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Thread: Trends in human violence

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    Trends in human violence

    Quote Originally Posted by gzhpcu View Post
    Isn’t this all part of a greater problem? Homo sapiens has made great technological progress, but none in morality. We still kill, rape, rob. In war, are we any better than the Romans, Huns, Crusaders? Look at WW I, WW II, Vietnam.... Look at the fascination with bloody tv thrillers, graphic violence in the movies, the violent playstation games played by children. None of the latter is conducive to sensibilty training towards others. It is not only a question of rape, but of domestic violence towards women and children.
    gzhpcu raised an interesting question in another thread. I didn't want to derail that thread, but I wanted to discuss this further.

    Are humans as violent today as they were hundreds or thousands of years ago?
    Last edited by Swift; 2018-Oct-10 at 09:11 PM. Reason: typo
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    From what I have read on this topic, there is considerable evidence that we are slowly becoming less violent and more civilized.

    For example, there is this interview with Steven Pinker about his book The Better Angels of Our Nature.
    The only way you can really answer the question - has violence gone up or down? - is to count how many violent incidents have there been as a proportion of the number of opportunities, and has that gone up or down over the course of history? And that's what I tried to do in the book. I looked at homicide, looked at war, looked at genocide, looked at terrorism. And in all cases, the long-term historical trend, though there are ups and downs and wiggles and spikes, is absolutely downward. The rate of violent crime in United States has fallen by more than half in just a decade. The rate of death in war fell by a factor of 100 over a span of 25 years.
    There is this website with graphs and data

    Even a little googling will find counterviews to this position, but I found this piece from Psychology Today to be an interesting take on that.
    We should stop feeling unsafe and instead feel safe.

    But we don’t. Why?

    There is really one reason, that plays out in different ways: Our psychology. Specifically, we love fear.

    In 2001, psychologists Roy Baumeister, Ellen Bratslavsky, Catrin Finkenauer, and Kathleen D. Vohs wrote their important and seminal paper: Bad is Stronger than Good (Review of General Psychology, 2001. Vol. 5. No. 4. 323-370.) Short form: you are more upset about losing $50 than you are happy about gaining $50. (Their paper discusses dozens of such examples.) The bad is stronger than the good because humans evolved: it is more adaptive to avoid the bad than to search out the good.

    Because of our evolutionarily supplied love of fear and preference for the bad, our modern news is 24/7 reporting about bad and scary things. Violence is always newsworthy; peace is not. No one wants to hear 24/7 that someone was nice to someone. Sure niceness can be tossed in at the end of a segment on the latest school shooting by an angry gunman, but the real news is the latest school shooting by an angry gunman. So, because humans evolved — which is why the bad is stronger than the good and why we are bad at statistics (see, e.g., Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow) — we tend to think that all the bad news is the whole truth. But it’s only a small part of truth.
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    Then I'll reply to this here:
    Quote Originally Posted by gzhpcu View Post
    Really? Look at cage fighting, ufc, child prostitution in thailand. Writing about something is one thing, doing something about it is something else. There were decent Romans, yet they enjoyed the bloody games in the colesseum, just as people enjoy boxing and ufc tiday. The human race needs to be manipulated genetically to eliminate primal instincts.
    The fact that bloody games existed, and the inference that decent Romans existed, does not imply that decent Romans enjoyed the bloody games.
    Games were often staged in which no-one was killed - including during the reign of Nero - which suggests there was an appetite for more "sporting" competitions. Arenas could typically accommodate only a few percent of the population of the towns they served, so probably most people stayed away. And we know that people would sometimes attend games because they wished to curry favour with the important person staging the games - at a time when failing to curry favour could have very bad consequences.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    gzhpcu raised an interesting question in another thread. I didn't want to derail that thread, but I wanted to discuss this further.

    Are humans as violent today as they were hundreds or thousands of years ago.
    We are less violent now.

    https://ourworldindata.org/war-and-peace

    http://www.slate.com/articles/news_a..._peaceful.html
    https://www.scientificamerican.com/a...e-of-violence/
    http://reason.com/archives/2012/01/1...ne-of-violence
    https://www.vox.com/2015/6/23/883231...ties-600-years
    https://www.theguardian.com/commenti...story-violence

    And nonfatal violence is also in a lull.
    Last edited by Noclevername; 2018-Oct-10 at 09:21 PM.
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    And because I'm doing a story about a war, I'm researching basics of the psychology of violence and killing. So I will probably have more to add to this thread in days to come.
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    I think it makes a lot of sense that we are less violent. I can’t really think of any animal that is never violent, but generally speaking, because it is an evolutionary imperative to conserve energy, we are only violent normally when we feel it is necessary, so when we feel threatened or need food. We live in an environment where we generally have enough to eat and are not threatened (in the sense of our life being threatened). And there is the morality issue. We have culture.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I think it makes a lot of sense that we are less violent. I can’t really think of any animal that is never violent, but generally speaking, because it is an evolutionary imperative to conserve energy, we are only violent normally when we feel it is necessary, so when we feel threatened or need food. We live in an environment where we generally have enough to eat and are not threatened (in the sense of our life being threatened). And there is the morality issue. We have culture.
    I think there are studies that show our violent instincts are often triggered by nonviolent events and conditions. I will look for the study, but one report said that challenges to one's worldview trigger the same parts of the brain used for fight or flight. Our brains and bodies interpret cognitive dissonance the same way as a physical threat.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    And because I'm doing a story about a war, I'm researching basics of the psychology of violence and killing. So I will probably have more to add to this thread in days to come.
    War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning by Chris Hedges, and On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman (US Army, Ret.).

    That pretty well covers it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    I think there are studies that show our violent instincts are often triggered by nonviolent events and conditions. I will look for the study, but one report said that challenges to one's worldview trigger the same parts of the brain used for fight or flight. Our brains and bodies interpret cognitive dissonance the same way as a physical threat.
    It's interesting what you mention, and actually I can think of an explanation for why that might be true. There's something else was going to mention but didn't because I was typing on my iPhone on the train. There is another situation in which animals are violent, but in a different way: rivalry for mating. They usually don't kill each other, but only try to demonstrate that they are stronger than the other. And in ape or human societies, we have a social order, and the ability to have offspring depends to some extent on one's position within the group. So I think it makes sense that a "challenge to our worldview" is interpreted as the other person trying to show themselves to be superior to us, and we take it as a challenge to our social status and thus can respond violently to the perceived slight.
    As above, so below

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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    Are humans as violent today as they were hundreds or thousands of years ago?
    Yes. We're just better at killing other humans en masse now, from a distance, so we can sleep better at night.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger E. Moore View Post
    Yes. We're just better at killing other humans en masse now, from a distance, so we can sleep better at night.
    We were pretty good in the past; better than I think most people realize. wikipedia entry on lists of wars by death toll

    The Three Kingdoms War in China from 184 to 280 AD is estimated to have killed 36 to 40 million.
    The Mongol conquests in the 13th and 14th century are estimated to have killed 30 to 40 million.
    The Spanish conquest of the Aztec is estimated to have killed 24 million.
    There are many others listed.

    Yes, WWII is estimated to have killed 70 million. I still think the evidence is that we are getting less violent.

    And I still sleep terribly. We have plenty more work to do.
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    On the individual level I think it is more a balance in the head more than anything else.

    On the species level I think we probably less wars but humans have a bad track record so far.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger E. Moore View Post
    War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning by Chris Hedges, and On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman (US Army, Ret.).

    That pretty well covers it.
    I had actually just ordered On Killing. It hasn't gotten here yet.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    We were pretty good in the past; better than I think most people realize. wikipedia entry on lists of wars by death toll

    The Three Kingdoms War in China from 184 to 280 AD is estimated to have killed 36 to 40 million.
    The Mongol conquests in the 13th and 14th century are estimated to have killed 30 to 40 million.
    The Spanish conquest of the Aztec is estimated to have killed 24 million.
    There are many others listed.

    Yes, WWII is estimated to have killed 70 million. I still think the evidence is that we are getting less violent.

    And I still sleep terribly. We have plenty more work to do.
    And part of the reason our current war death numbers are high is that there are simply more people than in ancient times. Proportionately, a lot bigger fraction of the population died in ancient wars.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    And part of the reason our current war death numbers are high is that there are simply more people than in ancient times. Proportionately, a lot bigger fraction of the population died in ancient wars.
    I was thinking the same thing. Wikipedia has an estimate of about 400 million humans in 1400AD. Had to be a lot less before then. 20 or 40 million of them is a big percentage.
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    Quote Originally Posted by gzhpcu View Post
    2011. I think it took a spike in recent years.
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    I personally, do not think there has been any improvement. What has changed are the channels of communication. Whereas once it was by word of mouth, then the printed press, now it is instantaneous due to the internet. More difficult to coverup violent incidents or scandals.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    I had actually just ordered On Killing. It hasn't gotten here yet.
    That book is one of the best I have ever read, in that it so thoroughly changed my attitudes on the topic of the aftereffects of violence and killing on those who do it and those who survive it. The author is no slacker; he documents everything down to the last footnote. When we put distance between ourselves and the killings we commit, we feel less bad about them and more justified, and more likely to do it again. Artillery, bombs, and missiles are the deadliest things, and also the best at putting emotional distance between ourselves and what we are doing to others. Constant training to kill using simulated enemies and live fire, either as popup targets or in live role-playing scenarios, lessens the mental, emotional, and philosophical barriers to killing, makes soldiers more efficient at killing, and later risks making soldiers both more prone to violence and more prone to mental illness (PTSD) and suicide. The book is extremely controversial, but he backs up his assertions. Not a book to be taken lightly, no matter what a person's feelings on the topic.
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    In light of these data, in which more than one
    in three women (35.6%) globally report having
    experienced physical and/or sexual partner
    violence, or sexual violence by a non-partner, the
    evidence is incontrovertible – violence against
    women is a public health problem of epidemic
    proportions. It pervades all corners of the
    globe, puts women’s health at risk, limits their
    participation in society, and causes great human
    suffering.
    This from: http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/h...0E5?sequence=1

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    Quote Originally Posted by gzhpcu View Post
    I personally, do not think there has been any improvement. What has changed are the channels of communication. Whereas once it was by word of mouth, then the printed press, now it is instantaneous due to the internet. More difficult to coverup violent incidents or scandals.
    I'm not following your reasoning.

    If I understand what you are saying, improved communications means that we hear about a larger percentage of the violence than we used to - I would agree with that. But that means that any apparent increase is not really an increase, just an increase in reporting. And if we are hearing the same number of incidents as we used to, but it is a larger percentage of the total, then the number of incidents is going down.

    NCN and I have show various studies that have shown decreases. I understand your personal opinion, but do you have any evidence that it is not changing or that it is increasing?

    Quote Originally Posted by gzhpcu View Post
    As I've said several times already, no one is denying that there is still a lot of violence in the world; I would easily said it is way too much. But this is a point in time study, not a trend. I suspect violence against women was a lot higher in the past. I know, at least in the United States, that up until the last couple of decades, that violence against a spouse, short of murder, was generally not even dealt with as a criminal act. It was certainly very unreported.
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    Quote Originally Posted by gzhpcu View Post
    I personally, do not think there has been any improvement. What has changed are the channels of communication. Whereas once it was by word of mouth, then the printed press, now it is instantaneous due to the internet. More difficult to coverup violent incidents or scandals.
    Exactly why it SEEMS like there's more.
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    It's been interesting as a parent to see what I took for granted as a kid that simply isn't done anymore. I just got back from walking Simon to his bus, which I am required by the district to do--he's in kindergarten, so an adult has to be with him when he gets on the bus. Which then loops around through our neighbourhood to pick up kids at the apartment complex across the street. When I was in kindergarten, my older sister and I walked, usually alone, to a bus stop two blocks away. There was a girl there from my class who walked even farther, alone, to the same stop. Statistically, Simon is safer than I was, because incidents of stranger violence against children have significantly decreased. But there's still an expectation that I reduce his freedom because to do otherwise isn't safe.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    I'm not following your reasoning.

    If I understand what you are saying, improved communications means that we hear about a larger percentage of the violence than we used to - I would agree with that. But that means that any apparent increase is not really an increase, just an increase in reporting. And if we are hearing the same number of incidents as we used to, but it is a larger percentage of the total, then the number of incidents is going down.

    NCN and I have show various studies that have shown decreases. I understand your personal opinion, but do you have any evidence that it is not changing or that it is increasing?



    As I've said several times already, no one is denying that there is still a lot of violence in the world; I would easily said it is way too much. But this is a point in time study, not a trend. I suspect violence against women was a lot higher in the past. I know, at least in the United States, that up until the last couple of decades, that violence against a spouse, short of murder, was generally not even dealt with as a criminal act. It was certainly very unreported.
    All I am saying, in my personal opinion, is that reporting today has improved, encouraging victims to come forward. Here in Switzerland, it is astonishing how many adults today are coming out reporting having been abused or beaten in institutions as children. Also the high rate of domestic violence still valid today.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gillianren View Post
    Statistically, Simon is safer than I was, because incidents of stranger violence against children have significantly decreased. But there's still an expectation that I reduce his freedom because to do otherwise isn't safe.
    Sure, but how much of the statistical decrease in danger is because of the reduction in freedom?

    EDIT: I actually agree with you that kids are overprotected today; just playing devil's advocate with this particular point.
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    I was discussing that with my wife last week. As a child, we just told our parents roughly what was the plan and off we went. "I'm going to watch the farmers". We had no cellphone. They had no clue where we would be watching the farmers. We lived close to the border, they didn't even know which country we'd be in. And I'm speaking of us being around 12 years old. I must add that we were well behaved, not overly stupid and living in a sparsely populated area. still, the way you are supposed to be helicoptering over your children now, we'd never dare to let our children do that. As a child I went ice skating on natural ice just like that, with a tendency to fall through. No adult would be around if something happened. More than once I had to cycle back home for miles in frozen wet clothes, announced I fell through the ice, got a warm bath made for me, put on new clothes and off I went again. It's not just that parents are treating their children different today, people are treating parents different as well. If I'd do the above with my children today, I'd get police on my front door.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nicolas View Post
    It's not just that parents are treating their children different today, people are treating parents different as well. If I'd do the above with my children today, I'd get police on my front door.
    And that's more the root of current overprotection IMO, than fear for the child. Fear of social backlash.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    I think there are studies that show our violent instincts are often triggered by nonviolent events and conditions. I will look for the study, but one report said that challenges to one's worldview trigger the same parts of the brain used for fight or flight. Our brains and bodies interpret cognitive dissonance the same way as a physical threat.
    Having experienced both parenthood and been on the receiving end of some harsh violence while working in a school, I suspect that our tenancies to resort to violence in an effort to defend ourselves from non-violent threats is much less than several decades ago. I do not see the same level of pettiness between children as I recall back in high school. Nor do I see people deciding to defend their honor physically. A lot of kids view this with disdain and are far less likely to get riled up even when offended.

    I had several bones broken by one student in a couple of different events this year. The kid isn't doing to "get me" or anything, there was no reward (or punishment) for his actions. He really didn't want to do it, but with limited means of self expression, that is what happened. It is what it is. He doesn't feel good about, I can tell that. It seems to me that if he had other tools, this would never happen and he would simply be a typical kid. And "typical kids" now-a-days are significantly more respectful of other people's bodies than they were when I was a kid.

    Kids today are far less respectful verbally, but it seems they take a pass on physical violence.
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    This morning I received a new issue of the Swiss magazine, Beobachter. The cover article is entitled “Violence”:

    A new trend is violence instead of partying. Since 1999 there has been a steady increase in physical attacks, sexual molestation, rape, attacks on police. The number of attacks on the police, for example, has doubled in number in the last 15 years. Most cases take place on weekends. Only 14% of cases involving violence are reported to the police. Though men are mostly involved (90%), the number of women involved is increasing. Football fans of rival clubs have become increasingly involved in fights.

    When there is a football match in little Lugano, there is a massive deployment of riot police and barriers to try to curb postmatch violence.

    This is all new for Switzerland. We never had such violence years ago.
    Last edited by gzhpcu; 2018-Oct-12 at 07:19 AM.

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