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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Mind Report: Psychopaths, Morality, Neuroscience and Treatment

Laurie Santos (Yale) interviews Kent Kiehl (University of New Mexico) about his new book, The Psychopath Whisperer.  They discuss neuroscience on psychopathic prisoners, morality and the brain, and treatment research.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Neuroimaging study shows why antisocial youths are less able to take the perspective of others

By Max Planck Gesellshft
Originally published on March 11, 2014

Adolescents with antisocial personality disorder inflict serious physical and psychological harm on both themselves and others. However, little is yet known about the underlying neural processes. Researchers at the University of Leiden and the Max Planck Institute for Human Development have pinpointed a possible explanation: Their brain regions responsible for social information processing and impulse control are less developed.


Adolescents with antisocial personality disorder thus seem to have difficulties in taking into account all the relevant information in social interactions, such as other people’s intentions. The researchers hypothesize that this in turn leads to more antisocial behavior.

The entire article is here.

'Bad' video game behavior increases players' moral sensitivity

By Pat Donovan
Medical Xpress
Originally published June 27, 2014

New evidence suggests heinous behavior played out in a virtual environment can lead to players' increased sensitivity toward the moral codes they violated.


"Rather than leading players to become less moral," Grizzard says, "this research suggests that violent video-game play may actually lead to increased moral sensitivity. This may, as it does in real life, provoke players to engage in voluntary behavior that benefits others."

The entire article is here.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

In Depth: Should We Design Our Babies?

The Aspen Institute
Streamed live on July 2, 2014

The discussion of "designer babies" often revolves around gender or hair color, but the medical debate is far more complicated. Should we screen embryos for disease or other genetic modifications? These considerations raise ethical questions and call into question the validity of surrounding research. The lack of regulation and oversight make this particular biotechnology frightening to some, while the potential for disease eradicating techniques excites others. But how far is too far? What are the major scientific and ethical hurdles to assuage the skeptics? Underwritten by Booz Allen Hamilton

Saturday, July 19, 2014

SciCafe: The Evolution of Irrationality

Originally posted April 2014

Laurie Santos presented her research on the evolution of irrationality and insights from primates. Don't worry if you missed it: we have a video of her presentation, including clips of monkeys "shopping" for treats! Santos explores the roots of human irrationality by watching our primate relatives make decisions in "monkeynomics."

Friday, July 18, 2014

Electronic Health Records: First, Do No Harm?

EHRs are commonly promoted as boosting patient safety, but are we all being fooled?

By David F. Carr
Originally published June 26, 2014

One of the top stated goals of the federal Meaningful Use program encouraging adoption of electronic health records (EHR) technology is to improve patient safety. But is there really a cause-and-effect relationship between digitizing health records and reducing medical errors? Poorly implemented health information technology can also introduce new errors, whether from scrambled data or confusing user interfaces, sometimes causing harm to flesh-and-blood patients.

The entire article is here.

Tightness and Looseness: A New Way to Understand Differences in the US

By Jesse Harrington and Michele Gelfand
Scientific American
Originally posted July 2, 2014

Here is an excerpt:

Tighter states—those with stronger rules and greater punishment for deviance—are located primarily in the South and the Midwest, while looser states are located in the North East, the West Coast, and some of the Mountain States. We calculated state tightness with a composite index, compiling multiple variables. This includes items that reflect the strength of punishments in states, including the legality of corporal punishment in schools, the percentage of students hit/punished in schools, the rate of executions from 1976 to 2011, and the severity of punishment for violating laws, as well as the degree of permissiveness or deviance tolerance in states, which includes the ratio of dry to total counties per state and the legality of same-sex civil unions. The index also captures the strength of institutions that constrain behavior and enforce moral order in states, including state-level religiosity and the percentage of the total state population that is foreign, an indicator of diversity and cosmopolitanism.

The entire article is here.

The original research is here.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Furor Erupts Over Facebook's Experiment on Users

By Reed Albergotti
The Wall Street Journal
Originally published June 30, 2014

Here is an excerpt:

The research, published in the March issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, sparked a different emotion - outrage - among some people who say Facebook toyed with its users emotions and uses members as guinea pigs.

"What many of us feared is already a reality: Facebook is using us as lab rats, and not just to figure out which ads we'll respond to but actually change our emotion," wrote, a blog post that drew attention to the study Friday morning.

Facebook has long run social experiments.  Its Data Science Team is tasked with turning the reams of information created by the more than 800 million people who log on every day into usable scientific research.

The entire article is here.

Moral Dilemmas

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Revised June 30, 2014

Here is an excerpt:

What is common to the two well-known cases is conflict. In each case, an agent regards herself as having moral reasons to do each of two actions, but doing both actions is not possible. Ethicists have called situations like these moral dilemmas. The crucial features of a moral dilemma are these: the agent is required to do each of two (or more) actions; the agent can do each of the actions; but the agent cannot do both (or all) of the actions. The agent thus seems condemned to moral failure; no matter what she does, she will do something wrong (or fail to do something that she ought to do).

The Platonic case strikes many as too easy to be characterized as a genuine moral dilemma. For the agent's solution in that case is clear; it is more important to protect people from harm than to return a borrowed weapon. And in any case, the borrowed item can be returned later, when the owner no longer poses a threat to others. Thus in this case we can say that the requirement to protect others from serious harm overrides the requirement to repay one's debts by returning a borrowed item when its owner so demands. When one of the conflicting requirements overrides the other, we do not have a genuine moral dilemma. So in addition to the features mentioned above, in order to have a genuine moral dilemma it must also be true that neither of the conflicting requirements is overridden (Sinnott-Armstrong 1988, Chapter 1).

The entire page is here.

Editor's note: Anyone interested in ethics and morality needs to read this page.  It is an excellent source to understand moral dilemmas as well as ethical dilemmas when in the role of a psychologist.