In case you’re reading this on RSS, or have trained yourself to ignore the links immediately to the right, I wanted to point you to Paul Bloom’s excellent article on Seedmagazine.com. Why does an fMRI brain scan suddenly make a humdrum task suddenly seem like “real science?” Bloom points to one experiment (NOT involving an MRI machine) which may give us the answer:
Deena Skolnick, a graduate student at Yale, asked her subjects to judge different explanations of a psychological phenomenon. Some of these explanations were crafted to be awful. And people were good at noticing that they were awful–unless Skolnick inserted a few sentences of neuroscience. These were entirely irrelevant, basically stating that the phenomenon occurred in a certain part of the brain. But they did the trick: For both the novices and the experts (cognitive neuroscientists in the Yale psychology department), the presence of a bit of apparently-hard science turned bad explanations into satisfactory ones.
No wonder it seems like everyone and his brother is hopping into an fMRI machine these days: it gets you noticed. Just be careful, though, because it might also kill a puppy.