26 February 2012


Filed under: Culture, Psychology — ktismatics @ 9:07 am

If you are a carrier of a particular set of genes, your probability of committing a violent crime goes up by eight hundred and eighty-two percent. Here are statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice, which I’ve broken down into two groups: crimes committed by the population that carries this specific set of genes and by the population that does not:

Offense                                                 Carrying the genes                 Not carrying the genes

Aggravated assault                                         3,419,000                                             435,000

Homicide                                                              14,196                                                1,468

Armed robbery                                               2,051,000                                             157,000

Sexual assault                                                    442,000                                              10,000

In other words, if you carry these genes, you’re eight times more likely to commit aggravated assault, ten times more likely to commit murder, thirteen times more likely to commit armed robbery, and forty-four times more likely to commit sexual assault. The overwhelming majority of prisoners carry these genes, as do 98.4 percent of those on death row. It seems clear enough that the carriers are strongly predisposed toward a different type of behavior — and these statistics alone indicate that we cannot presume that everyone is coming to the table equally equipped in terms of drives and behaviors.

…As regards that dangerous set of genes, you’ve probably heard of them. They are summarized as the Y chromosome. If you’re a carrier, we’ll call you a male.

– David Eagleman, Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain, 2011



  1. Of course Eagleman is tendering a controversial claim for genetic sex differences here. In the US the difference in violent crime rate between blacks and whites is similar to that between males and females, but I feel pretty confident that there is no empirical evidence supporting a genetic link between skin pigment and an innate tendency toward violence.


    Comment by ktismatics — 27 February 2012 @ 5:02 pm

  2. Rich people are more likely to lie and cheat, say these recent studies:

    Researchers focused on social class — a person’s relative standing in society in terms of wealth, occupational prestige and education. Lower-class folk, living with fewer resources, might seem more driven to behave unethically to improve their lot, the researchers suspected. However, upper-class individuals, having greater resources, might have more latitude to focus solely on themselves, giving rise to unethical behavior… “This isn’t just a case of upper socioeconomic people being more willing to admit that they would be unethical,” Piff said. “We actually measure cheating behavior — not just ‘Would you do something unethical’ but ‘Do you do it?'” All these lab findings held true regardless of participants’ ages, gender, ethnicity, religiosity and political orientation. “I was surprised at the consistency and strength of all these effects — upper-class individuals often acted unethically three to four times more often than lower-class individuals,” Piff told LiveScience…

    “If you take lower socioeconomic status people and just change their social values very subtly, they’ll act just as unethically as upper-class individuals,” Piff said. “The patterns of behavior naturally arise from increased wealth and status compared to others.” These findings dovetail with other studies that also suggest more unethical behavior in the upper class. “A 2008 study of shoplifting found that upper-income and more educated participants were way more likely to have reported shoplifting in their lives — that’s self-reported data, admittedly, but still interesting,” Piff said. “Also, upper-income individuals are more likely to report having sped or breaking the speed limit. Juveniles of upper socioeconomic status are just as likely to engage in delinquent patterns of behavior as those of lower socioeconomic status, but they’re driven by different things,” Piff added. “Lower socioeconomic-status juveniles report that alienation and ostracization from communities and increased need leads them to commit certain types of transgressions, while wealthier adolescents report increased willingness to take risks and an increased sense of power and entitlement.”

    …When it comes to notions that lower-class individuals are more likely to engage in violent crime and criminality overall, “when I dug into research on how violent offenses vary according to socioeconomic status, a lot of the findings were counter-stereotypical — it’s really a mixed bag, and not as consistent as you might think,” Piff said. “There’s no correlation between per capita income and per capita violent crimes and property crimes.”

    Other studies have shown that upper-class individuals are often less cognizant of others, worse at identifying the emotions others feel, less generous and altruistic, and more disengaged socially — for instance, checking their cellphones or doodling on paper during social interactions. Such research might support these new findings — it may be easier to act unethically toward others if you are not thinking about how they feel. “You can think of this self-perpetuating cycle, where promotion of self-interest increases status in society, which further increases willingness to behave unethically,” Piff said. “It may help explain the runaway rise in inequality in the last 50 years, at least in this country.” Still, “we’re not arguing that self-interest is a bad thing,” Piff said. “Self-interest gets you to go to work, is a fundamental human imperative, guides a lot if not all social behavior — even the most altruistic acts may ultimately be self-serving to some degree. But when allowed to go uncurbed, self-interest is what gives rise to breaking the rules.”


    Comment by ktismatics — 28 February 2012 @ 7:12 am

  3. From this news article — I couldn’t find the original study:

    Overall, African-American students are 3-1/2 times more likely to be suspended or expelled than their white peers. And 70 percent of students arrested or referred to law enforcement for disciplinary infractions are black or Latino, the study found. Other researchers have found that students who are repeatedly punished by being barred from campus are far more likely to drop out.

    Academic opportunities also vary widely by race. Among high schools that serve predominately Latino and African-American students, just 29 percent offer a calculus class and only 40 percent offer physics. In some school districts, those numbers are even more glaring. In New York City, for instance, just 10 percent of the high schools with the highest black and Latino enrollment offer Algebra II.


    Comment by ktismatics — 6 March 2012 @ 6:11 am

  4. According to Wikipedia, the violent crime rate in the US is presently about 1 in 100 per year. So if you live to be 100, chances are that you will be the victim of one violent crime during your lifetime. On average, how many direct encounters does each person have with other people during the course of a year? In considering the possibility of crime we’d have to include random walk-by encounters as well as face-to-face exchanges and intimate relationships. Let’s be conservative and say it’s 100 per day. That’s 36.5K encounters per year or 3.65 million over the course of a lifetime. So there’s one chance in 3.65 million that the next encounter you have with another person will result in that person perpetrating a violent crime against you. Even if you factor in the discrepancies between the sexes, there’s a 1 in 500,000 chance that you will be violently criminalized by the next male you encounter. Does this level of exposure justify taking precautionary measures beyond simply minding your own business? Should you issue a “stand your ground” warning the next time some unknown man walks through your neighborhood?


    Comment by ktismatics — 18 May 2012 @ 8:53 am

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