Destruction – Mind Field (Ep 3)

published on July 13, 2020

We live in a universe where, statistically, disorder is king As time moves forward, things fall apart Stars burn out Energy spreads out Entropy conquers all But humans, life, fights that trend We build things

We organise things We add information So why is it that we love destroying things? Exploding fireworks Fights and crashes Even popping bubble wrap

Ugh! Tiny, cute things can make us want to just squeeze 'em to death Ugh! Why? The power to destroy is a delicious one

Even just holding this here, knowing I can drop it I am in control I can exert my will in a dramatic and irreversible way Ready? Ready

Ugh Beautiful Why does that feel so good to do or even just watch? For me, throwing it to its death was almost relaxing Like, I feel calmer now after being destructive

Like I've vented some pent-up energy Or anger? Why do we like breaking things when we're angry? There's a growing trend of businesses called anger rooms that are popping up in places like Texas and Toronto

People pay to visit these anger rooms and let off steam by smashing mock-ups of workplaces, kitchens and more Catharsis Theory proposes that such acts of destruction reduce our anger But do they?

Sometimes, but sometimes they don't This is what makes studying the mind so difficult Researchers are still looking into the specifics and the variables involved, and I want to see first-hand and in person what it's like when people get angry and then break things

Will they be more or less violent afterwards? To demonstrate Catharsis Theory we set up our own anger room to see whether or not breaking things will help calm down some angry people Our subjects think they're participating

In a study about opposing political views so we've asked them to write an essay on different polarising topics – Come in – Kashona? Hi How are you? I'm Michael Hi, Michael

It's nice to meet you I was just with your co-participant Clint He's in another room I'm gonna give your essay to Clint and he's gonna critique it and you're going to critique his

– Okay, thank you – See you soon He wrote a lot I didn't write that much Okay Each of our subjects has been paired with a man named Clint and they will be critiquing each other's essays

"Police officers have a very difficult job They have to protect us mainly from people of colour" The thing is Okay, here we go I'm actually Clint Overblown, un-American Get over it

My job or rather, Clint's job is to make our subjects mad so they can test our anger room "You should be ashamed" "You deserve what's coming to you"

What an asshole Ha! Changed it to black That's better Oops! Okay, Kashona, I'm back And you were with Clint Okay

Let's go through what he wrote just quickly He wrote – Did I put that that way? – No, you didn't – Did you turn it around? – I did turn it around He seems like a bigot or somebody I didn't want to keep looking at his face

He's responded to your essay there We can't tell people where to go to eat for lunch, what car to drive, that just really irritates me This is a person that is making arguments that are not based in any fact

He's clearly someone who thinks that the people who are on social programmes are lazy I was like, "What the ?" Getting fired up, mother ooh, I'm getting fired up It's disgusting I got an F-plus?

Oh, I hope I don't see him in the hallway He's a dick And that is why, he is part of the reason why our country sucks right now Because he's stupid Well, I think that was pretty effective

We've got a lot of angry people on our hands, so will demolishing things calm them down, or will acts of destruction throw fuel on the fire? Let's explore Catharsis Theory with an expert The modern view of catharsis

Is that by acting out we release sort of like a pressure valve, and that releases that energy in order for us to sort of build up again and handle everyday distress People who are angry and aggressive

Who then act that out, what would they feel afterwards? What many studies have found is that it's a short-lived release it feels good, it feels really good to release but what happens in the brain is the brain enjoys that

There's really a reward to build up that pressure again and then release it again It's a temporary fix, as far as we know I didn't realise it was so complicated and still being researched I thought it was black and white

You do this, and you release the emotion and it's gone Yes, not as much We don't have this perfect definition of catharsis, where everybody agrees, here's how it works, here's how it ends up

Well, let's see if catharsis works for us Now that Clint has sufficiently angered all of our subjects He's more like a pussy, as far as I'm concerned It's time to put Catharsis Theory to the test Some subjects will be allowed to actively take out their anger

On all of these beautiful art objects You have completely free reign to break anything in this room – What? – Okay? Other subjects are instructed to sit in the room passively

I want you to reflect on the essay, the arguments, the critiques and also on the objects in this room Am I going to meet Clint, or no? – No, you are not – Okay

That's not part of this study Okay, gotcha Will these subjects feel less angry after their violent acts of destruction? Only one way to find out When we are angry, the body's adrenal glands

Release cortisol and adrenaline, readying the body and mind for fight mode But Catharsis Theory hypothesises that letting it out relieves feelings of aggression Will these subjects feel less angry after their violent acts of destruction?

Okay, I'm done Before we move on to the final step of our anger-room demonstration, maybe we can gain insight from someone who makes a living by hitting Not objects, but other people

Mark Smith, aka "Rhino", is a champion bodybuilder, boxer and UK gladiator who knows a thing or two about how to destroy an opponent So, when you're going into a fight you know that you're going to get hurt

– Yes – You know that you're gonna hurt someone else How do you psych yourself up to be good at that? When you're goin' into a fight you want to stick to your game plan,

Stay focused and be relaxed Relaxed Because I would have thought you'd want to go in angry No, because if you go in too angry all you're doing is

And you're not thinking straight it turns into, like, a school brawl – It's a very tactical game – Right The eye of the tiger, like Rocky But this is fascinating to me because you would think that to physically outfight someone

In nature, we would have evolved to run off of anger and fear That's like two lions, I agree with you there Two lions attack and go full out, don't they? There's no pace in that fight whatsoever, like animals, but you have to know when to be an animal and at what point in the fight

– Bang! – Oh! – So there's no point in – I'm a very jumpy, flinchy person It's knowing when to pull the trigger If you ever find yourself angry in your real life, do you find it helpful to punch a punching bag – Definitely – Yeah?

I will get angry, like, I'm on the phone with my bank, and I might think slamming a door or just hanging up and throwing my phone on the bed No, don't throw your phone, and don't slam doors Just come and exercise and hit the bag You'll feel so much better What's the difference though? They're both active things

You're not doing something spontaneous and acting on impulse It's premeditated You know you'll go: "Okay, I'm gonna pack my bag, go to the gym" You're releasing endorphins, you'll feel more relaxed and you'll be able to assess the bank manager who's been irritating you

For the last hour Can I can I try hitting some things? Definitely You can try hitting me – Can I really? – Yes – Are you gonna hit back? – I will I'll let you know I'm there

Okay Awesome Do I look scary? Oh, yeah Is Rhino correct that violent acts of rage won't calm you down? But the controlled aggression used in boxing

Will actually relax you? I guess I'm about to find out Yes, like that No, no No Come on! I'm tired

Well done! Good work I came out of the fight having learned two things One, I'm a wimp And two, Rhino was right; when physical violence is channelled

In an organised sport like boxing, it can actually reduce feelings of aggression I had this weird combination of feelings – As tired as I am – Yep I'm very amped-up – So now you feel it – Yeah

I don't feel aggressive You feel relaxed? I wouldn't say I'm relaxed here I would just say I'm clearer here and I feel more in control Eye of the tiger, Rock

Yeah, well, maybe it's the eye of the kitten who is in a bad mood but, man, that was great It's time for the final part of our anger-room demonstration All of our subjects will be taking part in what they think is a reflex test

Against their opponent Clint In reality, of course, there is no Clint and what we're really looking at is the Catharsis Theory Have our subjects' levels of anger been affected according to whether they committed

Violent acts of destruction? Or not? Stage three is going to be testing how your reflexes are working at this very moment Okay? So, this right here is a static-electricity generator

That is going to provide a little bit of a shock We're putting one on Clint as well and he's in another room but you both have the same setup Once our subjects are fitted with the shock bracelet they're introduced to the test's control panel

Look at this Yeah, it's very simplified but that really helps keep the variables low So both you and Clint will be competing in a bit of a game The yellow light is going to come on at some point, and as soon as you see it come on,

Hit that orange button And if you hit this button before Clint does you'll see the green light come on And that'll mean that you won And Clint needs to receive a small shock, okay? And you can set this to a level of your choosing

So okay Light goes on, if I hit this the green one comes and then I'm allowed to work this contraption – Correct – Which controls how high the voltage and for how long the voltage

– Correct – Okay If, however, Clint pushes the button before you do, the red light will come on, indicating My red light and I'm about to get it You'll get a shock, yeah, correct We'll get a sense of our subjects' level of anger

By how they respond to the chance to administer pain to Clint Remember, this subject just sat in the anger room passively Did I get him? Oh, all right The green light means our subject wins

How hard will he shock Clint? I'm gonna give you a little low one, buddy There you go Just a kiss Ah, got me The red light means Clint won

How will our subject respond to getting shocked? Ahh! You son of a bitch Not only does this subject not seem angry, he's actually enjoying the game

All right How about that? I'm not gonna harm you, man I'll give ya a little low one He actually seems relatively calm Will our other passive subject follow suit?

Clint gave her a painful shock Let's see how strongly she retaliates Even after getting a shock from Clint, this subject is still hesitant to give him a shock in return Okay, Clint and Drea,

This is just a reminder that you are you are allowed to change that dial to what you think would be appropriate Yeah, I just don't want to, like, hurt him or anything I'm just gonna keep it at low So the angry subjects who sat passively

Seem to have calmed down Now it's time to check on the subjects who acted violently in the anger room Did letting out all of that aggression relieve their anger? The experiment will begin now

Take it, take it, take it! Kashona That's that's fine What level is your dial at? Um Low

He cranked that all the way up and he's laying on that button This subject was one of the most aggressive people in the anger room, but that doesn't seem to have calmed him down Among our subjects

It seems that those who physically vented their anger are still pretty angry compared to the subjects who sat quietly So at least in this case catharsis therapy was not effective In fact, in some cases

The subject seems even angrier Ow! You know what? That's too hard You dick! Why don't you come in here and talk to me in person? Oh, my God Oh, my God

We're all familiar with the concept of rubbernecking It's hard to look away from a car crash Oh, my God But why? There are surely a myriad of reasons, but one may be that at a primitive level

Witnessing danger allows us to learn and prepare for it Activities where danger and destruction are likely are exciting Starting in our childhood, physical aggression is encouraged, even in games

Take a piñata for example As a special birthday treat we are told to beat up an effigy with a baseball bat And when we hit it hard enough we are rewarded with candy What parts of a child's urge to destroy are innate

Versus learned? Well, there is a groundbreaking experiment that shed light on this In 1961, Albert Bandura conducted a famous and controversial study called the Bobo Doll Experiment He had adults act violently to an inflatable clown doll

In the presence of children Then left the children alone with the same doll to see if they would mimic the destructive behavior they'd observed Disturbingly, the children did indeed copy the adults, and lashed out at the doll,

Often getting very creative with their aggression and destruction Aggression comes in many unexpected forms Why is it so hard to resist popping bubbles in bubble wrap, for instance? Do we like the sound?

The destruction? Or both? It's like we're naturally drawn to destroying these harmless plastic bubbles of air Destructive tendencies seem to be so engrained in us that we even respond to positive stimulation with urges to destroy

One of the strangest things about destruction is how people want to hug things to death, especially things that are extremely cute like a puppy We don't know exactly why this is but there is a study that demonstrates the effect

By using bubble wrap and our desire to pop these bubbles Oh, yeah Can sweet, adorable stimuli really incite aggressive behavior? We're about to find out Thank you for participating in our focus test No problem

Please make yourself comfortable We've recruited subjects who think they're taking part in a motor-skills test Are you familiar with this product? – Yes – Have you popped the bubbles in bubble wrap before?

Yes But really, what we're testing is their aggressive response to cute stimuli So you will be viewing a montage of images Please pop bubbles in the bubble wrap You may pop as many or as few as you like

Just be sure to start when the images begin and stop when the images end Popping bubbles is like squeezing a stress ball It's a great way to express aggression The question is, will the subjects pop more bubbles when watching neutral images, or cute ones?

First we showed our subjects these basic landscapes, which are not designed to elicit an emotional response And we tallied the total number of bubbles popped Okay, great I'll take those All right, we're gonna do part two where you'll be viewing another set of images

We also showed them images of puppies Oh, look at that one! Don't you just want to hug them and squeeze them okay, look, you get the point To keep things even,

Half of the subjects viewed the landscapes first and half viewed the puppies first But either way, they seemed to pop a lot more bubbles while watching the puppies Except for this guy So-called cute aggression

Is a universal psychological phenomenon Researchers believe the brain's response to both cuteness and aggression results in the release of dopamine implicated in reward and pleasure If we are unable to physically touch cute stimuli,

The desire to do so can be regulated by substituting aggressive physical behavior Will our results reflect this theory? How did you feel about the images that you saw? They were cool How did you feel about the puppies?

I love them They were very tiny and adorable and I wanted to hug them And how did you feel about popping the bubble wrap? I felt like I wanted to play with the dogs, or I wanted to play with the bubble wrap with the dogs

In our simple test, our subjects popped an average of 33% more bubbles while watching cute puppies as opposed to boring landscapes So was the bubble wrap a stand-in for the puppies? I guess so In fact, the majority of our subjects

Popped more bubbles while watching puppies But not this guy Remember him? So how did you feel about seeing the dog pictures? I've always been more of a cat person It seems sometimes cuteness is a matter of perspective

Our relationship with destruction is not a simple one It can release endorphins and relax our minds It can amp us up and make us even more aggressive It can even help us regulate our emotional reactions to cute things Destruction can be useful,

It can be dangerous and it can be a lot of fun And as always, thanks for watching

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