Psychopathy on the rise around the planet according to many metrics

Tag: Politics, Culture, and Society

Many people have suggested that as population rises and the competition for declining resources, jobs, food, water, and social provelidges intensify, traits like agression, sociopathy, and psychopathy would increase. They use what is said to have happened to the Ik tribe in africa as a model - altho some number of anthropologists now criticize the infamous Ik story as poorly done anthropology - it is still often referred to as a possibly apocryphal take of what happens to people under intense survival stress.

In 1972, Colin Turnbull published an ethnography about the Ik titled The Mountain People.[3] The book provides an examination of Ik culture and practices based on information gathered by Turnbull during a stay of three years. He depicts the Ik as a people forced into extreme individualistic practices in order to survive. Using the few remaining elderly Ik as sources, he attempts to describe the former Ik society (including hunter-gatherer practices; marriage, childbirth, and death rituals and taboos; religious and spiritual beliefs, and other aspects). Much of the work, however, focuses on the then-current condition of the Ik people during a severe famine brought on by two consecutive drought years.

Turnbull clearly became very involved with the Ik people, and openly writes about his horror at many of the events he witnessed, most notably total disregard for familial bonds leading to the death of children and the elderly by starvation. 



Claude Steiner cited Turnbull's study saying:

"There is no better or more heartbreaking example of the alienation of the human capacity to love than the story of the Ik tribe of Uganda. Colin Turnbull in his book Mountain People documents how Milton Obote nationalized traditional hunting lands as national park for European tourists, and prevented the Ik from hunting in their traditional hunting grounds. After a couple of generations of starvation conditions, the Ik, originally a cooperative, child loving tribe, became a group of selfish cruel people who don’t trust or help anybody. They would desert children at an early age and one story Turnbull tells is how after abandoning a baby to be eaten by wild animals the animals were hunted an [sic] eaten."—Source




 The Cronicle of Higher Education suggests Psychopathy is on the rise:

the new millennium has seemingly ushered in a wave of corporate criminality like no other. Investment scams, conflicts of interest, lapses of judgment, and those evergreen entrepreneurial party tricks of good old fraud and embezzlement are now utterly unprecedented in magnitude. Who's to blame? In an issue of the Journal of Business Ethics, Clive R. Boddy, a former professor at the Nottingham Business School, contends that it's psychopaths, pure and simple, who are at the root of all the trouble.


Precisely why this downturn in social values has come about is not entirely clear. A complex concatenation of environment, role models, and education is, as usual, under suspicion. But the beginnings of an even more fundamental answer may lie in a study conducted by Jeffrey Zacks and his team at the Dynamic Cognition Laboratory, at Washington University in St. Louis. With the aid of fMRI, Zacks and his co-authors peered deep inside the brains of volunteers as they read stories. What they found provided an intriguing insight into the way our brain constructs our sense of self. Changes in characters' locations (e.g., "went out of the house into the street") were associated with increased activity in regions of the temporal lobes involved in spatial orientation and perception, while changes in the objects that a character interacted with (e.g., "picked up a pencil") produced a similar increase in a region of the frontal lobes known to be important for controlling grasping motions. Most important, however, changes in a character's goal elicited increased activation in areas of the prefrontal cortex, damage to which results in impaired knowledge of the order and structure of planned, intentional action.

Imagining, it would seem, really does make it so. Whenever we read a story, our level of engagement is such that we "mentally simulate each new situation encountered in a narrative," according to one of the researchers, Nicole Speer. Our brains then interweave these newly encountered situations with knowledge and experience gleaned from our own lives to create an organic mosaic of dynamic mental syntheses.

Reading a book carves brand-new neural pathways into the ancient cortical bedrock of our brains. It transforms the way we see the world—makes us, as Nicholas Carr puts it in his recent essay, "The Dreams of Readers," "more alert to the inner lives of others." We become vampires without being bitten—in other words, more empathic. Books make us see in a way that casual immersion in the Internet, and the quicksilver virtual world it offers, doesn't.

Which is worrisome, to say the least, given the current slump in reading habits. According to a 2011 survey conducted by the British charity the National Literacy Trust, one in three children between the ages of 11 and 16 do not own a book, compared with one in 10 in 2005. That equates, in today's England, to a total of around four million. Almost a fifth of the 18,000 children polled said they had never received a book as a present. And 12 percent said they had never been to a bookshop.

But if society really is becoming more psychopathic, it's not all doom and gloom. In the right context, certain psychopathic characteristics can actually be very constructive. A neurosurgeon I spoke with (who rated high on the psychopathic spectrum) described the mind-set he enters before taking on a difficult operation as "an intoxication that sharpens rather than dulls the senses." In fact, in any kind of crisis, the most effective individuals are often those who stay calm—who are able to respond to the exigencies of the moment while at the same time maintaining the requisite degree of detachment.



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