When test subjects assigned to be the “employer” had no information about their prospective employees’ abilities, they were twice as likely to choose men over women. In another scenario, where both male and female candidates were given the opportunity to describe how well they thought they would do on the math task, the outcome wasn’t much different.
In one case, the subject travelled to New York, demanding to see the ‘director’ of the film of his life, and wishing to check whether the World Trade Centre had been destroyed in reality or merely in the movie that was being assembled for his benefit. In another, a journalist who had been hospitalised during a manic episode became convinced that the medical scenario was fake and that he would be awarded a prize for covering the story once the truth was revealed. Another subject was actually working on a reality TV series but came to believe that his fellow crew members were secretly filming him, and was constantly expecting the This-Is-Your-Life moment when the cameras would flip and reveal that he was the true star of the show.
Our understanding of how suicidal thinking progresses, or how to spot and halt it, is little better now than it was two and a half centuries ago, when we first began to consider suicide a medical rather than philosophical problem and physicians prescribed, to ward it off, buckets of cold water thrown at the head.
Anthropologist James Rilling of Emory University and his co-workers scanned the brains of those scoring high in psychopathy after these individuals experienced having their own attempts to cooperate unreciprocated. The scientists discovered that, compared with “nicer,” more equitable participants, the psychopaths exhibited significantly reduced activity in the brain’s emotion hub, the amygdala. This diminished activity, suggestive of a muted emotional reaction, could be considered a neural trademark of “turning the other cheek,” a response that can sometimes manifest itself in rather unusual ways.
In times of uncertainty, we see a dramatic polarisation, with the rich more focused on holding onto and attaining wealth and the poor spending more time with friends and loved ones.” - Paul Piff, post doctoral scholar in psychology in a study by the University of California-Berkeley.
John Edens, a clinical psychologist at Texas A&M University, has cautioned against spending money on research to identify children at risk of psychopathy. “This isn’t like autism, where the child and parents will find support,” Edens observes. “Even if accurate, it’s a ruinous diagnosis. No one is sympathetic to the mother of a psychopath.”
When we engage with people who have different assumptions about what is right, wrong, good, bad, beautiful, ugly – whose fundamental beliefs and values are different – it challenges our thinking. People stop and think, ‘If they can be right, how can I be right?’ People don’t like that imbalance, so they have to reconcile those differences and those thoughts. It leads to more complex minds, and makes people more cognitively complex.