cw:-violence

“Lollipops turn into cigarettes. The innocent ones turn into sluts. Homework goes in the trash. Mobile phones are being used in class. Detention becomes suspension. Soda becomes vodka. Bikes become cars. Kisses turn into sex. Remember when getting high meant ‘swinging on the playground’? When protection meant 'wearing a helmet’? When the worst thing you could get from boys were cooties? Dad’s shoulders were the highest place on earth, and that mom was your hero? Your worst enemies were your siblings? Race issues were about who ran the fastest, and war was only a card game? The only drug you knew was cough medicine? When wearing a skirt didn’t make you a slut? The most pain you felt was when you skinned your knees, and goodbye only meant 'until tomorrow’. Yet we couldn’t wait to grow up.”

Here’s a thing that happened to one of my friends. I was there.

Basically, we were walking down the sidewalk, talking about something meaningless. I think it had to do with a movie. Then this bus screeches up, stops next to us, and a bunch of people with “Down with Cis” shirts climbed out and started beating him up. I was punched and kicked a bit too, but I managed to avoid brutalization by going for their faces. After figuring out what’s happening, I started attacking them back, getting them off of him. He was quite injured but I called 911 and he made a full recovery at the hospital. I was fine, with only a cut on my arm that they patched up.

Brain scans reveal how people ‘justify’ killing

A new study has thrown light on how people can become killers in certain situations, showing how brain activity varies according to whether or not killing is seen as justified.

The study, led by Monash researcher Dr Pascal Molenberghs, School of Psychological Sciences, is published today in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

Participants in the study played video games in which they imagined themselves to be shooting innocent civilians (unjustified violence) or enemy soldiers (justified violence). Their brain activity was recorded via functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while they played.

Dr Molenberghs said the results provided important insights into how people in certain situations, such as war, are able to commit extreme violence against others.

“When participants imagined themselves shooting civilians compared to soldiers, greater activation was found in the lateral orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), an important brain area involved in making moral decisions,” Dr Molenberghs said.

“The more guilt participants felt about shooting civilians, the greater the response in the lateral OFC. When shooting enemy soldiers, no activation was seen in lateral OFC.”

The results show that the neural mechanisms that are typically implicated with harming others become less active when the violence against a particular group is seen as justified.

“The findings show that when a person is responsible for what they see as justified or unjustified violence, they will have different feelings of guilt associated with that – for the first time we can see how this guilt relates to specific brain activation,” Dr Molenberghs said.

The researchers hope to further investigate how people become desensitised to violence and how personality and group membership of both perpetrator and victim influence these processes.