Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Social Drug

Image result for schizophrenia

- I know. I know. You told me not to talk to you about academics. You'll find this interesting.
- Go ahead.
- A research lab at UCLA, right here in our own backyard, has linked certain failures of social perception in schizophrenics to abnormal activity of their brains.
- Failure in social perception caused by abnormal brains, or vice versa?
- The professors assume without evidence the former, that abnormal brains cause deficient behavior. But that’s not what I want to tell you about. The lab just completed a study of those who answered an Los Angeles Craigslist ad for people who self-identified themselves as socially detached, defined by their not having a single confidante. Schizophrenics, while they have normal or superior ability to share the feelings of others, fail to reason correctly about others, they fail to identify the different situations and point of view of others. The small sample of self identified socially detached  had similar failures of social perceptions as schizophrenics, while otherwise not showing the schizophrenic pathology of hearing voices or imagining they live in a fantasy world, displaying scattered or overactive behavior,
- And the professors imagine treating this normal but detached group with drugs or electric shock so that they achieve normal ability to visualize the situation and perspectives of others.
- You weren't at this afternoon's lecture. How have you heard of this?
- From the lab's 2015 study* on deficient social perception of schizophrenics. This though is the first I've heard of the Craigslist study of social perception deficient “normals”.
- Ok. At the end of the lecture I did my own small sample study by approaching the speaker, Doctor of Neuroscience Professor Green, expecting him to detach himself from me, that is, to turn away and refuse to answer my question.
- What did you ask?
- Wasn’t it likely to be true that the normals he had sampled were detached from society not because their mental equipment failed them, but rather because society was bad, was immoral, because it was better for the mental health of the normal to be detached from society?
- What did he answer?
- That he had to go.
- Your point thus being made than a society of people like him who detach themselves from others like you might well be better detached from. Mildly amusing.
- Not to Dr. Green. His own fully functioning social perception skills perceive others like me as better to be detached from because of our inferior social perception skills.
- Dr. Green thinks you should be given drugs, when they are discovered, or electrics shocks to change your brain activation to normal.
- He does.
- So?
- Don’t you think it is probable that the self-identified detached people show less understanding of others' situation and perspective because they are not now, and perhaps for a lifetime haven’t been interested? That perhaps their social perception skills are normal, but have been lessened by disuse?
- That seems likely.
- Then you'll be interested to learn that Dr. Green and his lab has a government grant to study the social perceptual failures of veterans living on the street. It doesn’t occur to Dr. Green that not their brains, but economics, that property relations might have put the veterans in their position. A position of exclusion in which, like you say, they may not be particularly interested in perceiving the psychology of people who have excluded them.
- Too bad you didn't say that to him when you had the chance.
- But I did.
- What was his answer?
- He said the veterans had been given places to live while they were being studied. 
- Moron.
- Indeed. Dr. Green wants to drug the veterans or shock them into a condition people like him can accept without having to turn their backs on. That our government is funding research to find drugs to control not mere mental states but conformity to society, wants to develop a social drug, is not surprising. But what of the way that both the class of socially excluded and the class of socially excluding develop behavior that resembles that of the schizophrenic? That those who would voluntarily detach themselves, whether or not they are also being forcibly detached, do so because they perceive the others to be self-detached, detached from themselves?
- Detached from themselves how?
- People like the professor adapt to the situation of the moment: they do and say what's required to get from others what they want, what's required by professional or personal advancement. Going this way and that, turning away from this person and accepting that, depending on the demands of others, there is no consistency in their lives. They have no character.
- And the detachment of this moment’s self from last moment’s self is a kind of schizophrenia.
- Yes. What do you think? Such people show no interest in knowing who they are, perceiving their own situation and point of view. Their desires of the moment, filtered through the demands of others, are perceived as if voices out of nowhere. Likewise their passions appear to come, when they do come, out of nowhere. And their view of society, adapted to the demands of conformity to others, are self-created like a schizophrenic's fantasy. So, you see? The normal of our society, both those that exclude, and those that are excluded, reselmble schizophrenics.
- You were right. I like it.
* "Social cognition in schizophrenia", Green et al., Nature Reviews Neuroscience, September 2015: " is entirely possible that future pharmacological treatments or neural-stimulation approaches (such as transcranial direct current stimulation) could be used in a targeted manner to affect a particular social processing system. Ultimately, it is hoped that a better understanding of social cognition and the related neural mechanisms in schizophrenia will enable us to decrease social disability in this complex condition."