Research roundup summer 2017

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SUMMER 2017 Delve into the research published by faculty in the Social Sciences Division at UC Santa Cruz in summer quarter, 2017

By Melissa De Witte


ANTHROPOLOGY MEGAN MOODIE When cultural anthropologist Megan Moodie encountered a sculpture by the famous 20th century artist Constantin Brâncuși on a 2016 visit to Romania, it inspired a deeper reflection about how art and culture cross generations and borders. The result is an essay at, the online journal of the WennerGren Foundation. “Wisdom Without Country” is a blend of personal and historical narrative that describes recent attempts to claim public ownership over Cumințenia Pământului - a piece created by Brâncuși during his five decades living and working in Paris - but later purchased by a wealthy Romanian architect in Bucharest, where it has stayed since the 1950s. Tugging at themes of nationalism, authoritarianism, cultural rights and ownership, and parenting a mixed-heritage child in a polyglot world, Moodie writes: “That day in Bucharest when I explained Cumințenia Pământului to my son, I was so oddly sure that she belonged in Romania. It’s a compelling narrative: a fight for the cultural rights of a poor country that is often exploited by wealthier, more powerful interests. But now I wonder: Do the Romanian people really have the right to this work when it was stolen through force or treachery? Is it a work of national importance? And when is a work of art bigger than a nation?” Megan Moodie, “Wisdom Without a Country,” SAPIENS, July 20, 2017,

Top photo: photograph taken in 1922 by Edward Steichen of Brâncuşi's workshop in Voulangis, France; first published in the United States. Bottom photo: Constantin Brâncuși, Portrait of Mademoiselle Pogany [1], 1912, White marble; limestone block, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia.


The headlines are all too familiar: Wall Street can’t be trusted, the little guy loses, and the stock market is rigged. For a team of economists at UC Santa Cruz it’s time to stop the problems burdening financial markets. Instead of punishing bankers and investors for exploiting the market, Daniel Friedman, Eric Aldrich and Kristian Lopez Vargas believe it’s about making fundamental changes to a system that lets them get away with it. “How can financial markets become part of the solution instead of a big part of the problem with the modern world?” asks Friedman, a distinguished professor of economics who is exploring ways to make financial markets work better and fairer. Making Wall Street fair might seem impossible, but to Friedman and his collaborators at UCSC Eric Aldrich and Kristian Lopez, it’s more of a game. The three economists have devised a computer game that simulates alternative trading formats - including IEX, the market that rose to fame after being featured in Michael Lewis’ best-selling book Flash Boys The economists’ computer game was developed in Friedman’s Learning and Experimental Projects (LEEPS) lab, a hub on campus that has tested how human behavior and psychology impact economic decision-making in financial markets for over 30 years. Friedman has dedicated his career to understanding how incentives influence behavior and market outcomes.

Daniel Friedman, photo by Melissa De Witte

In 2008, he co-authored Morals and Markets (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), an influential book that explores how market systems can elicit questionable conduct by rewarding the very actions that threaten economic stability. Now Friedman is putting some of his theories to the test and is looking at the largest financial exchange in the world: the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). When trading went electronic in 1990s, the NYSE adopted an electronic trading format called the Continuous Double Auction (CDA). In the CDA, traders make publicly committed offers to buy and sell stocks at any point in time. If there are two offers at the same price, the exchange gives the trade to whoever got there first. In an electronic CDA format, speed is crucial. “After the electronic CDA was introduced, traders began competing over time and not over price,” says Friedman. The competition over speed has resulted in trading firms investing billions of dollars into building infrastructure that helps them be first in the trading queue.

“Timing became more important than it should be, while pricing became less important than it ought to be,” he says. Currently, there are 12 official exchanges in the US. They operate as an integrated system, communicating with each other whenever a trade is made. Any transaction will affect a stock’s price across the network. Exchanges are always having to update market information to reflect when a stock’s value goes up or down. Inevitably, there is a time lag in communication. Exploiting this time lag is a type of trading called high-frequency trading (HFT). HFT firms operate at the microsecond level. The human brain can’t even comprehend time that granular. It takes about one million microseconds (one second) to even read the word microsecond, 500,000 microseconds for a finger to click a computer mouse, and 350,000 microseconds to blink an eye. Powered by sophisticated computers, advanced algorithms, and state-of-the art communication infrastructure, HFT firms act at such a rapid-fire rate that some exchanges don’t have the bandwidth to react to the new information they send out. “High-frequency traders use speed to ‘game the system’ by moving so fast that exchanges cannot react in time to protect

Eric Aldrich

Kristian Lopez Vargas

slower traders when new information is out in the market,” says Lopez Vargas about how the way exchanges currently operate. By the time exchanges are updated to reflect changes in a stock’s value, HFT algorithms will have already swept in and picked off–or what traders called “sniped”–any open “stale” orders available at the old price. It doesn’t end there. HFT firms will rapidly sell back the stock at the new rate, sometimes even trading it back to the seller if they have an open offer on other exchanges that has not been cancelled yet (it is common for investors to have open offers as they search for the best rate). HFT is big business with big profit. Over half of trades in the US are now executed through this method. Through finding a flaw in the market design, these firms have skimmed billions of dollars off the stock market. Some say that HFT firms are only being opportunistic. They found a flaw in the market design and exploited it to their advantage. Paying the price are ordinary investors – the people charged with investing a public school teacher’s retirement fund or a firsttime homeowner’s insurance policy – who can’t keep up with the cost of staying ahead of the strategies HFT firms deploy. Instead, they end up being sniped.

Some argue that high-frequency traders provide some benefit to the market: in the current system, they take the role of market makers who are willing to both buy and sell assets at very competitive prices, says Aldrich. “Economists have investigated the role of HFT from many perspectives, and while there is no question that ordinary investors are exploited at specific times, they are also benefited with immediate liquidity and competitive prices at other times,” adds Aldrich about the academic literature that shows the net effect of HFT to be positive. This doesn’t mean that the market system is optimally designed. Rather, Friedman, Aldrich and Lopez Vargas are interested in finding ways to eliminate aggressive, costly behavior while maintaining the good. “Throughout history, markets have been exploited by a subset of savvy traders. In the age of electronic markets, these happen to be HFT,” says Aldrich. “We don’t demonize HFT any more than my Golden Retriever who ate a pie that was left uncovered on the kitchen counter - they are simply responding to compelling incentives. Rather than putting a Band-Aid on HFT, we’re looking for ways to realign incentives through market design.” Cracking the code to market rigging “The key is not simply finding and punishing ill behavior, the key is to devise a set of market rules that induce the right behavior all by itself,” says Lopez Vargas. One way to prevent exploitative actions (like sniping and rebate arbitrage*) used by highfrequency traders is to simply slow information down, which is what the Investors Exchange (IEX) is doing. Set up in 2013, IEX eliminates the unfair advantage of speed by slowing down trades.

All trades operate at a 350 microsecond delay, long enough for stock prices to readjust after a trade but fast enough to still be a competitive market exchange. "IEX was one of the first exchange to confront the problems caused by HFT and try to level the playing field," says Friedman, who just completed an in-depth analysis with Aldrich about the exchange. IEX recently rose to fame after being prominently featured in Michael Lewis’ bestselling book, Flash Boys. In the economists’ computer game developed in the LEEPs lab, the researchers are testing the idea of a time delay that underpins IEX’s model. To test how speed influences trading behavior, the researchers present players with the same strategies high-frequency traders use. They ask players to choose whether they want to play the role of a sniper or market maker (market makers are traders who buy and sell stock, whereas snipers’ only purpose is to target time lags). So far, initial findings from their studies are positive. The economists discovered that when access to speed technology is eliminated, players have more incentive to trade competitively. In their early theoretical findings, Aldrich and Friedman found that the IEX model eliminates sniping behavior without impacting the number of market makers, the traders that ensure financial markets are liquid and effective. They find that stock price efficiency is improved. But as the researchers point out, IEX on it’s own is not enough to promote market fairness. “IEX by itself cannot protect against sniping,” says Friedman.

It only protects pegged orders, a specific order to buy or sell at the price set by the National Best Bid Offer (NBBO), the centralized regulator that lists the current price of every single stock. “It must rely on the other exchanges (such as NASDAQ) to detect changes in the price,” he adds. Information on the IEX is contingent on a market format contaminated by HFT trading practices and sniping. Another solution is a new format that deviates from the CDA entirely: the frequent batch auction (FBA). Instead of trading continuously, trading happens in short intervals. Orders can be grouped in batches, with offers going to the best bidder and not the fastest one. Proposed by Eric Budish of the University of Chicago, University of Maryland's Peter Cramton, and John Shim from the University of Chicago, the idea is that instead of trades happening continuously, the trading day is broken up into many auction periods. Restoring faith in financial markets means more than changing a system, it involves changing the concept of time itself. Time no longer flows continuously but is fragmented, marked by short intervals. It is discrete instead of continuous. Until now, the FBA format has only existed in theory. FBA is another market formats that Aldrich, Friedman, and Lopez Vargas are testing. The early results of their testing are confirming what Friedman, Aldrich, and Lopez-Vargas suspected: altering the market rules in a clever way can discourage unnecessary competition over speed and instead refocus competition over price. “The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has long regulated stock prices to trade in discrete values [currently, trades are in penny increments] but has never regulated time increments,” Aldrich notes.

“Our initial results with batch auctions are interesting because they suggest that regulating time increments may be beneficial to markets,” Aldrich adds. Friedman, Aldrich, and Lopez Vargas’s research is ongoing. They hope to schedule a gaming tournament in 2018 with industry professionals so they can assess how different models with impact real trader behavior. Crampton and Axel Ockenfels at the University of Cologne are key research partners. From gaming the system to changing it Friedman is worried that HFT may undermine the social purpose of financial markets. “Asset prices are supposed to distill widely dispersed information and to channel society's resources into the most promising directions. HFT could be throwing sand in the gears and keeping financial markets from doing what they are supposed to do,” Friedman says. When a market is designed where profit can be made by speed alone, a company’s fundamental value becomes impossible to truly determine. Their stock price is only superficial, making it impossible to determine what they are really worth. What Friedman, Aldrich, and Lopez Vargas show is that even with sophisticated computers and algorithms, financial markets are still a social system driven by human behavior. Social action and market calculation are constantly at play, with agents making rational (and yes, sometimes risky) choices. “The financial system is a vital part of civilization,” says Lopez Vargas. “Put simply, it is our way to make complex, highlyworthy enterprises possible. Finding clever ways to keep the system functional in that important role is, at the end of the day, the ultimate goal of this research.”

ECONOMICS DANIEL FRIEDMAN It might seem puzzling that an economist would study reptiles in the Californian desert - especially their dating rituals. But to Dan Friedman, a behavioral economics professor at UC Santa Cruz, lizards are an interesting species to explore the science of strategy known as game theory. Friedman, joined by UCSC biologist and long-time collaborator Barry Sinervo, turns to game theory as a way to better understand how evolution and ecological diversity work in this calculative way. For over ten years, Friedman and Sinervo have closely worked together in an interdisciplinary partnership: the pair have taught the class Evolutionary Game Theory together, one of the few classes where students from all levels (undergraduate and graduate) and backgrounds (social sciences, biology and engineering) come together to develop new understandings of how populations evolve. Friedman and Sinervo also co-authored Evolutionary Games in Natural, Social, and Virtual Worlds (2016, Oxford University Press), one of the first books to apply game theory and evolution to real world examples. Now Friedman and Sinervo are using game theory to better understand the mating habits of lizards. Recently published in the prestigious academic journal PLOS One, Friedman and Sinervo report their findings from studying the 26 generations of the side-blotched lizard, a reptile common on the Pacific Coast of North America known for their distinct, polymorphic mating habit.

Photo: Public Domain

The science of strategic play Like game theory, there is a set of calculated decisions side-blotched lizards make when mating, decisions that involve conflict, cooperation, and consequences. Male lizards morph their throat color to be orange, blue, or yellow. Each color carries their own set of characteristics: if the lizards are orange, they can aggressively whomp out the blues. But the oranges don’t notice the yellows, who look enough like females that they can sneak into the orange territory. But then there are the blues who can spot the yellows and drive them off. Blues cooperate with their blue neighbors in chasing away yellows and in trying to stand up to the orange bullies. “Game theory can tell us how it should all turn out when evolution selects the fitter strategies over time,” says Friedman who together former grad student and co-author Jacopo Magnani developed a powerful new statistical technique that determines how the numbers of orange, yellow and blue lizards change from one generation to the next.

Sinervo described the male lizard strategies as analogous to a game of rock, paper, scissors. “The technique should work for any sort of plant or animal (and maybe for human societies) where fitness has a strategic component, that is, where fitness of any behavior depends on frequency of other behaviors,” says Friedman about the applicability of the matrix he and Magnani created. But Friedman and Sinervo’s paper shows that there is a crucial but subtle difference in the basic rock, paper, scissors matrix. In basic rock, paper, scissors, meeting your own strategy gives a middling payoff: rock vs rock is a tie. With lizards, meeting your own strategy is fatal. “It’s as if it were worse for rock to meet rock than to meet paper,” says Friedman. In sum: game theory is vital to their mating system, where both competition and diversity in the species is essential to the reproduction cycle. Consequences of climate change: reptile dysfunction Alarmingly, the researchers found that the dating game is changing. Male side-blotched lizards are repeatedly coming against their own sub-type. The reason? The UCSC researchers say climate change. Friedman and Sinervo found that some subtypes are unable to adapt to environmental changes in the region, like temperature changes.

“As strategies are lost, the mating system collapses,” write the authors who took their mathematical analysis a step further by developing a matrix to predict future population outcomes. “This new picture of the evolutionary dynamics at a local scale also explains morph variations across the geographical range of the side-blotched lizard,” write the authors. “Indeed, many northern populations in both the Great Basin and the Coast Range of California exhibit fixation on orange and orange-blue combinations, with yellow being the most susceptible to selective loss. This loss likely arises because yellow sires derive most paternity fitness from later season clutches, but cooler and shorter seasons in northern populations removes the advantages of yellow males, fixing on orange and orange-blue combinations,” they add. Friedman and Sinervo’s findings come at a time where America’s diversity environmentally, socially, and politically - is increasingly under threat. Can game theory and evolutionary biology tell us what will happen to the future of the country? Only time will tell. Daniel Friedman and Barry Sinervo et al., “Evolutionary games, climate and the generation of diversity,” PLOS One, 2017.

ECONOMICS NIRVIKAR SINGH AND ARSHAD MIRZA Nirvikar Singh released a working paper, “Mental Health Policy in India: Seven Sets of Questions and Some Answers.” Lead author is economics graduate student, Arshad Mirza. The paper addresses some of the challenges of mental health care policy and service delivery in India - a country that has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. The paper addresses critical questions including: how quality of care can be improved in resource-efficient ways, how education can affect the scope and timing of care, how to overcome affordability issues, and ways that policy can be reformed to widen access to treatment.

“Greater access requires affordability as well as greater availability of care providers,” write Mizra and Singh. “The experience of healthcare in general in India and even in advanced economies has shown that all of these issues are major challenges. In cases of mental health in India, the only consolation is that the starting point is so dismal that the potential for improvement is enormous.” Arshad Mirza and Nirvikar Singh, "Mental Health Policy in India: Seven Sets of Questions and Some Answers," UCSC Economics Department Working Paper, 2017.

Photo by Sharon Christina Rørvik, in Jammu, India


Photo by Jazmin Quaynor

While educators have emphasized teaching students reading and writing skills, effective vocabulary instruction receives little prominence in the classroom says Judith Scott, a co-author of Vocabulary Assessment to Support Instruction: Building Rich WordLearning Experiences (Guilford Press, 2017). “Vocabulary" is taken to mean the stock of words that one can define - like a dictionary in our heads - and that concept has limited the kind of instruction students receive and the type of assessments that are given. Scott and her collaborators address this issue in a new synthesis of research that redefines vocabulary learning and how it should be assessed in schools. They point out that vocabulary knowledge is a key building block for learning. A strong

vocabulary makes it possible for students to understand what they read, to express their ideas in writing, and to think critically about what they’ve learned. It needs a pivotal reassessment from how it is currently approached, argues Scott. As Scott and her collaborators assert: “Far too often, teaching and assessment are still dominated by a paradigm that reduces vocabulary knowledge to a list of words (with associated definitions). We contend that vocabulary can be made to reflect more closely the rich experiences that build effective word knowledge.” Judith A. Scott et al., Vocabulary Assessment to Support Instruction Building Rich-Word Learning Experiences (New York: Guilford Press, 2017).

ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES KAREN HOLL Karen Holl continues advancing the science of tropical forest restoration in her latest publications. She published a paper that reports on patterns of forest recovery in her longterm restoration study in Costa Rica as part of a special feature in Journal of Applied Ecology on “Toward prediction in the restoration of biodiversity.” She also published an overview of her ideas on future directions in tropical forest restoration research in a special feature in Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden on “Ecological restoration in a changing biosphere”. Karen Holl, “Local tropical forest restoration strategies affect tree recruitment more strongly than does landscape forest cover,” Journal of Applied Ecology 54, no. 4 (2017): 1091-1099. Karen Holl, “Research Directions in Tropical Forest Restoration,” Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 102, no. 2 (2017): 237-250.

MICHAEL LOIK As the earth’s temperature continues to rise and the likelihood of heat waves increases, how will the planet’s ecosystems respond? Michael Loik is addressing this important question. In his latest publication, Loik shares the findings from an in-depth study he conducted with collaborators in Spain and Australia to test how heatwaves altered vegetation, specifically the native eucalypt forests in Australia.

Image of a heat-stressed leaf. Loik and colleagues used infrared thermography to determine heat stress within leaves during heat waves

Loik found that the ability of eucalyptus to survive heatwaves depends on where trees come from, but the factors that determine tree survival of heat waves will be different under higher CO2 conditions of the future. Michael E. Loik et al., “Relationships between climate of origin and photosynthetic responses to an episodic heatwave depend on growth CO2 concentration for Eucalyptus camaldulensis var. camaldulensis,” Functional Plant Biology, 2017.

ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES DEBORAH LETOURNEAU There are many potential benefits to increase plant diversity, says Deborah Letourneau in an article about plant diversity in sustainable agricultural systems. Plant diversity can influence the production of crops, forage and wood and can even provide a partial to complete substitution of fertilizers, pesticides, and irrigation. Understanding plant diversity will be especially important in the years to come, Letourneau adds. As she and her co-authors emphasize: “Over the next few decades, as monoculture yields continue to decelerate or decline for many crops and demand for ecosystem services continues to rise (due to growth in population and per capita consumption), diversification could become an essential tool for sustaining production and ecosystem services in croplands, rangelands and production forests.” In this detailed mini-review, Letourneau addresses the obstacles to diversifying agricultural vegetation systems as well as outlining two realistic strategies for diversification: first, target intensively managed agroecosystems that are lowdiversity (think monoculture crops) by doing things like planting species-rich hedgerows that border crops. Second, expand extensively managed systems (think hay meadows and rangelands) by overseeding or sowing seeds of many species. Deborah Letourneau et al., “Benefits of increasing plant diversity in sustainable agroecosystems,” Journal of Ecology 105, no. 4 (2017): 871-879.. Top photo by Martin Noran, bottom photo by Shelby Deeter

ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES CHRIS WILMERS AND JUSTINE SMITH Pumas, mountain lions, and humans, oh my! Chris Wilmers published two studies, including one article that examined the predatory behavior of the African leopard, one of the most elusive species in the world. Wilmers’ study is one of the first to detail how they behave. In addition, Wilmers was co-author on a study led by former graduate student Justine Smith that proved pumas are scared of people (the feeling is mutual). Their study examined how human disturbances substantially impacted the animal’s behavior, with a substantial reduction in their feeding time. “Our work suggests that fear-induced trophic cascades instigated by the human ‘super predator’ are likely to contribute to altered ecological dynamics in human-dominated landscapes,” Smith and Wilmers write in the study. “As the habitats used by wildlife and humans are increasingly shared, additional work is needed on the extent to which fear in top predators cascades through ecosystems.” Justine Smith and Chris Wilmers et al., “Energetics-informed behavioral states reveal the drive to kill in African leopards,” Ecosphere: An ESA Open Access Journal 8, no. 6 (2017). Chris Wilmers et al., “Fear of the human ‘super predator reduces feeding time in large carnivores,” Proceedings of the Royal Society B 284, no. 1857 (2017).


Sikina Jinnah co-authored a book chapter that builds on her 2014 book, Post-treaty Politics (MIT Press) about how and why secretariats influence global environmental politics. Written with Abby Lindsay, her Ph.D. student at American University, the chapter is a close examination of how the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) secretariat plays an important role in influencing cooperation on North American environmental politics.

In tracing secretariat influence on 3 of 7 cooperation activities directly to secretariat reports, Jinnah and Lindsay conclude that this case adds further evidence to challenge dominant assumptions in international relations scholarship that secretariats are merely functionaries of member states.They argue that secretariats can - under certain conditions - behave as actors in their own right that shape the course of international politics.

The CEC was established in 1994 to implement the environmental side agreement to the North American Free Trade Agreement. Since its inception, the CEC has authored eight independent reports on environmental issues ranging from the death of migratory birds at the Silva Reservoir in Guanajuato State to opportunities and challenges of green building in Canada, Mexico, and the US.

Sikina Jinnah and Abby Lindsay, “Navigating Overlap Management under NAFTA: The Role of the CEC Secretariat,” in Towards Continental Environmental Policy? (Albany: SUNY Press, 2017).

Jinnah and Lindsay focus on the impact of these independent reports on environmental cooperation activities between these three countries. They argue that the secretariat's reports are critical in knowledge-brokering, a function that ultimately shapes the CEC agenda and political outcomes on environmental cooperation. Jinnah writes: “For example, in response to the secretariat’s reports on the bird die-off in the Silva Reservoir and migratory bird habitat in the San Pedro River Basin, the CEC council pursued actions to implement the secretariat’s recommendations. Likewise, after the report on green building the CEC council approved new cooperation activities on this issue and credited the secretariat’s report directly with “kick starting” this work.” Sikina Jinnah co-authored a book chapter in Towards Continental Environmental Policy? (SUNY Press, 2017)

POLITICS SARA NIEDZWIECKI The United States and Europe are not the only global regions experiencing a surge in Right-wing populism and policy change. Latin America too is seeing right-leaning candidates and parties winning back seats both in legislature and executive branches of government. What does this shift mean for the future of Latin America’s welfare state, asks Sara Niedzwiecki in a paper co-authored with Jennifer Pribble from the University of Richmond. Using Chile and Argentina as an example, Niedzwiecki examines what impact the recent nomination of two Rightwing presidents (Piñera in 2010-2014 and Macri in Argentina from 2015-present) in these countries had on policy. Would ideology expected from their party be consistent with any policy change affected?

Argentina and Chile’s “right turns” have not produced outright retrenchment of education, health, or income transfer policies, but rather a combination of maintenance of the status quo, policy drift, and marginal expansion,” write the authors. “This suggests that the countries’ 25-plus years of democratic consolidation and the experience of sustained left party rule have altered the politics of social policy formation and change.” Sara Niedzwiecki & Jennifer Pribble, “Social Policies and Center-Right Governments in Argentina and Chile,” Latin American Politics and Society 59, no. 3 (2017): 72-97.

Photo of the government buildings in Santiago, Chile by Patricio Hurtado

PSYCHOLOGY MAUREEN CALLANAN Thanks to a unique partnership with Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose, Maureen Callanan explored how parents engage with their children’s everyday thinking and learning. Callanan focused on the Mammoth Discovery exhibition, a set of interactive exhibits that put full-scale replica fossils into children’s hands. How parents interacted with their children at the exhibit was key to children’s engagement. Callanan found that children engaged more when their families connected the exhibit to personal experiences and evidence rather than to scientific explanations. “Our findings show that parents varied in their use of the different types of sense-making talk and that this variation was also connected to the nature of the exhibit,” Callanan and her coauthors write. “More importantly, parents’ engagement in these types of talk predicted children’s engaged conceptual talk, in particular, their own articulation of inferences, comparisons, and explanations about paleontology.” The study was also featured on the Campus News website. Maureen A. Callanan et al., “Family Science Talk in Museums: Predicting Children’s Engagement From Variations in Talk and Activity,” Child Development 88, no. 5 (2017): 1492-1504.

NICOLAS DAVIDENKO AND NATHAN H. HELLER In a followup to his recent Journal of Vision paper, Nicolas Davidenko and Nathan H. Heller (cognitive science, '16), a former UCSC undergraduate student and member of Davidenko’s research lab, show not only that people can be primed to see illusory motion in randomly refreshing pixel arrays, but that the direction of that illusory motion depends on the velocity of the priming motion. When people are primed with a fast-moving motion pattern, the subsequent illusory motion goes in the opposite direction of the prime (just like in the classic motion aftereffect, or waterfall illusion), says Davidenko. However, when people are primed with a slow-moving motion pattern, the subsequent illusory motion goes in the same direction of the prime (i.e. if the priming motion is clockwise, the illusory motion continues in a clockwise direction). “The dissociation between negative and positive priming as a function of the priming velocity reveals two separate systems of motion processing in the human visual system that respond differently to adaptation and are differentially sensitive to stimulus velocity,” Davidenko describes of his findings. Heller, who is the paper’s first author will be matriculating into the Scientific Computing and Applied Mathematics (SciCAM) Masters Program here at UCSC this fall. Nicolas Davidenko et al., “Persistent illusory apparent motion in sequences of uncorrelated random dots,” Journal of Vision 17, no. 3 (2017):19.

PSYCHOLOGY CAMPBELL LEAPER Campbell Leaper co-authored "Sexism in Childhood and Adolescence: Recent Trends and Advances in Research." In the paper, Leaper highlights how the research on sexism in childhood and adolescence has steadily increased over the last two decades. Despite the many advances toward gender equality during this period, sexism persists in U.S. society - even during childhood. Leaper and his colleague review recent research in three areas: First, they examine work on how conceptions of gender identity and gender expression are expanding for many children. Views of gender nonconformity as somehow disordered are being challenged.Â

Second, the authors review some of the subtle ways that sexism occurs in school achievement. For example, many girls face subtle forms of discouragement from pursuing STEM-related subjects. Also, in some communities, rigid conceptions of masculinity may undermine boys' school success. Finally, the problems associated with sexual harassment and sexualized gender stereotypes are discussed. Most adolescents in the U.S. and other countries experience sexual harassment in schools. This is especially likely for girls and for gender-nonconforming youth. Furthermore, sexualized messages in the media and other sources negatively affect the self-concepts of many girls as well as many boys.

Photo by Caleb Woods


Julie Guthman edited a new book, The New Food Activism, Opposition, Cooperation, and Collective Action (University of California Press, 2017). The book explores a new direction in food activism, focusing on a deeper and more complex engagement with social, racial, and economic justice issues. “The goal of this book is to inspire food scholars, students, and activists to engage with projects and campaigns that move beyond the provision of market-based alternatives and towards a fight for just and sustainable food,” says Guthman. Struggles against pesticides and GMOs, efforts to improve workers’ pay and conditions throughout the food system, and ways to push food activism beyond its typical reliance on individualism, consumerism, and private property are all topics explored in the book. “We believe that collective campaigns rooted in the realities of those most harmed by the industrial food system and alternatives that push back against neoliberal strategies and subjectivities can nourish new political possibilities within the world of food activism.”

Alison Alkon and Julie Guthman, eds., The New Food Activism, Opposition, Cooperation, and Collective Action (University of California Press, 2017).

IN THE NEWS ADRIENNE ZIHLMAN, ANTHROPOLOGY The Guardian unpacks the science and history that debunks the long-running myth: women are the weaker sex. Journalist Angela Saini talked to Adrienne Zihlman to better understand the female role in human evolution. “Women have to reproduce. That means being pregnant for nine months. They’ve got to lactate. They’ve got to carry these kids. There’s something about being a human female that was shaped by evolution. There’s a lot of mortality along the way that really can account for it,” Zihlman is quoted as saying. “There is something about the female form, the female psyche, just the whole package, that was honed over thousands and thousands, even millions, of years to survive.” Angela Saini, “The weaker sex? Science shows that women are stronger than men,” The Guardian, June 11, 2017, n/11/the-weaker-sex-science-that-showswomen-are-stronger-than-men.

GEORGE BULMAN AND ROB FAIRLIE, ECONOMICS Research by economists George Bulman and Rob Fairlie was featured in an article in The Economist about the impact of technology on the education of children. The article referenced their research about access to technology and educational outcomes, specifically their findings that access had “little or no positive effect” on outcomes such as test scores. “Technology is transforming what happens when a child goes to school,” The Economist, July 22, 2017, 1725285-reformers-are-using-new-softwarepersonalise-learning-technologytransforming-what-happens

CHRIS WILMERS & JUSTINE SMITH, ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES Wilmers and Smith’s study about the impact of human interaction on mountain lion behavior was circulated widely by international media, including the Washington Post and LA Times: Sarah Kaplan, “Mountain Lions are terrified by the voices of Rush Limbaugh and Rachel Maddow,” The Washington Post, June 21, 2017, king-of-science/wp/2017/06/21/mountainlions-are-terrified-by-the-voices-of-rushlimbaugh-and-rachel-maddow Sean Greene, “How a fear of humans affects the lives of California’s mountain lions,” Los Angeles Times, June 27, 2017, /la-sci-sn-pumas-human-noise-20170627story.html.


Associate professor of psychology Ben Storm was quoted in the New York Times' Sunday Review section in an article entitled, "Forgot Where You Parked? Good." The article addresses the potential benefits of forgetting. Here is an excerpt from the article: Studies show that forgetting can even promote better reasoning. In a study released in 2011, a group of psychologists gave some subjects a problem-solving exam. Known as the Remote Associates Test, it requires a subject to read three words (like “playing,” “credit” and “report”) and then come up with a word that would link all three ideas (“card”). The researchers added a wrinkle to the test, and they provided the subjects with some “misleading” training, giving the subjects the wrong cues before they took the exam. The results showed that people had to push the misleading association out of their minds to solve the problem. “Creative cognition,” the authors wrote, “may rely not only on one’s ability to remember but also on one’s ability to forget.” Benjamin Storm, a psychologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, led the 2011 study, and he now takes the idea of forgetting pretty seriously. If Professor Storm writes a paper, he’ll start it early so that he has time to revisit his writing. Similarly, he will read important articles twice with a long break in between so that he gains more from the text.

Storm researches human memory, with a special focus on the causes and consequences of forgetting. At his UCSC Memory Lab, he and his team explore the role of forgetting in resolving competition during retrieval, overcoming fixation in thinking and problem solving, updating autobiographical memory, and facilitating new learning. Ulrich Boser, “Forgot Where You Parked? Good,” The New York Times, June 30, 2017, n/sunday/forgot-where-you-parkedgood.html.


The San Francisco Chronicle published an op-ed by associate politics professor Mark Fathi Massoud that celebrates Mexico's plurality and diversity. Read the article on the San Francisco Chronicle website. Mark Massoud, “Forget an escape to Canadalook to the south,” San Francisco Chronicle, June 28, 2017, um/article/Forget-an-escape-to-Canadalook-to-the-south-11254424.php.

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