News Stories

Criminals: We Can Spot 'Em

Scientists have moved from promoting concrete, provable facts to researching instincts--and they think we should always pay attention to them. Instances this happen all the time: A woman walking down a street sees a stranger and feels an instant aversion to him. The next day, she discovers he's been charged with rape. Scientists who wanted to know if we can instinctively spot a criminal just by looking at his face found out that we CAN.

When psychologist Jeffrey Valla showed people random head shots of men, they found that almost everyone correctly identified the criminals. In PhysOrg.com, George Lowery quotes Valla as saying, "We found a small but reliable effect. Subjects rated the criminal photos as significantly more likely to have committed a crime than noncriminals." But the participants could not distinguish between violent and nonviolent offenders, and women had more trouble correctly identifying rapists than men did. Lowery quotes Valla as saying, "We speculate that part of the reason why rapists might be successful is that they may purposefully make themselves appear to be nonthreatening to gain access to their victims." In other words, they work hard to develop a persona that will turn off our basic instincts.

But that brings us to the troublesome aspect of racial profiling, or arrests for what African-Americans call DWB or "driving while black." A Dutch social scientists, of Tilburg University in the Netherlands, suggests that people may resort to stereotyping to cope with the stress associated with disorder or chaos. When they tested this by handing out questionnaires to people in either dirty or neat neighborhoods, they found that messy, crumbling poor neighborhoods contribute to stereotyping, racism and discrimination. This conclusion is endorsed by black filmmaker Spike Lee, who sees as much (or more) skin tone prejudice in the black neighborhoods than in middle-class white areas.

We absolutely GUARANTEE there will be no thieves, pickpockets or bunko artists at our Dreamland Festival in beautiful Nashville this summer--just lots of people walking around with guitars around their necks and lots of nice people who are interested in special subjects, just like YOU. But don't wait too long to get your tickets--we're selling out FAST!



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