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That Fashionable And Popular Brain! Are Neuromyths Increasing In Dispute Resolution? Who Creates Them?

From Stephanie West Allen’s blog on Neuroscience and conflict resolution.

I am happy to see that neuroscience is being mentioned more frequently by many who are talking and teaching about dispute resolution. On the other hand, I am a little concerned about what is being said about the brain; I’m hearing some neuromyths and assertions that go beyond what the research has proven. Let us be careful not to introduce neuromyths into the dispute resolution arena. Once they get in, repeated and accepted, it will be very hard to weed them out.

What’s a neuromyth? From Understanding the Brain: The Birth of a Learning Science:

The brain is fashionable. The media constantly draws in one way or another on the mysteries of this “black box.” Such popularity is partly explained by the inherent interest of the subject for most people (“if you are talking about my brain, you’re talking about me”), as well as by the richness of new discoveries by neuroscientific research that lend themselves to media coverage. Popular appeal can bring pitfalls. Over the past few years, there has been a growing number of misconceptions circulating about the brain, which have come to be labeled “neuromyths.” They have some characteristics in common … .

Most neuromyths … share similar origins. They are almost always based on some element of sound science, which

makes identifying and refuting them much more difficult. The results on which the neuromyths are built are, however, either misunderstood, incomplete, exaggerated, or extrapolated beyond the evidence, or indeed all of these at once. This difficulty is inherent in the very nature of scientific discourse, and in the simplifications that are too easy to introduce when translating science into everyday language (exacerbated by the nature of media coverage). The emergence of the neuromyth may be intended or unintended. Though some are born accidentally, interests may well be served by them. Neuromyths often drive business … .

Let’s make sure they do not drive dispute resolution.

For a good discussion of the role of press releases in creating neuromyths, please read The Press Release Contagion and Press Release Contagion Part II (both from The Drunken Priest & Timid Scholar).


Stephanie West Allen

Stephanie West Allen, JD, practiced law in California for several years, held offices in local bar associations, and wrote chapters for California Continuing Education of the Bar. While in CA, Stephanie completed several five-day mediation training programs with the Center for Mediation in Law, as well as a two-year intensive… MORE >

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