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January 26, 2006

"Cyber-Disinhibition"

A psychologist speculates on why people feel freer about harsh "flaming" on line.

The Internet inadvertently undermines the quality of human interaction, allowing destructive emotional impulses freer reign under specific circumstances. The reason is a neural fluke that results in cyber-disinhibition of brain systems that keep our more unruly urges in check. The tech problem: a major disconnect between the ways our brains are wired to connect, and the interface offered in online interactions.

Communication via the Internet can mislead the brain's social systems. The key mechanisms are in the prefrontal cortex; these circuits instantaneously monitor ourselves and the other person during a live interaction, and automatically guide our responses so they are appropriate and smooth. A key mechanism for this involves circuits that ordinarily inhibit impulses for actions that would be rude or simply inappropriate β€” or outright dangerous.

In order for this regulatory mechanism to operate well, we depend on real-time, ongoing feedback from the other person. The Internet has no means to allow such realtime feedback (other than rarely used two-way audio/video streams). That puts our inhibitory circuitry at a loss β€” there is no signal to monitor from the other person. This results in disinhibition: impulse unleashed.

Dude, if what you're trying to say is "If people spoke to each other in real life the way they sometimes do on-line, they would see fists clutching and veins throbbing, and would know they'd better shut up unless they want to get smacked right in the piehole," then you're right.

There's more to it than that. The simple fact you're facing a real human being creates empathy, and, for most, a desire not to inflict pain. Obviously, that sort of empathetic feedback isn't available when you're addressing a word called "Tubino" floating in the ether.

But avoiding getting smacked... that's a big part of it too.

I don't know. Seems he's using a lot of them big "college-words" to explain something pretty simple.

Thanks to Insty.


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posted by Ace at 04:08 PM

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