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December 10, 2007



You might find this article interesting:


Humans certainly have a hard-wired capacity to find even horrific violence entertaining. The fact that many people today are squeamish about this is an indicator of our higher level of mental development relative to our ancestors.


Thanks for the link. I'm not convinced, though, that we're hardwired to find it entertaining. Interesting, yes. Compulsively watchable, yes. But entertaining? I think that may be the wrong box to put it in.

I remember the day of 9-11 I watched the TV for about 10 hours (all morning, break for work, and then as soon as I got home I was on the couch well into the next morning). Some part of me felt that it was important to watch, as if I could learn something. (In actuality I think those repetitive images caused a certain amount of trauma for many of us, which distorted our judgment for some time.)

I think when we watch violence on film, or when people watched cat-burnings or public hangings in the past, it is this part of the brain that is activated -- the threat center, which wants to learn. Steven Pinker's latest book on language has a section on the effect of swear words on the brain -- grabbing our attention, making us sweat, alerting us to danger. It's a very specific part of the limbic brain system that gets activated.

I would be interested to know what the relationship of that part of the brain is to the areas of the brain associated with pleasure (entertainment). A question for those readers well versed in the science of the brain...

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