Neuroscience Information May Provide an Illusion of Explanatory Depth
In our continuing twilight saga on the seductive allure of all things neuroscientific comes this new entry by Rhodes et al. (2014). The paper isn't available yet so the abstract will have to do for now:
Rhodes RE, Rodriguez F, Shah P. Explaining the alluring influence of neuroscience information on scientific reasoning. J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 2014 May 12. [Epub ahead of print]. PMID: 24820673
AbstractPrevious studies have investigated the influence of neuroscience information or images on ratings of scientific evidence quality but have yielded mixed results. We examined the influence of neuroscience information on evaluations of flawed scientific studies after taking into account individual differences in scientific reasoning skills, thinking dispositions, and prior beliefs about a claim. We found that neuroscience information, even though irrelevant, made people believe they had a better understanding of the mechanism underlying a behavioral phenomenon. Neuroscience information had a smaller effect on ratings of article quality and scientist quality. Our study suggests that neuroscience information may provide an illusion of explanatory depth. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved).
Do colorful brain images and neuroscientific information hold powerful sway over the unsuspecting reader's logic, leading them to overlook shoddy science coverage? From what I can gather, the seductive allure of neuroimages has not replicated (Farah & Hook, 2013; Michael et al., 2013; Schweitzer et al., 2013), but the appeal of neuroscience information (à la Weisberg et al., 2008) has yet to lose all its luster.1
The seductive allure of neuroscience throws us an unexpected smouldering glance http://t.co/fAoXcUCNFe via @sarcastic_f
— Vaughan Bell (@vaughanbell) May 14, 2014
Credit for the "smouldering glance" terminology goes to Vaughan Bell.
1 This is debatable, however:
Farah and Hook also debunked the study of Weisberg et al., (2008), which didn't use images at all but added neuroscience-y explanations to 18 actual psychological phenomenon. The problem was that the neuroscience-y paragraphs were longer than the no-neuroscience paragraphs. The author of the excellent but now-defunct Brain In A Vat blog had a similar objection, as explained in I Was a Subject in Deena Weisberg's Study...
Neuroskeptic also raised this point in his otherwise [mostly] positive evaluation of the study, Critiquing a Classic: "The Seductive Allure of Neuroscience Explanations"...
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