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04/21/2004

Political (neuro)science

The science section of the New York Times reports that researchers are using MRIs to understand how the brains of Democrats and Republicans respond to political images.

"'Brain imaging offers a fantastic opportunity to study how people respond to political information,' said Jonathan D. Cohen, director of the Center for the Study of Brain, Mind and Behavior at Princeton. 'But the results of such studies are often complex, and it is important to resist the temptation to read into them what we may wish to believe, before our conclusions have been adequately tested.'"

The piece does, however, echo some of the concerns discussed on JKL Blog here. "Though new to political advertising, brain imaging has been used to analyze other kinds of reactions to commercials, both by "neuromarketers" selling services to corporations and by academic researchers like Read Montague, who has studied brain responses to soft-drink advertising. He said research like Professor Iacoboni's could help expose manipulative techniques during political campaigns."

Though not a technophobe, I got a queasy sensation from reading this article. Scientists developing methods that enable politicians to devise and communicate micro-targeted messages to their constituencies; mapping brain activity rather than pressing the flesh; voters hooked up rather than tuned in. Shaping opinion may be forever changed. //Billy McCormac

April 21, 2004 in Posts in English | Permalink