Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Near-Term Prospects for fMRI Lie Detection

2 Margaret A. Boden, MIND AS MACHINE 1227-1228 (Oxford: Clarendon Press 2006):

Linking rats or monkeys to robots is a major exercise, not undertaken lightly. But brain-scanning studies on humans are less tricky, and are multiplying merrily. ... As for the professional journals, by the time you read this book they will have carried thousands of PET/fMRI reports.

Their theoretical significance, however, is debatable. Brain imaging has even been dubbed "a neo-phrenological fad", because of the difficulty of interpreting it in terms of psychological functions (Uttal 2001). There are four main problems.

[snip, snip]

And fourth, one can't sensibly suggest just what's being done by the high activity (even if one knew it was excitatory activity) without a theory at the cognitive/psychological level, specifying just what computations might be involved when the thought in question occurs. Usually, no such theory is available. ... In short, most brain imaging is an a-theoretical fishing expedition: more natural history than science. As Gazzinga had put it, before this new 'industry' burgeoned, neuroscience needs cognitive science.

Responsible researchers know all this, of course, and are careful. But the irresponsible ones--and a fortiori the journalists--seemingly don't, and aren't.


the dynamic evidence page

coming soon: the law of evidence on Spindle Law

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