Malevolence Brewing?
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Malevolence Brewing? • Posted: Jun 28, 2015 08:25:47Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

Just looking into someone's eyes can tell you a great deal about the kind of mood they're in. But it won't tell you a thing about what they're planning to do. To find that out, you'd have to surveil them until they actually do something. Or, you'd have to talk to them.

Unfortunately, if you have previously excluded them from your world, and don't have any kind of relationship with them, you aren't likely to learn much should you attempt to open a conversation, sympathetic or otherwise. On the other hand, even if you have an ongoing relationship with the person whose mood concerns you, there is no simple, it always works, technique for getting them to open up and reveal the potential for malevolence within their thoughts.

So, with an almost daily stream of news hitting us detailing perpetrated violence by one disgruntled individual or another, what exactly are we to do? Build walls? Buy guns? Pray?

None of those suggestions would actually solve the underlying problem, though. We do tend to step on each other's toes, no matter how hard we try not to. And the only way not to do that is to not do anything, which isn't likely to happen.

We can try to beg pardon and make accommodations, though. But it still won't lower tensions if the other person involved is not willing to forgive, forget, and make their own adjustments. And that, in fact, is the problem, the underlying foundation for all brooding malevolence: inflexible, intransigent thinking.

There was a study published this week by The Journal of Neuroscience, and reviewed by Science Daily, wherein researchers at Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology believe they have discovered the neurological basis for both flexible and inflexible thinking.

OIST researchers focused on a type of brain cell called "cholinergic interneurons". They are rare in both rats and people, per Science Daily, making up "just one to two percent of the neurons in the striatum, a key part of the brain involved with higher-level decision-making". Previous brain-wave observations have suggested they may play a role in behavior that requires cognitive flexibility, i.e. dealing with changes in ground rules.

To test that theory, OIST researchers worked with two sets of rats, one normal and one that had had their cholinergic interneurons destroyed by a very specifically acting toxin. Both sets of rats were exposed to the same sets of conditions. Across several differing sets of conditions, rats with destroyed cholinergic interneurons failed to adjust when situations changed, simply repeating previously learned behaviors that now proved ineffective.

You know the old joke about repeating the same behavior but expecting a different outcome? Well, that's exactly what the abnormal rats were doing. The researchers suspect healthy cholinergic interneurons in both normal rats and people suppress previously learned habits and routines when novel situations occur, thereby allowing new explorations, learning, and adaptations to develop.

But what happens to the emotional state of cholinergic interneuron deficient rats and people when situations change and old habits and routines no longer work? Do frustration and anger build until viciousness erupts?

And what happens within the minds of flexible thinkers when people they are trying to cooperate with just keep repeating dangerous or annoyingly maladaptive behaviors instead of creatively adjusting? Do guns come out and shootings begin?

We are very strange creatures, so different from each other that we hardly know what to expect from one another. Little wonder the continual stress we are under prompts the stress reducing drive we feel to hang with people of like mind and temperament.

Unfortunately, like-thinking people are prone to making the same errors in judgement. If we all thought alike, as a species, we'd certainly all die out much sooner than later.

Odd as it may seem, there is likely much to learn and appreciate within the thinking of even the most annoying, fearsome, and intransigent amongst us.

Monday, May 30th, 2011
St. Joseph
50.9 mm 241 mm
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