Mass Shootings: Through The Lens of Neuroscience and Law, with David Eagleman

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Many people are quite sure of what’s needed after a tragedy, yet there is a lot of disagreement. How can this be? It’s all about how the brain can form widely different opinions inside different people. Eagleman’s latest book is “The Brain: The Story of You ” (


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Transcript – When it comes to what to do about mass shooting there’s a variety of opinions and I think what this represents is the variety that people have on the inside. What I mean is people are very different. I’m talking about the decision makers now, not the mass shooters. People are very different on the inside and who you are and what you believe about the world comes about as a confluence of your genetics and your environment. So the predispositions you come to the table with mixed with every experience you have from your family of origin to your culture, your neighborhood, your generation that you drop into. As a result brains are all very different. They’re as unique as fingerprints. So when it comes to what to do about a mass shooting there’s no surprise that you have completely different opinions.

On the one hand you have people who say look, let’s just get rid of all weapons and on the other hand, on the other hand of the spectrum you have people who say look, let’s make sure that everybody’s armed because it’s impossible to get rid of all of the weapons. So let’s do a mutually assured destruction approach. And these are all, you know, valid in some way. I mean it’s understandable why different people have different opinions about what to do. One of the things that I follow as a neuroscientist whenever there’s a mass shooting is the discussion that happens. People will often throw around words like well the guy’s a psycho. Now you may know there’s no such thing as a psycho. That’s a meaningless term. What the commentator presumably means is either this person has a psychosis something like schizophrenia where they have a disorder of cognition or they mean this person is a psychopath which is not a disorder of cognition. Instead psychopathy is about having no empathy towards other people, not caring at all about other people, seeing other people as objects to get around. They’re also known as sociopaths. So somebody can have a psychosis or somebody can have a psychopathy or sociopathy and these are completely different things.

An understanding of these things in the public dialogue I think would be very important every time there’s a mass shooting there are all sorts of commentators that come out and say things like well I heard he had Asperger’s or I heard he had ADHD or I heard that he wrote dark poetry which is, of course, true of most young teenagers. So a better understanding of the vocabulary and what are the issues that come along with these different things is something that I try to disseminate through my work in neuroscience and law.


50 thoughts on “Mass Shootings: Through The Lens of Neuroscience and Law, with David Eagleman

  1. Because thinking people can spot phony mass shootings when they see them. Any normal person who actually looks into these hoaxes can see through them. We know how badly some of "public servants" want to disarm the American people. They are willing to send thousands of firearms to Mexican drug dealers in order to promote more violence on the border in order to make the case for "gun control".

    People who are evil enough to commit acts like this have no problem using taxpayers' money to propagate hoaxes like Sandy Hook. But they really don't have the expertise to fool anyone who starts asking questions.

  2. I think that in the past, people who were inclined towards antisocial behavior were kept more grounded in reality…simply by virtue of how communities and the economy functioned.  That is,  people haven't always had the option to disconnect, isolate, or tailor who or what influences them.

  3. Of all the mass shooters in US for the last few years, white, male, christian, they had to choose the coloured, muslim as a video thumb. I guess its done to get more views like a tabloid channel.

  4. I think he skews the point a bit by creating a dichotomy of those who want all guns banned, and those who think everyone should be armed. Furthermore, by calling the latter approach "mutually assured destruction," he seems to be discounting peoples' right to self-defense.

  5. It's a terrorist attack, not a mass shooting, big difference. Time to unsubscribe, every video has been garbage as of late.

  6. I think when laypeople say "psycho," they're using it in the vernacular sense of being mentally abnormal.  Of course, what is normal.  I suppose one could say that "normal" is not going on a shooting spree.  Certainly, professionals are more qualified to make a specific neurological or psychological diagnosis, but I think the average person has a rough idea of what constitutes a crazy person and what doesn't, that is, being at the extreme end of any spectrum.

  7. Why is a Muslim lady's and a dark skinned man doing as an image for this "Mass Shooting" clip. Why is mental illness being connected with this clip? Did this clip really discuss the topic with a neuroscience perspective?

  8. It's a bit absurd how "mass shooting" is defined. It's pretty much if 2 people were being shot at. It seems that it's more propaganda based to inflate numbers of a buzzword statistic,

  9. Gun free zones were created by progressives to provide a game hunting preserve experience for mass killers. It's why rich white liberals live in well protected segregated neighborhoods where they can afford to pay for their armed security while parading themselves as enlightened and civilized. Mass shootings are entertainment for them, and allows them to strip us of even more of our rights.

  10. Interesting stat: since 9/11 more people in this country have died from white supremacists then Islamic terrorists on American soil. CDC has very telling facts and stats in regards to violence in this country

  11. The issue I have is why the double standard ? White males commits mass shootings and we ahve discussions about mental health. Minority or Arab commits the act and it's labeled a terrorist act

  12. So … all of us should have a rather better idea of how the mind and the brain work, and commentators should try to be well advised (and more accurate) before they comment. … Sounds good. I'd like a new sportscar for Christmas, and perhaps to be 20 ~ 30 years younger. But I am not holding my breath… Every man and his flea-bitten friend throw words and terms around that a psychologist might use, and pretty much none of them has even a rough idea what that word actually means. The media are guilty of this because the public are. Most obvious example : multiple personality disorder is not Schizophrenia, but pretty much everybody seems to think it is…

  13. Oh okay. SO…when some radical muslim couple shoots in the name of Islam they are deemed the bad guys. But when Christians do it, it's like they're mother-fucking Theresa. The logic.

  14. I'm all for a reasonable fact based debate on gun control. But the shit the gun control side argues is not that. It's take away assult rifles, that are mislabeled as such. Ar-15 is the correct lable. there is a diference. One is fully automatic, or three round burst, and one needs to pull the trigger every time it fires. Anyway that's what they argue for in most casses. Or limit magazine size on them. And it's 1 percent of deaths. 1. That's not effective change. Hand guns kill most Americans in firearm related deaths. And the cities with the most strict gun control laws have the worst fatality rates by guns full stop. Most guns used in crimes were purchased with background checks legally, if I remember correctly . So what, take away all guns and trust our government. Not an option to anyone imo that's thought it through. Like nukes, it would b nice to un invent them but we cannot. Criminals dont, by definition, fallow our laws anyways, so you just take the guns from the people that need them in a lot of casses. Thus the reason we are where we are. So I say universal background checks, and no full auto. This is the safest world to live in, in all of human history. Social media and the Internet make it seem like it's not, but it is. Stats don't lie. I'm a liberal. I'm retired military, and fear a country with strict gun laws. It would make us soft targets. Don't let terror win. Keep calm and let the debates go on with rational minds. Guns protect us, and imprison or destroy us. I know which end of the gun I will b on

  15. this guys a pseudo-intellectual. if someone says thatvperson was a 'psycho' we immediately know what they mean through social use of the term giving it meaning. just like unfriend was given defenition. these scientists just show how inept they are at broad subjects when they specialize in a particular field.

  16. This video seems more like a canned response video on somewhat of political level… We should say something (but we're not really saying anything.)

    Along those lines, we can generally say that when someone says psycho… they mean psychopath. Inasmuch as psychopaths exist…so does the common contraction in speech, psycho. I'm willing to bet that regardless of the differences between academic and common speech, that they both someone lacking empathy for others.

  17. Same tired BS. Trying to group together two forms of insanity just to label them, but it serves no purpose, all the while omitting the vast majority of psychos/insane people are productive moral beings… What he is missing is the only thing that can rationalize the insane, is not a head doctors, and it's not the law, It's only YOU personally being to be able to defend yourself from it. His logic calls this idea "mutual destruction"?

  18. I would disagree that arming everyone would be a mutual destruction approach. This assumes that good law abiding people with guns would start killing each other just because they were armed.

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