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efreysson
05-13-2011, 08:50 PM
I have this little seed of an idea about fantasy warriors that are stripped of their ability to feel fear. Not in such a way that they don't recognize danger or act suicidally; They just can't feel the emotion of fear.

Is there some real-life brain abnormality that causes fearlessness? I was thinking of having some unpleasant side effect to the fear-stripping procedure, probably involving the other emotions, but I'm not quite sure what.

Wikipedia tells me fear is processed in the amygdala. What could theoretically happen if it were altered?

The Grift
05-13-2011, 08:59 PM
Toxoplasmosis is a parasite that seems to cause decreased fear reactions in animals and possibly humans, but it also slows down reaction time and may reduce aggression, so maybe not the best way to build a better warrior. Changes to the amygdala could produce similar effects.

Kitty Pryde
05-13-2011, 09:38 PM
Well, with no ability to feel fear, a person would probably do all manner of stupid things. Evaluating the safety and relative merit of a certain act on a purely probabilistic terms won't be too effective (people absolutely suck at analyzing probability). Without the benefit of fear (fear of physical/financial/emotional harm or fear of guilt) a person would be a very poor decision maker.

Rob_In_MN
05-13-2011, 09:48 PM
As a side note, I would also mention that this idea has been used quite a bit. I've only read a half dozen "worlds" of fantasy and two of them have a race/class of people that don't feel fear. Kenders in Dragonlance and ..some sort of royal guard type guys in The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant - I don't remember what they were because I didn't particularly care for that book. Personally, I'd shoot for some other special trait for your class of warriors.

lenore_x
05-13-2011, 10:26 PM
You might look into Williams syndrome, which is a genetic abnormality that results in no fear of strangers. More specific than what you're talking about but it might still be helpful in terms of how the brain deals with unfamiliar situations.

PinkAmy
05-13-2011, 10:31 PM
So are you saying that the cognitively understand the concept of fear and fearful situations, but they are unable to translate those thoughts into feelings.
For example, the intellectually know that going swimming in a lightning storm is dangerous, but that knowledge doesn't translate to a logical fear of harmed so they go swimming. Or that they do not recognize the danger of swimming in an electric storm?
Are they unable to recognize fear for other people? Would these people know babies shouldn't be given toys they can choke on, but give them anyway because they aren't afraid their baby will choke?
Or are you talking about more visceral fears, like being held at gun point and being told, "Don't shoot or I'll kill you?"

People with asperger's intellectualize feelings, rather than feel them emotionally.
You might be able to use the documented difference is brain scans and MRIs between autistic and non-autistic individuals to show that your characters have had their brains altered. This article talks about differences in each lobe http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/bb/neuro/neuro98/202s98-paper1/Taverna.html .

veinglory
05-13-2011, 10:36 PM
Many conditions involve reduced fear or increased impulsiveness (ADHD can be one). But generally the person still logically understands some situations are too dangerous even if they don't feel emotional fear.

Kitty Pryde
05-13-2011, 10:37 PM
People with asperger's intellectualize feelings, rather than feel them emotionally.


Um, I don't think this is true at all. Can you cite a source? People with AS may have difficulty articulating their feelings, or difficulty understanding/responding to the feelings expressed by others. But I believe it is entirely untrue that they don't "feel" emotions. I would dare say that I have witnessed the feeling of feelings by individuals with AS many times.

efreysson
05-13-2011, 10:48 PM
Well, with no ability to feel fear, a person would probably do all manner of stupid things. Evaluating the safety and relative merit of a certain act on a purely probabilistic terms won't be too effective (people absolutely suck at analyzing probability). Without the benefit of fear (fear of physical/financial/emotional harm or fear of guilt) a person would be a very poor decision maker.

Well, I only just got this idea today. But the idea is that they're special troops used by the government for specific purposes. They're trained to fight effectively and don't really do anything else.


So are you saying that the cognitively understand the concept of fear and fearful situations, but they are unable to translate those thoughts into feelings.
For example, the intellectually know that going swimming in a lightning storm is dangerous, but that knowledge doesn't translate to a logical fear of harmed so they go swimming. Or that they do not recognize the danger of swimming in an electric storm?
Are they unable to recognize fear for other people? Would these people know babies shouldn't be given toys they can choke on, but give them anyway because they aren't afraid their baby will choke?
Or are you talking about more visceral fears, like being held at gun point and being told, "Don't shoot or I'll kill you?"

I simply mean that they don't feel the EMOTION of fear. Or at least very little fear. They know when something is dangerous. They know full well that they should block an incoming attack, or not stick their face in a bonfire.



People with asperger's intellectualize feelings, rather than feel them emotionally. Um, no. I have Asperger's, and I feel the same things as everyone else. It's reading other people that can pose a problem.

Cyia
05-13-2011, 10:53 PM
People with Asperger's feel exactly the same emotions everyone else, tyvm. Expression may be difficult, but there's no difference in the amount of emotion involved.

The biggest flaw in the idea of a warrior without fear as a super soldier type of person is that without fear, they have no reason to obey their superiors. There's no reason for them to obey authority figures because the threat of punishment won't register as an incentive. Basically, the people who train them to be without fear, or who remove the fear response will end up with an army of people they can't control who have the capability to destroy them rather than serve.

Drachen Jager
05-13-2011, 11:23 PM
I have this little seed of an idea about fantasy warriors that are stripped of their ability to feel fear. Not in such a way that they don't recognize danger or act suicidally; They just can't feel the emotion of fear.

Is there some real-life brain abnormality that causes fearlessness? I was thinking of having some unpleasant side effect to the fear-stripping procedure, probably involving the other emotions, but I'm not quite sure what.

Wikipedia tells me fear is processed in the amygdala. What could theoretically happen if it were altered?

There are cases where this happens. You wouldn't want your warriors to have it though, because it means the person cannot make reasonable risk assessments. Warriors with this condition would simply throw their lives away without accomplishing anything useful more often than not.

There is a woman in the US with this condition, she needs pretty much constant supervision because she's always falling into abusive relationships, and getting into all sorts of trouble.

http://www.disabled-world.com/health/neurology/brain/fear-factor.php

Torgo
05-13-2011, 11:34 PM
..some sort of royal guard type guys in The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant - I don't remember what they were because I didn't particularly care for that book.

"The Bloodguard", or Haruchai I believe. Their deal was something like, they were somewhere between mystic Shaolin monks and Vulcans, and they swore an oath that meant they lived a really long time and became incredibly po-faced. I remember that because when I was about 12 I had read those books often enough that I had memorised the Glossary in the back.

(The older I got, the less impressed I got with Stephen Donaldson.)

Lord of Chaos
05-13-2011, 11:48 PM
I like the idea behind it and it has merit in history (such as Norse Berserkers or Scottish Woad-Raiders) but both groups usually relied on ferociousness to frighten the opposition. Their rage tended to make them horrible to face but also made them susceptible to getting killed by not retreating.

As far as soldiers, training trumps fear in many situations. For instance, with the invention of gunpowder weaponry, the way of waging war was to line up hundreds of people 20-30 yards apart and blasting each other until one side ran away. Discipline won the battles because I guarantee those soldiers were frightened.

It's the same reason why special forces military units undergo the extreme training they do. Removing fear entirely doesn't make the troops more effective, teaching them to remain disciplined in the face of fear does.

MAP
05-14-2011, 12:06 AM
Why is fear bad? Wouldn't removing fear also remove the fight or flight response. That adrenalin rush comes in handy during combat.

I think it is better to learn to control fear rather than remove it. Just my thoughts.

efreysson
05-14-2011, 01:26 AM
Why is fear bad? Wouldn't removing fear also remove the fight or flight response. That adrenalin rush comes in handy during combat.

I think it is better to learn to control fear rather than remove it. Just my thoughts.

In the real world, absolutely. But the idea was that they would be special troops/hunters that can resist paralyzing, supernaturally-induced fear. And then I liked the thought of having a character with a strange, creepy calmness, and how the other characters would get along with him.

KQ800
05-14-2011, 01:38 AM
People with asperger's intellectualize feelings, rather than feel them emotionally.


No. This is a myth based on a misunderstanding. Autists, of which persons with Asperger Syndrome are a subgroup, have the same feelings as any neurotypical person. What they lack (to a greater or smaller degree) is ability to understand body language and non verbal communication.

I recommend http://www.scn.org/autistics/empathy.html for a good explanation.

KQ800
05-14-2011, 01:48 AM
I have this little seed of an idea about fantasy warriors that are stripped of their ability to feel fear. Not in such a way that they don't recognize danger or act suicidally; They just can't feel the emotion of fear.

Is there some real-life brain abnormality that causes fearlessness? I was thinking of having some unpleasant side effect to the fear-stripping procedure, probably involving the other emotions, but I'm not quite sure what.

Wikipedia tells me fear is processed in the amygdala. What could theoretically happen if it were altered?

What you describe is one of the key symptoms of clinical psychopathology. Psychopaths have very diminished fear for themselves or the outcome of their actions. They also seem to not be able to process body languge or facial expressions associated with fear in others.

http://archpsyc.ama-assn.org/cgi/reprint/62/7/799.pdf

http://news.softpedia.com/news/Inside-the-Psycopath-Mind-41912.shtml

there are of course other symptoms, but if fear realtes to empathy, it might not be a wise idea to remove those traits from the class that wields your societys weapons.

PinkAmy
05-14-2011, 02:36 PM
No. This is a myth based on a misunderstanding. Autists, of which persons with Asperger Syndrome are a subgroup, have the same feelings as any neurotypical person. What they lack (to a greater or smaller degree) is ability to understand body language and non verbal communication.

I recommend http://www.scn.org/autistics/empathy.html for a good explanation.

Temple Grandin disagrees in the half dozen books I've read written by her. I consider her one of my experts in understanding the spectrum.

efreysson
05-14-2011, 04:24 PM
Temple Grandin disagrees in the half dozen books I've read written by her. I consider her one of my experts in understanding the spectrum.

Again, I HAVE ASPERGER'S. And your Temple Grandin is apparently full of crap.

Kitty Pryde
05-14-2011, 06:57 PM
Temple Grandin disagrees in the half dozen books I've read written by her. I consider her one of my experts in understanding the spectrum.

Temple Grandin has autism, not Aspergers. But again, can you cite her saying anything remotely like that anywhere? I read her book and watched her documentary and I can't remember anything like that. Someone like her might take an intellectual approach to learning to identify and categorize the emotional responses of other people because they don't come intuitively like they do for NT people--that's not the same as not feeling!

AVS
05-14-2011, 07:08 PM
Try not feeling fear at certain times.

Alcohol is a tremendous inhibitor; you'll see the little guy stand up to the big guys if he's drunk enough. Though it does harm coordination and risk assessment some.

So in a fantasy world perhaps our heroes have a special drink, magicol that drains them of fear, whilst not inhibiting the ability to stand up or talk coherently. A spell would serve the same purpose.

I note that psychopaths and berserkers have already been mentioned. A drunk, psychopathic berserker might be a handful.

Good luck.

PinkAmy
05-14-2011, 08:54 PM
Effryson- I assume you're not speaking for every person with asperger's, but of your own personal experiences. You should read Temple Grandin. She's an international expert on the spectrum, as well as someone diagnosed with autism. She was one of the first people in the world to be diagnosed, at a time when the condition was called "infantile schizophrenia."

Temple Grandin has autism, not Aspergers.
Temple writes about autism, as well as asperger's. She was diagnosed as autism as a child, but functions more like someone with asperger's. I'll have to look through my books, I own 4 of them, but one is lent out. Give me a day or so. Have you read her more academic books as well as her bio? She's got a wonderful way of writing about the brain in ways that nonacademics can understand. Her mother, Eustacia Cutler's book was also quite good.
I didn't mean to imply that everyone on the spectrum thinks and feels alike. I'm sorry if that wasn't clearer.

KQ800
05-15-2011, 12:14 AM
Effryson- I assume you're not speaking for every person with asperger's, but of your own personal experiences. //
I didn't mean to imply that everyone on the spectrum thinks and feels alike. I'm sorry if that wasn't clearer.

Well, your initial statement that Aspies intellectualize feelings rather then feel them emotionally,is contrary to just about every source I've read.

BUT! It fits with a description of the coping mechanism of autists and aspies to the problem many have of reading emotions and getting an empathetic connection to nonverbal cues.

By intellectually translating what they see and map this to corresponding feelings rather than getting an automatic mapping like NT:s

Is it possible that you misread your source?

AKyber36
05-15-2011, 12:34 AM
If the idea of not fearing as some said would become a detriment to your super soldiers, maybe some very good military conditioning would work, too. Richard Morgan's MC in his Takeshi Kovacs series belongs to an elite black-ops group called the Envoys. They're specially trained to resist trauma and fear but at the same time, they're cognizant of both but the training kicks in to allow them to focus and lessen it. Something like that might be more suitable.

Lil
05-15-2011, 06:02 AM
Feeling no fear would obviously be very dangerous. An unarmed soldier who fearlessly charges an enemy with a gun is very quickly dead.

It might be interesting to have a foolish leader raise up a fearless army, either through some sort of drug manipulation or genetic intervention, and not realize that he is simply setting them up for slaughter. They might look impressive and intimidating marching around but opponents able to do reasonable risk assessment could quickly annihilate them.

frimble3
05-15-2011, 11:32 AM
In the real world, absolutely. But the idea was that they would be special troops/hunters that can resist paralyzing, supernaturally-induced fear. And then I liked the thought of having a character with a strange, creepy calmness, and how other characters would get along with him. It might be better to have them trained, or medicated, or enchanted to resist a paralying, supernaturally-induced fear.
And I don't think that lacking fear would necessarily give a character calmness. They might be angry, or sad or cheerful (in a 'what, me, worry?' sort of way). Now that would be creepy on a battlefield! 'Whistle While We Work' as a military tune.

While we're messing with emotions, I've always wanted to see a story in which dastardly character gives the young woman alcohol to 'lower her inhibitions', only to discover that what's been inhibited is a towering rage, that he can't control.

Giant Baby
05-15-2011, 07:24 PM
You might be able to achieve a similar result by having your warriors either unable to experience pain, or have a decreased awareness of pain. A couple of examples here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congenital_insensitivity_to_pain) and here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hereditary_sensory_and_autonomic_neuropathy) as possible starting points.

Their experience of fear could naturally be affected by this. I have peripheral neuropathy, and I can tell you from personal experience that I'm not afraid of things that might cause minor cuts or burns to the palms of my hands or bottoms of my feet. In fact, over the years I've been cajoled out of lazy habits like grabbing items from hot ovens without oven mitts or walking barefoot where I might cut or burn my feet without noticing.

I am, of course, an idiot. But, still...

Darkshore
05-15-2011, 08:57 PM
To me this idea would have holes in it. If someone, especially a warrior cannot feel fear, then there self preservation instincts would be almost non-existent. Fear keeps warriors alive on the battlefield, heightens the senses, improves reaction time, etc. Now this could still be a good idea but you would have to be more specific with it. Somehow they could remain calm and collected during a battle or be able to slow down their thoughts so that they can see tactical decisions more clearly, quickly, and efficiently. This is only my opinion but I believe that anything that takes away a persons ability to feel fear or pain is a weakness. I believe the medical condition that blocks the feeling of "pain" is called CIPA and most people with this condition, especially children must be watched and looked after because they will endanger themselves often without realizing it. Just giving you my two cents, I hope you can find a way to make it work. It does sound interesting.

KQ800
05-15-2011, 11:51 PM
I have this little seed of an idea about fantasy warriors that are stripped of their ability to feel fear. Not in such a way that they don't recognize danger or act suicidally; They just can't feel the emotion of fear.

Is there some real-life brain abnormality that causes fearlessness? I was thinking of having some unpleasant side effect to the fear-stripping procedure, probably involving the other emotions, but I'm not quite sure what.

Wikipedia tells me fear is processed in the amygdala. What could theoretically happen if it were altered?

Historically, might this be how you get suicide bombers,Crusader knights, Kamikaze-pilots, "Three trails of bubbles"*?

If you are utterly convinced that what is ahead is a short painful experience but that you will live on in paradise, you could even look forward to death because that would mean an end of suffering.

* http://books.google.se/books?id=2dcDAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA50&lpg=PA50&dq=three+trails+of+bubbles+rose&source=bl&ots=wM5Cx-qWGm&sig=DW7110AzmLJQd0guGu8vR-L6dk0&hl=sv&ei=BC7QTfq3CorKtAbvt43fAQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CBgQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=three%20trails%20of%20bubbles%20rose&f=false

efreysson
05-16-2011, 02:27 AM
To me this idea would have holes in it. If someone, especially a warrior cannot feel fear, then there self preservation instincts would be almost non-existent. Fear keeps warriors alive on the battlefield, heightens the senses, improves reaction time, etc. Now this could still be a good idea but you would have to be more specific with it. Somehow they could remain calm and collected during a battle or be able to slow down their thoughts so that they can see tactical decisions more clearly, quickly, and efficiently.
. . . .
Just giving you my two cents, I hope you can find a way to make it work. It does sound interesting.

Yeah, I'll definitely have to do some adjustments to the concept. I just like the idea of writing a fantasy character who is disturbingly detached in dangerous situations. It would be fun to write the other characters' reaction to him, and to explore his inner workings a little bit.



And I don't think that lacking fear would necessarily give a character calmness. They might be angry, or sad or cheerful (in a 'what, me, worry?' sort of way). Now that would be creepy on a battlefield! 'Whistle While We Work' as a military tune.


Now there's an idea. Inappropriate levity! :)

Canotila
05-16-2011, 09:26 PM
I don't think an absence of fear necessarily means no self preservation. It depends how the fear was stripped away. Were they born without it? Then yes, they'd probably have some issues with self preservation. If it was induced somehow and they were trained to use that? That could give them an edge.

For some, not having emotions influencing their decisions in combat might allow for more logical reactions. Imagine Vulcans who aren't pacifists. I can't imagine that they'd do stupid things just because they didn't feel fear.

feather
05-29-2011, 03:29 AM
I'm a bit late to this thread, but injuries to the amygdala (http://resumeweassist.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/amygdala_hippocampus_lateral_large1.jpg) can be a cause for fearlessness. I read about a case last year, where a woman was left with no fear/anger response after operating out a tumour in the amygdala and injuring that part of the brain in the process. That means it might be possible to damage the amygdala to stop a person from feeling fear.

The book is in another part of the country at the moment so I can't quote the exact part, but it's called "Vision and Art: The Biology of Seeing (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0810995549)", in case you're interested (it's mostly about visual processes in the brain, though, only a paragraph or two about this case)..

mscelina
05-29-2011, 03:59 AM
Soldiers with the inability to feel fear are called droids.

Just sayin'.

Mr Flibble
05-29-2011, 04:26 AM
The soldiers with no fear tend to be the first to die.

The first ones over the top...

The ones rampaging through the booby trap laden jungle with nary a thought to the claymore that will blow their leg off...

Fear breeds caution and thought. Fear stops you running pell mell into a massacre. Fears makes you think. How do I get out of this without dying/ with all my limbs intact? People without fear just do. And without fear, there is no brave, because brace is overcoming fear. So your guys are a) rash, impulsive and possibly TSTL b) likely to die and c) not brave.

Obviously depending on how you handle it...I'm not rooting for them.

Fear makes winners. If you use it right.

Giant Baby
05-29-2011, 04:39 AM
Soldiers with the inability to feel fear are called droids.

Just sayin'.


The soldiers with no fear tend to be the first to die.

The first ones over the top...

The ones rampaging through the booby trap laden jungle with nary a thought to the claymore that will blow their leg off...

Fear breeds caution and thought. Fear stops you running pell mell into a massacre. Fears makes you think. How do I get out of this without dying/ with all my limbs intact? People without fear just do. And without fear, there is no brave, because brace is overcoming fear. So your guys are a) rash, impulsive and possibly TSTL b) likely to die and c) not brave.

Obviously depending on how you handle it...I'm not rooting for them.

Fear makes winners. If you use it right.

Hmm... But if the whole army is this way? And, there's nothing to say that not feeling fear in any way affects loyalty to a cause or fellow soldiers, or determination to get a job done, etc. I suspect you could get a lot done with compensation if you wanted to.

As long as the people laying out the plans and handing down the orders are not so afflicted, I'm not sure this couldn't make for an interesting and complicated army after all.

I still think it's worth looking into inability to feel pain, though, as well.

kuwisdelu
05-29-2011, 06:21 AM
Effryson- I assume you're not speaking for every person with asperger's, but of your own personal experiences. You should read Temple Grandin. She's an international expert on the spectrum, as well as someone diagnosed with autism. She was one of the first people in the world to be diagnosed, at a time when the condition was called "infantile schizophrenia."

Temple writes about autism, as well as asperger's. She was diagnosed as autism as a child, but functions more like someone with asperger's. I'll have to look through my books, I own 4 of them, but one is lent out. Give me a day or so. Have you read her more academic books as well as her bio? She's got a wonderful way of writing about the brain in ways that nonacademics can understand. Her mother, Eustacia Cutler's book was also quite good.
I didn't mean to imply that everyone on the spectrum thinks and feels alike. I'm sorry if that wasn't clearer.

As someone else with Asperger's, I believe you're probably misunderstanding what she wrote somewhere.

People on the spectrum definitely feel emotions, just like everyone else. However, what she might have been talking about, and where you might have gotten confused, is that sometimes our understanding of a situation may be different enough from a neurotypical person that it affects how we feel about it, possibly resulting in different emotions.

In which case, it's not a difference of how we process emotions, it's a difference of how we process information about the world and the situations in which we may find ourselves. The kind of situation in which someone with autism may feel fear might be a different kind of situation than what would make a neurotypical person afraid, but you can be sure the actual feeling of fear is the same.

For example, a large gathering of people might induce great fear for an autistic individual, but nothing for a neurotypical person. Likewise, if someone's body language indicates malicious intent, a neurotypical person might be afraid, but the autistic individual could be clueless.

Now I think it's also true that we often rely more on rationality than emotion when making decisions at least it's true for me but that still doesn't really apply at the basic, visceral level. What makes us feel fear and how we react to it may be different depending on the situation, but the actual emotion itself would be exactly the same.