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What Can Neuroscience Tell Us about Racism?

Brain imaging gives us clues about social attitudes and behaviors
September 14, 2017 | Comments

Have you ever seen a headline claiming that neuroscience can now explain some large, complex phenomenon such as ethics, free will, creativity, or genius? If you have, you’re certainly not alone. As Gary Stix commented in an excellent piece for Scientific American, “The steady flow of new studies that purport to reduce human nature to a series of illuminated blobs on scanner images have fostered the illusion that a nouveau biological determinism has arrived.”

As research in neuroscience continues to grow with an ever-improved set of technologies to bolster it, media sources continue to get more and more carried away with headlines like “4 Things Neuroscience Can Tell Us about Love.” More often than not, these headlines are vast exaggerations of much less glamorous findings that need to be tempered by more stringent review of the scientific data coming out of the studies these headlines purport to be covering.

Critica co-founder Jack Gorman is the last person to get carried away in the hype. As a seasoned psychiatrist and neuroscientist, he frequently preaches about the value of skepticism when it comes to seemingly overblown claims about our ability to isolate complex concepts and behaviors in precise areas of the brain.

That’s why we took great care in our recent article for Psychology Today not to exaggerate some fascinating neuroscience research exploring brain activity related to group formation and, perhaps more importantly, biased and even bigoted attitudes. We thought this was obviously a timely topic, and we hope you find that the article reviews the neuroscience evidence with care and an appropriate dose of skepticism.

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