Egged on by a rather fanciful press release from the University media office, and a quote from a sociologist, the [news story which appeared in The Daily Mail, the Telegraph, and others] was unstoppable. I got hold of the research paper, with some hassle. In fact, before we even begin to read it, I don’t think it’s very good behaviour to pimp a study to the media before it’s published, before academics can read it and respond, since the media commentariat have proven themselves to be morons.
Anyway: in a sentence, the study finds that the brain bloodflow changes which are observed when a subject is experiencing compassion for social pain peak, and dissipate, at a slightly slower rate to those seen with compassion for physical pain. It does not mention Twitter. It does not mention Facebook. It does not mention social networking websites. It makes – and I’m being generous here – a single, momentary, passing reference to the rapid pace of information in “the digital age” in the discussion section, but that is all. These news stories were bullshit.
Now here’s the real test. How much of THAT do you believe, and why?