Every so often something comes in one of my Google alerts about how much we do not know about the brain. Those articles and posts make me smile as they are excellent reminders to stay away from brain statements, schemes, and stories that are overreaching or even fantasy extrapolations.
No matter how many of these pieces appear that describe our paucity of knowledge, we still see many more articles purporting to tell us how our brains behave and often how to use that information to change other people or ourselves.
Of course, what we know so far about the brain can be very helpful in changing and creating habits, and in communicating with others. But we don't know as much as many would have you believe. I remind myself frequently to be discerning when reading and hearing about the brain, investigate the sources, follow and appreciate experts I trust.
Why? I don't think I would be exaggerating to say more than half of what is in the popular media is partially, if not completely, inaccurate. The brain is trendy right now, a hot topic, and neuro-anything seems to attract people. Ultimately the reason I grow more skeptical over the years is an issue of integrity; don't we all need to be responsible about what we tell others—on any topic?
Here's an except from a "Clear up this fuzzy thinking on brain scans" (Nature), a Google-alert treat that arrived in my inbox today.
Hardly a week goes by without the media showcasing beautiful three-dimensional images of the brain in action, which supposedly explain how and why humans do the things we do. Most recently, people have pretended that they can use neuroimaging alone to identify paedophiles or prove that we fall in love with mobile phones.
The limits of the technology, together with our incomplete picture of how the brain functions, make it hard to take these claims seriously. But, regardless of the doubts expressed by many neuroscientists, the appeal of brain images, and the illusion they offer of understanding and explaining our daily behaviour, continues to grow.
Click to read the rest. A related post: Virtuous Tweeting: Do you really, really, really want to send that "science" Tweet?