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

Questions you should ask yourself when you read the phrase ‘neuroscience says…’

Blog Posts
6 questions to ask when you hear ‘neuroscience says…’
September 8, 2020
6 questions to ask when you hear ‘neuroscience says…’

To design and deliver truly effective learning, we must understand how our brains process and retain information. By understanding the science of learning and evidencing it with research, we can achieve the best performance and return on investment. This is the founding principle of Stellar Labs. Personally, I am truly fascinated by neuroscience and psychology research that shapes what we do. However, not everything in psychology is neuroscience, and not everything that purports to be neuroscience is good science, or relevant to what we do in training and learning.

Here at Stellar Labs, we do not profess to be neuroscientists. 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 original source of ‘research shows’ statements can help to decipher the quackery from something more significant.

Before I share the 6 questions you should always ask when you read ‘research says’, I want 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.

Questions you should ask yourself when you read the phrase ‘neuroscience says…’

  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?
    I.e. 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 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.

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