My co-writer Casper Hulshof (@titchener) pointed me to some new research on a popular idea, namely that putting a brain image besides a statement, makes the statement more believable. I mentioned the research by McCabe et al from 2008 earlier on this blog.
But research does know a tradition of replication, doing the research again to check if the first findings can be found again, and in this case, new research didn’t:
The persuasive power of brain images has captivated scholars in many disciplines. Like others, we too were intrigued by the finding that a brain image makes accompanying information more credible (McCabe & Castel in Cognition 107:343-352, 2008). But when our attempts to build on this effect failed, we instead ran a series of systematic replications of the original study-comprising 10 experiments and nearly 2,000 subjects. When we combined the original data with ours in a meta-analysis, we arrived at a more precise estimate of the effect, determining that a brain image exerted little to no influence. The persistent meme of the influential brain image should be viewed with a critical eye.
The idea of fMRI’s “seductive allure” rests on in two widely cited studies.Upon closer analysis of these studies, and in light of more recent research, we find little empirical support for the claim that brain images are inordinately influential.
The title of this review is actually quite great: The seductive allure of “seductive allure”.