ramen and pickles

science, technology, and medicine served up with some tasty noodles

Could Conjoined Twins Share a Mind? – NYTimes.com



I think the stuff about shared perception is probably overblown, and very likely a case of them paying attention to very subtle cues (like Clever Hans).  The article also makes the good point that they may, with time, be training themselves to ignore extra sensory cues coming from the other brain.  However, I did find the rationalization for having a reality TV show around the family surprisingly compelling.  At first it sounded like a terrible, exploitive idea, but then with some more thought it definitely seems unlikely that these girls will ever be treated ‘normally’ by new people who meet them for the first time.  People are going to give them a second glance and some are going to stare.  Increasing the world’s exposure to them can only help normalize their experience and help expose people to a greater range of human phenotype.  

Where reality shows can be incredibly beneficial for society as a whole is when they help normalize and familiarize a range of experiences and beliefs, depending on how they are done and sympathetic to their subjects as human beings.  To make this more concrete, I’ll contrast the show COPS and the show Alaska State Troopers.  Both shows are interesting and compelling in that they expose most viewers to things that are exciting and different from their daily experience.  However, COPS, produced by Fox, tends to focus on extreme events; I’m sure everyone is familiar with the stereotype of some drunk guy running naked from the police.  Although there is a lot of variability, overall, the viewer is really encouraged to think of the people arrested as ridiculous, unstable, and not deserving of respect, and the police are sort of cast in this wild west posse framework.  On the other hand, the show about Alaskan state police, incidentally produced by National Geographic, has much more respect for everyone involved, focussing instead on the police and the people they interact with as human beings, just in very different circumstances than the viewers back in the lower 48, not on the circumstances of particular crimes or extreme actions.  In the former case, there is a not so subtle message that there are large numbers of ridiculous (mostly poor and often minority) people who can’t take care of themselves and belong in custody or under supervision.  In the latter case, you are encouraged to think of people who live in Alaska and may have radically different worldviews and life experiences, but are interesting people with their own stories and experiences worth listening to.  The police are also, indirectly, cast in a much more positive light, as they are more typically shown in a slightly more professional light, doing something constructive and positive, with the weight of their time shifted away from dealing with naked drunks (although there is some of that) and more towards dealing with the challenges of the remote, dangerous environment.

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