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Mirror neurons are cells that respond when we perform an action or see someone else perform that action.

The “broken mirror” autism hypothesis is a catchy idea that attracts plenty of coverage and is frequently recycled by popular science writers (for example, writing in the Daily Mail, Rita Carer said “autistic people often lack empathy and have been found to show less mirror-neuron activity”).

Some patients with specific conditions (such as command-based hallucinations “telling them” to commit acts) are at increased risk, but actual acts of violence are rare.

A telling meta-analysis from 2011 concluded that 35,000 high-risk patients with a diagnosis of schizophrenia would need to be permanently watched or incarcerated to prevent one killing of a stranger by a patient.

A recent survey of British teachers found that over 96 per cent believed in this principle.

In fact, psychology research shows consistently that people do not learn better when taught via their preferred modality, and that instead the most effective modality for teaching usually varies according to the nature of the material under study.

No wonder that surveys show that most of the public believe that people with mental illness are inherently violent.

In fact, as Scott Lilienfeld and his colleagues explain in the 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology, the evidence suggests that at least 90 per cent of people with mental illness do not commit violent acts, and the overwhelming majority of violent offenders are not mentally ill.

There’s an implication that when we’re in a large group, we lose our senses and it’s everyone for themselves.Psychologist John Drury made this finding based partly on his interviews with people caught up in real-life emergencies, such as the overcrowding that occurred at a Fatboy Slim concert on Brighton beach in 2002.Drury and his colleagues argue this has implications for the handling by authorities of emergency situations: “Crowds in emergencies can be trusted to behave in more social ways than previously expected by some involved in emergency planning,” they wrote.Zimbardo even acted as an expert witness for the defence in the real-life trial of one of the abusive guards at Abu Ghraib.But the Stanford Experiment was highly flawed and has been misinterpreted.

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