The Situationist

Archive for January 20th, 2012

If Guns Don’t Kill People, Sometimes Gun-Saturated Situations Do

Posted by The Situationist Staff on January 20, 2012

Matty McFeely, former President of SALMS and current 3L, just had a situationist-inspired letter to the editor published in The New YorkerThe article to which he was responding (by Rachel Aviv’s “No Remorse,” January 2, 2012) was about a 15-year-old sentenced to life without parole for shooting his grandfather.  Before the murder, the boy’s girlfriend had just dumped him and a number of other things weren’t going his way, and the article asked whether putting a minor away for life was appropriate. Matty’s letter read as follows:

Aviv’s article forces us to rethink the justice system’s treatment of young adults, but it should also be a call for stricter gun control. It was too simple for Eliason to take “his grandfather’s loaded gun off the coatrack” and then shoot his grandfather. Eliason’s grim tale shows what surveys have already told us: the availability of guns is linked to higher rates of both suicide and homicide. A teen-ager’s rather routine funk became a senseless tragedy because a lethal device was at hand. A person’s situation has a lot of power over his or her behavior; we would be wise to recognize that fact and shape our situations accordingly.

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Posted in Law | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

The Situation of Psychopathy

Posted by Jon Hanson on January 20, 2012

A former student of mine, Brett Murphy, has co-authored a fascinating and sophisticated paper on the roots of psychopathy, which you can download on SSRN.  Here’s the abstract.

“Psychopathy” is a psychopathological construct involving a diverse set of affective deficits and behavioral disinhibitions that result in substantial antisocial behavior, and includes traits such as extreme egocentricity, profound lack of empathy, and limited ability to experience guilt and remorse. The costs that “psychopaths” impose on society are enormous. Researchers have estimated that they comprise more than 15 percent of the adult prison population and are even more highly represented among repeat violent offenders. Although psychopaths are not necessarily violent, when they do commit violent offenses, their violence is very often coldblooded, predatorial, and instrumentally employed in the pursuit of another goal, such as money, sex, or power.

This unpublished manuscript extensively reviews and summarizes much of the psychological and neurobiological literature related to “psychopathy.” In addition to reviewing the existing findings regarding psychopathy and the prominent hypotheses regarding its etiology and unifying characteristics, this manuscript also offers a novel theory of the primary form of psychopathy, the “power assessment” hypothesis. This “power assessment” hypothesis argues: (1) that much of human behavior and cognition is causally influenced by bioregulatory mechanisms related to internal, subconscious assessments of power; and (2) that abnormalities in these mechanisms, when present starting early in childhood, may generate the cognitive, attentional, and behavorial characteristics of primary psychopathy.

Download the paper for free here.

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Image from Flickr.

Posted in Abstracts | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

 
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