Home » Intelligent Design, Neuroscience, News » Here’s neuroscientist Russ Poldrack (U Texas Austin) on neuroscience as neurotrash (in media)

Here’s neuroscientist Russ Poldrack (U Texas Austin) on neuroscience as neurotrash (in media)

Or, as he puts it, “NYT Editorial + fMRI = complete crap”:

Many of you may remember the controversy that arose a few years back when the NY Times published an Op-Ed titled “This is your brain on politics” by Marco Iacoboni and colleagues.  This steaming pile of shoddy reverse inferences inspired a group of us to write a letter to the editor, published online.  Well, the NYT editorial page is at it again, this time with a piece by self-proclaimed neuromarketer Martin Lindstrom, titled “You love your iPhone, literally” (h/t Raj Raizada for pointing me to it).  The argument of the article is that rather than our feelings about iphones reflecting something like an addiction driven by dopamine (which I have argued for in the past), our feelings about our digital devices instead reflect true love, based on fMRI …

This is your brain on politics? Oh, he means New York Times (November 11, 2007),

2. Emotions about Hillary Clinton are mixed. Voters who rated Mrs. Clinton unfavorably on their questionnaire appeared not entirely comfortable with their assessment. When viewing images of her, these voters exhibited significant activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, an emotional center of the brain that is aroused when a person feels compelled to act in two different ways but must choose one. It looked as if they were battling unacknowledged impulses to like Mrs. Clinton.

Subjects who rated her more favorably, in contrast, showed very little activity in this brain area when they viewed pictures of her.

This phenomenon, not found for any other candidate, suggests that Mrs. Clinton may be able to gather support from some swing voters who oppose her if she manages to soften their negative responses to her. But she may be vulnerable to attacks that seek to reinforce those negative associations.

Well, is this science, really? What if a pundit had just said, when she was running for the nomination, “She’s a capable woman, but she sometimes comes off as a [beech]. And the voters who didn’t like her husband for whatever reason will be afraid he is shouting in advice from off side.”  That’s not science, unless you count political science, but then neither is the stuff quoted above.

Good for the neuroscientists for setting limits as to what their discipline can plausibly be used for.

See also: Apparently, many neuroscientists are tired of the neurotrash littering the media

and The Spiritual Brain.

Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose

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3 Responses to Here’s neuroscientist Russ Poldrack (U Texas Austin) on neuroscience as neurotrash (in media)

  1. Of course this isn’t science. It’s was done “in conjunction with the San Diego-based firm MindSign Neuromarketing”.

    And of course the anterior insula is activated by a phone. Among the other very important things it does is that it forms a crucial part of the network (sometimes called the “salience network”) that alerts us to events we need to attend to.

    duh.

    Don’t blame neuroscientists for “neurotrash”. Blame marketers and advertisers and, dare I say it, journalists.

  2. It looked as if they were battling unacknowledged impulses to like Mrs. Clinton.

    It may have “looked” like that but is there really enough information there to make that anything other then just a possibility?

    Neurotrash indeed.

  3. But nothing to do with science, it seems.

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