Inquiring Minds

Vigilante Justice May Be a Matter of Trust

Vigilante justice is growing in many countries in Latin America, and a new study by Vanderbilt’s Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP) helps explain why. As criminal violence has become all too common, ordinary citizens have increasingly taken matters into their own hands by attacking those they suspect of criminal behavior. Trust in others might seem an unlikely stimulus for such behavior, but that is precisely what the new study indicates. When high interpersonal trust is coupled with low confidence in law enforcement institutions, social capital can take on a dark side, as demonstrated by the kind of vigilante justice that has become common in Mexico.

In his report prepared for the Insights series produced by LAPOP, graduate student Daniel Zizumbo-Colunga used data from the AmericasBarometer 2004, 2006 and 2008 surveys. The surveys are conducted every two years by LAPOP.



Device Serves as Baby’s ‘Bridge’ to Transplant

Eleven-month-old Nathan Roberts was dying from heart failure. But now the infant has a second chance, thanks to the pediatric heart team at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt and a ventricular assist device used for the first time in Tennessee. On May 27 a surgical team with Vanderbilt’s Pediatric Heart Institute placed the Berlin Heart device (with the commercial name EXCOR) in Nathan’s tiny chest. The device is the first of its kind designed for use in small children or infants, buying them time until a donor heart can be found.

The Berlin Heart is similar to other left ventricular assist devices (LVADS) used in adults, but much smaller. Although some 200 young patients in the United States have used the device, it is still considered experimental and requires special FDA approval for “compassionate use.”


psycopathbrainPsychopaths’ Brains Wired to Seek Rewards

The brains of psychopaths appear to be wired to keep seeking a reward at any cost. New research uncovers the role of the brain’s reward system in psychopathy and opens a new area of study for understanding what drives these individuals. The results were published March 14 in Nature Neuroscience.

“We found that a hyper-reactive dopamine reward system may be the foundation for some of the most problematic behaviors associated with psychopathy, such as violent crime, recidivism and substance abuse,” says Joshua Buckholtz, a graduate student in the Department of Psychology and lead author of the new study.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse funded the research.

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