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"Socially and Morally Responsible Cognitive Neuroimaging" - A SIGNAL Seminar


November 12, 2012 5:00pm - 6:30pm

Room 85

Come join the Stanford Interdisciplinary Group in Neuroscience and Law for pizza, beer, and stimulating discussion as we host our second seminar event of the year, on:

Socially and Morally Responsible Cognitive Neuroimaging

Neuroimaging studies captivate the imaginations of journalists, laypersons, religious leaders, legal advisors and politicians by offering a deceptively clear and direct window into the brain.  However, the making of those neuroscientific results – the practice of science – is obscured in news reports, some science journalism, and popular books.  Taken uncritically, neuroimaging results have the potential to cause harm.  For example, the neuroimaging of sex differences is a high-profile topic that interests many, but the results may be interpreted as uncovering the biological substrate to ground sexist ideas.  I critically examine the neuroimaging of mental rotation, a task that males are thought to outperform females.  I uncover biases in the science and problems and limitations in the background assumptions and methodology.  The problems in this case study suggest that the current practice of neuroimaging sex differences is socially and morally irresponsible.  I suggest modifications to practice to begin to address these problems.

About the Speaker:

Vanessa Bentley is working on a PhD in philosophy and a master’s in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at the University of Cincinnati.  Her dissertation is on the neuroimaging of sex differences.  Her interests are in history and philosophy of science, philosophy of neuroscience, neuroethics, philosophy of experiment, and feminist epistemology and philosophy of science.  She was previously a research assistant at the Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging at Carnegie Mellon University.  Vanessa’s approach is to focus on the practice of science to understand how background assumptions affect knowledge production.