THE STRANGE SCIENCE OF PSYCHONOMICS

Time for another Gooberhead Award [Beaniecap Breakdown] – presented periodically to those in the news who have their tongues going 100 miles per hour… but forgot to put their brains in gear.

Time for another Gooberhead Award [Beaniecap Breakdown] – presented periodically to those in the news who have their tongues going 100 miles per hour… but forgot to put their brains in gear.

I’ve got a double Goober for you today – a couple of economists who apparently have run out of economy-type things to research. Rather than trying to make sense of, say, the subprime mortgage crisis or the impact of $100 oil on the working class,professors Gordon Dahl and Stefano DellaVigna have been crunching numbers on the relationship between violent movies and violent crimes in America.

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There have been volumes of research on this very topic done by eminent psychologists, but these two economic whizzes decided to shove all that aside and use their beancounting expertise to solve the darker workings of the human mind. Call it, “psychonomics.”

Or, just call it silly. While most research concludes that watching films of chainsaw mutilations and brutal serial murders can provoke some viewers who are not too tightly wrapped to imitate fiction. Our two psychonomics profs, however, beg to differ. They have tallied the numbers of ticket stubs for strongly violent movies and correlated those attendance numbers with the rate of violent crimes committed right after the movies. Their conclusion? Attending the ugly flick reduces ugly crimes.

Ergo, our social policy should not be to reduce violence in the media, but to embrace it! The reasoning seems to be that if potential psychopaths are munching popcorn in the dark of the theater, while watching fictional nutcases commit horrors, they wont be out roaming the streets in search of mayhem. As one advocate for less media violence put it, “The study’s premise strikes me as somewhat goofy.”

Somewhat? If economists are looking for trust and respect in our society, these two Goobers are definitely not helping.

“Economists Say Movie Violence Might Temper the Real Thing,” www.nytimes.com, January7, 2008

“Battling the bastards is about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on.”

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