A Quora conversation led me to recent paper in Neuron that highlights a very important problem with a lot of neuroscience research: there is insufficient attention paid to the careful analysis of behavior. The paper is not quite a call to return to behaviorism, but it is an invitation to consider that the pendulum has swing too far in the opposite direction, towards ‘blind’ searches for neural correlates. The paper is a wonderful big picture critique, so I’d like to just share some excerpts.
Here’s the intro to my latest blog post at 3 Quarks Daily.
“A dopamine pendant worn round the neck as a symbol for bliss is emblematic of modern society’s attitude towards current scientific research. A multifaceted — and only partially understood — set of experiments is hastily distilled into an easily marketed molecule of folk wisdom. Having filtered out the messy details, we are left with an ornamental nugget of thought that appears both novel and reassuringly commonsensical. But does neuroscience really support this reductionist view of human subjectivity? Can our psychological states be understood in terms of a handful of chemicals? Does neuroscience therefore pose a problem for a more holistic view, in which humans are integrated in social and environmental networks? In other words, are the “chemical self” and the “social self” mutually exclusive concepts?”
– Read the rest at 3QD: The Chemical Self and the Social Self