Beware Superfluous Neuroscience
Pet peeve of mine this one.
The persistent persuasiveness of neuroscience. Or should I say the word 'neuroscience'. Because it is a buzz-word of the moment and a subject that seems to grab people's attention. When we writing the book there was pressure on us to have a chapter on the neuroscience of change and we are continually being asked for articles on the subject.
It seems that all you need to do is to attach the word neuroscience to something and people pay it more attention it, give more credence to it. That is the way it has felt anyway. And now there's some proof.
A new study has shown that adding superfluous neuroscience information (i.e. information that offered no further insight) to text resulted in readers rating the text more highly. Adding other sorts of superfluous information, however, such as maths, genetic or social science information, did not have the same effect. And before you start thinking that you wouldn't be conned by the superfluous neuroscience information, the research showed that people with superior analytical skills were just as prone to rate the text more highly because of it.
The researchers say all this suggests there is something uniquely convincing about neuroscience. There certainly seems to be something unique about our desire to believe in it, anyway.
The one caveat to the research is that it was done on psychology students, people who might be prone to believing in neuroscience. But my experience is that most people are interested in the human condition - in what it means to be one of us. So I suspect when the research is widened to the general public, the findings will be replicated.
So next time you see the word neuroscience in an article, be aware, be alert and be skeptical. Unless I wrote it, of course.