Posts Tagged ‘Irony’

It would seem that using the language of neuroscience makes it easier to trick people into believing false statements. This argument was made by a group of psychologists in a celebrated paper from the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience last year, but it deserves a third glance – at least for its ironic conclusion.

On irony… Think about it: If making something sound ‘neurosciency’ makes it easier to believe for others, how much easier is it to make people believe an argument about neurosciency appendages in a psychology / neuroscience peer-reviewed journal… In fact, every sucker around should be clamouring to believe that paper. I say sucker, and by that I mean myself – who liked the argument immediately, and I guess non neuro-scientists like the media, popular press… and psychologists?

This is where ‘celebrated’ comes in, as the paper was popularized in the media, and the paper spent quite a bit of time congratulating itself and the subject as “it is hardly mysterious that members of the public should find psychological research fascinating” (p. 470)

So are the results really good? Well, maybe… and maybe not. The authors noted old evidence that longer explanations seem more credible to the unsuspecting public, and the neuro-sciency explanations in the test were longer… Last week a neuroscience blogger noted that what “the authors have strictly shown is that longer, more jargon-filled explanations are rated as better – which is an interesting finding, but is not necessarily specific to neuroscience.” This point is also admitted in the original paper where the authors “believe that our results are not necessarily limited to neuroscience or even to psychology” (p. 476), and is really just what Kikas (2003) had already said.

Well, if the papers fundamental argument is weak, the popular reaction ironically  underlines its thesis but at the same time it questions the quality of the research… Then by extension, does it also question neuro-science research as a whole? or just the accompanying psychology?


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