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Showing entries tagged ethics.  Show all entries

December 5, 2011

Why Keep A Promise?


It is interesting to see the importance humans place on a promise. A promise is not visible or tangible yet it still seems to have a strong, compulsory quality to it. Why is that? The truth of the matter is humans have the exceptional capacity to establish social norms and create understood cooperation among each other that is not seen elsewhere in the animal kingdom. Before society's infrastructure of rules and laws existed, promises were still made as a way to ensure trust, teamwork and partnership. Furthermore and perhaps the most intriguing aspect of a promise is that it is a verbal, nonbinding agreement. Yet despite the lack of concrete liability we still make promises every day.

Some research looking into the systems of the brain involved in nonbinding agreements has been done but there are still more questions than answers regarding of this topic. Using promises as a premise for research opens a unique door because promises can either be kept or broken. They can be made for many reasons but there are two justifications for keeping a promise. The first is to ensure future trust and cooperation and is referred to as an instrumental reason. The second rational is because it is the right thing to do and is called the intrinsic reason. The study in this paper focuses on the latter of these two explanations.

Each trial of the experiment had two subjects, a trustee and an investor. The trustee's brain activity was measured. First the trustee promises the investor to always, mostly, sometimes, or never keep their promise. In this study to be trustworthy means sharing the money made equally. The investor could choose to invest or not and then the trustee could choose to keep or break their promise to share the money. The trustee could choose both the strength of their promise and whether or not to keep their promise. These freedoms of choice led to two main groups of trustee subjects: both groups almost unanimously promised to "always" keep their promise but when it came to keeping the promise the subjects split into either the group who honored their promise or who was dishonest.

This study was the first to create a design looking at three different processes that play a role in promises. The first stage is the promise stage where the promise is made, then there is what is called the anticipation stage while they wait for the commitment of the investor, and finally the decision stage where the promise is either kept or broken. Researchers could differentiate subjects who will keep their promise and who will break it by brain activity during the promise stage, when the deceitful act is already planned.

This study found that all stages of the paradigm revealed different, highly specific activation patterns in the brain. The promise stage is where the dishonest act may be already planned but not yet implemented and researchers hypothesize if the subject already plans to break a promise, this misleading gesture will induce an emotional conflict. This emotional clash shows activity in parts of brain involved in conflict and negative emotional process such as the anterior cingulated cortex or amygdala. The anticipation stage showed parallels in brain activity to personality traits such as depression and neuroticism, both of which are associated with negative expectations of the future. When the subject had to decide to keep or break the promise, breaking the promise showed similar brain activity to the emotional process of telling a lie and the guilt that that involves. This study showed plausible evidence tying nonbinding agreements to emotional and logical processes of the brain. This evidence is critical in explaining why humans value and venerate the simple idea of a promise.



Baumgartner, Thomas, Urs Fischbacher, Anja Feierabend, Kai Lutz, and Ernsty Fehr. "Broken Promises." Neuron 64.5 (2009): 756+. Science Direct. Elsevier Inc, 10 Dec. 2009. Web. 5 Dec. 2011. .
Posted by      Bethany B. at 10:48 AM MST
  Sarah Bennet  says:
Amazing blog and very emotional. A promise is not a concrete thing but it has feelings and quality to bond two people with trust. Everyone should need to read this and learn the important message from this. dba writing help
Posted on Wed, 3 Jul 2019 3:34 AM MDT by Sarah B.

December 1, 2011

Of Mice and Men


Exploitation and the misuse of information is something that the media coincides with inexplicably. It should be no surprise that there is a great disconnect between scientific organizations and the general public for these very reasons. One organization in particular is trying to bridge this widening gap in order to prepare our society with implications of certain scientific methods in the future as our technological advances continue to advance. The UK's newly formed Academy of Medical Science is working to discuss the "scientific, ethical, and regulatory ramifications" of working with ACHM. ACHM's are animals containing human material. These animals are a result of scientists adding a small number of human genes into mice. This organization is working in order to create a set of limitations and rules for what types of experiments can be done in the future using this type of animal model. Although none of the procedures done so far reached outside of these limitations, they still felt it was important to lay the ground rules going into the future. They wanted these rules to be a reflection of the publics needs as well as the needs of the medical implications these studies lead to.

Perhaps more imperative to present day, is the other function of the group. The Academy of Medical Science feels that it is also necessary to openly discuss these processes and regulations with the public to stop the bad publicity that these ACHM models are creating. Due to constant speculation, the media and politicians are misinforming the public about what is really going on. Generally, scientists can be hesitant to go public with their procedures because it can often be misinterpreted. The creation of a negative perception can hurt the funding for these projects that really have good intentions that the public just cannot see.

The public seems rather obsessed with the idea of the 'mad scientists' who create animal-man hybrids in their laboratories just because they want to, and because they can. It is widely thought that these ACHM models are a used to create animal hybrids, and that stem cell research is done in order to create a cloned human race. While Hollywood may further push this idea from seemingly scientific movies and TV shows, people can interpret them as being based off of real evidence. In fact, these very viewpoints are the reason why this organization wants to openly discuss the benefits, as well as the setbacks, of performing such studies. They want to address not only the emotional and ethical rational behind their experiments, but also would like to argue the medical reasoning and justifications.

The article used the example of US Senate Candidate Christine O'Donnell speech against human-animal hybrids to show how misinformed or misjudged information can be misleading when it is not fully understood. O'Donnell was quoted saying that "scientists were cross breeding humans and animals". She further said that this led to functioning human brains within the mice. While there is obviously not factual evidence to support her claim, this publically stated accusation led to an increasingly negative viewpoint from animal rights activists and anti-genetic engineering supporters.

The main reason this type of animal model is used is to study different aspects of varying diseases in specific biological situations. They are not creating mice with the exact replica of the human form of the disease, and are really only altering a few genes, if that. Eventually there will technological advances that will allow new and improved studies to be done. It is very important that they let the public know now, ahead of time, what exactly they are planning to study and learn from present and future experiments. This will not only increase funding (because there will be more understanding and support towards their studies), but it will also reduce the bad publicity that emerging scientific field has to deal with.

http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v14/n12/full/nn1211-1489.html
Posted by      Amber S. at 1:47 PM MST
  Christina Uhlir  says:
Do you read the Wall Street Journal? There was a piece about "Citizen Scientists" that gets to your point about the misuse of information.

If not, here is the article:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204621904577014330551132036.html
Posted on Sun, 4 Dec 2011 4:39 PM MST by Christina U.
  Amber Spence  says:
I have not, sounds interesting! I'll check it out, thanks!
Posted on Sun, 4 Dec 2011 10:37 PM MST by Amber S.

October 23, 2011

Plugged In: The Brain-Computer Interface


Imagine playing your favorite video game and controlling it just through thought. Sounds impossible right? Actually this technology already exists and is currently being used for therapeutic purposes. This amazing technology is called neurofeedback. It works by measuring an individual's brain waves at different states of being through the use of an EEG and then trains the brain to emulate those waves present in the desired state of the individual.

However this technology is very specific to each individual due to the fact that different people engage in different areas of their brain when they are in a particular state of being. Therefore two people who are in the same state will most likely have brain waves that are different from one another due to the difference in the neuronal circuits themselves and the way in which the neurons fire within the individual brains. Essentially the level of specificity is due to the fact that no two people think alike.

This makes it extremely important to achieve baseline measurements of brain activity for each individual. These baseline measurements are necessary in order to determine what area of the brain is active at a particular state of being and at what frequency do the brain waves in that area need to be at in order to improve that person's state of being. Another way of thinking about it is looking at these scans in order to finding the part of the brain in which the neurons are not optimally synapsing or working together. From this it can determine which brain functions need to be targeted in order to improve a particular state of being.

All of this baseline information is used to calculate the frequency range that the individual's brain waves need to be in for optimal functioning. Once that information is plugged into the computer, the individual trains their brain to work at the frequency through the use of videogames. Sensors that measure brain waves are placed on the person's head above the area of the brain that needs to show improvement. These sensors are connected to a computer that measures the brain waves and controls the game accordingly. For example, if a person achieves the determined brain wave range a space ship will go faster however if they start to get out of the range the ship slows down. If they are no where near the correct range a black fog engulfs the ship until that brain frequency is achieved again. Without this repetitive training it is impossible to effectively alter the neural synapses that dictate the state of being a person is in.

It's easy to see how this incredible technology could help people with autism, ADD, or ADHD to focus, relax, and improve their daily functioning. Not surprisingly it can also be used to help improve the concentration and functioning of people with normal brain activity as well because this technique focuses on optimizing the way in which the neurons synapse. Essentially, this technology is used to condition and train the brain to function in a particular manner.

But this begs the question, why not use this technology to brainwash people or to train soldiers? For one this technology is highly specific to each individual; not everyone has the same brain waves and neural connectivity. Another huge problem is the fact that this technology requires a participant that is willing to do the exercises to train their brain to work in this particular way. If the person isn't willing to put in the practice, their brain won't emulate the desired wave patterns and frequencies.

The only potential way in which this technology may be used for brainwashing is if a general picture of the population's brain waves could be imaged at various states of being and placed into a generic video game. The characters in the game would only move when a particular brain wave range associated with a predetermined state of being was emulated in the player. Thus the population could essentially be brainwashed if the game was engaging enough for the participant to want to play repeatedly, the fact that the player is being brainwashed is unknown to him/her, and the sensors on their head were placed above the area in which the brain waves were being altered.

For this reason neurofeedback technology is highly regulated and restricted to mainly therapeutic purposes only. So while it is possible to play basic videogames with just your mind, the ultimate gaming experience is just out of reach due to the plasticity of the human brain and the ethical questions that lie within it.

All information was taken from:
http://www.isnr.org/uploads/1995%20Abarbanel.pdf
http://www.eeginfo.com
*videos, research papers, and articles from this site were used
Posted by      Mari W. at 10:07 PM MDT
  peter pen  says:
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Posted on Sat, 27 Apr 2019 4:18 AM MDT by peter p.

October 20, 2011

Can we trust Neuroscientists?


October 19, 2011

Typically, neuroscientists, or among all scientists, fail to provide full disclosure of the project to a participant in order to obtain valid knowledge on the phenomena being investigated. Although this methodology is widely used by many scientists, it however proves to be an ethically controversial topic. The idea of deception in human experimentation becomes unethical as the informed consent required by the individual is not completely transparent of the research, thus lacks a degree of respect for the persons utilized in the experiment. Hence, how can the vast majority of psychology and neuroscience projects be approved by ethic committees if deception is a common methodological theme? Are participants rights triumphed by the knowledge gained by the experimentation? To what extent are unethical methods permitted by ethic committees and what makes one idea allowed and another not? These are questions that we should be asking ourselves, knowing that science should not be independent of ethical and moral values.

It comes to my attention that a capacious amount of published articles using deception as a method to obtain valid knowledge by the participant is not specifically stated so in the journal article. Without blatantly stating that this form of research utilized deception, a person that is unaware of ethical issues within research may not realize that some participants were not given proper information.

Understandably, deception in research is a methodology that is not going to leave science any time soon. Therefore, it is necessary to make it prevalent to the public that this occurs and for readers of the research articles to be fully aware of the use of deception. I believe that it is pertinent that if a researcher decides to integrate deception into the procedure, it should be clearly stated within the Materials and Methods section of the journal article. Overall, I believe that the nature of the research should be explained to the participates after the experimentation, such that it will soften the overarching ethical dilemma. This may ultimately limit the participant pool, but it does give a degree of respect from the researcher to the participants that is truly deserved.

Personally, I believe that it is our right and our duty, as readers and future neuroscientists, to take this matter seriously. We should not allow researchers to infringe upon participants rights to be tested when there is a lacking of transparency of the nature of the research. We should encourage our colleagues and higher authorities to demand that experimental deception included in the research should be explicitly stated within published articles and individuals be debriefed of the entirety of the project. Adding these boundaries to published articles will not only provide a more ethically sound publication, but will promote respect for science among readers that are not familiar with the field when full disclosure of the experimentation is available to the public eye.

Original article: http://www.jneurosci.org/content/28/19/4841.full.pdf
Posted by      Sarah H. at 12:16 AM MDT
  Christina Uhlir  says:
Sarah,

Objectively speaking, would you or wouldn't you trust a neuroscientist?
Posted on Sun, 23 Oct 2011 2:23 PM MDT by Christina U.
  Sarah Ha  says:
Personally, I wouldn't want to be a participant in an experiment if I'm not given full disclosure of the purpose of the experiment. Plus, it makes me more skeptical when I read journal articles of overall results if the published article is fully disclosing their methodology. How can I repeat their experiment if I don't know exactly what they did?
Posted on Tue, 29 Nov 2011 3:56 PM MST by Sarah H.




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