Do people tend to harm others indirectly

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As we know, the average individual is absolutely not inclined and is not able to cause other people direct physical harm by committing violence against them, especially in such cruel forms as causing serious injury or murder. Why this happens is well explained by the theory of the violence inhibition mechanism. But the problem of causing harm is not limited to its direct forms, many means can be used to make this action indirect, thereby weakening the natural resistance to it. In view of this, one might even say that the solution of the problem of violence by therapeutic methods, i.e., regaining inhibitory control over aggression in individuals with its weak expression, will not radically change the whole situation with this problem. People will continue to harm each other simply by resorting to other, non-violent methods.

To deal with this issue, we need to have a good understanding of how human harm inhibition works in general. One can look at military research that has shown that technical means that distance a soldier from potential victims can weaken his resistance to killing. However, recent evidence suggests that even this does not necessarily work. Combat drone operators are still suffering from serious psychological trauma just like ordinary soldiers. This shows that killing is still an extremely difficult task, at least in the case when people realize that behind their seemingly "virtual" actions there are still real killings of real people. We can be sure that many would not even initially agree to such a job despite a good salary and a minimum of some physical risks.

An even better decision would be to look at the Violence Inhibition Mechanism Model (VIM). This mechanism inhibits harm in general. Because the violence inhibitor is directly activated by other people's distress cues (expressions of sadness, fear, pain), this process can be observed even when no physical harm is being caused. A study proposing the VIM model gives the example of a child trying to take a toy away from their peers. If they put on a sad expression when resisting this, the first child will be inclined to give up. And research on victims of relationship abuse shows that it is the ability to ignore such distress cues that allows psychopathic individuals to easily manipulate their partners, of course to their detriment.

From such examples, it can be understood that it is in principle unusual for a mentally healthy individual to harm other people, and this is the result of the function of the same mechanism that inhibits the infliction of direct physical harm. The very understanding that, due to some actions, someone will necessarily suffer will predispose a person not to do so.

Of course, causing another person some kind of psychological or economic harm, or even physical harm through distancing is a much easier action than killing while directly observing the victim - the resistance to this is not so strong. If less than 2% of individuals are capable of killing, then a much larger percentage is likely capable of simply intentionally causing harm in any of its forms. However, the more obviously certain people are non-violent, the more likely it can be expected from them that they will not harm anyone at all. So the best strategy to avoid hurting yourself is not to have any dealings or relationships with those whose violence inhibitor is clearly weakened. After all, if a person, even slightly, but still capable of committing violence, then you should not be surprised that this person will be able to easily cheat on you in a relationship or business, ignoring your "distress". You should always be careful with such people.


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