Localization in the brain and other illusions

Valerie Gray Hardcastle, C. Matthew Stewart

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

9 Scopus citations


We are all probably too aware of the latest push in neuroscience to localize brain and cognitive function. Headlines scream with claims of scientists locating the morality center of the brain or the home for violence and aggression. It seems that we have taken phrenology inside the head and are now feeling our way around brain bumps in search of the exact location of any and all thought.We trace this trend to three independent moves in academia. First, the recent and very popular emphasis on evolutionary psychology and its concomitant emphasis on modularity fuel the need to find the modules of thought that Mother Nature supposedly crafted during the Pleistocene. Second, there has been a renewed interest in philosophy of science and elsewhere in mechanistic explanations. We are told at every turn that neuroscience explanations are explanations of mechanism. How else to isolate mechanisms except through localization studies? Third and finally, the fairly recent emergence of cognitive neuroscience and fMRI studies as the methodological exemplars for cognitive science push us to see the brain as a static machine that only instantiates what psychologists tell us it does. Further, almost no one does just straight cognitive psychology any more – you have to connect your psychological experiments to some sort of imaging study these days. This approach, with its infamous subtraction method, can only lead to increased putative localization of putative cognitive functions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCognition and the Brain
Subtitle of host publicationThe Philosophy and Neuroscience Movement
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9780511610608
ISBN (Print)0521836425, 9780521836425
StatePublished - Jan 1 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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