Neuroscience explanations are more believable than mere psychological ones

"The Seductive Allure of Neuroscience Explanations," published in 2008 in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, experimentally verifies the hypothesis that laypeople find explanations for psychological phenomena compelling because adding "neuroscience" makes them sound true:

In line with this body of research, we propose that people often find neuroscience information alluring because it interferes with their abilities to judge the quality of the psychological explanations that contain this information. The presence of neuroscience information may be seen as a strong marker of a good explanation, regardless of the actual status of that information within the explanation. That is, something about seeing neuroscience information may encourage people to believe they have received a scientific explanation when they have not. People may therefore uncritically accept any explanation containing neuroscience information, even in cases when the neuroscience information is irrelevant to the logic of the explanation.

To test this hypothesis, we examined people’s judgments of explanations that either do or do not contain neuroscience information, but that otherwise do not differ in content or logic. All three studies reported here used a 2 (explanation type: good vs. bad) × 2 (neuroscience: without vs. with) design. This allowed us to see both people’s baseline abilities to distinguish good psychological explanations from bad psychological explanations as well as any influence of neuroscience information on this ability. If logically irrelevant neuroscience information affects people’s judgments of explanations, this would suggest that people’s fascination with neuropsychological explanations may stem from an inability or unwillingness to critically consider the role that neuroscience information plays in these explanations.

(via Kottke)

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