On Thu, 10 Feb 2005, Frank Swasey wrote:

> I'm not sure how we got from a nice simple game of toss the ball where
> Persons A and C suddenly decide to ignore Person B to a brawl in which
> Person B got a punch to the face.  I will contend that we are talking
> about apples and oranges at this point.
> Obviously, Person B will respond to Persons A and C throwing the ball
> back and forth between themselves and being ignored.  But, it is Person
> B's decision on HOW to respond to the stimulus of being ignored (or
> dissed as my kids would say).
> I will contend that if Persons A and C have decided not to play with
> Person B, it is time for Person B to find something else to do.  Whining
> about it and having emotional scars because the other kids (or
> computers) decided to play with themselves instead of with him/her is
> only egging them (A and C) on to do it again... If instead Person B goes
> away finds something else (or someone else) to play with, they've won.
> I'm reminded of the age old Peanuts cartoon where Lucy pulls the
> football away and Charlie Brown winds up on his back, year after year
> after year...  Some kids (people) just love to be the victim and make
> themselves the victim over and over and over.  I say, it's time to break
> the cycle.  Take responsibility for your own actions and thoughts...
> they don't want to play.  Who are they hurting?  Themselves by depriving
> themselves of your friendship... Let them.  Go read a book and talk to
> your invisible friends about what you have learned!

Heh, imagine my surprise when I find responses to the e-mail I thought I
postponed.  Oops.  Well, that was only the first draft and notes, but moot
point now anyway...

However, I understand that my response may have been confusing.  I was
attempting to cite an example that would make things easier to
understand, but obviously that didn't work out.  So let's try this:

Neurons work on a basis of stimulus and response.  An event occurs,
excites a neuron's sensors (dendrites) and - if the event or stimulus is
sufficent - the neuron reacts (action potential, Na+/Ca-/K+ channels open,
neurotransmitter exocytosed, etc.).

That's what the study was all about.  That's why they measured neuronal
activity.  Whether Person B decided that he didn't need those friends
anyway, he was going to go read a book, he was going to take up line
dancing, etc. is totally irrelevant.  Mucking things up with that sort of
subjectivity would have been shoddy science.  The researchers did a good
job though, and used their experiment and control.

Human Model: If Person B ignored (stimulus), Then pain (response).

Computer Model: If person B ignored (stimulus), Then pain (response).

That's the take home, the heart of the study.  It is beyond the scope of
the paper and therefore immaterial whether or not Person B made valuable
life choices about friendship and tolerance because of the experiment.
It's about how the human mind is hardwired.  That's where I was going
with my Person B punched scenario.  An individual - at least not those
known to science - cannot chose whether or not to let their neurons
respond.  Just as you can't decided that your cells are going to stop
making proteins, or you're going to fall up instead of down.

All that being said, the study is not perfect - as this was illustrated
excellently with Emily's point.  The experiments should have had a third
model where Person B new that Persons A & C were computers.  That is the
valid point and the glaring hole in the study.  Attacking it on the basis
of some Dr. Phil type "you are the master of every situation" slogan is
truly a case of apples and oranges.

Garret D. Langlois
(802)656-9785, 415A HSRF
Laboratory & Research Technician
Department of Anatomy & Neurobiology
College of Medicine, University of Vermont