Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A Terrifying Truth; We Are Figuring Out Humans

I was reading a psych. study not long ago on my favorite topic (the human brain and how and why it works) and I came to a realization that would scare the average person.

Long story short, they figured out that psychopaths in prison, when talking with interviewers, were far more likely than non-psychopaths to mention things such as food, water, and shelter--the lowest level of basics.  They also were able to tell you exactly how the people they had hurt/murdered did them wrong/offended them/committed some injustice against them more than the average non-psychopath serving time for assault or a similar charge was able to describe his victim's infractions.

We had no idea.  And since this study is a preliminary finding, the critical thinkers among you know a few things right away; sensational headlines make news, and science, which psychology is (no matter how many insist it is not), insists that these studies be repeatable with control groups, blinded, representative, etc.

I suspect, though, based on some combination of my gut feeling and the early results that this one will pan out.  I don't think it'll turn out to be a false study, or have unfair controls, or anything of that nature, but while we're on that, let's do a fun little Kev sidebar.
Kev's fun little sidebar: Think of all the things you could ask about the above study that were not asked.  For example; we know the sample size was pretty large, but did it spread out over different prisons and cultures?  If it was a geographically tight sample, what if it's just normal for, say, alpha males to talk about basics and also for alpha males to be the most likely to become psychopaths (correlation v. causation arises, but is not important, yet) in that specific region?  Did we check for diversity?  Black, white, old, young, educated, uneducated, treated, untreated, or even short/ tall or skinny/fat differences?  Was any of that accounted for?  If we go on, we could ask a hundred meaningful questions, and our final conclusion might come out looking like this; A collection of respectable studies suggest that most psychopaths who are in prison across the world for murder enjoy talking about food and lodging, and are more likely to be white, short, skinny, educated, untreated males than any other combination  NOW we're getting specific, aren't we?  Sure, there will be exceptions, but as I recently heard a neurologist say (and a philosopher shortly after him also repeated the sentiment), science is not only self-correcting (and it is) but it takes a finding or findings and digs deeper and deeper until the answers become more and more subtle (in other words, as we keep digging, we can start splitting hairs).  

Anyway, the truth is that we're figuring people out, and we're doing it in a variety of ways, and some of them are solid, and new solid ways are coming.  There is software being tested now that will detect lies in the subtle harmonics of the human voice; the FBI is already in testing phases with it.  One day it will be in courtrooms; I wish it had been during my divorce proceedings and custody battle.  We are learning about people dead and alive what categories they may fit in, from pedophile to rapist, from murderer to money-launderer, from assassin to mafia enforcer.  In other words, while you lived a life that seemed normal enough to you and those around you, we're now picking up ways to identify other tendencies that go along with your patterns of behavior, and you might just find yourself exposed or even unfairly targeted.  Are we ready for this?  In my experience with humans, people love pointing fingers in every direction except in a mirror.  The ego must be cuddled and stroked; the fault placed outside.

As you know, I push rather hard for critical thinking.  It's a process.  The dedicated among us do not tell you what to think; we try to teach you human thinking weaknesses and strengths, as well as signs and symptoms of different kinds of logical paths and fallacies so that you can choose your path of interest that runs closest to the truth about those interests.  You cannot have truth without critical thinking, and you cannot be an honestly solid critical thinker without pointing your spotlight upon your own mind and examining, harshly, where you've gone wrong before, where you're going wrong now, and where you might go wrong in the future.  You cannot feel "elevated" because you're a critical thinker or you've come into it for the wrong reasons; you CAN feel "elevated" that you insist on employing the process of thinking well before you commit to any cause or belief; a process which includes routinely admitting that you are or may be wrong, a process in which you are forever willing to take in new evidence in order to stay nearest to the truth.  You cannot let one news agency, one political party, one religion, one race, one country, one family or one organization of any type tell you exactly how it is.  You must learn to think well and then find out exactly how it is, slamming shut that emotional side of yourself that is your ego in favor of lighting the fire of knowledge and learning in a way that will cause it to burn forever.  If you must give your ego some cookies, let the cookies be that you employ critical thinking all the time, that you are willing to admit when you are wrong (which most of us routinely are) and that you will listen to perfect strangers and ideological opposition and keep an open mind.  Nobody gains from holding their position for no good reason, and many lose. 

It's just an opinion, but since we are going to figure you out in very subtle ways, you should start really using and practicing critical thinking.  I'm no expert in it yet, but I aim to be, and I'm getting better, and for reasons I don't fully understand, critical thinking is hugely important to me.  If life were a book, the Table of Contents would be invisible without critical thinking.  It needs to be in place and sharp before you go any further.  

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