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Thank You to our Sponsors!

Agnes Scott College Atlanta Pro AV City of Decatur Emory University Jabian Lenz Marketing Mail Chimp Public Broadcasting Atlanta

Anonymous

Book Logix Publishing Services
Corporate Volunteer Council of Atlanta
DeKalb County Public Library
Emory Libraries
Georgia State University
Verb
Visit South Walton
The Art Institute of Atlanta - Decatur
Atlanta Contemporary Arts Center
Atlanta History Center
Atlanta Writers Club
Carlos Museum
Champion Windows
Classis Tents and Events

Dawn and Lee Walker Foundation Fund of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

Decatur Arts Alliance
Decatur Education Foundation
Decatur Rotary Club
Devry
Georgia Antiquarian Booksellers Association
Georgia Humanities Council
Georgia Tech Library

The Hightower Fund

Jim Ellis
Ketel One
M.L. Malcolm
On the Same Page
Sparkling Ice
Uber
UGA Press

Scott Lilienfeld

www.psychology.emory.edu/clinical/lilienfeld/

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Scott O. Lilienfeld is a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at Emory University. He lives in Atlanta.

Books

Brainwashed: How We Are Seduced by Mindless Neuroscience

Brainwashed: How We Are Seduced by Mindless Neuroscience, 2013

Imagine if “Mad Men’s” Don Draper had brain scans to rely at while working on an ad campaign for a potential client. In the 1960s, the standard practice for advertisers was measuring spontaneous pupil dilation of the focus group or seeing who in the room had sweaty palms after viewing a specific ad. But with brain scans, Draper and crew could have just looked at an image, see what section of the brain lit up with a certain color, and they would have known if American housewives really were going to buy Heinz beans. Their jobs would be infinitely simpler, as a good deal of the guesswork when it comes to the consumer’s brain would be conveniently eliminated. But is it really that easy? Can we just take a picture of the human brain and see all our thoughts and motivations working themselves out in real-time? Not so fast, say Sally Satel and Scott O. Lilienfeld, authors of Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Neuroscience. When fMRI, or functional magnetic resonance imaging, was introduced in the early 1990s, it allowed scientists to track which brain regions were activated by various stimuli, giving them an unprecedented window onto how the brain works. Since then, brain scans have often been presented as the key to understanding -- and altering -- our mindsets and our behavior. Yet, although the authors believe that neuroscience is an incredibly promising field, they contend that we need to proceed with caution when it comes to its real-world applications. More and more brain imaging is being promoted as the final answer to many significant questions; prosecutors invoke scans to show juries who committed a crime, and political strategists employ scans to predict how a section of the country may vote. Satel and Lilienfeld argue against how much the overzealous media and some of those in the scientific community have come to rely on these colorful brain scans, images that so many now assume are infallible snap-shots of our brain’s inner workings. “The brain is said to be the final scientific frontier, and rightly so, in our view,” explain the authors. “Yet in many quarters brain-based explanations appear to be granted a kind of inherent superiority over all other ways of accounting for human behavior.” Instead, Satel and Lilienfeld reject these overenthusiastic theories and caution against the premature embrace of simplistic uses of neuroscience. In Brainashed they expose how ambiguous fMRI brain scans can be and show how exaggerating brain-based explanations of human behavior can obscure rather than enhance our understanding of the human mind. Brain scans, Satel and Lilienfeld show, are useful but often ambiguous representations of a highly complex system. Each region of the brain participates in a host of experiences and interacts with other regions, so seeing one area light up on an fMRI in response to a stimulus doesn’t automatically indicate a particular sensation or capture the higher cognitive functions that come from those interactions. The narrow focus on the brain’s physical processes also assumes that our subjective experiences can be explained away by biology alone. As Satel and Lilienfeld explain, this “neurocentric” view of the mind risks undermining our most deeply held ideas about selfhood, free will, and personal responsibility, putting us at risk of making harmful mistakes, whether in the courtroom, interrogation room, or addiction treatment clinic. is the story of what happened as the study of the brain migrated from the lab and into the public sphere. Although neuroscience is one of the most important scientific developments of our time, Brainwashed makes clear the very real uses and abuses of this field, cutting through the neuro-hype to reveal what today’s exciting brain science can and cannot deliver. As Satel and Lilienfeld remind us, “To some neuroscientists and philosophers, you may be nothing but your brain—and of course, without a brain, there is no consciousness at all. But to you, you are a ‘self,’ and to others you are a person -- a person whose brain affords, at once, the capacity for decisions, the ability to study how decisions happen and the wisdom to weigh the responsibilities and freedoms that these decisions make possible.”