Monday, October 31, 2011

Something Borrowed

In 'Something Borrowed', Gladwell explores the idea of plagiarism and wonders to what extent words and stories can be considered intellectual property. Gladwell investigates the case of Bryony Lavery, who was accused of plagiarizing material from several people for her Broadway play "Frozen", including work from Gladwell himself. Lavery's play is about three people: Ralph, a serial killer who murders a girl, the murdered girls' mother Nancy, and a psychiatrist Agnus. Lavery based the character off a lot of the work that Dorothy Lewis and Gladwell had done regarding serial killers. Eventually, Lavery was accused of plagiarism for using other peoples ideas in her play. However, Lavery did not think that what she was doing was wrong because she claims that she was taking old work and creating a new story by twisting the stories together and developing a new plot and theme for the playwright. She argues that what she did was not plagiarism. Gladwell investigates other cases of people being caught for plagiarism, including cases in the music industry. He ponders what can truly be considered intellectual property and believes that all work is kind of based off of past work.

I thought this was an interesting essay. It gave a new perspective on how I thought about plagiarism. The idea of intellectual property really bothers me. I understand why plagiarizing an entire paper or big chunks of the paper and basically stealing the idea from someone else should be considered plagiarism because that is not original at all. I think that in many cases, if someone combines ideas from several different resources into an essay and comes up with a different conclusion, it should not be considered plagiarism. On the other hand, in Lavery's case, where she essentially uses someone else's life story and then adds little bits and pieces to it to the point where others would question if that actually happened to her, I can understand why Lewis would be upset about that. The debate about intellectual property and plagiarism is a confusing one because there is no way to really set strict guidelines for what is an appropriate summary of someone else's work or to what extent using someone else's ideas would be considered plagiarizing.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Ronson Chapter 6

In Chapter 6, Ronson investigates the Sunbeam plant in Shubata, Mississippi and is curious to see if former CEO Al Dunlap is a psychopath. Ronson talks to several people who knew him about his history with the company and hears that he is known for firing hundreds of people at the plant and seeming to enjoy it, eventually shutting the company down, and buying his way out of a lawsuit with a massive settlement. Ronson travels to Dunlap's mansion to interview him and find out if he passes the psychopath test. After revealing to Dunlap that he was questioning whether or not he is a psychopath, he proceeds to ask him other characteristics from Hare's checklist and Dunlap argues that the traits he embodies are simply characteristics necessary to being a successful businessman. Ronson is disappointed that Dunlap didn't exhibit some of the main psychopath characteristics such as juvenile delinquency, many marriages, and feeling no empathy because Dunlap claimed he cried when his dog died. Ronson meets up with Hare to discuss his findings and Hare reassures him that the characteristics that Dunlap is missing could still very well mean that he is a psychopath.

This chapter is interesting because Ronson is starting to seem very obsessed with finding psychopaths and a little too involved. I began to question the credibility of Hare's checklist because when Ronson and Hare discussed Ronson's interview with Dunlap, Hare seemed to have an excuse for every characteristic that Dunlap didn't have for how he might still be a psychopath. There seem to be a lot of loopholes in the checklist and it seems like anything someone does could somehow be considered a characteristic of psychopathy if you twist it one way or another, according to Hare and Ronson. They might be looking too far into what people are telling them. I am curious to see what happens later on in the book and if he ends up proving that the psychopath test works or if this is a point in the book where readers are supposed to feel like it doesn't seem completely credible.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Research Question

What long-term effects would lowering the drinking age to 18 have on American society?

I chose this question because it is something that I have always been curious about. I have heard that in Europe they have less incidence of binge drinking and drinking and driving and I have always wondered if this is a direct cause of their lenient views on the drinking age, and if it was, if it would ever be possible to make this change happen in America. I realize that I have only heard things from other people and it would be interesting to do research on it and see if it is true that it would have positive effects like I imagine it would. I would probably look at statistics for the incidence of these issues in countries where the drinking age is less than 21 and compare it to statistics in America and see if there are any studies that prove that it would make a significant impact. 

I'm not sure if there are any studies that show any link to a lower drinking age having any positive impacts of if there are only theories about what might happen. I am also not sure if it's possible to conclude that a lower drinking age is the direct cause of these issues.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Psychopath Test- Chapters 4 and 5

In chapter 5, Ronson attempts to put his psychopath detecting skills to the test and visits a mass murderer, Toto, that had been locked up for mortgage fraud for 37 years in a high security prison. After learning about Bob Hare's psychopath test, Ronson started to wonder if Tony is a psychopath and wanted to test out the list of characteristics to see if he would be able to pick one out. He had encountered the mass murderer Toto years before, when he interviewed him in Queens after he was let off the hook for being the leader of a death squad in Haiti because he blamed it on other people. When he went to visit him at prison, Toto convinced him that he was not a psychopath off the bat because he talked about having so many emotions. Ronson almost fell for his ploy. He learned that if he addressed questions by framing them to imply that Toto was showing signs of weakness, Toto would start to exhibit very clear characteristics that matched those on Bob Hare's list, such as showing no remorse. Ronson left the prison after his conversation with Toto very confident that he was able to identify a psychopath.

One of the main things I keep wondering while reading this text has been, that if psychopaths are so good at imitating people's emotions and being manipulative and deceiving, and making people believe they are someone other than who they truly are, are they aware of the psychopath test and how to avoid sounding like one? Is it because they refuse to believe that anything is wrong with them or do they actually have no idea that they are one, or that people might perceive them to be one? For example if they were to read off of Bob Hare's list "lack of remorse", would they be able to identify with any situation where they felt a lack of remorse and wonder if they are exhibiting signs of a psychopath? Or for pathological lying, would they be aware of how much they lie to get out of situations?  At any rate I love reading this book because it is full of concepts that i've never even thought of before. I thought it was interesting when he was talking to the psychologist Martha Stout and she addressed the reader by saying, "if you're reading this and wondering if you are a psychopath, you aren't one."