Re: About discussing Social Impact etc. [WAS Re: KILL-subTHREAD: Joshua Fox]

From: Richard Loosemore (
Date: Tue Feb 07 2006 - 17:30:57 MST

Am not quite sure which direction you were pointing with this?

I read the study when it came up before. Alas, this is almost a
paradigm case of bad science. (Or it would be, if not for the fact that
we get one of these every couple of weeks).

It was flawed because it seemed to contain the usual oversimplistic jump
from neuroscience to psychology (see signals, label brain area with
nearest available psychologically-loaded words). Just for the record,
there is a community of people within the cognitive psychology community
who are tearing their hair out because of this reckless use of brain
imaging data: it is certainly not just me.

And it was flawed because of the simplistic jumping to conclusions about
what goes on in the minds of the human subjects when they respond to
information that is political.

There was some (I thought) valid commentary from the researcher about
the way people behave in the American political climate, but inasmuch as
it was valid, it seemed to have nothing whatsoever to do with
conclusions that might have stemmed from the experiment. But this was
obscured by other, extremely naive editorializing.

Richard Loosemore.

BillK wrote:
> On 2/7/06, Richard Loosemore wrote:
> <snip>
>> Or is it simply impossible to talk about this at all?
>> I suspect the latter.
> <>
> Political brain driven by emotion
> By Stephen Benz
> Contributing Writer
> February 03, 2006
> Selected quotes:
> The subjects were easily able to spot the contradictions of the
> opposing party's candidate. How they encountered the contradictions of
> their own candidates, however, is what interested the researchers.
> Rather than analyzing the candidate's statements with the rational
> parts of their brain, partisans tended to process the contradictions
> of the candidate from their party with parts typically associated with
> emotion.
> Drew Westen, the lead researcher and director of the clinical
> psychology department, said this is how the brain deals with
> politically-based facts.
> "When people draw conclusions about political events, they are not
> just weighing the facts, they are weighing what would make them feel
> better, no matter what the facts are," he said. "Essentially, it
> appears as if partisans twirl the cognitive kaleidoscope until they
> get the conclusions they want, and then they get massively reinforced
> for it, with the elimination of negative emotional states and
> activation of positive ones," Westen said in a press release.
> Westen said in an interview that some groups already take advantage of
> people's tendency to make emotionally based judgments. He said some
> cable talkshows, such as CNN's "Crossfire," take advantage of
> emotionally-based thinking to attract an audience.
> "We have grown accustomed to hearing two versions of every story, one
> from the left and one from the right, as if the average of two
> distortions equals the truth," he said in an interview. "
> Unfortunately, this format of 'from the left, from the right'
> capitalizes on a design flaw in the brain."
> End quotes.
> BillK

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