While visions of brain scans dance in our head, we may not be as impressed by them as we were a few years ago. Or maybe we never were all that impressed? Just how impressed were we—and how impressed are we now? These are questions to which we have yet to find clear answers.
Here are some pieces of that puzzle though. From "'Brain Porn' Not So Seductive After All?" (NPR):
There's something deeply compelling about "seeing" the mind at work with the help of relatively new neuroscientific tools, such as functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), which furnish the images of brain activation that often accompany popular science coverage. Indeed, a well-known 2008 paper by McCabe and Castel reported that people thought articles containing fMRI images of the brain reflected better scientific reasoning than matched articles that did not.
Yet a series of recent papers suggests the story may be more complex. If we are seduced by neuroscience, it might not be the pretty pictures that people find so alluring.
So brain images may have some effect on people's responses to scientific news reports, but it's unlikely to be a particularly powerful or pervasive one. These new results challenge both the 2008 findings and the compelling intuition that there's something special about a picture of the brain.
First, why the failure to replicate the original 2008 results?
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