The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience

By Sally Satel; Scott O. Lilienfeld

Basic Books (AZ), Hardcover, 9780465018772, 226pp.

Publication Date: June 2013

What "can t" neuroscience tell us about ourselves? Since fMRIfunctional magnetic resonance imagingwas introduced in the early 1990s, brain scans have been used to help politicians understand and manipulate voters, determine guilt in court cases, and make sense of everything from musical aptitude to romantic love. But although brain scans and other neurotechnologies have provided groundbreaking insights into the workings of the human brain, the increasingly fashionable idea that they are the most important means of answering the enduring mysteries of psychology is misguidedand potentially dangerous.
In "Brainwashed," psychiatrist and AEI scholar Sally Satel and psychologist Scott O. Lilienfeld reveal how many of the real-world applications of human neuroscience gloss over its limitations and intricacies, at times obscuringrather than clarifyingthe myriad factors that shape our behavior and identities. Brain scans, Satel and Lilienfeld show, are useful but often ambiguous representations of a highly complex system. Each region of the brain participates in a host of experiences and interacts with other regions, so seeing one area light up on an fMRI in response to a stimulus doesn t automatically indicate a particular sensation or capture the higher cognitive functions that come from those interactions. The narrow focus on the brain's physical processes also assumes that our subjective experiences can be explained away by biology alone. As Satel and Lilienfeld explain, this neurocentric view of the mind risks undermining our most deeply held ideas about selfhood, free will, and personal responsibility, putting us at risk of making harmful mistakes, whether in the courtroom, interrogation room, or addiction treatment clinic.
A provocative account of our obsession with neuroscience, "Brainwashed" brilliantly illuminates what contemporary neuroscience and brain imaging can and cannot tell us about ourselves, providing a much-needed reminder about the many factors that make us who we are.

About the Author
Dr. Sally Satel is a practicing psychiatrist and a lecturer at Yale University School of Medicine. She is the author of "PC, M.D.: How Political Correctness Is Corrupting Medicine". She is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.

Scott O. Lilienfeld is professor of psychology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. The founder and editor of Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice, he is past president (2001-2002) of the Society for a Science of Clinical Psychology, Section III, Division 12 of the American Psychological Association. He has served on 10 editorial boards, including the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Psychological Assessment, Perspectives on Psychological Science, and Clinical Psychology Review. Dr. Lilienfeld has published over 200 articles, book chapters, and books on personality disorders (particularly psychopathic personality), personality assessment, anxiety disorders, pseudoscience in psychology, and evidence-based practices in clinical psychology. His work on psychological science and pseudoscience has been featured in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Boston Globe, USA Today, the New Yorker, and Scientific American. In addition, he has appeared on 20/20, CNN, NPR, and numerous other radio programs.