Thursday, May 31, 2012

Sex (in the) Machine

I have wanted to write about this issue for a few months now and have finally gotten around to it. Science writer Kayt Sukel created a small splash in the blogosphere in January when she wrote a few blog posts (see here and here) about her experiences orgasming in an MRI machine (or, as she puts it, “coming for science”) as part of a study conducted by Barry Komisaruk and Nan Wise at Rutgers University. Sukel’s posts were intended to serve as teasers for her book, Dirty Minds: How Our Brains Influence Love, Sex, and Relationships (full disclosure, I haven’t read her book yet). For an earlier account of an attempt to “come for science” see science writer Mary Roach’s highly entertaining book, Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Joshua Greene: On Neuro-Improvement, Neuroenhancement, and Chekhov

In their paper on the neuroenhancement of love and marriage, Savulescu and Sandberg argue that “there is no morally relevant difference between marriage therapy, a massage, a glass of wine, a fancy pink, steamy potion and a pill.” [1] But is this quite right? At a recent Emory Neuroethics Journal Club, participants discussed whether a distinction might be drawn between attending couples’ counseling and being exposed to oxytocin and, more broadly, whether there are differences between ‘traditional,’ conscious improvements and more immediate, pharmacological neuroenhancements. How should we go about comparing and contrasting these two processes?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Effects of Altering Beliefs in Free Will: Results Wanted

As many of us might be aware, previous research has shown that having people read anti-free will text tends to lead to more cheating (Vohs and Schooler, 2008) and more aggression and less helping (Baumeister, Masicampo, and DeWall, 2009).

These findings have garnered a lot of attention in the scientific community and in the media. These findings have also led to a number of interesting (and sometimes heated!) ethical debates. The primary (ethical) question of interest asks (roughly): If telling people they don't have free will leads to more anti-social behaviors and less pro-social behaviors, do we as academics have an ethical duty not to publicly tell people they don't have free will? Of course, the answer to this question is very complicated and will depend on a number of factors ...