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Neuroscience For Kids

Brain Scans Make Data More Believable
brain May 21, 2008

You have probably seen colorful scans showing how the brain "lights up" during different behaviors. Research from Colorado State University and the University of California (Los Angeles) suggests that seeing these brain scans in an article makes people more confident in the science behind the work.

Drs. David McCabe and Alan Castel had college students read three 300-word articles with the following titles:

  1. Watching TV is Related to Math Ability
  2. Meditation Enhances Creative Thought
  3. Playing Video Games Benefits Attention

brain The claims made by each of the articles did NOT follow the data. In other words, the reasoning behind the conclusions of the articles was flawed. The articles that the students read had text only or included a brain scan or a bar graph. After reading the articles, the students were asked about the quality of the writing, the accuracy of the title and the scientific reasoning of the articles.

Articles with a brain scan were given better scores for scientific reasoning than the same articles without a brain scan image or with a bar graph. These data suggest that brain scan images have the ability to influence judgment about scientific credibility. If an article had a brain scan, people tended to trust the results more than if the same article had a bar graph or no image at all.

So, don't be influenced by the mere presence of a brain scan. Read an article and understand the science before coming to a conclusion about the quality of the research.


Copyright © 1996-2008, Eric H. Chudler, University of Washington