I was disgusted by this 2015 Korean human study. Is the current state of science such that researchers won’t be funded unless their studies will produce politically correct findings?
It seemed to me that the primary reason for the study’s main finding of:
“Neural markers reflecting individual differences in human prosociality”
was to perpetuate a non-causal “individual differences” meme.
Per my view in If research treats “Preexisting individual differences” as a black box, how can it find causes for stress and depression? it isn’t sufficient in 2015 to pretend that there are no early-life causes for the observed behavior and fMRI scan results of the subjects. Such a pretense leads to the follow-on pretense that later-life consequences are not effects, but are instead, a “mystery” due to “individual differences.”
The researchers asserted:
“Our present findings shed some light on the mystery of human altruism.”
Yet the findings of the People who donated a kidney to a stranger have a larger amygdala 2014 study of extraordinary altruists weren’t big enough clues for these researchers to feature the amygdala part of the limbic system in the fMRI scans.
The main experiment had the female, college student, right-handed subjects try to “reduce the duration of exposure to stressful noise.” Why weren’t brain areas that are especially susceptible to stress like the hippocampus featured in the fMRI scans?
The secondary reason for the study seemed to be to perpetuate the harmful “self-sacrifice = good, individuality = bad” meme.
The main reason this meme is harmful is that it condones a subset of people’s unconscious act outs. People are encouraged to avoid conscious awareness both of who they really are and of what drives their feelings, thoughts, and actions.
Despite not asking the subjects directly about either their motivations or their histories, these researchers asserted that the study demonstrated:
“The automatic and intuitive nature of prosocial motivation.”
In my view, what was largely observed were the subjects’ unconscious act outs, not some higher-order functions as the researchers mischaracterized them.
Similar to my view in Who benefits when research promotes a meme of self-sacrifice? I suspect that a major motivation behind scientific justification for memes like the self-sacrifice promoted by this study is to rush people past what really happened in their lives.
I wonder what value we would place on the “social norms internalized within an individual” if we felt and honestly understood our real history.
This study and the Do you know a stranger’s emotional motivations for smiling? study had the same reviewer, and shared several of the burden-of-proof problems. Both studies similarly demonstrated a lack of researcher interest in finding causes for the observed effects.
What was the agenda with these researchers and the reviewer? Why would the researchers glorify the factors that cause an individual difficulties when one tries to live a life of one’s own choosing?
http://www.pnas.org/content/112/25/7851.full “Spatial gradient in value representation along the medial prefrontal cortex reflects individual differences in prosociality”