By Christian Jarrett Governments are pouring unprecedented sums of money into neuroscience. They want to know how the three pounds of meaty head sponge gives rise to human memory, personality and consciousness, and why it can go so tragically wrong. For now, so much remains mysterious. Unfortunately this ignorance is providing the perfect breeding ground for myth and misconception. For every genuine break through, there is parallel excretion of hype or utter neurobunk. Disclaimer: I’ve written a new book about brain myths called Great Myths of the Brain. I used the latest research to tease fact from fiction in contemporary neuroscience. I’m delighted with the generous endorsements the book has received (see all the buzz on my website). But promoting the book these last couple of months, one question I was asked has particularly surprised me – do brain myths matter? Yes. Yes, they do. Brain myths are harming our children, our health, business and real neuroscience: 1). Many school teachers around the world believe neuromyths, such as the idea that children are left-brained or right-brained, or that we use just 10 per cent of our brains. This is worrying. For example, if a teacher decides a child is “left-brained” and therefore not inclined to creativity, they will likely divert that child away from beneficial creative activities. 2). On a similar note, educational campaigners have misappropriated neuroscience findings to support their cause. For example, Leonard Sax, a psychologist who ran the organization that used to be known as the National Association for Single Sex Public Education, says that girls and boys should be taught differently and separately because of differences in their brains. I looked at one of the key studies that he cites in his book: It’s clear that Sax over-interpreted the tentative results to make groundless claims. In case you’re wondering, a 2014 meta-analysis found no evidence for single-sex education being beneficial for boys or girls. See the rest via WIRED.
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