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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Neuroscience: Bullies really do enjoy it, and neuroscience images the data

In "Teenage bullies are rewarded with pleasure, brain scans show", Discover Online reports,
It’s no fun being bullied, but new research supports what many teenagers have long suspected: A victim’s pain may be a bully’s gain. A new brain imaging study of aggressive teenage boys found that watching others being bullied triggered parts of their brains associated with pleasure.
In the long run, this type of research may contribute to human knowledge, as long as it is not used in a malign or misguided way. For example,
Dr. Michael Eslea, a psychology professor, commented: “A better understanding of the biological basis of these things is good to have but the danger is it causes people to leap to biological solutions - drugs - rather than other behavioural solutions”
While we are here, has anyone ever met a bully who didn't enjoy bullying? It's not the sort of thing people usually need to do, so most bullies must be getting some fun out of it:
Aggressive adolescents showed a specific and very strong activation of the amygdala and ventral striatum (an area that responds to feeling rewarded) when watching pain inflicted on others, which suggested that they enjoyed watching pain,” said [co-author] Jean Decety….
Yes, I saw that look often in my youth. Once upon a time, having been pestered repeatedly by a bully, I decided to fight back. He was following me - far, far too closely. I decided I would punch him in the face as hard as I could.

He was about twice my height.

Fortunately, I missed his face.

Unfortunately, I hit his crotch.

I was a bookish child and had no clear idea what I had done or why he was doubled over in such pain. I just ran away. Wisely, he never bothered me again.

So there is life after bullying. For both of us, I hope. I had no hard feelings then and do not now.

All I had ever said to him was, go away and leave me alone. He should have taken my advice.

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