears out this trend; traditional gender roles have been losing out in favor or more egalitarian notions where women balance work and child raising and where political leadership is now longer the exclusive domain of men [3].

This post will explore how these social and economic changes have impacted the subjective well-being of women in America. Beginning with the overall trend of male and female happiness we’ll move on to how specific social changes affect female happiness such as the direct effects of feminist ideology and relative spousal earnings.

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Implicit Theories of Intelligence and Personality

In this post I will briefly discuss the findings of two studies that explore how beliefs about the nature of intelligence and personality can influence people’s attitudes, behaviors, and political positions.

Many people have their own lay theories about the nature of intelligence. Psychologists have identified two dimensions along which people’s beliefs about intelligence vary. The first dimensions is the degree to which intelligence is a fixed trait. The incremental theory states that intelligence is malleable trait that care vary over time while an entity theory states that intelligence is more or less a fixed trait that cannot be changed. The second dimension how the potential for high intelligence is distributed throughout society. The universal theory states that nearly everyone has the potential to become highly intelligent while the nonuniversal theory states only some people have the potential to become highly intelligent.

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The Biology of Sex Differences in Vocational Choice

There are striking disparities between the vocational choices of men and women in the United States and other developed countries. Generally, occupations relating to the manipulation of objects and things tend to be dominated by men while occupations relating to interactions with people tend to be dominated by women. For instance, in the United States roughly 90% of nurses and therapists are female as well as roughly 80% of elementary school teachers and social workers [1]. In contrast, occupations that the Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies as architecture and engineering are around 85% male and many computer related occupations such as software development are over 80% male. These may be the extremes, but the pattern is fairly consistent across the full spectrum of occupations and is also apparent in the educational choices of men and women. In 2012 75-85% of bachelor’s degrees in health professions, public administration, education, and psychology went to women while over 80% of bachelor’s degrees in engineering and computer science went to men [2]. Indeed these differences are consistent with the findings from the RIASEC model that uses a questionnaire to determine suitability for careers based on ones interests. It has been found men and women differ most in occupation related interests along the “realistic” and “social” dimension [3].

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Muslims in Europe: A Cause for Concern?

As Muslim immigration into Europe and the West continues we should expect to see certain changes to take place over time in regard to a variety of important social and cultural factors. First off, we have to recognize that this ethnic and religious shift in Europe is unprecedented. France for example went from being 1% Muslim in 1990 to 7.5% in 2010 and by 2030 is projected to be 10.3% Muslims and Europe as a whole is expected to rise from 6% Muslim in 2010 to 8% by 2030 [1]. What happens to a secular Western country when it becomes twenty or thirty percent Muslim? We can’t know for certain, but as I’ll explain, there is good reason to believe that it probably won’t be good for the native inhabitants of Europe.

muslim population

The future of an increasingly Muslim Europe depends not just on the amount of Muslims, but also the character of the Muslims that immigrate and their decedents. On a global level there are vast cultural differences between Muslims and Europeans. In 2013 Pew Research conducted a large worldwide survey asking Muslims questions on a variety of socially-relevant topics [2].

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Adoption Gains in IQ and g Loadings

Children adopted into a good familial environment from a poorer one have typically shown IQ gains in childhood relative to their biological parents, although these gains are not always present into adulthood. These IQ gains in childhood are to be expected considering that the adopted children are typically raised in a more intellectually enriching environment than their parents were as a result of the adoption. This is presumably because of longer and better education, better nutrition, a more intellectually stimulating environment, and less exposure to neurotoxins. In regard to the nature of these gains in intelligence researchers te Nijenhuis, Jongeneel-Grimen, Armstrong (2014) looks at the correlation between adoption gains in IQ and their g loading.

All tests of mental ability correlate to each other to some extent. This common variance between mental tests is referred to a g, or ‘general intelligence’ (Jensen, 1998, p. 29). The extent to which an individual test predicts this common variance between mental tests is referred to as that test’s g loading. So a test with good g loading will better predict the results of other tests than one with a poor g loading. Additionally, when a test is more g-loaded its scores are more negatively affected by inbreeding depression, it shows greater disparities between ethnic groups, and it is more related to brain size and reaction time. Likewise, on tests that are less g-loaded the effect of test practice and the Flynn Effect (Herrnstein & Murray, 1994, p. 307) are larger. So it appears that g-loading is more strongly related to biological factors.

To determine the correlation between adoption gains and g loading te Nijenhuis et al. (2014) preformed a meta-analysis of studies that measure adoption gains in IQ. To identify studies for inclusion researchers searched for published and unpublished studies, browsed content tables of major research journals, contacted several well-known researchers who’ve conducted research on adoption gains in IQ to obtain additional articles and information, and finally, checked the reference list of already included studies for further studies that may have been missed. Of the studies found, four met the criteria of the meta-analysis which were that the studies had to be well-validated, include reliable estimates of the true correlation between adoption gains and g loading, and have a minimum of seven subtests. After computing the adoption gains and subtest g loadings the researchers corrected for various statistical artifacts.

After appropriate statistical corrections the researchers estimate a true correlation of -1.00; a perfect inverse correlation between adoption gains within an IQ subtest and that subtest’s g loading. Because adoption gains in IQ are due to environmental changes the results of this study support the insights of other research that environmental differences in IQ are not g-loaded while genetic ones are. Therefore, the g loading of IQ differences seems to be a good indicator of whether or not that difference is due to genetic or environmental differences.  Further research on this topic should focus on collecting a broader and more diverse sample of adoption gains in IQ and subtest g loading as only four studies were available to be included in the present meta-analysis and all used the same IQ test, the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (te Nijenhuis et al., 2014).


Herrnstein, R., & Murray, C. (1994). The bell curve: Intelligence and class structure in American life (p. 307). New York, NY: Free Press.

Jensen, A. (1998). The g factor: The science of mental ability (p. 29). Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.

te Nijenhuis, J., Jongeneel-Grimen, B., & Armstrong, E. L. (2014). Are adoption gains on the g factor? A meta-analysis. Personality and Individual Differences 73(2015) 56–60.