Brain images – Persuasive or not?

In somewhat of an update to this piece on neurobabble, there is a new study out on how people do or do not find that extra added touch of scienceyness contributes to the credibility of a story.

On the (non)persuasive power of a brain image – Online First – Springer.

Here is the abstract of this study:

The persuasive power of brain images has captivated scholars in many disciplines. Like others, we too were intrigued by the finding that a brain image makes accompanying information more credible (McCabe & Castel in Cognition 107:343-352, 2008). But when our attempts to build on this effect failed, we instead ran a series of systematic replications of the original study—comprising 10 experiments and nearly 2,000 subjects. When we combined the original data with ours in a meta-analysis, we arrived at a more precise estimate of the effect, determining that a brain image exerted little to no influence. The persistent meme of the influential brain image should be viewed with a critical eye.

Note that these results contrast with these results [PDF] where experiments showed that “presenting brain images with articles summarizing cognitive neuroscience research resulted in higher ratings of scientific reasoning for arguments made in those articles, as compared to articles accompanied by bar graphs, a topographical map of brain activation, or no image.”

What’s the right answer? Well, it’s not clear but I would bet that people will still science-up their presentations with pictures of brains. They’re cool.

  3 comments for “Brain images – Persuasive or not?

  1. drwfishesman
    March 7, 2013 at 11:00 AM

    Reminds me of the Luminosity commercials when it claims to be “Based on Neuroscience”.

  2. March 7, 2013 at 11:26 AM

    It seems to work on all of the Facebook meme vectors I know. But most of them can’t be bothered to read entire articles.

  3. AmSci
    March 7, 2013 at 5:14 PM

    At first I wasn’t so sure about this study. But after viewing that graphic…

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