Insight
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Publications in Evolutionary Biology by NOMIS researchers

NOMIS Researcher(s)

January 1, 2022

Plant functional traits can predict community assembly and ecosystem functioning and are thus widely used in global models of vegetation dynamics and land–climate feedbacks. Still, we lack a global understanding of how land and climate affect plant traits. A previous global analysis of six traits observed two main axes of variation: (1) size variation at the organ and plant level and (2) leaf economics balancing leaf persistence against plant growth potential. The orthogonality of these two axes suggests they are differently influenced by environmental drivers. We find that these axes persist in a global dataset of 17 traits across more than 20,000 species. We find a dominant joint effect of climate and soil on trait variation. Additional independent climate effects are also observed across most traits, whereas independent soil effects are almost exclusively observed for economics traits. Variation in size traits correlates well with a latitudinal gradient related to water or energy limitation. In contrast, variation in economics traits is better explained by interactions of climate with soil fertility. These findings have the potential to improve our understanding of biodiversity patterns and our predictions of climate change impacts on biogeochemical cycles.

Research field(s)
Natural Sciences, Biology, Evolutionary Biology

Although the study of political behaviour has been traditionally restricted to the social sciences, new advances in political neuroscience and computational cognitive science highlight that the biological sciences can offer crucial insights into the roots of ideological thought and action. Echoing the dazzling diversity of human ideologies, this theme issue seeks to reflect the multiplicity of theoretical and methodological approaches to understanding the nature of the political brain. Cutting-edge research along three thematic strands is presented, including (i) computational approaches that zoom in on fine-grained mechanisms underlying political behaviour, (ii) neurocognitive perspectives that harness neuroimaging and psychophysiological techniques to study ideological processes, and (iii) behavioural studies and policy-minded analyses of such understandings across cultures and across ideological domains. Synthesizing these findings together, the issue elucidates core questions regarding the nature of uncertainty in political cognition, the mechanisms of social influence and the cognitive structure of ideological beliefs. This offers key directions for future biologically grounded research as well as a guiding map for citizens, psychologists and policymakers traversing the uneven landscape of modern polarization, misinformation, intolerance and dogmatism. This article is part of the theme issue ‘The political brain: neurocognitive and computational mechanisms’.

Research field(s)
Natural Sciences, Biology, Evolutionary Biology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

It has recently been proposed that a key motivation for joining groups is the protection from the negative consequences of undesirable outcomes. To test this claim, we investigated how experienced outcomes triggering loss and regret impacted people’s tendency to decide alone or join a group, and how decisions differed when voluntarily made alone versus in group. Replicated across two experiments, participants (n = 125 and n = 496) selected whether to play alone or contribute their vote to a group decision. Next, they chose between two lotteries with different probabilities of winning and losing. The higher the negative outcome, the more participants switched from deciding alone to with others. When joining a group to choose the lottery, choices were less driven by outcome and regret anticipation. Moreover, negative outcomes experienced alone, not part of a group vote, led to worse subsequent choices than positive outcomes. These results suggest that the protective shield of the collective reduces the influence of negative emotions that may help individuals re-evaluate past choices.

Research field(s)
Natural Sciences, Biology, Evolutionary Biology