The Seductive Allure of Neuroscience Explanations

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Dada Kind, modified 6 Years ago at 1/8/16 12:21 AM
Created 6 Years ago at 1/8/16 12:20 AM

The Seductive Allure of Neuroscience Explanations

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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2778755/
Explanations of psychological phenomena seem to generate more public interest when they contain neuroscientific information. Even irrelevant neuroscience information in an explanation of a psychological phenomenon may interfere with people’s abilities to critically consider the underlying logic of this explanation. We tested this hypothesis by giving naïve adults, students in a neuroscience course, and neuroscience experts brief descriptions of psychological phenomena followed by one of four types of explanation, according to a 2 (good explanation vs. bad explanation) × 2 (without neuroscience vs. with neuroscience) design. Crucially, the neuroscience information was irrelevant to the logic of the explanation, as confirmed by the expert subjects. Subjects in all three groups judged good explanations as more satisfying than bad ones. But subjects in the two nonexpert groups additionally judged that explanations with logically irrelevant neuroscience information were more satisfying than explanations without. The neuroscience information had a particularly striking effect on nonexperts’ judgments of bad explanations, masking otherwise salient problems in these explanations.

This is a pet peeve of mine. I notice it often in meditation and self-help-ey circles so I felt compelled to post it here. The study only had 81 people, fwiw.
Mark, modified 6 Years ago at 1/8/16 5:38 AM
Created 6 Years ago at 1/8/16 5:38 AM

RE: The Seductive Allure of Neuroscience Explanations

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Droll Dedekind:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2778755/
Explanations of psychological phenomena seem to generate more public interest when they contain neuroscientific information. Even irrelevant neuroscience information in an explanation of a psychological phenomenon may interfere with people’s abilities to critically consider the underlying logic of this explanation. We tested this hypothesis by giving naïve adults, students in a neuroscience course, and neuroscience experts brief descriptions of psychological phenomena followed by one of four types of explanation, according to a 2 (good explanation vs. bad explanation) × 2 (without neuroscience vs. with neuroscience) design. Crucially, the neuroscience information was irrelevant to the logic of the explanation, as confirmed by the expert subjects. Subjects in all three groups judged good explanations as more satisfying than bad ones. But subjects in the two nonexpert groups additionally judged that explanations with logically irrelevant neuroscience information were more satisfying than explanations without. The neuroscience information had a particularly striking effect on nonexperts’ judgments of bad explanations, masking otherwise salient problems in these explanations.

This is a pet peeve of mine. I notice it often in meditation and self-help-ey circles so I felt compelled to post it here. The study only had 81 people, fwiw.
I forget the reference but I remember listening to an interview of a researcher who began getting much greater traction for his work upon being able to publish papers with MRI. He claimed something along the lines that the images did not  provide any further support for his theory but they seemed to change the opinion of experts. If I recall it was related to procedures for restoring function after severe strokes.

This points to the situation being even worse than the study you reference!

There is another rationalization that crops up on DhO  - reducing behavior to chemicals in the brain e.g. X is because of dopamine, which seems to often go by unquestioned.
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Chris M, modified 6 Years ago at 1/8/16 9:43 AM
Created 6 Years ago at 1/8/16 7:13 AM

RE: The Seductive Allure of Neuroscience Explanations

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This kind of thing should be a pet peeve of all of us. Unfortunately, that kind of belief is common these days. Science is not well understood and MRI studies even less so. I had the luxury of listening to a very detailed explanation by a neuroscientist (Dr. David Vago, then at Harvard) and Shinzen Young explain the limitations of current fMRI technology in regard to their own meditation related fMRI work. This happend at the Buddhist Geeks Conference in Boulder, CO in October of 2014. Daniel Ingram and several others from this forum were in attendance. It was enlightening (pun intended). No one should ever assume that there is any kind of direct causal link between what is observed in fMRI studies and the effects the studies are intended to measure. These are, at best hypothesis and, as Shinzen Young and Vago called them, stories created by the researchers ot help explain what the fMRI results say is happening in the brain as compared to the intended "object" of the study.

I guess human beings just like to have "backup" for what they believe, and in the west in modern times that backup is best received if it has some sort of science-like flavor to it.

And, to Mark's point, yes, this effect applies to many of the "explanations" we see posted on dharma focused message boards in regard to psychology and neuroscience as they affect the dharma and dharma practice.
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Psi, modified 6 Years ago at 1/8/16 8:19 AM
Created 6 Years ago at 1/8/16 8:16 AM

RE: The Seductive Allure of Neuroscience Explanations

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Droll Dedekind:
But the most important point about the current study is not that neuroscience information itself causes subjects to lose their grip on their normally well-functioning judgment processes. Rather, neuroscience information happens to represent the intersection of a variety of properties that can conspire together to impair judgment. Future research should aim to tease apart which properties are most important in this impairment, and indeed, we are planning to follow up on the current study by examining comparable effects in other special sciences.
There seems to be many phenomenon that can impair proper judgement, many types of filters. The internal narrator process in the mind is notorious for misperceptions and delusion.  

“Do not believe in something because it is reported. Do not believe in something because it has been practiced by generations or becomes a tradition or part of a culture. Do not believe in something because a scripture says it is so. Do not believe in something believing a god has inspired it. Do not believe in something a teacher tells you to. Do not believe in something because the authorities say it is so. Do not believe in hearsay, rumor, speculative opinion, public opinion, or mere acceptance to logic and inference alone. Help yourself, accept as completely true only that which is praised by the wise and which you test for yourself and know to be good for yourself and others.” (Anguttara Nikaya 3.65)I

In neuropsychology the left brain interpreter refers to the construction of explanations by the left brain in order to make sense of the world by reconciling new information with what was known before.[1] The left brain interpreter attempts to rationalize, reason and generalize new information it receives in order to relate the past to the present.[2]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Left_brain_interpreter

But, as stated earlier, this process, whatever it may be called , is often in error, this has been shown and proven many times in many studies.  Yet, humanity continues to fall in error, believing this internal nonsense, over and over.  Vippassana and Insight Methods are crucial to cutting through this nonsense function, and actually catch this phenomenon in action, and when caught in action, it is good for a laugh.

Psi
neko, modified 6 Years ago at 1/8/16 8:20 AM
Created 6 Years ago at 1/8/16 8:20 AM

RE: The Seductive Allure of Neuroscience Explanations

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The seductive allure of neuropseudoscience explanations! We could say the exact same thing about all the bogus explanations of meditative states, siddhis and reincarnation based on parroting buzzwords from quatum mechanics and relativity without any scientific, not to mention logical, meaning whatsoever. It's all fine by me as long as it is just a post-hoc explanation and the intention is poetic, so to speak.

(Not to mention "alternative medicine"...)
Chris, modified 6 Years ago at 1/8/16 8:47 AM
Created 6 Years ago at 1/8/16 8:39 AM

RE: The Seductive Allure of Neuroscience Explanations

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Two websites I have found have diamond-hard examples of this kind of pseudoscience anything-goes-together weapons-grade-stupid explanations taken further than I've seen anywhere else, yet still somehow thinking they're playing it straight.  I apologize for these:

http://love-eye-floaters.blogspot.com/

http://www.human-resonance.org/
C P M, modified 6 Years ago at 1/8/16 6:41 PM
Created 6 Years ago at 1/8/16 6:41 PM

RE: The Seductive Allure of Neuroscience Explanations

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Psi:
In neuropsychology the left brain interpreter refers to the construction of explanations by the left brain in order to make sense of the world by reconciling new information with what was known before.[1] The left brain interpreter attempts to rationalize, reason and generalize new information it receives in order to relate the past to the present.[2]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Left_brain_interpreter

But, as stated earlier, this process, whatever it may be called , is often in error, this has been shown and proven many times in many studies.  Yet, humanity continues to fall in error, believing this internal nonsense, over and over.  Vippassana and Insight Methods are crucial to cutting through this nonsense function, and actually catch this phenomenon in action, and when caught in action, it is good for a laugh.

Psi

I found this neuroscience explanation for the study results to be strangely alluring.
Eva Nie, modified 6 Years ago at 1/9/16 12:17 AM
Created 6 Years ago at 1/9/16 12:17 AM

RE: The Seductive Allure of Neuroscience Explanations

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I bet neuroscience often complains about the seductive allure of spiritualism to explain observations in neuroscience.  ;-P  Most people follow what they are told and assume science articles are written by smart people.  THey are often afraid to questoin things for fear of looking stupid and not fitting in.  Maybe society would not hold together well if too many were lone wolf types, grunt work would not get done, etc, but the side effect is that it makes it much easier to manipulate a lot of people if you know what you are doing. 

I read a study a while back where a person tried to convince people in line to let him/her cut in.  What they found was that if you give ANY kind of lame excuse, chances of getting a yes were much higher.  You could even use an excuse like 'becuase I have to' or whatever.  http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2014/12/persuasive-powers-of-the-word-because.html# .  Chances of success went from 60% to low 90s percent if you added 'because XXX' onto your reequest. 

People do not seem to scrutinize the rational of things that are not super import.  Interesting to note, though, that scrutiny tends to rise one the decisions become more important.  But from my experience, a lot of people don't like to have to think too much if they can avoid it. 
-Eva
Mark, modified 6 Years ago at 1/9/16 5:24 AM
Created 6 Years ago at 1/9/16 5:24 AM

RE: The Seductive Allure of Neuroscience Explanations

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C P M:

I found this neuroscience explanation for the study results to be strangely alluring.

That really peeves.

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