Is This Your Brain on Politics?

Yesterday’s New York Times had an op-ed describing brain imaging results that purportedly “reveal some voter impressions on which [the 2008 Presidential] election may well turn.” In fact, however, there’s quite a bit of skepticism about the interpretation and meaningfulness of these results. Of course, lots of people watch hours and hours of speculative television news commentary that is no more scientific. Yet the talking heads, except perhaps when they present survey data, do not purport to offer scientific analyses the way the “scanning heads” do.

Martha Farah, director of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania, offers her insightful analysis of the op-ed at the Neuroethics & Law Blog.

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1 Response

  1. Frank says:

    Farah’s comments are very perceptive.

    What really disappoints me is that Kathleen Hall Jamieson took part in the study. Her book Dirty Politics: Deception, Distraction, and Democracy is one of the most perceptive critiques of personality-driven campaigns in the poli sci literature. Has she now gone over to the dark side–indulging in marketing-driven inquiries about the “gut feelings” candidates inspire? The whole point of Dirty Politics was to point out how useless these types of visceral reactions are to democratic politics.