I agree that so-called "social neuroscience" doesn't help understand this phenomenon. On the other hand, it can't be fully explained by comparing it to other, older, relatively anonymous forms of communication, either. It takes considerable time to write and mail a letter, receive a reply and then respond to that. With email, as everyone on this list knows, you can fire off half-a-dozen sharp retorts before your first cup of coffee in the morning. This is one of those cases where quantity really does turn into quality (or, rather, lack of it). I also note that email flame wars seem to be a predominantly male activity, further evidence that members of my gender are, on average, less highly evolved. --PG

On 2/20/07, Michael H Goldhaber <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
Thanks for this, Cliff. However, though I normally have considerable respect for Daniel Goleman, this piece seems facile. He does not mention the long tradition of letter writing, and of writing and publishing in general,  in which many of the same conditions pertained. Everyone knew there were certain things easier to say in a letter than in person; sometimes newspapers and handbills as well as books could be highly insulting, scatological, etc. The issue is largly one of developing and learning  appropriate social conventions with each new medium, suitable for the general social and cultural climate, which these media also affect.  I don't see that explaining the brain parts involved helps  very much. 



On Feb 20, 2007, at 11:26 AM, Cliff Conner wrote:

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I was sure that someone else would have posted this article on the list by now, but since nobody has, here it is.  

HEALTH / MENTAL HEALTH & BEHAVIOR   | February 20, 2007 
Essay:  Flame First, Think Later: New Clues to E-Mail Misbehavior
Social neuroscience offers clues into the neural mechanics behind sending messages that are taken as offensive, embarrassing or downright rude.