When political parties reverse their policy stance, their supporters immediately switch their opinions too

At least a significant portion of their supporters, according to U of Aarhus researchers.

When two competing political parties in Denmark reversed their policy stance on an issue — suddenly they both supported reducing unemployment benefits — their voters immediately moved their opinions by around 15% into line with their party.

The same thing happened when one of these parties shifted from opposing to supporting ending Denmark’s early retirement.

The researchers were studying how public opinion is formed. Their recent paper sheds light on how much influence political parties have over their supporters, according to the researchers, who surveyed their panel of subjects in five successive waves between 2010 and 2011. They studied the same group of party supporters before, during and after a policy reversal.

“We can see that [the] welfare programs were actually quite popular … and many of the voters of the center-right party were in favor of these welfare programs,” commented one of the researchers, Rune Slothuus. “Nevertheless, we can see that they reversed their opinion from supporting these welfare programs to opposing these welfare programs.”

“I was surprised to see the parties appeared this powerful in shaping opinions,” Slothuus said. “Our findings suggest that partisan leaders can indeed lead citizens’ opinions in the real world, even in situations where the stakes are real and the economic consequences tangible.”

The researchers pondered Western democracy in light of their findings: “If citizens just blindly follow their party without thinking much about it, that should lead to some concern about the mechanisms in our democracy. Because how can partisan elites represent citizens’ views if the views of citizens are shaped by the very same elites who are supposed to represent them?”

Source: How Political Parties Shape Public Opinion in the Real World. Rune Slothuus and Martin Bisgaard. First published: 04 November 2020 https://doi.org/10.1111/ajps.12550

The brain listens for things it is trying to predict

The brain interprets sounds as they contrast with its expectations. It recognizes patterns of sounds faster when they’re in line with what it is predicting it will hear, but it only encodes sounds when they contrast with expectations, according to Technische U researchers.

Researchers showed this by monitoring the two principal nuclei of the subcortical pathway responsible for auditory processing: the inferior colliculus and the medial geniculate body, as their subjects listened to patterns of sounds which the researches modified so that sometimes they would hear an expected sound pattern, and other times something unexpected.

Source: Alejandro Tabas, Glad Mihai, Stefan Kiebel, Robert Trampel, Katharina von Kriegstein. Abstract rules drive adaptation in the subcortical sensory pathway. eLife, 2020; 9 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.64501

We have a particular way of understanding a room

When several research subjects were instructed to explore an empty room, and when they were instead seated in a chair and watched someone else explore the room, their brain waves followed a certain pattern, as recorded by a backpack hooked up to record their brain waves, eye movements, and paths. It didn’t matter if they were walking or watching someone else, according to UC researchers led by Dr Matthias Stangl.

The researchers also tested what happened when subjects searched for a hidden spot, or watched someone else do so, and found that brain waves flowed more strongly when they had a goal and hunted for something.

Source: Matthias Stangl, Uros Topalovic, Cory S. Inman, Sonja Hiller, Diane Villaroman, Zahra M. Aghajan, Leonardo Christov-Moore, Nicholas R. Hasulak, Vikram R. Rao, Casey H. Halpern, Dawn Eliashiv, Itzhak Fried, Nanthia Suthana. Boundary-anchored neural mechanisms of location-encoding for self and others. Nature, 2020; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-03073-y

Extroverts and introverts use different vocabularies

Extroverts use ‘positive emotion’ and ‘social process’ words more often than introverts, according to new research conducted at Nanyang Technological U.

‘Love,’ ‘happy,’ and ‘blessed’ indicate pleasant emotions, and ‘beautiful’ and ‘nice’ indicate positivity or optimism, and are among the words found to be used more often by extroverts. So too are ‘meet,’ ‘share,’ and ‘talk,’ which are about socializing. Extroverts use personal pronouns — except ‘I’ — more too, another indication of sociability.

The correlation, however, was small, and the researchers think that stronger linguistic indicators need to be found to achieve their general goal, which is improving machine learning approaches to targeting consumer marketing.

Source: Jiayu Chen, Lin Qiu, Moon-Ho Ringo Ho. A meta-analysis of linguistic markers of extraversion: Positive emotion and social process words. Journal of Research in Personality, 2020; 89: 104035 DOI: 10.1016/j.jrp.2020.104035

WhatsApp is changing today - Users must give the app permission to send their private data to Facebook or lose account

WhatsApp was bought by Facebook in 2014, but has thrived while promoting itself as a privacy-respecting messaging app that now has 1.5b monthly active users. This week, though, WhatApp sent out an update to users’ phones that they must ‘consent’ to a new policy or lose access.

Whatsapp will now share more of your data, including your IP address (your location) and phone number, your account registration information, your transaction data, and service-related data, interactions on WhatsApp, and other data collected based on your consent, with Facebook’s other companies. Facebook has been working towards more closely integrating Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger.

Users who do not agree to ‘consent’ to the new policy will see their WhatsApp account become inaccessible until they do ‘consent.’ These accounts will remain dormant for 120 days after which they will be ‘deleted.’

The biggest change to the user policy, which many people ignored and clicked ‘agree’ to, thinking it was just another unimportant app update message, now reads,

‘We collect information about your activity on our Services, like service-related, diagnostic, and performance information. This includes information about your activity (including how you use our Services, your Services settings, how you interact with others using our Services (including when you interact with a business), and the time, frequency, and duration of your activities and interactions), log files, and diagnostic, crash, website, and performance logs and reports. This also includes information about when you registered to use our Services; the features you use like our messaging, calling, Status, groups (including group name, group picture, group description), payments or business features; profile photo, “about” information; whether you are online, when you last used our Services (your “last seen”); and when you last updated your “about” information.’

Notably, Elon Musk tweeted on the news, saying that WhatsApp users should switch to Signal, one of several popular privacy-focused messaging apps similar to WhatsApp.

The data sharing policy change doesn’t affect people in Europe due to GDPR data protection regulations.

President Trump silenced on top social media platforms after mob storms Capitol

The US president was locked out from posting new messages on his Facebook and Twitter accounts after an unruly group of supporters assembled outside the capitol building where Biden’s election win was being confirmed.

The lockdown on Twitter lasted 12 hours until the president removed tweets Twitter said violated its ‘civic integrity policy,’ but Zuckerburg said that Trump would be silenced on Facebook and Instagram for at least two more weeks until his presidential term was over. Facebook and Twitter are two of the main ways the president communicates with citizens and the world.

It is the first time social media platforms have chosen to limit the free speech of such an important figure.

Trump’s tweets from Jan 6, 2020, as recorded by thetrumparchive.com

Many news organizations covered the story using language such as ‘Trump Incites Rioters.’

Following Trumps ‘ban,’ there was renewed talk about treating social media platforms, where people share informative content, as publishers themselves, in part because their algorithms amplify things shared when those things are engaging. There was also talk about how the social media platforms that censored the president’s content did so as a response to content or events but without first drawing their ‘red line’ and saying which content is and isn’t allowed on their platforms.

Some of Trump’s staff resigned following the incident at the Capitol building, and there were also a lot of questions why the national guard wasn’t capable of handling the incident properly.

UPDATE January 8: Twitter permanently banned Trump’s account. Google removed Parler, an app like Twitter used by Trump supporters, from the Android app store to make it harder for people to download it, saying Google requires social media apps to have content moderation policies to remove posts that incite violence.

Canada Gears Up For Most Heated Election In Over A Decade

Canada is gearing up to vote in what many believe will be the most heated election in over a decade. This will be the longest campaign in Canada since 1872, spanning 11 weeks.

The election date was announced by Prime Minister Steven Harper at the beginning of August, propelling Canadians to engage in political conversations in grocery stores, on neighbors’ porches, at parties, and above all — as is normal in our time — on various online platforms. We saw the four main candidates duke it out in the Maclean’s National Leaders Debate on August 6th, only to see more confounding rhetoric come forth from the mouths of political analysts, or those people who fancy themselves to be political analysts. We need to look beyond the same old political rhetoric, such as the issues of economy, foreign policy, education and so on, and try to understand party policies in their more important details.

The truth is that we have four exceptionally strong candidates, something which has not happened for a long time in Canadian politics. Still this nation is not about electing prime ministers; rather it is about electing MP’s in the house. Although I forget this occasionally, I am sure that many others do as well. The next few months will be paramount to the future of Canada, as many remain adamant in their support of the Conservative party, many are also starting to feel that Harper has been in office far too long. It is obvious that it will be a tight race between the Liberals and Conservatives, but it also seems like the NDP is making headway, according to recent polling.

At the end of the day the main issue comes down to the fact that the economy — in other words to Canada’s almost technical recession during the past five months. While the dollar is falling and the economy is contracting, all fingers are of course pointed at Harper’s government. In the recent debate, Trudeau, Mulcair, and May all used this to levy against Harper, while the prime minister himself attacked the other three on their major platform plans for raising taxes across all sectors of Canada in order to strengthen the social safety net. For a moment it was like watching Friedman, although a not so eloquent or educated version, debating ‘Kenesyan’ economists.

Canada currently finds itself at a multiple crossroad, and whichever way the nation chooses to take the future is somewhat precarious. Whether the people choose another four years of Harper, Mulcair’s potential steady leadership, or Justin’s refreshing ways, I think the real issue here is what do Canadians believe would be a better Canada? One that maintains a Conservative foothold or one that moves towards the left? Rather, a Canada with Harper or without him?

I have not mentioned May, as although she was a strong presence in the debate, she is still the leader of a one-issue-party that has no room in the moderate Canadian landscape that we all envision. The truth is, regardless of whether we like it or not, the thing that is on most people’s minds as of this moment is not the environment, but the economy. More precisely, not the fact that Canada has not met emission standards in years, but why the Canadian dollar is plummeting. 

Canada needs a strong leader that can face issues head on, but it also needs a strong party. As our national safety is being debated amid all governmental institutions down to twitter discussions, Bill C-51 is a big concern in this campaign. Mulcair and May are heavily against the bill. Trudeau believes that the bill is a good idea, yet he still has made it clear that he wants to change some of its amendments and policies. The question is, if Mulcair or May do become PM’s in December, will they be able to do something about it?

All of this is mere politics, and what I mean by “mere” is that we hear the same old rhetoric, and the same old lines on the most prevalent issues of our time, with no real candor. The very fact that the debate was not pugnacious, is only a determiner of the fact that all four candidates were scared to hit the nails on the head. It would be exceptionally interesting to see therefore what the candidates’ opinion on more specific issues such as the recent Iran nuclear deal is. In a recent article by Bob Rae, he has made the case that Canada needs to be wholly clear on its stance over the Iran nuclear deal. We all know that Harper is rightly an important ally of Israel and Benjamin Netanyahu, but the truth is that Canada’s relations with the United States are at an “historic low,” one of the reasons being its unyielding support for Israel.

The issue of Israel is another important point of contention, and one which will probably cost Mulcair. Although they all have expressed support for Israel-some more than others- Mulcair has pushed the idea of supporting Palestine as well which is a position that the current government has not taken and might not be too popular. Last year the Forum Poll posted a small poll that suggests that on average Canadians are split on the Israel-Palestine issue, but a majority of them choose not to “pick sides.” It is obvious that the elections in October will show us how the Canadian public feels.

The truth is that politics are distressingly perplexing, but amid all of the rhetoric there is another level that affects the way voters actually vote, one which is far more simple, and that is the case of image. Ben Shapiro, the political commentator, makes the case in his book Project President that in the U.S. the issue of image has always been important to the way voters learn to trust candidates. The same is easily applied to Canadian politics as well. When we look at Justin and his youthful demeanor it is easy to see that there is an ideal energetic outlook to the way he presents himself. On the other hand, Harper although aging, has a different cool, collected, calm to him that shows him off to be a leader that knows what he is doing. Mulcair and May seem to have a more empathetic and approachable vibe to them. Although we hate to admit it, as Ben Shapiro suggests, the truth is that things like how candidates are dressed, how they look, and how they act are crucial to voters simply due to the fact that it is a part of human nature.

Despite the obvious problem of image, as well as vague opinions on national and international issues, we need to place our trust as voters in the ideas of the parties that we feel appeals most to us, and not necessarily in the leadership, however hard that may be. This is a country whose political system has been built on representation, therefore when one votes in their own riding it is essential they choose a party that represents them the most, and not just simply how they feel about the party’s leader. Regardless of whether one is anti-Harper, or anti-Trudeau, the important thing remains that the Canadian populace votes in October.

Analysis by Milad Doroudian

Photo by Saffron Blaze

When political parties reverse their policy stance, their supporters immediately switch their opinions too

At least a significant portion of their supporters, according to U of Aarhus researchers.

When two competing political parties in Denmark reversed their policy stance on an issue — suddenly they both supported reducing unemployment benefits — their voters immediately moved their opinions by around 15% into line with their party.

The same thing happened when one of these parties shifted from opposing to supporting ending Denmark’s early retirement.

The researchers were studying how public opinion is formed. Their recent paper sheds light on how much influence political parties have over their supporters, according to the researchers, who surveyed their panel of subjects in five successive waves between 2010 and 2011. They studied the same group of party supporters before, during and after a policy reversal.

“We can see that [the] welfare programs were actually quite popular … and many of the voters of the center-right party were in favor of these welfare programs,” commented one of the researchers, Rune Slothuus. “Nevertheless, we can see that they reversed their opinion from supporting these welfare programs to opposing these welfare programs.”

“I was surprised to see the parties appeared this powerful in shaping opinions,” Slothuus said. “Our findings suggest that partisan leaders can indeed lead citizens’ opinions in the real world, even in situations where the stakes are real and the economic consequences tangible.”

The researchers pondered Western democracy in light of their findings: “If citizens just blindly follow their party without thinking much about it, that should lead to some concern about the mechanisms in our democracy. Because how can partisan elites represent citizens’ views if the views of citizens are shaped by the very same elites who are supposed to represent them?”

Source: How Political Parties Shape Public Opinion in the Real World. Rune Slothuus and Martin Bisgaard. First published: 04 November 2020 https://doi.org/10.1111/ajps.12550

The brain listens for things it is trying to predict

The brain interprets sounds as they contrast with its expectations. It recognizes patterns of sounds faster when they’re in line with what it is predicting it will hear, but it only encodes sounds when they contrast with expectations, according to Technische U researchers.

Researchers showed this by monitoring the two principal nuclei of the subcortical pathway responsible for auditory processing: the inferior colliculus and the medial geniculate body, as their subjects listened to patterns of sounds which the researches modified so that sometimes they would hear an expected sound pattern, and other times something unexpected.

Source: Alejandro Tabas, Glad Mihai, Stefan Kiebel, Robert Trampel, Katharina von Kriegstein. Abstract rules drive adaptation in the subcortical sensory pathway. eLife, 2020; 9 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.64501

We have a particular way of understanding a room

When several research subjects were instructed to explore an empty room, and when they were instead seated in a chair and watched someone else explore the room, their brain waves followed a certain pattern, as recorded by a backpack hooked up to record their brain waves, eye movements, and paths. It didn’t matter if they were walking or watching someone else, according to UC researchers led by Dr Matthias Stangl.

The researchers also tested what happened when subjects searched for a hidden spot, or watched someone else do so, and found that brain waves flowed more strongly when they had a goal and hunted for something.

Source: Matthias Stangl, Uros Topalovic, Cory S. Inman, Sonja Hiller, Diane Villaroman, Zahra M. Aghajan, Leonardo Christov-Moore, Nicholas R. Hasulak, Vikram R. Rao, Casey H. Halpern, Dawn Eliashiv, Itzhak Fried, Nanthia Suthana. Boundary-anchored neural mechanisms of location-encoding for self and others. Nature, 2020; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-03073-y

Extroverts and introverts use different vocabularies

Extroverts use ‘positive emotion’ and ‘social process’ words more often than introverts, according to new research conducted at Nanyang Technological U.

‘Love,’ ‘happy,’ and ‘blessed’ indicate pleasant emotions, and ‘beautiful’ and ‘nice’ indicate positivity or optimism, and are among the words found to be used more often by extroverts. So too are ‘meet,’ ‘share,’ and ‘talk,’ which are about socializing. Extroverts use personal pronouns — except ‘I’ — more too, another indication of sociability.

The correlation, however, was small, and the researchers think that stronger linguistic indicators need to be found to achieve their general goal, which is improving machine learning approaches to targeting consumer marketing.

Source: Jiayu Chen, Lin Qiu, Moon-Ho Ringo Ho. A meta-analysis of linguistic markers of extraversion: Positive emotion and social process words. Journal of Research in Personality, 2020; 89: 104035 DOI: 10.1016/j.jrp.2020.104035

WhatsApp is changing today - Users must give the app permission to send their private data to Facebook or lose account

WhatsApp was bought by Facebook in 2014, but has thrived while promoting itself as a privacy-respecting messaging app that now has 1.5b monthly active users. This week, though, WhatApp sent out an update to users’ phones that they must ‘consent’ to a new policy or lose access.

Whatsapp will now share more of your data, including your IP address (your location) and phone number, your account registration information, your transaction data, and service-related data, interactions on WhatsApp, and other data collected based on your consent, with Facebook’s other companies. Facebook has been working towards more closely integrating Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger.

Users who do not agree to ‘consent’ to the new policy will see their WhatsApp account become inaccessible until they do ‘consent.’ These accounts will remain dormant for 120 days after which they will be ‘deleted.’

The biggest change to the user policy, which many people ignored and clicked ‘agree’ to, thinking it was just another unimportant app update message, now reads,

‘We collect information about your activity on our Services, like service-related, diagnostic, and performance information. This includes information about your activity (including how you use our Services, your Services settings, how you interact with others using our Services (including when you interact with a business), and the time, frequency, and duration of your activities and interactions), log files, and diagnostic, crash, website, and performance logs and reports. This also includes information about when you registered to use our Services; the features you use like our messaging, calling, Status, groups (including group name, group picture, group description), payments or business features; profile photo, “about” information; whether you are online, when you last used our Services (your “last seen”); and when you last updated your “about” information.’

Notably, Elon Musk tweeted on the news, saying that WhatsApp users should switch to Signal, one of several popular privacy-focused messaging apps similar to WhatsApp.

The data sharing policy change doesn’t affect people in Europe due to GDPR data protection regulations.

Humanitarian crisis in Greece with closure of ERT news organization and mass layoffs

Humanitarian crisis in Greece with closure of ERT news organization and mass layoffs

THESSALONIKI, Greece — Over the past weeks, many hours of airtime and many inches of newspaper columns have been dedicated to the controversy of Greek national debt. The “modest proposal” presented by the Greek Government for debt renegotiations has drawn the attention of media across Europe.

The Greek side of the debate has voiced great concern about the austerity policies applied with bailout packages by the International Monetary Fund, European Commission and European Central Bank. Greek Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, has urged for time to deal with the furthering humanitarian crisis taking place within the country.

Recent reforms forced by the current Greek Government since 2011 include cuts to salaries, pensions, jobs in the public services and increased taxation have helped feed an unprecedented financial crisis which has eventually turned into a social one.

Employment statistics provide testimony to the above; Greece is on the top of Eurostat’s unemployment rates table for December, 2014, with 25.8 percent unemployed. In other words, approximately 1.5 million people are jobless.

2,656 jobless in one night

The instance of the Hellenic Public Broadcasting Corporation in Radio and Television (ERT) is a symbolic act reflecting the brutal austerity policies adopted in Greece. On June 11, 2013, the spokesman of the then Greek Government, Simos Kedikoglou, issued a statement announcing that ERT had been a corrupt and expensive organization encumbering on tax payers’ money and should stop broadcasting. A legislative act was issued by Greece’s Conservative-led coalition government the same day of Kedikoglou’s statement.

“ERT is a case of an exceptional lack of transparency and incredible extravagance. This ends now,” Kedikoglou claimed. The operations of the historic worldwide network went off air overnight. Police troops cleared the headquarters of ERT in Agia Paraskevi, Athens, cutting off the power and seizing all equipment the day after.

Outrage over the event of the “black” monitors — as people widely referred to the ERT’s shutdown – was massive. Within the night, more than 2,600 workers across ERT’s Radio, TV and Arts departments were dismissed. According to reports, a large number of them have not yet received salaries for the last months before the closure, nor their legally-entitled redundancy payments.

Almost 2 years since then, the heart of ERT is still beating, 300 kilometers away from Athens in the Greek vice-capital, Thessaloniki. Christina Siganidou, an active journalist and anchorwoman for ERT for the past 19 years, is among the last 60 people remaining in service in the newsroom of the ERT online broadcasting from Stratou Avenue, Thessaloniki.

ERT3
(Photo; Konstantinos Koulocheris)

“The overall experience has been amazing so far,” she said. “We have became a solid team working voluntarily with the assistance of a few members of the technical staff trade union of ERT.”

Critics and political circles claimed that the corporation was one of the most expensive state-owned broadcasters in Europe, with a 328 million euros funding per year, but nevertheless ERT was profitable considering the vastness of its coverage, not only nation-wide but also globally with its own satellite service.

The experienced anchorwoman then referred to the political interests that have been largely involved with the hiring policies of the corporation over the past decades. When asked about issues of opacity and extravagance within ERT practices, Siganidou admitted that indeed “there were scandals in the operation of ERT, but the responsibility for these is not the staff, but those who forced the ‘black.'”

Siganidou also referred to the closure of ERT as a dreadful act of censorship of the Media, placing further blame on the management of the public broadcaster during past years.

The prospect of cathartic reforms of ERT’s structure and practice has been the topic of a major debate between the staff trade union, POSPERT, and the State. Most of the proposals involved strict fiscal and hiring regulations, but the talks have not brought any definite results.

Sissy Gerogianni had been in the newsroom for 18 consecutive days by the day we talked. She joined ERT in 2000 as a staff secretary. “We will remain here for as long as we have to, she told me. “If someone would have told us that we would stay on here for 20 months as unpaid volunteers, we wouldn’t have believed them.”

On the day of the “black,” Gerogianni explained, “police troops didn’t try to re-occupy the offices because they used us as an alibi to provoke further social unrest.” Referring to the future, Gerogianni declared that everyone at the office had expectations about the new elected government. “We never accepted our dismissals, and this is why we are still here.”

Christos Avramidis is another member of the ERT’s newsroom for the past 12 years who remains in his position despite the closure of the organisation.

On the occupation of the facilities in Thessaloniki and the fact that police troops didn’t try to “clean-up” and seize the building as they did in ERT’s headquarters in Athens the day of the “black,” Avramidis claimed that “they wouldn’t get in while they were passing anti-social laws through heavy taxation of the working class at the time.”

He also  noted that,  “this was a victory for the workers’ movement not only here, but wider, across the whole country.”

New broadcaster in the post-ERT era

ERT
(Source: Guardian.co.uk)

In the aftermath of the closure of ERT, the Greek government announced the establishment of a new low-cost public broadcaster with Radio, TV and Internet departments to fill the gap left by ERT. New Hellenic Radio Internet and Television (NERIT) broadcasted nationwide less than one year after ERT’s closure, on the May, 4, 2014. ERT employers still are not acknowledging the existence of the newly-formed public broadcaster.

A few blocks away from ERT’s newsroom, at Aggelaki street in the Greek vice-capital, is the NERIT office. Xanthos Chitas, a former ERT news director since 1992 is now working for the organization.

“The effort to make a new public broadcaster in the post-ERT era was the right thing to do,” Chitas remarked as our interview began. “I don’t know and I don’t think that ERT was indeed an expensive operator. I have no evidence for it — and it would be wise for anyone with evidence to speak when it comes to blaming such an institution as ERT was.”

Chitas is not an advocate of the decision to close ERT. “I am against the ‘black signal.’ I don’t think that anyone agreed to what happened. It was unacceptable,” he argued. “It was censorship of freedom of speech in the media. ERT had the biggest geographical and population coverage. It was unacceptable to close it the way they did it, especially for the staff — both journalists and technicians. Those who are still there deserve more than just credit.”

In a review of the facts since the “black” of ERT, many have linked the government’s call to shut down the public broadcaster to private corporations’ convenience. In this regard the former journalist of ERT, and now member of NERIT’s crew, claimed that “this act had nothing to do with austerity, as many said, nor opacity within ERT. It was an act that privileged the private digital network operators that provide a digital terrestrial television transmission network in Greece — something that ERT was doing by 2013.”

At the time of writing, ERT employees are still on service, operating an online TV program from Thessaloniki available online as well as across 17 local radio stations in the Greek countryside, as wekk as a news’ portal. Their demonstrations have been supported by the majority of the labour population in Greece and European media corporations. The new-elected coalition government of SYRIZA and Independent Greeks political parties has promised to reopen the public broadcaster in the near future.

The instance of ERT is not the only instance of controversy in the regard of labour rights in Greece. Similar cases in both private and public sectors mirror the negative employment landscape, such as mass dismissals from Hellenic Coca-Cola by 3E Limited and school teachers’ and janitors’ dismissals reflect a crucial part of Greece’s dire job market. The redundancies account for more than 18,000 jobs within in one year.

Analysis by Konstantinos Koulocheris

When political parties reverse their policy stance, their supporters immediately switch their opinions too

At least a significant portion of their supporters, according to U of Aarhus researchers.

When two competing political parties in Denmark reversed their policy stance on an issue — suddenly they both supported reducing unemployment benefits — their voters immediately moved their opinions by around 15% into line with their party.

The same thing happened when one of these parties shifted from opposing to supporting ending Denmark’s early retirement.

The researchers were studying how public opinion is formed. Their recent paper sheds light on how much influence political parties have over their supporters, according to the researchers, who surveyed their panel of subjects in five successive waves between 2010 and 2011. They studied the same group of party supporters before, during and after a policy reversal.

“We can see that [the] welfare programs were actually quite popular … and many of the voters of the center-right party were in favor of these welfare programs,” commented one of the researchers, Rune Slothuus. “Nevertheless, we can see that they reversed their opinion from supporting these welfare programs to opposing these welfare programs.”

“I was surprised to see the parties appeared this powerful in shaping opinions,” Slothuus said. “Our findings suggest that partisan leaders can indeed lead citizens’ opinions in the real world, even in situations where the stakes are real and the economic consequences tangible.”

The researchers pondered Western democracy in light of their findings: “If citizens just blindly follow their party without thinking much about it, that should lead to some concern about the mechanisms in our democracy. Because how can partisan elites represent citizens’ views if the views of citizens are shaped by the very same elites who are supposed to represent them?”

Source: How Political Parties Shape Public Opinion in the Real World. Rune Slothuus and Martin Bisgaard. First published: 04 November 2020 https://doi.org/10.1111/ajps.12550

The brain listens for things it is trying to predict

The brain interprets sounds as they contrast with its expectations. It recognizes patterns of sounds faster when they’re in line with what it is predicting it will hear, but it only encodes sounds when they contrast with expectations, according to Technische U researchers.

Researchers showed this by monitoring the two principal nuclei of the subcortical pathway responsible for auditory processing: the inferior colliculus and the medial geniculate body, as their subjects listened to patterns of sounds which the researches modified so that sometimes they would hear an expected sound pattern, and other times something unexpected.

Source: Alejandro Tabas, Glad Mihai, Stefan Kiebel, Robert Trampel, Katharina von Kriegstein. Abstract rules drive adaptation in the subcortical sensory pathway. eLife, 2020; 9 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.64501

We have a particular way of understanding a room

When several research subjects were instructed to explore an empty room, and when they were instead seated in a chair and watched someone else explore the room, their brain waves followed a certain pattern, as recorded by a backpack hooked up to record their brain waves, eye movements, and paths. It didn’t matter if they were walking or watching someone else, according to UC researchers led by Dr Matthias Stangl.

The researchers also tested what happened when subjects searched for a hidden spot, or watched someone else do so, and found that brain waves flowed more strongly when they had a goal and hunted for something.

Source: Matthias Stangl, Uros Topalovic, Cory S. Inman, Sonja Hiller, Diane Villaroman, Zahra M. Aghajan, Leonardo Christov-Moore, Nicholas R. Hasulak, Vikram R. Rao, Casey H. Halpern, Dawn Eliashiv, Itzhak Fried, Nanthia Suthana. Boundary-anchored neural mechanisms of location-encoding for self and others. Nature, 2020; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-03073-y

Extroverts and introverts use different vocabularies

Extroverts use ‘positive emotion’ and ‘social process’ words more often than introverts, according to new research conducted at Nanyang Technological U.

‘Love,’ ‘happy,’ and ‘blessed’ indicate pleasant emotions, and ‘beautiful’ and ‘nice’ indicate positivity or optimism, and are among the words found to be used more often by extroverts. So too are ‘meet,’ ‘share,’ and ‘talk,’ which are about socializing. Extroverts use personal pronouns — except ‘I’ — more too, another indication of sociability.

The correlation, however, was small, and the researchers think that stronger linguistic indicators need to be found to achieve their general goal, which is improving machine learning approaches to targeting consumer marketing.

Source: Jiayu Chen, Lin Qiu, Moon-Ho Ringo Ho. A meta-analysis of linguistic markers of extraversion: Positive emotion and social process words. Journal of Research in Personality, 2020; 89: 104035 DOI: 10.1016/j.jrp.2020.104035

WhatsApp is changing today - Users must give the app permission to send their private data to Facebook or lose account

WhatsApp was bought by Facebook in 2014, but has thrived while promoting itself as a privacy-respecting messaging app that now has 1.5b monthly active users. This week, though, WhatApp sent out an update to users’ phones that they must ‘consent’ to a new policy or lose access.

Whatsapp will now share more of your data, including your IP address (your location) and phone number, your account registration information, your transaction data, and service-related data, interactions on WhatsApp, and other data collected based on your consent, with Facebook’s other companies. Facebook has been working towards more closely integrating Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger.

Users who do not agree to ‘consent’ to the new policy will see their WhatsApp account become inaccessible until they do ‘consent.’ These accounts will remain dormant for 120 days after which they will be ‘deleted.’

The biggest change to the user policy, which many people ignored and clicked ‘agree’ to, thinking it was just another unimportant app update message, now reads,

‘We collect information about your activity on our Services, like service-related, diagnostic, and performance information. This includes information about your activity (including how you use our Services, your Services settings, how you interact with others using our Services (including when you interact with a business), and the time, frequency, and duration of your activities and interactions), log files, and diagnostic, crash, website, and performance logs and reports. This also includes information about when you registered to use our Services; the features you use like our messaging, calling, Status, groups (including group name, group picture, group description), payments or business features; profile photo, “about” information; whether you are online, when you last used our Services (your “last seen”); and when you last updated your “about” information.’

Notably, Elon Musk tweeted on the news, saying that WhatsApp users should switch to Signal, one of several popular privacy-focused messaging apps similar to WhatsApp.

The data sharing policy change doesn’t affect people in Europe due to GDPR data protection regulations.