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How the Public Engages With Brain Optimization: The Media-mind Relationship
O'Connor, Cliodhna; Joffe, Helene
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.
Keyword(s): brain optimization; cognitive enhancement; self-control; media; interviews
Publication Date:
Type: Journal article
Peer-Reviewed: Yes
Institution: Maynooth University
Citation(s): O'Connor, Cliodhna and Joffe, Helene (2015) How the Public Engages With Brain Optimization: The Media-mind Relationship. Science, Technology, & Human Values, 40 (5). pp. 712-743. ISSN 0162-2439
Publisher(s): SAGE Publications
File Format(s): other
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First Indexed: 2020-04-02 06:41:08 Last Updated: 2020-04-02 06:41:08