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How the Public Engages With Brain Optimization: The Media-mind Relationship

O'Connor, C; Joffe, H; (2015) How the Public Engages With Brain Optimization: The Media-mind Relationship. Science, Technology & Human Values , 40 (5) pp. 712-743. 10.1177/0162243915576374. Green open access

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Abstract

In the burgeoning debate about neuroscience’s role in contemporary society, the issue of brain optimization, or the application of neuroscientific knowledge and technologies to augment neurocognitive function, has taken center stage. Previous research has characterized media discourse on brain optimization as individualistic in ethos, pressuring individuals to expend calculated effort in cultivating culturally desirable forms of selves and bodies. However, little research has investigated whether the themes that characterize media dialogue are shared by lay populations. This article considers the relationship between the representations of brain optimization that surfaced in (i) a study of British press coverage between 2000 and 2012 and (ii) interviews with forty-eight London residents. Both data sets represented the brain as a resource that could be manipulated by the individual, with optimal brain function contingent on applying self-control in one’s lifestyle choices. However, these ideas emerged more sharply in the media than in the interviews: while most interviewees were aware of brain optimization practices, few were committed to carrying them out. The two data sets diverged in several ways: the media’s intense preoccupation with optimizing children’s brains was not apparent in lay dialogue, while interviewees elaborated beliefs about the underuse of brain tissue that showed no presence in the media. This article considers these continuities and discontinuities in light of their wider cultural significance and their implications for the media–mind relationship in public engagement with neuroscience.

Type: Article
Title: How the Public Engages With Brain Optimization: The Media-mind Relationship
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1177/0162243915576374
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0162243915576374
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author(s) 2015. All rights reserved. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 License (http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/) which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (http://www.uk.sagepub.com/aboutus/openaccess.htm).
Keywords: Brain optimization, Cognitive enhancement, Self-control Media, Interviews
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Clinical, Edu and Hlth Psychology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1470072
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