A recent study in Chicago demonstrates this. One researcher, Harold Pollack conducted a "social autopsy" on every homicide in the city. He did it to determine if homicides were, in fact due the "usual reasons:" gang violence, burglary, assault, domestic disputes.
At the core, the homicides weren't really related to that at all. According to Pollack's findings, which were rather anecdotal but nonetheless brilliant, included this basic idea:
"Young men + disagreement + impulsivity + gun = dead body"
It was the impulsivity - the lack of control - that controlled the moment. Jens Ludwig, who continued Pollack's research, cited the case of one young man who shot another over his backpack and water bottle and was sentenced to 120 years:
"If they thought about it for even one second...it's very hard to imagine that anyone would think it was a good idea to shoot someone at point-blank range in exchange for a book bag and a water bottle that would surely have a resale value of not more than a couple of dollars at best." (emphasis added)
These decisions weren't driven by thought - quite the contrary. These decisions were a result of a decided LACK of thinking in a heated moment and they resulted in stupid, stupid, senseless deaths.
Pollack also argued that both liberal and conservative arguments on violence reduction have serious limitations. Seriously, his slide 6 is pretty badass:
–Violence fundamental outgrowth of economic inequality, blocked opportunities, segregation, and discrimination.
–Violence fundamental outgrowth of adverse cultural trends including family breakdown, adverse media messages, and more."
That's a nice synopsis of the opposing viewpoints, isn't it? But that's a rather complex argument that needs to be unpacked elsewhere. Were focusing on THINKING here, and Jens Ludwig's research in Chicago had important insights on that too.
Gimme the ball
The exercise was simple: one boy was given a ball. The other boy was told to get the ball out of his partner's hand. As simple as this sounds, the result with teenage boys was easy to predict: invariably, the activity ended in a brawl with the two boys fighting with the ball. The instructors noted that no one ever asked for the ball. This was rather the point, and discussion centered around that possibility: asking and thinking, rather than acting.
It's crazy that NO ONE ASKED, but there you go. Impulsivity ruled.
Stupid acts fast, smart acts slow. It's as simple as following the adage "think before you act." In our world of instant gratification, on-demand programming, internet memes, sound-byte politics, and fast food, that's difficult advice to follow, isn't it?