Thursday, June 29, 2006

Study: Immaturity Levels Rising.

I wonder if this article from might have some relation to the previous story about ultra-orthodox Jews beating up Christians in Jerusalem.

The adage "like a kid at heart" may be truer than we think, since new research is showing that grown-ups are more immature than ever.

Specifically, it seems a growing number of people are retaining the behaviors and attitudes associated with youth.

As a consequence, many older people simply never achieve mental adulthood, according to a leading expert on evolutionary psychiatry.

Among scientists, the phenomenon is called psychological neoteny.

The theory’s creator is Bruce Charlton, a professor in the School of Biology at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, England. He also serves as the editor-in-chief of Medical Hypotheses, which will feature a paper outlining his theory in an upcoming issue.

[…] A “child-like flexibility of attitudes, behaviors and knowledge” is probably adaptive to the increased instability of the modern world, Charlton believes. Formal education now extends well past physical maturity, leaving students with minds that are, he said, “unfinished.”

[…] “But formal education requires a child-like stance of receptivity to new learning, and cognitive flexibility."

"When formal education continues into the early twenties," he continued, "it probably, to an extent, counteracts the attainment of psychological maturity, which would otherwise occur at about this age.”

So, of course, it isn’t really our fault. Our environment makes us this way.

[…] "People such as academics, teachers, scientists and many other professionals are often strikingly immature outside of their strictly specialist competence in the sense of being unpredictable, unbalanced in priorities, and tending to overreact.”

[…] The faults of youth are retained along with the virtues, he believes. These include short attention span, sensation and novelty-seeking, short cycles of arbitrary fashion and a sense of cultural shallowness.

I wonder if that list should include bishops? The study certainly explains the proliferation of Clown Masses.

Seriously, "academics, teachers, scientists, and many other professionals" are the same people who tend to be portrayed in the media as experts and leaders. Dr. Charlton seems to think this all to be a good – or, at least, okay – thing. I don’t think so. When we look back at the bizarre political intrigues, constant violence, and simple ruinous folly that characterized the kingdoms of the Middle Ages, we tend to forget that, due to the high death rate, these states were frequently ruled by teenagers and twenty-somethings. Part of the stability of our modern times is that we are usually governed by geezers - less driven by hormones and less committed to risk-taking. If the geezers never grow up, we may be in for some problems. I’m not advocating reserving the vote to geriatric cases, but there is something to be said for the wise counsel of elders.

There was more, but I just couldn’t pay attention.