6 questions you can ask when you hear ‘neuroscience says…’

brainWe love science at the BFLG and it’s really exciting to hear all the latest research but is there a potential over use of the term ‘neuroscience’ – it seems to be everywhere at the moment.
Don’t get me wrong – I am fascinated by neuroscience, and all the other psychology research that’s out there helping to inform what we do – it’s just that not everything in psychology is neuroscience and not everything that purports to be neuroscience is a) good science b) relevant to what you do in training/ learning.
We don’t profess to be neuroscientists, and along the way I’ve played with ideas that may not have the scientific rigour they ought to have, but keeping an open mind and assessing the source of ‘research shows’ statements can help to sort out the quackery from something more significant.

And, just to be clear, I still like models that help to explain the world – models are different to science – they are not reality but just a possible description that may be useful to help explain something.

Here are 6 questions to ask when someone says ‘research shows’.

  1. Who did the research?  Was it a genuine academic institution, a company or just someone with a grand sounding title?
  2. What’s on their agenda?  Do they have a vested interest in the results one way or another?
  3. Where was it published first?  Was it through a reputable science journal and peer reviewed (better scientific practice) or was it through the mass media?
  4. When was it published and when else?  ie have people been able to replicate the findings?
  5. How was the science done?  Is there statistical analysis, what’s the sample size, was it a double blind trial, what’s the language that describes the results?
  6. What’s the result saying?  Is it a magic wand that’s going to solve all your problems (suspect) or is it another piece in the puzzle (more realistic)?

Bonus Question: Is this research relevant to what I do and can I or should I apply it?  The fact that something stimulates your ‘anterior cingulate cortex’ may sound impressive but is it relevant to what you’re trying to do?

Brain science is really, really complicated and that’s why there are thousands of scientists around the world studying tiny areas. We, as professionals, in another sphere can’t hope to understand it all so we do need people to simplify it for us, but we also need to be careful about being blinded by science and seeing ‘neuroscience’ as a panacea for everything in our world.

Learn how to blend psychology, neuroscience and practical experience at How to be a Brain Friendly Trainer – next programme starting on 10th Nov.