Sunday, March 3, 2013

Neuroscience in the Popular Press

Psychologist Cliodhna O'Connor and her colleagues investigated how brain science was reported across 10 years of newspaper coverage. Rather than reporting on evidence that most challenged pre-existing opinions, of which there is a great deal, neuroscience was typically cited as a form of "biological proof" to support the biases of the author.

This is often a circular argument because studies typically compare groups based on identifiable differences and then look for how this is reflected in the brain. But what defines a person, experience or action as different is the totality of the thing itself, not just the workings of the brain. The "biological proof" argument makes about as much sense as saying that you have confirmed that pancakes and pizzas "really are" different because you have chemically analysed the ingredients. It's only in rare circumstances where two things appear to be identical that a biological analysis will be the deciding factor in confirming whether they differ or not.

1 comment:

  1. What keeps me awake at night as I start to weave the subject in. I may selectively be using this form of science to support my own as yet undetected personal bias.

    As I study 'legendary proof' a standard move in folk tales and belief, I can take this study to move such Ethnological bias forward! How nice.