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Why do women have less synapses / neurons / brain mass than men despite having the same average IQ?

Why do women have less synapses / neurons / brain mass than men despite having the same average IQ?


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I don't mean to cause offence or suggest than men and women shouldn't be of the same intelligence - that's not something I'm here to dispute. What I want to understand is how this is possible given the vastly lower average synaptic / neurone count and weight in the average female vs male brain, in terms of both the overall brain and the neocortex.

Are there some systems that the female brain employs to compensate for a lower number of neurons, and if so is it dependent to the hormone estrogen or is it something inherent to the female brain? Is it just the case that the male brain has vast redundancies, if so why does brain weight correlate with IQ if it is redundant? Or perhaps it's the discrepancies in synapse count do not extend to areas that are most closely linked with higher order thinking. This is the explanation that I am leaning to, and if someone could explain which areas these are and link to a study that shows that the male vs female average in these areas are the same, then that would be greatly appreciated (I'm not looking for areas that are the same size adjusted for total body weight, I'm looking for areas with the absolute same number of synapses/neurones).

Studies:

Female brains on average lighter than male brains: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8072950/

Female brains on average have lower neocortical neurone count than male brains: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9215725/#:~:text=The%20average%20numbers%20of%20neocortical,brains%2C%20a%2016%25%20difference.&text=Sex%20and%20age%20were%20the,no%20influence%20on%20neuron%20number.

Female brains have on average a lower cortical synaptic density: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2567215/

Context:

I am transgender (and taking estrogen) and have read that taking estrogen can move brain volume and weight closer to average "female proportions" to quote the study, and that this does not appear to negatively affect cognition. So, this is a question that is hugely important to me and does not come from a place of mal-intent.


In brief, so far as we can tell size matters far less than brain architecture.

Consider that humans have only about half as many cortical neurons as a number of whales, yet are clearly far more intelligent.

While we are still far from a complete understanding of the details of how intelligence actually works, neuron count is only part of the story.

For humans in particular, there is also a selection argument that would lead us to expect that relatively small differences in neuron count (e.g., between male and female average) are not particularly significant. General intelligence (not "IQ") appears to be a critical aspect of human selection, and thus under significant evolutionary pressure for both sexes. If a small adjustment in neuron count made a significant different in intelligence, cranial and cortical scale is a relatively simple morphogenetic adjustment, and we would expect both sexes to scale until they hit a more similar scaling boundary. Since that has not happened, it is reasonable to conclude that neuron count is at least not a major factor in intelligence.


The Impact of Age on Cognition

This article reviews the cognitive changes that occur with normal aging, the structural and functional correlates of these cognitive changes, and the prevalence and cognitive effects of age-associated diseases. Understanding these age-related changes in cognition is important given our growing elderly population and the importance of cognition in maintaining functional independence and effective communication with others. The most important changes in cognition with normal aging are declines in performance on cognitive tasks that require one to quickly process or transform information to make a decision, including measures of speed of processing, working memory, and executive cognitive function. Cumulative knowledge and experiential skills are well maintained into advanced age. Structural and function changes in the brain correlate with these age-related cognitive changes, including alterations in neuronal structure without neuronal death, loss of synapses, and dysfunction of neuronal networks. Age-related diseases accelerate the rate of neuronal dysfunction, neuronal loss, and cognitive decline, with many persons developing cognitive impairments severe enough to impair their everyday functional abilities. There is emerging evidence that healthy lifestyles may decrease the rate of cognitive decline seen with aging and help delay the onset of cognitive symptoms in the setting of age-associated diseases.

Learning Outcomes: As a result of this activity, the participant will be able to (1) describe the type of cognitive abilities that decline with normal aging and those that do not and name several of the structural and functional changes in the brain that correlate with these changes in cognition, and (2) list several age-associated conditions that result in increased neurodegeneration, as measured by hippocampal size, and summarize the lifestyle factors that may improve neuroplasticity and limit this neurodegeneration.

Cognition is critical for functional independence as people age, including whether someone can live independently, manage finances, take medications correctly, and drive safely. In addition, intact cognition is vital for humans to communicate effectively, including processing and integrating sensory information and responding appropriately to others. Cognitive abilities often decline with age. It is important to understand what types of changes in cognition are expected as a part of normal aging and what type of changes might suggest the onset of a brain disease.

It is imperative to understand the effects of age on cognition because of the rapidly increasing number of adults over the age of 65 and the increasing prevalence of age-associated neurodegenerative dementias. Over the past century, the life span for both men and woman has increased dramatically. For example, in 1910 the life expectancy of a man was 48 years and a woman was 52 years. In 2010, this has increased to 76 years for men and 81 for women. The number of Americans over the age of 65 is projected to more than double over the next 40 years, increasing from 40 million in 2010 to 89 million in 2050. 1 Because many more people are living longer, the number of people with age-associated neurodegenerative dementias also is increasing rapidly. The Alzheimer's Association estimates that 5.2 million people in the United States had a clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer disease (AD) in 2014, and the number of people with a diagnosis of AD is projected to increase to 13.8 million people in 2050, unless effective preventative or treatment strategies are developed. 2 Thus, it is vital to understand how age impacts cognition and what preventative or treatment strategies might preserve cognition into advanced age. Any approaches that could decrease the negative effects of age on cognition or decrease the risk of developing a neurodegenerative dementia would have a tremendous impact on the quality of life of millions of older adults in the United States.


Two minds

“I wanted to find and explore neural circuits that regulate specific behaviors,” says Shah, then a newly minted Caltech PhD who was beginning a postdoctoral fellowship at Columbia. So, he zeroed in on sex-associated behavioral differences in mating, parenting and aggression.

“These behaviors are essential for survival and propagation,” says Shah, MD, PhD, now a Stanford professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and of neurobiology. “They’re innate rather than learned — at least in animals — so the circuitry involved ought to be developmentally hard-wired into the brain. These circuits should differ depending on which sex you’re looking at.”

His plan was to learn what he could about the activity of genes tied to behaviors that differ between the sexes, then use that knowledge to help identify the neuronal circuits — clusters of nerve cells in close communication with one another — underlying those behaviors.

At the time, this was not a universally popular idea. The neuroscience community had largely considered any observed sex-associated differences in cognition and behavior in humans to be due to the effects of cultural influences. Animal researchers, for their part, seldom even bothered to use female rodents in their experiments, figuring that the cyclical variations in their reproductive hormones would introduce confounding variability into the search for fundamental neurological insights.

But over the past 15 years or so, there’s been a sea change as new technologies have generated a growing pile of evidence that there are inherent differences in how men’s and women’s brains are wired and how they work.

Not how well they work, mind you. Our differences don’t mean one sex or the other is better or smarter or more deserving. Some researchers have grappled with charges of “neuro­sexism”: falling prey to stereotypes or being too quick to interpret human sex differences as biological rather than cultural. They counter, however, that data from animal research, cross-​cultural surveys, natural experiments and brain-imaging studies demonstrate real, if not always earthshaking, brain differences, and that these differences may contribute to differences in behavior and cognition.

Nirao Shah studies how some genes at work in the mouse brain determine sex-specific behaviors, like the female trait of protecting the nest from intruders. He says most of these genes have human analogues but their function is not fully understood.
Photograph by Lenny Gonzalez

Behavior differences

In 1991, just a few years before Shah launched his sex-differences research, Diane Halpern, PhD, past president of the American Psychological Association, began writing the first edition of her acclaimed academic text, Sex Differences in Cognitive Abilities. She found that the ​animal-​research literature had been steadily accreting reports of sex-associated neuroanatomical and behavioral differences, but those studies were mainly gathering dust in university libraries. Social psychologists and sociologists pooh-poohed the notion of any fundamental cognitive differences between male and female humans, notes Halpern, a professor emerita of psychology at Claremont McKenna College.

In her preface to the first edition, Halpern wrote: “At the time, it seemed clear to me that any between-sex differences in thinking abilities were due to socialization practices, artifacts and mistakes in the research, and bias and prejudice. . After reviewing a pile of journal articles that stood several feet high and numerous books and book chapters that dwarfed the stack of journal articles … I changed my mind.”

Why? There was too much data pointing to the biological basis of sex-based cognitive differences to ignore, Halpern says. For one thing, the animal-research findings resonated with sex-based differences ascribed to people. These findings continue to accrue. In a study of 34 rhesus monkeys, for example, males strongly preferred toys with wheels over plush toys, whereas females found plush toys likable. It would be tough to argue that the monkeys’ parents bought them sex-typed toys or that simian society encourages its male offspring to play more with trucks. A much more recent study established that boys and girls 9 to 17 months old — an age when children show few if any signs of recognizing either their own or other children’s sex — nonetheless show marked differences in their preference for stereotypically male versus stereotypically female toys.

Halpern and others have cataloged plenty of human behavioral differences. “These findings have all been replicated,” she says. Women excel in several measures of verbal ability — pretty much all of them, except for verbal analogies. Women’s reading comprehension and writing ability consistently exceed that of men, on average. They out­perform men in tests of fine-motor coordination and perceptual speed. They’re more adept at retrieving information from long-term memory.

Men, on average, can more easily juggle items in working memory. They have superior visuospatial skills: They’re better at visualizing what happens when a complicated two- or three-dimensional shape is rotated in space, at correctly determining angles from the horizontal, at tracking moving objects and at aiming projectiles.

Navigation studies in both humans and rats show that females of both species tend to rely on landmarks, while males more typically rely on “dead reckoning”: calculating one’s position by estimating the direction and distance traveled rather than using landmarks.

Many of these cognitive differences appear quite early in life. “You see sex differences in spatial-visualization ability in 2- and 3-month-old infants,” Halpern says. Infant girls respond more readily to faces and begin talking earlier. Boys react earlier in infancy to experimentally induced perceptual discrepancies in their visual environment. In adulthood, women remain more oriented to faces, men to things.

All these measured differences are averages derived from pooling widely varying individual results. While statistically significant, the differences tend not to be gigantic. They are most noticeable at the extremes of a bell curve, rather than in the middle, where most people cluster. Some argue that we may safely ignore them.

But the long list of behavioral tendencies in which male-female ratios are unbalanced extends to cognitive and neuro­psychiatric disorders. Women are twice as likely as men to experience clinical depression in their lifetimes likewise for post-traumatic stress disorder. Men are twice as likely to become alcoholic or drug-dependent, and 40 percent more likely to develop schizophrenia. Boys’ dyslexia rate is perhaps 10 times that of girls, and they’re four or five times as likely to get a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.

Could underlying biological differences — subtle though they may be for most of us — help explain these gaping
between-​sex imbalances in the prevalence of mental disorders and account for the cognitive and behavioral differences observed between men and women?

How our brains differ

The neuroscience literature shows that the human brain is a sex-typed organ with distinct anatomical differences in neural structures and accompanying physiological differences in function, says UC-Irvine professor of neurobiology and behavior Larry Cahill, PhD. Cahill edited the 70-article January/February 2017 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience Research — the first-ever issue of any neuroscience journal devoted entirely to the influence of sex differences on nervous-system function.

Brain-imaging studies indicate that these differences extend well beyond the strictly reproductive domain, Cahill says. Adjusted for total brain size (men’s are bigger), a woman’s hippo­campus, critical to learning and memorization, is larger than a man’s and works differently. Conversely, a man’s amygdala, associated with the experiencing of emotions and the recollection of such experiences, is bigger than a woman’s. It, too, works differently, as Cahill’s research has demonstrated.

In 2000, Cahill scanned the brains of men and women viewing either highly aversive films or emotionally neutral ones. The aversive films were expected to trip off strong negative emotions and concomitant imprinting in the amygdala, an almond-shaped structure found in each brain hemisphere. Activity in the amygdala during the viewing experience, as expected, predicted subjects’ later ability to recall the viewed clips. But in women, this relationship was observed only in the left amygdala. In men, it was only in the right amygdala. Cahill and others have since confirmed these results.

Discoveries like this one should ring researchers’ alarm buzzers. Women, it’s known, retain stronger, more vivid memories of emotional events than men do. They recall emotional memories more quickly, and the ones they recall are richer and more intense. If, as is likely, the amygdala figures into depression or anxiety, any failure to separately analyze men’s and women’s brains to understand their different susceptibilities to either syndrome would be as self-defeating as not knowing left from right.

The two hemispheres of a woman’s brain talk to each other more than a man’s do. In a 2014 study, University of Pennsylvania researchers imaged the brains of 428 male and 521 female youths — an uncharacteristically huge sample — and found that the females’ brains consistently showed more strongly coordinated activity between hemispheres, while the males’ brain activity was more tightly coordinated within local brain regions. This finding, a confirmation of results in smaller studies published earlier, tracks closely with others’ observations that the corpus callosum-— the white-matter cable that crosses and connects the hemispheres — is bigger in women than in men and that women’s brains tend to be more bilaterally symmetrical than men’s.

“To some appreciable degree, these brain differences have to translate to behavioral differences,” says Cahill. Numerous studies show that they do, sometimes with medically meaningful implications.

A 2017 study in JAMA Psychiatry imaged the brains of 98 individuals ages 8 to 22 with autism spectrum disorder and 98 control subjects. Both groups contained roughly equal numbers of male and female subjects. The study confirmed earlier research showing that the pattern of variation in the thickness of the brain’s cortex differed between males and females. But the great majority of female subjects with ASD, the researchers found, had cortical-thickness variation profiles similar to those of typical non-ASD males.

In other words, having a typical male brain structure, whether you’re a boy or a girl, is a substantial risk factor for ASD. By definition, more boys’ than girls’ brains have this profile, possibly helping explain ASD’s four- to fivefold preponderance among boys compared with girls.

Why our brains differ

But why are men’s and women’s brains different? One big reason is that, for much of their lifetimes, women and men have different fuel additives running through their tanks: the sex-steroid hormones. In female mammals, the primary additives are a few members of the set of molecules called estrogens, along with another molecule called progesterone and in males, testosterone and a few look-alikes collectively deemed androgens. Importantly, males developing normally in utero get hit with a big mid-gestation surge of testosterone, permanently shaping not only their body parts and proportions but also their brains. (Genetic defects disrupting testosterone’s influence on a developing male human’s cells induce a shift to a feminine body plan, our “default” condition.)

In general, brain regions that differ in size between men and women (such as the amygdala and the hippocampus) tend to contain especially high concentrations of receptors for sex hormones.

Another key variable in the composition of men versus women stems from the sex chromosomes, which form one of the 23 pairs of human chromosomes in each cell. Generally, females have two X chromosomes in their pair, while males have one X and one Y chromosome. A gene on the Y chromosome is responsible for the cascade of developmental events that cause bodies and brains to take on male characteristics. Some other genes on the Y chromosome may be involved in brain physiology and cognition.

Scientists routinely acknowledge that the presence or absence of a single DNA base pair can make a medically important difference. What about an entire chromosome? While the genes hosted on the X chromosome and the Y chromosome (about 1,500 on the X, 27 on the Y) may once have had counterparts on the other, that’s now the case for only a few of them. Every cell in a man’s body (including his brain) has a slightly different set of functioning ​sex-​chromosome genes from those operating in a woman’s.

Sex-based differences in brain structure and physiology reflect the alchemy of these hormone/receptor interactions, their effects within the cells, and the intermediating influence of genetic variables — particularly the possession of an XX versus an XY genotype, says Cahill.

Zeroing in on neural circuits

Shah’s experiments in animals employ technologies enabling scientists to boost or suppress the activity of individual nerve cells — or even of single genes within those nerve cells — in a conscious, active animal’s brain. These experiments have pinpointed genes whose activity levels differ strongly at specific sites in male versus female mice’s brains.

What would happen, Shah’s team wondered, if you knocked out of commission one or another of these genes whose activity level differed between male and female brains? They tried it with one of their candidate genes, turning off one that was normally more active in females.

Doing this, they found, totally shredded mouse moms’ willingness to defend their nests from intruders and to retrieve pups who had wandered away — maternal mandates that normal female mice unfailingly observe — yet had no observable effect on their sexual behavior. Torpedoing a different gene radically reduced a female mouse’s mating mood, but males in which the gene has been trashed appear completely normal.

All this points to a picture of at least parts of the brain as consisting of modules. Each module consists of a neural or genetic pathway in charge of one piece of a complicated behavior, and responds to genetic and hormonal signals. These modules — or at least some of them — are masculinized or feminized, respectively, by the early testosterone rush or its absence. The mammalian brain features myriad modules of this sort, giving rise to complex combinations of behavioral traits.

Which is not to say every man’s or woman’s brain looks the same. Our multitudinous genetic variations interact with some of our genes’ differential responsiveness to estrogens versus androgens. This complicated pinball game affects goings-on in at least some of the brain’s neural circuits and in whatever little piece of behavior each of these neural circuits manages.

“We think gender-specific behavior is a composite of all these modules, which, added up, give you your overall degree of maleness and femaleness,” says Shah.

Consider the genes Shah has isolated whose activity levels differ significantly in the brains of male and female mice. “Almost all of these genes have human analogues,” he says. “We still don’t completely understand their function in human social behavior. But when we looked at publicly available databases to find out what we do know about them, we found a surprising number that in humans have been linked with autism, alcoholism and other conditions.”

Bigger imaging studies and imaginative animal research now in the works promise to reveal much more about humanity’s inherent — although by no means uniform, and often not substantial — sex-associated cognitive differences and vulnerability to diseases.

Trying to assign exact percentages to the relative contributions of “culture” versus “biology” to the behavior of free-living human individuals in a complex social environment is tough at best. Halpern offers a succinct assessment: “The role of culture is not zero. The role of biology is not zero.”


Why are people's brains different sizes?

There are many tactics people use to end arguments and confrontations, most of them having to do with size. Parents, for example, seem to favor "Because I said so" as a way to put a stop to a disagree­ment with their children, who, after all, are much smaller than they are for at least a little while. School bullies have the reputation of being big kids, their stature all the more advantageous for stuffing the wimpy geeks down the toilet. And let's say that a married couple is arguing about the best way to get to their destination conceivably, the man could end the argument by saying, "Of course, I'm right! Males have bigger brains."

­Men do in fact have bigger brains than women. The average human brain weighs in at 2.7 pounds, or 1,200 grams, which is about 2 percent of our body weight [source: Bryner]. Males, though, have about a 100 g advantage after accounting for differences in total body weight [source: Schoenemann].

Which brings us to the age-old question: Does size really matter? That is, does the male in this scenario have any sort of valid point when he claims to be smarter with his bigger brain? On first glance, one might think so, because the way that we humans differentiate ourselves from our earlier primate ancestors is by our bigger brains. But if bigger is better, does that mean we are only slightly smarter than a walrus, which has a brain weighing 2.4 pounds (1.1 kilograms), and much dumber than a sperm whale, which has a whopping 17-pound (7.7-kilogram) brain [source: Bryner]?

In this article, we'll investigate the issue of whether it's how much you have or how you use it. First though, head to the next page and we'll take a look at why hats come in all different sizes, or how we end up with different-size brains to begin with.

Brain size is determined to some extent by genetics. In studies of identical twins, who share the same genes, and fraternal twins, who share about half the same genes, there is greater correlation in brain size between the identical twins [sources: Pennington et al., Wade]. Neuroscientists are still unpacking all of the mysteries in the brain's suitcase, though, so while we may not know all of the genes that are at work in the brain, we can shed light on a few.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School isolated one of the brain-size genes by working with mice. When the mice were administered an increase of a gene named beta-catenin, their brains doubled in size, and they began to show more activity in the cerebral cortex [source: Cromie]. The cerebral cortex, which regulates intelligence and language, is what sets humans apart from other species. It gives us the ability to form ideas and express them, giving us an advantage over species that may have bigger brains than we do. So while whales have that 17-pound brain, they use most of that giant noggin telling their bodies to move through the water [source: Wanjek].

Does that mean we need to start injecting beta-catenin to make it through high school calculus? Not if the mice are any example. Some of the mice in the Harvard experiment died after their heads got too big.

These researchers have also worked with another brain-size determining gene, ASPM, which is an abbreviation for abnormal spindle-like microcephaly-associated. As the name of this gene implies, it's linked with microcephaly, a condition in which a person is born with a small head and brain, often resulting in mild retardation. While an increase in beta-catenin might lead to a similarly increased brain, a mutation in ASPM seems to stop the formation of brain cells. When proteins in ASPM are shorter, brains are smaller.

To return to the similarities of mice and men, researchers have shown that a gene called Emx2, present in both rodents and humans, may control how the brain is actually divided. If certain parts of the brain are larger, there may be increased function in the area that part of the brain controls [source: Salk Institute].

Other genes may be at work as well, but they're not the only determinant of brain size. While different brain sizes are evident at birth, environmental factors also play a role in the brain's development. In the first five years of life, the brain quadruples in size, reaching about 95 percent of its adult volume [source: Suplee]. The neural connections that babies make in their first year or so are the connections that will serve them for the rest of their lives, but recent evidence shows that brain development in certain areas continues through the teenage years [source: Suplee].

So let's say genetics aren't on your side, and no one fires up the Baby Mozart for you. Does it matter? Find out if a bigger brain makes any difference at all on the next page.

What effect the brain has on a person's sexual orientation is a debated topic, but recent research indicates that brain size might play a role. After scanning heterosexual and homosexual individuals, Swedish researchers found that there are similarities in the brain size of straight men and gay women. Both of these groups exhibited asymmetric brains, with the right hemisphere being larger than the left. Gay men and straight women, however, both had symmetrical brain hemispheres [source: Gardner]. Can neurobiology determine sexual preference, or are environmental factors a greater factor? Stay tuned to this debate.

Brain Size and Intelligence: Does Size Matter?

Researchers have linked sudden and disproportionate brain growth during the first year of life to autism, suggesting that excessively rapid growth prevents the child from making the connections that guide normal behavior [source: BBC]. Another study indicated that children and adolescents with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) possess brains that are 3 to 4 percent smaller on average than those without ADHD [source: Goode]. Scientists have also revealed that brains shrink with age, though cognitive functions may remain unaltered [source: Britt].

But the question everyone wants to know is, what link exists between a big brain and a big IQ? Is bigger better? Since we're talking about the brain, then surely an enhanced version must lead to more smarts and more talent, right?

Well, it depends which scientist you ask. Scientists have been divided about what they're measuring and how they're measuring it. Anthropologists have long used a skull's interior volume and compared it against body size for a rough estimate of intelligence, measurements known as encephalization quotients. As brain-imaging techniques have improved, though, scientists have measured actual brains with greater precision. But is it size or is it neurons that we need to measure? Is it weight or circumference? Should encephalization quotients use total body weight or lean body mass? Should we correct for body size at all? How do you measure intelligence?

With so many brains tackling these questions, it's hard to reach a consensus on what might be the most meaningful measure. That hasn't stopped researchers from drawing conclusions, though. In 2005, psychologist Michael McDaniel evaluated studies that used brain-imaging and standard intelligence tests and found that unequivocally, bigger brains correlated with smarter people [source: McDaniel].

Since males have the bigger brains, they must have the smarts, right? In one study, scientists converted the SAT scores of 100,000 17- and 18-year-olds to a corresponding IQ score and found that males averaged 3.63 IQ points higher than the females [source: Jackson, Rushton]. The study, did, however, use about 10,000 more females than males, which may have affected the average, but the study's authors believe that the greater the brain tissue, the greater the ability for cognitive processing [source: Bryner].

Remember those studies with twins on the last page? In one study, after the scientists drew conclusions about the role of genetics in brain matter, they gave the twins intelligence tests. They found a link between intelligence and the amount of gray matter in the frontal lobes. Since frontal lobes appeared to be controlled by genetics, the results indicate that parents pass along the potential for genius.

But should gals just throw up their arms, curse their parents and refuse to make sense of nuclear physics? Nope. You've got to go out and shake what your momma gave you. These areas may just lay the groundwork for intelligence down the line or indicate the potential for genius if a person works hard. Albert Einstein may be a perfect example that it may not be overall size that matters, but size of certain sections beyond just the frontal lobe. ­Einstein, for example, had a perfectly normal-size brain, but certain parts of it were larger than normal, including the inferior parietal region, which affects mathematical thought [source: Wanjek].

It's also worth noting that the strangest things seem to increase brain size. Scientists have found that the brains of London's cab drivers enlarge and change as they learn complicated routes. Cab drivers who have been navigating the streets for years had significant structural changes, as they exhibited a larger posterior hippocampus and a slightly smaller front hippocampus [source: BBC].

So until we know more about all the exact mechanisms of brain growth, you may as well check out the stories on the next page. They just may make you brainier.


Health conditions

Alzheimer’s disease – It is no mystery that if you are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, it is devastating. Your memory goes and it is obvious that your brain cells get killed. It is believed that small proteins actually damage and kill neurons by poking holes through them as the disease runs its course.

Dehydration (Severe) – Due to the fact that the brain is 75% water, it is important to make sure that it stays hydrated. Although failing to drink 8 glasses of water a day isn’t going to do any sort of damage, if you go without any fluids for a 24 hour period, you will likely end up killing some brain cells. It may take even less time, but 24 hours is a long period to go without water. Make sure you keep yourself hydrated to avoid an unnecessary loss of brain cells.

Cerebral hypoxia – Hypoxia occurs when your brain cells aren’t getting enough oxygen. Neurons are extremely sensitive to oxygen levels and if oxygen levels are depleted, your cells start to die off. In layman’s terms, hypoxia means suffocation – so if you can’t inhale oxygen for a significant period of time, your brain cells begin to die and you would eventually become vegetative before brain death would occur.

Lyme disease – If Lyme disease isn’t detected and treated as soon as possible, the victim could end up suffering memory problems as well as have to deal with brain cell death. Other things that the victim may experience include: personality changes, anxiety, depression, and inability to concentrate. It is not going to result in instant brain cell death, but if left untreated may do some damage.

Narcolepsy – Individuals that have narcolepsy lose brain cells that produce hypocretin. Narcoleptics have a lower amount of these specific brain cells than individuals without the condition. It is unknown how many fewer cells people have with narcolepsy, but it is thought to be influenced by genetic expression.

Sleep Apnea – Obstructive sleep apnea can cause brain damage and kill brain cells due to lack of oxygen. If your breathing becomes obstructed, your brain will not get enough oxygen to keep cells alive and healthy. More specifically, sleep apnea can harm cells associated with memory and even lead to loss of actual brain tissue.

Strokes – If you suffer a stroke, it can cause major brain damage and involves extensive recovery to help get yourself back on track. In the aftermath of a stroke, many neurons continue to die even after normal blood flow has been reinstated to all areas of the brain. Researchers have found that the NMDA receptors activate the SREBP-1 protein, which leads to cell death. Although this cannot be prevented, scientists have developed drugs to help prevent this cell death from happening.


Brains ‘are nearly 20% smaller than they used to be’ but does this matter?

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Our brains are getting smaller.

They may have shrunk by around 17.4% over the last 20,000 years, research suggests.

And unlike the controversial claim that people are growing ‘horns’ in their skull due to phone use, our shrinking brain problem can’t be blamed on modern technology.

‘There are indications from the fossil record that suggest that our brains have become somewhat smaller in the past 10,000 to 20,000 years,’ Michel A. Hofman, professor of neurobiology at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience, tells Metro.co.uk.

This is well before the advent of the smartphone.

Actually, in more recent times, evidence that this shrinkage is continuing has been difficult to find.

‘There’s absolutely no scientific evidence that the modern human brain has been getting smaller during the last centuries,’ Prof Hofman says.

‘Generally, these stories are based on inappropriate datasets and bad statistics.’

This ‘estimate’ is because there aren’t any old brains to look at – just best guesses from endocranial casts, models made of the inside of old skulls.

They give an indication of how brain size, shape and surface has changed over the millennia, but some scientists believe they provide only limited data.

Despite the lack of definitive proof, it’s still a concerning prospect to wrap our shrinking heads around.

Although smaller and smaller phones, laptops and computers might be a sign of progress, losing that all-important grey matter doesn’t sound as appealing.

Why are our brains getting smaller? What does this mean for the future? And does a smaller brain mean we’re becoming less intelligent?

‘It does not mean that we are less intelligent than our fossil ancestors,’ Prof Hofman says.

In fact, Anna Henschel MSc, a final year PhD candidate at the University of Glasgow’s Social Brain In Action Laboratory, tells us that the size of the brain is not a good indicator of IQ at all.

‘The relationship is weakly correlational at best,’ she says.

This is a little confusing because, as we’ve evolved, our brains have become bigger on the whole.

They’ve gradually grown in relation to body size from early primates to hominids to Homo sapiens.

But if a bigger brain always equated to more intelligence, then whales and elephants with brains much larger than ours would be much smarter than humans.

Instead, relative brain size might be more important than absolute brain size in determining factors such as intelligence and behavioural complexity.

But again, that’s not always the case.

We have a relative brain-to-body mass of about 2%, which is bigger than many other mammals.

But the brain of a shrew can be 10% of its entire body mass.

As Prof Hofman reminds us, ‘size isn’t the whole story’ and there is a lot more going on.

‘It’s important to consider the brain’s neural organisation, how it works and how the neural network is organised,’ he says.

‘In that respect, you may compare our brain with a computer: bigger does not necessarily mean more powerful or faster.’

A good example, Prof Hofman tells us, is the difference in brain size between men and women.

‘Although females have a considerably smaller brain than males, there are no differences in intelligence between the sexes,’ he says.

‘It simply turns out that male and female brains are differently organised.’

A smaller brain may not mean a less intelligent brain, but why are our brains changing at all?

There’s no definitive answer. At least not yet.

Instead, what makes this topic both frustrating and fascinating is that many scientists and researchers have proposed different theories over the years, linking brain size to all kinds of things, including change in climate, lack of aggression and living in big groups.

‘It’s very likely related to the decline in humans’ average body size during the past 10,000 years,’ Prof Hofman says.

‘This may be a consequence of the changes in climate, diet, predation and food availability since the last Ice Age.’

Brain size often scales to body size because a larger body will need a larger nervous system to make it work.


Development of The Nervous System

Despite a Century of Research on Development, Many Important Questions Remain Unanswered

As developmental biology itself matured, the development of the nervous system became a subject of interest to a generation of embryologists who were fascinated by the complex sequence of morphogenetic events that give rise to the brain and spinal cord and lead progressively to its elaboration and refinement. More recently, interest has been directed toward elucidating some of the developmental anomalies that affect the nervous system, including a wide spectrum of genetic disorders whose consequences are frequently devastating to the affected individual.

The sorts of questions that have been addressed and that continue to attract the most attention are, What embryonic tissue gives rise to the nervous system? Where are the billions of nerve cells and tens of millions of glial cells generated? How do the cells reach their definitive locations, and how do they selectively aggregate with other cells of like kind? What molecular events underlie the differentiation of neurons and confer upon them their distinctive morphological, biochemical, and physiological features? How do axons find their way through the developing nervous system and finally identify the appropriate target structures with which to establish connections? To what extent is the development of the nervous system genetically determined, to what extent are epigenetic factors involved, and to what degree is the immature nervous system capable of responding to environmental factors?

Considerable progress towards answering these questions has come from the identification of suitable model systems and from the recognition that, despite some differences in their patterns of development, vertebrates and invertebrates are remarkably similar. The main advantage of the invertebrate nervous systems that have been studied is that they tend to be rather stereotyped and often contain relatively small numbers of neurons. And, it is often possible to follow the fate of individual cells throughout their life history, and in some cases (Drosophila is a good example) to perform a variety of genetic manipulations that affect the nervous system. Against these advantages is the fact that development in most invertebrates seems to be rigidly programmed and shows little of the plasticity so characteristic of vertebrate development. Needless to say, among vertebrates, the greatest interest centers on understanding the development of the human brain, but as yet we have hardly progressed beyond the descriptive level.

The development of the vertebrate nervous system consists of a number of interrelated steps beginning with the phenomenon of neural induction.

Factors Affecting Neural Induction Need to Be Determined

The emerging nervous system of vertebrates first appears as a thickening of the ectoderm (the outermost layer of the embryo) in the dorsal midline. This thickened region, the neural plate, arises in response to the inductive influence of the underlying notochord and mesoderm, which during the process of gastrulation have invaginated from a region called Hensen's node or the dorsal lip of the blastopore and extend forward toward the future head-end of the embryo. Despite considerable effort, mainly in the period between the two World Wars, the nature of this inductive influence is still poorly understood. In large part this is because the amounts of tissue available for study are severely limited and because, until relatively recently, our knowledge of gene activation (which must underlie this process) was rudimentary. The availability of modern molecular genetic techniques should make it possible in the near future to identify the factors involved in neural induction and to isolate and characterize them.

Coincident with the induction of the neural plate, the tissue along its margins is induced to form the presumptive neural crest. The neural crest itself is a transitory structure that is first recognizable as a longitudinal band on the dorsal surface of the neural tube. Almost immediately, the cells of the crest become widely dispersed, migrating along predetermined pathways to the skin, gut, head, and so forth, where they give rise to a remarkable number of different tissues. The enormous phenotypic diversity of the derivatives of the neural crest has made it a subject of special interest in recent years. Among other tissues it is known to give rise to nearly all pigmented cells, much of the mesenchyme and the skeletal components of the head and face, and certain of the endocrine glands, as well as to most peripheral sensory neurons, the neurons and supporting cells of the autonomic ganglia, and the Schwann cells of peripheral nerves. From a variety of ingenious experiments in amphibian and chick embryos it has become clear that the precursor cells in the neural crest are pluripotent, and the fate of their progeny is largely determined by the environment through which the the cells migrate and the regions in which they finally come to reside. At least some of the cells can change their phenotype relatively late in life given the right conditions. For example, cultured sympathetic neurons that normally synthesize only the neurotransmitter noradrenalin can, in time, begin to synthesize and release acetylcholine.

Proliferation of Both Neuronal and Glial-Cell Precursors Occurs in a Highly Programmed Manner

Neuronal proliferation in the CNS occurs for the most part within the ventricular lining of the original neural tube or its later derivatives in distinct spatio-temporal patterns. In a few regions, secondary proliferative foci are set up in specialized areas referred to collectively as the subventricular zone. Unfortunately, despite a good deal of effort, we know comparatively little about the factors that regulate the patterned cell divisions in the nervous system, but it is these complex patterns that ultimately determine the numbers of neurons and glia found in different regions of the brain and establishes the initial size of each neuronal population.

The technique of autoradiography with tritium-labeled thymidine has made it possible to establish, for a large number of structures, the times at which their constituent neurons lose their capacity for DNA synthesis and the orderly sequence in which different neuronal types appear.

One of the major limitations for our understanding of the factors regulating cell proliferation in the CNS is the absence of suitable markers for the stem cells of different neuronal lineages. Attempts to generate such markers were until recently largely unsuccessful, but in the past four or five years a number of monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies against the major classes of central and peripheral glial cells have become available. The introduction of identifiable genomic sequences into transgenic or chimeric animals should rapidly transform this area and lead to the sorts of insights that have been so valuable in the study of neuronal lineages in the invertebrate nervous system (especially in the nematode C. elegans).

The Overwhelming Majority of Nerve Cells Must Undergo at Least One Major Phase of Migration in Order to Reach Their Definitive Locations

The withdrawal of neurons from the cell cycle appears to be the trigger for their outward migration from the ventricular or subventricular zones. In most parts of the CNS the initial migration of neurons is more or less radial with respect to the ventricular lining of the neural tube, and it seems to occur mainly along the surfaces of radially oriented processes of glial cells whose bodies lie within the ventricular zone.

Perhaps, not unexpectedly, in the course of migration some neurons become misdirected and end up in ectopic loci. If the ectopic cells are able to make the appropriate connections they are able to survive if they do not they are usually eliminated by cell death.

Selective Cell Aggregation

Neuronal Aggregation Involves Specific Cell-Adhesion Molecules

It has been known for almost 50 years that dissociated embryonic cells, if artificially mixed together, can sort themselves out in a tissue-specific manner, ectodermal cells associating with ectodermal cells, mesodermal with mesodermal, and so on. Recently, developmental neurobiologists have taken advantage of this phenomenon to explore the molecular basis for the selective associations of neurons during development. A number of cell-surface molecules that seem to mediate such cell-cell interactions have also been identified and the genes that encode them have been cloned.

One such cell-adhesion molecule (or CAM) referred to as N-CAM because it is predominantly expressed in neural tissue, shows homophilic binding (two molecules on different cells stick to each other) has been referred to in Chapter 5. It is widely distributed on the surfaces of all neurons and occurs on certain nonneuronal cells as well. During development it undergoes a characteristic embryonic-to-adult modification with an increase in binding affinity. A second, termed NG-CAM because of a presumed role in neuron-glial interactions exhibits heterophilic binding. Recent immunocytochemical studies have established that NG-CAM is preferentially expressed on growing axons. Antibodies to N-CAM selectively prevent nerve cell aggregation in vitro and also perturb normal neurite fasciculation. The widespread distribution of both molecules at key stages in the development of the brain and spinal cord suggests that they may each play a critical role in several of the morphogenetic events being considered here. However, there is at present no conclusive evidence that they are specifically involved in the selective aggregation of neurons to form the various nuclear groups and conical layers that characterize the CNS or the various ganglia of the peripheral nervous system. However, rapid progress has been made in the past decade on these and several other related cell-cell and cell-substrate adhesion molecules, and this continues to be an area of promise for future investigation.

Most Neural Cells Seem to Under go Their Major Differentiation Only After Reaching Their Final Locations

When cells migrate away from the ventricular zone, they display many of the differentiated features characteristic of neurons or glia, but their major phase of differentiation usually occurs only after they have reached their final destinations. Formally, one can recognize three aspects to this phase of neuronal differentiation.

First, the cells acquire a distinctive morphology, usually characterized by the development of several dendrites and a single axon. Second, the cells acquire a number of distinctive membrane properties. These properties generally do not all emerge simultaneously, but appear over a period of time.

The third aspect of neuronal differentiation is associated with adoption of a particular mode of synaptic transmission. In most neurons, the cells synthesize one or more neurotransmitters or neuromodulators and generate all the necessary cellular machinery for their transport to the axon terminals and for their exocytotic release. Simultaneously, the cells express a variety of receptor molecules that become inserted into the appropriate postsynaptic sites on their own surfaces.

Recently, researchers have focused on the cloning of the genes for (1) peptide transmitters, (2) enzymes involved in the synthesis of the more conventional neurotransmitters, and (3) receptor molecules involved in synaptic transmission. This work holds great promise that the regulation of these molecular aspects of neuronal differentiation will soon be well understood.

Although Much Work Has Been Done on Axonal Outgrowth, the Matter Is Still Far from Being Resolved

The central issue in developmental neurobiology is, "How are the highly specific patterns of connections that characterize the mature nervous system generated?" The general question encompasses three separate issues. The first concerns how the cells acquire individual "addresses" that define their position in the three-dimensional neuronal complex within which they lie. The second concerns the expression of this acquired "positional information" in the outgrowth of the cells' axons and the identification of their appropriate targets. The final question is how the cells identify both the region in which they should terminate and the appropriate subset of neurons on which to form synapses.

Several lines of evidence suggest that most cells acquire their address either at the time they are first generated or when they first assemble with their fellows to constitute the primordium of the definitive neuronal population. The nature of the addressing mechanism, however, is unknown. By contrast, the mechanism of axonal outgrowth is reasonably well understood. Axons are extensions of the cell that grow by the addition of new materials at their expanded ends, referred to as growth cones. These growth cones are highly motile structures that bear large numbers of delicate fingerlike processes known as filopodia the filopodia are thought to play a key role both in the recognition of the axon's appropriate course and in the identification of its appropriate target. Most axons do not grow in isolation but in association with other axons from the same neuronal population, and it is becoming clear that they can use a variety of strategies to find their way. These include selective axon-axon interactions, selective axon-substrate adhesivities, the identification of key landmark structures, chemical tropisms, and even simple mechanical factors. What is most impressive is that even radical experimental perturbations of a group of axons (such as deliberately forcing them to grow into an abnormal pathway) rarely succeed in preventing them from reaching their predestined targets.

A different set of factors seems to be involved in the identification of the desired target. This issue has proved to be the most difficult to study. The most widely accepted view (the chemoaffinity hypothesis) was first put forward to account for the uncanny ability of regenerating axons in the mammalian peripheral nervous system and in the CNS of fish and amphibians to "home in" on their targets and to reestablish orderly connections with their original targets. According to this hypothesis, each small group of neighboring neurons requires a distinctive cytochemical label that is also expressed on the surfaces of the growing axons the presence of matching or complementary labels on the target cells enables the axons to recognize and form synapses with their appropriate partners. A good deal of experimental evidence is consonant with this hypothesis (and none yet contradicts it), but the nature of the proposed molecular labels has so far escaped identification.

The final event in the establishment of the initial pattern of connections is the formation of synaptic contacts between the related populations of cells. To date, this problem has been most carefully studied at the neuromuscular junction. Here functional contacts can be established extremely quickly—within minutes, in fact, of the axon's contacting the muscle cell. The assembly of the entire complement of presynaptic and postsynaptic components does not occur for some time, however, and must involve a complex set of inductive interactions between the axon terminal and its target cell.

Because growing axons have to make their way through a veritable jungle of other neuronal and glial processes, it is perhaps not surprising that some of them enter an incorrect pathway or grow to an inappropriate target. Most of these aberrant or erroneous connections are eliminated during the next two phases of neurogenesis, which are concerned with the progressive refinement of the initial pattern of connections.

Nerve Cell Death During Neural Development Allows for the Fine-Tuning of the Nervous System

It has been known for more than 80 years that some nerve cells die during normal neural development, but it was not until the late 1940s that the full significance of such cell deaths came to be appreciated. We now know that, in almost every part of the nervous system, neurons are initially overproduced at some later period, between 15 and 85 percent of the initial population degenerate. In a few situations it has been possible to establish that the phase of cell death is temporally related to the period during which connections are being established within the target fields. And the finding that the number of neurons that finally survives is closely related to the size of the target field has led to the suggestion that the axons of the cells compete with each other for some entity (probably a trophic agent) that is normally available in the target area in only limited amounts. The cells that are successful in this competition survive those that are unsuccessful die.

To date the only well-characterized trophic agent is NGF, which is essential for the survival of many sensory neurons, sympathetic ganglion cells, and central cholinergic neurons. If an excess of NGF is made available to the axons of embryonic sensory ganglion neurons, the normally occurring death of 40 to 50 percent of the cells can be completely prevented. A vigorous search for other neuronal growth factors is under way a number have been identified and partially characterized, and at least two (fibroblast growth factor and epidermal growth factor) are known to be present in the CNS and capable of maintaining dissociated neurons in culture.

Naturally occurring cell death seems to serve at least three functions. (1) It matches the sizes of individual neuronal populations to each other and to the functional requirements of their targets. (2) It allows for the elimination of developmental errors, especially errors in connectivity. (3) It defines the limits of particular cellular lineages.

A Second Regressive Phenomenon During Neural Development Selectively Eliminates Excess Connections

Just as more neurons are generated than seem to be needed, there is generally an initial excess in the number of connections formed by each neuron over a period of some days or weeks these excessive connections are progressively eliminated until the mature number is reached. For example, muscle cells and neurons that normally receive only one or a few more inputs frequently receive many synapses early in development and progressively lose the supernumerary contacts over a period of three or four weeks. In other eases, longer collateral pathways are selectively eliminated, and whole fiber systems come to be reorganized. For example, all areas of the cerebral cortex initially send axon collaterals to the opposite hemisphere through the corpus collosum. Later, the callosal projection becomes restricted to certain functionally defined zones, not through the death of the cells that initially project to the contralateral side, but rather through the selective loss of callosal collaterals.

The mechanism underlying the selective elimination of particular axonal branches is far from clear, but may well also involve trophic factors. Certainly in the case of NGF, both the responsive cells and each of their processes require a continuous supply of the factor for their maintenance. Electrical activity also seems critical for the maintenance of individual axonal branches. Blocking activity with a drug such as tetrodotoxin (which blocks sodium channels) completely prevents the refinement of connections in several developing (and regenerating) neuronal systems. This is of considerable importance, for the early excess of neuronal connectivity and the critical dependence of connections on the maintenance of appropriate patterns of activity must provide the substratum for much of the plasticity of the immature nervous system.

A Rapidly Expanding Body of Literature Indicates how Widespread Plasticity Is in the Nervous System

To the age-old question of whether the development of the brain is shaped more by nature or by nurture, the answer is now clear: Both are important at different times and in different ways. The early development of the nervous system—including all the events that lead to the establishment of the initial patterns of connections—seems to be determined largely by genetic and locally acting epigenetic factors. But once the initial neural framework has been laid down, environmental factors become increasingly important. In several instances we now recognize what are referred to as critical periods during which the relevant neural systems seem to be particularly susceptible to external environmental influences. The final form of the brain and its functional capacities are shaped by the interplay of intrinsic (genetic and epigenetic) and extrinsic (environmental) influences.

Consider, for example, the importance of hormonal influences on the development of the brain and, in particular, the sexual determination of those parts of the hypothalamus that Control the pattern of release of the gonadotrophic hormones from the anterior pituitary gland. Although an animal's sex is genetically determined, the regulation of hypothalamic function is determined largely by the levels of circulating sex hormones during a critical period in development. If these hormonal levels are significantly perturbed, the pattern of gonadotrophic hormone release can be completely reversed from the male to the female pattern, or vice versa. Animals experimentally subjected to this type of sex reversal display all the behavioral characteristics normally associated with the opposite sex.

Even more attention has been focused on the capacity of the major sensory systems to respond to normal or altered sensory experience. The most striking findings have come from work on the visual system, in which, during a critical period, any marked abnormality in the animal's visual experience can result in an irrevocable alteration in its later visual behavior.

For example, if the upper and lower eyelids of one eye are sutured closed throughout this critical period and then the eye is reopened, the animal subsequently behaves as if it were blind in the deprived eye. When the visual cortex is explored neurophysiologically, the cells that would normally be activated by stimulating that eye are found to be either silent or dominated largely by inputs from the nondeprived eye. And when the cortex is examined anatomically, the regions in which the inputs from the deprived eye terminate are found to be substantially reduced in size, whereas those related to the nondeprived eye are correspondingly expanded.

Equally striking are the findings in experiments in which animals have been reared in a structured visual environment. Kittens exposed throughout the first few weeks of life to only vertical stripes subsequently have great difficulty when they encounter horizontally oriented objects. Physiological recordings made from their brains show that the majority of the cells in the visual cortex respond only to vertically oriented stimuli. Experiments of this kind have already had a profound influence on the way in which human clinical problems such as strabismus are treated and have emphasized the importance of a rich environmental experience during early childhood.

Of special interest for developmental psychologists is the enormous capacity of the brain to adapt to early injury, which to a large extent must depend on its morphological plasticity. Nowhere is this better demonstrated than in the brains of young children who have suffered substantial damage to one cerebral hemisphere. Even after complete removal of the language areas of the cerebral cortex in the normally dominant left cerebral hemisphere, children can learn to speak perfectly normally, language function having been taken over by the corresponding areas in the opposite hemisphere.

The Ontogeny of Behavior Has Been a Neglected Area of Neuroscience

Until recently, developmental neurobiology has been concerned largely with the initial assembly of the nervous system and to a distressing extent has neglected the equally important issue of the emergence of behavior. Inasmuch as the goal of neuroscience is to provide a sound scientific basis for an understanding of all aspects of behavior, including such higher brain functions as thought, memory, perception, and feeling, the study of the ontogeny of behavior is likely to become increasingly important in the near future.

One serious obstacle to progress so far has been the difficulty of identifying good animal models for experimental study. As a result, the problems that have been analyzed—such as the emergence of motor behavior in salamanders and chicks or the development of visual behavior in kittens and young monkeys—have yielded results that are suggestive but hardly definitive. In contrast to most other fields of neuroscience, in this area human studies have led and continue to lead the way, even though by their nature they are usually constrained to observation and description rather than experimental manipulation.


Brain size and Intelligence

19 th -century phrenologists coined the phrases &ldquohighbrow&rdquo and &ldquolowbrow&rdquo, correlating the brain size to intelligence. But is it true?

It is true that brain sizes vary across humans and that men tend to have a slightly larger brain than women. Our ancestors Homo neanderthalensis, also had larger brains than modern humans. However, they are extinct, and we seem to outcompete them. Although intelligent people do tend to have more successful lives, this depends on several genetic, environmental factors and socio-economic situations as well.

Average brain weight for males and females over the lifespan. From the study Changes in brain weights during the span of human life. Source: Wikipedia.

Identifying the connection between the brain size to smartness has become much more plausible due to accuracy in estimating the brain size by using technologically advanced neuroimaging methods. However, research published so far had been riddled with fallacies and bias.

A new study, the largest of its kind, led by Gideon Nave of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School and Philipp Koellinger of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, has clarified the connection. Using MRI-derived information about brain size in association with cognitive performance test results and educational-attainment measures obtained from more than 13,600 people, the researchers found that, as previous studies have suggested, a positive relationship does exist between brain volume and performance on cognitive tests. But that finding comes with important caveats.

"The effect is there," says Nave, an assistant professor of marketing at Wharton. "On average, a person with a larger brain will tend to perform better on tests of cognition than one with a smaller brain. But size is only a small part of the picture, explaining about 2 percent of the variability in test performance. For educational attainment, the effect was even smaller: an additional 'cup' (100 cubic centimeters) of the brain would increase the average person's years of schooling by less than five months." Koellinger says "this implies that factors other than this one single factor that has received so much attention across the years account for 98 percent of the other variation in cognitive test performance."

"Yet, the effect is strong enough that all future studies that will try to unravel the relationships between more fine-grained measures of brain anatomy and cognitive health should control for total brain volume. Thus, we see our study as a small, but important, contribution to better understanding of differences in cognitive health."

Nave and Koellinger's collaborators on the work, which is published in the Journal of Psychological Science, included Joseph Kable, Baird Term Professor in Penn's Department of Psychology Wi Hoon Jung, a former postdoctoral researcher in Kable's lab and Richard Karlsson Linnér, a postdoc in Koellinger's lab.

Earlier studies had consistently identified a correlation between brain size and cognitive performance, but the relationship seemed to grow weaker as studies included more participants, so Nave, Koellinger, and colleagues hoped to pursue the question with a sample size that dwarfed previous efforts.

The study relied on a recently amassed dataset, the UK Biobank, a repository of information from more than half-a-million people across the United Kingdom. The Biobank includes participants' health and genetic information as well as brain scan images of a subset of roughly 20,000 people, a number that is growing by the month.

"This gives us something that never existed before," Koellinger says. "This sample size is gigantic&mdash70 percent larger than all prior studies on this subject put together&mdashand allows us to test the correlation between brain size and cognitive performance with greater reliability."

The researches addressed the issues with measuring the cognitive performance by incorporating models that accounted for factors like height, socioeconomic status, genetic ancestry along with the cognitive questionnaires.

The findings are somewhat intuitive. "It's a simplified analogy, but think of a computer," Nave says. "If you have more transistors, you can compute faster and transmit more information. It may be the same in the brain. If you have more neurons, this may allow you to have a better memory, or complete more tasks in parallel.

"However, things could be much more complex in reality. For example, consider the possibility that a bigger brain, which is highly heritable, is associated with being a better parent. In this case, the association between a bigger brain and test performance may simply reflect the influence of parenting on cognition. We won't be able to get to the bottom of this without more research."

One of the notable findings of the analysis is related to differences between male and females. "Just like with height, there is a pretty substantial difference between males and females in brain volume, but this doesn't translate into a difference in cognitive performance," Nave says.

A more nuanced look at the brain scans may explain this result. Other studies have reported that in females, the cerebral cortex, the outer layer of the front part of the brain, tends to be thicker than in males.

"This might account for the fact that, despite having relatively smaller brains on average, there is no effective difference in cognitive performance between males and females," Nave says. "And of course, many other things could be going on."

"Previous estimates of the relationship between brain size and cognitive abilities were uncertain enough that true relationship could have been practically significant, or not much different from zero," says Kable. "Our study allows the field to be much more confident about the size of this effect and its relative importance moving forward."

In follow-up work, the researchers plan to zoom in to determine whether some areas of the brain or connectivity between them, play an outsized role in contributing to cognition.

They're also hopeful that a deeper understanding of the biological underpinnings of cognitive performance can help shine a light on environmental factors that contribute, some of which can be influenced by individual actions or government policies.

"Suppose you have necessary biology to become a fantastic golf or tennis player, but you never have the opportunity to play, so you never realize your potential," Nave says.

Adds Koellinger: "We're hopeful that, if we can understand the biological factors that are linked to cognitive performance, it will allow us to identify the environmental circumstances under which people can best manifest their potential and remain cognitively healthy. We've just started to scratch the surface of the iceberg here."

Size is might not be everything!

Watch the video below comparing human brains to other animals.


Restructure!

New research from the University of Toronto-Scarborough shows that white people’s mirror-neuron-system fires much less, if at all, when they watch people of colour performing motor tasks, and I’m not at all surprised. For years, I just assumed that this was true, and that someone just had to do a study to prove it.

After the United States invaded Iraq and massacred tens of thousands of Iraqis, worldwide terrorist recruitment skyrocketed, as well as terrorist attacks targetting the U.S. and coalition countries. Terrorist leaders cited the Iraq invasion and the deaths of Iraqis as the reason for the attacks. However, White Americans did not buy it, believing it to be a smokescreen for some other reason. It must be Islam, they reasoned, as they grasped at straws.

I then realized that the vast majority of White Americans could not empathize with brown people at a very basic level. For most White Americans, the death and violence of thousands of brown bodies was just part of some abstract ethical argument to position oneself as morally superior to the United States. For most White Americans, brown people dying just meant flickers on the television screen about something happening far away. They didn’t feel the overwhelming anger and sadness they would normally feel when someone they know dies without reason. They couldn’t see the full reality of what death means, when the people who die are brown.

I have seen white people complain online that they cannot see the facial expressions of (East) Asian faces. For many white people, East Asians are like emotionless robots who are efficient at machine-like things like number crunching. Some white people argue that while East Asians may be able to play musical instruments beautifully, they play music without soul.

Most white people just don’t see us as humans. When brown people die through violence, or East Asians express joy or sadness through our faces, most white people’s brains just don’t register the human connection between our bodies and their bodies. When we watch movies and TV shows and read books featuring white protagonists, we have to put ourselves into white people’s shoes to understand the stories and feel the emotions of sadness, laughter, and pride. But people of colour are rarely the protagonists in the media that white people watch, so they rarely or never have to imagine themselves as us.

When I watch some medical shows about a white person undergoing surgery, and the surgeon uses a sharp knife to break open pink skin, uses other instruments to yank out bloody tissue, or uses bloody string to sew up wounds, I can’t help but to squirm. My hands and arms unconsciously cover up the part of my body that corresponds to the area being operated on, as if protecting that part of my body from being penetrated by imaginary surgical instruments. From a purely rational perspective, this makes no sense. If I watch a (white) person being operated on from a third-person perspective, why should my body react as if it is my own body being traumatized?

Mirror neurons are a theoretical construct to explain this type of basic bodily empathy in terms of neurons (brain cells). In macaque monkeys, the neurons in the part of their brains that control bodily movement fire (or activate) when they perform bodily movements. However, neuroscientists discovered that these same monkey brain regions also fire when monkeys watch other monkeys perform the same actions. This discovery was revolutionary, because something that previously could not be explained by science—empathy—may be finally understood in terms of things happening in the brain. When a human empathizes with another human, it corresponds to her neural firing “mirroring” the neural firing of the other person, whose neurons would be firing because she would be performing the task itself.

In the recent neuroscience study on racial empathy by Jennifer Gutsell and Michael Inzlicht, they simply found physical evidence that white people have difficulty empathizing with non-white people:

The participants – all white – watched simple videos in which men of different races picked up a glass and took a sip of water. They watched white, black, South Asian and East Asian men perform the task.

Typically, when people observe others perform a simple task, their motor cortex region fires similarly to when they are performing the task themselves. However, the UofT research team, led by PhD student Jennifer Gutsell and Assistant Professor Dr. Michael Inzlicht, found that participants’ motor cortex was significantly less likely to fire when they watched the visible minority men perform the simple task. In some cases when participants watched the non-white men performing the task, their brains actually registered as little activity as when they watched a blank screen.

Note that nothing about this study suggests anything about racial empathy or lackthereof being hard-wired. The human brain is a living, dynamic organ made up of billions of living, changing neurons. An important concept in neuroscience is brain plasticity, which is the capacity of the brain to change with learning through the reorganization of neural connections. Studies on brain activity are about what the brain is doing, not about the brain being stuck or frozen in some permanent state. Brains don’t do that, unless they are dead.

The trend was even more pronounced for participants who scored high on a test measuring subtle racism, says Gutsell.

Obviously-racist white people have more difficulty empathizing with people of colour than less-racist white people. This is not surprising. Lack of empathy is linked to racism.

However, the team says cognitive perspective taking exercises, for example, can increase empathy and understanding, thereby offering hope to reduce prejudice. Gutsell and Inzlicht are now investigating if this form of perspective-taking can have measurable effects in the brain.

Or we can break down the white-centric media and education systems that use only white people as a model of humanity. Maybe the researchers should test if people of colour really dehumanize white people as much as white people dehumanize us.

    by resistance at Resist racism by Abagond
  • Paper: Empathy constrained: Prejudice predicts reduced mental simulation of actions during observation of outgroups (PDF) (Hat-tip to irism) (Racialicious) – Epic fail of a comment thread, which motivated me to write this post.

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196 Responses to “White people lack empathy for brown people, brain research shows.”

Whiteness works as it does because it was constructed precisely to NOT feel human empathy when brown people are bombed, kidnapped, enslaved, exploited, raped, tortured, by White Empire. This is not a side effect of race, it is literally the raison d’etre of 500 years of whiteness.

I’m confident that the same test conducted on people of color would produce dramatically different results. I wouldn’t be surprised if a shockingly high percentage of POC actually empathize more with white people than with fellow POC. Perhaps a small minority of POC would fail to exhibit mirror-neuron activity while watching white people, but I’d bet on a VERY low number.

I am NOT going to check out the Racialicious epic fail thread. I lost my appetite for 101 spaces years ago.

I think it’s important to regularly point out that racism isn’t just to harbour hate, resentment, or something equally negative against another race. It’s also the absence of empathy, compassion, or something positive towards another race that one would have toward their own race. So many times, I hear/read white people prefacing racist statements with, ‘I’m not racist, I don’t hate ______ people…’ and then they say something that lacks empathy with brown people, minimalizes the experiences of brown people, or justifies a system that oppresses brown people.

It’s the latter thing, this lack of empathy, that upholds institutional racism. It’s linked to the complacency that accepts the status quo and resists change with the attitude that if something’s not broken, it doesn’t need fixing. Lack of empathy prevents white people from seeing how broken a system is for brown people.

“I have seen white people complain online that they cannot see the facial expressions of (East) Asian faces. For many white people, East Asians are like emotionless robots who are efficient at machine-like things like number crunching. Some white people argue that while East Asians may be able to play musical instruments beautifully, they play music without soul.”

I have heard similar things being said or implied. Sometimes I can’t help but to wonder if the people that said such things also had an agenda. If East Asians really were ‘robots’ that lacked creativity, this would fully justify segregating them in the workplace to heavily repetitive, boring, automated tasks, so that all the fun, creative, and fulfilling jobs would be reserved only for white people: ‘Oh, we’re not racist, we just have to think about this company’s bottom line.’

I’ve also heard East Asians being compared to autistic children in social situations if they don’t automatically ‘get’ cultural cues from white people. This is said with the implication that if they weren’t autistic, but ‘normal,’ they would have understood social cues and followed along. Rarely is it considered that the East Asian person actually ‘got’ them (especially if the East Asian person was actually born in the West) but intentionally ignored them because he/she simply didn’t like them. This would be a reality check, a blow to the ego of the white person. Instead, an ignorant bubble is upheld: ‘Oh, that Asian person would have gotten my joke/appreciated my charm but he/she’s just autistic…’

I’m glad the results of this experiment were published. It’s generated very interesting blog posts and comments.

I wouldn’t be surprised if a shockingly high percentage of POC actually empathize more with white people than with fellow POC.

I’m worried that I might be one of them, since I can switch between the East-Asians-are-emotionless-robots white perspective and the we-POC perspective. I also think that some white people may empathize more with cute kittens being hit than brown people being hit.

I think that it is premature to make many conclusions from such a study. How can they conclude that “empathy” is operating? What is “empathy”, anyway? Ability to decipher social cues? Plenty of psychopaths are great at reading their marks, but don’t give a damn about them. “Empathy” as commonly understood by the public is a moral as well as a perceptual condition.

Why couldn’t this mirror neuron business be a leftover of early childhood learning by observing the closest possible subjects, one’s own family? You are a baby, lying there watching everyone else in your family go places, and you are stuck. Oh, so THAT’S what you do with these things called legs.

I’d do a within-race study of mirror neurons. Do people who resemble your parents and sibs evoke more of a mirror response than people who look quite different? Do people who resemble your parents but speak a different language evoke the same, lesser, or greater mirror neuron firing?

Of course, racism may be a factor affecting mirror neuron firing, but there may be other factors – it seems somewhat unlikely to evolve brain function specifically to deal with skin color, as opposed to “family vs stranger” in general.

How can they conclude that “empathy” is operating? What is “empathy”, anyway? Ability to decipher social cues? Plenty of psychopaths are great at reading their marks, but don’t give a damn about them. “Empathy” as commonly understood by the public is a moral as well as a perceptual condition.

No, it’s not that the researchers find the mirror neurons firing and then conclude that the subjects have some type of moral condition. It’s that neural firing “mirroring” was found, and scientists are trying to use that as theoretical model to explain the human phenomenon of empathy. Mirror neurons are a relatively recent discovery, and they may not really explain that much, but the fact that white people’s mirror neurons fire less when watching non-white people perform tasks supports the theory that mirror neurons are relevant to social-based empathy. Since neuroscientists work under the assumption that the mind can be fully explained by things happening in the brain, the possibility that empathy can be explained by mirror neurons is appealing for its explanatory power.

In this context, “empathy” does not have the exact meaning as the popular understanding of “empathy”. We are talking about a basic, low-level empathy that is just about empathizing with bodies as human bodies. Basic motor action is assumed to be more “primitive” than conscious thoughts, so this very basic low-level empathy may come prior to and be necessary for the higher-level, conscious, more complex empathy as commonly understood by the public (social cues, moral decisions, etc). However, there is no empirical evidence for this yet. Researchers do research like this to find out more and to mainly spread the results to other researchers and scientists so that theoretical scientists may eventually figure out how everything fits together.

Why couldn’t this mirror neuron business be a leftover of early childhood learning by observing the closest possible subjects, one’s own family? You are a baby, lying there watching everyone else in your family go places, and you are stuck. Oh, so THAT’S what you do with these things called legs.

I’m not sure how your example contradicts the idea of mirror neurons.

I’d do a within-race study of mirror neurons. Do people who resemble your parents and sibs evoke more of a mirror response than people who look quite different? Do people who resemble your parents but speak a different language evoke the same, lesser, or greater mirror neuron firing?

Sure, people should do that.

Of course, racism may be a factor affecting mirror neuron firing, but there may be other factors – it seems somewhat unlikely to evolve brain function specifically to deal with skin color, as opposed to “family vs stranger” in general.

Wait, did you even read my post?

Where did anyone suggest that people evolved a brain function specifically to deal with skin color? Just because something happens in the brain, it doesn’t mean that it is innate, since the brain changes due to learning. Neural firing in particular is something that changes in a fraction of a second.

Besides, the researchers for this study think it is about ingroup versus outgroup, and race is just an example of a socially constructed group that this would apply to.

A great post, my only question arises with the images of the Vietnam war, and their effect on the american public.

I’m not sure about that. That was before my time…

Great post indeed! The underlying results are fascinating and so is the experimental bias. I’d love to see a more diverse and larger study … I wonder if there are intersectional effects as well.

Totally agreed about the role of brain plasticity. One more reason I try to avoid environments where I’m constantly subjected to normalization of white male dominance …

I agree with others — excellent post. Thank you for calling attention to and clarifying the important, horrific implications of this study. I too am not surprised, but still, it’s good (?) to have empirical evidence like this.

This study was not done on people of other ethnic racial backgrounds was it? Because the link you provided reads as ethnic/racial groups more likely to show empathy for their in group members than out group members. Now, this is a problem because they only used white people, but I’m just questioning if we can simply state this as a white phenomenon. For instance, would the study hold true for black African-Americans who see clips of white, east Asian, or American Indigenous groups…

I am not contradicting the idea of mirror neurons. I am contradicting the use of the word “empathy”, for exactly the reasons you state – confusion with lay meanings around “empathy”. “Neuronal rehearsal of imitative motor activity” seems more apposite.

I am really surprised here, your post title and post do not really match the study, which, as already mentioned, which attempts to suggest that an ethnic group shows less empathy for another ethnic group. How this was changed to white people lack empathy for people of color is questionable. While it does seem true that white people lack empathy,( I have taken that position before), it also seems to me that all people tend to lack empathy for other ethnic groups that they don’t belong to or identify with. I think you distorted this study to suit a blog post, that is a shame. Some of the comments are equally disappointing.

The actual results of the study show that white people show less empathy for non-white people, since they only tested white people.

We don’t know for sure if only white people are like this, but in the very literal sense, the study shows only that white people lack empathy for non-white people.

In the actual paper, different racial groups elicited different empathy responses. Whites empathized most with Whites, then East Asians, then Blacks, then South Asians. This correlated with other research showing the ranking of racial groups in Canadian society, where South Asians are the most stigmatized.

So it’s more than just ingroup bias. It’s also about racism against people of colour.

I’m glad you mentioned the in-group bias at work here, as well as the appropriate description of racism. However, this study does not show that this neural behavior is inherently unique based on race i.e., that people of other ethnicities, controlling for similar context (even IF it could be done/found) would not respond in the same way as the whites in this study. I think that’s equally important to emphasize.

This study is arguably no more useful to the discussion of racism than if I were to administer an IQ test here in downtown Chicago, for example. Even if I were to find that there were differences along racial lines, without accounting for proper context/variables, it would be no more correct to conclude that intellectual differences are inherently due to race than it is to conclude that white people inherently have less capacity for empathy than non-whites based on this study.

I think this study actually says very little.

This study was worth publishing simply for the fun of watching certain white folks get worked up and sputter random illogic in response!

It’s really telling and quite disturbing how people are jumping through hoops to invalidate the findings of the study. I think it’s really telling and quite disturbing how, when put in the starkest terms, you have more people trying to justify the inhumane core of racism than trying to challenge or undo that. This study isn’t saying anything that POCs (especially African Americans and Native Americans) haven’t been saying for centuries – that there’s something uniquely and particularly askew about White people. Or, to be more accurate, the construction of Whiteness (which is not the same as being of European descent) and what it does to human beings. What’s even more fucked up is that it’s been made pretty clear that White people are not born like that.

It’s quite ironic if you think about it. For decades, White people have used and abused science to “prove” the inferiority of POCs, Now that same science is now putting them in that inferior position, and White people are going apoplectic at the merest suggestion that they could be less human/e than POCs,

It’s like White people want to have their cake and eat it too. They want to seem enlightened for acknowledging systemic racism (aka, “I realize I have White privilege”), but they don’t want to think it taints them as individuals in any way (“It’s just in-group vs. out-group dynamics.”). They want to use the rhetoric and vocabulary of anti-racism, but they don’t want to look at what being racist does to them.

Restructure, I realize that only white people were tested, and I only read the linked abstract, and I don’t think that the results are surprising, but the abstract doesn’t say white people, it says ethnic groups, I think.
From the comments, I gather that Stormfront ideology is valid, or perhaps this is a form of snark?
Restructure, I think you are a very careful writer, so the twist on facts surprised me. Also, are comments supposed to be only in agreement with the presented point of view?

Restructure, I realize that only white people were tested, and I only read the linked abstract, and I don’t think that the results are surprising, but the abstract doesn’t say white people, it says ethnic groups, I think.

In studies of implicit race bias, white people prefer whites to blacks, but black people prefer black people and white people equally. Imagine if the implicit race bias researchers only tested white participants and found that whites preferred whites over blacks. They would conclude that it’s just about “people” having an ingroup race bias, and it would be completely wrong.

In the Clark Doll Experiment, black children preferred white dolls over black dolls. Imagine if the researchers tested only white children, and found that whites preferred white dolls to black dolls. They would conclude that it’s just about “people” having an ingroup bias, and it would be completely wrong.

From the comments, I gather that Stormfront ideology is valid, or perhaps this is a form of snark?

I have difficulty understanding your thought process. Is it that you are unaware that learning corresponds to changes in the brain?

Restructure, I think you are a very careful writer, so the twist on facts surprised me.

If you think it’s a twist of facts, you probably don’t understand the study and are just taking the abstract at face value.

Also, are comments supposed to be only in agreement with the presented point of view?

No, I do not moderate comments except for spam.

it would be no more correct to conclude that intellectual differences are inherently due to race than it is to conclude that white people inherently have less capacity for empathy than non-whites based on this study.

Are you aware that learning occurs in the brain?

“In studies of implicit race bias, white people prefer whites to blacks, but black people prefer black people and white people equally. Imagine if the implicit race bias researchers only tested white participants and found that whites preferred whites over blacks. They would conclude that it’s just about “people” having an ingroup race bias, and it would be completely wrong.”
Restructure, I understand your logic about only testing white people, but that doesn’t seem to be the gist of the post.
I know about the Clark Doll test.
Maybe I read some of the comments incorrectly?

The post was motivated by a misinterpretation over at Racialicious that the study was suggesting that racism was hard-wired. I tried to explain the idea of mirror neurons by invoking a common, lived, visceral experience of POC and/or anti-racists who notice things about white people. The gist of the post is to explain mirror neurons through our (POC) everyday experience.

You know that photo at the top of the post? When I talk to some white people, their eyes look like that, as they stare back at me.

[…] Restructure! points to brain research that may explain racism, specifically that white people lack empathy for brown people. Insert snarky shot at various political tendencies here. […]

[…] Me Something I Don’t Know White people lack empathy for brown people. “Most white people just don’t see us as humans. When brown people die through violence, or […]

Good post. People on that thread keep saying the study was done on White men when it was actually done on 13 White women and 17 White men.
Obviously we can’t take science results as absolute truth and we especially can’t take the discussion section as absolute truth but I think scientists and social scientists put more thought into their studies than people realize. I think scientists see the world as more nuanced than people think they do. I’ve taken basic research methods and statistics and am dismayed when people either believe everything they hear that sounds good to them is true or seem to think a study is complete crap without even looking at it much.
I hope they do end up doing a study like this on people of colour in the near future.

I think scientists see the world as more nuanced than people think they do.

I agree. I recently realized that when I just post science news articles, many people don’t understand the context. They think that the agenda of science is to prove that everything is hard-wired.

I tried to look up if there is psychology research on stereotypes about psychology, but I haven’t found anything yet. Ironically, psychologists study stereotyping and psychology, but not stereotypes about psychology.

“They think that the agenda of science is to prove that everything is hard-wired.”

Yes. It’s like a few evolution psychologists and bad reporters ruin it for the rest of the scientists. “There is a difference between male brains and female brains” does not equal “There is an innate/hard-wired difference between male and female brains.”

It’s like a few evolution psychologists and bad reporters ruin it for the rest of the scientists.

Wow. Now everything makes sense. How I view evolutionary psychology is how most people view psychology … That is horrible. Horrible. Oh god.

If anyone wants to read a good general science blog, I recommend Not Exactly Rocket Science, which is written in plain language, although people who read it tend to be interested in science. Memorable posts are: How objectification silences women – the male glance as a psychological muzzle and Ballistic penises and corkscrew vaginas – the sexual battles of ducks (the latter is memorable just for being weird). Not Exactly Rocket Science moved to Discover Magazine recently.

Well, from what I’ve read it was hard enough to convince scientists that the the brain can change even after early childhood so hopefully this idea will get through to the general population eventually.

To me, the most damning illustration of the lack of empathy displayed by many White people is the apathy that they have for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, where over 1 million people have been killed and millions more maimed, injured, and refugeed thanks to America’s war of aggression, er… “liberation.”

The American aggression against Iraq is the crime of the century–a crime that most Americans (especially White America) respond to with a bored yawn.

Behind all its propaganda about diversity, colorblindness, or post-racialism, Americans view the black, brown, red, and yelllow people outside its borders with thinly disguised contempt and arrogance, viewing them as what the Nazis called “untermenschen,”

Restructure, first, thanks for your explanation and also, patience, more thoughts to come when I get over this cold.

Lyx, didn’t read your link, but I have to say, most people from Iraq and Afghanistan are considered to be white. The recent Times Square bomber was listed as white.

“Lyx, didn’t read your link, but I have to say, most people from Iraq and Afghanistan are considered to be white. The recent Times Square bomber was listed as white.”

You should tell that to the millions of people in Iraq and Afghanistan who are treated as “untermenschen,” “sand niggers,” and “hadji girls” by America’s imperial stormtroopers.

[…] White people lack empathy for brown people, brain research shows. […]

“Empathy” is a rather fuzzy term used to designate a wide range of thoughts and feelings. Some of these are listed below:

1. Imagining bodily sensation (proprioception) felt by another person performing a motor action (picking up the glass, in the case of the research prompting this thread).

2. Interpretation of another person’s “body language”.

3. Strong emotion on seeing a wounded person.

4. Philosophical conviction that other persons “matter” and are to be treated properly (Golden Rule versions).

The study covered in the thread is measuring something on the order of #1. The additional variable is something on the order of #4 – people who have varied degrees of racist ideologies (as measured by a questionnaire). Does degree of subject racist belief affect the degree to which the subject notices the common neutral motor activity of a member of the disliked race? What seems to be the intermediate between seeing and motor neuron rehearsal is the degree of attention given to the actor and his movement. Pardon me, but …duh…someone who the subject regards as being neither important (possessing connections, favors, goods of sexual interest) nor threatening (physical or competitive) is not observed closely.

You should tell that to the millions of people in Iraq and Afghanistan who are treated as “untermenschen,” “sand niggers,” and “hadji girls” by America’s imperial stormtroopers.

Hey, did not know that you were a German stormtrooping Commie, LOL, that is the result of reading your reply, what say you, Commie?

I know U think it is soooo easy to point blame.

This is soo true. At my work I had a coworkers friend die(non-blood relative), and everyone had sympathy and gave cards and such, including myself. It was good to see everyone come together.

When MY family member died however, I received nothing, a couple of sorry for your loss statements, but no card or anything(and this was a blood relative).

Months later a two other coworkers relatives died, and the cards, and the sentiments came out again, only this time I didn’t contribute(what goes around comes around).

When I didn’t contribute to the sympathy party, the whole department was giving me the evil eye, and saying I was being disrespectful.

I was not buying it. A life lost is a life lost, I wasn’t going to contribute to someones sympathy when no one contributed to mine when I needed it.

I totally agree with this article.

I think it’s interesting that POC are expected to produce visible evidence of loyalty in some way, as though we have to constantly ‘update’ our allegiance to whiteness like it’s some kind of yearly subscription. I don’t buy into that sort of thing either. To me, the ‘evil eye’ is an indication of their sense of racial entitlement and has nothing to do with me as a person.

To add, everyone mourns in different ways too. It’s not always out there or produced in gifts and cards.

Let me guess. You must be a Proud Amurikan. Whenever the bloodstained truth about America is raised, fuckers like you instinctively throw a hissy fit like no other.

You should go Seig Heil your swastika and stripes flag, and support your beloved stormtroopers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I wonder what effect nationality has on this?

I assume the study was done by American scientists on white Americans, and maybe this does show some form of apathy towards poc, but does this hold true for all white people?

I am not American (New Zealander) and I can easily believe that this could hold true for white people here (including myself, despite what I may feel about that fact) towards some of the ethnic minorities over here.

I say that because people of African descent make up such a extremely small proportion of the total population (as opposed to say, pacific peoples or east asian peoples) because of that I would guess that a lack of empathy towards African people is perhaps not present (to the same degree) in white people from countries that lack the minority (or its presence in media/pop culture).

I have my own vivid memories of visiting America when I was 9 we passed through some areas that were very heavily black. I felt nowhere near the same kind of unease that I did around areas back home that had a dominant minority population.

People of all colors have difficulty empathizing with people who are different-looking, different-acting, far away, etc. I would not doubt that as a neurological and biological fact. And from a cold evolutionary standpoint, it makes sense.

You are programmed to reproduce your genetic material, to protect your offspring. Not only that, but humans are programmed not just to care for their immediate offspring, but anybody representative of their genetic material. If there is an explosion 10 miles from your home that kills 10 people, it is easier to feel and understand that loss than it is for you to get the huge impact of 10,000 deaths 10,000 miles away. You can recognize it intellectually, but emotionally it will be harder to grasp. This is *not* a product of your skin color, this is a product of a biological imperative shared by all living organisms.

Why didn’t this study similarly test other races? Because sometimes it’s just more satisfying to reassure yourself that whites are TEH EVIL, not that it’s human nature itself that causes the unimaginable (literally!) cruelty and disregard for other human beings’ lives.

Reading the other comments here only proves my theory that racism (if you could really call it that in this instance) and indifference is a HUMAN trait, not a WHITE trait. The crass generalizations and assumptions based on prejudice here could sink a large ship full of many people very far away, and none of you would care. YOU COLD BASTARDS. (Okay that last bit was an attempt at humor.)

Interesting How anonymous chooses to remain so, might get called some names or had some racist accusation thrown their way by one track thinkers who love to hate. Pity, really.

Let me guess. You must be a Proud Amurikan. Whenever the bloodstained truth about America is raised, fuckers like you instinctively throw a hissy fit like no other.

You should go Seig Heil your swastika and stripes flag, and support your beloved stormtroopers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

______________
According to you, Colin Powell doesn’t count,—white people working min. wage at Wallmart do, genius logic, thanks for the illumination.

Please see the (updated) post White people are different from people. You will see that sometimes, studies about white people are really studies about white people, not people in general.

[…] White people lack empathy for brown people, brain research shows. […]

[…] Warum in diesem tragischen Fall anders als in München bei Dominik Brunner überhaupt gezögert wurde, kann die Stadt Frankfurt am Main bestimmt beantworten. […]

I’m sorry I missed this when it was posted. It’s both interesting and disheartening.

I’m kind of surprised at how some of the commenters apparently didn’t read the entire post, or perhaps skipped strategic parts – like the statement about how there was a more pronounced trend with those who scored higher on implicit bias tests.

Sorry, “kind of surprised” is not entirely accurate. More like “kind of expected it.”

no surprises there – I have always heard people at work say “they all look the same” as if our existences are inconsequential, there is a lot of white arrogance on earth however I think it is more biological than something that is developed, I say this because wherever you go even in Africa where white people who live there amongst Africans have had the opportunity to live amongst other races and as a minority group still show signs of ignorance, excessive stereotyping and disdain for the “natives” case in point South Africa, I think we will only ever win with them by knowing how they think, minding our own business and being proud of our own cultures.

[…] children after seeing the toys outside? I don’t know the races of the officers involved, but a recent study showing that white people’s mirror neurons don’t react to watching People… is certainly […]

What many of the comments say to me is that the old American middle class is becoming an out group. Particularly the middle class that is older, whiter, less skilled and less educated. White people fit these characteristics often tend to live in rural areas (graying ghettos) where the median age is creeping into the 40’s, or sometimes suburbs. Median age for the rest of the US is about 37. Most younger people have some intolerance towards older people who say dumb things. Today’s youth culture has more minorities than our elder culture.

White people who live in the suburbs are often the children of the old middle class who have moved closer to urban areas, in one generation or the other, which is why it is a swing territory between the old guard and the new. The cities tend to be hipsters, immigrants and minorities, the youngest group. However, these groups are mixing things up lately. You are getting minorities in the suburbs and rich people moving back to retire in the countryside (although they are picky about where). Statistically, where we live and what our characteristics are can be very interesting. It is counter intuitive.

I agree there is probably a lot of white people who don’t relate as much to minorities, particularly white people who have more bias. I would also like to note that our inability to relate to people dying in the Iraq War has a lot to do with people in developed countries not understanding the politics or economic realities in developing countries. This is because by living somewhere that our premature death matters, we are ALL PRIVILEGED in some way or another. What empathy minorities have of ‘that could be me’ does not mean they actually expect to die in a third world country.

Also, everyone has a bias, live with it and accept it.

Also, everyone has a bias, live with it and accept it.

No. Many of those biases are harmful and dangerous to people.

True. I don’t think that it is good to let harmful biases slide unchallenged. So that is a good point. I do think it is unrealistic to assume that people will become blank slates to be 100% reprogrammed once they start accumulating experiences. Changing people’s views once they are set in place often requires trauma. Wars count. However, it depends on if you think it is worth the price.

Racism seems to follow different logical paths: some racists are stubborn and refuse to adapt to changing norms. These are the people who live in a society where racism is unacceptable but seek out people who will validate their beliefs. I don’t have that much sympathy for them but do understand that it is a view that loses out long-term as it makes it hard to network. I’ll let the market sort them out. If they are not independently wealthy that kind of attitude will hit them in the pocketbook. Game theory explains a lot about why younger people are nicer than older people who already have jobs and property, so have enough resources to be unpleasant.

A different subset of racists tend to be in the ignorant camp, primarily older people who lack positive experiences. A lot of racist people live in areas where the only contact they have with black people is from TV crime reports and the only arabs they hear about are suicide bombers. These people have no social contact with normal minorities who for the most part avoid these areas like the plague. They have almost no experiences that would allow them to understand minorities as human. This makes them think that minorities must be inherently pathological because who really would think it was OK to shoot someone over a pair of sneakers? And this is what the TV tells us about young black urban culture. Until the media that is consumed by less adaptive Americans changes, this problem will persist.

This should tell you who your real enemies are, more adaptive middle class people find it expensive to be racist, extremely wealthy people sometimes benefit from the ability to discriminate. If you can pay people less because they are an out group and there is active discrimination, you can get the same quality of worker for much less money. All you have to do is manipulate people who have no active experience with this out group and they will vote your way.

This is basically racist crap, get that chip off your shoulder and get over it! Bloody morons like this that stop integration and progression.

[…] Restructure!, in this comment. […]

“According to you, Colin Powell doesn’t count,—white people working min. wage at Wallmart do, genius logic, thanks for the illumination.”

What the hell are you babbling about.

Maybe you haven’t figured it out yet, Prof. Logic, but Colin Powell is a political house negro. He serves the interests of your White-dominated America and its wars. He’s a “Black face” that America so courageously hides behind.

And last I checked, many White people working at Walmart also support your war criminals in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And here’s some more examples of your American “empathy” in all its sadism, war porn:

Fascinating! I am of mixed ‘race’ I was born in England and brought up by my mother who is white, whilst my dad who was mainly out of the picture is part African. I was brought up in a white area, and went to an all-white school. As a result I would get singled out and bullied mostly at school, and get called Wog and nigger, brownie and blackie. These insults REALLY hurt me at the time.

The other day I saw this very moving video Race Doll Test http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0eHIkgh1K_0

So if it is so that buries beneath bravado there is a lot of self-hatred about the colour of skin because or may traumas throughout an oppressed life, sacred plants help us explore this. We —ALL of us–especially many of the whites need healing

That non-feeling that whites feel indigenous people would call ‘soul loss’ and this can be restored via sacred ritual. It is like a rigidity that has set and is not flowing any more, or its dynamism is flowing in a rigid frozen pattern.

Meh. As far as I know there wasn’t any particular problem with having black kids at our school, or indian kids, or chinese kids or whoever else. I am pretty sure it was more important to take calculus in high school than it was to worry too much about the ethnicity of classmates. Maybe I was just oblivious but it seemed like such a non-issue for the most part. Being a teenager is hard enough without complicating it.

Although one of my black friends had problems with adults in her life (her parents and their church) after she chose to date a blonde boy we met out and about on spring break rather than a nice religious african american. She felt so discriminated against, she pulled us all into the controversy. I was driving her around so she could see her boyfriend. Now that is loyalty!!

@Lxy,
So Colin Powel is not allowed to have his own opinions because they counter-act your political views? I never got the whole black = same meme. I would have thought that there were a lot of diversity of views held by black people just like there are in all other ethnic groups. Colin Powel is a serious politician. He might have miscalculated with George W. Bush, but so did a lot of people. I never made that mistake but know some people who did. I was too cynical to vote for Bush and thought the Republican Party in general was playing too many games. I did respect some of the career bureaucrats and politicians, I just didn’t like the direction the overall party was going.

If you want a black politician to beat up, might I suggest Micheal Steel? For his senate race in 2006 he ran ads in richer areas of Maryland suggesting that he was a double minority, a black Republican and that the Democrats would say all sorts of nasty things about him, including that he hated puppies. To compete in poorer sections of Maryland he gave out sample ballots suggesting he was a Democrat.

I’m not sure if this is related to the original blog topic, but I was reading the news about Abby Sunderland, a 16-year-old sailor who was traveling on her own and who recently went missing, and I couldn’t help wondering how much compassion there would be in the comments section if she weren’t a pretty young thing with white skin and blond hair. If she had brown skin and black hair, had a non-Western name, and weren’t as pleasing to the eye, would her being missing even have become news? And if it did, would there have been more comments chiding her parents and calling her stupid?

It just made me sick, to be honest.

I see a lot of hate and anger in this thread, and a lot of people patting each other on the back for it. There are so many ways we’ve all learned to attack one another. These days it just seems politically correct to only attack in one direction. I find this whole conversation does nothing to move humankind forward in a positive direction.

i guess its only the white race that is racist?

I reject this article, and it’s racist content.

I am from Sweden, my country tops the list of countries that accept refugee’s (from wartorn countries, countries where political haunt and such proceeds, and of course the number is based per capita). Sweden was “originally” (of course sweden such as alot of the nordic countries were built by immigration, from and beyond what were to be called Europe).

This obviously rejects your whole article.

I’ve been robbed twice in my life, both times non-white’s were the offendors. You cant explain that that’s due to the “white-supremist-racism”..

Oh for god’s sake, people. The article says that white people show fewer signs of empathy when viewing people of color than when viewing white people. From my experience, this is simply true. White people dismiss POC concerns as irrelevant, frivolous or outright lies (such as the above comment). Get over your defensiveness and stop trying to use anecdotes to prove the study wrong. If you want to prove the study wrong, you’ll need to go a bit further than talking about how your country accepts immigrants and refugees on the internet.

I’ve been robbed once in my life, by a black woman, and yet somehow I am able to see that black people are not criminal by nature. But I can see how institutionalized racism that maintains a racist wealth gap can make it easier for black people to turn to crime simply to eat.

So yes, I do believe that a white supremacist system can lead to crime. It already does, demonstrably so.

It’s true that the referenced study only envolved white participants. But it’s also true that it mirrors the results from other studies in which non-white participants showed similar responses such as this one:

Yet the blog author uses anecdotal evidence to suggest only whites show less empathy for others. Why rely on anecdotes? Why not find research to support your views? Easy answer — Not only does the blog author’s anecdotes contradict statements made in the study that he himself referenced but there simply aren’t any studies supporting the blog author’s claims of empathic disparity. And I say that after having read the Harvard study on implicitness.

The thing is, you’re dealing with apples and oranges. There is a difference between empathy and preference. People empathize because they identify. And contrary to the impression you were trying to convey most people of any race will empathize more with someone who looks like themselves. Cut into black skin and an african observer will squirm more than if one had cut into another color because their brain sees a connection to the observer’s own hand. Maybe the blog author is abnormal in this regard. But my guess is that they’re just lying. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have created a whole blog just to smear whites.

Yeah, I’m trying really hard to get access to that Italian (purple people) study, but it’s still in press. I need to check if the African Italians were born and raised in an African country, or if they were born in Italy. Here is a better overview about that study.

In the Italian study, they found that the empathetic response is linked to the race Implicit Association Test (IAT):

For example, white Italians are typically quicker to associate positive words with the term “Italian” and negative ones with the term “African”. And the faster they make those connections, the greater the differences in their responses to the stabbed black and white hands.

However, I commented on the article:

Were the black Italians African immigrants, or were they born and raised in Italy? Did the black Italians associate negative words with the term “Italian” and positive words with the term “African”?

When the race IAT is used on American participants, white Americans have a pro-white bias, but black Americans on the whole have both a pro-white and pro-black bias. I assume that this is because American culture as a whole associates whiteness with positivity and blackness with negativity, and black Americans are raised in American culture. I wonder if the black Italians were raised in a black-majority culture, or if they were raised in white-majority Italy.

In other words, if the empathetic response is linked to the race IAT, then it suggests that for (U.S.) Americans, black people would empathize with blacks and whites equally. The Italian study appears to show something different, and I’m not sure if it’s because the African or black Italians were raised in a different country, or if it’s because Italian race dynamics are different from the that of the U.S.

I’d be happy to correct the errors in your other hypotheses regarding IAT and country of origin… right after we finish discussing the topic which you initiated in this article.

You claimed there was a disparity in the amount of empathy whites had for non whites versus the amount of empathy non whites had for whites. And you began your article by saying, “and I’m not at all surprised. For years, I just assumed that this was true, and that someone just had to do a study to prove it.” But the article you cited doesn’t “prove it”. In fact, it says the opposite. And the study I cited also contradicts your claim.

Given that your article’s claim and what “For years, [you] just assumed [to be] true” have been shown to be false I challenge you to admit your error. But more importantly, I challenge you to admit your prejudice.

How does the study I cited say the opposite?

The Italian study may not contradict my claim, because I can’t find out the participant recruitment method.

“How does the study I cited say the opposite?”

I didn’t say the “study” you cited says the opposite. I said the “article” you cited says the opposite. You cited an article – not a study. The article was reporting on a study done at the University of Toronto-Scarborough. The article you cited quotes Gutsell as saying, “Previous research shows people are less likely to feel connected to people outside their own ethnic groups, and we wanted to know why.” It does not say, “Previous research shows white people are less likely to feel connected to people outside their own ethnic groups” now does it? But that’s exactly the way you presented it. And that was dishonest of you.

Perhaps you should admit your error rather than trying to weasel out with some nonsense about the “participant recruitment method” regarding the Italian study. After all, we both know you’ve been caught in a lie. So just scrape together a little dignity and admit your mistake. Otherwise, I’m going to be forced to conclude that you are knowingly and willfully bigoted and the purpose of your blog is nothing more than to promote racial prejudice.

You too are dealing with apples and oranges. What Restructure is focusing on, is wide scale murder and white people’s continued historical inability to feel empathy, during scenarios that should garner automatic human feelings of concern. Even though they are highly un-relateable.

What you are talking about, and trying to nullify this study with, has to do with people witnessing personal small scale injury. Something almost all people can relate to because it’s realistic and far more common. There’s no comparison.

So Colin Powel is not allowed to have his own opinions because they counter-act your political views? I never got the whole black = same meme. I would have thought that there were a lot of diversity of views held by black people just like there are in all other ethnic groups. Colin Powel is a serious politician. He might have miscalculated with George W. Bush, but so did a lot of people. I never made that mistake but know some people who did. I was too cynical to vote for Bush and thought the Republican Party in general was playing too many games. I did respect some of the career bureaucrats and politicians, I just didn’t like the direction the overall party was going.”

Are you related to Kathy? You are babbling about tangential strawman arguments just like her, and carefully avoiding the fundamental issues I raised. Namely, America’s many war crimes, and the American people’s predictable indifference and tacit support for these crimes.

And I don’t give a damn what Colin Powell’s personal opinions are. I do give a damn about the criminal American institutions and broader policies that he pimps for.

Here is more about your beloved “serious politician” General Colin Powell.

He is serious alright. A serious American war criminal.

Fred, this lack of empathy for people of color is in context with a history of colonialization, racist oppression, and white supremacy.

In the US, everyone is expected to identify with the straight, white, cis man, while no one is expected to identify with anyone who doesn’t fit into those categories. This is why black people tend to be biased toward both black people and white people in the IAT while white people tend to be biased toward white people alone.

I didn’t read Restructure’s post as saying that only white people can lack empathy, but that the lack of empathy from white people is particularly damaging.

I’m not concerned with your scapegoating and grudge mongering mainly because I just really don’t care. I guess you could say I lack empathy for your baloney. :)
My concern is that restructure is misrepresenting a scientific study to promote prejudice. And I’ve pretty much shown that.

Grudge mongering what? I’m white.

Also, I don’t think you’ve shown anything of the sort. I think you’re having an issue with Restructure expressing an opinion informed by experience in addition to reporting on the study in question.

Thanks for sharing a completely irrelevant and unsupported opinion. Next time try to add something of value.

My comments were to restructure, not you. And they concerned her misrepresenting an article to promote prejudice. The article didn’t say what she claimed. And I presented another study which demonstrated her claim was false. Then she tried to weasel her way out of it with some crap about the “participant recruitment method”. What I’m saying isn’t a matter of opinion. It’s a matter of fact. And she knows it. Which is why she shut her mouth.

Now you’re scape goating and grudge mongering. That’s what you did. Saying you’re white doesn’t change that. And I don’t even care what you are. Unless you have something substantive to say regarding the study then I just don’t really have time to listen to someone who’d argue to the death that water isn’t wet. So do you have something substantive to add to the discussion regarding the study or not?

Do explain how I was “scapegoating” and “grudge mongering”? It seems like your copy-and-paste response doesn’t fit me all too well. What I pointed out was actually a logical factor. One that you over-looked (and didn’t comment on), whether intentional or not. Your hostility btw, was still apparent even with your smiley face going by your choice (not to mention order) of the words you used. But I won’t get into that now.

The only issue with studies like this is that it causes people to take the results at face value. One still needs to let REAL researchers come to an actual scientific conclusion after doing a long series of tests, As there could be (and probably are) unseen variables that researchers haven’t taken into account. THEN release the results to the public on their own. So people don’t make rash and pre-mature conclusions on their own. Now, do I believe that this is true about whites? Personally? Yes. Given the things I hear from a lot (not all) of them about:

– The Holocaust being a myth
– The mocking of Arab civilians being killed in the war
– The twisting of facts about Slavery
– The downplaying of their history of genocide
– The denial of White Privilege

…and many, many other things on the already long list of “white ignorance fueled” examples. It’s odd though, because I RARELY hear comments of the same consistency and caliber, (if ever) from other racial groups. Which is not me saying that has never/can never happen, I just haven’t heard it/seen it. Whether online or in the streets.

Now having said that, I’m actually empathetic towards whites. I believe that when confronted with this information, those that accept it will want to find ways to work on this problem. Not sweep it under the rug, or ignore it all together when they dismiss it as “white guilt lovers nonsense”.

The title of this article should really be “White People Disproportionately Lack Empathy More Often. Brain Research Shows.”

mephisto writes Do explain how I was “scapegoating” and “grudge mongering”?

When someone manufacturers a laundry list of grievances whether real or imagined I think its fair to call it scapegoating and grudgemongering. Lisa did that in spades. True enough you let it go with some vague reference to “wide scale murder” but I think it merits your inclusion in that criticism. I should, however, point out that right after you protested being included in that criticism you followed up with a laundry list of your own. That was hypocritical and not very bright.

What I pointed out was actually a logical factor.

What you pointed out was irrelevant to the comment I made. And was particularly hypocritical since the article I referenced was as relevant to the claims restructure made as the one she herself referenced. In other words, you were cherry picking your criticisms rather than applying the standard equally. But once again, I’m not nearly as interested in the claims she’s making as her misrepresentation of the article to promote racial prejudice.

The only issue with studies like this is that it causes people to take the results at face value. One still needs to let REAL researchers come to an actual scientific conclusion after doing a long series of tests

“At face value” is the only way to take results. Raw data is raw data. And I’m reluctant to accept any researcher’s conclusions without adding my own “sanity check”. Other’s conclusions is what one should not take at face value. By the way, I should point out that restructure is not a “REAL researcher” so by your own standard her conclusion isn’t worth squat. Once again, you’ve shown yourself to be hypocritical and not very bright.

THEN release the results to the public on their own. So people don’t make rash and pre-mature conclusions on their own.

Like restructure and her readers regularly do.

It’s odd though, because I RARELY hear comments of the same consistency and caliber, (if ever) from other racial groups.

That’s odd. Because I’ve found plenty of such comments from other racial groups just on this thread alone. And that includes comments by you, lisa and restructure.

The title of this article should really be “White People Disproportionately Lack Empathy More Often. Brain Research Shows.”

That’s the whole point of this disucssion – the “brain research” referenced didn’t show that. I’ve demonstrated that it doesn’t show that. So unless you have something substantive to add you’re simply arguing that “water isn’t wet”. In future comments to me I’d appreciate it if you would address this issue rather than masturbating to your pet grievances.

I enjoy your primal demonstrations of hostility, which are no doubt stemming from your own hurt feelings over a study that attempts to dig into the core of the “white physique”. Sorry but my point wasn’t “cherry picking” and it was actually 100% appropriate because it IS a logical factor that needs to be taken in account. (Way to use your privilege to turn this discussion to being all about YOU, btw!) If you don’t accept it as such, because you don’t WANT it to be, then that’s not my fault. As it doesn’t make it any less of a factor. It sounds as if you enjoy removing certain variables to help make your case.

While I’m not completely convinced of these results, I DO think that there is something to this study, as it’s still very early in the experiment to tell. The problem with your hand poke test is that the people MOST LIKELY (subconsciously) visualized the hands as their own and not one that belongs to a separate person. Which would garner such results. Yet another variable you overlooked/didn’t take into account. If a study that had a person getting attacked or injured (with their face showing), showed the same results as the hand poke test, then you might be on to something.

Until then, and until researchers do this test properly, keep your dismissals and derailments out of this discussion. While I don’t have a problem with being wrong, (which I will admit to, if I am in the end) it seems like even if study after study shows you’re wrong, that you won’t accept it. As you’re rabidly fighting tooth-and-nail against a new study that could prove there indeed lies something, deep within the mind of whites.

Perhaps you should admit your error rather than trying to weasel out with some nonsense about the “participant recruitment method” regarding the Italian study.

Before the Italian study came out, I purposely wrote a post criticizing the participant recruitment methods of similar psychology studies so that I wouldn’t be accused of moving goalposts, if a racial empathy study came out that used both black and white participants. Just because you don’t understand how “participant recruitment method” could undermine the study’s conclusions, it doesn’t mean that it’s actually crap, son.

Which is why she shut her mouth.

I didn’t shut my mouth. I was actually busy with more important things than some guy who thinks a study’s “participant recruitment method” is irrelevant to the soundness of the study’s conclusions.

Fred, you said your comments were to Restructure, but you named Mephisto and I directly.

I don’t know what you could possibly mean by scapegoating, unless you think white people have not historically done all of these things.

I assume you mean by grudgemongering that everyone commenting here is only saying the stuff we’re saying because we hate white people. I don’t think anyone commenting here hates white people, and I think both the scapegoating and grudgemongering accusations are nothing more than rhetorical attempts to shift the discussion away from the actual study under discussion and make it about how white people are supposedly persecuted by people of color.

mephisto writes, Sorry but my point wasn’t “cherry picking” and it was actually 100% appropriate because it IS a logical factor that needs to be taken in account.

You accepted one article dealing with neutral actions while rejecting another that had “to do with people witnessing personal small scale injury.” That reasoning is arbitrary and capricious. Therefore, you engaged in “cherry picking”.

If you don’t accept it as such, because you don’t WANT it to be, then that’s not my fault. As it doesn’t make it any less of a factor. It sounds as if you enjoy removing certain variables to help make your case.

I evaluate information objectively. It’s my response that is subjective.

While I’m not completely convinced of these results, I DO think that there is something to this study, as it’s still very early in the experiment to tell.

Holding views which aren’t supported by the evidence is the definition of “prejudice”. Still, admitted speculation is better than deliberate and willful misrepresentation.

The problem with your hand poke test is that the people MOST LIKELY (subconsciously) visualized the hands as their own

The issue you raise with the hand poke experiment deserves consideration. As well it should, it’s the same issue I raised in a previous comment regarding the article restructure referenced.

Until then, and until researchers do this test properly, keep your dismissals and derailments out of this discussion.

Au contraire, mon frère! Until researchers repeat the “motor task” experiment with non white participants it’s perfectly reasonable to dismiss restructure’s claims (and your speculations) as unsupported. You can’t base conclusions on what you think the results might be.

She made the argument. And it’s HER responsibility to prove it. It’s not my responsibility to prove the converse. I need only provide a reasonable doubt for her argument to fail. And it sounds like you think there is a bit more work to do before the research settles this issue. However, I must point out that restructure wrote as if this was a done deal. So whether you realize it or not you just declared restructure’s argument invalid.

While I don’t have a problem with being wrong, (which I will admit to, if I am in the end) it seems like even if study after study shows you’re wrong, that you won’t accept it. As you’re rabidly fighting tooth-and-nail against a new study that could prove there indeed lies something, deep within the mind of whites.

I don’t have a problem with being wrong either. It’s just that I so rarely am. But don’t you think you should actually find a study that actually shows me to be wrong before you say something like that?

Out of curiosity, do you suppose “there indeed lies something, deep within the mind of” blacks which makes them prone to rape and murder?

restructure writes, “Just because you don’t understand how “participant recruitment method” could undermine the study’s conclusions, it doesn’t mean that it’s actually crap, son.”

I understand “participant recruitment method” and I read the article you linked before I posted my first comment. But none of that is relevant to your claim because there were no non white participants in the study your article referenced. Therefore, your claim is unfounded and simply demonstrates your own prejudices. If you can’t back your sh* up then you need to retract it with an apology for being such a bigot.

Lisa writes, “Fred, you said your comments were to Restructure, but you named Mephisto and I directly.”

Yes. My original comments were to restructure. I addressed you and mephisto because you addressed me.

I don’t know what you could possibly mean by scapegoating…”

I already explained what I meant in a previous comment.

Please remove yourself from this conversation. You add nothing of value. I apologize if that sounds curt. But I’m just not interested in anything you have to say.

I fudged the italics in my response to Lisa. She can figure it out. Then again, probably not.

Are you intentionally missing the part where I said that I wasn’t completely convinced by this study, in my last post? I said that I felt there is something TO this study. Going by the constant examples from whites in the past and present, with their remarks offline and online. That’s just my opinion, which you don’t like obviously. But that’s your own issue. This study which did a single type of experiment, that didn’t test the brain in an appropriate manner, (my opinion again) doesn’t disprove anything (to me at least). So like I said earlier, I’ll continue to believe this, I’m until proven wrong by an accurate test.

About your “black test” comment…

If white people didn’t have a long and continued history of raping everything on the planet (when it comes to people, cultures, animals, and resources) as well as a continued history of murder, then there might be a cause for such a study. But since whites are still prone to rape and murder to this day, just like every other race, then that issue with blacks isn’t nearly as exclusive as you tried to “jokingly hint”. For there to be a need for such a study on blacks, whites world wide would have to cease these actions almost completely (that means pretty much ZERO, btw) for a very long time.

Uh-oh, I sense a derailment on the horizon. (Which I won’t respond to btw, as it has nothing to do with this particular article.)

I understand “participant recruitment method” and I read the article you linked before I posted my first comment. But none of that is relevant to your claim because there were no non white participants in the study your article referenced. Therefore, your claim is unfounded and simply demonstrates your own prejudices. If you can’t back your sh* up then you need to retract it with an apology for being such a bigot.

The participant recruitment method is relevant to the Italian study, where there were black participants. Again, I don’t know if the black Italians were born and raised in Italy, or if they were raised in a black-majority country. I’m still waiting for the actual paper to be published, as it is still in press.

mephisto writes, “Are you intentionally missing the part where I said that I wasn’t completely convinced by this study, in my last post?”

No. I acknowledged that in my last comment to you. Go back and re read it. The part about “admitted speculation” refers to you and “deliberate misrepresentation” refers to restructure. In the context of this discussion that should have been obvious.

I said that I felt there is something TO this study.

You “felt” there is something to this study? feelings? FEELINGS. Oh, yes. I remember now. The great study by Bullberg and Shitstein on the scientific validity of “feelings”.

This study which did a single type of experiment, that didn’t test the brain in an appropriate manner, (my opinion again) doesn’t disprove anything (to me at least).

You’re certainly entitled to your opinion which is apparently based on feelings. But at some point the preponderance of the evidence makes your opinion untenable.

So like I said earlier, I’ll continue to believe this, I’m until proven wrong by an accurate test.

What kind of study would it take before you agreed that water is wet?

If white people didn’t have a long and continued history…

Some whites have engaged in misbehaviors. Where we disagree, however, is when you imply this is somehow peculiar to whites and that other groups ie asians, arabs, hispanics, africans, etc haven’t similarly engaged in misbehaviors. If you’re suggesting that the nature of the behavior is some how different or the scope is somehow greater then I’d be perfectly willing to discuss that. But as you said, that strays from the original topic a bit. So why do you keep bringing it up?

But since whites are still prone to rape and murder to this day, just like every other race,…

Hold a sec. First you imply there is something fundamentally different regarding whites which makes them predisposed to misbehavior. But then when challenged on the black propensity for rape and murder your defense is that…

since whites are still prone to rape and murder to this day, just like every other race,

You can’t have it both ways. So which is it? Are whites different or the same?

then that issue with blacks isn’t nearly as exclusive as you tried to “jokingly hint”.

Of course, other races have their rapists and murderers as well. There is no crime which is exclusive to one group. But blacks commit rape and murder at many times the rate of any other racial group. And this isn’t just true of one group of blacks but every population regardless of where they live.

For there to be a need for such a study on blacks, whites world wide would have to cease these actions almost completely (that means pretty much ZERO, btw) for a very long time.

Actually, there has been such a study. It’s called “criminal statistics”. And there have also been genetic studies which have identified the genes associated with violent behavior. Would you care to guess who has the highest rates of these genes? Since you guys have shown an inability to read and understand written studies I’ll give you a video. Note this video both quotes and cites original studies which you should have no problem finding online. Also, the intermission on “killer bees” is priceless. hehe

Uh-oh, I sense a derailment on the horizon.

Actually, the video isn’t a derailment since it concerns the topics being discussed, namely, a physiological cause for alleged disparity on empathy. And I can think of no greater indicator for empathy (or lack thereof) than violence and aggression. But I can understand if you don’t want to tackle a study on this topic. It’s so much easier to just trust your prejudices. Oops! I meant “feelings”.

Going by the constant examples from whites in the past and present, with their remarks offline and online.

What kind of comments? You mean comments like these?

restructure writes, “The participant recruitment method is relevant to the Italian study, where there were black participants.”

Let me make sure I understand your objections. You think the Italian study may be inconclusive because you’re unsure of the “participant recuitment method” used to select the black participants? Is that correct?

Moderator edit: N-word is edited out. From now on, the n-word is banned.

I think the results of the Italian study may not be generalizable to racial minorities (in general), since it is possible that the black Italian participants were raised in a culture where they were the racial majority (as well).

Then how can you base your claims of empathic disparity on a study which didn’t have any minority participants at all? You’re using one standard to question my study while ignoring that standard to defend your own.

The Canadian study (the one this post is about) is also not generalizable to racial minorities (in general), since no racial minorities (never mind who were born and raised in Canada) participated. The Italian study may not be generalizable to racial minorities (in general), since the racial minorities may or may not have been all born and raised in Italy. In both cases, we are unsure whether the results generalize to racial minorities (in general), since racial minorities (born and raised in the same culture as the racial majority) were not explicitly tested.

However, we know that the racial majority (white people) were explicitly tested in both the Canadian and Italian studies, and I assume that the white people were born and raised in the country they were tested in.

Again, when we look at race IAT tests with White Americans and African Americans, who are generally born and raised in the U.S., we find that there is an asymmetrical racial relation. Whites have a pro-white bias, but blacks generally have both a pro-white and pro-black bias.

I think you need to read the claim “White people lack empathy for brown people” more literally, as the empathetic disparity is between their empathy for whites and their empathy for non-white people. My points about my empathy for white people and how people of colour have to put ourselves in white people’s shoes are “real” for independent reasons – because I’m not making up the squirming and the fact that white protagonists dominate fiction in all media is true. The point is that white people are not a convincing model for how people in general behave, especially when we’re talking about race.

The Canadian study (the one this post is about) is also not generalizable to racial minorities (in general), since no racial minorities (never mind who were born and raised in Canada) participated.

No shit. How many times did I have to beat you upside the head with that before you finally realized you couldn’t weasel out of it? But you still did a great job trying to downplay it instead of taking full responsibility for your misrepresentation. Admitting the study doesn’t support empathic disparity would be a great start. How about it? Do you think you can scrape together enough integrity for that? I’m thinking a nice moderator edit in big red letters right under the title of the article should do it.

Something like this should do it.

Attention readers: The Canadian study cited in this article does NOT support the idea of an empathic disparity between whites and others. Any suggestion that such a disparity exists is the blog author’s opinion and is not supported by the Canadian study.

Amazing. You’re trying to take credit for a basic point that was in the post in the beginning, that was reiterated again in the “White people are different from people” post, and that was made in the original Racialicious post.

Even this post says “they simply found physical evidence that white people have difficulty empathizing with non-white people” and “Maybe the researchers should test if people of colour really dehumanize white people as much as white people dehumanize us.”

Amazing. You’re trying to take credit for a basic point that was in the post in the beginning, that was reiterated again in the “White people are different from people” post, and that was made in the original Racialicious post.

The “amazing” part is that I repeatedly questioned that in comment after comment and it only took you THIRTY-ONE COMMENTS . since I first brought it up for you to get around to addressing it.

Why was that? Because that wasn’t your intention. And how can I know what your intention was? Because you demonstrated your intentions in three main ways.

First, rather than simply saying this study dealt exclusively with white participants and may or may not hold for other groups you spent the entire article drawing distinctions between whites and other groups.

Second, by using exclusionary language such as your repeated references to “us”, “them”, “brown people” and “people of color” as if there is any more commonality between “brown people” or “people of color” than between tall people, short people or people with big feet. Indeed, asians and africans are among the most genetically, physiologically and behaviorally different populations on the planet. In neary every measurable category whites fall mid way in between africans and asians. “People of color” is a meaningless term to imply something which doesn’t exist.

Third, you spent a great deal of time manufacturing pseudo examples to suggest the results of the motor neuron study are exclusive to whites. You mentioned an emotional expression study, the clark doll experiment as well as more questionable anecdotes such as your alleged squirming during medical shows as well as having to “put ourselves into white people’s shoes to understand the stories…” None of which have any proven link to empathy. Or even “motor neuron firing” for that matter.

And, fourth, multiple reader comments assumed a disparity and used the allegation as part of an attack to smear whites. While I don’t hold you responsble for your reader’s comments, it is telling that you let it go without so much as a peep while jumping on anyone who questioned the association with empathy or that a study which failed to find a disparity supports your suggestions that a disparity exists.

But you’ve pointed out your most questionable comments yourself in your last comment, ie.

“they simply found physical evidence that white people have difficulty empathizing with non-white people”

As you say in your own article and I quote, “white people’s mirror-neuron-system fires much less, if at all, when they watch people of colour performing motor tasks”

Fine. I’ve no objections to that. It’s your sneaky switch from “motor neurons” to “empathy” that’s the problem. The study doesn’t say that. You did. And you misrepresented the study to suggest that it supports you in this. It doesn’t.

As well as you’re implication that, “Maybe the researchers should test if people of colour really dehumanize white people as much as white people dehumanize us.”

The study doesn’t say this, either. Again this is your misrepresentation of the study to support your biases. The study says nothing about dehumanizing anyone. It’s simply talking about fewer mirror motor neurons firing when someone drinks a damned glass of water.

And, finally, you have presented NO EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER for suggesting a disparity. Given your other questionable comments and examples suggesting there is such a disparity along with your reader’s comments assuming same I think a moderator note is in order.

I’m thinking big red letters right under the title of the article. Something like this should do it.

Attention readers: The Canadian study cited in this article does NOT support the idea of an empathic disparity between whites and others. Any suggestion that such a disparity exists is the blog author’s opinion and is not supported by the Canadian study.

In hindsight, maybe you should also add a note that…

The level of mirror motor neuron firing doesn’t necessarily imply empathy.

Fred, your comments are so twisted and convoluted, and your links a few comments up were crap, at least that was my feeling.

People are genetically a lot more alike than different. Try PBS, Race, the Power of Illusion
, http://www.pbs.org/race/000_General/000_00-Home.htm

Kathy writes, “Fred, your comments are so twisted and convoluted, and your links a few comments up were crap, at least that was my feeling.

So you disagree with me? I don’t give a shit. Now, if you can provide something substantive to back up your opinion that would be another matter. Otherwise, shut up.

Please remove yourself from this conversation. You add nothing of value. I apologize if that sounds curt. But I’m just not interested in anything you have to say.

So you disagree with me? I don’t give a shit. Now, if you can provide something substantive to back up your opinion that would be another matter. Otherwise, shut up

Yeah, speaking of not being interested in what you have to say? As far as I can tell you’re not adding anything here, you’re twisting and clouding the issue brought up in the OP, trying to change the parameters of the discussion while presenting arguments that Restructure has either already countered or already presented in this or other posts. You’re trying to blow off everyone else who supports or agrees with her OP and actually ordering us to stop commenting because apparently the only thing that matters here is what you’re interested in reading.

Kathy actually linked you to something that talks about how race is a social construct, in response to your implication that people of color have more “genes for violence” than white people.

The video you linked was posted by a youtube user with a pretty clear agenda, and the research he cite completely fails to address the impact of institutionalized racism and the impact this has on wealth, as well as the impact of poverty on crime frequency. It further fails to address the impact of living in a society that demonizes people on the basis of skin color. This article says that environment plays a role as well, something that’s completely ignored in your youtube video.

I still don’t know what you mean by scapegoating. Europeans have a colonial, imperialist history that is highly documented and easily traceable. This history shows many and various ways white people have oppressed, enslaved, and committed genocide on people of color, of the ways that white European nations have imposed their cultures and values on POC cultures, and in ways that continue to impact these cultures to this day, alongside the cultural and economic exploitation that also continues.

It’s not scapegoating if it’s true. Any attempt to discuss the prevalence of violent crime in any given population needs to bring far more than genetics into the discussion – genetics alone is a convenient way to pretend that all the other stuff is irrelevant.

And hell, if I’d known that your very next post after I took a weekend break would be an incredibly patronizing “shut up” I would have made a point to comment earlier.

Lisa writes, “You’re trying to blow off everyone else who supports or agrees with her OP and actually ordering us to stop commenting because apparently the only thing that matters here is what you’re interested in reading.”

No. I’m not trying to blow anyone off. I’m simply not interested in hearing someone’s unfounded opinions. If you’ve got a logical argument then make it. If you’ve got some facts to support your argument then let’s hear it. But you haven’t done that. All you and kathy did was to say you disagreed. Whoopty-doo! You disagreed. Well, I guess that settles it. I care about the facts. Not your opinions. As soon as you showed me you weren’t capable of it I was done with you.

Kathy’s PBS link was opinion, not science. The video I linked was quoting from scientific studies and provided references. But let’s assume for a moment that race is indeed a social construct. Does that mean that genes associated with violence are equally distributed among every population? Nope. Don’t you have any basic reasoning skills?

the research he cite completely fails to address the impact of institutionalized racism and the impact this has on wealth, as well as the impact of poverty on crime frequency.

You said you were white. Are you rich? Why not? With all that white privilege and institutional racism you must be pretty stupid not to have gotten your share.

This article says that environment plays a role as well, something that’s completely ignored in your youtube video.

The video I linked mentioned environment as well as genetics. Yet another example of how you’re a waste of time.

I still don’t know what you mean by scapegoating.

Blaming problems that result from irresponsible behavior on other people.

Europeans have a colonial, imperialist history that is highly documented and easily traceable.

So does everyone else. With the exception of a handful of groups who were too isolated to do it themselves.

This history shows many and various ways white people have oppressed, enslaved, and committed genocide on people of color,

of the ways that white European nations have imposed their cultures and values on POC cultures

Such as ending cannibalism and slavery? Such as representative government? Such as extending equality to women and minorities?

and in ways that continue to impact these cultures to this day, alongside the cultural and economic exploitation that also continues.

There’s the scapegoating I was talking about it. I knew you couldn’t resist.

It’s not scapegoating if it’s true.

That’s not true. Something may very well be scapegoating whether it’s true or not. For example, it would be scapegoating to blame all your problems on your parents even if your parents were horrible. At some point you have to take responsibility.

Any attempt to discuss the prevalence of violent crime in any given population needs to bring far more than genetics into the discussion – genetics alone is a convenient way to pretend that all the other stuff is irrelevant.

I agree to extent. But I also think “all that other stuff” is a convenient way to pretend that genetics is irrelevant.

And thanks for playing fred’s wonderful wacky world of witticism. Better luck next time.

@Lxy
So Colin Powel is not allowed to have his own opinions because they counter-act your political views? I never got the whole black = same meme. I would have thought that there were a lot of diversity of views held by black people just like there are in all other ethnic groups. Colin Powel is a serious politician. He might have miscalculated with George W. Bush, but so did a lot of people. I never made that mistake but know some people who did. I was too cynical to vote for Bush and thought the Republican Party in general was playing too many games. I did respect some of the career bureaucrats and politicians, I just didn’t like the direction the overall party was going.”

Are you related to Kathy? You are babbling about tangential strawman arguments just like her, and carefully avoiding the fundamental issues I raised. Namely, America’s many war crimes, and the American people’s predictable indifference and tacit support for these crimes.

And I don’t give a damn what Colin Powell’s personal opinions are. I do give a damn about the criminal American institutions and broader policies that he pimps for.

Here is more about your beloved “serious politician” General Colin Powell.

He is serious alright. A serious American war criminal.

Lxy, you kind of missed the point of what I was saying. I said that some black people sometimes think differently than other black people and that’s OK. Just like some Asian people think differently than other Asian people (i looked at your blog). In fact, if you heard some of the stuff that comes out of some Asian people you would conclude they were not all liberals. There are many conservative Asians from all different countries who are sometimes a lot more racist than professinal class white hopefuls, as whites often find it avantageous to moderate on racial issues if they want to advance in life. Not all minorities are judged the same way whites are on their biases or have the same reward benefit structure towards acting on underlying racist tendencies. (Also anadotal but so is most of what we might observe people watching. Many of them can get away with racism easier because they are not judged the same way as they are foreign and more likely to be recent immigrants). :)

As for your argument on Colin Powell, yeah he worked for Bush, I said as much that was a miscalculation. His reputation has suffered. I don’t honestly know what will become of him but he is a politician, and a very successful politician. Very smart, but politics does not select for the nicest people and as I said he slipped up recently so he might go down. I honestly don’t know. I can’t read the future. If there is mud on him I am not surprised. Please don’t assume everyone is naive just because you are obsessed with a single political issue. I just was objecting to the condecenscion you put into your argument when you called him a “house negro,” a very insulting term designed to put black people with different points of view in their places. Notice I slammed Michael Steele for trying to manipulate people by giving a bullshit argument and playing the ‘black republican’ card.

I am also not shocked at the duplicity of politicians. I live a half hour away from DC. I grew up watching this stuff when no one else seemed aware that politicians lied. We kick politics around like football, but that doesn’t mean we know everything, just that we have a healthy dose of cyncism and have some idea who’s up and who is down. Politics is a popularity sport, like choosing the high school prom queen. And don’t assume all the politicians you support are necessarily better, policians of all idealogies who are clever find a market demand and exploit it, often preying on single issue voters who ignore every other issue that is likely to effect them. These politicians often cover up their own indescretions and speacial interests, but this is getting harder to do. Who knows? Maybe we’ll actually get a few good people in there. There is always room for improvement and there are always some political issues that are particularly odious and deserve speacial attention, so I will vote with single issue voters if they are going my direction. I try to be reasonable.

You seem obsessed with america’s war culture, but things shift all the time like they have recently (at least popularly). I would say that we are a country with a great many people who are not prepared to deal with a world in which we have enormous influence and many enemies. Military power is often the most obvious way to deal with the inbalances this causes. I would also say that there are 300 million people living in this country and that anyone who thinks that everyone will have the same point of view over the long term, is terribly naive. Political drift is predictiable up to a point and then everything can change without warning. Don’t expect the substance of politics to change immediately though, just because the Democrats are in office doesn’t change the speacial interests who are much more settled in than either political party. Congressmen need to be elected regularly to stay in Washington, corporate lobbyists have permanant offices. First politician who proposes serious reforms is attacked in well funded primary challenge when they try to get re-elected, and most times they lose. If you want knights in shining armor, they need to be protected.

@Lisa Harney Says:
Oh for god’s sake, people. The article says that white people show fewer signs of empathy when viewing people of color than when viewing white people. From my experience, this is simply true. White people dismiss POC concerns as irrelevant, frivolous or outright lies (such as the above comment). Get over your defensiveness and stop trying to use anecdotes to prove the study wrong. If you want to prove the study wrong, you’ll need to go a bit further than talking about how your country accepts immigrants and refugees on the internet.

I’ve been robbed once in my life, by a black woman, and yet somehow I am able to see that black people are not criminal by nature. But I can see how institutionalized racism that maintains a racist wealth gap can make it easier for black people to turn to crime simply to eat.

So yes, I do believe that a white supremacist system can lead to crime. It already does, demonstrably so.

OK you seem pretty moderate. I’ll address you. I feel like your views are traditional white liberalism, and while I agree with a lot of your points I grew up in the world after Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated and concurrently with Marian Barry decimating the inner city schools in DC. So while I do not have a problem hanging out with well educated African immigrants or well educated African Americans at Howard University or from other professional classes, I do profile by social class when I go into the city. The people who are really ghetto and the most aggressive are poor blacks and sometimes hispanics (although the hispanics tend to viewed as less agressive, they seem to have lesho grew up with an 8th grade reading level of literacy in the closest city to me are African American or Hispanic and if that wasn’t discouraging enough black people in the city make up a disproportionate percentage of people in the city who are infected with HIV. Not what I am looking for in a boyfriend, even if he looks hot on the outside, I know those statistics and a lot of other people do too.

I feel sorry for the people affected by institutional racism in DC and understand that most of them are poor, less book smart perhaps but not vicious however like most people I don’t seek them out as I don’t have much in common with them and am not particularly interested in social work. I also am not confident in my ability to steer clear of the dangerous ones, so as I don’t have commonalities with most people in the poor out group I just avoid people who act out, however blacks who want to blend can just put on normal clothes (IE dress nicely) and not act obviously out of control. Most people in the DC area do not relate to people who are poorly educated. I am sure this is true of professional classes in many cities, who are more prevalent than less educated whites in cities as professionals can best afford to live in nice urban neighborhoods. So while we have a large professional black population in both the city and the suburbs, the people who were left behind by capitalism are much more obvious and take up a lot more space in the political gossip columns. While I do not think it is good or right to judge people prematurely it is a very normal trait when we are talking about people protecting their lives and possessions in parts of the city that are deemed dangerous. Not everyone can afford to be lofty at all times and many people who are not otherwise political will keep their eyes out for trouble. Also younger people, the most active group socially, are normal and seek out friends they relate to. Don’t expect youth culture to save the country from racism without changing the underlying economic social constraints.

Another key problem African American urban culture has is that many people do not perceive them as robbing others to eat. There are too many rap videos glorifying “bling bling” culture and shooting people to settle scores. There are too many dumb kids out there who grow up without any structure in their homes and emulate the stuff they hear on the radio. Is this a structural problem? Hell yeah! Are these kids dangerous? Yes. The songs can very easily teach a kid without emotional support the best way to be a sociopath. Not only that but the kids know that they can get away with almost everything except murder until they are aged 18 (and sometimes that too). This is a very dangerous message to send hormonal teenagers who don’t think things through clearly as their brains are not fully developed. So there is a lot going on and people who pay more attention to ideals are going to have to share the political stage with people who pay attention to crime statistics.

And yes, I know this is based off of historical racism, but who pays attention to history when present relations are so damaged?

Sorry, i was editing the piece and it posted, so my first paragraph has parts missing in the middle. You can kind of skim.

I was just saying that different outgroups are viewed differently. IE poor hispanic are more likely to come from a village so don’t seem to have as much of an identity crisis. There are still a lot of people in their communities to emulate who are new and still have self respect whereas poor urban blacks (not the black professional class) seem to have more identity issues as they have faced a lot of discrimination and many still don’t know how to drag themselves up now that there are more opportunities. I’m not saying it is easy, but there are scholarships available. I’d like to see more of the investment money go to people at the rock bottom as they need the hand up the most.

Don’t shoot the messenger! I am just explaining the logic behind the stagnation of racial harmony. If you want normal people to mix you have to make it worth their while. This only works if it makes sense for the majority of the population to change their behavior and not just people who are obsessed with these kinds of issues. Most younger people are not obsessed with these issues, they just kind of support them but they tend to be more centrist in their support than older liberals who are motivated more by feelings of guilt, younger people are more likely to accept the world as it is with all its warts.

While youth culture might have elected Obama it is also getting more class concious than it used to be. Just saying, Obama is a Harvard educated lawyer, he doesn’t fit the profile of most black people in the USA. If we go to a society where black people can become president it doesn’t necessessarily mean that black people on average will be better off until they manage to use the system more to their advantage. It should immediately help a few frusterated professionals but the poor will need a lot more help to drag their way out of poverty. At least some of the poor kids have better role models now, that alone makes his election worthwhile.

Obama will still have to work for his approval ratings, as the honeymoon period of American politics is over, as it should be. People should pay attention to what he is doing, as helping to alleviate racial problems does not make him any less responcible for american foreign and domestic policy.

And yeah I know this is US-centric, but that’s what I know. I am not as fluent in Canadian politics.

You shouldn’t be speculating about the behaviours, motivations, and identity issues of African Americans and [email protected] Americans if you are not African American or [email protected] American. That’s very white behaviour.

Classism is no better than racism, although you seem to be discriminating against poor people of color over poor whites.

It’s hypocritical for you to tell someone not to speculate on others’ behaviors considering how much speculating you do. At least her speculations are rational.

Grraaahh! I’m a big fandom geek, and I would *love* to have more favorite characters who were people of color. Fucking *love*, but it’s so hard to find things with non-white casts that aren’t some kind of “urban” bullshit. I wish I had more favorite characters who were women, too.

Only half my friends are white so I don’t really feel any more qualified to speak about white thought on the matter as I don’t understand the thought coming from areas that are mostly white. I live in a place which is still lumpy (as to race relations) but otherwise mostly integrated. I’d say it is more cliquish sort of like high school as different groups bunch up together. Most of the groups are open though, it is just kind of flavors. People pick which groups they want to interact with based on their general mood or preferences and there are a lot of people who are between groups who facilitate integration.

And all politics are local. There aren’t as many poor whites in cities, as they tend to live further out in more rural parts of the country. People talk about what they know and who they see everyday, people who are part of their community. A lot of swing politics and intellectualism is about insularity in local communities.

@anonymous
I suspect there will be more charactors from different ethnic groups in the next 10 years. Youth culture is shifting, and the media is all about money and marketing. With luck they will get well fleshed out charactors. It depends on how smart the people in media think their target audience is.

OK you seem pretty moderate

What does this mean? Restructure’s and Mephisto’s arguments here are more substantial and informed than my own, but they’re, what, too angry? too extremist? to talk to?

I feel like your views are traditional white liberalism

I don’t know about that. I think white liberal views tend to diminish the role racism plays in the US, or tokenize it to make a point (like the Advocate’s “Gay is the new black” cover last year), or talk about racism in a way that centers everything on white people and white people’s needs.

You’re funny as hell, but not in a good way. To repeat, it’s you that have missed–or avoided–my point with your long-winded, diversionary apologia for Colin Powell: America’s atrocities and the role of House Negroes like Powell in perpetrating them.

Your assertion that the term House Negro is “offensive” is not only a pathetic defense of a war criminal but begs the question: offensive to whom?

The answer: It’s “offensive” to American apologists (like yourself) that wish to absolve the actions of minorities like Colin Powell who serve your American Empire–an Empire that is hostile to the lives of non-White people around the world.

To be blunt, it reveals a lot about you that you can so glibly discount America’s routine murder of colored people in Iraq and Afghanistan–all the while giving lectures about diversity among African Americans or dismissing these US crimes as an “obsession” no less!

In fact, your response is an outstanding example of the lack of empathy that the original article talks about.

You show the casual disdain and thinly disguised imperial racism that Americans in general and White Americans in particular display towards the lives of “Untermenschen” (as the US military might say) throughout the Third World.

Below is yet another American crime. Perhaps like Gen. Powell, you can dismiss this too:

Recently white police offices have been caught on tape beating the piss out of teenage black girls in Washington State. One girl for kicking off a shoe at an officer was brutally punched over and over and a girl caught jay-walking was punched in the face when all she did was push an officer.

Most whites overwhelming are on the officer’s sides out here. Justifying the violence by saying the girls were out of line, making the girls out to be older than they were (since when is a 17-year-old a woman?) or saying the girls were big and criminals. I think precisely because many whites don’t see brown and black people as human, they can not see a child as a child and beat down a kid brutally when other methods of restrait could suffice.

I mean, if those were little petite blonde white girls do you think a police officer would find her much of a threat and punch her in the face?

elle writes, Recently white police offices have been caught on tape beating the piss out of teenage black girls in Washington State.

Your sentence contains three false statements. First, the incident involved one police officer. Second, there was only one girl who was punched. And, third, she was punched once which most people wouldn’t consider “beating the piss out of”.

When an officer tells you to be quiet or go away then it’s not option. You’re legally required to obey. Otherwise, you can be charged with interfering with an officer in the performance of his duties. When an officer tells you that you are under arrest and put your hands behind your back you are legally required to obey. Otherwise, you can be charged with resisting arrest.

My personal opinion is that hitting her was unncessary. On the other hand, anyone who puts their hands on a police officer justifies the officer’s use of force. She interfered with an officer, resisted arrest and put her hands on him. Any normal person would have just taken the ticket and paid the fine. She needs to wear a t-shirt that says “Idiot” so that people can see her coming.

If anyone is interested in seeing what really happened then here is the video.

if those were little petite blonde white girls do you think a police officer would find her much of a threat and punch her in the face?

I don’t know. But if she were an 86-year-old disabled grandma in her bed they would have tasered her multiple times and turned off her oxygen tank until she was unconscious. But there is no racial angle to this story so you probably don’t care.

@Lisa Harney.
OK you seem pretty moderate

What does this mean? Restructure’s and Mephisto’s arguments here are more substantial and informed than my own, but they’re, what, too angry? too extremist? to talk to?

Good Question. Actually I just wanted to address your point of view, which is one point of view that radiates out from the political center. I actually view Restructure as pretty moderate herself but she has another point of view radiating out of the center as her vital statistics are different so she has a slightly different bias than you would have. I had to look over Mephisto’s arguments as I honestly didn’t remember what s/he said. Some of the other posters, such as Lxy are not at all reasonable, nor rational nor moderate. There are some obvious white racists also. I guess racial posts brings out racists of all predispositions.

I honestly don’t have enough information on Mephisto to judge moderation. The argument written against Fred was at a level internet tone, but seemed kind of traditional left. So I don’t know if s/he can cross over to understand different viewpoints (the definition of moderation). I’d have to see more material, Restructure as the blogger has more detailed stuff online that she has written for me to go on. She’s a geek and is dynamic, I can understand that. I liked her posts about women’s preference for guys who are physically attractive. That is something that I agree with her on. Racial issues might be too close for her to view with sufficient distance, as she seems a bit more emotional about them.

The post itself is a bit lazy as the experiment itself seems to have a bias and when research is used to justify assumptions that are too broad it can be inflamatory. In the same vein, I would not have found the bell curve research on minority IQ’s to be at all scientific as the IQ tests themselves have built in biases towards rewarding points for certain types of educational achievement. If formal education in a population is lower (as it was in many African Countries), than the test would measure the people as not as intelligent. This is a problem with the test itself. What it is saying about the people is not meaningful as the information gathered is out of context.

As the test cited in the post was only measuring SOME white people and NO minorities, than it is not very conclusive, as there are significant gaps in the research. When Restructure wrote the post she did not take into consideration, history or context. So while the test measured lower neuron firing for some white people watching minorities drink water, it can’t be generalized into ‘all white people lack empathy for minorities for all time’ and ‘all minorities emphathize 100% with white people over the entirety of existence.’ The study measured something very specific and she generalized it to mean something very broad and vauge.

(This is exactly what the Bell Curve Study was guilty of. If taken literally, the Bell Curve study did indeed measure lower test scores for minorities given the poorly constructed IQ tests, but we all know that generalizing this to ‘black people are dumb’ is not supported by the very badly designed research.)

If she on the other hand said, the reseach says that ‘some white people do not emphasize with minorities,’ I would have agreed with her.


Why Brain Size Doesn’t Correlate With Intelligence

The inevitability of a child’s growth is both celebrated and mourned. Under normal circumstances, parents can do little but stand back and watch as shoe sizes climb, squawks become babbles become words become speech (which soon becomes back talk) and a child’s knowledge of math, to say nothing of her texting dexterity, outpaces her parents’.

For human beings, growth in childhood leads to maturity, a relative concept: mature with respect to what?, one might ask of a teenager. Biologically, growth is the destiny of all successful organisms. But that growth comes in myriad possible forms—growth from zygote to neonate to adult, growth in size or stature, growth of an entire species. Another form, growth in brain size, has long been linked to success.

A recent study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B appears to suggest that, in a sampling of wild animals, average brain size—measured from craniums of museum specimens collected from urban and rural animals over the last century or so—is correlated with living around people. Both the city mouse (of the white-footed variety) and city vole (of the meadow variety) had larger cranial capacities than their rural cousins. Whether it was the more cerebral rodents that moved into the city, or whether the species adjusted to the novel challenges of an urban environment by growing their brains over generations, isn’t known. Regardless, headlines proclaimed: “City Mice Smarter Than Country Mice.”

Such news excites us humans, who take pride in our big brains. The notion that brain size indicates cognitive prowess is, of course, flattering for us. The further notion that cities house the bigger-brained—why, that’s hard for the urban sensibility to ignore.

What the headlines didn’t crow about was the researchers’ finding that only two of the ten investigated mammals had bigger brains in their urban variants. And the cranial capacity of two shrew species (short-tailed and masked) and two bats (little brown and big brown) grew bigger over the decades in rural, but not urban, settings.

People have long been tempted to link brain size and cognition. The intuitive notion that a “big brain” means “more intelligent” was first threatened some time ago, when we discovered animals with larger brains than ours: elephants and whales. Sure as we were of humankind’s superior intelligence, we still felt the need to prevail, so we gamely parried: Perhaps it is the brain size relative to body size that makes our brains the biggest. Though humans come out well there, too, this measure is biased toward birds and other small animals that have relatively large brains for their bodies. After more deliberation, scientists finally offered up the so-called “encephalization quotient”: brain size relative to the expected brain size in related taxa. On top: humans. Phew.

Consider, though, the strange case of that growing child. Every infant’s brain develops through a period of synaptogenesis—wanton proliferation of synapses, which are the connections between neurons—in the first year or so of life. But one could argue that it is when this intense brain growth ends that the real growth of the child qua individual begins. The next phase of brain development occurs in large part through an increase in synaptic pruning: paring of those connections that are not useful for perceiving, considering or understanding the world the child is facing. In this sense, it’s by downsizing that an individual’s brain is born.

Brain size, or the size of brain parts, can be a reasonable indicator of skill, to be sure. In individuals with sensory deprivation other sensory inputs take over the cortical area lying dormant. In the case of blindness, auditory or tactile somatosensory areas may grow in size, and hearing or touching sensitivity will improve accordingly. Dramatic as that compensatory growth may be, in the end the correlation between brain size and brain function is fraught.

Consider the humble dog, Canis familiaris. The brain of a wolf-size dog is about 30 percent smaller than that of an actual gray wolf, its ancestor. Has the dog become less smart since it went its own evolutionary way thousands of years ago? Judge for yourself: When the mere gaze from the dewy eyes of a member of this species causes you to get up from the couch, repair to the refrigerator and retrieve a hunk of cheese for your charge—well, you tell me who is smarter.

The dog is successful not because of the size of its whole brain per se, but because domestication has led to subtle brain changes with a stunning result: the ability to live in the world of people.

To the brain reading this: You may grow as you process these words. But almost certainly, your growth will not be as simple as an increase in size. Synapse that!


PSYC111 2

in childhood shared environment is a 25% proportion of intelligence but after adolescence shared environment is not present as a determining factor - genetic component larger in adults, non-shared environment prevalent in both

Binet - normal, idiot, imbecile

At birth only 17% of connections between neurons have been made - majority are wired in decades that follow - driven by genetics and experiences (soft wiring)

During growth spurts dendrites grow rapidly = blossoming
If during this time the child's learning causing neuron to fire, the dendrite will get wired into circus with other neurons
- Dendrites that don't fire will wither back and die = pruning
During growth spurts brain is extremely sensitive to experience

Most frequent age that someone dies from abuse is <1-3 years

Main cause of fatality is neglect

US Dept of Health - young daily smoker are 114x more likely to have used cannabis at least 11 times compared to those who hadnt smoked

Mutation of DRD2 or DRD4 with dopamine receptors - as a population these people typically need more excitement to achieve same sensations as pleasure

Gene linked to less oxytocin receptors - show less empathy

Empathy meaning bonding is potentially initially slightly better if born vaginally - in long term probably makes no difference at all



Comments:

  1. Hagley

    Quite right! It is good thought. I call for active discussion.

  2. Bernon

    You are not right. Email me at PM.

  3. Icelos

    wonderfully, and the alternative?



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