In no particular order, here are the snippets of news that caught my eye this week:
PRISONS: Does Eating Salmon Lower the Murder Rate? asks the New York Times (16 April).
Most prisons are notorious for the quality of their cuisine (pretty poor) and the behavior of their residents (pretty violent). They are therefore ideal locations to test a novel hypothesis: that violent aggression is largely a product of poor nutrition. Toward that end, researchers are studying whether inmates become less violent when put on a diet rich in vitamins and in the fatty acids found in seafood.
TERRORISM: Australian radio programme “All the the Mind” was a special on the Psychology of Terrorism last week. Well worth a listen, to demolish some stereotypes and hear about Anne Speckhard’s fascinating research. Download as MP3 here. (Mindhacks also has a post on the broadcast with a few extra links.)
CYBERSTALKING: The New York Times reports on cyberstalking (17 Apr), although it acknowledges that no one really knows how prevalent it is. For the psychological view, the NYT turned to J Reid Meloy,
[…] a forensic psychologist and the author of several books on criminal personalities, who said that the universe of cyberstalkers runs the gamut, from “jokesters and pranksters to people who have clear criminal intent.” He called this particular brand of harassment — in which the perpetrator deploys third parties, wittingly or not, to haunt the victim — “stalking by proxy.” […]”It’s a much more veiled, shielded, disinhibited way of communicating,” Mr. Meloy said, “and much more raw in the expression of aggression.”
- Link to infuriatingly designed website for Meloy.
CHILD PROTECTION: The Guardian interview on 19 April is with Jim Gamble, the director of the new Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre. He talks about how he plans to expose sexual predators who are a threat to children and educate young people about the dangers of the net.
VIGILANTES: Killings rekindle vigilante debate, according to the Portland Press Herald (19 April):
The shooting deaths of two men listed on Maine’s online sex offender registry have rekindled debate over the value of such information and the pitfalls that can accompany it.
EYEWITNESSES: The New York Times (19 April) reports on a study of the effectiveness of new lineup procedures.
In the new method, the police show witnesses one person at a time, instead of several at once, and the lineup is overseen by someone not connected to the case, to avoid anything that could steer the witness to the suspect the police believe is guilty.
However, the new study,
[…] the first to do a real-life comparison of the old and new methods, found that the new lineups made witnesses less likely to choose anyone. When they did pick a suspect, they were more likely to choose an innocent person. Witnesses in traditional lineups, by contrast, were more likely to identify a suspect and less likely to choose a face put in the lineup as filler.
EMOTION AND LEGAL DECISION MAKING: Via Neuroethics and Law Blog (23 April), a new paper posted to SSRN (where it is available as a free download).
- Reference: Huang, Peter H. and Anderson, Christopher J., A Psychology of Emotional Legal Decision Making: Revulsion and Saving Face in Legal Theory and Practice . Minnesota Law Review, Vol. 90, p. 1045, 2006
VICTIMS OF CRIME: A new report from the Institute of Public Policy Research indicates that the poor suffer most from violent crime (Guardian, 18 April):
The poor and the unemployed are twice as likely to become victims of violent crime and nearly three times more likely to suffer emotional damage as a result of being attacked, according to research published today.
- Link to pdf:CrimeShare: The unequal impact of crime by Mike Dixon, Howard Reed, Ben Rogers and Lucy Stone, published 17 April 2006.