Wednesday, January 9, 2008

This is Your Brain on Politics

Iacoboni, Freedman, & Kaplan. (November 11, 2007). This Is Your Brain on Politics, The New York Times.

Easily one of the most bogus articles ever published on topics related to neuroscience. In short, the article claimed that it is possible to read the minds of people by examining their brain activity a la fMRI and glean insight into their cognitive reactions to American presidential candidates. The most fallacious reasoning employed by the authors was the assumption that activity in certain brain regions can have a 1:1 mapping to mental states such as anxiety, disgust, equivocation, empathy, and interest, e.g. the amygdala was active so they must be anxious with regard to this candidate. Additionally, the article was not peer reviewed, did not provide any scientific detail which could be used to evaluate the conclusions drawn, and only "studied" 20 subjects.

Luckily, there were some expedient retorts by subject matter experts, but probably not before millions of readers were led to believe that this is acceptable science and produced reasonable logical conclusions. Letters to the Editor, Nature

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