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Would You Vote for a Psychopath?
James Fallon teaches neuroscience at the University of California Irvine, and through research explores the way genetic and in-utero environmental factors affect the way the brain gets built -- and then how individuals' experience further shapes its development. He lectures and writes on creativity, consciousness and culture, and has made key contributions to our understanding of schizophrenia, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.
Only lately has Fallon turned his research toward the subject of psychopaths -- particularly those who kill. With PET scans and EEGs, he's beginning to uncover the deep, underlying traits that make people violent and murderous.
James Fallon: This team of researchers asked the biographers – the really top biographers – for all the presidents from the beginning all the way through almost up to the present. And said, rate them on this psychopathic scale. And they did and right at the top was Teddy Roosevelt. Then FDR, then JFK. Bill Clinton was right up there. People really low on the – way low in psychopathy like Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, George Bush Sr., very low psychopathy. George Bush’s son is kind of in the middle.
So anyway there’s this group that are very high, group low. The thing is is that if you look at what people consider leadership – who am I gonna follow – they pick the people at the top. They’re picking and voting for and enjoying the psychopathic traits, because those are the people that you think are the ones who can lead you. And, in fact, these are – you know, psychopaths are known for really being world champ liars – pathological liars. Even for the hell of it, right. And so if you look at people at the top of the presidential list they did, in fact, lie. But the thing is they lied for us. They lied to protect us. And people for some reason don’t seem to mind psychopathic behavior when it’s done on their behalf. It’s like the person who wants to get the best deal. They want the money manager that’s gonna – if they’re gonna cheat, cheat for me. Make me money. If you’re gonna lie, lie and save me, save us.
And so a lot of the behavior of leaders like that who have these are such that people will say they don’t like it but they vote for it over and over and over again. So it must be something very essential in us. They’re not thinking I want to vote for a psychopath but they like those traits and those traits are strongly associated with psychopathy.
You would also think people would say well Hitler and all those Nazi leaders must have been psychopaths. And yet the analysis by many, many psychiatrists over the years – Hitler does not come up as a psychopath and none of those Nazis do at all. They’re all family men. They’re all very smart and they thought they were doing their job.
And that’s why Hannah Arendt when she talked about this she didn’t call it psychopathy but she – the way she analyzed it is that people will get into a position and they’re just little pieces of a bigger organization. That organization is evil, right. It’s the banality of evil is what she called it. But each individual’s role is sort of hidden. And so people with those tendencies can be not fully psychopathic, but they will do things that within an organization will get them what they want. So they helped the launch and it’s a fulcrum for general psychopathy, let’s say, in a culture country. So that’s a little bit different. But the individual ones – there’s a study that just came out on Mafia in Sicily. So they took imprisoned Mafia – now these were not the very top guys but kind of the middle management of the Mafia. And all of them tested lower in psychopathy than the average person. No psychopathy. But you would think that Nazis, Mafia is psychopathy. It’s not.
See there’s kind of a misunderstanding of what it is. And there are really very few psychopathic killers. And there’s very few of the ones you would see in a film or TV. Extremely rare people. But they are working with you and they, you know, in any organization that has more than about 35 people there’s gonna be somebody in there that’s really a psychopath but they put themselves there and they’re usually in a spot where they can lord it over people just below them and get what they want and use a manipulation and some intimidation. And they can use it to get sex. They can use it to get money, to manipulate and steal whatever it is or just to create a world that they own. And that would be another part of this. There are – there’s a kind of psychopathy that they’re not getting anything for. There’s no sex, drugs, money or anything like that. But they are creating a world that they bring you into. And they control you. But most of them don’t do any of these really fully criminal nasty violent things at all because they don’t want to go to jail. They don’t want to get caught. They like their life. They really like their life.
Directed/Produced by Jonathan Fowler, Elizabeth Rodd, and Dillon Fitton
Neurobiologist James Fallon on the psychopathic brain.
Are we genetically inclined for superstition or just fearful of the truth?
- From secret societies to faked moon landings, one thing that humanity seems to have an endless supply of is conspiracy theories. In this compilation, physicist Michio Kaku, science communicator Bill Nye, psychologist Sarah Rose Cavanagh, skeptic Michael Shermer, and actor and playwright John Cameron Mitchell consider the nature of truth and why some groups believe the things they do.
- "I think there's a gene for superstition, a gene for hearsay, a gene for magic, a gene for magical thinking," argues Kaku. The theoretical physicist says that science goes against "natural thinking," and that the superstition gene persists because, one out of ten times, it actually worked and saved us.
- Other theories shared include the idea of cognitive dissonance, the dangerous power of fear to inhibit critical thinking, and Hollywood's romanticization of conspiracies. Because conspiracy theories are so diverse and multifaceted, combating them has not been an easy task for science.
A growing body of research suggests COVID-19 can cause serious neurological problems.
- The new study seeks to track the health of 50,000 people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
- The study aims to explore whether the disease causes cognitive impairment and other conditions.
- Recent research suggests that COVID-19 can, directly or indirectly, cause brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage and other neurological problems.
Brain images of a patient with acute demyelinating encephalomyelitis.
COVID-19 and the brain<p>A growing body of research reveals alarming neurological complications among COVID-19 patients. On Wednesday, for example, researchers from University College London published a <a href="https://academic.oup.com/brain/article/doi/10.1093/brain/awaa240/5868408" target="_blank">study</a> in the journal Brain that describes how some patients have suffered temporary brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage, and other neurological problems concurrent with COVID-19.</p><p>Some patients suffered brain inflammation as a result of a rare disease called acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, which can cause numbness, seizures, and confusion. One patient in the study even hallucinated monkeys and lions in her home.</p>
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images<p>A separate study published in the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7198407/" target="_blank">Journal of Clinical Neuroscience</a> notes that some COVID-19 patients have also suffered neurological complications like impaired consciousness and acute cerebrovascular disease. The study notes that past viruses like MERS and SARS also seemed to cause neurological problems.</p><p>A troubling finding among this growing body of research is that some patients seem to suffer neurological damage even when respiratory symptoms aren't obvious. Additionally, scientists aren't sure whether damage from the disease will be permanent.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Given that the disease has only been around for a matter of months, we might not yet know what long-term damage COVID-19 can cause," Dr. Ross Paterson, joint first author of the University College London study, said in a <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-07/ucl-iid070620.php" target="_blank">press release</a>. "Doctors needs to be aware of possible neurological effects, as early diagnosis can improve patient outcomes."</p><p>If you've been diagnosed with COVID-19 and want to enroll in the study, visit <a href="https://www.cambridgebrainsciences.com/studies/covid-brain-study" target="_blank">cambridgebrainsciences.com/studies/covid-brain-study</a>.</p>
Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
Saudi Arabia Plans Futuristic City, "Neom" (Full Promotional Video)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c646d528d230c1bf66c75422bc4ccf6f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/N53DzL3_BHA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Coronavirus layoffs are a glimpse into our automated future. We need to build better education opportunities now so Americans can find work in the economy of tomorrow.
- Outplacement is an underperforming $5 billion dollar industry. A new non-profit coalition by SkillUp intends to disrupt it.
- More and more Americans will be laid off in years to come due to automation. Those people need to reorient their career paths and reskill in a way that protects their long-term livelihood.
- SkillUp brings together technology and service providers, education and training providers, hiring employers, worker outreach, and philanthropies to help people land in-demand jobs in high-growth industries.
Source: McKinsey Global Institute analysis [PDF]<p>Work in understanding the skills at the heart of the new digital economy is leading to novel assessments that allow individuals to prove mastery to faithfully represent their abilities—but also to give weight and stackability to the emerging ecosystem of micro-credentials that make education more seamless across time and education providers. And we are seeing the beginnings of a renewal in the liberal arts, focused on building human skills in affordable ways that are accessible to many more individuals and far more effective.</p><p>Amidst these dark times, there is much opportunity to refresh the nation's education and training solutions to support the success of individuals and society writ large.</p>