Thursday, July 26, 2012

David Berreby - Psychologists Assume It's Possible to Know A Person: What If They're Wrong?

This is an important and interesting post by David Berreby at Big Think's Mind Matters blog. In the aftermath of James Holmes apparent killing of 12 people (with 58 others wounded) - for absolutely no identifiable reason (so far), "our modern priesthood of experts" is recruited by every news show to "explain" why he possibly could have done this horrible thing.
And they look to their correlations of variables, their indicators and theories, and find precisely nothing. Where are the indicators we want to see, the ones we can associate with senseless slaughter? Where are the traits whose presence would reassure us that it is possible to know who is vulnerable to the lure of mass murder?

There are none. No indications of mental illness earlier in life. No signs of a violent or troubled childhood. No signs of drug abuse. Instead, traces of a mild blank person, whose signature trait seemed to be that he left little impression at all on other people. A background guy, the sort who doesn't make us alert for trouble. His story threatens formal psychology and folk psychology, because it tells us that another person can't be known, not for certain. (That he was himself a grad student in neuroscience, aiming to elucidate how the brain causes behavior, adds a quality of mockery to the tale.)
 It's not a long column, but it's worth the read.


James-holmes

Psychologists Assume It's Possible to Know A Person. What If They're Wrong?

David Berreby on July 23, 2012 [updated on 7/24/2012]
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