Letters to the Editors, January/February 2011

Letters to the editor about the September/October 2010 issue of Scientific American MIND

Thank you for the balanced article on psychopaths [“Inside the Mind of a Psychopath,” by Kent A. Kiehl and Joshua W. Buckholtz]. All too often I hear people with this condition referred to as monsters or with the Dark Ages moniker of being “evil.” I have a good friend who has this problem, and it is heartbreaking to see such an intelligent young man have brushes with the law because he does not seem to have the ability to understand common social codes of ethics.

Let’s hope that in the near future sensationalism will give way to understanding and research and that it will be possible to treat and prevent this condition.
via e-mail

Twenty-five years ago I was working as a psychologist at a Texas state hospital and interviewed a 12-year-old boy. He was nine years old when he shot his best friend to death. He expressed no remorse.

By state law, he would be released on his 19th birthday with his criminal rec­ord sealed. With this loophole in mind, I would encourage mental health workers in state hospitals to advocate thorough screening procedures (including the Hare Psychopathy Checklist, Revised) to diagnose psychopaths early on and provide them therapy and medication that will benefit them and protect the public later.
Joe Roberts
Jackson, Miss.

As a high school student, I completely disagree with what was said in the article entitled “The World at Our Fingertips,” by Derek Cabrera and Laura Colosi. When I was in elementary school, I absolutely hated any time that we used physical objects to learn a lesson. In geometry, for example, we would always have to use differently shaped blocks to learn about polygons, and I never had any clue what was going on until the textbooks got cracked open and I could read about it for myself. My worst subjects in school were the ones that teachers tried to make the most engaging through the use of “manipulatives.”

I would have found the article more enjoyable if it had incorporated a few paragraphs about students who don’t see any gains in learning when they use physical objects. As it was, I felt that the article was one-sided and shallow.
via e-mail

How could a scientific lay magazine like yours show a set of equations (in “Smart Jocks,” by Steve Ayan) that are nonsense? Don’t your editors know that your readers are educated? Using that stock photo seems like really sloppy work that reeks of marketing, not substance.
Tom Malzbender
via e-mail

At one point inReading between the Lines” [Illusions], Vilayanur S. Ramachandran and Diane Rogers-Ramachandran state that “the question of whether you actually ‘see’ the train’s movement comes perilously close to being a philosophical one.” I do not know whether they mean to imply that such philosophical questions are bad (at least in this context), but the comment does highlight one thing that is missing from your magazine: the perspective of philosophers working in cognitive science. I am a great fan of the magazine and enjoy all the fascinating articles and blurbs. But cognitive science is an interdisciplinary field, and I think that there are many philosophical questions that ought to be part of your coverage—not avoided as perilous.
Benjamin J. Stenberg
Department of Philosophy
Western Oregon University

This article was originally published with the title "September/October 2010."

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