Seeing Is Believing: The Effect of Brain Images on Judgments of Scientific Reasoning

Department of Psychology, Colorado State University, Campus Box 1876, Fort Collins, CO 80523-1876, USA.
Cognition (Impact Factor: 3.63). 05/2008; 107(1):343-52. DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2007.07.017
Source: PubMed


Brain images are believed to have a particularly persuasive influence on the public perception of research on cognition. Three experiments are reported showing that presenting brain images with articles summarizing cognitive neuroscience research resulted in higher ratings of scientific reasoning for arguments made in those articles, as compared to articles accompanied by bar graphs, a topographical map of brain activation, or no image. These data lend support to the notion that part of the fascination, and the credibility, of brain imaging research lies in the persuasive power of the actual brain images themselves. We argue that brain images are influential because they provide a physical basis for abstract cognitive processes, appealing to people's affinity for reductionistic explanations of cognitive phenomena.

205 Reads
  • Source
    • "is attributable to abnormal brain physiology (Farah and Hook, 2013; Koebler, 2012). A number of scholars have cautioned that these images may be overly influential to laypersons (Compton, 2010; Dumit, 1999; Feigenson, 2006; Gurley and Marcus, 2008; Kulynych, 1997; McCabe and Castel, 2008; Pratt, 2005; Roskies, 2008; Weisberg et al., 2008), with the main concern that these images would be seen as more valuable and informative than objectively warranted. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Both academic and legal communities have cautioned that laypersons may be unduly persuaded by images of the brain and may fail to interpret them appropriately. While early studies confirmed this concern, a second wave of research was repeatedly unable to find evidence of such a bias. The newest wave of studies paints a more nuanced picture in which, under certain circumstances, a neuroimage bias reemerges. To help make sense of this discordant body of research, we highlight the contextual significance of understanding how laypersons' decision making is or is not impacted by neuroimages, provide an overview of findings from all sides of the neuroimage bias question, and discuss what these findings mean to public use and understanding of neuroimages. Advances in the field of neuroscience offer an unprecedented means of investigating the biological roots of human behavior. In particular, improvements in imaging technologies like positron emission tomography (PET), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) allow researchers to study previously inaccessible structures and functions of the brain in order to learn more about the brain's role in behavior. Of particular relevance to the public is whether some characteristic(s) of the brain can differentiate a " criminal mind " from a " normal " one. This notion that brain physiology may play a role in criminal behavior has, inevitably, seeped into the courtroom. An ever-increasing number of criminal cases include some form of neuroscien-tific evidence (such as neuroimages) when making the claim that a defendant's criminal behavior
    Public Understanding of Science 09/2015; DOI:10.1177/0963662515604975 · 1.87 Impact Factor
  • Source
    • "We contend that pairing texts and graphics together does not always provide an additive effect, and the addition of separate models of text and graphics processing is insufficient to predict the outcome of the combination of both referents. The spatial arrangement in which information is displayed can subtly communicate relationships among or between that information, (Hegarty, 2011; McCabe & Castel, 2008) and displays effective for one task may be ineffective for another (Hegarty, 2011; Liben, 2001; Schnotz, Bannert, & Seufert, 2002; Tversky, 2001; Tversky, Morrison, & Betrancourt, 2002). Thus, we propose that the synergistic effect resulting from combining texts and graphics cannot be satisfactorily predicted by merely adding a model of text-processing (Kintsch, 1992) to a model of graphic-processing (Hegarty, 2011). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The present investigation was designed to determine the effects of metaphorical graphics on learning from an expository text. The graphics were designed to function as a metaphorical representations of the semantic elements inherent in the passage, with the level of correspondence between the graphics and text varied as weak or strong. In study 1, participants (N = 168) were randomly assigned to one of three graphic/text conditions (strong, weak, or none). Learning was measured immediately after the presentation of learning materials and again a week later. In study 2, participants (N = 98) followed the same procedure as study 1, but they were allowed to view the experimental materials online, rather than in a lab setting. Results from both studies revealed that, while decorative graphics may appear benign or detrimental to learning outcomes immediately after exposure under experimental lab conditions, further analysis indicated that graphics designed to metaphorically correspond to text content functioned to preserve learning across a one-week delay. In addition, when participants viewed the materials online, the decorative graphics improved learning, not just prevented decay. The online effect was mediated by the level of metaphorical correspondence between the passage and the graphic.
    Learning and Instruction 08/2015; 39:194-205. DOI:10.1016/j.learninstruc.2015.07.004 · 3.73 Impact Factor
  • Source
    • "enthralled by the seemingly unshakable impression that fMRI depictions carry tremendous significance (McCabe and Castel, 2008; Racine et al., 2005). Laypeople coming into contact with the neuroimaging technology are often extremely fascinated and captivated by it. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The concept of a socially extended mind suggests that our cognitive processes are extended not simply by the various tools and technologies we use, but by other minds in our intersubjective interactions and, more systematically, by institutions that, like tools and technologies, enable and sometimes constitute our cognitive processes. In this article we explore the potential of this concept to facilitate the development of a critical neuroscience. We explicate the concept of cognitive institution and suggest that science itself is a good example. Science, through various practices and rules, shapes our cognitive activity so as to constitute a certain type of knowledge, packaged with relevant skills and techniques. To develop this example, we focus on neuroscience, its cultural impact, and the various institutional entanglements that complicate its influence on reframing conceptions of self and subjectivity, and on defining what questions count as important and what kind of answers will be valued.
    Theory Culture &amp Society 01/2015; 32(1):33-59. DOI:10.1177/0263276414551996 · 1.77 Impact Factor
Show more


205 Reads
Available from