Popular neuroscience myths / or why we shouldn’t beleive everything we read about the brain

Some great insights, particularly around folk psychology from the Guardian.

FOLK NEUROSCIENCE Popular misconceptions

■ The “left-brain” is rational, the “right-brain” is creative
The hemispheres have different specialisations (the left usually has key language areas, for example) but there is no clear rational-creative split and you need both hemispheres to be successful at either. You can no more do right-brain thinking than you can do rear-brain thinking.

■ Dopamine is a pleasure chemical
Dopamine has many functions in the brain, from supporting concentration to regulating the production of breast milk. Even in its most closely associated functioning it is usually considered to be involved in motivation (wanting) rather than the feeling of pleasure itself.

■ Low serotonin causes depression
A concept almost entirely promoted by pharmaceutical companies in the 1980s and 90s to sell serotonin-enhancing drugs like Prozac. No consistent evidence for it.

■ Video games, TV violence, porn or any other social spectre of the moment “rewires the brain”
Everything “rewires the brain” as the brain works by making and remaking connections. This is often used in a contradictory fashion to suggest that the brain is both particularly susceptible to change but once changed, can’t change back.

■ We have no control over our brain but we can control our mind
The mind and the brain are the same thing described in different ways and they make us who we are. Trying to suggest one causes the other is like saying wetness causes water.

I’ve written here about the left brain/right brain myth.


Psychologist Cliodhna O’Connor and her colleagues investigated how brain science was reported across 10 years of newspaper coverage. Rather than reporting on evidence that most challenged pre-existing opinions, of which there is a great deal, neuroscience was typically cited as a form of “biological proof” to support the biases of the author.

We should beware of these folk psychology truths. Read more from the Guardian article.
Popular neuroscience myths / or why we shouldn’t beleive everything we read about the brain

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