Localization and the new phrenology: A review essay on William Uttal's the new phrenology [Book Review]

Philosophical Psychology 17 (1):107-123 (2004)
William Uttal's The new phrenology is a broad attack on localization in cognitive neuroscience. He argues that even though the brain is a highly differentiated organ, "high level cognitive functions" should not be localized in specific brain regions. First, he argues that psychological processes are not well-defined. Second, he criticizes the methods used to localize psychological processes, including imaging technology: he argues that variation among individuals compromises localization, and that the statistical methods used to construct activation maps are flawed. Neither criticism is compelling. First, as we illustrate, there are behavioral measures which offer at least weak constraints on psychological attribution. Second, though imaging does face methodological difficulties associated with variation among individuals, these are broadly acknowledged; moreover, his specific criticisms of the imaging work, and in particular of fMRI, misrepresent the methodology. In concluding, we suggest a way of framing the issues that might allow us to resolve differences between localizationist models and more distributed models empirically.
Keywords Behavioral Sciences  Imaging  Localization  Phrenology  Science  Uttal, W
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DOI 10.1080/0951508042000202417
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