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Research study seems to corroborate approaches based on “mentalisation”

December 15, 2011

Mentalising and mentalisation have been criticised by some as rather clumsy terms or by others as somewhat unsophisticated theoretical concepts. However there is no doubt that they are effective in clinical work, even with clients who might be inaccessible to depth psychology work. For more on mentalising see the work of Peter Fonagy and Anthony Bateman.

A newly published piece of research which appears in no way related to work on mentalisation seems to corroborate it:

A brain’s failure to appreciate others may permit human atrocities

DURHAM, N.C. — A father in Louisiana bludgeoned and beheaded his disabled 7-year-old son last August because he no longer wanted to care for the boy.

For most people, such a heinous act is unconscionable.

But it may be that a person can become callous enough to commit human atrocities because of a failure in the part of the brain that’s critical for social interaction. A new study by researchers at Duke University and Princeton University suggests this function may disengage when people encounter others they consider disgusting, thus "dehumanizing" their victims by failing to acknowledge they have thoughts and feelings.

This shortcoming also may help explain how propaganda depicting Tutsi in Rwanda as cockroaches and Hitler’s classification of Jews in Nazi Germany as vermin contributed to torture and genocide, the study said.


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