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    How the Public Engages With Brain Optimization: The Media-mind Relationship

    O'Connor, Cliodhna and Joffe, Helene (2015) How the Public Engages With Brain Optimization: The Media-mind Relationship. Science, Technology, & Human Values, 40 (5). pp. 712-743. ISSN 0162-2439

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    In the burgeoning debate about neuroscience’s role in contemporary society, the issue of brain optimization, or the application of neuroscientific knowledge and technologies to augment neurocognitive function, has taken center stage. Previous research has characterized media discourse on brain optimization as individualistic in ethos, pressuring individuals to expend calculated effort in cultivating culturally desirable forms of selves and bodies. However, little research has investigated whether the themes that characterize media dialogue are shared by lay populations. This article considers the relationship between the representations of brain optimization that surfaced in (i) a study of British press coverage between 2000 and 2012 and (ii) interviews with forty-eight London residents. Both data sets represented the brain as a resource that could be manipulated by the individual, with optimal brain function contingent on applying self-control in one’s lifestyle choices. However, these ideas emerged more sharply in the media than in the interviews: while most interviewees were aware of brain optimization practices, few were committed to carrying them out. The two data sets diverged in several ways: the media’s intense preoccupation with optimizing children’s brains was not apparent in lay dialogue, while interviewees elaborated beliefs about the underuse of brain tissue that showed no presence in the media. This article considers these continuities and discontinuities in light of their wider cultural significance and their implications for the media–mind relationship in public engagement with neuroscience.

    Item Type: Article
    Additional Information: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 License ( which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page( Cliodhna O’Connor and Helene Joffe How the Public Engages With Brain Optimization: The Media-mind Relationship Science, Technology & Human Values September 2015 40: 712-743, first published on March 26, 2015 doi:10.1177/0162243915576374
    Keywords: brain optimization; cognitive enhancement; self-control; media; interviews;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Science and Engineering > Psychology
    Item ID: 6791
    Identification Number:
    Depositing User: Cliodhna O'Connor
    Date Deposited: 13 Jan 2016 16:34
    Journal or Publication Title: Science, Technology, & Human Values
    Publisher: SAGE Publications
    Refereed: Yes
    Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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