Saturday, November 08, 2008

Bullies and Brain Scans

I found this news report intriguing.

Brain Scans Show Bullies Enjoy Others' Pain

FRIDAY, Nov. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Bullies may actually enjoy the pain they cause others, a new study using brain scans suggests.

The part of the brain associated with reward lights up when an aggressive teen watches a video of someone hurting another person, but not when a non-aggressive youth watches the same clip, according to the University of Chicago study, published in the current Biological Psychology.

"Aggressive adolescents showed a specific and very strong activation of the amygdala and ventral striatum (an area that responds to feeling rewarded) when watching pain inflicted on others, which suggested that they enjoyed watching pain," researcher Jean Decety, a professor in psychology and psychiatry at the University of Chicago, said in a university news release. "Unlike the control group, the youth with conduct disorder did not activate the area of the brain involved in self-regulation (the medial prefrontal cortex and the temporoparietal junction)."

So, which came first? The chicken or the egg?

Does violence effect the developing brain? Does a brain defect lead to violence?

This study could explain why many of the bullying strategies used in schools could not curtail bad behavior. Bullies are not motivated in the way that the politically correct/self-esteem camp would wish to believe.

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Mrs. C said...

I'd like to see a study about whether kicking the bully's butt curbs his aggression, too. Often we hear that this "solves" the problem, but I have a feeling he just goes off and finds someone smaller to pick on rather than "learning a lesson."

Your opinion?

Janine Cate said...

That's a hard one. Kicking a bully's butt is a powerful but short term motivator. It "solves" the problem for the immediate potential victims.

This reminds me of a quote from the book, Why Gender Matters.

“You can’t turn a bully into a flower child. But you can turn a bully into a knight. Affirm the knight.”

"....A small town in rural Illinois was being terrorized by a local gang of teenage thugs. Storekeepers who refused to pay tribute in the form of free drinks or other goodies saw their stores vandalized. One storekeeper made a wager that his clerk could beat the gang leader in a fight. The gang leader accepted the challenge.

Most of the town turned out to watch the fight. The storekeeper’s clerk and the gang leader fought each other, hitting and grunting and shoving, for what seemed like hours. Finally the clerk backed away and proposed that they call it a draw. “The fight ended in friendship,” we are told, and the clerk “not only earned the group’s respect but became their informal leader.” The name of the storekeeper’s clerk was Abraham Lincoln.

In 1831 the town organized a militia to fight in the Black Hawk War. The militia, comprised mainly of the young gang members, elected Lincoln to be their captain. They remained loyal to him throughout the next thirty years as he rose from storekeeper’s clerk to president of the United States.”

Lori said...

it doesn’t have to be from birth, either. think of the stanford prison experiment.