Sensory blending

The BBC’s science series Horizon just broadcast a fantastic edition on perception, illusions and how the senses combine with each other to the point of allowing us to integrate artificial new senses.

If you’ve got a healthy interest in psychology, the first half of the programme discusses several important but well-known effects like the rubber hand illusion, colour context changes and the McGurk effect, in light of what they reveal about the perceptual system.

Even if you’re familiar with these concepts, its worth watching as they’re so well presented, but its the second half of the programme which really stands out.

It has several brilliant examples of where people have begun to integrate new information into their sensory world: a blind mountain biker who has learnt to echolocate by making clicks with his mouth, helicopter pilots flying purely by spatial information conveyed to them by vibrations, a belt that allows the wearer to feel where magnetic north is at all times, and so on.

Some of the programme is clearly inspired by an excellent book on unusual sensory and perceptual integration that I’m reading at the moment called See What I’m Saying. It’s by psychologist Lawerence Rosenblum whose name you may recognise as we’ve featured some great pieces from his Sensory Superpowers blog before on Mind Hacks.

If you’re in the UK, you can use the BBC’s iPlayer website to watch the programme online, although rumour has it that there’s a working torrent over at the Pirate Bay.

Link to Horizon edition on BBC iPlayer.
Link to index page of programme on the Pirate Bay.

The Narrative Escape

Please excuse me if I interrupt Vaughan’s normal programming to blow my own trumpet: My ebook “The Narrative Escape” was published yesterday by 40k books. ‘The Narrative Escape’ is a long essay about morality, psychology and stories and is availble in Kindle format. From the ebook blurb:

We instinctively tell stories about our experiences, and get lost in stories told by other people. This is an essay about our story-telling minds. It is about the psychological power of stories, and about what the ability to enjoy stories tells us about the fundamental nature of mind.

My argument in ‘The Narrative Escape’ begins by exploring Stanley Milgram’s famous experiments on obedience, looking at them as an example of moral decision making – particularly for that minority that choose to disobey in the experiment. A fascinating thing about these experiments is that although they tell us a lot about what makes people obey authority, they leave mysterious that quality that makes people resist tyrannical authority. I then go on to contrast this moral disobedience, with conventional psychological investigations of morality (for example the work of Lawrence Kohlberg). In using descriptions of moral dilemmas to ask people about their moral reasoning this research, I argue, misses something essential about real-world moral choices. This element is the ability to realise that you are acting according to someone else’s version of what is right and wrong, and to step outside of their definition of the situation. This is the “narrative escape” of the title. The essay also talks about dreams, stories and story-telling and other topics which I hope will be of interest to Mind Hacks readers.

The essay is also available in Italian as “La Fuga Narrativa Link for the English edition.
…And coming soon in Portuguese, I’m told!

Mexican waves across the currents of life

The New York Times has an excellent collection of essays by writers from four Mexican cities, each affected by the ongoing drug war.

The pieces give a fleeting but thoughtful impression of how life in each town has been changed by the upsurge in violence.

I was particularly struck by the piece on Sinaloa, the town forever associated with the cartel that shares its name, which reflects on a dark cultural history and the uncomfortable ambivalence it causes in the residents.

The Mexican drug industry was established in the 1940s by a group of Sinaloans and Americans trafficking in heroin. It is part of our culture: we know all the legends, folk songs and movies about the drug world, including its patron saint, Jesús Malverde, a Robin Hood-like bandit who was hanged in 1909.

There are days when we feel deeply ashamed that the trade is at the heart of Sinaloa’s identity, and wish our history were different. Our ancestors were fearless and proud people, and it is their memory that gives us the will to try to control our own fear and the sobs of the widows and mothers who have lost loved ones.

All four pieces quietly but powerfully portray how the currents of everyday life continue to move beneath the surface of the conflict.

Link to NYT collection ‘In Mexico, Scenes From Life in a Drug War’.

Searching for the off switch

The complex interplay between suicidal people in online chat rooms is discussed in an excellent edition of BBC Radio 4’s The Report which you can listen to online or download as a podcast.

Despite the programme being a carefully researched and nuanced exploration of the issues, let me just note that it is sold on a stupid premise, namely “Is the internet encouraging vulnerable people to kill themselves?”

People in passing cars have apparently been known to shout “jump!” to suicidal people on the Golden Gate Bridge but you would never see an article entitled “Is the transport system encouraging vulnerable people to kill themselves?”

Sadly, people’s anxieties about new technology means you can get away with such meaningless generalisation when talking about how people interact online.

Needless to say, I was expecting 30 minutes of badly-researched shock-horror radio but instead found a carefully constructed documentary that takes a comprehensive look at whether suicide chat rooms and online groups that provide self-harm instructions actually increase the risk of ending it all.

The documentary talks to families who have lost loved ones after they participated in online groups, police who have investigated such deaths and a suicide chat-room administrator.

It also covers the case of William Melchert-Dinkel who is accused of encouraging people to take their own lives by pretending to agree to online suicide pacts, and discusses recent studies on how participation in such groups affects suicidal thinking (with preliminary research suggesting a reduction).

The knee-jerk response to such groups is usually for government organisations to suggest they should be ‘banned’ (apparently unaware that this is neither possible nor effective) although the documentary covers some more interesting suggestions – including outreach workers who offer support when an at-risk individual seems to be seeking methods to self-harm.

The one line premise is the only bad thing about this documentary and it’s possibly one of the best discussions you’ll hear about the internet and mental health for a long time. It doesn’t look for, or rely on, easy answers and manages some insightful coverage of a delicate issue.

Link to streamed audio of The Report on suicide chat rooms.
Link to podcast of the same.

The origin of the ‘nervous breakdown’

I often get asked what ‘nervous breakdown’ means, as if it was a technical term defined by psychology.

In fact, it’s really just an everyday term used to describe when someone can’t carry on because of psychological problems, although it turns out to have quite technological origin, as this brief article from the American Journal of Psychiatry describes.

The Cambridge academic German Berrios (personal communication) informed me that “breakdown” is a 19th century construction, initially used to refer to breakages and fractures in machinery and leading to the need for “breakdown gangs” (i.e., teams of navvies whose job involved addressing the mechanical disruptions to the functioning of railways). Metaphorical uses of the term followed, particularly in reference to failure in personal intentions and plans.

Berrios suggested that it was only in the second half of the 19th century that its metaphorical connotations were extended to the brain—and later to the mind. Its initial association was not to depression, anxiety, or psychosis but to symptoms associated with mental and physical exhaustion and relating to 19th century constructs such as “neurasthenia,” “the vapors,” “spinal irritation,” and “nervous prostration.” Because neurasthenia (in Greek meaning “lack of nerve strength”) imputes a physical basis (in the nerves) rather than psychological weakness, it was an intrinsically less stigmatizing phrase than “mental illness,”


Link to AJP piece on the ‘nervous breakdown’.

Video of the ‘Lazarus sign’

I’ve just found a video that has footage of the ‘Lazarus sign‘ – a complex reflex movement that can occur in brain dead patients where the arms are raised to the chest and often fall crossed onto the body.

We’ve covered this reflex before, noting that despite its complexity it is generated by the spine, which is why it can still appear after brain death.

However, I didn’t realise there a video of it was available online where you can see the unnerving post-mortem movement triggered by doctors as they move the head.

If you’re uncomfortable about seeing dead bodies this isn’t the video for you, particularly as it shows what seems to be quite a young lad who presumably just very recently passed away.

It’s titled and narrated in Portuguese by (I’m guessing) a Brazilian medical team to demonstrate the reflex.

I noticed there’s also a video with a sequence of stills of the Lazarus sign in English which also explains the concept of a spinal reflex arc, although you’ll need to login to YouTube to see it.

Link to video of Lazarus sign in Portuguese.
Link to short presentation on spinal reflex arc and Lazarus sign.

A previously unseen species of hallucinated moth

I’ve discovered H.G. Wells’ amazing short story The Moth about a scientific feud between two leading entymologists that ends with one’s premature death and the other being driven insane by an hallucinated moth.

It’s a deftly written piece because it captures the method of scientific grudge matches – devastating and savage critiques in scholarly journals – and is peppered with references to illusory scientific papers.

Pawkins, the target of the academic demolition job dies shortly after, only for Hapley, the scientific aggressor, to see a moth that is completely new to science but which seems strangely difficult to capture.

That night Hapley found the moth crawling over his counterpane. He sat on the edge of the bed in his shirt sleeves and reasoned with himself. Was it pure hallucination? He knew he was slipping, and he battled for his sanity with the same silent energy he had formerly displayed against Pawkins. So persistent is mental habit, that he felt as if it were still a struggle with Pawkins. He was well versed in psychology. He knew that such visual illusions do come as a result of mental strain. But the point was, he did not only _see_ the moth, he had heard it when it touched the edge of the lampshade, and afterwards when it hit against the wall, and he had felt it strike his face in the dark.


Link to full text of The Moth.

Arrow in the head

The image is a 3D CT scan of someone who was shot in the head with an arrow which penetrated their brainstem.

It’s taken from a recent case study that notes that these injuries have virtually disappeared from the West although are more common in other parts of the world, including from some tribal areas of India, from where this injury occurred.

The case is reported in the Journal of Emergencies, Trauma and Shock and is of a 35-year-old man who was admitted to hospital conscious, in severe pain, with partial facial paralysis, unable to open his jaw, and with an arrow sticking out of the back of his head.

The report notes that the patient made a full recovery although stresses the importance of not pulling out arrows without surgery because they can cause life threatening damage to blood vessels if removed without careful monitoring.

As far as I can tell, this is the only report in the medical literature of an arrow stuck in the brain after being fired in anger, as all the others are either from sporting accidents or suicide attempts.

Link to Journal of Emergencies, Trauma and Shock case study.

Fifteen brain encounters

I’ve just finished Carl Zimmer’s new e-book Brain Cuttings that collects fifteen of his previous long-form mind and brain articles and, I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I was kindly sent an advanced copy of the book which is only available as a pdf for your Kindle or other electronic reader. As I don’t own one, I took the file to the local copy shop and got it printed out (a paper version of the ‘iPad’ known as the ‘Pad’).

I was particularly impressed by the sheer range of the pieces that cover everything from the neurobiology of astrocytes (in a chapter entitled The Brain’s Dark Matter) to an account of a trip the Singularity Summit, a conference of techno-utopians who are working towards augmented immortality for the human race.

The piece on the Singularity is probably the stand-out section of the book as it takes a level-headed look at the movement’s claims for brain enhancement and super-intelligence without engaging in literary eye-rolling or ever losing a sense of wonder for the genuine scientific advances incorporated into the ideas.

In terms of the science, the book is absolutely faultless, which is sadly not something your average reader can take for granted when it comes to neuroscience or psychology journalism, and Zimmer writes in a remarkably clear style that makes absorbing even some of the most technical aspects seem as natural as breathing.

At times, I yearned for a little more exploration of the characters we encounter on the journeys, but the length of the pieces means they tend to focus more on the ideas than the scenes.

I’m not familiar with the e-book market but $11 for a 100 page book struck me as a little steep. However, I note that the book is an experiment in itself and is only available electronically, something of a first from such as well-established author.

Whether you are an enthusiast, a professional psychologist or neuroscientist, or a combination, you will probably learn much from the book due to its breadth of vision. Regardless of who you are you are sure to enjoy the engaging immersions in some of the most interesting ideas in contemporary science.

Link to Brain Cuttings page.
Link to Zimmer’s blog post about the new book.

A history of the phantom penis

After amputation, many people feel ‘phantom limb‘ sensations that seem to come from the missing body part. Although typically associated with missing arms or legs, these phantom sensations can arise from almost anywhere and a new study in the Journal of the History of the Neurosciences looks at how the ‘phantom penis’ has enjoyed a surprisingly long history in the medical literature.

The first case of a phantom penis was mentioned in passing by the ‘father’ of phantom limbs, Silas Weir Mitchell, and there has been an assumption that these sensations are rare or unusual.

In fact, a 1999 case report of a phantom penis after amputation noted only a few previous mentions of the experience, some of which have become quite well-known.

Among the most cited publications is one by Boston surgeon A. Price Heusner (1950) containing two case studies. His first case was an elderly man whose penis was “accidently traumatized and amputated,” and who “was intermittently aware of a painless but always erect penile ghost whose appearances were neither provoked nor provokable by sexual phantasies” (Heusner, 1950, p. 129). This man had to look under his clothes to be sure that his penis was, in fact, absent. Heusner’s second case was a middle-aged, perineal cancer patient. Because his malignancy had spread and was causing intense burning pains in his groin, he opted to undergo penile amputation. Thereafter, he continued to have painful sensations “suggesting the continuing presence of the penis,” until he underwent spinal surgery

This new historical study shows that there were actually many reports of phantom penises in the 18th Century medical literature that have previously been overlooked.

These include reports from some of the most important doctors of the time, and indeed, some of the most important in history.

This included the Scottish surgeon and anatomist John Hunter who reported on what can only be described as phantom wanking:

A serjeant of marines who had lost the glans, and the greater body of the penis, upon being asked, if he ever felt those sensations which are peculiar to the glans, declared, that upon rubbing the end of the stump, it gave him exactly the sensation which friction upon the glans produced, and was followed by an emission of the semen.

Hunter’s case highlights an interesting aspect of the phantom penis sensation which seems to differentiate it from most other forms of phantom limb sensations – they tend to be pleasurable rather than painful.

Phantom limbs are often associated with the feeling that the missing body part is stuck in an awkward position, such as the ‘fingers digging into the palm’, something which the mirror box treatment attempts to correct.

Although some painful phantom penises have been reported they seem more likely to appear as pleasurable sensations and phantom erections.

This may have some interesting implications for neuroscience. Phantom limbs are thought to arise when activity in the brain maps that represent the limbs no longer have a constant flow of sensory feedback that keep them tied to their task.

The boundaries of the maps become blurry and information from other body areas starts to cause activity in the map for the missing limb, leading to the phantom sensations.

However, in contrast to the penis, arms and legs involve much more of a feedback loop, because fine action control signals are being sent and modified on the basis of the sensations from the limb.

As the penis has less need for such fine action control, it’s probably less likely that misfiring of the signals can make it seem as if it is in an awkward or painful position, possibly reducing the chance of an uncomfortable phantom pecker.

Link to DOI entry for the locked article (via AITHOP).

2010-10-15 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news:

Anti-depressant reboxetine has been found to be ineffective and potentially harmful. How come nobody knew, you ask. Well, because Pfizer hid 74% of the trial data. Link to scientific study here and Neuroskeptic’s take here.

The Telegraph has an excellent article on free will and the brain that has a deadpan photo made unintentionally hilarious by an odd caption.

Mind Hacks was kindly chosen as one of six notable science blogs by The Times Eureka Magazine. If you don’t remember The Times, it’s a British newspaper that locked itself out of the internet but you can read the piece here on selector Alice Bell’s blog.

The Wall Street Journal on how the White House have a policy of not sending condolence letters to families of soldiers who commit suicide and the campaign to change their medieval policy.

A round-up of the last three months of the excellent Evidence Based Mummy blog is now available online.

e! Science News covers a meta-analysis of more than a million people finding that females are equal to males in maths skills.

There’s more on the fascinating topic of unconscious expertise over at Barking up the Wrong Tree blog that asks whether experts can play chess without thinking.

Wired Science covers an interesting study finding that love makes you increasingly ignorant of your partner. Thankfully doesn’t affect those of us with the character depth of a dry puddle.

There’s some rough data gay / straight myth busting over at the blog of the OkCupid dating site which crunches their millions big database of members.

Science News reports on a study finding that a slow release implant of the drug buprenorphine helps heroin users kick the habit.

Philosopher Joshua Knobe and psychologist Lera Borodoitsky discuss whether language shapes thought on via 3 Quarks Daily.

Cerebrum, the excellent online neuroscience magazine from The Dana Foundation has a great piece on the brain’s default network: Your Mind, on Its Own Time

Receiving a massage increases trust and co-operation in a financial game. Great coverage of a fascinating study from Dan Ariely’s Irrationally Yours blog.

The New York Times discusses the interesting proposition that happiness is not a state of mind.

A six-week science programme for two to three-year-old children boosted their exploratory ‘science-like’ play according to a study brilliantly covered by the BPS Research Digest. Timmy, take Tabatha’s hand out of the particle accelerator please.

New Scientist covers a study finding that for men, moving country can affect the libido. Once I get hold of the scientific paper, I fully intend to find fault with irrelevant details in this clearly misguided study.

There’s a completely fascinating discussion of language, context and its use in experimental philosophy over at Child’s Play.

The New York Times has an obituary for Philippa Foot, moral philosopher and inventor of the trolley problem.

Why are the effects of marijuana so unpredictable? asks The Frontal Cortex.

The LA Times asks whether bilingualism can improve your brain’s multitasking power? Je ne sais pas is the answer.

The Online Society: 50 Internet Psychology Studies. Great round-up of a slew of great studies on the net by the ever-excellent PsyBlog.

New Scientist has a piece on a fascinating study finding it’s possible to spot cases of flu by looking for changes in the movement and communication patterns of infected people by using data from the mobile phone network.

A study finding a correlation between screen time and psychological difficulties in children is ably de-hyped by Carmen Gets Around.

The Wall Street Journal looks at how marketing companies are building profiles by scraping data from internet forums.

Science you never knew you needed from NCBI ROFL: Detection and management of pornography-seeking in an online clinical dermatology atlas.

Wired Science covers a fascinating study suggesting that cultures evolve in small increments but collapse quickly.

Just loads of great stuff on Neuroanthropology this week. You’re best just heading on over and having a browse.

Only forensic psychology blog In the News could bring you news of an exciting new sex offender treatment model.

The LA Times covers a recent consensus giving guidelines on which patients with Parkinson’s disease should be eligible for deep brain stimulation surgery.

The US Army are getting concerned about the use of the new generation of synthetic cannabinoids among their rank and file, according to some great coverage by Addiction Inbox.

Coastal bound

Apologies if posts are a little irregular over the next few days as I shall be in the beautiful Colombian coastal cities of Santa Marta and Barranquilla to attend the Congreso Colombiano de Psiquiatría.

Both cities are known for their stunning coastline, but Barranquilla has probably become more famous for being the home town of Shakira.

Although I shall be briefly presenting at the conference, I would just like to mention that I have no plans for dinner in case any musically inclined barranquilleras happen to be reading.

Pavlov steaks a claim

Yale University archives have a piece of steak signed by the famous Russian psychologist Ivan Pavlov. The story of how this meaty museum piece was created is told in a short article for Yale Magazine.

Pavlov was apparently visiting the renowned brain surgeon Harvey Cushing when a new piece of surgical equipment caught his eye.

Pavlov was captivated by the new electrosurgical knife Cushing used in the operation, and at the end of the procedure, Cushing got a piece of beef so that the elder scientist could try his hand. After making a few incisions, Pavlov inscribed his name into the meat. “I asked him whether he wanted me to eat the meat in the hope of improving my conditional reflexes,” Cushing wrote in his journal, “or whether we could keep it in the museum, the latter we will proceed to do—’Pavlov’s beef-steak.'” A collector of old medical books and of brain tumors, when he died in 1939 Cushing bequeathed both to Yale, where his rare books would become the cornerstone for creating the Medical Historical Library.

For all his work on salivation, it’s a little ironic that Pavlov’s first response on being handed a steak was to respond quite so unusually.

The article has more on the curious museum piece.

Link to article on the signed steak (via Wonderland).

The social resonance of baby babble

The New York Times investigates how the goohs and gaahs of baby babble transform through the first year of life, becoming ever more language-like until they mutate into the first recognisable words.

But more than just tracking how the sounds change over time, the piece is a fascinating look at how they become enmeshed in social interaction and alter as they start to elicit specific responses from other people.

Some of the most exciting new research [pdf], according to D. Kimbrough Oller, a professor of audiology and speech-language pathology at the University of Memphis, analyzes the sounds that babies make in the first half-year of life, when they are “squealing and growling and producing gooing sounds.” These sounds are foundations of later language, he said, and they figure in all kinds of social interactions and play between parents and babies — but they do not involve formed syllables, or anything that yet sounds like words.

“By the time you get past 6 months of age, babies begin to produce canonical babbling, well-formed syllables,” Professor Oller said. “Parents don’t treat those earlier sounds as words; when canonical syllables begin to appear, parents recognize the syllables as negotiable.” That is, when the baby says something like “ba ba ba,” the parent may see it as an attempt to name something and may propose a word in response.


Link to NYT piece on understanding babble.
pdf of chapter on Evolution of Communicative Flexibility.

Susto: a soul wrenching fright

Neuroanthropologist Daniel Lende alerted me to this short video of an Ecuadorian healer or curandera treating a condition called ‘susto‘.

‘Susto’ literally means ‘fright’ in Spanish but the patient is not simply assumed to be suffering from shock or anxiety as the fright is thought to have caused the soul to leave the body which, in turn, causes a range of psychological and physical symptoms.

The anthropologist Arthur Rubel, who was one of the first to study the condition in detail, examined a range of cases and drew up a short list of its symptoms that included: “(1) during sleep the patient evidences restlessness; (2) during waking hours patients are characterized by listlessness, loss of appetite, disinterest in dress and personal hygiene, loss of strength, depression, and introversion”.

However, as an influential study by Michel Tousignant noted that other anthropologists have given remarkably different definitions, including fever, muscular pains, complexion changes, nausea, vertigo, and stomach or intestinal upsets; the inability to carry out your normal social role; an emotional crisis related to love or sexual problems, or, in the highlands of Ecuador, a problem that normally effects children that can lead to death if unchecked.

This last definition seems to be exactly what is being treated in the video as in the last few frames you can see a whole row of children being attended by curanderos and the video is labelled as taken in the highland Ecuadorian city of Cuenca.

The American Psychiatric Association’s DSM defines ‘susto’ as a culture-bound syndrome which is supposed to be a non-universal syndrome which only occurs in a specific culture but actually means a syndrome that only appears in foreign cultures as the category seems to automatically exclude a diagnosis if it appears in Americans.

Although its tempting to classify the condition as a form of mental illness, Tousignant’s work makes clear that this is misguided as the condition is defined as primarily spiritual in nature with what we would call ‘symptoms’ being knock-on effects.

It would like be a bit like trying to define poverty as a mental illness. While you can see that it causes mental stress, defining it as a psychiatric disorder doesn’t make much sense because it is best understood as an economic concept.

The same applies to ‘susto’. You cannot define it as a mental illness, as the DSM tries, without stripping it of its meaning from the cultures in which it appears.

Link to YouTube video of curandera treating ‘susto’.

I’m only racist when I’m drunk

In the light of several celebrities who have excused racist comments by saying they were drunk, tired or under stress, Time magazine has an excellent article examining how we can indeed become more prejudiced when run-down. Contrary to what some might think, this is not a get-out card for racism but may be key to understanding how best to challenge prejudice.

The piece riffs on findings from the Implicit Association Test or IAT that measures how quickly we pair concepts with positive or negative attitudes. It has found, for example, that negative biases towards black people are present in a large proportion of the population, including black people themselves.

The idea is not that all of these people are racist, but that we have absorbed negative cultural associations that tend to push our thinking in the direction of prejudice and we need to make a conscious effort to act even-handedly to counter-balance this tendency.

This effort, however, is hard mental work, and several studies have shown that this control can be weakened simply by altering the resources available to the brain.

It’s probably worth saying that one example in the article has been a bit mangled in the retelling. The study on ‘how elderly people given full sugar lemonade expressed fewer racist sentiments than those given diet lemonade’ wasn’t actually on elderly people or racist remarks.

But it did show that students given real lemonade were less likely to make homophobic remarks when asked to write as essay about a gay man than those given a sugar-free soft-drink.

However, it has been found that we are more likely to show racial bias as we age – likely because the circuits most involved in self-control heavily rely on the frontal lobes – which tend to become less efficient as we head into our twilight years.

In other words, we are all more likely to be prejudiced when we’re not firing on all cylinders and this is where it gets interesting.

The article raises the issue of which is the authentic you – the socially acceptable on-the-ball you, or the run-down prejudice-prone you?

Clearly, we would prefer the former, but its notable that much of the anti-racism rhetoric has pointed out, quite rightly, that we can be biased despite our best efforts, suggesting the latter.

It is also the case that people who have become notorious for outbursts of prejudice are often condemned as ‘racists’ rather than criticised for having made a mistake.

This is important, but it turns out that thinking of someone as characteristically prejudiced, rather than someone subject to the wax and wane of bias, is likely to mean racist acts go unchallenged.

A person’s attitude toward bias may help reduce it as well. Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford, and her colleagues recently published a study illustrating why some people confront racism and others do not. Dweck found that those who believed racism was a permanent characteristic (“that person is a racist”) were four times less likely to confront research assistants who made racist statements than those who saw racism as changeable…

Further, Dweck’s study found that it’s relatively easy to get people to change their views about the changeability of racism, at least in the short term. After researchers asked participants to read a report emphasizing studies showing that people can change, they were 20% to 25% more likely to say they would confront prejudice.

Condemning people rather than actions may make it more likely that racism goes unchallenged. Scientific backing for the words of Jay Smooth.

Link to Time on prejudice and the ‘authentic self’.
Link to Jay Smooth on challenging racism.