One of the foundation myths of modern psychology: “Brain Scans Show”
October 31, 2012
Posted by on
I’ve written about this before (https://millerpsych.wordpress.com/2011/11/17/was-more-psychology-disguised-as-physiology-now-psychology-the-secret-of-life/ and https://millerpsych.wordpress.com/2011/10/12/just-what-are-fmri-scans-supposed-to-be-proving/), but reading through Dorothy Bishop’s excellent BishopBlog (http://deevybee.blogspot.co.uk/), I came across a post of hers which made the points more clearly than I can:
Bishop also links to http://neuroskeptic.blogspot.co.uk/2010/10/brain-scans-prove-that-brain-does-stuff.html from Neuroskeptic, who makes similar points. Neuroskeptic’s argument is not as carefully organised as Bishop’s (and ends up by dismissing the James-Lange theory of emotions as obviously rubbish, which isn’t really justified), but is pleasantly forceful.
Neuroskeptic also discusses the Bennet & al (2009) ‘brain scan of emotion-judging activity in a dead fish’ study (http://neuroskeptic.blogspot.co.uk/2009/09/fmri-gets-slap-in-face-with-dead-fish.html) which Christina mentioned in her lecture. The original poster by Bennet & al (it didn’t make it into a peer-reviewed journal, as far as I know) is at http://prefrontal.org/files/posters/Bennett-Salmon-2009.jpg – .
Why do we believe these stories, and believe that brain scans are the royal road to an understanding of the unconscious (or at least a way of answering psychological questions)? I’ll try to explain in my next lecture.