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Dean Burnett @garwboy
, 13 tweets, 5 min read Read on Twitter
OK, so had a chance to read this "Brain scans show social exclusion creates jihadists" article in the @guardian (well, observer). Here are some observations



Firstly, the title. I mean, for the love of piss, I know headlines need to be brief and attention-grabbing, but there's no need for presenting it as such an absolute. I was socially excluded a lot in school, but have never considered 'death to the west' as a viable goal

I know it's a tricky one, but a more accurate headline would be 'social exclusion leads to an increase in extreme views in subjects known to be sympathetic or interested in furthering Jihadi causes'. I admit that's not as punchy though

Another point; the subjects these results are based on. As we can see, there are 38. Not a great number by any stretch, but about normal for scanning studies. But still, small group of people, from very localised pool, always worth being wary of generalisations there

Here's what I'd label a bigger concern with the subjects; they're 38 men who openly admit to being pro-Jihadi in some way, but ALSO are willing to submit to tests and intimate brain scans from first-world authority figures? That's surely not... typical?

This matters because the more diverse and 'typical' your subjects are, the more you can justify applying the results they produce to everyone else. These guys seem to have some very atypical attitudes, and with brain scanning data that can be a major factor

It's like all those brain scanning studies which show how sex and orgasm work in the brain; remember, the results are all derived from people WHO CAN AND WILL HAVE SEX/ORGASM IN A BRAIN SCANNER, IN FRONT OF SCIENTISTS! Not the most 'arousing' context, by the standards of most

Another concern for me; this experiment, It's actually a well established one, and pretty potent. It makes subjects experience rejection and monitors how they react. People invariably show signs of distress and (psychological) pain when rejected by others

Thing is though, this response to rejection seems pretty robust. African-American subjects have shown signs of upset and distress when rejected by people they're told are literally members of the KKK in this study. So yeah, not surprising they got results

I don't dispute any of these conclusions though. I just think it's not anything we didn't already 'know'. People excluded by an 'out group' are more hostile to that group, and become more invested in their own. Then you get group polarisation etc…

Applying very familiar processes/theories solely to disenfranchised Muslims does have a rather unpleasant vibe about it though, very 'othering'. I'd bet anything that you'd get exact same results from angry white men experiencing rejection by women, but far fewer headlines

On the other hand, I do really like that this study was part funded by the US dept. of defence, and the results are basically 'You need to be nicer to Muslims'. That almost makes it all worth it.

Apologies for the long, detailed thread at this hour, but you know, needs must. This is, undoubtedly, the sort of thing I'd have put in a Guardian article to go alongside the original piece. But hey ho, I'm sure they know what they're doing 🙄

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