Psych section 014
Blog #2 October 6, 2011
People often turn to the news immediately when an event happens, a crime is committed near then, or a tragic incident is heard of. The news is a great resource for all things current and interesting, but there is a downside. The news wants ratings, and while hopeful cancer survivors and cute puppies that were just adopted bank a few thousand viewers, violence and sex sell.
Millions of people turn to local news stations each night to hear the new scandal or tragedy that has occurred in their community. They hear about abuse, robbery, murder and prostitution. How can the viewer not think that the world is extremely violent? How can the viewer not infer that this is the most violent the human race has been? Watching segment after segment on the latest crime has a lasting effect of watchers, leading people to think that the crime rate is going up, and will continue to do so.
Steve Pinker, a Harvard psychology professor, and the subject of A Harvard Crimson article, believes completely different. His statistics and research show that violence is on the decline in the world and that as a human population, we are the least violent that any other group of generations of humans.
"Pinker argues that while the fundamentals of human nature have remained unchanged, institutional forces such as democracy, effective policing, a fair judicial system, and free commerce have gradually succeeded in suppressing our inner demons" (Lowe, 2011).
Pinker is thinking in a psychological way to come up with these statistics and models that prove the world has become less violent as a whole, no matter how dreary times may seem. He uses the critical thinking process of ruling our rival hypotheses by looking at all those institutional forces, what they have done for society and how they have affected the violence level, to rule out lurking variables and establish causation for the decline in violence.
"Twentieth century homicide rates in Europe, for example, show a 10- to 50-fold decrease in homicide rates during the late Middle Ages. Within the last decade, the rate of documented deaths from war, terrorism, genocide, and other political violence has been a fraction of a percentage point" (Lowe, 2011).
Pinker also thinks critically by giving others the information they need to replicate his findings in a any manner by saying how he came about such answers. He shows that he dug into twentieth century Europe, as well as looking at areas of violence now and compared them, setting a basis for others to be able to replicate or falsify his results.
Pinker is working as a psychologist and using each critical thinking method to further his beliefs in an ethical and psychologically sound way, giving more and more proof that he is correct, and that the amount of violence in the world has decreased, even though the local news may tell us differently.
Harvard University Paper, The Crimson: