[FOUNTAIN]Melancholy or an ill societyNinety-four percent of a rhesus monkey’s genes are the same as a human’s. Because of this, psychologists frequently use rhesus monkeys to substitute for people in experiments.
Psychologist Harry Harlow concluded “intimate physical contact” was the essence of love through experiments with rhesus monkeys in the 1950s. When baby monkeys grew healthily even after being ‘raised’ by surrogate mothers made of cloth, he stated in 1958 that “maternal love has been disposed of.” However, those monkeys deprived of maternal love later suffered severe depression with many harming themselves.
Depression is the number one reason for suicide. When someone suffers from depression, the amount of neurotransmitters such as serotonin decrease and they feel a strong urge to commit suicide. Dr. Harlow’s depressed monkeys refused to eat until they starved to death or threw themselves at sharp branches.
David P. Phillips discovered a “suicide domino” phenomenon where one suicide brought on another. Dr. Phillips analyzed suicides reported in America from 1947 to 1968. When a suicide was reported on the front page of a newspaper, many more people than usual committed suicide in the next two months. The number of deaths due to airplane accidents and car accidents also increased. Phillips named this the “Werther Effect” because, after Goethe in 1774 published his novel “The Sorrows of Young Werther,” in which the main character commits suicide, many people used the method described in the book to kill themselves.
Professor Robert B. Cialdini, the author of “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion,” believed in the Werther Effect. He said, “When a suicide is reported on the front page, I avoid going on business trips that require long hours in a car or a plane.”
Emile Durkheim focused on “anomic suicide” in his book “Suicide: A Study in Sociology.” Industrial society’s ills, such as economic difficulties, caused anomic suicide. As the number of suicides increased, Durkheim posited that society was suffering deep illness.
Lee Soo-il, a former deputy chief of the National Intelligence Service, killed himself a few days ago. He had been questioned by prosecutors about ten days before his death. Two years ago Hyundai Group’s leader, Chung Mong-hun; last year Busan Mayor, Ahn Sang-yong and Daewoo E&C’s president, Nam Sang-kook; all took their lives after prosecutorial investigations. Is this because everyone has suddenly become melancholy or is it because illness in our society has become much more serious?
by Yi Jung-jae
The writer is a deputy business news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.