The use of brain scans to explain human psychology -- from voter preferences to guilt in the courtroom -- has exploded since the advent of functional brain imaging technology. At an AEI event on Monday evening, David Brooks of the New York Times joined Sally Satel and Scott O. Lilienfeld, coauthors of "Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience" (Basic Books, June 2013), to discuss the dangerous implications of the growing popularity of brain science in the public sphere.
Lilienfeld explained that brain scans are not photos of the brain, which many people believe, but rather heavily processed images that are largely determined by neuroscientists' interpretations. Lawyers, journalists, and marketing consultants present brain scans as hard scientific evidence, but Lilienfeld emphasized that brain scanning has not yet developed enough to warrant a stamp of scientific objectivity.
Sally Satel furthermore highlighted how using brain scans to explain behavior calls into question both our notions of free will -- specifically one's ability to make moral decisions irrespective of one's brain’s physiology -- and the independence of mind versus brain.
Though Satel and Lilienfeld agreed that there are many important and appropriate applications of brain imaging technology, they encouraged skepticism when brain images are used to wholly substantiate far-reaching claims.
The brain is all the rage: neuroscience is one of the most important scientific developments of our time, but some of its champions have gotten carried away, overselling what it can tell us about ourselves.
“Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience” (Basic Books, June 2013), by psychiatrist and AEI scholar Sally Satel and Emory University psychologist Scott Lilienfeld, follows the migration of brain science — and brain imaging in particular — out of the lab and into the public sphere.
Join New York Times columnist David Brooks as he engages the authors in a discussion of popular neuroscience (both the mindless and the mindful), of biological explanations of human behavior and their implications, and of the centrality of the concept of the mind in an age of neuroscience. Books will be available for purchase at the event.
If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.