Human behavior is a complicated and often unpredictable beast. Societies often create their own social norms and hierarchies by which patrons are expected to follow.
Accusations of witchcraft within a society are more common than one might think in this day and age. Beyond that, a study cited by the Scientific American shows that these accusations seem to arise independently throughout the world, with strange commonalities. As an example, scientists in the study found that societies often accuse "witches" of poisoning food. "Witches" are often women, and the tag of "witchood" is often passed through the female lineage. This tag separated "witches" from the rest of their society, establishing social hierarchy within it.
This strange human behavior of labeling and ostracizing members of a community with a label that often defies logic begs a behavioral neuroscientific question. How does the phenomenon begin?
A seminar given in mid-October at Loyola University Chicago was titled "Subconscious Motivations - Free Will - Did my brain make me do it?" posed the question of free will from a neuroscientific perspective.
The seminar cited a study that claimed to prove that free will doesn't exist. It claimed that all choices are preceded by an awareness of an urge, which is preceded by a readiness potential. Furthermore, that all of these things are visible as neuronal firings through fMRI.
In the small communities that accuse some women of being witches, this study may indicate that accusations of withchood are predetermined. Or, if you're superstitious, the study hints that "witches" poison food in a predetermined way. Are 13% of women in 'small' communities witches?
I've always been a fan of Halloween, but for the sake of food safety and my ability to sleep, I'd like to believe that this study falsely defines what a 'choice' is, and therefore falsely defines the way humans interact with one another in groups. While the study that claims to disprove free will is a scientific one, and thus, a scientific discussion needs to be had with regard to it, there is certainly room for a philosophical—or at least psychological—debate. Such a claim is huge, and can surely be viewed as a slippery slope argument that leads to conversation about the legitimacy of witches.
What do you think? Is there a spooky correlation going on in small communities around the world? Can it be explained neuroscientifically?
Scientific American: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-are-women-accused-of-witchcraft/