Links for Keyword: Aggression

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By Jason G. Goldman When my brother and I were young, we were very careful to share the last bit of dessert equally. It’s not that we were particularly magnanimous. In their wisdom, my parents instituted a rule in our house: one of us would divide the snack in half, and the other would select his half. “You cut, I choose” was a common phrase in the Goldman household throughout the 1990s. The rule ensured that we’d each be as equitable as possible when in the role of divider. The kitchen ruler was retrieved on more than one occasion. If I thought I could have gotten away with scarfing down the last cookie without him noticing, I’m sure I would have done it. And I would not have been sorry. Imagine, however, what would have happened if my brother had decided to keep the entire last cookie for himself and run into the living room with it. Here’s one way he might have kept me from snatching my fair share of the snack: find a decent hiding spot, and if I got too close, he could run back into the kitchen. Once back in the kitchen, if I got too close to him, he could have gotten up and run back to the living room. This is called a “stimulus-response rule.” Eventually, being the bright child that I was, I would have caught onto the pattern and found a way to block his path from one room to the other, increasing the chance of getting some of the dessert. Here’s a better method that my brother could use to protect his treat: keep his eyes on me the entire time, always moving away from me so that the distance between us was, on average, fixed. If I go right, he goes left. If I move towards him, he backs up. Short of backing him into a corner, my efforts would be futile. That’s because instead of using a small set of predictable actions, my brother could call upon a wider range of behaviors. Its much harder for a thief to learn how you protect your food if your behaviors are variable than if they are predictable. This is called a “cybernetic rule.” © 2012 Scientific American

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 17337 - Posted: 10.06.2012

By Melinda Wenner Moyer Read any Web forum, and you'll agree: people are meaner online than in “real life.” Psychologists have largely blamed this disinhibition on anonymity and invisibility: when you're online, no one knows who you are or what you look like. A new study in Computers in Human Behavior, however, suggests that above and beyond anything else, we're nasty on the Internet because we don't make eye contact with our compatriots. Researchers at the University of Haifa in Israel asked 71 pairs of college students who did not know one another to debate an issue over Instant Messenger and try to come up with an agreeable solution. The pairs, seated in different rooms, chatted in various conditions: some were asked to share personal, identifying details; others could see side views of their partner's body through webcams; and others were asked to maintain near-constant eye contact with the aid of close-up cameras attached to the top of their computer. Far more than anonymity or invisibility, whether or not the subjects had to look into their partner's eyes predicted how mean they were. When their eyes were hidden, participants were twice as likely to be hostile. Even if the subjects were both unrecognizable (with only their eyes on screen) and anonymous, they rarely made threats if they maintained eye contact. Although no one knows exactly why eye contact is so crucial, lead author and behavioral scientist Noam Lapidot-Lefler, now at the Max Stern Yezreel Valley College in Israel, notes that seeing a partner's eyes “helps you understand the other person's feelings, the signals that the person is trying to send you,” which fosters empathy and communication. © 2012 Scientific American,

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 17266 - Posted: 09.17.2012

Jeannine Stamatakis psychologist John Watson, the founder of behaviorism, once said, “Give me a dozen healthy infants, well formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in, and I'll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select.” If we take Watson's logic one step further, it may be possible to mold someone into a psychopath. Psychopathy, also called sociopathy, is defined by a lack of empathy, deceitfulness and complete selfishness. Current thinking is that although certain genes may predispose people toward psychopathy, their environment seems to provide the ultimate catalyst. Thus, a person who possesses the particular genes associated with this malady and is brought up in an abusive or neglectful household will be at a higher risk of exhibiting the traits associated with this disorder. Severe trauma to specific regions of the brain can cause a person to undergo marked personality changes, such as in the famous case of Phineas Gage. While working as a railroad construction foreman in Vermont in 1848, he survived an accident in which a large iron rod was driven through his head, damaging much of his brain's left frontal lobe. Although he did not become a sociopath, the reported effects on his personality and behavior were so profound that friends saw him as “no longer Gage.” An incident two decades ago supports the idea that brain trauma can lead to psychopathic behaviors. In 1991 convicted sex offender Phillip Garrido kidnapped 11-year-old Jaycee Dugard and kept her as a prisoner in his home for 18 years. Experts believe that Garrido experienced severe brain damage after a serious motorcycle accident as a teenager, which was compounded by intense drug use. Garrido's father said that his son had been a “good boy” as a child but that he had changed radically after the accident and had become unstable. © 2012 Scientific American,

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 19: Language and Hemispheric Asymmetry
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 15: Language and Our Divided Brain
Link ID: 17222 - Posted: 09.07.2012

By Bruce Bower A callous, manipulative psychopath convicted of a brutal crime can count on a long prison stint. But a judge may issue a slightly shorter sentence if presented with a biological explanation for the criminal’s psychopathic personality. Supplying judges with scientific evidence about suspected brain deficits in psychopathy led to a reduction in prison sentences from about 14 years to 13 years, researchers report in the Aug. 17 Science. The results come from a nationwide, online survey of state judges given a hypothetical scenario about a psychopath convicted of what lawyers call aggravated battery. Judges taking the survey tended to view psychopathic criminals as dangerous, whether or not scientific evidence was introduced, say psychologist Lisa Aspinwall, lawyer Teneille Brown and philosopher James Tabery, all of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. A hypothetical psychopath in the new study got sent to the slammer for longer than the average nine-year sentence given to non-psychopaths found guilty of aggravated battery in real courts. Aspinwall and her colleagues informed judges that clinicians use psychopathy — which is not an official psychiatric diagnosis — to refer to individuals who are impulsive, emotionally shallow, outwardly charming, lacking in empathy or remorse, chronic liars and callous manipulators (SN: 12/9/06, p. 379). Judges were told that psychopathy is incurable. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2012

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 17178 - Posted: 08.18.2012

By Winnie Yu If you want to keep your cool, you might want to pass up those greasy wings and gooey dessert. A new study from the University of California, San Diego, suggests that people whose diets are higher in trans fats are more prone to aggression. Trans fats, or hydrogenated oils, have made the news in recent years because studies have strongly linked them to heart disease and cancer, and some locales have passed laws restricting their use. They are still common, however, in restaurant food and many grocery items. Beatrice Golomb, a physician and associate professor of medicine at U.C. San Diego, wondered if trans fats might affect behavior, after noting how they interact with a type of healthy fat. Past studies found that docosahexaenoic acid—or DHA, a long-chain omega-3 fatty acid—has a calming, antidepressant effect. Trans fats disrupt the chemical process that leads to the conversion of fatty acids into DHA, which led Golomb to suspect that trans fats might be linked to aggression. Her study, which was published in March in PLoS ONE, involved 1,018 men and women older than 20 who filled out a food questionnaire and several other surveys that measure impatience, irritability and aggression. Even after considering other influences, Golomb's team found a strong link between the intake of trans fats and aggression. “Trans-fatty acids were a more consistent predictor of aggression than some traditional risk factors such as age, male sex, education and smoking,” Golomb says. The findings were consistent across both sexes and across all ages, ethnicities and socioeconomic groups. © 2012 Scientific American

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 13: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 9: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment
Link ID: 17110 - Posted: 08.01.2012

by Amy West Many deep-sea squid dispel an ink cloud to flee a predator, but one species goes a step farther: It ensures a getaway by counterattacking and then ditching the tips of its arms. These detached bits can continue to twitch and emit bioluminescent light—likely providing a vital distraction. By catching this strange maneuver on camera, scientists have established Octopoteuthis deletron as the only known squid to drop portions of its arms in self-defense, much as lizards drop their tails before escaping. O. deletron inhabits depths of 500 to 600 meters. Little is known about the biology of these gelatinous deep-dwellers, but recently they have begun to yield their secrets—including some bizarre mating behavior—thanks to powerful video cameras mounted on robotic submersibles operated by researchers at Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) in Moss Landing, California. Viewing some of this footage, Stephanie Bush, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Rhode Island, Kingston, noticed many individuals with arms of different lengths, and suspected that these cephalopods lost their arms during an attack. To investigate, Bush collaborated with researchers at MBARI. With a bit of luck, the team found squid off the coast of California, and tried poking them with the control arm of the submersible. The creatures attacked the vehicle but never held on, perhaps because they couldn't grip its smooth metal surface, Bush says. Eventually, the researchers resorted to attaching the bottle-brush they used to wash their laboratory glassware to the submersible. When they nudged the next squid they encountered, the squid attacked the brush and immediately left behind parts of two arms. Fortunately the team caught the action with a high-resolution camera (see video). As the scientists erupted into cheers in the control room, Bush says she wondered why she hadn't tried this earlier. © 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 17105 - Posted: 07.30.2012

by Sarah C. P. Williams To escape a hungry wolf, a sheep doesn't have to outrun the wolf, just the other sheep in its flock. Many researchers think that such selfish behavior, not cooperation for the benefit of the whole crowd, shapes the movements of groups of animals. But the decades-old "selfish herd theory" has been hard to back up with data. Now, a detailed analysis of how a flock of sheep moves to avoid a sheepdog has found that the theory holds true. Each sheep heads to safety in the center of the flock, rather than running directly away from the dog. "It's really difficult to measure 2D spatial information on large animals in the wild," says biologist Theodore Stankowich of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who was not involved in the new work. "They've taken advantage of a unique opportunity to work with the sheep to answer these types of questions in a controlled environment." Studies on seals, crabs, and pigeons have shown that those animals seem to herd for selfish reasons, but the data have often been crude. Biologist Andrew King and colleagues at the Royal Veterinary College of the University of London attached GPS backpacks to 46 sheep and to a trained Australian Kelpie dog. When they released the dog to herd the sheep, they recorded the location of each animal every second. Then, they analyzed the data to determine what factors influenced each sheep's path. The movements of the sheep, the researchers reveal today online in Current Biology, could be best predicted by the center of the flock. Rather than run in a line away from the dog, scatter in all directions, or follow their nearest neighbors, the sheep all hurried toward the flock's center. The sheep began to converge when the dog was 70 meters away. Even as the flock as a whole moved, each sheep continuously competed to be as near the middle as possible. © 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 17079 - Posted: 07.24.2012

By Larry Greenemeier Shortly after moviegoers had settled in to watch a midnight premier of The Dark Night Rises on Friday morning, a heavily armed gunman entered the Aurora, Colo., theater through an emergency exit and opened fire. In just a few minutes the assailant shot more than 60 children and adults—killing at least a dozen—before police arrested him outside the theater. This massacre was the only latest in a string of eerily similar incidents in recent years involving the mass murder of civilians, spectators and bystanders by an individual with a firearm and a frightening lack of regard over its use. In April 2007 32 people were shot to death and 17 injured on the campus of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Va., by a former student. In January 2011, former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head by an assailant who killed six people during an attack outside a Tucson supermarket. Just a few months ago a gunman killed seven people at Oikos University in Oakland, Calif. In each of these and other similar cases, the lone assailant who was either captured or found dead at the scene of the crime matched a particular profile—a disgruntled loner with grievances against societal institutions and who displayed an abhorrent inability or unwillingness to exercise control over violent impulses. Following the attempted assassination of Giffords, Scientific American spoke with Marco Iacoboni, a University of California, Los Angeles, professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences and director of the school’s Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Laboratory, about why some individuals act on their violent thoughts whereas others do not. Although details about the life of University of Colorado neuroscience Ph.D. student James Holmes, arrested for the Aurora shootings, are still being uncovered, several of Iacoboni’s observations about accused Giffords gunman Jared Lee Loughner seem apt to shed some light on the violence that recent took place Friday morning. © 2012 Scientific American,

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 18: Attention and Higher Cognition
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 14: Attention and Consciousness
Link ID: 17072 - Posted: 07.21.2012

By Susan Milius OTTAWA — Larval fruit flies, supposedly relentless devourers of rotting fruit, at times leave their regular laboratory food to stalk, kill and group-cannibalize some of their older, fatter fellows, scientists report. This predatory cannibalism shows up in Drosophila melanogaster, the fly species that generations of biologists have grown in untold numbers, Roshan Vijendravarma of the University of Lausanne in Switzerland reported July 6 at the Evolution Ottawa scientific congress. He and Lausanne colleagues documented the behavior in both Canton S fruit flies, a strain raised in labs for more than six decades, and the Valais strain, brought into culture only in the last two years. Because fruit fly genetics is known in such detail, Vijendravarma said his discovery may allow researchers to study the evolution of predatory cannibalism at the DNA level. The closest reports Vijendravarma has found to what he’s witnessed describe larva of a different fruit fly, Drosophila hydei, dining on an already dead youngster of its own kind. What Vijendravarma reported is not just feeding on a happenstance free lunch, but hunting as well. He showed close-up videos of the dark, pronged mouthparts of a smaller larva scraping again and again against the wide, cream-colored body of a larger one. Finally the big larva’s body rips open, exposing softer flesh. Vijendravarma also showed photographs of clusters of small larvae side-by-side with their mouths against the flesh of a much larger one. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2012

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 17025 - Posted: 07.11.2012

by Michael Marshall Fancy getting into a fight? Here's a tip: don't. Even if you win you'll probably get hurt, and that will mean you have to spend weeks recovering when you could be doing something worthwhile, like curing cancer or having sex. Most animals know this instinctively and are reluctant to get into all-out fights. In particular, animals don't fight with members of other species. There's just no point: they aren't sexual rivals, and they have a different diet so they're not likely to steal food either. With some exceptions, including predator-prey struggles, animals only fight their direct competitors: members of their own species. Someone needs to tell the Dalmatian wall lizard about this unwritten rule – preferably through a megaphone from a safe distance. In field tests it picks fights with a neighbouring lizard species that poses no threat to it at all. Is it just a thug, or is there a good reason for its aggressive behaviour? Dalmatian wall lizards are named after the Dalmatia region of southern Croatia – as is the notoriously fecund breed of dog. As lizards go they look quite ordinary, measuring about 6 centimetres long, not counting their tails. They spend most of their time on the ground under vegetation or on low rocks. That keeps them separate from the neighbouring sharp-snouted rock lizards (Dalmatolacerta oxycephala), which tend to hang out on higher rocks where it's cooler. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 16923 - Posted: 06.16.2012

By Bruce Bower PORTLAND, Ore. — In a cooperative venture aimed at understanding the most uncooperative of acts, researchers studying different African communities of wild chimpanzees have pooled their data and found that the apes sometimes kill each other nearly everywhere they’ve been studied. Chimp homicides occurred most frequently in groups with the most adult males, anthropologist Michael Wilson of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis reported April 12 at the American Association of Physical Anthropologists’ annual meeting. Wilson persuaded researchers at 10 wild chimp sites, containing a total of 17 communities, to contribute their findings on lethal attacks collected over the past several decades. Chimps spend most of their time in peaceful pursuits, such as playing, foraging and grooming each other. Yet researchers, beginning with Jane Goodall more than 40 years ago, have described occasional chimp homicides. Some investigators have speculated that these animals get lethally riled up by human intrusions, such as deforestation, hunting and feeding of chimps by eco-tourists. But the new study found that chimp communities with the most documented killings had no or only rare encounters with humans. Groups of males carried out most killings, and most victims were male adults and infants in neighboring communities. “The new findings suggest that killing is an evolved strategy, mainly for adult males to eliminate rivals and competitors for mates,” Wilson said. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2012

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 16646 - Posted: 04.14.2012

By Ferris Jabr Rhesus macaques, which are some of the best studied of all monkeys, establish hierarchies in their social groups. Whenever two macaques tussle over a piece of food, say, or the right to mate, the monkey with the higher rank usually wins. Primatologists have established that monkeys of a lower social status are generally more stressed out than their dominant peers—low-ranking monkeys have higher levels of stress hormones, for instance. But what about differences in gene activity? Does one’s social stature change how one’s genes are expressed. Yes, concludes a new study that used differences in gene expression to identify a monkey’s social status with around 80 percent accuracy. Jenny Tung of Duke University and her colleagues—including several collaborators at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center—studied 10 groups of adult female rhesus macaques made up of five females each. Researchers formed the groups one female at a time, which allowed them to carefully construct the social hierarchy: females introduced earlier generally assumed a higher rank. In this way, the scientists knew exactly which monkey held rank 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 in each group. Tung and her colleagues collected blood samples from the rhesus macaques, isolated the white blood cells and analyzed the DNA in those cells. They found 987 genes whose activity depended on social rank: 535 genes that were more highly expressed in high-ranking individuals and 452 genes with higher activity in low-ranking individuals. Many of these genes were involved with the immune system; in particular, genes involved in inflammation were more active in low-ranking individuals. Further testing revealed that low-ranking monkeys also had fewer cytotoxic T-cells, a kind of white blood cell that attacks infected and cancerous cells. Earlier research suggests that the stress of a low social rank compromises the immune system—which fits with the finding about T-cells—but may also trigger the immune system to respond when it does not need to, which fits with the finding about inflammation. Findings about the relationship between stress, social status and the immune system are not clear cut, however; for example, some studies have found that having a higher rank is more stressful than having a lower rank. © 2012 Scientific American

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 16632 - Posted: 04.10.2012

by Sarah C. P. Williams Ten minutes after they play in a competitive soccer match with an audience of friends and family cheering them on, men from the Tsimane people in lowland Bolivia have testosterone levels 30% higher than they were before the game. If the players were athletes in the United States, this number wouldn't be surprising. But Tsimane men have much lower levels of testosterone throughout their lives than do men in developed countries. The findings may provide clues to how the body regulates short-term versus long-term increases in the hormone. The Tsimane, a population of 15,000 spread among small villages in the Amazon, rely on farming, hunting, and gathering to survive. With only recent exposure to immunizations and modern sanitation methods, the people are plagued by infections, pathogens, respiratory illnesses, and gastrointestinal diseases. This disease burden suggested to anthropologist Benjamin Trumble of the University of Washington, Seattle, that the men would likely have low testosterone levels. "Testosterone is quite energetically expensive and is also thought to interfere with immune functioning," he notes. "So if you're part of a population that faces lots of parasites and pathogens, generally you've adapted to have less testosterone." To confirm his hypothesis, Trumble and colleagues recruited 88 Tsimane men who were playing in a competitive inter-village soccer tournament. Despite their hunter-gatherer lifestyle, the Tsimane have had increasing contact with other populations over the past few decades and have become avid fans of soccer. Men who were participating in the tournament play, on average, three times a week. © 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 12: Sex: Evolutionary, Hormonal, and Neural Bases
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 8: Hormones and Sex
Link ID: 16585 - Posted: 03.29.2012

By Victoria Gill Science reporter, BBC Nature Japanese honeybees' response to a hive-invading giant hornet is efficient and dramatic; they form a "bee ball" around it, serving to cook and asphyxiate it. Now, researchers in Japan have measured the brain activity of honeybees when they form this killer ball. One highly active area of the bees' brains, they believe, allows them to generate the constant heat which is deadly for the hornet. The team published their findings in the open-access journal, PLoS One. Prof Takeo Kubo from the University of Tokyo explained that "higher centres" of the bee's brain, known as the mushroom bodies, were more active in the brains of Japanese honeybees when they were a part of the "hot defensive bee ball". To find this out, the team lured the bees to form their ball by attaching a hornet to the end of a wire and inserting the predator into the hive. This simulated invasion caused the bees to swarm around the hornet. The researchers then plucked a few of the bees from the ball and measured, throughout each of their tiny brains, the relative amount of a chemical that is known to be a "marker" of brain activity. "We found that similar [brain] activity is evoked when the Japanese honeybees are simply exposed to high temperature (46C) in the laboratory," the researcher told BBC Nature. BBC © 2012

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 13: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 9: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment
Link ID: 16526 - Posted: 03.17.2012

By Rebecca Cheung When it comes to male crayfish, not all claws are created equal. In these crustaceans, the left and right claws might be very different sizes — and the larger one isn’t necessarily stronger, researchers report online March 14 in Biology Letters. This deceptiveness could help crayfish bluff or trick an opponent during a fight, says study coauthor Robbie Wilson, a biologist at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. What’s more, the findings suggest that within a species, “dishonesty occurs in nature more commonly than we expect,” Wilson says. During a clash, a male crayfish sizes up his opponent when deciding whether to fight or flee. Previously, scientists found that stronger, smaller-clawed crayfish would back down from weaker, larger-clawed opponents. So, it was clear that some bluffing occurred between these crustaceans. In this new work, Wilson and his colleague Michael Angilletta Jr., of Arizona State University in Tempe, compared claw size and strength in the slender male crayfish, Cherax dispar, a species native to Queensland. By having crayfish squeeze down on instruments that resembled tweezers, researchers could measure the force exerted by individual claws. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2012

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 18: Attention and Higher Cognition
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 14: Attention and Consciousness
Link ID: 16517 - Posted: 03.15.2012

Europe's top human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe, has urged Germany to end the practice of surgically castrating sex offenders. The council's anti-torture committee said such voluntary treatment, albeit rare in Germany, was "degrading". In Germany no more than five sex offenders a year have been opting for castration, hoping it will lower their sex drives and reduce their jail term. The committee's recommendations are not binding but have great influence. The committee's official title is the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT). "Surgical castration is a mutilating, irreversible intervention and cannot be considered as a medical necessity in the context of the treatment of sexual offenders", the CPT report said. It was based on an investigation in Germany carried out in November-December 2010. The BBC's Stephen Evans in Berlin says the German authorities argue that castration is not a punishment but a treatment which enables, as a government statement put it, "suffering tied to an abnormal sex drive… to be cured, or at least alleviated". Research for the report revealed that of the 104 people operated on between 1970 and 1980, only 3% reoffended, compared with nearly half of those who refused castration or were denied it by the authorities. BBC © 2012

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 12: Sex: Evolutionary, Hormonal, and Neural Bases; Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 8: Hormones and Sex; Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 16425 - Posted: 02.25.2012

By DOUGLAS QUENQUA Tropical fish hobbyists will tell you their tanks are a source of relaxation, but recent research suggests the fish might disagree. Nearly 13 million American households contain a fish tank, and the average tank size is less than 10 gallons. Yet a study comparing the behavior of common freshwater fish in a variety of habitats found that those kept in such small tanks were considerably more aggressive than those in larger ones — more likely to fight, flare their gills and guard whatever tiny alcoves they could find. “In larger tanks, the fish were not in continuous eyesight of each other, and were swimming around checking everything out rather than beating the heck out of each other,” said the study’s author, Ronald G. Oldfield, a professor of biology at Case Western Reserve University. The fish in question were Midas, or “red devil” cichlids, a species popular among hobbyists for their brilliant colors and active swimming habits. Dr. Oldfield used only very young fish to eliminate aggressive behaviors associated with mating. Dr. Oldfield concedes that the emotional well-being of fish may not tug many heartstrings. “It’s probably not the end of the world,” he said in a telephone interview. Even the Humane Society, which routinely has commercials featuring slow-motion video of abused pets, does not offer guidelines for the treatment of pet fish. © 2011 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 16192 - Posted: 12.27.2011

By Gary Stix What was up with a world leader who thought he could control the weather while engaging in his passion for Elizabeth Taylor movies? No one knows for sure, but a few years ago, two psychologists took a crack at a long-distance analysis. In the September 2009 edition of Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression (Editor’s note: nice journal name), Frederick L. Coolidge and Daniel L. Segal tried to develop a psychological profile of the “Dear Leader” (in 1992 changed to “Dear Father”). Coolidge had developed a means of psychological evaluation using “informants,” people who knew or had historical or other expertise about a person. This test had been used previously to assess Hitler and Saddam Hussein and had been found to have a high-level of statistical reliability. The two psychologists used the test with a South Korean psychiatrist who was an expert on Kim Jong-il. The results showed that Kim Jong-il had an identical overall statistical measure with Hitler and Saddam on 14 personality disorders (r=7.6). (The top six of the 14 are: sadistic, paranoid, antisocial, narcissistic, schizoid and schizotypal.). Additional analysis showed that Dear Father was more like Saddam than Der Fuhrer. All three also showed evidence of psychotic thinking. Coolidge and Segal make recommendations about how to engage in diplomatic talks with someone with this type of personality. “In negotiations with Kim Jong-il over nuclear weapons, he might trust higher-level government officials more than lower ones,” they write. “Perhaps, more reflective of Kim Jong-il’s narcissistic traits, he initially balked over six-country negotiations, demanding to meet with the United States only. It would be predicted that secondary or lower level emissaries might have immediately been at a disadvantage.” © 2011 Scientific American

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 16: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 12: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavioral Disorders
Link ID: 16168 - Posted: 12.20.2011

By Laura Sanders Brain differences might help explain psychopaths’ cold, calculated and often antisocial behavior, and perhaps even point out better ways to treat or prevent the disorder, a study of Wisconsin prison inmates suggests. Compared with a group of 13 non-psychopathic criminals, a group of 14 psychopaths had weaker connections between an area near the front of the brain called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, or vmPFC, and the amygdala, a pair of almond-shaped structures deep in the brain. Earlier studies have hinted that this particular link is important for emotional regulation and aggression. Neuroscientist Michael Koenigs of the University of Wisconsin–Madison and colleagues discovered the weaker connection by taking a mobile brain scanner to a medium-security prison. Psychopaths are overrepresented in prison populations thanks to their lack of empathy and tendency toward antisocial behavior. After interviewing inmates and scrutinizing their disciplinary records to determine whether they were psychopaths, the scientists conducted two kinds of brain scans. The first measured the strength of brain connections called white matter tracts, which are bundles of nerves that serve as information superhighways that shuttle information between different brain regions. It was those scans that revealed the weaker link between the vmPFC and the amygdala in psychopaths, the team reports November 30 in the Journal of Neuroscience. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2011

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 16096 - Posted: 12.01.2011

By CARL ZIMMER CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Steven Pinker was a 15-year-old anarchist. He didn’t think people needed a police force to keep the peace. Governments caused the very problems they were supposed to solve. Besides, it was 1969, said Dr. Pinker, who is now a 57-year-old psychologist at Harvard. “If you weren’t an anarchist,” he said, “you couldn’t get a date.” At the dinner table, he argued with his parents about human nature. “They said, ‘What would happen if there were no police?’ ” he recalled. “I said: ‘What would we do? Would we rob banks? Of course not. Police make no difference.’ ” This was in Montreal, “a city that prided itself on civility and low rates of crime,” he said. Then, on Oct. 17, 1969, police officers and firefighters went on strike, and he had a chance to test his first hypothesis about human nature. “All hell broke loose,” Dr. Pinker recalled. “Within a few hours there was looting. There were riots. There was arson. There were two murders. And this was in the morning that they called the strike.” The ’60s changed the lives of many people and, in Dr. Pinker’s case, left him deeply curious about how humans work. That curiosity turned into a career as a leading expert on language, and then as a leading advocate of evolutionary psychology. In a series of best-selling books, he has argued that our mental faculties — from emotions to decision-making to visual cognition — were forged by natural selection. © 2011 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 16087 - Posted: 11.29.2011