Via Research Blogging, I came across the blog Thoughts of a Neo-Academic, written by an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. He has started a 10-part review of a recent special issue of the Journal of General Psychology, which examines the research into violence and video games. Part One is here, and worth a read. I tend to agree with this initial conclusion, that the media (and certain researchers) tend to take advantage of the occasional "big time" story to advance the narrative of violence being caused by video games, when in fact the research has concluded no such general, broad-based finding. I look forward to the follow-up installments.
This article reviews a new study indicating women are actually more likely to read books in the true crime genre. The research discussed the possibility that women read these books, in part, for educational/preventive reasons, though there is concern of a cycle that develops: women are concerned about being victimized, so they read true crime books to learn how to avoid victimization, which in turn escalates concerns, etc. From the article:
The researchers found that what makes these books appealing to women are relevant in terms of preventing or surviving a crime. For example, by understanding why an individual decides to kill, a woman can learn the warning signs to watch for in a jealous lover or stranger. By learning escape tips women learn survival strategies they can use if actually kidnapped or held captive.
My understanding of the current state of book reading (at least in the United States) is that women read more fiction than men, while men read more non-fiction. It would seem interesting that women read more true crime books, which are non-fiction, though they tend to read more like fiction than most other non-fiction genres. Anyway, I thought this was an interesting finding.
Not too long ago, I posted a brief observation about the drug cartels of Columbia, and their similarities to today’s Mexico. Obviously I have no in-depth knowledge of the complexities involved; I simply observed that many of the stories coming out of Mexico today regarding the government’s struggle against the drug cartels appeared eerily similar to Columbia’s struggle against Pablo Escobar, as chronicled in the book Killing Pablo.
I thought I’d pass along this link to an article in Seed that addresses the situation in Mexico (and certain Latin American countries), from a standpoint that suggests the comparisons aren’t too far off. Interestingly, the author indicates that much of the problem stems from many of these governments’ failures to utilize effective law enforcement techniques and governing principles to not only defeat these organized crime syndicates (that’s what they really are), but to prevent their ascension in the first place. Specifics aren’t offered in any great detail (the article is fairly short), but one basic premise appears to be that the achievement of other goals a government might have (addressing poverty, environmental concerns, etc.) are significantly undermined when a pervasive sense of justice and stability are not widely perceived by the populace. In other words, a perception of widespread corruption, let alone a government unable to enforce its laws, prevents significant progress any other area. This may not be revolutionary thinking, but it certainly is timely.
Personally, I’m interested in seeing how this view compares with the subject matter in the book A Farewell to Alms, which I understand proposes that the rise of prosperity in the world is very recent, and largely due to England’s ability to provide a stable government, with a stable sense of administered justice that allowed for the economic benefits of the Industrial Revolution to thrive. Since I haven’t read the book yet, I admit I may be off a bit in terms of the premise. However, if I am correct, then this book might provide the details lacking in the article - largely, the “How,” as in, “How does a government (such as Mexico) establish, or re-establish, a sense of stability and rationality in addressing justice in general, and the syndicates in particular?” Should make for some interesting reading…
A copyright infringement lawsuit brought against the federal government by a federal inmate has been dismissed by the Federal Court of Appeals. The inmate had brought the lawsuit as a result of his efforts in creating designs for calenders, stating his creations were worth approximately $500,000. The calenders were designed in the course of the inmate’s employment as a graphic artist, and then produced and sold through the government’s General Services Agency. The Court decided that, similar to other cases where an employee creates something in the course of their work, the product belongs to the employer. Of course, the debate was whether or not inmates working in prison are “employees” in the same way as more typical work arrangements. Another difference, I would suspect, is that most individuals who create or design while in the employ of others are compensated at significantly higher levels than the inmate, who is paid $1.15 per hour. Let me remind everyone of an important lesson here - don’t go to prison. It sucks, bad.
The Arizona Daily Sun has an article providing a more thorough review of the current status of the case than did the article I linked to last week. While the second opinion regarding the 9-year old's competency has not yet been received, other information has been provided:
It appears in this jurisdiction, the time frame for expected restoration to competency is 240 days.
The video recording of statements made by the boy that appear to be a confession will probably not be used in the trial, assuming there is one. The defense contends the interview was illegal; the prosecution has indicated they will agree to withhold the confession, but without any acknowledgment it was obtained wrongfully.
The issue with respect to therapy for the boy was pretty much as I had figured - the probation department had provided a therapist for the boy, but the defense is concerned about confidentiality issues. This was never a matter of the judge simply denying the boy mental health services, as the headline I had linked to implied.
The next vital step will be obtaining the second opinion on the issue of competency, followed-up by the judge's opinion. If the prosecution's evaluator finds the boy incompetent and unrestorable, that will likely settle the issue. Another possibility, if the boy is found incompetent but not necessarily unrestorable, is a period of time to restore competency that can be ordered; this is possible if the boy's cognitive functioning is at age level or above. This likely won't be considered if there is some cognitive or psychological issue present that has not been released thus far (i.e. the boy's IQ is below average, where his intellectual functioning is more like a seven year old or younger). When I see the results of the second competency evaluation have been given to the court, I'll post an update. In the meantime, I recommend you read the whole article from the initial link above, it does a very good job of summarizing the case.
Check out this interesting article in the WaPo about the increasing numbers of unsolved murders, despite drastically improved technology. The article makes the point that despite improved forensics, DNA testing, etc., more and more cases go unsolved each year. According to the article, the reason is that the nature of murders has changed over the last forty years, with gang violence accounting for much of the problem. Gang murders, which often involve drive-bys, little to no relation between the victim and suspect, and witness intimidation, are much harder to solve than the old fashioned murders. Interesting stuff.
Status update on the trial of Lori Drew, the 49-year old women who allegedly conspired with two accomplices to engage in cyber-bullying of a Missouri teen through a MySpace account. The girl (who suffered from depression) committed suicide following some (in my opinion) incredibly cruel mentally abusive tactics. Due to the technical legal issues involved, Ms. Drew is being charged with the same charges hackers are prosecuted with. The current issue in front of the judge is whether the victim’s suicide is admissible in court, and the judge is apparently leaning against admission of this evidence into the trial.
Not being a lawyer, I have no opinion on the legal issues involved, but the facts of the case reveal pretty depressing picture of a parent. I don’t know enough about the case to have any specific mental health impressions, but the first word that popped into my head regarding Drew was “immaturity.” What the heck is a 49-year old person doing getting involved in this sort of thing, and in this way? I’d be embarrassed for a 19-year acting this way, let alone a 49-year old. I know the victim suffered from depression, but the other side of the coin is that an adult should know better, and be able to recognize that actions have consequences, often unforeseen ones. What has also been interesting is the apparent lack of empathy or remorse displayed by Drew in the aftermath of the suicide, again demonstrating at least a significant lack of emotional maturity, if not a symptom of an actual personality disorder. Again, though, we only know what the media has published so far. It’ll be interesting to hear more about this case as the facts come out, presumably after all of the legal issues are addressed.
According to this research, childhood issues associated with anxiety, including nervousness and social withdrawal, may prevent a certain subgroup of teens from acting criminally, at least until adulthood. Once adulthood is reached, however, the effect appears to wear off. From the article:
The authors found that being nervous and withdrawn shielded boys against committing criminal acts during adolescence, but, after the age of 21, it no longer held them back. Compared with early onset offenders, late onset criminals were more nervous, had fewer friends from ages 8 to 10, and were less likely to have had sexual intercourse by the age of 18. Compared with nonoffenders, those who turned to crime later in life were more anxious at school from ages 12 to14 and very neurotic by age 16.
I haven't read the actual research, just the article, but this makes some intuitive sense, if we broadly consider two different antisocial categories based on psychopathy (despite psychopathy being a continuous rather than discrete variable). Individuals loading high on psychopathy will generally experience relatively little anxiety, both generally as well as specifically towards potential consequences. This is in comparison to individuals who may have a predisposition towards antisocial behavior, but for reasons other than psychopathy. The anxiety the non-psychopathic adolescents experience appears strong enough to prevent acting out, at least until they reach adulthood.
From an intervention perspective, the article's suggestion that certain efforts may be effective in preventinglate-onset antisocial behavior in this group, if we can address soem of the underlying factors prior to adulthood. I'd certainly give this much more credence with this subgroup than with the psychopathic subgroup, who (at best) it can be argued require a whole different set of interventions that (as of now) haven't been shown to be statistically effective.
True, at least among forensic psychiatric patients according to this preliminary research. The article suggests that assessing individuals in the context of a forensic evaluation, the presence of tattoos should alert the evaluator of a possible diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder. The article also indicates that the presence of tattoos might signal potential histories for substance abuse, suicide attempts, and/or sexual abuse. From the article:
“Our findings suggest that forensic psychiatric inpatients with tattoos are significantly more likely to suffer from ASPD than those without tattoos, and patients with ASPD were also significantly more likely to have higher numbers of tattoos, a larger percentage of their body covered with tattoos, and tended to have tattoos in more visible locations" said lead researcher Dr. William Cardasis, of CFP, Michigan. "I hope that this provides clues for clinicians to look for ASPD in forensic psychiatric patients with tattoos, and also to look for signs of suicide attempt, substance abuse, and sexual abuse."
The authors caution the research examined the presence of tattoos and the associated mental health issues only within the confines of this small sample, and that these results to not generalize to the population at large. The article also offers a brief but accurate description of Antisocial Personality Disorder, a diagnosis extremely common among criminals and inmates.
However, this research does not actually appear to be all that useful, for a couple of reasons. First of all, any individual being evaluated in an inpatient forensic setting ought to be assessed for all of the mental health symptoms cited above, regardless of appearance. Simply put, upon the person’s arrival at such a facility, a screening for any currently significant issues should be completed, as well as a thorough examination of issues such as substance abuse history, suicide attempts etc., as the evaluation is conducted. A really not sure under what circumstances the presence or absence of tattoos would have any impact on the gathering of this information.
The other issue would be assigning a diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder. This is a primary diagnosis considered whenever anybody is referred for an evaluation such as this, and as part of any reasonable forensic evaluation, the necessary records regarding the individual’s background (which will generally provide all the information necessary for such a diagnosis, particularly individual’s criminal history) will have been obtained and reviewed. Whether an individual has tattoos or not is irrelevant, as these records will be requested regardless. Given that this information is not only necessary for any forensic evaluation, but will also be necessary in order to actually make a diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder, the correlation the researchers have identified may be interesting, but not very useful.