This complex and tragic event supports my own view

As shots rang out across the courtyard, I ducked behind my desk, my adrenaline pumping. Enraged by the inexplicable violence of this complex and multi-faceted attack, I promised the public I would use this opportunity to push my own pet theory of mass shootings.

Only a few days have passed since this terrible tragedy and I want to start by paying lip service to the need for respectful remembrance and careful evidence-gathering before launching into my half-cocked ideas.

The cause was simple. It was whatever my prejudices suggested would cause a mass shooting and this is being widely ignored by the people who have the power to implement my prejudices as public policy.

I want to give you some examples of how ignoring my prejudices directly led to the mass shooting.

The gunman grew up in an American town and had a series of experiences, some common to millions of American people, some unique to him. But it wasn’t until he started to involve himself in the one thing that I particularly object to, that he started on the path to mass murder.

The signs were clear to everyone but they were ignored because other people haven’t listened to the same point-of-view I expressed on the previous occasion the opportunity arose.

Research on the risk factors for mass shootings has suggested that there are a number of characteristics that have an uncertain statistical link to these tragic events but none that allow us to definitively predict a future mass shooting.

But I want to use the benefit of hindsight to underline one factor I most agree with and describe it as if it can be clearly used to prevent future incidents.

I am going to try and convince you of this in two ways. I am going to selectively discuss research which supports my position and I’m going to quote an expert to demonstrate that someone with a respected public position agrees with me.

Several scientific papers in a complex and unsettled debate about this topic could be taken to support my position. A government report also has a particular statistic which I like to quote.

Highlighting these findings may make it seem like my position is the most probable explanation despite no clear overall conclusion but a single quote from one of the experts will seal the issue in my favour.

“Mass shootings” writes forensic psychiatrist Anand Pandya, an Associate Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at the UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, “have repeatedly led to political discourse”. But I take from his work that my own ideas, to quote Professor Pandya, “may be useful after future gun violence”.

Be warned. People who don’t share my biases are pushing their own evidence-free theories in the media, but without hesitation, I can definitely say they are wrong and, moreover, biased.

It is clear that the main cause of this shooting was the thing I disliked before the mass shooting happened. I want to disingenuously imply that if my ideas were more widely accepted, this tragedy could have been averted.

Do we want more young people to die because other people don’t agree with me?

UPDATE: Due to the huge negative reaction this article has received, I would like to make some minor concession to my critics while accusing them of dishonesty and implying that they are to blame for innocent deaths. Clearly, we should be united by in the face of such terrible events and I am going to appeal to your emotions to emphasise that not standing behind my ideas suggests that you are against us as a country and a community.

I’m experiencing a lot of automaticity right now

Funny or Die is supposedly a comedy site but they seem to have a brief video tutorial on how to undertake neurally informed domestic negotiations.

The credits of the video give special thanks to Dr Dan Siegel – founder of ‘the exciting field of interpersonal neurobiology’.

I think that might be a joke though as the video seemed relatively free of flowery neurojargon.

‘digital dementia’ lowdown – from The Conversation

The Headlines

The Telegraph: Surge in ‘digital dementia’

The Daily Mail: ‘Digital dementia’ on the rise as young people increasingly rely on technology instead of their brain

Fox News: Is ‘digital dementia’ plaguing teenagers?

The Story

South Korea has the highest proportion of people with smartphones, 67%. Nearly 1 in 5 use their phone for more than 7 hours in a day, it is reported. Now a doctor in Seoul reports that teenagers are reporting with symptoms more normally found in those with head injury or psychiatric illness. He claims excessive smartphone use is leading to asymmetrical brain development, emotional stunting and could “in as many as 15 per cent of cases lead to the early onset of dementia”.

What they actually did

Details from the news stories are sketchy. Dr Byun Gi-won, in Seoul, provided the quotes, but it doesn’t seem as if he has published any systematic research. Perhaps the comments are based on personal observation?

The Daily Mail quotes an article which reported that 14% of young people felt that their memory was poor. The Mail also contains the choice quote that “[Doctors] say that teenagers have become so reliant on digital technology they are no longer able to remember everyday details such as their phone numbers.”

How plausible is this?

It is extremely plausible that people should worry about their memories, or that doctors should find teenagers uncooperative, forgetful and inattentive. The key question is whether our memories, or teenagers’ cognitive skills, are worse than they ever have been – and if smart phones are to blame for this. The context for this story is a recurring moral panic about young people, new forms of technology and social organisation.

For a long time it was TV, before that it was compulsory schooling (“taking kids out of their natural environment”). When the newspaper became common people complained about the death of conversation. Plato even complained that writing augured the death of memory and understanding). The story also draws on the old left brain-right brain myth, which – despite being demonstrably wrong – will probably never die.

Tom’s take

Of course, it is possible that smartphones (or the internet, or TV, or newspapers, or writing) could damage our thinking abilities. But all the evidence suggest the opposite, with year by year and generation-by-generation rises found in IQ scores. One of the few revealing pieces of research in this area showed that people really are more forgetful of information they know can be easily retrieved, but actually better able to remember where to find that information again.

This isn’t dementia, but a completely normally process of relying on our environment to store information for us. You can see the moral panic driving these stories reflected in the use of that quote about teenagers not being able to remember phone numbers. So what! I can’t remember phone numbers any more – because I don’t need to. The only evidence for dementia in these stories is the lack of critical thought from the journalists reporting them.

Read more

Vaughan Bell on a media history of information scares.

Christian Jarret on Why the Left-Brain Right-Brain Myth Will Probably Never Die

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
Read the original article.

The dark patch of death

We’ve covered some dodgy neuroscience journalism in our time but The Daily Mail has such as amazing piece of tosh, I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be serious or the result of huffing bathroom cleaner.

Now I try and avoid writing about The Daily Mail because it’s so science impaired it’s a bit like complaining that your pantomime horse won’t gallop properly.

But this is just amazing.

Where evil lurks: Neurologist discovers ‘dark patch’ inside the brains of killers and rapists

Hmmm, this sounds like it’s going to be a sensational piece of nonsense. I wonder what the ‘dark patch’ refers to?

A German neurologist claims to have found the area of the brain where evil lurks in killers, rapists and robbers.

It’s not looking good. Evil doesn’t ‘lurk’ in any part of the brain.

Bremen scientist Dr Gerhard Roth says the ‘evil patch’ lies in the brain’s central lobe and shows up as a dark mass on X-rays.

Evil patch? X-rays? Dark mass? But sweet Jesus in heaven. WHERE THE FUCK IS THE CENTRAL LOBE?

Screw the ‘dark patch’ these evil-doers have grown another lobe. The man has discovered mutant three-lobe killer rapists.

Believe it or not, it actually gets worse.

I could explain where the article has gone wrong but I’m too busy pushing furniture up against the windows. You won’t take me alive creatures of darkness!

Link to it’s not satire if written while high on cleaning products.

Brain’s nothingness centre found

Collectively Unconscious has a satirical post entitled “Brain region found that does absolutely nothing”.

Neuroscientists at the University of Ingberg have found a brain region that does absolutely nothing. Their research, presented at the annual Society for Neuroscience meeting, showed that a small region of the cortex located near the posterior section of the cingulate gyrus responded to ‘not one of our 46 experimental manipulations’…

“Over the months that followed we tried everything we knew, with over 20 different participants. IQ tests, memory tasks, flashing lights, talking, listening, imagining juggling, but there was no response. Nothing. We got more desperate, so we tried pictures of faces, TMS, pictures of cats, pictures of sex, pictures of violence and even sexy violence, but nothing happened! Not even a decrease. No connectivity to anywhere else, not even a voodoo correlation. 46 voxels of wasted space. I know dead salmons that are more responsive.”

Clearly the problem here is a lack of imagination.

A recent (genuine) study simply ran the same experimental data from an fMRI scanning session through 6,912 different possible ways of conducting the analysis.

Suddenly, activity popped up all over the brain.

As Einstein said “Imagination is more important than knowledge, because even though science strives to be an objective body of knowledge driven by a systematised method for accurately discovering causal relationships, in reality, it’s a bun fight”.

Pretty sure that was Einstein. Hang on, I’ll just check my stats. Yep, yes it was.

Link to satirical post on Collectively Unconscious.