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1 EPR-radar  Mon, Dec 17, 2012 4:25:04pm

In my opinion, the weakness of this line of reasoning is that there are a _lot_ of socially maladjusted kids and young adults, and very few of them become mass murderers.

So, the observation that a large fraction of actual killers fit this type has little or no predictive value.

2 Political Atheist  Mon, Dec 17, 2012 5:43:50pm

re: #1 EPR-radar

Yes, more data needed. Lots more.

3 lostlakehiker  Mon, Dec 17, 2012 5:47:05pm

re: #1 EPR-radar

In my opinion, the weakness of this line of reasoning is that there are a _lot_ of socially maladjusted kids and young adults, and very few of them become mass murderers.

So, the observation that a large fraction of actual killers fit this type has little or no predictive value.

Don't dismiss the analysis so quickly. There are medical screening tests for various conditions for which almost all "positive" results are false positives. And yet, these tests are useful. The odds that the person tested has the condition may be 1 in 10000 a priori, but when a positive test comes back, the odds move to 1 in 100.

Now there are other, more expensive and invasive, tests that will settle the issue. The expense and risk of performing these tests is unjustified when the odds are 1 in 10000 that the person being screened has the condition. But when the chances are 100 to 1 that he does not, a $100 test costs $10000 per patient identified. That ten thousand is well spent, though, if the condition requires treatment and the treatment will likely succeed if done in a timely fashion, while later may be too late.

By analogy, it may make good sense to invest some effort in further screening and attention to maladjusted kids. Unlike in the medical analogy, there may be things that can be done to make their lives better, and their malajustment less severe, which would benefit all concerned, even if they were not any sort of threat. There may also be things that can be done to contain the risk they pose. Insist, at a bare minimum, that their family either divest itself of guns, or adapt elaborate precautions. The carrot would be the efforts on behalf of the kid. We'd want the cooperation of the parents; they, in most cases, would be the ones best placed to give a heads up to the professionals.

And on occasion, maybe not 1 in 100 but 1 in some number, you'll head off a really bad result.

Success would be measured by a sharp reduction in the frequency of the kinds of events we're talking about. You'd never know, of course, which kid would actually have gone and done something along the lines of the stuff that just made the headlines.

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