There’s a hell of a lot of bullshit self-help brain-training, memory-boosting, whatever products out there and most of them I don’t even bother looking at in any detail, because I value my emotional stability and life’s just too short. Brain Power Miracle though is worth a mention, purely because of the hilarity of their claims.
The start off with the old canard that we only use a part of our brain – but they go one better than the normal jokers – they say we may only use 2% (but that it ‘isn’t conclusive’). Then:
“Just think about it: what if you could turn your brain into an unstoppable success machine—bringing you all the wealth, success and happiness that you had previously never thought possible?”
And if that wasn’t enough:
“We will show you how to become a genius like Einstein, Mozart, Da Vinci…”
It’s a shame they didn’t employ one of their genius-level users to copy-edit their webpage and remove all the spelling mistakes.
And to finish off, some nice sciencey-looking pictures of frequency spectra:
Only $37.95 for seven CDs full of white-noise and synthesised dying-whale-noises! What are you waiting for people?! Go get it!
I’ve so far resisted talking about a) neuromarketing, and b) how neuroscience is portrayed in the popular press, because I honestly felt that if I started in on either of those topics I would probably never be able to stop and there would just not be enough words on the entire internetz. Fortunately, an opportunity has come along for me to save valuable time and effort and heap derision on both targets at once.
Molly Crockett pointed me towards this article in the Telegraph, which is an uncritically fawning act of fellatio performed on Steven Sands and his Sands Research company. There are plenty of wince-inducing quotes in there, but by far my favourite is this little gem:
“It’s all very Minority Report,” Steve Sands says, referring to the Tom Cruise film in which a special police department known as “PreCrime” tracks down criminals based on knowledge provided by psychics. “But we’re not too far from that now.”
We’re not too far from having mutant humans linked together in a hive-mind predicting future events using psychic pre-cognitive abilities? Good to know, Steve.*
*Unless he meant the computer interfaces of course, which is generally what people mean when they talk about Minority Report. In the movie, Tom Cruise had to put on a pair of special gloves to do whizzy hand-wavy things with his computer; we’re already way beyond that.
Another short post just to link to a couple of articles on the brain-training trend, and why it’s all highly suspicious.
First up is a really good piece in the New Yorker titled ‘Brain games are bogus’. The piece mostly focuses on CogMed (who are currently launching programs in American schools) and has some good, and damning, quotes from independent researchers who work in the area of working memory.
This post on the Computing for Psychologists blog mentions another company called LearningRX who are also making a play for a slice of the lucrative education sector.
Finally, this blog post focuses on Lumosity, which is perhaps the most well-known (and well-marketed) online brain-training service.
All three articles make very good points, which I won’t bother to repeat here, but the upshot is that brain training is (very likely) bogus. The science behind it is shaky at best, and these companies cannot possibly deliver on the promises they make in their slick marketing videos, like this one:
*Uncontrollable projectile vomiting* Urgh. For God’s sake, just take the ten hours you’d spend pointlessly clicking buttons on the Lumosity website and use it to read a book instead. Science, history, fiction, anything… you’ll get more ‘brain training’ out of that than anything these jokers can produce with their ‘science of neuroplasticity’ and their self-consciously quirky hipster hand-drawn graphics and carefully selected not-too-hot-and-not-too-geeky-looking fresh-faced spokesmodel from central casting.
Except if it’s something by Stephanie Meyer. Seriously, don’t read those Twilight things. They’re adolescent fucking garbage.
Just a quickie to point you towards an ace set of slides by Chris Atherton (twitter: @finiteattention) available on SlideShare.net, detailing a presentation at the Cambridge Usability group meeting. Some really excellent points and examples in there.
See the slides on SlideShare.net by clicking here.