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Sunday, July 6, 2014

Empirical neuroenchantment: from reading minds to thinking critically

Sabrina S. Ali, Michael Lifshitz, and Amir Raz
Front. Hum. Neurosci., 27 May 2014 | doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00357

While most experts agree on the limitations of neuroimaging, the unversed public—and indeed many a scholar—often valorizes brain imaging without heeding its shortcomings. Here we test the boundaries of this phenomenon, which we term neuroenchantment. How much are individuals ready to believe when encountering improbable information through the guise of neuroscience? We introduced participants to a crudely-built mock brain scanner, explaining that the machine would measure neural activity, analyze the data, and then infer the content of complex thoughts. Using a classic magic trick, we crafted an illusion whereby the imaging technology seemed to decipher the internal thoughts of participants. We found that most students—even undergraduates with advanced standing in neuroscience and psychology, who have been taught the shortcomings of neuroimaging—deemed such unlikely technology highly plausible. Our findings highlight the influence neuro-hype wields over critical thinking.

The entire article is here.