BPS Research Digest discusses a study from the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. The study found that adding even completely irrelevant information about neuroscience made any written psychological theory seem much more convincing to psychology students.
“Across four studies, they asked dozens of US psychology students to rate the quality of short explanations (some were sound, others were circular) for psychological phenomena such as ‘face recognition’ and ’emotional states’,” reports the Digest. “The main take-away is that when superfluous neuroscience information (i.e. information that offered no further insight) was added to the end of these explanations, the students rated the explanations more highly. The students with superior analytical skills were just as prone to this effect. The students’ religious and other philosophical beliefs (such as their endorsement of mind-body dualism) also made no difference.”
Conversely, adding information sourced from other hard sciences did not impress the students. “The researchers say all this suggests there is something uniquely convincing about neuroscience in the context of psychological phenomena,” the Digest states. “They believe the most plausible reason is that psychology students endorse a ‘brain-as-engine-of-mind’ hypothesis – that is, they ‘assign to neuroscience a privileged role in explaining psychological phenomena not just because neuroscience is a ‘real’ science but because it is the most pertinent science for explaining the mind.'”
The Register also reports on the study, adding a brief history of neurobabble.
Psychology students are seduced by superfluous neuroscience (BPS Research Digest, April 17, 2015)
Neurobabble makes nonsense brain ‘science’ more believable (The Register, April 21, 2015)