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1 Schedule of DySoC Journal Club

Meeting are schedule from 11.15 to 12.05 in the room 105 @ NIMBioS

Date Presenter Papers/thematics slides
01/10 NA Organisational meeting NA
01/27 Simon Evolution of Moralizing Gods here
02/10 Damian Assessing the Russian Internet Research Agency’s impact NA
02/24 Lou Human Risk Perception and Climate Change NA
03/09 Denis Network science on belief system dynamics under logic constraints NA
03/23 Hyun Non-linear transition pathways in social-ecological systems NA
04/06 Sergey Normative foundations of human cooperation here
04/20 Alex COVID19 - Cultural and Institutional factors NA
05/04 Garriy Common knowledge, coordination, and strategic mentalizing in human social life NA
05/18 Athma Inequality and redistribution behavior in a give-or-take game NA
06/01 Simon Niche diversity can explain cross-cultural differences in personality structure NA

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2 List of Discussed Topics

2.1 Evolution of Moralizing Gods

Title Date Authors url pdf
Complex societies precede moralizing gods throughout world history 2019 Whitehouse et al. nature pdf
Corrected analyses show that moralizing gods precede complex societies but serious data concerns remain 2019 Beheim et al. psyarxiv pdf
Historians Respond to Whitehouse et al.(2019) 2019 Slingerland et al. psyarxiv pdf

Abstract of Whitehouse et al. 2019:

The origins of religion and of complex societies represent evolutionary puzzles. The ‘moralizing gods’ hypothesis offers a solution to both puzzles by proposing that belief in morally concerned supernatural agents culturally evolved to facilitate cooperation among strangers in large-scale societies. Although previous research has suggested an association between the presence of moralizing gods and social complexity the relationship between the two is disputed and attempts to establish causality have been hampered by limitations in the availability of detailed global longitudinal data. To overcome these limitations, here we systematically coded records from 414 societies that span the past 10,000 years from 30 regions around the world, using 51 measures of social complexity and 4 measures of supernatural enforcement of morality. Our analyses not only confirm the association between moralizing gods and social complexity, but also reveal that moralizing gods follow—rather than precede—large increases in social complexity. Contrary to previous predictions powerful moralizing ‘big gods’ and prosocial supernatural punishment tend to appear only after the emergence of ‘megasocieties’ with populations of more than around one million people. Moralizing gods are not a prerequisite for the evolution of social complexity, but they may help to sustain and expand complex multi-ethnic empires after they have become established. By contrast, rituals that facilitate the standardization of religious traditions across large populations generally precede the appearance of moralizing gods. This suggests that ritual practices were more important than the particular content of religious belief to the initial rise of social complexity.

Answers from Withouse et al. to the two last papers:

Misc. info, blog posts and discussions:

2.2 Assessing the Russian Internet Research Agency’s impact

Title Date Authors url pdf
Assessing the Russian Internet Research Agency’s impact on the political attitudes and behaviors of American Twitter users in late 2017 2020 Bail et al. pnas pdf

Abstract of the paper:

There is widespread concern that Russia and other countries have launched social-media campaigns designed to increase political divisions in the United States. Though a growing number of studies analyze the strategy of such campaigns, it is not yet known how these efforts shaped the political attitudes and behaviors of Americans. We study this question using longitudinal data that describe the attitudes and online behaviors of 1,239 Republican and Democratic Twitter users from late 2017 merged with nonpublic data about the Russian Internet Research Agency (IRA) from Twitter. Using Bayesian regression tree models, we find no evidence that interaction with IRA accounts substantially impacted 6 distinctive measures of political attitudes and behaviors over a 1-mo period. We also find that interaction with IRA accounts were most common among respondents with strong ideological homophily within their Twitter network, high interest in politics, and high frequency of Twitter usage. Together, these findings suggest that Russian trolls might have failed to sow discord because they mostly interacted with those who were already highly polarized. We conclude by discussing several important limitations of our study—especially our inability to determine whether IRA accounts influenced the 2016 presidential election—as well as its implications for future research on social media influence campaigns, political polarization, and computational social science.

2.3 Human Risk Perception and Climate Change

Title Date Authors url pdf
Linking models of human behavior and climate alters projected climate change 2018 Beckage et al. Nature Climate Change
Accounting for the Human Factor 2018 Gilligan Nature Climate change

Gilligan (2018) is a comment that will give you more context about Beckage et al. (2018) ; and for more information you can also read the NIMBioS’ press release about Beckage et al. (2018) paper here.

The group involved in Beckage et al. (2018) paper continues to work on similar topics with the support of the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC). You can visit their webpage (SESYNC.org) to find more publications and researches on similar topics and ask Lou about it.

You can also visit the webpage of the NIMBioS working group : http://www.nimbios.org/workinggroups/WG_risk

Title of Lou’s presentation: “A Rational Basis for Hope: Human Behavior Modeling and Climate Change”

Abstract of the presentation:

It is easy to lose confidence in the capacity for human social and political systems to respond effectively to the challenges from rising average global temperature and associated climate change. A working group of diverse researchers with backgrounds in mathematical modeling, climate science, psychology, sociology, geography and ecology has addressed the question as to whether there is any rational basis to expect that human behavioral changes can sufficiently impact climate to significantly reduce future mean global temperatures. Climate models can easily make assumptions about reductions in future greenhouse gas emissions and project the implications, but they do this with no rational basis for human responses. We have built this rational basis by developing a model based on a set of standard assumptions from the psychology literature in the theory of planned behavior, linking these to extreme events obtained from a climate model, and then allowing feedback to global emissions in a climate model on a yearly basis as affected by human behavior. The key result from this is that there is indeed some rational basis for hope, whereby a meaningful reduction of future average temperature occurs under circumstances in which mitigation arises from infrastructure changes which allow for cumulative impacts.

2.4 Network science on belief system dynamics under logic constraints

Title Date Authors url pdf
Network science on belief system dynamics under logic constraints 2016 Friedkin et al. science pdf

Abstract of the paper:

Breakthroughs have been made in algorithmic approaches to understanding how individuals in a group influence each other to reach a consensus. However, what happens to the group consensus if it depends on several statements, one of which is proven false? Here, we show how the existence of logical constraints on beliefs affect the collective convergence to a shared belief system and, in contrast, how an idiosyncratic set of arbitrarily linked beliefs held by a few may become held by many.

2.5 Non-linear transition pathways in social-ecological systems

Title Date Authors url pdf
Exploring non-linear transition pathways in social-ecological systems 2020 Mathias et al. Scientific Report pdf

Abstract of the paper:

Tipping point dynamics are fundamental drivers for sustainable transition pathways of social-ecological systems (SES). Current research predominantly analyzes how crossing tipping points causes regime shifts, however, the analysis of potential transition pathways from these social and ecological tipping points is often overlooked. In this paper, we analyze transition pathways and the potential outcomes that these may lead to via a stylized model of a system composed of interacting agents exploiting resources and, by extension, the overall ecosystem. Interactions between the social and the ecological system are based on a perception-exploitation framework. We show that the presence of tipping points in SES may yield counter-intuitive social-ecological transition pathways. For example, the high perception of an alarming ecological state among agents can provide short-term ecological benefits, but can be less effective in the long term, compared to a low-perception condition. This work also highlights how understanding non-linear interactions is critical for defining suitable transition pathways of any SES.

2.6 Normative foundations of human cooperation

Title Date Authors url pdf
Normative foundations of human cooperation 2018 Fehr and Schurtenberger Nature Human Behavior pdf

Abstract of the paper:

A large literature shares the view that social norms shape human cooperation, but without a clean empirical identification of the relevant norms almost every behaviour can be rationalized as norm driven, thus rendering norms useless as an explanatory construct. This raises the question of whether social norms are indeed causal drivers of behaviour and can convincingly explain major cooperation-related regularities. Here, we show that the norm of conditional cooperation provides such an explanation, that powerful methods for its empirical identification exist and that social norms have causal effects. Norm compliance rests on fundamental human motives (‘social preferences’) that also imply a willingness to punish free-riders, but normative constraints on peer punishment are important for its effectiveness and welfare properties. If given the chance, a large majority of people favour the imposition of such constraints through the migration to institutional environments that enable the normative guidance of cooperation and norm enforcement behaviours.

2.7 COVID19 - Cultural and Institutional factors

Title Date Authors url pdf
Cultural and Institutional Factors Predicting the Infection Rate and Mortality Likelihood of the COVID-19 Pandemic 2020 Gelfand et al Psyarxiv pdf

Abstract of the paper:

The spread of COVID-19 represents a global public health crisis, yet some nations were more effective than others at limiting the spread of the virus during the early stages of the pandemic. Here we show that institutional and cultural factors combine to partly explain these cross-cultural differences. Nations with tight cultures and efficient governments were the most effective at limiting COVID-19’s growth and mortality rates as of early April, and this interaction of cultural tightness and government efficiency is robust to controlling for underreporting of cases, economic development, inequality, median age, population density, climatological variation, and other dimensions of cross-cultural variation (collectivism, power distance, relational mobility). A formal evolutionary model explores the mechanism that may underlie our findings, suggesting that these cross-cultural trends may be associated with group variation in cooperation under conditions of high threat. These analyses shed light on why some nations contained COVID-19 more effectively than others.

2.8 Common knowledge, coordination, and strategic mentalizing in human social life

Title Date Authors url pdf
Common knowledge, coordination, and strategic mentalizing in human social life 2019 De Freitas et al. PNAS pdf

Abstract of the paper:

People often coordinate for mutual gain, such as keeping to opposite sides of a stairway, dubbing an object or place with a name, or assembling en masse to protest a regime. Because successful coordination requires complementary choices, these opportunities raise the puzzle of how people attain the common knowledge that facilitates coordination, in which a person knows X, knows that the other knows X, knows that the other knows that he knows, ad infinitum. We show that people are highly sensitive to the distinction between common knowledge and mere private or shared knowledge, and that they deploy this distinction strategically in diverse social situations that have the structure of coordination games, including market cooperation, innuendo, bystander intervention, attributions of charitability, self-conscious emotions, and moral condemnation.

2.9 Inequality and redistribution behavior in a give-or-take game

Title Date Authors url pdf
Inequality and redistribution behavior in a give-or-take game 2020 Bechtel et al. PNAS pdf


Political polarization and extremism are widely thought to be driven by the surge in economic inequality in many countries around the world. Understanding why inequality persists depends on knowing the causal effect of inequality on individual behavior. We study how inequality affects redistribution behavior in a randomized “give-or-take” experiment that created equality, advantageous inequality, or disadvantageous inequality between two individuals before offering one of them the opportunity to either take from or give to the other. We estimate the causal effect of inequality in representative samples of German and American citizens (n = 4,966) and establish two main findings. First, individuals imperfectly equalize payoffs: On average, respondents transfer 12% of the available endowments to realize more equal wealth distributions. This means that respondents tolerate a considerable degree of inequality even in a setting in which there are no costs to redistribution. Second, redistribution behavior in response to disadvantageous and advantageous inequality is largely asymmetric: Individuals who take from those who are richer do not also tend to give to those who are poorer, and individuals who give to those who are poorer do not tend to take from those who are richer. These behavioral redistribution types correlate in meaningful ways with support for heavy taxes on the rich and the provision of welfare benefits for the poor. Consequently, it seems difficult to construct a majority coalition willing to back the type of government interventions needed to counter rising inequality.

To go deeper, a paper mentionned by Athma during the meeting discussing the theoretical roots driving the inequalities empirically observed in Bechtel etal 2020:

  • “Inequality in nature and society” by Scheffer et al., PNAS 2017 (url)

2.10 Niche diversity can explain cross-cultural differences in personality structure

Title Date Authors url pdf
Niche diversity can explain cross-cultural differences in personality structure 2020 Smaldino et al. Nature Human Behaviour pdf


The covariance structure of personality traits derived from statistical models (for example, Big Five) is often assumed to be a human universal. Cross-cultural studies have challenged this view, finding that less-complex societies exhibit stronger covariation among behavioural characteristics, resulting in fewer derived personality factors. To explain these results, we propose the niche diversity hypothesis, in which a greater diversity of social and ecological niches elicits a broader range of multivariate behavioural profiles and, hence, lower trait covariance in a population. We formalize this as a computational model, which reproduces empirical results from recent cross-cultural studies and also yields an additional prediction for which we find empirical support. This work provides a general explanation for population differences in personality structure in both humans and other animals and suggests a substantial reimagining of personality research: instead of reifying statistical descriptions of manifest personality structures, research should focus more on modelling their underlying causes.