September 22, 2012

Brain scans explain everything


Your brain on pseudoscience: the rise of popular neurobollocks
So, instead, here is a recipe for writing a hit popular brain book. You start each chapter with a pat anecdote about an individual’s professional or entrepreneurial success, or narrow escape from peril. You then mine the neuroscientific research for an apparently relevant specific result and narrate the experiment, perhaps interviewing the scientist involved and describing his hair. You then climax in a fit of premature extrapolation, inferring from the scientific result a calming bromide about what it is to function optimally as a modern human being. VoilĂ , a laboratory-sanctioned Big Idea in digestible narrative form. 


Blogger First Sea Lord said...

I had chat with a friend of mine a few months ago, a neuroscientist and President of the Oregon Neuorological Association- there had been a study at Oxford on art, where they'd stuffed untrained people into MRIs, compared skilled Rembrandt fakes with real ones in 15 second flashes from slides, noticed little brain scan difference, and concluded more or less that great art was meaningless. I called foul on about 6 levels-the most obvious was that this was a ludicrously short length of time to look at a Rembrandt. Larry agreed on all my points. The lack of time to comprehend was a glaring error, the complexity of the art was ignored and also could not have been appreciated even by experts, the relationship of seeing from slides to cognition was not described substantively at all..the whole thing was an arrogant mess, drawing all its conclusions from exactly the sort of presuppositions that neuroscientists who wouldn't know a Rembrandt from a Kinkade would have made. But you know, they had that big magnet thing.

I'd love to do a counter study somehow. Know any grad students that need a research project?

September 23, 2012 at 11:29 AM  

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