Thursday, May 9, 2013

Does NPR care about credibility? Apparently not!

NPR (here) reports on recent research purporting to show that there is no faculty of language.  What's the new evidence? Well, our new fancy shmancy imaging techniques allow us to look directly into brains and so we went to look for FL and, guess what? We failed to find it! Ergo, no "special module for language." In what did the failure consist? Here's the choice passage:

"But in the 1990s, scientists began testing the language-module theory using "functional" MRI technology that let them watch the brain respond to words. And what they saw didn't look like a module, says Benjamin Bergen, a researcher at the University of California, San Diego, and author of the book Louder Than Words.
"They found something totally surprising," Bergen says. "It's not just certain specific little regions in the brain, regions dedicated to language, that were lighting up. It was kind of a whole-brain type of process." "
So, the whole brain lights up when you hear a sentence and so there is no language module. Well, when you drive to Montreal from DC the whole car moves so it cannot have a fuel system right? What's to be done? Thankfully, Greg Hickok (quickly) walks us through the morass (here).  And yes, the confusion is breath taking.  Maybe NPR might wish to consult a few others when reporting this sort of stuff as exciting neuroscience. Yes, colored brains sell, even on radio. But isn't the aim of NPR to inform rather than simply titillate? 

1 comment:

  1. Didactically, it's firmly anchored in the 21st century, indeed: short sentences, short paragraphs. And short of ideas. It'd surely score very high on the Lingbuzz.