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Whedonesque - a community weblog about Joss Whedon
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June 14 2010

Life imitates the 'Verse. "So the 'brotherly love' hormone may also be connected to violence? Why am I reminded of the movie Serenity? What did Joss Whedon know, and when did he know it?!"

Hmmmmm...

I think this is kind of a stretch. As a chemical biologist and pharmacist, I doubt oxytocin [NOTE: oxytocin is a naturally occurring hormone which has nothing to do with Oxycontin, the Heroin-like pain-killer] played any role in Joss Whedon's conception of Reavers.

I really don't think Joss was searching the medical literature for a (relatively) obscure hormone that facilitates childbirth and breastfeeding when he conceived the idea of a group of humans driven mad by an experimental drug to quiet rebellion.

If I were to assign a class of modern-day drugs to PAX, I would probably choose antipsychotics, anxiolytics, or antidepressants. But yeah, in my opinion, none of these classes of drugs are sinister, either...

By the way, who is Robert Crawford?
They're not saying that it had a role in Whedon's conception of Reavers, just that it *reminded* them of it. The violence-love connection is a strong thread throughout the movie (and show) itself, so the idea that social bonding (in which oxytocin plays a role) might also spur violence in defense of loved ones is no real surprise. But it is interesting.
Not a biologist (pretty sure an A level doesn't count) but it seems fairly intuitive (which is nice for "obvious" ;) that being bound to your group is related to attacking those that are set to attack your group. Course, it being intuitive doesn't make it so, that's what separates science from just making shit up.

This
That choice led to four possible outcomes, depending on what the outsider group also chose. The two groups received a moderate reward if they both cooperated and a lesser reward if they both chose to not cooperate. But if an outsider group chose to not cooperate, the in-group was better off also not cooperating. Cooperating with outsiders who had chosen not to cooperate led to the worst-case scenario.
gives me pause. Isn't that basically a non-iterated Prisoner's Dilemma ? And so isn't non-cooperation (defection) also the most rational choice ? I mean, presumably there was a significant effect between those taking the oxytocin whiff and those taking the placebo but still, rather than increasing cooperativeness/out-group aggression couldn't you also assume (from this study) that it increases something else e.g. rationality or abstract thinking ?
Thanks for the link. I am actually taking a course on Hormone-Behavior relations currently. I might just bring this up in class.

Saje, If I remember from my Social Psych class, I think defection is the most rationale decision if you only play once, but if the game is played multiple times with the same partner, it is more beneficial to cooperate than to defect.
Yeah that's my understanding too Animal Mother (s'why I say "non-iterated" above - with an iterated Prisoner's Dilemma of unknown endpoint then a so-called "nice tit-for-tat" strategy is the most rational if I remember rightly i.e. do what they do to you except let them off one transgression). Not studied it or kept up on recent developments though, maybe a better strategy is known now.
It doesn't seem that the Reavers' aggression was driven by even a misperception of need to protect other Reavers. Flying around in radiation-emitting ships (that are burning you and your comrades) doesn't strike me as being protective of the group, nor does cannibalism. There are plenty of examples of the love for one's group/violence to others in the Whedonverse, but the Reavers aren't among them, IMHO.
I think they're referring to the ultimate cause of Reaverness i.e. the Pax that was used on Miranda (most became so docile they literally lost the will to live, a small percentage went bibbledy and became so aggressive they kind of did the same but from the other end).

As something that reminds them of something else (as ern says) it's fine because that's entirely subjective (i.e. if it reminds them of the Reavers then it does, whatever we say, kind of like if you find something funny then it is, regardless of other people's opinions) but in all other respects it's not really much of a parallel.
I believe your right Saje; tit-for-tat is the best strategy.

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