Found in 5 comments on Hacker News
tokenadult · 2015-06-20 · Original thread
The comment that linked to the New Statesman article was helpful. Another good source on how much (or how little) to take most neuroscience hype seriously is the book Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience by Sally Satel adn Scott O. Lilienfeld.[1] Eventually, someday, as the article kindly submitted here for discussion suggests, there will be some actionable knowledge for daily life derived from neuroscience studies, but meanwhile the hype far exceeds the reality. As the article points out, "Paul Fletcher, professor of health neuroscience at Cambridge University, explains that this is the major obstacle for progress in the field. 'Nobody has a credible idea of how brain processes produce mental processes, or even a vocabulary with which to articulate such an idea, should it suddenly come to them in the bath,' he says. 'Good science is usually about linking levels of description: showing how an observation at one level – say, the genetic – ultimately manifests in a physiological process or behaviour or symptom through a series of intermediary facts each expressed at intervening levels… We just don't have these linkages in brain-mind science; it's like the brain observations are made in one language and the mind observations in another, and there is no clue how to translate between those languages.'"


tokenadult · 2014-02-02 · Original thread
Since several of the comments here revolve around what we know now and could possibly know now about brain differences related to behavior, I'll link to a book, Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience,[1] that examines for a popular audience how much science is behind the latest "neuroscience" and how much of it is just hype. Just because brain scans are involved doesn't mean the explanation is any more valid. I think you will find this book interesting and helpful for understanding yourself and understanding the world.

I heard about the NIMH director's letter on research priorities[2] first from behavior-genetics-informed research and clinical psychologists whom I meet in a "journal club" weekly during the school year. The DSM framework involves a lot of log-rolling among various kinds of psychologists and psychiatrists, several of whom depend for their living on being known as "experts" on "disorders" that may not have any real existence. That said, there is an active research program all over the world based on a variety of different paradigms, with very widely followed journals, trying better to understand healthy human behavior and debilitating human behavior that results from brain abnormalities, diseases, psychological stress, and other causes. Straight-up psychology still has a lot to contribute to this study. The psychologists I know best are very aware of critiques of their own discipline[3] through the readings we discuss in the journal club, and more generally aware of the general critique of the current conduct of science,[4] so they redouble their efforts to do their science better, and to check their methodology as they try to tease out the complex web of causes of human behavior.





tokenadult · 2013-11-24 · Original thread
I took care to read the fine submitted article and then share it among Facebook friends of mine (who include psychologists who study human behavior genetics and neuroscientists) before commenting here. Two things come to mind after reading the comments posted earlier here.

1) Most people who have read about genetic influences on human behavior have not read the masters, but rather their disciples. The masters of behavior genetics research take care to write about the concept of "reaction range," the variety of possible behavior patterns that MIGHT arise from an individual with a given genotype under differing environmental influences. It is apparent that the reaction range for many human behaviors is very broad even if genotype is fixed.[1]

2) Simply adding some brain-scan data to some hypothesis pulled out of a hat will make even the most wild and crazy hypothesis more plausible to lay readers. Neuroscience is hard, and so far there are not a lot of neuroscience conclusions about human behavior that are well replicated and well backed up by theory.[2]

[1] The review article Johnson, W. (2010). Understanding the Genetics of Intelligence: Can Height Help? Can Corn Oil?. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 19(3), 177-182

looks at some famous genetic experiments to show how little is explained by gene frequencies even in thoroughly studied populations defined by artificial selection.

"Together, however, the developmental natures of GCA [general cognitive ability] and height, the likely influences of gene-environment correlations and interactions on their developmental processes, and the potential for genetic background and environmental circumstances to release previously unexpressed genetic variation suggest that very different combinations of genes may produce identical IQs or heights or levels of any other psychological trait. And the same genes may produce very different IQs and heights against different genetic backgrounds and in different environmental circumstances. This would be especially the case if height and GCA and other psychological traits are only single facets of multifaceted traits actually under more systematic genetic regulation, such as overall body size and balance between processing capacity and stimulus reactivity. Genetic influences on individual differences in psychological characteristics are real and important but are unlikely to be straightforward and deterministic. We will understand them best through investigation of their manifestation in biological and social developmental processes."

[2] The book Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience by Sally Satel and Scott O. Lilienfeld

explains the gaps in current knowledge about neuroscience of human behavior and why a few brain scans in a few subjects don't tell us much about brain function before other study methods are applied to the problem.

JackFr · 2013-08-10 · Original thread
Can we please stop with "emerging neuroscience" crap.
tokenadult · 2013-06-26 · Original thread
Comments here decry pop neuroscience. I will recommend here a new book, Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience by Sally Satel and Scott O. Lilienfeld, who are both thoughtful and appropriately skeptical researchers on neuroscience topics.

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