Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Entries Tagged as 'psychology'

For the Love of Duke, Cont’d

January 8th, 2016 · 2 Comments

Last October, Wired was kind enough to publish a story I’d been working on for 16 months—the tale of a lonely Appalachian woman acted as a money mule for a crew of Nigerian con artists. That woman, Audrey Elaine Elrod, was lured into the conspiracy by a scammer who posed as a Scottish oil worker […]

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The Rise and Fall of R.I.S.E.

May 3rd, 2013 · 3 Comments

The two young men above once dreamed of committing a truly dreadful act: poisoning Chicago’s water supply, in order to kill millions and further the ambitions of their revolutionary organization, R.I.S.E. Mainstream press accounts of their failed caper describe them as incompetent fools, but this case study gives them credit for developing some biological agents […]

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The Narcissism of Scoundrels

April 29th, 2013 · 10 Comments

After six years on the run, con man David Scott Srail was finally nabbed at a San Antonio airport last week. His capture was due in part to the efforts of a Florida woman, Jacira Paolino, whose daughter was swindled by Srail. Since virtually the moment that Srail went on the lam, Paolino has maintained […]

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Grudge Match

February 14th, 2013 · No Comments

When Senator Warren B. Rudman recently passed, I was struck by the concluding section of his New York Times obituary, which contained an anecdote that attested to his stubbornness: Mr. Rudman feuded with his alma mater long after he had left its campus. In 1952, Syracuse University withheld his bachelor’s diploma because he had refused […]

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Can’t Buy a Thrill

October 16th, 2012 · No Comments

Given that 2.4 million Americans have served in either Afghanistan or Iraq, there is bound to be a point at which some veterans who run afoul of the law will point to their combat experience as a mitigating factor. When lawyers cobble together such defenses, they will doubtless flip back to United States v. Tindall […]

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Firefighters, Firebugs

August 2nd, 2012 · No Comments

If I so desired, I could probably make this blog all about firefighters-turned-arsonists and still have enough material to post at least once a week. The latest example comes from Opp, Alabama, where a firefighter allegedly set a mobile home ablaze for no discernible reason. The problem has been serious enough in years past for […]

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The Roles We Must Play

July 13th, 2012 · No Comments

Like many a non-fiction nerd whose tastes run toward the sinister, I was enraptured by Richard Lloyd Parry’s People Who Eat Darkness. The book’s central narrative was compelling enough—a young British woman’s disappearance set against the backdrop of Japan’s hostess-club industry. But what really makes the work sing is Parry’s exploration of media drama, and […]

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Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

June 21st, 2012 · 4 Comments

The great industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss is the man most responsible for preserving the art of hobo signs, which he chronicled in his 1972 masterwork Symbol Sourcebook. A good three decades after the end of the Great Depression, Dreyfuss tracked down the backstories for 60 of these signs, which hobos used to tip off their […]

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Boiling a Frog in Reverse

May 31st, 2012 · 2 Comments

I have previously written about Mongolia’s struggles with endemic alcoholism, which the political establishment has tried to address by leading by example. But as this editorial makes clear, the problem is only getting worse, with over 55 percent of the nation’s population admitting to excessive alcohol intake. Aside from raising taxes to exorbitant levels, then, […]

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A Return to Normalcy

May 10th, 2012 · No Comments

I dog-eared a whole bunch of pages in Mark Bowden’s Guests of the Ayatollah, including one featuring a passage about a longtime favorite topic: the psychology of captivity. I am a firm believer in the proposition that extended confinement can warp the mind in terrifying ways, which means I’m also a great admirer of men […]

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Personal Incentives

April 5th, 2012 · No Comments

Continuing on with our semi-regular practice of shouting out old Sports Illustrated stories that have stuck in our mind, I’d like to call your attention to this “Where Are They Now?” piece about the fabled Steve Dalkowski—a man who recently popped to mind when news of Ryan Leaf’s latest travails broke wide. The thumbnail sketch […]

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The Knife Thrower’s Assistant

February 3rd, 2012 · 1 Comment

A big challenge I’ve faced with my book is the difficulty of grasping the rationales of truly eccentric characters. Even when I’ve been able to interview such folks, I rarely come away with a full understanding of why they made certain choices—their reasoning tends to be opaque, at least to a fairly normal bloke like […]

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The Worst Good Time

January 17th, 2012 · 4 Comments

I’m a few pages from the end of Bill Buford’s Among the Thugs, a study of Thatcher-era football hooliganism that doubles as a meditation on crowd dynamics. It’s perhaps best known for its opening set-piece, in which the author tags along with a bunch of Manchester United supporters on a depraved trip to Turin. But […]

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Where Do We Go Now?

November 1st, 2011 · 4 Comments

With roughly six months to go ’til my first book is due, you can expect plenty more research extras in the coming weeks. A lot of those posts will be designed to help me think through some of the slippery issues I’m encountering as I shape the central narrative—I’m still struggling to understand the mindsets […]

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Pushing the Revolving Door

September 20th, 2011 · No Comments

I can’t say I’m a huge fan of The Shawshank Redemption, but there’s one scene toward the end that I consider truly memorable. It’s the one in which Morgan Freeman, having been paroled from prison after so many years behind bars, is shown at his job in the free world: bagging groceries at a supermarket. […]

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The Empty File

August 17th, 2011 · No Comments

As part of my ongoing, book-related effort to gain a better understanding of the Vietnam War, I recently started diving into the documentary series based on Stanley Karnow’s Vietnam: A History. (Yeah, I know, I should’ve started with the source material—my bad.) I’ve found the first episode particularly enlightening, since part of my book will […]

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A Sailor’s Life for Me?

August 12th, 2011 · 2 Comments

Many moons ago, one of my good friend’s older brothers spent a summer on an Alaskan fishing boat. He returned with a pocketful of money and some truly harrowing tales of the seafaring life, which included a comrade abandoned off the Aleutian Islands and much drunken thuggery. The anecdote of his that I remember most […]

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Combat in Charcoal

August 11th, 2011 · 5 Comments

Along with the transmission methods for mass psychological illness, one of the main themes I’ll be exploring in my next book is how traumatized Vietnam veterans coped with their homecomings. As such, I’ve been digging into the history of post-traumatic stress disorder, particularly the ways in which the condition was glossed over by the medical […]

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More Than Words Can Say

August 5th, 2011 · 3 Comments

Back in 2009, I meditated upon the question of whether or not wartime propaganda leaflets are actually effective at weakening an enemy’s resolve or ability to flight. The main takeaway was that design really mattered, as only certain kinds of leaflets—those with clear messages that eschewed graphic imagery—made a real impact on recipients. Ever since […]

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Mass Hysteria in Bangladesh

July 12th, 2011 · 4 Comments

One of the issues I’ll be exploring in my next book is the notion of psychological epidemics. How do certain behaviors go viral, and how do the arcs of such epidemics mirror those of their physiological counterparts? To this point, a lot of my research has focused on incidents of mass hysteria, which are endlessly […]

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Pawns in the Game

May 12th, 2011 · No Comments

Is there any professional sports league in the world more troubled than Serbia’s top soccer division? Yesterday’s championship ended in utter confusion, after one side walked off to protest some questionable refereeing. Though I haven’t yet seen video of the plays in question, the losing players had every right to be suspicious—Serbia has endured its […]

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The Revolution Will Not be Besotted

May 11th, 2011 · 2 Comments

Did East Germany contribute to its own demise by launching an official program to combat alcoholism? New research, packaged under the ominous title The Blue Strangler (a nickname for cheap vodka), makes the case: Despite the steep prices, high proof alcohol was popular and the average GDR citizen drank 23 bottles of liquor a year […]

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Architectural Antipsychotics

March 7th, 2011 · 2 Comments

I’d wager that there isn’t a single state in the nation that lacks an architectural oddity dubbed something like “The Strangest House in the World.” You know what I’m talking about—that random tourist attraction that lies somewhere between two medium-sized towns, and is a testament to mankind’s ability to develop total (and somewhat frightening) tunnel […]

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Dreaming in the Trenches

February 23rd, 2011 · No Comments

From the 1915 paper that first legitimized the scientific study of combat-related trauma, Charles Samuel Myers’ “A Contribution to the Study of Shell Shock”: Dec. 27th–While in hypnosis he gives the name of hte man in the same trench with him as K. He “sees” very clearly the position of the trenches, their shallowness and […]

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Devil in the Details

February 8th, 2011 · 3 Comments

I’m juggling a pair of true-crime yarns at present, and thus taking a keen interest in the contortions of an ambitious robber’s mind. What I’m starting to surmise is that even the sharpest crooks often lack a key mental skill: the ability to plan an endgame. Though their schemes may be brilliant on paper, criminals […]

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Near-Death Nation

November 8th, 2010 · 7 Comments

Readers who’ve been checking this space for a while may remember that I have a longstanding fascination with near-death experiences and the ways in which they can alter lives. And so I was struck by this line from a recent Wall Street Journal piece about researchers’ continuing attempts to determine why, exactly, folks on the […]

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Just Rats in a Maze Market

September 23rd, 2010 · 11 Comments

Think about the place where you regularly buy your groceries. After you pass through the sliding-glass door, how do you make your way around the premises? Perhaps you believe you take this path due to habit or preference, but odds are you’re nudged in one direction or another by the store’s physical layout. Some supermarket’s […]

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The Tug of Tradition

September 16th, 2010 · 10 Comments

Should you ever wish to rile up a gathering of firefighters, to the point that punches may get thrown, bring up the notion that red is a dreadful color for fire engines. You can maximize your irritation factor by citing the work of one Dr. Stephen Solomon, an optometrist best known for proposing that fluorescent […]

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Matti Nukes Adrift

September 3rd, 2010 · 10 Comments

Of the many death-defying sports that I’ve grown to admire over the years, few astound quite like elite ski jumping. Perhaps it’s not until you witness the sport in person that you really get a sense of just how bananas it is: TV can’t do justice to the true height of those hills, nor the […]

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Fortune’s Supposed Favorites

August 23rd, 2010 · 2 Comments

The morning grog is heavy today, on account of the fact that I stayed up late watching Crossing the Line, a documentary about Virginia native James Joseph Dresnok‘s 1962 defection to North Korea. Despite some clunky Christian Slater narration, it’s a stellar flick—a deeply researched portrait of a man whose tragic background made him yearn […]

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