50 Shades of Gray Matter

The Chronicle of Higher Education:

You’ve seen the headlines: This is your brain on God, envy, cocaine. And you’ve seen the evidence: slices of brain with Technicolor splotches lit up like the Las Vegas Strip.

On average, one new book about the brain appears every week. In universities, new disciplines of neuroeconomics, neuroaesthetics, and neurolaw are flourishing. “If Warhol were around today, he’d have a series of silkscreens dedicated to the cortex; the amygdala would hang alongside Marilyn Monroe,” one observer quipped.

It is easy to see why the brain is a hot commodity. As the organ of the self, it makes sense to think that understanding how the brain works can help us understand ourselves, repair our flaws, and perfect our nature.

Consider, for example, the pleasures of love or chocolate or even schadenfreude. Everyone knows how great these things are, but somehow seeing the brain’s reward centers “light up” prompts many to regard the phenomena as somehow more authentic than other types of psychological information,  a tendency that my colleague, the psychologist Scott Lilienfeld, and I call “neurocentrism.”

Read the whole story: The Chronicle of Higher Education

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