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ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture

(TL;DR Warning)

First it should be noted that I don't really have time to watch the news. So most of what I'm about to say is based on what I've gathered on the periphery. I've always had one issue with the media when it comes to these events, namely, when they bring up mental health into the mix. These are my thoughts:

1. The Nominal Fallacy: The first thing that bothers me is the use of the phrase mental health. One of the biggest issues faced by the layman (which I still consider myself to be) when they enter the scientific world, is thinking that things which are named, are things which are tamed. You learn a fancy word like anosognosia and walk away thinking you're smarter for having known it. But many times we don't know anything about the thing other than the name we gave it. Many times these are just fancy Greek and Latin ways of saying something like "can't remember," "can't speak," and "has no knowledge of self (anosognosia)" (Firestein, 2012).

Sometimes I feel the same is happening with the words Mental Illness (Barlow & Durand, 2015, pp. G-11). I think people think they know what they’re saying, but they really don’t (Hinshaw & Stier, 2008). They seem to be referring to psychological disorder, but we have specific names for those, such as schizophrenia, depression, and dissociative disorders. From what I have seen they rarely name a specific disorder; they just use mental health and mental illness as a synonym for crazy, which brings me to my second point (Weiss, 1988).

2. Anti-Normalizing.. We have a natural tendency to comfort ourselves by dismissing similarities on account of the differences. If we hear of a plane crash such as the recent Russian one, we might have been initially worried, but then we tell ourselves its ok, because we don’t fly that airline and have never been on such a strange yellow “wing-over-body” plane. Therefore, that'll never be us (From Youtube Comments).

The same thing happens when we hear of atrocities such as shootings and murders. We tell ourselves, they’re just crazy people. They were born demented. They were psychopaths and criminals since birth. They’re not like us, we’re normal, we would never do that. Comforting as these thoughts might be, the line between a 'crazy murderer' and a 'normal person' is often just the few millimeters it takes to squeeze the trigger. I think we’re all capable of committing atrocities given the right situation and circumstances. The Stanford Prison Experiments show how human behavior becomes corrupted when power and authority is given to a person (Zimbardo, 2007). The Milgram (1963) experiment shows how we can justify our wrong actions, so long as we have someone else to put the blame on. Concepts like Running Amok and Going Postal get their stereotyped names precisely because of their unusual likeliness. Most often, these are normal people, like you. Then you get into the strange world of neurological conditions. A seizure can make a faithful mother of 40 years, suddenly divorce her husband and go running off to Hollywood to become a movie star (Sheth et al., 2007, p. 8). A tumor in the wrong place of the brain, can create a Charles Whitman, sniping people from the top of a university tower (Eagleman, 2011). Your own 'normal' brain can turn you into a murderer (Raine, 2013).

Crazy doesn't exist in psychology. Most abnormal behavior is categorized thus because they are statistically rare. Not because they are biologically pathological (Barlow & Durand, 2015).

3. HARKing (Hypothesizing After Results are Known). My last issue with how people view events such as the recent shooting, is how quick people try to make sense of it. They go back and look through their posts and Instagram and tell themselves, look, they’re posting a picture with a gun, wasn’t it obvious they were going to shoot up a school!? No, and this way of thinking is problematic for the same reason I see evolutionary explanations of behavior as problematic: they are post hoc (Kerr, 1998).

We tend to think certain events are obvious in retrospect, despite them not being obvious as a predictive factor (Fischhoff, 2007). Only in retrospect does Trump winning the presidency seem obvious, blame it on Middle America, but not too long ago did we think Hillary would be the clear winner. It’s a ‘creeping determinism,” it’s the sense that what happened was inevitable when we look at things in retrospect. Its going back in the timeline, and connecting all the dots that led to the present events, because you already know how the story turns out (Gladwell, 2003). But its near impossible to take the present dots, and predict the next school shooter. We turn truly unexpected and unpredictable events into obvious and expected occurrences (Fischhoff & Beyth, 1975). We couldn't have predicted this; so we should stop pretending like we could (McRaney, 2011).


-Barlow, D. H., & Durand, V. M. (2015). Abnormal psychology: An integrative approach (7th ed.). Stamford: Cengage.
-Eaglemn, D. (2011). Incognito: The secret lives of the brain. New York: Pantheon Books.
-Firestein, S. (2012). The name game. In J. Brockman, This will make you smarter (pp. 62-65). New York: Harper Perennial.
-Fischhoff, B. (2007). An early history of hindsight research. Social Cognition, 10-13.
-Fischhoff, B., & Beyth, R. (1975). I knew it would happen: Remembered probabilities of once future things. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 1-16.
-Gladwell, M. (2003, March 10). Connecting the dots. Retrieved from The New Yorker:
-Hinshaw, S. P., & Stier, A. (2008). Stigma as related to mental disorders. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 367-393.
-Kerr, N. (1998). HARKing: Hypothesizing after the results are known. Peronality and Social Psychology Review, 196-217.
-McRaney, D. (2011). You are not so smart. Gotham Books.
-Milgram, S. (1963). Behavioral study of obedience. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 371-378.
-Raine, A. (2013). The anatomy of violence: The biological roots of crime. New York: Pantheon Books.
-Sheth, K., Harris, O. A., Cho, T., & Caughey, A. (2007). Neurology: Clinical cases. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
-Weiss, M. F. (1988). Children's attitude toward the mentally ill: An eight-year longitudinal follow-up. J. Personal. Soc. Psychol, 738-748.
-Zimbardo, P. (2007). The lucifer effect. New York: Random House.

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mykcob4's picture
I don't think you are a

I don't think you are a qualified psychologist Breezy. I don't think you have been or are a shooter.
That being said I didn't bother to read what you wrote.
I was a scout/sniper in the USMC. Which is quite different than a criminal shooter. Therefore I don't qualify myself to know what goes on in the mind of a criminal mass shooter.
I know one thing though. If that kid didn't have a gun things would have been a great deal different.

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
Hmm lol

Hmm lol

mykcob4's picture
@Breezy You make an AMATEUR

@Breezy You make an AMATEUR psychoanalysis of a general population and I call you out on it and your response is "Hmm lol".
Fucking stupid!

LogicFTW's picture
At the risk of alienating

At the risk of alienating myself to some other users of this board, I actually read and agree with most of what Breezy wrote here. I think all 3 points he brings up has merit to them.

What does mental health really mean? Being like how everyone expects you to be?

I ofcourse think there is a whole lot more than just these 3 points in play in the psychology of a mass shooter.

I also strongly agree that if there was no guns so readily available in many of these single mass shooter scenario, the outcome would be very different.

The vegas shooter was interesting to me as both the experts and the media struggled to come up with motive/reasoning. Even months later, the best they can come up with is: "he wanted to hurt the casino(s) that hurt him." Ofcourse in my mind, someone that thinks they can beat the casino computers in slot machines is obviously delusional on some level. Other than occasional mistakes, the house always wins in the end, the more you gamble the more surety there is that statement is true.

I think HARKing is something almost all of us do when reading/hearing about something like a mass shooting. It is so easy to form opinion when you are not in the situation and you know the end result already.

However, having 350 million guns, some of the most lax gun laws of any country, and it is pretty easy to predict with accuracy there will be more mass shootings, at rates much higher than any other 1st world country.

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
I think the sociology of a

I actually think the sociology of a shooter is more important than the psychology. It's what puts an idea in peoples heads in the first place. Sure, you can attribute shootings to lack of laws, but I think culture is a more important factor.

Take the France case where a person killed a bunch of people with a truck. I remember thinking at that moment that the idea would spread. Sure enough, mass killings with vehicles is now a thing. Once an idea breaks the ice, it spreads.

Ideas are more powerful than laws; and the idea of a mass shooting is already part of the American culture ever since Columbine.

LogicFTW's picture
Yeah, unfortunately would be

Yeah, unfortunately would be mass killers can also easily learn what works and what doesn't. Guns tends to work, home made bombs tend to not work. Large trucks at high speeds are very effective if it can gain access to a crowded area. Large planes are extremely effective, but fortunately for all of us, pretty easy to secure.

Difference here is, guns are highly accessible, large trucks less so, and large planes are nearly impossible these days to gain control of.

Culture plays in I think more on, what risk are people willing to accept? What are they willing to sacrifice for it? People are mostly willing to accept a security screening at airports that limits what you can bring on board, as well as the small additional cost of flying to carry out the security. People are not willing to spend billions of dollars securing all the schools with a similiar security process that airports now employ. Also culture does not like the idea of metal detectors, pat down searches and xray machines for their 8 year old daughter to contend with every time she enters her school.

Culture has largely decided in the US that we will allow a minority to have all the gun rights they could possibly want even at the expense of all the mass shootings.

We all decided that automobiles are highly necessary even though they are so dangerous. (3000+ pound bullet moving at 60+ mph? yeah that is dangerous no matter how you spin it.)

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
I do sometimes wonder why

I do sometimes wonder why they even make cars that go above 80mph if no one is allowed to drive that fast.

Sushisnake's picture
I wonder why affluent men

I wonder why affluent men having midlife crises buy them even more

Sheldon's picture
Guns are lot easier to limit

Guns are lot easier to limit access to than motor vehicles, and for the obvious reason that no one really needs an automatic weapon. I can't get away from the simple fact that the US has some of the most liberal gun laws in the free world, and a correspondingly high rate of gun violence and deaths. No one is really suggesting gun control is a panacea for all ills, but it's absurd to ignore the link between gun proliferation, liberal gun laws, and gun violence / crime.

The fact that some people have a propensity for violence is a given, armed with cricket bat they might not even make the news, armed with an automatic weapon they'll make the news globally.

Old man shouts at clouds's picture
@ Breezy

@ Breezy

You said
"Crazy" doesn't exist in psychology. Most abnormal behavior is categorized thus because they are statistically rare. Not because they are biologically pathological.

Correct but only as far as it goes. Various disorders are diagnosed in Psychiatry and recognised as aberrant behaviours in psychology. Drugs are administered to correct chemical imbalances.

These imbalances cause the behaviours that a layman calls "crazy".

However the unrestricted sale of of assault weapons in the U.S I would characterise as fucking crazy, fucking nutso and symptomatic of a deep malaise within the social fabric of the nation.
There is no justification for 19 year old with a history of aberrant social behaviour being able to walk in to a store and buy an assault rife and extra magazines. He cant even buy a beer. Fucking nuts.

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
Psychiatry is a dying field,

Psychiatry is a dying field. Secondly, what tests do psychiatrists even run to diagnose a chemical imbalance? You're basically talking about neurotransmitters, and many, such as dopamine, don't cross the blood-brain barrier. So how exactly would one diagnose an imbalance, short of sticking a needle in the brain?

No, in my opinion it is misleading to say any behavior is caused by a chemical imbalance. Behavior is much more complicated than chemicals; and the causal direction may very well be in the opposite directions.

In my opinion, psychiatrists are playing with blunt instruments when they prescribe medication. I hope that field dies off soon, and becomes swallowed up by neurologists and clinical psychologists.

Sushisnake's picture

" No, in my opinion it is misleading to say any behavior is caused by a chemical imbalance. Behavior is much more complicated than chemicals; and the causal direction may very well be in the opposite directions."

It's dead useful though, John: " Feeling depressed because you work 60 hrs a week and STILL can't keep body and soul together? You have a chemical imbalance which has caused this mental illness. We have a pill to fix that."

Aposteriori unum's picture
Don't take this the wrong way

Don't take this the wrong way, old man, but just out of curiosity... Could you define "assault weapon" ?

Old man shouts at clouds's picture
@ Aposteriori Unum "Don't

@ Aposteriori Unum "Don't take this the wrong way"

Nor would I take it the "wrong way" from you my much respected "Aposteriori Unum" I have far too much respect for you for that.

I can only speak for the Australian definitions of firearms

from Wikepedia viz:

The National Firearm Agreement defines categories of firearms, with different levels of control for each, as follows:.

Category A
Rimfire rifles (not semi-automatic), shotguns (not pump-action or semi-automatic), air rifles including semi-automatic, and paintball guns.
Category B
Centrefire rifles including bolt action, pump action and lever action (not semi-automatic) and muzzleloading firearms made after 1 January 1901.
Category C
Pump-action or self-loading shotguns having a magazine capacity of 5 or fewer rounds and semi-automatic rimfire rifles up to 10 rounds. Primary producers, farm workers, firearm dealers, firearm safety officers, collectors and clay target shooters can own functional Category C firearms.
Category D
All self-loading centrefire rifles, pump-action or self-loading shotguns that have a magazine capacity of more than 5 rounds, semi-automatic rimfire rifles over 10 rounds, are restricted to government agencies, occupational shooters and primary producers.
Category H
Handguns including air pistols and deactivated handguns. This class is available to target shooters and certain security guards whose job requires possession of a firearm. To be eligible for a Category H firearm, a target shooter must serve a probationary period of 6 months using club handguns, after which they may apply for a permit. A minimum number of matches yearly to retain each category of handgun and be a paid-up member of an approved pistol club.[4] Target shooters are limited to handguns of .38 or 9mm calibre or less and magazines may hold a maximum of 10 rounds. Participants in certain "approved" pistol competitions may acquire handguns up to .45 calibre, currently Single Action Shooting and Metallic Silhouette. IPSC shooting is approved for 9mm/.38/.357 SIG, handguns that meet the IPSC rules, larger calibres such as .45 were approved for IPSC handgun shooting contests in Australia in 2014, however only in Victoria so far.[5] Barrels must be at least 100mm (3.94") long for revolvers, and 120mm (4.72") for semi-automatic pistols unless the pistols are clearly ISSF target pistols; magazines are restricted to 10 rounds.
Category R/E
Restricted weapons include military weapons such as machine guns, rocket launchers, full automatic self loading rifles, flame-throwers and anti-tank guns.

As you can see in Australia a mentally disturbed teenager can no way just walk into a store, lay their money down and walk out with a firearm capable of a massacre.

We have a firearm crime problem mostly with organised crime with handguns that includes bikies. Approx There were 338 hospitalised cases in 2013–14 and 209 in the WHOLE of AUSTRALIA
deaths in 2012–13 as a result of firearm-related injuries.
The age-adjusted rates were 1.5 hospitalised cases
per 100,000 population and 0.9 deaths per 100,000
population, respectively.
80% of firearm-related deaths in 2012–13 were due to suicide. I am sure even the most rabid NRA member can do some basic math.

Use of firearms in crime in Australia still make National headlines, in contrast to the US where the same crimes barely make the news and suicides not at all. Contrast one town the same size as my city of Perth and where I used to live: San Diego a very peaceful place, in 2013 there 516 armed (gun) crimes committed and reported to police. That does NOT include suicides.

Aposteriori unum's picture
The reason I asked is because

The reason I asked is because the term seems redundant. If it is a weapon is it not, by definition, used for assaults? With the exception of defensive weapons... Which is really a nearly non existent thing.

I guessed that you meant assault rifles as opposed to swords and axes and shotgun et cetera, of course. I was curious about the terminology.

And even then, what most people call assault rifles are usually not. An AR 15 is not an assault rifle. It's a semi automatic rifle with a pistol grip. Basically a glorified handgun with a long barrel and a stock. They are easily available in USA.

However, m16s and m4s and ak47s are not unless you obtain them illegally. In which case, a criminal intending to do a crime with a fire arm already, probably doesn't care whether or not the weapon itself is legal.

To obtain a filly automatic rifle or a submachinegun, et cetera, one has to fill out a special form, a form 4, there is a 200$flat tax, a full FBI background check, a six month waiting period, you get put on a list, you need to send a photo and proof of address, then you need to get permission from the Sheriff of whatever county you live in... Before you even contact the seller. And if the Sheriff says no... Then too bad. You can try again when there's a new Sheriff or you can move to a new county.

But I digress. The point was the term, I found it curious. Assault weapon. Well, I would call them all assault weapons because, well, that's what they are for.

Old man shouts at clouds's picture
@ Apos

@ Apos

Yep I agree. All we have done in Australia is to outlaw those modified and modifications to weapons available that are designed for mass murder. Commonly called assault weapons.

Sheldon's picture
I think we can take it as

I think we can take it as given that the psyche of mass murderers tends to be an anomaly among the general population. There is a difference between this and someone who is classed as criminally insane of course, and therefore has diminished culpability. However I have a question, whether we accept that the US as a society is more likely to produce such people or not, is the situation improved or deteriorated if they have easy access to automatic assault rifles?

I do't see the downside in strict gun control, (beyond diminished profits) can someone point out what I'm missing?

LogicFTW's picture
*puts on devil horns*

*puts on devil horns*

US Population control. Cars are getting to good at protecting idiotic people, so got to have other forms of population control.


Okay that is ridiculous and absurd, but all I could come up with, which says a lot. People saying everyone should have the right to as many assault rifles as they want are also ridiculous and absurd.

Old man shouts at clouds's picture
@ Breezy

@ Breezy

Changing the label of the diagnostician does not invalidate anything I said.

"Correct but only as far as it goes. Various disorders are diagnosed in Psychiatry, Neurology and by Clinical Psychologists, and recognised as aberrant behaviours in psychology. Drugs are administered to correct chemical imbalances."

" These imbalances are thought by many clinical diagnosticians to cause or be caused by the behaviours that a layman calls "crazy".

Feel you better now?

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
What? No, the label wasn't

What? No, the label wasn't the problem.

You actually made it worse now. Clinical psychologists don't prescribe medication; and neurologists aren't concerned with the mind.

Old man shouts at clouds's picture
@ Breezy

@ Breezy

Possibly not in your jurisdiction but in Australia, psychologists will be able to evaluate client mental health needs more effectively than GP's and only prescribe when necessary. Many other non-medically trained healthcare providers in Australia have the legal authority to prescribe.
I know very well what a neurologist does and when presented with what a layman would call 'crazy' it may well be a neurological problem requiring drugs or even surgical intervention.

So wipe the smug dripping down your chin and read properly.

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
Its the same here in America;

Its the same here in America; some states do allows those not medically trained to prescribe medication. That's still not the point of my objection. I'm not concerned with who does it, I'm concerned with why you said they're doing it: fixing a chemical imbalance.

Old man shouts at clouds's picture
@ Breezy

@ Breezy

Sadly that is the considered opinion of many of our peers. Just because you disagree does not make it so. I disagree as well but my opinion I know is worth a butterfly fart so I just repeated the mainstream current opinion.

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
Well one of the most

Well one of the most inspiring yet depressing ideas to come out of the philosophy of science, is that of a paradigm shift. Science doesn't really progress through raw intellectual strength. It progresses because the older generations with the older ideas die off, and the newer generations with the newer ideas take over.

So, my opinion is definitely worth more than a butterfly fart lol.

Old man shouts at clouds's picture
@ Breezy Wheezy barely

@ Breezy Wheezy barely qualified
"my opinion is definitely worth more than a butterfly fart lol"

No, No it is not. LMFAO.
FMD what are you, first year?

Sheldon's picture
opinion that offer paradigm

Opinions that offer paradigm shifts are not better until they are validated by the scientific process. Geniuses may move science along exponentially by thinking outside the box, but their work is still subject to the same rigorous methods, and it goes without saying this does not as you are suggesting always involve reversing old ideas. You're also incorrect to claim "Science doesn't really progress through raw intellectual strength." that's simply wrong, it may not progress as much as quickly as when a genius suddenly makes a paradigm shifting discovery, but it certainly progresses and is equally important.

You also incorrectly assume this justifies you denying scientific facts, like species evolution, in favour of religious beliefs, needless to say that is nonsense. You may be a scientific genius awaiting fame and discovery, but it seems more likely you're simply a young man with strident religious beliefs, unhappy that science refutes some key myths from those beliefs. If you get a Nobel prize I'll happily recant, but until then your denials of scientific facts, like your broad strident assertions are meaningless. Oddly enough paradigm shifts in science rarely break in chat rooms.

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
Opinions don't tend to cause

Opinions don't tend to cause paradigm shifts on their own in first place. A paradigm shift occurs because a given paradigm encounters anomalies which, if the scientists can't solve, lead to a state of crisis in the scientific community. Only in that context do new ideas take value.

The reason why science doesn't really "progress" through raw intellectual strength, is because the role of normal science is fact-gathering and solving the puzzles of the paradigm. Once a revolution occurs all that "progress" becomes either reinterpreted in light of the new paradigm, or discarded. It just doesn't make sense to talk about progress, when tomorrow's generation might view all our progress, as outdated as the geocentric solar system is to us:

"Almost always the men who achieve these fundamental inventions of a new paradigm have been either very young or very new to the field whose paradigm they change. And perhaps that point need not have been made explicit, for obviously these are the men who, being little committed by prior practice to the traditional rules of normal science, are particularly likely to see that those rules no longer define a playable game and to conceive another set that can replace them." -Thomas Kuhn

Sushisnake's picture
We're currently seeing a

We're currently seeing a paradigm shift in science's view of animal altruism. Before the shift, we thought it was rare: it isn't. We thought the nasty patriarchal behaviour of chimpanzees helped explain human moral evolution, but then we discovered bonobos, close relatives who really do make love, not war, and we had to think again. Another paradigm shift is slowly occurring as a result.

ʝօɦռ 6IX ɮʀɛɛʐʏ's picture
Certainly, although in my

Certainly, although in my opinion all evolutionary explanations for behavior and cognition that make such comparisons are self-defeating. No matter how close an evolutionary cousin might be, they're still a different species; they can provide us with limited, if not misleading, information. Looking at the behavior of other apes to learn about humans is like studying the behavior of lions to learn about snow leopards. It's a waste of time in my opinion, and should only be done as a substitute not a replacement: It's not ethical to induce stress on a human to see how it affects their immune system and social status, so test it out on baboons. But we shouldnt try to analyze human behavior through a monkey's lens.

Sushisnake's picture
I don't think they are trying

I don't think they are trying to explain human behaviour through a monkey's lens. I think they're looking for common behaviours in social species and what that tells us about moral evolution. For starters, they're not just looking at apes. I think they WERE trying to explain our behaviour through a chimpanzee's lens in the past -macho human nature, red in tooth and claw- but the paradigm shifted.


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