Friday, October 7, 2011


For those just tuning into this week's latest installment of NeuroNonsense brought to you by the New York Times, let me being you up to date:

The New York Times allowed (nonscientist) Martin Lindstrom to once again use its Op-Ed space to "publish" non-peer reviewed "science".

Scientists, disgusted struck out at this perversion of science throughout the blogosphere (here, here, here, here though I'm sure I'm missing others). Dozens of prominent cognitive neuroscientists wrote a counter op-ed denouncing this practice (heavily edited by NYT staff).

At work the other day, a graduate student asked me why our field has a lower bar for press shenanigans and wildly implausible claims. I think there are several possible answers to this question (the fact that folk psychology seems to provide causally satisfactory explanations, the allure of pretty pictures of the brain "lighting up", or the intrinsic interest people take in their own brains all come to mind easily. However, I'm afraid that there's also a capitalist component to this one as well: Lindstrom makes his money convincing companies that his "science" will lead to better marketing outcomes. I can't think of a single case where someone impersonates a particle physicist or an inorganic chemist to sell snake oil.

The interest people take in their brains unfortunately creates this market for NeuroNonsense.

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