Tuesday, October 4, 2011

NYT Letter to the Editor: The uncut version

The NY Times has now printed our letter to the editor regarding the Lindstrom article.  However, the published version is an edited and shortened version of our original letter, which I am posting here for the record.


Dear Editor,
The Op-Ed “You Love Your iPhone, Literally” by Martin Lindstrom purports to show, using brain imaging, that our attachment to digital devices, reflects not addiction but instead the same kind of emotion that we feel for human loved ones. However, the evidence the author presents does not show this.  The region that he points to as being “associated with feelings of love and compassion” (the insular cortex) is a brain region that is active in as many as one third of all brain imaging studies.  Further, in studies of decision making the insula is more often associated with negative than positive emotions.  The kind of reasoning that Lindstrom uses is well known to be flawed, because there is rarely a one-to-one mapping between any brain region and a single mental state; insula activity could reflect one or more of several psychological processes. This same point was made by some of us regarding a similar Op-Ed piece in 2007.
We are disappointed that the Times has published extravagant claims based on scientific data that have not been subjected to the standard scientific review process, especially considering how often its pages exhort policy makers to pay more attention to peer-reviewed scientific evidence and disregard specious claims.
Sincerely,

Russell Poldrack, Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin
Geoffrey K Aguirre, M.D., Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania
Adam Aron, Ph.D., University of California at San Diego
Lisa Feldman Barrett, Ph.D., Northeastern University
Mark G. Baxter, Ph.D., Mount Sinai School of Medicine
Susan Bookheimer, Ph.D., University of California at Los Angeles
Colin Camerer, Ph.D., California Institute of Technology
McKell Carter, Ph.D., Duke University
Christopher Chabris, Ph.D., Union College
Molly Crockett, Ph.D., University of Zurich, Switzerland
Nathaniel Daw, Ph.D., New York University
Paul Downing, Ph.D., University of Bangor, Wales, UK
Russell Epstein, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania
Michael Frank, Ph.D., Brown University
Janet Frick, Ph.D., University of Georgia
Paul Glimcher, Ph.D., New York University
Tom Hartley, Ph.D., University of York, UK
Benjamin Hayden, Ph.D., University of Rochester
Hauke R. Heekeren, M.D., Freie Universit├Ąt Berlin, Germany
Simon Hjerrild, M.D., University of Aarhus, Denmark
Scott Huettel, Ph.D., Duke University
Nancy Kanwisher, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Brian Knutson, Ph.D., Stanford University
John Kubie, Ph.D., SUNY Downstate Medical Center
Michael V. Lombardo, Ph.D., University of Cambridge, UK
Ken Norman, Ph.D., Princeton University
Olivier Oullier, Ph.D., Aix-Marseille University, France
Steven Petersen, Ph.D., Washington University
Elizabeth Phelps, Ph.D., New York University
Rajeev Raizada, Ph.D., Cornell University
Antonio Rangel, Ph.D., California Institute of Technology
Peter B. Reiner, Ph.D., University of British Columbia, Canada
Gregory Samanez-Larkin, Ph.D., Vanderbilt University
Geoff Schoenbaum, M.D., Ph.D., University of Maryland
Daphna Shohamy, Ph.D., Columbia University
Jon Simons, Ph.D., University of Cambridge, UK
Peter Sokol-Hessner, Ph.D., California Institute of Technology
David Somers, Ph.D., Boston University
Damian Stanley, Ph.D., California Institute of Technology
John Van Horn, Ph.D., University of California at Los Angeles
Bradley Voytek, Ph.D., University of California, San Francisco
Anthony Wagner, PhD, Stanford University.
Daniel Willingham, Ph.D., University of Virginia
Tal Yarkoni, Ph.D., University of Colorado Boulder
Jeff Zacks, Ph.D., Washington University
Jamil Zaki, Ph.D., Harvard University

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