Sunday 23 August 2015

Our moral compass defines our identity (to others) - science.

It seems obtuse at first. As it comes into focus, it still appears somewhat off. People are shown other people - walking. Those who walk at the same pace as the crowd are seen as smarter. The slower and faster walkers are looked down upon. If I told you this was the basis of all laws, regulations, and of government itself, you might look at me slightly strangely. After a while - much against your better judgement - you'd start to agree.

When people are asked to judge another's intelligence, they tend to look at Emotional Quotient (EQ), not Intelligence Quotient (IQ).

People walk at many different paces. No crowd walks as one body. People's behaviour within the crowd is... random. When, however - a crowd becomes one mind, as they do during specific incidents of rioting... or some protests, its members can become as synchronised as a primitive tribe. When a crowd is walking at one pace, a custom is created. EQ is heavily associated with an ability to abide by custom. High EQ is also associated with the ability to intentionally disobey customs. The person who wears a shirt with the word 'costume' on it to Halloween is perceived as smart. The one who steps too far off the mark, or unintentionally flouts custom, is a different story.

Morality and custom have a lot in common. People who act in a predictable way, by obeying customs, are less likely to unexpectedly harm us. The man who opens the car door for his woman, and regularly buys her flowers, is more likely to be perceived as marriageable. After all, he obeys customs gentlemen might.

There is such a swathe of pseudo-science out there, I thought that what I am about to tell you - might just be that. It isn't. It turns out that friends and relatives of neuro-degenerative patients, only tend to feel that they no longer know the mind-loss victim, when their morals decline or their speech becomes impaired.

Researchers firstly did something abstract: something along the lines of... is your friend still your buddy old pal if they suddenly turn into a jerk. Many people would say no.

One might well add real world examples to that: Is your husband still the person you knew if he murders your sister? Most women would say no. The neighbours saying a serial killer was quiet and kind, are asserting their reliance upon neighbourhood customs. How could a good neighbour be a serial killer? Yet, every so often... they are.

Because we define others in a way that facilitates our own survival, it seems our judgements of whom other people are - centre not on their intelligence, their memories or so much else - but rather upon their moral compass. It makes sense. If someone wouldn't murder, they wouldn't murder us.

To get to know someone, is to know what direction their hidden moral compass points - whether we recognise its clear components, and how close to your own true north it rests.

It is just one study I am referring to from this point of the article. It is perhaps one of a kind, a fluke - it is walking in a different direction from the centuries old philosophy crowd. However, it makes sense, and as such I think it worthy of discussion.

The abstract of the study, appearing in the journal, Psychological Science, states:

'There is a widespread notion, both within the sciences and among the general public, that mental deterioration can rob individuals of their identity. Yet there have been no systematic investigations of what types of cognitive damage lead people to appear to no longer be themselves. We measured perceived identity change in patients with three kinds of neurodegenerative disease: frontotemporal dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Structural equation models revealed that injury to the moral faculty plays the primary role in identity discontinuity. Other cognitive deficits, including amnesia, have no measurable impact on identity persistence. Accordingly, frontotemporal dementia has the greatest effect on perceived identity, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis has the least. We further demonstrated that perceived identity change fully mediates the impact of neurodegenerative disease on relationship deterioration between patient and caregiver. Our results mark a departure from theories that ground personal identity in memory, distinctiveness, dispositional emotion, or global mental function. ' ('Neurodegeneration and Identity' by Nina Strohminger of Yale School of Management, Yale University and Shaun Nichols of Department of Philosophy, University of Arizona, published August 12th 2015 c.f. )

Nathan Collins, writing for the Pacific Standard ('Identity Is Lost Without A Moral Compass', Quick Studies Series, 18th August 2015), puts it this way:

'In previous work, she and co-author Shaun Nichols found that moral traits, such as empathy or politeness, seemed to be the most important component of identity. But that research focused on hypothetical situations—if a friend became a jerk, would he or she still be the same person you knew before? The new study "is an expansion of that work that aims to see if this privileging of moral traits extends to a real-world example of radical mental change, neurodegeneration," Strohminger writes.

"Contrary to what generations of philosophers and psychologists have thought, memory loss doesn't make someone seem like a different person."

Strohminger and Nichols focused on three neurodegenerative diseases: frontotemporal dementia (FTD), Alzheimer's disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease. ALS served as a control since it primarily affects movement, and not memory or moral behavior. Alzheimer's, for its part, primarily affects memory, but also has some impact on moral behavior. Of the three, FTD is the one most likely to have a moral impact—its symptoms include a loss of empathy, poor judgment, and increasingly inappropriate behavior.

'Next, Strohminger and Nichols recruited 248 people from online support groups for friends and family of patients suffering from FTD, Alzheimer's, or ALS, and they asked questions like, "Do you feel like you still know who the patient is?" using five-point scales. Friends and family of ALS patients averaged about 4.1 points on that scale, but the number dropped to 3.8 for Alzheimer's and to 3.4 for FTD, suggesting that morality was at the core of how people conceived their loved ones' identities, perhaps even more than memory.

'Following up with a more detailed analysis, Strohminger and Nichols discovered that symptoms of declining morality were strongly associated with the perception that a patient's identity had changed, while failing memory, depression, and more traditional measures of personality appeared to have almost nothing to do with a person's identity. The only other symptom that had any discernible impact on identity was aphasia, a language impairment' (c.f. )

Monday 17 August 2015

Women rape men... often - crime statistics. #Sociology #Demographics

Reading certain newspaper articles leaves a surreal taste. Perhaps it shouldn't. Inevitably though, it tends to. New statistics suggest that we shouldn't be quite so surprised when women rape men.

Perhaps it is that manly world view, which struggles to accept statistics from America of all places: where 38% of reported sexual violence incidents recorded in their government's National Crime Victimization Survey- were against men. Just maybe, it is a result of our men-are-tough mentality, that we ignore that 46% of sexual crimes against men in that placid western nation, were performed by women.

Some examples of alleged rape by women - appearing in South African media, might include:

Terrified men are reported as claiming gangs of rough and ready women performed unwanted sex acts upon them, before fleeing in getaway cars.

Strange tales of men being stalked late at night and forced to perform at knife point - by otherworldly not-quite-femme-fatales . The men find themselves ridiculed in comment boxes and on radio shows.

Rapes of men by women - also take place in social contexts, and in schools, colleges and in the home, the Pacific Standard is quick to assert. Use of alcohol or drugs by women to rape men, is even common enough to have historical references. Lot was famously raped by his daughters in a cave, if we are to accept the biblical record of his tragic life.

These sometimes almost sensationalist tales are the sort that make for headlines by the media, however - statutory rape of men, performed by older women is also a matter that evokes perhaps misplaced disbelief. Sober sources state that even if a relationship seems fine at first, long term damage can be done upon the underage gent. Abandonment issues emerge when the lax lass inevitably breaks the arrangement to shreds.

As legal practitioners and members of the public, sometimes we need to be reminded that rape is not a crime with only female victims. Men may not quite so often come out and say it, but they do report being raped often enough to the police to cause just a bit of concern.

As girls, women are as violent as men are. Society rather than genetics is responsible for reduced physical violence among women. Passive aggressive behaviour such as false compliments, and rumour mongering often replace aggression among women in socially sensitive scenarios. This is why men far outnumber women in jails. However, a statistically relevant portion of sexual crimes continue to be committed by women.

This article was inspired in particular by an article in an American sociological magazine, the Pacific Standard. That specific piece of journalism opens with the bizarre headline 'Young Men and the Unspoken Danger of College Campuses', and was written on the 10th of August 2015 by a David L. Bell.

Sunday 9 August 2015

Cloud 10 and a half... I'd thought 11 at least... oh well... such is life.

I thought I had doubled in girth until I noticed the horrid new scale had accidentally switched to pounds. It explained why I was now 5 something centimetres tall. Make that 5"10... wait... aren't I 5"11? Turns out not. I entered my height on the internet: 179 CM... 5"10.5... existential crises looming. "Is 5"10 short?" I asked that annoying Jeeves, Google. Turns out 5"10 is the height anyone below 5"10 pretends to be. Women like their men 5 inches taller than them... It explains why that monstrously tall Kenyan lady called me short. 5"5 ladies, here I come.

I am 1 cm shorter than 5"11, and three below 6 foot. With shoes... 6, maybe... perhaps if I gel my hair up, but generally I don't.

So that means my future wife will be 5"5 or something? Not that I know anything about heights. I must've worn socks when I thought 5"11... that could be it.

Worse still, my new scale says I am 0.7 kg heavier than the old one says, but it is glass and the old one is wood. There is something scaly about a glass scale, isn't there? Maybe I should boycott the scale, tell it men don't weigh themselves, or something... and shoe it into the darkness where truth tellers in Africa are sometimes exiled to?

I measured my height four times that day, just to make sure. 1.79 m. Every time. I even enlisted help, the result was the same. Perhaps with socks I'd be 5"11, who knows? I almost considered it, but who has the time to put on socks for a self put on? I resigned myself to my height. I fit just under most doors and chandeliers. I can sit up straight in my car without hitting my head... perhaps 5"10.5 is okay... I didn't know.

In the old days men were uber short. That knight in his overly shining armour, he was a squirrel riding a shetland poney... no wonder they thought monsters roamed the earth... meeting me at 5"10.5, they'd think goliath had friends over for dinner... poor short men. Short men are thought to sometimes have a short man complex... Napoleonic like or whatnot... but the average man is below 5"10, so I am quite, it seems, alright. Not that complex, I am not short... shorter than I thought, but not a big deal... 5"10... okay then. I am a centimetre above the height everyone below 5"10 pretends to be on online dating sites, the internet said... and with that I am somehow now alright... as for my new scale's uncertain fate... we'll have to wait and see. It might be an activist telling only slightly tall tales, but it would weigh heavily on my heart if I gave it the boot.

Saturday 8 August 2015

Donald Trump is pulling an Obama... in all the wrong ways...

Obama was known largely as an election winner, a writer of a book where he admitted chowing on dogs was not a tasty use of free time, and as little else. He promised hope and change, with few clear campaign promises, populist jargon, and sound bites insulting enemies of his political campaign. Donald Trump is doing likewise minus the chowing on dog meat, and with the help of Liberal Media, he is the most talked about Republican candidate.

His insulting statements about non-Americans, harsh criticisms of woman kind, and outright outrageous attacks on anyone who does not tow his line, make him dangerous. Anyone who insults Trump has their integrity called into question by him. This mimics Obama's style of vicious, acidic attacks on any who dares to slightly criticise him. Obama famously placed a British teen on the No Fly List for his sending an e-mail critical of the President. Trump no doubt would do much worse... one hopes he does not set up as Judge Judy of the White House.

At his announcement, I had thought Trump's business experience and his well-known status could make him presidential. Over the past few weeks, he has acted more the toddler than the president-in-waiting. If poll numbers are anything to go by, Trump has a good chance of winning the Republican primary. But a President Trump, could further the disasters Obama has wrought for America on the world stage. If I were an American voter and had a choice between Trump and Hillary: the bombast bamboozler and the questionable former secretary of state... I would be highly disappointed. One is suspected of peddling influence, the other speaks as though he were under the influence. Neither are presidential in the statesman sense. Though Hillary is less likely to cause World War III than Trump, while in office, I also suspect she might sell Alaska back to Russia if it best suited her purse strings.

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