Nine Things A Journalist Should Never Write in a Neuroscience Listicle:
1) “Your Brain is Hard-wired for…”
Brains don’t have hardware and software; it’s all one squishy mess where the “wiring” is constantly changed by the activity.
2) “Your Brain Made You Do It.”
Your brain is you and you are your brain. Mind/brain dualism had a certain charm in the Descartes’ time, but now has all the respectability of alchemy.
3) “Left Brain People are from Venus.”
Yes, if you surgically cut the connections between one side of the human brain and the other and do some sophisticated experimental tricks, you can find subtle differences. Does that say anything about everyday personality or learning? No.
4) “The Singularity is Nigh!”
Ray Kurzweil may know about computers, but as far as I can tell he knows fuck all about brains. Projections of that Skynet moment when Moore’s Law pushes machines past the complexity of human brains are based on that age-old scientific method: pulling numbers out of your ass.
5) “Miraculous Human Brain Breakthrough Discovered in Petri Dish.”
Experiments in simple models provide important information about basic neurobiological mechanism. Don’t oversell them.
6) “This is Your Lizard Brain on Bad Science.”
Like the “ascent of man” trope in evolutionary biology, the ice cream code model of brain evo-devo is wrong-headed.
7) “Because Dopamine.”
Pro-tip: if you can switch any of the Greek bodily humors (or a zodiac sign) for the neuromodulator in your prose then you are just using it as a sciency placeholder for “unseen forces.”
8) “Brain Training…”
Yes, I know Lumosity is buying banner ads on your site, but that doesn’t mean it’s real.
If you see the word “neuro” tacked onto the front of anything that is not an actual science you are most likely stepping into the world of late night cable TV infomercials.
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