Sunday, October 12, 2014

A thought about analysis at different levels.

I am watching Sally Satel on Book TV as she discusses her book, Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience.

She describe experiments that showed not only that drugs affect the operation of the brain while in the blood stream, but also can leave permanent changes in the brain. She also stressed that experience and experiments show that people addicted to drugs also can (sometimes) control their own behavior/ Rewarding avoidance of drug use and penalizing drug use can lead addicted people to stop using drugs. That is important information as we think of drug policy choices. Perhaps there are better means of behavioral modification of drug use than putting people in jail.

What I was especially struck by was her suggestion that different levels of analysis can be useful to different purposes.

  • Neurobiological research is perhaps the most useful for looking at dementia, since many forms of dementia are not understood but do not respond to behavioral modification. For these, the biological knowledge may lead to medical interventions -- drugs -- to slow or even cure these diseases of the brain.
  • Psychological research is perhaps very useful for looking at addictions, since proper uses of rewards and punishments may enable addicted people to control their behavior. Moreover, the biological research, which might produce useful medications and diagnostic procedures, would be unlikely to illuminate the behavioral approaches.
Different levels of analysis are likely to be complementary!

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