How the Neuroscience of Violence Can Bring Peace

In an attempt to encourage sympathy across the battle lines of ethnic conflicts, neuroscientists are working with the Pentagon to better understand how violence works in the brain. 

What's the Latest Development?


To diffuse ethnic conflicts and improve humanitarian missions, the Pentagon is teaming up with several research institutions to better understand the neuroscience of violence. In one experiment conducted by Gregory Burns, a neuroeconmoist at Emory University, subjects were paid to disavow their former beliefs, ranging from whether they preferred cats to dogs, to stronger issues like sex and belief in God. Burns found that a specific region of the brain was activated when people disavowed their more serious beliefs, suggesting there is a biological basis for ethnic conflict. 

What's the Big Idea?

While international conflicts are often billed as ideological battles, Burns believes animus is motivated by some people's desire to control the biological rights of others, like reproductive rights. And while the assumption is that people who involve themselves in violent conflict are sociopaths void of empathy, they may actually be highly empathetic people, but with a strong bias toward their in-group. Burns is working with DARPA, the military's experimental research wing, to develop narrative structures which might elicit sympathy between opposed populations and across battle lines. 

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

Big Think
Sponsored by Lumina Foundation

Upvote/downvote each of the videos below!

As you vote, keep in mind that we are looking for a winner with the most engaging social venture pitch - an idea you would want to invest in.

Keep reading Show less

7 fascinating UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Here are 7 often-overlooked World Heritage Sites, each with its own history.

Photo by Raunaq Patel on Unsplash
Culture & Religion
  • UNESCO World Heritage Sites are locations of high value to humanity, either for their cultural, historical, or natural significance.
  • Some are even designated as World Heritage Sites because humans don't go there at all, while others have felt the effects of too much human influence.
  • These 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites each represent an overlooked or at-risk facet of humanity's collective cultural heritage.
Keep reading Show less

Following sex, some men have unexpected feelings – study

A new study shows that some men's reaction to sex is not what you'd expect, resulting in a condition previously observed in women.

Credit: Pixabay
Sex & Relationships
  • A new study shows men's feelings after sex can be complex.
  • Some men reportedly get sad and upset.
  • The condition affected 41% of men in the study
Keep reading Show less

Scientists discover how to trap mysterious dark matter

A new method promises to capture an elusive dark world particle.

Surprising Science
  • Scientists working on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) devised a method for trapping dark matter particles.
  • Dark matter is estimated to take up 26.8% of all matter in the Universe.
  • The researchers will be able to try their approach in 2021, when the LHC goes back online.
Keep reading Show less